Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Movie Friday!

Gosh, it's been weeks since I've been to the theater. Work plus vacation and now catching up on all this TV has kept me away for way too long. I'm going to have to rectify that shortly. Anyway, this is a slow week at the beginning of a slow month so I should have time to catch up on all the relative goodness September had to offer.

"The Social Network" - Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
David Fincher ("Se7en", "Fight Club") brings the story of Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) and the monster he created (Facebook) to the big screen. The buzz for this movie has been mostly positive but I've seen a few reviews that lead me to believe it could fall short of its Oscar aspirations. I'm very interested to see what the audience response will be. Regardless, it's an engrossing story and it has very little competition so the top spot at the box office looks likely. Can't go wrong with Timberlake, either.

"Let Me In" - Chloe Moritz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins
This remake of a Swedish horror flick ("Let the Right One In") that made a lot of top 10 lists a couple of years ago, "Let Me In" focuses on a young vampire (Moritz) whose connection with a mortal (Smit-McPhee) threatens to bring them both down. I'm not a horror movie fan but I've heard extremely good things about "Let the Right One In." It won't get me to a screening for this one but it has a strong pedigree nonetheless.

"Case 39" - Renee Zellweger, Bradley Cooper, Ian McShane
A social worker (Zelwegger) brings a young patient home after her parents are caught planning to murder her. Soon, however, she discovers that the intentions of the parents may have been the right call. This thing has been on a shelf somewhere for years and none of the parties involved seem real keen on helping to promote it. A limited release in Spain and Mexico, however, brought a reasonable amount of success so now we're getting a domestic release. Yippee. Seriously, though, Renee Zellweger is in my top 5 most unlikeable actors. I just don't get her appeal on any level.

"Freakonomics" (Limited)
A documentary about "incentive-based thinking" (whatever that means) based on the best selling book. I love documentaries but I'm not sure I even understand what this thing is about. Maybe I'll do some research and be more prepared to discuss this top- Oh look! A new episode of "Community"! I'm out.

DVR Guide - "Blue Bloods"

Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) is the chief of police in New York City. His daughter, Erin (Bridget Moynahan), is an assistant district attorney. His oldest son Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) is a seasoned detective who's not above violating some civil liberties in order to get the job down. Another Reagan son was recently killed in the line of duty, which prompted the youngest child, Jamie (Will Estes), to drop out of Harvard law and become a patrol cop. And then they all do...cop stuff.

The pilot for "Blue Bloods" is pretty formulaic and not the most exciting hour of television. Okay, in all honesty, I just saw a report that tagged "Blue Bloods" with the highest median average age (60.4 years) of any show on TV. So, yeah, you can imagine how slow this show can get. No need to disturb the geriatric demographic. But, for all its lack of movement, I was actually relatively impressed with the quality of the characters and the tone the show takes. While I expected the typical CBS schlock, instead "Blue Bloods" touches on a slightly grittier, edgy note that could potentially set it apart from the rest of that networks programming. It's not gritty enough to play on FX or anything like that but it's got enough sense to stay out of the painfully campy crap that plagues the average CBS show. And, hey, can you really go wrong with Tom Selleck? Selleck is one of those actors who transcends demographics. He's just too awesome. I'm a big fan of Wahlberg, too, and the Selleck-Wahlberg combination make up for the complete lack of talent that is Bridget Moynahan. We'll see where "Blue Bloods" goes in the future but for the time being, I guess I'll join the nursing home crowd for one hour a week.

Verdict: Week-to-Week

Move News Today

I may be the only one who's a little excited about "Men in Black 3," but regardless, Emma Thompson has joined the cast.

Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep together? Can we just give out a couple of Oscar nods right now and save ourselves some time?

Darren Aronofsky ("The Wrestler") seems hell bent on cashing in his Indie credit to nab one, two, even three comic book movies, having now begun discussions concerning "Preacher."

I'm not into the whole zombie apocalypse craze. I seem to have missed that Nerd Gene. But, I have plenty of nerdy friends who are. To those friends, please enjoy this zombie survival guide. Quite funny. 

Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire have been rumored as possible leads in a "Great Gatsby" adaptation. I'm torn because, while I feel DiCaprio can play just about anyone and while I count "Gatsby" as one of my all time favorite books, I think it might be unfilmable. There's a great chance this dies in pre-production and I'm not sure that wouldn't be a good thing. Just sayin'.

DVR Guide - "Running Wilde"

Steven Wilde (Will Arnett) is the screw up, do-nothing of his oil business family. He spends most of his days drinking, competing with his equally worthless neighbor in who can waste the most money, and occasionally giving himself humanitarian awards for work he has not done. Think Billy Madison with a little more wit. His one weak spot is Emmy (Keri Russell), an environmental activist who grew up in the Wilde household as the house keepers daughter. When Emmy shows up to the fake humanitarian presentation to appeal to Steven's conscience, her daughter Puddle (Stefania Owen), seizes the opportunity to get out of the Amazon and into a normal childhood. Before long Emmy and Puddle are living on the Wilde estate where shenanigans take place.

"Wilde" is the brainchild of Mitch Hurwitz, the genius behind best-TV-show-ever "Arrested Development." Reuniting Arnett and Hurwitz is a dream come true and provides a precursor for the upcoming (please, oh please, let it actually happen) "Arrested Development" movie. This certainly isn't up to the quality of "AD" (because nothing is) but after a rocky start, the pilot episode more than holds its own. Arnett plays the man-child quite well, crossing Gob Bluth (again, "AD") with his take on Will Ferrell, and the dynamic between he and Russell has potential. "Wilde" isn't as quick witted as some of the better comedies on television these days but there's enough of it to balance out the slapstick ridiculousness, creating a pleasant combination. My only complaint is the off screen narration, done through the perspective of Puddle. Part of what made "AD" so great was the BRILLIANT narration by Ron Howard. When "Wilde" opens with a similar style of narration, (keeping in mind the people involved) I was primed for an "AD"-like revamp and really the two shows are very dissimilar. It took me a few minutes to adjust my expectations to what was actually happening on screen and I wonder if my fellow "AD" loyalists tuned out early on. Regardless, "Wilde" is very funny and has me on the hook until Fox inevitably kills it off.

Verdict: Season Pass

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

DVR Guide - "Outsourced"

When Todd Dempsey (Ben Rappaport) returns to his Kansas City office after a manager training seminar, he discovers that the entire work force has been outsourced to India. In order to keep his career on path, Todd has to head to India to manage a new office full of locals who have no understanding of the novelty crap they are now selling. "Jokes" take place.

Before I completely blast this disaster of a sitcom, I feel compelled to say one thing. "Outsourced" had already earned a strike or two in my book before it even premiered. At some point last year, the focus of my excitement for NBC's Thursday night lineup shifted from "The Office" and "30 Rock" to "Community" and "Parks and Recreation." By the end of the year "Parks" was, in my book, the second funniest show on TV behind only "Modern Family." Coming into the Fall season, "Parks" is slated as a midseason replacement. So it stands to reason that the sooner "Outsourced" hits the bricks, the sooner we can get back the good people of Pawnee, Indiana.

With that said, if the likely replacement for "Outsourced" was a small screen adaptation "Bride Wars," I might become a Kate Hudson fan for the occasion. Nothing is worse than a comedy that fails to make you laugh. Heck, forget laughing. I smirked ONCE during the 22 minute runtime and even that was forced on my part. This is easily the worst new show on network television and one of the most unfunny sitcoms I've ever sat through. Every joke is based on cultural misunderstandings and lowest-common-denominator stereotypes that border on offensive and routinely cross into groan inducing, painful territory. Here's hoping NBC has a little Fox mentality in there somewhere and a cancellation notice is on the way soon.

Verdict: Two Week Special

Movie News Today

Movie Muse provides us with an archive review of a documentary called "Jesus Camp" that I watched a couple of years ago. An interesting read and a well balanced critique.

I haven't had a chance to go to the movies recently. Sad, considering there's actually a couple I want to see. So until I do, please enjoy Insight Into Entertainment's coverage of "The Town."

I really don't want to report this next story but it is my job. But I don't have to enjoy it. "Star Wars" is headed for 3-D in 2012.

Jared Harris is the choice for Moriarty in the upcoming "Sherlock Holmes 2." Not a sexy choice by any means but a good one. His work on "Fringe" proved the ability to play a cerebral villain, a vital skill when going up against RDJ's Holmes.

Empire delivers the 33 greatest movie trilogies of all time. Don't let the first entry fool you, this is a pretty solid list.

In "Duh, But Finally" news, Chris Nolan has confirmed that "Batman 3" is a go. 'Nuff said.

Finally, Paramount has released a teaser trailer of sorts for the Cohen Brothers' "True Grit." Great trailer, big expectations for the film as a whole.

DVR Guide: "Detroit 1-8-7"

I know, I know, I'm a little late to the party. My vacation happened to coincide with both the beginning of the Fall TV season and my beloved Texas Rangers clinching their first playoff berth in 11 years. So I'm behind. But I'm committed to this thing, yo, so here goes.

"Detroit 1-8-7" follows a squad of homicide detectives in the rough and tumble city of Columbus. No, sorry, Detroit of course. Detective Louis Fitch (Michael Imperioli) is the top dog, a guarded, edgy cop with his own way of doing everything. Pretty much everyone else in the "Detroit" cast takes on the roll of backup singer to Imperioli's soloist (at least in the pilot). It's a fairly generic set of characters including the rookie cop, the veteran on the verge of reitrement, the pretty boy trying to make a name for himself, etc. "Detroit" is a cross between "NYPD Blue" and the NBC-turned-TNT drama "Southland." Originally intended to be a single camera, mockumentary-type show, "Detroit" had to change its direction (and reshot some of the pilot) when a child was actually killed during the filming of a real life cop show that happened to take place in Detroit. As a result, the first episode is part "real life action" complete with bouncing camera and bleeped curses, part standard cop show.

I actually quite enjoyed the pilot. Imperioli is a great actor, an intimidating presence on the screen no matter what role he plays, and this is right up his alley Fitch is a strong lead, the classic hard-edged loner with unorthodox methods that seem to work no matter what. The rest of the cast is completely unrefined but the characters have room for growth in future episodes. There is, without question, a certain amount of cliche to "Detroit" that could end up ruining the show. Cop shows are a dime a dozen and every new season brings a few new guests to the table and it's a bit difficult to be completely original. The show's concept and main character, though, are good enough to bring me back a few more times.

Verdict: Week-to-Week

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

DVR Guide - "Glee"

In case you’ve just escaped from a Cold War era bomb shelter and haven’t been caught up in the madness that is “Glee,” I offer a very brief synopsis of Season 1. It’s about a glee club at an Ohio high school where no one cares about glee club except for the glee club’s sponsor, Will Schuster (). Each week, the group fights against the perils of high school, including bullies, intolerance, a rival glee club, and a teacher who wants them gone (Jane Lynch). Every week they almost fall apart and every week they sing and everything gets better.

This is BY FAR the worst show that I enjoy on a weekly basis. For one thing, it is an insanely depressing program. Once in a while “Glee” throws out a positive, emotional, enlightening episode but the vast majority of them are super negative. Nothing good ever happens except the big musical numbers that seem to unite the school for about 12 minutes. I went to a very tough, difficult high school and even I find “Glee” to be extremely heavy handed and generic. In addition to all of that, the storylines are cliché, boring, and reused. Sure, some funny stuff happens along the way but essentially every episode revolves around a threat to shut the club down if they don’t win the next competition or finds the group on the brink of a breakup. Plot wise, it’s one of the worst written shows on TV, which is odd because the dialogue usually ranges from above average to quite good. The writers just have no idea how to write for story.

Every episode begins with me thinking to myself, “This is the last time I watch this thing” and ends with me thinking, “Man do I like classic rock.” Seriously, I blame my viewing of “Glee” on the power of Journey and the other bands the glee club covers. With that said, Season 2 opened strong with a funny mockumentary-style open and provided the usual musical numbers that seem to work no matter what. Still, however, at some point the downright genius one liners and exciting song choices are going to be swallowed up by the rest of the junk that comes along as part of the package. I can already tell that I’m going to grow tired of at least one of the new characters and many of the others are becoming one-dimensional, so well defined as to become caricatures of themselves. If “Glee” could promise me refined plot points along with my Queen cover songs, then I could get invested with more certainty. As it is, however, I fear I’m always going to be riding the fence until I finally give up for good.

Verdict: Week-to-Week

New DVD Tuesday!

Iron Man 2 (2010): Robert Downey, Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, Don Cheadle
The sequel to 2008's "Iron Man" has been even more successful at the box office, if not from a critical standpoint. This installment finds Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey) up against a sadistic Russian (Mickey Rourke) out for blood and revenge, a rival weapons developer who wants him out of business (Sam Rockwell), and an illness that is quickly draining his life away. While "IM2" is not quite as strong as the first movie (which could be the second best superhero movie ever), I still liked it an awful lot and very much enjoyed the near-campy dialogue. Also, there are no less than four versions of this movie available for purchase. So it's got that going for it.

Get Him to the Greek (2010): Jonah Hill, Russell Brand
A lowly record label employee (Hill) must get a hard partying rocker (Brand) to Los Angeles in time for a big concert. Two things will probably keep me away from this one altogether (or at least until I'm very bored). 1.) Hill is just like Jack Black: he's good, even great at times, as a supporting actor. He borders on unwatchable in the lead. 2.) I don't get the Russell Brand love fest. This guy is absolutely taking off and I would like to know why. He just isn't funny. I mean, maybe in that "he had five lines in the whole movie and two of them were funny" kind of way but nothing more. If he didn't have a British accent he'd be working on one of the low-rent movie lot rides that I'm currently enjoying on my Disney World vacation. Anyway, I'm not running out to get this one tomorrow.

Scrubs - Season 9 (2009): Donald Faison, John C. McGinley
The final season for the doctors and interns of Sacred Heart. I was a huge, huge, HUGE fan of "Scrubs" for about the first five and a half seasons. At one time, there was no show on TV that could make me laugh out loud in one minute and then bring me to the verge of tears in the next like "Scrubs" could. However, when NBC and the show's creators started wavering back and forth on whether or not they were going to continue to run "Scrubs" or let it have the respectful death it deserved, the show lost its way. I haven't seen Season 8 or 9 which is unfortunate given how much I loved the show once upon a time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

DVR Guide - "Lone Star"

Bob Allen (James Wolk) has a girlfriend he truly loves in Midland. He also happens to have a wife he truly loves in Houston. He also happens to have a father he truly loves who has pushed him into a life of a con man. The three worlds all begin to collide as he nears the biggest take of his life and his wife's family begin to become suspicious of his motives.

I'm a big fan of the con. My love affair with this often attempted, rarely mastered plot line started with "The Sting" and was rekindled with the "Ocean's" movies. If you tell me a movie or show is about a grifter, you can literally see my ears perk up. I just love the con. Add in a Texas setting and I'm definitely in. "Lone Star" is one of those "good enough to keep watching, not good enough to get excited about" shows that take over my DVR year in and year out. The plot, while far from original, moves fast enough to keep me from focusing on the cliche. It tries to trip itself up from time to time with unnecessary melodrama but the pilot was good enough to bring me back again. I'll say three more things about "Lone Star"; two good, one bad.

1. James Wolk does an excellent job of charming both his surrounding characters and the audience while at the same time allowing some space for Allen to become a sympathetic figure. In short, he's extremely likable which is an absolute must for a con man.

2. Jon Voight, who plays Allen's father-in-law, is bordering on becoming completely useless. Everything he does these days is just one giant living and breathing cliche after another. He's a caricature of what he used to be and he needs to give it up.

3. I want to commend the makers of "Lone Star" for (so far) excelling in the music department. I was quite confident, that, seeing as this is a Texas-based program, the pilot would be filled with mindless pop-country or jug blowin' porch band music. (After all, ridin' horses, beatin' women, and playin' country is all we Texans do, isn't it?) Instead, the soundtrack for the pilot sounded more like something out of an episode of "Scrubs" when "Scrubs" actually care about putting a quality program on the screen. Kudos for the decision to skip the Nashville drivel in favor of a catchy, folk-pop sound.

Verdict: Week-to-Week

Sunday, September 26, 2010

DVR Guide - "Hawaii 5-0"

A reboot of the 70s classic, “Hawaii 5-0” revolves around Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Laughlin), a cop seeking justice for the murder of his father. Commissioned by Hawaii’s governor to clean up the streets of Honolulu no matter what the cost, McGarrett partners with Dano (Scott Caan) and begins an all-out war against anyone and everyone who gets in his way. The partners are joined by (Daniel Kim), an ex-cop and friend of McGarrett’s father, and (Grace Park), a fresh-from-the-academy recruit who hasn’t yet been corrupted. Together, they form a group of near-vigilante super cops with no time for regulations.

I admit supreme skepticism when it came time for the pilot episode of “Hawaii 5-0.” Being a CBS drama usually counts as strikes one, two, and three for me and I have a hard time taking O'Laughlin seriously, seeing as his last role of note was a “comedy” with Jennifer Lopez called “The Backup Plan.” But I decided to give it a try and I’m mildly impressed so far. There is a certain amount of chemistry among the show’s main characters and while the show is as expected in the cheesy, cliché plot points department, the pacing is good and there’s enough humor to keep everything going. The real selling point for me is Caan, who you might know best from the “Ocean’s” movies. Caan is a bundle of paradoxes, a guy who comes across as the non-nonsense “tough but dumb” type but who is actually quite quick witted and brilliantly sarcastic. Dano is the perfect role for Caan and he knocks it out of the park. Likewise, Daniel Kim seems suited for his role, though it is a little bit of a shock for a “Lost” fan such as myself to hear him speaking perfect English. The real test for this show is going to be the growth (or lack thereof) of McGarrett. The pilot is never a trustworthy indicator of what a show and its main characters will end up being, but this wasn’t a good start for McGarrett. Whereas Caan and Kim seem to be perfectly cast, O'Laughlin gives a fairly weak, generic, one-note hero. I didn’t buy him as the tough guy and I’m not convinced I can buy him as the straight man to Caan’s jester if that’s the direction the show takes. There seems to be a lot to work with here but “Hawaii 5-0” can only go as far as O'Laughlin takes it. A couple of good episodes could push this into “Season Pass” territory but for now…

Verdict: Week-to-Week

DVR Guide - "How I Met Your Mother"

The fifth season of “How I Met Your Mother” was admittedly a bit “meh.” Like so many shows before it, the writers seemed to find themselves in a corner and couldn’t see the way out. There were a couple of extremely strong moments (“100 Suits” was one of the five best episodes the show has ever done) but those moments were vastly overshadowed by wheel-spinning and relative mediocrity. There’s only so long you can keep the audience waiting for main character Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) to meet his wife and Season 5 brought us to that breaking point.

The people behind “HIMYM”, however, seem to understand the lackluster attitude toward their previous effort and have promised to provide some answers this time around. The Season 6 kickoff was vintage “HIMYM”, complete with a new dilemma for Marshall (Jason Segal) and Lilly (Allyson Hannigan), charming crudeness from Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), and a small piece of the “How Ted Met His Wife” puzzle. Season 5 fell apart because the writers couldn’t figure out how to progress Ted’s character and focused too much on Barney who is without question the show’s best character but, like Dwight on “The Office”, is better in doses rather than in bulk. One episode in and Season 6 seems poised to restore the hierarchy to its natural order and point the characters back in the right direction.

Verdict: Season Pass

DVR Guide - "Boardwalk Empire"

In prohibition-era Atlantic City, treasurer Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) serves a dual role as the public face of the of the town's anti-alcohol movement and the private supplier of the very drink he professes hatred for. Nucky works every angle, brokering a deal with a local fisherman to bring in Canadian booze and another deal to sell the booze to a partner in Chicago. As the ATF closes in on Nucky's operation, his right-hand-man Jimmy (Michael Pitt) pulls a power play that both benefits Nucky and puts him in a dangerous position.

It is always very difficult to write a summary for the first episode of an HBO series. The network employs some of the most creative and yet complication-driven writers in the business. "Boardwalk Empire" is no exception as it delivers on of the more in depth, complex pilots to grace my television in quite some time. I'm just going to be honest with you, dear reader(s), because I know that's what you expect from me: I did not follow the events of "Empire" as easily as I had hoped. I'm not exactly sure what's going on with several of the show's story lines and I had a hard time remembering and recognizing who each character was.

Still, that doesn't change the fact that "Empire" is already looking like an outstanding series. Buscemi strikes the perfect balance between honest and shady, hitting the crooked politician nail on the head. The time period is extremely well represented in every facet of the show, a fact that you almost take for granted because it's what you've come to expect from HBO but is nevertheless of great importance. I'm also seriously intrigued to see the development of Jimmy, who goes from one extreme to the other in a matter of minutes while leaving room for what could be an excellent internal conflict for the show's second biggest player. "Empire" is quite slow at times and more than a bit confusing, but its pilot episode only sets the stage for what could be a great season.

Verdict: Season Pass

Friday, September 24, 2010

DVR Guide - "Outlaw"

When a Supreme Court Justice (Jimmy Smits) comes across a case he can't live with, he steps down from his post and back into the courtroom as a defense attorney. His first case involves a wrongly convicted man on death row and puts his entire team to the test. Meanwhile he's facing the seemingly inevitable gambling debt and a bookie who (obviously) wants his money.

I'm a Jimmy Smits fan from his days on "NYPD Blue" and let me frank by saying that's the only reason I'm even giving this thing a chance. After the first episode I already hate him a little bit. "Outlaw" is awful. Maybe the worst show that I have personally chosen to watch. Sure, I've been forced to be in a room when someone (namely my wife) has been watching something worse than this but I really can't think of a time when I've chosen to watch a show that sucked this bad. So many times a show's pilot episode is nothing like the rest of the season and, therefore, I have a "Two Episode" rule for any show I choose to watch. Unfortunately for me that means I'll have to sit through another round of "Outlaw" before I can make my exit. This thing plays out like a brutal cross between a CBS drama and a TNT original program. In true TNT style, Smits is the only name actor and the only one who can, in fact, act. The story, though, plays out like a bad episode (as if there were any good ones) of "NCIS" complete with atrocious dialogue and heavy handed emotion. It's awful. Every character outside of the one played by Smits is as one dimensional and cliche as you could possibly imagine and the plot leaves little to the imagination. My advice is to steer clear of this stinker, which shouldn't be too hard given its spot on the horror that is Friday night.

Verdict: Two Week Special

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Movie Friday

I'm in the Land of The Mouse (that's right, "The") for a few days, getting some much needed time away from work and what not. Vacations always make me want to wright more frequently. I'm not sure why exactly but I guess when my mind is clear from work stuff, it's got more room for blog related material. Lucky you.

"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" - Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Milligan
A sequel 22 years in the making finds Gordon Gecko (Douglas) newly released from prison and working with his daughter's fiance (LaBeouf) to rebuild his empire. I'm incredibly excited to see this film hit theaters if for no other reason than I'm TIRED OF SEEING THE FREAKING TRAILER!!! This movie was supposed to come out a year ago but got delayed multiple times. As a result the promotion has been EXTENSIVE and I believe I'm seen the trailer no less than 75 times and I'm not even kidding there. I am interested, though, to see the critical response. This has all the signs of a total bust (September release, multiple pushbacks, sequel well past the prime of its predecessor, etc.) and yet it seems to be getting award buzz. Weird.

"You Again" - Kristen Bell, Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, Betty White
A twenty-something (Bell) comes home for her brother's wedding and discovers his bride-to-be is the girl who made her miserable in high school. To make matters worse, as it turns out the mothers of the two rivals were also high school enemies. This actually looks to be not the worst thing ever made which is probably due solely to the presence of the immortal Betty White. Man, is that woman funny. I don't want to see this but if you pulled a gun on me and forced me to choose between 3 viewing of "You Again" or 1 viewing of "The Backup Plan," I'd take Betty White any day.

"Legend of the Guardian: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" - Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Helen Mirren
I have no idea how to explain this movie. The summaries I read were all equally confusing. I think it's about an average barn owl who dreams of being some sort of warrior owl and one day is afforded the opportunity. I don't know why but I confess an actual interest in this thing though it is destined to be a TREMENDOUS flop. It might be the fact that 30 Seconds to Mars, a favorite pump-up, anthem band here at the Soap Box, provides the backing for the trailer which is a terrible reason to see a movie. Regardless, I imagine I'll hold off until DVD but I'm rooting for the owls.

"Buried" - Ryan Reynolds
A contractor in Iraq (Reynolds) wakes up to find himself locked and buried in a coffin that will hold him until he dies or has his ransom paid. This is a litmus test for Reynolds who will essentially pull a "Castaway" as the only person on screen for a good portion of the film. I'm a HUGE Reynolds fan so while I expect "Buried" to make very little money, I'm very interested to see the critical response to his performance.

"Waiting for Superman"
A documentary about the sad state of our public education system. This is directed by David Guggenheim, who recently directed both one of my least favorite documentaries ever ("An Inconvenient Truth") and one that I ranked as the top movie of the year in 2009 ("It Might Get Loud"). I'm not sure I have the patience to sit through something I already know to be truth (seriously, folks, our public school system is crap) but it might find its way to the Instant Queue.

"Like Dandelion Dust" - Barry Pepper, Mira Sorvino
A festival darling, "Dust" provides what is supposed to be an authentic look at parenting through the stories of a family of haves and a family of have nots. I don't follow the festival circuit too closely these days but man, has this thing been cleaning up. It will never find a theater near me at a time when I can see it, I'm sure, but a DVD release could be a big draw for me. I say it every time he's in a movie but I love Barry Pepper and I think he's an actor who deserves a better hand than the one he's been dealt so far.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

DVR Guide - "Sons of Anarchy" and "Terriers"

I've already praised "Sons of Anarchy" quite a bit during my time here at the Soap Box Office so I'll keep this short and sweet. For the uninitiated, the Sons of Anarchy are a motor cycle gang based out of Charming, California. The MC (motorcycle club) have a wink-wink relationship with Charming and her police department wherein they provide protection and keep drugs out of the city in exchange for the right to run guns inside her borders. The leadership of the Sons is always a point of contention, as the president of the club Clay (Ron Pearlman) and step-son/vice president Jax (Charlie Hunnam) differ on the direction of the club, and there is always another gang or group looking to cut in on the Son's territory.

Put simply, this is the best show I'm currently watching. (Fighting the urge to say "best show on TV" given that I'm not caught up on "Mad Men" or "Breaking Bad" which seem to be the critical favorites for that title.) We're now two episodes into Season 3 and it is officially hitting its stride. The group dynamics have grown stronger with the entire club coming together to fight a common enemy. (I'm not going to give anything away for anyone who might want to catch up.) Meanwhile, Katey Segal (of "Married with Children" fame) has truly become the glue that holds both the characters and the show itself together. A truly outstanding program.

Verdict: Season Pass

Centering around Hank (Donal Logue) and Britt (Michael Raymond-James), a pair of seriously low rent private investigators, the tone of the pilot is light hearted, highlighting the fact that these guys aren't above a slightly illegal operation if it means paying the rent. Soon, however, they find themselves wrapped up in a case that pits them against a local big wig who (probably) had an old friend of Hank's murdered.

I'm going to be frank: if this show was on one of the major networks, I wouldn't have gone anywhere near it. I really and truly cannot stand headliner Donal Logue. I have no legitimate reason for this and I admit it's quite foolish. But some part of me just gets a little perturbed every time he pops up in a movie or show I'm watching. Add to it the fact that the marketing campaign elicited a giant, "Huh?" from just about anyone who saw it and that makes for a potentially toxic cocktail. But I trust FX above any other network. "Sons" and "Justified" have both worked themselves into my top five list and of course, the incomparable cop drama "The Shield" has always been a favorite around here. So I'm willing to give it a chance.

"Terriers" leans more toward the "Justified" side of things than "Sons" with a propensity for humor over grit. Still, it uses humor as a starting point (again like "Justified") to move itself into the realm of drama. It's not a knockout for me and I'm not completely convinced that it's going to hold my interest for 13 episodes. But that said, it's intriguing and well written and that will keep me around more often than not.

(No, I do not know why it is called "Terriers." Maybe we'll find out at some point.)

Verdict: Week-to-Week

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New DVD Tuesday

Yet again TV on DVD is the order of the day, this time bordering on overload. I'll keep it brief.

Robin Hood (2010): Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong
In the quintessential origin story that has become so popular of late, "Robin Hood" tells the tale of how the title character came to be the man, the myth, the legend. Fortunately for the famed Robin Hood, no one knew his background was so incredibly dull, else he may have never become the epic hero he is now. Not a bad movie by any means but certainly not up to the caliber I expected from a righteous combination of Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe, and the original superhero himself. I found this to be only okay.

Ondine (2010): Colin Farrell
A fairy tale about an Irish fisherman (Farrell) who "catches" a sort-of mermaid that brings some interesting adventures into his life. This got very positive reviews all around and I'm interested if it hits instant view.

How I Met Your Mother - Season 5 (2009): Neil Patrick Harris, Josh Radnor, Jason Segal
The latest version of "Friends" centers around five New Yorkers, as one (Radnor) tells the story of how he met his wife to his future kids. I've been with HIMYM since the beginning but I (along with everyone else) readily admit that Season 5 was a down year. The problem was two-fold. 1.) The question of who Ted's wife is and when she will be revealed became tiresome. Just get to it already. 2.) HIMYM has always been a show that relies on a few defining episodes to carry it through. Four or five episodes in a row will be good, not great, and then the next one will be spectacular. Season 5 really only brought one or two moments of awesome. Still a good show, but I'm hoping season 6 picks it up.

Modern Family - Season 1 (2009): Ed O'neill, Julie Bowen, et al.
An "Office" style mockumentary concerning the lives of one family consisting of a patriarch (O'neill) and his new wife, his daughter (Bowen) and her husband and kids, and his son and partner. Very few shows have grabbed my attention from episode one and brought me in for life the way "Modern Family" did. A cross between "Arrested Development" and "The Office", its like this show was custom made for me. This is one of the most brilliantly written and performed shows on TV.

30 Rock - Season 4 (2009): Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan
An outrageous behind-the-scenes look at a Saturday Night Live-like program known as "The Girlie Show." "30 Rock" is perhaps the funniest show on TV, containing the perfect blend of slap stick foolishness, perfect physical comedy, and subtle wit which make it really the only show that has come close to reaching "Arrested Development" territory. Season 4 came down a bit from Season 3 but in all honesty and I mean this, Season 3 might have been the best year EVER for ANY sitcom. So I can't really blame the show for following up an A+++ year with one that only reaches A++.

Community (2009): Joel McHale, Chevy Chase
A successful attorney, Jeff Winger (McHale) is forced to go to community college after his transcript comes into question. He soon discovers he is not too cool for school and joins a Spanish study group that serves as his surrogate family. "Community" is strongly written and quick witted. Plus, Joel McHale is stinking hilarious and I think it's important to support his blossoming career. The final four episodes or so of Season 1 were outstanding, hopefully setting the stage for an improved sophomore year.

This week also brings a host of other TV shows that I haven't seen or don't care enough about to really cover. These include:
Spartacus: Blood and Sand - Season 1 (A truly awful show.)
Desperate Housewives - Season 6 (How is this still on TV?)
The Mentalist - Seaosn 1 (CBS = I'm out)
Law and Order: SVU - Season 11 (Still pretty good)
Two and a Half Men - Season 7 (It's kind of embarrassing that this made it past it's pilot episode.)

Movie News Today

Gavin Hood ("X-Men Origins") is the latest in a long line of movie people (you like the specific terminology I used there?) to take a run at "Ender's Game." As much as I love this book, it seriously might be time to retire the idea of a screen production.

"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", an incredibly interesting project that recently nabbed Gary Oldman for the lead, has now added budding superstar Mark Strong to the cast. This movie is destined to make my top 10 most anticipated movies of the year whenever it decides to debut.

The studio behind the Jack Ryan saga has a star (Chris Pine) and now has a new writer in the form of Anthony Peckham who co-wrote "Sherlock Holmes." Good start.

With a title like "Science Fiction Films that Changed the World", how could I not pass it on?

Dallas' own Stephen Tobolowsky delivers an outstanding article on the art of character acting.

Player Affinity (where my colleague from Movie Muse also resides) gives us the 10 best actors turned director. Agreed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Movie News Today

Kyle Chandler ("Friday Night Lights" TV) is said to be joining the cast of "Super 8", the super-secretive project of JJ Abrams. I report this for three reasons. 1.) I love JJ Abrams. 2.) My wife has been watching "Friday Night Lights" lately and I've caught a few of them and think the show isn't bad at all. 3.) One of my closest friends is also named Kyle Chandler and I feel like that just needed to be said.

Apparently Keanu Reeves is trying to get the old band back together in the form of a third "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." The original is a favorite guilty pleasure of mine but the sequel is atrocious. Do we really need a third installment 19 years later?

As he continues to destroy his once sort-of decent career, Randy Quaid has been arrested again, this time for illegally squatting in a house he used to own. Insert toilet joke here.

Some OUTSTANDING "Star Wars" propaganda posters. I'll take one of each, please.

In an effort to keep the site from becoming cluttered and to (hopefully) leave a little more time for editorial, I'm adding Box Office Monday into the Monday version of Movie News Today.

Weekend Box Office Results
1. "The Town" - $23.8 million
2. "Easy A" - $18.2
3. "Devil" - $12.6
4. "Resident Evil: Afterlife" - $10.1 ($44 million total)
5. "Alpha and Omega" - $9.2
6. "Takers" - $3 ($52.3)
7. "The American" - $2.8 ($32.9)
8. "Inception" - $2.0 ($285.2)
9. "The Other Guys" - $2.0 ($115.4)
10. "Machete" - $1.7 ($24.3)

"The American"

A couple of weeks ago I had an appointment with my orthopedist for a reevaluation of my accursed broken arm. I meticulously laid out a plan for my Sick Day that consisted of the following activities: 1.) Sleep until the last possible moment; 2.) Go to my appointment; 3.) Celebrate or wail over my ability or inability to return to sports participation, depending on the diagnosis; 4.) Eat some tremendously greasy food court pizza; 5.) See “Get Low”, an independent comedy starring Robert Duvall and Bill Murray that inexplicably made a brief appearance at a local theater. These plans went out the window, however, when my Fort Worth, Texas suburb was attacked by one of the various hurricanes/tropical storms that have made landfall recently and the ensuing flash flood. My appointment was cancelled due (considering my doctor’s office is on the fourth floor of a large building) to what I can only assume was a tidal wave that blew through downtown Richland Hills. Dejected, I made my way toward the theater. In my haste, though, I neglected to strap my fictional canoe to the top of my truck, which was the only vehicle that would have made it possible for me to traverse the eight “Waterworld”-like miles between the theater and myself. Further dejected, I turned around and headed to a crummier, less progressive theater that apparently has the good fortune of high ground for a popcorn and candy lunch and a midday showing of “The American.” If only the movie was more interesting than the tale of how I got to it.

“The American” finds veteran hitman Jack (George Clooney) in quasi-hiding from a group of Swedes he’s wronged along the way. While in a small Italian village, he takes on the quintessential “one last job” which seems more dangerous than it worthwhile. Even as he becomes more and more engrossed with a prostitute named Clara (Violante Placido) and the prospect of a normal life, his paranoia grows. Jack hears footsteps at every turn and performs every action with painstaking, almost maniacal caution. Whether his paranoia is justified is the only question.

“The American” is a slow burn, an “action-thriller” that relies heavily on unspoken tension and the tight, focused facial expressions and body language on its star over actual action sequences. In fact, the action scenes are confined to the very beginning and very end, with the exception of one brief explosion of violence in the second act. There’s really not even much dialogue to “The American” which makes its perfectly reasonable 105 minute runtime seem to drag. It’s all about long, extended shots that more than once had me squirming a bit, dying for a scene change. There’s very little sound to this film as well which, when used correctly (“No Country For Old Men” for example), can work brilliantly to heighten the tension of the story. Here, though, it’s somewhat off-putting, keeping the audience at bay. All combined, these choices make it difficult to invest in the film and puts a hefty amount of pressure on the star to carry the film to the audience rather than bringing the audience into the film. Clooney’s performance is solid but not engrossing enough to elicit much of a connection from me or the rest of the crowd. That’s not a knock on Clooney, whose I am always quick to compliment. This just isn’t one of his absolute best performances and I think that’s what it would have taken to make this film resonate with me.

By no means do I mean to suggest that “The American” is a bad film. It contains some great shots and a good story that just isn’t fleshed out the way you’d hope. Even the worst Clooney character (which this isn’t) is better than a lot of actor’s best and there’s something to be said for the dramatic form of action movies in an age dominated by Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer. (Plus, what the heck else was I going to do while my neighborhood was swept away in a flood of Biblical proportions?) Quite simply, this movie is just extremely European, which should probably have been expected considering its director, writer, cast (excluding Clooney), and setting are all European. Duh. But you can see why “The American” is having a hard time finding an, ahem, American audience.

Grade: B

How is “hitman” not a Microsoft approved Word?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

New TV Shows for the Fall

The Soap Box Office is about the get very TV intensive for the next couple of weeks. My plan is to give you a brief look into the shows that I'm watching week-to-week plus a few others that I'm trying on for size. A few shows started this week but most of the good ones will premiere in the upcoming days and I'll try to provide my best guidance for where to spend your TV time. With that in mind, my friend and colleague Richard Bardon has agreed to provide you with a quick glance at the potential hits and misses for the upcoming season with a piece her wrote for the Univerisity of North Texas student newspaper. Big shout out to Richard and the mighty UNT Eagles.

Fall is my favorite season. The weather cools, the football begins, and the reruns cease. It is an exciting time of year for those of us who enjoy new shows of promise, as well as those of us who love the brief glimpses of shows sure to go down in flames. The following is a network-by-network list of shows to pay attention to, be it for sincere or sardonic reasoning.

ABC – ABC has a new programming chief, Paul Lee (hired from offspring, upstart network ABC family), as the previous executive was let go amidst some rumors. The first thing Mr. Lee did in office was fire the network’s head of marketing. This does not appear to be a banner year for the network of Disney.

Could be a hit – "Body of Proof" – Fans of Kim Delaney’s from her runs recently on Desperate Housewives and Castle may be inclined to give this a look. This show is ABC’s attempt at CBS style programming with older actors, self contained storylines, and the Friday night time slot. FYI – This show costars a local actor named Windell Middlebrooks. Not familiar? Well you may know him better as the “Miller High Life Guy.”

Will be a miss – "No Ordinary Family" – This is ABC’s most promoted show of the year and features The Shield star Michael Chiklis. I don’t think this show will be an immediate failure, but having no lead in, being an hour long comedy, and going against heavy Tuesday night 7 PM competition, I do see this one eventually suffocating despite itself.

CBS – CBS has become the master of hour-long, self contained dramas the last decade. The CSI and NCIS franchises have kept CBS as the most consistent network over the last ten years.
 Could be a hit – "Hawaii Five-O" – When I first heard that this was being remade, I joined with the rest of the world in a solid shake of the fist. Stars Alex O’Laughlin and Scott Caan have apparently taken the 80s staple to the next level, as the show has been getting great buzz. Though it’s not saying much, this will be the hippest show in CBS’ lineup, and the theme song is fabulous.

Will be a miss – "(Stuff) my Dad Says" – The sitcom based on everyone’s favorite twitter feed will have to learn the lesson of every SNL movie after the Blues Brothers. Some stories are just made for a certain medium.

FOX - This is a year of transition for the FOX network. Their banner show American Idol is in the midst of recasting, and they are now a Glee focused network. This could all change in Fall of 2011 when Simon Cowell launches X-Factor, but for now, Glee is alpha dog.

Could be a hit – "Raising Hope" – There is only one writer/producer to have 2 successful shows (all be them moderately) in the last decade. Greg Garcia is the mind behind CBS’ Yes, Dear as well as NBC’ My Name is Earl. While neither were ever critical or commercial darlings, there is something to be said for his ability to get a show to syndication. Hope is given the crucial post-Glee timeslot and it is imperative to see how the younger fans of Glee react to Garcia’s dark sense of humor. The show looks solid, but one should always be weary of non-animated comedies on Fox.

Will be a miss – "Running Wilde" – While I consider it blasphemous to discern upon Wilde creator Mitchell Hurwitz and muse Will Arnett. This show does not seem to have what it takes to make it. Hurtwitz’ predecessor, the incomparable Arrested Development was able to stay on the air due only to the buzz generated by critics. Networks are in it to make money, but they love winning awards as well. Wilde will not win awards as the pilot has already been reshot twice.

NBC – After last year’s Leno/Conan debacle NBC is trying to get back to their roots in delivering a variety of entertainment that is not solely comic based.

Could be a hit – "The Event" – This is the most hyped show of the fall season. 24-meets-Lost is all we’ve heard for months. Test audience approval ratings have been great (according to NBC, so take that as you wish), but one has to question the Monday night scheduling against ABC’s juggernaut Dancing with the Stars.
Will be a miss – "Outsourced" – The single camera sitcom is all NBC has going these days with The Office, Community, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, and even Chuck, certainly fitting that bill. It will be interesting to see how American audiences adjust to the shocking idea of sitcoms set in other countries. My guess is they won’t, just in time for 30 Rock’s October premiere.

Cable – In the cable universe the fall season means little to nothing. Entourage starts in June, Mad Men in July, Weeds in August, but HBO is launching its new tentpole, "Boardwalk Empire" with a traditional September premiere. Martin Scorsese leads a cast of “that guy”s headlined by “That guy” supreme, Steve Buscemi. At the very least this show will be beautiful to look at, I’m optimistic.
As we finally drift away from the remains of the writer’s strike of 2007, this fall provides with a large amount of new shows to replace our Lost and 24 voids, and occupy the time we should be studying.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fall TV DVR Guide - "Parenthood"

In this series, we'll have a look at all the Fall TV shows that grace my DVR in an effort to point you to the programs worth committing to, the ones that might have some value, and the ones you should avoid at all costs. They will be graded accordingly as either "Season Pass" (I'm in for the full season), "Week-to-Week" (could lose my attention at some point), "Scrap Heap" (will probably collect on my DVR until I either run out of space or run out of other things to watch), or "Two Week Special" (any show I start I'll give two weeks before I nix).

A late season replacement last Spring, "Parenthood" is all about the Bravermans, a family of Californians consisting of the parents and their four grown children and their families. Headlined by Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia ("Die Hard"), the real strength of the show rests in their children played by Lauren Graham, Peter Krause, Dax Sheppherd, and (to a lesser extent) Erika Christensen. Last season's premiere caught a bad break from the atrocious marketing campaign in the form of a relentless stream of commercials in which the show was branded a true comedy which it most assuredly is not. I was expecting an hour long version of "Modern Family" and it took me a couple of episodes to come around on the family dramedy method but once I did, the show found a good rhythm.

The Bravermans are an extremely tight, strong family, which is something that is definitely missing from network TV these days. The bonds they share are quite real and authentic, the type of things that an actual family could expect to go through. One family member is overworked, another underemployed. One child is annoyingly perfect, another Autistic. Marriage issues, familial jealousy, and money problems are all subject matter that "Parenthood" deals in on a weekly  basis. Yet everything is handled in a remarkably good natured, light hearted way. It's a hopeful show, almost the exact opposite of, say, "Glee" which kind of makes me want to dress in black and start smoking cigarettes every week. The Bravermans and the actors who portray them are, for better or worse, truly connected to each other and that really does come across to the audience.

Verdict: Season Pass

New Movie Friday

FINALLY. Finally we're getting to some movies that I might want to see. I've seen two movies in theaters in the last 5 weeks and that isn't a result of not having enough time. I've probably looked at Moviefone 30 times just thinking something would change and for some reason a film worth seeing would pop up. No such luck until now. (Note: there are a couple more limited release movies hitting screens this week but I think we'll wait until they come to DVD before bringing them up.)

"The Town" - Ben Affleck, John Hamm, Jeremy Renner
A crew of thieves in Boston pulls a big heist that draws the attention of the FBI and a particular agent (Hamm) who grew up with the group. Meanwhile their leader (Affleck) is falling in love for a witness from their crime and things begin to unravel quickly. Not one day after I finished my "Top 10 Anticipated Films Films for the Remainder of 2010", I saw the trailer for this movie and regretted leaving it out. An outstanding trailer that either did its job perfectly by displaying what a strong movie this could be or will end up ticking off a lot of people who feel misled.  This is Affleck's directorial follow up to 2007's "Gone Baby Gone" which was an excellent film. Say what you want about the man's acting chops, he knows how to direct and I am truly, deeply excited to see this movie at the first opportunity.

"Easy A - Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church
A high school nobody (Stone) finds that her popularity goes through the roof when she starts rumors about her own love life. Before long she begins to draw parallels to herself and the classic novel "The Scarlet Letter." Here's the thing: if done correctly, this could be brilliant. Satire over slapstick, depth, and light hearted humor masking actual social commentary would be the key elements here. The trailer, however, doesn't seem to hit those notes. I'm hoping that's the studio trying to play up the film's easy humor more than anything else but I'm skeptical.

"Devil" - Chris Messina, Caroline Dhavernas, Bokeem Woodbine
As per IMDB: "A group of people trapped in an elevator realize the Devil is among them." Not my type of film but an interesting concept nonetheless. More interesting, "Devil" is written and produced (but thankfully not directed) by M. Night Shyamalan. I want Shyamalan to be relevant again but he seems hellbent on destroying his career. This could be a make or break film for him.

"Alpha and Omega" - Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci
Two wolves, one a straggler, the other a leader of the pack, are tranquilized and relocated to repopulate the area. Shenanigans ensue. Absolutely the worst trailer I've seen for a kids movie in years. I would rather let Mike Tyson take a free swing at me than watch this movie. Seriously.

"Never Let Me Go" - Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan
Based on a bestselling book, a group of children (and then teenagers) are raised for the sole purpose of providing organs to those who need them (I think) in a dystopian society. High concept films usually fail miserably and reviews have been poor but I confess I find myself slightly interested.

A "documentary" about a young man who meets a girl on Facebook and unravels a series of lies to reveal a shocking truth. I think (and I stress "think" because it's really not clear) what they discover is that the girl that he's been talking to is not at all who she says she is but rather a very sad little family who went to extremes to create a departure from reality for themselves. This film has received a ton of press over the last few months and more than its fair share of negative reviews. It is still unclear whether this thing is A.) complete truth, B.) complete crap, or C.) a mixture of the two wherein it started as a documentary and when they figured out the bit, the cast and crew pretended they didn't know and let it run an awful course. If the truth is option C, then there is a special place in hell for these people, that's all I'm saying.

Movie News Today

Virgin Media gives a list of 10 actors who turned on their movie, including the great Sir Alec Guiness's hatred towards "Star Wars."

Sacha Baron Cohen ("Borat") has signed on to play legendary Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury in an upcoming biopic. Color me interested.

Ryan Reynolds is serious about playing both Green Lantern and Deadpool and he wants you to know it. Sold.

I almost hesitate to link this one as my heart has already been given more than it can take. But... "The Hobbit" may start shooting in early 2011. That's all I'm saying.

Casey Affleck has admitted that his documentary about the strange decline of Joaquin Phoenix is in fact a brilliantly staged mockumentary. I wish he'd help onto this information for a little while longer to build the suspense but I'm still extremely interested to catch this.

With my favorite post title of the year, Deleted Scene discusses why going to the movies doesn't suck.

Finally, we now have a trailer for December's "The Fighter." Mark Wahlberg+Christian Bale+Amy Adams+True Story = Oscar. At least that's the formula Paramount is banking on.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Movie News Today

I've got a buddy who's obsessed with the "Fast and the Furious" franchise so here are the details for the upcoming fifth installment of the series for him and the three other people who care. (ZING!) gives us an excellent article on the merits of Netflix and the way in which the company is quietly taking over the DVD business. Seconded, though they'll really take off when they can figure out a way to feature more TV shows through the instant setup.

So, a little story on a slow news day. As a part of this "job" I have here at the Box Office, I end up clicking on a lot of movie related links and scrolling through various blogs. I'm always looking for cool links to show you or sites that I genuinely enjoy reading. So when I came across this list of the 100 best movies from the 2000s, I got a little excited. New site and the writer is obviously quite invested if he's making an extensive list like this. Woohoo. And then I started reading the list. And then "Watchmen" pops up at number 94 and I think, "I don't think I could put "Watchmen" in my top 100 of the decade." and then the next listing is "Almost Famous" which, in my book, might be the best movie of the decade and certainly deserving of a MUCH higher position than 93. So I scroll to the top of the list and start fresh, thinking maybe he just ran out of steam. Some questionable picks in the top 15 but okay. And then we have the clincher: coming it at number 19 is none other than "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull," one of the most disappointing, embarrassing, most grandiose examples of brand name value being used for evil that I've ever seen. Done.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New DVD Tuesday!

Like I said last week, the one good thing about September in Hollywood is the release of a bunch of TV shows on DVD. This week brings a bumper crop of those products and not a whole lot else.

Prince of Persia (2010): Jake Gyllenhaal,Gemma Arterton
Based on the highly successful video game series, "Persia" involves a hero (Gyllenhaal) who must save the world with the help of a dagger that serves as time machine when activated. This movie was a huge flop at the box office and may lead Disney (and hopefully other studios) to reconsider the "style over substance" brand of filmmaking. That said, this is the kind of movie I like on DVD/Blu-Ray since it doesn't require a lot of attention and I (hopefully) don't hate my life after viewing. I'll probably check it out this week.

Big Bang Theory - Season 3 (2009): Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kaley Cuoco
I'm quite excited for this set. I caught up on Seasons 1 and 2 during my stint on the disabled list (are my sports metaphors confusing people?) and enjoyed them enough to watch Season 2 over again with my wife. This is an extremely fun show with well defined characters and I'm stoked to see where it went in Season 3.

Glee - Season 1 (2009): Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, Cory Monteith
For the five people in America who didn't watch at least one episode of "Glee" last year, it follows a high school show choir as they try to survive the dangers of public school while striving for excellence on stage. This is such a weird show because the stories, direction, and sometimes even acting fall somewhere between tolerable and downright embarrassing and yet it is exceedingly watchable. The musical numbers are outstanding and this is coming from a self-professed hater of musicals and when the jokes land, they can be hilarious. But that's only JUST enough to keep me watching from week to week because otherwise, it is horribly depressing and the writers do nothing to progress the show. In the end, though, it's impossible to fight the power of Journey so I guess I'll be back for Season 2.

Fringe - Season 2 (2009): John Noble, Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson
"Fringe" follows a father and son team of scientists (Noble and Jackson) and the FBI agent who escorts them (Torv) as they investigate all things paranormal. If you're AT ALL into science fiction and you're not watching "Fringe" then I want you to stop wasting time with this stupid blog and catch up RIGHT NOW! Season 3 is right around the corner. Seriously, "Fringe" is an outstanding show, easily the best sci-fi series on TV right now. It plays out like "The X-Files" but with a much more cohesive story line that carries from week to week. All the actors (even "Dawson's Creek" alum Jackson) play their characters perfectly and Noble in particular delivers a remarkable performance every single week. Just rent it and judge for yourself.

Letters to Juliet (2010): Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave
Something about a twenty-something who answers decades-old love letters while on a trip in Europe. Too cutesy for me but I've heard decent things.

Just Wright (2010): Queen Latifah, Common
Latifah plays a physical therapist who helps an aging NBA star (Common) recover from an injury. I can't stand Queen Latifah in anything, ever and I DESPISE sports action that looks unrealistic and is used only as a prop. So, in summation, I'm out.

Other New Releases
Private Practice - Season 3 (2009): I watched approximately 3 episodes of this show back in Season 1 before realizing that not only did I not like any of the characters, I was actively rooting for all of them to fail. Out.
The Good Wife - Season 1 (2009): I heard this was good but I never, EVER like ANY hour-long drama from CBS so I refuse to even give this a try. I can guarantee I would hate it.
Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Season 5 (2009): I can't believe this show is still on. I saw a couple of episodes when it debuted and loved them but assumed it wouldn't find an audience and would be off the air shortly. It might be next on my catch-up list.

New to Blu-Ray
Se7en (1995): Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey
Freeman and Pitt play detectives chasing after a serial killer whose murders are based on the seven deadly sins. An extremely well written, well acted, and well made film, the final twist is just too much for me. Seriously disturbing to me. But man, what a quality film.

Pick of the Week (a new semi-weekly feature that I'll run whenever I feel like it)
Mercury Rising (1998): Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin (on Blu-Ray)
A washed up cop (Willis) happens upon a young autistic boy whose murder was ordered by a government agent (Baldwin) after he cracks a billion dollar secret code. "Mercury" is a seriously underrated film that had the misfortune of being lost in a sea of mediocre Willis movies that premiered around this time before his "Sixth Sense" resurgence. I've very rarely spoken with anyone who has seen (or remembers) this movie and while it's far from Oscar caliber, it's totally worth a viewing.

Movie News Today

The Independent takes a look at "I'm Still Here" and wonders whether this thing is for a real or a very well designed prank.

Could Al Pacino be joining Robert De Niro for a Martin Scorsese project? Man, I sure hope this one comes to fruition.

Because people keep paying to see them, Milla Jovovich is promising a fifth "Resident Evil" movie. Blerg.

HBO has released a teaser-trailer for their upcoming series "A Game of Thrones." Super excited for this.

Blog Cabins reviews one of my all time favorite guilty pleasure movies, "Crazy People." Genius.

"Going the Distance"

(Note: I have never once intentionally harmed a dog. I just thought that needed to be said.)

Remember when the romantic comedy was a big staple of the movie calendar? When actresses like Julie Roberts and Meg Ryan dominated the box office on a regular basis? When a date movie could (potentially) keep both members of a dating couple from wanting to jump off a very high cliff? Anybody? No? Well, I do. Judge me if you want but I used to quite like the (good) romantic comedy and would still count at least one (“When Harry Met Sally”) among my top 25 favorite movies of all time. Sadly, though, enjoyable romantic comedies have fallen by the wayside, replaced by brainless “girls night out” fodder (see: “The Back Up Plan” and “The Bounty Hunter”) that no self-respecting male could sit through, and depressing “real” love stories that leave everyone contemplating suicide (see: “The Notebook”). With all that in mind, I had relatively high hopes for “Going the Distance” and wanted oh so badly to give a solid account of its merits. Unfortunately, however, I’m not quite able to do so.

“Going the Distance” centers around Garrett (Justin Long) and Erin (Drew Barrymore), both early thirty-somethings currently living in the Big Apple. Garrett is your typical commit-a-phobe with a hip job in the music industry while Erin is the classic late bloomer, a 31-year-old working as an intern during the summer break from grad school at Stanford. When they meet, Garrett is (literally) just coming out of another failed relationship and Erin is headed back to California in six weeks. With these facts in mind, the two decide to keep the relationship casual as neither is interested in a long distance relationship. You see where this is going, right? Sure enough, they find themselves falling for each other and when Erin does return home, she and Garrett go against their better judgment and embark on that most dreaded of romantic journeys. What follows is a series of cross country trips, melancholy phone conversations, and a lot of woe-is-meing about the place, broken up by some well-placed levity at the hands of a solid supporting cast. The inevitable will-they-or-won’t-they produces a relatively satisfying conclusion that is part “The Break Up” and part “Runaway Bride.”

My wife and I have been married for a little over a year and dated for about a year before that. In that time, I can think of exactly one romantic-themed movie that both the Lady of the Box Office and I both really enjoyed; that being last year’s “500 Days of Summer.” Every other “chick flick” we’ve watched has either been unanimously hated or has caused me to strangle a puppy. (A lot of dogs have died in my neighborhood. I blame Hollywood. “Bride Wars” led to a string of incidents.) With “Summer” being the lone exception, there have been decidedly few adult-oriented romantic stories to hit theaters during our relationship and I think that’s ridiculous. “Distance” tries its hardest to fill that void but simply falls short of what it possibly could have been (or at least what I wanted it to be).

“Distance” is entertaining enough to keep the audience’s attention and definitely steers clear of the depressing territory that has marked a number of the recent romance movies that have crossed my path. Justin Long is a favorite of mine, an actor whose talent will probably never be quite appreciated because he’s been pigeon-holed into the type of too-smart-for-his-own-good underdog that he routinely plays. He takes Garrett as far as the material will let him but in all truth, this is one of the most limited leading characters in recent memory. There’s just nowhere for Garrett to go and he doesn’t seem to click with the supporting characters, which is a shame because they are each, in their own right, quite strong. Jason Sudiekis (“Saturday Night Live”), Charlie Day (“Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), and stand-up comic Jim Gaffigan all take on one dimensional characters to be sure but all shine in their one dimension while Long seems to flounder in his. Barrymore, too, feels lost in a character that doesn’t have much room for growth and doesn’t quite connect with those around her. She seems miscast, as well, coming across as desperate to be young. It’s not that Long and Barrymore don’t have chemistry; it’s that their chemistry is very shallow and they don’t mesh with the rest of the cast.

The real issue I have with “Distance” is its immaturity and lack of polish. It doesn’t play out as the “romantic comedy for adults age 25-45” that was advertised, but instead a teen movie that was hastily turned into something adults might want to see. “Distance” feels like some studio executive got ahold of a script for “90210”, aged the teenagers by 15 years, packed it with R-rated language, and marketed it to adults. And therein lies the problem. None of the characters, especially Erin, act like normal, human adults. They get thrown into adult situations but handle them like idiotic pre-teens. If you’re going to make a romantic comedy about adults and target an adult demographic, then maybe the adult audience should be able to relate to the adult characters. (That seems like sound logic to me, I’m just sayin’.) The result is a mismatched RomCom that entertains in the first act, falls apart in the second, and delivers a fitting finish that doesn’t do much to assuage the frustration of the movie as a whole.

It’s not that I disliked “Distance.” I laughed quite a lot (particularly in the first 40 minutes or so) and had no urge to inflict any harm on an animal (you’re welcome, PETA). And maybe that’s all I should have asked of this movie. But seriously, for those of us who are too old to care about “The Last Song”, too intelligent to sit through “Nights in Rodanthe”, and too young to understand “It’s Complicated”, it sure would be nice to have a decent date movie come around.

Grade: B-

I almost always misspell “intelligence”,

Box Office Monday

I know you're all surprised but despite the fact that all three of the previous installments have ranged from mediocre to downright awful, the newest "Resident Evil" grabbed the reigns at the box office this weekend with a healthy $27 million. Obviously there's a market for these things but man I wish there wasn't. It isn't that much of a triumph, however, considering absolutely NO ONE went to their local theater this weekend. That's partly due to football (oh, glorious football, I have missed thee) but partly due to an embarrassing collection of films to choose from. Award season cannot get here fast enough. Side note, "The Last Exorcism" has gotten itself up to a $38 million dollar domestic draw. That may not sound that impressive until you consider that its entire production budget was $1.8 million, which makes it one of the most profitable films of the year.

1. "Resident Evil: Afterlife" - $27.7 million
2. "Takers" - $6.1 ($48.1 million total)
3. "The American" - $5.9 ($26.7)
4. "Machete" - $4.2 ($20.8)
5. "Going the Distance" - $3.8 ($14)
6. "The Other Guys" - $3.6 ($112.7)
7. "The Last Exorcism" - $3.5 ($38.2)
8. "The Expendables" - $3.3 ($98.5)
9. "Inception" - $3.0 ($282.4)
10. "Eat Pray Love" - $2.9 ($74.6)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Movie News Today

In "Odd Pairing" news of the day, William Friedkin (director of the scariest movie ever "The Exorcist") has brought on Matthew McConaughey as the title character in his upcoming dark comedy "Killer Joe." I can't imagine anyone ever thought this sentence would come into existence.

Mickey Rourke's resurgence continues with his signing on to play a notorious mobster-assassin in "The Ice Man." I'm genuinely happy that Rourke is making the most of his second (or third or fourth) chance in Hollywood. The industry needs talented actors like him and I'm glad he's worked his way back to the A-list.

I'm not especially excited about this film but my promise to promote Nathan Fillion takes precedence over my apathetic feelings to the project. James Gunn ("Slither") has found a distributor for "Super", his newest film starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, and Mr. Fillion.

Noomi Rapace (of "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" fame) has joined the cast of "Sherlock Holmes 2" which starts filming early next year.

Empire gives us 8 essentially qualities of a good straight man in film. Some points are a bit tongue-in-cheek, some perfectly pin-pointed.

Matt Zoller Sietz at makes a brilliant point that I hope to touch on in my next two reviews, that being the need for more "adult" films. Definitely worth a read.

Finally, "Hereafter", an upcoming release directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Matt Damon has a trailer. Looks very interesting if a little more "Lovely Bones" than I would have liked.

Friday, September 10, 2010

YouTube Awesomeness

I try quite earnestly to keep this space dedicated to movies and TV alone. But every once in a while a sports story grabs my attention and, this being my only real platform anymore, I feel I must share it. Please enjoy this video of a soccer goalie being a complete fool.