Thursday, February 26, 2009

Last Five Movies

When Time Ran Out (1980)
Mercifully, Paul Newman's second go-'round in an Irwin Allen Disaster Movie was his last movie of the '70s, a decade in which he starred almost exclusively in crap. And even though I'd seen this movie on TV before, this is the first time it's been on DVD. It's part of the "Paul Newman Film Series," Warner Brothers' shameless attempt to cash in on the death of Newman by rereleasing several of his out-of-print (and out-of-print for good reason) and forgotten movies. So, this is how we end up with an absolute dog like When Time Ran Out with a beautifully remastered print. And while this career nadir for Newman would signal a turnabout in his career, as he would be nominated thrice and actually win the Best Actor Oscar (ironically, a year after being given an honorary one) within the next six years, it would tragically be the end of William Holden's brilliant career, as he would literally drink himself to death a year later. (Yes, you too might've drank yourself to death if you had starred in it.) This one's for masochist completists only.

Now, back to the one-liners...

Pride and Glory (2008)
Remember about a year ago, there was a movie called We Own the Night? This is pretty much the same movie.

Quarantine (2008)
Imagine the high concept of "28 Days Later meets The Blair Witch Project," and you know exactly what to expect from this movie. Despite it's somewhat stupid concept, it's very well-made and might actually be considered "scary" from time to time. And the rumor that the ending is given away in the trailer and on the video box is 100%...well, see for yourself.

Friday the 13th (2009)
Basically, what you have here is a remake of the last 10 minutes of the original Friday the 13th and bits and pieces of Parts 2 and 3-D. This was quite obviously made by the same idiots that brought you the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, because, if you were to interchange Jason and Leatherface, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two movies.

You're having a reeeeally shitty week when this is the tops:

Vice Squad (1982)
A quintessentially-shitty '80s Cop Movie that I've already seen a half dozen times, and would watch again before I watched any of the aforementioned pieces of garbage again. (Seriously.) I mean, what's not to like about Gary Swanson trying to act like a tough cop in his crimson Members Only jacket? Or Wings Hauser as a pimp named Ramrod, who wears cowboy shirts and likes to beat on whoors with wire hangers? If I'd never seen To Live and Die in L.A., I'd call this the Scummiest Cop Movie of All-Time.

Movies like this were the only good thing about the '80s; check it out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wot's New On The Tele

Here's a brief rundown of what's new on TV for the Winter/Spring season. Some are new, some are returns, some are new to me only. Maybe you'll get some ideas for new stuff to watch, because maybe you, like me, stopped watching Eleventh Hour once the fat black guy joined the cast:

Dollhouse (Fox)
Despite all its negatives (like being incredibly obnoxious and reality TV-oriented), I will give Fox credit: when it comes to going out on a limb in terms of programming, no one takes more chances than Fox. Shows that wouldn't even make it to the pilot stage on other networks sometimes make it to full seasons on Fox. And, more oft than not, the shows turn out to be quite good. (Its sister station FX airs some of the best scripted programming on television.) But, that being said, Fox is a network that is just as focused on ratings as any other network. So, even though shows like Profit and Action! are original and groundbreaking programming, they get canceled in less than a year because they're ratings dogs. Hopefully, Fox will give Dollhouse (which is a slightly different take on the now-canceled My Own Worst Enemy) its due, because it's a pretty good show with lots of possibilities.

Damages (FX)
The problem with serialized TV is that, in between seasons, you tend to forget what happened the previous season. That's why I'm glad they include those "Previously on..." segments before every episode, or shows like this, that constantly refer to things in the past, would make no sense at all.

Flashpoint (CBS)
Hey! Another fucking Crime Show on CBS! Who saw that coming?

The Beast (A&E)
Pretty much a less-ludicrous version of Training Day, with a more ludicrous lead actor in Patrick Swayze. And even though Training Day was borderline idiotic, it sure beats the hell out of this.

Lie to Me (Fox)
If I didn't actually prefer Simon Baker's character on The Mentalist to Tim Roth's in this, I'd say Lie to Me was the better show. In fact, put Simon Baker in this premise and I think you've got a winner.

The F Word (BBC America)
By no means new, this is the first time that Gordon Ramsay's latest foray into (British) reality TV has aired in the Americas. A little Hell's Kitchen, a little Food Network, and subtle little political grandstanding make for the most entertaining cooking show on television. And I always appreciate the fact that the British versions of Ramsay's shows highlight his sense of humor, as opposed to the U.S. versions, which highlight his ability to scream. And, as long as we're overseas...

Mistresses (also BBC America)
The first season of a show that just began airing its second season in the U.K. I've only seen the one episode aired, so it's hard to make a call on how good it is. Maybe it'll turn out to be like Tell Me You Love Me, a show I started watching on a lark, but got hooked on as it depicted all my greatest relationship fears.

One can only hope, but at least I know it'll be better than Eleventh Hour turned out to be.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Post-Oscars Post

Some random thoughts on the Oscars:

-Well, they usually make the hosts do some ridiculous opening musical number, despite the fact they can't sing. At least they were good enough to get a host who can sing. Too bad he wasn't funny.

-I told you Penelope Cruz would win. But she should've just given her whole acceptance speech in Spanish, because her tenuous grasp of the English language didn't make in any less unintelligible.

-And while I appreciate that they showed Vanessa Redgrave accepting her Oscar during the Best Supporting Actress montage, I was disappointed that they cut away before she went on her infamous tirade against the Jews that got her booed off stage.

-It was nice to see Tina Fey and Steve Martin make fun of Scientologists to an audience full of them. And again with The Reading of the Screenplays. That needs to go away.

-I liked that Jack Black said exactly what everyone thinks about the quality between Pixar and Dreamworks films. And while I didn't understand a single word the winner for Best Animated Short said, I do understand he put the Japanese language back a thousand years when he said "Domo arigoto, Mr. Roboto."

-Joaquin Phoenix is now officially a joke. And shame on the show's director for actually trying to carry on with the show when Ben Stiller's up on stage clowning around.

-Is it just me, or does Danny Boyle bear a striking resemblance to Morrissey?

-The shows' writers missed a better joke about James Franco kissing Sean Penn. And Janusz Kaminski telling this year's Cinematography winner to suck it was hilarious.

-Cuba Gooding Jr. presenting the Best Supporting Actor Oscar is the most work he's had since, well...the time he presented the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

-While Man on Wire justifiably won, it would have been nice to see Werner Herzog's career be topped off with an Oscar. He's gone from a certified nut to one of our best documentarians.

-Will Smith was on the stage for about an hour. Are they that hard up for presenters?

-Jerry Lewis has been in the business for 60 years, and, ironically, he wins his first Academy Award for his work for the MDA. And he's starting to look a lot like Richard Nixon.

-WHAAAAAAATTT?!? No Bill Conti? The guy wrote "Gonna Fly Now," and he's not conducting the Oscar orchestra? Bullshit.

-I didn't think it was possible to fuck up the "In Memoriam" segment. I was wrong.

-I will say that Kate Winslet was a good win, but Meryl got robbed.

-Spicoli wins again, but could've done without all the grandstanding. "I'm King of the World!" What a homo Commie-loving son of a bitch.

-And, no real surprise, Slumdog Millionaire wins Best Picture. Even though he's been an unknown commodity up to this point, I suspect the Indian kid from Skins will be getting more work from now on.

Overall, a decent ceremony. I can see they're trying to keep the time down (by having presenters do several awards and cramming all the Best Song nominees together), but by playing to Hugh Jackman's strong points (ie, singing), they add a lot of bulk with unnecessary musical numbers. Maybe next year, they'll just go with someone funny instead of someone talented.

And add an hour's worth of jokes to the show.

Oh, btw, I'm saddened to see that they've remade The Taking of Pelham 123, one of the best Action Films of the '70s, and Fame, the first R-rated movie I saw in the theatre.

Hollywood is T-minus five years from being completely out of ideas; remakes of remakes are next.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

LeBron Single-Handedly Destroys Bucks, And I'm The Only Family Member Not To See It

As everyone in the Free World has probably already seen or heard, LeBron James went absolutely mental on the Milwaukee Bucks last night, dropping 55 points, including a three-minute stretch were he scored 16 straight points. He had 25 points in the third quarter alone, and made a career-high eight three-pointers. It was one point under his career high, a number he would have topped had he not missed a pair of free throws.

Now, the fact that I didn't get to see this incredible performance would not usually be a big deal, as I've missed a lot of incredible performances. I did see Reggie Miller score eight points in nine seconds in the "Choke Game" against the Knicks, but I've missed a lot more than I've seen.

But this one burns because The Girl got to see it. And not just on TV, but actually at the game. Sitting four rows off the floor. Probably the only person in the stadium cheering as LeBron tore the Bucks a new ass with three after three.

How's that for a poke in the eye?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nine Inch Nails Calling It Quits

A couple of years ago, I commented on the fact that I thought something was up with Trent Reznor. For a guy who would put out a record, go on tour, and then just go quiet for a long time, Trent seemed to be on track to win Overworked Artist of the Year. In '05, he put out With Teeth. He followed two years later with Year Zero. A year later came Ghosts I-IV. Two months later brought The Slip. Four albums in three years, all while touring almost non-stop. This seems like the guy on the verge of a burnout.

And, turns out, he is.

Earlier this week, Trent announced on the Nine Inch Nails website that he and his band will go out on tour with a reunited Jane's Addiction later in the year, and then NIN will "disappear for a while." Just like that.

See: I told you so. Hopefully, he'll come around these parts, because it'd be a shame to miss what might be Nine Inch Nails' last hurrah.

Oh, and in regards to Jane's Addiction: are they ever just going to be a band again? They break up, get back together, go on tour, break up, get back together, put out an album, go on tour, break up, get back together, etc, etc, etc. Really, as someone speaking directly to the band, just be a band. You keep getting back together, so whatever keeps breaking you up seems to be secondary to, in the least, making money. So, just consider Jane's Addiction purely a money-making venture, and you'll find it's much easier to stay together.

Your fans will thank you for it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Simpons, Finally In Glorious 720p

If you missed it, last night's episode of The Simpsons was the first to be broadcast in 720p high-definition.

And it was kinda hard not to notice. Other than the fact the show was in widescreen 16:9, they actually altered the show to reflect that there's now a third more screen to work with. The intro animation has been changed, with the gags stretching all the way to the edges of the screen. The episode itself had odd framing and dynamic action scenes that wouldn't have fit in a 4:3 frame. This is the way shows in all shows in HD should be: exploiting the extra frame space, not just filling it with more background.

But, that was just the first episode. We'll see if any others are as frame-fitting.

It's '80s Flashback Night

Yeah, so, I went to a Mötley Crüe concert the other night just to go to a Mötley Crüe concert.

No punchline needed here; the jokes write themselves.

...Actually, on second thought, I do have some things to say about the show.

Being 35 years old, I'd like to think that I've changed over the years, that I've matured and adapted, in my appearance, my style, my likes and dislikes, to progress with the times. I'd like to think that most people have done the same. But, based upon the people I saw at the show, it's almost as though Doc Brown hooked the flux capacitor up to a jumbo jet and Back to the Future'd half the attendees of this show back from the Crüe's '80s heydays. Either that, or some of these people just got out of a "Do Not Open Until 2009" time capsule, and were oh so pleased to find that the Crüe is still touring.

On the other side of the spectrum, there were some shockingly young kids there as well, kids that weren't even born when Dr. Feelgood came out. I pointed out a group of kids to The Girl whose combined ages weren't greater than The Girl's and mine. I thought I felt old when I saw 12-year olds at a Nirvana concert back in '93; now I feel ancient.

And, despite the fact that I saw the show in my hometown, I only saw one person I went to high school with. But she actually works at the venue, so my chances of seeing her were roughly 100%.

As for the show itself, there were a ridiculous number of opening bands, three to be exact. The Last Vegas played for about five minutes; their set was about over before we even sat down. Theory of a Deadman was next, followed by Hinder. What I didn't get was that Theory of a Deadman, a good bad with three platinum records, is limited to a six-song set, while Hinder, which has the one record, with the one song, played for what seemed like an hour and a half. Back in '97, I saw Limp Bizkit open for Faith No More. I unceasingly screamed at them to get off the stage. (See, I'm a Limp hater from waaay back.) I've never wanted a band to get off the stage as badly, at least not until Hinder took the stage. When they came out, I was hoping they'd just play "Lips of an Angel" and get off the stage. But it was not to be. While it would have been futile to scream "YOU SUCK" over a stadium of screaming fans, if the band could have heard my comments exchanged with The Girl, they'd have run off the stage crying.

And then it was the Crüe's turn.

Believe it or not, the Crüe still puts on a good show, top-heavy with songs from Feelgood and older. And even though the boys are in their late-40s (except for Mick, who's nearly 60), they still played with all the energy of their younger days. Vince tended to get out of breath from running around stage and had to "yada yada" his way through parts of songs, much the way Elvis did in his later years, and Mick, who has a debilitating form of spinal arthritis, pretty much just stood in the same place on stage, but his hands are still good, so his guitar work was top-notch. Decent music, with tons of pyrotechnics and thousands of screaming fans; it was the '80s all over again.

Would I go to another Crüe concert? Probably not. Did I enjoy myself the one time I did go? Of course I did; it's Mötley Crüe, for Christ's sake!

What's not to like?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Four More Guys From This Picture Are Going To The Hall Of Fame

Four more players from this picture have been nominated to join the six already in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The remaining three aren't already in because they're either a) not eligible until next year, or b) Christian Laettner.

My thoughts on this year's nominees:

Michael Jordan
Depending on your school of thought, probably the best basketball player ever. There's really no need to discuss him any further; he's one of the reasons basketball was invented. And while his bona fides are indisputable, he somewhat damaged his legacy by retiring twice and coming back both times, the second time to a different team in a different city, where he was merely an "All-Star." An absolute lock; anything less than 100% of the vote is an insult.

David Robinson
Excepting (unfortunately) Shaquille O'Neal, the dominant center during the '90s. He almost single-handedly drug the Spurs into the playoffs every year he played, and the one year he missed, the Spurs were so bad that they got the #1 pick and drafted Tim Duncan. Shoo-in.

John Stockton
While he is not the greatest all-around point guard in history, there was no one better at passing the ball. The only player in history to have 1000 assists more than once (something he did seven times). After he broke the career assist mark, he tacked on another 5000 just for the hell of it. In fact, if it weren't for Stockton, Karl Malone wouldn't go into the Hall next year. And pretty good defensive player to boot, with at least 700 more steals than Jordan, Payton, and Alvin Robertson. This guy's numbers automatically put him in the Hall.

Chris Mullin
The weakest of the four, Mullin was THE small forward in the late '80s/early '90s. A consistent top 10 scorer who would absolutely kill you from 3-point land. He was the man in Golden State's "Run TMC" days, but was shoved to the wayside once their offense was retooled for Sprewell and Webber. If anything, the fact that he went from one of the best players in the NBA to a third option in a year, a move from which he never recovered, hurts his chances in the Hall.

We'll find out in April who goes in.

Oh, and Jerry Sloan, Don Nelson, Bernard King, and D.J. are up for the Hall, too. But they're not in that picture, so who cares about them.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Meet Your New Sports Illustrated Cover Model

Israeli model Bar Refaeli became Sports Illustrated's new Swimsuit issue cover model today. It's her first cover appearance.

For those of you not in "the know," Refaeli is the girl that Leonardo DiCaprio dumped Gisele for. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think Leo can upgrade to anything else. If he breaks up with Bar, he should expect a life of celibacy, because he's not going to do any better than that.

But Leo is apparently willing to go to the ends of the Earth to find beautiful women. Bar is from Israel, a country not necessarily known for its beauties. Maybe there's some island in the South Atlantic inhabited by nothing but beautiful Amazon women.

If there is, I'm sure Leo will find it. And the world will thank him.

"Raise Your Hand If You're A Steroid User"

It has not been a good couple of weeks for baseball. First, it became public that the Feds have steroid-tainted samples of Barry Bonds' urine. Then, it turns out that Miguel Tejada probably did inject Ralph Palmeiro with more than just B-12. (Have you noticed that Tejada's numbers have trailed off considerably since 2005? Odd coincidence, that.)

But the real bombshell was when it was revealed that Alex Rodriguez, the highest-paid player in sports, was among the 104 players who tested positive for steroids during MLB's 2003 exploratory sampling that led to its current steroid testing policy. Not that anyone's really surprised...

A-Rod claims that he started taking steroids when he was signed to the Texas Rangers for the most money ever. Rodriguez claims he felt he needed to live up to the incredible expectations of his contract, so he took steroids. Not that that would be a problem on the Rangers, which, at the time, were probably the most juiced team in baseball. In '01, they had Ralph Palmeiro, who...duh; Pudge Rodriguez, who lost 30 pounds as soon as baseball started testing for steroids; Ken Caminiti, an unrepentant steroid user and whistleblower; and, later, Juan Gonzalez and John Rocker. Not a hard place to get steroids.

Now, mind you, when A-Rod tested positive, he tested positive for something that wasn't illegal in baseball. But that's because the players were taking the most high-tech performance-enhancing drugs possible, and baseball was testing for shit like Quaaludes.

What's this mean for A-Rod? Probably nothing, unless he's stupid enough to test positive again. He'll still be in baseball, he'll still win more MVPs, he'll still have all of his record-breaking numbers. But, in the mind of every sports fan, he'll have that big red asterisk next to his name.

I bet the Yankees wish they hadn't opted to take A-Rod for another 10 years. No one likes being that team, the one with the well-known steroid user; just ask the Giants.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Last Five Movies - Oscar Edition

I will say right out that I actually had to squeeze in more movies than necessary, as I didn't want to have to describe the indescribably bad Benjamin Button, which may win the Best Adapted Screenplay award for adapting the screenplay of Forrest Gump into this. Anyway, here ya go:

Rachel Getting Married (2008)
If you can make it through the almost-unbearable first half of this, it has a pretty good second half. If nothing else, the acting is top-notch all the way through.

The Reader (2008)
I'll echo what every critic has said about this movie and say that, if not for the acting of Kate Winslet, this movie be run-of-the-mill. And if you can't figure out the "twist" about 15 minutes in, you need to visit the doctor, because your brain has died.

Revolutionary Road (2008)
Another example of the quiet discontent of the Eisenhower years; think: a movie version of Mad Men. I will say that while it's very well-written, no one in the history of the English language has ever spoken like this; the dialogue is too eloquent by half. They might as be speaking in Shakespearean iambic pentameter.

Changeling (2008)
This, somehow, only got nominated for three Oscars when it deserved many more. A surprising movie, as it turns out to be about more than you think. Followers of L.A. true crime will recognize the story immediately, but others will be in for a surprise. Yet another winner by Eastwood.

Doubt (2008)
Most movies hope to get one nomination for acting. This got four, so you know you're going to see something here. There's a reason why Meryl Streep has been nominated 15 times, and you only need to watch this (what I would consider probably her best role) to understand why. Oh, and everybody else is pretty good, too.

And the award for Best Picture goes to...

Coraline (2009)
So, I cheated on this one. No, it's not nominated for any Oscars this year, nor is it even eligible, as it came out two days ago, but if this doesn't win Best Animated Picture next year, they should probably just not give out that Oscar anymore. Absolutely beautiful and creepy in the best way possible, in hand-articulated stop-motion animation that makes the Herculean effort behind computer-animating movies like WALL-E and Kung Fu Panda seem simple by comparison. It's a shame that only Nick Park and Henry Selick make these kinds of movies anymore, as they seem more impressive (and are generally better) than their computer-animated brethren. A must-see for animation fans, although I will caution any parents that this really isn't for little kids; they will be freaked out.

Check it out anyway.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"I Make How Much Now, Ya Say?"

The release of Major League Baseball's most recent corporate tax return has revealed that, in 2007, Bud Selig, the sport's commissioner, was the fourth-highest paid person in all of baseball, with a salary of $17.5 million. Only Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Jason Giambi (who, not coincidentally, were all on the Yankees payroll) made more than Selig. In fact, in the "Big Three" sports, only a handful of players made more than Selig. He's also the highest-paid official in all of sports by several million dollars.

It's good to know that in these trying financial times, when CEOs are being drug over the coals for making a couple of million a year, that someone running shit can still get paid.

Monday, February 02, 2009

I Am Proven Resounding Wrong

Two weeks ago, I made a comment that I didn't suspect anyone would watch the Super Bowl, as who would want to watch the Steelers and Cardinals play?

Turns out, everyone would.

Super Bowl 43 became the third-most watched TV program ever, falling only behind the series finale of M*A*S*H and last year's Super Bowl. I tried not to contribute to the viewership at all, but happened to catch the last 10 minutes, which, apparently, was all you needed to see.

I will say that it was impressive to see Ben Roethlisberger, who now has more Super Bowl wins than complete seasons played, go Joe Montana on the Cardinals in the last minute and a half and ruin the beatification of Kurt Warner, who now has as many Super Bowl losses as MVPs. But, even though it did eventually turn out to be a competitive nail-biter, it was still a game between the Steelers and Cardinals.

Just goes to show you that people will watch anything that's called "Super Bowl."