Saturday, March 24, 2007

Trailer Curmudgeons, Vol. 5: Summer movies (plus four others)

Did you miss us? Of course you didn't. In order of release date, then.

Firehouse Dog (April 4)

See it in Quicktime.

Todd: Somehow, the world's most famous dog falls out of a plane and ends up as a firehouse dog (hence, the title). He also meets a little boy and everyone learns a little something about courage and friendship and what-not. I think I saw this in a Disney movie once, except that was about a raccoon who got stuck in a house that someone was moving cross-country or something. So it's really not like this at all. I just wanted to bring it up in case anyone knows what that movie was so I can someday subject my children to it.

Libby: No one knows the world's most-famous dog, unless he's wearing his tuxedo. Ergo, every dog in a tuxedo is famous.

(Actually, I'm pretty sure that's the Heisenberg Principle.)

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (April 13)

Watch it in Quicktime.

Todd: What the hell movies do they SHOW this in front of? I can't imagine any audience for, say, Wild Hogs seeing this and 99% of said audience not being completely BAFFLED by it. "Why are the French fries talking, Todd?" That's what my mom would say if she had seen this trailer. And now she will.

Libby: I'm so glad I'm quitting my theater job so I don't have to answer people who say, "What's THAT movie about?"

Bonus ATHF video!

The Nanny Diaries (April 20)


Man, Scarlett Johansson rocks the Martha Washington ensemble. Other than the fact that I will get to see her in panties in this movie, I see no real reason to see it, even if it is (weirdly) from the directors of the very indie, very funky American Splendor (yeah, I know?!). But MAN, she's hot. Yeah, I'll probably see this too.

Libby: When people watching your trailer are fondly remembering the experience they had watching The Devil Wears Prada, you may have a problem.

Year of the Dog (Spring 2007)


So we mostly just picked this so we could get to 20 trailers, but it turned out to be oddly charming (and if you haven't guessed yet -- you will soon -- the theme of this post is "Movies with cute animals Libby likes"). Future Aquaman John C. Reilly does his best with lines like, "These are my knives!" and Molly Shannon is an engaging lead. Plus, lots and lots of dogs!

I need a house so then I can have, like, 50 puppies in my house.

Spider-Man 3 (May 4)


Todd: There's actually supposed to be another, newer trailer for this, but I couldn't find it, so you get this older one. Honestly, even though the second movie (with its whole "Spiderman-as-Job" plotline) was pretty awesome, this one seems a little overstuffed. Spider-Man AND Evil Spider-Man AND MJ AND Hobgoblin AND Sandman AND Venom AND Gwen Stacy AND Aunt May AND a special cameo by Robert Townsend as The Meteor Man (and typing this sentence, obscure '90s movie reference aside, made me feel like the biggest geek ever)? I don't see how they make this "let's throw in all of the other Spider-Man plotlines that we didn't get to in the first two" concept work in one movie, but you'd better believe I'll be there opening weekend.

Libby: "A man has to put his wife before everything else," says Aunt May. Are you LISTENING, TODD?

Nancy Drew (May 15)

(This comes from something called "nothing but emma xx." Opines Libby, "It's only two x's because she's underage.")


Todd: I'm so glad that someone crossed the evergreen teen detective series from the many pens that make up the nom de plume Carolyn Keene with my favorite movie of all time, The Brady Bunch Movie. What's more, this movie has a little fat kid, and there's nothing more fun than a little fat kid, as The Adventures of Pete and Pete proved. Also, for Libby's sake, I'm glad at least ONE Roberts has a movie coming out this summer.

Libby: One of us has read every Nancy Drew book. Guess who?

Shrek the Third (May 18)


Todd: So. The first Shrek was kind of fun. Then the second Shrek came out, had exactly two good jokes and made more money than any other animated film in the U.S. and Canada. Inexplicably! Do you ever run into people who say, "Oh, I just LOVED Shrek 2!" Because I never do! And look! All of your favorite, one-joke characters are back for this installment, everyone! And they've added MORE one-joke characters! And absolutely none of them are funny! What? "Totally ew-eth." That's supposed to be FUNNY? I hate you, America.

Libby: Go, Shrek 3, because nothing is as funny as Todd's rage!

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (May 25)


Todd: So I rather famously hated the second Pirates. But what I hated most of all about it is that it seemed like a trailer for Pirates 3. And now that there's an ACTUAL trailer for Pirates 3, it's as though the creative team decided that it was probably well-nigh on about time they started telling the story they spent over $600 million to make. Pretty much, from this trailer, it seems like movie two only explained who Davy Jones is and how Jack Sparrow died (OMG, SPOILERS?!), so you could probably just watch movie one and movie three and get the whole experience anyway. Still. Giant waterfalls! Whirlpool gun battles! Sword fights! The monkey! Yeah, I'm back in for this one.

Libby: It's like "Star Wars" but with Pirates!

Eagle Vs. Shark (June 1)


Todd: Hey! This is just a quirky foreign comedy! It's not about an eagle vs. a shark at all!

Libby: I feel that there is a lot of eagle vs. shark conflict that was left out of this film. I think that this film had the potential for greatness, and instead, it's like crappy New Zealand Napoleon Dynamite, when it could have been an eagle fighting a shark.

Knocked Up (June 1)


After a month that features the third movies in three of the biggest movie series ever, Universal is betting that what you'll really want is a reunion of what looks to be the complete cast of Freaks and Geeks, minus Linda Cardellini, but plus Paul Rudd and Katherine Heigl (and while her contract dispute with ABC is ridiculous, I think after this movie she can throw all the snit fits she wants). I liked 40-Year-Old Virgin, but I wasn't in love with it, but still, I DO want to see the complete cast of Freaks and Geeks -- I do, I do! And after the rave reviews from SXSW, I think movie theaters across America won't know what hit them.

Libby: I have nothing snarky to say! I just really want to see this!

(Caution: The following is not safe for work or my mom.)

(Oh and Wash! Wash!!!)

Ocean's 13 (June 8)


Todd: I seem to be the only person in America who preferred the completely daft Ocean's 12 to the "look at our plot!" machinations of Ocean's 11, so I'm a little glum that it appears they've gone back to doing heists in Vegas in this one. Still, I laughed a lot at all of the actors wearing ridiculous costumes, so they're doing something right. And Al Pacino!

They're just all so pretty!

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (June 15)


Todd: If this movie is about how the Silver Surfer systematically kills all four members of the Fantastic Four by dragging them into space, then I will definitely see it.

Libby: If I have to see this movie, I will kill myself.

(But she liked the first one so much!)

Evan Almighty (June 22)


Todd: This trailer is sort of cheating, since its best joke is also pretty much the only good joke in the movie's prequel, Bruce Almighty. But, actually, I got a few chuckles out of this, as opposed to the no chuckles I got out of the first one, and I love Lauren Graham, Steve Carell, John Goodman and Wanda Sykes (in roughly that order), and Morgan Freeman continues his quest to play every Magical Black Man ever with his return in the part of God. Plus, bonus: No borderline blasphemous premise!

Libby: Michael Scott and Lorelai Gilmore would have funny kids. And by funny, I mean annoying.

Live Free or Die Hard (June 29)


Todd: The quest to resurrect every '80s action hero and give them all sons (a trend that will reach its apotheosis next summer with SHIA LEBEOUF as the son of INDIANA JONES -- Mr. Spielberg, just. . .no) continues here as Justin Long sits alongside Bruce Willis' wisecrackin' superhero in the fourth Die Hard. The first Die Hard was a pretty great distillation of everything that makes the action genre so fun to watch. This just looks overblown. Plus, it has a ridiculous title, reflecting the nation's current fascination with all things New Hampshire.

Libby: So I was watchin' this show the other day, and the guy in it was really charismatic and attractive -- I think it was called Moonlighting -- anyway, the guy in it has the same name as the guy in this movie! That's weird. They probably made that guy change his name.

Ratatouille (June 29)

(OK. Only Disney has this trailer right now, so go here. In the meantime, here's Brad Bird talking about the movie.)

Todd: I still don't know which kids are going to go see this (a rat who wants to be a famous Parisian chef? that sounds like a bad Sundance movie!), but it looks great. Brad Bird's a phenomenal director of animation, and it looks like he's somehow crafted a movie about talking rats, great cooking and romance. Finally, a movie you can enjoy with that creepy lady at the pet store! (You know. The one who always says that a rat would make a great pet. Every pet store's got one.)

Libby: Rat! Rat rat rat rat rat rat! Rat rat rat rat rat rat rat rat! He is so cute! Yay!

Transformers (July 4)


(Okay, the Quicktime trailer is totally different. Just checking to see if you were paying attention.)

Todd: When I was a child, I was totally in to Transformers. All of my friends had the action figures, even my friends at the deeply fundamentalist church I went to (since Transformers were only robots and didn't use any magic and had no souls, I guess they were OK). But I didn't get to have any Transformers because my parents said they were too expensive. Instead, I got GO-BOTS. And I only got ONE Go-Bot. I was told it was a kind of Transformer until Jonathan Wunder came over and made fun of me for having a Go-Bot and not a Transformer. Shattered, I hid my Go-Bot at the bottom of the toy chest and returned to having my stuffed animals have elaborate pretend adventures and complicated family trees.

I will see this movie 500 times to spite my mother.

Libby: At least there will never be a Go-Bot movie.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (July 13)


Todd: First, everyone take a moment to pity your poor local theater employees, who will have to put up with all of the movies mentioned in this thread, PLUS The Bourne Ultimatum. They're going to be swarmed by teenage boys, breathing through their mouths, ordering popcorn, reducing the theater employees to tears (before they, too, go see all of these movies). They should just be thanking God that Narnia slipped to 2008. Anyway, seeing Harry Potter movies seems almost obligatory at this point, but this has a nice, dark look to it, and the book was one of my favorites. Plus, the final book will be coming out eight days later, so we'll all pretty much be required to see this by law. And who doesn't want to see the directorial debut of "State of Play" director David Yates!? Most of America, judging by the way Libby is looking to and fro, as though this were the first time she had heard of him.

Libby: Is that that guy that did the show about the politics that you tried to make me watch?

Todd: No.


The Simpsons Movie (July 27)


Todd: Grandpa's reading Oatmeal Enthusiast! Bart's nether-regions are no bigger than a common French fry! Homer is gently blowing raspberries on the belly of a pig! And they even worked in a Gabbo reference! Sure, the opening gag is ripped off from the South Park movie trailer and the show hasn't been very good in a few seasons, but they've reunited the writing team from the seasons three through eight glory years, and it looks like they've mostly succeeded. I can't tell what movie will encompass all of these seemingly random plot points, but, as a good one-time teenager of the '90s, I'm definitely going to find out.

Libby: They forgot Sea Cap'n. And what about Jasper? EVERYBODY FORGETS JASPER!

Underdog (August 3)


Todd: One nation under dog? That's the best you could do Disney? And for a movie that has Amy Adams in it, this trailer has a conspicuous LACK of Amy Adams. Disney, if you knew what was good for you, you could get a comment full of Amy Adams Amy Adams Amy Adams, etc. But since you suck, you only get FIVE. Still, the dog flies around. I'm sure Libby will love this. I just can't wait for Jason Lee in the live-action Chipmunks movie (coming this holiday season!).

Libby: You remember how good Jason Lee was in The Incredibles? This was like, Earl gets transformed into a dog. Which, coincidentally, would be a pretty good episode.

Fred Claus (Christmas 2007)


Todd: This continues the trend of "Vince Vaughn is in our movie, so let's just let him talk through the trailer" trailers. It got The Break-Up to over $100 million, inexplicably, and this has a better premise AND Paul Giamatti. Still, most of the talking here isn't all that funny, until Paul Giamatti starts talking about how dogs can't fly and then threatens to give Vince a wet willy (in full Santa regalia, no less). As a certified Christmas nut (seriously, Libby and David fear for my sanity), I was just happy to hear a little "Let It Snow" in the trailer's opening moments (YAYAAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYYA CHJRISTMASHGHAH!H!H!H).

Libby: Uhhhhhhh. . .yay, Christmas?


"You know what you people lack? Whimsy.": Bones

This was one of those episodes with a half-interesting mystery of the week masking the conclusion of a much more interesting background arc. The mystery of the week had a funny gimmick, in that the body was entirely without bones--they had all been removed to be sold for some crazy ancient Chinese burial ritual. Which meant the corpse was more of a fleshy sack than an actual body, which was nicely creepy and gross. The team's efforts to try and solve a case without bones (and, indeed, without Brennan, who was trying her best to vacation with boyfriend Sully) ranged from amusing to more amusing. Funniest was Hodgins and Zach blowing up the corpse's head with a balloon--the action itself was hardly droll, but their nerdy glee about it was hilarious, and everyone else's disturbed reaction even better.

Although I guessed the killer (as I usually do) from her first appearance, the list of suspects was a little more broad and the plot a little more convoluted. Week to week, Bones has a little trouble making its plots really matter, mostly because it knows everyone really cares about Booth/Brennan and maybe a little wisecracking. This week I thought the boneless corpse was really getting the short shrift, but it was tied up with a really rather nice touch. Angela, feeling bad for the poor dissected mail-order bride and the unmarried dead male she was dissected to be buried with, sketched a wedding portrait and hung it above their bones. Reading that back, it just sounds really morbid and weird, but with the episode's other major plot taken into account, it worked really well. I promise.

So let's get onto that other plot, right? With Brennan and Sully's relationship at a high, unusual considering her track record with men (and her disarming frankness about them), something was bound to go wrong. As I mentioned last week, I was afraid that Sully, a basically nice guy with a tragic tinge to him (Booth mentioned he had lost his previous partner on the job), would die in the line of duty, just because that sort of thing tends to happen to recurring characters on procedurals. Happily, Sully didn't go out in a blaze of glory, but in a more considered way, as Brennan basically had to choose between him and her job. Ever the dreamer, Sully decided to buy a boat and go sailing around the Caribbean for a year, inviting Brennan to be his first mate (honestly, I think the guy's a bit of a loon). Surprisingly, everyone down to Booth urged Brennan to go with him, which obviously meant she was going to turn him down (apart from the fact that Bones is nothing without its ubiquitous star). But when she did, it was very well played on Deschanel's part, especially considering that her character never gets a lot of emoting done through the show.

So, with the Sully arc over, Brennan and Booth are reunited to wisecrack until the season finale. Because then, and ONLY then, should they get together. So says I. They can have their individual strumpets to distract them until then, I suppose, but really, this episode's most satisfying moment (apart from maybe Brennan tearfully checking out the married bone corpses) was Booth showing up to comfort his partner as she said buhbye.


Friday, March 23, 2007

"I'm an easy mark for evil redheads": Grey's Anatomy

In my opinion, another strong week for Grey's Anatomy, which I think is making a smart switch back to wacky medical cases & relationship stuff after its middling foray into epic sweeps catastrophe. Others seem not to agree, thinking the latest big twist (Gizzie, or Izorge) is a bridge too far. Alan Sepinwall, for one, has basically declared that he's washing his hands of the show. However, although Izzie & George's hookup in itself was a rather lame resort at sparking drama by the writers, the aftermath was handled very well in this episode, "My Favorite Mistake".

Basically, the aftermath was that Izzie was stunned to find how much she had enjoyed sleeping with George, but the ridiculously hungover O'Malley couldn't remember a darn thing. Props to the makeup people for just how extremely wasted George looked, btw. Anyway, I was afraid there would be lame farcical antics as George tried desperately to cover up his infidelity, but having him emerge from the bourbon cloud only halfway through (while meeting his new father-in-law, no less) and share only a couple meaningful scenes with Izzie, both of them strictly downbeat, had me pretty sold on the plot twist as a whole. Specifically, the linen closet scene (his confrontation with the truth) was quite well done, especially considering the lack of dialogue--Grey's Anatomy above all other shows can be guilty of verbal diarrhea. While George is very honorable and Izzie loves to suffer and pine over unavailable men, I can't see this plot going away ANYTIME soon. Izzie's little speech about it being meant to be or whatever indicates to me that eventually, it'll come out. And it'll probably be all dramatic and annoying. But right now, just this episode, the whole thing was pretty good.

What else happened this week? Derek and Meredith continued to mope silently--I dread to think what catastrophes await them, but pray that they somehow just stick together for the rest of the show and are never annoying or break up ever again. I know that's futile, but whatever. Not unusually, theirs was one of the weakest plot strands, so much so that I will not summarize their vague turmoils. Much better was the showdown for who gets to be chief. Why was it better? Because I TOTALLY CALLED IT! While the British ringer (Roger Rees) had all the other attendings in a tizzy with his ten-year-plan for the hospital, Sloan took Bailey's sage/wiseass advice to have a plan for NOW and swept the board off of its feet. Or something. The important thing is, the writers are totally taking my advice and making Sloan the new Chief of Surgery. Now, I know they probably won't write Webber out of the show, and Sloan probably WON'T become Chief, but still, I. TOTALLY. CALLED. IT. Go Mark.

The patients were all fine, although I thought they made way too much effort to laboriously link them with their respective doctors. I mean, Grey's Anatomy has never been a subtle show, but it seemed really hamfisted this week. Worst of all was Cristina was trying to save a patient's foot and her relationship with Burke at the same time, because it was all better in the past...or something. Pretty tenuous stuff, not helped by repeated moments of Cristina saying "I gotta save this guy's foot!" and "I gotta get back in a good place with Burke!" together a lot. As usual, all these patient plots were saved by the fact that Grey's always has top-notch guest stars, usually harvested from other great TV shows, dead or alive. This week, for example, had Elizabeth Moss and the aforementioned Rees (The West Wing), Catherine Dent (The Shield), Michael Boatman (Spin City) and, best of all, Hector Elizondo as Callie's gravel-voiced dad (Elizondo's gravel voice couldn't quite match Edward James Olmos, but it was good enough to convince me that he needs a new show).

Also as usual, possibly the best stuff in this episode, like almost every episode as of late, came from Alex. While the Jane Doe case is a little hackneyed, they're underselling it by burying it as a B-plot in every episode, it means I'm always looking forward to any of his scenes. Justin Chambers, people! Anyway, this is the last new episode until like, late April, so enjoy repeats and October Road until then. I'll be back with a late Bones recap and a review of the retooled, possibly improved (although probably not) Six Degrees.


"I keep waiting for Mr. Roper to show up.": Ugly Betty

I've come to the conclusion that Ugly Betty is everything Desperate Housewives was purported to be in its first season and more.

The show's definitely campy (thought to be Housewives biggest saving grace). But it also has a host of great characters (somewhere where Housewives fell down outside of one or two) and genuinely amusing writing. I'm not a fan of camp, but the character writing is so humorous and specific and the one-liners so sharp that I'll forgive the show its over-the-top moments. Plus, the soap plotting on Betty is stronger too -- it's just plain more audacious than Housewives.

But Ugly Betty has a heart too. Housewives had a heart in its pilot, but it misplaced it along the way when it decided it was the world's best satire of the suburbs. Now, Betty's heart makes it sound like some sappy TGIF show -- and it threatens to fall into that pit every so often, especially when Betty makes a pep talk -- but it also knows that heart isn't always enough to make it in the world. You can be the best person ever and still have the world crap all over you. Or you can come out to your mother and have her completely reject you and cut you out of her life. (Housewives actually tried a similar plot with Bree's son, but couldn't figure out how the characters would relate to each other and I think he became a hustler or something? I kind of lost the plot on that one.) Just when you think Betty is getting too mawkish, someone undercuts the sentimentality of the moment or something devastating happens to one of the characters (think, for another example, of Justin singing the complete score to Hairspray on the subway) and the show regains its footing. One of the reasons you don't see Ugly Betty praised more in the media is that the show just doesn't seem like it's good. I go into it every week sure that I'm misremembering its quality and every week, I come out of it shocked that it was as good as advertised and sometimes better. Betty LOOKS like the kind of show that's crap, but it's not. It's really, really not. And that's probably its greatest trick of all (compare this to October Road, which looks like it should be good and is actually crap).

It should be admitted at this point that I'm a sucker for farcical plots where someone tells a lie and things gradually spin out of control, especially if the sheer number of lies is kept to a minimum (nothing's less fun than a farce where the plot grows SO unwieldy that we're always trying to keep track of it). So when Amanda got her revenge on Marc for removing her as his beard for his intolerant mother by saying that Betty was his new girlfriend, I was on board. But the way the lies then spiraled further out from that (encompassing even Justin, who thought it would be great fun to play along) kept the episode crackling, as did Patti LuPone, who fit right in with the ensemble as Marc's mother.

One of the things I liked about Betty's early episodes that has sort of been misplaced in recent, soapier episodes was that the show contrasted the glossy, soapy world of Mode magazine with Betty's home life. I understand from the Entertainment Weekly article that the producers felt the fans didn't want to see Betty's dad deal with his HMO, but the Alexis plotline completely spun the show off into the Mode world. While that was fine for a few episodes, it threatened to disrupt the balance -- Betty's sentimental streak is only believable if she has that open, perfect home life that no one at Mode ever had, and it was getting misplaced. Fortunately, this episode righted that balance again, as Marc took his mother to meet his new "girlfriend's" family. Putting him and his mom in this situation was inspired, and LuPone's finely tuned, hammy comic timing gradually brought the dinner scenes to a full boil.

The story about Daniel and Alexis competing to run Mode wasn't quite as interesting as the other stuff, but how could it be? It was all right, but the running motif and the letter voiceover at the end belabored a point that has been driven home for weeks and weeks now. And Wilhelmina deciding to seduce Bradford? That could go either way, but I'll wait a little while to see how it goes. Still, any Meade family storyline is greatly improved by the suddenly awesome Judith Light, who makes the most of any scene -- even being handcuffed to a hospital bed.

So yeah. . .good episode! Let's hope more of you watched it than Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader? (HONESTLY, America?)


Thursday, March 22, 2007

"We have two giant hamsters running on a massive wheel at our secret underground lair.": Lost

So after all these years, Terry O'Quinn's work as John Locke can still break hearts. In the first season, the character of Locke quickly became the show's most fascinating, thanks to O'Quinn's titanic performance and two flashback episodes that let him rip into his storyline with vigor. The dual punch of Walkabout (which closed with that "he was in a wheelchair all along!" reveal -- which I totally called) and Deus Ex Machina remains unmatched in the show's history, and the conception of the character as some sort of island voodoo witch doctor thing was the perfect goose the show needed when there had to be a character to go off and do the crazy stuff necessary to advance the plot. This was a man who discovered a hatch and came up with a dozen ways to open it. He taught a young boy to throw knives. He wanted the monster to take him, for God's sakes!

But in season two, he became an office drone, punching in numbers on a computer endlessly. O'Quinn was still mesmerizing, and he wrung the most emotion he could out of the two more meager flashbacks he got (the storyline of his breakup with his girlfriend thanks to his -- yes -- father issues was rather preposterous and verged on dull, but O'Quinn dragged it across the finish line). I think there was some sort of point in the whole storyline about how we allow our aspirations and dreams to carry us to places we don't really want to be inherent in the whole hatch storyline, but typing on a computer just isn't dramatically interesting.

Fortunately, the writers brought in the character of Henry Gale (later revealed to be an Other named Ben Linus) and, even more fortunately, hired Michael Emerson to play him. O'Quinn and Emerson had a nice, occasionally creepy chemistry, and the scenes between the two redeemed much of Locke's arc for the latter half of the year.

So it was dismaying to see Locke turn into a bumbler a few weeks ago (blowing up the communication station after being more thrilled to play a computer game than watch a prisoner). But the show has slowly revealed that to be his plan all along, and I salute them for playing (sort of) fair. While it's still preposterous that Locke wouldn't want to leave the island at all (much less let his friends leave), there's an attempt at emotional continuity just because he hated that wheelchair so much. So we can sort of see that he's afraid that he'll be paralyzed again (the magic of the island keeping him from being so) and that he's afraid if he lets others go, they'll bring back more who will swarm the place. Hence, blowing up a submarine.

Most of the episode was based around that Locke/Ben pairing that the show got so much juice out of in season two, and it was just as potent here, whether Ben was feeding Locke chicken or trying to manipulate him or playing an elaborate game of "What's in the box!?" While it's a little silly, I like the idea of the magic box, and I'm willing to go with it unless the execution is completely hamfisted. And it certainly ties in with the Others' interest in Walt and the fact that everyone has seen their greatest desires and their worst fears externalized on the island.

The other plot -- namely, what happened to Sayid and Kate when they came to save Jack and how Jack and Juliet dealt with this -- was also pretty good, though I never know why, exactly, Sayid always turns into a complete fool when the Others are around and ends up captured. I'm not invested in the Kate/Jack pairing at all, and I've ragged on Evangeline Lilly's acting before, but her moment where she first saw Jack and the tears brimmed in her eyes was pretty effective. And seeing Juliet again was nice. The character was bordering on over-exposed, but the show did the right thing by switching the focus from her, making her just as shady and fascinating as she was before (and seemingly reinforcing the idea that she's there under duress too).

The portrayal of The Others over the course of the series has been all over the map -- they've gone from supermen to ghostly presence to borderline zombies to supermen who were just faking the zombie thing to borderline benevolent yet pseudo-mystical scientists. I'm not sure there's a way to tie all of this together and make it satisfying (oh who am I kidding?!), but I do like the portrayal of the group as something like a cult, with Ben insisting that the illusion of escape must be maintained so that the other Others will fall in line and learn to believe. Learning more about The Others has made their sense of menace mostly go away (unlike the Cylons on Battlestar Galactica), but as a portrayal of a social structure barely held together by an ineffectual leader, I think the whole thing works.

Finally, we had THE Locke flashback, the one where we found out how he landed in the wheelchair. While it was yet another story about how he and his con man father were at odds, the final push his father gave him out a window and his eight-story fall (followed by the camera!) to the ground below was shockingly and brutally filmed, and O'Quinn's decision to underplay the sadness in the moment when he realized he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair was just as devastating as his choice to overplay Locke's frustrations in the season one pair. The flashback didn't add a lot outside of the answer of how Locke ended up in a wheelchair, but O'Quinn's general greatness made the medicine go down.

So there you go. The last big piece of backstory puzzle fitted into the grand scheme of things. Now, the only flashback we really need is one on Benjamin. How, exactly, was he born on the island? Curiouser and curiouser!

Next week: Nikki and Paolo get a flashback. I know you're as excited as I am.


"They got some top notch ballet-ers.": Friday Night Lights

So I forgot to remind you all that this show was back tonight because, honestly, I forgot this was back tonight (all the more reason to send me screeners, NBC; all the more reason). Fortunately, TiVo remembered, and I was treated to an exemplary episode that encapsulated just what makes this show so great and a few of the things that keep it from weekly perfection.

For starters, the episode had a strong storyline set among the Taylor family. Coach Taylor found himself with an offer for his dream job, and it meant that he was going to have to move away from Dillon to do so. While his wife was supportive, his daughter was not. The episode strongly implied that the family has moved around a lot (which wouldn't seem to jibe with prior statements on the show that Coach Taylor was Jason Street's coach for many years), and Julie made it clear to her dad (at the father-daughter dance, no less) that this was the first place she had felt at home, and that while she has feelings for Matt, that sentiment was also keeping her from leaving. What I love about the portrayal of the Taylor family is that it's a family based on trust and respect, but it's also a family that occasionally messes up, where the members don't always match up to their ideal selves. We've gotten hints that Tami's childhood is the sort of thing she's trying to avoid for Julie, but both parents occasionally have to step in and play the parent card, though they're clearly loathe to do so. The gradual realization over the season that their daughter is becoming a woman has been well-played, and the sense of sadness Coach Taylor feels that she's growing up, mixed with his pride at raising a fine young woman was palpable. Granted, neither of those emotions is exactly original, but both are certainly HONEST, and that makes the show that much better to watch.

The other main storyline (though, honestly, there are always so many stories floating around an episode of this show that I don't know which are the most important ones at all) featured Jason Street finally beginning to rejoin life in Dillon. Since his injury, he's been forced to cope with his new paralysis. At first, it seemed he would relate to the world through sports and quad-rugby, but after he was told that he needed more training time, it seems he'll relate to the world through the small town he calls home. The show almost seems to be setting him up to be a mentor figure (which wouldn't be all bad at all), especially to Matt, and the moment when Street, Matt, Riggins and Smash all got drunk on the football field, followed by an impromptu scrimmage where Street showed Matt the play that would make him a better quarterback was perfectly observed in how it regards the way small-town kids engage with their universe. Oh, and here's hoping we get more from Alexandra Holden (wondering where you know her from? It's Friends) as tattoo girl. Tattoo girl's got a more adult, sexier chemistry with Jason, the sort he just can't have with Lyla, who's clearly the love of his youth but nothing more (and that's increasingly clear -- the show has even shifted its main relationship focus to Matt and Julie).

Meanwhile, Tyra and Lyla continued to have stories that oddly paralleled each other, as Lyla continued down her spiral of not trusting men (either her fiance or her dad, who both gave her new reasons to find them dishonest) and Tyra continued to climb out of the spiral she dug for herself. Lyla's story was mostly played in the background of this episode, but I liked her scene at the car dealership (and, sidenote, how hilarious was the cheesy Buddy Garrity commercial we caught snippets of on Tyra's mom's TV). Tyra's story was much more prominent and was much more interesting (especially her mom taking her newfound interest in bettering her life to be an indictment of her parenting), but it wrapped up too easily -- suddenly everything's all right for these women again? I get that the show is establishing this as a pattern -- the Collette women patch things up until they have another falling out -- but the resolution was a little too easy here. Might have been better to let the frayed ends continue over the next few weeks.

Finally, there was Riggins and the next-door neighbor. I don't have much else to say about this plot point, except to say that the kid they hired would work fine on any other show, but on this show, he feels too TV-ish. He's precocious and always ready with a laugh line and just too. . .false. His mom, while an interesting enough spin on the single mom, is also just there to give Riggins something to do, and the too-obvious go-to of the two falling into bed was a frustrating choice for a show that rarely makes them.

But that stuff was minimal in the episode, which was uniformly excellent everywhere else. There are only three episodes left this season, and they'll all play out over the next three weeks. If you haven't gotten on board this show yet, you can quite easily. It's not hard to follow, and I think you'll love it.

(Extra bonus link: A story on how the filming of the show changes up all of the normal TV rules by giving more power to the directors and actors.)


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"I spit when I do it!": American Idol

by Libby

Let's make this short and sweet, just like these tedious AI episodes ain't. Tonight was music from the British Invasion, which was a big improvement over the Diana Ross suckfest of last week, but really, is that saying much?

1: Haley - "Tell Him": Let me start by saying this: if you come across as too weak-voiced in practice, you aren't any good. That said, let's hear it for Haley for prancing around stage in hooker heels, short-shorts and no bra, because really, isn't that what American Idol is REALLY all about? Evidently, Haley is unaware that in addition to working the room, it would be good if she gave two craps about what she was singing. As usual, I am in the minority, as the judges find this hoochie's song a big improvement over what she usually serves up. Great example for today's young girls: if at first you don't succeed, try dressing like a whore.

2: Chris R. - "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying": Blah. Chris Richardson is evidently never weaker than when he's slow jammin'. I couldn't help but notice how much LESS charisma he has than, say, Justin Timberlake and kept hoping he'd break out into something vaguely entertaining. This was just not special at all, but, that being said, his soulful gazes into the camera will keep him here for weeks more, regardless of how he sings. Again, the judges think this stuff is just solid gold, leading me to believe there's something VERY SPECIAL served in their brand spanking new coke cups.

3: Stephanie - "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me": Meh. If I hear someone compare Stephanie Edwards to Beyonce Knowles one more time, I'm going to puke. Let me lay it down for you people: Stephanie sounds like other people because she is a remarkable mimic but tonight evidenced what happens when she isn't familiar with the source work: She sucks. Edwards seems to have some very serious sincerity issues, as everything she does seems heavily rehearsed and stagey. The judges see flaws in the performance but, again, are far kinder than proper.

4: Blake - "Time of the Season": Blake Lewis had a very odd performance tonight. I still enjoyed it, as I enjoy all of Lewis' performances, but I had some very mixed feelings about it. I like where Blake was going with the song -- it was very sultry and modernized -- but I couldn't help but notice that it wasn't a great fit for his range. He seemed off beat several times, and I just don't know how America will take this. However, infinite points for again being different from everyone else and at least trying as opposed to just shaking his ass. For once, the judges were far more sold on Lewis' song than I was, and I can't help but worry a bit for him come tomorrow night.

5: LaKisha - "Diamonds Are Forever": I keep waiting for the moment for LaKisha to prove me wrong as a hater, but tonight I'm still waiting. Jones' rendition of the James Bond theme was not only lackluster but, in my opinion, completely ordinary. Beyond that, Jones just cannot figure out how to work the wardrobe department. She needs to start seriously studying how Jordin and Melinda dress from week to week, as they consistently out-class her -- if not in song, then in style. The judges were vague as well, but is there any question of Jones' safety? I thought not.

6: Phil - "Tobacco Road": Here are my exact notes through this performance ... "He can't dance ... why does he have the entire mic stand with him? ... what the heck is all over his shirt!? ... WHY AM I DISTRACTED BY ALL OF THIS???" So, as you can see, despite how well Phil did tonight, there is just something not appealing about even his best performances. At least this week, he was solid for the entire song, and the judges seem to agree.

7: Jordin - "I Who Have Nothing": After this performance by Jordin Sparks, I'm feeling pretty good about my vague prediction from last week. This girl can sell what she sings and is able to channel emotions that no 17-year-old could possibly be familiar with. I particularly loved the parallels between this song and LaKisha's, but that's just me paying far too much attention. Also, major props for not feeling the need to meander around stage. Sometimes it's okay to stand your ground and just sing. And the judges rave.

8: Sanjaya - "You Really Got Me": *sighs* This was bound to happen. Sanjaya finally did something halfway different, straining valiently towards gritty, and that'll be enough to secure him for several more weeks. Man! And then he went and hugged a little girl. The grandma groupies must have been sobbing by that point. GREAT! THANKS AMERICA!

9: Gina - "Paint It Black": I like this song. A lot. So ... she didn't ruin it. It wasn't great, but she's trying, right? Ehh ... I just don't know what to say. At this point, Gina knows she needs to "play the rocker" to stay in the game, regardless of whether she wants to or not, and this was the right song choice. But maybe her run has ended. After all, you need to pick a song you can actually sing, or you're SOL. The judges are not enthralled, and really, who can blame them?

10: Chris S. - "She's Not There": At least he listens to instructions. The glasses are back, and this week, he ... enters from the audience? Eh, okay. Honestly, I'm over Chris Sligh. Really, right now, he just seems desperate to stay on the show, and everything rings as unbelievable, even inexplicable at times. Everything he does seems as though he's going through the motions of what he thinks he SHOULD be doing. In short, Sligh is thinking too much, and it may just send him home.

11: Melinda - "As Long as He Needs Me": What else to say? Even with just an okay song performance, Melinda Doolittle is just in a class of her own. Something bad is coming though. America will turn on her eventually, and it will be swift and horrible. *sighs* It is inevitable.

So tonight was better at least, if not fabulous. Ryan and Simon seem to have kept their Lockhorns-esque banter to a minimum, but honestly, I just TiVo through most of that crap anyway, so, who knows?

Tonight's winner: Jordin Sparks
Tonight's loser: Sanjaya Malakar (still ...)
Tomorrow's loser: Gina Glocksen


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

“You don’t take a piss without a plan” – Prison Break

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this episode. It was yet another hour of filler, but I’m not really bothered to rip into it (at this point I'm almost amused at how much Break gets away with episodes where absolutely nothing happens). Parts of it were decently entertaining, but overall it exemplified all of this season’s crippling flaws – a shame, since the last episode had done so well in overcoming them.

Michael and Lincoln escape to Panama (which also gave the episode its name – can’t they ever come up with interesting titles on this show?), sans Sarah who's picked up by the police before she reaches the boat. Michael is suitably devastated, and starts whining about all the horrible things that have happened and all the lives ruined because of his plan. I commend the writers for showing Michael’s regrets rather than sweeping the consequences of his actions under the rug, but at this point it’s getting extremely dull. This season’s eleventh episode, ‘Bolshoi Booze’, covered the issue in such detail (even with flashbacks to every single person they’ve screwed over) that it really would have been fine to just leave it there and get on with stuff.

But then, getting on with stuff hasn’t exactly been the show’s strong-suit this season. The only interesting development of ‘Panama’ was the conclusion(?) of C-Note’s saga. In exchange of testifying against Mahone, he and his family were put into the witness protection program and allowed to walk free. I kept waiting for something horrible to happen that would shatter this sunny outlook, but the moment never came – maybe the writers really did decide to give C-Note a happy ending? We shall see. If they did, it’s admirable on one level, but on another it’s dreadfully boring and totally out of place. Guess which of those levels Prison Break has always operated on. Yep. Sigh.

Elsewhere, everyone is converging on T-Bag. Michael is after him to make up for past sins, Sucre and Bellick (an unlikely team up that’s not quite as clever as the writers seem to think it is) just want Westmoreland’s $5 million, and Mahone is drawing Michael there in a last-ditch attempt to catch him. This all felt very similar to how the whole cast converged on Reynolds in ‘Wash’, another hour of filler. Sure, we’re assured a more satisfying instalment next week, just as was the case with ‘Sweet Caroline’, before what should be a very interesting finale. But I still can’t quite forgive the crippling lack of action in ‘Panama’. As the final two episodes will almost certainly be action-packed, I feel compelled to stress at this point that Prison Break has destroyed any trace of tension or excitement in most of its storylines by dragging things out to an unreasonable degree. As such, even if the conclusions reached at the end of season two are satisfying, the season as a whole has been pretty damn atrocious. Which is a shame.


"Admiral, have a nuclear strike sub standing by.": 24

All hail Vice President Evil!

Now, if you had told me earlier this season, when 24 seemed to be turning into a walking, talking Michelle Malkin column, that the show would find its ability to conjure up liberal fears again (so deftly dramatized in season five), I might have been skeptical. I would have been even more skeptical if you had told me that the season would conclude in the imminent start of World War III. But both events seem to have happened in this episode, which seemed to finally give up on following the season's storyline of disgraced ex-presidents and internment camps and crazy Russians and just go nutso. This is a promising development because 24 does nutso well, especially when it has scenery chewers like Powers Boothe around to let go and let crazy.

So enraptured was I by Boothe's zany antics (using any excuse necessary to send nuclear missiles to the unnamed country that's the home of Assad and Fayed -- and the attempts to avoid naming it are really amusing) that I barely even noticed that the story of President Logan and his ex-wife Martha wasn't even alluded to, much less wrapped up in a satisfactory fashion (whatever happened to that ambulance?). Both Gregory Itzin and Jean Smart are committed to new pilots for next season, so I wasn't expecting either of them to be a regular on the show again or anything, but it might have been nice to have them around for longer.

Oh, who am I kidding? Powers Boothe out-evils Itzin and out-overacts Smart. Boothe is one of those players 24 brings in from time to time who understands that the show is fundamentally one of those Perils of Pauline style melodramas and acts the part of the villain accordingly. If he had his Cy Tolliver mustache, he could totally twirl it (not a bad idea, 24 producers!). His character doesn't make a lot of sense (how did he end up on the same ticket as the quite progressive -- for the 24-verse -- Wayne Palmer?), and his desire to start a war at any costs goes beyond any liberal's worst fear and into the realm of unbelievability, but VP Evil is rapidly turning into the best thing about any given episode, based solely on Boothe's understanding that the material ain't all THAT serious.

This was one of those weeks when Kiefer Sutherland doesn't have as much to do so the poor guy can have a break. Mostly, his scenes consisted of finding out that his lady love Audrey was dead (though, given the cancellation of The Nine, I'm going to guess that Audrey won't be dead for long) and letting us look at his awesome scars again (can't wait to hear THOSE stories). Then, he led a raid on a building two blocks from CTU to stop a nuclear weapon from blowing up San Francisco based solely on his totally awesome joystick skills. No! Really! The end of the episode didn't show us much of the drone bearing the weapon at all, instead choosing to show us Jack manipulating what appeared to be the original version of Microsoft Flight Simulator for the Apple IIe. I know there's not a lot to do in Chinese prison, so it makes complete sense that Jack would pick up some video gaming skills.

Meanwhile, Chloe did some computer stuff and continued with the subplot that justifies Mary Lynn Rajskub's continued employment (namely, checking out her ex's alcohol levels). Bill Buchanan made some phone calls. Tom Lennox sniveled and Karen Hayes tried to talk VP Evil out of launching nuclear weapons (c'mon, Karen, we all know only Jack could manage that). And, finally, we learned that the Marisol Nichols' character (the one I still haven't learned the name for) appears to be the latest CTU mole. Since it was so obvious that she was the mole and since she said she wasn't plaintively to Milo, I'm guessing she's not, and the truth will be revealed shortly. But she did get tortured, and the show finally delivered on its promise to show us that torture doesn't always work, though they made it seem that this was less because she didn't know anything (and/or refused to give anything up) and more because her torturer (Doyle) just really gets off on abusing people or somesuch. When Jack tortures someone, it always works because he does what he has to to save his country, man, but it takes an UNIMAGINABLE PSYCHOLOGICAL TOLL! Oh and Regina King showed up and did some stuff, but it was boring.

While this is probably 24's weakest season to date, I really feel that the show has turned a corner with the new threat of World War III. I don't know that it will be enough to save the season as a whole, but maybe I'll start looking forward to watching the thing from week to week again.

Just so long as Vice President Evil is there!


Monday, March 19, 2007

"I'll tell you right now, my dad is not gonna pay for that wedding!": How I Met Your Mother

by Libby

(Editor's note: I've been busy with company and woefully remiss in getting new material up. As I only got to 24 tonight, big thanks to Idol recapper Libby for giving us her thoughts on How I Met Your Mother. Expect more stuff starting Wednesday, including the Super TV Preview and some requests for new contributors -- not that I don't like the ones I already have. And until CBS starts updating the HIMYM site more regularly, looks like you just get terribly general screencaps from TV)

Tonight was a big night on How I Met Your Mother, as it was finally time for Robin and Ted to take the plunge and move in together. Needless to say, this event was anticipated by Marshall and Lily, who were anxious to finally live on their own, and loathed by Barney, who feared that a new address would only further Ted's emasculation.

This episode showcased some great parallels with Ted and Robin realizing the hardships of cohabitation as Lily and Marshall realized that living alone wasn't all it was cracked up to be. While Barney's hijacking of the moving van wasn't exactly surprising, it still served as an effective and amusing catalyst for the episode. That said, however, the show is never more disturbing than when BARNEY is the insightful one.

As an avid fan of the show, I still have difficulty reconciling myself to the fact that the show centers on the Ted/Robin relationship, despite the knowledge that she is not, in fact, "the mother." My frustration is furthered by the fact that the show was never so weak as when Ted was merely dating around. Robin being his girlfriend strengthens the show immeasurably but leaves plenty of concerns for the future.

While not the best of episodes, "Moving Day" had some great gags in it. Lily and Marshall's "discoveries" in a post-Ted apartment were hilarious, as was the noise Robin made each time Ted did something she didn't agree with. Tonight also featured the return of laser tag AND a Star Wars joke, which gives it extra points all around. That and the closing Top 10 list made it another solid showing for HIMYM's sophomore season.


BSG Mondays: Season 3, episode 56, "Crossroads, Part 1"

As hard as it can be to say anything substantive about any episode of a heavily serialized show like Battlestar Galactica, it’s practically impossible to say anything substantive about part one of a two-part season finale without devolving into a series of unconnected bullet points about what worked well and what didn’t work well. From the looks of the first hour, however, (and I haven’t seen next week’s episode, which many critics say is even better) the show will hopefully tie up what has been a fitfully frustrating season into a cohesive whole.

Above all, “Crossroads, Part 1” written by Michael Taylor and directed by Michael Rymer – the man who developed the series’ signature look with co-executive producers Ronald Moore and David Eick way back in the miniseries – felt shot through with the weight of time passed and the regrets incumbent in such a scenario. When I complained about “Collaborators” (the season’s fifth episode and the first post-New Caprica), I felt that the series hadn’t devoted enough time to the emotional fallout of New Caprica and resentments bred there to effectively create a scenario where the deaths of those who collaborated with the Cylons would have any resonance (though the show was to be admired for even having the guts to go where it did). Not so with the trial of Gaius Baltar (James Callis, continuing his string of incredible season three performances). Argue if you want (as a commenter did last week) that a fleet at war and on the run from an incredibly dangerous and powerful enemy wouldn’t pause for a war crimes trial (since the society presented in Galactica has always made a point of preserving its rule of law, it seems likely that they very well might), but the long-simmering anger at Baltar among the members of the fleet gained power by being given a whole season to keep growing and growing and growing. And because the characters we identify with all hate Baltar, it’s surprising to hear his lawyer, Romo Lampkin (Mark A. Sheppard), offer up a defense of the man that almost makes sense.
More here.


Yours, Truly: LCD Soundsystem "Sound of Silver"

James Murphy is not shockingly original or originally shocking and it really doesn't matter anymore. LCD Soundsystem's second album, Sound of Silver is probably about as solid of an album as he's ever going to release and that is in direct correlation to its lack of originality. There is no bullshit or ill-fated attempts at bedazzlement here. When he tries his hand at Funk by way of Bowie or synth-laden musings disguised as grooving club anthems, he aims to do just that...and he is always successful.

When I was first introduced to LCD Soundsystem there was a significant amount of hype surrounding them. Not to mention their utter over-exposure due to all of the single releases pre-album release. I could say that it simply had too much to live up to, but I genuinely think that it was more than that. Murphy's debut lacked a certain awe factor that the production promised but the substance failed to deliver on. Everything seemed to be half there despite the methodical nature of its composition. On Sound of Silver there is a bit of that cocksure swagger, but a slightly subdued presentation that supplies us a portal in which we are able to get uncommonly lost in.

Most of the tracks are pitch-perfect club numbers with snarky lines and catchy choruses, but beyond that there are some massively effective moments here that both get the point across and show a more "introspective" side to Murphy--which would expectedly be a horrible idea if he had lost any of his asshole charm in the process...but he doesn't. I like that there is no mystery to Sound of Silver. It aspires to a certain sound, a certain aesthetic, and it delivers. This is a solid, solid work whose fluidity is matched only by its eagerness to enjoy.