Tuesday, May 29, 2007

On the...chopping block?

For both of us that have been watching the new reality show, On the Lot, we may need to try and recruit a few more of our friends to watch--the show is doing horribly in the ratings, and though it's summertime and there's not much else to watch, I fear Fox may do something drastic if ratings don't improve...

To initiate the newcomers, the show is basically American Idol for filmmakers. Yesterday's episode gave us a chance to watch, for the first time, 1-minute short films from each of the 18 finalists. Some of the films were interesting, some were dreadful (so much potty humor!), but only one or two was completely successful (I'd say the lucky penny one and the safety factory were the only outright "winners").

Being the first time the judges have had to address each finalist individually, I'd say they were...awkward. Carrie Fisher--who in other situations has been very blunt--seemed to have a hard time saying what she was really thinking; call it the Paula Abdul syndrome (her teeth looked a lot better though...). The guest judge just mimicked everything Carrie Fisher said. Only Garry Marshall seemed to be able to say anything constructive. I also don't love the hostess--she uses her hands in annoying ways, and just doesn't seem very genuine (where's Cat Deeley when you need her?). Let's hope things get better as the show moves on.

Having said those things, the show does have the potential to be very interesting. Let's hope people catch on. Spread the word!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I'm "Lost" and loving it

OK, just to be clear: I am about to talk about last night's killer Lost finale. So if you haven't watched it yet (Brett), kindly go watch it and then come back.

Now onto the show: I can't tell you how pleased I am with last night's season finale. It was scary, funny, sad, touching, and completely mind-boggling. I LOVED it. So, in no particular order, here are a few of my comments about the big game-changing episode:
  • I loved Hurley's big moment of triumph. So nice to see the big guy catching a break. And wasn't it great that the silly VW actually served a purpose...
  • There were a few moments during the finale (Mr. Friendly's demise at the hands of Sawyer, Jack kicking the crap out of Ben) when I am actually sort of scared to admit that I felt a little bit of bloodlust...but MAN did it feel good to see some of those jerks brought to their knees!
  • Charlie: even though they've been telling us he was a goner for months now, part of me still believed that he'd somehow get around it. I was equal parts shocked and touched when he heroically gave his life to "save" the rest of the group. (Let's just hope they really do get saved!) And how sweet was it to see the former altar-boy doing the cross-thingie as he died--felt like a nice bookend to his life's story. Wow!
  • Jack and his women: though I didn't really feel like the love business had much of a place in this finale, it's about time Jack said how he felt for Kate. I just wish it hadn't come 2 minutes after he kissed Juliet...what a mimbo!
  • Sawyer: Although his brooding is annoying, it felt realistic at least, considering how he just killed a man with his bare hands just a few episodes back. I'm glad to see that it is affecting his poor tortured psyche.
  • Mikhail (eye-patch guy): Will this guy ever die? Can't say I would hate seeing him lose his remaining eye (I know, there's that bloodlust again...).
  • Penny: Who is (or was) Naomi, anyway? Whose boat is it if it isn't Penny's? Who are the people that Jack called?
  • Locke: I'm glad he's not dead, but was it really necessary to kill off Naomi? And WALT?!?! Where did he come from?
  • Future Jack: was everyone else as blown away as I was that Jack's flashbacks were actually flashforwards?!?! How did they get off the island? Who got off the island? Who was in the casket? Who is Kate with now? Why do they need to get back to the island? And does this mean that flashbacks are gonzo, and now we'll have flashforwards?!!? Either way, I loved it. LOVED it.
So now we wait until February 2008. What a great way to end the season, though. What did you think? Were you as satisfied with the finale as I was?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"On the lot"

Since everyone's all chatting about American Idol, I thought I'd ask if anyone had stuck around to watch the new reality show, On the Lot, that followed AI. Wendy and I watched most of it, and were actually pretty interested in the concept (50 amateur filmmakers get a chance to compete for a film contract), and may just give the show another shot on Thursday (coupled with the new So You Think You Can Dance). You just know it's going to be good when there are already heroes and villains after the first episode.

(One thing that I didn't like, however, was Carrie Fisher's strange teeth: she looks great until she opens her mouth, when she transforms into Princess Leia's botoxed grandmother...)

I haven't been a filmmaker myself since my early teens (ah, the good old days of Barbie slasher films...), so I am curious to know what I missed out on. And since most good TV is absent again until January, will you all commit to watching On the Lot with me? Is that so much to ask?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The next great fantasy epic?

Since I've been listening to my Lord of the Rings soundtrack again (I come back to it about every three months...), I've been feeling an empty place in my heart for a good old fashioned fantasy epic. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix looks great, but I know the story already. I really wanted to love Narnia, but only ended up liking it. I didn't even bother with last year's Eragon, and based on the reviews, I'm not sad I missed it.

So what will be our next great fantasy adventure? New Line Cinema (the studio who produced LOTR) is hoping to ride the fantasy gravy-train again this winter with The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig (blond Bond), and Eva Green (Bond's most recent babe). The trailer looks flashy and thrilling, but I don't know anything about the book it's based on. Should I be getting excited, or will this be another Eragon?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"The Holiday," "Dreamgirls" reviews

The one advantage to Wendy's crummy morning sickness is that we're finally catching up on some of the movies we've been meaning to see:

  • The Holiday: I didn't have a lot of expectations for this movie, and got out of it about what I put into it. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet swap houses for a week and fall in love with Jude Law and Jack Black, respectively. There's not really anything unpredictable about this movie, and not a whole lot of hilarity either. That said, there are some really beautiful houses and a couple of cute moments. Not really anything to write home about, but could have been worse (Cameron Diaz and Jude Law's characters are sorta sleazy, though...). (**1/2 out of four)
  • Dreamgirls: This movie, however, I had high hopes for, since I like a good musical, and think Jennifer Hudson is pretty great. She didn't disappoint--her performance is natural, charismatic, and worth her Oscar. When she's on-screen, the movie is energetic and emotional. When she's not, it plays a little like a flashy made-for-TV musical, with decent acting and some inconsistent and ineffective plotting. I understand that the movie has a Broadway musical to live up to, but did there really need to be so many songs?!?! The music is good and as singers, the actors were terrific, but I felt like sometimes the songs got in the way of the story. That said, there's a lot of talent involved in this movie, and it was fun to see it on display. (*** out of four)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cool new "Transformers" trailer

When I was a little boy, I was what you might call a medium Transformers fan. I watched the cartoons and wanted all the toys (but only succeeded in getting one or two). I don't remember, though, the names of many of the characters, and can't say that the phenomenon affected me quite like He-Man did.

That said, I just finished watching the latest trailer for the upcoming Transformers movie, and I've got to say, I'm pretty excited for some big, loud, crazy Autobot-action. Watch the new trailer here.

Michael Bay is a very divisive director with a few big hits (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor) under his belt. I've got to say, though, that what the man lacks in substance, he makes up for in style; this movie could be really fun. What do you think?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I eat my hat!

Two things happened on TV last night that are making me swallow my pride and admit that I have no idea what I'm talking about:
  • Goodbye, Melinda Doolittle. We'll see you on the Grammys next year. As for Blake and Jordin, I wish you the best. But for me, you've sung your last song. I'm officially on strike against American Idol again. At least until next January...
  • How intense was Lost last night? I would have given real money to bet that Charlie would speak his last words, but it wasn't so. I still think that he's a goner before the season ends, but we'll just have to wait and see. And what about Desmond's vision? A helicopter? From where?!?! Does that mean the end of Claire & Aaron? I CAN'T WAIT for next week's finale!!!
What did you think of last night's TV events? Anyone else mourning Melinda's departure?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Vampires on CBS; "The Amazing Race" returns next spring

CBS just got finished announcing its new fall schedule, and you'll be glad to know that The Amazing Race will be back for another installment, but not until January or February. The network also announced a number of new shows, including Viva Laughlin, a musical comedy-drama co-starring Hugh Jackman, and Moonlight, a mystery/romance/drama with a private investigator who is also a vampire.

For the sake of my vampire-phile (or how about vampophile) readers, here is the network's description of Moonlight:

MOONLIGHT, from prolific movie producer Joel Silver ("The Matrix," Trilogy), is about Mick St. John (Alex O'Loughlin, upcoming "White Out"), a captivating "undead" private investigator who uses his acute vampire senses to help the living… instead of feeding on them. In an agonizing twist of fate, Mick was "bitten" 60 years ago by his new bride, the seductive and beguiling Coraline (Amber Valletta, "Hitch"). Immortal and eternally as young, handsome and charismatic as he was then, Mick is sickened by Coraline and other vampires who view humans only as a source of nourishment. With only a handful of undead confidantes for company, including deceitful ally Josef (Rade Serbedzija, "24"), Mick fills his infinite days protecting the living, and trying not to think about how his life would have been if he hadn't followed his heart. However, after six decades of resisting, he wonders if it's time to pursue the love of a mortal. He has his eyes on Beth Turner, a beautiful, ambitious reporter who has been covering the ongoing plague of unusual murders. But would Beth even consider giving up a normal life to be with him, and can Mick risk the pain of seeing himself as a monster in her eyes? As Mick lives between two realities, fighting his adversaries among the undead and falling in love with Beth, he knows he needs to figure out a reason to keep "living."

Yes, but does Mick sparkle in the sunlight?

You can bet that Wendy is already trying to set the DVR to record Moonlight, which won't air until Friday nights in September. Get out your garlic, men!

Melinda vs. Blake

OK, I haven't been following American Idol religiously over the season, although my DVR has made it easier to catch most of the performances from this season's most interesting contenders, who just so happen to be, in my opinion, on their way to next week's finale. Yes, I'm talking about Melinda and Blake.

For the record, I realize the pros and cons of choosing either performer: Melinda is clearly the more skilled singer, but a little tougher to market to a very fickle young marketplace. Blake, on the other hand, is hip and contemporary and "takes risks" (as Simon says), but so often his risks fall flat on their beat-boxing bottoms (like last week's HORRIBLE Bee-Gee covers).

I'll make no bones about it: my vote is for Melinda. She's the only one I've voted for regularly throughout the season, and she's the only one I would even consider buying an album from. That said, Blake is no slacker ("He's an artist!" my sister Jennie gushes), and I wouldn't be disappointed or surprised if he won either. We'll just see next week who really brings their best to the finale.

Can we all just agree that Jordin shouldn't/won't make it to the finale?

Monday, May 14, 2007

30 episodes of "The Office" next year!

Remember how I mentioned a few days ago that most shows these days only get between 22 and 24 episodes during a TV season? Well, with our ever-changing TV landscape, it looks like networks are trying to do anything they can to avoid low-rated reruns. This includes the aforementioned shift in the Lost schedule (no repeats and no breaks between episodes), which itself is mimicking the successful 24 model adopted by Fox a couple of years ago. Now NBC is jumping into the mix, announcing today that it has ordered 30 half-hour installments of The Office to air over the upcoming season. That's about 6 episodes more than we received this year.

I think there are a few reasons for this announcement (which is unprecedented for a sitcom): NBC is moving The Office back to the 8:00 p.m. (Utah time) hour, where it will go up against TV's two top shows (CSI and Grey's Anatomy). More new episodes mean more opportunities to gain ground during a really tough time slot, especially if CSI or Grey's is a rerun.

Additionally, I'm guessing NBC is trying to get all the leverage it can from a show that is still increasing in popularity, and that is likely to become more and more expensive to produce (due to the rising popularity of several of the show's stars). In other words, get as many episodes out now before Steve Carell and John Krasinski (Jim)--both of whom have rising movie careers--get too expensive to keep on the show.

Finally, NBC announced that it is renewing Scrubs for one last, abbreviated season (18 episodes I think). Having more episodes of The Office will help plug the holes left by the departing hospital sitcom.

I think The Office news is good overall. I just hope that the increased episode count means more episodes like the George Foreman-centric "The Injury" and less of episodes like the unnecessarily crude "Women's Appreciation." And for crying out loud, could we just lock Jim and Pam in a closet and force them to make out...er, make up...!?!?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

"Music & Lyrics" review

We watched the new Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore rom/com last night, and overall enjoyed it. Hugh Grant is basically playing a variation on the same role he plays in every romantic comedy--quick-witted, well-dressed, slightly neurotic, mostly charming--and is quite funny at it. As a former member of an 80s pop band who has been recruited by a Britney Spears-esque pop star to compose her new song, Grant gets to do a fair amount of singing and dancing, which is pretty funny. Drew Barrymore plays the plant-watering lyricist--yes, a plant-watering lyricist--who falls in love with Grant while helping him compose the song.

While the movie has its charms--the music, in particular, is almost annoyingly infectious--it does fall victim to some of the unfortunate cliches that plague today's romantic comedies. For example, Barrymore's ex-boyfriend, whom she has successfully avoided for months, just happens to be dining at the same restaurant as she and Grant right after she reveals how horrible he was to her. I also get really bugged when the two main characters sleep together the moment they share their first kiss, like that is just the obvious next step right after a kiss (doesn't anyone "neck" anymore?).

That said, it's a breezy 90 minute time-waster, and cute enough to justify one viewing. You probably won't remember the movie's story longer than 2 hours, but its songs will likely lull you to sleep (and still be in your head in the morning...). **1/2 (out of four)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"Help me"?

Forgive another Lost-centric post, but I just have a few comments about last night's mind-boggling (but fascinating) episode (read no further if you haven't watched the episode yet!):
  • First, a fascinating equation: Uncle Rico + old man makeup - mustache = Roger Work Man
  • Next: how creepy was it when Ben took Locke into that creaky old shack and started talking to...a chair! It was only through some very meticulous slow-mo (thanks, DVR) that Wendy and I were able to ascertain that there really was someone sitting in that chair--someone that looked, in my mind, suspiciously like a shadowy, long-haired version of Locke himself. WEIRD. (Watch the video in slow-mo here.)
  • Speaking of Locke, did anyone see that ending coming? Looking back on it, I guess if Ben really did what it looks like he did, at least poor Locke got some closure and answers over the last couple of episodes before he checked out. But come on, Lost without Locke? I'll believe it when I see it.
  • Finally, tortured youth or not, Ben is one crazy, buggy-eyed freak.
I'm not wrong to be LOVING this show again, am I? What did you all think of the episode?

Monday, May 07, 2007

"Lost" to get lost in 2010!

As you may have seen reported this morning, the producers of Lost have signed an unprecedented new deal with the network to continue producing the show for three more years, bringing the show to a final conclusion in May 2010. Here are a few of the details:
  • Each of the next three seasons will run without interruption or repeats from February through May (meaning that we'll have to wait until February to get any new episodes after this month's season finale...).
  • The remaining three seasons will be fairly abbreviated seasons, with only 16 episodes each (the previous seasons have produced 24-25 episodes each).
  • The show will be moving to an earlier timeslot to try to bring back the family audience. (Does that mean that we'll see less of Sawyer & Kate alone in their cage/tent?)
You might have remembered me saying that the producers and network were negotiating about whether or not the show would remain on the air for two more seasons (the producers' wish) or three more seasons (the network's wish). Looks like they both got their wish, since the show will be around for three more TV seasons, but will only have to make 48 more episodes, the equivalent of what the show produced during the first two seasons.

I think the news is welcome, since it gives us a bit more hope that they are really moving toward a definitive conclusion. It's also nice to know that we won't have to wait weeks between new episodes or have to deal with reruns. As much as I love Lost, I now know that only have to wait three years for some definitive answers. Bravo!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

"Spider-man 3" review

Let me start out by answering the big question: is Spider-man 3 as good as Spider-man 2, the series’ standard for geeky greatness? The answer is no, unfortunately. The newest sequel doesn’t have near the pitch-perfect emotional complexity of the last. That said, Spider-man 3 is not a total disappointment...

Picking up not long after where Spider-man 2 left off, we finally see Peter Parker in a happy place. His relationship with M.J. is going better than ever, he’s found balance in work and school, and the entire city is in love with his superhero alter-ego. Of course things go awry fairly quickly, as Spider-man is introduced to not one, not two, not three, but four enemies. And therein lies the big problem with Spider-man 3: with so many villains, so many stories, so many conflicts, there is little time to devote to developing any one of the arcs very well. The movie has, in a sense, a bad case of villain-itis.

I think I can see why the filmmakers wanted to involve more villains and more stories: they wanted to give it a different feel from the other two movies, each of which had one major villain. I suppose they also wanted to be able to create varied areas of conflicts for Peter Parker: guilt/revenge (Sandman), competition (Venom), friendship/loyalty (New Goblin), and our internal struggles between right and wrong (Black Spider-man). Sadly, only two of these villains really gets much development, and the others (Sandman and Venom) seem to exist only to appease the comic-book’s fans and provide flashy, loud action sequences.

There are things to recommend for the movie, though. The acting is good, especially from the three main leads (Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco), who seem more natural and at-home in their roles than ever. (Dunst’s performance is particularly refreshing, since I can’t stand her in most everything else she’s done…). The quiet moments between Peter Parker and M.J. are especially welcome, and serve as a nice break from the chaotic, sometimes clumsy action scenes. I also really liked the internal struggle of good and bad that Peter Parker observes in himself; there just wasn’t enough of it to say that it was really thought-provoking or meaningful.

I feel about Spider-man 3 roughly the same way I felt about last year’s X-Men: The Last Stand: so much potential, so many interesting stories, so little time to explore any of them very well. In a world where so many of our popcorn movies are devoid of any complexity, you still wish that Spider-man 3 wouldn’t have tried to be everything for everyone. Overall, though, it is a fun way to spend two and a half hours, with a few genuinely funny and thrilling moments. Expect it to break all sorts of box office records. (*** out of four)