Thursday, October 23, 2008

Season Premieres - Part 2

Okay, so premiere season's wrapping up and there's only one left to go, the 30 Rock premiere, but that one's so late that I'm not going to wait for it. I'll just tell you about the rest of them. I will say that I have faith that 30 Rock will be good though, because Tina Fey is brilliant and Alec Baldwin (love him or hate him) is hilarious in that role. I will say though that this show got off to a rocky start with the first 7 episodes being absolutely atrocious. But it redeemed itself.

So onto the other premieres.

  • Eli Stone: What a great season premiere. Seriously. I thought the first season was good, some episodes were great but not all. But this season premiere was fantastic with some wonderful twists.
  • Life on Mars: This pilot was decent, but I didn't love it. I really don't know what to say. Has potential, but we'll see.
  • Samantha Who?: A good season premiere for a good show. It wasn't gut-busting, but there were enough laughs.
  • My Own Worst Enemy: Based on the pilot alone, I'm going to call this the best new show of the season. I'm not sure where they'll go with it because the pilot was packed with everything imaginable, but it was pretty great.
  • Crusoe: I can't say it was terrible, but it certainly wasn't gripping. It's probably just not my kind of show. I got kind of bored with it kind of quickly.
  • Kath & Kim: Terrible, terrible, terrible. Just terrible. Painfully unfunny. Just terrible. Really terrible. My goodness, this show is terrible.
  • The Ex-List: While this show clearly targets women I thought it had a charming premise and had a lot of potential. The problem though, it is not an hour-long show, so to fill the time they cram the show with uncomfortably vulgar subplots that have nothing to do with anything. And because I've never had rampant casual sex, I find this show kind of hard to relate to.
  • Numb3rs: I like this show, but I just can't watch it anymore. It's worn out its welcome and the season premiere didn't do anything to convince me otherwise.
I said in the other post that I've stopped watching The Unit, but I have to tell you that I'm back on it. The strike-shortened third season came through Netflix and it was really good, so I started watching the new season again, and it's fantastic.

So there you have it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lost - Season 5!!!

A trailer for the new season of Lost showed up on the internet today. It doesn't start until January and I can hardly wait. Could this show be more awesome?

Here's a link for the trailer:

If you haven't seen the first four seasons, do NOT watch this trailer.

I just want to add one more thing: With all this talk of economic collapse and Armageddon looming and all that scary stuff, if the world ends before Lost wraps things up, I will be so pissed!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

25+ CD's That Were Totally Worth the Price

With iTunes allowing me to buy just the song I like, I don't purchase nearly as many CD's as I used to. This is unfortunate, because I often find that my favorite tracks are ones that never get any radio play. And I'm guessing that because the record companies (and artists) know that I'm probably just going to download the hit single, they don't put a lot of effort into creating a good, full album. So many of the CD's I do buy pretty much end up sucking.

However, over the past few years (I'd say about 5 years or so), I have bought a few CD's that were well worth the money. I'm gonna say that this means at least two-thirds of the tracks were good and they were all at least tolerable.

Here is a list of 25 of those great CD's (in alphabetical order):
  • Aliens & Rainbows (Ferras)
  • All the Lost Souls (James Blunt)
  • The Clarence Greenwood Recordings (Citizen Cope)
  • Coco (Colbie Caillat)
  • Don't Look Away (Kate Voegele)
  • Dreaming Out Loud (One Republic)
  • Eyes Open (Snow Patrol)
  • Final Straw (Snow Patrol)
  • Finally Woken (Jem)
  • Flight of the Conchords (Flight of the Conchords)
  • Holly (Justin Nozuka)
  • Hopes and Fears (Keane)
  • How to Save a Life (The Fray)
  • The Invisible Band (Travis)
  • It's Time (Michael Buble)
  • Life in Cartoon Motion (Mika)
  • Little Voice (Sara Bareilles)
  • O (Damien Rice)
  • The Reminder (Feist)
  • Since I Left You (The Avalanches)
  • So Much More (Brett Dennen)
  • Some Mad Hope (Matt Nathanson)
  • These Streets (Paolo Nutini)
  • Wreck of the Day (Anna Nalick)
  • Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! (Hellogoodbye)
And a few movie soundtracks:
  • A Lot Like Love
  • Bandits
  • Garden State
  • The Last Kiss
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • Orange County
  • Serendipity
  • Shall We Dance
  • Sweeney Todd

Friday, October 10, 2008


For a struggling actor, there are few things more frustrating than watching a terrible performance on Broadway or in a major motion picture. For a struggling writer, it's difficult to find anything more frustrating than picking up a bestselling novel only to discover that it's nothing more than lazily-written drivel. And for a struggling filmmaker, there's nothing more frustrating than M. Knight Shyamalan!

This is a guy who had one great idea, and for no discernible reason people keep giving him money to make more movies. There's no better evidence that the guy's a hack than his latest film The Happening. But what can you really expect from a man who, in his last film, cast himself as a writer whose ideas were so brilliant and so revolutionary that they would change the world? This guy is so convinced he's a prophet that he never passes up an opportunity to preach, including in this movie a rant about how unfair it is that hot dogs always get a bad rap. Seriously.


This movie provides ample frustration for actors, writers, and filmmakers alike. Everything about it is awful! The idea is bad, the script is bad, the pacing is bad, the acting is bad, the cinematography is bad, the story is bad. It's bad. It's really, really bad.

And what happened? We've seen Mark Wahlberg and John Leguizamo and even Zooey Deschanel give solid performances. We know these folks can act. But here, they're terrible. They're just terrible. Every word out of every character's mouth is stunted and painful to listen to. Honestly, you truly feel embarrassed for these people.

I gotta run you through this, all the way through this. I was gonna try to review this without any spoilers, but I just can't do it justice without giving away the whole plot. So if you really want to see this, which you don't, then you should see it before you read this.

So it starts with two terrible actresses sitting on a bench in Central Park. They have some bad dialogue, then one pulls out a ridiculously huge hairpin and jams it into her neck.

Then it cuts to a construction site where four or five horrible actors stand around in construction worker outfits. Then bodies fall from the scaffolding. And people die.

Then we see a high school science class somewhere in Pennsylvania, maybe Philadelphia (I'm not sure). Mark Wahlberg is the retarded (I think) science teacher and he's asking for theories about why all the honeybees have disappeared. Then there's this uncomfortably homo-erotic moment between Wahlberg and one of the male students, where Marky-Mark says the student's got perfect features and he'll be gorgeous the rest of his life. Then he asks the student for a theory and he says something like, "It's just one of those things that science will try to explain but that we'll never truly understand." Look out! This line comes back at the end when the movie makes absolutely no sense at all. A respected scientist actually says, referring to the events of the movie, "...this is just one of those things we'll never truly understand." (Incidentally the "gorgeous" student isn't that good looking.)

In an effort to keep this review from meandering the way the plot does, I'm going to skip ahead. It turns out there are all these "happenings" in the major cities of New England. So Wahlberg and his crazy, depressive, clingy, immature, touchy, moody, whiny, obnoxious wife (Zooey Deschanel) and Wahlberg's colleague (John Leguizamo) and his colleague's daughter all get on a train to a more rural area. The train breaks down in the middle of nowhere and people keep getting infected by this toxin that makes them kill themselves. Terrorism is suspected. "As if there wasn't enough evil in the world, they come up with this," Deschanel says, or something to that effect but just as badly written.

So they try to find somewhere to go and get a ride from this crazy guy who has a greenhouse, loves hot dogs and is convinced that the plants are responsible for all this. That's ridiculous!

Oh, and John Leguizamo goes off with someone else so the other two (who, incidentally, though it has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot, are having some really generic marriage problems) have to take his daughter. In the next scene, Leguizamo kills himself (because of the toxin).

Through some turn of events the couple and the little girl end up in the middle of a field with a large group of people and Wahlberg figures out that it actually is the plants that are releasing a toxin that forces people to kill themselves. I'm totally serious. The plants really are killing everyone. That really is what the movie is about. It's the plants! Grass, weeds, trees, shrubbery. Shrubberies are killing people!

Uh oh, it's windy. So Wahlberg tells his small group (of five) to run. Yes, he tells them to outrun the wind. And they do. They run through this field and the wind whips at the tall grass in their wake.

They outrun the wind!!!

While running we meet two teenage boys who've joined our hapless trio. But don't get too attached because they both get blown away by a shotgun in the next scene. Man, Shyamalan spends so much time on drawing his audience in through deep character development.

The couple and little girl happen upon a house where a crazy old lady who makes all her own clothes and grows all her own food and has absolutely no contact with anyone else. She's insane and just rants about nothing. There's some obtuse dialogue about love and politics and whatever else. None of it makes any sense at all. Then she accuses Wahlberg of trying to kill her, then offers them a room to stay for the night, then in the morning accuses them of trying to rob her, then of trying to kill her again, then she goes outside and gets attacked by the toxin. She tries to kill Wahlberg while trying to kill herself. Then he goes outside to find his wife, though this makes no sense because she's inside, but luckily he doesn't get attacked by the toxin, then there's this painfully awkward scene whose geography I was unable to figure out, where Wahlberg and Deschanel have a conversation through some kind of pipe or ductwork. It's confusing and the dialogue is uncomfortably sappy.

Thank heavens the plant-toxin attack ends right then and our trio survives. They adopt the daughter and watch a TV interview with a scientist who says, "This is just one of those things we'll never truly understand."

Yes, it's over. The attack ended abruptly for no reason and with no explanation.

Oh, then we cut to Paris and there's another attack following some rhetoric about how the human population is ruining the planet and the planet is fighting back and this is just a warning.

Fade to black. And you bury your head in your hands, moaning why, oh why?

Sunday, October 5, 2008


This post is mostly in response to Marc & Katie's request for my recommendations of the best seasons of great TV shows to watch on DVD.

I love TV. I love it way more than movies. Why? Because I like watching characters evolve over a long period of time; I like watching stories that take years to develop; and I like getting to the end of an episode and wondering what's going to happen next. Plus, I kind of have A.D.D. so the shorter running time is perfect for me.

So here are some of my favorite shows, and my recommendations for the best seasons:

  • Arrested Development: In my opinion, this one is a must see! It only ran three seasons and the third was cut short, but it was fantastic. You have to watch all three.
  • Seinfeld: Ran 9 seasons, and they were all good. Seasons 1, 2 & 9 were maybe not as good as the others, and I personally think season 6 was the best.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond: Another one that ran 9 seasons, and they were all good, but again 1 & 9 not as much. Season 4 is the best.
  • Psych: Currently on hiatus in the middle of its third season. This is a quirky show on the USA network about a private detective that pretends to be a psychic to get work from the Santa Barbara Police Department. It's a good, funny show. Both seasons 1 & 2 are good.
  • Monk: Another quirky detective show on the USA network about an obsessive-compulsive. Currently on hiatus in the middle of its seventh season. They're all great, but I'm gonna say season 5 is the best.
  • Northern Exposure: A little bit older show than most of the ones I watch, but it's still good. That sentence, I suppose, implies that I think new shows are better than older ones. Well, yeah, I guess in general that's what I think. Anyway, the show ran 6 seasons but didn't really get going until season 3. Season 3 or 4 is probably the best.
  • Sports Night: Only ran 2 seasons, because ABC kept moving it around and you couldn't find it, but this is one of the best TV shows of all time! Both seasons are spectacular, especially season 2 after they removed the obnoxious laugh track.
  • Animaniacs: Yeah, everyone knows this was a great show. Three volumes on DVD now, and the first one is the best.
  • Desperate Housewives: Season 1 was great, since then this show has sucked pretty bad. Luckily, season 1 ties up most of the loose ends that it introduces, so you can watch just the first season then stop.
  • Scrubs: A really hit & miss comedy. Getting ready to open up its 8th and final season later this fall. The most recent 6th & 7th seasons have sucked, but the first five were much better. Seasons 1 & 5 are the best.
  • The Office: Just started its fifth season, and they've all been fantastic. If I have to narrow it down, I'd say season three is the best one, and season 4 is close behind.
  • Newsradio: Great show until Phil Hartman died, then season 5 just plummeted. Seasons 1 & 2 are the best though.
  • 24: Seventh season starts in January, hope it's better than the last two, because seasons 5 & 6 weren't nearly as good as the others, which is to say they were still a lot better than most of the stuff on TV but not as good as they should have been. Season 1 is the best though, by far.
  • Lost: One of the two best shows on television (maybe ever). Season 5 premieres in January, and I can't give you a best season because you have to see them all from the beginning.
  • Prison Break: The other of the two best shows (maybe ever). Simply cannot recommend just one season, because you have to see it all from the beginning. Okay, I'll admit season 3 was not quite as good as the first two or the fourth that just started a few weeks ago, but even season 3 is better than most other shows on television.
  • House: Great medical drama, with a twist. Just started its fifth season, and I'd say season 4 was the best so far.
  • Alias: Ran five seasons, and I don't think I've ever seen a show tank as badly as this one did in its last year. Wow, it just got ridiculous. It reinvented itself every season, so each one has its own arc and could sort of be viewed individually (if it weren't for the nail-biting cliffhangers in each season finale). On the whole I guess I'd say season 1 was the best, but season 4 had some great episodes.
  • The West Wing: Had a great run for 7 seasons, and they were all good except for season 5, which sucked. I'd recommend watching from the beginning, but if you want me to pick out the best it was season 4 -- the writing this year was impeccable.
  • The X-Files: Strong 7-season run, then they kept it going for two more years. In other words, seasons 8 & 9 sucked, season 1 was just okay, and season 7 was mostly good but had some pretty bad missteps. In my opinion, season 6 was the best.
  • Boston Legal: I love this show, but it's definitely not for everyone. I suppose what I mean is it's definitely not for Republicans, but it's fantastic. It just started its 5th and final season and I'm sad to see it go. Season 2 is the best.
  • The Black Donnellys: This one was cancelled early due to a competitive time slot and an admittedly slow-paced pilot. But it was a great show, and wraps up pretty effectively in its thirteen episodes.
  • Kidnapped: A great pilot but it slowed down a little afterwards. Still, I thought the show was pretty good, and you get a nice, tight conclusion at the end of the 13 produced episodes.
  • The Practice: This predecessor to Boston Legal actually ran 7 seasons, but the first is the only one available on DVD.
  • Daybreak: A decent show, akin to Groundhog Day, only it's a drama about a police officer. Not a great show, but a good one. I enjoyed it.
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Too expensive to produce and not enough people watching led to this shows early demise. Admittedly it's slow-paced, which usually means I'll hate it, but not with this one. I thought this was a really good show.
There's no reason for me to go through each of these shows. Suffice it to say that they've all just wrapped up their first seasons, and they've all been renewed (for good reason). I definitely think they're all worth checking into.
  • Life (NBC)
  • Dirty Sexy Money (ABC)
  • Chuck (NBC)
  • Burn Notice (USA)
  • Flight of the Conchords (HBO)
  • Samantha Who? (ABC)
  • Damages (FX)
  • The Wonder Years: Can you believe they haven't released this on DVD yet?
  • Happy Family: An obscure sitcom of a couple of years ago, starring John Larroquette and Christine Baranski. It suffered miserably from painfully bad promos, but the show itself was hilarious. Really a shame that it only ran one season.
  • Journeyman: Only ran one strike-shortened season last year before cancellation, and I can tell you why: the first four episodes weren't very good. However, it got a lot better and actually developed into a really good show.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Season Premieres

Many of you know that I work in television. As a result, and also because I want to, I watch a lot of television. I'm not a big fan of most reality television though there are a few reality shows I've enjoyed, like The Mole and of course So You Think You Can Dance. So I don't watch a lot of reality TV, but I'll give just about any scripted show a chance, which means in the fall I watch almost everything at least once. I enjoy it, and I find that it helps a lot with my writing and directing. But as the season goes on, I usually pare my viewing down to just a few shows. And I don't have HBO or Showtime, though I doubt I'd watch anything there anyway (except Flight of the Conchords).

Anyway, judging by what I've seen so far, this year doesn't look like such a promising season of television. Both new and returning shows seem to have struggled in their first week. There are a few shows that have yet to premiere for the '08-'09 season, so I'm holding out hope that we'll see some real gems.

But here's my breakdown of what I've seen so far:

  • Fringe: A new show from J.J. Abrams. This has got to be great, right? Eh. It's okay. I've given it three episodes because I really want to like it, but I just don't know. And the second episode was just plain gross. But it did get picked up for a full season.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles: I dropped this show last season after the pilot.
  • Prison Break: This and Lost are my two favorite shows on television, and this season premiere did not disappoint. Now I think five weeks into it's season, this show is still as good as it was at the beginning.
  • House: Solid premiere with a great ending, and the subsequent episodes have been even better. I love this show.
  • Bones: I dropped this one after the first two episodes, years ago. I think this show is just obnoxious.
  • Do Not Disturb: The worst new show of the season!!! Absolutely awful, everything about it. Honestly, I could only give this one ten minutes then it was history, and apparently it's already been cancelled.
The rest of Fox's schedule is made up of reality shows and comedies that I don't watch.


I don't watch a lot on this network, because its lineup is comprised mostly of crime procedurals (which I usually don't care for) and reality shows. So here's a list of the CBS shows that I don't watch: The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, NCIS, Criminal Minds, Survivor, Ghost Whisperer, Amazing Race, Cold Case, The Unit, CSI, CSI: NY, CSI: Miami, CSI: Finland, CSI: Mars, etc.

I used to watch The Unit and it's a pretty decent show, but I don't want to sit in front of the TV for hours a day, so I have to cut stuff out and The Unit was at the bottom of the list. Sorry, David Mamet.

Which leaves only a few shows to watch:
  • The New Adventures of Old Christine: Maybe the best season premiere of the season. This show is hilarious!
  • Gary Unmarried: Only got through about fifteen minutes of this generic, unfunny sitcom. I'm done with it.
  • How I Met Your Mother: This one's been on the chopping block with me since it started, and I honestly couldn't tell you why I still watch it. Neil Patrick Harris, probably. But it's probably gone this year after an abysmally unfunny season premiere that just left me feeling uncomfortable.
  • Worst Week: Not a great pilot, but when we got back from vacation there were 2 episodes on the DVR so I gave it another chance. The second episode was better, but still not that good. Since it's only a half hour I'll give it one more before I make my final decision.
  • The Mentalist: Gave it a half hour; it was bad. I didn't have the patience to stick out the episode to find out who the killer was, but I'm pretty sure I'd already figured it out, since the clues were pretty obvious.
Numb3rs and The Ex-List premiere tonight, so I'll post an update on those along with other new premieres in a couple weeks.


NBC shows I don't watch anymore: Heroes, Knight Rider, Lipstick Jungle, My Name Is Earl, ER, Law & Order: SVU, and any reality/game shows.
  • Life: I love this show! And the season premiere did not disappoint. What a great way to usher in the second season. I just wish it hadn't been moved to Friday nights, which is usually a death sentence.
  • The Office: Another of my favorite shows. The season premiere was pretty good but not one of their best episodes.
Haven't watched the Chuck premiere yet, though I liked the first season. And we're still waiting for 30 Rock, Kath & Kim, and My Own Worst Enemy. Really don't know what to think about those two new shows, we'll see.


ABC shows I don't watch anymore: Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters, Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Ugly Betty, and any reality/game shows.
  • Dirty Sexy Money: I thought this was a pleasant surprise last season, and I called it the best new show of 2007. The season 2 premiere was all right, but it just wasn't quite as good as the first season.
  • Pushing Daisies: An okay season premiere. Good, I guess. I like this show all right, but I don't love it.
  • Boston Legal: Not a great way to kick off its final season, but the show's been so good over four seasons that I have faith the rest of this one will be better.
Still waiting for: Eli Stone, Life on Mars, and Samantha Who? And Lost isn't back until January!

Not a lot of new shows this season because of the writers' strike last season, but that's probably a good thing since the new shows this year haven't been great. We'll see what midseason replacements the networks dish up.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Worst Coen Bros. Film to Date!

How can these guys make a great film like No Country for Old Men and then follow it up with crap like Burn After Reading?

I'm a big fan of the Coen Bros., really. In college I took a class, in which we studied the Coens as postmodernists, meaning we watched all of their movies (the only two to come out since are the two I already mentioned). I've seen them all, I've studied them all. I wrote a twelve-page paper on them. I'm a big fan.

So I wanted to like this movie, I really did. But it's just not good. In fact, it's pretty awful. Brad Pitt is great (he's very funny), but he's not in it enough. John Malkovich (if you follow this blog, you know how I feel about him) is terrible with an extra helping of creepiness, and he's in the movie too much. The rest of the film is just kind of disjointed and meandering. Tilda Swinton and George Clooney seem completely lost in the material, and while Frances McDormand is funny enough, her role just never finds anything to ground itself.

The pacing is bad, the story is retarded, and the dialogue is silly and overly profane. Aside from Pitt, there's little charm in the film, and there's absolutely nothing to identify with here. This is postmodernism gone horribly awry.

Though I hate to say this about any Coen Bros. movie, skip it.

Incidentally, if you're curious how I rank all of the Coens' films (because I love making lists), here you go:
  1. The Hudsucker Proxy
  2. No Country for Old Men
  3. The Man Who Wasn't There
  4. The Big Lebowski
  5. Miller's Crossing
  6. Barton Fink
  7. Raising Arizona
  8. Fargo
  9. Blood Simple
  10. O Brother, Where Art Thou
  11. The Ladykillers
  12. Intolerable Cruelty
  13. Burn After Reading