Thursday, December 31, 2009

Holy Shit

The Season 6 cast photo has just been released, and it's a goodie. Real quick, I'll give you 5 interesting things about the photo.

5. They decided to keep quiet about cast members returning from the dead. We all know Boone and Charlie (and hopefully Juliet) are probably coming back, and it would've been sweet to see them here, but it looks like we won't be seeing them at all until their return episode.

4. Locke as our savior Jesus Christ. Too bad he doesn't have abs like big JC. Still, he's the only one that has been resurrected before the rules changed.

3. Sayid's greased-up arms. No one else is glistening with sweat, so what gives, Sayid? I'm pretty sure he's got Judas' spot, right? Does that hint at some pretty big foreshadowing? Maybe he's the one who takes down Locke... not the Doc.

2. Furthermore, Jack's position makes him seem more like Locke's confidant and right-hand man. Part of me is kinda wishing that everyone was wearing their season 1 outfits (and now you're wishing it, too).

1. They don't even have to say anything... I still hate Kate and Sawyer. Without Juliet, Charlotte, and Rousseau, the cast is devoid of hot chicks.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: Avatar

The anticipation for Avatar has been enormous, rivaled only by The Dark Knight recently. With the top-notch resume of James Cameron, the picture was certainly going to garner a lot of attention and gain a lot of box office dollars. The movie itself combines many elements from Cameron’s past. The sci-fi action is reminiscent of the Terminator films, and there is a Titantic-esque love story.

The best aspect of
Avatar are the special effects. Visually, the film rivals and probably surpasses the LOTR trilogy. I got used to the glasses quickly and the 3-D was pretty straightforward, there were no tricks or teases like something coming out of the screen.

Story-wise, I thought it was pretty predictable. I’m sure most have seen the movie so no need for a detailed plot outline. Sam Worthington was kind of blah and Sigourney Weaver was rather annoying. The acting highlights were Stephen “George Pickett” Lange and Zoe Saldana. Lange’s death certainly brought back memories of Matrix Revolutions, and Saldana's Neytiri is in the conversation with Gollum in terms of the best computer-generated characters.

Most reviewers give Avatar the highest recommendation, and rightly so, it’s definitely worth seeing and an absolute visual treat. But unlike the opinions of some of my facebook friends, this is far from the greatest movie of all-time. Let’s be honest, it’s a sci-fi version of Dances With Wolves, but not as good.

3.5 out of 4 stars (A-)

70 Minute Phantom Menace Review

I went through a period of time where I thought Episode I was terribly underrated. In fact, I tried to defend it on its 10 year anniversary. What about now? Now I'm back to thinking that it's a big steamy turd of a movie. Especially when you consider the massive buildup of hype and anticipation, it's hard to see Phantom Menace as anything other than a massive failure.

That's why I'm thrilled to share with you the only 70-minute movie review worth watching. This guy hilariously tears apart every single aspect of the Phantom Menace. The best part about it is when it builds and builds to the moment where Lucas is saying that they can't really cut the bad parts of the movie because everything would be effected by it. It's the equivalent of saying "Yep, you're all disappointed by this shit movie, but it's too late."

This is a hundred times more entertaining than watching the ball drop this year, so please watch this instead.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Star Wars Shoes!

Those trendy fashion gays at Adidas are teaming up with the socially awkward nerds at Lucasfilm to produce what might be the greatest shoe line in the world. Yep, it's a whole set of Star Wars shoes, with many characters and vehicles getting their own theme. I'm sure a lot of you woke up today wondering "Hmmm... if in footwear form Yoda was, what shoe would he be?" Personally, I thought Yoda's shoe would be some sort of hobo sandal, but they decided to go with a boat shoe/moccasin hybrid. You can also find shoes for Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, the Death Star, Stormtroopers, TIE fighters, AT-ATs, and many others. I've got dibs on the Millenium Falcon shoe, and I totally expect them to be $200 (George has to make a buck, right?)

I'm struggling to come up a with a shoe-related play on "May the Force be with you" but I'm tired and want to sleep.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Review: Everybody's Fine

Robert De Niro has done plenty of larger-than-life tough guy roles, but now he's finally done something that I wish more actors would do... act their age. Harrison Ford (nearly 70) is still playing action hero Indy, and everyone's laughing at him. Clint Eastwood played the old guy in Gran Torino, but he was still channeling Dirty Harry. In Everybody's Fine, De Niro plays a calm, reserved, lonely old man, and it's pitch perfect.

Like Up, the film starts with an old man dealing with the recent passing of his wife and adjusting to life alone. But whereas Carl Frederickson went on a fun adventure in South America, De Niro's road trip is constantly sad and depressing. All 4 of his children were going to come in for a nice family weekend, but one by one they all cancel, and De Niro must travel around the country to surprise them with a visit.

Along the way there are moments of light hearted humor as De Niro plays the stereotypical old man. He shows off pictures of his kids to strangers. He doesn't know how to use his luggage. He still uses a camera that requires rolls of film. But forget those minor laughs; the meat of the story is internal.

It's the story of a father finding out that he doesn't really know much about his kids, and it's mostly his fault. They shared everything with their mother, and only the generic good news with dad, and now he wants to change that. There's actually a lot more depth to this story than I anticipated. He may play the bumbling, out of touch parent, but he's still mentally sharp. And yeah, he wants to hear what's really troubling his kids, but is he prepared to deal with? And sure, the kids want to be there for pop, but there's a lot of bad shit to talk about, and they just want to protect him.

This isn't the usual Christmas movie that comes out every year (you can't tell by the sucky Christmas-movie poster). It's actually one that a lot of family's can relate to. De Niro anchors the movie with quiet sympathy, more than making up for a supporting cast that phones it in. It's not the best or most memorable film by far, but it resonates with you. I can recognize it's mediocrity, but there will still parts that affected me emotionally, and that fascinates me.


Video of the Week: Simpsons Headlines

Holy shit! It's every newspaper headline from the Simpsons!!! Back in it's prime, this show was the king of subtle humor. Yeah, we enjoyed Homer choking Bart and other obvious slapstick humor (still good stuff), but nobody could layer comedy like these guys (not South Park and certainly not Family Guy).

Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Unfortunately, even the great directors sometimes direct big fat stinkers. Spielberg has done it. Lucas has done it. So has Scorsese and Jackson. But what about Wes Anderson? Okay, so he doesn't really aim as high as the other directors on the list when it comes to scale, but so far he hasn't made a bad movie.

Bottle Rocket - Cult classic
Rushmore - Brilliant... his best work.
the Royal Tenenbaums - Genius... my favorite of his.
the Life Aquatic - Sorely underrated
the Darjeeling Limited - Overlooked gem (though wouldn't it be a million times better if Luke Wilson was cast in place of Adrian Brody?)

I love all of these quirky movies, but did Fantastic Mr. Fox live it to its predecessors? Here's a hint: So far I've spent the entire review avoiding the film, and the first paragraph is a little obvious with its foreshadowing. Mediocre Mr. Fox falls way short, and is mostly an interesting, bizzare, and shallow movie. How is it that Rotten Tomatoes scored this one as 92% fresh?

Critics are praising the voice work, led by Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray. I thought all of the voice acting and dialogue to be blank and dull, probably to keep in pace with the blank, dull puppets. All the actors felt out of place except for Wally Wolodarsky as the opossum, but I'm apparently one of the few that felt this way.

The animation and set pieces were definitely unique, and that was primarily what works for the movie. It's supposed to be offbeat; not quite for kids, yet not quite for adults either. Not really a cartoon, and not really live action. The techniques are ambitious and intentionally different from any other movie this year, but they aren't best suited to the story provided. I know that it's about a fox who has settled down, yet it's his nature to steal and be mischievous. Along with that is a lot of family drama and neighborly conflict, but I rarely had time to really care for or process the plot. I was constantly drawn to the stylized look of the film.

And in the end, that's really what killed it for me. I left the theater thinking, "okay, what was my favorite part of the movie?" and came up with nothing. After a few minutes I gave up and decided that I enjoyed the music for the montage when all the animals are digging. The bottom line is that the film looks weird and great, but the characters and story are bland and dull.


Friday, December 11, 2009

What's Wrong With the Steelers?

5. Super Bowl Hangover - It seems like the easy and childish explanation, but I believe there is some merit. The Steelers opened up the NFL season this year on Thursday Night against the Tennessee Titans, and the stars seemed to be aligned for another Super Bowl run. But Steelers came out flat in that game and were lucky to win, Troy Polamalu seemed to be the only player playing at a high level, at least until he got hurt. The Steelers woke up 2 weeks later 1-2. They did go on to a nice little run before losing to Cincinnati in early November. The mentality with Steeler Nation and probably the Steelers themselves was that at least we have Kansas City up next to play. There seems to be an air of overconfidence on this team and for Steeler fans in general. This squad thought they could just show up and would beat teams like the Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns, but it has not been the case. This team isn’t hungry. Do you think Jerome Bettis and the 2005 Steelers would have lost these games? A magical Super Bowl run does have an indirect effect on a team. Not only do their heads get big, but you get top efforts from your opponents, and the breaks don’t always fall your way.

4. Player Regression - I was trying to think of two or three players to put here, but this is mainly for one, one of my favorite all-time Steelers, James Farrior. Farrior chasing down Chris Jennings last night looked like me trying to catch Usain Bolt. Remember him trying to cover Ray Rice on the all-important 4th and 5 in the Baltimore game? Polamalu may be the play-maker and Silverback is the defensive player of the year, but James Farrior has always been the nucleus of the defense. He has been the bridge between the defensive line and the secondary, and the center of the linebacking corps. Once a great run stopper, a solid blitzer, and a good pass defender, but all of a sudden, he looks old and slow.

3. Injuries - Goes without saying. Look what happens to the secondary when Polamalu is out. Ryan Clark becomes a little exposed. He was everybody’s favorite “cult” player last year, but is simply not the same player without Polamalu in the lineup. Tyrone Carter now starts. I think Carter is a pretty good backup but has some obvious ills. He plays the Polamalu role as a blitzer and late run stopper, but he just doesn’t have the same speed and overall athletic ability as Troy. Not his fault or anything, it’s just the facts. Ryan Mundy now plays a lot of nickel, which would have been Tyrone Carter territory last year.
We saw what happened two years ago when Aaron Smith got hurt. Same story this year. When’s the last time the Cleveland Browns dominated the line of scrimmage against the Steelers? The Steeler defense this year has been without Polamalu, Smith, and a declining James Farrior, arguably the three most important Steelers on defense.
Do you think the Ravens would have beaten the Steelers if Roethlisberger had not sustained a concussion? Chris Kemoeatu, Hines Ward, Willie Parker, Travis Kirschke, Lawrence Timmons, etc, have all been hurt and missed time. Like I said, sometimes the luck and breaks don’t always go your way.

2. Bruce Arians - The offensive coordinator is always the easy punching bag, but this is getting so frustrating. Last night on the first offensive possession, Rashard Mendenhall gets 9 yards on two carries, and what do the Steelers do on third and one in frigid temperatures? SHOTGUN. It’s just idiotic to me. I don’t care if you pass. Play action is fine, a screen?, but the shotgun is basically a big red sign to the defense of what you are going to do. Remember that awful pitch to Melwelde Moore in overtime against Kansas City? Wasn’t there more of a rhythm with Mike Murlarkey and Ken Whisenhunt that just isn’t at all evident with Arians? The ball is always snapped with one or two seconds on the play-clock and the plays are rather predictable to me. Start two tight ends? Matt Spaeth is worthless. Three wideouts? Go spread? A fullback? I miss Dan Kreider. Where’s the identity? Starting lineups seem to change weekly. Rashard Mendenhall is an absolute potential star and is so underused. In most of their losses this year, they have been leading in the fourth quarter. I was never the biggest Bill Cowher fan, but would he have lost those games? Run the ball in the second half, run the clock out, and win time of possession, those ideas don’t seem to be on Bruce Arians’ agenda.

1. Mike Tomlin - A lot of these problems can be rolled into the leadership category. Why are the Steelers flat some games? Why does Bruce Arians still have a job? What part of Mike Tomlin is imprinted on this team? He was a former defensive back's coach, and yet the secondary has regressed, with or without Polamalu. Tomlin announced changes would be made, and yet the same starters played last night. He always preaches about the importance of special teams, but the unit is historically one of the worst of all-time and shows no sign of improvement. He’s a smash-mouth guy, but lets Arians loose and throw all over the field. He’s a cover-two guy, but lets LeBeau loose with the zone-blitz (not a complaint). The point I am trying to make is where is his personality on this team. When people say a Bill Cowher type team, you know what they are talking about. His game and clock management skills are below average at best. There was the 2-point conversion debacle in the Jacksonville playoff game. Last night, there were two timeouts taken prior to the 2 minute warning. If those timeouts were saved after the failed 4th down conversion, the Steelers could have gotten the ball back with about a minute left. More important than all of that is the fight and fire. “We are going to unleash hell…..” It was obvious that the Cleveland Browns were more prepared to play and far more fired up yesterday. The Steelers were slow all night. They walked to the line of scrimmage, they ran the play clock all the way to basically zero, and they were playing catch-up on defense. Where is the fight? Where is the fire? Where is the motivation? If this team has in fact quit, in which Hines Ward hinted at, then that lies on the coach. Mike Tomlin is a good coach and nothing can take away the Super Bowl he won last year, but my trust in him has certainly been shaken this year.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Best Season of Survivor?

I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I am a Survivor superfan, and because Dave and Andy definitely aren't, I usually stay away from writing about it. BUT NO MORE! This season (Survivor: Samoa) has been one of my favorite seasons of all time. Almost exactly a year ago, I listed the Top Ten Survivor Seasons, and so far this one better than half. First, I'll tell what any good Survivor season needs, then I'll tell you why this one rocks.


  • CHARACTERS- whether they are true blue good guys or evil villains, you absolutely someone to root for or someone to hate.
  • EVENLY MATCHED TRIBES - while it's funny to watch bad tribes get slowly decimated, it takes away from the drama of the vote.
  • BLINDSIDES - nothing beats seeing someone visibly stunned because they didn't expect to go home.
  • TWISTS IN THE GAME - exile island, tribe kidnapping, hidden immunity idols, and other things of this nature that add a wrinkle to a player's strategy
  • CRAZY SHIT - environmental disasters, tribe conflict, medical emergencies, etc.
  • A CLOSE FINAL VOTE - When you invest in a live finale and a drawn-out final vote, it sucks when it ends in a 7-0 or 6-1 blowout.


There's really only one standout character, but he just might be the game's greatest supervillain of all time. He's a trailblazing strategic mastermind like Richard Hatch and a despicably vile liar like Johnny Fairplay. Here's a list of his accomplishments through 11 episodes.

  • On day 1, he told a heartwrenching story about living in New Orleans during Katrina. He lived near the levee, and when it broke, the flood rushed through his house and swept his 9 year old German Shephard away. He then grabbed his fireman axe and climbed to the roof where he waited 2 days for rescue. Of course, Russell is not a fireman, never owned a dog, and certainly never lived in New Orleans.
  • On day 1, while everyone slept, he emptied everyone's canteen and threw some socks in the fire. His thinking was, if he created an irritating environment, it would be easier to manipulate his teammates. He was right.
  • Every single time he's alone in a confessional, he loves to talk himself up and trash his teammates. It's hilarious.
  • For the first time in Survivor history, he found the hidden immunity idol without a clue. He just figured it would be around camp, and searched in likely places. And guess what? Once he unsuccessfully played that idol, he went out and found the second one without a clue. That one was played perfectly, and it started the chain reaction that led to his team evening the numbers. Oh, and he just found the third idol as well, and still holds on to it.
  • For good measure, he told the cameras that he doesn't even need the million dollar prize since he owns an oil company and is already a multimillionaire. He just wants to show us how easy it is.
  • Though most people see him as a slippery snake, any time someone has subtly threatened him or voiced their distrust (Marisa, Betsy, Liz, and John), Russell immediately had them voted out. He knows how to recognize and neutralize threats. It's just so much fun watching someone who knows how to play the game.
As far as the other criteria, the tribes were definitely not even. Galu pummeled Foa Foa in immunity challenges and went into the merge with an 8-4 advantage. I would still argue that the tribes are even since Russel, despite being outnumbered, orchestrated the blindsides of 4 consecutive Galu members, and also flipped one to his size. He now holds a 5-4 advantage in the game.

Which brings up the blindsides. Survivor sucks when you get a string of episodes where the bigger tribe intelligently picks off the weaker tribe before they start to play individually. Thank goodness Galu has a lot of stupid morons on their tribe. Their alliance cracked, and every post-merge vote has resulted in dropped jaws. Probst loves it, and so do I.

For crazy shit, we've had 2 medical emergencies on the show. Mike Borassi, a late 40s guy, had to be pulled from the game after an especially physical challenge when he almost passed out from low blood pressure. To top that, the other Russell from Galu passed out DURING a challenge when he collapsed on a puzzle board. Probst called in the docs, Russell passed out again, and immediately called off the challenge and pulled Russell from the game. In Probst "scariest" moment on Survivor, when Russell passed out the second time, his eyes went blank for about 4 or 5 seconds and he legitimately looked dead before he snapped back into consciousness. Near death challenges makes for great TV.

The only thing that could derail this season is if villain Russell gets voted out. The rest of the cast is generic and boring. For the near future, Russell seems invincible. His gang finally has the numbers, he is guarded by the hidden immunity idol, and he's playing harder than everyone else combined. Of course, when you start to feel invincible, that's usually when you go home.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NFL Power Rankings

And down the stretch we come, 2/3 of the season completed and only a 1/3 to go. Teams continue to jockey for playoff positions, while others may be jockeying for future draft picks. My ratings are based on how good I think the teams are as opposed to a ranking of records. So here we go. The videos don't have much to do with the rankings, I just thought they were funny.

1. New Orleans Saints - The Monday Night domination was very impressive. Maybe even more impressive than Brees and the offense was the play of the defense and how they shut down Tom Brady. Everybody talks about how great Drew Brees is, but he has never won a meaningful playoff game, he will definitely get his chance this year.

2. Minnesota Vikings - Will Favre break down in the second half? That is the major question. Whether it be AP, the passing attack, or the overall defense, the Vikings are clicking on all cylinders, and it looks like a Super Bowl-esque potential NFC Championship Game.

3. Indianapolis Colts - I'm really starting to hate this team and their miracle 4th quarter comebacks. The defense is pretty shaky in my opinion. I can see the Colts being 15-1 or 14-2 and losing their first playoff game. Peyton Manning just doesn't always show up in big games.

4. New England Patriots - They should have beat Indy and then looked terrible against New Orleans. It's tough to get a good read on them. Definitely not as good as the 2007 squad, but would you want to play these guys in the playoffs?

5. Dallas Cowboys - Same thing every year. A great start in the first half of the regular season, but what happens next? Do you trust these softies in a meaningful January game?

6. San Diego Chargers - The super-Chargers are so hot right now that I thought of putting them higher, but I just can't forget how bad they looked against the Steelers a few weeks back. Norv Turner is such an awful coach, but the Chargers definitely have the ability and the playmakers to make a serious Super Bowl run.

7. Philadelphia Eagles - Another team that's tough to read. It seems like it's either a quick strike or nothing for these guys. I probably trust them more than Dallas in the playoffs, but it will be an uphill battle for the Eagles to dethrone either New Orleans or Minnesota.

8. Cincinnati Bengals - Sweeping both the Steelers and Ravens is quite impressive, but do you think these guys want to see Pittsburgh again in the playoffs? Like Indy, they will probably be one and done come January.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers - Injuries, injuries, and more injuries, not to mention some very poor fourth quarter play. The defense is certainly weaker than last year, but they have been without Polamalu. The offense has been upgraded from a year ago. Ben improves yearly, the offensive line is better, Mendenhall is an upgrade from Parker, and Mike Wallace has been an adequate replacement, if not a better player, than Nate Washington. If the Steelers gather it together and close strong, they could have another deep playoff run. If they have another Kansas City hiccup, they could be on the outside looking in.

10. Arizona Cardinals - The other 2008 Super Bowl participant. The offense might be better than a year ago with an improved running game, and they gained a lot of experience after last year's magical run. Can they repeat it? Like Philly, the pieces seem to be in place, but the teams at the top, NO and Minn, seem so strong.

11. Baltimore Ravens - Definitely not as good as last year. Ray Rice is a future star, but the defense is certainly aging. Probably good enough to make the playoffs, but the schedule makers have done them no favors.

12. New York Giants - What happened to this team? They seemed so strong early with great line play and some solid playmakers. Do they miss Plaxico? Is Eli Manning even that good? Probably on the outside looking in, in terms of the NFC Playoffs.

13. Green Bay Packers - A very solid team with good playmakers on both sides of the ball. The NFC playoffs looks stacked, and I'll be surprised if they even win a game in January.

14. Atlanta Falcons - A solid team that was due for a step back to the mean after last year's surprise. The Falcons are a team that nobody really wants to play, but probably a squad that will miss the playoffs.

15. Denver Broncos - I wasn't a believer, then I was, then I wasn't, now what? They have positioned themselves well for a playoff spot but will certainly be a one and done postseason participant.

16. Tennessee Titans - Everybody talks about Vince Young, but it's all about Chris Johnson and a healthy defense. 0-6 is probably too big of a hole to come back from since another loss pretty much eliminates you, but nobody wants to play this team right now.

17. Miami Dolphins - The Chad Pennington injury was blessing since Chad Henne is probably better. The Dolphins are a good solid 500 type team that probably has zero chance for a playoff spot.

18. Houston Texans - What a joke, this team is always hyped up. What do you expect from a team with no defense, a terrible coach, and a quarterback that has won jack?

19. Carolina Panthers - Speaking of awful quarterback play. Does Bill Cowher coach here next year? If you match up a solid QB with this running game and that defense, the Panthers would be pretty strong.

20. Washington Redskins - The laughing stock of the league. They have actually played ok recently. The defense is pretty solid. I feel bad for Jason Campbell, as he has some promise but his offensive line is terrible and his playmakers are old washed-up has-beens like Antwan Randle-El, Santana Moss, and Clinton Portis.

21. San Francisco 49ers - I guess they are moving in the right direction. But it seems like the Niners are a few years away from serious contention.

22. Chicago Bears - I think Jay Cutler is getting a bad rap. The defense has always been overrated and just plain out sucks this year. What happened to the "great" Matt Forte? Lovie Smith is a terrible coach who just looks clueless on the sidelines. Jay Cutler has not done much in this league, but the potential is there. The expectations were just way too high this year.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars - How is this team still in the playoff race? David Garrard is "ok" at best and the defensive glory days are long gone. Elimination type game this weekend with Houston.

24. New York Jets - Darrelle Revis is awesome and one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, but I just despise Rex Ryan and love seeing these guys lose. With him at the helm, the Jets will be doing a lot of that.

25. Seattle Seahawks - Has this team ever recovered from their Super Bowl loss to the Steelers? I think Matt Hasselback is underrated, but Jim Mora Jr. is just a dreadful coach.

26. Buffalo Bills - Ever since the early-1990s, it has been easy for me to root for the Bills. A blue-collar type small market team, but since those early 90s glory days, they just lose and lose.

27. Kansas City Chiefs - How did this team beat the Steelers. The defense is horrendous and wasn't Matt Cassel a backup in college? Isn't Todd Haley gay as well?

28. Oakland Raiders - It's easy to root for Brad Gradkowski, but that's about it. If the Steelers lose to these bums, that won't be good.

29. St. Louis Rams - Steven Jackson, that's about all they have going for them.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - I'm glad they canned Jon Gruden, because he is definitely an upgrade from Tony Kornheiser on MNF. The Buccaneers probably want him back though.

31. Detroit Lions - Beating the Browns on the last play of the game, at home, is not a great thing.

32. Cleveland Browns - Their best player this year, Shaun Rogers, is now out for the season. Who do they draft next year? A quarterback? Sam Bradford? Jimmy Clausen? Another position? What direction is this car going in? It should probably just drive off a cliff.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

REVIEW: 2012

For whatever reason, Roland Emmerich's disaster movies got worse and worse as I grew up. Independence Day was (and remains) and awesome helping of jokes, emotion, explosions, and lots and lots of cheese. I loved it then and love it now. I remember Godzilla being mostly laughable, but I've sat through it a few times on TV since then. But I cannot stand The Day After Tomorrow. I saw a couple scenes on FX (it's ALWAYS on FX these days), and I found it empty and boring. The one thing I will applaud is that Emmerich loves to center the action around a flawed, grounded everyman (Jeff Goldblum, Matthew Broderick, and Dennis Quaid). It holds true to the saying "It's amazing what humans are capable of when they must..."

I went into this movie expecting an awful mess of CG, no plot, and lots and lots of cheese. The first 20 minutes doesn't help the plot since they breeze through 3 years in a couple scenes while trying to introduce several different storylines. The good news is we don't spend too much time lounging around. The end is near. The sun's increased activity is melting the Earth's core and it's going to cause a shit-ton of problems (volcanoes, earthquakes, and tidal waves).

This time around, John Cusack walks us through armageddon. He's a has-been author/limo driver that barely sees his kids. He catches wind of the bad news from a conspiracy hippy nut (a hilarious Woody Harrelson) while camping at Yellowstone. And then just like that, it goes from bad to worse to worse-than-worst. California gets the Earthquake to end all earthquakes and Yellowstone blows it top like a hydrogen bomb. I enjoyed this much more than the disaster in The Day After Tomorrow because you can easily see the destruction. Instead of blizzards and rainstorms (low visibility), we clearly see the quakes, waves, and eruptions. Despite it being 100% CG, the visuals are pretty amazing.

And on top of that, the family dynamic is surprisingly NOT terrible. John Cusack has to run into LA and rescue his kids, ex-wife Amanda Peet, and her new boyfriend Tom McCarthy before it all goes to hell, and there subsequent trip around the world is fast paced and pretty entertaining. The supporting characters (Danny Glover, Oliver Platt (awesome), the bad guy from Serenity, the boss from Just Shoot Me, and some rich Russian guy) provide a wide range of people to be invested in.

However, the biggest and most glaring drawback is the goofy plot. It's hard to sit back and believe everything that's unfolding. The Dalai Lama drives a pick-up truck? We care about saving the giraffes? Wait, wait, wait... Africa???? Really? Plus, the tone is all over the map. There's subtle humor like Arnold's press conference (too bad it wasn't really Arnold), and the looks that John Cusack and Tom McCarthy share. There's a welcome intensity at some moments, but it's ruined with jokey gags like the one with the puppy. And finally, it seems like there's just an endless wave of death. Phone calls between people about to die. Seeing large groups of people wiped out. Watching some of the supporting characters sadly die... I just couldn't tell what this movie wanted to be.

If your smart, you already know what this movie is going to be. The destruction is ambitious and jaw-dropping, but the plot blows. The only saving grace that makes me consider sitting through this again when it's on FX is that most characters are worth watching. It's definitely a dumb movie, but still an entertaining, dumb movie.


Monday, November 16, 2009

REVIEW: Where the Wild Things Are

If you're like me, Where the Wild Things Are was one of the few books you could stomach early in life, maybe for no other reason than it was a first glimpse at illustrated monsters (creepy yet oddly realistic-looking) in school.  Maybe it was because library trips usually meant being forced to read about old English women, Jesus, or even a dead bird once. This was the first book I enjoyed, though isn't exactly a tough read, even when you're 6.

So how do you turn 10 sentences into 101 minutes? Kudos to the suits at Warner Bros. for staying true to the themes of the book, while also giving the film some substance. This very easily could've been another Christmas-Season-Toy-Marketing movie (something that your pals at Disney tried/failed to do 20 years ago), but it is probably the polar opposite. Spike Jonze and company add layer upon layer to this Max's story, and each character adds a different dynamic to the kid's psyche. Max's life isn't roses, and he's surrounded by modern social dysfunction like ADD, a fractured family, and (gasp!) environmental concern. When he finally snaps, he imagines himself off to a mysterious island full of giant Wild Things. It starts well, but Max eventually realizes that the monsters on the island are even more dysfunctional than the monsters in his household. Like LOST meets The Office.

And to me, pain was the underlying essence of the movie. While Hook, for example, was a children's tale re-imagined with a magical Spielberg environment, Wild Things hits us with a solid dose of fear and insecurity. At times, it's is so hell-bent on storytelling from a confused 9-year old perspective, we are often left with frustrating, confused scenes. I don't remember the actual Wild Things being so whiny and childish in the book, but what else would a child know? I don't remember them being so relentlessly unhappy, but I suppose that's how frightened/lonely/insecure children would see it. There are a few scenes where this leads to utter stupidity (owls), and does nothing but pro-long the movie. In the book, Max eventually grows lonely and misses his mother; in the movie, Max realizes his escape is actually more combustible than reality.

A solid movie, but I ultimately left feeling uninspired. I have to admit that the kid in the movie ----- unlike 99% of movie kids (see: Phantom Menace, Dick Tracy, The Neverending Story, One Tree Hill, etc, etc, etc) --- was NOT annoying. The voices were fun, especially Tony Soprano as a friendly (...or is he?) wild thing that delivers the tear-jerker scene, and Paul "Bowling Pin" Dano as the biggest loser of the wild things. And a few people are complaining about the hipster soundtrack -- I'll say that's it only feels wrong for some of the movie, although Herb will probably blast the entire thing. Lastly, enough can't be said about the original way it was filmed, with giant larger-than-life puppets rumbling around the woods. Creepy, just like the original book was. HHhhooooOOOWWWWwwwllL.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Video of the Week

...and potential Carny nominee for Worst Film, Worst Actor (Brendan Fraser), and Goofiest Run by an Old Man (H. Ford).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Why the Steelers Will Win on Sunday

"It's not about what you are capable of ... it's about what you are willing to do."
- Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach

It's revenge time. Because I stood by the Stillers and backed them in an office wager the last time Cincy played Pittsburgh (we lost), I've been stuck wearing the same ugly Bengals tie to work this week. Needless to say, I'm festering with anger. So imagine how the team feels!! This is the statement game of the year. For the past 10-15 years, every once and a while, a team will creep up and challenge the Steelers for the divisional crown. Last year, it was Baltimore. In 2005, the Bengals actually won it, but then choked in the playoffs while hosting the Burgh. Before that, the Browns briefly challenged, but Tommy Guns dispatched them in the Divisional round with a rousing comeback. Anyway, this year, the Bengals have surfaced again. We're used to fending off pretenders, so there's no need to fear, Steeler fans. I'm going to provide with the Top 10 reasons why we will win this Sunday, and inevitably go on to capture the division.


I'll give the Bengals credit: it's hard to sweep division rivals, yet they manhandled Baltimore, a much more impressive win than their win earlier this season. We beat the Ravens 3 times last year, but every one of those games was tough. There's no way the Steelers find themselves in a similar position this year. They won't let the Bungals take both games this year. Sometimes it's as simple as that.

9. Mike Wallace is dangerous

This guy came out of nowhere. On a team with TWO SUPER BOWL MVPS starting at wideout, Braveheart is stealing the show. At first, I was impressed with his straight-line speed, but lately he has proven himself a reliable 3rd-down target. Combine him with Ward's brains, Santonio's hands, and Heath Miller's size, and we are a DANGEROUS receiving team. I haven't seen us this strong since the days of Ernie Mills, Yancey Thigpen, and Charles Johnson.

8. Vegas loves us (7 point favorites)

Think about it. It's a tough-as-nails divisional game against a team that beat us earlier in the year. In spite of that, Vegas has us as favorites by a TOUCHDOWN! They don't expect this to be close, and you shouldn't either. The Steelers bring such a quiet swagger to the table. We know how to prepare for these kind of games in a way that Cincy will never know.

7. Steeler depth

We've seen injuries to Polamalu, Aaron Smith, Travis Kirschke, Larry Timmons, Ryan Clark (not an injury, just a precaution), and Willie Parker. And yet, the only noticeable absence was Polamalu. Everyone else has been ably replaced by an endless stream of capable backups. In fact, 3 of them (Mendenhall, Tyrone Carter, Keyaron Fox) have stepped up and played huuuuuge games.

6. Heinz field advantage

It's later in the year. Pitt is playing the night before against Notre Dame. This field is going to be mangled, and no one knows how to handle a shitty field like the Steelers. I wouldn't be surprised if Ochostinko stumbles on a few routes and Benson falls at the line of scrimmage. Couple that with the Pittsburgh fans and the Steeler's intimidating home jerseys.

5. Mendenhall keeps us two-dimensional

If Qui-Gon were around, he'd be on his deathbed stressing "He will.... bring balance..." I don't know how the O-line turned it around from a year ago, but them and Mendenhall have been locked in these past few weeks. He's also a much better receiver than soon-to-be-unemployed Fast Willie. If we get the play-action going early, this might end up a rout.

4. The Bengals will not be able to run the ball

Who are the most dangerous runners in the league? Number one is Adrian Peterson followed closely by Chris Johnson. Also in the discussion is Cedric Benson, yet the Steelers held all of them under 100 yards rushing. No team has been able to effectively run the ball, and Denver was ABYSMAL on Monday night. Their longest run was maybe 7 yards, and they probably averaged less than 2 yards a carry. The Bengals' only hope is Carson Palmer.

3. Ben Roethlisberger is having his greatest season ever

Perhaps he should be accused of rape more often, because Huge Ben is on a mission this year. He's tied with Peyton Manning for the top completion percentage in the league (over 7o%), he's on pace for more than 4000 yards, and he's picking apart opposing secondaries in the no-huddle. And what about his fancy highlights and 5 o' clock shadow? The chicks don't need to be forced into loving that.

"The only thing I'm guilty of is terribly folding pocket kerchiefs..."

2. The Defense has re-established their dominance

Run defense. Pass defense. QB pressure. It really doesn't matter. The defense is so well-rounded that they look even better than last year's historically great squad. We're tackling better than I've ever seen. The crazy formations (1 down lineman, 5 prowling LBS, and 5 DBs) are scary and effective. I've already mentioned the depth we've seen on defense. I love seeing them assemble the convoy on turnovers. The list goes on and on. The only gameplan that teams like to try against us is the dink-and-dunk West Coast offense. The Seahkawks in SBXL, the Patriots all the time, the Cardinals in SBXLIII, the Broncos this year, the Vikings this year, etc. etc. That kind of attack only works if you're QB is patient and accurate (really only Brady can pull it off against us). The Bengals don't use that kind of passing attack. Palmer loves to throw timing routes further down the field (flag outs, flag ins, skinny posts, deep hooks, etc.) If we get pressure on him early and get him moving his feet, those kinds of patterns will constantly be disrupted.

1. Troy Polamalu is playing this time

The only person that would hurt us more by being out is Ben Roethlisberger. The defense was noticeably slower and susceptible to giving up 3rd down conversions. With the best safety in football back in the lineup, the defense is unbeatable. Last week he took over the game. He ran down Brandon Marshall to make what could've been a huge gain just a modest one. He sprinted into the backfield to take out Moreno. He followed that up with a clutch interception. The Bengals bested the Steelers by marching down the field on a long, clock-bleeding drive that was sustained by several 3rd and 4th down conversions. With Troy in the game, there's no way he doesn't make a play on one of those, especially the 4th-and-10 that broke our back.

PREDICTION: Steelers cruise, 34-13

Animated Podcasts on HBO!!!!

For those who are fans of the Ricky Gervais podcasts (everyone here is), you're in for a treat because HBO is starting to release promo clips for the upcoming cartoon adaptation. The only downside, in my mind, is that I've heard Season 1 of the podcasts at least 10 times, so the material isn't fresh. On the plus side, I'm always up for seeing how animators decide to draw the guys. How round did they make Karl's head? How fat will Ricky be? How goggly-eyed and lanky will Steve Merchant be?

You know you're curious, so watch the two clips below.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Top Ten Best Selling NFL Jerseys

The art of choosing the right jersey is definitely a tricky one. Much like buying a car, you have to consider many factors.

How many years am I going to get out this? You have to think about the player's relationship with the team and if he's going to be around town for a while. You have to consider age and whether or not they might be the kind of guy to jump ship for a bigger contract. Because let's face it, there's nothing more embarrassing than buying a jersey and then the guy immediately skips town...

How can I stand out from the crowd? Yeah, you can pick one of the guys from the list below and be like everyone else. Or maybe you could blaze your own trail and pick someone few others have. I bought a Steelers Larry Foote jersey, and the guy didn't miss a game over the next 4 years of me owning the jersey. Even though he was a mediocre player, it made every sack, tackle, or interception that much more awesome because Larry Foote was doing it. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, so I suggest you pick a player that's right for you.

There are other serious questions to consider before committing to a player, but my last point was a good segway. The following list is the Top 10 most marketable atheletes. For some reason, everyone is buying their jerseys, and I'm going to try and tell you why. It's important to remember that these are the top ten best selling THIS year, and are projected to remain the Top Ten through the end of this season.

10. LaDanian Tomlinson

It's laughable that LDT is still in the top ten. Fairweather fans love to make the easy pick and select a popular offensive player, and that's all he really is. He's old, injury-prone, and just flat out terrible. It's no secret that Rivers is that star of that team now, so it's amazing that Tomlinson is still the most popular. When Fat Bettis started declining, do you think intelligent Pittsburgh fans kept buying his jersey?!?!? NO!!! The truth is San Diego has a big population, but they care more about the beach then they do about football. They don't care enough to invest in a real jersey. THUMBS DOWN.
WHO I'D BUY INSTEAD: Antonio Gates

9. Adrian Peterson

The reigning running champ and #1 fantasy stud, AP should really be 5 spots higher on the list. You might think that people don't want an ugly purple jersey, but the truth is Minnesota is plagued by stupid fans. You see, AP would be much higher on this list, but stupid yokels chose to buy a different Minnesota jersey instead...

8. Troy Polamalu

The only defensive player to make this list, Polamalu is an easy person to like. He's constantly praised as one of the top safeties in the league, he's still young, he's got long term plans in Pittsburgh, and he's on the cover of Madden. If you bought a Troy jersey before the Steelers started winning Super Bowls, you're probably a little peeved that everyone else has one now, but I'll give credit to anyone who bucks the trend and avoids a QB.

7. Peyton Manning

If your a Colts fan, you think he's top QB of all time. If you're anyone else, you think he's an overmarketed, boring hayseed that should be remembered as a guy that should have won more than one Super Bowl. I'll concede that Manning is a consistent all-star, and definitely one of the all-time greats, but if doesn't win another Super Bowl, I'd say his career is ultimately disappointing.

6. Reggie Bush

WHAT!?!?! Ok, I can understand morons buying a Reggie Bust jersey after he won the Heisman and was paraded into New Orleans, but he has down absolutely NOTHING on the field since then. He's probably less famous than his fatass fame whore ex-girlfriend, and that's saying something. So why are people still buying his jersey? I suppose it's because the Saints are 7-0, and much like the other Saints team of recent memory, I'd say they're overrated and overrhyped. Since stupid fans enjoy the overhyped, they choose Bush.
WHO I'D BUY INSTEAD: Darren Sharper

5. Brett Favre

Whatever. I'm sick of Favre. The Steelers proved that if you solely rely on his 80 year old arm, you'll lose. All you millions of people that buy this jersey are retarded. He'll probably be gone next year, and then your jersey will just be stupid and you'll never wear it.
WHO I'D BUY INSTEAD: Adrian Peterson

4. Mark Sanchez

There's no way I can conceivably defend this pick. The only person on this list that's worse is Reggie Bush. If, 4 years from now, Mark Sanchez isn't any better and people still buy his jersey, then he would be as bad as Bush. Jets fans are fickle and want to believe this guy can lead the franchise. It's okay being desperate, but there are better options out there.

3. Ben Roethlisberger

Huge Ben Ruthlessberger is a two-time champ, and no matter how much people want to knock him, he's an elite QB in the NFL. Ok, so maybe he's a jerk, and maybe he raped a girl, and he's dumb for riding motorcycles without helmets, but so what? He's a one-of-a-kind franchise QB leading the greatest team in football history. Since I made the mistake of buying Willie Parker's jersey after Super Bowl XL and he's probably leaving town after this year, I might cave and buy Big Ben just like everyone else.

2. Eli Manning

I get it; the biggest market in the country, the fact that he recently KO'ed asshole Brady (who you won't find on this list) for a big Super Bowl victory, and he's a high-profile QB. My knock against Eli is that he's quiet and inconsistent. But really, who else is there in NY? I wouldn't trust taking a receiver after the Plax incident. Brandon Jacobs is having a bad year, and the big bad defense is no more. If you're a Giants fan, it's smart to go with the safe pick here.

1. Tony Romo

I hate Romo-san. The critics hate him too. He's only popular because he's the Dallas Cowboys QB and he's alright in the regular season. Remember last year when the big debate was "Okay, Brady and Manning are 1-2. Who would you put 3, Roethlisberger or Romo?" Hah! What a joke. Big Ben went on to capture his 2nd ring, and Tony Romeo went on vacation before the season was over. If you must cheer for America's team, I highly suggest DeMarcus Ware, instead.

BONUS: At the beginning of the season, Favre's Vikings jersey was number one, and MICHAEL VICK's Eagles jersey was number 2. For some reason, he's quickly fallen off the list. Oh wait, not just some reason... it's because he's only played like 10 snaps.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Video Games: NHL 10 Review

You'll have to see my NHL 09 review to get half the story, because the mechanics and game engine remain the same. And that's not a bad thing because NHL 09 was the best hockey game ever created. This year, EA Sports decided to concentrate on updating and adding a few new features, so that's what I'll look at.

1. Boardplay - This takes some getting used to. To make the game more realistic, you can now pin guys into the board and struggle for control of the puck. This means that the old way of doing (plowing into them with huge body checks against the boards) has largely been done away with. In many cases, if you go full speed into a guy on the boards, it'll just be a glancing check. They want you to pin them and fight for the puck. I thought it would slow down gameplay, but it really doesn't. It makes cycling a more important aspect of the game, which I'm all far. By and large, a welcome upgrade.

2. Fighting - One of the sore spots of NHL 09 was the fighting. This year, they revamped it and developed a first-person fighting system. Guess what... it also stinks. You have to dodge, aim your punches, block, pull their heads down, so it's pretty strategic. But still, fights are over way to fast and I'm just not a fan of the first person view. The only cool thing is that when your guys loses, he gets a black eye for a game or two.

3. Music - Hands down my favorite new feature, the custom music option allows you to use music from the PS3 hard drive. You can play these playlists while navigating the main menus (hello Backspacer), but the real fun is during the game. You can set specific songs for certain in-game events, customize songs for specific teams, or easily set a song or playlist for every arena in the league. For me personally, my Pens come out to Thunderstruck. Bang on the Drum plays when I score goals (as a nod to disgraced Pen, Jaromir Jagr). The Jaws theme comes on when we get a Power Play. I even have annoying arena songs like this and this and this to play during stoppages in play. The only drawback is that songs start from the beginning, so if you want a specific section to play, you need to crop the song before loading it to the playlist.

4. The Crowd - Never before has a hockey accurately captured the emotion from the crowd when the home team scores. Never ever. In fact, I can't think of any sports game that has accomplished that. I enjoyed the NCAA games where the screen shakes from the noise of the home crowd, but usually in hockey and football games, you see low quality crowd (most of them duplicates) woodenly stand up. It sucks.... but not anymore. In NHL 10, when the home team scores, the crowd roars, everyone jumps to their feet, and the clones are less noticeable. It's little things like this that maybe aren't necessary in a hockey game, but when they are done right, the game is sooooooooo much better.

Most everything else that matters (create-a-player, gameplay mechanics, play-by-play, etc.) remains that same. The result is once again the greatest NHL game of all time.


Review: V Premiere

A while back I said you all should be watching FlashForward, but I'm beginning to regret those words. It's hard to explain, but I'm just not hooked on the show the way I should be, and I don't really care who caused the blackout, why, and if the future will come true. Normally, when I back a show, you can take that to the bank. So I'm a little hesitant about giving out my seal of approval again. After watching the much hyped premiere of V (along with 14 million others), I must say that you should definitely check it out.

LOST started as a critical and commercial hit, but when they ventured into heavy sci-fi territory, the viewers were leaving faster than DUI castmembers. So what should we make of an expensive, network show built on sci-fi? The story starts with big, ID4-like mother ships hovering over the major cities across the globe. Before the people start to run for the hills, a giant screen projects the leader of the Visitors, Anna (Morena Baccarin from FIREFLY!!!!), and she tells everyone that they come in peace and promise to share their knowledge and technology with all the world. In a weird turn of events, the NY crowd below actually accept this at face value and begin to applaud, but we'll come back to that later.

Meanwhile, lead character Erica (Juliet from LOST!!!!), is an FBI agent investigating a spike in terrorist chatter that coincides with the V's arrival. Perhaps they plan to take advantage of this distraction and attack the US? Her and her partner (Alan Tudyk from FIREFLY!!!!) check out abandoned hideouts, but the terrorists are always one step ahead. Hmmmm... sounds like a plot device I despise (a mole in the group!!!!! whoa!!!!!).

Meanwhile, Erica's dickwad angst-ridden son resents his overworked mother for their shitty family though his dad is no father of the year. Because he's a moron teenager, he rebels against his mom and befriends the V's and applies to become an ambassador. He sucks and you'll hate him.

Anna is true to her word and they start opening healing centers. They offer tours of their awesome spaceship. She even goes on national TV and is interviewed by a PLEASE-TAKE-ME-SERIOUS-AS-A-JOURNALISTTTTT Scott Wolfe (I'm no fan). I'm very much intrigued by how Anna handles herself, and it's easy to see that, though she pulls off the friendly visitor facade, and it seems genuine, you can't help but sense something sinister going on.

Let's also throw in a Catholic priest that is suspicious of the Visitors and wonders how they fit in to God's plan, and another guy (Morris Chesnut) with a shady past who wants to propose to his girlfriend. The priest finds out about a secret meeting where all will be revealed. Someone from Morris Chesnut's shady past also tells him about the meeting, which just so happens to be the next step in Erica's terrorist investigation.

That's where we're warned that the V's aren't friendly, but actually want to annihilate the humans!!! They've been infiltrating every level of our society for years and years, disguised as humans, and preparing for the next phase (INVASION!!!). That explains the spike in activity from the terror cell (they're a terrorist cell comprised of aliens!!!). That explains why the humans were clapping in New York (the aliens led them in applause to provide a positive first impression). And that mole..... it's Erica's partner ALAN TUDYK!!! He crashes the meeting with a team of aliens and they kill a bunch of people. Erica and the priest escape and vow to form a resistance group. Also, during the attack, we find out another one of the humans is also an alien, but one opposed to the Visitors. He wants to help us!!!

Trust me, I didn't make this sound that cool, but it really is. I'm definitely going to tune in next week, and you should too.


Hines Ward is the dirtiest NFL player

Every year, Sports Illustrated polls current NFL players and personnel to see who they think is the league's dirtiest player. This year, the top draw is Hines Ward... in a landslide. As a lifelong die-hard Steeler fan, I take issue with this, and I'll tell you why in a second.

First, let's recognize how awesome Hines is for how he handled it.

"I beat Joey? Wow," Ward said, with a laugh. "How can I be the dirtiest player on the field -- a little, old wideout with no speed? I don't know whether to be happy or mad about it."

Ward wore a grin as wide as a jack-o'-lantern's as he answered questions following practice yesterday, suggesting he's more amused than anything by the dubious honor.

Now, I live in Southwest Ohio, near Cincinnati, so I experience my fair share of Steeler hate. Almost everyone here condemns Hines Ward as a dirty player, and some go as far to label him a horrible human being (!?!?!?!). I can understand them hating him like I hate Chad Ochostinko, but I will never concede that he is a dirty player.

I think there are a few specific things that draw the hatred. First, Hines Ward loved to stiff arm DBs, and especially loves to stiff arm them right in the face mask. Dumb fans know that you can't tackle somebody by grabbing the facemask, so they probably assume that Hines can't do it either, but they're wrong. Secondly, the crackback blocks. This is probably what got him recognized by other players. Whiny little DBs are so used to dishing out the hits that they never expect to get blasted. It's your job to keep your eyes open all the time, and if you're not paying attention when Hines is running at you, you'll get your head knocked off. But let's be clear: THE HITS ARE LEGAL, NOT DIRTY!!! He doesn't lead with his head. He doesn't take out their knees. He doesn't leave his feet and spear the guy. He just runs them over with his shoulder. Watch this video of him decleating Ed Reed, Bart Scott, Keith Rivers, and others.

This guy is a shoe-in Hall of Famer, and opposing coaches love saying how this is the kind of guy you want to build your team with. I'll never understand why everyone considers him dirty, but it's probably because they are used to seeing whimpy WRs every week. Whatever.... go Steelers.

Video of the Week: Castle

Firefly fans got a big treat last week when Nathan Fillion donned his old browncoat. His character, Rick Castle, was trying out Halloween costumes. This is probably one of the greatest things to happen on TV this year, so just enjoy it...

How bad is Nip/Tuck right now?

Posts on the old website have been a little dry lately, so I figured I would add my two cents in a sad television realization I recently had. As far as Nip/Tuck goes, I came to the party pretty late. I only starting watching it week to week during Season 4. Thanks to Top Ten's leadership, I DVDed the first two seasons and purchased Season 3. I raced through it prior to the start of Season 4. Any fan of the show knows the the first three years are great. The downward slide started in Season 4 with the whole Michelle Landau crap and culminated with the return of Escobar, and total rehash. Season 5 was forgettable with the move to LA. And now we have Season 6. I watch it as a rerun now, 11 pm, since it moved to Wednesdays, and I am more concerned about Top Chef at 10 o'clock. It's a shame.

So as I was watching it last night, I said to myself, this is terrible. Why do I watch it anymore? Look at what it happening in Season 6.

First off, Matt is a mime that robs convenience stores with a fake gun. It's downright laughable and completely stupid. Is there a television character that is more clueless and hated than Matt McNamara?

AC Slater working with McNamara/Troy?

So what's the deal with Teddy? She was a goofy druggy last season, Katee Sackhoff is replaced by Rose McGowan, and now Teddy tries to kill the entire McNamara family. Is she with Matt? When she asked Sean about Matt's inheritance / or lack of one, she kind of flashed a Ben Linus look. What happened to great side characters like Escobar, Ava, and Kit?

Even Sean is getting annoying, he's all about Teddy. His best work was a as a new divorcee circa Seasons 2-5.

But thankfully, Christian is still in perfect form. Arrogant, distasteful, and a complete asshole, as there have been times during this season where I have simply laughed out loud at his quotes. He is the only thing keeping Nip/Tuck afloat.

A show the continually pushes the envelope with outrageous situations and scenarios is bound to simply run out of ideas. Seasons 1-3 was about as edgy as you can get on TV, but still with a coherent plot and solid character development. Recently, the events just get more weirder and less systematic. This fact has been happening since Season 4 started, but I have been holding out hope that it would get better. Watching it last night, I now know that it never will. Nip/Tuck's best days are simply long gone.

"best" scene of Season 6 thus far...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Review: Zombieland

It's kind of unfair that every zom-com for the next 20 years will be compared to the genius of Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland is no different. Like Shaun, it's a send up of conventional zombie horror flicks, but ALSO like Shaun (fortunately), it offers a lot more than just cheap laughs.

Whereas Shaun of the Dead offered a humorous glimpse of how normal folk would handle a zombie outbreak, Zombieland skips past that and asks "how would normal folk deal with the aftermath?" Where would you go? What would you do for fun now that nothing is off-limits? How would you deal with the day-to-day zombie threat? It's set at least a few months after the outbreak. Most of the United States is dead or a zombie. That leaves our 4 main characters traveling the road hoping to find whatever it is they are looking for. Our main hero, Columbus (playing the same character as he did in Adventureland) is trying to head home to hopefully find his parents alive. Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson, who steals the movie) is in search of some tasty food and enjoys killing zombies. Finally, two sisters, Wichita and Little Rock (Jules from Superbad and Abigail Breslin) are heading west to an old family vacation spot (a theme park).

Along the way, we get a look into what their lives were like before the plague. Some of it is humorous, some is heart wrenching, and some is just boring characterization. The important thing is that this doesn't really feel like a road trip movie because the plot is moving pretty quick. Like Wedding Crashers, our weird anti-social hero has created some Zombie Survival rules that usually accompany his voiceovers. Most people will get a kick out of the Double Tap rule, but my favorite is rule number one, simply titled Cardio. It's pretty simple: don't panic, because zombies are easy to outrun. Also hilarious is an expression I've never heard before for droppin' a deuce (taking the Browns to the Super Bowl). And finally, every review I saw mentioned an awesome cameo, but they all purposefully withheld the name to preserve the surprise. I must say that this person's cameo was most welcome and freakin funny as hell. I'm also shocked that it's been kept a secret so long.

Nonetheless, despite not being as good as Shaun of the Dead, absolutely everything works for this film. Music, plot, gore, humor, characters, it's all great. And here's a clue to the cameo: Their initials (you see them on the gate outside their house) are BM (I first thought Bette Midler and was way off). Go see this movie and thank me later.



Monday, October 5, 2009

Review: Black Gives Way to Blue

Certain members of this site were excited almost beyond words when Alice in Chains started releasing tracks from their new album, Black Gives Way to Blue; so much so that they pre-ranked it ahead their AIC's fellow grunge survivors, P Jam. And we all know that I thought very highly of Backspacer, so there are definitely some big shoes to fill.

On my first run through the album, I was greeted with some awesome news: Alice in Chains still sounds like Alice in Chains. Yeah, Layne is dead and everyone's sad, but Jerry Cantrell has been mapping out these brooding harmonies for 2 decades. William Duvall ably hits the big notes like Layne, but unlike Layne, he doesnt plague us with stinky writing (see: Angry Chair). Instead, everyone lets Jerry run the show, musically and lyrically. Hearing all these slow, methodical, pounding riffs are a welcome visit from an old friend.

On my 10th run through the album, I was hit with a lousy realization: Alice in Chains sounds like Alice in Chains, only more stale. These new songs almost all sound the same, and sound like generic versions of all the great songs in the past. I'm still a huge fan of Your Decision and When the Sun Rose Again, a moderate fan of Check My Brain, A Looking in View, and the title track. For everything else, I'm kinda indifferent. They aren't bad, aren't good, and aren't memorable.

The final verdict is that I'm thrilled to see them writing new music, but I'm waiting to see what their sound will evolve to. It's like visiting an old friend from high school. You sit around telling old stories from the glory days, stories that are fun to revisit, but not nearly as fun as experiencing them. But you still don't know about what's gone on with your friend since then, and that's kinda important. Alice in Chains is now over the rehashing part. They've publicly grieved for their friend, Layne, but now it's time to move on.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pic of the Week (and Bonus)

Taken from section E row 2 at Friday's home opener vs. Rangers.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Watch FlashForward

Widely proclaimed as the best new drama of the season, FlashForward sets itself up as a possible filler of LOST's big shoes. In fact, lots and lots of people, most notably me, have noticed a ton of similarities between the two shows.

What's it about? Suppose that everyone on Earth blacked out at the exact same time for the exact same length. If that's not weird enough for you, further suppose that everyone on Earth has a glimpse exactly 6 months into their future. It's an ambitious plot that lends itself to a lot of headaches when you think of the possibilities. Does everyone glimpse the same future? What does it mean if you saw nothing? Can you change the future or are you destined to create it (some characters glimpse happiness while others glimpse misery)? That's a lot of good material and the first episode covered a lot more ground than I thought it would.

Much like LOST, FF starts amidst some chaos. When you think about it, if everyone blacks out for 2 minutes and 16 seconds, that leaves a lot of pilots and drivers shit out of luck. We meet Joe Fiennes upside down in a wrecked vehicle, and he's got to jump to action like Jack Shephard. The opening credits are short and sweet like LOST, the music is similar to LOST, and the scene right after the opening wreckage also has a LOST feel to it. One of the billboards shows an ad for Oceanic Airlines and their perfect safety rating (does that mean 815 won't crash and history is reset?!?!?!?!). A lot of LOSTies even show up in the show. Charlie, Penny, and Sawyer's babymama all have recurring roles. So does Sulu from the new Star Trek and the SONAR guy from Hunt for Red October.

The best part of the first show was the twist ending. Spoilers are ahead, but hopefully you don't feel spoiled and instead feel excited. The FBI is tasked with figuring out what the hell happened. If it's the same future they're glimpsing (it is), can they use it to their advantage? Will the flashes keep happening? Is someone causing it? One FBI agent is looking at security tapes of random places all over the country to verify that everyone drops at the same time for the same length...... EXCEPT........ in Detroit at a Tigers game, with everyone slumped in their chair..... some guy off in the distance in a black coat cooly walks towards the exits while kickass music plays in the background. What "Guys.... where are we?!?" was to LOST is "Who the hell is that? Why are they awake?????" to ABC's new awesome show, FlashForward.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

PEARL JAM: Backspacer Review

New Pearl Jam, much like new LOST, Indy, Batman, or Steeler football, is an event for this site. To commemorate the especially awesome Backspacer, I'm going in-depth to break down this album, song by song.

- the darkhorse. a formidable lead-off song that starts with a kick to the face. It grows on me every time I listen to it. Even though you think it's about a drug fix, supposedly it's about wanting some drugs, but instead you want to see your friend to keep you from doing drugs. Does that make a difference? Hell no. I hate finding out meanings to songs.

Rating: A-
My favorite part: The vocal melody of the hook, the harmonies in the chorus
Makes me want to... Play Twisted Metal 2.

GOT SOME - the heavyweight. See, now this one IS about scoring some drugs, except the drug is a kickass rock n roll song. I promise I'll stop ruining these songs with what they're about. When I heard it live on Conan, I thought "this is how it's supposed to sound; playing it in studio would only kill the momentum." I was definitely wrong.

Rating: A+
My favorite part: Uh, everything? But especially the furious drumming. I kinda figured that Matt Cameron got sick of being apart of underachieving albums and decided to carry them on his back this time around.
Makes me want to... Throw stuff at police cars.

- The flagship. Yeah, it may sound like pop rock, but it's a toe tapper. It loses points only because its blatant optimism and feel-goodness is a direct result of Obamanation.

Rating: A
My favorite part: "I'll dig your grave/We'll dance and sing" What does that even mean? Who cares, cause I'm in. I love the sunny, cheery bridge that transitions back into the intro.
Makes me want to... dance in my jams, then vote Democrat.

JOHNNY GUITAR - the embarassment. Retarded title + weird pacing + lame story = shitty song.

Rating: F
My favorite part: It all sucks. I'm betting EV insists on playing this stinker live...
Makes me want to... beat up some greasers.

JUST BREATHE - the snoozer. This overrated softie is such a phony. It thinks it deserves to be a great love song with its overdone arrangement. This could've been a good song if they didn't reach for the fences...

Rating: C-
My favorite part: The easy-goin finger-pickin.
Makes me want to... have some sort of introspective montage where I regret getting dumped by a high school sweetie.

AMONGST THE WAVES - the typical water song. It seems like every water song they write is more literal than the last. Nonetheless, I'm diggin this song. Ed dominates with his pipes even if some of his lyrics are pretty laughable.

Rating: B
My favorite part: the swell before the chorus. And I think we can all get behind "BETTER LOUD....THAN TOOOOOOO LATE"
Makes me want to... captain a sailboat. if you don't want to do something water-related after listening to this, you're trying too hard.

UNTHOUGHT KNOWN - the surprise. This one came out of nowhere. When ranking the songs, I was a little nervous having it as my number 2 because I figured I would get laughed at. But nope, it's unanimous. This positive gem just keeps building and building until you can't help but feel uplifted.

Rating: A
My favorite part: When Ed kicks the pipes into high gear.
Makes me want to... profess love in the rain.

SUPERSONIC - the face melter. This is another sneaky song that has grown on me. I have no idea what it's about, but I sure like drumming on the steering wheel with it.

Rating: B-
My favorite part: Definitely when it slows down for the badass bridge/solo combo. Then it slams back into the thrashing.
Makes me want to... play pranks on seniors.

SPEED OF SOUND - the creepy snoozer. I'm not sure what mood this song is trying to achieve, but I'm left feeling depressed and irritated.

Rating: D
My favorite part: the end... no, really.
Makes me want to... walk home alone after seeing a shitty movie.

FORCE OF NATURE - the feminist. They can't help but write songs centralized around a vulnerable female character that they empower (most recently Army Reserve, most notably Better Man). This is their latest effort, and all the pieces of this song are strong enough that I can't not like it, cause that would be degrading women... which I hate...

Rating: C+
My favorite part:
the cool intro
Makes me want to... walk in to a bar in s l o w m o t i o n

THE END - the heartbreaker. This is what Just Breathe should've been. The End is a beautiful little song that stays simple all the way through, emphasizing the lonliness and the long goodbye.

My favorite part: the bittersweet lyrics
Makes me want to... slip out in the middle of my birthday party and head off on an adventure like Bilbo.