Friday, July 13, 2007

"We all put our hands together and yelled 'Go Blue'! Because we're the blue team.": Big Brother 8

It's the end of week one of Big Brother, a notoriously boring time in the game where nothing exciting happens because everyone is afraid of pissing someone off and being the first person on the block. Someone has to be forced on that sword, though, and Amber and Carol are nominated because according to Kail the only "fair" way to nominate anyone was to choose the two people who performed the worst at the HoH competition. Yawn.

Alliances are slowly starting to form, with the most dominant so far being the "Mrs. Robinson" alliance of Kail, Zach, Mike (who?) and Nick. Also, Dustin and Amber seem very close but we haven't seen any official declarations of loyalty yet. I suppose we'll know once they name themselves the "Chosen Ones" or something, after Amber's devotion to the Lord. (Can we talk for a second about the incredible squickyness of naming your own alliance? I think it all started with the deplorably named "Chilltown" in season two, and it's been going strong ever since. At least "Mrs. Robinson" is better than "The Friendship." Anything is better than "The Friendship.")

At the beginning of the week it looked like Jessica and Carol might bury the hatchet and form a secret alliance, but Jessica is too stupid and Carol too ambivalent and it never came to pass. Carol would rather convince people she wants to stay in the house not by actually telling them she wants to be there and campaigning to stay, but laying low and being positive.'d that work out for you, dear? (Oops...spoiler!) However, Danielle and Dick seem to have at least an informal alliance to go to the end together. I'm pretty sure that if Danielle and Dick get nominated against each other, though, Dick will gladly take the fall and Danielle will campaign like hell against him. I like Danielle more than Dick at this point, but I'm positive she'd sell him down the river in a heartbeat, with no regrets. Deadbeat Dads beware!

The best moments of the week came courtesy of house lunatic Jen. You guys. Girl crazy. First, when they revealed the houseguest picture wall she absolutely lost her shit over her supposedly unflattering picture. It was a breakdown of epic proportions, with her throwing a tantrum and crying in the diary room and eventually taping a potholder over the offensive picture. The crack Big Brother editors set the whole thing to some hilarious Schindler's List-like violin music, earning my undying love. It was truly a thing of beauty. Second, in a casual conversation with fellow houseguests over Nick's flirting habit, Jen accuses him of trying to make out with her. Joe, who is nothing if not a born shitstirrer, goes directly to Nick and tells him what she said. When Nick confronts her in front of everyone, her wide eyes of "oh crap, I'm caught in a humongous lie" tell the whole story. Later, she takes him into the storage room and apologizes for lying and says she did it because she was jealous that he was flirting with Danielle, since he should only be flirting with her. Nick is like, um, okay, psycho. Seriously, GIRL CRAZY. I think Joe said it best when he said, "Jen lives in her own little Jen world. It's Jen-uinely in-freakin'-sane!" And awesome. Don't forget awesome, Joe.

There was also some nonsense about Eric telling a sob story to Kail per his America's Player duties, but it was hella boring. His two duties this week were to tell that sob story and vote out Carol. What a waste. I want to have some real consequences for his actions, not just randomness. Let's spice it up, have him seduce Nick or something! Now that would be entertaining.

In Thursday's live show, Carol was unsurprisingly eliminated 10-1. I'm not really sure why people want to keep obvious threat Amber in the house over total non-player Carol, but whatever. I think I could have actually liked Carol because she was semi-normal, so it's a disappointment for me. And that's really the most important thing, what I want. In the HoH competition, Jen wins because of a "so tricky it's actually geared towards idiots" tiebreaker question. I have to say, I am ecstatic Jen won HoH. She's such a crazy dumb idiot, it just might be interesting.

Live feed clip of the week:

Nick is a bit bicurious, and it only makes me love him more. Enjoy!

"Have you seen Snatch or Fight Club? Wow."


Living in An Ice Age: Interpol "Our Love to Admire"

The trembling, bruising atmosphere that dominated Interpol's first two LPs appears to have merely been a catalyst for a much more self-involved kind of theatricality. Those crisply dueling guitar sections, the sputter time drum workshops, Paul Banks' stream of consciousness style of inane banter; there has always been a romance between the unhinged and the beautiful prevalent in all of Interpol's work. The trick they have always seemed to pull off so well is making it all appear coherent--even lovely on a good day.

Turn on the Bright Lights and Antics, the group’s respective first and second outings, showcased an uncanny understanding of atmosphere and oddities as they relate to pop-minded rock. Their post-punk proclivities lent weight to Interpol's massive yet sparse style of understated theatrics. On their third offering, Our Love to Admire, Interpol adheres to the same principles for the most part, but seem to lose sight on what made them so great from the start. As proven on those first two LPs, it wasn’t so much their attention to detail, but the seemless way they were able to drown themselves within the details.

Like oily mascara running down a tragically beautiful face, the mildly strung out, disaffected malaise present on Our Love to Admire is nothing short of a total downer. While this is nothing new for Interpol, the compelling factor here is that the nature of the fall seems to be in direct conflict with itself throughout the inconsistencies presented on the album. A somewhat confusing experience follows.

Our Love to Admire goes down tired trails and uses old tricks to invoke that preciously dark, indie persona. However, it all seems to serve more as comfort food than actual inspiration. The album’s opener "Pioneer To the Falls," for instance, is probably one the best tracks the group has ever produced. Lilting, sinister, and calculated, it creeps along the skyline building toward a crimson storm that never seems to fully dissipate. This sets the tone for the album in marvelous fashion, but ultimately serves to shoot itself in the proverbial foot. Interpol never seem to fully capture the aura put forth in that one perfect song, tinting most other tracks with a longing sense of “lack there of.”

Lead single, “The Heinrich Maneuver” utilizes those perfectly dumb lyrical passages Banks is always so good at concocting (“you wear those shoes like a dove”) to its advantage, but finds itself decidedly out of place in the midst of otherwise unimpressive melodrama. Our Love To Admire seems to habitually reach heights of creative splendor, only to drag itself down with downtrodden excess and overblown dramatics.

Interpol has always been a fairly “serious” band. This has been part of their charm in the past. Here, however, with that major label budget, they seem to have lost themselves in the shuffle of epic posturing and large, sweeping landscapes of uninspired sounds. Gone are those unsubtle subtleties that made the atmospheric masterpiece that was Turn On The Bright Lights one of the best albums of the decade.

While there are some admittedly effective moments peppered throughout the album, Our Love To Admire is big and bold and… mostly boring. I’ll concede that Interpol will probably never make a wholly useless or bad album, but this is the sign of a truly talented and inspired group that seems to be on autopilot with a blank check in their pockets.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

"No, no, no, no, no! Don't just hork it down!": SDD does cooking right

Previously on . . . these shows: Top Chef's last episode had the chefs racking their brains for ways to reinvent the classics. The cooks were tasked with healthifying family favorites from tuna cassarole to chicken ala king, with Howie's reimagined pork chops winning the day and Micah's meatloaf sending her packing.

Hell's Kitchen was much the same as always, though Melissa began the slippery slide into madness and ended the episode by, instead of being eliminated, being reassigned to the men's team. Fabulous.

Top Chef:
This week's episode started out with an even more egregious example of product placement than usual, with the quickfire challenge asking the chefs to pair original appetizers with specifically selected Bombay Sapphire concocted cocktails!

If only South Dakota Dark could get liquor sponsorships . . . *wistful sighs*

Beyond this, the quickfire was somewhat lackluster with much said about the "subtle botanical notes" found in Bombay Sapphire gin and less said about appetizers at hand. Hung proved himself to be an ever-increasing ass by presuming to know more than the judge, and ultimately, Casey won the competition by thinking outside the box and serving up some fancypants french toast.

With the quickfire challenge disposed of the chefs turned their focus to the elimination challenge, the first of which requiring the contestants to put aside their petty disagreements and divide up into teams. This proved to be just as disasterous as it sounds with only one team really working together well. Each team was responsible for providing a trio of dishes with a common theme, with each team representing a course of the meal.

Lia, Hung and Brian were first up and provided a shrimp course which was extremely well received by the judges, specifically Lia who ended up winning the overall challenge.

The next group included Howie, Joey and Casey (with immunity) who didn't exactly bring their A-game with their fish dishes. Following them, were Tre, Sara and CJ who performed adequately with their filet mignon trio.

The same can not be said for the final group of Dale, Camille and Sara M. who, for some reason decided to do a dessert course, though none was called for and no one participating had a particular talent for the area.

Overall, the elimination challenge didn't make for enjoyable viewing as it rarely does in these cases. The contestants are absolutely right when they complain about suddenly being teamed up with the same individuals they're simultaneously competing with.

I can't imagine this happens often when you're the head chef in a kitchen, so the practical application here seems nil, beyond the obvious drama it creates. In the end, it was Camille of the dessert crew that was eliminated. Unfamiliar with her? Yeah, so was I.

Hell's Kitchen:
Much of the same here this week, with the first (pointless) challenge requiring the teams to come up with tasty and original recipes for lobster. After running around the kitchen, each team came up with three dishes for tasting, and in a close call, the women won yet another (pointless) challenge.

Rock was peeved by this turn of events and stormed around swearing and breaking things for the next 20 minutes of the show. Lovely.

The women were rewarded with some photo shoot; the men (and Melissa) were punished with trash picking. Truly, this is television at it's finest.

In the true kitchen challenge for the week, the women performed admirably whereas the men truly felt the albatross that was Melissa during the evening's dinner service. It all played out about as you can imagine, with the women winning and Melissa being sent home, as it should be.

Cooking extra:
But all things being equal, if you feel compelled to see something to feed your inner foodie, skip these lackluster feeding frenzy wannabes and go straight to the main course. Pixar's Ratatouille is easily one of the finest films of the year and is definitely one of the company's upper-echelon films (higher praise does not exist!).

For all my reservations about a rat in a kitchen, I was won over within seconds and even those who like neither food nor cuddly creatures will be held rapt by what is, perhaps, Pixar's most beautiful of films.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An early look at FX's Damages


(This is by no means a real review. The pilot screened was a rough cut of what will be the pilot that airs, and anything could change between now and July 24, when the show premieres. So take all of these thoughts with a grain of salt!)

FX's new legal drama Damages is a typical FX show -- fast-paced and full of crazy plot twists that bounce all over the place. It's anchored by some great performances, and it's a lot of fun to watch. In an otherwise dreary TV summer (really, only Big Love has been worth it), this is going to liven up the small screen considerably.
Check out the rest here.


Big Love Tuesdays: Season Two, Episode 17, "Vision Thing"

One of the things that makes Big Love such an engrossing show is that it’s not afraid to make its central character -- Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) -- kind of a selfish ass. He’s not always this way; his wives and family love him, and you can tell the show’s writers have a general affection for him. But he frequently slips into a mode where he seems to be thinking of himself, rather than the people around him, just often enough to let you know that you’re not watching the overly godly man Bill thinks of himself as (the caricature the show let him be too often in the first season). Bill is a very fallible human being, who spends just as much time screwing up his assorted affairs as he does getting things right.

Bill’s usually the central character of Big Love, in that every plotline somehow runs through him, but he’s rarely the most interesting character in a given episode. Monday’s episode, “Vision Thing,” written by Eileen Myers and directed by Igby Goes Down director Burr Steers, was the first of this season that seemed designed to be almost completely about Bill and his rigid view of both his own microcosm and the world at large. Sure, there were vital subplots dealing with the show’s teens, and another that put ChloĆ« Sevigny’s Nicki in conflict with a bunch of Catholics, but all of these other plots were built on or centered on Bill in some way.
Plenty more where that came from.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"You're too dumb to respond to": two weeks of Entourage

OK, so maybe I didn't blog Entourage last week. Todd yelled at me to do it, but...I just could not summon up the energy, I guess. Last week's episode, "Mallibooty", was everything that can be bad about this show. A bunch of worthless, strung-out jokes posing as plots, and some gross, unnecessary sexual humor to keep everything nice and HBO. Seriously, it's not like it was incredibly offensive or anything, but it seemed like the kind of episodes that some of the show's fans might find hilarious--but those are the kind of fans of this show that you hate. Like, on a subway train one time, I listened to the two guys next to me extol Entourage's hilarious virtues to the sky, and I got off almost hating the show, cause the guys were such morons. Now, I don't hate the show (Todd even alleged that I was one of it's biggest online defenders, which, if that's the case, clearly critical support is at an all-time low), but episodes like this do leave me rolling my eyes.

What else happened in the episode? Well, basically just continuation of the Medellin plot, which is moving so SUPER-SLOWLY that it's obvious it IS going to dominate the entire season, as I had feared (I had forgotten just how slow-moving plot could be on Entourage, I guess). I mean, I figure Vince will eventually inspect new projects as the series goes on, but it looks like the Cannes film festival might end up being the season's FINALE, which just goes to show how slow this stuff is gonna move. Honestly, if the movie is crawling towards distribution and success this slowly, is it any wonder people think it's gonna be a bomb? If they do all this crap and then have the movie be a smash hit, I'm gonna be kinda peeved. It would be interesting to have it either bomb or not make it big (maybe be a cult hit) and have Vince knocked down a peg maybe (I don't think his career should totally freefall like some should, but having he and Ari go back to the ring and really fight for a movie again could be cool).

Last Sunday's episode, "Sorry, Harvey", was somewhat of an improvement, although the "omg dude that chick is totally a dude" subplot almost ruined it completely. My only amusement from watching Drama trying to enchant the mayor of Beverley Hills was that once again, we got to see Stephen Tobolowsky playing a sexually frustrated bureaucrat on HBO (ok, his character on JFC is not sexually frustrated yet, but I bet he will be!). The other two plots had Maury Chaykin revisiting his spittle-encrusted, actually slightly unnerving Harvey Weinstein impression as E tried to let him know that he and Vince had screwed him out of a movie once again, and Ari running around trying to find M. Night Shyamalan's misplaced new script.

Regarding E & Vince screwing Harvey once again: so, they pissed off the Warners guy, and now they've pissed off Harvey (who is obviously the kingpin indie producer). Is Vince INTENTIONALLY trying to shoot his own career in the foot? I mean, I've always dug how blase Grenier plays Vince about the Hollywood industry (really, it's what's endearing about the character--otherwise everyone who watched the show would hate him, considering how he stumbles into success). Still. I mean, really. Surely his name is MUD in the industry by now? It's ridiculous! Also: Chaykin is totally over the top, but how else are ya gonna spoof Harvey? When he screamed "I WILL EAT YOU ALIVE!" to Drama and Drama's eyes went as wide as saucers, I'll admit I laughed pretty hard. Easy joke to go for, but they nailed it. Harvey going too far in crucifying the obnoxious water was hilarious too.

Ari's plot was actually pretty funny, and one of the better celeb cameos Entourage had had in ages. Brett Ratner's "God how awesome am I, Hollywood?" bit the other week was vomitously bad but M. Night played himself just right--creepy, almost idiot savant-y, and kinda childish and oblivious. Either Night is well aware of how he's regarded in the industry or...he's that weird. Either is fine by me. It just made for a fun "Ari is really stressed out" story that managed to include his wife and Lloyd, but also included the industry and his agency, rather than something completely off-the-wall like getting his son into school or his schlubby friend's hot new wife. Ari's look of despair when he met with Night for the second time and Night produced a totally revised script for him to peruse--way old joke, but Piven played it just right. Nice to see the show do something well for a change.

Anyway, next week, I assume little will happen and hi-jinks will be had! At least Doug Ellin has assured his fans there will be no more superfluous penis nudity in Entourage from now on. So, consider that, devoted fans. Consider that.


"Easy, Veronica Mars. I don't need another headache with the cops, alright?": Kyle XY

Sometimes, the sticky-sweet nature of Kyle XY gets to me a little bit. Last night's episode was one of those times. Kyle's mission to help Amanda get back a stolen charm bracelet her dead father gave to her wasn't the part that got to me, however. His hunt and how it used both his superior brain power and physical abilities together for a common goal was compelling. Especially good was all of the interaction between Kyle and Lori, who are really developing a wonderful brother/sister dynamic. Also, the charm bracelet story tied into Madacorp when it turned out that Evil Madacorp Dude was the one who bought Adam Baylin's ring, the ring Kyle pawned to get Amanda's bracelet back. All of those things: good.

The reveal that Amanda's mother was the one who sold the bracelet was satisfying, but the fact that she sold it because they are having money problems since Amanda's father's death is part of what bugs about Amanda. Everything about her is just so good.
She's nice to everyone. She didn't sleep with the scumbag boyfriend. Her dad is dead. (And they mention it ALL THE TIME.) She's like a mixture of everything that is bad about Joey Potter and Lana Lang. I want to like her, but I just can't yet. Although her romantic interactions with Kyle are sweet, they just seem way too innocent and pristine for me. I like tawdry and sordid, I guess. It looks like they will get closer in the coming weeks, so I better get with the program I suppose.

This week, we also delve further into the adventures of Josh Trager: Saint or Sinner? with a truly After School Special-inspired storyline about Josh's newfound marijuana habit. The kicker? He got the pot from Nicole and Stephen's closet! It's this little detail that makes this trite storyline actually a little bit fun. My favorite bit of dialogue, when they were trying to figure out how to explain why they had the pot:

Nicole: "What are we going to tell him?"
Stephen: "We'll just tell him you have cancer."

Ha! Now, although I don't think they handled this storyline with quite the deft touch they normally have with their more PSA-laden issues, I still think it wasn't the horror show it could have been on a lesser program. (I'm looking at you, 7th Heaven. Don't try to hide behind that stack of bibles.) There were some genuine moments between Josh and Stephen and when Stephen offered the deal that if Josh had to quit smoking pot, he would too, I believed him and liked his reaction to the problem. I love the running theme that Stephen had a bad father and doesn't want to be like that with his own children. He's a good dad, but a dad who still makes mistakes. It's nice.

While "Come to Your Senses" was ostensibly about Josh's downward spiral into stonerdom and Kyle and Amanda's adventures with breaking and entering, the real intrigue of the episode was Madacorp's continued assimilation into the Tragers' lives. They are doing a good job setting their trap, slowing surrounding the Tragers from all sides by horning in on all aspects of their lives. Nicole is counseling Jessi, Jessi is making eyes at Declan, and Stephen just got hired by Madacorp to do "experimental software development." I knew Madacorp had something to do with Stephen's job loss! Right now the only person dealing with an outsider who isn't Madacorp-related is Josh. Unless there is some awesome twist where his new love interest Andy turns out to be Evil Madacorp Dude's adopted daughter or something, which would be kind of hilariously over the top. I have no idea what Madacorp's endgame is, but I am having a hell of a good time watching the buildup.

Also, it was nice to take a break from the "Tom Foss 80's training montage" for a week. Nicholas Lea is great, but his character's tunnel vision when it comes to Kyle's "purpose" is starting to grate because it's unclear what his motivation is, or if he even has one. His character was much more fun last year when they tricked us into thinking he was the bad guy and then flipped the switch at the end of the season and had him help Kyle. This year, his helping is just sort of getting on my nerves. Also, it's boring me. He needs to choke a bitch or something, is what I'm saying.

Next week: Declan and Jessi make out! Yeah, that's going to end well.

Random thoughts:
- Sour Patch Kid sightings: 0

- You all know I love all things teen, but during this episode there were previews for two movies that make my skin crawl - My Super Sweet 16: The Movie (Me: "That's a movie? Not just a reality show?" Roommate: "Yes, it's a movie. About two girls who are total bitches.") and Bratz. Seeing things like this reminds me that even though I saw John Tucker Must Die (in the theater) (cram it, I like Penn Badgley) I am still too mature for at least some of this teenybopper crap. Thank God.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

"I still wanna say what part I play in the Christmas pageant.": John from Cincinnati

After a couple of weeks building to what felt like the larger myth of the series, John from Cincinnati took a week to fill in a few gaps in its backstory. It wasn't all bad (indeed, most of it was really quite good), but it was probably the least-involving episode since the pilot. But that's the sort of thing you need to do from time to time on a series like this. The weirdness and metaphysics are only as good as the characters they happen to, so we need to know as much as we can about those people before plowing in to further oddities.

First observation: I know I complained about them a few weeks ago, but I really missed the three guys at the motel (the Three Wisemen, as others on the Internets have dubbed them) this time out. I really liked the idea set up in the last episode of the motel being a place where the various characters would meet up and converge (and thanks to Justin for so wonderfully handling the blog duties on that episode). To that end, I also missed the doctor, who's rapidly becoming my favorite character (all episodes must have subplots that have nothing to do with anyone but the doctor). And even Bill got only a couple of scenes where he pontificated to his parrot (much like Swearengen and his Indian head, I guess).

It's interesting to plot the various ways the characters on this show are similar to characters from Deadwood (and dissimilar). While many others have pointed out similarities between the Yosts and the citizens of Deadwood, I'm fascinated by how Link, having finally shut Cass out of his life, is now essentially Cy Tolliver -- cut off from the other characters and plotting against them, planning his evil deeds behind closed doors.

I'm still not completely behind the Cissy and Mitch marriage plotline (though I did like getting a better idea of how the whole drama with Shaun played out back in the day). I think a large part of this is due to Rebecca DeMornay, who simply seems flummoxed by some of the dialogue she has to spout. DeMornay's not an awful actress or anything, but when she seems lost in one of those long, long monologues, she goes way, way over the top. Granted, this is a show, where a seeming idiot man-child gets away with listening to people defecate and then copying the noises they make, but everyone else seems tuned in to a certain reality that the show grasps. DeMornay's just not there yet.

Greyson Fletcher, who plays Shaun, gets a lot of criticism from other corners of the 'net, and I can see where everyone else is coming from. I honestly wrote him up as something I didn't like about the pilot. But he's starting to grow on me. He's completely affectless, like most teenagers I know, and that's a bit refreshing when compared to all of the other little-adults that pass for teenagers on most other shows.

Meanwhile, there was a sign in the background of one shot talking about investigating 9/11 (and another sign about Jesus). Considering that nothing is a mistake on this show (and considering that Milch said something in a Newsweek interview before the show aired that I won't spoil for you here), I'm thinking that we're going to get a full dose of how the events of JFC hook in with that tragic day. Deadwood, with its ruminations on how we construct civilization in the face of lawlessness, was decidedly a post-Sept. 11 show, but it will be interesting to see Milch confront the day directly.

All in all, I don't have a lot to say about this episode. Stuff happened, but not of the sort that makes for interesting blogging. Suffice it to say I liked it (especially Cass' monologue, quoted above, and Joe's recitation of John's miraculous healing to the bartender), and I'm anxiously awaiting next week, when the event in question from the Newsweek interview happens.

So how are you liking this?