"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Monday, March 31, 2008

DVD Review: Holes

Based on a wildly popular children's book, the movie is targeted at the same audience. This is evident in most of the characters, which are largely caricatures or one-dimensional people. But those single dimensions are painted so colorfully and effectively that they give the illusion of character depth. Every actor fits his or her role perfectly. The kids are well cast and provide the movie with a vivid camaraderie. Shia LeBouf (Stanley) and Khleo Thomas (Zero) get the most screen time and are the most memorable. Zero in particular is impossible to dislike. The adults...Sigourney Weaver...Tim Blake Nelson...Patricia Arquette...Eartha Kitt...all are used very well, gobbling up their parts with gusto. Dule Hill brings great tenderness to his role as Sam, and Jon Voight stands out as the off-kilter Mr. Sir. He chews scenery with such exuberance that he nearly warrants boos and hisses.

The most surprising thing about "Holes" is the non-linear narrative. Few movies, let alone kids movies, are brave enough to bounce through time as "Holes" did. Initially this was disorienting, but once the three storylines are introduced, one can follow the tales with ease. Seeing disparate stories resolve into one another is a very satisfying and enjoyable movie experience, and "Holes" hits the proverbial bulls eye as it pulls everything together. Nothing is "Sixth Sense"-shocking, as one can garner the necessary information to piece the puzzle together in advance. But there are quality 'Aha!' or head-nodding moments as the film winds down.

As for the stories themselves, I hesitate to say much because I don't want to reveal anything about the refreshing uniqueness of the plot lines. If you know nothing about the book, you might be bewildered during the opening minutes, but eventually that confusion will give way to a smiling enjoyment of the movie's peculiar humor.

The Simpsons: Love, Sprinfieldian Style

Story Bridge -- Homer actually does something nice for Valentine's Day and takes Marge, Bart and Lisa to the carnival, where the kids run free. This gives Homer and Marge some quality time in the Tunnel of Love. I have never been in a Tunnel of Love before, so I will have to take as fact that it features scary creatures dropped from the ceiling to allow couples to hug each other for comfort.

Course, not all goes as planned. And, in a very rare occurrence (this season, at least) of Bart's impish side he decides to mess things up for Homer and Marge by pouring gelatin into the Tunnel of Love's river. The result: Homer and Marge get stuck and end up telling pop-culture-related stories about love.

Bonnie and Clyde -- Marge is Bonnie and Homer is Clyde. This was an interesting little tale because, even though it was for laughs, it did prove the point that sex and violence are strange bedfellows. I found this segment to be the weakest of the three stories. Possibly because it was shorter than the other two. I did like a few things, though, like Burns and Allen portraying Bonnie & Clyde on a radio show, and the racially insensitive cartoon featuring the Woody Woodpecker-like Robby Robin. The end scene was a take-off of how Bonnie and Clyde eventually perished in real life and in the movies, except with Marge and Homer talking about their relationship as they were pelted by hundreds of bullets. I thought Bonnie's mention that they should see other people at that point was pretty amusing..

Shady and the Vamp -- "You're pretty feisty for a upper-class bitch." -- Homer as Shady

A play on Disney's Lady and the Tramp was the strongest story of the three and, being serious, could have been a whole episode in itself. I can't recall if I have ever seen The Simpsons as animorphic characters before, but it was a bit weird to see them all as dogs. Having said that, it was actually quite sweet as Shady was ready to be with the Vamp (Marge), then had second thoughts, then rescued his puppies from the evil dog catcher. There were a number of elements from Lady in this story, including the scene where the two dogs share a spaghetti dinner together. With Homer being Homer, no matter what shape he takes, he fought for his food and accidentally sucked Vamp's head into his mouth when they shared the same spaghetti strand.

There was also a musical number during this installment--something we have barely seen at all this season. Again, even though it was for laughs, I thought that it was done very well. Also appearing in animorphic form were Moe as Shady's bulldog friend, Selma and Patty as a pair of Siamese cats, and Bart and Lisa as the puppies. Also making an appearance was Goofy (or someone like Goofy), who was unfortunately gassed by the dog catcher. Luckily (I guess) Goofy survived and said the whole ordeal was better than working for Disney.

Sid and Nancy Vicious -- "The Sex Grahams Featuring Billy Pistol" -- Sign at the San Antonio Arena displaying the show after The Sex Pistols and Billy Graham

Bart is Johnny Rotten and Nelson is Sid Vicious. But, of course. Also appearing in this take-off of Sid and Nancy was Lisa in the role of spelling bee champion Nancy Spungen. The drug of choice: chocolate in all of its forms. This was a pretty entertaining chapter, with a number of stereotypical references to London of the 1970's. I liked how Johnny was spitting apple juice into the crowd rather than something stronger. The best line of the night was when Sid and Nancy were kicked out of CBGB's--Comic Book Guy's Bar. Damn, why didn't I think of that reference sooner? Frankly, I was ready for Comic Book Guy to spit out "Worst. Concert. Ever."

Overall, this was a decent episode of The Simpsons. I tend to like the trilogies that they present once or twice a season (except for the most recent Treehouse of Horror episodes...Yuck) since it gives the writers a chance to work outside of the confines of Springfield. This time around they seemed to focus on the stories themselves rather than overload them with gags as they tend to do. The result were some pretty nice stories.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Monk: Mr. Monk Is On The Run Part 1

Now that my favorite show, Friday Night Lights, has wrapped up for the season, I am able to watch Monk. They were both on at 9pm EST, but alas my heart belongs to the Dillon Panthers and Coach Taylor. Still no confirmation if the show will be picked for the Fall 2008 season. My fingers are still crossed. Plus there is always a Monk Marathon on USA, so I'm sure I'll catch some of the shows I missed.

One of my most common complaints regarding Monk is the lack of story advancement in the death of Adrian's wife Trudy. I'm not looking for a quick end to it, but there hasn't been a serious lead in several seasons now. The two-part sixth season finale changed that. In fact, I meet Trudy's killer. The finale was a homage to The Fugitive. Monk went on the run after supposedly killing someone and he had to prove that he didn't do it.

I was actually impressed by the way things turned out. Adrian was able to think on his feet and stole Natalie's pass which allowed him to escape. He did a good job at playing a wanted man on the run.All of that was great, but there were some funny scenes that really stood out, such as Adrian's auto-theft attempt, the sewing of the torn pocket, and Natalie's smoothie. I'd love to know how many takes it took to do that smoothie scene because that was hysterical. It's hard to imagine how that drink would actually taste.

It was obvious early on that the small-town sheriff was involved in setting Adrian up. He arrived to the scene of the shooting far too early not to be involved. But the question remains: why did he set up Adrian? I really haven't got a satisfactory theory to that question, but I am theorizing the sheriff may have been involved in the murder of Trudy. The sheriff said he's got old friends in high places, namely the lieutenant governor. It wouldn't be the first time that Trudy (a journalist) was working on an exposé which would damage someone's career. It's possible the sheriff and lieutenant governor decided to get rid of Trudy before her story could be published and the man's reputation damaged.

The cliffhanger in the first part wasn't particularly great. It was obvious that Adrian and Leland conspired to setup the scene to make it look like Adrian had been shot and killed with the intent to get the sheriff to back off a bit while they figure out why he's after Adrian. Still, this was a great episode. There was a lot more drama in this episode because of the fact that Adrian was directly accused of something. Call me a skeptic, but somehow I don't think the second half could possibly live up to the first half.

Pam's New Music Downloads

Rarely has a broken romance sounded so good from "Where I Stood", off Missy Higgens' latest CD On a Clear Night.

After finally releasing his first official solo album in 2006, Ray Davies, former Kinks leader, is a on a roll with his newest CD Working Man's Cafe'. While not quite up to Other People's Lives, this is another fine effort with tasteful , cafe'-ready fare like "Imaginary Man."

Mixing new grooves and old faves, the bass guitarist, Marcus Miller, lays down some note-popping, hip-shaking fun with help from Corinne Bailey Rae on "Free" off the self-titled CD Marcus.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Eli Stone: Father Figure

Okay, it looks like I have the formula down pretty well now. Eli's going to have some bizarre visions that will jeopardize his personal and professional life, but those visions will help him make decisions as to what to do. Could it be a brain aneurysm? Sure, if aneurysms can specifically name clients that he hasn't met yet. Instead of creating a compelling long-form narrative, Eli Stone is going to be a typical legal dramedy with a few spot visions thrown in to mess with Eli's life. That's it and it's a shame.

I guess I wanted more for Eli. And maybe there's still time to give it to me. I have to say, I didn't care for this episode's case at all. Not that the case itself wasn't compelling, but that Eli perpetuated the perjurous statements of a twelve-year old boy, knowingly sending an innocent man to jail (at least for awhile), all to bring home a woman who didn't want to serve in the war any more.

The progression of Eli's and Taylor's crumbling relationship headed for its inevitable dissolution, and first "love" Beth came back into the scene. Laura Benanti (Beth) is listed as a regular cast member, so I've got to figure her role will grow and I'd wager she'll become the sympathetic lover Eli needs. Though it's very possible they'll hook her up with Eli's brother Nathan first so there can be Moonlighting unrequited passion. I hope they do something because the chemistry between Johnny Lee Miller and Natasha Henstridge is so flat it's awkward to watch.

Victor Garber remains a good actor, but his character continues to ride that fine line between stereotypical senior partner and somewhat compassionate future father-in-law. Oh and bonus for going ahead and having the completely cold-hearted senior partner there for Garber's Jordan to look good next to. I'm still waiting for these characters to inflate a bit and become well-rounded.

Eli's "friend" Dr. Chen keeps pushing the angle that Eli is a prophet, which Eli rejects wholeheartedly. So why does he keep going to him? Because the acupuncture triggers memories? Removes the visions temporarily? Or as a conveniently placed plot device to push the prophet angle forward each episode. And how did Chen become a friend anyway? Wasn't Eli just recommended to go meet the guy in the first episode and then found out he was a quack. By the intro of the second episode he was referred to as Eli's friend.

No junior partner (Maggie) could be that terrible in court. Sure, nerves and jitters can cause some screw-ups but when she said "like Jeopardy" to remind herself to question the witnesses, I almost rolled my eyes. She went to law school to be a lawyer. They go over how to question witnesses. What to do, what not to do. Either she was really, really, really nervous, or she barely graduated. Plus, she's very sweet and kind. So a sweet and kind terrible lawyer who wants to save the world ... what's she doing at this law firm? The firm is the stereotype of a corporate law firm that focuses entirely on the bottom line and billable hours and screw everything else. It just doesn't seem a good fit for her at all. That and I can't figure out her role either. Is she there to be a driving force to help Eli in his new direction in life?

Outside of the cases, which haven't impressed me too much, the side stories are at least somewhat compelling. I am curious how Eli's continuing visions will affect his future at the firm. Can he keep from losing his job, especially in the fallout of that ending? Should he bother to? I know he worries about losing his health and malpractice insurance, which is valid, but maybe losing all of that will push him further down his prophetic road. He'll have to find other ways to make a difference.

I'm still willing to forgive Eli Stone a lot because it's trying to find its voice and way in the television landscape. There's still potential in the premise but I worry that it is settling quickly into what will become its routine. I hope I'm wrong. I'm actually still intrigued enough to keep with it for awhile more.

Book Review: "The Painted Drum" by Louise Erdrich

In the opening pages, Faye Travers, an estate agent in New Hampshire, inventories the home of John Jewett Tatro, whose grandfather was an Indian agent, and whose grandmother was an Ojibwe. When Faye opens an attic room, she finds a collection of enormous value, including an incredible drum, hollowed out from a single piece of cedar wood and covered by a moose hide.

The history of the "Little Girl" drum takes the reader from New Hampshire to an Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota. Bernard Shaawano, who is the grandson of the drum's maker, narrates this section, telling about the life of his grandfather, why he made the drum, who he was memorializing, and how this drum eventually came to New Hampshire. The fascinating process by which the drum was made, the ceremonies and traditional beliefs associated with it, and the traumatic lives and deaths of the Shaawano family over three generations connect the drum and its history with the essence of existence.

In the final section, Shawnee, a young girl living in a remote area of the reservation, has been babysitting for her younger brother and sister for several bitterly cold days, without enough fuel and no food. Their mother has been sidetracked, drinking in town. The depiction of the lives of these children is heart-rending, and their connection to the "Little Girl" drum adds another layer of mystery to the drum's "life."

Written with a homey intimacy and honesty, Erdrich deals with big themes of life and death and the beliefs associated with them. Nature is an intimate part of this process, and it is further emphasized through symbols and repeating motifs--a field of orb spiders, a dog which escapes its cruel confines, wolves and their mystical connection with mankind. Always, of course, Erdrich conveys Indian spiritual values, even as she depicts their often sad and limited lives.

The characters here have real faults and real conflicts, but Erdrich is generous with them, never making value judgments while showing the circumstances which have determined their behavior. With interconnected stories involving characters from three generations and three different families, The Painted Drum is a novel which taps into universal feelings and hopes, even as it depicts some of life's terrible realities.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The B-52's Are Back! New Video is Fun, Weird

It's pretty awesome that the B-52s aren't just still around and kicking (Kate Pierson is about to turn 60!), they're also still putting out hilariously fun, catchy songs, complete with their signature flamboyance and silliness. The new video for the tune "Funplex" takes place partially inside a futuristic Funplex, and partially in outer space. It seems to be about pleasure-seeking and, well, heartbreak at the Funplex.

The song itself is totally danceable, and the video is just good ol' cheesy-hokey fun. With lyrics like "Faster! Faster! Thrill! Thrill! Too much to do, it's time for a pill!" you can't help but grin and go along for the ride.

"Funplex" is off their brand-new album by the same name. To see the video (warning: may induce nostalgia), click below.

Lost: The Economist

This episode of Lost left me reeling for many reasons. While I did get to see another member of the elusive Oceanic 6, the episode raised many new questions, and as usual, provided few answers. That said, it was definitely one of the more suspenseful episodes I've seen and had enough twists and turns to keep me entertained for an hour.

Right off the bat, something tells me that the bracelet Sayid stole from Naomi is going to come back to haunt me. The bracelet reads "N, I'll always be with you, R.G." I kinda wish I could just forget about the characters who have already died since I've got so many living ones to follow, but oh well.

Future Sayid is all cleaned up, preppy, and enjoying a country club lifestyle as a member of the Oceanic 6. Based on his golf partner's reaction, Sayid has created a reputation for himself as one of the survivors. Obviously I can't be fooled by his blow-dried hair and fancy threads — Sayid is still just as intense and unafraid of violence as ever, showcased by how quickly he shoots his golfing buddy dead.

New Sayid is quite the smooth talker, and isn't showing any signs of still being in love with Nadia as he gets involved with Elsa. Sad, I kind of miss when Sayid was the torturer/hopeless romantic.

Everyone seems to disagree with Locke, so why don't they just team up against him? I'm especially surprised that nobody has accidentally killed someone else in the heat of passion yet. Namely Ben — Sawyer never seemed to have a problem taking matters into his own hands before.

Dan conducts an experiment on the island, only adding to the mystery of the space/time continuum. Overall, this subplot paled in comparison to everything else that went down.

It's kind of a letdown to see Sayid fall victim to Locke's trap. Especially since Ben pretty much owns Sayid's soul from here on out.

Favorite line of the episode goes to Hurley: "I saw you snap that guys neck with the break dancing thing you do with your legs . . . I think I'll hang back here." Also, that scene from last season was awesome.

Aww, the scene where Sawyer wants Kate to stay with him on the island is pretty sweet, although it's hard to believe that Sawyer is ready to settle down with Kate and raise island babies and live happily ever after. Plus, I know Kate is going to get off the island so clearly Sawyer's powers of persuasion are going to fail eventually.

Sayid and Elsa's romantic moment gets interrupted pretty quickly when they whip out their guns and start shooting each other. Sayid gets away with the gunshot, only to be stitched up by his new boss — ta da! It's Ben, who is now some kind of doctor?

So, Sayid is working for Ben, but is Ben still running things back on the island? Ben says that Sayid has to "protect his friends," but are those his friends on the island or the ones who were rescued? Who else is Ben asking Sayid to kill? And does he have any contact with the other members of the Oceanic 6? The fact that Sayid still can't figure out a way to outsmart Ben is kind of ominous for the future.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nip/Tuck: August Walden

This is the way I remember Nip/Tuck. Hands down, best episode of the season right here. Controversial, all the main characters played a big role, and best of all? It was funny! The one thing that depressed me was the very end. Perhaps it makes me a terrible person, but it sure was fun to watch her suffer. She's just so whiny. You wonder where Matt gets his neediness from? Take one look at his mother.

You've got to hand it to Christian though. He can't just break up with Julia. He has to invite her over for lunch to make sure she sees him screwing another woman "he picked up at the gas station." What an ass. Here's the thing though. Julia acted appalled! How is something like this unexpected? This is the type of cold hearted stuff that he's known for pulling. Couple that in with Julia's discovery of the source of her illness, and she didn't exactly have the greatest day. Eden had been poisoning her with mercury. Julia found out... Eden shot her with Julia's own gun. End of episode and what an ending it was. Eden is clearly nuts and this episode proved it. From sex crazed, plaid skirt wearing school girl, to raunchy porn star/wannabe murderer, Eden is definitely one of the better characters this show has introduced.

And speaking of new characters, how about Emmy? All I could do was cheer Matt on once it fell apart with him and Rachel. He hopped in the sack with Emmy right away and for once, it seemed like he might have actually found himself a normal relationship. How could I have assumed that after the giant clue from the "previously on" scenes? It showed clips of every crazy b*tch he's ever been with -- Eva, Cherry, Ariel, and Kimber. Add in Rachel too. He's doomed and Emmy was no exception. How did she find Christian as an option for her plastic surgeon? Emmy's the result of a one night stand Christian had many years ago in Cleveland, Georgia. All I can say is "wow." Honestly, really great twist. Christian is her father and she's sleeping with Matt. In true Nip/Tuck fashion, they're justifying the incest because... hey, the sex was really good. Transvestites, white supremacists, ex-porn stars, severe burn victims, and now half-siblings. Who hasn't Matt slept with?

Moving on to Sean, I really liked the plot with him and August Walden, the TV reviewer from Entertainment Weekly. The whole ordeal sort of re-positioned Sean as the caring and understanding guy that he used to be before he got consumed by Hollywood. While it was a little corny, the ending was expected when the victim of one of Walden's scathing reviews poured boiling coffee all over his face. I was surprised that no one had attacked him sooner. For a while, it even crossed my mind that Sean might try and "accidentally" mess something up during Walden's extensive surgery as a bit of payback. No such luck though.
More thoughts...

Where had Olivia been? How could she have not known that Julia was having an affair with Christian?

I sort of hope that Emmy turns out not to be Christian's daughter. Matt could use some good news.

Is it to be expected that so many doctors misdiagnosed Julia? None of them had hair or blood or urine samples analyzed for any sort of toxins? I'm sure some liberties were taken, but if it's even remotely close to that... I hope I never get mercury poisoning.

You could have played a drinking game with this episode. Every time someone said "ugly," take a gulp.

So the next episode is the seasons finale (officially) and it'll be interesting to see if it ends with a decent twist or cliffhanger, since it wasn't the intended bookend. However, it looks like the final eight season five episodes (whenever they get shot) will end up being a new sixth season.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: The Queen's Gambit

Andy Goode is back with another chess computer, the Turk II. This is relevant because John Connor played chess in his youth in South America and apparently knows a lot about chess history as a result. And people say this series is unrealistic.

Of course, chess is being used as a war metaphor in this episode (rather blatantly if you listen to Sarah Connor's commentary at the beginning and end of the episode). This could be ironic because apparently Skynet is being developed from a chess program. Perhaps in the future, Skynet loses a game of chess to a human and annihilates the species as a result.

The most blatant cliff-hanger mystery is: Who killed Andy Goode? If it wasn't Derek Reese, was it a Terminator? That seems likely since their mission is to insure Skynet's creation and without a military contract, that didn't seem likely.

The whole Derek Reese phenomenon seemed to come out of nowhere. In the original movie, Kyle Reese never mentioned a brother. Of course, that doesn't mean the brother didn't exist but in that future it didn't seem likely that coincidentally the two brothers would survive. But maybe that's just me futilely looking for realism.

The entire Jordan suicide storyline has been dragged on long enough. Either get to the point or stop having these characters mourn a supplementary character who has become more a plot device than a person.

I liked how the Terminator reacted strangely when the cell phone rang, as if he never saw one before (which he probably hasn't). Modern cell phones didn't exist when the original movie came out. Maybe he's a leftover from 1984.

I've commented on Cameron's dress sense before, but in this episode she's going Goth slut. Not that there's anything wrong with that. She is, however, attracting more attention to herself and I think that goes against the mission of laying low. I thought it was funny when she was presented with the Westworld style robot and reacted quizzically. Then the robot canine (perhaps a tribute to Doctor Who) showed up and totally mystified her. Her best line of the episode was "I'm done with grief counseling. I'm feeling much better."

During the final battle scene, when the other Terminator got its hand knocked off, I thought, "Great. Now there's ANOTHER piece lying around the city." Didn't the fact that a Terminator hand was left around the first movie lead to the second one?

The episode helped a lot of plotlines move forward. The big revelation was the existence of Derek Reese who is John Connor's uncle. I wonder if he's going to end up being a future love interest for Sarah. If so, then it's just like television to immediately introduce him to Sarah's ex.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Prison Break: Hell or High Water

Is it just me, or was it relatively easy to break out of Sona? When compared to Fox River, it was a cake! No tattoos required -- just dig a hole and run. And before you say, "but what about all those guards with guns," look at it this way: they're what made it easy! And Michael used it to his advantage. He gave them something to occupy their time (allowing Lechero, T-Bag, and Bellick to go first and get caught) and then he, Whistler, Mahone, and McGrady pretty much just walked through the hole in the fence. So, with that in mind... remind me again why The Company had to use Michael to get to Whistler?

Just seems like it would have been easier to send in some kind of tactical recovery team to bust the guy out. I suppose that doesn't really matter though because Michael worked his magic and got Whistler out anyway. So now they're running and swimming and driving their way to freedom, but not without some bumps along the way.

First there's Sucre, who's predicament with the guards at Sona has become borderline comical. First they nail him on a warrant for an alias that made no sense to me at all. We'd never heard him use that name before, right? At first, I thought maybe Gretchen had done it to set him up, but that doesn't make sense because she knew Sucre was part of Lincoln's plan. Why screw up her ticket to Whistler? So that warrant finally disappears and T-Bag, inches from having his twig and berries fried off by a car battery, fingers Sucre as having a part in the escape. I guess all I'm trying to say is that it sucks to be Sucre. He can't catch a break.

It did, however, lead to what I'm convinced is the most ridiculous moment in Prison Break history. Since Sucre couldn't man the boat, McGrady's father took over as skipper when he saw that the boat was still at the marina. How did he find the merry gang of convicts after they swam to freedom? He knew they were coming from the southwest and "took a chance." Wow! That was one hell of a gamble. So after running through the woods, swimming for who knows how long, and clinging to a giant buoy, it looks like they're all actually free. It opens the door for tons of questions though.

Does Whistler's bird book actually hold any meaning? Isn't it more likely that he has all the knowledge he needs in his head and the bird book is just his way of lowering himself to seem innocent? Like a safety blanket to mask something? I'll be interested to see what T-Bag does with it.

What happens if McGrady is recognized at the road block? I see no real reason for him to be around though. I'll be happy if he passes through and we've seen the last of him.

Is Gretchen actually going to hand over LJ and Sofia quietly? As long as she gets Whistler, is there really any need for bloodshed?

There's probably more questions, but I'm moving on. I was a little bugged about how I'm supposed to care about Lechero and Mahone. Lechero got shot. He can rot for all I care. Mahone is a little different and I think I'm supposed to see him as more human now. I still can't stand him and wish Lincoln had shot him. Here's a guy who had a body buried in his backyard, and was willing to sell anyone and everyone else out to hide his own secrets. He let himself be manipulated by The Company and carried out all their orders. Good riddance to him. Lincoln's right, Mahone shot his dad with no hesitation. Not much room to forgive there. If he hangs around, maybe Gretchen will take him out since he probably knows more than he should.

More random thoughts...

I loved how Lincoln's boom-box finally paid off. Recorded gunshots. Even better was that Gretchen and her goons fell for it.

Do either Bellick, T-Bag, or Lechero actually know anything worth something other than Michael was behind it all?

So now they're out. The next episode is the season finale so I assume I can expect some complications when the switch comes. I know Whistler got away at the end of this episode, but I'm not sure he'll get too far. Then again, maybe he will. Everyone else seems to know their way around Panama pretty well and he actually lived there for a while...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

MTTT - O'Duffy's

The M Thirsty Third Thursday gang celebrated St. Patrick's Day a little bit late, but better late than never is my motto.

About a dozen of us gathered to celebrate the various holidays this week, plus to congratulate Maddy on her upcoming retirement, which we now refer to as her graduation. Maddy has been at the company for nearly 30 years and has been involved in nearly aspect of the business. You couldn't ask for better, loyal employee than Maddy. The stories she could tell always had me in stitches. She will definitely be missed. Another bigger party will be held later in April for both her and her husband Randy (co-founder and Chairman of the Board), who is also retiring on March 31.

I love O'Duffy's. It is one of the coolest "neighborhood" bars in town. But it is so expensive. My tab with tip was nearly $40 and this was for a hamburger, a beer, and a couple glasses of wine. They also had a band there called "Who Hit John?" Kristen and I thought this was especially funny and immediately text messaged one of our VP's of Sales, whose name just happens to be John. He got a kick out of it once he figured out what we were talking about.

To see more photos, click on this link:

I just had the best time that night and was glad we got together. Until April 17 . . .

Breaking Bad: And the Bag's In the River

With this episode I came to the conclusion of what would be considered the "First Act" of the Breaking Bad saga. I have to say that I was very impressed with this conclusion, and with the opening. Cranston continues to dominate the screen with his tragic portrayal of a desperate man whose health is clearly failing more and more with each passing moment. Hard decisions are made, and the hardest and best decision he's made yet looks to be the one the episode ends on.

Before I can get to the end, I need to start at the beginning. And this episode picks up (literally!) where the last one left off, with the most disgusting mess in the history of broadcast television being cleaned up by our meth-cooking "odd couple." Honestly, I'm not sure if these two will be able to work together after these events, nor do I really have any idea where the show will go from here.

It could be just as compelling if they completely give up their ideas of cooking meth for cash because they've still got all this crap they've already done to keep covered up. With Walt's brother-in-law Hank and his DEA goons already hot on that trail, there'd still be plenty of meat left for a show. I like that I'm not sure where this show is going and find that I don't really care because the ride-along is so great. In a way it reminds me of Prison Break in that I'm following some, let's face it, pretty bad dudes now and I still find myself rooting for them.

I'm not sure that the flashback sequence to a younger Walt and some unknown girl writing down the chemical makeup percentages of the human body worked. It was a nice juxtaposition during the cleanup scene at the beginning, as I saw how all those chemicals could turn into a gooey sludge, but this is the first flashback the show has given me, and I'm not sure I see the overall significance, unless the mention and question of a missing component in the scientific equation being a soul will speak to an impending spiritual crisis.

When Pinkman leaves Walter for the day to finally take care of the Krazy 8 situation; remember the guy strapped to a pole in the basement with one of those horseshoe bike locks, I finally get to see what Walter is made of. Walter gets to see what Walter is made of, and it's tougher stuff than I would have imagined. Again, Cranston shined throughout this episode as he wrestled with his conscience and reason on what to do about Krazy 8.

The climactic sequence where Krazy 8 manages to convince Walter that the only right thing to do is set him free, followed by Walter's epiphany regarding the broken plate was a brilliant piece of writing for the show. The plate was broken when a coughing fit knocked Walter unconscious as he was bringing a plate of sandwiches to Krazy 8 in the basement. What an incredibly clever piece of storytelling, and a brilliantly executed resolution to the problem by White. In fact, what Pinkman comes home to find in regards to the state of the RV and his house speaks volumes about where White is psychologically, and gets me psyched for what's coming next.


DEA Agent Hank's wife swiping a pair of heels from a shoe store, under the watchful eye of a way-too-typical disinterested sales clerk on the phone no less

Hank's "scared straight" talk outside a dilapidated motel where he lectures Walt, Jr. about pot being a gateway drug because he mistakenly believes he's doing pot. Bonus points for Wendy the meth-head hooker showing her teeth and then going off to bang Pinkman after Hank dismisses her. Walt, Jr.'s clueless reactions throughout this sequence are priceless.

Walter making a Pros and Cons list of the benefits on either side of the "to kill or not to kill" Krazy 8 situation. Reasons to kill him: "He'll kill your entire family if you let him go."

The aforementioned revelation to check the pieces of the plate, reassembling it like a puzzle, and the subsequent method by which White "handled" the Krazy 8 problem.

The end where, finally, Walter confronts his wife and tells her: "Skyler, there's something I have to tell you."

Again, I have no idea where the show might go from here. Walter and Jesse are hip-deep in it already so the question they have to face is how far are they willing to go to get the riches they've yet to achieve. Or is it worth it at all for either of them? And have they been smart enough to get away with anything?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Movie Review: Lars and the Real Girl

Lars and the Real Girl chronicles the blunders of a delusional anti-social office worker named Lars Lindstrom who forms an unusual relationship with a blow up sex doll named Bianca. Despite what you may think, this film never goes for the easy joke and pulls it all off with just a PG-13 rating.

Now imagine you're at a house party and lots of people from the community are there. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an office co-worker steps in pushing a blow up doll in a wheel chair. A doll named Bianca you heard of through whispers in the community and that memo sent the night before.

This is the kind of situation you might come across in a small isolated community in north Wisconsin. The town isn't named in the movie but it's your small, quaint American town of anywhere. The people there are close knit and look after each other; probably one of the main reasons Lars isn't immediately shipped off to a mental institution for someone else to deal with.

Lars is a man so introverted and afraid of intimacy he wears three layers of clothing and puts on gloves when he shakes peoples hands. One night he orders a plastic sex toy off the Internet much to the dismay of his brother Gus (played by Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law Karin (wonderfully played by Emily Mortimer) who share a house with Lars.

Right from the start Lars talks about Bianca as if she were a real person, giving her a whole history, language and culture. Realizing their brother may have a problem, Gus and Karin support him by enlisting the help of a family doctor/psychiatrist who tells them, and everyone else in the town, to play along. Gus begrudgingly goes along with it while his compassionate and ever-caring wife Karin embraces the idea instantly.And then suddenly the whole town is talking to Bianca, some even driving her to meetings and shindigs with the locals. At one point, Bianca even gets elected on the school board.

This is primarily a story of openness and love found in an unexpected place. Like other movies showcasing characters with psychological problems, we all care. We want to see Lars fixed and so does everyone in town, including Margo, a church choir girl and office co- worker with a not so secret crush on Lars.

This movie could come off as either ridiculous or charming, one or the other. The soundtrack of the film is full of acoustic melodies that lulled me off into a fantasy-land where something like this could happen. Bianca is handled so respectfully that I ended up accepting her like the community without trying too hard.

In the end, I found this movie to be quite charming. If you're in for a light-hearted off-kilter cute comedy of such subject matter, you should make a beeline for the cinema or the movie rental store, because this movie is a one of a kind.

Spring Starts With A Winter Blast

Old Man Winter isn't quite ready to move on from SW Michigan. A winter storm dropped up to a foot of snow last night and made for a very treacherous drive home from work yesterday. This morning I noticed the poor robins were huddled together to keep warm and my tulips, which were about two inches up, I'm sure are frozen.

Will Spring ever arrive? All I know is I'm not putting away my snow blower until it is time to mow my yard.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Night Lights: May The Best Man Win

It was impossible for me to watch the most recent Friday Night Lights without feeling dread that it could be the last one ever. This episode wasn't meant to be a finale, season or series; it was just episode number 15 of 22, tying up a few stories and starting others — others that were meant to be finished later and now might never be.

I know I'm sounding doomsday, and to be fair, there's some vaguely encouraging news about the possibility of FNL moving to another network. There are also several campaigns underway to save the show; stay tuned for more on those later.

While it was in no way structured as a finale, this episode had a few things that would make it a fitting end. Most of the core characters had major moments — and none more than Jason Street, whose one-night stand with the waitress who told Pee Girl to take a hike might have ended with a miracle baby. This wasn't supposed to happen, physically, so no, he didn't "wrap that puppy." Why would he? Pregnancy was out of the question. Except apparently it's not, and Jason's left with a thoroughly unexpected child that he's in no way equipped to raise and a girl whom he's known for just a few hours. Obviously, all of this is a lot for Erin to take in; it's not really a fair thing to have put on her, but it's on her anyway. I loved that Jason went to Coach for advice; that brought the show back to its heart.

Speaking of Coach, he was mostly the comic sidestory, dredging up old jealousies when Tami's old boyfriend came to town. Nobody gives a meaningful "oh, honey" eyeroll quite like Connie Britton, and this episode was full of them as she chided Eric to put old feelings aside. Of course, nothing brings up old feelings quite like Jack Daniels. While I don't know that I buy Eric getting in a fight at a fancy restaurant, I don't doubt the powers of whiskey. And, best of all, that story gave me the scene of Eric in bed, bloody and bruised, while a highly annoyed Tami encouraged Julie to yell at her hung-over father a little louder.

From the funny to the heartbreaking: Was there anything sadder than that shot of Smash crying beneath the college letters hanging on his wall? I still have trouble believing that every school would turn its back on Smash because of one fight, but I do believe that when he said no to Alabama, USC, and the other big guns, they'd go out and recruit someone else — and not be exactly sympathetic to his plight when he came back begging. Whitmore is different. Whitmore believes in Smash. It's not what he dreamed, but it's still a way in.

Some other thoughts:

Riggins isn't going to last long at that Christian radio station, what with advising that hitting people is OK sometimes, but it was a great look at how far he'll go for Lyla. And no matter how into Matt Lyla is right now, and how his family lets her be the smart, proper, preppy girl she's fully capable of being, there's no denying that a part of her still wants to be dangerous and edgy; I mean, how fast did that sweater come off?

Matt's baffled reaction to Landry and Tyra is exactly how I imagine a best friend would respond to the sight of his nerdy buddy walking hand-in-hand with the hottest girl in school — the fact that they killed a dude together aside.

How appropriate that the final words of the series could be "give it a chance." Also, I read way too much into Mama Smash's one-door-closes, another-opens speech. Please, oh please, let there be another door for FNL.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mamma Mia! - Full Length Movie Trailer

Way back in December I had my first glimpse at Mamma Mia!, which stars Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried and Colin Firth, with a teaser. Now, there's a full-length trailer available with yet more of the bright colors and those super catchy ABBA songs. Really, it looks like one long dance party with an adorable Amanda Seyfried and a lovely, girlish Meryl Streep at the center of it all. I am stupidly excited to see this movie!

The story is simple: Sophie (Seyfried) is getting married and wants her father to walk her down the aisle. The problem is, her father could be any one of three different men. The movie opens July 18, and until then I'm going to watch this vibrant, upbeat trailer over and over again. To check it out for yourself, watch the trailer:

Eli Stone: Freedom

Ah, now I see the pattern! The titles of all the first season episodes of Eli Stone will be titles or references to titles of George Michael or Wham songs.

This episode I was treated to a rendition of Michael's "Freedom 90" sung by a boys' choir. Their first appearance on the show was okay, but they really got high marks from me during their choreographed number later in the show, accompanied by Jack Bristow senior law firm partner Jordan Wethersby. I don't know if that voice was really Victor Garber's or not, but it worked pretty well nevertheless.

I have to say that I very much liked the series premiere of Stone: it had a funny and whimsical beginning that carried the rest of the program. This week, not so much of that. It's not that I didn't enjoy the episode, but the lightness that surrounded last week's installment just wasn't there this time around. In fact, if Eli didn't have any visions, this episode could have been swapped with one from Ally McBeal.

I think it had a few things going against it. Since it was only the second episode much of the beginning was subject to a recap by a number of the characters of what had happened the previous episode. And, that's after a one-minute recap at the very beginning of the program. I really didn't need all of that information; the first recap should have covered it all. The other thing going against it was the lack of visions that Eli had. Other than the quick glimpse of the boys' choir at the start of the episode and the two scenes with the biplane (reminiscent of North by Northwest, perhaps?) the next vision was until about the third break.

Of course, the visions seem to be limited to the plot of the particular episode. For instance, the red biplane was there because the client Eli was about to take on was a pilot; the boys' choir was there because this was where the client's son (which she gave away for adoption) was singing. Still, I wish there was a bit more substance to them, and that they were spread out throughout the episode, so that the bulk of the show wasn't my basic legal dramedy.

The third thing going against this episode was the introduction of associate Maggie Decker. I have only one word to say about her: really? Okay, she's a first year associate, and I'll give her a little slack. But, not being able to raise objections in court and properly question a witness? Come on! I have never been to law school but I know they must have mock trials on occasion to work on that type of stuff.

Thing is, it looks like Maggie may turn out to be Eli's partner during his transformation into a different type of lawyer. She would be the right person for him to work with as he could pass along all of the knowledge that he has gained over the years directly to her. I just hope that they downplay Maggie's ignorance and make her a stronger partner for Eli.

There were a number of good things going on. I am glad that Eli just didn't drop his fiancee in order to live his life fully before he eventually dies. I've seen that so many times before and I like that Eli is sticking with the woman he will marry, despite what she said to him last episode. I also like Jonny Lee Miller in the role of Eli Stone. I can't put my finger on why, but for some reason Miller reminds me a bit of Vince Vaughn in some of his characteristics. In other words, he has that nice guy-doesn't take any crap type of attitude that Vaughn has shown in movies like Dodgeball.

Who I really enjoy is Victor Garber, mostly because he isn't an arrogant d*&k of a lawyer. Despite the fact that he owns a huge law firm that caters to big business, somewhere in there he is still a human being. The best example of this is his conversation with Eli after he doesn't take the huge Supreme Court case. Even though he doesn't understand what Eli is doing he certainly respects his decisions. Perhaps that's because, deep down inside, he envies the way that Eli is re-inventing himself.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lost: Confirmed Dead

Now, I don't want to be ungrateful here. These precious few episodes of Lost are some of the only snippets of new TV I've been able to get. But there's always too much happening on this show. There are so many characters and so much crazy stuff going on all the time that to introduce more characters into the mix is just frustrating. Here's hoping these folks are relevant. Really, really relevant.

Firstly, deep sea video footage is hands down one of the scariest things ever. No matter what anyone finds down there, it's haunting. Also, I'm a little surprised that they were able to show a rotting corpse face on the news.

According to the news piece, the Oceanic 815 aircraft was found in the Sunda Trench, near Bali. However, as Frank Lapidus points out, the corpse is not the pilot Seth Norris, who a) has been played by Greg Grunberg in the past, and b) was found, in the cockpit, on the island, before being viciously attacked by the island's smoke monster. Thus, methinks the plane they found in the water is not that of my beloved Losties.

The metal trunk that fell out of the helicopter held gas masks. This seems like an important detail.

By barreling her way onto an excavation site, Charlotte finds the skeleton of a polar bear in Tunisia. The bear's skeleton is accompanied by a collar with the Dharma Initiative's Hydra symbol on it.

I was just talking about Sawyer's nicknames, and now I'm treated to two new ones! He calls Locke Colonel Kurtz, a reference to Marlon Brando's character in Apocalypse Now. Later Sawyer calls Ben "Yoda."

Vincent the dog is back in action! Love that dog. Though I had to laugh when Vincent came through the jungle with Charlotte's tracking device on him. It's like Jack and Locke are playing a camp game, like Capture the Flag or something.

Woah. The Juliet-Sayid sneak attack was pretty awesome. And then Miles sass-talked Sayid! Bold move, Miles.

Best line of the show comes from Sawyer: "Sure. Who are we to argue with Taller Ghost Walt?"

Man, everyone in the world wants Ben dead.

DVD Review: Hotel Rwanda

A beautiful, inspiring film that received all the critical appraise it deserved, Hotel Rwanda is a moving cinematic experience not to be missed. It starts slow, but soon picks up speed, as the conflict begins. The true horrors are never fully shown (note only PG-13), but the film isn't easy-going; the mounds of dead corpses lying in the road and harrowing riot scenes hardly make it easy on your stomach.

Hotel Rwanda centers on a conflict in Rwanda, which the rest of the world has chosen to stay out of, even as genocide is occurring. Don Cheadle plays hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, who uses his hotel as a home to hide the many refugees who are being perused by rebels. His performance is genuinely amazing and unforgettable; as he lies his way through saving his countrymen, talks with higher officials, he never loses the human being beneath. The man is real, and stressed, as he desperately seeks the means to keep the people at his hotel alive. Sophie Okenodo plays his wife just as superbly; going through the same stresses as her husband, and trying to keep her family together. Their scenes together are excellent. Nick Nolte adds some nice support as one of the few UN generals alert to what's happening; trying to aide the refugees.

The film will move viewers; showing them how courage can overcome overwhelming odds. It's a beautiful story of how one man saves thousands. It's superbly written and directed, beautifully acted, and cannot be missed.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Favorite Men of Ireland

St. Patrick's Day is a good time to honor some of the wonderful, handsome, and talented actors born of Ireland. Not only are these men easy on the eyes, but they have also accomplished so much. From inhabiting memorable characters to writing and directing movies, this is a stellar group of men who come to us courtesy of that little green isle.

1. Colin Farrell
One of Ireland's most famous "bad boys," Farrell's off-screen drama often overshadows the fact that he's a charismatic actor. Remember when he had short hair and wasn't as skeezy? Sigh. I choose to think of him that way.

2. Cillian Murphy
This guy is really scary to me. I mostly associate him with really scary characters like The Scarecrow in Batman Begins and that psychopath in Red Eye. However, scariness aside, he's still clearly super talented. He'll be reprising his Scarecrow role in this summer's The Dark Knight.

3. Gabriel Byrne
Gabriel is brooding, quiet and dark. He pops up in movies and TV all the time and has had a long and distinguished acting career. He currently plays the therapist on HBO's In Treatment, which is kind of perfect. I would probably tell him everything he wanted to know about me if he stared me down

4. Jonathan Rhys Meyers
I have to say, sometimes his steady, creepy glare gives me the willies, but there is no denying Jonathan Rhys Meyers is one of Ireland's hottest, most in-demand young stars. While he may not look like the older, bloated King Henry often depicted in history books, I couldn't think of a more perfect young person to embody the smug entitlement of the main character in Showtime's The Tudors.

5. Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh is one of those really talented Shakespearean actors whose work is always top notch. Critics went nuts for his Henry V, which not only demonstrated his insane talent but proved that he's a master at bringing classic works to a contemporary audience.

6. Liam Neeson
Liam just kind of makes me go, "Awwww." I love him in roles like the dad he plays in Love Actually, though he is also a really powerful dramatic actor (see Schindler's List). And he may be one of Ireland's finest, but he's also the man chosen to bring American president Abraham Lincoln to life in Steven Spielberg's film.

7. Ciaran Hinds
Ciaran's that guy you drive yourself nuts trying to figure out where you've seen him before. He's one of those terrific character actors that you may have seen in little projects like, you know, There Will Be Blode, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, and Munich. He'll next be seen in Stop Loss with Ryan Philippe.

8. Stuart Townsend
He's mostly known as Charlize Theron's better half, but this import from Ireland has a lot going on in his own right. For example, he wrote and directed a new film about the WTO protests in Seattle called Battle in Seattle. Plus, could he be any cuter?

9. Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brosnan and his handsome smirk does a heck of a job with dashing, international spy/thief types. I loved the thomas Crown Affair and — though he's no Daniel Craig — he made one sex-ay Bond. Oh and I know what you're thinking: He's Irish? Pierce was born in Ireland, but moved to London at age 11. I'd say Ireland gets to claim him, at least some of the time.

10. Daniel Day-Lewis
This is kind of splitting hairs, but while Daniel Day-Lewis sounds British and wasn't born in Ireland, his dad was. Therefore he has dual citizenship and is eligible for a St. Patrick's Day salute to all his phenomenal work, like his roles in The Last of the Mohicans, My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father and There Will Be Blood, among many others.

Nip/Tuck: Lulu Grandiron

One of the things that I've always enjoyed about Nip/Tuck is the way that Sean and Christian are constantly compared to each other. No matter how much they fight, no matter how much the writing may lead me to believe that they clash, no matter how much they are juxtaposed in any number of varying scenarios, they always turn out looking far more similar than different. This episode was a prime example.

As Christian put it, the two of them are both guilty of enjoying a "mental blow-job." They like to have their egos stroked, to be told they're different and unique and special. Why? Because they know they're not. As a result, they trust too easily, act naïve, and generally seem to accept things that anyone else with half a brain would be all over. It's not the first time either of them has been duped.

This time, Christian was trying to prove he's worth a damn by taking on the duties of plastic surgeon to the socialite scene. While it was hilarious that he whipped out his junk as part of his "job interview," I still knew this was going to end badly. These woman were rich, uppity, plastic surgery/money/sex addicts and that means issues. In the case of Lulu Grandiron, it meant a bi-polar disorder with a tendency to forget her meds. Had Christian checked her medical records before making her look like a cat in the operating room, I wouldn't be writing this paragraph.

I'll be honest though. I believed her. I didn't think she was crazy and I honestly believed this was something Lulu just needed to do. That was until Christian took off her bandages and she started hissing and waving her hands like some sort of rabid barn animal. Crazy! I liked Sean's comment differentiating between a sculptor and a surgeon. If you screw up the marble, it won't sue.

On the flip side, Sean was dealing with Colleen. I knew the truth about her well before he did and it took Bliss' shopping addiction for him to see the light. She found Colleen's teddy-bear kiosk at the mall. Devastated, Colleen broke into Sean's condo and slit her wrists right before he got home. Too many questions though. What about the CAA agent she killed? Did she do or set-up anything else before she killed herself? I just hope her passing (is she dead?) has some meaning or repercussions. And for the millionth time, why does the theme from The Exorcist play whenever she's up to no good?

More than Christian, I was more surprised by Sean for not putting the puzzle together. Colleen had no office. No other clients. As far as I can tell, Sean never signed any contract with her. Plus, she was seriously pushing his involvement in an ad campaign for Sizzler's new salad bar. How much more obvious could it get?

More ramblings...

One of the things I've liked about this season is the way characters aren't forced back into the story. Everyone pops in now and then, but nothing feels out of place. Bliss and the return of Eden in this episode are good examples. So are the way Matt and Julia (is she dying still?) have been used this season.

Speaking of Eden, did anyone else assume she was going to commit suicide? I did. After Colleen's "Sean doesn't love you" chat, I thought she was going to mow down a few bottles of pills. Instead, she's back to doing porn with Ram and Kimber. How unfortunate.

And speaking of Ram, what was baby Jenna's first word? Not Daddy. Not Mommy. "Ram." Her first word was the name of a porn king-pin. Adorable.

With only two episodes left, I'm really not sure if this season is building up to anything. Other than Hearts and Scalpels, there really hasn't been any season long plot other than "Hollywood" itself. That being said, I suppose anything could happen.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sarah Connor Chronicles: Heavy Metal

The writers have clearly spent a lot of time thinking about terminators. This gives rise to the show asking questions such as "If they were badly damaged and lost their skin (as we've seen in the movies) – how would they continue their mission?" There's also "If a terminator completed its mission, would it just go into standby?" And in this episode I saw answers to both of these questions and the mythology of the terminator expands and deepens.

Meanwhile, John Connor runs into something of a "catch-22" situation. He's supposed to stay alive to become some great hero and leader in the future war against the machines. However, if Sarah is going to shelter him and keep him close at all times to keep him safe – how will he ever learn and achieve the things he needs to do in order to become that leader? It seems possible that they'll keep him alive, but he simply won't be ready to face Skynet. As Cameron puts it, when Sarah says it's too soon to let him go, "Is it? The world ends in 4 years." Sarah is facing the frightening prospect of having to fight her instincts so that John can finally do what he was meant to do.

Lena Heady also shows some of her action chops in this episode. When she ties up a man who is (though unwittingly) collaborating with a terminator – she really doesn't mess around. There's a ferocity that comes out as she wails on the guy and is perfectly prepared to torture him. However, she decides instead to use Cameron as her ace in the hole. The show continues to find new and interesting ways for Sarah and Cameron to work together as a team.

Agent Ellison continues his seemingly foolish pursuit of Sarah's case, much to the amusement of his colleagues. While it does seem that these events are far removed from the rest of the show (because they are), it does do a good job of providing exposition for the audience that John and Sarah simply aren't privy to. It's making the prospect of his finally meeting up with Sarah and the others all the more interesting.

The show closes on the great moment of Cameron sending the truck full of terminator alloy into the sea. It's a terrific shot, with Summer Glau climbing through the windshield and riding on top of the truck just before leaping to safety before it goes over. The show really isn't cutting corners on its effects budget, which is appropriate since the Terminator films have always been about spectacle. This show is much different, more cerebral and deliberately paced. As the show progresses, it's getting tighter, smoothing out the edges, while better defining its characters and mythology.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Prison Break: Under and Out

"Welcome to the coal mine, canary." - T-Bag

And the escape is on! I honestly can't say why I like this season of Prison Break so much. It's far from being the edgy show that it was during its first season and at the same time it's miles ahead of last season's manhunt mess. Maybe it's simply due to the fact that there literally isn't much else on TV right now and as a result, it's good by default. But after this episode, I'm leaning more towards the unpredictability factor.

Let me clarify that though. In season one, there was a cohesive plan from the get go and everything that happened felt logical as Scofield's plan unfolded. I referred to season two as "a mess." It was. However...it was a cohesive mess. As crappy as season two was, everything made sense and it played out pretty much as you expected. After this episode, season three has officially gained "Oh my god, I can't believe it got renewed" status. Not only has this season been all over the map, but I'm starting to get the feeling that I'm not the only one scratching my head. I'm not sure the good folks behind this show have any idea as to where this season is headed. I love it!

Honestly, had Prison Break been canceled after season two there would have been plenty of people angry... but let's be real -- it would have been forgotten pretty fast. But it wasn't canned and suddenly this fading tale needed a new direction. And that's where it all started to fall apart, but in a good way...

So here I am, eleven episodes in (due to the strike, there are only two left) and the escape has begun. There's no real plan other than "dig a hole and run," the conspiracy feels extremely loose at best (and even that's generous), there's a handful of new characters that still haven't really made a mark, and I seriously can't wait to find out what happens next! How is that possible?

First, some catch up. Michael and his merry band of inmates now consists of the usual crowd (Bellick, Mahone, T-Bag) and some newcomers to the art of escaping (Lechero, Whistler, McGrady). Sammy is dead and out of the way, they've re-dug their tunnel, and it's time to leave before the ground caves in and the guards notice a giant sinkhole in Sona's front yard. Hence, the plan I previously mentioned, "dig a hole and run."

Plenty of questions still loom. Most importantly, what does Whistler know? That is, besides the ominous "coordinates." My prediction? He's not who he says he is. For this to pay-off and be marginally interesting before the finale, he has to be far more powerful than we've been led to believe. I'm hoping he actually works for The Company (not just a "for hire" Company fisherman) and ends up being higher on the ladder than Susan -- unknown to her, of course. That'd be a nice turn, especially to see her reaction.
This episode had some fun moments which helped with the absurdity of it all. Seeing Bellick and T-Bag scramble to make alliances was humorous. Like it's going to matter once they get out. They have 30 seconds before those lights flick back on. Someone's gotta get shot...right?

Speaking of those lights, how exactly did Sucre get busted for that? Did Susan/Gretchen put out a fake warrant for him? She must have because he's been working for Sona for a while now and nothing happened. I'm betting...everyone else will get out and he'll be thrown in. Michael's conscience will love that.

More thoughts...

T-Bag can quote bible verse. Of course...

I mentioned Michael's conscience, but it's going to be interesting to see if he actually does something to hinder the escape of one of the "real" criminals.

Are the coordinates Whistler wrote down actually worth anything? Were they real? Does it matter that he ripped them in half?

Mahone's comment about T-Bag being inbred was great.

Bellick: "Does anybody know Spanish for 'don't shoot?'"

Select moments that just made me giggle: Lincoln hijacking a school-bus, Michael calling the 1-800-Generator number, and Bellick smearing honey all over an oil-drum lid.

I really don't know what's going to happen next. At one point, Susan said she wasn't the bad guy, but is The Company's role in this season going to tie into the overarching mythology of the whole show? What do they want? Why Whistler? They seem powerful enough. Why not just send some black-ops team in there to bust him out? Seems a bit more guaranteed than Scofield.

Regardless, that's all that matters now with these two final episodes coming up. I don't care about what happens to the other inmates. I don't care about the budding romance between Lincoln and Sofia. I don't care about McGrady's family reunion or Mahone's drug recovery or Bellick's sorry existence. I don't care if Sucre gets tossed in Sona. I'm not even sure that I care if L.J. lives or dies. All I care about is Whistler. What does he know? It better be good

Friday, March 14, 2008

Masterpiece: Miss Austen Regrets

Approaching her fortieth birthday, Jane Austen appears happily unmarried. When asked by her young niece Fanny to help her vet potential husbands, Jane's confident composure is threatened as she finds herself looking back on her own potential suitors and the choices she has made. Could potential family financial ruin have been averted if she'd accepted the proposal of a wealthy landowner? And what about the handsome young physician Jane meets as a result of a family illness?

Despite the title, however, Austen is no shrinking violet prone to recriminations, rather she sees her novels as beloved children and the decision not to wed as vital to the freedom she enjoyed in birthing them. As for men, she says tartly, "I never found one worth giving up flirting for."

This isn't to say Austen is without self-doubts, lamenting at one point how "small" her work is, unable to know the enduring success she would achieve beyond her lifetime. Left somewhat fuzzy, meanwhile, are the details surrounding Cassandra dissuading Jane from marrying early in life -- a union that would have secured her economic future -- though as presented, the bond between the sisters is both strong and moving. The narrative also introduces a trio of Jane's former suitors, among them a since-married reverend, who has clearly never gotten over her.

Based on the life and letters of Jane Austen, Miss Austen Regrets tells the story of the novelist's final years, examining why, despite setting the standard for romantic fiction, she died having never married or met her own Mr. Darcy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Firday Night Lights: Leave No One Behind

I haven't exactly been shy about the fact that Friday Night Lights occasionally makes me cry, but the waterworks reached a new level after watching this episode. Part of that was the episode itself, but part of it was the context: This was the next-to-last episode the show finished before the writer's strike started, and even though the strike ended, there's no telling if the show will go back into production. Although I did hear rumours about NBC was talking to other cable networks so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. As a result, this episode felt very much like the end to me. I certainly needed a tissue and a hug?

This was exactly the kind of episode I talk about when I tell people why FNL is great. It's wasn't about football; I still didn't even see a game. But every moment tied back to what I know about the Panthers, this collection of lives all tied together by the pursuit of a championship ring.

Take Matt. The show's first season did such a wonderful job of showing the weight Matt has to carry every day as a star quarterback, an only son, and a caretaker. That mostly went away this season — until this episode. I think I finally understand why Matt wanted to be with Carlotta: She shielded him from some of that responsibility. And yet, as he said in that wonderful, wonderful scene when Coach literally threw him in a cold shower: Everyone leaves him eventually. Coach left, his dad left, his girlfriend left, even the ever-loyal Landry's been otherwise occupied.

Matt was probably bound to crack eventually, and picking Tim "stole from a meth dealer" Riggins as a role model was the most dramatic way to do so. I loved all the little things this episode taught me about Riggins, too: that he stalks Lyla at lunch every day, that he always takes off Wednesdays, that he's made friends with enough bartenders and bouncers that he has a whole range of illicit activities at his fingertips. And yet, he pines after a born-again Christian. Oh, the contradictions of Tim Riggins.

Smash's downward spiral continued, too, with TMU revoking his scholarship because of his "questionable character." As a point of fact, someone of Smash's stature probably isn't done playing football; tons of pro players have way spottier backgrounds than his. But I can believe that in that moment, he thought he was done. It was hard to watch him take the TMU memorabilia down from his walls, and harder still to watch his speech to his team and his silent, lonely breakdown in the locker room later.

As for the rest of the cast:

Julie finally had a reason for her brattiness, getting stood up at the DMV while her mom celebrated victory with the Bad News Bears of volleyball. Good thing Tami came up with a quick fix — and how sad was it watching her hold Gracie while Julie drove away? She's had a lot of letting go to do lately.

Landry's the man! He has the affections of Jean, the tiny little cutie who bonds with him over Mystery Science Theater, and then he has Tyra, the knockout beauty. There was a moment there, when Landry said Jean wasn't embarrassed by him, that I thought he might actually say no to Tyra. Instead, he's left behind the perfect girl (for him) for the perfect girl (fantasy edition).

Speaking of Landry, how great was he saying he didn't want Matt to become an "at-risk youth," followed by Matt's hungover "Ohmigod, stop talking"?

In some ways, I'm afraid to watch the next FNL; what if it's the last one I ever see?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eli Stone: Pilot

"Oh, Did I mention I recently found out I could be a prophet? Yeah, I was shocked too."

What better lead-in could a show about a guy who may be a prophet having visions of the future (or may just be plain crazy) want than the season premiere of Lost? But while I went into it expecting something different and interesting, I instead found a fairly standard legal drama with a gimmick. Sure, I could argue that Pushing Daisies is nothing more than a standard mystery show with a gimmick, but the characters and charm of Daisies can win out over that. So far, Eli is missing that ingredient.

The big controversy of this episode was in the presumption that a woman could successfully argue that a preservative in a vaccine caused her child to have autism, and have this argument stand up in court. And I was floored when at the end of the episode, ABC felt the need to plaster a big disclaimer on the screen.


When I saw this disclaimer I laughed out loud. It's a TV show. Of course, it's fictional.

As for the show itself, I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed so far. It has potential, but unless I start to see something more compelling in these visions of Eli's, then it's going to seem more and more like they're just a convenient gimmick to move the story where the writers want it to be. And if I'm going to believe Dr. Chen's assertion that maybe Eli is some sort of prophet, I'm going to need to see a lot more importance in either where his visions are taking him and/or the visions themselves.

The characters themselves have some potential, but too much are just filling roles. For example, by the second time Eli went to see "Dr. Chen," I not only knew that the latter was going to become a principal character, but I also knew that his accent was fake and he wasn't really anything more than a guy with a gimmick to get by. Kind of like the show.

It's great fun to see Victor Garber as both Eli's boss at the firm and his fiance's father, especially since the two seem to be developing a professional rivalry. Now for my money, the girl who plays Taylor is miscast as Eli's fiance as the two share very little chemistry. In fact, there was a lot more chemistry between Eli and Beth Keller. Beth is his client, the mother of the child with autism and the girl to whom he lost his virginity. Coincidences? Of course not, it's prophecy. My guess, and hope, was that this was intentional and he'll eventually leave Taylor for Beth.

Also convenient is having the doctor who diagnoses his brain aneurysm (so maybe they're not prophetic visions?) be his brother. I don't know, it just seems like they're forcing things a bit. I hope the visions become a lot more extravagant.

Standout Moments:

His brother dropping the classic Field of Dreams line "If you build it they will come," when Eli is going in for his MRI.

George Michael actually appearing in the episode singing his signature song "Faith." And can I say that George is looking great for his age.

The autistic kid spelling out "GEORGE MICHAEL" in his wall of blocks, lending to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there is something to this prophetic stuff. After all, it's what compels Eli to take up Beth's case, going up against his own firm.

Tom Cavanagh (Ed) as Eli's dad, who may not have been as useless a drunk as his family thought he was; he may have suffered from visions as well.
Eli's mom transporting her husband's ashes in a can labeled "Chock Full o' Nuts."

Dr. Chen's explanation of the whole series in a few lines: "Everything has two explanations, the scientific and the divine. It's up to us to choose which one we buy into. The science explains the enlarged vessel in your head, but does it explain how the girl you lost your virginity to happened to be suing your law firm? How her son happened to spell out a message to you with his blocks? ... Almost all religions believe that there are those who are sent to us to help us find our way. Some people call them prophets. ... God told Moses he'd send send a prophet to every generation. Why not a lawyer?"

Patti his sassy secretary.

Ultimately, while I wasn't blown away with the pilot, I'm still intrigued by the premise and hope there's something more substantial underneath what I've seen so far. There is some potential with the established character dynamics. It'll be interesting to see how long before Eli will lose his job at the law firm. After all, if the changes he wants to make in his life, as told to Beth at the end, involve more standing up for the little guy against big corporations, that stands in direct contrast to what the firm, and his boss and future father-in-law, are all about. I haven't given up on Eli yet, but I was hoping for something more.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lost: The Beginning of the End

I'm not going to go so far as to say the Season Four premiere of Lost was worth the wait because that was a really long wait, and I don't want to jinx myself somehow, but this first episode of the new season definitely delivered all the Lost-y goodness Ive been craving for months on end.

Is there a better way to kick off the fourth season of Lost than with a crazy high-speed car chase complete with zooming over fences and crashing into fruit stands? I think not.

Again I got some flash-forwards — this time concentrating on Hurley's experience post-rescue — and they're crazy. Literally. However, the show begins not with Hurley's flash-forward, but with Jack's as he watches the car chase on TV. Also, this flash-forward Jack is way more with it than the last flash-forward Jack was, and he mentions "thinking about growing a beard." So, these scenes are from before the bearded, alcoholic Jack days. Perhaps it's Hurley's funeral Jack attends later?

Now I know that it wasn't just Kate and Jack who were rescued: there's Hurley and probably the three others who make up "The Oceanic Six."

That guy Hurley meets in the mental institution, Matthew Abbadon is a creepy fellow. As is always the case with Lost, a name is not just a name. In Hebrew, Abaddon means 'destruction.' In Job 26:6; Proverbs 15:11 it means 'place of destruction,' or 'realm of the dead.' Many biblical scholars believe Abaddon to be Satan or the antichrist.

Awww . . . Sawyer shows his little softie side again, asking Hurley if he wants to talk about Charlie. "Holler if you need me." Heh . . . I'll holler for ya, Sawyer . . . heh.

The ladies gossip corner with Claire, Rose and Sun is pretty cute; Sun and Claire joshing each other about hospital birth versus island birth, Rose making reference to Claire rewarding Charlie with sex. Bawdy!

The image of the eye is one of the many common motifs in this show. Still, I jumped a mile when that eye popped up in the window as Hurley looked into Jacob's hut. Whose eye is that? And how does the building disappear when Hurley wills it away?

Holy cow, Jack was actually going to shoot Locke in the face! Locke's hurt little expression afterward was oddly comical, though. Maybe that makes me a bad person.

At the mental institution, Hurley paints pictures of an igloo and a bundled up person next to it. Is this just Hurley veering as far away from his tropical island memories as possible — or something more?

I'm curious as to why Naomi covered for the Losties on the phone with George. But I can't say I care that much.

Aw, watching Hurley's big ol' face crumple just breaks my heart. "I'm listening to Charlie. I'm listening to my friend."

And yet again there is a division into two groups. This time it's the Jack vs. Locke round, however, with repercussions extending beyond even the rescue from the island, as Hurley later apologizes to Jack for having chosen Locke's camp.

Dinner & A DVD: Hostage

It's been a while since I prepared a dinner. Most nights are spent eating out or fixing some fast. But tonight I was home and prepared this easy casserole. Convenience items like frozen vegetables and a jar of cheese sauce made it a snap to assemble this comforting pork chop supper. It was an easy meal-in-one.

Baked Pork Chops

Bone-in pork loin chops
Vegetable oil
Seasoned Salt
1 jar (8 oz) process cheese sauce (Cheese Whiz)
1/2 cup milk
1 can (2.8 oz) french-fried onions, divided
1 package frozen broccoli florets

In a skillet, brown pork chops in oil; sprinkle with seasoned salt. In a bowl, combine the cheese sauce and milk until blended; spread into a greased baking dish. Top with half of the onions. Arrange broccoli and pork chops over the top.

Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 10 minutes longer or until the meat is no longer pink and the broccoli is tender.


When I think of Bruce Willis, I tend to think of action films with plenty of shooting.

Hostage was that, but it was also much more.Devastated when a failed attempt to negotiate a hostage situation leads to the death of a small child, LAPD's top negotiator Jeff Talley leaves his wife and teenage daughter to accept a low profile job as chief of police in a small town. But his quiet life comes to an abrupt halt when three teenage boys follow home a rich family with the intent to steal their car. The teenagers plan goes awry when they are trapped in in the family's mansion, unaware the father works for a crime syndicate.

In panic, the three take the family hostage forcing Talley into the role of negotiator. But just when he's about to hand the case over to the Sheriff's department, his own family is taken hostage by the criminal group who want a disc that is in the house. Talley is then left in the precarious situation of negotiating with two families on the line.

Willis, of course, plays the jaded, world-weary Talley and although he gives an action-packed performance, there is reflection in his behaviourism that he's not some energetic young kid anymore. He depicts a more in-depth insight into Talley, making him come across as a more solid character.

Ben Foster, who plays the dangerously unhinged Mars, has an equally as strong presence in the film. He gives a great performance of a man who leaves you questioning just how evil he is. Jonathan Tucker and Marshall Allman play brothers who act as Mars' accomplices. It's a nice touch that they aren't depicted as cruel, evil monsters but rather just delinquent boys in over their heads who never wanted to see anyone hurt.

Hostage has all the ingredients of a good action flick, with shooting, cops and Willis. Yet nevertheless it rises above that by injecting a hefty dose of drama and suspense into the storyline making it not only exciting but dark and intense. There aren't any pointless scenes filmed purely for the sake of showing 'look, we have guns and can do cool stunts', which is why the film joins the ranks of being a more intelligent action thriller. And because the characters aren't one-dimensional but rather have individual personalities, the audience is interested in their fates.

A film for both Willis fans and those just looking for a good action thriller.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Law and Order; Political Animal

This episode appears to be ripped from the headlines of the Larry Craig sex scandal that came to light in summer 2007. Senator Craig was caught tapping his foot in a men's room stall in an airport bathroom, resulting in his arrest on a sexual misconduct charge.

Not the greatest, but still a good episode. With some twists and a few turns, the show was exactly what I have come to expect from Law and Order. The story starts out with three dead bodies, two of which are gay men. One of the murdered victims was tied to a politician, hence the twist of the story. But as anyone who watches this show knows, the first theory or the first guy is rarely the perpetrator.

A powerful scene was when a female politician, who had hired the political fundraiser (that is now implicated in the killings), asked that Jack McCoy make the case go away. Of course, my man Jack would not be swayed.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Nip/Tuck: Kyle Ainge

"Mommy's not coming back because Daddy killed her." - Christian

Um... wow. I'm never going to a Build-A-Bear Workshop ever again. I'll come back to that later, but let's touch on the theme of this episode first: cannibalism. There's a topic that Nip/Tuck hasn't tackled before and they didn't hold back either. From the teacher who bites her Kindergarten students, to the metaphors of Hollywood agents eating you alive, to the newlywed couple that actually... ate each other, all the bases were covered. Who's hungry?

First off, let's talk about Kyle Ainge and his wife. Disgusting story, but it was still touching. It was sad really. Trapped in a ravine for ten days after a wrong turn on their skiing honeymoon, Kyle fed his hypoglycemic wife chunks of his own flesh to keep her alive. It actually sounds like something I'd read about on the news and I'm sure there have been similar incidents reported.

But then it got twisted and during his surgery recovery, the wife fed the husband some her own flesh to make them even? Equals? Really sickening if I think about. I think she was a little loopy. It never occurred to her that her flesh was raw and he had cooked his using the lighter from an overturned car in the ravine. This was only five minutes into the show. My jaw was on the floor. Plus, the two surgeries were extremely graphic during this episode and every commercial break ended with the "viewer discretion advised" announcement. That says it all right there.

Moving on to Colleen... As I correctly speculated, she's a nut. She's not really an agent, doesn't live in a mansion, and has an obsession with hand made teddy bears. I think the thing that surprises me most is how trusting and naïve Sean is. I know the whole point is that he's the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Hollywood newbie and as such he shouldn't know any better, but c'mon - he is definitely smarter than this.

How come he's never asked to see her office? Isn't it somewhat odd that Colleen had never heard of CAA? ("What's Caw?") She's clearly just an obsessive and delusional fan. As if there wasn't proof enough, she killed Sean's agent-to-be Bob from CAA with one of those machines that fills teddy bears with plush animal stuffing. That was disturbing to say the least. And how come whenever I see her, the theme music from The Exorcist plays?

More thoughts...

No Julia? With the way her story has progressed, I found that odd. She's slowly dying, right?

How funny was Gina's funeral? One big sexaholics meeting where everyone recalled what great blow-jobs, hand-jobs, and rim-jobs she gave. It was sad to meet the guy that gave her AIDS though. My one question? She met all these people in Miami, right? They all traveled to LA for the funeral service? Seemed a little weird to me.

The teacher who bites her students had one of the funniest lines in the history of this show when Christian asked if he could maybe donate something like a jungle-gym to the school to avoid any lawsuits: "I was hoping you could provide something else to climb on." Hilarious. (I can't believe she had her teeth ground down and capped!)