November 28, 2006

Just one more

Casino Royale

Let me put this out there - I'm a pretty die-hard James Bond fan. Born and bred that way, really. Let's just say that I'm well aware that the year I was born Live and Let Die was released. So for me to give the latest man playing Bond such a high score is saying a lot. Sure, he's different. But he has what it takes - sexy dry charm with a hard edge. And this film is well put together, with good action, and simple plot, and no elaborate escape plots involving sharks or piranha. At a time we could all use some simple, fun escapist fare, Casino Royale delivers - in spades.

November 26, 2006

Four films

I know it's long overdue - time for some movie reviews! With the glut of new films hitting theaters for Thanksgiving, we've been pretty busy lately. So here's my snapshot judgements on four that we've seen recently.

The Queen

This is a very well-done film about the internal royal drama that surfaced during the week that Princess Diana was killed. What to know what was happening behind-the-scenes with the Queen and the Prime Minister? Here you can get a glimpse of that. The centerpiece and star performance is Helen Mirren, who astounds as always. I smell Oscar! (Also fun are the drunken Queen Mum, and Prince Phillip's obsession with fresh air.)

For Your Consideration

The latest of Christopher Guest's semi-improvised films, this one focuses on how Oscar buzz is born, and giving it the full satiric treatment. It's not his best (Best In Show will likely hold that title for ages), but it's still very funny. Catherine O'Hara is amazing, Jennifer Coolidge delivers some of her signature zingers, and Jane Lynch makes you laugh just by standing there (seriously).

The Fountain

This is my first movie by Darren Aronofsky, and apparently it's his most "artsy" from what I've read. I can certainly agree in that I really have no idea what it was about - perhaps that we shouldn't fear death? What I do know is that Hugh Jackman is a great actor, and the film itself is certainly beautiful. If you like shiny pretty things, this might be for you.

Shut Up & Sing

Not a fan of the Dixie Chicks? You don't need to be in order to be engrossed by this documentary. It all started with a few words at a London concert, and three years later the group is experiencing rebirth. What's wonderful is that the movie is more than just an examination of one moment - it delves deep into the lives of all three women, their families and their management. I admit it, I was dying to hear their album when the movie was over. Not because it's a piece of promotion - but because I believe in the power of free speech. [Caveat - any George Bush fans out there might be better off skipping this one.]

The Nine - a primer

And now for the second in a series, let me introduce (or re-introduce) you to the best new show that America isn't watching - The Nine.

The short version of the show's plot is that it's about the survivors of a 52-hour hostage standoff at a bank in L.A. But it's really more than that - an examination of myriad human relationships as seen through the filter of an intense situation. As the show progresses we see more and more about "what happened in there."

And now let's meet your cast of characters:

Nick - the maverick cop, Nick has been trying to overcome a gambling addiction he inherited from his father. He has a pretty clear crush on Kathryn. He's also now taking on Egan as his roommate. In the bank, Nick spent a long time handcuffed to a pole, and trying to help ease the negotiation process.

Kathryn - the tough type-A assistant district attorney, she came to the bank to help her mother with a problem, and ended up desperate to get her mother out alive. Luckily, Kathryn's mom was the first hostage released very early on. Kathryn was having an affair with, and is now engaged to, the D.A. Kathryn was the first outside to learn about Lizzie's pregnancy, and has been a real support ever since.

Lizzie - a hospital social worker, she's pregnant with Jeremy's baby but they're no longer together. She has a soft spot for robber Lucas, because he was kind to her once he learned she was pregnant inside. Lizzie is the most determined to keep the bonds the group has formed by regularly meeting at a diner.

Jeremy - a top surgeon, he is deeply ashamed of his behavior inside, where he tried to save himself and abandon Lizzie. To deal with his grief, he hooked up with Franny at Eva's funeral, and they've dated a couple times since then.

Franny - a loyal teller at the bank, she got her sister Eva a job there recently. She then had to watch her own sister die from wounds received inside the bank. Franny quit working at the bank, and recently learned that Eva has been in contact with their estranged mother. Franny tried to care for Eva's son, Ricky, but has since given that role over to her grandmother.

Egan - a goofy office worker, he became a media sensation when he stopped a stray bullet from hitting one of the captives. He feels like a changed man, so much so that he quit his job and divorced his crabby wife. He's used his notoriety to start a fund to help Ricky.

Malcolm - the bank manager, he didn't know that his daughter had been in the bank for the first few hours. He's very protective of his workers and his family, so much so that he tried to shield Felicia from information she needed to piece together her own experience. He recently forced the bank's higher-ups to give a proper monetary dispensation to the widow of the slain security guard.

Felicia - Malcom's daughter and a good high schooler, she had been in the bathroom when the heist began. As a result she still had her cell phone at one point, but had to pass it to Lizzie to get a signal, who then called 911. The whole standoff was so traumatic, Felicia has a memory block and only remembers the first couple hours of the experience. She's tried visiting Lucas in jail to help jog her memory.

Lucas - one of two brothers to rob the bank, we are led to believe he's "the nice one." He ended up donating a kidney to keep his brother (Randall) alive so that he'd stand trial, at the imploring of Lizzie. He's now back in jail, and doesn't care if he spends his life there.

That's all you need to know! Tune in this Wednesday, as we find out how the security guard was killed, and Kathryn faces another crisis in her work/love relationship.

November 22, 2006

Heroes - a primer

Now that I've completed my 5 Reasons series, it's time for me to spotlight the 2 best new shows of the season. And to help those of you who haven't been watching yet, I'm offering a starter kit!

First up, let's talk about Heroes. Great visuals, a complex plot that is actually decipherable, and believeable characters. It's the story of our world where something is causing a rise in human genetic mutation, resulting in everyday people having extraordinary abilities.

Let me attempt to spell out our cast of characters, and some of the links between them. Oh, and basically everyone on the show is hot, so just remember that.

Mohinder - A geneticist and some-time professor from Madras, India. Mohinder's father did some pioneering (and controversial) research into these mutations. Mohinder has been struggling with his path - should he follow his father, who is now deceased? At one point Mohinder came to New York, where he met his father's former neighbor (supposedly), Eden, and also Peter who sought him out. Recently he has met a boy who comes to people in their dreams (or is it the other way around). And he has found his father's database of potential superpowered beings, which we know includes Niki. Mohinder also knows that his father had a key to Sylar's apartment (which has since been stripped bare).

Nathan - Running for Senate, Nathan doesn't want anyone to know that he can fly. He actively discourages his brother, Peter, from being interested in superpowers. One of Nathan's biggest investors set him up by forcing Nikki to seduce him on camera as "insurance."

Peter - A now former hospice nurse, Peter once was in charge of Simone's father. And now he's sleeping with Simone. Peter has recently deduced that he is able to replicate the powers of another superhuman when in close proximity. Peter was visited by Hiro from the future, and was given the edict, "Save the cheerleader, save the world."

Hiro - Once condemned to a crappy cubicle job in Japan, Hiro discovered that he can stop time, and teleport across time and space. He first teleported to New York in the future, where he saw Isaac had been killed, and a nuclear explosion about to happen. Hiro has dragged his buddy Ando to the U.S. to stop this disaster. Along the way, Hiro ran into Nathan, and Ando met his online obsession, Niki.

Isaac - At least when he's got heroin in his system, Isaac can lapse into a state where he can paint the future. Simone was his girlfriend and his art dealer, but they've broken up because he wouldn't quit the smack. Isaac's work has become a comic book in the future, and Hiro took that comic book to the present and has tried to contact him. He was recently abducted by Eden, because HRG learned that Isaac had been painting a series about Claire's homecoming danger.

Niki/Jessica - A mom trying to do right by her son, Niki has attempted to pay off a debt by stripping on the internet. Niki appears to actually have two sides, the other being Jessica who is aggressive and deadly. When one is "out" the other appears when she looks in the mirror. Niki is currently sublimated while Jessica is on the hunt to get her son back from her estranged husband, D.L.

D.L. - On the run from the police, D.L. has figured out that he can phase through solid matter. He loves his son and loves Niki, but recently discovered that she set him up to take the fall while she retained all the loot from their caper. What he doesn't know is that Jessica is the one who did it.

Micah - The son of Niki and D.L., he quite naturally has superpowers of his own. We're not sure what yet, except that he can use a phone that's out of order, and he's very intelligent. While on the highway running from Jessica, Micah and D.L. ran into a car fire, where Hiro helped D.L. save the woman inside.

Matt - A down on his luck cop in Los Angeles, Matt has started hearing the thoughts of others. One minute it's helping him get closer to his wife, the next it's forcing him to hear that she's having an affair with his commanding officer. Now he's working with the FBI to track down Sylar the killer. He's also met a radioactive man who unintenionally gave his wife cancer. At one point Matt was abducted by HRG and Eraser.

Claire - The cheerleader from Odessa, Texas. She is disturbed to learn that she is able to regenerate her own tissue, and thus recover from virtually any injury (including the start of an autopsy). Her father just happens to be HRG. And she just survived a run-in with Sylar thanks to the intervention of Peter. Her regnerative powers allowed him to survive the encounter.

HRG - Our abbreviation for Horn-Rimmed Glasses man, we're not sure if his intentions are nefarious or noble. But we do know that he loves Claire and has been trying to protect her, and he knows that she is "special." His accomplices are Eden (see below) and Eraser - not his real name, but he's a silent man that appears to be able to wipe the memories of others.

Eden - You'll often hear me refer to her as "PMAT" - a Poor Man's Audrey Tautou. Although she was rather pathetic when she prowled about Mohinder's place, we've now found that she's a bit more cunning. She also has the power of suggestion, quite literally - she was able to stop Sylar in his tracks.

And that's all you need to know! Next week we travel back in time, as Hiro jumps to six months earlier in order to save the life of a lovely waitress who seems to remember anything she reads and was killed by Sylar in the present.

What were all our heroes like months ago? Find out!

3 ingredients

1. Twiggy

2. Shirley Bassey

3. a great song from Pink

Mix it all up, and you have one very fun commercial. Enjoy!

November 19, 2006

Why Grey's Anatomy is Even More Awesome

Despite all of the complaints about my beloved shows (see previous posts), I think that one show not only beat the sophomore slump, but IMPROVED in its third season. So I present to you, 5 reasons...

Why Grey's Anatomy is Even More Awesome

1. McSteamy joining the cast as a regular was an inspired choice. Not only is he dreamier than McDreamy, he's also quite the man-whore. And that suits me just fine. Watch out Dr. Bailey - you're next!

2. The show maintains the delicate balance between ratcheted-up tension and silly comedy. Witness the drama of Burke & Cristina's secret showing up in the same episode where an uber-vain man refers to himself in the third person.

3. The return of Izzy! Finally she got off the damn floor and is back in the hospital having fun. I missed her! Let's have more fun with Izzy and Karev, please.

4. I've previously mentioned the fun friendship of Bailey and Addison. Now we have the equally interesting one blossoming between Addison and Callie. Girl power!

5. Keep it gay! Between T.R. Knight coming out, and actually seeing Joe the bartender's relationship with his partner (Walter), Grey's does not shy away from my people. And that is a beautiful thing. Oh, and did you know that Joe has his own blog? Check it out!

Why Lost is Still Awesome

I'm certainly not the only person that has expressed the opinion that Lost seems to be slipping a little bit this season. A lot more mystery, and not nearly enough exposition. And for those of us who are less enchanted with the Sawyer-Kate-Jack love triangle, it's been a bit much on "Alcatraz." Not to mention those new characters The Dum-Dum Duo ("Is Eko dead?") Oh, and it annoys me to no end that the Official Lost Podcast hasn't appeared in weeks. Still, I confess there are 5 reasons...

Why Lost is Still Awesome

1. Great characters we know and love. We can still enjoy the complex relationship of Jin and Sun. We enjoy the antics and angst of Hurley. And we have our fantasies about how Claire will smother Charlie in his sleep.

2. Desmond - new, improved and even stranger!

3. Juliet is the best new character on the show since the introduction of not-Henry last season. Best moment of the season so far was her INXS-inspired plea to Jack. She's an enigma but incredibly appealing. Love!

4. Michael is not around whining about Walt. Granted, I'd like them both to come back. But still.

5. Even at its worst, this show is better than 70% of what's on TV today. I believe that our patience will be rewarded.

November 12, 2006

Why America's Next Top Model is Still Awesome

Oh sure, AJ was kicked out even though she was top-notch. Anchal, why did you just toss it all away? And why the heck is Melrose still around? Not to mention the whole writers' strike fiasco. Still, I confess there are 5 reasons...

Why America's Next Top Model is Still Awesome

1. Bitches! The show is always full of them. You know you love it.

2. Twins! They me be skinny and gangly, but darn if they don't take great pictures. And how fun is it that Michelle thinks she's lesbianoic?

3. Tyra does her absolute best to make a fool of herself each and every week. You've got to appreciate that kind of dedication.

4. ANTM gets some good guests on the show - strange and out-of-place as they may be. Dennis Quaid? Love!

5. The theme song! You wanna be on top?

Why Dancing With The Stars is Still Awesome

Vivaca Fox, you were gone far too early. The departure of Sara Evans was sad, but classy. And even Willa Ford should have stuck around longer. And yet, I'm still going to be there for the final showdown between super-gay Mario Lopez and my teddy bear boyfriend Emmitt Smith.

Why Dancing With The Stars is Still Awesome

1. There's a certain classical elegance this show brings to prime-time television.

2. Tom Bergeron may be ridiculous, but he makes a darn good host.

3. The judges! Often it's more fun to watch them bicker than anything else. Is Len grouchy today? Will Carrie Ann put the smack down? Is Bruno really Roberto Benigni in disguise?

4. The womens' costumes! Who will look hot this week, and who will look ridiculous?

5. The music! Where else can you see someone dance the jive to George Michael?

Why The Amazing Race is Still Awesome

Another week gone, and lots happening on TV. Not all of it that great. Indeed, many of my favorite shows have been a little lackluster of late. But I keep the faith! And therefore, I present to you a series entitled "Why [This Show] is Still Awesome." First, I'll start with The Amazing Race. Enjoy!

Why The Amazing Race is Still Awesome

1. No reality show on network TV has ever explored far-off places like this show has. Already this season the contestants have been to such exciting places as Mauritius and Madagascar.

2. Phil. When he's dressed properly, he remains the sexiest host ever.

3. Open hearts and open minds. Yes, I'm sad that David and Mary were eliminated before their time. But they still represent all that is good about the race.

4. The producers continue to look for ways to fine-tune the race. They've done away with the stupid "give up all your belongings" thing, and this past week tried the intriguing new Intersection.

5. The best editors in reality TV work on this show. The comb countless hours of raw footage to put together an exciting hour, often juxtaposing things that are both surpising and hilarious.

November 01, 2006

Alright, Okay, You Win

I know, I know. You’re saying, “What’s the deal? Where the heck have you been?” Believe me, not posting in nearly 2 weeks isn’t cool with me. Especially considering that it was a year ago that I revitalized this blog and began regular posting! So what happened? Alright, time for true confessions. Laying my cards on the table. Mea culpa.

I was so bitter that Jeffrey won Project Runway, that I couldn't write.

I'm serious! I had become far too invested in the show, and seeing him win for what I truly thought was the worst collection of the bunch just didn't compute. I couldn't go on. I was devastated.

With time, I have healed a bit. I admit that a couple of his pieces were decent, but I still maintain his collection was not the best. And I'll be back next season, hoping the judges will have corrected whatever brain anomaly caused them to have such a lapse in, um, judgement. Time heals all wounds, and whatnot.

In the meantime, I've neglected you, my poor readers. I'm sure you've been buzzing about, talking about our favorite TV shows and so forth. I'd like to say that I'm just going to do a bunch of posts to cover all that has happened recently, but I can't. Life marches on!

So instead, let's do a super-speedy recap of what's been happening on TV, and hopefully in the next week I'll be back on track. Once all those dang political ads are off my screen, I should have the time and energy to concentrate! Anywho, let's pick this up:

* Heroes

So much has happened, but it can be summed up by saying that the worlds of our heroes, they are colliding. They are coming together to follow the edict made my future sword-bearing Hiro - "Save the cheerleader, save the world!" Last night's episode was one of my favorites so far, as we really got deep into Niki's storyline, and met her mysterious husband D.L. who is super-powered himself (told you!). And did I or did I not call that PMAT was evil and playing Mohinder like a fiddle? Perhaps this explains why she's a bad actress. Final comment - Matt is still my boyfriend, but Nathan shirtless? Yum. I'm just saying.

* Dancing With the Stars

Once the dust settled from Sara Evans leaving the show (and her giving an extremely classy exterview), no one was eliminated, which was just dumb. And then mercifully, Jerry Spring was finally relieved of the torture he was enduring each week. I have a feeling Mario is walking away with this, but my heart still goes to Emmitt.

* America's Next Top Model

If I do any retroactive posts, it will be for this show, because so much happened! Michelle came out (sort of), and her mom was cool about it! AJ was eliminated, and I was pissed about it! And last week Brooke missed her high school graduation to be eliminated the same night, and no one cared about it!

* Lost

Am I the only one worried that the show is losing some steam? Sure, there were interesting moments, like Locke's whacked out drug trip with Boone, and the discovery of another polar bear. And then Juliet's breakdown in the operating room over Colleen's death. But it just seems like things are...dragging. Not to mention that the official Lost podcast hasn't appeared in two weeks. C'mon people - keep your fan base happy! Super-powered Desmond in sparse clothing is not enough!

* The Nine

Conversely, this show is the one that's been heating up pretty quickly. Lizzie confessed her pregnancy to Jeremy! Egan got separated! Lucas is giving part of his liver up just so his brother can suffer publicly! Of course the biggest shocker was to hear that Eva's husband served time with the evil Russell. Something tells me that's not going to work out well. Coolest moment so far - the group comes together to help fill in the gaps in Felcia's memory. Aww...well done, Malcolm!

* Grey's Anatomy

I could just say "McSteamy" and that would be sufficient. But to elaborate - Meredith is dumb. Izzie might be dumber, but at least she's back to being a surgeon. George is dense (as usual). The greatest mystery - how has Alex become so darn likeable? [More bizarre - half-watching the horrific movie The Wedding Planner on TV, I noticed that he was in that doing a really horrible accent. Do with that what you will.]

* The Amazing Race

Well of course because of the consistent football delays (CBS is determined to make my life difficult), I keep missing parts of the show. Still, I know the key points. David & Mary got lucky on both non-elimination legs, which is awesome but probably signals their eventual doom. Sarah is finally rid of her horrific partner, Peter. The beauty queens are not always so nice. And Karyln is permanently grouchy. I'm worried about this turning into another season where a group of nice and promising folks become far too bitter and jaded by the end to make it enjoyable. But can we give a shout out to Mauritius? I love going to new places!

Well, that's about it for now. In the coming weeks I'll be aiming to get back to a more regular posting schedule. Look for some posts on recent films I've seen (The Queen, Shortbus, Running With Scissors), as well as books (The Devil Wears Prada) and even theatre (The Drowsy Chaperone and this weekend's My Fair Lady).

Stay tuned! And thanks for stopping by to check this page as often as you have. I'll be better - I promise!

[Bonus points for the first person to comment with the performer who made this post title a hit!]