Friday, March 31, 2006

Family Business

I know there are people out there who will invent an award for anything, and I'm sure there are many far more strange ones than this. Still, I find it odd that there is an award given out to a "family of actors." And the Arquettes are receiving it, following the Fondas and the Penns.

I guess this is the only way David Arquette could win an acting award.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Totally Insane-y

I know I've mentioned upcoming release of The Animaniacs on DVD before. But I'm just that excited. And I'm having a lazy blog night. And there are pictures of the box now, which makes the whole thing seem more real.

Thank you, Yakko, for teaching me all the nations of the world (circa 1993). Thank you, Wakko, for teaching me all the U.S. state capitols. Thank you, Dot, for... being so cute.

That's all.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Week 12: Veronica Mars 6; Lost 6.

Late last week, UPN announced that Veronica Mars would be airing on Wednesdays for only two more weeks. After that, it's returning to the Tuesday time slot it held in its first season. Which means tonight was the penultimate Veronica Mars vs. Lost contest. How fitting then that Lost should pull out a win tonight to tie the series. (Heh... double meaning, there.) It will all come down to next week's showdown.

But for now, let's consider what we had tonight.

I was ambivalent about the flashback elements of tonight's Lost. They sort of told a new story, in which Locke's father faked his own death to escape some mobster-esque thugs. And yet at the same time, the story was essentially a restatement of all the themes and story points of the last Locke episode. Locke still hasn't gotten over being duped by his father; Helen delivers an ultimatum to let it go, or let her go.

Fortunately, the island material this week was far more compelling. The "blast doors" discovered in the hatch many episodes ago by Michael (whom I'm still not missing) finally came into play this week. The Henry Gale storyline took an exciting turn. A new hatch mystery literally revealed itself, under the strange black lights that kicked in. And the good folks at Dharma apparently air-dropped in supplies to the island.

The causal relationship of all these events is what's intriguing. What made the blast doors come down? Was it because the air-drop was imminent? And did they then retract after the air-drop was complete?

Or did someone do something to trigger the air-drop?

Or is there no relationship between the two things?

Did "Henry Gale" really input the numbers as he said? He seemed to memorize them pretty quickly when Locke told him about them, implying he was already familiar with them. So was he bringing some belief of his own that compelled him to input the numbers even as he was lying about everything else? Or did he simply lie and do nothing? And if he did nothing, is that what triggered the black lights? Is that all that happens if you let the countdown expire?

All that, and fun poker action too between Sawyer and Jack. Good episode.

Veronica Mars was fun as well, offering drama in the Logan storyline, humor in the Keith Mars storyline, and our usually plucky gumshoe-ing starring Veronica herself. The featured roles for the two kids from Arrested Development was fun. (Particularly considering that their Arrested Development characters mentioned in one of that show's final episodes that they watched "[name of off-network teen private eye drama withheld by FOX].")

In some ways, this episode offered a possible hint of what might come should Veronica Mars get to the third season it deserves to on the new CW (Crack Whore?) network. And since this week's announcement from Arrested Development's creator pretty much kills the dim hope of it continuing on Showtime, it would be kinda cool to see those two find a home as regulars on Veronica Mars next year. If the "all the gang conveniently goes to college right there in the same city" thing was good enough for Buffy, it's certainly good enough for the show so many people call its heir. And I truly hope we get to find out how VM will address the "high school graduation problem."

But, despite the interest this episode triggered about the future, it simply didn't go as far as other episodes of the show have gone. It was indeed funny, emotional, and entertaining. But the show has set standards of being funnier, more emotional, and even more entertaining. A victim of its own success. (Well, critical success... sadly, ratings success still not so much there.)

So I kicked tonight's contest in Lost's direction. See you back here next week for the final, deciding matchup.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Customer Satisfaction

I grabbed lunch at Arby's the other day, and found this customer survey already filled out on the table where I sat.

Monday, March 27, 2006

9:00 - 10:00 PM

A new Bauer Hour...

Why did they bother giving us the recap of the President/First Lady's storyline at the top of an episode they weren't even in?

Why are the redshirts taking Audrey into custody wearing white shirts?

Jack threatens Collette: "If you lie to me, I'm going to make this the worst day of your life." You're gonna need your own spin-off series/season to show how bad your day is gonna be!

Jack then chews out Karen Hayes with the first of many lines in this episode that totally have an unspoken "bitch" at the end of them: "Audrey Raines is a senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense, James Heller, who happens to be her father! If you're wrong, he is gonna eat you alive!" (Bitch!)

Meanwhile, in some anonymous dark alley... Bierko finally decides to get off his ass after 8 hours or so of staring at monitors and do something!

I'm totally staying at the River Hotel in Pikesville, Maryland. Because the person they have manning the desk at 12:05 in the morning (East Coast time) is able to field a phone call from Chloe, ID two people, and send phone bills and room service receipts all in about four minutes. Now that's some on-the-ball service.

Enter new girl. She's named Shari. Granted, the spelling is different from the other Sherry we've known on 24, but seriously... don't trust her!

More people have been strangled against the wall of that interrogation room than I care to count.

I think the real reason this guy is all so pissed off at Shari is not because of the sexual harassment thing, but because she usurped the work station he'd already usurped that used to belong to Edgar.

That is some of the worst rear screen projection behind Christopher Henderson that I've seen on television in years.

Pierce is going back out "into the field!" Man, he's having quite a season/day.

Jack: "You're getting ready to interrogate Audrey Raines when you should be interrogating Collette Stenger because she still has information that we don't have!" (Bitch!)

Anonymous gas plant security guard: "I'm gonna need to call this in." Hey, my phone's dead.... oh wait, that's me!

Bierko to plant manager: "Can you take us to the control room?" Gee, didn't he just buy blueprints to the place an hour ago? Can't he take himself? Come to think of it... wait a minute. They could have just found the front door themselves. They pressured the poor manager into showing them the control room. They could have pressured some other poor sap to show them where the big tank room was. That's all. What the hell were the blueprints for?

Jack's best line of the season: "He wanted you to get inside my head. And it worked. And now I'm... upset."

Torture has tried to ruin Audrey and Jack's relationship before. It didn't work that time either. Their bond is stronger than torture.

Shari thinks Buchanan gave her the "bad touch." Yeah, see, I told you not to trust her.

Pierce has now been shot at by a rocket launcher twice in one day!

Why did Jack and Curtis (and team) stop to take off their silencers? So that we'd have more satisfying noise during the upcoming action sequence, I assume.

Well, looks like after about 10 weeks, we're finally done with the nerve gas storyline.

Searing jets of flame vs. Jack Bauer. You know who my money's on.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Ships and Dip

Wanna go on an ocean cruise with Barenaked Ladies? That is, the band behind If I Had $1,000,000, One Week, Another Postcard, and other infectiously catchy alternative/pop hits.

The big Star Trek geeks out there will know that this concept is nothing new. There have been Star Trek cruises for years, multi-day events where some star of Star Trek is trapped on a boat at sea with rabid fans. It's like an "uber Star Trek convention."

Well, now the idea has gone mainstream. Just last month, the Dave Matthews Band did such a cruise. Apparently, it completely booked in a very short period of time, at several thousand dollars a pop. And other bands noticed...

Hence, the Barenaked Ladies bring you Ships and Dip. The tickets aren't as pricey as the DMB version of the cruise, and you'll probably get a lot more entertainment for your buck.

Still... I'm not sure I see this as a "peanut butter and chocolate, two great tastes that taste great together" sort of affair. Some day, I think I'd like to go on a cruise. I expect it would be a lot of fun. I've been to a Barenaked Ladies concert. And I can tell you, that was a lot of fun. But the two together? I know that a large part of the ticket price is covering just the cost of any old "regular" cruise, but I still can't help but feel that a major line would be crossed there.

I just can't think of anything I'm that big a fan of to pay that much money to geek out over.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Inside Trip

Tonight, I caught Inside Man, the newest "Spike Lee Joint" about a bank heist starring Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, and Jodie Foster. Before going into the theater, I was thinking to myself, "Spike Lee does a suspense movie? This is going to be odd."

Not so odd, as it turned out, because it really wasn't a suspense movie. The heist was clever. The characters were interesting. But there was no suspense. And it didn't really seem like there was supposed to be, as the "main storyline" was intercut with "suspect interrogations" from a point in the future after the conclusion of the heist.

As with other Spike Lee films, it was all about the character details. Minor characters of little real importance to the plot were given "moments" on screen, and sometimes interesting stories to tell. Then there was Jodie Foster's character, which just screamed, "I am a character, people. Watch me now as I munch on some scenery." Not that she overdid it; the part was simply written that way.

Ultimately, the film was good, but not great. I give it a B, and my endorsement. I suspect many of you will like it. It's just that, at the same time, I'm not really suggesting this is a film you should rush out to see, as the incredibly high score over on Rotten Tomatoes might lead you to believe.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Stuck in the Past

In the parking lot of a government building near my office, you can pretty regularly find a car with this bumper sticker:

It's clearly not on a car that was around in 1968. Which leaves me with the perplexing question of just what message this car's owner is trying to get across. After much musing, I've chosen to believe it's a slam against people who are still driving around with George W. Bush or John Kerry bumper stickers on their cars. Those people seriously need to get over it. To the former: you won! Stop acting like an oppressed minority! To the latter: you lost! And if you don't want to do so again come 2008, stop living in the past and start thinking about what went wrong!

Anyone else derive some other message from the Kennedy bumper sticker?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Week 11: Veronica Mars 6; Lost 5.

It's been a month-and-a-half since the last Lost vs. Veronica Mars face-off, but finally we're back on track. In fact, Veronica Mars is airing from now until season's end with no weeks off or repeats, so there should be a number of these little contests to come.

Tonight's showdown goes to Lost. I've always been partial to the Sun/Jin episodes in the past, so right away, this episode had that going for it. There were a number of great comic touches in there: Sawyer reading "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret," Evil Charlie's interplay with Ana Lucia, Hurley's lame attempt to explain himself when caught sneaking food. And we had very interesting advancement in the Henry Gale "is he an Other or not?" plot.

But to me, the biggest thing about this episode is that it managed to do what only some of the seasons two episodes have done so far -- it offered flashbacks that told us background on the characters we didn't already know. Sun learned English from her arranged husband? Jin foolishly thought having a child would help improve their relationship? He's not able to have children?

Which now leads us to an interesting question. Was Sun lying when she said she hadn't been with anyone else? (The look on her face as she hugged him seemed to leave room for that possibility.) Or was there some sort of strange "Island Healing" going on, perhaps of the type that restored Locke's ability to walk?

Oh, which reminds me... Locke got put down some more in this episode. Loving that. I used to like Locke a lot. I still like watching the character on the show. But I feel he's gone a bit high-and-mighty lately, and I've enjoyed watching him be taken down a few notches. I suppose many could make the same arguments about Jack (and I wouldn't disagree), which has made this whole "Jack vs. Locke" theme in the last several episodes entertaining.

So, lots to like all around.

Veronica Mars was certainly good tonight as well, it just had a high mark to beat set by Lost. You could tell a lot was going to happen this episode when the "previously on..." recap was nearly three minutes long. And indeed, there was forward momentum on every major plot line -- the bus crash, Logan's upcoming murder trial, Beaver's business with Kendall, Aaron Echolls' incarceration. All that, and they had time to tell a stand-alone mystery too! An impressive feat.

Still, you could argue that the progress on the uber-plots was all incremental at best. Or at worst, that they told a story, only to have things end back up in the same place as they began. (For example, we still don't really know if Terrence Cook set the explosion or not.) I suppose in the end, that's why I gave the nod to Lost.

If South Park was involved in the competition, though, I'd have to score things for them this week. Tonight's episode was dedicated to writing Chef out of the show following Isaac Hayes' insanity.

All the Chef dialogue, cobbled together from previous episodes, was very funny. It was especially humorous to make the "brainwashed Chef" deliberately sound like somebody was using an internet soundboard to create his voice. From there, they brilliantly parodied their own "This is what Scientologists actually believe" episode that reportedly caused the split in the first place. Then they killed Chef more violently and thoroughly than Kenny ever suffered. Then they delivered the nice speech (damn touching, by South Park standards) saying we should remember all the good times we had with Chef, not his crazy behavior in the last few days -- and that we shouldn't blame him for the way he acted, we should blame those jerks who brainwashed him. Brilliant.

And the cherry on top of the sundae? The "Birth of Darth Vader" parody that saw Chef rise as some Dark Chef of the Sith. If only he'd screamed "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" at the end, it probably would have been the best South Park ever. I suppose they didn't have that clip of Isaac Hayes from a previous episode.

Anyway, quality night of TV overload.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Another World

I heard a story tonight that really drove home for me the fact that I have absolutely no concept of what it means to be addicted to drugs.

I have a friend who works at a store on the mall downtown. They have a public restroom. This afternoon, they caught some guy in the bathroom doing a line of cocaine. of a toilet seat.

I cannot conceive of the circumstances that would make me put my nose on the seat of a public toilet. I guess you have to do it behind the stall door in an attempt for privacy. I get that you've probably just bought your fix, and you just can't wait to get home or to some place truly private to go for it. But damn! Toilet seat?

So, like I said: no concept of that level of addiction whatsoever.

Monday, March 20, 2006

8:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Tonight, on 24:

Carlos Bernard gets full star billing for two seconds of lying on the floor and getting a sheet draped over his face.

Jack is going back out into the field with Curtis, who fortunately has completely gotten over having Jack put a sleeper hold on him just a few hours ago.

The Vice President asks Logan if he's having second thoughts. Wouldn't that require him to have had first thoughts?

This week's exposition is served up press conference style.

Mr. Homeland Security (who won't give his name) is usurping Edgar's old station. Yeah, that'll go over well with Chloe.

A U.S. president who is actually watching the television to see what the public's reaction to one of his decisions is? Yep. Definitely fiction.

Wayne Palmer has something important to bring to Aaron Pierce. Hopefully, this gift comes with a card explaining why the hell he couldn't have done this about 11 hours ago.

Back to this terrorist go-between woman, whose name we learn is Colette. She's putting on some serious stiletto boots. They're made for walking.

"No, Mikhail. This is the place. We'll release the syntox here... and two thousand people will die." (Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-HAAAA!)

Jack and Curtis have reached the hotel room. The biggest frakking hotel room I've ever seen!

The suspect's gone to the roof. Jack sends Curtis and the team up the stairs. As for himself? It appears he actually scaled the wall up the outside of the building! I have no other explanation for where Jack appears from. It's not that I don't believe Jack is that big a badass. Come on, we all know better. It's just that I want to see Jack doing something that badass!

Desmond is free of "the hatch" and working for German intelligence!

The "wet list?" It's such a seriously goofy name, I'm assuming it must be a real thing, like last season's "nuclear football."

Chloe's off to hack into the NSA. And I know I shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess this isn't the first time food or drink has been spilled at Edgar's station.

Quick draw Jack "factens" Karen Hayes over the phone. (He doesn't "threaten" her. "It's not a threat, it's a fact!")

They've captured Colette, and suddenly the music has turned almost CSI-like on us.

The German intelligence officer tries the wet list. "How 'bout a little fire, Theo?"

There is no way a car as nice as Wayne's can be beaten in a drag race with a P.O.S. van like that. I guess the goons (presumably working for the Vice President?) are that good.

Holy plot twist, Batman! Audrey sold the information to the terrorists? Ok, this either goes one of two ways. One, she has been set up somehow by a third party. Or two, we have our least logical "shift of loyalties plot twist" since Nina Meyers in season one. Because just like Nina on day one, Audrey has been entirely too helpful at key points throughout this day to have "been in on it all along." You know what? Just like day one (and the Nina-spiked "days" that followed), it's probably more fun to play Audrey as the villain, logic be damned.

I guess we'll see how it all pans out next time.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

B for V for Vendetta

It took me until today to get around to seeing V for Vendetta, but now I've done it. It found it mostly pretty good, but not likely something I'll want to see again.

Hugo Weaving was wonderful, but he was at many turns just channeling Agent Smith from The Matrix in these ponderous pontifications of agonizing alliteration. In the mouth of a lesser actor, they'd be obnoxious. From him, they were entertaining in the moment, but ultimately self-indulgent of the writers.

Natalie Portman manages to convey some strong emotions in particular scenes in the movie, and gets you to feel them a bit as well. Except that at the same time, her character is almost a non-entity in terms of driving any of the action. Things happen around her more than to her. She's really no more a driving force in the story than Dr. Watson in a Sherlock Holmes tale. She's just there as the lens for us to view the real story.

The messages of the film were rather provocative at times. In principle, the film was making you identify with a terrorist and showing terrorism as a good force for change -- a notion which one would certainly think to be controversial, or stimulating fn conversation at the very least. But it often just comes off as Batman with loftier subtext. We've seen the "vigilante badass" in more movies that I can count, and despite the fact that this particular vigilante is blowing up buildings in an oh-so-topical way, it doesn't always feel that different.

Actually, I must amend -- the movie really doesn't have much in the way of subtext. They forgot the whole "sub" part of that when making this movie. The fascist politician has dubbed himself a "Chancellor" and sports a red and black symbol for his government. Everybody got that? It's just one of the run-over-by-a-semi metaphors this movie throws at you. And yet, as blunt as the message is, it's one I agree with. "Government should be afraid of its citizens, not the other way around."

The movie is gorgeous to look at throughout. Almost overly "constructed," though. We're not talking a Sin City level of slavishness to comic book appearance, but damn near it. So here the paradox is that the film looks wonderful, but while watching it, you're sometimes kicked out of the moment to say to yourself "damn, that looks incredible."

So, I guess I'm saying that everything good about the movie had some flaw undercutting it. Many of the parts were good, but the whole was less than the sum of the parts. In the end, I give the film a B. Good, but not great.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

These Are the People in Your Neighborhood

Along the downtown open-air mall near my office, you can always pass the same street performers and panhandlers in roughly the same locations, every day of the week.

Shoe Shine Guy is always at the same cross street. He's usually on the west side when the sun is out, and the east side when it isn't. He always has the same quips, too, when a given situation arrives. "Shoes without a sock?! You might as well be wearing a skunk!" "Sneakers? Man, those things'll kill ya!" (Don't ask me how that second one works.)

The Guitar Hero has been known to roam a few blocks, but usually plays his music in front of the same defunct department store that's been closed and abandoned for years. When he plays Melissa Etheridge, it's kind of odd.

Screaming Raving Lunatic stays on one end of the mall, shouting nearly incoherently at the top of his voice. Something about communists yesterday... couldn't make it out.

Then there's 15-cent guy. He's always within a block of the Arby's, and always asks you not for "change," but specifically for 15 cents. I suppose he's determined this is the right amount to ask for to get the best results. It stuck in my mind, anyway.

Ah, city life.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Engrish 101

Sometimes, you just have to step aside and let someone else do your blogging for you. All I know is, whether this is a real Chinese menu or not, it made me laugh until it hurt.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Impending Terra

A strange thought occured to me lately. (I know, what else is new?) Despite all the bizarre l33t-speak being created all the time, I think computing technology may soon put us in a minor "crisis of slang."

It's all about storage space. For a while, megabytes were the "impossibly huge standard you'll never fill." And we could easily call them "megs" for short. Then came gigabytes, or "gigs" for short -- the new "impossibly huge standard you'll never fill." But of course, we will. (Would something about More's Law be appropriate here?)

Well, next comes terrabytes, and I'm probably making too much out of too little here, but I don't feel the shorthand works here. What do we call them for short? "Terras?" "Terrs?"

"Man, that data went on a terr!"

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Incomplete Works

It's the ides of March, the day of the year where I pause briefly and think to myself, "you know, I really mean to read all of Shakespeare's plays someday."

You'd think with my theater background, I'd already have that covered. And I have read quite a few of Shakespeare's plays (including Julius Caesar, from which the famous quote about March 15th comes). But the truth is, I've really only covered about half of them. Basically, I've read none of the "histories," and have missed other various, lesser-known plays.

Since the last "ides of March," in fact, I haven't read a single new one. Not a very good pace if I ever seriously hope to get around to reading the complete works. There it sits, surrealistically right next to my "The Complete Far Side." (Why the odd placement? Because both books are freaking huge, and rest on the floor because they're too big for the bookshelf.)

Maybe there will be more progress by this time next year...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"Goodbye, Children"

The announcement has come down this week that Isaac Hayes is Chef no more -- he is leaving South Park. This news has been reported (using slightly different quotes) in a number of different places, but the long and short of is this:

Hayes' story (paraphrased): "There is a line between satire and intolerance, and I feel this show has crossed it."

South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone's story (paraphrased): "When we portrayed the Jewish faith as a summer boys camp where Moses appeared as the Master Control Program from Tron, you didn't blink. When we had Jesus sacrifice himself to save Santa Claus and a talking piece of poo from the Iraqis, not a word. When we did an entire episode mocking the creation of the Mormon religion, nada. But now that we've done an episode that points out the insanity of Scientology... now you have an issue."

I have to side with the boys on this. To Isaac Hayes, I say: "Shut yo' mouth!"

Monday, March 13, 2006

7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

This week, on 24...

Ah, here's a new and novel way to handle exposition. Have the disembodied voice of the "hazard warning recording" explain that gas is loose and the "safe areas" are X and Y...

But my question is, did somebody actually stop in the middle of the crisis long enough to record this message? That seems unlikely. Was it some poor bastard's job to come in one day and read "hazard warning recordings" for every conceivable emergency? "Alright... take three was good. We've got all the sarin gas variations. Now lets move on to move onto syntox gas. Let's start with area 1 only locked down..." (That reminds me of the Saturday Night Live sketch where Dana Carvey plays Tom Brokaw trying to prepare for a vacation by pre-recording dozens of ways Gerald Ford could die while he's away.)

"This is all my fault," says Lynn. No name redshirt guy tears into him. We all agree with no name redshirt guy.

Tony pulls a Jack and knocks a "friendly" unconscious.

"My name is Tony Almeida. You killed my wife. Prepare to die."

Time to introduce a new paper-pushing, effectiveness-obstructing jerk of a boss into the mix. Welcome, Ms. Hayes... you are part of a proud tradition.

One of the most entertaining moments of any 24 episode is when some poor bastard tries to butt heads with Jack Bauer, having no idea what he/she is getting into. Congratulations, Barry Landes... you are part of a proud tradition.

Man, the people who planned the layout at CTU really blew it. No gas masks in the areas one is actually able to secure. No ability to recycle the air vents remotely from those areas either. Yup... it's a government operation.

The hoodie's up, and Ghetto Jack is in the hizz-ouse!

The whole "I'll hold my breath" thing might be more than a little hokey, but I swear this is the very best use of the "real time" schtick this show has had in years... maybe ever.

If it's any consolation to anyone, the person who (according to Chloe) improperly filed the security upgrade that was made to the vents system two years ago is quite possibly dead now.

No name redshirt guy now gets a name -- Harry Swinton. Just in time to die. Poor guy needed to watch more Star Trek. Or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Either way, a wardrobe change probably could have saved his life.

Kim asks Chloe: "Did you have contact with my dad while he was gone?" She should watch the special features disc on the 24 Season Four DVD box set.

Kim then asks Chloe: "How are you doing?" Anytime someone asks Chloe that quesiton, you can guarantee hilarity will ensue.

Harry's on the phone with his daughter now. Poor guy. We hardly knew ya. We didn't know ya.

Lynn pulls a George Mason and sacrifices himself to save others. Congratulations, Mr. McGill... you are part of a proud tradition.

Okay, now I have to stop for a moment and confess that I've always liked Elisha Cuthbert on 24. On those rare occasions when they give her something good to play, she's perfect -- one of the best actors on the show. Unfortunately, the writers have done horrible damage to her character over the years, burdening her with laughably awful plot twists. I bring this up now because I think it's an incredible credit to her that I didn't immediately bust up laughing when she delivered the line: "I don't want to be around you. Every time I am, something horrible happens and people die." Okay, so I'm definitely laughing at it now, but in the moment, I was totally with her.

Ah, President Logan. You gonna cry? You gonna squirt some?

Oh, right! There are terrorists on this show! And they're calling some scantily clad woman making a hell of a first impression on the audience. Damn good thing these terrorists have made quality use of these last 55-or-so minutes of CTU being out of commission by uh... I guess, looking up this woman's phone number in their "Official Terrorist Agent Rolodex."

Strange Homeland Security Man man has managed to use his laptop in the back seat of an SUV to reformat CTU's main server already? So, you can rewrite their server from a moving car miles away, but you can't turn on the air conditioner from the situation room inside the building? Wow.

And Tony pulls another Jack and blindsides this Burke guy. You'd think he'd be more careful around Tony after he'd pointed a gun at him and everything. I guess that's why Burke is the "torture guy" and not a field agent.

Holy crap! Robocop's back up and at 'em!

Holy crap! This is not a good week to be a character on television named Tony! (Hey, see what I did there, Sopranos fans?)

Wow. As I feel obliged to point out every now and then, I kid because I love. I actually totally loved this episode. I thought it was the best of the season so far. And rather remarkable, that, considering there was almost no "action" in it. It reminded me a bit of the killer season two episode (probably the best one of the series) about the detonation of the nuke -- tons of emotional impact.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Give Me Libertine, and Give Me Depp

After our horrible experience in the hills (the ones with the eyes), my friends and I decided we had to rush out to see another movie as soon as possible, to try to erase the foul taste in our mouths.

So last night, I went to see The Libertine. Starring Johnny Depp and John Malkovich, this is a strange bit of... well... I'm not sure I know, even having seen it. I'm not sure what the "point" of the movie was really supposed to be. I can't even really find the words to describe how I felt about the movie. Not quite bored, not exactly. Confused? Well, sort of.

Actually, one of Eddie Izzard's bits from his Dress to Kill stand-up concert describes the feeling perfectly. The Libertine was 90 minutes of "arranging matches." And I sat there, my hand full of popcorn, halfway frozen between the bucket and my open mouth, for the entire movie.

It wasn't bad. It wasn't good. It wasn't boring. It wasn't especially illuminating. It was just sort of "I think I'd better go." "Yes, I think you better had."

At the top of the movie, Depp's character delivers a monologue in which he promises we the audience "are not going to like him." Well, he got that part right. I give the film a C-, or in other words, just south of indifference.

Now I think I need to hunt down a movie with "space monkeys" attacking, just to make my head stop hurting.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Run From the Hills!

I believe I've written before about the "panning for gold approach" I believe one has to take in watching horror/thriller/suspense movies. You have to be willing to watch many in order to find one that's actually really good. The problem with this approach is the flip side -- every so often, you find one so unimaginably bad, you envy the characters being killed in the story for being finished with the movie sooner than you.

Last night, I saw The Hills Have Eyes. It's a remake of an old Wes Craven film, where natives of the desert where nuclear testing was conducted on U.S. soil have been mutated into carnivorous tourist murderers that still prowl to this day. This movie was beyond terrible. It's 100 gallons of dumb in a 10 gallon tank. I can think of nothing redeeming about it. I'm going to spoil things about it, and you shouldn't care. No one else should have to waste the time I did. This movie probably averaged better than one phenomally dumb piece of writing per minute of screen time. Here are just a few of the "highlights."

Before the credits, we see a geological survey team measuring radiation in the waste. They're offed by the mutants. If random families are disappearing in this area, I can see it continuing unchecked. But if a government survey team goes missing -- someone is going to notice that.

One of the characters stumbles across a blast crater where various cars from past victims have been left. But at this point, we've already seen that the mutant MO is to total a vehicle by booby trapping the road, thus stranding the car. How they're then transporting them eight miles down a dirt road is a ludicrous mystery.

The father of the family is supposed to be a retired police detective. But he's shown freaking out and firing his rounds blindly into the dark. And then he's jumped by a mutant from the back seat of a car.

The creepy local gas station attendant who has been sending hapless people into the hills to meet their doom and "feed" the nuclear mutants somehow decides this family is the last straw. No particular indication why. Oh, not that it stops him from sending them to certain death. It's just the later, he feels so bad about it, he blows his own head off with a shotgun.

We're shown a fully intact (though decaying) "nuclear test village" where the mutants make their home, even though any such structures would surely have been annihilated in any actual test blasts -- after all, that was the point of building them. (Not to mention, we see real life footage of these places being disintegrated in the opening credits of the film.)

The movie actually plays a "revenge plot" for a pet. The family has two dogs traveling with them. One is killed early on by the mutants. The other later discovers the carcass of his "mate" ("sister"?) in the desert, in a "touching" one-minute scene with no humans (mutated or otherwise) anywhere on camera. From then on, the dog is in full-on ass-kicking mode. Near the end of the movie he gets to eviscerate one of the mutants. In a way, this dovetails perfectly with Shocho's recent "who do macho kids save?" post. Pets, we decided. And now this movie shows us who macho pets save. Their owners. The circle is now complete.

Two of the kids come up with the "plan" to lure one of the baddies into their trailer, which they have leaked gas into and rigged to blow up. Yes, their plan is to destroy their only shelter in the desert. The real cherry on this sundae is that when the young boy goes to lure the baddie into the trap, he's armed with a gun and manages to sneak up on the baddie without being noticed at first. But does he just plug the mutant right there? No... that wasn't the "plan."

No cliche goes untapped. Weapons are dropped by the heroes next to the not-quite-dead bodies of the villains they think they've dispatched. One of the mutants is revealed to actually have a "heart of gold." Every scare in the film is a "cheap scare" -- a rapid cut or pan, accompanied by an over-the-top music sting.

F this movie. Seriously, F this movie. This movie gets an F. It's not even worthy of the "so bad it's good" label, because way too much money was spent making it.

The hills may have eyes. You'll want to gouge yours out.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Holy Frakking Crap!

Not since halfway through season two of Alias (the "post Super Bowl" episode) has a show been so completely turned on its head as Battlestar Galactica was tonight.

I was already pretty deeply into the episode. There was the mystery of why the Cylons really decided to withdraw. (Could "Caprica Six" and "Galactica Sharon" really have made so large an impact so quickly?) Then Dean Stockwell's character was revealed as a Cylon (as many expected after last week), thus opening the door to him to make future appearances. Then there was the provocative issue of Roslin attempting to steal the election. Then the shock of Baltar actually being sworn in as president. All that would have been more than enough to leave me speechless. But then, those three deceptively simple words...

One Year Later.

80's 'stached Olmos. Gaeta as chief of staff. Tyrol and Cally, a couple. Married Starbuck.

Can't... breathe...

And of course, the final, big cliffhanger. "Invasion 2.0" begins. Wow.

Unfortunately, as the small teaser after the episode confirmed, the SciFi Channel announced this week that Battlestar Galactica will not be returning in late July, as many anticipated. No, it's not coming back until October. Apparently, they decided the show was ready to compete with the "big boys" or something. No airing when the major networks are in reruns for BSG, it gets to run fall-to-spring just like the non-cable series do.

Which means we now have seven months to wait for more episodes. Hell, that's more than half the time they skipped over in telling tonight's story!

Somehow, Adama bleeding out on the table for four months seems like nothing compared to what we're in for now...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Alpha Blog

I often listen to my MP3 player at work. Every one of the hundreds of CDs I own is in there, so it's quite a lot of music of a wide variety of types.

Usually, I have things on random shuffle. But every Friday, I've been downloading the newest Battlestar Galactica podcast. To listen to that, I have to turn off the "random play" and dial up that specific track.

A couple weeks ago, I forgot to switch things back to random come Monday at work. I was well into the "C"s before I realized that the player was dutifully playing every song I own in alphabetical order (starting off from "BSG").

I'm here to advocate this as a pretty cool way to listen to your music collection. I have yet to switch it back. In its own way, it's just as random as "random shuffle." But you get some fun, quirky realizations thrown in for fun:

There are a hell of a lot of things that rock bands "Don't" want you to do.

There's a metric buttload of movie scores with a track called "End Credits." That section of my music must have lasted over three hours.

I have no less than five different versions of "Every Breath You Take." I don't know how I happened to amass so many, but there you go.

Just think what things I might learn as I now cross over into the "F"s!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Language Barrier

Silly German commercial. (Don't worry; nothing's going to scare the living crap out of you like in this other one you've probably all seen.)

Of course, I'm not sure the premise here is entirely believable. I have yet to meet a German whose English was this bad.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Happy Medium

I noticed there's always a commercial for some sleep aid drug during every episode of Medium. Apparently, they think this is their target market.

Do you find yourself waking up from prophetic, sometimes horrifying dreams in the middle of the night like the main character of this show? Try Snoozaton.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Day is Now Half Over

Double the hours! Double the Bauers! Thoughts on tonight's 24 episodes:

Tony Almeida is finally back in play. Quite a healer, that one. Six hours to recover from a gunshot to the neck. Ten hours to recover from a bomb blast. Go Tony!

Martha talks to Agent Pierce, and is upset that her husband knew the attack on the motorcade was coming and did nothing to stop it. Yeah, but the same goes for her!

I'm sure this is the not the first time lines of cocaine have been cut by a government security card.

I thought Tony would be all Phantom of the Opera under the bandage. Damn, he really is a fast healer.

That doctor attending Tony is a real weakling if the guy that just got up out of his sick bed after a ten hour nap can shove him out of the way. Or Tony's a real stud. Probably both.

Whatever the Russian president whispered to his wife after getting out of the helicopter was probably Russian for "honey, let me talk to this pigfucker alone."

Samwise's sister's boyfriend is such an idiot. Of course, he is an ex-con. But the only way he's going to get $20,000 is if the bullet that kills him is made of platinum-plated super-platinum.

Evelyn's messed up her job as the First Lady's aide twice today. Now she turns the President away. Third time's a charm.

Cut to terrorist, pushing the Gurney of Death through the hospital.

Shouldn't Mike Novak's threat/warning to Aaron Pierce have been "whatever 'didn't happen,' make sure it doesn't 'not happen' again"? Unless he thinks Aaron and Martha would make a cute couple. I'm so confused.

The terrorist is told he has to set off the gas, even if it kills him. I don't care how good the pay is... the retirement plan sucks.

President Logan: "The country has already suffered three devastating attacks today. We need to stop this madman." Which one, him or the terrorist leader?

That computer pad video screen thingamajig Curtis used at the hospital to look at the security footage of the terrorist? Freakin' sweet! I want one!

Henderson is home. And no one gets the drop on Jack Bauer three times.

Somehow, I knew Jack was gonna shoot the wife as leverage. But it was still cool and messed up to see.

Wait, they're running the nerve gas outside??!! "Everybody, back in the building, now!" Couldn't they have just taken it to some "Bubble Boy's" room somewhere inside the hospital?

The cavalcade of "familiar faces whose names you may or may not know" keeps coming. C. Thomas Howell? Ray Wise? Everyone gets on 24.

Oh, the terrorists have that same creepy face morphing program the Oscars used last night during the "Besk Makeup" category.

You brought Kim Bauer to CTU? Are you people completely crazy?! Don't you know she is a walking disaster rod?

Maybe the Vice President just plays a lot of Civilization. In Civilization, you can station troops in a city to keep unrest down.

I was so sure they were going to reveal Barry as Kim's husband at some point before the end of the episode. I figured they'd have to be engaged at the very least. Pimp, maybe? (The Oscars have now taught me it's hard to be one.)

I was wondering when someone was going to mention the people that did die for knowing Jack was alive. Leave it to Chloe to talk about the thing no one else is talking about.

Alarms blaring! Prisoner having possible complications from his torture medicine! It's really gonna hit the fan now. Well, in about ten minutes actually, "it" being the nerve gas, and "the fan" being... well... the fan.

Ah, Jack Bauer has seen Star Trek II. No uncoded messages over an open channel when a hostile might be listening in.

Canister of nerve gas hidden somewhere in the building? Only a minute to find it? Send Kim to look for it! I swear, she'll find any disaster in no time flat!

Yes, what better place to run than the situation room? Because you definitely have a situation!

Moving Henderson to the clinic isolation. He'll be bunkmates with Tony. Yeah, that'll go well.

Now Chloe and Edgar are channeling a Star Trek II moment of their own. And as we've seen before, a "main character" death often means no boop-thunk, beep-thunk of the clock at the end of an episode.

Poor Edgar. He never even really got his heroic moment before he died.

The next update phone call to the president ought to go well. "So... the good news is, now there are only 17 canisters of nerve gas on the loose. The bad news... well, we've got to do a whole bunch of new hiring now. And you know how we always seem to let new moles in every time we do that."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar Thoughts

I've talked enough about Oscar-nominated movies lately that I figure I have to dedicate a little space to the ceremony itself.

I was psyched in advance to see Jon Stewart hosting, and I thought he delivered. The whole "I don't expect to ever be asked to do this again" vibe worked well for him, and he and his joke staff from The Daily Show did a great job. It would be nice if he was indeed asked to host again.

The opening short film about all the other past hosts turning down the hosting gig was probably the funniest material of the night.

The "gay cowboy" clip montage was pretty good, but The Colbert Report tipped the joke a little early, presenting one of those particular clips on their Thursday night show.

Kinda sad to be Nicole Kidman, first to present after Jon Stewart's "presenters appear in order of talent" joke.

Helena Bonham Carter, married to Tim Burton, and thus obligated to hope Corpse Bride pulls an upset and wins Best Animated Feature... yet she provided a voice in Wallace & Gromit, one piece of the whole that made it clearly the film to beat.

What award show would be complete without the obligatory "award presented by animated characters" segment?

Will Ferrell -- sometimes I think he's great, sometimes I think he's as annoying as it can possibly get. But paired with Steve Carell tonight, it was definitely the former.

AAAAH! These creepy makeup morphs are really disturbing!

Ha! Hard to make Russell Crowe look like he's been in a fight. How long had the writers been saving up that line?

Now I just feel bad and embarrassed for Lauren Bacall. Couldn't someone have moved a teleprompter closer for her?

The people making up the presenter pairings thought a Speed reunion with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves would be a good idea.

Why, oh why, oh why, in the montage about "films with a powerful message," are we getting a clip from The Day After Tomorrow? As a message piece about global warming, that film was about as deep as an episode of The Simple Life.

But the "epics" montage was even worse. Mary Poppins was an "epic?" Back to the Future (much as I like it)? Speed?

Somewhere right this moment, dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of studio execs are trying to find a new movie in which to pair Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep. And why not? They were freakin' funny.

Ah yes, "Short Cuts," the most ironically named film in all cinema history.

From this day forward, the words "pimp" and "Oscar" will have an association. Wow.

Will Smith gets to walk out to music from Men in Black. Of course, now with the whole "pimp" thing, the Oscars can't really claim to be highbrow and elite anymore.

The whole time Reese Witherspoon gave her acceptance speech, the director of the TV broadcast is just itching, waiting, dying for her to forget to thank her husband Ryan Philippe. Because they showed him almost as much as they showed her.

Ang Lee apparently did not learn from James Cameron that the one thing you do not do when accepting your award is quote your own movie.

Jack Nicholson looked even more completely drunk than he usually does at these award shows. And thus could make no effort to hide his shock that Crash won Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain.

Play me out, Bill Conti... I have nothing more to say.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Three Out of Five

With the Oscars tomorrow night, I don't really have much of a chance of seeing all five of the Best Picture nominees between now and then. Still, I did manage to catch one more this afternoon -- Crash.

Shocho once blogged about liking the kind of movies that tell multiple short tales intercut with one another, characters sometimes intersecting, all of it relating to form a single thematic whole. Crash is his kind of movie. But I was a little surprised to find it was my kind of movie too.

I've seen a few movies in this "genre," if it can be called that. Short Cuts, Go, Traffic -- some of them I liked better than others, but none of them were that great to me. Crash is a damn good movie, though.

The characters in the film are all carrying around a ridiculous amount of hatred. I suppose that is what you'd expect in a film about racism, but we're talking metric truckloads of seething anger. There's really only one, maybe two characters that come off wholly likeable. But nearly all of them come off somehow sympathetic in their own way. The script is just brilliant in this respect, delivering many rounded characters with good and bad qualities, and juggling all their stories deftly in the course of the film.

So many of the performances in the movie are outstanding, it's hard to single any one of them out for praise more than the others. (Which is why it scored few acting nominations at the Oscars, but won the ensemble cast award given out by the Screen Actors Guild.)

Crash won't leave you feeling good about life, but it is still a quality movie I strongly recommend. I give it an A-, docking it only a little bit because as good as it was, I'm not really convinced that I would find new nuances in it were I to see it again. It is fairly baldly what it is -- very good, but still probably just a "one time only" film, in my judgment.

Of the three Best Picture nominees I've seen, this would get the award from me, far and away.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Only One Remaining

Quite a few great things in tonight's Battlestar Galactica.

For starters, how about that teaser? Multiple threads mixed together in a way that pulled you straight into the story. Another tender moment between Adama and Roslin, a startling and scary scene with Tyrol and Cally, and much more.

And then, I can't tell you how thrilled I was to see Dean Stockwell show up on Battlestar Galactica. And what a homerun he hit as this character. I truly hope we see him again, but if this does end up being his only appearance on the show, it was a wonderful and memorable one.

The rest of the episode, while enjoyable, was to me not quite as gripping. But understandably so, as it was laying down the story framework needed for part 2 next week -- and undoubtedly, the cliffhanger that will ensue.

I can't help but think back to the first season of the show, that also ended with a two-part finale cliffhanger. It was a cliffhanger that threw so much chaos into the show, it took the first seven episodes of the next season to wrap it up and return things to "normal." So I have to believe that some really serious stuff is going to happen next week in the season finale.

And then the long wait until mid-summer begins.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Two Shows About People on Islands

After watching these last few episodes of Survivor, it has really struck me that several of the contestants this time around really line up with characters from Lost.

Terry is Jack. He's the de facto leader of his tribe, appointed by group osmosis. His tribe wants him to tell them what to do. He is concerned about keeping them all healthy.

Shane is Sawyer. He's terrible to be around and completely selfish, but commands enough power to keep everyone from turning against him.

Courtney is Shannon. Spoiled airhead blonde that does whatever she wants, whenever she wants, and has no concern for anyone else.

Bruce thinks he's Locke. He's deeply spiritual, and thinks he's loaded with important survival skills. In reality, he's Arzt. He's bossing everybody around, acting like a main character, when in fact he's not going to last until the end of the season.

I'm sure there are more parallels to be drawn, but that's as far as I've gotten.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What's Behind Hatch #3?

Tonight was our last episode of Lost for a few weeks (thus further forestalling a new "Lost vs. Veronica Mars" matchup). I have mixed feelings about this "going away" episode.

At the time I was watching it, I was really interested and into what was going on. Seeing some details of Claire's season one abduction was compelling. Any episode with Rosseau usually gets my interest. There were a few interesting revelations (as usual, leading to new questions) such as the "theatrical glue" that is apparently used by The Others to play dress-up (transforming Ethan's superior into grizzly "we're gonna have to take the boy" man).

But then the episode ended, and the luster almost immediately began to fade. Not because I didn't feel like I got enough answers. Because I felt like I didn't get enough drama. The best episodes of Lost have been the ones that have had strong emotional issues at the core -- the first Locke episode of season one, Boone's final episode (and the Jack flashback that accompanied it), Kate's final season one episode in which she "got her childhood friend killed."

This episode had almost none of that. The final beat where Henry Gale was driving a wedge between Locke and Jack was one of the few moments of drama in the whole hour. The rest was arguably intriguing as far as the "uber-mystery" goes, but was dramatically flat. Surely the events we saw cannot be the "trauma" that caused Claire to block the abduction from her mind -- almost nothing traumatic actually happened to her! She was apparently doped to drunkenness the entire time, neither an active character in her own story, nor experiencing any real emotion as things happened to her.

At least the other season two flashbacks, the ones that have "told us nothing we didn't already know," carried some drama and emotion -- Charlie's betrayal by his brother, Hurley losing his friend as a result of winning the lottery, Jack getting divorced from his wife, and so on. Claire's "not a flashback" (because it did not in fact take us back to a period before the island) had no resonance; it was exposition.

Provocative exposition, maybe, but exposition nonetheless.