Monthly Archives: December 2009

Happy New Year!

Here’s wishing everyone a happy 2010. Have fun tonight, and be careful. It’d be a shame if you all died after getting plastered with your friends.

Advertisements

The Year End Review: TV

It’s had its ups and downs, but overall, the gods of television have been kind to us this year. This is my list of the top 5 best shows this year, and you can add this list of new TV to what you see below.

Battlestar Galactica

One of the best science fiction shows ever created ended its four-season run this year. And in the lead up to the end it never once stopped to breathe, or wasn’t able to find that balance between action and drama. I was glad that the show decided to answer some questions while leaving others ambiguous, and give it major props for tying some things up in ways I never suspected. Except for the whole Fat Lee thing. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Mad Men

If there’s any show that could drive me to drink, it’d be this one. And I mean that in a good way. Three seasons in and this is still one of the best shows on television, maybe the best currently running. It’s also one of the only shows I’ve seen that has yet to suffer any sort of creative slump. The stories, the characters, the acting, the production all make this one hard to keep out of any TV best-of lists this year. Plus now, any time I’m being sexist, I can just say that I’m pulling a Draper, and it’s all good.

Friday Night Lights

I’m a little late to the game when it comes to this one. I only started watching the show about a month ago, and I burned through three and a half seasons in only a couple of weeks. For me, this show is better than cocaine, and I can say that because I’m a massive cocaine addict. I really can’t say enough good things about it (the show, not cocaine). They gave us a game-changing finale last season, and have come up with a creative way to keep the story going despite the fact that about half of the cast has turned over. And where other shows try the same thing and fail, Friday Night Lights is still going strong. Plus, it’s filmed in my hometown. Seriously, I saw Brad Leland in downtown Austin a couple of weeks ago and almost crapped my pants. I might take some flak for it, but FNL definitely cracks my Top 5 best TV shows of the past 10 years.

Breaking Bad

Mad Men showed us that AMC knew how to handle their own drama series. Breaking Bad showed us that AMC was the network to watch out for. Can you believe that, up until a couple of years ago, all I could think of when I saw Bryan Cranston was, “Could you pass me a schtickle of fluoride?” He’s come a long way.

Parks and Recreation

At the end of last season, I was ready to write this one off. Amy Poehler is funny. Greg Daniels is funny. It only makes sense that if NBC put the two of them together, everyone would make bags and bags of money. Well, it turns out that building a park wasn’t the comedy gold mine everyone thought it would be. Now they’re in their second season, and have looked a little farther for their storylines, and the show couldn’t be funnier. This is easily the strongest of NBC’s Thursday night lineup.

A few popular shows that didn’t make it, and why…

30 Rock
I think there’s a reason 30 Rock has won the Emmy for best comedy series these past three years, and that is, for these past three years, it’s been the best comedy series on television. This season, it just hasn’t lived up to that. Tracy making jokes like, “I’ll show you that I can finish everything I–” or Liz liking ham can only go so far. These past couple of episodes have been a lot better, so we’ll see where they go.

The Office
I heard someone say that on this season of The Office, Dunder Mifflin should go out of business, everyone should lose their job, and that would be the end of the series. I didn’t think that was the most horrible idea I had ever heard. In its sixth season, The Office feels like it’s just spinning its wheels, especially now that Pam and Jim are happily married. A few episodes, like Shareholder Meeting, seemed like a lot of wasted potential. The company is losing money, and just when it seems like Scott and Oscar are going to save the day, every runs out of the hotel and speeds away in a limo.Hopefully the show comes back (creatively), because I don’t think NBC can afford to get rid of it right now. I’d hate to see it overstay its welcome.

Community
This show is still trying to decide what it wants to be. Is it a parody like The Office, is it over the top like 30 Rock? I don’t know, because they haven’t settled on one yet. Add that to the fact that all off the characters, with the exception of maybe Abed, are one-dimensional stereotypes, making Community one of the biggest disappointments this season. After that 5-minute clip they released last May, I really had my hopes up for this one.

Dexter
Although I enjoyed season 4 and thought the writers took some great creative twists, there have always been a few small things that have annoyed me about this show, and affected how much I enjoy it. One of them is Debra. Seriously, this woman is like a turd that just won’t flush. Hey, I wonder what happens to her this season. I bet she gets into a relationship that goes bad and manages to call everyone around her selfish along the way. My other big problem with this show is Dexter and Rita’s relationship. It stopped being believable after the first season. It’s like after she got over her experience with her first husband, she never found that balance between standing up for herself and being a jerk. And Dexter’s so great at blending in to normal life, yet still can’t stand up to her. Plus, the dialogue between the two of them reads like it came out of Marriage for Dummies.

Lost
I’m a huge fan of the show, but I didn’t think that the fifth season delivered the way previous seasons had. With the show about to begin its sixth and last season, I felt like it was taking one last, deep breath before it sped off to the finish.

FlashForward
This show is trying to be as great as Lost while ignoring everything that makes Lost great. On Lost, the characters always came before the mystery, and on FlashForward, I’m still trying to remember what the characters names are. Add that to the fact that if everyone in the entire world blacked out for two minutes, there’d be no way in Hell I’d be back at work the next day, or week. Maybe ever. This show is bogged down in its own mythology, and I’m wondering if it’ll be able to crawl back out.

The Year End Review: Movies

There was no one movie that grabbed me the way There Will Be Blood or The Departed did a couple of years ago, but still, there were a lot of standouts this year. After much hemming and hawing, I’ve narrowed it down to my Top 3.

The Messenger

This one kind of snuck up on me. I was setting myself up to watch Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson as U.S. Army Casualty Notification Officers go head to head the entire film, and was surprised at the friendship that developed between the two. There’s a whole subplot with Foster dating the wife of a dead soldier, but you keep watching for the scenes between Foster and Harrelson.

The Road

I don’t think it’s necessarily difficult for a film to provoke an emotional reaction. Even if that reaction is mild revulsion or annoyance (cough, Juno, cough), it’s still an emotion. But provoking a reaction as strong as The Road did doesn’t happen very often. Definitely one of the strongest films this year. Not recommended for those suffering from depression.

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s all grown up now. His long-awaited World War II epic delivered on every level it could. You had the over-the-top characters, the long-winded soliloquies, and all the violence you expect from a Tarantino movie, yet much more refined. Behind Pulp Fiction, this is the best movie Tarantino’s ever made, which made me very happy. Because after waiting for this movie since I was in high school, I think I would have broken down and cried if it had been a flop.

Honorable mentions go to…

Bronson
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Moon
Star Trek
Up in the Air
Zombieland

“What are the facts?”

Just in time for the Holiday box office boost is Sherlock Holmes, one of Hollywood’s better, yet still obvious, attempts at franchise movie magic we’ve seen these last few years. Now, I’ve never read any of the Sherlock Holmes novels or short stories (although they’re sitting in my to-be-read stack), so maybe once I’ve read them I’ll look at the movie differently. But for now, I’ll judge it on its own merits. Let the great experiment begin!

Overall, I felt that Sherlock Holmes was a movie that took some really good source material and gave it a typical Hollywood makeover. Inject some action, a little comedy, attach a big-name cast, and you’re almost guaranteed three movies. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Plenty of other movies have followed the same formula and been more or less enjoyable. And I did find Sherlock Holmes to be an enjoyable movie, just not great by any means.

If Robert Downey Jr. has taught us anything it’s that people who do drugs will always land on their feet. And as long as they’re funny/sexy we’ll always be ready to welcome them back into the fold. What this has to do with the review I still haven’t figured out. If you have any idea, please post your thoughts in the comments section. Anyway, Downey’s portrayal of Holmes is an interesting one. Instead of the typical, self-absorbed detective, he’s portrayed almost like he’s autistic. He’s so trapped inside his head that venturing out of it is almost painful for him. Before the trailer I don’t think it was what people were expecting and I think it’ll work well for the inevitable sequels.

I was glad to see that they chose to portray Watson and someone who was actually competent at what he did, rather than some bumbling, idiotic sidekick. Johnny Knoxville as Watson. That would have been great. Jude Law seems perfect for the role, and plays it every bit as well as Downey plays Holmes. The only one who really felt out of place in the movie was Rachel McAdams. Maybe out of place is the wrong choice of words. More like, why was she there? McAdams seemed more like a place-holder than anything else and if the filmmakers had instead decided to cast Winona Ryder or Gwyneth Paltrow I don’t see the role being very different.

I felt the overall plot of the film was a little strange. We all know that Holmes’ nemesis is Professor Moriarty, and I thought it was a smart decision not to feature him in the first film. Just like the Joker wasn’t the bad guy in Batman Begins. It’s good to spend a little time setting things up. Letting the audience get to know Holmes and Watson, the dynamics of their relationship, and the people they work with. But having the first villain to face Holmes be some sort of black magic wizard just felt like they were trying to push Holmes into a world he didn’t belong in. For me, that juxtaposition between solid detective work and mysticism just didn’t work, and really took a lot of tension from the movie. It’s a shame because you look at other places it’s been done (The X-Files comes to mind) and see that when done right, it comes off beautifully.

Holmes is set in the 1890s. And while a fantastic job was done on the costume and set design, you still get that sense that you’re looking at everything through some sort of gloss. You know London is a dirty place, but you get the feeling that someone’s sitting there saying, “Look! London! Gross!” It feels like the world you’re looking at isn’t genuine. This is only made worse by the movie’s final showdown between Holmes and Lord Blackwood, set in the middle of CGI porn we haven’t seen since the Star Wars prequels.

Despite all of this, the movie does offer some laughs, along with the opportunity to unwind and just enjoy yourself for two hours. Downey’s portrayal of Holmes, along with his chemistry with Law makes the movie definitely worth checking out. By and large, I think this one will please the great, unwashed, movie-going public, as we’ve seen from this past week’s box office numbers. I hear they’re talking to Brad Pitt to play Moriarty in the sequel, so it’ll be interesting to see where things go from here.

Merry Christmas!

Working Title wishes its readers (and ONLY its readers) a Merry Christmas! Wishes for a Happy New Year coming soon.


“Sometimes I feel quite alone in the world.”

The Young Victoria isn’t the first movie of its kind, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. It seems like every few years there’s another monarch they bring out and give the big screen treatment to. While some of them just sort of blend together, The Young Victoria manages to stand out from the rest.

If you’ve seen the trailers you might go into the theater expecting a different movie. The previews make it look like it’s filled with double-crossings and political intrigue, much like Elizabeth, or Newsies. And in the beginning, at least, that’s what you get. Mark Strong as Sir John Conroy and Miranda Richardson as the Duchess of Kent serve as the film’s baddies, trying to wrestle power away from Victoria as she’s still trying to find her way in this new life. So you settle in expecting to see this for the rest of movie when suddenly things shift focus and Victoria’s relationship and marriage to Prince Albert takes center stage. And while I really liked that aspect of it, it takes almost all the tension out of the film. I mean, we know the two end up together. Screenwriter Julian Fellowes took a few creative liberties to inject some unpredictability into his script.

So the film goes from political intrigue to love story, and while it does make things seem a little uneven, that second half is just as enjoyable to watch as the first. Like I said, we know they end up together, so you’re able to just sit back and enjoy it. Blunt delivers much more than a one-note performance, and clearly shows that she’s capable of taking the reigns as a leading lady. Watching her run around as a newlywed, kissing her husband and generally being in love isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but you find yourself smiling at the entire thing almost despite yourself. You’re kind of sucked in from start to stop. Rupert Friend as Prince Albert is subdued. He offers a powerful performance almost without you knowing it, and could probably be considered the film’s secret weapon.

Emily Blunt takes a role, the English monarch, that’s really never a sure thing. With it having been done so many times, this kind of movie can really be hit or miss, but she makes it her own. From the very beginning, she makes the character relatable. We see the sheltered young princess, unsure of herself, yet who decides at an early age that she won’t be deterred from what she sees as her birthright. We see her slowly transform into the benevolent queen, searching for her equal, and eventually finding it in her husband. Yet there’s still an assumption on her part that, as the queen, she is the more equal of the two. It’s all a lot of fun to watch, and I’m hoping this one gets more attention than I think it will. Definitely recommended.

An arrow will make quick work of the Sheriff’s men! Haha!

You have to wonder what new direction they could possibly take another Robin Hood movie in. But then you remember that it’s Ridley Scott, and as long as there’s a scene with Robin Hood sticking a suppository bomb inside one of those La Hermandad guys, all will be right with the world. Wait, that was Tony Scott. Well, let’s do it anyway.