Thursday, June 24, 2010

Futurama: Pro and Con

Tonight was the triumphant return of Futurama on Comedy Central. Here are my one pro and one con.

Pro: The entire show. As sharp and hilarious as ever, and finally back on television where it belongs.

Con: It's on Comedy Central. I don't ever watch Comedy Central anymore, and I'd forgotten how incredibly irritating the endless cacophony of really loud, really irritating commercials for Olive Garden, cash-for-gold scams, and Comedy Central's other original programmings--three things that are blights on society.

Still, Futurama's back, and that's what's important!

Happy 60th Birthday, Nancy Allen

I've been a huge fan since I was 10.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hell's Kitchen, Episodes 5 and 6

Finally; Scott's reign of terror is over.

He was the worst contestant on the show, all talk and no results, and everyone saw through it. Finally, he's gone, and it's well past time for it.

But even without Scott, wow... worst red team ever. Maria was going to go sooner or later because of her inability to handle the pressure, and Siobhan's going to have to be next, I think. She can't handle the pressure, either, and it's starting to get embarrassing.

As for the Blue Team, Salvatore and Jason had better step it up. Salvatore can obviously cook, but he crumbles under pressure, and it's not going to get him much further here (especially after trying to lie to cover up his mistake; he was embarrassed, sure, but it was a bad call). Jason seems to have a communication problem as well.

I'm surprised how well Autumn's meshing with the guys. Too bad they lost Benjamin, though. And it looks like he's not going to do anywhere near as good a job meshing with the women, which is a shame, because he was starting to look like he had a grasp on the managerial side of things.

Also, Fran... really, you put Nilka up for elimination? That was stupid. She let herself get talked into it by Scott, so she had to figure out the hard way that Scott is always wrong. Gordon was really disappointed in her for her strategic choice... I wish more contestants--and I'm assuming they've seen the show before--would figure out that he wants you to decide what's best for your team, not for you personally. He won't trust you to make leadership decisions if you can't manage, and if you're trying to game the whole thing for personal gain, you're not managing effectively.

I still can't call an obvious winner. It's interesting.

Also: thank you for doing as I asked and getting Autumn in a bikini again.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS (2009)
Terry Gilliam's best movie in a while. Granted, I like pretty much all of his movies--he is my favorite filmmaker, after all--but I like it when he waxes on the idea of Old World fantasy and how out of place it is in the modern world. It's very wistful, which is no surprise. Too often, it seems like Gilliam's films go unnoticed and unloved, while nearly every fantasy and superhero movie that comes out is so heavily influenced by his films. Heath Ledger is very good as a man who is nearly murdered, but saved by the traveling troupe of Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), a former monk and former immortal who is in a contest with the Devil (Tom Waits, the most I've ever liked him in a film) for possession of his daughter (Lily Cole, luminescent and lovely). One of the things that makes this film so bittersweet is not just getting to see Ledger act one final time, but to see in nearly every frame just how much Terry Gilliam obviously wanted to keep making films with Ledger, probably the best lead Gilliam has worked with since the days when Johnny Depp could still act. The special effects sequences are excellent, filled with Gilliam's trademarked black spaces. **** stars.

RONIN (1998)
Surprisingly good crime movie. The set-up is nothing new--a disparate group of criminals is hired to pull off a robbery--but I really appreciated the classy way the movie carries it through. This is a really, really good-looking movie, a reminder that clean cinematography, decent acting, good characterization, a tight script, and a sure directorial hand (John Frankenheimer in this case) can make a highly entertaining movie. ***1/2 stars.

SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)
Okay, Robert Downey Jr.'s charming asshole persona has officially become grating for me. It certainly isn't right for Sherlock Holmes, and a Sherlock Holmes that's an action movie with stunts and effects and quick edits turns out to be... really irritating. Holmes will survive it, of course--look at all the Great Detective has survived so far--but in this movie he's much more of a bratty Bond-wannabe than a thinker or solver or... well, he's just Robert Downey Jr, mumbling his way through an English accent and a crappy script and a completely ineffectual movie. Jude Law is a pretty good Watson--at least, for what this movie demands--but Mark Strong is a boring villain and Rachel McAdams is a waste of space. And it's not really that this movie is bad so much as it's just completely pointless. It's not even a mystery, it's just an action movie. It exists for no reason, and it's not fun. And I get it! They're gay! Either do something with it or don't, but stop just giggling about it. *1/2 stars.

VALKYRIE (2008)
Let's face it, you think going in that it's going to be total crap, so when it isn't, you're pleasantly surprised. An interesting episode in history becomes a somewhat-interesting movie hampered by a bizarre and distracting casting decision (Tom Cruise as Claus von Stauffenberg isn't really bad, but why the stunt casting?) and the typically weak direction of Bryan Singer. Really, it's not Tom Cruise who is the problem in this movie, it's Singer. I've seen all of his movies to date, and none of them are really very good. He's never interested in his stories, he's just interested in what he can do as a director. And here, he's not interested in the story of the plot against Hitler or the von Stauffenberg family, he's just interested in showing off that he can get a movie about Nazis made with Tom Cruise as a German. Otherwise, except for the good cinematography and a very good supporting cast, there's nothing here. Imagine what a director like Florian Henckel von Donnsermark could make with this cast and resources; someone like him might've made the gripping drama this story deserves. Just leave out Cruise and recast the role with someone like Thomas Kretschmann, who is standing around, completely wasted in this movie. **1/2 stars.

Laika

I just finished this graphic novel this morning... oh, man, am I depressed now.

Don't get me wrong, Nick Abadzis' graphic novel is excellent. And enriching. It's a great read and a great story. It's just also a very sad one. The life that Laika--or Kudryavka, and she was really called--was one full of sadness and, the way the other tells it, one that led to a certain inescapable destiny: to be the first living creature in outer space, however briefly.

I highly recommend this book, but it's not for everyone. Some might not be able to make it through Kudryavka's story without needing to put it down for a while and gather their emotional strength. And as unalterably sad as Laika is, it's well worth reading.

(Even if it takes you a little while. It did me.)

I'm glad I read it, but I feel emotionally drained.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monster Meme

From Calvin.

1.FULL NAME?
Aaron

2.NICKNAME(S)?
SamuraiFrog, Froggy, Dipshit
3.BIRTHPLACE?
Des Moines, Iowa

4.WEBSITE?
Right here.

5.FAVORITE SALAD DRESSING?
Caesar

6.FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR?
Chocolate

7.FUTURE CAREER GOALS?
More money.

8.PROBABLE CAREER?
Some kind of stock boy.

9.FAVORITE FOOD?
Pizza, cheeseburgers, french fries.

10.FAVORITE DRINK? (Non-alcoholic)
Water, Coke, grape soda, Sobe.

11.FAVORITE SCHOOL SUBJECT?
English, History
12.FAVORITE SCHOOL ACTIVITY?
Lunch

13.LEAST FAVORITE SCHOOL SUBJECT?
Gym, Science

14.LEAST FAVORITE SCHOOL ACTIVITY?
Assemblies

15.WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR TOWN?
It's small and accessible.

16.WHAT DO YOU LIKE LEAST ABOUT YOUR TOWN?
The college kids.

17.GREATEST ADVENTURE?
Guam

18.MOST ROMANTIC MOMENT?
Looking out over the snow by candlelight with Becca.

19.HOW MANY PILLOWS?
At least three; I have acid reflux and need the elevation.

20.PETS?
Thumper

21.THREE FAVORITE MOVIES? (THIS YEAR)
Kick-Ass
Date Night
and... that's it. Not much so far. Still desperate to see How to Train Your Dragon and now Toy Story 3.

22.THREE FAVORITE MOVIES? (ALL TIME)
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Bambi
Spartacus

23.FAVORITE TV SHOWS (THIS YEAR)
Hell's Kitchen
Doctor Who
Modern Family

24.THREE FAVORITE TV SHOWS? (ALL TIME)
Doctor Who
Farscape
Futurama

25.LEAST FAVORITE TV SHOWS
Will and Grace, Friends, and Two and a Half Men are the worst sitcoms I've ever seen

26.THREE FAVORITE SONGS? (ALL TIME)
"Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me" by Mel Carter
"Starman" by David Bowie
"Mind Games" by John Lennon

27.THREE FAVORITE ALBUMS OR CDs?
The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds
The Beatles: Rubber Soul
David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust

28.THREE FAVORITE MUSIC VIDEOS?
"Take On Me" by a-ha
and... a couple of others?
29.FAVORITE SINGER?
David Bowie, followed closely by Freddie Mercury, Brian Wilson, and Bryan Ferry
30.FAVORITE MUSICAL GROUP?
Queen
31.MUSICAL SHAME?
I ain't ashamed of nuttin'.
32.FAVORITE CELEBRITY?
Kristen Bell
33.LEAST FAVORITE CELEBRITY?
Anyone on Fox News
34.MALE STAR?
Harrison Ford before the mid-nineties; Heath Ledger before he died; Kermit the Frog
35.FEMALE STAR?
Meryl Streep
36.WORD OR PHRASE YOU OVER USE?
"Get fucked"
37.SUPERPOWER YOU WOULD WANT?
All of them, like Sylar.
38.BODY PIERCINGS OR TATTOOS?
None.
39.IF YOU COULD WITNESS ONE EVENT IN HISTORY WHICH WOULD IT BE AND
WHY WOULD YOU GO THERE?
Assuming I wouldn't be killed, I want to know what happened to Roanoke.
40.WHAT DO YOU THINK OTHERS ADMIRE ABOUT YOU?
Seriously?
41.WHAT DO YOU ADMIRE MOST ABOUT YOURSELF?
Seriously?
42.WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE ABOUT YOURSELF IF YOU COULD?
My weight. I'm changing it now, I just wish I could change it FASTER.
43.IF YOU COULD LIVE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD WHERE WOULD YOU GO?
WHY?
I don't have a specific place in mind. Maybe Florida, so it would be slightly cheaper for me to go to Disney World.
44.WHAT WOULD BE YOUR LAST MEAL? (INCLUDE EVERYTHING)
A bacon and egg cheeseburger, Coca-Cola (Mexican, in glass bottles), a Little Caesar's cheese pizza, nachos, some of Becca's meatloaf, french fries, mashed potatoes, green beans, a Caesar salad, and a banana split. I want to leave a disgusting mess for the prison staff.
45.WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED METHOD OF EXECUTION?
Just make it sudden.
46.WHAT LIVING PERSON WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO HAVE LUNCH WITH?
Harlan Ellison
47.WHAT DEAD PERSON WOULD YOU MOST HAVE LIKED TO HAVE LUNCH WITH?
Jim Henson
48.THREE BOOKS TO TAKE TO A DESERT ISLAND?
A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes
Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
and also The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
49.THREE PEOPLE TO TAKE TO A DESERT ISLAND?
Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, and Zac Efron
50.THREE WISHES? (NO FAIR WISHING FOR MORE WISHES)
My superpowers, unlimited financial resources, and Miley Cyrus
51.WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE?
I have no idea.
52.SPORT YOU MOST LIKE TO WATCH?
I'm not into watching sports.
53.SPORT YOU MOST LIKE TO PARTICIPATE IN?
Soccer, or bowling, which totally counts.
54.WHAT DO YOU COLLECT?
Action figures, illustration art, Muppets stuff, Isaac Asimov books
55.WHO DO YOU ADMIRE MOST IN YOUR LIFE?
My Grandpa.
56.WHAT HISTORICAL PERIOD WOULD YOU HAVE LIKED TO LIVE IN?
The 1890s. Get in on the ground floor of filmmaking.
57.FAVORITE MONOPOLY PIECE?
The cowboy. Or the Scottie dog.
58.FAVORITE BOARD GAMES?
Trivial Pursuit, Risk, Monopoly, The Game of Life, Chess
59.SPIRIT ANIMAL?
Frog
60.FAVORITE ANIMAL?
African elephant
61.BEST AND WORST PARTS OF LIVING IN THE FUTURE?
Best part: total automation. Worst part: flying cars crashing into peoples' homes because, even if cars can fly, idiots will still drive.
62.DO YOU PREFER CATS OR DOGS?
I like both. I had cats growing up. I'd like to have a dog one day. My Dad used to have a dog I was close to, but he had to be put down.
63.WHAT WOULD BE YOUR SPICE GIRL NAME IF YOU WERE IN THE GROUP?
Pedo Spice
64.DO YOU PREFER COKE OR PEPSI?
Coke, Mexican, in a glass bottle

I Love This Picture

Kevin "Moochie" Corcoran studiously reading a copy of Uncle Scrooge. That's a classic Disney moment.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Daleks... In a Bunch

Via Flickr

Jonas LA: Pros and Cons

Four-minute penalty for egregious use of awful Photoshop.

Last night, Disney Channel premiered the second season of JONAS, a show I surprisingly liked. It's now called Jonas LA, and the tone of the show is quite different. I'm not sure what to make of it yet, honestly, but here's my impressions of the good and bad from the premiere episode.

PROS:
:: The characterizations are more or less the same.

:: More Big Rob than usual, and he's funny.

:: That car!

:: Emma "Doefuck" Roberts cameo.

:: Nicole Anderson is just cuter than cute (even though they ditched the funnier "Sporty Macy").

:: They seem to be playing the episodes in order instead of at random the way they did in the first season.

CONS:
:: An entire summer of "Will they or won't they?" Actually, twice over, because we've got Joe/Stella will they or won't they, and Nick/Macy will they or won't they. Note to the producers of every TV show ever: romantic indecision is not the only drama out there.

:: The lame decision to shoot every scene with handheld cameras.

:: The decision to change the show from a funny sitcom to a teen drama soap opera. Not only is it tiresome, it just highlights what weak actors the Jonas Brothers really are. (Especially Joe; Nick's got his persona down and Kevin skates by on charm and humor.)

:: I miss their dad. John Ducey was funny.

:: An entire summer of annoying, unfunny Aunt Lisa. Stella and Macy need a summer chaperone? I know we're supposed to believe that everyone on the show is a teenager, but maintaining that illusion is pretty ridiculous. (Pro: at least they're not doing another season at Horace Mantis Academy, because asking me to believe that they're all still high school students is also ridiculous.)

:: Disney Channel shows used to get much funnier in their second season. If Sonny with a Chance, which is having a dreadful second season, is any indication, this is no longer the case.

:: I'm so sick of that "LA Baby" song, which kind of sucks.

:: The entire tone of the show seems to have changed from "Keep it real" to "Let's be a bunch of rich hipster douche bags already."

UNDECIDED:
:: I think I can live with the annoying next door neighbor, even though he seems to be there because Kevin didn't want to be so goofy anymore.

I don't know. I'll give it a chance. And the first episode they aired in the first season was terrible, so I have hope that it'll get better, though if the commercials for the next episode are any indication, it's going to be pretty predictable. (Debi Mazar's on the next episode, which is good, but Austin Butler as a heartthrob? HA HA HA HA!)

I'm trusting you on this, Disney Channel. For now.

Kristen Bell Mondays


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

1989 was the year my parents finalized their divorce. This movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, was the last movie we ever--me, my parents, and my sister--all went to see together as a family (except for one other occasion, in 2001, when we all went to see Planet of the Apes for my birthday; ended up being a lame movie, but it was nice to have the togetherness). Anyway, I saw this today on the Burbanked Tumblr and thought that was a nice to remember on Father's Day.

I called my Dad this morning. I hope everyone else does, too.

Song of the Week: "Between Fathers and Sons"

Waylon Jennings. For Father's Day.

Sunday Hottie 281

DITA VON TEESE