Sunday, September 30, 2012

Last Resort: I think it might not suck!

Oh, politico-military dramas, how you beguile me. You have led me to deeply satisfying and lifelong relationships with The West Wing and Battlestar Galactica, but you have also seduced me into toxic unions with Lost and [shudder] The Event. So I went on my first date with Last Resort (ABC, Thursdays 8/7 Central) with some trepidation. And so far, I think I want to go out with it again. [Mild spoilers follow.]

Though Lost ultimately disappointed me, it did teach me the value of a good pilot. Whereas the first episode of NBC's Revolution felt like clunky exposition, Last Resort manages to introduce its cast of characters and plot--the crew of the nuclear sub USS Colorado, the military-industrial complex in D.C., and the inhabitants of a small island where a NATO base is, um, based--in a way that lets you know key elements about them and the story, but also indicates what matters to the show. The former: We have the principled Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher), the XO on his last deployment before returning to his hot young wife (Scott Speedman's Sam Kendal), the sexually harassed lieutenant Grace Shepard (you've never heard of her), and crusty old-school "patriot" Master Chief Joseph Prosser ("that guy" from Terminator 2, The X-Files, and Walk the Line). There's also a dude from Glee, notable for being a dude from Glee. Anyways, long story short: the USS Colorado receives a fishy order to, um, OBLITERATE A CITY IN PAKISTAN, and Chaplin, along with Kendal, ask to speak to someone a little above the pay grade of a deputy secretary. Not long after they refuse to fire, Team America fucking fires at them. They manage to escape to an island (cough, Lost, cough), where, after the crew learns that Pakistan got bombed anyway, and after Chaplin bluffs his way out of another attack by FIRING NUKES AT D.C. (he misses on purpose), an impasse is reached. The captain, in full-on badass mode, makes a YouTube video explaining the sitch, and promises to blow shit up if his crew gets hassled again. And now for the latter . . .

What I find intriguing (and promising) about this pilot is its interest in exploring what it means to declare allegiance. All the members of the USS Colorado's crew have sworn, either in theory or practice or both, their loyalty to the United States government. When that government begins to act in ways contrary to its own principles, decisions must be made. There is obvious, and understandable, discomfort with following Chaplin's orders to the direct defiance of the official word from D.C., despite his good instincts and implicit authority. Also, the show signals its interest in exploring the intersection of gender and power. Lt. Shepard (the daughter of a bigwig D.C. admiral) must constantly assert her right to respect, despite her clear position in the chain of command that her fellow (and subordinate) sailors ostensibly endorse. Following that, the show is intrigued by power: Who wields it (there's a mover/shaker on the island who seems unlikely to bend the knee to Chaplin, as evidenced by his kidnapping of two crew members)? Does it always warrant respect? And what does it do to people? Chaplin's closing speech about the utopian possibilities of the island is equal parts inspiring and deeply creepy.

There are plenty of opportunities for this show to go off the rails. (Cf The Event for how to make a government conspiracy quickly and irrevocably ridiculous.) But I think the first episode hit all the right notes of action and philosophy. Give it a watch and tell me what you think.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Perks of Getting Your Heart Smashed: The Deep Blue Sea

First of all, don't come into this flick expecting Sam Jackson and mutant sharks. You'll be sorely disappointed. Second of all, I'm not positive what calendar the Academy follows (Julian? Gregorian?) but Rachel Weisz either should have been or should be nominated for her balls to the wall, woman on the verge of getting her soul ripped apart performance in The Deep Blue Sea.

Weisz's Hester (her character's name is not one of the film's subtleties) is a beautiful young woman living in post-war England married to a much older (and richer, and titled) man with a mother complex. It's almost like if there were a sequel to the film version of My Fair Lady--because Hester even falls in love with a dashing pilot named Freddy. And that's where her troubles begin.

Though her marriage to Sir William is clearly a mismatch, her affair with Freddy is no better in terms of romantic success. Freddy (Loki from Thor/Avengers!) is vain, careless, and weak, and hates Hester for loving him so well when he seems incapable, whether from war trauma or a constitutional deficiency, to love her back.

The film opens with a trippy, nearly ten-minute-long wordless sequence where Hester flashes back on the twin stories of her disintegrating marriage to Sir William, and the salad days of her affair with Freddy. The fact that this scene takes place in a grungy walk-up during Hester's suicide attempt should tell you where she's at during the film's present. The rest of the movie takes place over the course of roughly twelve hours, with Hester desperately trying to make Freddy be the lover she wants, or, failing that, the lover who stays, interspersed with flashbacks of London during the Blitz.

The Deep Blue Sea is almost a melodrama (and I don't mean that in a bad way) / opera hybrid. There are striking musical interludes, and several scenes are punctuated with choral sing-alongs that cleverly comment on and complicate Hester's journey to and within the hell that is unrequited love.

The title of the film refers to Hester's dilemma: what do you do when you're between the devil and the deep blue sea? The answer is lovely and surprising. Though Sir William could (and would) offer her a life of comfort, she has been deeply and irrevocably awakened by her lust for Freddy, and doesn't want to return to a life bereft of passion.While "researching" (Wikipedia) the Terence Rattigan play on which this film is based, I found out that the gay Rattigan conceived it as a metaphor for the torture of a closeted life. The Deep Blue Sea works with that reading, though, before I knew that, I found it more a feminist parable. But really, the story is resonant for anyone who has deeply and disastrously and destructively loved someone who wouldn't or couldn't love them back.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Liveblogging Dancing with the Stars: All "Stars" Edition

How long has it been since you used the term "Paso Doble" in casual conversation? Saw shirtless men squire be-sequined women around a ballroom? Heard a sexual entendre from Bruno Tonioli? Too. Damn. Long. Tonight, Dancing with the Stars returns, and not to be upstaged by Project Runway, it's an all-star edition. Who's back for more vote grubbing and professional humiliation? Will Carly Rae Jepsen be involved? How shiny is Wax's chest? Stay tuned . . . I've got red wine and dark chocolate, and I'm liveblogging this bitch.

So Kirstie Alley is clearly back. And according to my mom/aunt, this is a good thing. Oh, snap! Did you see Tom Bergeron totally won an Emmy last night?

So far there is at least one couple where I cannot identify who is the "star" and who is the dancer. We've got two boy band alumni. Also, calling the dude who was naked in the Sex and the City movie an "actor" is quite kind.

First up: Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson dancing the cha-cha. I've always contended that Joey Fatone and Wax were separated at birth. And damn Fatone looks like a semi-regular on The Sopranos. But dude has hops! He just did that Derek thing where you jump over the chick. Kym also has fringe on her tights. It's sort of creepy--like she's a disco Sasquatch. But they have set the bar high. Let's see what the judges think. Tom says "it's so good to see you're all here!" which is either a reference to the American Idol musical chairs judge-a-thon or a dig about Len's age. And now apparently there is the possibility of a half-point. I predict this will be meaningless.
Carrie Ann: 6.5, Len: 7, Bruno: 7

Shawn Johnson and Derek dancing the fox trot. Shawn smiles when she talks. I find this disconcerting. She's wearing yellow, having gotten the "yellow is the hot color" memo from the Emmy's last night. Is it just me, or is the fox trot sort of a lackluster dance? It's like sort of half what people do at the high school hop and half what they dance at the Poconos. Anyway, not as good as Fatone and Kym. It's also funny to see Derek tower over anyone. Well, the judges seem to like it. They have identified sex appeal that was invisible to me. It's like dog whistle sex appeal. Scores after the break!
Now Derek is crouching so he looks short. Not as amusing as when he imitated Angelina Jolie's leg pose, but amusing.
Carrie Ann: 8, Len: 6.5, Bruno: 7.5

Sabrina Bryan and Louis dancing the cha-cha. Sabrina was/is something called a "Cheetah Girl." You can sort of see the definition of "star" we're working with here. Louie to me looks like someone who would be at home leading a polygamous cult. Also, Louis might very well be spelled "Louie," but I'm going with the Interview with the Vampire spelling. Louis likes to talk during the whole damn dance and Sabrina is very toothy. But they're fun. This is a hard dance to fuck up unless you fall down (Wax). The judges think they were too aggressively cutesy. The judges have a point. Scores after the break!
I just heard from my Dancing insiders that Sabrina had a thing with Mark Ballas during her last appearance on the show. Wonder if she'll bang this Ted Haggard looking dude.
Carrie Ann: 7.5, Len: 7.5, Bruno 7.5

Helio Castroneves and Chelsie Hightower dancing the fox trot. Let's see if they can make this dance at all appealing to me. Helio has a bit of a Roberto Benigni thing going on. That's not a compliment. Verdict: nope. Except for an unintentional (I think) boob grab, the performance rates an meh.5 from me.
Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 7.5, Bruno: 7

Pamela Anderson and Tristan McIrish dancing the cha-cha. Tristan is nursing a serious crush that he's not even trying to hide. I anticipate they'll bring the sexy. Tristan has let his chest hair grow out! Interesting. Pam ain't moving too well, guys. She's a little stiff. And there is many a pun lurking in that critique from which I will spare you.
Okay, sorry. I'm back. Bruno is basically begging her to dance better. Len praises her for not "falling over." This is not glowing praise.
Carrie Ann: 5.5, Len: 5.5, Bruno: 6

Melissa Rycroft and Tony dancing the fox trot. I'm sick as hell of the fox trot. BUT. A Bachelor crossover! Sweet! Melissa is the chick who got dumped by Jason at the "After the Rose" special. Hey, I don't hate this! Maybe it's just because I enjoy Melissa's flowy skirt, and would very much like one of my own, but this seemed not as boring as the earlier trots. Let's see if the triumverate agree. They want more body contact. Okay. So maybe another boob grab?
Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 7, Bruno: 7

Apolo "One L" Ohno and Karina dancing the cha-cha (sensing a pattern here?). Apolo is sporting some unfortunate facial hair. Let's see if he can overcome it. The technicolor outfits are certainly distracting me from it. This is fun, but doesn't look very cha-cha-ish to me. And if Len doesn't bust these two for being two theatrical, the fix is in. Len thinks he deserves a bronze, but Bruno thinks his extensions were exquisite. And Carrie Ann thinks he's sexy? For reals? I mean, pink leopard print suspenders over a blue jumpsuit doesn't scream "sexy" to me, but to each her own.
Carrie Ann: 7.5, Len: 7, Bruno: 7.5
Incidentally, Bruno says "haaaaaafffff" in an awesome way. He should give half scores more often.

Dude from Sex and the City and Peeta dancing the fox trot. Peeta is doing her best Marilyn Monroe impression. Not sure who Gilles is supposed to be, but he's totally lip-synching to the song. Verdict = lame. Fox trot = back to boring. In an intriguing twist, this guy's wife looks exactly like Helio's wife. Has anyone seen them together? Perhaps she's living a double life? And all will be exposed on Dancing with the Stars.
Carrie Ann: 8, Len: 8, Bruno: 8

Bristol Palin and Mark dancing the cha-cha. Oh shit, we're in Wasilla. Here are people and places you probably have tried to forget. And there they are. Coming back at you. Bristol has promised ass-shaking. Let's see if she delivers. I see hair shaking. I see shoulders shaking. Okay, there's the ass. Eh. Now Mark is on his knees, physically shaking her ass for her. Will it be enough for the judges? They call her "most improved," which I always think is a bit back-handed, compliment-wise.
Carrie Ann: 6.5, Len: 6.5, Bruno: 6 and a haaaaafff.

Drew Lachey and Anna dancing the fox trot. Apparently Drew did some sort of cowboy dance when he was last on the show that changed lives and cured mega-Staph and shit. So I guess he's a favorite. Drew's suit is very shiny and his frame is impeccable. This man looks seconds away from breaking out some serious jazz hands. I'm into it. Team Drew! Oh, and Nick Lachey is there as well. Remember him? Len is sour, but everyone else is pleased. Carrie Ann wants to see firm but not rigid. Don't we all?
Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 7, Bruno: 7 and a haaaaaffff.

Kelly Monaco and Wax Jr. who is now going by Valentine instead of just Val what could it mean? dancing the cha-cha. Val has just become the second person on this show to use the fake word "impactful" and then described their chemistry as "oozing sexuality covered with sexual tension." Sounds like it would make you sick. Apparently Kelly has never danced the cha-chat. What were they doing in season 1? The hokey-pokey? He also brought our attention to her great big tits. Keeping it classy, Wax Jr. He has foregone the trend of growing out one's chest hair, no doubt in solidarity with his brother. This dance is just fine, but what I'm really interested in is Val's outfit, which is an unbuttoned black shirt with one gold glittery arm band like disco Red Cross volunteers might wear. The judges hearted it.
Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 7, Bruno: 7 and a HAAAFFF.

Kirstie Alley and Wax dancing the fox trot. Wax seems to actually like her. I've never seen him look not at least 45% annoyed. It looks like Christo designed their stage. Kirstie has seriously pretty hair, I must say. This is quite lovely, I think, and it was the only fox trot of the night where someone got dragged halfway across the stage. I say win. CRAP, ARE THOSE KIRSTIE ALLEY'S KIDS??? Fuck I'm old. Anyway, they want Alley on 11 and she's on about 8 and a HAAAFFFF. Okay, Kirstie just planted a good seven-second kiss right on Tom Bergeron's mouth "for your Emmy." Anything after that just seems pointless.
Carrie Ann: 6.5, Len: 6, Bruno: 6 and a haaaaafffff.

Emmitt Smith and Cheryl dancing the cha-cha. Emmitt has some serious hip action skillz. And some seriously cunning green sparkly shoes! Yeah, dude is good, and I'm not just saying that because I LOVE his shoes. Judges love his flair.
Carrie Ann: 8, Len: 8.5, Bruno: 8

Tomorrow, if you care to watch, you will be graced with the Biebs and Pitbull. Now there's a duo for the ages.


Emmy Awards 2012

Instead of live-blogging I decided to transcribe some texts that occurred between me and my friend Kate while watching the red carpet coverage on E!. As usual I started this way behind so it jumps around a bit at the beginning.  It'll be like a little game to see if you can follow along.

There are lots of links, mostly to Red Carpet Fashion Awards.  I don't always agree with her opinions but she gets great pics.

Red Carpet:
Me: Kat Dennings is on the carpet and so are her twins!!
Kate: Stiletto cam? Really?
Kate: Yikes, those are some twins
Kate: Aaaaand a lame Amanda Bynes joke from Fallon
Me: They have a manicure cam.  It's like a tiny red carpet diorama.  (I ended up thinking this was kind of cute, actually)
Me: I love Jenna Malone's dress and silver shoes
Kate: Ginnifer dress, not feeling it
Me:: Bless Leslie Mann for wearing orange (the beginning of lots of oranges and yellows!)
Me: Oooo! Parma (shoulda been Padma but my dumb phone isn't aware of Top Chef) too!  Yikes Glenn Close looks severe.  Like an older dominatrix
Kate:: Lots of good looking orange actually! Padma looked great
Me: Heidi looks stunning.  Yay!  Jesse Tyler Ferg's fiance looks less hairy (this stems from a conversation we had on Friday while looking through Us magazine and noting his slightly hirsute fiance)
Me: Just spotted Goodwin.  It's, uh, different at least.  She looks so bitter all the time.
Kate: I was thinking both of those things! He does look cleaned up and yet Ginnifer always looks like she's got something up her butt
Kate: Plus I know way too much about her to ever like her because my mom worked with her step mom
Kate: heard about her constantly

Me: The girl from mod damn (shoulda been fam) is adorable but seems nervous in the mani cam (her hand was shaking a lot)
Kate: Tina Fey looks gorgeous
Me: Edie Falco looks great. Can't wait to see Tina (I'm still a good five minutes behind at this point)
Kate: also I'm surprised to see Anna Chlumsky, she looks awesome
Me: Tina looks lovely
Me: re: Chlumsky, love when child star turns out ok!
Kate: yes and I love the little detail on the back of her dress, little bow
Me: Heidi and her leg!  Whoa.
Kate: I know right!
Me: WTH is Hayden Panettone wearing?!?!? Geeze I hate Marchesa.
Kate: Oh my god Elizabeth moss
Kate: just you wait
Kate: January Jones looks gross.  So skinny.
Me: I hate January Jones so very much!
Kate: Me too. She is just so unpleasant.
Me: Yup
Kate: whoa Sophia
Me: I wish Melissa McCarthy could find a fantastic dress
Kate:: I know. I mean it wasn't terrible but it was not great either
Kate: ok just saw Hayden. She looks like she's dressing up as Cleopatra for Halloween
Me:: so bizarre
Kate: truly
Me: I love that McCarthy is wearing her daughter's ring.
Me:: Just saw Vergara. They still don't know how to wrangle her boobs. (my phone wanted to change boobs to blobs)
Kate: it's a very strappy dress but there's quite a bit of jungle
Kate: jiggle
Me: Yikes!
Me: Elisabeth Moss!!!
Me: Holy wow!
Kate: I know, right! What happened?
Kate: It's a perfect storm of awful
Me: Jan Jones. The hair, the eyes. Hate, hate, hate
Kate: and the attitude hate hate hate
Me: Awful person.
Kate: truly
(Wow, we REALLY can't stand her.  So much vitriol towards someone we don't even know.  We're totally  right though.)
Kate: o no Juliana Margulies no
Kate: speaking of boobs Christina Hendriks and her shelf are on
Me: Just got a look at her.  She really looks like the front of a ship (figurehead was the word that didn't come to me at that point)
Kate: yes yes that is the perfect description
Kate: alright where are the game of Thrones people
Kate:  oo Michael J Fox I still love him
Kate: what the hell is Claire Danes wearing. I mean I know she's pregnant but that's no excuse
Me: Ew! What is she wearing?!?!?
Me: Yellow is not her color
Me:: It's a sack with a drawstring
Kate: yeah and tablecloth is not her shape
Me: Thankfully Lucy Liu and her Versace are a palate cleanser
Kate: yes very much so
Me: her dress looks as uncomfy and danes' was comfy
Kate: very very true
Kate: Zooey Deschanel's boobs were being pinched by her dress
Me: Zooey's is what one would call a confection
Kate: yes light and sugary all at once
Me: Krakowski looks nice
Kate: yes and she molested the diorama
Me: Lena Headey is a wackadoo but she's very pretty
Kate: agreed
Kate: oh no Nicole
Kate: she's playing Grace Kelly?
Kate: not sure how I feel about that.
Me: I do not like that dress
Kate: me either. Grace Kelly would never have worn that
Me: nope
Kate: Julie Bowen looks very southern California
Me: and yet she's from Baltimore
Kate: Her Sofia Vergara impression is hilarious
Me: When she's not glammed up I can picture her on a sailboat on the Chesapeake
Me: perfect impression of Vergara
Kate: Oh for sure making crab cakes for the kids
Kate: Okay Kristin Wiig needs to stop wearing washed out beige dresses
Me: Heh
Me: Wiig should fire her stylist. It's a problem
Kate: seriously it's like the same look in the dark hair and dark eyeliner

Show time:
Kate the opening bit was good
Me: love that Ellen had pants for him!

Me: GAH!!! I just saw Mr. Bates!!!
Kate saw him and got excited too!

Kate: are they for real with the cheesy trivia for the winners

Me: Jon Cryer?!?!? Really?!?! I demand a recount! Mom says he should be wearing lederhosen.
Kate thank you, yes I agree. I can't believe he won

Kate okay Tom Bergeron's speech was funny
Me: He is very quick and usually snarky (two of my fave qualities in a person)
Kate: I was pleasantly surprised
Me: He's the best part of Dancing with the (?)Stars(?)
Cumberbatch! with bonus Freeman!
Kate I like the way you write that title

Me: Yay Maggie Smith!
Kate Yay for McGonagall!

Me: Cumberbatch!!
Kate I want to have his babies
Me: Right?!?!
Kate We can share him :)  He looks like he has stamina

Thus ends the texts for the evening.  I mean, how could it surpass the Cumberbatch sighting?

A few odds and ends:
-Holy crap, how did we miss Ashley Judd?!?!
-I'm still shocked that Mad Men was shut out completely.
-I'm sad that Downton Abbey didn't sweep but then I'm terribly biased.
-For some reason I was under the impression that the Hatfield and McCoy's TV movie sucked but I guess it was ok.  Kevin Costner should think about what he's going to say before it exits his mouth.  What was that stuff about the Emmy reminding him of the Olympics?!?!
- I'll never understand why they recognize mediocre work but then sometimes get it totally right, as with the wins for Homeland. (more on Homeland this week so check back)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nat dishes on Diaz's This Is How You Lose Her

Enjoy this book review from guest blogger Natalie on mutual crush Junot Diaz's latest!

I read This Is How You Lose Her primarily on the bus to and fro work in constant state of vague worry that one of the older Latinas I frequently sit next to who so nicely (but very insistently) wave me over when the seat is free would look over, see some word that I don’t know the meaning of but can sort of discern the naughty gist of, and promptly hit me over the head with her well-stocked purse (that or I'd miss my stop). I seem to always be reading or watching the wrong thing in public—like the time I watched Somewhere on a laptop whilst flying cross country seated between two men, one distinctly and unquestionable skeevy.  I’ve never wanted one of those sweater things that at once encompasses your computer and head more than during that first stripper scene.

I first read Junot Diaz in grad school. Drown (1997) was assigned for an immigrant literature class and I approached the book without hoping for much. The original cover wasn’t super enticing, looking more like a poetry chapbook than something I wanted to read (all three of Diaz’s books have since been redesigned to match and be all snazzy and marketable and whatnot) and, shoot me if you must, but I’m not a short story kind of chick. But, that book won me over (so much that I asked the professor if I could change my major paper topic from whatever other book I’d chosen to Drown). That says a lot. I said I’m not a short story kind of chick blithely but I mean it; if you’re not Joyce or Salinger, I probably don’t like your short stories. Sorry. Fast forward *cough* years and I have a massive crush on Diaz’s work and the man himself. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2008) was nothing short of amazing. So, learning that Diaz was releasing a new book this year (on my birthday no less) only confirmed that I’d be visiting the local bookstore as soon as I was released from the confines of work’s time clock.

The bookstore clerk commented that she’d sold a lot of copies of This Is How You Lose Her with the Domino magazine special edition “Best Rooms” that I’d also picked up (she did not comment how many people also bought a Japanese blind box—which seemed the more probable combo to me given the considerable level of geekiness we’re talking about in Diaz’s work, especially Oscar Wao) which leads me to believe that Diaz has many a fan girl (who apparently also like interior design).

But, what about the book itself? After such a powerhouse of a giant novel, I was disappointed that the third book is short stories. That said, Diaz is a master of the short story and these are no exception.  Like Drown, these stories connect easily without being constrained by or reduced to their topic. They’re all linked by heartbreak, cheating, and the apparently general asshole quality of Dominican American men (not my assumption—I don’t think I know anyone Dominican although I easily could living in LA and I just don’t know). But they’re not linked by contrivances like so many collections. These stories seem to naturally go together though they’re not about the same characters yet they don’t feel stale although most feature the demise of a romantic relationship. The stories also build upon each other and weave in and out of each other in a way that makes the book feel more like a novel than short stories—there is little of the stop and start quality of a randomly assembled book of stories.

These stories retain Diaz’s tone, typical characters, and that wonderful use of language that engages and plunges you into the depths of the love and heartbreak of the characters, and simultaneously knocks you right back out of the lives of the characters onto your lily white (or whatever other non-Dominican-American colored) ass because you have no clue what that word is or how to use it in a sentence other than the one on the page in front of you, even if you do understand Spanish.

And, like any good relationship that simply ends, on good terms but an ending nonetheless, This Is How You Lose Her leaves your heartbroken on the last page, wishing there were more. I can only hope Diaz has another book in the works, meanwhile I’ll relish the author’s current media popularity (because dude is a seriously good interview).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Trailer Park with a touch of Adaptation Angst

42 - This could be very, very good

Gambit - Let me get this straight...Alan Rickman, Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci in a Coen Brothers' movie?
I think I've died and gone to heaven.  If only it weren't Cameron Diaz.  

Great Expectations - An adaptation but not the one I'm angsty about.

Beautiful Creatures - Here's where my angst about an adaptation comes into play.  I love the YA series, the Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  So you can imagine my excitement when I found out they were making a movie of the first book, Beautiful Creatures. I was terribly disappointed by one of the casting choices, 26-year old Emmy Rossum as a teenager.  Then I found out they weren't actually going to film it in South Carolina, where the books are set. However, I liked many of the other choices in casting:  Viola Davis, Jeremy Irons, and Emma Thompson so I was willing to give it a shot. 

This morning I spotted the trailer and actually squeaked in excitement.  Then I watched it. Meh.  The look of it is very cool.  The accents are a bit thick but I'm probably nitpicking.  I do like the two leads so that's good but I'm still really miffed about Rossum.  Whatever. Here it is:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Instead of dwelling on my disappointment with
Beautiful Creatures, I decided to cheer myself up with the second Hobbit trailer.
I feel no angst about this adaptation AT ALL.
Please to enjoy:

Also there are some alternate endings to the above trailer:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Survivor: Philippines

Right off the bat we're treated with gorgeous shots of Philippines (the Philippines? Help!) and then host Jeff Probst on a speedboat.  Natch.  Jeff explains that this season we'll have three tribes of 6 including three ringers who left their respective seasons for medical reasons.  I find myself chanting quietly, as if in prayer, 'Not Colton.  Please not Colton." It wasn't!  Instead we got Russell Swan who managed to knock himself out during a challenge, Michael Scupin who passed out right into a fire and lost a lot of skin on his hands (EW!), and Jonathan Penner (love him!) who I think got some sort of infection.  There aren't as many pretty boys as last season and there doesn't seem to be a large age range either (youngest 20; oldest 53).

First Impressions:
(l to r)
Blue Team aka Matsing
Malcolm: He seems like an all-around good guy. He's handy around camp but lets Russell get the attention.  Smart!
Angie: Terribly cute, terribly blond, terribly Mormon (most likely), and a former Miss Teen Utah.
Russell: Proclaims right away that he doesn't want to be in a leadership role and then almost immediately starts giving people jobs and telling them how to do said jobs.
Roxy: very cute and a seminary student.  Don't know much about her yet but she seems nice enough.
Zane: OMG!  Zane is hilarious.  He has a tattoo of Frankenstein's monster on his arm and goes into this long explanation of how the monster picked a flower for the little girl but then strangled her, which is how he wants to play the game or somesuch.  Also, he spends the first few hours at camp making alliances with EVERYONE.
Denise: sex therapist and can read people like a book.  She's gonna be tough and could play a good mind game.

Yellow Team aka Tandan
Michael: Such a sweet guy but soooo totally accident prone.  It's adorable that he doesn't think he is.  If he stays away from serious injury he could last longer than the 18 days he was in the Australian Outback.

RC: very girlie and squeal-y;  Plus she's hiding the fact that she's a Wall St. banker
Artis: Don't know much about this guy except that he's the oldest player.  
Lisa: BLAIR WARNER RULES!  Michale is her biggest fan.  Actually Jeff Probst said on Jimmy Fallon that she's his favorite player so far.  Apparently she will really struggle a lot with being a conniving player and trying to be a good example to her kids.
Pete: Don't know much about this guy but he gets pulled into the girlie alliance.
Abi-Maria: Brazilian and flirty; in a girlie alliance with RC

Red Team aka Kalabaw
Jeff: ex-baseball player and evades mentioning this because everyone will assume he's loaded and doesn't need the money.  He's right when he says the person who wins shouldn't be the winner just because they're needy.
Katie: Who?  I have no idea who this is.  She's cute and brunette but forgettable.
Jonathan: Listen, dude was in my favorite 'liberals think they're better than everyone else' movie.
Dawson: I like this girl.  She's smart as a whip (totally recognizes Jeff because of an ex of hers who was a baseball fan) and I think will go far if she plays this just right.  She's my #1 right now.
Carter: I totally thought this was a girl for some reason. I probably shouldn't admit that.  Anyway, I don't think he spoke once during this episode.
Dana: I like this girl too.  She's tough in a southern girl way and describes herself as "punked-out and spiky girl."

Immunity Challenge:
There are two idols up for grabs and because this is the first challenge of the season, there are variations of fire-starting materials too.  The tribes are to split themselves into 3 groups of 2.  Each pair will be responsible for one leg of the challenge: a run into the woods to retrieve paddles, a row into the ocean to retrieve a box, and to put the final puzzle together.  Angie and Roxy offer to do the running part but Russell ignores them and forces them to do the puzzle, even after Angie declares to be TERRIBLE at puzzles.  This will go well.  Russell has to pull Zane (who is in terrible shape) along and the blue team loses.  It's a tight race between red and yellow with red pulling off the win (probably because of Jonathan's puzzle skills). 

Post-challenge, Zane pretty much offers himself up for the Survivor gods as the first torch to be extinguished.  Angie, the imperious cheerleader, won't accept this and tells him to fight.  Mostly the group has been talking about ousting Russell because he's already had his chance.  Plus, he's like totally bossy.

@ Tribal:
Jeff asks his incredibly appropriate questions and they are answered.  Russell is saved and poor Zane is not.  I guess Angie had a change of heart, fat lot of good her words of encouragement did for Zane.

Zane, the tribe has spoken.  You were funny and probably could have gotten a lot further if only you had quit smoking a while ago.

Mom's quote of the night: "They keep showing WAY too many snakes."   

Monday, September 17, 2012

Forrest Gump vs. Sling Blade: Steel Cage Match

Two mentally challenged and good-hearted Oscar-nominated protagonists enter the ring. Only one can emerge victorious. Smart money is on the dude with the big ass knife, but let's let them play it out, shall we?

Plot: Forrest Gump (1994) follows Tom Hanks's Forrest as he overcomes leg braces, Vietnam, and heartbreak to PARTICIPATE IN EVERY MAJOR EVENT OF THE MID TO LATE TWENTIETH CENTURY. It's like Zelig, except with a slow-witted Southerner. Sling Blade (1996) centers on Karl, an Arkansan who tries to reintegrate into small-town society after being released from the state mental institution for murdering his mother and her lover when he was twelve. It's like The Omen, except with a slow-witted Southerner.

What would Kirk Lazarus say? This match would not be complete without referencing Robert Downey Jr.'s immortal quote from Tropic Thunder: "Never go full retard." Forrest's below average intelligence and promiscuous affection (along with quite remarkable athletic ability) leads him to football stardom, war- and peace-time heroism, and what looks to me like leadership in a running cult. Karl mainly just scares the hell out of everyone.

Would you like sugar in your coffee? Despite some pretty heavy stuff--the death of Forrest's mother, Lt. Dan's debilitating war wound, and, you know, losing the love of his life to AIDS--Forrest Gump is light in tone and happy in ending with a nostalgalicious soundtrack. Sling Blade, on the other hand, is dark as pitch. Karl's attempts to emotionally connect with a new young friend only lead him to kill again (though one could argue drunken and abusive asshole Dwight Yoakam had it coming), and be re-institutionalized at the film's conclusion. Of course this is after we learn he was forced to murder his premature infant brother at the age of six.

Potent Quotables: "Life is like a box of chocolates" in a cloying Southern accent or "Some folks call it a sling blade, I call it a kaiser blade mmmhmmmm" in a gravelly monotone Southern accent?

May I have the envelope please?: Both films were critical darlings, with FG netting Best Actor, Director and Picture, and Sling Blade scoring Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars.

The Winner is . . .  Sling Blade, because I'm still bitter that Gump's best picture nod ROBBED the actual best picture of 1994 which was Pulp Fiction. It wasn't even runner up. That would be The Shawshank Redemption.

*Thanks to Jonathan Alexandratos for a) suggesting a match-up, and b) picking two movies I had not only heard of but actually seen.

Resident Evil: Retribution (in 3D! even)

Yes, I spent 3D money on a crap film.  Also, I refuse to apologize for it. I have a weekness for crappy franchises.  Give me Blade or Underworld or Resident Evil any day!  I'll be there with my glasses on.

Resident Evil: Retribution picks up exactly where Resident Evil: Afterlife left off.  Like exactly where it left off.  Oh yeah, I'm going to assume the only people reading this have seen the other 4 preceding movies.  If not, this is no place for you.  Go on and read something of Tracy's.  She watches the important stuff.  Speaking of Tracy's work on this here blog, I was watching the movie and thinking, "Gee, I wonder if I can relate this to Tracy's theory on very powerful, very damaged girls in movies."  Then I quickly quashed that because A) Jovovich isn't a girl and B) THIS IS A RESIDENT EVIL MOVIE.  Oh and for those of you who have seen all the Resident Evil movies, a few of the past favorites show up in this one and that made it kind of fun too.  No Chris Redfield.  Boo :(  But Luther and Carlos are there. :) Yay!

The story is this:  Jovovich's Alice is still trying to do whatever it is she thinks she's supposed to be doing (escaping an Umbrella facility, taking down Umbrella, etc.) to end the game, er, movie series.  This time around she wakes up in an Umbrella facility (shocking, I know) and is supposed to meet a group of beefy mercenaries who are there to get her out so she can save the outside world from the infected.  The facility she's in was an old, Russian submarine facility that Umbrella bought and turned into biohazard testing sites.  Sections of the facility have been set up to look like different parts of the world (NYC, Tokyo, Moscow, Berlin, and suburbia).  This iteration of the RE movies played out much more like a video game than any of the others.  There was a clear mission (getting out) and we were provided with maps, and graphics showing where to go.  The Red Queen was back starting up the biohazards in each site just like it would if you were playing the game.  I don't play these games so it's very possible this was lifted straight from a game and I just don't know.

Um, what else can I say?  As mentioned, I saw this in 3D (at my local, cheap theater where matinee 3D shows are $5.75-bless 'em) and was glad I did.  They made good use of it and it looked pretty cool overall.  Paul W.S. Anderson (not to be confused with the Paul "P.T" Anderson whose movie also released this weekend and is probably outstanding) loves directing these slo-mo action films and he does it well. It gets a little old after a while but it's fun to watch and he does it well.  What he doesn't do well is direct actors but then the term "acting" is used loosely when referring to these types of films.  Everyone showed up, they knew their lines, and they kicked ass.  Plus most of the guys were good looking and full of muscles:

Milla remains one of my girl-crushes.  We're the same age and she looks just as fantastic now as she did 15 years ago.  She's a total goofball in person (I've been to a few of her Comic-Con panels) and I love that.  She might have had a different career but I think she digs doing these fun movies and I think she digs working with her husband.  So good for her.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Trials of Ted Haggard: It could have gotten better

The Trials of Ted Haggard is not a particularly good documentary. It's underdeveloped, glib, and uneven, with the filmmaker's voice swinging wildly between overly intrusive and abruptly absent. But it still got under my skin.

Ted Haggard, as I hope documentarian Alexandra Pelosi covered in her first film on the evangelical preacher, Friends of God, was a reliable spewer of grade-A fundamentalist vitriol, with a particular focus on anti-gay rhetoric while running his New Life Church in Colorado Springs. As many of you probably know, Haggard was accused of buying meth and soliciting a male prostitute in 2006, charges he did not dispute. The church he founded exiled him and his family from Colorado, and Trials picks up with Haggard searching for work and redemption in Arizona.

I won't pretend there wasn't a degree of schadenfreude on my part when I learned of Haggard's admission. But revisiting him now, especially after watching Brokeback Mountain, just made me sad. Haggard recalls how "same-sex play" as a boy inaugurated a "lifelong struggle" against homosexual impulses. Watching Haggard's defeated and shame-filled expression during an interview when his wife admits their marriage lacked the intimacy that she would have hoped for, seeing his family of four inhabit a series of strangers' homes since Haggard refused to sell their home in Colorado, and witnessing his increasingly desperate and unsuccessful attempts to find entry-level work was a frustrating reminder of how wasteful and toxic an inauthentic life can be.

Brokeback chronicles two men who meet and fall in love in 1960s rural Wyoming. It's heartbreaking that they can't enjoy and nurture their relationship in freedom, but it's understandable--even covert expressions of homosexual love could have been lethal. Haggard, born in the 50s in Indiana, might have felt similarly threatened and unable to explore the sexual identity he admits was his earliest impulse. It's hard not to assume that he constructed his entire life, including his ultra-conservative ministry, as a shield against the feelings that were part of his deepest interior self. And the drugs and solicitation might have been the explosive acting out of a wounded and thwarted heart.

Of course, we can't know if any of those things are true because if Haggard himself knows, he's not saying. He remains committed to his marriage and to the school of biblical interpretation that condemns homosexuality, even as his own experience seems to contradict the precepts that bind him to both. Haggard says that it's hard to believe that his prior sexual conduct was a "choice" since it was so desperately hard for him to deny those desires, but he believes he can choose against it now. I can't help but imagine a different scenario, where once his "secret" was revealed, Haggard had felt liberated to imagine a life that wasn't shackled by shame and fear. And I desperately hope that the twenty-first century becomes a place where the ability to create such an unfettered and love-filled life is the default legal and social right of every human being.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Trailer Park Time!

A little something for everyone today...

Lincoln - Oscar bait at its finest.

Mama - Gah!  This looks creepy (but kind of awesome)

Texas Chainsaw 3D - Oh that silly Leatherface.  What’s he up to now?

Stand Up Guys - What any movie needs is MORE WALKEN!!!

Wreck-It Ralph - Can’t wait!

Everybody Has a Plan - Whoa.  Viggo speaking Spanish?  Ok, I’m in.

 Smashed - This got rave reviews at Sundance plus Aaron Paul is very hot right now.

Hey look, another Wuthering Heights adaptation

Parental Guidance - I miss Billy Crystal and really hope this is good.

Twilight 7.2 (I refuse to type out the full title)
There are many things that bug me about Twilight, but one thing in particular is the idea of the traveling Volturi.  How did they get from Italy to Washington State?  Do they own a jet?  Perhaps they chartered one?  If not, did they fly commercial?  Can you picture them all going through airport security and then customs?  How would they have filled out those customs forms? Buisness?  Pleasure?  A little of both?

Ginger & Rosa - Brilliant cast, sadly no US release date as of yet

 Cloud Atlas - This has been edited down from the 6 minute trailer released back in July.

Seven Psychopaths - I'm ending with the RED BAND TRAILER.  You have been warned!
Also, this looks pretty freaking great. And it has MORE WALKEN!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Steel Cage Match: Pretty Woman vs. Mighty Aphrodite

Two hookers with hearts of gold enter the arena . . . only one will make it out alive.

After the Amelie vs. Black Swan showdown instigated by the 1001 blog, I thought I might send a few other similarly themed flicks into the steel cage and see whose got the right stuff.

Plot: Pretty Woman chronicles the fairy tale romance of a Hollywood working girl (Julia Roberts) who meets her Prince Charming--well, she meets Richard Gere, who isn't initially super charming, but is rich. Just like Cinderella, if Cinderella were a prostitute. Mighty Aphrodite follows sportswriter Lenny (Woody Allen) as he hunts down the biological mother of his precocious son, and discovers she is a New York working girl (Mira Sorvino). He proceeds in increasingly ill-fated attempts to get her to change her wicked ways. Just like Pygmalion, if Galatea were a prostitute. And a porn star.

How committed are they to the whole hooker thing? Well, both have violent pimps. Sorvino's gets more screen time, but he's played for laughs. Julia nearly gets raped by her john's friend, a decidedly un-Seinfeldian Jason Alexander. Sorvino blithely and graphically describes a gang bang.

How offended am I by the notion that both films suggest becoming a prostitute is a good way to improve your life? Well, at least Mighty Aprhodite puts the "save the bad girl" theme right up front. However, Roberts's Vivienne is the moral and emotional heart of Pretty Woman, whereas Sorvino's Linda is pretty much made fun of the entire movie. And despite what Sorvino herself said in an interview for Woody Allen: A Documentary, Allen is not particularly noted for his subtle and compassionate characterizations of women.

Are either of them any good? Look, I'm not immune to the lure of a late-night viewing of Pretty Woman on TBS. And both films raked in the awards (Pretty Woman owned the Golden Globes, and Sorvino got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar). But I've got to say, the innovation of a literal Greek chorus in MA, and the intrusiveness of Oedipus, Jocasta, Tiresias and Cassandra in the plot is pretty genius. And, there's a musical number. Win.

The Victor? Mighty Aphrodite. I'm an Allen apologist from way back. This contest was decided before it began.