Monday, November 24, 2008

24: Redemption

It’s been a year and a half since we’ve seen Jack Bauer, and it’s been like four years in the TV universe of 24. A lot has happened since the last time we saw Jack. For one thing, America took its cue from David Palmer and elected a real African American president. Let’s just hope Mrs. Obama is nothing like Sherry Palmer.

This two hour movie was called 24: Redemption, but it could have easily been called Jack Hawk Down. It was essentially the first two hours of the next season of 24.

Tonight’s episode takes us to the troubled African nation of Sangala. Now don’t give Sarah Palin a hard time if she doesn’t know where that is, it’s fictional. It’s 3pm in Africa and we find Jack at a school run by his old pal Carl Benton. Jack’s spent that last year ducking a subpoena form the US government, and a guy named Frank Trammell arrives to serve it. Naturally, Jack tells him to shove it. He’s not going back. (Not that much has changed in a year and a half.)

The real trouble starts when a few of the kids head into town to play soccer without permission. Unfortunately, General Juma, a local rebel leader, is abducting and brainwashing children for his army. We first meet his right hand man, Col. Dubaka, who instructs a brainwashed child to behead a man with a machete while chanting “Kill the Cock-a-roach.” When the kids from the school are abducted, Carl gets word back to Jack and directs him to a secret box where Jack finds guns and ammo for his African Jack Sack, as well as some explosives. Jack quickly finds himself fighting off a band of rebels as the remaining kids hide in a space under the schoolhouse.

Jack picks off a whole bunch of bad guys before they finally subdue him in the brush. We’re not even 30 minutes into the first hour and Jack is being strung up and tortured. Col. Dubaka’s brother is the team leader and he gives Jack a terrible case of razor burn when he scorches his face with a red hot machete. Luckily, Carl has snuck up to the school and signals to Jack and before you can say “Dammit Chloe”, the bad guys are dead and Jack has killed Col. Dubaka’s brother with his legs. Now Jack and Carl have to get the kids to the American embassy within the hour to catch the last chopper out of the country. A coup is eminent and the US is withdrawing.

There were very few other regular characters in tonight’s special two hour movie. No CTU, no Chloe. President Noah Daniels is the most prominent recurring character. We find out that today is also the inauguration of Allison Taylor, the first female president in the 24 world. Daniels refuses to send troops to aid Sangala, even though Taylor thinks it’s a good idea. Taylor wonders if Daniels has a hidden agenda and puts her people on it.

We also meet Chris, a broker who works for a company that has ties to Sangala and a mysterious government official named Hodges. Hodges is played by Jon Voight, and we all know he’s dangerous. This is the same guy who bit Kramer on Seinfeld.

Chris is ordered by his boss to destroy some files, but instead, Chris sends them to his home computer. Chris then calls his buddy Roger, who happens to be the son of the President Elect. Chris also works with his girlfriend. Soon enough some goons show up, torture and kill Chris. Hodges then puts his sights on Roger, afraid that Roger may know too much. Things are now all set up for the next season.

Back in Africa, we meet General Juma. He’s played by Tony Todd, who you may remember as The Candy Man. (The horror movie guy, not the one that can take a rainbow and wrap it in a sigh.) He is busy preparing his attack. He does not do much besides look mean tonight, but I’m sure we’ll hear more from him next season.

However, Col. Dubaka takes a break from the coup to hunt down Jack and avenge his brother’s death. He attacks by helicopter, but Jack & Carl get the kids into the woods and undercover. Dubaka lands and his team heads into the woods. Then Jack’s favorite kid Little Willie runs into a mine field and is saved by Carl, who ends up with his foot on a mine. Knowing he is screwed, Carl stays behind and takes out the bandits, and himself, in a blaze of glory.

Jack gets the kids to the city, but Juma’s goons are everywhere, and are nice enough to dress in long, dark trench coats so Jack can spot them. As the shootout unfolds, Jack turns a corner and finds himself face to face with the “Kill the Cock-a-roach.” kid, who has a machine gun pointed at him. A teary eyed Jack manages to snap the kid out of his haze and finally gets the group to the locked gates of the embassy. On the other side is Frank Trammell, who refuses to let the kids through, unless Jack surrenders to the subpoena. Jack finally agrees and they all fly off in a chopper as the city erupts. Back in the United States, President Taylor is sworn in while Hodges looks on.

So there you have it.

This episode was a real change for 24. It was refreshing to have Jack Bauer out of the Los Angeles area, but I did miss a few things from the old format. Naturally an appearance by Chloe and Morris would have been the best, but I even missed CTU a little bit. Especially all dirty looks through the glass walls, and that signature phone ring.

After a year and a half, it was good to finally get a 24 fix. And now we are ready for the season to begin in January. Just how the hell Tony Almeida comes back from the dead is the burning question. And if they can resurrect Tony, can they bring Edgar back too?

See you in January.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Boldly Going Back

Remakes. The final frontier.

Next year they are re-launching the Star Trek franchise with a movie that will feature new actors playing the classic characters from the original series. When I first heard the news I was outraged, horrified and mortified. The idea of someone else playing Scotty, Spock or Bones is bad enough, but someone playing Captain Kirk besides William Shatner is downright sacrilegious.

Why do they keep remaking old movies and TV shows? Did we really need a new Willie Wonka or an updated Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Then I heard that this movie will include an appearance by Leonard Nimoy. He is playing the old or future Spock. From what I hear, he goes back in time and speaks with young Spock to warn him about something, possibly of some kind of Romulan plot. (Kind of like Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me.)

The young Spock is played by Zachary Quinto, Sylar from Heroes. This then passes the torch to the new cast, and I guess they will go forward as an alternate reality Star Trek or something. I’d say it’s ridiculous, but since I have rolled with countless Star Trek plots involving time travel and alternate realities, I guess I should cut them some slack.

After seeing a few stills from the production, I was still skeptical. Some things looked great and other things looked shaky. Finally, last week, an extended trailer debuted on the internet and I got my first good look at this thing in motion. The Enterprise looks good. The uniforms look like the classic show, with a tad of modification to bring them up to date. Spock looks dead on, and the action looks ramped up. Best of all, Simon Pegg, from Shaun of the Dead, plays Scotty. He definitely brings a certain amount of clout to the production for me.

Also, the buzz on the movie is pretty good from sources that are pretty trustworthy. For instance, Kevin Smith has seen some of the new movie and claims it is good. He’s a geek, so his opinion counts for something.

Okay, they got me. Damn it.
I’m still very leery, but who am I kidding? I’ll be in line on opening night to check this thing out.

To be honest, the more I think about it, the more this reboot might make sense. I grew up loving Star Trek, but I have to admit, the old TV show looks slow and outdated to today’s audiences. And of the follow-up Star Trek shows, only The Next Generation really captured a mainstream audience.

The franchise was looking like it had finally come to the end. No one is really interested in new Starfleet adventures or crews. But, they may be ready to embrace the classic characters that have ingrained themselves into the culture of America. If a remake of Star Trek can revive the franchise and give us a new set of adventures with spectacular special effects and clever writing, maybe it will bridge the gap between the old generation of Trek fans and the new generation that hardly even know what a Tribble is.

Think about it, it worked for James Bond and Batman. Maybe it could work for Star Trek.

So I will go in with my phasers set on low expectations, but I’ll also have high hopes and an open mind.

I really hope they nail this. This may be Star Trek’s last chance to live long and prosper.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Don’t Isolate Yourself from Quarantine

If you want a decent horror movie to watch, I have one for you. Quarantine is a movie that crosses two genres, the zombie movie and the real footage “POV” approach seen in movies like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. Both genres are borderline stale, and are begging for a breath of fresh air. I’m happy to report that Quarantine is a cool, refreshing breeze of contaminated air.

Quarantine is not the first movie to combine zombies and POV. George Romero, the father of the zombie genre, tried it with Diary of the Dead and Quarantine itself is a remake of a Spanish horror movie called (Rec).

I went into Quarantine with low expectations… really low. In the POV genre it is often hard to sustain believability for an entire movie, so right there it had one strike against it. Then add the fact that Diary of the Dead was terrible and was the final nail in the coffin of the once great Romero. That’s another strike and a half against this movie. But, I love zombies and I can often find enjoyment from even the cheesiest of movies, so it was worth a shot.

I'll tell you what, I was pleasantly surprised. Quarantine pulled it off, both with the POV and the zombies. The premise is that a news crew is following a team from the fire department around for 24 hours for a special interest piece. After we meet the characters, we follow them on a late night call to an apartment building where an old woman is acting strange.

Once the woman attacks them, all hell breaks loose in the building. Before anyone can escape, the authorities have sealed off the premises and threaten to shoot anyone who tries to escape. There is some kind of infection and they don’t want it getting out. The infection does however get around, and one by one, tenants, cops and firemen are being bitten and tearing each other apart.

Because the point of view is that of a news crew, it helps explain why someone might keep filming once it all hits the fan, and later on, the camera serves as the only source of light in the building. The POV gimmick is also effective because it helps put us in the shoes of the people in the movie. We only see what the camera sees, so we’ll catch a glimpse here and there, making the suspense and shocking moments pretty effective.

It’s also a pretty good addition to the zombie genre. I’d say it owes more to 28 Days Later than Night of the Living Dead. It’s not the best of the bunch, but it’s a satisfying movie that warrants a place on the good list of zombie movies, and horror movies in general. They manage to come up with a pretty good premise and execute it well. It's a fun little horror movie, which is more than I had hoped for and just what I was looking for.

Now I really want to see the original version of this movie and see how similar or different the two are.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Facing the Facts About Facebook

Are you on Facebook? It's a great site for reconnecting with friends and family. It also helps you get to know new acquaintances a lot quicker. On the flip side, perhaps you can relate to some of the less desirable kinds people you encounter on the site.

The Friend Whore: Long lost people you never really had a relationship with request to be your friend, and you never actually communicate with you once you are connected. Let's face it, all they want to do is rack up the number of friends thay have.
The Friend Poacher: This person joins Facebook and then proceeds to link up with almost everyone from your friend list. Even those they may not know too well.
Get a life and your own friends, I say.
The Peanut Gallery: Long lost or fringe friends who suddenly comment on every little thing you do or say. Leave me alone and mind your own business.
Status Martyrs: These are a pet peeve of mine. These are people who change their status with great frequency, often to tell you how tired or how stressed out they are, or that they just got back from the gym. If you are that busy, how do you have time to update your status so much?

Is there anything more annoying?

However, Facebook and the status field are a great example of the power of social networking. Social Networking has become a hot term in the marketing and market research worlds. Like the term "Green", it's almost overused in many cases. But one thing is for sure, it is a huge factor in affecting people's behavior.

Facebook pages have become personal podiums where people can promote their political views, religious beliefs or promote a cause. Sometimes this might turn more people off, but the simple fact is that it's making people more aware... of everything.

The power I saw today on Facebook was from referrals. A friend posted on her status that she was looking for a new digital camera. I have some insight on this topic so I commented on her status and recommended a brand I was happy with, a good camera review site and some advice about how to find a good price.

A little later I checked back and I saw a three or four other people had chimed in with advice and recommendations. It was amazing. My friend's purchase will be influenced by people that a year ago she hardly spoke to or did not even know. And now other people are reading the discussion from the sidelines and are getting product reviews almost by osmosis.

Wow, a built in panel of friends, family and acquaintances that can be instantly tapped into for advice, referrals and opinions. That's powerful.

I wonder what the final effect on her purchase will be. I hope my friend follows up after she buys a camera. I'm curious to see how the suggestions from Facebook affect her purchase, or if the advice steers her in a certain direction. Who knows? Maybe will she see a sale and just buy a camera because of the good price. Or a sales person will convince her of a different brand.
There are so many factors in a purchasing choice, but we can't ignore the weight of a referral on a decision or the significance of a network like the community on Facebook.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go update my status. How does this sound?
"Jack is blogging about Facebook, and is tired, stressed out and needs to hit the gym."

UPDATE 11/9/08- I followed up with my friend and found out that she bought a Canon SD880 IS. Canon was the brand that we all had recommended. She says so far, she I loves it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Those Were the McDays

I really miss McDonald's.

Books like Fast Food Nation and movies like Super Size Me are exposing the health hazards of these types of restaurants. The big message now is to eat healthier and steer clear of fast food. Too much of this stuff will kill you.

Okay, I get it. I know that Quarter Pounders and hot apple pies will clog my arteries and add chins to my face. But let's face it; McDonald's can be really tasty. Is there anything better than a large fries, fresh out of the bag? I don't think so. (Especially those stray, bonus fries that hide at the bottom of the bag.) Anyway, it's the whole aura of McDonald's that I miss. It wasn't just a meal, it was a destination.

When I was a kid, McDonald's had an alternate universe known as "McDonaldland". I never read Alice in Wonderland, so I couldn't tell you the difference between the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter. However, I can tell you more about McDonaldland than I can about the very state of Connecticut that I live in. McDonaldland was the realm of Ronald McDonald, the Clown Prince of the franchise, but there was so much more to this magical place.

McDonaldland was ruled by a guy named Mayor McCheese. His head was a giant cheeseburger with eyes and a mouth. (I guess in McDonaldland, you are what you eat.) He also had a purple top hat and sash that signified his rank as a public servant. Besides representing the citizens of McDonaldland, he also represented cheeseburgers, and he was not shy about it. You might cringe at the thought of a politician with such overt biases, but I found it refreshing. There were no hidden agendas with The Mayor. You knew where he stood at all times. It was usually next to a table full of cheeseburgers.

The Mayor's right hand man, and enforcer, was a burley dude called Big Mac. Big Mac was a cop, one of McDonaldland's Finest, and he kept the peace. Big Mac was charged with protecting the citizens of The Land from the many dangers under the Golden Arches. His arch nemesis was a vile creature known as The Hamburglar. His true identity hidden behind a black mask, The Hamburglar was always in the shadows, terrorizing the hungry people of The Land by constantly stealing their food. Ever the enigma, the only words we ever heard from this fiend were "Robble, robble, robble." What did it mean? Was it a message, a warning, a threat? Or was his mouth just full of stolen hamburgers?

McDonaldland actually boasted a roster of villains that could rival that of Batman or Dick Tracy. There was Captain Crook, the pirate who loved Fillet of Fish and The Gobblins, whose insatiable appetite for French Fries kept McDonaldland in a constant state of high alert.
They weren't all bad though. There was also a host of friendly characters who inhabited this world, like The Professor, the lovable Grimace and later on, Birdie the Early Bird. (I'll deal with Birdie later.) Each was known for their love of a particular menu item, and as kids, we would rally behind the characters that stood for our favorites. I was always partial to the Grimace, myself.

Unfortunately, like many things in life, McDonaldland eventually lost its' shimmer. Maybe it started when that obnoxious Birdy showed up for breakfast and made us dread the sunrise. (The Early Bird gets the worm, and gets on my nerves. Nobody should be that cheery first thing in the morning.)

Then the Mcflood gates opened; The Gobblins became The Fry Guys and they even softened up the Hamburglar's look to be cuddly rather than sinister. By the time the anthropomorphic Chicken McNuggets showed up, it was all over… or maybe I had just out grown it all.
Now eating at McDonald's is different. It's just another place to grab a quick bite. The colorful characters have been replaced by apathetic servers who constantly screw up your order and charge you a quarter for an extra packet of sweet and sour sauce. It doesn't even taste as good as it used to. Never mind the guilt associated with eating that stuff. It's just not the same anymore.

But sometimes I sure wish I could go back in time and have one more Shamrock Shake in that special place where they always put the "happy" in Happy Meal.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

No Niner, No Cry

Sorry. I missed the new 90210 this week, so I have no comments about it.

Baseball playoffs are starting, so we'll have to see how much Niner I actually catch in the next month. It's not looking good.

Have you watched It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia yet? What are you waiting for?

I've been watching that new vampire show on HBO, True Blood. It's okay, but it has not won me over 100% quite yet. But I'm sticking with it for now. Plus, it's back to back with Entourage, which is one of the best shows. So that makes it easy.

I just discovered this show The Unit, which is also on Sunday night. Caught it this past Sunday and thought it was pretty good.

I saw the premiere of Heroes but I missed this week's show. I liked season one, but I think this show may have already peaked. I'll watch it when I can, but how many people dying and coming back to life can I really take? They rely on the same old tricks time after time.

The big news is that the 24 two hour movie airs next month. Stay tuned for more on that.

Gotta go. Tata for now.
11/8/08 Update: It turns out that I never went back to watching the new 90210. It was just too bad to keep watching. This was the last post on the topic for the time being. - JC

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

90210- Week 4: Condon-Nation

Another painful night as the new 90210 drifts further away from the original show. We got a healthy dose of Brenda and about a minute of Kelly and that was it. Have we seen the last of Nat?

Tonight’s episode was a rollercoaster ride for Annie. First she gets her big break when Adrianna is kicked out of the school play because she’s “using”. I’m not exactly sure what Adrianna is using, but it sure ain’t good judgment. Since Annie is the only one who knows the lead part, she steps into the spotlight opposite her latest flame, Ty.

I’m not sure what show they were actually putting on, but it looked like a lot like Newsies, judging from the costume that Ty was wearing. But the big news was that there was an after-party at the Roosevelt Hotel that night and Ty had plans to deliver something more than a paper to Annie’s doorstep of love. This had her father very worried. After all, he used to have the same paper route as Ty.

As I said, Annie’s big break happens because Adrianna is all f-ed up fifteen minutes before show time. You see, Adrianna’s got it tough because she has an overbearing mother that pushes her into show business, which in itself is a cruel and thankless industry. Her rough life has pushed her to stealing and substance abuse. So she is the show’s tragic figure… pretty much the new Emily Valentine.

Brenda had sensed the turmoil in Adrianna’s life and tries to help, almost like a Guardian Angel. First she plays a witch in Charmed, now this… it just shows Shannen Doherty’s incredible acting range. She’s like De Niro with nice boobs and uneven eyes. But not even Brenda Walsh can stop Adrianna’s tailspin.

So Brenda, with the help of her stage manager Silver, decides that Adrianna is unfit to perform and they turn to Annie instead. Not the hit Broadway musical; the girl in the chorus. It turns out that just about everyone in the gang is involved with this play. Silver is suddenly the stage manager and Blandon is working the lights. Last week he was too busy for school and lacrosse with his new job at the Peach Pit. Somehow in a week he has found the time to work the lighting for a play that he has never even attended a rehearsal for.

Here’s where things go down hill for Annie. After the play, she asks Blandon if she can have the condom he always carries in his wallet. It’s pretty much a bad luck charm because he’s been carrying it for four years. (He’s supposed to be sixteen years old, so he’s had this rubber since he was twelve.) She is ready to give it up to Ty, but Ethan bumps into her with a bouquet of flowers and discovers the rubber. He’s now the second man, along with Dad, alarmed by the possibility of Annie “Tying” one on at the party.

But a vengeful Adrianna beats Annie to Ty’s hotel room and stages it so that it appears she has stolen the stage from Annie in Ty’s bedroom. Annie leaves in tears, along with the cursed condom. Meanwhile, Silver and Blandon are getting jiggy with it until Blandon realizes that he has no protection because he gave away his lucky prophylactic. But Silver had no intention of letting him explore her mine anyway.

There was also a subplot about Naomi’s MILF mother kicking her cheating husband out and filing for divorce, but not before they have angry parent sex. It was comical.

That’s about it for this week. I don’t know how much more of this show I can take.

Tata for now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

90210- Week 3: You Dropped a Bomb on Me

First of all, I got in late and missed the first few minutes of 90210. Secondly, I kept flicking over to the Red Sox game. Thirdly, I may have had a scotch or three after work. So my head was not really in it tonight.

It hit me tonight that watching the new 90210 is kind of like watching a movie on Cinemax after 11:30 pm. I only really care about a few scenes and the rest is filler. With 90210, it’s all about the old cast. With Cinemax it’s… well, you can figure that out for yourself. Tonight was a perfect example of this. Out of a one hour show, there were pretty much only two or three scenes that I really needed to see.

First was the bomb that Brenda dropped on us about the father of Kelly’s child. I figured they’d milk this one all season until we got a big reveal and a guest appearance during sweeps week. They teased us early in the show tonight, when awkward Ryan asked Brenda about it. We get another vague tidbit about the father traveling the world, helping people. But then, when Kelly is bitching to Brenda about that very conversation, Brenda let’s the cat out of the bag. Kelly is still in love with Dylan. So I guess the little guy is a McKay.

That’s it? That’s the big reveal? I was hoping for a “Luke, I’m your father” like roar, but instead all I got is an “Um, Luke Perry is your father” whimper.

I really hope the kid grows out his sideburns over the next few episodes and starts acting like his dad. Maybe those mobsters who killed his grandfather father will kidnap him and Dylan will have to return to save him from another exploding car… or exploding Big Wheel.

With that big question out of the way, I’m not sure where they go from here. Doe anyone really want to see Kelly with awkward Ryan? Would anyone want to actually date this guy? All he does is ask questions about the status of the relationship. He never stops, kind of like the Energizer Bunny. He’s both awkward and annoying. If he was a battery, he’d be Double A. And that just might be his new nickname.

The other thing of note tonight was Joe E. Tata’s most significant screen time since the start of the new show. Dixon needs money so he applies for and gets a job from Nat at the Peach Pit. If you any doubts about him being Blandon, I rest my case. Alas, times have changed at The Pit and the classic bowling shirt uniform is no more. It’s been replaced by a lame t-shirt. (Who am I kidding? I’ll end up scouring the internet in search of one.)

I wish they had explained the new look of The Peach Pit a bit more like Happy Days did when they remodeled Arnold’s. On Happy Days, Arnold’s is accidentally burnt down by Chachi. Couldn’t the 90210 people come up with a similar scenario? Maybe Brenda accidentally starts a grease fire during an encore performance as Lavern the Waitress?

Speaking of Brenda, Ms. Walsh was busy this week. Somehow, before I tuned in, Grandma Tabitha had ended up in charge of the musical that Annie is starring in, and Brenda is brought in to the rescue. Jessica Walter’s performance made me miss Arrested Development so much. She is wonderful. Her overbearing directing reaches a crescendo when she grabs a mic and starts kicking out the jams on that song we’ve been hearing the group rehearse for the past few weeks. Brenda video tapes the rehearsal and Grandma is able to see what a pain in the ass she’s being. She gracefully steps down and hands the reins over to Brenda.

Meanwhile, Blandon is burning the candle at both ends with school and shifts at The Pit. There are also some sparks between Silver and him. Silver pretty much asks herself out for him, making her worth her weight in gold. Eventually Blandon’s grades start to suffer because of his hours and his father steps in to help him out. I was really hoping Nat would bail him out, like he did when Brandon had the gambling problem.

Some other stuff happened tonight with the other characters, but it’s getting late so it will have to wait.

Okay, I’ll admit it… I gotta go see what’s on Cinemax.

Tata for now.

PS- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia starts back up on Thursday. It's my favorite show and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

90210 Week 2: Double Stuff

Tonight was round two of the new 90210. Or I guess round three, since they showed two episodes last week. Thankfully, we only had to deal with one hour tonight. I don’t know if I could handle anymore drama.

As I said last week, I primarily tune in to see what’s going to happen with the old characters, and tonight there was a whole lot of cookie before they finally got to the cream filling that is Kelly Taylor’s drunk mother. No Brenda and no Nat tonight. Oh well. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, I guess.

Calling the rest of this show a cookie is actually a bit inaccurate, because these new characters are pretty hard to swallow. First of all, these supposed sixteen year olds act more like they are in their mid-twenties; hanging out in bars and going to see bands. Meanwhile the parents on the show actually act more like real sixteen year olds; going bowling and eating French fries.

But older actors playing younger characters is a staple on 90210, going back to Dylan McKay and Andrea Zuckerman, so I will let it pass. Hell, if I had realized they were going to cast older people in younger roles, I would have auditioned for the part of Jennie Garth’s four year old son. That kid got to lie in bed between Silver and Kelly. I’d love to be the cream filling in that Oreo.

Speaking of Silver, if you caught the premiere of True Blood, that new vampire show on HBO, did you notice her in the opening scene? She’s the girl in the car that gives her boyfriend a “hand” before they encounter a bloodsucker in a convenience store. (The scene is on You Tube, just look up Jessica Stroup.)

Ironically, the theme of tonight’s show was basically that parents suck. They drink, they cheat and worst of all they force you to go bowling. The Wilson parents announce that their Kansas tradition of family night will continue in Beverly Hills in the form of bowling on a Friday night, much to the chagrin of Mini-Bren and Blandon. (That’s Annie and Dixon; the early-Brenda clone and the black Brandon.)

The rest of the gang end up at the alleys, including Ethan, who now has a thing for Mini-Bren. In the most realistic moment of the show, Ethan checks out her ass while she’s bowling. Let’s face it, that’s pretty much the main reason why guys go bowling with girls. However, Mini-Bren has a date with Clark Kent… I mean Ty. He looks a lot like the dude from Smallville, doesn’t he? Does this make Ethan the Lex Luthor of Beverly Hills? If he shaves his head and starts collecting Kryptonite, this show just may start holding my interest.

Meanwhile, Naomi, the oldest sixteen year old of them all, is denied a trip to Vegas by her father, but is given a new SUV to make up for it. When she decides to thank her father by surprising him with some late night dinner at his office, she finds he’s already got a hot little side dish. This makes Naomi all sad and she goes off crying into the arms of Lex Luthor, because he is super, man.

Throughout the show, Silver keeps trying to find ways to avoid going home. She’s also the only kid who seems to enjoy bowling with strong parental figures. That’s because she has a drunk and abusive mother waiting for her at home. At the end of the night, Dixon spots her sleeping in her car and that leads to the rest of the gang learning of her domestic plight. Now, was it just me, or did the rest of you get a slight OJ Simpson vibe in that scene when Dixon is taking out the trash? Sneaking around in a dark walkway by a gate in Beverly Hills… does Dixon drive a white Bronco?

Once Kelly finds out that her mother Jackie is abusing Silver along with the bottle, she puts her budding romance with awkward Ryan on hold. No time for love, she’s too busy saving Silver, man.

Jackie and Kelly play tug of war with Silver, and finally Jackie kicks Silver out of the house. Now Silver can go live with Kelly. This will hopefully enable the writers to recycle plot lines from Jennie Garth’s last show What I Like About You, where she shared an apartment with her younger sister, Amanda Bynes.

Of course, the moment of truth in the war or the Taylor’s was when Jackie demeans Kelly by bringing up her son and the missing mystery father. We get more clues tonight. He’s a guy from high school that she used to have a thing with. Dylan, Brandon? I don’t know, his hair looks a lot like Steve Sanders’. Personally, I suspect the father is Muntz, Steve’s wacky frat brother. But what do I know?

Next week Brenda is back and Dixon brutally murders Naomi and Ethan. He flees in Naomi’s new white SUV in a low speed chase down the 405 while Silver finds a bloody glove by the pool house and posts a new video blog about it, compromising the blood evidence. Meanwhile, Marcia Clark blows off a date with Mark Fuhrman and hooks up with Judge Ito.

It’s just another night in Beverly Hills.

Tata for now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

90210- Same Zip Code, Empty Mailbox

The great poet Jon Bon Jovi once asked, “Who says you can't go home?”
I’ll tell you who says that Mr. Jovi. I do. You can’t go home again. At least not in Beverly Hills.

Tonight marked the premiere of next generation of 90210 and the first words uttered by any character were those of Dixon Wilson. He said “This sucks.” I’ve got to hand it to Dixon; he called it right off the bat.

Dixon was referring to his family’s move to Beverly Hills from Kansas, but he might as well have been talking about this new show.

Sure, it was entertaining for a while. There were enough references to the old show, as well as the anticipation of cameos to hold my interest for a while. (Best reference, Andrea Zuckerman’s daughter being described as looking thirty.) Then the show just kept going. It seemed like the longest hour of my life… until I realized to my horror that this was a two hour special and I had another 45 minutes to go.

Maybe the problem is really more with me and not the show. This is just another CW teen drama, with the 90210 label slapped on for branding. Name recognition goes a long way in attracting an audience. Just look at all the variations of CSI. The show I really want to see is simply the original 90210 cast eight years later, and not these new, cookie cutter characters. I’m not going to get that, so I’ve got to settle for a few minutes of Kelly, Brenda and Nat sprinkled in around a show that seems to be the inbred love-child of Saved By the Bell and The Hills.

So let’s talk about the old “90210ers” that showed up tonight, since that’s what we all really care about. Kelly Taylor was the most prominent character from the original show, but Jennie Garth was billed as a guest star, so who knows how long she’ll be around. Kelly is now a guidance counselor at West Beverly High. Kelly was, among other things, a coke addict, a rape victim, in a cult and had an eating disorder. She also did very well on Dancing with the Stars, so she’s certainly ready for anything these kids can throw at her.

We last saw Kelly in 2000, at Donna and David Silver’s wedding, where she had reconnected with her soul-mate, Dylan McKay. There’s no sign of Dylan, but we learn that Kelly has a 4 ½ year old son, but we don’t know who the little bastard’s father is. They hint that it could be the spawn of Brandon Walsh, but I’m sure they will be throwing red herrings at us all season before we learn the truth.

Seeing Kelly Taylor made me think of the abrupt, open-ended finale of The Sopranos. We don’t know if Tony was whacked or if he lives. It’s up to our imagination… unless they decide to do a Sopranos movie. If that happens, then we know Tony lived and the power of that ending will be lost. When the original 90210 ended we all assumed that Kelly and Dylan ended up together, but now that’s out the window and Kelly’s story continues. It’s just smooshed into a few spare minutes in-between the new characters’ drama.

Speaking of someone who was just squeezed into the show, my main man Nat made a brief appearance wrestling with a cappuccino machine in the new, fancier Peach Pit. Nat is also on hand for the main event of the evening, the arrival of Brenda Walsh. I have to admit, when I heard Shannen Doherty utter the words “Mega-Burger”, it was the most orgasmic moment of the entire night for me.

Kelly and Brenda hug out their differences and before you know it, Brenda is acting as Kelly’s wingman when she volunteers to baby sit so that Kelly can go on a date with the young and awkward teacher, Ryan Matthews. Maybe he will turn out to be a bad guy and hook her on drugs, try to rape her or maybe just never take her dancing.

As for the new cast we have a girl who could be Mischa Barton’s stunt double as Anne, the lead girl, and her adopted brother Dixon, who happens to be black. (Oh, the plot possibilities. Anyone else getting Jungle Fever?)

Their father is Rob Estes, who I remember from the classic show Silk Stalkings, which was the USA network’s soft porn cop show. As Harry Wilson, he has a much larger role than Brenda and Brandon’s father did in the original. He’s the school principal, so he’s sort of a hybrid of Mike Brady and Mr. Belding.

The other new character of note is the Wilson’s grandmother, who is the wacky Grandpa Munster or Uncle Fester-like figure. She’s played by the woman who was the mother on Arrested Development, and she practically plays the same character, right down to the ever-present drink in her hand.

We also meet "Silver", who is the grown-up baby sister of Kelly and David. She has a web site that makes fun of people at West Beverly. I gotta make me one of those. Silver hints at the drama that is to come from the Taylor-Silver family. As we see in the previews for next week, Kelly’s mom is crashing the party. More original show characters… that’s more like it.

Okay, time to wrap this up, it’s getting late. The original 90210 was a unique and beloved show because it was so corny, predictable, ridiculous and fun. It somehow managed to suck you in and before you knew it, you were hooked. I’m betting this new version will not so much suck you in, as it will simply suck. I guess we’ll have to give it a few more episodes to see if Dixon was right.

Tata for now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tropic Thunder Struck

If you are wondering if you should see Tropic Thunder, the new movie starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr. and Jack Black, stop thinking about it and just go. Tropic Thunder is hilarious. This is one of those “Don’t Miss” movies.

It’s about a group of actors who are left in the jungles of Vietnam to film the one of the most authentic war movies ever. What we get is one of the funniest war movies ever.

Along the way they cross paths with a guerilla drug operation that puts them in real danger. When the real bullets fly, our heroes think it’s all just part of the production.

The main attraction of this movie is Robert Downey, Jr., who plays a method actor so committed to his roles that he has himself surgically pigmented black in order to play an African American soldier, and then never breaks character even when all hell breaks loose. Next to Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker in Dark Knight, this may be the best performance of the year.

Some people are kind of hit or miss with Ben Stiller. Don’t worry. It’s definitely a hit this time around. His shtick is just right for the past-his-prime action hero he plays. And Jack Black is the perfect compliment to his costars as a pudgy comedy star with a habit.

To be fair, the entire cast is great. I won’t spoil it for you, but there are a ton of cameos and surprise actors in this movie. Each one will make you smile, and a couple will have you flat out laughing out loud. You’ll know what I mean after you see it.

The bottom line is that there are laughs from start to finish, and many of them are belly laughs. If you want a couple of hours of fun and funny entertainment, Tropic Thunder is a very good investment. Just be sure you get to the theatre early, so you don’t miss the beginning of the film.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Movies I Always Watch: 2

I got home from a long day and looked forward to a couple of hours in front of the tube. That’s when I stumbled upon another one of those movies I always end up watching again and again. This time it was Independence Day, with Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Randy Quaid, Vivica A. Fox and about a million other well known actors. I knew that no matter what I else I found, I’d find myself flipping over every few minutes for some lighthearted alien invasion fun.

Then, as I surfed around I came across The Rock. Oh no. The Rock is the very movie that got this segment started in the first place. I simply can’t help but watch that silly, over the top masterpiece. Two of these kinds of movies at the same time, could this be a sign of the apocalypse? Is it like crossing the streams of the Ghostbuster’s proton packs? How do I handle this?

I’ll tell you how I handled it. I handled it similar to the way Superman handles all those simultaneous cries for help he hears from all over the world. I do the best I can. I flick back and forth. As soon as one movie hits a slow spot, I check in on the other. My thumb worked with a strength and dexterity worthy of the Man of Steel himself.

While I worked my clicker magic I discovered a new Iron Chef America was on as well. The stars really were aligning. That’s one of the best clicker shows ever. No need to watch from start to finish, but great to check in with at commercials. To my thumbs chagrin, I added it to the mix.

What a night. The only thing I had to be aware of was to not miss my favorite line in Independence Day. No, not “Welcome to Earth!” It’s when Randy Quaid flies his jet into the alien mother ship. “In the words of my generation, UP YOURS!!!”

Oh, one last thought in closing. Ghostbusters would definitely qualify as one of those movies I always watch. Thank God that wasn’t on tonight too. My poor thumb probably would have fallen off.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Starbucks Code

This morning I went to Starbucks to grab a cup of coffee. I forgot just how freaking annoying those places can be. I haven’t been to Starbucks in a while, so it took me a minute to remember their stupid Da Vinci Code of coffee sizes. I was spacing on what the hell a “large” was in Latin, Italian or whatever dialect that is.

Then, like Tom Hanks in the shadow of Sir Isaac Newton’s tomb, I deduced that “Venti” was the word for large. Triumphantly, I spoke the password and expected to gain access to this secret society of caffeine. Unfortunately, the cranky chick at the counter… I mean “Barista”, did not understand what I said so I had to repeat myself. It’s bad enough to have to say it once, but there was something about saying “Venti” a second time that really pissed me off. Now they are just messing with me. Ordering coffee should not be like playing Simon Sez.

I don’t know why we have to speak another language to order coffee at Starbucks. Maybe it’s more like The Da Vinci Code than we know. Perhaps Baristas are descendants of the Knights Templar, and they are protecting the secret of the Holy Grail. Except the Holy Grail wasn’t Mary Magdalene, it actually was a cup… of strong, over-priced coffee. It was a Venti with three squirts of vanilla syrup; one for each member of the Holy Trinity. Who knows? Maybe the Holy Grail had a cardboard sleeve around it to keep Christ’s hand insulated from the hot coffee. I wonder if Jesus had to use a sticker to cover the hole in the lid to keep the coffee from spitting out all over his hand on the way home.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen at Dunkin Donuts or Donut Delight. It’s much simpler. The only foreign language there is spoken by the employees, not the customers. And they will even add the cream and sugar for you. No need to contemplate if Sugar in the Raw is somehow healthier than the regular stuff. And I never have deal with moral dilemmas, like whether pouring a small portion of my coffee into the garbage to make room for milk is a sin or not.

Okay, maybe I am over reacting. I didn’t mean to get as angry as that crazy albino in the movie. Cut me some slack, I haven’t had my coffee yet.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Movies I Always Watch: Part 1

Tonight as I was flipping around the stations and I stumbled upon The Rock, with Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery. I have seen it a million times, but you know what? I kept flipping back over and watching it. The Rock is one of those movies I will always watch if it’s on.

Some others? A Few Good Men and The Patriot, with Mel Gibson. If those movies are on, I may not sit from start to finish, but I always get sucked in and before you know it, I’ve seen it yet again. I just can’t help it.

Can anyone turn off A Few Good Men?
I want the truth. I can handle it.
I don’t think it can be done.

The Patriot always hooks me towards the beginning, when Mel Gibson ambushes the Red Coats in order to save Heath Ledger. “Aim small, miss small.” Once he goes nuts with that hatchet, I’m all done for the night.

Okay, I gotta go. I have get back to The Rock to catch the part when Nicholas Cage calls the guy “The Rocket Man” and launches him out of the lighthouse on a missile. I have to catch my favorite line in the movie, “He’s you. You’re the rocket man.”

To be continued…

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Oh, What a Knight.

The Dark Knight lives up to the hype. Most people won’t need a review to convince them to see it, but if you do, then… go see it. Don’t miss this in the theater. Go see it in IMAX if you can. This movie is an event. It is huge piece of entertainment, but it’s complex, heavy and dark. It’s not a happy movie and it is not a kid’s movie. It is however, a GREAT movie.

Marvel Comics recently began to create a film universe that mirrors their comic book world. It’s a fantastic place where super powered beings exist along with extraordinary technology that make the impossible possible. Director Christopher Nolan does the opposite with his world of Batman. This is grounded in reality, with just enough fantasy to make it a superhero movie. This movie is more of a crime drama, kind of like Heat with a touch of James Bond thrown in for flavor and some No Country for Old Men for spice.

Heath Ledger is at the heart of the story of this film. His death casts a shadow on it, and it got the film’s legend growing before it was even released. His Joker is amazing. This version of the Joker will change the character forever, much like Frank Miller’s graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, reinvented the Batman character. He’s taken the character to a new place, and it’s somewhere in hell just south of Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs and Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. Give him the Oscar. He deserves it. Heath is gone, but this performance will live forever.

I don’t think you need to ever ask who the best actor to ever play The Joker was. Each actor was right for their time. I’ll just say the Ledger stands on the shoulders of Caesar Romero and Jack Nicholson and establishes a more terrifying and intelligent interpretation of the character. You will be riveted by his performance.

The writers are at the top of their game and the actors take the material and run. The entire cast is excellent, with Christian Bale handling the mantle of Batman and Bruce Wayne as well as ever. His character is layered, so you see all the sides of this man; the gruff masked avenger, the frivolous playboy facade and the private, driven Bruce Wayne. Bale definitely lives up to the reponsibilty of portaying the Dark Knight. Aaron Eckhart plays Harvey Dent, the D.A. that we all know will eventually become the villain Two Face. As Nolan did with The Scarecrow in Batman Begins, Two Face is slightly reinvented for this universe. He is the pivotal character in this movie.

One of the strengths of this movie is that it puts the characters in unpleasant situations and forces them to make very tough choices. And sometimes even the right choice turns out to be wrong. I have never seen a superhero move tackle serious issues like this, and handle them so deftly. Like Empire Strikes Back, this movie beats the hell out of its characters, and no one lives happily ever after. But as Harvey Dent says, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

The knocks on The Dark Knight? It is two and a half hours long. There might have been a few things they could have shortened, but I was not complaining. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say that people who have seen the movie have one or two minor complaints, but most people I know want to see it again, which is probably the best endorsement there is for a movie. I know I’ll be seeing it again. And again. And again.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

No Joke. I'm Psyched.

The Dark Knight comes out on Friday.

Do I look excited?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mega Good News

Some days some days you get the peach, some days you get the pit.

This week we got a peach my friends.

If you are at all familiar with my old 90210 recaps from back in the day, you know a few things about me… I love Jennie Garth with long hair, I thought attorney Matt Durning was a tool and most of all, my favorite person in the zip code of 90210 is Nat Bussichio, a.k.a. Joe E. Tata.

As the buzz builds on the new 90210, the good news just keeps pouring in. First hell froze over as we learned that Shannen Doherty is going to make an appearance on the new Niner. Now it has been reported that Nat will be in the pilot episode as the owner of the Peach Pit Diner. It’s not clear if he will have a recurring role. They’re crazy if he doesn’t.

How great would it be if he was featured in the opening credits, like back in the day? Oh, how I long to see his fatherly grin and the words “And Joe E. Tata as Nat” at the end of the credits on the new show. A guy can dream, can’t he?

I guess a cameo for now is good enough for me for now. I don’t think the show will last too long anyway, so if I can get one last Mega-Burger from my old pal Nat, I will savor every bite.

Tata for now.

Here’s a link to the story:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Wall-E is Prett-E Good

Seldom do you see a movie get so many rave reviews as this new Pixar animated movie Wall-E. At first glance I had no real desire to see it, but the overwhelming response to the movie convinced me to give it a shot. Glad I did… it is a good movie.

Let’s be clear, I don’t think it is the greatest movie ever made, nor do I think it’s even Pixar’s best movie. But, this movie should please just about anyone who watches it. Whether you want to take the kids to the movies, it’s a date or just a night out with friends, everyone should enjoy this movie from start to finish. One exception might be young boys, who may want more action in their movies.

I won’t give away much at all here. Wall-E is a robot that is sort of a cross between R2-D2, Johnny-Five from the Short Circuit movies and your trash compactor. He’s been alone for a long, long time on a now-deserted Earth until another robot arrives. It’s love at first sight, at least for Wall-E. As usual, Pixar is able to convey the most basic human emotions through animated objects. Longing, loneliness, fear, excitement and love as just a few examples. There’s plenty of humor that will connect with every age group and a little social commentary for the adults to boot. The special effects and animation are breathtaking. There are certain scenes where I was amazed that what I was watching was actually animated and not real.

The biggest knock I have on Wall-E is that I don’t feel a need to watch it again. For me, it’s kind of like the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks. I saw it and enjoyed it, but I don’t need seconds. Meanwhile, a movie like The Incredibles I will stop and watch almost anytime I flick by it on TV. Ever baby sit a five year old? You know that you will end up seeing some of these Pixar movies over and over and over again. I have seen Toy Story 2 about a zillion times, and I still get a kick out of it. I don’t know if Wall-E could stand up to that many viewings for me or a kid. There’s very little dialog and it’s just not as funny as other some other Pixar movies.

Bottom Line: If you want to see a good movie, Wall-E is a safe bet. No matter how old you are. Some of you saps will absolutely love this movie, others will simply have an enjoyable experience at the movies.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Second Coming

We hoped it would happen, but we never really expected it to. But now it just might happen.

Faith. Sometimes you just have to have faith. And sometimes faith is rewarded. Have you heard the news? Shannen Doherty might be returning to Beverly Hills on this new 90210.

I’d say I’m speechless, but I am writing a blog about it, so that’s not really true.

Brenda is back, baby. According to the article, (see link below) Tori may be out and Shannen is in. Shannen Doherty is the black pepper on the mashed potatoes of 90210. Sure, you’ll still eat mashed potatoes with salt, butter or gravy, but you like them better with some fresh ground pepper, and you really notice a difference when it’s missing. There’s no fire, no spice. No Brenda Walsh.

I know the new 90210 will probably be a train wreck, but if Brenda and Kelly are driving that locomotive, save me a seat in the bar car.

Now, if only we can get a Charmed reunion going with original three sisters, I’ll really be excited. (Ah, we can include Rose McGowan too. Who am I kidding?)

Here’s the Link.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hulk: Green Giant Makes Me Jolly

When I heard they were making The Incredible Hulk, I was less than enthused. The 2003 movie, simply titled The Hulk, simply sucked. The only gamma ray of hope was that they were recasting the entire ensemble and practically ignoring the 2003 movie. Then I started hearing the buzz, and it was good. It was even passing the test of the most important demographic of them all, for this kind of movie, the super hero guys. That was good enough for me. I decide to give the Hulk a second chance.

The Incredible Hulk does a lot right. It’s evocative of both the old TV show and the comic books in equal parts.

First of all, it pays homage to the series that starred Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. I won’t give away too much, but if you are at all familiar with the show, look for some cameos and references that will make you smile. And listen for some familiar music as our tortured hero walks the streets. In some ways, this movie is the ultimate updating of that show.

However, the one thing that always bothered me about the TV show was that the Hulk never really fought any super-powered villains. It was always some band of thugs or bullies. One week they were bikers, the next cowboys and the next longshoreman. In the comics, the Hulk battled foes of every shape, size and superpower. In this movie, they finally match him up against every fans favorite Hulk-Villain; The Abomination. This was a similar creature, also created by gamma rays, but stronger and more intelligent than The Hulk.

So what you get is the Hulk event you’ve been waiting for; The Hulk and The Abomination smashing the hell out of each other and New York City. And the special effects are good. In-between the action is a pretty good story of Banner’s quest to control the beast within, while staying one step ahead of his pursuers. It’s a fun popcorn movie for the general public, with plenty of action and references to the Marvel universe for the comic book nerds, like me. Edward Norton makes a pretty good Bruce Banner. In the 2003 movie, Eric Bana was just too big. (Remember, Bana was the baddest badass in Black Hawk Down.) Banner is supposed to be a wimp. Tim Roth is also a standout as the soldier who eventually becomes The Abomination.

With The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man, Marvel Comics is starting to make movies that are truer to the source material, while hiring top notch actors to play the characters. They’re also cross pollinating their movies with characters from other books, moving towards future films that will feature two or more Marvel heroes, rather than a series of stand alone films. This is very good news indeed.

I give The Incredible Hulk a big, muscle-bound, green thumbs-up. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go get a life.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It’s Cloverfield, Not Dangerfield

Show the movie Cloverfield some respect, will ya?

I liked it. I’m not saying it’s the greatest movie ever made. It’s not. But it is a very fresh take on a stale genre. It’s original and takes chances. You can’t say that about too many films these days.

Cloverfield is a movie about a giant monster that attacks New York. However, this movie is filmed from the point of view of a handheld video camera by a regular guy attending a party when the action begins. It’s been described as The Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla, and that’s pretty darn accurate. Just throw in a touch of 9/11 video styling for added realism like you’ve never seen before in a movie like this.

“Something you’ve never seen before” is probably the reason to give this movie some respect. You’ve seen plenty of giant monsters, but you’ve never seen one like this. You’ve never seen people reacting like they really would if a giant thing started tearing the city apart. They’d be panicked and totally clueless as to what was happening. Falling buildings, shrapnel and other people would pose just as much a threat as the creature.

Sure, the movie is flawed. There is a lot of talking in the first act, to establish the characters and set up the rest of the movie. There is shaky camera work. There are scenes where you know the camera man would never have kept filming in real life, but we wouldn’t have a movie if he did that. This is reel life. And yes, you don’t get a good look at the monster until the end. That’s part of the fun. It is not a traditional movie.

Watch it to see someone’s take on what a giant monster attack from the perspective of a scared civilian. Admire the balls it took to try something like this. Watch the DVD extras and look at how amazing the special effects really were. You will be amazed at what they pulled off for a movie shot from a handheld camera.

So lighten up and enjoy it for what it is. Love it or hate it, Cloverfield at least deserves a little respect.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Dumb

Here’s a movie that adults will think is made for kids and kids will probably think is made for adults. In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull we catch up with an older Indiana Jones. Everything is familiar, but a little different and frankly, just not as good. After adjusting to an aged Harrison Ford running around in the Indy get-up, I realized that if he has gotten older since the last movie, so have the rest of us. For a fantasy movie like this, it was quite a slap of reality.

So how was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? First let me establish my Indiana Jones standards. To me, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the best movies ever. Period. Citizen Cane and The Godfather? Keep them. I’ll take Raiders six ways from Sunday. As Han Solo, Harrison Ford was already “the man”, and then he goes and tops it. Raiders was a nonstop action movie with humor and an element of the supernatural that is hinted throughout the movie, but only truly exposed in the fantastic finale.

The other two Indiana Jones movies never quite lived up to the first one. I remember cringing early on in Temple of Doom. It was far more cutesy and cartoony. They added a little kid as the sidekick Short Round, the Scrappy Doo of the Indiana Jones series. The film was sillier than the first and the action sequences seemed like amusement park rides. The third movie, The Last Crusade, was better than the second, but still nowhere near as good as the original. Sean Connery as Henry Jones, Sr. provided plenty of comic fodder, but it was more slapstick than anything else. Also, in both sequels, the supernatural element is overdone and they relied far more on CG special effects than the original. The impossible situations were just a little too improbable in the sequels.

Having said that, there I was on Friday night of opening weekend, with a ticket in hand, very excited to see Indiana Jones in action again. The music alone is enough to stir up those old emotions. But rather quickly you realize this is not going to be the movie you were hoping for. The first third of the movie is definitely for the older people in the crowd. There are lots references to the first three movies and tips of the fedora to a couple of beloved characters. As you’ve seen in the trailers, we revisit a very familiar warehouse which we have not seen since the closing shot of Raiders.

The nostalgic nature of the movie is what will keep the old crowd going throughout the rest of the film. Meanwhile, the kids in the crowd will probably enjoy the movie enough, but they won’t appreciate the franchise like their elders do. How many adults do you think are dragging indifferent kids to the theatre while gushing over the wonder and magnificence of Indiana Jones? Meanwhile, these kids have seen more copycat characters of Indy than Indy himself. They probably don’t even realize he is the model in which all of the others were based.

The last two thirds of the movie are definitely geared towards the youngsters in the crowd. The action is outlandish and CG heavy. Indy shares the stage with another young sidekick. (Shia LaBeouf from Transformers.) While most of the supporting characters are forgettable and the plot a little convoluted, there were a couple of highlights. Cate Blanchett is pretty good as the villain, Irina Spalko. For an over-the-top character, she actually acts the most like a person who is experiencing some of the fantastic things that happen in this film. Another bright spot is the return of Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood to the series. No female lead has ever rivaled Marion in the hearts of most Indy fans. (She was in Raiders and Animal House... you gotta love her.)

The bottom line? Keep your expectations very low for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and you will enjoy it just enough. Just be prepared for a ridiculous, special effects laden ending. It’s not a great movie, but because it’s Indiana Jones, it’s passable. I would put it ahead of Temple of Doom and behind Last Crusade.

Monday, May 19, 2008


I’ve been hearing about this new version of 90210 that is supposed to be coming out. Well today I stumbled upon an actual trailer for it on YouTube. I nearly choked on my Mega-Burger when I saw it. Here it is:

New Niner (Click "Back" when you are done to get back here.)

There is no sign of Jennie Garth, who I heard is going to play a guidance counselor at West Beverly. My God, if I had a guidance counselor that looked like Kelly Taylor, I would be seeking guidance all the time.

The only familiar faces in the 90210 trailer were not from the original show. They are Finola Hughes, the mother from Charmed and Jessica Walter, the mother/grandmother from Arrested Development. (Ms. Walter’s presence is the only glimmer of hope gleaned from this trailer.)

From the trailer, this show looks exactly like what I thought it would be; another one of the endless cookie-cutter CW shows about pretty teenagers. This one will just benefit from the brand equity of the original show’s name and legacy. Hell, it works. Just slapping on the name 90210 has gotten my attention.

Hollywood banks on name recognition all the time. Make a zombie movie and it goes straight to DVD. Set it in a mall and call it a remake of Dawn of the Dead, suddenly more people will see it. Take a pedestrian action movie script called Simon Says, make the main character John McClane and you have Diehard with a Vengeance.

Unfortunately, the same reputation that will initially attract viewers is usually the thing that eventually drives them away. There is no way to replicate the cheese and kitsch of the original 90210. They can’t win. We will tune in expecting a new Dylan, Donna and Brenda. We won’t embrace new characters and we will cry “rip off” if they try to clone the old ones.

I guess it’s not impossible to succeed with this kind of thing. Star Trek: The Next Generation managed to pull it off. They tapped into the same Star Trek universe and managed to take it to new and entertaining place. It’s the exception, not the rule. Does anyone remember The New Odd Couple? I didn’t think so.

Let’s face it. We the show we want is 9021-Now. What is Dylan up to these days? Did he marry Kelly, or did he leave her to continue his life-long battle with mobsters. Did Donna and David last? What’s up with the Walsh twins? How old does Andrea Zuckerman look these days? Is the Peach Pit still open, or is it now a Starbucks? Did Steve Sanders end up in jail? Put it on HBO so we can have swearing and nudity.

I smell a hit…. and a Mega-Burger.

Tata for now.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Luvva Luvva, Hubba Hubba

If you see me walking down the street and I suddenly hug you.
If I leave you a sappy voice mail.
If I tell you I love you with a tear in my eye.
If I wear my feelings on my sleeve for a while, please cut me some slack.

I had an epiphany the other day and it has made me take a look at the big picture. I had a near miss. It got me thinking and it’s really weighing on me.

Life is short people. Your life is now. Don’t miss your chances.

What caused this emotional awakening? The other day the news reached me that there was a fire. It was at Pat’s Hubba Hubba in Stamford, CT. No one was injured, but I did not know the extent of the damage. Was it gone? Burned down? Consumed by the Wrath of God?

My mind raced. Had I had my last steak and chili wedge? I broke out in a cold sweat. Did the crowd at Jimmy’s Seaside see their last, late night, drunken chili dog, or pile of chili cheese fries? I was practically panicked.

Sure, I don’t go there that often, but I know it’s always there. And there are certain times that Hubba Hubba is the only thing that will scratch my itch. Now it might be gone. And I did not have a chance to say goodbye. I took it for granted.
Never again.

I am lucky. Hope is not lost. I hear that they are closed for repairs and renovations. They will be back. I cross my fingers and hope for the best; that they reopen and the menu is the same. I can get that fiery chili drizzled on any greasy dish I desire, and I can wash it down with a coke in a tiny, glass bottle.

So people, don’t miss this wake up call. Tell the people in your life that you love them. Write that novel. Take that trip. Kiss that girl. Learn that language. Get that dream job. But most of all, go eat at your favorite places. Eat like there is no tomorrow, because you never know when there won’t be a tomorrow.

Now if you will excuse me, I am heading up to Beverly, Ma to have a large beef with extra sauce at Nick’s Roast Beef.

Before it’s too late.

PS- I love you. (And chili.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Am Iron Man

Do you know what a Repulsor Ray is? If not, ask a ten year old boy. He may or may not know. Then go ask any guy over 30; your brother, boyfriend, co-worker… any adult American male between 30 and let’s say 45. Chances are he’ll know.

Repulsor Rays are the power beams that shoot out of Iron Man’s gloves. I know this because my generation grew up on superheroes. Even if you did not collect comic books, you have a pretty good grasp of the basics thanks to cartoons, live action shows and the comics at the barbershop.

A year ago, a ten year old probably couldn’t tell you what a Repulsor Ray was, because he probably had no idea who Iron Man was. Even now, if they saw the movie and enjoyed it, it’s just another action/special effects movie. Kids have less of an attachment to superheroes these days. There are too many other options and they move on. When I was a kid, you started with Superman, Batman and Spiderman and then you came know Iron Man, Captain America, Green Lantern, The Hulk, Thor and the X-Men, to name a few. And we never moved on. We are superhero people.

You see, all these superhero movies that come out are adult movies disguised as kid movies. We've been waiting all our lives for feature films based on these characters. Ask a 10 year old if he was excited about the Transformers or the upcoming G.I. Joe movie? Who are they? Now ask a thirty five year old. He’s giddy.

So if you are a superhero person, you have already seen Iron Man and probably liked it. If not, I can tell you I liked it. I thought it was one of the better superhero movies. It is more colorful and flamboyant than the new Batman movies, but it treats the source material with the same respect. And that’s one of the things we superhero guys appreciate.

Robert Downey Jr. is perfect as Tony Stark/Iron Man. He is cocky, funny, sincere and downright entertaining in the role. He makes the movie. Jeff Bridges is also great as the bad guy. You may not even recognize him at first. He is certainly not “The Dude” in this movie. Even Gwyneth Paltrow is good in the lead female role. We superhero guys are usually most critical of the women in these movies, just ask Katie Holmes. (Batman Begins) They cast top notch actors and it shows.

The movie is not perfect, but it certainly is very well done. I’d say it was one of the best comic book movies ever made… definitely in the top ten. Batman Begins and X-Men 2 being two of my favorites, so you can see where I am coming from. Bottom line, I think Iron Man is a really good movie… superhero guys should love it, and the rest of you should enjoy it too.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Don’t Forget Sarah Marshall

4/26/08- Forgetting Sarah Marshall is very funny and definitely not forgettable. It's from Judd Apatow and the gang that is responsible for a number of what might be looked back on as some of this generation's comedy classics; Forty Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad. You can slip Forgetting Sarah Marshall right into the mix if you like any of those movies.

The cast is great from top to bottom. Jason Segel holds his own as the Regular Joe lead that every guy can relate to on some level. He takes some risks in the name of getting a laugh that are pretty courageous and payoff big time. (Five minutes into the movie, you will know what I am talking about.) Kristen Bell is his drop-dead gorgeous celebrity girlfriend who breaks up with him at the beginning of the film. Forgetting Sarah Marshall would be a Herculean task for any guy, but switching to Mila Kunis makes it a whole lot easier. She sheds her Jackie character from That Seventies Show and portrays a beautiful, sweet and approachable girl that may also have some baggage.

Paul Rudd shows up as a stoner surf instructor and, as usual, knocks it out of the park. Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock appears as a naïve newlywed in some of the movie's funniest moments. However it's Russell Brand, who plays Sarah Marshall's new rock star love interest, who practically steals the movie. His pompous and flamboyant antics are hilarious. Bill Hadar (SNL) and Jonah Hill (Superbad) also show up in supporting roles.

I think of this movie a lot like I think of movies like Austin Powers and Anchorman, the over all story is almost incidental to the individual scenes. Every few minutes one or all of the people in my group were laughing out loud, and at times embarrassingly loud. The gags in this movie keep coming and almost always hit the mark.

I don't like to give away too much in a review, but there is a song performed in this movie that still cracks me up when I think about it. There is also a running satire of CSI that was great.
One of the great things about these movies is that they take a typical plot, like a guy with a broken heart stuck on vacation next to his ex-girlfriend and her new flame, and kick it in the groin with humor that can be crude, obnoxious and riotously funny. Like Forty Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, this movie has a heart, but as soon as it starts to wander into date movie territory, someone pulls it back with foul-mouthed dexterity that is to be admired. I'm sure there are some who think these movies are too vulgar. I don't agree. It's just bold. The movie will come close to the line, dance on it, and maybe even hop over it briefly to get the laugh, but it always jumps back in time to keep it from degrading into a tasteless mess.

So don't be the person who misses this movie and then can't join in on the quoting when you are out with your friends. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is definitely worth a few laughs.

I Am Legend... NOT!!

3/29/08- I finally watched the Will Smith version of I Am Legend on DVD after avoiding it in theatres. It’s based on the classic book by Richard Matheson, and this is actually the third time this story has been told on film. It was first done as The Last Man on Earth in 1964 with Vincent Price and as The Omega Man in 1971 with Charlton Heston. Lovers of the book wonder why they had to make this movie a third time. Lovers of the book should not worry. This movie resembles the book as much as Courtney Love resembles Faith Hill.

(I’ll leave out most of the story points, but there will be minor spoilers ahead.)

Lovers of the book, don’t watch this movie expecting to see that story. It ain’t pretty. It’s Courtney, not Faith. Everything you love about the book is missing; the nemesis Ben Cortman, the sexual frustration of the lonely main character and most of all the VAMPIRES. One of the greatest vampire stories ever written is now a feature film that is not about vampires. To Will Smith’s credit, he does a fine job in the Robert Neville role. He is a charismatic stage presence who pulls off both the heartfelt plight of a solitary man and the action sequences without a hitch. (Hitch… get it?)

The most important thing to keep in mind is that this movie was not made for the lovers of the book. This is another case of a Hollywood treatment of a story in order to deliver an accessible blockbuster movie. I can answer the question of why they remade this movie a third time. The time seemed right. Special effects have evolved to the point where you can finally make decent version of some of the more fantastic stories from years ago. I thought The Amityville Horror was a good movie to remake in theory, since the original has not aged well. They screwed that one up even more than this.

Another good reason for the remake is that there are a lot of people who don’t love the book. They don’t love it because they have never read it, or even heard of it. Most of the people I tell about the book or previous films have no idea they exist. I can thank my love of horror movies/stories and the old 4:30 Movie for my familiarity with the material. Ask a 20 year old what the 4:30 Movie is, or who Vincent Price is. You’ll be lucky if they know he does the voiceover in the Thriller video. I Am Legend is not a well known entity to the mainstream.If you accept the changes from the book, the first two thirds of the movie are fine. Will Smith living a lonely and sad existence in a deserted Manhattan is pretty good. As usual, it’s the last act that kills it. The meaning of the title is completely different from the book to the film, and that is the stake in the heart of this vampire-less fiasco. (Read the book if you want to know the meaning of the title.)

The departures from the book might have been more acceptable if the creatures looked better. Instead of vampires, the infected humans are now rabid CG cartoons that look like the love-child of Gollum and Mr. Clean. They don’t speak, they roar. They also jump around and climb like Spiderman on speed. Had they used real actors, they probably could have salvaged this movie and added some real tension. Unfortunately, Roger Rabbit had a more convincing mix of real actors and animation.

If you are not familiar with the source material, you’ll watch this movie and then pretty much shrug and forget about it in a week. It’s just another movie with a lousy ending. If you enjoyed the book, you will be upset that they blew the opportunity to bring the story you love to life. Then again, if you read the book you have probably either seen this already or have boycotted it altogether. You don’t need me telling you how much you’ll hate it.

What’s the bottom line? There is nothing legendary about the film I Am Legend. Now go read the book.