Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I'm From the Future

At the very beginning of this season, a Dharma worker asked, regarding time travel, "What, like going back in time to kill Hitler?" Well, it seems Sayid had a similar idea in this focused, flash-backed filled, and super-dramatic episode.

Right away, we got a big return to flashbacks, with our first ever childhood flashback for Sayid. If it seemed a bit familiar, that's cause it was nearly identical to Eko's: one brother can't kill when directed, so the other brother does it for him. Sure, Sayid was out to please his demanding father, not a child-recruiting army, but the message was the same: they're killers.

Other flashbacks were more recent, answering two big questions: what caused Ben and Sayid's falling out, and why did Sayid get on the plane. The first answer was...disappointing. While I get Sayid being mad at Ben for taking away his life's purpose and calling him a killer, I'm not sure that was enough for Sayid to so fully lose his trust in Ben. It's not like he found out the hit list was a sham (though it still could be). Ben ending the arrangement with no explanation is perfectly in character though.

As for the second, there was an answer but not a definitive one. He got on the plane because Ilana made him. Yeah, we got that already. But as for her story about being a bounty hunter for the guy he killed on the golf course? I'm not buying it. She seems sketchy, and not just because her accent is constantly in flux and she looks like Ana-Lucia. On the other hand, welcome back McCutcheon scotch. Maybe Sayid would get along with Widmore better than he thinks.

Back on the island, Jack/Kate/Hurley started adjusting to island life. Dr. Arzt compared Lost to high school back in season 1. This week expanded on that point by putting the "cool kids" in a cafeteria. Not only that, but they were gossiping about Sawyer and Juliet while Kate was all like "OMG, I like totally don't like him anymore. As if." By the point Juliet passive-agressively told Kate she wasn't telling her to stay away, it was Gossip Girl: Island Edition.

Back to Sayid, who found out that "our you" preferred drug-laced sugar cubes to fingernail-based torture in his interrogations. In general, Sayid may be one of the most humorless and least comical characters on the show. Which made it all the more hilarious to see him high as a kite, listing off Dharma stations and declaring,"I'm from the future!" in a hippie happy voice. That bit of comic relief was well-needed for the darkness that was coming.

While sober, Sayid was making a new-old friend, Harry Potter lookalike Little Ben. They bonded over sandwiches, bad dads, and a desire to escape. It was all very cute. Until Sayid shot him, right through the chest. Now, this is all sorts of problematic, and not just because Sayid killed a kid. The problem is that Sayid would have never returned to the island were it not for Ben, creating a time paradox. According to MIA (I picture him as a hermit in a cave with a long beard scribbling equations on the cave walls) Faraday, that just can't happen.

Which is why I'm not too worried about the young Gryffindor. The island wouldn't let Ben kill Locke, and it wouldn't let Michael or Jack kill themselves. What makes us think it would allow a world-destroying paradox involving the death of one of its most important citizens? No, Ben's definitely got to live.

But even if he does live, this seems a pretty drastic change in Ben's personal history. Either he knew the whole time with Sayid that his pet assassin once turned the gun on his master, or Ben's about to have a rude awakening. No matter what, this seems a grave break to the rules Faraday once believed in. Which means plenty of more drama in the coming episodes, as a seasons and a half of Sawyer and Juliet "playing house" wouldn't really be Lost.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Trailer Alert: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Ok, I lied about being done with the videos for today. Take a look.

Michael Chabon is one of my favorite authors, and I was already prepared for a pretty huge bastardization of the novel. I knew, for example, that the 2nd biggest character was cut out (presumably along with any references to bisexuality).

But this trailer makes the movie look like the Sienna Miller Show, which is especially interesting since Jane was such a minor character in the book. There's barely any footage of Mena Suvari's Phlox, who was a much bigger part than Jane. On the other hand, Peter Sarsgaard is a perfect pick for Cleveland, so there's something.

My expectations are further lowered, but I'm sure I'll still be checking this one out.

Padma Lakshmi: Queen of Silly Commercials

Ok, this was another TV Tattle link today, but it was just so silly I had to share. I promise, after this one I'm done for today.

Muppetstar Galactica

Thanks to a link off of Tv Tattle:

Given my acknowledged love of both Muppets and Battlestar Galactica, I had to share this. Coming the same week as Jason Segel delivered his script for his planned Muppet movie, it may be a bit easier being green after all.

Have a Man Date with I Love You Man

Grade: A-

I Love You, Man has a pretty simple premise: what if you took all the tropes of a typical romantic comedy, but replaced the female object of affection with a male best friend? Everything discussed in Swingers a decade ago is still there - how long do you wait to call, why leaving a phone message can be a terrible idea - but instead of Jon Favreau seeking Heather Graham, he's seeking Vince Vaughn.

It's a straightforward premise with only a few major jokes, but those jokes are funny enough to stay fresh throughout. The first half of the movie relies on just one joke: Paul Rudd's Peter, a "girlfriend guy" now engaged to Rashida Jones' Zoe, is nervous around guys. He can't relate to Jon Favreau (yes, the Swingers reference was for a reason) and his poker-playing, beer-guzzling buddies (it all ends in vomit). When given a nickname by new bff Sydney (Jason Segel), his attempts to return the favor fall embarrassingly flat. And when a misunderstanding about a "man date" leads his new friend to kiss him, he just stands there and takes it.

You see, above all else, this is a comedy of uncomfortable humor. As Peter continuously puts his foot in his mouth to block all the painfully uncool and nonsensical things that come out of it, the movie just keeps getting funnier. It helps that writer/director John Hamburg knows his way around cringe humor: he wrote the Meet the Parents movies. If The Office is too much for you, you probably shouldn't see this movie. Sometimes the uncomfortableness does go too far, like when Peter keeps saying "I slap-a the bass" for what feels like 10 minutes. But if you can take some squirming, you'll be laughing out loud from start to end.

The movie's other main appeal is one it shares with Jason Segel's TV show, How I Met Your Mother: everyone's just so likable. Peter might be somewhat uptight and socially awkward, but who doesn't love Paul Rudd? Jason Segel gets a break from his Forgetting Sarah Marshall character, here giving the tutorials on manliness and proving himself worthy of Peter's friend crush. Rashida Jones, as the fiancee left out of the bromance, mostly just has to act pretty and supportive, and she nails both of those. I Love You, Man may not hold up to the best of the Judd Apatow movies, but it is the funniest movie I've seen in awhile. These days, that's all you can ask for.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bringing Stephen Colbert to Urban/Suburban Hip Hop Settings

Having done some Colbert Report catch-up today, it seems I missed a fairly hilarious rap battle between Stephen Colbert and RNC chairman Michael Steele from last Thursday. Colbert's rap is at the 2:30 mark. Steele is at the 4 minute mark. Enjoy.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Conservative Rap Battle - Michael Steele's Response
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

Colbert certainly got some good jabs in there. My personal favorites are "Your beats are so fat you could call them Rush" and "Your game's a dying moose and I'm Sarah Palin." But there's no question here that the battle belonged to Steele, ending with "Those numbnuts on Capitol Hill can blow me." If he really talked like that, maybe the Republicans wouldn't be where they are today.

Trailer Alert: Where the Wild Things Are

Update: The first trailer I put up was removed. Here's one that works (for now). Thanks Foote Steppes.

I know this movie's been in production for like 15 years and there's been all sorts of bad buzz. But Spike Jonze + Arcade Fire + creatures that look straight out of Neverending Story? I am so in. Add that to my must-see list for this year.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

BSG Shows What a Series Finale Is Meant to Be

The one silver lining to the end of a favorite TV show is its series finales, with all the final twists, deaths, and closure it provides. And as anyone who saw Battlestar Galactica's swan song knows, it ranks among the best.

Now, there are certain tropes a finale must follow, and in a sci-fi show, that means a big, epic, kickass battle. And Galactica's final battle did not disappoint. With all the raiders flying around and the different teams assembled on Galactica and the Colony, it was like watching original Star Wars.

But more than action (although there was plenty), this episode was about goodbyes, starting right at the beginning. Ironic that Gaeta's boyfriend Hoshi got what Gaeta wanted not through betrayal but loyalty. Also that Apollo chose Lamkin, who once said Lee was the only choice. On top of the transfers of power there was gruff Doc Coddle choking up while saying goodbye to President Roslin. Peripheral characters all, sure, but BSG still treated them right.

As for deaths, the first big one was Boomer, which I would mark as Frakking Fantastic Scene #1. After a few seasons off, Boomer came back in a big way this season, first in rekindling her romance with Tyrol and then with her ever-changing allegiances. You knew she wasn't surviving the episode, and it was fitting that Athena was the one to gun her down. But that flashback to the favor she was repaying Adama makes the death hit even harder.

Frakking Fantastic Scene #2: The Opera House. They've been dreaming about that opera house for...how long now? Three seasons? And who knew how it could play in. But as Roslin, Athena, Caprica, Baltar, and Hera all roamed about Galactica, flashing to the dream, you could see destiny coming to life, like in a Greek tragedy. Yet as powerful as the whole scene was, I shared a little of Baltar's confusion that it all just led to bringing Hera to the CIC. By the end of the episode, that confusion is gone.

The Opera House also led to Baltar's Big Speech, a big theological speech that shouldn't have worked yet totally did. Maybe it's because Baltar's series-long arc has been so crazy it felt good to have him settle on actual faith. Maybe I was just so hooked after the opera house that I would have accepted anything he said. Either way, at a little over the one hour mark, the story seemed done. The Final Five agreed to give resurrection technology to Cavil, fulfilling the mantra of "all of this has happened before and all of this will happen again." A peace was made. Show over, right?

And then everything got completely and utterly frakked. As the Final Five dipped in the hybrid pool to share their knowledge, Tyrol learned Torrie's season-long secret that she killed Cally. Tyrol goes apeshit and kills Torrie. The bad Cylons start firing. Cavil frakking kills himself. The show takes us from closure to chaos in all of a minute. It's so rare to watch things come completely undone so quickly that the feeling is almost satisfying. That's not just Frakking Fantastic Scene #3, that may just be the best scene of the night.

It all comes down to Starbuck, given the responsibility to jump Galactica one final time. This seems like a bad idea, given that the hybrids keep saying "Kara Thrace will lead humanity to its end," but she can also play "All Along the Watchtower" on piano, so I guess that evens out. Thinking back to her childhood lessons from not-Daniel (I still don't believe Ron Moore and think he is Daniel), she mutters, "There must be some kind of way out of here" and jumps, with Galactica taking such a brutal and final beating at its landing there is no doubt of a second try.

All is well though, since where they land is a blue planet with vegetation and intelligent life that looks a lot like, well, Earth. That announces the real end to the story, and the beginning of 45 minutes of full-on closure. I'm sure many found this final goodbye section unnecessary and drawn-out, but after 4 seasons I think the characters deserve some time to say goodbye.

First there was Sam, who got one final act of "perfection" (as per his flashback interview) in piloting the fleet into the sun. He may have been put into a coma episodes ago, but I always held some hope he'd come out of it. The grace of his flight into the sun just made the death sadder.

Most interesting goodbye belongs to Starbuck, who disappeared into thin air after announcing her purpose was finished. It seems she was right about that skeleton on Old Earth: she really did die. Whether that makes her one of Baltar's angels or not is unknown, but she's definitely been resurrected since flying up next to Lee smiling about Earth. Sad for Lee, but as those flashbacks showed, it wasn't meant to be.

The more touching goodbye though was that of President Roslin. Her death was foretold from the miniseries, and should not have been any surprise. We all knew it was coming, and that she would just slip away quietly mid-conversation. That still didn't make it any easier to see her go, or to see Adama's reaction. RIP Laura.

Around the point we saw Hera running in the fields, I started thinking, "This can't be it. There's gotta be some kind of 'Thousands of years later' tag to show how 'All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again.'" And hey, I was right! Just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not also necessary. In that scene, Hera's emphasis throughout the series finally became abundantly clear: she's Eve! She mothered all of us (with who, little Nicky, Tyrol's ex-son?)!

We also got a kind-of answer about Head 6 and Head Baltar. Seems they're angels, fulfilling God or whatever "it" likes to be called's plan. That makes for a lot of religious explanations for all the big questions, but I think a show with gods, God, and religious prophecies can get away with that. With our world's version of "All Along the Watchtower" playing as MSNBC shows clips of today's robotics (Asimo is a Cylon?), BSG ended exactly as it should have ended. No cut to black, no "it was all a dream." The finale further cements BSG's place among the best sci-fi shows, and best shows period. So say we all.

Same Off With or Without Ted

Grade: B

Last week saw a glut of new TV pilots, and there were three of them that stood out to me. At two hours long, Kings may take me awhile to get to, and since I don't get Starz I'm taking my time with Party Down. But after seeing the pilot to Better Off Ted, I can say it's a good show that won't be getting a series pass on my DVR.

Like many a sitcom (or non-sitcom, given the lack of a laugh track), Ted takes place in an office. But unlike the paper salesmen of Dunder Mifflin, Ted (Jay Harrington) works R&D, providing plenty of opportunities to create wacky things. The show begins with his boss, Veronica (Portia de Rossi playing a sort of Lindsay Bluth-with-power), making any number of oddball requests, from an uncomfortable chair that boosts productivity to a weaponized pumpkin.

It's all amusing enough, but the upbeat wackiness comes off a bit earnest. It's the kind of show more likely to make you say, "Oh, that's funny" than actually laugh. Its biggest asset is the likability of the cast. Jay Harrington makes for an extremely charismatic lead, reminding me of George Clooney mixed with Lost's Richard Alpert (not that I could say why). And it's great to see Portia de Rossi back in comedy after that unfortunate stint on Nip/Tuck (not that she gets any of the blame).

Ted's a likable enough show to be worth a look, and if there wasn't so much on TV right now maybe I'd give it another try. Instead, I'm more likely to wait and see if it suddenly picks up some more buzz. Given the track record of quirky comedies without Arrested Development's intense fan support, it's not looking too likely.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Namaste Lost fans! This week was kind of a transitionary episode. The season fully began Part 2 as Jack/Kate/Hurley/Sayid came into Dharma society and the Ajira rejects settled on Baby Island. I mean, for the first time since the premiere, you really couldn't say this episode belonged to any one character. I guess Sawyer had the most focus, but he just had his turn! Still, while a transitionary episode of 24 leaves you ending the hour saying "what just happened?" Lost found a way to make an episode all about pushing the plot forward seem pretty exciting.

Much credit goes to Sawyer, whose three year jump may have been the best thing that ever happened to his character. He seemed oh so comfortable last week - lying in bed with Juliet, carrying Horace home from his dynamite-throwing binge - and now it's all about to come crashing down. This week saw Sawyer the Problem Solver, figuring out how to get Jack, Kate, and Hurley into Dharma without exposing himself. He thinks he's got it all under control, and he can have it both ways. As the promos for next week show, that doesn't last.

The new Jim LaFleur and the old James Sawyer both showed their heads in the scene with Jack at the end. Sawyer had seemed so above the past, greeting them like they were old friends at a 5 year high school reunion. But a slight nudge from Jack pushed that rivalry right back into place. Interesting though to see how the tables have turned, and now it's Sawyer calling the shots. Sawyer was quick to put Jack back in his workman place as he compared himself to Winston Churchill. Surprisingly, Jack seemed ok with that. For now.

What really brought in the drama this episode though was Sayid, inconveniently separated and doomed to take on the role of a Hostile (not that they call themselves that). Fun little game of role-playing there as Sawyer tried to save Sayid's life in front of map-making button-pusher Radzinsky, and props to both actors for showing the silent communication. It's also fun to see Sayid stepping into Ben's role from season 2, as the captured Other. An angry Iraqi is all Sawyer needs to pull his happy life down.

If the Dharma gang made the most out of their transition, it's very clear which of the split stories is the weakest link. It was a cool reveal that the rest of Ajira landed in the present without the Oceanic 6-2=4, but then you realize what that means: full separate stories in which the only real characters are Sun, Ben, Lapidus, and (eventually) Locke. As much as I love all of those characters, they must be pissed to have been seated 30 years away from the cool kids table.

I do wish we had first seen Ajira on the island this way, instead of that awkward tease at the beginning of Locke's episode. Even this week though, the whole island-landing thing wasn't cutting it. It's kind of like if you go back to summer camp after a great first year and almost no one else you know came back with you. Everyone else thinks it's cool, but you're just like "please, this year's got nothing on last year." So all of Caesar's Jack-like organizing? Already seen that, and with more interesting people.

Back to Sun and Lapidus, who made it onto the big island to find Christian waiting for them. Since Ben claimed to have people to visit as well, it certainly begs the question of who we should expect in the present. We know Richard's always there, but who else? An elderly Faraday living in a cave with a massive beard? Rose and Bernard? Vincent? Christian's mention of a long journey shows at least this storyline is going somewhere, but I'm not sure how Sun's going back in time.

So there you have it. A good strong set-up for some major action to go down on the Dharma side of things. Caesar and Ilana still seem like Nikki and Paolo 2. And the rest of the present-day people seem like an odd smattering of left-overs. Questions moving forward: Did Faraday defect to the Hostiles, is he on his own, or did he leave the island/the 70s? Was Juliet's close call adding Kate to the manifest a sign of more season 3 style mud wrestling to ccome? And when will we ever see Desmond again?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Best Morning Show You Didn't See

For a good third of How I Met Your Mother this week, I admit I had some difficulty paying attention. It's certainly not that the main plot wasn't good. After all, it brought us the Suitjama (a suit you can sleep in), the Nightshirt (a nightgown for men), and Marshall's Big Lebowski-style dream flight over the city. Oh, and Barney's porn fantasy to justify the Suitjama.

No, the reason for my distraction was Robin's thoroughly awesome morning show left on mute during Ted's argument with Lily. The gang chose a bad morning not to watch. Not only did Robin show off their picture (and cry), but she also assisted a chef who caught on fire, gave her coanchor CPR after he collapsed, and delivered her very pregnant guest's baby. Karen struck again, this time not by cheating on Ted but causing him to miss all the excitement.

Speaking of Karen, she's already gone after just 2 episodes, which seems a strange number for a guest star. Her douchiness, to stick with Marshall and Lily's description, was a good gag for one episode, but that alone wouldn't last longer. So when she and Ted stayed together after last week's episode, I figured there was something else there. But no, just the rather sudden departure. Strange, but better to leave now than overstay her welcome. Now I'm gonna suitjama up and head to bed.

Trailer Alert: Away We Go

The new trailer for Sam Mendes' next movie is up. Take a look:

After such ultra-serious movies as Road to Perdition, Revolutionary Road, and to a lesser extent American Beauty and Jarhead, this comedy makes for a bit of a departure for Sam Mendes. It actually looks more like a Wes Anderson or Alexander Payne type movie. And given all the backlash against Wes Anderson (and how boring Darjeeling Limited was), that's not really a good thing.

Still, this is making my must-see list not just for Mendes, but for the cast. It'll be nice to see Jim out of The Office, and for Maya Rudolph to get some credit outside of SNL. And the supporting cast looks just a good, with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Allison Janney, Jeff Daniels, Catherine O'Hara, and Cheryl Hines.

Verdict: I'm somewhat wary, but still way excited to see how this turns out.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Gossip Girl Returns With a Whimper as Jack Goes on the Run

It's been a month and a half since the last new Gossip Girl. While that's got nothing on the 8 months we go through between seasons of Lost, that's still a pretty sizable midseason break. The kind of break that you come back from wondering whether you still care about what's going on. And this week at least, that answer was a resounding no.

When was the last time that every single one of the storylines fell completely flat? Well, ok, don't answer that, I remember the Jenny the Designer episodes too. But let's go through all of this week's stories anyway, shall we?

1. Dan and Teenage Teacher.
During the break, I had thought she had already left the show. No such luck. Instead we get the non-surprise that she's been sending things into Gossip Girl, not that it makes any sense. Why would Dan tell her about Blair and the British dude? And why did she target Serena if her vendetta was against Blair? Whatever, at least she's gone.

2. Chuck and the Sex Club
This storyline had an impressive trifecta of being lame, preposterous, and finding a woman Chuck had no chemistry with. Add to that the return of minor season 1 character Carter for no other reason than to make googly eyes at real-life girlfriend Blair, and you've got some serious filler.

3. Nate and Vanessa
This storyline involved Nate and Vanessa, so there was no way it was going to be good. No surprises on that front.

4. Serena and Theater Man
Congratulations Gossip Girl. You made Aaron look interesting.

5. The play
Ok, I kind of liked the connections between all the characters and their roles, and Nelly Yuki in a fat suit. But since the play's breakdown involved Nate, it brought in Theater Man, and nothing about it made much sense (a real theater director would do a high school show....even though the cast was non-actors required to do the play....and a NYT critic would go there), this goes down too.

On the plus side, Gossip Girl storylines only ever last for 3 episodes max (because the writers have the attention span of a goldfish), so we're on to something completely different next week. Let's hope it's more interesting.

24's last few episodes may have been just as silly as Gossip Girl, but at least it's been a hell of a lot more entertaining. The White House invasion seems a clear parallel to the season 5 CTU poison gas arc. Both came at the 2-hour midseason episode mark, both involved a heroic sacrifice, and both killed off a long-running character in a less-than-ideal way (Buchanan's death was way better than Tony's, but it still wasn't as big as past sacrificial deaths). These episodes don't hold up to 24's best season, but they were still the kind of big action arc you come to 24 looking for.

On to this week's episode, which saw Jack yet again on the run from, you know, everyone. This may happen every season (perhaps even every episode), but 24 needs Jack to be working on the outside, getting the job done while ducking the authorities. Part of the fun is watching Jack form the Jack Bauer Club - the select group of friends and colleagues allowed to know the secret threat and help him thwart it. That second body in the presumed body count just rackets up the suspense.

Speaking of the late senator, 24 finally made him into a real character tonight. Previously he had been the token liberal straw man, meant to show how stupid and naive and terrorist-loving we all are (like the NAACP rep from season 4). But tonight he listened to Jack, helped him, and even called him son (tear). Not only that, but the writers actually let him make a real argument against torture, instead of just saying filler for Jack to tear down.

Which is why he had to die. Any plan that could potentially work out Jack's problems wasn't gonna fly. And with the assassin now dead as well, Jack's got even less to clear him. So who's joining the Jack Bauer Club? First up, Tony, who's back from his multi-episode vacation to, judging by the promos, do a lot of shooting. Then there's Freckles, but she's already become the victim of Janis' terrible spying and Moss' comically unnecessary surprise capture. That still leaves Chloe and Morris, but that assumes they stop bickering long enough to be useful.

With Jon Voight's creepy new baddy, the President's totally evil daughter, and a whole new threat to unravel, 24 part 2 should have enough juice to last, oh, at least a few episodes. And then I'm sure the writers will be off to something even crazier.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fight Night: Jon Stewart vs. Jim Cramer

Tonight's the night. After over a week of attacking each other indirectly, Jim Cramer will sit down with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show tonight.

To catch everyone up, TV Guide has a good blow-by-blow of how this feud went down, complete with video. But if you don't feel like clicking, here's where the feud began:

Rick Santelli clearly had no idea what his cancellation would begin. From there, it went to a New York Times piece picking up where Jon Stewart began, Jim Cramer's angry rebuttal, more attacks on The Daily Show, and more defenses from Jim Cramer on various morning shows. But tonight they will meet at last.

Now, the other night I had a discussion with my friend who disapproves of Jon Stewart's actions. He thinks Jon is taking Cramer's words out of context and is putting his personal message above his role as a comedian. But Jon proved years ago that his job is to point out hypocrisy, in politics sure, but even more so the media. Remember his war on Crossfire? He got the show canceled!

But I will admit that this whole media battle feels a bit like a stunt. Daily Show is no longer just commenting on the news, but actually now part of the news. And I'm sure that's not unintentional. Even someone as low-key as Jon Stewart is probably enjoying the publicity.

Still, where's the harm in the smartest show on TV getting some buzz from those who wouldn't otherwise watch it? And fabricated or not, the whole fight has been pretty damn entertaining. So however you feel about the whole battle, you'd still best watch what's sure to be a must-see half hour of TV.

Heathers: The Musical

I was looking through Entertainment Weekly's news stories online when I came across the most awesome theater news I've heard in awhile: a musical version of Heathers.

It gets better. In the table reads they're already doing, guess who's stepping in for Winona Ryder? None other than Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell.

Now, I don't mean to hype this too much. Kristen Bell will only actually follow the role to Broadway if her schedule allows it, and since she's only a few movies away from superstardom, that could be unlikely.

But come on, who doesn't want to see songs about faking suicide notes and poisoning your classmates with drano? And with the writers of Reefer Madness behind it, I'm sure the show will do the movie justice.

On the other hand, I'm starting to worry about Iron Man 2. With the announcement that Scarlett Johansson has now been cast, the cast now stands at: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson, Mickey Rourke, and now ScarJo. Is this going to be the next Spider-Man 3? Or will the others know to stay out of Robert Downey Jr.'s way? We can only hope.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guys and Dolls Makes Nice Musical Nostalgia

A few weeks ago, I caught the new revival of Guys and Dolls on its last day of previews. Now, I'm no theater critic, as should be obvious by my disagreeing with the mostly negative reviews the show has gotten. Is it one of the best productions of Guys and Dolls ever done? Of course not. But that doesn't keep it from being thoroughly entertaining from start to end.

You see, unlike many recent revivals, Guys and Dolls doesn't do much to try to spice up its source (don't expect any actors playing instruments a la Sweeney Todd). But when it comes to a classic like Guys and Dolls, I'd say that's a good thing. Having grown up listening to all of the show's many famous songs, I had the pleasure of reexperiencing music I hadn't thought about in years. And I'm sure as a kid I didn't realize just how funny the show is, which needed no modernization to keep getting laughs.

Of course, what makes this revival of particular interest is the Broadway debut of Lauren Graham, perhaps better known as Lorelai Gilmore. If you're going just to see her, you won't be disappointed. With her known comic timing and unexpectedly good voice, she's one of the show's stand-outs. Craig Bierko as well brings the charm and charisma necessary for Sky Masterson.

I wish I could say the same for Oliver Platt as Nathan Detroit, who's always on theatrical mode and never seems quite comfortable in the part. And a computerized backdrop was definitely a bad idea. But Guys and Dolls is the kind of classic worth revisiting from time to time, and this revival makes a great argument for doing so.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm Watching the Watchmen

Grade: B

A three-hour long comic book behemoth based on the most acclaimed graphic novel of all time is bound to divide its audience a bit. That's even more likely when the filmmaker, Zack Snyder, happens to be one of the book's devotees, making an adaptation so faithful you can almost see the chapter breaks between comics. All of which makes Watchmen the answer to this question: what would happen if the geeks got their way?

The result, it turns out, is a deeply flawed but still worthwhile endeavor. For the unaffiliated, the story goes something like this: in an alternate New York City in which Nixon is still president in the '80s and the Cold War is still very much on, superheroes have been forced into retirement. But when someone starts killing off the retired masks, those left need to band together to stop whatever threat is coming.

Seems straight-forward enough, until the book goes off into around 6 comics' worth of backstory. In a super-faithful film, that makes for a real momentum-killer. It doesn't help that even the presentation is the same here, so Dr. Manhattan's time-flashing memories get a good 5-10 minutes, as does Rorschach's discussion with the prison shrink. With Snyder's refusal to let any moment get scrapped, the movie's about an hour longer than it has any right to be.

It's a bit easier to understand his reluctance to cut when you see how well a lot of individual scenes work. His faithfulness thankfully includes the book's pitch black, cynical tone that many in Hollywood would have loved to lighten up. I was also pleasantly surprised to find no 300-style pseudo-animation or other Sin City-like attempts to allude to the movie's comic book origins. This Watchmen sticks to the real world (except Dr. Manhattan. A giant, naked blue guy is gonna seem geeky no matter what).

Where Snyder's 300 experience hurts the movie is in the fight scenes. The book's not all that bloody, but the movie finds ways to amplify all existing fight scenes about a hundred-fold. The Comedian's two-panel death (that's not a spoiler, it's the opening scene) in the comic becomes a ten minute duel set to "Unforgettable." And every single fight scene is drenched with as much slow-motion, graphically cracked bones, and splurting blood vessels as Snyder can summon. Is it necessary or proper? Not at all, but he had to get the 300 in there somewhere.

Yet I'm simultaneously impressed with the film's creative casting. No stars here, just character actors you've seen in drastically different roles. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, best known as the lovable (when alive) Denny on Grey's Anatomy, appears here as the Comedian, the movie's most vile, psychotic character. And he nails it. Ditto Patrick Wilson, dubbed "the Prom King" in Little Children but here geeky and impotent. Billy Crudup, best (perhaps only) known for his role in Almost Famous, is an unconventional choice for Dr. Manhattan, yet that helps give the blue guy a bit more humanity. The only weak link is Matthew Goode as "Smartest Man in the World" Ozymandias, whose fake American accent shifts dramatically between each word.

There's so much more I can fault the movie for. The soundtrack is composed entirely of ultra-popular songs from the last half-century, and usually not even from the '80s ("Sound of Silence," "The Times They Are A-Changing," and "All Along the Watchtower" are three examples). That doesn't just provide the wrong tone, it's uncreative as well. And too much dialogue is lifted from the comics, which as we saw in 300 is never a good idea (though no dialogue could ever be as bad as that in 300).

But despite all its many, many flaws, I have to admit my overall opinion was favorable. Maybe I simply thought Snyder did justice to the book. Maybe I felt the story was strong enough to withstand any cinematic missteps. Maybe I was just excited by the Little Children reunion of Wilson and Jackie Earle Haley, who makes a fantastic Rorschach. Watchmen is not in any way a great movie on its own, and will always live in its source material's shadow. But that doesn't mean it's not still worth seeing.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Captain Sawyer LaFleur

Why is there no Lost this week? Don't we go so long between seasons so this doesn't happen? Well, I suppose you'll have to accept my long overdue recap instead.

Like Locke's episode the week before, "LaFleur" features fake names (Jeremy Bentham, Jim LaFleur) and fills in missing story pieces we skipped past originally. But unlike in the Bentham episode, those missing pieces were actually unknown, giving us a nice answer to what happened to the left-behinders in those missing 3 years.

Now Dharma converts, everyone seems completely different yet oddly appropriate. Miles, in his brief scene, seems to have gone from sarcastic and difficult to a good little Dharma bee. Juliet's switched career paths from baby doctor to mechanic. But the most comfortable change is in Sawyer. The former con man is now head of Dharma security. As far as I can tell, that makes him a bit like a small town sheriff, watching out for the drunk guy throwing dynamite and making house calls. Who knew that would be Sawyer's calling?

Of course, just like the Oceanic Six, they got to that point through lying. It's a nice parallel, though it does seem funny how the Oceanic Six agonized over their lie for a full season, which, to be honest, probably didn't affect their daily life all that much, while the lie here is far more invasive. I mean, Sawyer claimed he was a ship captain and Juliet has to fix cars! Yet rather than stress over the lie, they all seem....content.

Which is why, despite all the new info, the episode seemed merely nice until the end. With Sawyer happily keeping Dharma safe and cuddling up with Juliet, it took Kate's arrival to shake things up. Sawyer certainly was asking for it with his speech about how he couldn't even remember her face (hint: freckles). I've never found the Jack/Kate/Sawyer triangle particularly compelling, but this episode actually has me looking forward to how this now-quadrangle will resolve.

Also, welcome to Michelle Dessler and Jimmy Barrett to Lost. Michelle (sorry, Amy) seemed like a nice pregnant lady, but she's up to something. She tricked everyone with the fence, and who knows what she was doing with the Hostiles before Sawyer rescued her. Jimmy doesn't have much of a part yet, but I assume he'll do more than should "Let's call LaFleur." After all, this is a former Utz spokersperson we're talking about.

Finally, did anyone else notice Faraday was MIA in the 3 years later scenes? I would say that means he's with the Hostiles, but the premiere showed him in a Dharma jacket. Did he figure out how to use the frozen donkey wheel to send him back in time to save Charlotte? Or did Jeremy Davies just have another week off? Maybe we'll find out next week.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Zack and Miri Make Some Laughs

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is definitely a product of Kevin Smith 2.0: use a whole lot of raunchy humor to disguise the ridiculously gooey center beneath. But unlike Jersey Girl, and even Clerks 2 to a lesser extent, Zack and Miri's funny patches more than make up for a few seconds of cheesiness.

The title's pretty self-explanatory: high school friends Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) start making porn to pay their rent. That's a funny enough premise as is, but the supporting cast brings it to the next level: Justin Long's hilarious cameo as a gay porn star, Superman Brandon Routh as his porn star boyfriend (whose presence alone is the joke), Craig Robinson, always welcome, and Jason Mewes playing someone other than Jay.

Once the lovesfest starts, there's some pretty painful dialogue. Case in point: "We tried to fuck, but we ended up making love." Still, those moments are so obvious they're easy enough to ignore. And with leads as likable as Rogen and Banks, even lines like that don't offend. Zack and Miri may not stand with such Kevin Smith greats as Clerks and Dogma, but it's consistently enjoyable enough to be well worth checking out on DVD.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Locke's Death and Rebirth

I know last week's Lost (yes, I'm really late with the recap) was filled with plenty of meaningful clues, deaths, reveals, and whatnot, but I still found it disappointing. Maybe I expected more of a big Locke episode with the promise of big answers and the appearance of the mysterious Thomas Abaddon and Waaalt. Or maybe two weeks without Faraday and Juliet is just too much for me.

Either way, the opening was not one of Lost's strongest. Compare Jack's pilot-like awakening to Caesar and Ilana finding Locke. Already taking control of the camp, Caesar and Ilana got a Dr. Marvin Candle type intro, but nowhere near as cool. They're acting like they own the place, and we don't even know them. I don't mean to raise the Nikki and Paolo flag just yet, but you guys can't just act like important characters right away.

With the discovery of the hooded and very alive Locke, we're back to the frozen donkey wheel. Sure, I've wondered what Locke said to the Oceanic Six, but I thought it would be more than: "You have to go back to the island!" "I'm not going back to the island!" "Umm....ok, sorry for wasting your time." Kate's convo seemed especially forced, as she brought up Locke's personal life just so we could find out Helen died. Hard to care about the loss of a character I barely remember.

Speaking of deaths, we saw more of Abaddon this episode than ever before...only to have him gunned down by Ben. He seems kind of ghostly, so maybe he'll still be back. Otherwise, is his importance really just someone who works for Charles Widmore? Seems like a waste of the full season's worth of creepy introductions, from visiting Hurley to convincing Locke to take the walkabout. If he's really dead, this is the lamest death since Smokey ate Eko.

That's not to say there wasn't still some great stuff. The unasked question of "why doesn't Walt have to come back too" was answered as Locke chose to let him continue his life. Taller Ghost Walt may hardly resemble his younger self, but I wouldn't mind seeing him back full-time. Four seasons after he left the show, I think we're due an answer on why he's so "special." That and why Libby was in Hurley's mental hospital.

The episode's biggest strength though was in redefining the Ben/Charles Widmore war. We've pretty much accepted that we're on Ben's side. But it seems the writers worried Ben was becoming too warm and cuddly, and it was time to remind us what a cold-hearted bastard he is. Hence last week's potential murder of Penny, the shooting of Abaddon, and biggest of all, killing Locke.

It seems Ben wasn't lying when he told Jack he didn't know Locke killed himself. In fact, he knew he didn't. Ben gave a whole big nice speech to make sure Locke wouldn't do the deed, only to do the killing himself. Maybe Locke wouldn't be let back on the island if he committed suicide. Or maybe Ben just knew the island didn't let suicide happen (see also: Michael and Jack). Still, this episode showed Widmore helping Locke on his quest as Ben ended it. Might we be on the wrong side?

The "Ben's been injured!" cliffhanger seems like a silly tease, as the promo shows him up and about, broken arm and all next week. I'm certainly ready to see everyone back together, and have Caesar and Ilana show their purpose without getting too much screentime. Biggest hope for this coming week: an answer to what Ben did to Penny.