Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mad Hatter math

Another trailer for Tim Burton's interpretation of "Alice in Wonderland" has been released. It has the potential to be another masterpiece for Burton, but what I really want to discuss is Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter. Specifically, this equation:

Madonna +

Elijah Wood = 

Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter

Tell me I'm wrong.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best of the Aughts: Top 10 TV shows

Admittedly, I'm still catching up on some of the great TV series of the decade (I've yet to watch "The Sopranos," "The Wire" and "Mad Men," for starters), but of the shows I did watch, here are the top 10.

(Note: Shows listed in chronological order)

The Daily Show (1996-present)
I will always remember the 2000 presidential election for two reasons: 1. the "too close to call" race and the weeks of fallout and 2. Indecision 2000 coverage on "The Daily Show." The day after the election, the first thing host Jon Stewart said was, "I know we called it Indecision 2000, but we were joking!" Nine years later, Stewart and his brilliant team of writers and "reporters" are still bringing us the news of the day in a way no one else can. Like it or not, they have become a voice of a generation who is skeptical of the mainstream media, and that's just fine with me.

South Park (1997-present)
Long gone are the days of Mr. Hanky and Chef. In their stead, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone use their foul-mouthed fourth-graders to skewer everything imaginable: Scientology, Bono, "Family Guy," Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Nintendo Wii, and on and on. There are no sacred cows. And because their animation is so bare-bones and each episode takes relatively little time to produce, their gags are timely and rarely miss the hilarity mark. In a word, the show and its creators are audacious. P.S. is brilliant.

The Office (BBC version, 2001-2003; NBC version, 2005-present)
The age of awkward is upon us, and Ricky Gervais is king (I guess that makes Steve Carell a prince?). The fake documentary of a paper company and its buffoon boss helped make cringe-worthy, squirm-in-your-seat awkwardness insanely hilarious. The NBC version has come into its own, too, relying more and more on its stellar ensemble cast while still allowing Carell to do what he does best.

The Shield (2002-2008)
I'm only three seasons into this series, and already I can say this is one of the best shows ever, and not just of the aughts. It's as if the creators took every other cop drama and cranked the volume up to a Spinal Tap-esque 11. All of the characters are compelling, the storylines are as gritty as they come, and rarely does it fall into the comfort of procedural drama cliches. I can't wait to see what happens to Vic Mackey and Co. because my sources tell me the series finale is quite satisfying.

Arrested Development (2003-2006)
Oh, Bluth family, you left us far too soon. Thankfully, you gave us 43 episodes to watch over and over again, gleaning new nuggets of humor each time. Best. TV comedy. Ever.

Lost (2004-present)
The story of plane crash castaways turned into a real sci-fi mind-bender, which caused some fans of the early seasons to head for the hills. But despite its trippy time-travel element, the show has been a study in how to develop characters. We know where they've come from, we know what drives them, and yet, they still manage to drive us crazy with their decisions. As the final season approaches, there are so many questions yet to be answered. I have no idea how it's going to end, but I've certainly enjoyed the ride.

Project Runway (2004-present)
Bravo brought us reality TV at its finest: Contestants with actual talent, high-tension challenges, cattiness galore and the always amazing Tim Gunn. It has given the world a bevy of made-for-TV personalities (i.e. Austin Scarlett, Santino Rice, Christian Siriano and Chris March), catchphrases ("make it work!" "fierce!") and Heidi Klum outfits.  Sure, the series has had its low points (season 5, anyone?), but whether or not you know anything about fashion, it's a joy to watch the designers put outfits together in such a short amount of time. Here's hoping that for season 7, which begins airing in January, the producers will bring back the reunion show. Pure gold.

Friday Night Lights (2006-present)
And yet again, no Emmy or Golden Globe love for this high school football series that isn't really about high school football. Seriously, coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife Tammy (Connie Britton) are the most realistic married couple on TV, hands down. Throw in the cavalcade of extremely attractive and talented young stars (though, most are nowhere near high school age anymore), dynamite writing and a whole lot of heart, and you have a championship-caliber team, er, show.

Dexter (2006-present)
Watching an episode of "Dexter" is a lot of work. Why? Because you're constantly faced with moral conundrums and intense situations. Is it right to be rooting for a serial killer? Man, I hope he doesn't get caught! But the work is worth it; it's the kind of show that keeps you coming back for more.

30 Rock (2006-present)
Tina Fey is my idol. Alec Baldwin has only gotten better with age. Jack McBrayer is a comic genius (talk about another snub; can we get some awards-show love for Kenneth the Page?). Endlessly quotable, self-aware and irreverent, it's the best comedy on TV today. Oh, and it gave us "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" -- need I say more?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

War of the Worlds

For about the 10th time this weekend, Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" is on TNT. I know it has Scientology-era Tom Cruise in it, and I know it's not the greatest movie of all time, but seeing it in the theater was a great movie-going experience. I recall literally being on the edge of my seat and completely distraught during the scene where Ray (Cruise) and his son Robbie (Justin Chatwin) get into an altercation with a mob of pedestrians who want to take their minivan -- all while daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning) is trapped in the back seat. So intense. And man, can Dakota Fanning scream.

Speaking of Justin Chatwin, I'm surprised that kid's career didn't take off after this movie. He was in one episode of "Lost" (a John Locke flashback episode, "Further Instructions," from season three) and had a starring role in the fantasy thriller "The Invisible," but otherwise hasn't done much. And according to IMDb, he's studying commerce at the University of British Columbia. Good on you, buddy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Speaking of "Deathly Hallows" ...

The first teaser trailer for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" is out there. It can be found at the end of a short featurette on the "Half-Blood Prince" DVD/Blu-ray, which was released today, or you can watch it right here.

Best of the Aughts: Top 10 books

(Note: Books listed in chronological order)

"Me Talk Pretty One Day," David Sedaris (2000)
No one tells a better personal anecdote than David Sedaris. Perhaps that's because he has so many outrageous personal anecdotes to tell -- from tales of his midget guitar teacher to his often strange places of employment and ultimately his move to Paris and struggle to learn French. The only thing better than reading the book is listening to the audiobook, narrated by Sedaris in his distinctively funny voice (as often heard on NPR).

"The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference," Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
Gladwell examines the idea of "social epidemics," i.e. how fashion trends start or how new products grow in popularity. It begs the question: Are you a connector, a maven or a salesman? (I'm a maven, FYI.) It's not just a book for business-minded folk, it's a fascinating look at how we interact with each other to make the world go 'round.

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," J.K. Rowling (2000)
The fourth book completely changed the game for the Harry Potter series. Clocking in almost 300 pages longer than "Prisoner of Azkaban," it is also much darker -- the boy wizard is dealing with Death Eaters and witnessing a murder -- and provides more character depth than its predecessors. With "Goblet of Fire," the series officially made the transition from being called "children's books" to just "books."

"The DaVinci Code," Dan Brown (2003)
Say what you will about the subject matter, but this novel is a freaking page-turner. And it captivated the world while spending more than two years on the New York Times best-seller list. I'm not embarrassed to say that I own one of the 80 million copies sold.

"The Kite Runner," Khaled Hosseini (2003)
"You will cry," my friend told me when she lent me this book. I made it all the way to the end of this heart-wrenching novel about boyhood friends from two different social classes in Kabul without a tear. But when I finished it, I closed the book and sobbed for about 10 minutes (on a plane, no less). It's an educational account of Afghanistan's political turmoil, but it's also a story of regret, of redemption and of hope, with characters so real that sometimes it's easy to forget that it's a work of fiction.

"Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs," Chuck Klosterman (2003)
I kneel at the church of pop culture, and Chuck Klosterman is my messiah. Whether he's breaking down Zack Morris' relationship with Kelly Kapowski or Pamela Anderson's relationship with America, Klosterman's witty, engaging style will keep you laughing and thinking. And whether or not you agree with his take on Lloyd Dobler, you will most certainly agree that it's a blast to even have a take on Lloyd Dobler.

"America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction," Jon Stewart (2004)
The fake-news brains behind "The Daily Show" brought us this fake text book, complete with discussion questions and classroom activities aimed at skewering American politics. It hits solidly below the belt with its spot-on irreverence and cheekiness. Here's hoping they put together "America: The Sequel."

"The Road," Cormac McCarthy (2006)
Grim, dark and stripped down in both its subject matter and writing style, this is a post-apocalyptic tale of a man's journey with his son over a desecrated landscape. If you're looking for a happy ending, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a book to help you change the way you think about the future and about mankind, read "The Road."

"One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding," Rebecca Mead (2007)
The American wedding is a multi-billion dollar industry. Why? And how did it get that way? Rebecca Mead examines it by going far and wide -- to a dress factory in China, to a wedding planner conference in New York, to the wedding capitol of the south (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) -- to find some answers. What she discovers is astounding. My husband actually gave me this book after we got engaged and told me to read it while planning our wedding. It helped shape some of the things we did and didn't do for our "one perfect day." It's a must-read for anyone who is getting married.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," J.K. Rowling (2007)
I literally cannot remember being so excited to read a book. The final installment of Rowling's literary masterpiece (seriously, won't there be college courses dedicated to it?) ties everything together in a most satisfactory way. It lived up to the hype, which itself is an incredible feat.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Best of the Aughts: Top 10 albums

While compiling this list, I realized just how far removed I am from "album culture." What I mean is, it's become increasingly rare that I will listen to an album from beginning to end and enjoy just about every song on it -- and then continue listening to it all the way through. With that in mind, I give you my top 10 of the 2000s (listed in chronological order):

"Discovery," Daft Punk (2001)
Oddly enough, the first time I heard a cut from this album was in an Old Navy. True story. And then I had "One More Time" stuck in my head for about a week until I figured out the band's name (hey, it was 2001, and I wasn't nearly as Internet savvy). It was techno, but it wasn't. It was dance music like I'd never heard before, with some slower, grooving tracks mixed in to give listeners a breather. And years later, Kanye West collaborated with Daft Punk on "Stronger," thus reestablishing interest in the duo's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" and reminding me how well the album has held up.

"Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," The Flaming Lips (2002)
All at once bizarre and beautiful, there's never been another album quite like this one. Just look at the name -- and the two title songs (here's "Part 1," which I prefer to "Part 2"). Though perhaps overproduced at times, these 11 songs fit together and make for easy re-listening. And despite its commercialization and over-use in cheesy movies, "Do You Realize??" still strikes an emotional chord.

"A Rush of Blood to the Head," Coldplay (2002)
Part of me is embarrassed to admit how much I really love this one. It has become unpopular to like Coldplay simply because, well, they're so popular. But top to bottom, "A Rush of Blood to the Head" has few weak spots. The omnipresent "Clocks" convinced me to buy the album, but it's not even the best track. The pounding beat of "Politik" had me hooked from the opening note, "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" keeps my toes tapping, "The Scientist" evokes feelings of yearning, and the title track falls somewhere in between.

"Franz Ferdinand," Franz Ferdinand (2004)
It usually doesn't bode well for a band when its best song is the song that made it famous. But even though "Take Me Out" remains Franz Ferdinand's magnum opus (with a kick-ass video, to boot), the rest of their eponymous debut is really damn good, too. Surf guitar-esque riffs, playful lyrics and toe-tapping beats populate nearly every track. Alex Kapranos is a stellar front man with an often soothing voice and dynamic guitar work, best on display in "40' " and "Come on Home." About my only complaint about this album is its brevity: 11 songs and only 38 minutes. But in this case, less certainly is more.
Note: When I bought this album from iTunes in September 2004, the track "This Fffire" did not come with it. About two months later, I was listening to the album in a friend's car, and that song came on and I was quite perplexed. I went back to iTunes and discovered the song had been added. I still don't know what was up with that.

"Funeral," The Arcade Fire (2004)
Admittedly, I was a little late to the party on this album. But better late than never, right? The title was derived as many of the band members lost family members while they were recording; accordingly, the songs bare a somber tone both in their lyrics and arrangements. But ultimately, rather than feeling sad, the songs give me a feeling of hope, of empowerment, a feeling that while things could be bad now, they're going to get better. And yet again, I'm amazed by the power of music.

"Alright, Still," Lily Allen (2006)
Lily Allen gave pop music a punch in the face with her cheeky, playful debut release and her what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude. (She drops F-bombs so naturally in her adorable British voice that half the time you don't notice the cuss words are there.) Allen's music falls somewhere between Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears, and I just can't help but love it. From the first single ("Smile") to a snarky ode to her hometown ("LDN") to a tribute to her pot-smoking baby brother ("Alfie"), the beats keep your head bobbing and the lyrics put a devilish grin on your face.

"Emotionalism," The Avett Brothers (2007)
My first taste of the brilliant brothers from North Carolina was at a live show in Newport, Ky., in May 2007, about two weeks after this album was released. What an introduction! Their sound is derived from soaring vocal harmonies by brothers Seth and Scott Avett -- who also primarily play guitar and banjo, respectively -- plucky upright bass lines and violin arrangements. Their rockin' bluegrass style is infectious and unique, and "Emotionalism" combines upbeat and dance-worthy tracks ("Paranoia in B Major," "Will You Return?" and "Pretty Girl from San Diego") with some of their most heartfelt ballads ("The Weight of Lies," "Ballad of Love and Hate" and "Living of Love").
Note: Notice the date of the embedded video: May 13, 2007, about two weeks before my first Avett show and the week "Emotionalism" was released. Great find!

"Once," Original Motional Picture Soundtrack (2007)
Does this count? Well, it's my list and I say it does. And while most of the songs are even better when taken in as part of this extraordinary film, they stand up on their own perfectly well, too. Glen Hansard's style of songwriting, singing and guitar-playing feel so personal that it's as if he's singing directly to you. Combined with the irresistible adorability of Marketa Irglova (they have since formed the group the Swell Season), we're hit with an unstoppable force of musical nature. The duo won an Oscar for "Falling Slowly," but basically every song on here is Oscar-worthy (or at least, far better than the usual Disney-flick fare paraded in front of Academy voters each year). You want heartbreaking? Try "Lies." You want catchy-cute? Here's "Fallen from the Sky." You want crescendo? Listen to "When Your Mind's Made Up." And after you listen to this album, perhaps, like me, you'll see that it's much more than a movie soundtrack.

"Dwell," The Envy Corps (2008)
Likely the one album and band on this list that you've never heard of. They're a quartet from Ames, Iowa (I'd compare their sound to Radiohead or Modest Mouse), and "Dwell" was their first major label release, though the album is populated with songs from previous EPs and their indie-label release, "Soviet Reunion" (which, according to Wikipedia, is really rare, so I'd better hang on tight to my copy). The Envy Corps gives us an upbeat song about Sylvia Plath ("Sylvia [The Beekeeper]"), catchy bass lines ("Story Problem," embedded above) and memorable guitar chords ("Wires & Wool"). I keep waiting for this band to blow up (as the kids are saying these days), but somehow they keep flying under the radar. They have spent a lot of time touring and recording in Europe, while always returning to the states for shows at places like the Iowa State Fair and the Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines, where I first saw them perform a five-song set in 2005.
Other fun facts: The Envy Corps opened for the Killers on a few of their 2006 tour dates, their song "Story Problem" was on the "Run Fatboy Run" soundtrack, and my husband and I used the song "Rhinemaidens" in our wedding slideshow. 

"Incredibad," The Lonely Island (2009)
I probably could have included this on my top five comedy album list, but it's not stand-up and most of the songs are incredibly catchy in addition to being incredibly hilarious. While Andy Samberg is the most well-known of the comic trio, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone bring plenty to the table, most notably with their work on "We Like Sportz" (a follow up to the "Just 2 Guyz" video they made before "SNL" rocketed them to fame). Don't forget that "Lazy Sunday," "D--k in a Box," and "I'm on a Boat" became three of the most talked-about viral videos since the advent of Youtube for a reason.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Best of the Aughts: Top 5 comedy albums

(Note: Albums listed in chronological order. Also, some of these clips are NSFW, so throw on some headphones.)

"Killin' Them Softly," Dave Chappelle (2000)
OK, right off the bat, there could be some controversy because this technically was an HBO special. However, I feel morally obligated to include it because that's just how hilarious and influential it was/is. It was the precursor to the comedian's groundbreaking and unfortunately short-lived "Chappelle's Show" and helped launch him into the ranks of other superstar black comics like Chris Rock.
Featured clip: Dave speaks the truth on what "Sesame Street" is really teaching our children.

"Shut Up You F'ing Baby," David Cross (2002)
You get not one but two discs of ranting, raving and ridiculous anecdotes from half of the "Mr. Show" braintrust and the man who brought Tobias Funke to life. He spends a solid chunk of time talking about New York City, and specifically what it was like in NYC in the days and weeks immediately following 9/11. Believe me when I say that you won't even feel bad about laughing about post-9/11 jokes because his stories come from a genuine place and seem to hit on every chord.
Featured clip: David lets us know how he feels about morning radio DJs.

"Conversations with Inanimate Objects," Gary Gulman (2004)
In 2004, I went to see a "Tourgasm" stop in Ames, Iowa. (Yeah, yeah, don't judge.) The headliner was Dane Cook, but his opener, a 6-foot-6 Jewish dude who some people might remember from "Last Comic Standing," absolutely blew the doors off Stephens Auditorium. The next day, I ordered this CD online and began spreading it to the masses. I think he cusses once in the entire 60 minutes -- a rare feat these days -- and riffs on sugar cookies, Pepsi and walruses, among others. Also, Gary Gulman is single-handedly responsible for my obsession with anthropomorphizing everything in sight.
Featured clip: Gary picks a fight with sugar cookies.

"Feelin' Kinda Patton," Patton Oswalt (2004)
Before he voiced Remy in "Ratatouille," Oswalt voiced his opinions on G.W. Bush and Stella Dora Breakfast Treats in this acidically addictive set. Hands down, he comes up with the best analogies of any comedian -- most of which are definitely NSFW.
Featured clip: Patton drops some midget knowledge.

"My Secret Public Journal Live," Mike Birbiglia (2007)
He's pudgy and awkward -- or pawkward, as he says -- and the man knows how to tell a good story. He named this CD after his blog, Mike Birbiglia's Secret Public Journal, which itself is must-read material. A follow-up to the also hilarious "Two Drink Mike," Birbiglia seems to have come into his own as a storyteller with this set that details anecdotes ranging from his childhood to his burgeoning stand-up career.
Featured clip: Mike takes us on a trip down memory lane to Old Mill Pond.

Best of the Aughts (?)

With only 29 days left in 2009, I've got some work to do. Because in addition to the usual year-end "best of" lists, I need to put together "best of" lists for the decade with no set name. (Is it the Aughts? The 2000s? A little help, please.)

In the coming weeks, I'm going to attempt to put together various and sundry "best of" lists, pertaining to movies, music, TV, etc. And with that, I shall retire to my study with only a monocle, IMDb, Maggie's Master Movie List and a bag of Sun Chips to guide me. Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Personal pan gordita

I cannot think of a more ridiculous song than this little ditty by Das Racist. And despite being absolutely awful, it's also catchy as all get-out. I defy you to walk by a combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell and NOT sing this song. It's not possible.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Let's hear it for the Audies

My Harry Potter obsession continues to reach ever higher nerdiness levels. The latest incarnation? Devouring the audiobooks on road trips.

If you have not experienced HP in this form, I highly recommend it. Jim Dale is a spectacular narrator, bringing J.K. Rowling's work to life while providing wonderfully rich voice interpretations for each character (I especially love his take on Professor McGonagall, Hermoine and Hagrid). So impressed have I been by Dale's work that I took a moment to check out his Web site, Turns out, he took home a Grammy for his "Deathly Hallows" audiobook -- he has seven total Grammy nominations in his career -- and has won a record 10 Audie Awards.

That's right. Audie Awards. That's a real thing. Who knew?

MCA has cancer

The e-mail this afternoon from the Beastie Boys contained the subject line, "HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM." Turns out, the problem is that Adam Yauch, a.k.a. MCA, has cancer in one of his salivary glands.

Not to worry (too much), Yauch says. The tumor on his parotid gland and lymph node is "very treatable" and he is going to undergo surgery next week. Well wishes to him on a speedy recovery.

The other bad news? His treatment will force the B-Boys to cancel their tour and push back the release date of their new album, "Hot Sauce Committee, Part One."

Here's the video Yauch posted on YouTube to explain the situation.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Sunny September

F/X announced return dates for three of its successful series, most important of which is the fifth season of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." The premiere will air Sept. 17, and the season will run 12 weeks.

Fall TV season, you seem so far away.

To get you through the rest of "Sunny's" hiatus -- and in honor of the fast-approaching celebration of our nation's independence -- I give you this.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Bay 1, America 0

Sometimes, the Associated Press hits it right on the head:

After just five days, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is halfway to $400 million domestically, a box-office milestone only eight other movies have reached. If it climbs that high, the “Transformers” sequel will be by far the worst-reviewed movie ever to make the $400 million club.

"TF2" is currently tracking at 20 percent on Yikes.

The other $400 million movies, in case you're wondering, are:

"The Dark Knight"
"Star Wars"
"Shrek 2"
"Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace"
"Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest"

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Again for the first time

Caught the last half-hour of "The Usual Suspects" on cable the other day, and it got me wishing that I could see the brilliant, boffo ending again for the first time. That amazed, baffled and satisfied feeling you get when you see a fantastic movie -- especially one with an unexpected twist -- is just magical. I want it back, dammit!

A look a couple movies I'd love to see again for the first time (here is the requisite SPOILER ALERT tag):

The Usual Suspects: The aforementioned inspiration for the blog post has one of the best twist ending final sequences EVER. Watching in the comfort of my parents' living room, I think my mom and I actually gasped in unison at the big reveal. And for that, I will always kind of give Bryan Singer a free pass, no matter how crappy the Superman reboot was.

The Sixth Sense: Didn't know a thing about this movie when I went to see it with my parents (in fact, it was their suggestion; having spent the entire summer selling books door-to-door in New Hampshire, I didn't see a lot of movie trailers). That made the experience even more enjoyable. I love watching trailers and reading reviews, but sometimes knowing absolutely nothing about the movie before you see it is awesome.

The Shawshank Redemption: Another one enjoyed with my parents in the living room (my parents like some cool movies, huh?). When Norton ripped the poster off the wall, my jaw just dropped. I still watch Shawshank almost every time it's on TV -- which is often -- and it's still enjoyable, but oh, to forget about "fuzzy britches" little secret for one day? That would be spectacular.

The Empire Strikes Back: Remember when you didn't know Vader was Luke's father? You do? Well, I don't. See, I wasn't born when this came out, so by the time I saw it (and was old enough to understand what the eff was going on), I already knew about the ol' father-son relationship.

Amelie: A friend of mine who lived in France when this movie came out recommended I see it at the art house theater in Omaha over Thanksgiving break. I asked him what it was about, and after a quasi-convoluted summary -- to which I said, "Sounds kinda lame" -- he said, "Just go see it. It will change your life." Talk about hyperbole. So I went. And I think it did change my life. And I saw it four times in the theater, taking someone different each time with the hopes of changing their lives. Quite simply, a beautiful movie that makes me feel good to be alive.

The Matrix: The special effects were so incredibly ground-breaking at the time, and now, they don't seem so special. My only real question: Why on earth didn't I go see this in the theater?!

28 Days Later: I don't even like horror movies, but this one blew my friggin' mind. Fast zombies? A movie made solely with digital cameras? Scared the living hell out of me, while also fascinating me from a production standpoint. A rare feat, indeed.

Your turn: Which movies do you wish you could see again for the first time?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Don't Stop Till You Get Enough

Thought I'd join in on the Michael Jackson tributes today. A couple MJ-related personal anecdotes:

* My older brother and sisters pinned me down to watch the "Thriller" video (still probably the best video of all time) because I was terrified of it. I was 4. Watching this video then caused me to have an extremely vivid, recurring dream where MJ would come to our house to eat dinner with us, then would turn into a zombie and dance around our living room while I hid behind the couch. Also, I used to pick up the needle and skip over the Vincent Price speaking part on the record because that scared me, too.

* I used to imagine parts of the sidewalk lighting up as I danced over them, a la "Billie Jean."

* The first cassette tape I ever bought with my own money was "Bad."

* I tried for weeks to learn how to do "the lean" from the "Smooth Criminal" video. No success.

* My siblings and I watched the world premiere of the "Black or White" video, on Fox (!), at my grandparents' house. Needless to say, it got a little awkward when he went on the crotch-grabbing, car-smashing tirade. But the song was -- and is -- still boss. My sister Tracy used to blast it in the mornings when she'd drop me off at school.

* My college volleyball coach pretty much hated me, but the only time I got into her good graces was when I flawlessly performed choreography from "Beat It" and "Thriller" one day after practice as the songs blared over the PA at the DakotaDome.

* Someone once asked me this fun icebreaker question: If you could have one song played every time you enter a room, what would it be? My answer: "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough." That song was my ringtone for about 2 years.

We'll miss ya, MJ.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hot Sauce Committee Part 1

That's the name of the Beastie Boys' new album, set to be released on Sept. 15. (No word on when Part 2 will come out.) Here's the track listing:

1. Tadlock's Glasses
2. B-Boys In The Cut
3. Make Some Noise
4. Nonstop Disco Powerpack
5. OK
6. Too Many Rappers (featuring NAS)
7. Say It
8. The Bill Harper Collection
9. Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win (featuring Santigold)
10. Long Burn The Fire
11. Bundt Cake
12. Funky Donkey
13. Lee Majors Come Again
14. Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament
15. Pop Your Balloon
16. Crazy Ass Shit
17. Here's A Little Something For Ya

First impressions: Funky Donkey sounds like the sequel to Brass Monkey. ... I didn't know NAS was still around. Huh. ... Bundt Cake is delicious.

Also, to go along with reissues of Paul's Boutique and Check Your Head, they're releasing reissues of Ill Communication (coming very soon) and Hello Nasty (out Aug. 25). Read their entertaining presser here.

And by the way, Ad-Rock is 42, Mike D is 43 and MCA is 44.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Babysitting Blues

While channel surfing -- well, technically, I was digital channel guide scrolling, but whatever -- I happened upon one of my favorite offerings from the '80s: "Adventures in Babysitting." And wouldn't you know it, I turned it on just in time for the iconic scene when Elisabeth Shue et al. sing in the blues bar. Consequently, I have had "The Babysitting Blues" in my head for three days solid.

Where I remain puzzled is why the edit-for-TV folks decided to cut out a full verse of the song when it's aired on basic cable. There's no cussing, and if they're editing for time, it's just silly to do it there, in what is arguably the most entertaining scenes in the film. The other best scene? The gang fight on the train, which does feature cussing, so alas, it is edited, too.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Summer movie update

In an earlier post, I told you about the summer movies I was pumped to see. Well, I have seen the first five on the list (in that order, even), so now I shall report back with mini reviews for each.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
RATING: Wait for Netflix (or don't, meh)
REVIEW: Again, in an earlier post, I indicated that it pretty much sucked. It had a few too many bad action movie cliches and the effects weren't even that eye-popping (unless you count Hugh Jackman shirtless, which, well, I don't). I very much enjoyed the opening credits sequence and the supporting cast had its bright spots, but overall, not a great 2 hours at the movies.

Star Trek
RATING: Highly recommend it
REVIEW: In JJ Abrams I trust. I've never seen an episode of any incarnation of the "Star Trek" TV shows, nor any of the previous "Trek" films. But this movie didn't require its audience to know a thing about the franchise to enjoy it, and yet, it didn't completely shirk the diehard Trek fans. Stellar casting (especially loved Simon Pegg as Scottie), great visuals and a taut storyline kept things moving. I even enjoyed the requisite childhood flashback scene involving James Kirk's rebel-rousing. (What can I say? I'm a sucker for car chases in cornfields while the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" is blaring.)

Terminator Salvation
RATING: Recommend it
REVIEW: Let's get something straight here: It's a "Terminator" movie. We're not curing cancer. So, for a "Terminator" movie, it was good. Tons of homages to the previous films in the franchise (i.e. "You Could Be Mine" playing on a boom box), but it definitely separated itself as a different sort of film. The camera work -- in particular, a single shot when Christian Bale is crash-landing a helicopter -- and cinematography were compelling. The storyline worked for me. And I was able to overlook a couple moments of cheesy dialogue because, let's be honest, T1 and T2 had their cheese-fest moments, too.

RATING: Highly recommend it
REVIEW: Dammit, Pixar, you guys know how to make 'em. When a film can move me to tears, not once, but three times, a high rating is in order. While it wasn't as complete a movie as "Wall-E," it had the necessary pieces of a successful family film: decidedly adult themes and references, accompanied by lively, kid-friendly animal characters and evil villains, thrown together with impressive animation and a spirited score.

The Hangover
RATING: Recommend it
REVIEW: It has a tried-and-true buddy comedy formula from the creators of "Old School," but it somehow resonates even more strongly. Perhaps it's because most of us have had that "what the hell happened last night" experience after a night of drinking. And if you haven't, well, it can be both hilarious and dread-inspiring, which is what "The Hangover" shows us -- times 10. The movie stays funny throughout, and perhaps the most priceless part of the movie is the end credits. There's something you don't see every day.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

One-girl track show

The Rochelle High School girls' track team won the Class A (small school) Texas state title Saturday. Oh, by the way, the girls' track team is ONE PERSON. And this is the second straight year she has single-handedly led the Rochelle Lady Hornets to the state championship.

From the AP:

The best small high school track team in Texas is once again a freckle-faced girl named Bonnie Richardson.

Valedictorian of her 14-student senior class in the tiny farming town of Rochelle, Richardson won the Class A girls team state title by herself for the second consecutive year Saturday by single-handedly beating 56 other schools.

Her reward was a second state championship trophy she won’t have to share with anyone – there are no other girls on the Rochelle High School track team.

“It’s great. It’s over. It’s done,” Richardson said. “It’s nice that I can relax now.”

The daughter of a Rochelle High teacher and a rancher, Richardson won four individual medals in five events: gold in the long jump and high jump, silver in the discus and bronze in the 200 meters. She also finished fourth in the 100 meters.

Since becoming the first girl in state history last year to win a team title solo, her celebrity has put her in national magazines and gotten her a Texas A&M track scholarship. It may even lure more than one girl next year to replace Richardson on the Lady Hornets team.

Good for her. But seriously, how demoralizing would that be for the other 56 teams she beat?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pssst! Quasi-secret B-boys shows

Every musical act in the Western Hemisphere is making its way down to Tennessee for Bonnaroo next week. On the way, a couple are making pit stops for warm-up shows. (Wilco and Lucinda Williams will play in Cincinnati next week, for example.)

So I suppose it should come as no surprise that the Beastie Boys are going to do the same thing. Except they just announced their shows today and tickets go on sale at 4 p.m. tomorrow for their performances in Baltimore on Tuesday and Asheville, N.C., on Wednesday. Get 'em while they're hot, folks.

Speaking of the Boys, I caught them on Jimmy Fallon the other night, pimping their reissue of "Check Your Head" and announcing the name of their next studio album, "Hot Sauce Committee," which is set to drop in September. (Side note: I can't believe I just wrote that an album is going to "drop.") It was not a very good interview, truth be told. Fallon still hasn't quite gotten the hang of his new gig, though I do wonder if he was especially nervous because he truly is a big Beastie Boys fan. Anyway, the highlight of their appearance was performing "So What'cha Want," yet another instance where having The Roots as the "Late Night" house band really pays off. Ch-check it out here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dance Party USA

Last week's episode of "The Office," entitled "Cafe Disco" and featuring the dance stylings of the entire Dunder-Mifflin crew, made me realize that I am an absolute sucker for a funny dance scene. This likely derives from my love of creating and/or being a part of funny dance scenes (any witnesses at my wedding reception can attest to that fact).

Here, a few of my favorite dance scenes from TV and film (Note: I'm not taking into account musicals; that's another post altogether):

Footloose: Every time this movie is on cable, I'll turn it on to watch the end prom dance sequence set to the titular Kenny Loggins song. Willard has some serious skillz. And don't tell me that you don't wish you could replicate that one dude's crazy robot moves; I've seen you try.

Napoleon Dynamite: Jamiroquai -- and moon boots -- will always have a special place in my heart.

Seinfeld: "The Elaine." Classic.

Can't Buy Me Love: African Anteater Ritual? Definitely busted that one out at several high school dances.

A League of Their Own: This one made me want to learn how to swing dance. And go to a place called the Suds Bucket. And live in the 1940s.

Scrubs: Turk does the dance from the "Poison" video while trying out for the janitor's air band. And he's damn good at it.

Reality Bites: Our heroes are gettin' down at a convenience store after smoking copious amounts of marijuana. Looks like an absolute blast. Also, please note that the music is coming from a janky boom box on the counter. Awwww, early '90s, you're so cute!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wolverine: The inside scoop on its suckage

Here's something interesting: A friend of mine gave me this insider info about Fox and its latest venture in suckitude, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine":

The funniest part of my job at Fox was reading news online that was happening in my office instead of finding out about it when I was at work. In mid-October 2007, two weeks before the looming writer's strike, Fox sent out an emergency message to the agencies for writers to work on the Wolverine script. They had received the second draft from David Benioff, who they had paid $1.2 million to, and needed a significant rewrite because there wasn't much action or enough story. Most of the script was rewritten in about eight days. And that's why there are huge narrative gaps. A lot of that may have been easy to fix, but Fox is now such a poorly run company that directors will complain about interference before their movies are released. Fox's strategy to make big movies on the cheap, to con audiences with marketing, and to sue Warner Bros. over some minor rights issue with Watchmen (which backfired; the rumor is that Warners leaked the Wolverine work print) undermined a major tentpole and franchise. I was estimating a sub $200 million gross for Wolverine until I saw it. It's more likely to do X-Men 1 business -- about $160 million. They spent less on it than they did on X-Men 3, but I don't think this will end up as all that profitable and it has hurt the various spin-offs and sequels that were in development.

There ya have it, folks. I think that explains a lot. I know I never actually posted a review, but the long and short of it is, wait for Netflix; the effects will look cooler on a smaller screen (yikes). I will say that the opening credits sequence is actually kinda kick-ass.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Austin power

The lineup for the Austin City Limits Music Festival is out. In a word: Yesssssssss!

A sampling of the 100-some bands playing: Pearl Jam, Beastie Boys, Dave Matthews Band, Ghostland Observatory, Ben Harper, John Legend, Lily Allen, the Avett Brothers, Sonic Youth, Mos Def, The Decemberists, Arctic Monkeys.

I suggest you get thee to Austin, Texas, from Oct. 2-4. Tickets are only $185. That's what I call value.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Merry vs. Pippin

Noticed the other day that Dominic Monaghan is in the new Wolverine movie coming out next week, and it got me to thinking: Wow, little Merry has come a long way. Monaghan used his turn as mischievous hobbit Merry in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy to launch himself into a fantastic role on "Lost" (And I'll bet more people call him "Charlie" on the street than "Merry." Just a guess.) and now a huge summer blockbuster. Good on ya, brutha!

Anyway, fellow hobbit Billy Boyd, a.k.a. Pippin, appeared in "Master and Commander" -- the same year that "Return of the King" came out, 2003 -- and hasn't really had a memorable role since.

So, this round of Hobbit vs. Hobbit goes to Monaghan.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Summer movie preview

Good God, is it seriously almost May? It is? Well, that's sorta kick ass because that means summer movie season is right around the corner.

The flicks I'm jazzed about (in order of release date):

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (May 1): It can't be any worse than "X-Men 3," right?

"Star Trek" (May 7): I know you all thought I was a big dork, but one glaring omission on my nerd resume is that I've never seen a "Star Trek" movie. At least not that I remember. I gotta say, though, the trailer for J.J. Abrams' reboot looks good enough for me to want to see in the theater. And I think casting Simon Pegg as Scottie is down right awesome.

"Terminator: Salvation" (May 27): I really wish I didn't want to see this movie. I really wish it looked like McG destroyed the once-proud franchise. But dammit if that trailer doesn't knock my socks off. Also, I trust Christian Bale to make good movies. Perhaps he will prove me wrong this time. Here's hoping he won't.

"Up" (May 29): Looks to be another genius effort by Pixar.

"The Hangover" (June 5): Todd Phillips, the dude who brought us "Old School," seems to have found another great recipe for comedy gold. The premise is simple: Friends head to Vegas for a bachelor party blowout, but get so effed up that they can't remember what happened the night before. Like, where did this baby come from? And why is there a Tiger in their hotel room? Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis will be the Michael Cera-Jonah Hill or Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy team of the summer.

"Year One" (June 19): Speaking of Michael Cera, he stars in this spoof on primitive life, written and directed by Harold Ramis. Cast is stellar (Jack Black, David Cross, Paul Rudd, Hank Azaria), and if the rest of the film is anywhere near as funny as the clip with Cross and Rudd as Cain and Abel, well, I think we'll have a winner.

"Public Enemies" (July 1): Like I said, I trust Christian Bale to make good movies, almost as much as I trust Johnny Depp (let's face it, even his more bizarre films are still quality entertainment). Directed by Michael Mann (!), it's the real-life story of Depression-era bank robber John Dillenger (Depp), who is being pursued by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Sign me up!

"Bruno" (July 10): Like "Borat," but probably even more offensive.

"Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince" (July 15): Ahhhhhhhhh! Why can't I go watch this one NOW?!?!?!?! (Side note: How is this movie rated PG? And if they decide to make the last two HP movies PG, that likely means they'll be taking out a lot of good action. Just sayin'.)

"(500) Days of Summer" (July 17): Looks like a funny and sad but ultimately uplifting movie. Synopsis via film's site: "When Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hapless greeting card copywriter and hopeless romantic, is blindsided after his girlfriend Summer (Zooey Deschanel) dumps him, he shifts back and forth through various periods of their 500 days "together" to try to figure out where things went wrong. His reflections ultimately lead him to finally rediscover his true passions in life." All together now: Awwwww.

"Inglorious Basterds" (Aug. 21): I still can't tell if Quentin Tarantino is trying to be sorta serious or just completely tongue-in-cheek with his twisted take on World War II. What I can tell is that it's gonna be flippin' violent. Game on.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Review: Adventureland

RATING: Recommend it
ANALOGY: "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" meets "Dazed and Confused"
SYNOPSIS: A coming-of-age comedy set in the summer of 1987 about an uptight recent college grad (Jesse Eisenberg) who is forced to take a job at a local amusement park when he realizes he can't afford his dream European vacation.
SOUNDTRACK: Yes, full of stellar '80s tunes. You'll never think of "Rock Me Amadeus" the same way again.

REVIEW: "Adventureland" gives to the world '80s nostalgia in a sophisticated way, plenty of belly laughs, a wide-ranging cast, a believable plot and an overall enjoyable 2 hours at the movies.

The amusement park locale is fertile ground for hijinx and relationship growth. And really, any place where bulk of its employees are high school and college students is going to provide that fertile ground. Director Greg Mottola ("Superbad") actually based this film on his experiences as a teenager working at an amusement park in New Jersey. The first-hand experience shines through in behind-the-scenes details -- i.e. How do they rip off midway game players? And where do those stuffed bananas with googly eyes come from? -- and in the characters that inhabit the park each summer.

The '80s setting feels authentic, like it actually could have been shot during the John Hughes Era (unlike, say, "The Wedding Singer," which over-accentuates the '80s the clothing, music and pop culture references purely for cheap laughs). "Adventureland" winks at the bad hair, stone-washed jeans and Material Girl personas, but those things blend in with what really is a timeless coming-of-age plot.

I've heard Eisenberg ("Rodger Dodger") described as the poor man's Michael Cera. The analogy fits -- awkward, mumbling, poofy hair and adorable -- but he brings more maturity to his character. Rightly so, as James is a recent college grad and not a recent high school grad. Kristen Stewart's main acting technique is running her fingers through her long, chestnut hair, but somehow, it works and soon the audience is as drawn to her Em as Eisenberg's James is.

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig (both of "SNL" fame) absolutely kill in their roles as married park managers. And Martin Scott ("Knocked Up") puts a new spin on the nerdy intellectual, giving him an almost goth-emo-indie feel -- as opposed to a McLovin' type.

While Mottola's follow-up outing to "Superbad" likely won't be as oft-quoted as its predecessor, "Adventureland" has the potential to catch on as a more cultish film, a la "Dazed and Confused," for the 20- to 30-something crowd.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cereal overload

This just in from the AP:

Kellogg Co. has recently donated thousands of boxes of cereal with Michael Phelps’ picture on them to the San Francisco Food Bank.

Kellogg last month declined to renew its endorsement deal with the Olympic swimming star after a photo surfaced showing him smoking from a marijuana pipe.

Food bank executive director Paul Ash says he doesn’t know specifically why the cereal was donated.

Kellogg officials responded to questions Wednesday with an e-mail saying the company routinely donates food that is nearing the end of its shelf life but still good.

I'm pretty sure Phelps could eat all of that cereal in a week by himself, what with his ridiculous 12,000-calories-a-day diet. Speaking of which, check out this Kent State student who ate the Phelps diet for one day. I shudder to think what his digestive system went through after the fact. No bueno.

Sit Down, Shut Up

Hey, don't call me rude! That's just the name of Fox's new animated series, which premieres April 19. It's about the dysfunctional staff at Knob Haven High, with voice work by Will Arnett (health teacher), Jason Bateman (P.E. teacher), Henry Winkler (German teacher), Cheri O'Teri, Will Forte and Kenan Thompson, among others. Oh, and did I mention it was created by Mitch Hurwitz? Yes, the same Mitch Hurwitz who created "Arrested Development." Yay.

Now, let's do the math on this one. First of all, "Sit Down, Shut Up" is a FOX animated series (they've had some success with those, right? "The Simpsons," "Family Guy," "King of the Hill," and "Futurama" come to mind). It was created by Mitch Hurwitz. And it will be voiced by all those people I mentioned above. So, yeah, that all adds up to awesome in this gal's book. Consider my DVR series recording set.

As a bonus treat, here's a fun clip of Arnett and Bateman trashing each other. Pure comedy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cornhole: The serious side

The American Cornhole Organization (ACO), the governing body for the sport of cornhole, wants you to know about the serious side of the game.

National rankings? Check.

High-stakes tournaments? Check.

A movie tie-in? Check.

And here I thought it was a game to play while drinking beer in your back yard and/or tailgating. Guess it's time to get serious, folks!

The Sausage King of the Netherlands

Was watching the World Baseball Classic last night, Puerto Rico vs. the Netherlands, when lo and behold, Randall Simon strolled to the plate for the Netherlands.

Weird. I didn't know he was from the Netherlands. Turns out, he's not. He's from Curacao, one of five islands in the Netherlands Antilles (a.k.a. the West Indies), so he's eligible to play for the Dutch.

Interesting. But I must admit that every time I see Randall Simon or hear his name, all I can think of is the Sausage Race incident of 2003.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Best name in college basketball ...

... belongs to Alabama State's Chief Kickingstallionsims. I hope the Hornets make the tournament just so we can see his name on some CBS graphics.

Flashback: Best Kiss 1992

The Oscars are over, but they prompted a random conversation among my co-workers about the MTV Movie Awards and how some of their categories are way better. Like Best Kiss, for example.

Trivia: Did you know that the first Best Kiss award, from the 1992 MTV Movie Awards, went to Macaulay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky for their smooch in "My Girl"? And that both actors were 10 years old at the time?

Other past Best Kiss winners include "The Notebook," "Brokeback Mountain," "Independence Day," "Dumb and Dumber" and "Species."

This really has nothing to do with anything, but it gave me an excuse to talk about "My Girl." Seriously, when was that last time you watched that movie? It doesn't get a lot of love from TBS or TNT.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nerd alert! Nerd alert! Tolkien edition

Hold onto your hats, my legion of nerds. An early, long-unpublished work by J.R.R. Tolkien will be released in a couple months. From the AP:

"The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun," a thorough reworking in verse of old Norse epics that predates Tolkien's writing of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, will be published in May by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. According to Houghton, the book will include an introduction by Tolkien and notes by his son, Christopher Tolkien. "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun" was written in the 1920s and '30s, when the author, who died in 1973, was teaching at Oxford University.

In other dorky Tolkien news, some old lady brought her first edition of "The Hobbit" on "Antiques Roadshow" recently. Turns out it's worth a few dollars.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cage's batting average: Not good

"The Rock," starring Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery, preceded tonight's NBA All-Star Game broadcast on TNT. This sparked a conversation about ol' Nicky. He's been in some really, really awful movies, but he's also an Oscar-winner and has a few gems on his resume. But what's the ratio?

On Cage's IMDB profile, there are 64 movies on his list as an actor. The first 11 have not been released (either announced or in production). A glance at the other 53 reveals he has been in very few good movies -- five, by my count ("Fast Times at Ridgemont High," which, really, he's BARELY in; "Raising Arizona"; "Leaving Las Vegas"; "Adaptation"; "Matchstick Men"). A couple are arguably good ("Lord of War" was surprisingly entertaining; "Moonstruck" is not horrible, though his performance is grating at best; and I didn't hate "The Weather Man".)

But let's just say he has 5 good movies out of 53. That's a .094 batting average. Not good. Can we send him back to the minors?

One Cage IMDB highlight: He followed his heartbreaking Oscar-winning performance in "Leaving Las Vegas" with (are you ready for this trio?!?) "The Rock," "Con Air" and "Face/Off." Unbelievable.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Re-mix-master of Paul's Boutique

Has it really been 20 years since the Beastie Boys released "Paul's Boutique"? Yes, it has. And to commemorate this groundbreaking masterpiece of music (which, 20 years later, is still my favorite album), the Boys have released a re-mastered version, available here. As MCA told MTV News, PB now "actually does have enough bass to shatter your one frozen testicle."

The special PB site is off-the-charts awesome. Fans can share PB-related anecdotes, upload photos, watch the original music videos, play Mike D in "3-Minute Rule" ping-pong and download a free audio commentary covering all 53 glorious minutes of the magic that is "Paul's Boutique."

My anecdote: I was 9 years old when this album came out. First song I heard was "Shake Your Rump"; big sister Tracy was blasting it on her super-sweet (for 1989) stereo system, and the bass was shaking the plates in the china cabinet and such. (She only did this when mom wasn't home; wise of her). And like that, boom, I was in love. Oh, and I still hold a grudge against a kid I went to high school with who threw my "Paul's Boutique" CD out the window of a moving car for no apparent reason. Jackass.

Oh, also, read their interview with MTV News here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super spots

Trailer Addict has a handful of Super Bowl TV spots for upcoming movies, including Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (meh), Star Trek (this ain't your daddy's Star Trek), G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (bleck), Land of the Lost (good laughs), and Year One (yes, please!). 

Friday, January 30, 2009

Are you ready to rock?

Guitar World's 50 Greatest Guitar Solos (linked right to the top 10). A very complete list with which I find few issues. Those dudes at GW know their stuff. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bowden, Paterno set for another old-off

Coach Bobby Bowden, 79, signed a one-year contract Wednesday, assuring he'll return for his 34th season at Florida State. His deal is worth $2.5 million and he has an option for 2010.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno, 82, recently signed a three-year extension that runs through 2011.

Bowden’s 382 career wins are one fewer than Paterno, the all-time leader among major college coaches.

Who will end up the career wins leader? Will one of these legendary coaches actually have to die on the sideline before he calls it quits? The odds of that are looking more and more likely.

Avetts touring with DMB

The Avett Brothers, a bluegrass rock band, are playing eight dates on Dave Matthews Band's spring tour. Tickets went on sale last week.

DMB can do its share of rocking, but I predict the Avetts will blow those hippies off the stage. Seriously, if you have not heard these guys, start now. Like, right here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

That would be so Boss

Bruce Springsteen will perform musical arrangements during halftime of Sunday's Super Bowl XLIII football game between the Cardinals of Arizona and the Steelers of Pittsburgh.

Do you think he'll play "Dancing in the Dark" and pull a random girl up on stage to dance with him? Might that girl be Courteney Cox? Just think of the magic they could recreate.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What is wrong with America?!

The election of Barack Obama made me think change was a-comin'. Maybe our country was ready to make a stand for what is good and right in the world. For the second week in a row at the box office, it's clear we still have a long way to go.

"Paul Blart: Mall Cop" was the top-grossing movie this weekend, taking the No. 1 spot for the second straight week.

Seriously?!? Granted, it didn't have a ton of new-release competition. But it has grossed $65 million in 10 days.

Now, you'll have to excuse me. I'm going to go throw up.

Review: Frost/Nixon

Rating: Highly recommend
Analogy: "Good Night and Good Luck" meets "All the President's Men"
Synopsis (from Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard brings to the screen writer Peter Morgan's ("The Queen," "The Last King of Scotland") electrifying battle between Richard Nixon, the disgraced president with a legacy to save, and David Frost, a jet-setting television personality with a name to make, in the untold story of the historic encounter that changed both.
Soundtrack: Yes, musical score by Hans Zimmer ("Gladiator," "Rain Main").

Review: It's a rare type of thriller that, despite a lack of "action," captivates the audience from start to finish.

As in all great movies, the captivating pull comes from several sources: the subject matter (which, as a journalist, perhaps intrigues me more than your average Joe), the film-making methods and the acting performances.

Frank Langella and Michael Sheen reprise their respective roles as Richard Nixon and David Frost from the stage production of "Frost/Nixon." Langella won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Tricky Dick on Broadway and now is nominated for an Academy Award for his work in the film -- and deservedly so.

Entering the film, most people already have an opinion about Richard Nixon and his disgraceful exit from the White House. But Langella's Nixon is not just a caricature of the man. He is not merely a good Nixon impressionist; he is the man. A real man, as believable a performance as you'll see at the movies this year.

Several times throughout the film, which is presented as a pseudo-documentary, the Frost/Nixon interviews are compared to a boxing match. The wily veteran champion vs. the optimistic contender. "No holds barred," is how Nixon puts it. Well said, Mr. President.

Konichiwa, Harry Potter

This is a few days old, but I've been lazy, so deal with it.

Trailer Addict has the Japanese "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" trailer, which, aside from having a Japanese voice over and captions, is completely different than the U.S.-released trailer.

Have I mentioned that I'm stoked about this movie? I know, I know. Big dork.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nobody puts Baby in the corner

Saw a commercial today for The Dirty Dancing Official Dance Workout. (Tagline: Get fit and have the time of your life!)


Let's see. "Dirty Dancing" came out in 1987. I wonder what the delay was? After reading the DVD's description, I'm oddly tempted to spend the $12.98 plus s+h. Check it:

Get your dancing shoes on and step out with this exclusive dance workout inspired by the #1 dance movie of all time, DIRTY DANCING! Now you can learn to move like Baby and Johnny with original dance steps and soundtrack favorites from the legendary movie. Have the time of your life and get fit to Johnny's Mambo, Penny's Grapevine and so much more! What are you waiting for? Get out of the corner, baby, and dance!
I also believe this is more proof that Patrick Swayze, despite his illness, is having a helluva 2009. First, the Barbara Walters interview, then a new TV show called "The Beast," and now he apparently has a book deal in the works. Like I've always said, the more Swayze, the better. "Pain don't hurt!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bathroom ballyhoo

Random list alert!

Some of my favorite movie scenes that took place in a bathroom. And, go:

The Matrix: Watching this movie over the weekend was the inspiration for this random list. The scene: Morpheus and Agent Smith tangle in a dilapidated bathroom. Do you remember the first time you saw this movie and it blew your freaking mind? I wish I could get that feeling back.

The Bourne Ultimatum: Jason Bourne kills a trained assassin with a hand towel. The look on Julia Stiles' face when she walks into the bathroom after Matt Damon has strangled that dude is just priceless.

Witness: Poor little Amish Samuel, in the big city train station, sees some crazy stuff go down through the crack in the bathroom stall. Tension is high as he dodges the dirty cop to escape. This movie totally holds up 25 years later.

The Karate Kid: Daniel rigs a hose in the boys' room to soak Johnny while he's in the can and rocking out to his Walkman, thus unleashing the wrath of the skeleton costume-clad Cobra Kai. Beware of Zabka!

Out of Sight: Perhaps the sexiest dream sequence in cinema history, a fully-clothed and gun-toting Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez, before she was JLo) climbs into the bathtub with con man Jack Foley (George Clooney). Quite steamy -- pun intended. Hey-oh!

A League of Their Own: A drunk Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) bursts into the locker room and proceeds to take one of the longest pisses in recorded history. To quote All the Way Mae (Madonna, in her finest acting role), "That was some peeing!"

Update: I Love You, Man

So, turns out "I Love You, Man," starring Paul Rudd and Jason Segel, doesn't actually come out until March 20. The previous release date mentioned in this space (Jan. 19) was its freaking Sundance debut. Thanks, IMDB, for getting our hopes up. Jerks.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stand up, sit down, fight fight fight

Comedy Central is conducting its annual Standup Showdown online voting extravaganza through Friday. The top 20 comics will be featured in a standup marathon on Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. You can vote once a day online or you can text an unlimited number of votes.

Who should you vote for? Here, a few of my favorite standups in the showdown (in alphabetical order, with some of their classic lines):

Doug Benson: "Did you hear Britney Spears is getting back together?"

Mike Birbiglia: "Me and my cracker friends were driving down the street in my Volvo station wagon, and I said, 'Hey, cracker, pass the Sunchips.' And he says, 'Not until we get to the picnic, cracker.' And I said, 'Cracker, please.' And he's like, 'Cracker, what?!?' "

Kyle Cease: "The only way they could've made the original Nintendo better is if it worked. You'd be blowing into that thing all day. And only you could fix your own Nintendo."

Jim Gaffigan: "There's no reason to get a Cinnabon. 'Uh, I'm about to get on a plane. How about 8 pounds of cake?' "

Zach Galifianakis: "Did you see that Lifetime movie about that woman?"

Mitch Hedberg: "I got an ant farm. Them fellas didn't grow shit."

Demetri Martin: "I think Employee of the Month is a good example of when a person can be a winner and a loser at the same time."

Patton Oswalt: "It was gayer than eight guys blowing nine guys."

Brian Regan: "When I played Little League, all I cared about was getting a free snow cone. ... 'Brian, what's the score?' 'FREE SNOW CONE!' "

The Sklar Brothers: "In every city, there's a classic rock radio station with a show called the Crazy Morning Zoo. That's the most failed premise. When you think about it, zoos are the most fucking controlled environment on the planet."

Nick Swardson: "My cat got sick. She had diarrhea. I took her to the vet, and he asked me, 'What have you been feeding her?' and I said, 'Diarrhea.' "

Daniel Tosh: "Women get plastic surgery to make their outsides match their insides: Fake."

FYI, if you vote for Carlos Mencia, it means we can never be friends.

Inauguration on the treadmill

I watched Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony and speech while running on the treadmill at the gym. One thing this allowed me to do was to see the coverage of the historic event on three different news stations simultaneously on the giant TVs in the cardio area. Observations:

ABC chose not to do a crawl or any other words on the screen during Obama's speech, Aretha Franklin's performance (side note: what was up with that hat?) or the super-group of orchestra titans' arrangement.

Fox News also did not have a crawl or other words on the screen and cut to G.W. Bush at least three times during Obama's speech.

Headline News, however, had a crawl and random headlines about Obama during the whole thing. Immediately following the speech, HLN cut to several talking heads, barely acknowledging the musical performances and things going on.

I can't decide which was the "best" broadcast method, but it was interesting to see, nonetheless.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Get back to me when it's done

They're building a new badass roller coaster at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio, called the Diamondback. Description:

The Diamondback will be the tallest, fastest and meanest roller coaster at Kings Island.  The ride will stand 230 feet at its highest point with a first drop of 215 feet at a 74-degree angle and reach speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour. The ride features 10 vertical drops overall, including drops of 193, 131, 129, 110 and 106 feet,  two helixes -- one at 323 degrees and the other at 287 degrees -- and a spectacular splashdown ending. The ride experience on the Diamondback will last more than three heart-pounding minutes.

Sign me up! Huge fan of roller coasters. It will be completed for the park's opening day in April. Totally stoked.

One thing I'm not stoked about? Looking at the photo gallery of the coaster's construction. Seriously, all I can think about is one of these dudes not putting a screw or bolt in the right place and bodies flying all over the park as the ride hurtles into one of the helixes. And yet, I still cannot wait to check out this ride. What's up with that? 

TV passions return

No, I'm not talking about the bizarre-o NBC soap "Passions." (Though, truly, that show was awesome. So bad it was good. But I digress.)

Starting today and for the next seven days, four of my favorite TV shows start up new episodes again. "The Office" is back from Christmas vacation tonight; "Friday Night Lights" returns to NBC on, er, Friday night (granted, the 13-episode season has already run on DirecTV, but I don't have DirecTV, so I don't want to argue about technicalities), and "Flight of the Conchords" season 2 premieres Sunday night on HBO.

And then, the one we've all been waiting for, "Lost," kicks back into gear Wednesday on ABC in a return to its original time slot. Oh, "Lost," how we've missed you. Don't effing disappoint us, OK?