Thursday, September 30, 2010


Last night's episode of Modern Family was weaker on comedy than the show usually is, but I found the storyline of 13-year-old Alex struggling with whether or not to have her first kiss to be so sweet that I liked the episode anyway.  Kissing was the thread that united all three family units, with Claire and Haley overseeing Alex's impending first kiss, Gloria trying to help Jay overcome his dearth of affectionate displays to his family, and Mitchell and Cam disagreeing on when and where kissing is appropriate.  This last plot point has been one in the works for months now, but I'll explain in a minute why it was so inconsequential to me.

There had been a lot of criticisms of the fact that only the show's gay partnership had not had an onscreen kiss, and when last night there was an acknowledgment of the fact that Mitchell is generally an uptight guy, I noticed that as a cute way for the writers to say, "We're not trying to make a statement here; this character just isn't into PDA."  This tack is bolstered when it's shown how reticent Jay is to show affection, and how it resulted in a son who acts the same, and a daughter who acted out.  So when Cam and Mitchell did have an onscreen kiss last night, in the background of a scene with the whole family - I totally missed it.  I honestly didn't realize it had happened until I read about it online today.  I am personally really pleased that the show downplayed the kiss, because it made it as much of a non-issue as a kiss between Phil and Claire would be.

There was much more drama given to the expectations placed on Alex having not been kissed at 13.  Her mother wants to know what's going on in her younger daughter's burgeoning love life, so she asks teenage Haley to investigate.  Haley's response is, of course, to tease Alex for being such an "old maid," by being two years behind her sister in the kissing game.  For those keeping score at home, I was 15 and a high school junior when I had my first kiss, and I kinda did feel a little embarrassed to hear that the fictional characters Haley and Claire were 11 and 10 when they first snogged/pashed/smooched a boy.  Alex bravely tells the boy she's been texting with that she wants him to be her first kiss, and is totally mortified when the conversation is overheard.  But when he later tells her that he likes her too, she sweetly says that she'd rather they get to know each other a little more before kissing, and the boy is adorably relieved.  The part of me that misses reading CosmoGirl! and Girl's Life and YM really loved how cute this interchange was.

So, a slower episode than usual, but here's hoping for way more Phil in next week's.

Modern Family, Wednesdays at 9pm on ABC

Dear Diary

So, I work in Hollywood as an executive assistant on the creative development side of things.  I've had an internship, a medium-term assistant gig, many short-term assistant experiences while temping, and now a longer-term assistant job, all at two major studios.  It has been a lot of fun, and I have learned a whole lot, even if I am keenly aware of just how much more I have to learn before I'm ready to move up the ladder into an executive position myself.  Of course, there have been frustrating times as at any job, and it's not as glamorous as a lot of people think it might be.  But a lot of the time I can't believe how lucky I am to be working in the world of filmmaking, and I still feel like an excited kid when I get to walk on a studio backlot.  I was just thinking about some of my goals, and wanted to share some of what I hope for in my career.

The Fun Stuff
  • Attend the Sundance Film Festival
  • Attend the Cannes Film Festival
  • Go to the Academy Awards
  • Go to movie premieres
  • Have an expense account
  • Be honored in the trades
  • Reunite with Jason Schwartzman, who realizes that he wants to marry me; attend Coppola family reunions, where Sofia's still friends with Spike Jonze for some reason, and so he comes and brings his ex Michelle Williams (because they're also still friends) and her baby Matilda, and I creepily tell Matilda that I'm really sad I'll never have a chance to make out with her dad
The Important Stuff
  • In my time as an executive at a studio, make an impact in getting the studio to recognize more female and multicultural filmmakers; help tell stories that represent a more interesting and varied portrayal of members of society that are not necessarily cis-hetero-Caucasian-male characters.
  • Sell a screenplay of my own
  • Get involved in helping Hollywood reach out to the community, by helping teach people how to tell their own stories
  • Create an organization that helps teach school children how to write stories, make movies, and share them with friends.  Get people to respect each other more by understanding each other better.
  • Work for a studio that endeavors to distribute good, important content from around the globe, to give it a wider audience.
This is all probably very silly to read, but I just had to take a moment and reflect on why I want to work hard to make a place for myself in this industry.  Mostly it's the Coppola thing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ridiculous and Lovable...Britney vs. Glee

Last night's Britney Spears -centric episode of Glee pulled the show's highest ratings to date.  It's no surprise; the show's target audience would have grown up with Britney as a major figure in their lives.  When her first hit single "...Baby One More Time" came out I was ten years old, in the sixth grade, and wore fuzzy little pom poms in my hair even though my tastes would have skewed more to "My Name Is," "The Dope Show," "Just a Girl," and "The Kids Aren't Alright" (what can I say, my tastes were at least diverse, if superficial).  Though I will not deny that none of this music held as special a place in my heart as *NSYNC's self-titled debut, obviously.

Moving on.  The Britney/Brittany episode was a perfect example of everything that's been wrong with the show since its first season's back nine.  Not even an attempt at an interesting storyline, a handful of increasingly-unimaginative music videos strung together awkwardly, and yet redeemed by an expertly delivered one-liner or musical performance.  Where the John Stamos dentistry extravaganza, Mr. Schuester is somehow less into Brit Brit than Christopher Cross, and OCD Emma is suddenly less uptight than Schue, fail utterly, Heather Morris and a few moments of Jane Lynch save the day.

Heather Morris is easily the best dancer on the show, and while I think a hell of a lot more could have been done with Britney's greatest hits being transposed to McKinley High, getting to see her blowing Spears' familiar dance moves was pretty amazing.  Britterline's cameo was a completely unnecessary piece of stuntcasting that cheapens the quality of this show that is too beloved and new to have to rely on gimmicks like that.

The Artie-centric performance of "Stronger" was a completely missed opportunity.  The original video used chair-dancing as a means of voodoo proxy, and that could have been a great way to portray Artie's insecurities falling away as he joins the football team.  New Directions' take on "Toxic" was lovely, musically, but the Fosse dancing with Mr. Schue joining in was creepy and not that sexy.  Lea Michele's final song was very pretty but made zero sense and just left me confused.  Not that I care, now that Rachel's been written into one of the least likable characters on television.  Except for the Jewish gossip blogger, who is being far overused.

I really do hope that the writers and producers wise up and try to bolster the storylines more as the season goes on, as this show's legacy will not be remembered by iTunes sales charts alone.

Glee, Tuesdays at 8pm on Fox

Bird on the Wire

Last night's fourth episode of the third season of Sons of Anarchy is the first one I have been able to watch during its original broadcast.  Sons is a show that I only got into this summer on DVD, and I am finally all caught up.  It's hard to say what exactly drew me to this show.  I love the moral relativism of how the characters have to juggle their code of doing right by their families with the often gruesome criminal lifestyle they lead.  Without glamorizing the difficult situations the characters get into, the show somehow conveys the sex appeal of these hairy guys on Harleys in baggy jeans and leather vests.  And a frequently naked Charlie Hunnam doesn't hurt:

(Even if they do give him terrible hair/beard on this show.)
Each season so far has done a great job of building up to a convergence of storylines resulting in spectacular season-bridging arcs, and last night's episode, "Home," was a wonderful example of that same overlapping happening in one episode alone.  If you don't follow the show, a recap won't do you any good, but what last night's episode gave us was one of the show's greatest assets: a shattering performance by Katey Sagal.

Everyone knows that Sagal's been consistently delivering her talent for the past quarter-century, in drama but also mostly in comic roles on Married...With Children and Futurama.  She's also a beautiful singer, and last night's episode closed with a cover of Loenard Cohen's "Bird on the Wire," just one of the songs she's contributed to the show's soundtrack.  Anyone looking for a good example of a strong female character on television need look no further than Gemma Teller Morrow, and "Home" could be her submission for Emmy consideration this year.

Perhaps because Sagal's husband is the showrunner and creator, Kurt Sutter, she is given a lot of great material to work with, but the growing character of Dr. Tara Knowles (Maggie Siff), the antagonist ATF Agent Stahl (Ally Walker), and a handful of interesting supporting characters, shows that this extremely masculine show is not afraid of strong female characters willing to pass the Bechdel Test in every episode.

Gemma has had compelling scenes and story arcs over the past two seasons, but it was the nonstop agony that she went through in last night's episode that left me crying more than once.  She is vulnerable, as a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother.  She also draws strength from her family, not only the men in her life, but the motorcycle club that she is just as much a part of as her husband and son.  Her relationship with Tara has transformed from butting heads to a motherly mentor situation, and is one of the best female friendships on TV right now.

I'll admit that my only other exposure to guest star Hal Holbrook was in his Oscar-nominated performance in Into the Wild, but his performance as Gemma's Alzheimer's-stricken father has been so heartbreaking that I broke down when she did.  While her collapse at the end of the episode had been clearly telegrammed, Sagal's performance better captured the grief of this show than any of Jax's (Hunnam) physical outbursts.

Some of the gang politics storylines have been moving a bit slow lately, but I could watch the interpersonal relationships on this show all day and not get bored.  If you haven't yet seen it, and you're looking for a show to catch on DVD, Sons of Anarchy is the one.

Sons of Anarchy, Tuesdays at 10pm on FX

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I really want to title this "Hawaii Five-No"

So, as I am endeavoring to do with a lot of the new shows this season, if I don't absolutely hate the pilot, but am not yet sold on the show, I will give it one or two more viewings to convince me.  This is why I watched the second episode of Hawaii Five-0 last night, but the experiment failed to convince me.

The plot of the episode had something to do with a man being used for his technological knowledge by the Serbian mafia.  I had pretty much decided that I was done with the show as soon as they tried to convincingly tell the audience that Honolulu police are actively fighting Serbian computer criminals.  Shouldn't they be tackling the serious ice addiction issues?

Then Grace Park has to go investigate at the victim's house, where his son is struggling with the attack on his father.  Maybe I'm misunderstanding the exact structure of the "task force," but what is a police academy student doing investigating crimes?  Does she even have a weapon?  When the victim's son is suffering from the shock of the day's events, Park's character offers to help, asking his mom, "Do you have a piece of paper?"  At that moment I thought, "If this lady is about to do origami, I will be done with this show for real."  Cut to: a paper crane.  Now, I am totally fine with race-blind casting, but what is this show doing with Park and Daniel Dae-Kim?  Are they supposed to be ethnically Hawaiian?  Japanese?  A combination of the two?  Both actors are of Korean descent, and while I know that people of any ethnicity could do origami, when her character references having to make 1,000 cranes for a family event, that skews Japanese, right?  Anyway, she ends up having to fight the wife of the initial victim, and they have the lamest slapfight ever.  I would have shouted, "You're a frakking Cylon!" at the television screen but uh...I didn't, because...that would be so lame.

By the end of the episode, I was still unclear about what Park's role was, as an academy student, and why her dishonorably discharged cousin (Dae Kim) was wearing a police uniform.  So no more Five-0 for me, but at least Martin Starr got a job out of it.

Hawaii Five-0, Mondays at 10pm on CBS

Gossip Girl season 4 (ugh), episode 3

When Gossip Girl first came on, it was so addictive!  I lured my roommate Jamie into watching it by explaining that the titular Gossip Girl is neither Blair nor Serena, but is in fact more of an entity.  About halfway through season two this show went south pretty quickly, but most people I know still watch because it's a dumb soap opera with dumb characters in awesome fashion.  Bring on the judgment!

So this season started off with the aftermath of Chuck having been shot by robbers in Prague, Blair and Serena nursing their emotional wounds in Paris, Nate doing whatever, and Dan secretly raising Georgina's lovechild in his Brooklyn loft.  These are all normal, typical ways that Manhattan teenagers spend the summer after freshman year of college.

The third episode of the season brings us all back to the Upper East Side, where everyone but everyone is involved in Fashion Week for some reason!  Just like last week?  Chuck is hoping to make amends with his family, and Lily, who will never judge him because she knows what it's like to be a terrible person that everyone loves anyway, is sure that she can convince Rufus and Eric to give Chuck another chance even though he had sex with 16-year-old Jenny.

When he brings Fleur Delacour to the gala or whatever to help explain how some random poor beautiful French girl has turned him into the greatest person ever, he expects a warm welcome.  Except that Eric spills the beans to Rufus about that time in the pilot when Chuck tried to rape Jenny on the roof at Blair's Kiss on the Lips party (never forget), so Rufus is rightly upset.  He threatens to tell all of Chuck's terrible secrets to Fleur, but Chuck denies that he knows her.  "But Monsieur Chuck, you 'ave zee perfect life!  What possible secrets could zere be?"  Now, the show expects us to believe that Chuck unloads them all on her right then and there.  How the eff do you think that conversation actually goes?  "Well, after my mother faked her death, I grew up hating women.  When I lost my virginity to Georgina Sparks in the 6th grade..."  Anyway, Fleur forgives him because she sees a sweet life ahead of her in a bangin' penthouse.  If I were Blair I would be so pissed off.  You spend three seasons grooming Chuck into a somewhat-decent person and some Opera Rat gets all the benefit?  Oooh, girl!

Meanwhile Serena and Blair blah blah blah.  Everyone makes it very clear to Serena that she is not welcome in their friends group, or on this show.  There's some secret society where you get keys (for coke orgies, I assume) if you're a member, and only the most nepotistic get to join, and of course Nate's trick from like two episodes ago is in charge, because WHAT?  Does she even go to Columbia?  Also is this a real thing that Columbia students are doing?  Maybe because my school didn't even have a Greek system, I am having trouble comprehending to what extent normal college students are involved in secret societies, but there has been a bit much on this show.  I mean, they are in COLLEGE, and even say, "I expected college to be easy."  Hint: if you're spending all of your time at fashion parties and none of your time studying, IT IS.  Where are the all-nighters in pajama pants with no makeup?  Did I do college wrong?

So Serena doesn't get to join and Blair feels mildly bad about that, except no she wouldn't, and S is all "oh I'm cool with it, no big," and tries to get Nate to pay attention to her, but OF COURSE HE WON'T because after she took his virginity on a barstool and then skipped town and then came back and dated Dan and like a million other people INCLUDING HIS MARRIED COUSIN and then Nate again but then cheated on him with Dan but then was like "I CHOOSE ME" and left town, he has better things to do.

So then I kind of tuned out for a while.  I guess Lily did some investigating (thereby doing her annual experiment in paying attention to her kids) and discovered that by the Laws of Nepotism, Serena should have been invited to the secret society!  So clearly the new bitch is manipulating things, for some reason that no one cares about.  Blair and Serena (and Dorota, duh) stage a fake catfight and get Gossip Girl to livestream it so that all the bitches at the...wait is everyone at the same party?  Is this a fashion party or a secret society party?  I can't tell.  Everyone is reacting in some way to something.  But there is literally a curtain pulled and the secret behind it is...I don't even remember.  Then Blair and Serena are so happy to be friends that are both in the secret society, so Serena moves in with...Blair?  Doesn't Blair live with Eleanor and Cyrus Rose (and Dorota and Vanya and their baby)?  Why wouldn't Serena live with her mom and Rufus?  I'm pretty confused about this.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn (ugh), Rufus has the results of the paternity test he snuck, and OMGWHAT Dan is not the baby daddy.  If there was one person surprised by this, they should be killed.  So (again, I kinda wasn't paying attention) Dan wants to confront Georgina, but she is on the beach somewhere being a deadbeat mom (Where does she get the money for this lifestyle?  Wouldn't her parents have cut her off after Christianity camp didn't take?), so he takes Milo (ugh) to an orphanage, but doesn't want to abandon this kid, so he decides to raise it as his own.  DAN HUMPHREY.  And Vanessa (VANESSA) is like, "Well, we did have sex that one time on your couch, so yes, I will move in and raise Georgina's baby with you."  NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE ACTUALLY HAPPENED IN REAL LIFE.  But then Georgina comes back and takes this plot point away after a whopping 3.5 episodes, and Dan and Vanessa decide to live together anyway.  Good luck having a stable relationship without Hilary Duff threesomes, guys.

Ugh-ntil next time...

Gossip Girl, Mondays at 9pm on The CW

Monday, September 27, 2010

Home video review: Kick-Ass

This weekend I finally got a chance to see Kick-Ass on BluRay, as I'd missed it when it was in theaters, and have been catching up on some television shows for the last few weeks on Netflix.  This is easily one of the best superhero movies I've ever seen.*  While I have not read the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., I can only imagine that Matthew Vaughn was the perfect choice to direct this material.  There was such a strong hint of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch, two films produced by Vaughn, in the hyper-violent yet comic story of Kick-Ass, Hit Girl, and Red Mist.

Surprisingly hot Aaron Johnson (remind me to rent Nowhere Boy when it comes out on DVD) was perfectly charming as Dave, the chronic masturbator with a yen to finally stand up for the downtrodden in the style of his comic book heroes.  Where another actor might have made Dave's relationship with Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) kinda creepy, pretending to be gay in order to get close, and then breaking the news to her, instead I was always rooting for him.  Clark Duke turned in another funny supporting performance as Dave's friend Marty.

Nic Cage wonderfully channeled all of his rage at having never been cast as Superman into his role as Big Daddy, a sort of bizarro- Cameron Poe from Con Air, seeking vengeance on his former employer while training his preteen daughter to follow in his vigilante footsteps.  A lot was made of Chloë Moretz's performance as Cage's daughter Hit Girl, a foulmouthed killing machine who loves her dad and wants to make him proud.  If you ask me, a strong 11-year-old female character who happens to swear and know how to fight is far less troubling than a hypersexualized female character of the same age (see Blue Lagoon, Return to the Blue Lagoon).  Moretz is an excellent young actress and I am really looking forward to seeing her in her upcoming roles.  Looks like Dakota Fanning and Abigail Breslin have company in the young-actresses-who-don't-depress-me club.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse played to type as somewhat-accidental villain Red Mist.  I would have liked to see more interaction between him and Kick-Ass.  There's so much great material in the well-meaning loner who might not have turned evil if only he'd had some friends, so maybe we'll get more of that in the sequel.

I personally thought the amount of violence and gore was just perfect in this movie.  Sometimes you just want to see the good guys actually bring the pain, and Kick-Ass delivered.  All too often no one ever gets vengeance in a truly satisfying and silly comic book way, so it was especially worthwhile in this movie about teenagers pretending to be superheroes.

*Those of you who know me have probably already heard my belief that Batman is not a superhero.  He's just a rich dude who wears a costume, knows how to fight, and has a ton of gadgets.  He is a hero, no doubt, but it is my belief that one must be superhuman in order to be a superhero (or -villain).  It's unclear to me if Kal-El has any superpowers that other Kryptonians do not.  If he does, then yes, he is a superhero.  If he doesn't, then he's just an alien.  It was refreshing to hear my opinion validated by the characters in this movie when they differentiated between "guys in suits" and real superheroes.  So no, I don't think this is a movie about superheroes, but it still gets quantified as a "superhero movie," due to the nature of its content.


So, obviously, last night I watched TLC's new "extreme reality" show Sister Wives, about a Fundamentalist Mormon family with one husband, three wives, 12 children, and another on the way.  All you need to know about patriarch Kody Brown you can learn from his "the Rachel" haircut, his terrible chin beard, and his sunglass tan:

I mean, you're Mormon, right?  So you're not even allowed to have caffeine or a glass of wine.  Don't even front like this hairstyle is not going to be frowned upon when you get to heaven.  Seriously, this guy probably drives the Mystery Machine to work:

Kody's first wife Meri grew up in a polygamist family, and married Kody when she was 19.  She admits to having some jealousy issues, but it's unclear if they stem from her husband having other wives, or the fact that she has only been able to conceive and bear one child, 14-year-old Mariah, while her sister wives have proven much more fertile.  Meri seems to be very happy to live a polygamist lifestyle, since when her sister died, she saw how her sister's sister wives (keeping up?) were able to raise her children as her own.

Janelle, Kody's second wife, is peculiar in the sense that she grew up in a mainstream LDS family, so it seems unusual that she would have become amenable to the situation.  She works full time, and has six children: Logan, 15, Madison, 14, Hunter, 13, Garrison, 11, Gabriel, 8, and Savanah, 5.

Third wife Christine is the Kool Aid drinkin' -est of them all.  She too grew up in polygamy, and claims that she always wanted to be a third wife.  She never responded to the attentions of single men, and she has complicated theories about everything from the psychology of wife order to the fact that more people die each year from toasters than from sharks.  Christine's children all have dumb names: Aspyn, 14, Mykelti, 13, Paedon, 11, Gwenelyn, 8, Ysabel, 6, and Truely, on the way.  Christine has crazy eyes.

One of the most interesting things about the Brown family is that Kody was married to all three of his wives before his first child was born, so all twelve of them grew up with the same three moms.  That's what makes the season's prime drama so exciting - Kody's courting a fourth wife, so it would be the first time that the children have experienced a new mom coming into the family.  The woman in question, Robin, also has three children of her own, which would be quite a shake-up at a time when third wife Christine is heavily pregnant.

The pilot of the show does address some questions about parenting and sex, and very clearly distances the lifestyle of the Browns and their ilk from the mainstream Mormon community (lest all the lawyers of Utah and the Angel Moroni himself bear down on TLC).  They avoid examining how the Browns manage to be so public about their lifestyle given the myriad of tax laws they must be breaking.  It's very clear every time he's onscreen that Kody has a serious personality disorder.  His wives and children all seem considerably uncomfortable on camera, while Kody mugs it up and comes up with lame one-liners that not even his kids laugh at.  "She's a sister from the same mister, and he's a brother from another mother!"

So yeah, sure, consenting adults should be free to live in whatever "harmless" lifestyle they please, but religious polygamy totally creeps me out and the Browns do nothing to make it seem like they're any less weird than the polygamists typically portrayed in fiction.  What they lack in prairie dresses and complicated french braids, they make up for in misogynistic control structures and the fact that they want this chin-bearded nutcase to be the god of the planet they all get to live on.  But hey, I love cults and I love hating stuff, so needless to say, I will keep watching.

Sister Wives, Sundays at 10pm on TLC

With tongue planted firmly in cheek...

So I was not able to hold true to my promise of liveblogging SyFy's latest made-for-TV movie Sharktopus, but I did enjoy watching it this weekend.  Sharktopus is a pretty awful low-budget comedy...thriller (?) that probably has little appeal for anyone other than fans of cheeky B-movies.  Which if you are, you probably already wanted to see Sharktopus because it is produced by Roger Corman, the Academy Award winner and "King of the B-movies."

I guess given the casting of Eric Roberts as the film's star, I was a little surprised by how low-budget this movie looked (should I have been?).  But I guess when you spend all your money on creating a CGI monster that is half-giant shark and half-octopus, it makes sense that the rest of the movie will look like it was filmed on someone's cellphone.  I guess my favorite part of the movie was the fact that the Sharktopus only killed out of anger, not even to eat its victims.

So if you're looking for a mindlessly entertaining and slightly gory movie to turn into a drinking game or something, check out Sharktopus, which will be airing repeats on SyFy over the next few weeks.

The Amazing Race 17 premiere

I can't be the only nerd I know who watches The Amazing Race, right?  It has been appointment television for my family for years, and I am pretty excited about this new season.  Last night's premiere had a few highlights, including the now-viral scene of a girl getting smashed in the face by a watermelon, and one team not knowing the definition of "battlement," which reminded me of last year's, "Do you know what a candle-uh-brah is?"  Here are this year's contestants, in the reverse order in which they made it to the checkpoint:

  • Ron & Tony, "best friends" who met 20 years ago on the set of The Wiz, were the first team to go home after driving all the way around England without being able to find Stonehenge.
  • Nick & Vicki, heavily-tattooed motorcyclists, just barely made it to the checkpoint after having pretty much no idea what was going on the whole time.
  • Andie & Jenna are the most uncomfortable team to watch, as they are a biological mother & daughter (known to the other contestants as "The Gilmore Girls") who have only recently reunited.  I got the impression that the situation arose as a call put out by the producers for an adoptive team, rather than that their reunion happened organically.  Tricky.
  • Chad & Stephanie, known as Pan & Tinkerbell, are that couple that they have every year who haven't been dating for very long and are pretty bitchy to each other, and are a general pain in the ass to watch.  Stephanie was Miss South Carolina 2009.
  • Michael & Kevin are my favorites so far, as I'm always endeared by the sweet parent/child teams.  Kevin is apparently a YouTube comedy sensation, and his "fob" dad frequently features in his videos.  It was so cute how supportive and encouraging they were of each other.
  • Gary & Mallory are the other cute parent/child team, with Mallory being Miss Kentucky 2009 and her dad being some rich dude.  They had a hiccup when they got a flat tire, but managed to pull through and do well for the rest of the race.  They checked in at about the same time as Michael & Kevin, and it was cute how Mallory and Kevin cheered for the "dad teams" both doing well.  They should probably date, right?
  • Katie & Rachel are beach volleyball partners, and are kind of boring in terms of being an attractive athletic team that works pretty well together.  Probably have a good chance at winning.
  • Brook & Claire, home shopping television hosts, who tied with Mallory for Most Annoying Screechers.  Man I am not into the high-pitched wailing these three harpies did all episode.  Brook is also Miss Oregon 2004.  Claire's the one who got Gallagher'd.
  • Connor & Jonathan, the nerds.  These nerds are Ivy League a capella nerds, and they're such nerds.  I'm just teasing.  They were really nice guys who seemed to work well together, but they also put themselves in too many situations where they could get waylaid trying to help out other teams in distress.  I am automatically not a fan because they threatened to use their singing gifts to lift everyone's spirits and thank taxi drivers.  No thanks.
  • Nat & Kat are hot surgeons, and are my 2nd favorite team.  They were really sweet to each other, know how to deal with high-stress situations, and are in good shape, even with one of them being on an insulin pump.  I didn't like how Kat called Nat "Natty," because it made me think of natto.
  • Jill & Thomas are a dating couple who came in first, and who I honestly can't remember a single thing about.  The $1M prize is probably between them and the volleyball girls.
The Amazing Race, Sundays at 8pm on CBS

The Happiest Place on Earth

Dexter spoilers, in case you're a season behind (that means you, dad)!!!

Season 5 of Dexter premiered last night, and was probably the most anticipated season premiere the series has ever experienced, given last season's show-stopping final scene.  Last night's episode was much more of a nail-biter than I'm used to from this show, surprisingly.  I've been less nervous watching Dexter's typical stalking and killing of his prey, how he's been shown balancing his daily life with his "Dark Passenger," than I was watching him fail to pass as a grieving widower.

Where do you think this season is going to go?  Obviously Quinn (super hot) is going to investigate Dexter, and I do think that his tryst with Deb will turn into something more.  Is Dexter going to raise Astor and Cody, or are they going to go off to grandma's house?  Won't somebody think of Harrison?  I am not sure how Dexter's going to manage to get his killing done with kids at home.  Who's going to be the Big Bad?

What did you think of the season premiere?  I hope we get to see plenty of Angel and LaGuerta this season.  Also, it was particularly delicious seeing Michael C. Hall, as Dexter, going into a funeral home and wondering how the funeral director can seem so believable when offering condolences.  I wonder if that was a purposeful shout-out to David Fisher.

Dexter, Sundays at 9pm on Showtime

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Are you ready for the SyFy channel's latest Roger Corman venture, Sharktopus?  The movie, starring Eric Roberts, premieres tonight at 9pm on SyFy.  Probably like a lot of people, I have known about this movie for months thanks to KROQ entertainment reporter Ralph Garman, who's on the morning Kevin & Bean show here in Los Angeles.  Garman will have a starring role in three scenes of the movie, alongside the titular shark-octopus hybrid created as a killing machine by the U.S. Navy.

Watch the trailer below:

I'll do my best to live-blog the movie tonight, unless I get a chance to watch UFC 119 and am delayed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

All I want to say about last night's episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is that Dennis' wife imitating Mark Wahlberg from Fear made my evening.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 10pm Thursdays on FX

Slut-shaming, guido style

No, I am not going to recap Jersey Shore.  There is nothing I can say about the activities of The Situation, Sammi Sweetheart, Ronnie Cokenose (allegedly), Vinny Bigdong (allegedly), Angelina Trashbags, DJ Pauly D(ong piercing), JWOWW, and Snooki, that will be remotely interesting or not found everywhere else on the internet.

We all know that 75% of these people are complete wastes of time (I have a soft spot for Jenny and Nicole), and I for one am glad that the spotlight is off of Sammi and Ron's brain fart of a relationship, even if it means that Angelina is back at the forefront.  She's disliked by everyone in the house, and everyone watching, but I really wanted to feel for her during last night's episode.

The blatant double-standard of how the men on this show can go out looking for women who are "DTF," whose names they don't care to remember, and whom they kick out of the house as soon as they are done with, while a woman who sleeps with a guy she knows once gets termed a "whore" and a "slut," makes me crazy.  I know that Angelina, like many of the castmembers, has exhibited seriously hypocritical and jerky behavior.  She's totally unlikeable, but I hated how vilified she was being for a fraction of the promiscuity exhibited by The Situation and DJ Prince Albert on the regular.

I know that people watch this show to see minstrel-like exhibitions of stupidity and drunkenness, but I have to wonder how many people in the audience will take this double-standard as something normal or positive.  I'd like to recommend the new Emma Stone movie Easy A as a great teen comedy that turns the slut-shaming culture on its ear, for anyone who needs a palate cleanser after last night's Jersey Shore (or the rape joke on 30 Rock).

Jersey Shore, 10pm Thursdays on MTV

Grey's Anatomy season 7 premiere

So I think I've written in the past about the intense break up I had with Grey's Anatomy back in 2007.  The show's second season was one of the strongest collective episodes of a series I've seen in a long time, but when the writers and actors stopped being able to handle the storylines they'd come up with by the end of the third season, they started writing the most ridiculously off-base character arcs, and I had to stop watching and sell my DVDs.  I still haven't seen season four, but when a sick day led me to catch up with season five online, I found myself back in the swing of watching.  Season six returned to a much better overall level of quality, and ended on an outstanding two-hour finale that rivaled season two episodes "Into You Like a Train" and "It's the End of the World"/"(As We Know It)."

The season seven premiere, though, has taken a dip from that high.  The psychiatric consultations were an interesting way to inform us how the characters have been in the month since the mass murder that they survived, but other aspects of the show were incredibly unrealistic.  Derek Shepherd (a.k.a. The Droopwaffel) (that's an inside joke) is on his feet and back to surgery four weeks after having been shot in the chest at close range, and is (obviously) back to his old hijinks of racing his fancy car around someplace with a lot of palm trees.  That was definitely a great use of screen time.  Didn't he used to be a simple guy, into fishing and living in a trailer?

Meredith is annoyed at him for getting arrested all the time, and won't come clean about her miscarriage, which is what's keeping the shrink from clearing her for surgery.  Meanwhile Cristina is getting married to Owen within one month of having been broken up, and it's clearly the healthiest marriage of time.  Two PTSD survivors hastily getting married because they're afraid to be alone!  So great.  And all the other characters are trying to deal with their PTSD too, and it's boring.  Though Chyler Leigh, as Lexie, is one of the most enjoyable actors to watch on Grey's these days.

We'll see if I keep Grey's in my weekly rotation this time around...if it becomes too boring to recap, then it should be too boring to watch.

Grey's Anatomy, 9pm Thursdays on ABC

NBC Thursday comedy block premieres

Premiere week brought us new episodes of The Office, 30 Rock, and Community last night, as well as the pilot of Outsourced, a holdover until Parks and Recreation's midseason return (so placed due to Amy Poehler's pregnancy).

Community, 8pm
This show premiered its second season in fine form last night, though it would have been impossible for anyone who didn't watch last year to really understand what was going on.  The meta-references worked really well for me, with a running gag about an "Old White Man Says" twitter page being a great dig at CBS' new show (update: this exists).  Also, my friend Bill pointed out that actor Don Glover wears a Spiderman t-shirt in his first scene in the episode, calling out to the online rallying there had been for his casting as Peter Parker.  I think this episode got a lot of the relationship mumbo-jumbo out of the way for now, which is excellent as no one cares nearly as much about it as we do about Abed and the other supporting characters.

30 Rock, 8:30pm
The season five premiere was a rather mediocre episode with a lot of awesome jokes, and one terrible one.  There was a lot of reliance on what the show does really well, which is make insider jokes about NBC Universal and the television writing process.  Also Matt Damon returned as Liz Lemon's long-distance pilot boyfriend, which was great.  Liz's boyfriends have probably been my favorite characters on the show, now that I think about it.  Judah Friedlander's lines got the most laughs out of me, but I can't help that "Would You Rather..." jokes are right up my alley.  A protracted visual rape joke regarding Pete and his wife was completely tasteless and out of place for what is usually such a smart show.  That was troubling.

The Office, 9pm
It's hard to believe that this show is at its seventh season.  Mark me as one of the fans that thinks this show should have wrapped up three seasons ago (the original Office's format should have taught us all a lesson in success), but this was as solid of an episode as we've gotten for the past couple of years.  The "lip dub" cold open, in which the office mates attempted to create a single-take viral video, was a fun and sweet way to kick off Steve Carrell's last season.  It had a little bit of everything we love about each character.  Now that the wedding/baby storylines are out of the way for Jim and Pam, it seems like they might be back to the sweet hijinks of season two, and Dwight was as good as ever.  Mindy Kaling - who should shine even more on this show than she already does, because she's amazing - had a great arc as new super-smart Kelly.  My favorite line of the night went to bit player Evan Peters, as Michael's nephew Luke, who said, "I love cinema.  My favorite movies are Citizen Kane and The Boondock Saints."

Outsourced, 9:30pm
UGH.  This is a show which wants to pretend that it's in on the joke, making fun of American excess and perceived cultural ignorance, but in reality it was just pandering to the lowest common denominator.  I thought of a summer show I loved, ABC Family's Huge, in which people underrepresented on scripted television were given a show where their characters had depth and were compelling, and their difference to what we usually see on TV was not lampooned.  On Outsourced, dozens of actors of South Asian descent participate in a trite run-through of almost every stereotype someone could think of.  No thank you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Moo With Me!

This week I saw one of the preview performances of Tony-winner Rob Ashford's Leap of Faith, a new musical at the Ahmanson Theatre based on the 1992 film of the same name starring Steve Martin.  The show stars Raúl Esparza as "faith healing" con man Jonas Nightingale, who gets stranded in the small, desolate town of Sweetwater, Kansas with his traveling gospel troupe, co-led by his sister Jane (played by Kendra Kassebaum).  Their plan to put on their act in Sweetwater gets complicated when Jonas meets a local waitress, Marva (Brooke Shields), and her lovable son Boyd (Nicholas Barasch).

The story was sweet and fun, if wholly as predictable as any about a con man with a soft spot.  The music was scored by Alan Menken, most famous for his Disney scores, and the lyrics contribute an upbeat gospel sensibility to the sometimes troubling events onstage.  Esparza is incredibly magnetic, and during a flubbed verse that occurred at my showing, he managed to ask the conductor to go back and start over, winning over the crowd with, "It's previews folks, look what you paid for," and later, "Wow, déjà vu!"  His scenes with the young Barasch are particularly winning, and the kid has an excellent singing voice (until puberty hits).  Shields excelled in her more tense scenes, but her vocal range did not do much justice to the music.  The supporting performances of Kassebaum, as well as Kecia Lewis-Evans and Krystal Joy Brown, brought much more impressive musicality.

I wonder how much retooling will have to be done before this play reaches Broadway.  Some parts dragged on too slowly, and made me long for the more interesting set pieces that bolster the middle section of the story.  In general there was a lot of comic sweetness to a potentially heavy subject matter, and I hope to be able to see the movie upon which it was based sometime soon.

Leap of Faith, running until 10/24 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles

Modern Family, season 2 premiere

The Dunphys are back!  With all the humor of Arrested Development and all the sweetness of Freaks and Geeks, this show has swept me off my feet.  If you somehow missed this show's first season, do yourself a favor and buy the DVD so that you can catch up and start watching the new season.

Backstory if you need it:
Mitchell and Claire are a tightly-wound brother and sister who share the same devotion to their families.  Their dad Jay and his new wife Gloria are raising Gloria's preteen son Manny, an adorably earnest Casanova-in-training.  Claire and her dopey husband Phil are parents to precocious teen Haley, intelligent daughter Alex, and enigmatic son Luke.  Mitchell and his partner Cam (a former Division I football player and classically trained Auguste clown) are parents to adorable baby Lily.

Last night's episode was the perfect example of what makes this show so great. It seems like the sweetness of Phil taking his family out for one last picnic in his busted old car before selling it, to make Claire feel better about the onward march of time, cannot be topped.  But then Gloria struggling with Manny choosing girls over company with his mother is so adorable!  And when Jay and Cam try to be sensitive to Mitchell's complete lack of skill when it comes to handiwork, it's so great.

For me the highlight of the episode was the scene between Phil and Claire when she gets upset about how the kids are growing up.  She apologizes for getting so upset, and Phil says, "Don't apologize, I love you when you're human."  Shortly afterwards they hug, and Claire can sense Phil getting distracted by the concept of time travel, so she gently says, "Phil, come back to me."  His quick glance back off into space just before the show cuts to commercial is just another perfect moment from Ty Burrell.

Modern Family, Wednesdays at 9pm on ABC

New Fall 2010 TV Shows

I have watched more of this season's new pilots than I can remember watching in any recent year, and as expected, there are more than a few duds. In case you're wondering what to catch up with on Hulu this weekend, here are my brief recommendations.

Boardwalk Empire, 9pm on HBO
My unpopular opinion is that the Scorsese-directed pilot of this new HBO prohibition drama was far more boring than it should have been. That said, the appeal of a Scorsese-produced gangster tale starring Steve Buscemi is absolutely too great for me to resist following the show for the rest of the season. Michael Pitt's performance is going to be a high point of this series, I predict, and I have loved Kelly Macdonald for ages. I will keep watching, and hope not to be disappointed.

Sister Wives, 10pm on TLC
Premieres this Sunday, 9/23. Haven't seen yet, but I will surely be drawn to the trainwreck.

Lone Star, 9pm on Fox
This troubled show is already facing the possibility of cancellation after having aired only the pilot, and this could be yet another one of Fox's missed opportunities. The story of a con man leading a double life is far from fresh, but there was something charming and interesting about this show's debut. It may be difficult for me to look past the bigamy aspect of the story, but there was just enough intrigue for me to wonder how the protagonist will be able to juggle everything in his life. That said, I don't know if a drama set in the world of Texas oil barons is something that Fox audiences would ever respond to.

The Event, 9pm on NBC
I've been burned before when promising shows such as Heroes, FlashForward, and The 4400 petered off, unable to sustain the momentum they had created for themselves with lofty hooks. Mercifully, The Event fizzles out about 10 minutes in to the first episode, so I don't have to get invested in it before feeling disappointed.

Chase, 10pm on NBC
U.S. Marshals tracking down criminals, Texas-style, with witticisms aplenty. Boring.

Hawaii Five-0, 10pm on CBS
To quote my friend Tony, "It's got Boomer and Jin in it. There's no way it could suck." Except that lead actor Alex O'Loughlin is completely without charisma. Nonetheless, a glossy cop show set in Hawaii could turn out to be one of the more sustainably solid dramas of the season, so I will probably check out a couple more episodes. And hey, who doesn't love watching troubled white protagonists with helpful PoC sidekicks? (Sigh.)

No Ordinary Family, 8pm on ABC
I liked it better when it was called The Fantastic Four The Incredibles.

Raising Hope, 9pm on Fox
A lighthearted comedy of errors in the vein of Scrubs, Malcolm in the Middle, and My Name is Earl (from the creators of, etc.), this was a very sweet and quirky story of a loser raising his baby with the help of his irresponsible family. And most importantly, MARTHA PLIMPTON!

Running Wilde, 9:30pm on Fox
A single-camera comedy from Mitch Hurwitz, starring Will Arnett and Keri Russell, with a cameo by David Cross?!?! OMG yes please. Except wow this pilot was boring, awkward, and borderline offensive. I'll surely give it a shot (as we all know, pilots can suffocate trying to set up their worlds) for a few more episodes, but David Cross' new IFC show The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, which premieres next month, looks way better.

Detroit 1-8-7, 10pm on ABC
While I doubt that this type of show needs, or will even really benefit from, the mockumentary style used in the pilot,* this was an impressive debut for a fairly typical cop procedural. It almost came off like someone tried their best to dilute The Wire for network primetime, and succeeded. A multicultural cast led well by Michael Imperioli, this might be for people who love Law & Order, but tune out when the show gets to the courtroom.
*I just found out that they recut the show to omit this aspect, but I saw the pilot on a screener before the premiere.

Undercovers, 8pm on NBC
J.J. Abrams' latest spy caper stars Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as an extremely sexy married couple drawn back into their former lives as CIA operatives. Well, Alias this isn't. I found the pilot to be boring as sin, and while I would love to see an awesome successful show led by a PoC cast (see Hawaii Five-0, above), I was not compelled enough to want to keep tuning in.

Hellcats, 9pm on The CW
Yeah, this show is just not up my alley. I know, I watch really silly shows like Gossip Girl and Greek and even The Secret Life of the American Teenager, but this one takes itself waaay too seriously. And while Aly Michalka's backstory and setup are completely ridiculous, there was a great throwaway line about how her drunk of a mom vomited on her during a gymnastics competition a few years back. That is incredible.

My Generation, 8pm on ABC
I loved this show. I saw the pilot a few weeks ago and I am actively excited to see it again. Combining the ennui of a mosaic cast in their late 20's with flashbacks to their senior year of high school in the year 2000, this show has tons of heart, and amuses with its mockumentary tics. Plus the soundtrack elements of the flash backs warm my 1999-music-lovin' heart.

S#*! My Dad Says, 8:30pm on CBS
Premieres tonight, 9/23. Haven't yet seen, but I read the pilot script, and it was surprisingly enjoyable for an adaptation of a twitter feed (this is the time we are living in!). And if you haven't been suffering from Shatner over-saturation, this could be really fun.

Outsourced, 9:30pm on NBC
Haven't yet seen, but am fairly convinced I should expect this to be offensively bad. I am reminded of Aliens in America, which maybe I didn't "get," but which I could barely get through one episode of.

Blue Bloods, 10pm on CBS
The best way I can describe this is that it is the ultimate show for my mom. She's a cop who loves cop shows, and it stars Tom Selleck: perfect recipe. As the child of a law enforcement family, I definitely enjoyed how the pilot set up the central family. Dad's the Chief of the NYPD, one son is a detective, one son is a rookie, one son died on duty, and the daughter is an ADA. Even grandpa is a retired cop. But it will fall to the rookie to consider investigating a secret society in the NYPD that may well intersect with his own family history...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Glee, season 2 premiere

So, last year's insta-sensation Glee came back for its second season last night, and I have one thing to say about that: Mike Chang's abs. I might make them my desktop wallpaper, and then when IT comes to help me update QuickTime or whatever, they can judge me for having dude abs as my wallpaper. (Though they're just as cute as my current wallpaper, otters holding hands, if you ask me.)

Okay, I guess that's not the only thing I have to say. As usual, the plot line of the episode was a total yawner, and I didn't care one bit whether the glee club found new members or anything. Rachel is a completely unlikable character, and I am really looking forward to seeing her reaction when Finn leaves her for new blond quarterback / shower-singer Sam (who is basically Ronnie/Sunshine from Remember the Titans, right?). Honestly there was more sexual tension in the glances the two of them made at each other during the "Empire State of Mind" number than in any scene with Kurt last season.

I loved the addition of Coach Beiste (played by Dot Jones, who according to Wikipedia, is a champion arm wrestler) as another foil for Sue Sylvester, whose bullying went way over the top. I'll miss Tanaka, though. And whither Emma Pillsbury? Sue wasn't given much room to breathe in this episode, but any Jane Lynch is better than none.

I thought it was a pretty mediocre season premiere, both musically and story-wise. But the new additions were entertaining, and I am just excited that there seems to be more Brittany going on, because she is the greatest character on television right now (I can't tell if I'm serious about that or not). There were other plot points that were completely uninteresting, so whatever. For now:

Glee, Tuesdays at 8pm on Fox

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On a Clear Night

This weekend I saw the Australian indie musical Bran Nue Dae, Rachel Perkins' adaptation of the 1990 stage show known for bringing Aboriginal stories to the Australian stage. The film begins on an entertaining high note with a comedic number set in a church that touches on many of the themes that teenage protagonist Willie will have to deal with throughout the movie. As it goes on, the quality of the entertainment declines, but with all its flaws, it's difficult to fault the movie too much.

While the quality of the acting is unimpressive, and the musical performances do not live up to the songs themselves, my biggest complaint with the movie is that not enough was done in the adaptation process to make the story stand on its own as a film. Sometimes it felt like watching a staged reading. Lead actor Rocky McKenzie has about a thimble-full of charisma, but he leaves room for more interesting supporting performances by Geoffrey Rush, Ernie Dingo, and Tom Budge (and impressive singing by Missy Higgins and Jessica Mauboy, unsurprisingly). It would have been great to see more time and planning devoted to the musical numbers, but I wondered if efforts to keep the story true to its origins got in the way of what could have taken on new life as a great quirky musical film. And for the record, looping the audio of tap dancing into scenes where actors' feet are out of frame is against the rules.

Major themes in the film are about how to properly express identification with the Aboriginal culture, and what it means to be an Aborigine. I wondered why, then, the story was set in 1969, two years after Aboriginal people legally became considered people in Australia (previously, they were listed as native fauna). There are a number of characters or lines in the movie which hint at the systematic usage of Aboriginal women for sex that had been ongoing for decades, but it all fades into a lighthearted wink at the camera and there are no real lessons to be learned. In the end, all the characters, regardless of origin, gather around a table and sing the main chorus:
There's nothing I would rather be
Than to be an Aborigine,
And watch you take my precious land away.
For nothing gives me greater joy
Than to watch you fill each girl and boy
With superficial existential shit.
I wondered exactly how seriously we were supposed to take the movie, and landed on regarding it as a very sweet and simple musical comedy of errors, with a lot of unfulfilled potential. I wonder how it was received by viewers with no exposure to Australian history or culture, or to Australians. Thoughts?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shut the front door

Last night I finally got a chance to see Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids are Alright. Incidentally, Wikipedia describes this as a "comedy film," but if someone can tell me one funny thing about this movie other than the fact that there is a character unironically named Laser, that would be helpful. Everyone else in L.A. has probably seen this movie already, so I'll synopsize just enough to say that Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play a couple who has been married for 20 years, and whose issues come to light when their 18- and 15-year-old children track down their shared sperm donor father.

I guess the main reason I was so excited about the movie was that it seemed very appropriate in the current cultural climate for there to be a positive portrayal about traditional families who happen to have a homosexual couple as parents. Bening's Nic is a career-driven doctor with a penchant for overindulgence when it comes to wine. Moore's Jules is a more flighty woman bouncing from one career endeavor to the next. Their kids Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (ugh; Josh Hutcherson) are trying to grow into their adult selves as eager teenagers always do, so they track down their biological father Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Paul's a well-meaning guy; he likes the kids, and he likes their moms, but he isn't sure what role they all want him to have in their family. He seeks out some more quality time with the kids, and offers to hire Jules to landscape his yard. Then he starts sleeping with her.

Once the characters are introduced, there's not a whole lot to remind you that the movie you're watching is any different than any other small story about infidelity. There's not much drama, no intrigue, just sadness. In this way, the film does reinforce its point that gay couples are no different to straight couples. Some people cheat, and they and their spouses/partners have to figure out what to do about that. And it affects the kids, and no one's happy. All in all, it was a pretty boring movie filled with great performances. It's worth a watch if you're fans of the actors, but be warned that it's more of a downer than it was advertised as being.