Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quickies 8-31-2010

Batman: Under the Red Hood ~ This direct-to-DVD animated film from DC Comics follows the story of the second Robin who was murdered by the Joker and then mysteriously returns from the dead years later as Batman's adversary the Red Hood. I didn't actually read the comics this was based on so it was all new for me, and as I am not much of a Bat-fan these days, surprisingly good. I especially loved the fight early on with Batman and Nightwing vs. Amazo. Even though it's not Mark Hamill doing the voice, the Joker is exceptionally scary here. Great stuff. Not for kids, but recommended.

Hot Tub Time Machine ~ This really wasn't as bad as it sounded when I first heard of it, in fact this was a pleasant surprise. Yes, the title, and the previews pretty much give it away, but this flick has a heart, and a funnybone. Anyone who loved all those 1980s movies like Better Off Dead or Just One of the Guys or anything by John Hughes will get a kick out of this. Might be a bit rough for kids, lots of sex and drugs, but still a good romp. Fun, nostalgia and John Cusack. You can't beat that.

Big Fan ~ You might think of Patton Oswalt as just a comedian, but he's not. He's also a very good actor. His semi-dramatic peripheral role in "United States of Tara" is only the tip of the iceberg. I just saw him in Big Fan and he is a tour de force portraying a lonely middle-aged guy obsessed with New York Giants football and sports radio. We know these guys, and this is an intimate and chilling look into their world. This is a hell of a movie. Recommended.

The Road ~ Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy, this post-apocalyptic drama stars Viggo Mortenson and briefly Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce and Charlize Theron. It's about a father's quest to show his son the ocean by traveling across the country dodging psychos and cannibals in a world without sunlight. It's visually intriguing, but very little else, and at some points, downright boring. Read the book, and only see the movie if it's on free TV and there's not much else on.

Igor ~ Anything with John Cusack's name on it is worth checking out in my opinion. He has rarely let me down. This overlooked computer-animated flick about the hunchbacked assistants to mad scientists, called Igors, is quite a gem. A bit predictable in some places and unexpectedly outrageous in others is definitely worth a look. Good for the kids, and the adults as well.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 26, 2010

True Blood: I Smell a Rat

A lot happened in this episode of "True Blood," but really none of it was fulfilling. Sure, it had been stuff we had been waiting on for some time, but none of it was what we wanted to see. On the cliffhanger we got last time, this should have been all about Russell Edgington, but it seemed as if the live murder and declaration of war on live television was almost a non-event.

There were interesting bits. We got a round of secret origins with Sam, Jason finally confessed to Tara he shot Eggs, Eric wrote his will, Lafayette and Jesus took a v-trip that flashed forward on what may be next season's big storyline, and of course we finally found out what Sookie is. On that last one, in Sookie's own words, "Well, that's lame." And of course I did pat myself on the back for figuring it out earlier in the season without the benefit of reading the books. All this was good, but it wasn't what we wanted.

"I Smell a Rat" was for the "True Blood" TV series what we used to call a fill-in issue in the comic book biz. It was a placeholder, to keep the show on schedule, but essentially it did not continue any storylines or cliffhangers. Comics eventually got rid of that tactic. I really wish "True Blood" hadn't brought it back. Boo hiss.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

True Blood: Everything Is Broken

In the pre-credit teaser of this episode we get our first look at the vampire law enforcement/military. They are very Robocop, very Starship Troopers, and very old school cyberpunk, and of course, they are armed with silver. My first thought is 'kewl,' but my second thought is 'how do you keep something like that a secret?' I'm all for secret empires and ages-old illuminati and the like, but whoa.

"Everything Is Broken," title derived from the Bob Dylan tune that closes the episode, is written by Alexander Woo, who also wrote the less than satisfactory episode "It Hurts Me Too" from earlier this season. We open on Russell cradling what's left of Talbot and then move to a vampirically erotic shower scene with Bill and Sookie. Nice juxtaposition. The chatter between them, about what normal couples do, is fun and charming.

When Sam suggested to Tara that she see a shrink, I nearly snarfed Coke through my nose. I think the last thing this show needs is a psychologist creeping around Bon Temps. They would have to commit the whole town! Crazy aside, it's a good episode for other things. Bill and Sookie get some, Lafayette and Jesus get some, and Sam's brother gets some.

Eric rats Russell out to The Authority (not the comic, although that's the first thing I think of when I type that). Full confession, baby. Only the result is not what he hoped. They leave him high and dry. Russell is too hot to handle, so if something is to be done, Eric has to do it himself.

Bill gets to visit fairyland. I have to wonder at the logic of this however. After Sookie's blood saved his life, there was a weird effect where he could momentarily stand the sunlight. Here, he goes to that watery place of light near the cemetery and the hostess says he's there because he has Sookie's blood. But now, hasn't Bill had Sookie's blood before this? Why hasn't this come up before this?

Franklin! He sure scared the crap out of Tara, but we knew he wouldn't be gone long. Lesson learned for folks not in the know, like Tara - you must stake or decapitate a vampire or they just ain't dead. Stake in the heart, or head off body, or there's just no true death.

And finally, Russell takes his war public and worldwide - wow and holy crap - in one of the best cliffhangers on television in quite some time. I cannot wait for the next episode!

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Aarti Party?

As someone who followed Aarti Sequeira through the several weeks of this year's "The Next Food Network Star," I have to say I was quite disappointed when her TV show, "Aarti Party," her prize in the reality competition, finally aired this weekend.

Throughout her time on the program, surviving week to week, as her competitors were cut, Aarti was a delight. Her energetic and bubbly personality charismatically put her above the others even before many of the contests on the show. She was an early bet to win, both with the judges and in this household.

When she won, and her TV series was announced, we couldn't wait. The DVR was set with anticipation. When it first came on, all of the colors seemed muted. The wild bright fashions Aarti wore on "Network Star" were gone, but that wasn't all. She seemed sedated, slowed like molasses. It was if they had told her to tone it down so much... so much that all of her charisma was gone and she was no longer interesting.

I really hope you fix this, Food Network, and give us back the woman who really won. Until then, "Aarti Party" airs, very slowly, Sundays at noon. And for a taste of the old Aarti, check this out.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Blind Side

The Blind Side ~ This is easily one of Sandra Bullock's best performances and obviously, with an Oscar for her trouble, one of her most acknowledged. And that last part is a shame because Sandra is always excellent. Exept of course for Miss Congeniality 2 and picking Jesse James, but I can forgive her for those mistakes.

I'll say up front that I didn't care for her Southern accent in The Blind Side, but the rest of it makes up for it. It's an Oscar film, and it got Sandra her first (and it shouldn't be her last), so I can overlook the overworked accent. The accent would have fit Julia Roberts well, so thank God she turned this part down. It's really nice of Julia to turn down all the good roles the last year or so. I wonder when she'll be firing her agent?

The story, that of a young athlete from the wrong side of the tracks taken in by an upper class family and eventually makes it to the NFL, is a true one, an uplifting and positive one. And if it seems clichéd, it can't be helped - it's based on a true story.

The cast is top notch, not just Sandra, but Quinton Aaron, Tim McGraw and Kathy Bates are all in excellent form. The Blind Side is must see.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rachel Returns to Big Brother

One thing that the folks behind reality television have learned over the years is that crazy sells. If you put a lunatic in front of the cameras and let them rant and act out, that equals ratings.

So I'm sure the powers that be at "Big Brother" this season were disappointed when Rachel was evicted by her housemates. Disappointed, yes, but surprised, no. The Las Vegas showgirl, who fell almost immediately into a show-mance with housemate Brendan, one that eventually alienated her from the rest of the house, has been quite a crazy train of outrageous emotional behavior so far this season, some say bordering on manic-depression. One thing that can be said is that it was always a train wreck whenever the sexy but rarely sensible redhead was on screen. Besides occasional nudity, not to mention nuttiness, she also provided half of the first sex on the American "BB."

Luckily for the ratings folks at CBS, the producers of "Big Brother" found a way to bring Rachel back. The dreaded Pandora's Box, that brings both good and bad when opened, is one of the ratings twists of this twelfth season, along with multiple Saboteurs. Brendan, who got HoH right after Rachel was evicted, opened it - and guess what he got?

He got Rachel back in the house, but he also got himself locked in the Pandora's Box room while she's there. One would assume he gets to leave the room once she leaves the house. What happens next is anybody's guess. I suppose it depends on how crazy Rachel gets, and how big the ratings are.

Bookmark and Share

True Blood: Night on the Sun

The episode begins with the touching parting of Sookie and Bill in one of the most twisted and bizarre mutual "it's not you, it's me" break-up exchanges ever. But of course we know, per Alan Ball, that they'll be back together again, for good.

Supervising producer and writer of this episode, Raelle Tucker, finally gives us what is really going on with Arlene being pregnant. Nice. I guess the show is tired of rifting off "Dark Shadows" and decided to do a little "Dexter" as well.

Eric's subtle game with Russell escalates and gets juicy. The pissing contest is great, but I'm happy to see some action finally happening. I loved the line about Eric waiting a thousand years for Russell. Talbot continues, although not for long, to amuse.

My favorite bit in the whole episode was when Jason thinks "Shut up, brain" to keep Sookie from reading his thoughts. I also liked Bill and Jessica's workout at vamp speed. I'm glad fate brought Lafayette and Jesus back together. And catfights are always more welcome than dogfights. And what's up with all the crying in this episode? Looking forward to the next one.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Big C

I like Laura Linney a lot. She's probably one of the best actresses working Hollywood these days, and I was pleased to see she'll be starring in her own Showtime series, "The Big C."

The show follows lead character Cathy Jamison, played by Linney, as she learns she has apparently terminal cancer, and how she determines to change her life because of it. She loosens her restraints and saying and doing whatever she likes. Despite the subject matter, the first episode is actually rather uplifting and refreshing.

"The Big C" debuts on Showtime Monday night. Check it out.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Avengers Assemble!

Featuring IRON MAN, THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA and THE HULK! When the planet is threatened by Super Villains, time traveling conquerors, alien invaders, mythical monsters or mad robots bent on the total destruction of humanity, when the forces of evil are so overwhelming that no single hero has the power to save the world, when there is no hope left... the AVENGERS ASSEMBLE! All-new The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
animated series from Marvel Animation premiering on Disney XD this fall!

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 09, 2010

Patricia Neal 1926-2010

Multiple award-winning actress Patricia Neal passed away yesterday at her home on Martha's Vineyard. She was 84.

One of the finest actresses of her era, Patricia Neal was noted for performances in The Fountainhead, the original The Day the Earth Stood Still, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Hud for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress, and one of my favorite films, A Face in the Crowd.

She was also a star of Broadway and television as well, winning awards in both arenas. As well as the parts she did play, Neal was also noted for those she did not - she turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate and was unable to play the mother in "The Waltons" for health reasons.

Her personal life was plagued by both health problems and drama. Her affair with the much older and married Gary Cooper caused a feeding frenzy in the press of the day, and her turbulent marriage to author Roald Dahl ended in divorce after thirty years. These events however are overhsadowed by all of her good work over the years for various charities.

We have another one of the greats of Hollywood. Patricia Neal will be missed.

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, August 07, 2010

True Blood: Hitting the Ground

The "previously on True Blood" brought up that Sookie's cousin Hadley is with the Queen of Louisiana, which is something I have been waiting for them to remember. Can't wait to see where this little tidbit is going, because they did remember. It has interesting implications later when Eric tries to use Hadley later, and it promises to get even more interesting. And speaking of Sookie, our cliffhanger from last time has Lorena getting a taste before, ahem, Sookie makes her point.

There's a tense scene with Alcide and Debbie while Sookie and Tar try to save Bill - a situation that reverses itself by the end of this episode, by the way. Great rescue and great intensity here, nice to have some action that lasts more than just a few seconds - no offense to vamp speed.

In Sam's little corner of Bon Temps, the brilliant concept of a champion dogfighter who is also a shapeshifter boggles the mind. Think about it - a dog with the strategic mind of a man fighting just a dog… a betting man could clean up. I have to say I am enjoying the Sam subplot now. It's a whole lot better now than when it was just Beverly Hillbillies comic relief.

There are more interesting revelations, or should I say complications, when Sookie tries to revive Bill by giving him her blood. He eats it up, figuratively and literally. Unfortunately it nearly kills her, putting her into a coma in the hospital, where we find out she has no blood type. And that's not the end of the crazy stuff here either. She starts tripping and visits a fantasy world. And here I thought "Lost" was canceled. My guesses as to where she went are an afterlife of people killed by vampires, or perhaps she's really some kind of faerie? Hopefully we'll find out sooner rather than later.

Nice to see, or is that nasty to see, that Russell Edgington take his rightful place as the true villain of the season. It is chilling to see him unofficially declare war on man and vampire alike, followed by of course, another ironic episode title song, this time "Hitting the Ground" by Gordon Gano and P.J. Harvey. Man, after last episode and this one, I am hooked on "True Blood" again.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, August 06, 2010

Night Tide

Night Tide ~ This 1961 black and white Dennis Hopper starrer seems to be the pseudo inspiration for Splash, and maybe The Little Mermaid as well - as if they were directed by David Lynch.

Linda Lawson is Mora, the mermaid and Dennis is Johnny, the naïve (and blond!) sailor on shore leave, feeling very much the fish out of water at the local beatnik scene where he meets the girl. A courtship begins and it turns out that Mora dresses as a mermaid at the local beach amusement pier. She's as wacky as he is naïve. It seems that Mora's last two boyfriends washed ashore dead. What is most bizarre is how casual everyone is when they inform Johnny of this fact. The ending is just plain messed up.

The film was written and directed by Curtis Harrington who went on to mediocre fame in the late 1970s with the telemovie Devil Dog: Hound from Hell. Lots of wonderful atmospherics and use of shadows here, obviously Harrington was influenced by Val Lewton, and in turn as I noted above, he might have very well influenced Lynch as well. He does quite a good job here however with the seeming special effects budget of a fry cook.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Sands of Oblivion

Sands of Oblivion ~ An interesting horror film. Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson, as Cecil De Mille is actually a great casting choice, unexpected and quite good. George Kennedy is also here, even though I thought he was dead, but I'm glad he's not as he brings his superior acting skills with him. Unfortunately neither of these men is in this much.

An ancient Egyptian relic is uncovered on the set of de Mille's 1923 The Ten Commandments, an undying evil is released, and hilarity ensues, fun fun fun. Apparently the shooting set was lost, and lost for a reason. Adam Baldwin is a bit wishy-washy here. Although I first saw him as Linderman in My Bodyguard, it's hard for me to see him these days as anything other than John Casey from "Chuck." Here he plays against type and I don't believe him for a second.

The monster is a rather frightening looking alligator-jawed Anubis, even though its size and shape varied wildly each time it appeared on screen. I know I watched this with the lights on, but it wasn't as scary as it could be. There were too many sequences with nothing happening and when it did happen, it was drug out. The dune buggy chase lasted forever.

This was a good old-fashioned horror movie, but would have been much better, if it was shorter and more consistent. Check it out if there's nothing else on.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Magician

The Magician ~ This 1926 silent film is based on the 1908 novel by W. Somerset Maugham, which was in turn, based on the infamous Aleister Crowley. It was directed and adapted by Rex Ingram and starring his then-wife Alice Terry (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and The Prisoner of Zenda). As presented on TCM’s Silent Sundays, this was a crisp clean print, something always important when dealing with the silents. It might be noted that while Ingram and Terry mentioned above had many films to their name, few survive.

A sculptress is nearly killed when her sculpture, a big scary thing, falls on her. A young surgeon miraculously saves her life and a romance blooms. Meanwhile Oliver Haddo, a magician/mad scientist played by German Paul Wegener, is seeking the means to create life. All Haddo needs is the blood of a virgin – and he sets his sights on the sculptress. The film rolls from there.

If the plot sounds a bit Frankenstein-ish, it is, and some of the imagery is reminiscent of that film, but remember, Universal’s Frankenstein is still six years away when The Magician was made. There are some quite horrific visuals here, right from the start, and especially one scene in Hell that rivals any in Haxan, complete with “Night on Bald Mountain” soundtrack. This proves that Hollywood was just as good at this kind of horror as Germany was, and they didn’t even need Lon Chaney for this one.

This rarely seen silent film is a classic and a must see. There are some gorgeous French locations (real or not, still stunning), great color tinting, an explosive ending and a wonderful score by Robert Israel. Recommended.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Despicable Me

Despicable Me ~ There's nothing new here in this computer-animated tale of a super-villain trying to stay viable with a younger more ruthless villain nipping at his heels. Complicating matters further is his insidious adoption of three young girls to help further his plans, which backfires in that he begins to care for them.

It's a simple heartwarming story, but it also works on even simpler more primal levels. Similar to the first Shrek or more accurately the old Warner Bros cartoons, it also has a fun immature hilarity in the Spy Vs. Spy vein.

Only one thing took away from the flick and that was the 'minions' of the main character Gru. These creatures, comparable to mumbling Nerf bullets, that act as the villain's henchmen are supposed to be cute and lovable. I found them annoying and abrasive and disliked the time they spent on the screen. I think I would have rather had more human, and understandable, underlings.

Doubling up their annoyance was the ad before the film that using a phone app one could translate the minions' mumblespeak. If you want to really make me angry in a movie theater, have your cellphone on throughout - something that most places frown upon, yet this film encourages it!

All that said, Despicable Me was quite enjoyable, maybe a bit rough for the sensitive kids, and maybe even more for the over-sensitive parents, but I really had fun. Recommended.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 02, 2010

True Blood: I Got a Right to Sing the Blues

Sookie's first line in this episode, "Eric, what the f**k?" says so much. It describes accurately my thoughts on the season so far, and is also the perfect commentary on this opening scene, a very tense situation in the royal court of Mississippi. Russell is a very deadly foe indeed, and not a vampire king to be trifled with, or tricked.

This is an Alan Ball script and it shows. His care and respect of the characters is plain when compared to the cartooniness of previous episodes. Under the pen of Ball, everything rolls much better. No pun intended. And under his pen, it looks like Jason has left cartoonland and entered into his initiation as a shapeshifter, just like in the books. And by the way, speaking of the books - those of you who have read them, stop telling those of us who haven't what's going to happen. Puh -leeze. Thank you.

The title of this episode is derived from the Billie Holiday song that plays as Lorena tried to kill Bill, as instructed. It's a reminder of their jazz age romance/partnership, nicely played. Bill is certainly a sly one when he wants to be. Speaking of sly, Tara is quite the bitch, but then, Franklin does deserve it.

Everyone is sly in this episode. Eric does some startling and amazing face changes, his chameleonic performance is one of the prizes this night. The charisma bubbles from the interrogation of Sookie by Russell and later in the evil ride with Russell and Eric. It's disturbing to see that Russell (a Southern stereotype unfortunately) is also a racist, and not just against the human race. Great tension, great secrets, juicy stuff.

Other things I liked this time include the secret of Sam's family taking an exciting and unexpected turn, making all the puns of past episodes make complete sense. I also loved Jessica manipulating and glamoring (and eating) the customers at Merlotte's. I loved the slice of Lafayette's love life despite how it ended. More please, Lafayette is criminally underused.

All good stuff, all going to show it's good for a series when the creator takes the reins, even if for just an episode or two. Another great cliffhanger ensures I will be here next time. Can't wait.

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Rubicon on AMC

AMC's "Rubicon" officially starts tonight with two episodes in the rocker seat next to the hit "Mad Men," a nice place for any new show.

Like "Mad Men," this is both a thinking series, and a character-driven one. From what I've seen it might take some time to warm to its quirky cast of characters but I think in the long run it might be worth it. Check it out.

Bookmark and Share