31 May 2011



I’ve never really liked Kristen Wiig’s characters on SNL, but that might just be because it’s SNL. In the context of a film she has a lot more time to get things right, and she’s not inhibited by the one-note characters written for her. I’m not saying she’s a completely different person on the big screen but she’s a lot less annoying when she doesn’t have to be. At least she’s a good writer.

Bridesmaids is a movie that definitely looks like a “chick-flick,” but isn’t. It has many of the same basic building blocks; a bunch of female characters with relationship problems, a love interest, and OMG A WEDDING OMG. However, unlike the films advertised in the previews before this movie, it’s something that anyone with a good sense of humor and a strong enough stomach can enjoy. Being an Apatow-produced movie it’s not much of a surprise that there’s going to be some pretty raunchy comedy.

It’s the story of a largely unsuccessful woman with a newly engaged friend, and her seemingly endless self-destructive behavior and pity-parties. In her quest to compete for her best-friend’s attention, she manages to give the wedding-ladies food poisoning, get thrown off a plane, destroy a bridal shower, lose her job, and almost destroy a promising relationship with the Irish guy from The IT Crowd, jeopardizing the very friendship she was fighting for in the process. It’s a bit painful to watch at times, but being a comedy there’s plenty to keep it from being entirely depressing.

And what a comedy it is. This movie made me laugh more than any new funny-film has in the last few years. It’s gross, it’s irreverent, a bit shocking, awkward, and just a bit genius. The scene I’ll probably remember the longest didn’t even have any dialogue; Kristen makes a pretty neat cupcake and takes a bite, and then the camera just stays on her while she chews just a bit longer than would be expected as she makes unflattering faces. That sort of understated humor isn’t repeated a whole lot but the intelligence of it is prevalent.

The rest of the cast does a great job. There are a lot of great actors, some of which I recognized, including the awesome Jon Hamm as a fantastically awful person, Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric Awesome Show fame as the silent fiancé, and the adorable Ellie Kemper from The Office as an innocent newlywed.

Once in a while the movie does kind of relax into the framework of a chick-flick, but never for long, and not in a way that made me want to stop watching it. It’s really funny.

24 May 2011

Some TV Stuff

Well, I haven’t seen any new movies in a  bit, and I’ve been kind of neglecting TV on here for a while. Not many of the shows I’ve been watching have really inspired me enough to write a full post. I could probably do it for a couple of them, but I think it’s easier just to do a little for each one here and be done with it.

The Event

key_art_the_eventSince I just finished watching last night’s finale, I figured I’d start with this, possibly the most interesting failure of the last batch of Lost clones. I initially had no interest in it based mostly on the name, which reminded me of The Happening. Not a good selling point. Anyway, there were a few semi-positive previews on some blogs I read so I figured I’d give it a chance. It focuses on a few characters in government and a cool, extremely earnest hacker/genius/hero type dude who are faced with alien invasion not too dissimilar from that of V, except here the aliens don’t actually look like lizards, they don’t have a spaceship, and they don’t want to eat us. Instead they just want to move in, which might require a substantial trimming of our population. Also they’ve been here for 60 years already and can make shiny portal things.

It’s not really a bad show. It’s miles better than FlashForward and V, and at times it’s almost gripping. The problem is that the characters don’t have much dimension, and are never given the opportunity to adjust to new circumstances, as whenever some seemingly game-changing thing happens, the resolution always involves replacement of characters and basically just going back to normal. I realize this is a common trait of network TV shows, but if you’re going to replace Lost you’d better try a bit harder. The Event will not be returning this fall, and I’m okay with that, especially after the perfectly ludicrous closing of the finale.


castle-fillion_l I’ve been keeping up with this show for one reason: Nathan Fillion. He’s a funny, charismatic dude, and he does have some input in the show, but it seems great actors need good writing and direction too. If only Joss Whedon could take it over. Nathan’s role as a successful mystery writer helping out a homicide policewoman is sometimes fun to watch, and occasionally the other characters make it bearable as well, but Castle is probably the most formulaic show I’ve ever seen, putting even House’s cookie-cutter plots to shame. It really becomes a chore to sit through the same beats over and over without any real progress in the overall story arc. There have been a couple interesting episodes but I can’t really remember them. I probably even missed a few because I couldn’t bring myself to give it my full attention every week. I’ll probably watch next season’s premiere to see how the cliffhanger turns out, but if it resolves as I expect it to then I don’t think I’m going to stick with it.


NUP_111042_1145 Chuck is a stupid show. Almost every decision the lead characters make is idiotic, they never learn anything, and the insistence on involving unbelievable relationships in every episode’s plot is just tiresome. Still, it’s a show that panders to my nerdery, the characters usually have a kind of likeability, Yvonne Strahavski is incredibly gorgeous, and Jayne Cobb is in it. When I first tried the show while the first season was still airing I dismissed it after a few episodes. I later came back to it and fell in love; now that I’ve been watching it as it airs since somewhere in the second season, the appeal has died a bit, but not enough to make me abandon it for the final season coming up. I hope the writers can come up with an actual conclusion now that they don’t have to keep stretching things out in hope of renewal.

House MD

Watch House Season 7 Episode 10 - Carrot or Stick

Sevens seasons is a lot. Any show with this longevity should expect to be losing its edge, and I think that was very evident in last night’s finale. Every season-closer I can remember before this one was something of an event, almost a triumph of drama and character development; this time it was more like any other episode, with a half-hearted attempt at shock value. It was laughable. There was far too much reliance on House’s relationship with Cuddy this season. It worked sometimes but it was mostly just retreading the same issues that we’ve seen before dealing with House’s inability to do his job when he’s happy. Olivia Wilde’s absence from the cast for most of the season definitely hurt the show in my eyes, but I’m quite happy that she’ll be in a number of the movies I’m looking forward to because of it. There were a few episodes that broke from the usual formula, and I wish they’d do it more often, but the addictive quality that used to be there seems to be gone.

The Office

the-office-season-3-7 Now we start getting closer to something that might be considered quality. The Office has been around almost as long as House, but it’s managed to do that without relying on formula quite as heavily, to its benefit. The characters are still great, the comedy has lost most of its edge but remains charming, and the rather major upheaval in the loss of Steve Carell was handled pretty well, although the real fallout is yet to be seen. There were some very funny episodes amid the usual kinda-funny stuff up until the last few which were mostly very fun to watch. I really enjoyed Ellen and Gabe’s breakup and the ensuing feud between Gabe and Andy, which brought about some of the best line deliveries of the season. Will Farrell's brief stint as manager wasn’t the greatest but worked well enough. It’s still a good show after all these years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if next season is its last.


fringe-s3e2-the-box-03-550x380 Much like Chuck, Fringe is a show that I initially dismissed after watching some of it, but came to love later. In my last post on the show I wrote about how I happened to drop in on an episode that basically blew my mind, pulling two universes on top of each other with fascinating results. The third season continued the storyline in an admirable fashion, with the two realities taking turns episode by episode with the alternate versions of the characters we’ve come to love. Sometimes it got a bit silly, what with the soul-magnets and whatnot, but for the most part Fringe remains a solid sci-fi-ish show with likeable characters and interesting plotlines. The monster-a-week formula has been mostly discarded in favor of a larger story, and it’s been working pretty well. I’m definitely looking forward to the season that we all expected not to happen.

The Chicago Code

Chicago_Code_CastI haven’t seen any other Shawn Ryan shows like The Shield or Terriers, but from what I understand they’re all similar in a few ways; the characters are complex people with the desire to do good while not really doing it all in a way that’s generally accepted as good, and the shows themselves are incredibly solid. Both hold true for The Chicago Code. It’s the story of a new lady police superintendant, Teresa Colvin, who has a strong desire to clean up the Chicago government, which is traditionally plagued with corruption. She puts together a small taskforce of cops she trusts, including our hero Jarek Wysocki, to find the dirt she needs to put away the evil one politician at a time. The trio of Teresa, Jarek and the despicable Alderman Gibbons are very well drawn, and all three of them fit the bill of good intentions versus questionable methods, to varying degrees of violence. Gibbons in particular is an interesting case, as he’s definitely an evil man, but he does seem to have the betterment of Chicago as his main goal, or at least that’s what he thinks; it may be he’s just serving himself. Jarek is fantastically played by Jason Clarke as a good police through and through while wrestling with his demons. Teresa, played by Jennifer Beals, initially seemed a bit unbelievable to me but eventually became more of a human character with an uncompromising method.

Aside from the cast, the show is just gorgeously filmed; it’s probably the best HD programming I’ve seen on network TV, with constantly crisp and vibrant colors in every shot. The use of voiceovers might be overdone sometimes but here it’s used well, especially in the first episode, which involved the moment that really hooked me into the show. It’s an extreme shame that it’s been canceled, but the finale really worked as a series closer.


jim-rashs-dean-pelton-on-community-nbc-gets-our-prize-for-most-underappreciated This show is made for people like me. So many episodes are dedicated to parodying over-used tropes or honoring great films, and doing it hilariously with a great cast of loveable, unique characters. Oddly some of the faults I burned Chuck with count as merits for Community; no one ever really learns anything. They remain the same people after every episode. It works here for some reason. Anyway, the film-culture jokes are great, Abed continues to crack meta in the best moments possible, and the paintball episodes kick ass. By far the best comedy currently on TV, at least that I’ve seen. Can’t wait for more.

Now that these seasons have ended, I can now get back to some Netflixing when I’m not watching excellent shows like The Killing and Game of Thrones, and maybe write a bit more than I have been. I watch too much TV. Now let’s count all the grammatical errors I made, because I suck a proofreading!


09 May 2011



“I’m Thor.” “You’re Thor?” “Well it hurtth.” (not taken from this film)

I don’t know much at all about the comic-book version of Thor. My knowledge of Viking lore is mostly gleaned from Neil Gaiman books. Still, this movie seemed like it could be fun, and the reviews are pretty good. Having both Kat Dennings and Natalie Portman in the cast certainly can’t hurt.

Thor is the son of Odin the Allfather, king of Asgard, which is seemingly a planet or something instead of a spiritual realm as in the mythological version. The inhabitants of Asgard are a techno-magically advanced, powerful race of superhumans/aliens who’ve been trolling Earth for the past few millennia, posing as gods. Odin and his brother Loki are vying for their aging father’s throne, and Thor’s brash ways bring him to restart an age-old war with the Frost Giants, another alien race on another planet. This affront to peace makes Odin very angry; he summarily grounds Thor until he learns his lesson.

This brings us to Earth, where Thor the disenfranchised meets the lovely scientists Natalie and Kat stormchasing with their old-man co-worker. For a while Thor oddly thinks that he’s still the big man, but eventually figures out that he’s been a bad boy. This realization marks an almost immediate change in his attitude, and after a selfless act he’s given back the hammer and goes back up the rainbow bridge to kick some brotherly ass.

It’s not what I’d call a really good movie, and while others are calling it the best comic-book movie since The Dark Knight, I’m not sure I agree. I think I enjoyed Iron Man 2 a bit more. It is indeed an entertaining film, mostly due to its self-awareness; the movie knows it’s a bit ridiculous, and piles on the funny. If not for that it would just be stupid. The only performance that I really thought was truly good from an acting standpoint was Loki’s, played by Tom Hiddleston. The rest were just silly. Likeable, but silly. The visuals were pretty nice but too plastic for my liking, and the action kind of fell into the same trap as Sucker Punch by having little or no consequence.

Still, the funny saves it. Thor’s time on Earth being a jack-ass is fun to watch, and whole rainbow-bridge thing just cracks me up a bit. It’s a fun movie, and you could do worse than going to see it in theaters; just skip the 3D if you can.

07 May 2011


Deadwood courtesy Doug Hyun/HBO
Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, W. Earl Brown and Sean Bridgers

This show is awesome. Can’t really boil it down any further. It’s up there in the skies with The Wire and Breaking Bad, and all those other shows that I haven’t seen yet. The reason it’s so awesome is its extreme focus on characters and squeezing tons of incredible performances out of its actors. The dialogue is some of the most difficult to understand yet wonderful prose I’ve heard in a televised program, and the episode/season structure is extremely satisfying without relying on contrived cliffhangers for almost the entire three-season run. The great shame though is that it had to end prematurely with a rather large thread left untied, and it seems that it will forever remain so.

Now that I’ve started with something that would better fit in the conclusion I guess I’ll write a bit about the plot. The show is loosely placed on a real place called Deadwood, in which the majority of the characters are based on real people who really were in Deadwood in the late 1800s. However, a lot of dramatic liberties were taken to better serve the story. Anyway, this guy Al Swearengen is the owner of a saloon, and basically controls the camp that will later become a town. He’s a very smart, foul-mouthed man with good intentions but an uncompromising method. He has many, very loyal friends who help him to control and protect the camp. Not among them, at least at the start, is Seth Bullock, a moralistic man with little control over his fiery emotions who uses his position as a sheriff to give himself some outlet for his hatred of evil men. These two men are at odds for the majority of the show’s run, making for some terrific battles of character. Eventually though, greater dangers than the clash of their own egos arrive, and compromises must be made for the preservation of their livelihoods.

I can see now that if I start listing the characters further, this will never end, so you’ll have to take my word that they’re all fantastic. So there’s lots of stuff dealing with conflicting moralities, racism, honor, dishonor, loss, love, and death, as you’d expect in a western. It’s so much more than just a western though; it’s more like an epic Shakespearean play with F-words every two seconds. One theme that I noticed cropping up a lot was the characters’ need for control; several would constantly lash out at their underlings whenever they felt a lack of control or that they were being belittled by others, making them seem both petty and human. There’s just so much emotion in this show it’s ridiculous.

As expected I can’t really do Deadwood justice. To do that I’d have to write a few essays, and I really don’t want to do that. I’m done with highschool, thanks. I’m just going to have to leave this at it is and fume in my chair cursing HBO for cutting this wonderful thing short before it was meant to end.

01 May 2011

Win Win


I’m a pretty big Paul Giamatti fan. Before I knew who he was it was still a treat whenever I recognized him in movies. Now I kind of seek out his stuff, and so far this has been the one that took the longest to see after I heard about it, because it’s such a small movie. What’s really cool about it is that it’s written and directed by Tom McCarthy, the guy who did The Station Agent and some of the new Game of Thrones series on HBO, which are both fantastic. He even had some involvement in the writing for Up, which is a fine movie too. To top it all off it has Jeffrey Tambor from Arrested Development and Amy Ryan from The Office. Good people in this thing.

Mike Flaherty is a rather down-on-his-luck family-man lawyer who is also a wrestling coach at the local high school. His luck starts changing when he finds out one of his elderly clients has a lot of money and needs a legal guardian to take care of him as he slips into dementia, which leads to Mike doing some shady things to get the money without doing too much actual work. Then his client’s estranged grandson comes into the picture and happens to be a great wrestler, unlike everyone on Mike’s team. Win win! Everything goes great for a while, but of course Mike’s misdeeds eventually come back to wreck his day.

It’s dramedy of sorts; very funny and also emotionally involving. Most of the characters are broken in some way, much like those in McCarthy’s other works. I really like movies like this where the characters are human and unsure of what they’re supposed to be doing. Kyle, the wrestler, is possibly the most human of all the characters because he’s not actually an actor; while his lines aren’t delivered with any sense of professionalism, it’s believable for his character and really works quite well. Mike’s slightly-better-off friend, played by Bobby Cannavale, plays a financially successful but familial failure of a man who just can’t seem to do anything without it seeming like sexual innuendo, and brings in most of the laughs while still being just about as broken as Mike. Amy Ryan, playing Mike’s wife, seems to have it a bit more together but is definitely ruled by her emotions.

One thing that was a bit weird but also kind of expected was the proliferation of product-placement. My friend and I counted at least five or six instances of it, sometimes more obvious than others; it was kind of funny how Wii Golf was shown a few times very quickly and mentioned in the dialog, with the delivery of the lines seeming to be almost begrudging of its inclusion, at least to my ears. I can understand why there was so much; it costs a lot to make a movie, even one as simple as this, and it still has a very independent feel.

It’s a very good movie. I’m not big on sports, but kind of like Crazy Heart’s use of country music, the wrestling in this film was easy to enjoy as it really had a lot to do with the story. Everything else was just really enjoyable because of the great character writing. You should go watch it if you get the chance.