Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Last Five Movies

Cloverfield (2008)
I referenced this movie a while back, back before it even had a name. Turns out, it was worth the wait. Quite possibly the best "Monster on a Rampage" movie ever made. (Ok, maybe not as good as The Host, but a close second.) The acting, effects, writing, editing, and cinematography are all-top notch. However, a warning: if you're prone to motion sickness or vertigo, bring the Dramamine.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
I'm not a huge fan of musicals, but...it's another Tim Burton/Johnny Depp joint, so it's worth a look. And, quite honestly, once you get past the fact that there is very little dialogue that is not in the form of song, it's a pretty good movie. And the music is enjoyable as well. Drag that the Academy's bullshit rules kept this from being nominated for any music Oscars, as I think it'd win everything.

Mr. Brooks (2007)
A crazy mish-mosh of a movie, with Demi Moore's secondary plot being completely unnecessary to the movie (you could completely remove it and not notice); with a terrible subplot where Brooks' daughter might be a serial killer; with the somewhat unwanted presence of Dane Cook; all offset by two terrific performances by Kevin Costner and William Hurt as Mr. Brooks and his psychotic alter-ego. If you could edit this movie down to just the scenes with those two, you might really have something there.

Rambo (2008)
I really need not say anything about this, other than that it is possibly the goriest action movie ever. Remember the D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan? Expand that out to feature-length, and you have some idea of what this movie's like.

Lots of good stuff, but the winner is...

Juno (2007)
Just a great little movie that justifiably got nominated for Best Picture. And even if Ellen Page doesn't win Best Actress (and she should), she's going to be in a LOT of movies. And, it's also refreshing to see a movie with Jason Bateman that doesn't actually require his being on-screen to be watchable (unlike every other movie he's been in recently). If you haven't seen this yet (and it's actually a surprise box office hit), check it out.

On a side note, I was hoping to see The Orphanage, a Spanish horror film produced by Guillermo Del Toro, last weekend. It was playing on at least a half dozens screens around the stateline area during the week. And then the weekend came, and suddenly all those screens were occupied by Michael Clayton and No Country for Old Men. Thanks, studios, for flooding screens with shit I've already seen, just because it got nominated for an Oscar. Particularly Michael Clayton, which I'm guessing most people will just wait the two weeks until its video release to see. Or a month for No Country. But that's fine. I'll just wait the six+ months for The Orphanage to come out on video and get it on a free rental so the studios make no money.

That's fine.

The Greatest MySpace Picture EVER

The picture to the left is from the MySpace profile of a guy I went to high school with (click pic for full effect). Last I knew, he was a cop in my hometown of Rockford. Now, he's apparently some sort of superhero, or possibly a colonial marine fighting the Covenant alongside Master Chief.

If only I were this cool, I would rule the entire known universe. He's carrying a fucking grenade launcher, for Christ's sake!!

Folks: Bow down to your new God.

Monday, January 28, 2008

While The Writers Are Out...

(This post gets a re-up, as I thought of a few more to add.)

Since, as I mentioned in a previous post, the Writers Guild has basically ruined TV, I thought I might throw out a couple of actually scripted shows worth checking out that are currently airing new episodes. Yes, among all of the fucking reality shows that muddy up the airwaves, there are still serialized TV shows:

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox)
A continuation of the Terminator franchise that cleverly circumvents the fact that there was a third movie by having them time-travel right past the timeframe of that movie. (It also makes a nice continuity error, as T3 claims Sarah Connor died in 1997; this Terminator show starts in 1999 with Sarah very much alive. OOPS!!) It's also nice to see that in the 23 years since the original movie that they've perfected "two-way" time travel.

The Wire (HBO)
The last season of probably the best show on TV. If real-life cops misallocated department resources like these cops do, they'd have an 100% clearance rate. A note for newbies: if you haven't seen any of the previous four seasons, nothing on this show will make any sense to you (and yes, that is a subtle hint to watch those seasons).

Breaking Bad (AMC)
Bryan Cranston (yeah, that's right: the dad from Malcolm in the Middle) plays a down-on-his-luck chemistry teacher, dying of cancer, who decides that going into the crystal meth business would be a good idea. It's only aired one episode so far, but it's pretty entertaining. I'll also mention that AMC is currently rerunning Mad Men, which you should check out if you missed it the first time around.

Law & Order (NBC)
The 2nd longest-running show on TV (and one that almost didn't come back) is back with new shows AND back in its old "Wednesdays @ 9:00" timeslot. While I'm somewhat saddened by "Mad Dog" Sam Waterson's somewhat reduced role in the show, the rest of the new cast is pretty good. And it just goes to show that sometimes those mid-season starts can work out pretty good for a show. Where you at now, Life? Oh, you off the air. That's right.

Nip/Tuck (FX)
FX must have made some kind of deal with the Devil, because they actually have this and at least two other shows on deck (Dirt and The Shield) airing new episodes. They may actually have a lock on being able to air the most new shows. I guess there's something to be said for only airing 13 episode seasons.

Prison Break (Fox)
While I'm not really advocating watching Prison Break, as it's absolutely terrible this season, they are new episodes. So, if you just need to watch anything, this is something to watch.

Lost (ABC)
Yes, I realize it doesn't start until next Thursday, but is there anyone who can really wait for the goofiest yet most addictive show on TV to start again? Not me.

Assorted mid-season shows (every network)
In addition to everything listed above, there are a lot of shows starting up now that I really have no interest in watching, but you might like. Also, shows that just kinda disappeared from the schedule, like ABC's Big Shots, have reappeared, because...hey, new episodes.

Hopefully, one of these years that writers will get back to work and I can get back to some quality TV watching. Until then, I'll just have to make due.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bob Mould's Second Weirdest Record

I had my first exposure to Bob Mould back in the early '90s when I heard the first Sugar record. Since then, I've picked up as many of his albums as I can. I've seen him in concert three times, with a fourth time forthcoming. Needless to say, I'm a fan.

I've always thought Bob had a good "pop" sensibility which he defused by burying his melodies under layers of loud, loud guitar. (Is pop sensibility a bad thing? Not really. Listen to Nirvana's Nevermind. But then listen to an Avril Lavigne album and try to tell me it's a good thing.) He knows how to write a catchy tune, but all the cacophony and his somewhat underground status has kept him from any mainstream success.

Now, Bob's a kinda weird guy. After years of hard rock, he completely gave up performing with a band and only played solo acoustic. For a while, he moonlighted as a storyline writer for the WWF.

A couple of years ago, Bob decided to get back together with a band and put out Body of Song, a return to his rock roots. And now, he has followed it up with...well, he followed it up all right.

I'll say this about Bob's new record, District Line: if he were to write and produce a record for Kelly Clarkson, it would be this. It's an album of love songs, full of synthesizers, modulated vocals, and catchy melodies. As I mentioned before, if this record were put out by a namebrand pop singer, it would be a smash hit. But, as it stands, it's a collection of Bob Mould love songs, which really doesn't interest anyone. (Also, Bob is openly gay, so I'm assuming most of these songs were written about men, which may drive off some listeners.) It's a strange record, but there's enough "old" Bob on it to make it worth a listen.

All that being said, this record only ranks second on the strangeness scale in Bob Mould's discography. It would be #1 if Bob hadn't released Modulate, which, of all things, was a techno record.

Hopefully, he never puts out another one of those.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Hope The Dark Knight Doesn't Need Any Reshoots...

...Because Heath Ledger, who plays The Joker in the movie, is officially dead. No official cause of death yet, but, he is dead.

I hope The Joker dies in the movie, because that will make for some awkward casting for the sequel if he doesn't.

The Oscar Noms

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Hmmm...no Denzel or Russell. I guess that completes the shutting out of American Gangster, which apparently wasn't as good as I thought it was. Props, however, to the Academy for nominating a guy who gets in a nude knife fight in his role. Nice.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Why are there even nominees that aren't Javier Bardem?

Performance by an actress in a leading role
I'd love to say that Ellen Page is a lock for this, but...I haven't seen the other movies. Would have been nice to see Jodie Foster here as well.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Tilda Swinton should win this. That being said, Cate Blanchett will win, as she's the only thing anyone ever talks about in that Bob Dylan movie.

Best documentary feature
Please, Jesus, please don't let Michael Moore win another one of these.

Achievement in film editing
I would be surprised if No Country for Old Men won this, as they apparently edited the last reel right out of the film.

Achievement in makeup
Rick Baker wins this almost every time he's nominated (6 for 10), but I suspect he won't win this year, because that would mean Norbit wins an Oscar. Norbit. Really.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song and Score)
Due to a loophole exploited by almost every musical-to-movie adaptation (Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, Dreamgirls, etc.), Sweeney Todd gets shut out of two categories because it remained faithful to the original musical. That soundtrack is better than any nominee in either category.

Achievement in visual effects
Transformers all the way, even if the effects do tend to get lost in Michael Bay's horrendous editing.

Adapted screenplay
The only real competition for No Country for Old Men is There Will Be Blood, which is the loosest of adaptations of an Upton Sinclair novel and really shouldn't be here.

Original screenplay
It'd be nice to see Juno win this.

Achievement in directing
You have to give this to the Coens. Everything else is pretty standard.

Best motion picture of the year
I think you know my pick on this one. It's nice to see Juno in there, but it won't win.

Be sure to tune in on the 24th to see the shortest and least exciting Oscar telecast in history.

Thanks, Writers Guild!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Today's Pitchers Are Babe Ruth League Compared To These Guys

(Note: This has been cross posted at Jesus Melendez's Hall of Very Good. Check it out.)
The other day, I just happened to catch a replay of Game Seven of the 1971 World Series on ESPN Classic. As I wasn't born at the time, I really didn't know anything about this series, but as I enjoy watching old baseball games, back in the days when TV sports broadcasting was so primitive, I sat and watched the thing.

During the seventh or so inning of the game, the play-by-play guy mentioned that there were two Baltimore starters warming up in the bullpen for relief. He said that, at that time, Baltimore's three 20-game winners were all pitching at the same time (Mike Cueller was in the game, with Pat Dobson and Dave McNally in the pen). "Three 20-game winners?" I thought to myself. That's a TON! What I didn't realize (and the announcer didn't mention) until I looked into it further is that Baltimore actually had four 20-game winners, the fourth being some young punk named Jim Palmer. (I know: Who the fuck is THAT?)

Four 20-game winners. Wow. Mind you, those Orioles teams of the late '60s/early '70s were some great teams. They went 318-164 from '69-'71, a win total some teams have trouble hitting in four season, much less a mere three. Those three teams never had any fewer than two 20-game winners on them (two in '69, three in '70). And, '71 was the whopper year with four. For comparison, in 2007, there was one 20-game winner in all of baseball. The '71 Orioles had four on just that one team. I'd say the pitching quality has maybe decreased over the years, wouldn't you?

Now, the instant rebuttal to the four 20-game winners is the fact that that staff rolled with a four-man rotation, which means the pitchers ended up getting more starts per year. If Jake Peavy (#2 with 19 wins in '07) had four or five more starts, maybe he would have broken 20 wins, as would a number of other pitchers. But teams nowadays run with five starter rotations: fewer starts means fewer win opportunities. Maybe if today's pitchers went with four man rotations, they could have four 20-game winners. So, maybe that's not all that impressive. But I suspect that all those wins didn't come from just having a lot of starts.

Pitchers back then were a lot more durable than today's guys. Between them, the four Orioles starters had 70 complete games. For comparison, in '07, both leagues combined had 112. That's four guys with 70 versus at least 30 times as many guys with 112. The individual leader in '07 was Roy Halliday with seven. The least any starter on the '71 Orioles could manage was Dave McNally with 11. So, maybe the Orioles pitchers had so many wins because they were able to pitch it all the way through, something almost unheard of these days. It's gotten so bad, that we have a stat, the "quality start," which has basically replaced the complete game.

But complete games don't mean anything if you go out there and pitch like shit. Oh sure, you pitched nine innings, but you gave up 15 runs. Kinda makes those complete games irrelevant. But that wasn't a problem with the '71 Orioles. The four Orioles starters had a combined ERA of 2.89, with Jim Palmer's 2.68 the best on the team. The best in '07 was Jake Peavy's 2.54. If that's the best ERA in both leagues, I'd be hard pressed to believe that you could come up with any four starter combinations from any team that could top that 2.89 ERA. Hell, the '71 Orioles team ERA was 2.99. The best '07 could muster was the Padres' 3.70. (It should be noted that 17 of the 24 teams that existed in '71 had team ERAs better than the '07 Padres.)

What it comes down to is four guys on the same team who were better than anyone we got pitching today. And the fact that at least three of those guys put up the same stat line year after year only strengthens the case. Everyone seems to blame the past two decades' increase in power on all the hitters being juiced up. I think it's because the pitching stinks. And, the fact that we now have five man rotations means we have more shitty pitchers than they did back in the day.

I may be wrong, but I don't think so.

"Packers Lose Playoff; Brett Favre Blamed"

Once again, like the post directly below this, I have no story here. I just wanted to publish a headline that absolutely no one else will.

Because you know that, had the Packers won, every newspaper would have had as their Sports section headline, "Packers Beat Giants; Favre Hailed As New Christ."

But, let's call a spade a spade: Favre threw the INT that allowed the Giants to set up their game-winning field goal. And, seeing as Favre is the career leader in interceptions (a record he set this year), his throwing the game-loser is a completely unironic ending to an otherwise mind-boggling season.

So, hopefully, Favre will go home and have a good cry, and get on with retiring, so that the Packers can go back to their pre-Favre (ie, terrible) form. Maybe then I can finally stop hearing about how great the fucking Packers are.

One can only hope.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Cowboys Lose Playoff; Jessica Simpson Blamed"

I really have no story here. I just wanted to be the first one to post this inevitable headline.

And maybe to circumvent this possible headline, consider this: Tom Brady is fucking one of the hottest models on the planet and has some new baby-daddy issues, yet he hasn't lost a game. And a skank like Jessica Simpson is throwing off Tony Romo's game.

Right. You just go ahead and publish that story, Us Weekly. You go right ahead.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

FAG...er, uh, SAG Scores A Coup

I love the Writers Strike. Best thing to ever happen to TV. Nothing but reruns and reality shows.

But now, the strike has infected other aspects of Hollywood. Last Friday, it was announced that, in support of the striking writers, the membership of the Screen Actors Guild (which is basically every actor in Hollywood) would not be attending the Golden Globes. The Globes ceremony have been a point of contention during the strike, as the writers have planned to picket the show, due to the Globes unwillingness to come to a deal with the writers. And, because it's considered bad form for the members of any union to cross another union's picket line, the membership of SAG has elected to sit the ceremony out as well.

So, the Golden Globes will be attended by...well, maybe a handful of producers, and some directors who aren't members of the Writers Guild.

Thanks, SAG! Your solidarity fucks an already fucked up situation even more. Seriously, thanks again.

And be sure to tune in next Sunday to see the emptiest auditorium in the history of award shows. It'll be great!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Last Five Movies

Altered States (1980)
I've never done LSD before, but I imagine it's pretty much like watching this movie. If you were on acid and watched this movie, I'm sure your head would explode. Trippiest...movie...ever.

Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
I can review this movie in three words: What. The. Fuck. Is this movie supposed to be funny? Is it supposed to be action-packed? What are Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti doing in it? (It does also star Monica Bellucci, who actually appears to be getting more attractive as she ages.) Completely awful. Before Bush leaves office, he should create a list of banned movies that can never be owned or viewed by anyone, and this movie should be the only movie on that list. Yes, it is worse than even Cannibal Holocaust, the most vile thing ever committed to film. And that's really saying something.

The Brothers Solomon (2007)
With the exception of the above movie, this is one of the dumber movies I've seen in a while. That being said, I laughed almost non-stop. "What the fuck is THAT?" "THAT the fuck is the crib." If you're not on the Will Arnett bandwagon, you seriously have no concept of what "funny" is.

The Psychic (1977)
No need to review this one again: My IMBD review (first review for this title, btw).

Not a hard choice here...

Eastern Promises (2007)
I've been a fan of David Cronenberg since the '80s, when I discovered his gonzo horror movies. And, like my other two favorite gonzo horror movie directors of the '80s, Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson, he's toned down over the years. But, unlike Raimi and Jackson, who became sellout kiddie-movie bitches, Cronenberg actually matured, directing more obscure and darker fare, finally becoming a "respected" filmmaker. It started with Spider, and then A History of Violence, and now this. Cronenberg gave up on grossout, and instead decided to focus on complicated character studies, which has worked out pretty well for him. While I'd love to see Cronenberg direct something as goofy as The Brood or Naked Lunch again, I'm sure whatever he directs next will be just as good. Hopefully, it will be an adaptation of Dr. Strange or some other shit comic book property, so that I can get on with hating him, too.

Fingers are crossed.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Greatest Football Game Ever?

On Saturday, the New England Patriots messed around and got themselves a perfect season. Not only did the game top off the only second perfect regular season in NFL history, it may go down as the most record-laden game in football history.

In going undefeated, the Patriots became the first team to win 16 regular season games. The win also brought their running consecutive wins total to 19, another record. They scored the most points in a season by a team. Tom Brady capped off his MVP season by breaking the passing touchdown record with 50. He also became the fourth QB to throw for 4800 yards. (Marino's 5000+ record looks harder and harder to beat every year.) Randy Moss topped off his comeback season by breaking Jerry Rice's 20-year old TD record. (An achievement somewhat diminished by the fact that Rice set the original record in a strike-shortened 12 game season.) And, in a television first, this game became the first to be shown on three different networks (CBS, NBC, and NFL Network).

So, after having set all these records, do the Patriots have what it takes to win the 19 games for the "true" perfect season (which would be another record, btw)? Six weeks ago, before the Philly game, I'd have said no problem. Considering their average margin of victory since then has been seven points, I'm not so sure now. But, hell, the last undefeated team won the Super Bowl; why wouldn't the Patriots?

We'll see in February. Happy New Year, by the way.