Tuesday, March 30, 2010

LOST Review: the Package

How annoying was that FUCKING V COUNTDOWN CLOCK?!!??! There, that's off my chest. Anyway, after last week's sweeping tale about Richard Alpert, we all expected this week's Jin/Sun-centric episode to be kind of a downer. The only thing we thought we could bank on is a teary reunion scene, but they couldn't even give us that. And yet, the Package isn't as meh as I originally thought.

Though separated by the length of the entire Island, Jin and Sun remain on the same page. Both process the news of their candidacy similarly; they don't care. All that matters is finding each other and getting back to little Ji Yeon. And how about Widmore showing Jin the camera? I couldn't help by smile as Papasan caught a glimpse of his wife for the first time in 3 years and his child for the first time EVER. But Widmore didn't storm the beach and kidnap Jin to watch him get all weepy. Charles wants to utilize Jin's knowledge of the layout of the Island the exploit its electromagnetic properties.... kind of a lame excuse, but whatever...

Meanwhile, Sun proves how stupid she is by running into a tree and losing her ability to speak English. Seriously, I thought Locke's bitch-slap of Claire was the funniest point of the year, but this has to top it. I enjoy the symmetry of season 1. At first, it was Jun who only spoke Korean while Sun surprised him with her ability to speak English. If this keeps up, when they reunite it will be Sun who cannot speak English while Jin surprises her with his excellence English. It's borderline cheesy and more than a little farfetched, but I still like it.

But that's pretty much it for them on the Island. I could bore you further with Sun's tomato garden, Jin taking us back to Room 23, or Sun's hissy-fit tantrum, but why bother when we can get too....


Until I'm proved wrong about the value of the sideways universe, I'll still consider the events pointless. OOOOOOOOO they aren't married (pointed out in the premiere episode)!!!! WOWWWWWWWW they are having a secret affair!!! Big deal. What effect does Sun getting shot (while pregnant) have on the main universe?!?!? We'll probably find out at some point, but right now I just don't care. In one of their better "sideways coincidences," Mikhail Bakunin shows up as one of Paik's men that is pretty awesome at speaking Korean and just generally being badass. "No I don't think so, because if you were the person that did this, you would've shot me already" is the equivalent to "Why are we continuing to play this little game when we all know it has moved to the next stage" from Season 3's "Enter 77." And finally, in a fitting end (and a nod to his days as Patchy), Jin shoots him in the eyeball. Rest in peace for the 4th or 5th time, Mikhail...

This was definitely the most enjoyable aspect of the episode. Locke and Widmore had a chat on Hydra Island like Generals parleying before a great battle. And since he expected to be stonewalled by Charles, Locke sends Sayid on a recon mission to check out "the package" aboard the sub. Sayid's expressions at the end of the episode, first when emerging from the water and then again when looking up at "the package" (by the way, it's Desmond... surprise ending) were pitch perfect. I'll post screencaps of them tomorrow.

Two things about the package. One, I hope you saw that coming even without listening to Darlton's podcast where they explain Desmond is not done on the show. Two, I was mildly annoyed when Widmore instructed the girl to retrieve "the package." Why not just say Desmond? There's no reason for his secrecy when his plan is to show Desmond to Jin!!! Since Desmond was shot 2 days ago in LA, Widmore had to immediately bust Desmond out of the hospital and put him on the sub. What does Widmore mean when he told Desmond (in next week's preview) that he had to make a sacrifice???

This war is going to be H U G E .

ANALYSIS: What is Smokey's end game?
Obviously, he plans to get off the Island. But according to Richard and Jacob, this would trigger a cataclysmic event. At the beginning of the season, I thought the big event would have something to do with the sideways universe (and I suppose it still might). I thought the sinking of the Island meant Smokey had to blow it the hell up in order to leave. Smokey offered up a little more info by saying all the candidates had to get off the Island with him. It might be as simple as getting the candidates to choose to leave. Jacob is dead, and he believes one of them is meant to take his place. Smokey is a man of free will and choice, and if he convinces Jack, Hurley, Sawyer, Jin/Sun, and Sayid to leave the Island of their own free will, then not only will the darkness get out of the wine bottle, but Jacob's master plan is hit with a paradox.


Here are a few questions to mull over this week...

How can Smokey be stopped if not by bullets or blades?
If Smokey is stopped by one of the candidates choosing to stay behind, couldn't he simply just kill them?
If a candidate chooses to stay behind and protect the Island, will they be imbued with Jacob's powers?
Is the leading frontrunner for Jacob's job the Doc?
Again, what "sacrifice" will be asked of Desmond?
Any chance he'll still have weird flashes, maybe of the sideways world?
How much longer will Kate waste time sitting by the campfire?

and most importantly...

Is she hot? It took me 3 episodes, but I've finally decided that yes, she is hot.

1. Ab Aeterno
2. the Substitute
3. Lighthouse
4. LAX
5. Dr. Linus
6. Sundown
7. the Package
8. Recon
9. What Kate Does

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Review: How to Train Your Dragon

It is widely understood that Dreamworks is pretty much a joke compared to Pixar. The perfect idea of a Dreamworks film is A-list voices combined with talking animals and some pop culture references, whereas Pixar's focus will always be story and character. If the end result is money, then both are good business models because kids will flock to turd movies like Shrek 3 while adults embrace more adult fare like Up! and WALL-E. That's why I was very curious to learn that Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon was entering the weekend with a 97% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes (that's Pixar-grade stuff). After watching the movie, I'm not that surprised. Dragon serves up a strong story while utilizing some of the best movie cliches and sidestepping cliche landmines.

It's the story of a little skinny kid named Hiccup (the guy from She's Out of My League) who lives in a craggy, stormy village plagued by dragons. In order to defend the village and livestock, everybody is trained on how to kill a dragon, and it's what everyone dreams about. Even Hiccup fantasizes about it, even though his small frame and engineer's brain aren't suited to the task at all. One day, he proves his worth to his father (Gerard Butler) by snagging a dragon... only he can't kill it... and they become best friends!!!

What follows is a story that's pretty predictable if you've seen Dragonheart, but with the humorous schoolyard chums (voiced by Jonah Hill, McLovin, Kristen Wiig, and Hud from Cloverfield) and a climactic battle scene that is immensely entertaining, you are tricked into really digging the movie. The animation is some of the best ever put to screen, and the music is really well done, and often times I had chills watching the flying sequences. So far, the movie is awesome, but does it avoid the traditional Dreamworks pitfalls?

Firstly, the dragons in this movie do not talk. This is a big win for movie fans everywhere, because it takes away the urge to have a wisecracking sidekick voiced by Eddie Murphy or Steve Buscemi, and it forces the animators to do more with body language than outright dialogue. Secondly, there are zero A-list voices in this film. They need Scottish voices, so rather than pay $15 million to Mike Myers to do an accent that gets more annoying with each iteration, they recruited genuine Scots Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson. And finally, there are no out-of-place rock tunes (this probably disappoints those that thought the Foo Fighters would sound just perfect in a Viking/Dragon movie, but I'm afraid it wasn't to be). Trust me when I tell you that it's shocking to think that this studio delivered Shrek, Shark Tale, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda. With no talking animals and no big celebrities, the movie is 10x better because of it.

Those were the horrific cliches they avoided, but what about the one they utilized so well? Firstly, they threw out historical accuracy to keep the story familiar and likable. Vikings didn't have horned helmets in real life, but 95% of people don't know that, and in fact, 95% of people actually expect it! Secondly, the Viking tribe, with the exception of the kids, all have a Scottish accent. So what if Vikings are from Scandinavia? What does a Norse accent sound like anyway? Everyone loves the hearty, romantic Scottish tongue. It's almost as well-liked as the generic European accent (see: Liam Neeson).

But here's the big thing that it did so well. They made the dragon act almost exactly like a pet dog, and that's the key to the whole movie. In our heads, we want every wild animal we meet to act like a dog because that would be amazing! Wouldn't it be awesome to have a grizzly bear best friend that licks your face and lets you rub his belly? And why not tame a shark to nuzzle your hand with it's head when it wants affection? The dragon in this movie does those things, as well as turning in circles when it wants to lie down, and the audience (me included) buys into it. The pet dog technique is the quickest way to make you sympathize with any wild animal in a cartoon.

The only downside to the movie is Jay Baruchel's voice, which eventually starts to wear on you. Other than that, everything in this movie is easy to like. The themes of trust, acceptance, and prejudice are easy to spot, but the biggest praise that I can give How to Train Your Dragon is that it could probably pass as a Pixar film (they even borrowed the caricatured human look that Pixar loves much). Toy Story 3 has some strong competition this year.


the All-Time Pens Team

In the new Consol Energy Center there will be a new exhibit showcasing the best Penguins of all time. Trib Total Media is behind this feature that they call "dynamic, interactive, and permanent," and it will be in the Northwest lobby entrance of the new arena. This sounds like an awesome idea right? Sure..... except the fans get to vote on who gets in. I am both excited and deeply troubled by this aspect. If we left it up to the team and the media, we'd probably get an overabundance of oldies from the 60s and 70s making the list, but by allowing the fans to vote, we risk even further embarrassment ("ooooooo I can't wait to vote for Darius Kasparaitis!!!" - says Andy after reading the first paragraph).

You can go here to vote, but there are a few rules. You have to sign up in order to vote. They suggest 25 players, but you are allowed to use the write-in box. You cannot write-in active NHL players (sorry Sid, Malkin, and Kovalev) because morons would probably succeed in getting Fleury, Orpik, Staal, Talbot, and other questionable "all-timers" on the wall. I'll have my starting lineup below followed by a list of the remaining players. I may be biased towards the 90's crowd, but so is everyone my age, and that's the audience that this new arena is targeting, so they'd be smart to listen.

C - Mario Lemieux - Yep, he's a lock. In fact, I would bet $1,000 that he is on 100% of submitted ballots. People may leave off Jagr because of sour grapes, but no one is forgetting the bossman with 3 Stanley Cup rings.

RW - Jaromir Jagr - For every offensive category Mario Lemieux owns, it's kind of a surprise that Jags is the clubs all-time leader in Game-Winning Goals with 78. But it's not a surprise that when rumors were swirling last year with a chance Jagr wanted to come back to the Pens (and maybe grow out the mullet again), the town was buzzing with excitement. We've forgiven Jagr for being a whiny bitch in 2001, so expect to see him back alongside Mario on Olympus.

LW - Ron Francis - He's the third and probably most crucial part of the ScoreLords Triumvirate because he's the only one that played defense. If this was the Wild West, and these three were sheriffs, Jagr would be the hotheaded young bull that rushes out for vengeance and gets captured/killed. Mario would be the troubled leader with the fastest gun hand in the county, and Ronnie would be quiet strength with a steady hand... the wise old veteran that probably just wants to find a willing woman to raise a family. Sorry about that tangent, but it's not my fault that Silverado is on right now.

D - Ulf Samuelsson and Larry Murphy - These two were ideal together, and since they were lined together in your NHL Sega games, they should be paired together on this wall. Ulf was the stay-at-home brawler... a linebacker on ice skates. Murph complimented Ulf's game with brilliant vision and dominating offense.

G - Tom "Nic Cage" Barrasso - The all-time leader in games played (460), wins (226), and shutouts (22), Barrasso was a rock on this team in ways Fleury will never know (hey, didn't Fleury just record his first shutout of the season.... in March?!?!?). Barrasso is also the league's most prolific scoring goaltender in history with a stout 46 assists. For a time, fans were hard on Barrasso because of his tendency to fake injuries and hate the media, but we sorely took him for granted, and didn't realize it until he was gone. Try anchoring your team with the likes of Seabass Aubin, Patrick Lalime, Petr Skudra, the Moose, Garth Snow, and Ron Tugnutt AND THEN TELL ME YOU DON'T LIKE BARRASSO.

Other 9 Finalists

Paul Coffey - Easily better than Ulf and Murphy, but I had to keep them together for team chemistry.
Kevin Stevens - In his prime, no one could stop the dominating and powerful force that was Kevin Stevens. But as it turned out, only Kevin Stevens and cocaine could stop Kevin Stevens.
Rick Kehoe - Best mustache in team history? Check.
Joe Mullen - Bleeds red, white, and blue. The only forwards in US history that are better than Joe Mullen are a couple bums named Mike Modano and Pat LaFontaine.
Randy Carlyle - Only Norris winner in team history
Syl Apps, Lowell MacDonald, and Jean Pronovost - I guess "the Century Line" was a big deal in the 70s, and these guys ran that show.
Martin Straka - An admittedly weak pick. This is why Crosby and Malkin should be included...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Guess the Movie Laugh

Though not as much fun as the last Empire Magazine Movie Game, this is still a clever challenge for all of us self-proclaimed "movie buffs." Think you can Guess the Movie Laugh after hearing only a few seconds of audio? Game on. There are some softballs (see above picture) and also some really good ones. Try and beat my score of 13/20.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Survivor Recap: Double Elimination

Double eliminations are rarely a good thing in Survivor. They are implemented because moron producers want 20 contestants to play for 16 episodes, meaning there must be one episode where two people go home. Sometimes one gets voted out and the other leaves because of an injury. But tonight, the Heroes voted out Big James while the Villains said goodbye to Tyson. Though the villains won reward and got to eat hot dogs and watch the Heroes tribal council, neither team won this week, but that doesn't mean it was a bad episode. In fact, it was probably the best of the season, and for two reasons.

Last season, villainous Russell gave us at least 5 or 6 all-time Survivor moments, but one of them was the perfect execution of a hidden immunity idol. His alliance was down 8-4 in the numbers, and it looked like Russell and his mates would be voted out one by one. The majority decided it was Russell's turn to go since he was such a hard player and intense schemer (they were right). They also figured that he couldn't possibly have a hidden immunity idol because he just played one the week before. What they didn't count on was Russell finding his second hidden idol (once again without any clues). When they hit tribal council, Russell shocks everyone before the vote by playing another idol ("I'm not finished playin' yet..... keep hope alive."). The 8 votes for Russell are negated, and the 4 votes are enough to send home someone from the majority. Through other various tricks and deals, Russell's alliance of 4 went on to oust the other 7 castaways in succession, completing one of the greatest comebacks ever.

Why is that piece of history important? Firstly, because none of the returning All-Stars from this season got to watch Survivor: Samoa on TV because they were filming this season at the time, so none of them got to see how great a player Russell is. Secondly, because it shows you how to perfectly play the hidden immunity idol. Some idiots find it and assume they are protected (Big James in Survivor: China got voted out with two hidden idols in his pockets because he was too dumb to play them). Russell knows when to tell people that he has it, when to leverage it's power to gather allies, and ultimately when to play it.

Last week, Russell broke from the tribe rules by searching (and finding) the idol yet again!!! That landed him in the minority...again, but it didn't take long for him to recruit people to his cause. He confided in Parvati and Danielle that he had it and they were going to run the show with it (very important move... you'll see). In tonight's episode, the Villains had to vote someone out, and Boston Rob and his alliance of 6 was looking to take down Russell. Their plan: 3 votes for Russell and 3 votes for Parvati. If Russell played the idol, Parvati would go home. If he gave away the idol, he would go home. The plan makes sense, but they make a huuuuuuuuge mistake in underestimating Russell's brains. He lies to Tyson and says he'll vote for Parvati because there's no way he can keep her safe (technically true at the time). Tyson, not wanting a tie-breaker between Russel and Parvati, is going to switch his vote without telling anyone (bonehead...) to Parvati to ensure that she leaves because he thinks she's more of a threat than Russell (we now have the majority voting 4-2 for Parvati).

Are you still with me? Finally, at tribal council, Russell stuns the world again by giving his idol to Parvati, who promptly plays it. The votes end up 4 for Parvati, 3 for Tyson, and 2 for Russell. Parvati's 4 are negated, and the 3 votes (see how important is was for Russell to grab 2 allies?) for Tyson are enough. Danielle summed it up perfectly when she happily shrugged "What the hell just happened?" If you're a student of the game like I am, you really appreciate how Russell played this one, politically and strategically. The dude certainly knows how to play the idol...

The heroes continue to blunder every single week. They think 10 steps ahead of the game, and that's why Boston Rob keeps leading the villains to victory every week. The tribe continues to shift back and forth between the two major alliances, so each week they still have a fractured, unhappy tribe. In the beginning, there were two groups: Tom, Stephanie, and Colby vs. Cirie, Amanda, James, JT, Rupert, and Candice. In the past 5 weeks, they voted off Stephenie (Team A), then Cirie (Team B), then Tom (A), and now James (B). In an even dumber move, they got rid of Tom, their best player, because he was on the wrong side of the alliance, and decided to keep James and his severely sprained knee (he can't even walk!!!!). So do you think they'd get rid of Colby tonight and continue along those lines?!?! NO!!!!! Now they decide that James' knee injury is too much, and they voted him out. There is no plan, no unity, and no chemistry. It's no wonder the villains continue to whoop them each week.

What we've learned tonight: It takes a lot of balls to give up guaranteed safety in the game to someone else, but Russell is a Survivor genius. If he takes down the big bad Godfather, Boston Rob, whether he wins or not, he's automatically the greatest player in history. I doubt any of you are Survivor fans, and that's a shame, because this season is shaping up to be one of the best...

L O S T - Jin/Sun Up Next

For those of you hoping for back-to-back home runs after Alpert's episode last night, I've got some depressing news for you: The world's most hated/useless/pointless/ugly character is sharing her flashsideways with us next Tuesday, and she's dragging her husband along for the ride....Or is she? Not really a SPOILER ahead: Some websites have teased this as a shocker, but any LOST fans with half a brain realized in the season opener that Jin and Sun weren't married in their flashsideways. No wedding band and being called "Miss Paik" kinda made that clear.

Who. Gives. A. Shit.

Is there anybody out there I hate more than Sun-Hwa Kwon? Kate fights for her crown on a weekly basis, but in the end, Sun is far and away the worst. With each sentence out of her mouth, Kate's (similar to Sun's) level of stupidity and boneheadedness rises exponentially. But unlike Sun, Kate's role in L O S T could be an important one, and even an entertaining one if she ever stops acting like a goddamn retard. Despite very questionable tracking abilities, she has connections to important characters (Jack, Sawyer, Aaron), and has been around for important plot developments (trekking out to the cockpit, helping Claire give birth to Aaron, going on strike force ops, opening and exploring the hatch, getting captured by the Others five or six different times, raising Aaron, went back in time, etc.)

Sun's only connection is to Jin. She's entirely useless when he's not around, and since they got separated on the freighter allllllllllllllllllll the way back in season four, she's been absolute shit. In fact, even when Jin's around she's still a pointless character. Why she's still a series regular is beyond me. Searching for a long lost love can be accomplished effectively in a third of the screen time Sun gets, as evidenced by one Penelope Widmore.

Do I give a shit that she had Ji Yeon (a name JIN picked and an episode JIN owned, by the way)? No, because the kid is a loser with no special powers (see: Walt, Aaron, David "the Virtuoso" Shephard). I can count on one hand the noteworthy things she has done (and you can tell that each of these things are a reach for her character, things the writers forced on her so she'd remain in the story):

1. Started a crummy garden that barely provided anyone with anything.
2. Tried to be Jack's O.R. nurse
3. Mysteriousry knew Engrish.
4. Got pregnant on the island.
5. One of the Oceanic 6, though I can't explain it either.

You see? And I'm pretty sure that all of her important character developments only happen in the Jin/Sun-centric episodes. Which means once (sometimes twice) a season she tries to add something of value to the L O S T canon, the rest of the time she just dicks around. I want to fart in her face when I see her. When the writers chose Jin to go back in time with the A team, Sun's fate was sealed. They tried making her a power businesswoman in season four with laughable results, and so by season five they just said 'fuck it' and left her high and dry. She's been there ever since...

Is there anything to look forward to next week?

Well, we get to see Sun's swan song off the island, thank god.

And this might actually be the episode where Jin and Sun finally reunite.

Other than that, I'll be doing the same thing I do every L O S T night...

...hoping this happens:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

LOST Review: Ab Aeterno


Oh wait, is Mrs. Alpert standing next to me? In that case.... ¡Ay, mi cabeza!

This episode combined some of the best elements in LOST history to make one of the greatest episodes we've ever witnessed... no joke. They took the Odysseus-like journey of Desmond from the Season 2 finale, a Jacob/MiB conversation ten times better than the beginning of the season 5 finale, sprinkled in some Black Rock goodness from the Season 1 finale, added my new favorite music, and some great Island imagery. Oh, and how about the mythology overload?!?!? Hanso! Statue! Answers!!! I'm not sure where to even begin.

RICHARD'S JOURNEY - For whatever reason, LOST knows hows to introduce a backstory, because everyone's first flashback is pretty sweet. The buildup for Richard was immense, and his adventure needed to cover a lot of time and ground. It draws a lot of parallels to Desmond's adventure, which had to do with his mission to return to his lost love. Whereas Desmond was trapped in the Hatch, Richard was trapped in the Black Rock. Like Desmond, a desperate Richard panics and accidentally cracks some dude's skull open. Like Desmond, he is charged with the safe keeping of the Island. And like Desmond, he sports a glorious beard and long hair..... Anyway, Richard's journey from loving husband to guilt-ridden criminal to determined survivor to second in command was fantastic. Halfway through the episode, I was a little worried that we were spending too much time in the flashback, but I completely take that back. It's not often in LOST that we get an information overload, but this was one of those nights. Among the answers:

  • The statue wasn't crippled by Jughead or the Hatch, like many people thought. Instead, the Black Rock washed ashore in during a storm and crashed right through the damn thing.
  • Yes, it's confirmed that Richard was a slave on the Black Rock.
  • Richard doesn't age because he asked for immortality from Jacob in return for his service.
  • What game is Jacob and MiB playing? Like we've speculated in the past, MiB believes that man is corrupt and prone to sin. Jacob believes otherwise, so he brings people to the Island to prove MiB wrong. I was really hoping that we'd find out MiB's name in this episode.
  • Richard is Jacob's right-hand man because Jacob doesn't want to directly influence the castaways, so he uses Richard as an intermediary.
YOU HAVE TO KILL THE DEVIL - Mentioned throughout the episode is the idea that the Island is Hell, controlled by the Devil. I trust none of us really believe this, but it leads to an interesting lesson in power, influence, and persuasion. Richard is a religious man seeking absolution, so Smokey wisely motivates him by mentioning the Devil. He gives Richard the same pep about Jacob that Dogen gives Sayid about Smokey: Approach him and stab him in the heart. If you let him speak, it is already too late... It's interesting that in both cases, not only were Jacob and Smokey allowed to speak, but they were able to recruit their would-be assassins to their cause. I still don't know why Jacob died when he was stabbed by Ben, but Sayid's stabbing had no effect on Smokey. And finally, their final chat at the end of the episode about the CORK was awesome. The Island keeps the darkness bottled up like a cork bottles up wine. Dave thinks that since Smokey got around the cork by smashing the wine bottle, will he like-wise plan on obliterating the Island so he can leave?

One thing I didn't like about the cork and wine bottle is that it suggests the whole "genie-in-a-bottle" theory. Yeah, he's smokey, and yes, he offers to grant wishes. But still, my sister and I spent the beginning of the week making fun of this theory, and now the whole cork and darkness analogy just lends more weight to that. It's stupid... so let it go, genie believers!

"You have to stop the Man in Black. You have to stop him from leaving the Island. Because if you don't.... todos nos vamos al infierno!!!!" ****CUT TO ANGRY LOCKE FACE***

  • Visibly seeing Jack have an aneurysm when they tell him about Locke (imagine how he'll react to the Smoke Monster bit...)
  • Seeing Smokey up to his same old tricks. Even back in the day, he likes to take the form of loved ones to compromise their emotions and control them. For Richard, Smokey took the form of his dead wife. Here's a fun thought: When Smokey (as Isabella) ran into the Black Rock and embraced Richard, what does he do if Richard goes in for a smooch? Does Smokey grit his teeth and go for it? Just a thought...
  • "It's good to see you out of those chains..."
  • Jacob's baptism of Richard is probably loaded with significance.
  • Jacob telling Richard that everyone he brought to the Island has died. Smokey probably killed some of them, but I'm guessing he'd rather have them kill each other, as that would ultimately prove his point (see: Purge).
  • The classic Jacob smirk (see below)

BOTTOM LINE: Every seen between Richard and Smokey, Richard and Jacob, and Smokey and Jacob was INCREDIBLE. The moral tug-of-war throughout the episode is some of the most powerful stuff LOST has ever produced. Every season produces an episode that's way out there and ahead of the curve (see: Walkabout, Orientation, the Man Behind the Curtain, the Constant, and all of season 5). This is Season 6's defining episode.


P.S. - I just realized that I probably like this episode so much because there was no flashsideways. What a relief...

1. Ab Aeterno
2. the Substitute
3. Lighthouse
4. LAX
5. Dr. Linus
6. Sundown
7. Recon
8. What Kate Does

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Show You Should Be Watching: Breaking Bad

I've been looking for a new drama to get hooked recently, and despite my early interest, FlashForward and V didn't do it for me. My patience has run out on 24 and House this year, I stopped caring about Nip/Tuck last season, and LOST will be retiring in a few short months. I stumbled onto Breaking Bad this weekend when they had a "best of" marathon from seasons 1 and 2. From only 5 short episodes, I was hooked, and with Season 3 starting tonight, you'd be wise to start catching up, too.

The premise of the show is refreshingly unique and complex. Walter White (the awesome Bryan Cranston) is a brilliant chemist who settled for mediocrity and life as a husband, father, and high school teacher. And just when life couldn't get more dull, Walt finds out he has terminal lung cancer. Suddenly, even though he fears his own mortality, his family's security, and an unfulfilled life, Walt is forced to live without fear. And what else would a genius chemist stuck in Albuquerque do besides cook perfect crystal meth?

Walt (book smarts) teams up with punk drug dealer Jesse (street smarts) to make some quick cash selling crystal meth. It sounds simple enough, except Walt's brother is in charge of the local DEA office. From what I heard about the first two seasons, Walt has to consistently balance the lies he serves to his wife and special needs teenager, the danger of the drug underworld, and the physical toll that terminal cancer has on him. Walt is a good guy (or is he?) caught on a destructive path. You definitely need a heavyweight actor to pull off the intensity and humor of Walt White, and it's no surprise that Bryan Cranston has won 2 Emmys for this role. He was so hilarious as the happily oblivious and goofy Dad in Malcolm in the Middle that you forget he's got dramatic chops.

Though sometimes the drug cartel storyline veers too close to the Sopranos, the fish-out-of-water aspect to it is enough to keep you entertained. I know none of you listened when Dave suggested watching Mad Men (and don't listen to him when he suggests True Blood), but you can take my TV recommendations to the bank.... WATCH THIS SHOW.

Steelers Speak Publicly About Fat Ben

We are starting to hear from all corners of the Steelers organization, from the President to the Head Coach down to the lowly punter. And even though they are speaking in different places to different types of people (some saying more, others less), everyone is toeing the company line.

Said top brass Art Rooney II: "I mean, look that's one of the things, we do have a little bit of luxury of time," Rooney said Thursday afternoon. "If we were at a different point in the year we may have to be thinking and doing something different. But at the moment, I think we're in a situation we're going to let this investigation play out and then go from there." His comments were perfectly neutral and generic. Well done, boss.

Yep... she's hot. Keep your mitts off of her, Ben.

Next up is Head Coach Mike Tomlin: "I'm highly concerned for our franchise and for Ben personally," Tomlin said. "My concerns are many, but I think at this time it's kind of appropriate to watch these things and let these things run their course.

"But I think it would be inappropriate for me to have strong feelings one way or another with the investigation being ongoing and so forth. Like everyone else, you watch these things unfold," Tomlin added. Again, more thoughts that are perfectly understandable (I'm not quite sure why these even make the news...). You get the feeling that these guys are ready to turn on Ben if he's guilty.

Finally, punter/locker room neighbor Daniel Sepulveda: "It's regrettable to see him struggling in the media the way he has in putting himself in these positions," Sepulveda said. "You know, it's hard to comment on that kind of thing. We're going to be there for him as teammates in any way we can be to help him through these deals. I don't know, he's a very capable quarterback obviously. My locker's next to his in the game locker room, and that's on business day, you know that's game day. So I don't think I've said more than a couple sentences to him in the three years that I've been here even though we locker next to each other, but you know it's all business on game day so you can't read into that. . . . It's tough to say, we're gonna be there for him in any way that we can be, but you know it's not cool to see him getting in trouble like this all the time."

"Well, it's not good," Sepulveda said. "It certainly doesn't help. But, you know what? Leading a football team, that's an on and off the field thing. So, gosh, you know it's not a great way to earn the respect of the rest of the guys on the team. But you know at the same time we are a team, he is our leader. We're gonna be there for him in any way that we can be to help him through this because you know obviously he's gonna get attacked as a result so, and that's what the Steelers do, we stick together, we're a team. And that starts with the leadership of the Rooney family. . . . and that culture runs all the way through to the punter. So, you know, we're gonna be there for him."

really... would you want to hang out with this rube?

Sepulveda has certainly said more than anyone else, but he was stumbling through that statement while on a radio program. The highlight of all that nothin is that Big Ben never talks to him (what $100 million QB would speak with the punter anyway?!?!??!? IN FACT, the only people lame enough to talk with the punter are the place kicker and maybe the long snapper...).

Ok, so whats the point of all this? Three people inside the Steelers organization speak out about the rape case and the general consensus is "no comment until the investigation is over, but we'll stick by our QB." The interesting thing to me is that no one is coming out to defend Ben's personal character. No one is saying "Ben is such a nice guy, I can't believe he did this." And they aren't saying "Ben has been a great friend to us, so we will stand by him through this tough time." This only further confirms what most of us already know... Ben's a jerk. That's been the word coming out of Pittsburgh for years. Why has it taken so long for Big Ben to be the offensive captain of the team? Because even his teammates don't respect him. Ask a football fan how many team MVPs Ben has earned since 2004, and what will they say? Two? Three? Nope. He received his first one this past season, and it's no surprise to Steeler fans.

There are still two things that are irrefutable: Big Ben is an outstanding football player, and he hasn't been criminally charged (let alone convicted) of anything. Even though he's had his share of problems with Ken Whisenhunt, Bill Cowher, Hines Ward, car windshields, concussions, and women everywhere, I'll still take him over no-rings McNabb, Tony Homo, or any other QB in the league. And check out that glorious 'stache at the top of this post? Would a sexual predator sport a mustache like that? I rest my case.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

2 Hour Review of Final Fantasy VIII

With the new Final Fantasy game being released this month, I thought it would be sweet to look back on the old FF games with fond memories. But much like the 70 minute review of the Phantom Menace, someone decided to take something I thought was pretty good... and shit all over it. I know this will enrage Dave especially since he LOVED FF8. I obviously don't agree with all the nitpicked points in this review, but it's still amusing to hear the guy bitch about the Draw system, the card mini-game, and whiny mopey emo jerk Squall. Posted below is the 4th part which tears into the beginning of the story. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

LOST Review: Recon

Last week was a transition episode for Jack, Ben, and the other LOSTies living back at the beach. Unfortunately, this week was merely transitional for Locke, Sawyer, and co, too. And just like Dave predicted in the last post, Recon was some weak tea.

  • Winner by knockout: Smokey Locke, courtesy of an open-fisted haymaker on hysterical Claire. I nearly fell out of bed with laughter with this happened.
  • Miles once again playing the loyal partner to Det. LaFleurrrrrrrrrrr
  • Incorporating Indiana Jones into flirting is always a good idea.
  • Charles Widmore setting up base camp on Hydra Island. Is it significant that we didn't see Widmore on the Island? What's in the locked hatch? Desmond and Penny? Eloise? Faraday?!? Something that has to do with the Black Rock or Jacob? Start your guessing...
  • Evil Sayid indifferent to Kate getting her ass kicked.
  • There is no way in hell that Kate's dress is still in that polar bear cage. With all the rain, wind, leaves, dirt, and stormy weather that the Island has had in the last THREE YEARS, that dress is probably buried in the mud, caught in the brush, or ripped to pieces. There's no way it's still sitting where Kate last left it.... absurd...
  • Kate and Claire's creepy make-up hug.
  • Kate getting caught... again...
  • The predictability of the episode. We all correctly assumed that Sawyer was playing for both teams just like we all correctly assumed that Zoe wasn't an innocent lone survivor. And if you're really good, you also saw through his ruse at the beginning of the episode.
  • The flashsideways story. The only cool thing to look forward each week is how they handle the "reflection in a mirror" scene (Det. Ford punched it). For Sawyer, not only is he a cop (and dates Charlotte.... lame), but more importantly, he probably won't kill Anthony Cooper like he did in real life.
  • This was the first episode in a loooooooooooong time that didn't have a twist ending in the end that made you go "wowwwwwwwww!!!!!!!"
  • Final grade: C-

Total Rankings for the Season:
1. the Substitute
2. Lighthouse
3. LAX
4. Dr. Linus
5. Sundown
6. Recon
7. What Kate Does

Since this episode was kind of a stinker, let's talk about a crazy theory that my sister brought up today in one of our LOST chats. Ready for a Jughead-sized LOST bomb to detonate in your mind?



How is this possible? Let's consider the setup. The writers love drilling the idea of black vs. white and good vs. evil into our heads. The important thing is that they are two sides of the same coin, just like Jacob and Esau are two sides of the same personality... the Island. Never has this been more relevant than this season, when we get to see an alternate timelines based on the idea that our castaways are fundamentally the same person... except for one BIG difference. Sawyer was a con man looking to kill the real Sawyer, and is now a cop who will probably spare the real Sawyer. Jack had daddy issues, and is now a daddy with issues. Locke couldn't handle being paralyzed, and now he's cool with it. Sayid was a cold blooded killer, and... is still a cold blooded killer (I guess this theory isn't perfect). Nonetheless, we are seeing an interesting dichotomy between our castaways, and the same one exists among the heavyweights. I guess I kinda mislead you with my theory title, but whatever... it's still pretty cool.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

L O S T : Pic of the Week

The episode better not blow tonight.
It is a Sawyer episode, after all.
Expectations = low.

Also, Charlotte's coming back.
This was her reaction when Cuse and
Lindelof called her up about it.

No, seriously. You can find the video
from her interview about it over at E!Online.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Steelers Resign Foote, Randle El

Though I'm happy to have a couple of old friends back in Pittsburgh, I am a little bit troubled that the Steelers are going against company policy this offseason. The Steelers traditionally never overpay a veteran in their declining years. That's why we let Joey Porter, Jason Gildon, and even Franco Harris finish out their careers elsewhere. I thought that we might add Larry Foote and Antwaan Randle El to that list as well, but Kevin Colbert and co. are thinking differently.

The upside? I can take my Larry Foote jersey off of the wall, put it on, and start doing Foote-stomps in the street again without feeling like a fool. The downside? Randle El and Foote are not the only aging beauties who signed contracts with us these past few months (Casey Hampton is the fattest human being in Pittsburgh, and he just landed a 3 year contract). Some old vets continue to prove they are still worth a damn (Hines Ward), and it's not like Randle El and Foote will be starters (definitely not). I just hope we didn't sign these guys because they are friendly hometown faces. They better be ready to physically abuse the opposition.

Speaking of physical abuse, did you hear what KDKA's John Steigerwald (the only cool Steigy) had to say about Big Ben? Here's the quote:

"First of all, none of this surprises me. Ben is a bad citizen. He doesn't know how to treat people and he definitely doesn't know how to handle being the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In my more than 30 years of working in the Pittsburgh sports media, I have never had any player come close to generating as many unsolicited questions from fans as Roethlisberger has. They want to know why he's such a jackass. And these aren't just Steelers fans who got turned down for an autograph. It's men and women from all walks of life."

What a great day to be a Pittsburgh fan...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

LOST Review: Dr. Linus

For all of the elements and ingredients this episode had, you'd think it would be one of the best of the year. It's a Ben Linus episode, and he always delivers. We get to see the Black Rock, some dynamite, REUNIONS, and the old LOST camp back at the beach. It's an episode where both Locke (Smokey) AND Jack make an appearance, and we get supporting help from Arzt and Widmore, two fan favorites of the show. Despite all of that, it's really just a transitional episode with no huge reveals or mythological answers.

I've said that the novelty of the flashsideways universe has worn off, and it's pretty dumb, but mostly because we have yet to see a connection to the real LOST universe beyond those deja vu moments. This week's Linus story followed suit, but it was still one of the more enjoyable stories. The trend seems to be that we get to revisit scenarios that impacted our castaways the most. The constant chip on Jack's shoulder is his incessant need to fix things stemming from a father who told him he didn't have what it takes. So what's his big challenge in sideways world? Fixing his relationship with his son by telling him.... HE HAS WHAT IT TAKES!!!

For John Locke, his defining moment is when he was paralyzed, perfectly summarized by the line "Don't tell me what I can't do!" In normal world, this leads to a broken man hellbent on proving to everyone that he really has a special purpose (except it left him dead). In Imagination land, he corrects this mistake by telling Helen "they were right." He can't do it... and that's okay. Redemption 2, Damnation 0.

With Sayid, he chose the same path that he always chooses. He killed Omar and Keamy just like he killed Dogen and Lennon, just like he killed all the other dozens of people. I guess that's a point for damnation.

So for Ben's story, we get to revisit the death of Alex. In the real world, Charles Widmore used Alex as bait to get Ben to surrender his power. Ben balked, and Alex was murdered. This haunts him every day, so it's nice to see sideways Ben get a chance to correct that mistake. How many of you thought for a moment that he would sacrifice Alex to serve his own cause again, because I was definitely thinking that. Like Widmore, evil Principle Reynolds brings Alex into the middle of his power struggle with Ben. If Ben forces him to resign, Alex's future is ruined. This time, Ben does the honorable thing and relents. It's kinda funny that a history professor will sacrifice the greater good of the entire school to help a student, but a father wouldn't sacrifice his power (or the Island) to save his daughter.

And how about that emotional reunion at the end? Michael Giacchino is undefeated when it comes to to reunion music, by the way. You may of thought it silly that Sun was so happy to see Jack and Hurley, when really they've only been apart for a couple days. But Sun knows they went back in time to the 70s, and for them to return, she knows that Jin can't be too far behind. Imagine the campfire stories they'll exchange that night...

Other quick points:

  • Anyone else think that Widmore convinced Desmond to join him on the sub?
  • What is the destination of that sub? Hydra Island? The Barracks? Hmmm....
  • Jack's game of chicken with dynamite was my favorite scene in the episode. I expected Richard to renew his faith by jumping in at the last second to remove the fuse, proving that he believes in Jacob's plan. Instead, Mad Jack waits to the end until.... nothing. The fuse was extinguished by... something? nothing? Jacob? Who knows, but Richard is back on board!
  • Anyone else relieved that Karl wasn't in this episode as Alex's boyfriend?
  • Same old Smokey entrance.... why bother with all the mechanical noises? JUST WALK INTO THE SCENE AS LOCKE AND NO ONE WILL CARE!
  • I don't know what the to think of Widmore finding the Island twice in 3 years.... weird.
  • I really can't think of any other interesting points (Ilana sucks?). Like I said, this was mainly a transitional snoozefest.

2009 FLOBY Winners

Over the past weekend, the 4th Annual FLOBY Awards were held, celebrating the very best and worst of film in 2009. Though marred by minor technical difficulties and some audience members who didn't give a shit (like my grandma's boyfriend), I declare the ceremony a rousing success. Unlike boring old Oscar, where the Best Picture, Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, Animated Film, and Original Score were expected to win, FLOBY was filled with surprising and unprecedented moments.

For the first time in the history of FLOBY, one film pulled a Silence of the Lambs and swept the major awards. In a shocking (at least to me) turn of events, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS took home the awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Christoph Waltz), and Best Actress (Melanie Laurent). You'll remember from my predictions that I was correct about one of them, but thought that zero of them deserved it. But that's not because Inglourious Basterds was an undeserving film; in fact, it was incredibly entertaining. I thought that for our simple Academy of 12, the heavy use of foreign languages and subtitles mixed with a fractured plot and a ton of characters would be too much to bear. To my tickled surprise, it wasn't.

But that's not forget about FLOBY's ugly kid sister, CARNY, for she also came very close to a clean sweep. Transformers 2 was named Worst Film, with Megan Fox winning the Worst Actress race. I didn't see the wretched film, but am satisfied with it's horrific finish. For the Worst Actor race, Shia Labeouf couldn't complete the trifecta, and instead the CARNY went to Will Ferrell for his work in Land of the Lost. Again, since I try to avoid films that I know will suck ass, I avoided that shitty film too.

And who joins Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford as FLOBY Lifetime Achievers? In another FLOBY first, a comedian was honored.....

And just for fun, here's my list of the Top Ten movies of 2009. Full speed ahead to FLOBYS 2010!

10. Taken
9. Zombieland
8. Adventureland
7. the Hurt Locker
6. Avatar
5. the Hangover
4. Up in the Air
3. Inglourious Basterds
2. District 9
1. Up

Also kills teenage girls pretty well.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

...But Still Awesome

Remember Steelers
fans, the most
important part of my
colleague's previous

Huge Ben has won as
many Super Bowls as
he has raped*

That's right.

Super Bowls, baby.
Two of 'em.***

*slept with


***six total, philly

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fat Ben Accused of Rape... Again

Sooooo disappointing.... what a huge idiot....

So Fat Ben Roethlisberger has allegedly raped as many girls as he has won Super Bowls, and Steeler fans (especially those in hostile southwestern Ohio) are left stunned and embarrassed. The details are kinda sketchy. All we know is the alleged victim is a 20 year old college student. Big Ben and Willie Colon were out bar hopping in Georgia (where Ben has a house), and eventually hit multiples bars with the victim. Supposedly, the sexual assault took place inside a bathroom, and she didn't waste much time reporting it to the cops.

Speaking of the cops, they interviewed everyone involved and will be holding a press conference soon. Stay tuned to tmz.com and profootballtalk.com for more updates.

The only thing Ben is guilty of is a hideous mullet... (and being fat).

Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains

For Survivor's tenth year and 20th season, they decided on a second edition of All-Stars, but this time the tribes are divided between castaways who succeeded at playing the game with honor and integrity, and those who schemed and lied their way to the top. We are only 4 episodes in (watch them online), and here are the best highlights:

  • In the very first challenge of the very first episode, Rupert broke his toe, Stephanie dislocated her shoulder, and Sugar's bra was unhooked and ripped off by Sandra (but it didn't stop Sugar from running to the finish line topless)
  • The Heroes Tribe and Villain Tribe immediately started operating differently, kinda like Mufasa vs. Scar. The Heroes were physically stronger and dominated the athletic part of challenges, but the Villains skill with strategy/puzzles have powered them to a 3-1 lead through 4 episodes.
  • The labels are starting to shift to the middle. Originally, the Heroes had strong team chemistry, hard work ethic, and a better built shelter. The Villains spent most of their time scheming and had a piss poor shelter as a result. However, the Heroes have already fractured into alliances and decided to have an 'every-man-for-themself' search for the hidden immunity idol. The Villains (mostly because they keep winning) are now more cohesive as a unit, and they decided to avoid the idol. If anyone broke off from the group to search for it, they were marked for death (ahem..... Russell).
  • In my Survivor pool at work, I drafted Coach Wade with the 10th pick. He's by far the most eccentric guy on the Island. He's arrogant, chauvinistic, and he's not afraid to compare himself to "legends" like King Arthur. He is, however, afraid of getting his feelings hurt, as you'll see in the clip below. It turns out, surprisingly, that the Villains would rather mock a guy for spouting MLK, Sun Tzu, and Confucius quotes. They also laugh at him for putting feathers in his hair, doing Tai Chi, and telling his farfecthed adventure stories. Still, the guy is incredibly entertaining, so here's hoping he sticks around...
  • Russell, the most dominating player in Survivor history, is trying to hard to compete for air time amongst the Villains that he's up to his old bag of tricks (see the second video).
  • Boston Rob passed out from a nasty flu and was so disoriented and weak that he couldn't even bring a bottle of water to his lips without pouring water all over himself. He then broke down and cried to Probst for ten minutes about how he respects the game too much to let it beat him.
  • Last night, the game featured it's first blindside of the season AND the successful playing of a hidden immunity idol. The majority (James, Rupert, JT, Cirie, Amanda, and Candice) would split their votes 3-3 between Tom and Colby to account for Tom playing the idol (which he did). However, they did not expect JT to switch his vote and help out the two nice guys. The votes for Tom ended up not counting, Colby only drew two votes, and Cirie was sent home with 3. Blindsides are awesome.
Enjoy the clips, and watch this awesome show.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

LOST Review: Sundown

"Sundown" was Sayid's episode to shine, and it would be silly of me to say that we covered new ground with the character. I could start with the old saying, "insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Or I could use "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Either way, it's kinda funny that almost every single Sayid story revolves around the same point: Sayid wants to believe he's not a killer.... but he really is. Surprise ending.

Whether it's "I swore I'd never do that again" or or "I'm a good person" or "I'm not that man anymore," it doesn't matter... and it definitely doesn't matter to Sawyer, Nadia, Henry Gale, Widmore's men, lil Ben, and all the other men he's (regretfully) tortured/killed. We can now add Dogen and Lennon to that list. First, Dogen convinced Sayid he had to kill a god (no small task), but really he was playing the dumb Iraqi. Knowing that Smokey wouldn't die, Dogen hoped Sayid would then be killed and rid of the "sickness." Since Sayid's inherent evil is probably linked with Smokey, there was no way Locke would disregard a big asset. And so he turns the tables back on the fools at the Temple. Sayid pulls a one-man Trojan Horse, struts back into the Temple, and drowns the Gatekeeper and his interpreter.

Locke is then able to storm the Temple like the famous F5 tornado in nearby Xenia, OH, and Sayid's journey to the dark side is complete. Can we finally put this story to bed? Sayid is an evil killer beyond saving. End of discussion.

Other awesome thoughts about LOST:

  • Come on Sayid... at least part of you had to wonder that Kate was the person you were supposed to kill upon leaving the Temple. How great would it have been if you had just strolled up to her and impaled her!?! I guess someone else has dibs on the honor...
  • Um.... even with a running head start, why didn't Richard beat Claire and Smokey to the Temple?
  • With most of the cast coming together (and some help from Jack and Jin cameos), they almost got the entire cast into one episode (tough break, Sawyer).
  • If Smokey's allowed to cheat by throwing objects at people to knock them out of their ash ring of protection, why can't he just have Claire sweep away at the ring outside the temple so he can get in?
  • For not knowing or caring about Dogen, his one little heartfelt story about killing his little boy in a drunk driving accident still got to me. And when the baseball floated to the top of the pool... so sad...
  • Did anyone else not care about Sayid's sidestory? Again, we were given the whole "Seriously, guys, I'm NOT a killer!" routine, but we all knew that names would be taken and skulls would be cracked. AND WHAT A GREAT CAMEO BY MOBSTER MARTIN KEAMY!!!
  • When Locke told Sayid that he would be able to see his dead wife again, were you also thinking it had more to do with the flash-sideways universe and less to do with regular timeline resurrection?
  • Ben is responsible for the deaths of probably a billion people, including his daughter and JACOB, yet he seems to be on the path of redemption right now. If he can be saved, Sayid could, too. I know I just said Sayid is "beyond saving. End of discussion," but it wouldn't surprise me if had a happy ending since he's such a fan favorite.
  • Then again, if Sayid knew that Jacob distracted him long enough to allow Nadia to be hit by the car, he'd stick with Smokey to the end...
Overall, I give this episode a B. I don't care much for the bizarro world, but the sundown showdown was pretty entertaining. And now that we're on the cusp of a full cast reunion, it's a very exciting time. We weren't given many answers about the mythology of the Island, but it appears the WAR has begun. So far, it's a whitewash for the Man in Black. Check back in next week when Jin and Sun probably reunite, and we probably get another lame sidestory...