Friday, October 31, 2008

This Week's Karma Alert

Usually, I take the time out to see what pop culture events are leading to an ultimate global crisis. Last week, it seemed like the end with Hell School Musical 3 debuting at the top of the box office with $42 million. Yuck. But finally, an underrated gem had its day. That is, Tina Fey and "30 Rock". "30 Rock" ran for two brilliant seasons almost completely unnoticed. Thanks to a loyal (but small) fan base, awards, and critical praise, the show stayed out of cancellation territory. At least temporarily. Last night's season three premiere of 30 Rock was a test of whether or not it would last any longer. It passed, with its highest rating yet (8.5 million viewers). It didn't win its time slot but lets take this one step at a time. At least people are finally watching.
Hopefully, this Karma will carry out for Fey and her trio of Emmys and Palin impersonation will earn her entertainer of the year by Entertainment Weekly. For now I say, good luck Tina and good luck "30 Rock". You deserve it.
Check out my review of the season three premiere of "30 Rock" here:
Bonus Karma: Married couple Will Arnett ("Arrested Development") and Amy Poehler ("SNL") had their first child this weekend, Archie Arnett. Big congratulations to what is likely to be the funniest child on the face of the Earth (but maybe we should give Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson a little time).
Bonus: Happy Halloween! Before you embark on the sugar-crazed holiday, enjoy this spooky scary clip from the aforementioned "30 Rock":

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lost: Reflecting on Four Seasons of Brilliance, Bewilderment, and Polar Bears

This summer, I was pulled into a show I thought I'd never watch in a million years: "Lost". I began the series in late July and watched the season four finale this past Friday. What I experienced was quiet possibly one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had in both movies and TV. "Lost" made me rethink life, learn about new cultures and literature, and mostly made me ponder how a giant cloud of smoke could symbolize fate and freewill. "Lost" is quiet simply the most important piece of sci-fi to hit American popular culture since "Star Wars".
"Lost" left me with so much left to ponder. Below are some questions, answers, ideas, and other thoughts about "Lost" (Warning: Spoilers ahead):
What is that giant cloud of smoke?
Well, we know it's the monster that ate the pilot in episode one. But mainly, what does it represent. One theory is that the many ghosts seen by the survivors on the island are actually forms that monster has shifted to. I believe this theory may be right. It explains why Mr. Eko was beaten to death by the monster moments after seeing the ghost of his brother Yemi. It murdered him out of vengeance and repentance for his sins. The monster helps people look into their subconscious and confront the evil within them.
How did the plane crash?
I could just say simply that there was a technical failure, but J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof want the audience to think deeper than that. Really, I do not know the answer. One theory says it was the smoke monster. Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) thinks it was a result of the one day he forgot to push the button in the Hatch. Hurley's curse might've done it, so could've Claire's devil baby. Here's a new theory: Could the man who never ages, the same man who tried to bring Locke (Terry O'Quinn) to the island in his youth have been part of a conspiracy to shoot the plane down just as it flew over this island? Debate amongst yourselves.
Why were there polar bears on the island?
This I have an answer to. They were used by the hippie-scientific movement the Dharma Initiative for their experiments. Which experiment it was exactly, I'm not sure, but I believe it might be something to do with the Orchid Station and time travel. Maybe season five will give us a clearer answer.
Is Claire dead?
Hmmmm....that's a good question. That rocket blew her house up pretty good. Even though she's been walking around and talking, she's seemed kind of in a daze at the end of season 4 as if she isn't alive. Sound ridiculous? Just remember, that everyone seems to see ghosts on this island, so it's very possible that everyone is seeing a ghost right now. This could also explain why she was in Jacob's cabin. And speaking of Jacob...
...who (or what) the hell is he?
Is that ghost of Christian Shephard whose always in Jacob's cabin actually Jacob himself, or is he just sitting in for Jacob as he's out wandering the woods. Or maybe Jacob is actually the entire island itself. Will the creators ever reveal this to us. According to my magic eight ball, signs point

I encourage any of my readers who are "Lost" conspirators to please come forward and share your questions, answers, and conspiracies here. And for now, turn to the almighty Jeff Jensen for some possible answers and tune in February when "Lost" returns on ABC:,,20000067,00.html

Thursday, October 23, 2008

This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse: The Apocalypse

Some people believe in the Mayan prophecy that the world will end on December 21, 2012. Me, I try to be an optimist (and I hate Fox News or whoever is saying the world's gonna end now) but I think things may be turning around. That's because the world isn't ending on December 21, 2012, it's ending tomorrow. Yes, because High School Musical 3: Senior Year is being released in theaters nationwide. With projections reaching over $40 million in opening weekend gross. Gross, indeed. In a world where 30 Rock can barely get an audience and Stanley Kubrick and The Seventh Seal remain unknown to most, it saddens and sickens me that something like HSM 3 is seen around the country and giving the youth of America the idea that you can solve all of your problems through singing and dancing. Oh, and that you can get through high school by singing and dancing. Oh, and that this what America gets when they're too afraid to see a movie with the word Make a Porno in the title. 
Maybe this is also God's way of punishing America for letting Sarah Palin be a contender for second in command of this country. I just hope this is the last High School Musical ever made.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Movie Review: W.

When a movie like W comes out, many would judge mainly by their political beliefs. The right wingers will think it hit Bush too hard. The left wingers will think it didn't hit him hard enough. Now, I am going to keep my political beliefs (and my hatred for Bush) out of this review because I'm a film critic, not a correspondent for CNN.
I'm here to review W as a movie, and for its portrayal of Bush. On these grounds W succeeds. As a portrayal of man so layered its perplexing. As a portrayal of the politics of our times its fascinating. As a piece of art, it is entertaining. 
Most people will think they know everything about Bush, thanks to 24 hour news and his speeches. However, W shows the audience what they already know, and so much more.
Josh Brolin takes on the role of the man whose led the free world for the past eight years. The film flashes between past and present and reveals the major players in Bush's life throughout the years. The big one: his father (James Cromwell).
As a young man, Bush didn't act like a future president. In fact, it was far from his goal. While McCain served his youth fighting for this country, and Obama made it onto Harvard Law Review, Bush spent his years at Yale getting drunk at Frat parties and occasionally ending up in jail.
"You're a Bush, not a Kennedy," Bush Senior tells him, "start acting like one."
Those were the words that very well may've haunted Bush for the rest of his life from 'ol daddy. Director Oliver Stone knows he can't get into Bush's head, but he does his best to show what exactly goes on inside of it without making him look like a complete fool.
During the rest of the movie, we see Bush quitting, and Bush persisting. We see Bush the alcoholic, we see Bush the hardworking owner of the Texas Rangers. In some ways, W can be qualified as a rise and fall story, but it has no end, as Bush's reign still isn't over. So, like There Will Be Blood, W is a rise story (the fact that they were both wealthy oilmen is a coincidence). 
And how is it that a man with a drinking problem who could barely maintain a C average end up president of the United States. Well, that's where daddy comes along, and pulls a few strings to get you into Harvard Business School. 
With this point, Stone helps to build up some sympathy for Bush. He doesn't use this point to say whether or not he was a good president but what exactly got him to be president, and the basis of many of his decisions. By the end of the film, it is hard to tell whether or not Bush was given a good or bad portrayal in the movie.
Take one of the final scenes, where Bush delivers a speech in front of a large crowd of reporters. He seems nervous, and can barely articulate a sentence, let alone a good response. Some may think this makes him look bad, but like the Palin parodies on SNL, his words are taken nearly verbatim. Yes, this man could barely justify his own actions to the media.
In this one scene, we truly see the brilliance of Brolin in the role. It's not just an imitation of Bush, it's an embodiment of him. Brolin shows that just copying someone's hair and their voice don't necessarily make you them. You have to go beyond. It is the mannerisms and tiny details of the person that can make you them. Brolin embodies Bush with the hand gestures he makes when he speaks, how he acts laid back by putting his feet on his desk while debating whether or not to attack Iraq, or how he licks his fingers constantly after eating. At times, you forget you're looking at an actor. For this, I believe Brolin deserves to be  a shoo in for an Oscar nomination.
Credit should also be given to Oliver Stone. He is known as one of the most outspoken Liberal filmmakers in Hollywood. His angry early works like Platoon and JFK displayed this. He had the chance here to tear the president apart limb for limb, but he makes the daring choice not to, and to instead portray him as he is. Only slight subtle mockeries can be seen. However, these are made mainly to get across the truth of the kind of leader Bush was. Did he really give, what Charlie on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia might call a "once over" to a packet that would allow certain forms of torture to terrorist suspects? Very likely.
Traces of Stone can be seen in the shaky camera angles and constant quick cuts. In many of his movies, this can create nausea and be ultimately unpleasant. In W, it works perfectly as a way to help us get a sense of the chaos of Bush's family issues and his rise to power.
The power of W can be summed up in its opening moments; Bush stands alone in the middle of Arlington Field imagining being introduced as the president. It could be from years before he thought about running, or even a few days ago. What it does say is that Bush never would've made it alone. There was the constant feeling of being under the family name of Bush that put him to the top. It is interesting to think though that Bush never tried to take advantage of his name, but in fact felt cursed by it. He might not have ever wanted all of this power anyway.
W is that movie that stays with you. It dares to incite anger and confusion. It hopes the audience will be shocked, it will make you talk about it until answers are reached. Answers may never be discovered though. Only history will be able to tell whether Bush was a good president or a bad president. And like Bush says in the movie, "well, in history, we'll all be dead."
Whether he is one day determined as either the best or worst president America ever had, W says that no matter which side is taken, George W. Bush will go down as a man who forever changed this country.

Just a Quick Note...

I hate censorship, with a deep passion. It ruins art and society. Now, because some idiot dad wouldn't explain to his son what the word porn meant, ads and commercials for Kevin Smith's Zack & Miri Make a Porno can now only be called Zack & Miri. Seriously? It's just a word, people. And you're kids may find out sooner or later what that word means anyway, so why not explain it to them before they find out in the wrong place. Or, don't do that, and just don't get offended by the word porno! And with this, why hasn't the title of Sex Drive been changed to Getting Intimate Drive?
Now, just to bother you censorship worshippers a little more, here's an image that might make you want to rat me out to the FCC (above)...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Movie Review: Sex Drive

Some say a picture is worth a thousand words, but they never say that a disappointing movie is worth just as many. Since the days of American Pie, it seems like the bar for the teen film recently raised with such instant classics as Mean Girls, Superbad, and Juno. Sex Drive seemed to have all the qualifications to make that list. Unfortunately, it fell way short, with only a few bright spots.
Unfortunately, I came into the movie late, but it didn't seem like I missed much. The story revolves around teenage Ian (no, this movie is not about me, shutup), an 18-year-old from suburban Chicago whose getting ready for college, yet is still (gasp!) a virgin. Hmmm...never heard of that happening before. Well, his best friend is equally dorky Lance (Clark and Michael's Clark Duke) who has a strange ability to have sex with every woman he meets. Ian has also had a long platonic friendship with a girl named Felicia (Amanda Crew), and obviously some strange tension has been brewing up between them since hormones kicked in.
Desperate to finally lose his virginity, Ian goes online, pretends to be a buff football player, and attracts the attention of a blonde named Ms. Tasty (30 Rock's Katrina Bowden). Tasty promises Ian that if he makes it down to Knoxville within the next two days, she'll go all the way with him. Immediately, Ian Felicia, and Lance head on a road trip down to Knoxville.
Now, no matter how many times the teen flick/road movie/maturity over the course of a day or two is used, I never get bored of it. That is, if the movie pumps something original into the formula or makes it lively and realistic. Not even a guy getting shot at in a donut suit is as funny as the trailer makes it seem.
Sex Drive contains a cast of talented actors and some possible big stars. Duke went from an internet sensation and now has a big chance at fame on the big screen, as he manages to get some laughs out of cliche situations and some clunky lines. And unfortunately, Bowden, who has proved herself both hilarious and talented on 30 Rock is not given much chance to show off her comedy chops in this movie. The movie might've been funnier had it given her more screen time and let her act in her stupid-as-Paris Hilton dumb blonde like way. And James Marden (Hairspray) steals every second he's on screen as Ian's psycho older brother whose a little too obsessed with his car (and not taking care of his motorcycle).
The movie in ways tries to be like Harold and Kumar, spinning around the stereotypes of certain groups in America. Harold and Kumar makes the KKK seem like a bunch of guys who just want to party, and Sex Drive makes the Amish seem like a people who like to fix up cars and throw Fall Out Boy concerts (doesn't that kind of go against Amish beliefs?). However, Seth Green as a hip Amish guy provides a few chuckles.
And that's the problem, all Sex Drive really gives off is a few chuckles here and there, but no laughs that really stay with you. Maybe that's because most of the actors seem pretty bored. Most of the actors had the potential to make this movie funnier but it's the script that mainly keeps it down. The best high school films, mainly Dazed and Confused and Superbad work not just because of their amazing ensembles but also their scripts, or lack thereof. Both films contain dialogue that feels improvised, like very typical daily conversation between two teens. That's what helped make the friendship between Seth and Evan so believable in Superbad, or the relationship between the jocks and the nerds in Dazed and Confused make so much sense. The characters in Sex Drive however, seem like they're just waiting for the next person to speak when the script orders them too. Not much freedom, not much fun, not much like high schoolers. That's why Lance and Ian don't feel like actual best friends. Little conflict happens between them; even if they died in a car explosion in each others arm, the audience would barely feel anything for them. If that happened to Seth and Evan though, tears would be shed.
The dialogue is also not very culturally aware, like the hilariously pop culture pumped dialogue of a Judd Apatow film. That also makes  the very dirty sex jokes feel a little cleaner. Just conversing about different sex positions and parts of the male genitalia doesn't immediately make it funny.
Sex Drive is enough to make you chuckle, and maybe smile a few times, but the funniest jokes were revealed in the trailer.
If you want to see a a truthful, painfully awkward and realistic portrayal of high school, watch the afformentioned Superbad and Dazed and Confused. The Brekfast Club or Fast Times at Ridgemont High will better satisfy your needs. Or better yet, read I Love You, Beth Cooper, a book that's as wildly over the top as Sex Drive yet takes time to focus on the characters' relationships and offer a thorough satire of the ridiculousness of high school and our modern internet culture. And we have some real reason to love the nerdy protagonist. Read that and you'll get the experience that Sex Drive should've been.

SOLVE THE METAPHOR: If you've seen the movie, the scene in which they hang the shoes on the tree. A metaphor for freedom and maturity? The only deep and interesting part of the movie? You decide. It could just earn you a prize of my deciding...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Three Essential Paul Newman Films

You don’t have to see every movie Paul Newman starred in to understand his impact. However, his performances are well worth a look:

Hud (1963)- One of the first standout performances of Newman’s career. Newman plays titular Hud, another of Newman’s famous outcasts who instead of impressing everyone he meets, seems instead to bring misery to their lives and cause them to resent him. Despite the fact that he frequently played outcasts, Newman’s Hud seems against type to most of his roles. However, he is able to find a way to channel the character’s lack of emotion and turn him into something of a misunderstood hero in the audience’s eye. This is something only Paul Newman could do. Melvyn Douglas may have won the Oscar for portraying Hud’s father, but it’s Newman’s performance that will never be forgotten.

Cool Hand Luke (1967)- Newman’s best performance. He portrays Luke, a drunken Southern war veteran who gets busted for stealing parking meters. Luke gets sent to a prison under an extremely strict warden and becomes the prison’s free spirit who keeps trying to escape. A story that seemed to mirror the soon rebellious movement in America, Luke defined some of Newman’s actual rebellion and political beliefs. His performance sticks out most. He portrays the character of having a certain charm of confidence, yet is filled with vulnerability and emotion. Some think the story is too similar to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, but the great writing and Newman make it a classic for the ages. That, I have no failure to communicate.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)- A groundbreaking film in many ways. It was the first teaming of Newman and Robert Redford and would later inspire the names for the Sundance Film Festival and the Hole in the Wall Camps. It tells the true story of outlaws Butch (Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Redford) who successfully rob banks and trains and then run from the law to Bolivia where they meet their fateful doom. The chemistry between Newman and Redford seemed so real and natural and is what truly makes the story believable. Such scenes as the final shootout and the love scene played to “Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head” have become as essential a part of American culture as Rosebud in “Citizen Kane” and King Kong on top of the Empire State Building.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Dream Come True

Yes, yours truly was mentioned on (Entertainment Weekly). Under the 20 Real-Cool Fake Bands From Movies and TV Shows, my suggestion was taken.
To view the complete list (mine is at number 11) click here: