Saturday, May 31, 2008

i'm a charriemanthda

Having swung from not interested in the movie at all, to having seen the trailer once and suddenly very interested, to having been overexposed to it and feeling on-the-fence, I ended up at the 10:10 showing of Sex and the City on opening night. My sister and I could barely find two seats together in the top row of the small, usually empty theater, because it was so congested with estrogen-rich moviegoers. (Sidenote: seeing SatC with my sister was awesome because she's a gal pal, a sister, and a gay all rolled into one!) There were about five guys in the theater, as expected, but one had the good humor to shout "Bradshaaaaw!" over the girly screams as the credits started to roll.

This movie absolutely exceeded my expectations. As much as I hate the character of Carrie, I thought that her most annoying tendencies weren't allowed to be expressed to the fullest. She was still very self-centered, but never really tried to diminish the importance of the events happening in her friends lives. The relationship between her and Big was believable as far as how their characters would be acting after all this time, and I actually felt for both of them when I've never been able to sympathize with either character before. Also, I was impressed that Sarah Jessica Parker, as depressed Carrie, had an extended scene wearing no makeup. It made the scene that much more sympathizing, since it's true that a woman would not bother putting her face on in that situation.

Samantha's life in Hollywood was a bit overdone, but the show's always portrayed L.A. that way, and it was cute. I was proud to see her stay faithful to Smith when tempted, especially in the light of how serious the film had to treat infidelity, because we'd seen her cheat on him before, and be terribly wounded by her own actions. Her treatment of their relationship, when she had to step back and evaluate her life, was mature and welcome. And I should hope so, at her age, and with her pragmatism and intelligence. Speaking of age, Kim Catrall lying naked and covered in sushi looked absolutely gorgeous. Entertainment Weekly was right: menopausal women are having the best year ever!

Miranda's storyline was very difficult for me to watch, eliciting a physical reaction from the moment that the ball dropped (Steve's one ball?). She always has gotten a bum deal, proving that powerful women will always have to make sacrifices if they want a family. I can understand some of the ways in which she may have contributed to the problems in her marriage, but that's no excuse for Steve's contribution. I think that after all she'd given up for him, the neat ending to their story was a difficult pill for me to swallow. (SPOILER!!!) And I'm sorry, but the fact that the gals are willing to donate time, money, and energy to clean up the mess of Carrie's life and hightail it to Mexico when she gets jilted by a man who's dragged her around the block enough times that she should be immune to it, but when hardworking mother Miranda gets her heart broken, they barely bat an eyelash at brunch, really pisses me off. Shades of Carrie's stupid "paper covers rock" comment when she thought her lame breakup with Berger was more interesting than Charlotte's engagement to the love of her life, whom she converted to Judaism for! Did Samantha fly out to New York to help Miranda move? Did anyone help babysit when Miranda needed to curl in bed and weep? Hmmph! (END SPOILER) In any event, Cynthia Nixon also looked wonderful with no clothes on, so good for her, too.

The real star of the movie, for me, was absolutely Kristin Davis. She has totally grown as a comedic actress, and also hasn't aged a day, ever. Her facial expressions during the Poughkeepsie-in-Mexico scene were priceless, and some of the funniest physical comedy I've seen in a while. When telling off Big the first time, her teary, outraged "NO! No!" followed by scurrying away in her tight dress, was heartbreaking, funny, and gratifying. When she confronted Big the second time around, it was painfully obvious what was about to happen, but exciting nonetheless. After all these years, Charlotte finally stole the show.

Other standouts for me were definitely Jennifer Hudson, who was a pleasant surprise as an actress. I mean, yeah, I know she's an Academy Award winner, but she was kicky and fun here, not devastated like in Dreamgirls. Overall, I was really surprised with how much I loved the fashions of the movie. All the girls looked great, each in their own way. Carrie only had a few vomit-inducing accessories (fishnet socks? the bridal hatrocity?), and I loved seeing her in the couture and daily wear she changed in and out of a few hundred times. Samantha's Mannequin-esque shoulder pads and bright colors were spectacular, and made me jealous of her ability to carry off styles previously dominated by Delta Burke. Miranda looked wonderful - stylish and sophisticated - finally having grown up stylistically. Louise was fashionable while still believable as a lower-rent version of the gals. And dear Charlotte in her '60s style maternity wear was just so adorable.

If you ever watched the show, I think you'll love the movie. I never even considered myself a SatC fan before, but I think I might be now.

Friday, May 30, 2008

am i the only person who didn't see that one coming?

I don't really know what to say about last night's season four finale of LOST, because it was such an excellent, complicated two hours of television that it's hard for me to string together a coherent discussion of one of the most divergent shows ever on TV. So, for the ease of muddling through all the thoughts that last night's episode - and this entire season, in fact - left me with, I'm going to break from tradition and write in bullet points today (storing up my energy for 2 and 1/2 hours of Sex and the City tonight).

Jin and Sun -- Oh man oh man, I was having quite a bit of trouble keeping it together for this whole section of the episode. First of all, I'd been holding out hope that Jin, despite not being one of the Oceanic 6, was still alive, ever since the ambiguous "tombstone" in the Ji Yeon episode. Somehow I still have hope that he survived the freighter explosion because a) it's LOST, and b) Jin is awesome. And Jack's a big douchebag. Yunjin Kim's acting was really spectacular, and totally sold the entire helicopter scene for me. I'm excited to see her start owning her grief and her destiny in her time after the island. She freakin' confronted Widmore himself!

Time travel -- Thankfully they've eased us into this being the true reality of the island, because if they'd just sprung it on us four seasons in, I think it would have fallen totally flat and nobody would have signed on. It would have been J.R. coming out of a dream sequence or something like that. I thought it was pretty bomb to see Ben turning the WHEEL OF TIME in the mysterious frozen core of the Earth, and another Dharma orientation video was long past-due. I can't wait for this to finally tie together the loose ends of Richard Alpert, polar bears, and four-toed statues. Also, I read a great theory online that the reason Widmore is trying so hard to find the island is because he moved it once himself and, like Ben said, the person who moves the island can't come back.

Desmond and Penny -- I was very surprised to see their reunion happen so early in the show's run. Considering the fact that Desmond was only introduced in season two, and the magnitude of their love story, I wasn't expecting resolution there until the final season. Of course, this just emphasizes the fact that their story is neither as interesting or as important as the raison d'etre of the island itself, and the conflicting groups who have found themselves there. It's a shame their union won't last forever. Come on, you know something bad has to happen there.

Ben and Locke -- Locke being groomed to become the new Ben was exciting, because it was finally a payoff to the strong connection he's had with the island. Locke being in the coffin at the end totally took me surprise (hence this blog entry's title), and opened up a lot of questions and possibilities for what could happen in upcoming seasons to fill the gap in Locke's life between last night's episode and his death. Ben had become my favorite character on the show long ago, and seeing what happened just before he landed in the Tunisian desert ("What year is it?") just made him even cooler in my book. Oh yeah, and he stabbed some dude in the neck a few times. Oh, and he is totally going to go after Penny now, and I'm sorry but Desmond is no match for Ben.

The "future" -- Okay, so now Jack, Kate, Aaron, Sun, Hurley, and Sayid have to go back to the island. And they have to bring back Locke's cold dead body. Does Ben get/have to go with them? Why doesn't Walt have to return? Or does he? How long (in TV time) is it going to take to get them back there? And how will Kate and Hurley be convinced? Will Jack ever stop being so insufferable?

The LOST Experience -- Another entry in the canon of LOST ARG-related websites. Did you catch the commercial for Octagon Global Recruiting? Watch it again at It's clearly something you can sign up to attend at COMIC CON 2008 because it says "San Diego" and "July 24-27." Yeah, even though I can't go to Comic Con this year, I still have the dates memorized. I can't wait to hear what they reveal!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

trailer park, part deux

More trailers for you guys to watch, but I'm still having trouble embedding the videos, so I had to post links again. Sorry, again.

Towelhead (Aug. 8)
This seems to have the same kind of unsettling quality that Little Children had, and it is not totally thematically different, with pedophilia and alienation coming to the fore. This seems like one of those movies that's good, and makes you think, but leaves you with a really unpleasant feeling in your stomach. But then, could we expect any less from director Alan Ball?

Tropic Thunder (Aug. 15)
War satire that isn't Delta Farce? Check. Steve Coogan? Check. Robert Downey, Jr. playing an Australian actor who undergoes a surgical procedure to look African-American, and then method acting as a black man for the entire film? Check. A movie exciting enough to prompt me to make the controversial statement that, other than Dodgeball, Ben Stiller hasn't been in a funny movie since The Royal Tenenbaums (appearances as Tony Wonder don't count)? Check. Making fun of Academy Award nominated Norbit? Check.
Red band:

Hamlet 2 (Aug. 22)
It's got Steve Coogan (again) and Catherine Keener, and centers on a high school rock opera with the song "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" as its hit. What more could I ask for?

The House Bunny (Aug. 22)
This one just looks stupid and funny enough to join the ranks of Grandma's Boy in my guiltiest guilty pleasures vault. When my roommate and I told her dad the premise of this movie, he countered with a story about how a few years before he went to college, the frat that he would eventually join had a live-in prostitute and her pimp serve jointly as their house mother. Touche.

Blindness (Sep. 19)
It's kind of tough for me to talk about this movie because I spent a few months out of my life lovingly adapting Jose Saramago's excellent book into my very first feature-length screenplay. I have a copy of the script that Fernando Meirelles used for his upcoming film, and I haven't been able to bring myself to read it yet. I can only say that Saramago's story is excellent, and so is Julianne Moore, so I'm sure this film will be winning every award from here to Texas. Sigh.

Australia (Nov. 14)
I have been looking forward to this movie for quite some time now, and as a devoted fan of Baz Luhrmann's Red Curtain trilogy, I'm really excited to see how he's going to apply his incredible talent and skill to a pastoral epic. I think that Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman are well matched, even if it was an interesting choice to cast her as a Brit (she'll be fine, it's still kind of interesting), and the trailer gives me shivers when they kiss. I think the style and the setting are going to make this movie old-school magical, and I have a feeling that it's going to be about 1,000 times better than Ron Howard's Tom-and-Nicole epic Far and Away, which I've seen like 3 times and is crazy entertaining for a horrible movie.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Dec. 19)
I hadn't been interested in this movie at all when I'd only heard Brad Pitt's name and the curious title together, but when I realized it was a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, my interest grew. Upon viewing the trailer, which does a lot with music and lack of dialogue, it has become one of my most eagerly-anticipated films of 2008. Brad Pitt can act quite well when he's not being totally boring-looking, and I think that this movie will be what Big Fish almost was, and reach just beyond the edge of imagination to give us something totally crazy to think about.
Low quality Spanish trailer:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

trailer park, part une

In my recent returns to the movie theater, I have also been introduced to a few new movie trailers, and a handful of them look very promising. I also enjoyed combing through a bunch of trailers online, so I wanted to share some of the ones that I want to see. Enjoy!

(Okay, so for some reason blogger is not letting me embed video clips right now, so I'm afraid I had to post the links to the trailers on YouTube. Sorry, I hate to click a link when the video I want to see could be right there!)

The Foot Fist Way (May 30)
Okay, so I actually got an advance copy of this at work, and when I tried to watch it, I was busy doing other things, and ended up losing interest about halfway through. I'll watch it this week so that I can post a review the day it comes out, which is this Friday. I do love mockumentaries, and this looks like a deadpan comedy, which is probably a lot funnier than I was aware of when it was on TV next to me while I was writing a paper.

The Happening (June 13)
So, most people's opinions on M. Night Shyamalan's movies are mixed, and mine are too. Let's face it, the quality of his storytelling varies pretty widely from film to film, anyway. The Happening doesn't look to me like it's going to exceed The Sixth Sense, which is my favorite of his, but it also doesn't look like it's going to sink to The Village or Lady in the Water levels of boringness. Really though, just like Kathy Geiss, I'll show up to almost anything Mark Wahlberg is in. I don't know what it is about his pug-like face and his too-much-muscle body covered in horrible tattoos, but I am drawn to him. Sexy/ugly has never looked so good(?). Also, Zooey Deschanel is incredible, so I imagine the movie must be decent if she chose to be in it.
(NOTE: This is the red band trailer, which is pretty violent, so be careful:)

Quid Pro Quo (June 13)
Nick Stahl is a very underrated actor, if you ask me, and I am glad to see him in an interesting thriller as the protagonist. The concept of elective amputation is an unusual, and very thought-provoking one, having been explored in mainstream media on Nip/Tuck, and previously on sites such as (I won't post a link because I'm on a work computer and don't want to search around for the article I'm looking for, but it's a fascinating site from top to bottom, if you're interested in body modifications). This mystery/thriller genre as a vehicle to discuss the subject of bizarre body image (and body dysmorphic disorder?) is cool, and I hope I actually remember to watch this when it comes out in (assumedly) limited release.

Baghead (June 13)
I've actually seen Baghead already, and I definitely recommend it for the Laemmle-theatergoing crowd, especially if you're looking for a comedy at the independent movie theater which is typically full of high-quality downers like The Children of Huang Shi (which looks reeeally good, btw). It's neither the most memorable comedy I've seen - though few indie comedies are - nor the scariest horror flick I've seen, but I don't really think that's the point. Baghead pokes fun at the indie filmmaking process and community, and the actors are believable and funny throughout. The wallet-phone gag will stick with you for a while, too, so look out for that.

American Teen (July 25)
I've been reading lately about how the cinema verite approach to teens in media is becoming a growing trend, and American Teen is one of the primary examples of this that people are turning to. What can I say? It looks cute and touching, and like something that will appeal to teens, younger adults, and baby boomers, and people from small towns and big cities.

The Rocker (Aug. 1)
Oh, Rainn Wilson. No one's ever going to let you put down those horrible glasses from The Office ever again, are they? Just as I examined the posters of Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin, I looked at the poster for The Rocker with a critical eye. But all the pratfalls in the world (seriously, the trailer is like if Chevy Chase and Chris Farley had a child with vertigo) can't detract from the awesome cast. I'm hoping this will end up being funnier than Blades of Glory, as the story seems a lot cooler, and I think that Wilson is a better headliner any day than Will Ferrel or Jon Heder. Yeah, I said it.
Fun fact: Rainn Wilson practices Baha'i.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (Aug. 8)
Leave me alone. I kind of loved the first one.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"hell hath no fury...

" a Chuck Bass scorned."

Okay, so Gossip Girl's Chuck Bass (your favorite television character, and mine) has nothing to do with this post really. I saw Son of Rambow this weekend, and Ed Westwick, who plays the inimitable Chuck Bass, has a minor role in it as the older brother of one of the main characters. Before discussing Garth Jennings' small film, I would like to put forth a small sidebar discussion: creepy or English? One of the many ongoing debates in my life (gay or twins? gay or European? &c.) is "creepy or English?" Ed Westwick is a perfect example of someone who, when you look at his face, your immediate reaction is to be creeped out. But then, when you realize he's English, his face makes much more sense, and he's not as creepy anymore. As Manhattanite Chuck Bass, he's dripping in creep. But as a Brit, he's just douchey. Same thing happened to Jude Law in I Heart Huckabees, though his American accent did (well, as his British one does, I guess) skew gay in that movie.

Now, on to Son of Rambow. I was quite looking forward to this movie, which I'd had the impression of being a sweet little movie about two boys making friends, coming of age, learning a life lesson, blah blah blah. While that is, in the end, what the movie is about, there are a few more complications to that, some of which were welcome, and some which confused me unnecessarily.

As is par for the course in friendship / coming of age stories, there had to be a moment when the boys, Will and Lee, would turn against each other, only to find that they need each other after all. It happened at the appropriate intersection of plot points, but could have been written more smoothly. When (SPOILER!!!) Will pushes Lee out of the movie, and out of his life, it seems very impulsive, and far meaner than we ever would have expected Will would be. (END SPOILER)

The added wrinkle of Will's upbringing in a super-conservative religious sect lent a great amount of depth to the little boy's character, and was the impetus for quite a bit of action throughout the movie. It is because of how well Will's religious and family life is handled that I'm willing to forgive some of the irrational decisions he makes later on. When he gets in with the annoying French kid's posse, for example, it reflects the limited world he's come from, and how anything flashy can really impress him.

The film's tagline, "Make believe, not war" is a great indicator of how the movie idealizes the power of imagination and creativity in children's lives. There are some wonderful scenes of fantastic imagery, and I would expect no less from the director of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This was Jennings' first time as a writer, though, which explains some of the problems with the way the story proceeded, but all in all, it was definitely a much more enjoyable moviewatching experience than Indiana Jones, which I'd just seen the previous day.

The final sequence of the film definitely ranks pretty high up on the heartwarming scale, but if, after you see Son of Rambow, you are still looking for a film about children who love movies, with a heartstring-tugging ending, then please for the love of god rent Cinema Paradiso, which was on my mind after Rambow.


This post will be about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and will be almost entirely spoilers, so don't read it if you are still waiting to see it!


Disclaimer: I re-watched Raiders of the Lost Ark a few weeks ago with the intention of going through the whole franchise before the new movie came out, but the awesome power of the combination of laziness and busy-ness prevented me from getting to Temple of Doom and Last Crusade. I haven't seen those two since I was a kid, so I'm not an up-to-date expert on the Indyverse. Sorry.

Okay, so I saw this latest Indy exploit on Friday, and was all set to blog about it that night, but in the end I decided to give myself a couple of days to muse on the points which I'd had mixed feelings about. If you're reading these spoilers, then you know that the big to-do of the movie was, after all, little green men. Okay, for whatever silly reason they were "inter-dimensional beings" instead of creatures from another planet, but they were skinny, big-headed aliens in a flying saucer, fresh from the pages of the Weekly World News.

This denouement was the biggest problem I was having with the movie, and my take on it has only slightly softened with time. I was prepared to suspend disbelief...I mean, if only the Nazis had shut their eyes, their heads wouldn't have melted, right? I know not to except modernist realism. But little green men just seem too foreign to be seamlessly integrated into the South American historical exploration which is so fun for the bulk of the movie. Apparently the crystal skull mythology is well-tread territory, but the MacGuffin way in which its handled just throws all credibility out the window.

Shia LeBouf was surprisingly not annoying, and played off of Ford quite well. The chase and fight scenes were juvenile, and a mixed bag of entertainment. There was never as much of a sense of impending peril as in, say, Jurassic Park, and there were a few too many Shia-gets-hit-in-the-balls moments (in a row). Sword fighting - fine, cool. Swinging on vines with monkeys and using the skull as an orb of protection...this kind of stuff was just lame as can be. Also, Cate Blanchett, for once, fell flat in this role, in a horrible haircut, outfit, and accent, and was nothing to be afraid of.

The first twenty minutes were enjoyable, and gave me hope that the film might exceed my expectations. I was willing to wince past the refrigerator saving Indy in the NUCLEAR EXPLOSION because the rest of that scene was so cool. But once we got to South America, and the worst excuse ever for a Jonesy's-afraid-of-snakes reference, I was completely checked out of the movie. I've tried to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt that the environment of 1950s paranoia (Reds, moon men) is well-suited to the inclusion of little green men, but the execution was little more than the effort put in to a 50s sci-fi B movie that Mutt might have taken his best gal to. Too much CGI and not enough clarity in the plot...what an unfortunate, high-grossing vehicle for Ford (still hot) and Indy.

Friday, May 23, 2008

it's been swedish...i mean, sweet-ish

As a very meager attempt to atone for how remiss I've been at posting these past few months, I just wanted to post an abbreviated review of this past season of TV shows that I've been watching. I haven't been able to follow all of them as religiously as I usually try to, but it's been an interesting post-strike stretch of episodes, that's for sure.

Gossip Girl (The CW)
Sometime between telling my then-uninitiated roommate that gossip girl "isn't a character, it's an entity," and haranguing Josh Schwartz on the picket lines about Rufus' backstory, Gossip Girl became one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Sadly, The CW stopped making the episodes available online, as it was more popular as digital media than its Nielsen ratings would indicate. So I've missed about three installments of the first season, which I lament more than you can know. However, Serena's juicy backstory reveal (I CALLED IT ALL ALONG!)*, the entanglement between Lily and Rufus, and for the love of god Blair and Chuck, all of these elements have come together in a show that is actually titillating and still makes me laugh. When a friend recently asked a carload of GG-obsessed girls what the big deal was, I think we held court talking about it for about 45 minutes. Choicest dialogue (paraphrasing):
(Serena is embarassed to tell her friends about her secret shame)
Nate: We've all done things we're ashamed of, Serena. I had sex with you!
Blair: (indicating Chuck) I had sex with him in the back of a limo. Twice!
Chuck: (pause) I'm Chuck Bass.

30 Rock (NBC)
This second season of Tina Fey's pet project managed to be even funnier and more ridiculous than the first, and has really become one of the smartest shows on the networks. In one recent episode alone, they managed to reference both the uncanny valley and the Mozart-Salieri conflict. The season finale ended on a couple of cliffhangers, which is a useful tool for a sitcom, as proven by The Office, but one of them was about Liz Lemon planning to have a baby, by hook or by crook. I've put the brakes on my eyes rolling, but just until proven wrong about season three having "buy Baby Mama on DVD Tuesday" tie-ins every five minutes.

The Office (NBC)
Bluntly put: while remaining one of the funniest shows on American television, the fourth season signalled a decline in quality that is troubling for fans. Jim and Pam seem cemented in their relationship, which moves their romance from the A storyline, but I could see the show breaking them up at some point, just to drag things out and elicit groans from everybody. Michael and Jan had reached a peak of awkwardness - so we thought - until the season finale shocker. There have been some unusual changes in Michael's character, whereby he seems to swing from lovable buffoon Michael Scott to harmful idiot David Brent tendencies, and I don't think that makes it easy for the audience to side with him. (Did the show jump the shark when Michael drove his car into a lake?) Ryan as a cokehead with no business ethics is no surprise, but seems like more of a gag than a character arc to tug at our heartstrings. The Dwight-Angela-Andy triangle, then, seems to be the most compelling storyline, but without a little more insight into Angela's state of mind, I don't know where to stand on that. If showrunner Greg Daniels is devoting time to both The Office and its unnamed spinoff next season, then I forsee bad things happening to the show. I stopped watching Alias when J.J. started working on LOST (though, thank god, because LOST is so much better!)**, I stopped watching Grey's Anatomy when Shonda started Private Practice (also when Izzie and George got ridiculous), and I hope I won't have to do the same for The Office.

Other shows, like Grey's Anatomy and America's Next Top Model, I have basically stopped watching. I've checked in on ANTM from time to time, and was very happy to see this season's winner be a plus sized model, but Tyra is so obnoxious that I can barely stand the clips of her they show on E!'s The Soup. I do watch Ugly Betty and LOST, but the latter's season finale hasn't aired yet so I'm reserving a post to discuss it then, and I'm in the midst of catching up with the last few episodes of Betty online before I do the same.

* (SPOILER) Really, anything too dark for her to tell Blair about in the first place had to be murder. But the show would never want our heroine to be so unrelatable, so I knew it would be either someone-was-going-to-be-sexually-assaulted OR Serena-was-a-party-to-an-accidental-drug-overdose. Imagine my surprise when it was both! (END SPOILER)

** To be fair, I started watching LOST on DVD two years ago, and only started watching Alias on DVD two months ago. But when I got to the season 4 Alias DVDs, which is the point in the show which aired concurrently with season 1 of LOST, I stopped caring about Sydney Bristow and stopped watching.

this time, less skreet

Last night heralded the return of one of my favorite TV shows, Fox's So You Think You Can Dance in its fourth season, filling in the network's reality gap left by Wednesday's American Idol season finale. I've watched SYTYCD regularly since it's second season, and last summer I even had the chance to be in the live studio audience. Like AI, the show is produced by reality juggernaut 19 Entertainment, and uses many of the same tricks which get Idol such high ratings. The first few weeks of the season focus on the open auditions around the country, with a lot of screen time devoted to the fame-hungry and misguided masses who can't dance, but who can make fools of themselves. With Idol, I lose my patience with the show once it's been narrowed down to the "talented" contestants, because I find the song choices, arrangements, and gimmicky filler to be unworthy of my time. SYTYCD, however, keeps me interested the whole season through because the dancers and choreographers are so talented, and the performances are much more exciting.

Maybe it's because of my history as a dancer, but I get such a thrill out of watching dedicated dancers sweat it out to new and challenging styles of dance, and amateurs getting to work with some of the country's most talented choreographers. The dancers themselves become celebrities in their own right, as it makes me giddy to think how much I'd love to meet them in person (Benji! Hok! Sabra!).

Last night's episode showcased the stylings of Los Angeles area contestants, which unsurprisingly had a strong showing of popping, locking, and bboying. Now, don't let my love of ballet fool you - I have no pretensions against street dance styles. In fact, I usually really enjoy watching it, and would love to learn how to break. But there was a monotony to the auditions last night, and except for a couple of standouts, I was bored by the popping/locking. I mean, four seasons in you'd think the judges would know by now that most of those contestants will not make it past the second round (partner dancing, different styles, &c.). Further proof that the producers know that viewers like to see people do cool tricks.

Next week continues the span of early auditions, but I'm geared up for a summer with Cat Deely, Nigel Lythgoe, Mia Michaels, and Shane Sparks. Hopefully there will be more guest judging or choreography from Wade Robson, or previous competitors like Dmitry Chaplin or the Schwimmer siblings. My sincerest hope for the season, though, is that Mary Murphy will take a page out of Paula Abdul's book and Quaalude up before riding the hot tamale train into town. Bitch crazy.

ETA: In regards to this blog entry's title, "skreet" refers to Kippery Rigsby's unfortunate, schadenfreude-inducing appearance on the show, which can be viewed in low-def here:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

requiem for a flux capacitor

Universal Studios Hollywood has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a small child, my parents would take me to the theme park to play on "Fievel's Playground" where I could slide down a giant banana peel or crawl around on oversized thread spools. In high school, my dad and I would take our annual passes to the park every day after school and ride the studio tram tour at dusk, usually in Spanish or Japanese. In the fall, the hillside deer walk up to the trams curiously, which is such a lovely way to relax after the King Kong and Jaws attacks.

My strongest memories of USH take place in stationary bicycles and DeLoreans. As a roller-coaster pansy to this day, the gentle swooshes of the E.T. ride and the mild jostles of the Back to the Future ride were always just the right amount of thrill for me to handle. It was always such a treat to walk through the fake-pine-scented forest, sit in the middle of the front row of E.T., just behind the fake light-up creature that would pop up intermittently, and then hear his robotic voice read off my fake name (Julio) at the end of the ride. Even more than that, I feared that evil Biff would win in the end, so I sat in that DeLorean time machine through volcanoes, T-Rex snack attacks, and horrible puns, knowing that I had lifelong crush Michael J. Fox by my side.

When the E.T. ride left, I was mildly upset, but the Mummy ride coming in to replace it promised to be as exciting as the recent Jurassic Park addition (and even the T2:3D show), which I was by then old enough to appreciate. In fact, the Mummy ride is currently my favorite ride at the park, and whenever I'm on my lunch break from work I do what I can to ride it a few times before I have to be back to the office. But when they got rid of Back to the Future, it hit me pretty hard. I wish I had the opportunity to ride it one more time, but I can understand why it's no longer fresh enough to be such a big attraction.

The Simpsons Ride opened to the public this past Saturday in its place, and I made the time to ride it yesterday. The design of the place is incredible. A garish cross-section of the Krustyland amusement park (with a gift shop that combines stylistic elements of a Kwik-E-Mart and the The Android's Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop), there are interesting things to see at every turn. Disappointingly, there is no "single rider" line as the Mummy and JP rides have, so the 50 minute wait was pretty lonely. However, the artwork and entertainment in the lines and holding areas of the ride are very impressive. TV screens that once played uber-'80s clips of Doc and Einstein and oh so many hijinks have been replaced by hi-def widescreens playing segments of the sixth season "Itchy & Scratchy Land" episode, interspersed with commercials from throughout the series (Canyonero, The Juice Loosener), and new clips of the world's favorite family at Krustyland made specifically for the ride. There is a brief segment joking about Doc Brown, the Institute of Future Technology, and Professor Frink, which I appreciated. The walls are painted with posters advertising different rides and exhibitions, giving us a taste of things to come.

The basic set-up of the ride is exactly the same as it was for Back to the Future. The building seems to have been only refurbished and repainted, as the blueprint of the place felt unchanged. Instead of hapless crash test dummies in the safety video, it's Itchy and Scratchy pretty much mimicking their movements. Even in the car, I felt like so little had been changed that I could expect to see McFly and friends, but once the visuals began, I was in awe. Also, among the Krustyland and Springfield locales there is another nice throwbac to BttF, as the Hill Valley town square makes a brief appearance!

According to the Inside NBCU internal website article about the ride, the image is twice as hi-def as a digital movie theater screen, and the projection is a 90 ft. diameter dome. I was craning my neck all over the place to try to take in as much as I could, but I don't think I'll appreciate all of the details of the animation for another 5 or 10 more rides. There are a couple of integrated water effects (de rigeur for all USH rides now, it seems), and the motion simulation is about as advanced as motion simulation has ever been. But if I'd been standing still and bone-dry, I think I still would have been staring open-mouthed at the scenes flying past me. Using 3-D animation technology which blew me away in the Homer³ segment of seventh season episode "Treehouse of Horror VI," the Simpsons artists have really outdone themselves this time. I can't wait til the lines speed up and I can ride it a few times in a row to get the full effect.

Upshot: One downside is that they take a picture of you and your fellow passengers in the most boring part of the ride, and then charge you $5.00 to email it to yourself. A plus is that the premise for the ride's story is way better than The Simpsons Movie's was.

the lasting reach of comic con 2007's influence continues...

Two nights ago my streak of finally attending movies this summer began with a crashbang! when I saw Iron Man. I enjoyed the mixed bag experience last July of seeing Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr., Terence Howard, and Gwyneth Paltrow on a panel to premiere the trailer to a crowd of eager nerds. The downside of this mixed bag was that I managed to miss out on the goodie bag associated with this particular panel, and I didn't get one of their super-cool glow in the dark t-shirts. Before Comic Con, I had barely heard of Iron Man beyond peripheral nerd osmosis, and after one viewing of the trailer I was completely convinced that it had the very real possibility of becoming one of my favorite superheroes.

As someone with no experience with the comic book (or most comic books, really), my perspective on Iron Man is taken mostly from its place among other comic book adaptations. Plenty of superhero protagonists are anguished or tortured or conflicted, but Robert Downey, Jr.'s approach to Tony Stark was refreshing to see. In this post-Spiderman 3 world, watching Stark be proud and excited to be Iron Man, knowing that he's doing the right thing and having a great time doing it was invigorating, and made me root for him all the more, perhaps especially because of his alcoholism and womanizing. His transformation into Iron Man is totally believable, from his personal change to the changes in his relationships. RDJ, despite the unfortunate facial hair, is someone whose movies I'll be sure to look for (incl. upcoming Iron Man franchise installments).

My criticism of the movie is that for all of the very exciting action scenes, I didn't think there was enough. I was much more excited by the construction and gadgetry than I was by the fighting. The earlier action sequences, with Iron Man suit 1.0, Stark testing out his prototypes, and going to help the small village, built me up for a huge ending, which I felt the movie lacked. The Dude's skill in his power suit was pretty unconvincing, and I felt like we'd seen Stark become Iron Man in order to have a 1-on-1 fight that didn't excite me too much. If there had been more of a sense of Pepper Potts in extreme peril, or the terrorists thisclose to taking over everything, and a few more explosions and stuff, then I think the final set piece would have been perfect, and elevated the movie substantially.

I'd heard that the post-credits reveal would be "the coolest thing ever in a comic book movie," but it ended up being something that a comic book novice like myself would have to look up in order to appreciate. I think that the franchise that Favreau & Co. are looking into is going to be a very enjoyable addition to the genre, and I can see how a more action-packed second installment (now that the characters are introduced already) would be even stronger (a la X2). Hopefully the third movie, instead of sucking hard like so many other threequels before it, could be an Avengers exploit, which would give it the added dimension a threequel so often lacks.

And what a great state we are in, in this media-imbued society of ours, governed by a Hollywood industry of sequels and remakes, in which I feel confident enough to review films that have not even been brainstormed yet!

the reckoning

Hello friends,

So guess what? I have barely blogged all semester. And what a semester! My final few months of college, and even with my thesis completed, I still found myself so incredibly busy that I had pretty much no time to see any movies, let alone write about the movies I wasn't seeing. How unfortunate, really, that my two-days-a-week internship at Universal Pictures Production/Development took up so much time that I (pretty much) never found my way to the cineplex. In theaters, in the past few months, I saw Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, There Will Be Blood, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Baby Mama, not in that order. In my personal enrichment goals, I watched On the Beach, It Happened One Night, and From Here to Eternity.

There Will Be Blood was so good, and made such an impact on me, that I'm not even going to try to blog about it's awesomeness now months after watching it. Miss Pettigrew was good, and a great showcase of talent, but felt much better suited to be a stageplay than a film. Forgetting Sarah Marshall fit in so well to my recent obsession with Jason Segel, and I really appreciated it as a funny and warm movie for men and women. Baby Mama, starring my favorite lady laffers (reading the trades has made me appreciate horrid jargon like "laffers" and "biz," and especially "Alphabet" as the worst abbreviation for the ABC network ever) was...sweet. But altogether not as funny as I'd hoped it would be. On the Beach and From Here to Eternity were both, obviously, excellent films. Maybe the only time I've ever liked Frank Sinatra, and wonderful performances from Gregory Peck and Ernest Borgnine, who've never let me down. It Happened One Night, though, really struck my fancy. It was funny, and charming, and sucked me in the whole way through. It was probably Clark Gable's sultry man-nips that did it, too, let's be honest.


So, now, as of last Saturday, I am a college graduate! I have a B.A. in Literature and Film Studies, and I received honors for both of my majors. It was a very exciting day to be sitting in a black plastic bag for 2.5 hours in 105 degree heat. And here I am, educated, unemployed, and a sprightly 20 years old, to boot. Word. I'm staying at my internship for a little while longer, which has been incredible. Sometimes, in the pensive ennui of the educated young bourgeois state of mind, I worry that I'm going into a career where not only will I not make much money (yet), but I'm not really doing anything huge to save the world (yet), but when I come to work it's all so terribly exciting and I get really revved up about doing this sort of thing for the next many years.
So now, get ready, as there is a flurry of new blogs on their way!