Friday, April 28, 2006

Last night's "The Office"

Can't tell you how sad I'm getting that all of my shows will be ending soon for the summer. My only consolation: summer movies. In the meantime, here are a few gems from last night's episode of "The Office." Let me know if I missed any zingers!

Michael to Jim: "Are you sure? That looked like it was gonna be good."
Dwight: "I think Oscar could be a drug mule."
Jim interrogating Dwight
Dwight: "You might remember me from the urine test a couple of years ago...mine was green."
Dwight: "Question: How many orange cones do you have?"
Kelly and Jim's heart-to-heart by the vending machine (when Jim didn't say anything)
Dwight: "I didn't take this job to make friends...and I HAVEN'T"

I'm sure I missed some...

Monday, April 17, 2006

"Dick and Jane" is not fun, "Shattered Glass" is.

  • "Fun with Dick and Jane"--Here's the thing: I'm not a big fan of Jim Carrey, and think that he's only made one movie where he didn't drive me nuts in at least one scene ("The Truman Show"). But even with my general apathy towards the actor, I don't think he's the one that ruins this movie. That honor goes to the director and screenwriters, who can't decide if this comedy is a broad and silly farce, a dark satire, or a sad commentary on our materialistic society. The result is a hodgepodge of semi-clever moments mixed in with some drastic tonal shifts that make it nearly impossible to decide if the Dick and Jane (Carrey and the always charming Tea Leoni) are the good or the bad guys. At one point, Dick and Jane go on a wild crime spree--robbing banks, convenience stores, etc.--so that they can keep their home and their big-screen TV. Who are they trying to get back at? These are our heroes?!?! When the final credits roll, the movie is mockingly dedicated to Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, etc. (of Enron fame), as if the sole purpose of the movie had been to expose insider trading (which it doesn't). To quote the always verbose Randy Jackson, this movie was just "aaaah-ayytt" for me. (** out of four)
  • "Shattered Glass"--Much better is this 2003 drama, starring Hayden Christensen (Darth Vader from the newer "Star Wars" movies) and Peter Sarsgaard (the air marshall from "Flightplan"). This little-seen indie depicts the real-life rise and fall of newswriter Stephen Glass (Christensen), who is suspected of having fabricated several of his stories for "The New Republic." The result is a splendid cautionary tale that is all the more fascinating because it is based on a true story. With the exception of a few whiny moments that are too reminiscent of "Episode II," Christensen gives a charismatic and convincing performance as a master storyteller. Much more interesting to watch, however, is Sarsgaard as the magazine's editor, who struggles to find the truth while walking the tight-rope of trust and integrity with Glass. Sarsgaard's performance is nuanced, believable, and fascinating to watch. Interesting as an inside look at print journalism, the movie is even more gripping as a commentary about the risks of telling little white lies, and the danger of trusting someone who is prone to share them. Though a little profane for my tastes, the movie is definitely worth a rent. (***1/2 out of four)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

TV Recap:

In a recent Entertainment Weekly article, Stephen King (a very clever pop-culture analyst) refers to himself as a "TV-whore." While I laughed at the shocking incoherence of the title (he's basically just saying he's become a couch potato), I can't help but join with him in praising the current state of network television. "24" has never been better (I'm just praying they don't botch the president-twist from last week), "Lost" has recaptured my imagination after a mid-season flashback funk, and "Gilmore Girls" returned from its 5 year hiatus with an episode that had me tearing up in laughter. If this is what being a couch potato is like, I hope they have this career path in heaven.

"Rumor Has It," "Howl's Moving Castle," "Cheaper by the Dozen 2"

Please excuse J-Dawg's lengthy hiatus, as I've been out of town this week. My trip did, however, allow me the chance to check out a couple of truly mediocre films, as well as a pretty fantastic one. Can you guess which of the three is the good one without looking at my reviews?

  • "Rumor Has It"--This quasi-romantic comedy has a really icky premise, one that pretty much ruins the movie: Jennifer Aniston plays a beautiful, slightly neurotic, commitment-phobe (haven't we seen her in this role before?) who discovers that her mother and grandmother slept with the same man years before. The charming lothario is played with some ease by Kevin Costner, who shows up and succeeds in seducing Aniston (Generation #3), in what is supposed to be a hilarious and touching coming-of-age film. There are a few things going for the movie: It has a great cast--in addition to Aniston and Costner, it also boasts Shirley Maclaine, Kathy Bates, and Mark Ruffalo (much more charming than in his last two generic boyfriend roles). It also had one brief sight gag midway through the movie that had me giggling. But that was about it, and one laugh does not a great romantic comedy make. This is especially disappointing coming from Rob Reiner, director of some true classics ("The Princess Bride," "A Few Good Men"). I fell asleep midway through the movie, and woke up just in time for the contrived and sappy ending. (*1/2 out of four)
  • "Cheaper by the Dozen 2"--Do I really need to say much about this one? If you've seen the first "Cheaper" or either of the "Father of the Bride" movies, you've seen this Steve Martin retread. Predictable, offensively trite, and just plain dumb: has Steve Martin stopped reading scripts altogether? And for crying out loud, aren't there any good comedies being made anymore?!?! (* out of four)
  • "Howl's Moving Castle"--This Japanese import is another bizarre delight from Hayao Miyazaki, creator of "Princess Mononoke" and "Spirited Away." The visuals are imaginative, the animation is unique and breathtaking, and you'll never guess where his stories are going. If you've never seen one of Miyazaki's films, you might want to start with "Spirited Away" first, but if you're looking for something dazzling and refreshingly quirky, this fantasy is a great option. And even though Walt Disney Pictures is distributing this movie domestically, this is a far cry from "Lilo and Stitch".... (***1/2 out of four)