Monthly Archives: July 2010

What do you do when gods make war? Thor!**

**Although I’m not exactly sure how you would “do” Thor, and what good it might do when gods are making war. Perhaps some of my female readers can enlighten us after they’ve watched a few minutes of hunky Chris Hemsworth dressed up as the God of Thunder.

But anyway. I know what you’re thinking. Comic Con sucks. But there were a few things to come out this year that were pretty cool. One of those is the trailer for next year’s Thor, which has a surprisingly good cast for what could easily be the weakest of the Marvel films leading up to The Avengers. Take a look below.

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Mad Men, “Public Relations”: I’m Donald Draper, b**ch.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Dickens wrote, and it seems the same is applicable at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, the scrappy upstart that may be wondering if it’s bit off more than it can chew.

It’s a rare thing to see a show genuinely reinvent itself, especially a show as popular as Mad Men. But if “Public Relations” is any indication, it looks like that’s exactly what the show’s done. But while the stakes in Don’s world have definitely been raised and all of our characters seem to be in uncharted waters as far as their relationships with each other go, it still feels like our Mad Men, albeit a little brighter and snazzy in that this-is-how-bases-on-the-moon-will-look-one-day sort of way.

While things look like business as usual in the beginning of the episode,we can already see how different things have become. Don has always been a prize pony, as Connie Hilton might say, but now that the new agency is struggling to find its place in the world, he’s become more valuable than ever. And as his worth has gone up, so it seems that potential clients’ excitement over dealing with him has, too. The bottom line is that, if Don can’t deliver, everyone hurts.

Things are no less hectic back at the shiny new offices of SCDP, which look like they were taken straight out of the show’s title sequence. Things are a little more cramped, although we don’t see all of the hustle and bustle we saw at Sterling Cooper. From the people who have carried over to the new agency, I think we see the biggest change in Peggy, who’s really come out of her shell.

Not only do we see how different things are for Don, but also for his better half (although some might argue that point). I guess you can’t even call Betty Don’s better half anyway, as she’s now remarried to Henry Francis. It wasn’t any big secret before, but now that Betty doesn’t have her crappy marriage to Don to hide behind, I think it’s going to become that much more apparent what a bad mother she is. Henry already walks around with a look on his face that says he got more than he expected by marrying her.

But divorce or no divorce, Betty’s still under Don’s thumb to a certain extent. She has yet to move out of the house, which Don owns. And I doubt that’s something he’s just going to ignore for too long. When he asked Betty how long it would be until they were out, and Betty threw her hissy fit about not having found the right place for the kids, Henry stepped in, telling Don that their staying there was only temporary. This prompted one of the best lines of the entire episode: “Believe me, Henry, everybody thinks this is temporary.” Zing! I’m glad to see that things are about as cordial as they were when they were still married.

Now that Don’s officially on the market again, he’s free to pursue his philandering. Jane sets him up on a date with a friend who looks like she’s actually going to make Don work if he wants a chance with her. Of course, when Don’s feeling lazy, he can always call exotic-looking prostitutes to come over and slap him around for a while. That dominatrix stuff may have been the episode’s biggest surprise, and I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Oh! Don feels guilty over the way he treats the women in his life, so he’s punishing himself!” I likely culprit, I’ll admit, but I don’t want to believe that the show would be so overt in its thematics.

Mad Men is a show that, unlike so many others, really hasn’t dipped in quality in the three + years its been on the air. Still, it still seems to have found a new energy that wasn’t there before. It’s flashier, it’s cooler and it’s meaner. Don’s got the world by the tail, but does he really? He copes, but you have to think that that can only go so far. There’s only so much the world can heap upon him. And when he breaks, as Fox Mulder might say, it’s going to be the biggest s**tstorm of all time. Don’t let the flashy lights fool you, things may not be as pretty as they seem.

Stuff I liked:

  • “John!” “Marsha!”
  • “It’s the Daily News. It’s one, big section.”
  • I like the character fine, but Joey sort of reminded me of Roy from that episode of The Simpsons. I half expected him to say things like, “Heeey, Mr. D!”
  • The picture of Kennedy hanging up in Peggy’s apartment.

Can’t stop. Won’t stop.

“You musn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”

When I first heard about Inception, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It wasn’t a video game or a comic book. And it didn’t have anything to do with Inception!, the popular 80s TV series starring Lee Majors. Then I discovered something curious: Inception was a completely original concept which hadn’t been adapted from any previously existing property. It had been so long since had seen anything like that, I’d almost forgotten what it was like. Needless to say, Christopher Nolan is a witch and should be buried under a load of heavy stones.

Seriously though, and all of the fanboyish love over movies like The Dark Knight (please be seated) aside, Christopher Nolan seems to be one of a dying in breed in Hollywood who have both the desire and the clout to bring a film like Inception — a big movie about big ideas — to theaters. And Inception definitely has some pretty hefty ideas. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a thief who can enter people’s dreams and extract their secrets. His skills have cost him his wife and his children, but now he’s being offered a chance to get it all back. One last job, where instead of stealing ideas, Cobb and his team will be planting one.

Even though the film has a lot going for it, there comes a point fairly early on when you wonder if Inception might collapse under its own weight. Like I said, this movie’s got plenty of big ideas. So many, in fact, that for the first half you begin to wonder if Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page aren’t really acting in the film, but taking turns reciting its instruction manual. That’s a little too harsh, but explaining the movie to the audience does make for some clunky exposition in the first hour or so.

Once the groundwork is laid down, the film picks up considerably. Of course, this is in no small part to the cast Nolan’s brought together. There are some actors out there who, regardless of the film, deliver consistently good work. Leonardo DiCaprio’s definitely one of them. Along with him, you’ve got Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who delivered a good, albeit somewhat boxy performance. Ellen Page, who amazed me by making me forget for two and a half hours that she was in Juno. And Tom Hardy, who has to be one of the most under-appreciated actors around.


But the cast and what a cool concept Inception is aside, what I appreciated most about the film was its sense of restraint. I’m willing to concede that they went a little over the top, but I’m one of those people who will argue in favor of the second and third Matrix films. With Inception, it would have been easy for Nolan to follow very closely in the Wachowski’s footsteps. Crazy CGI. Never-before-seen stunts. And we do get some of that, but Nolan is one of those filmmakers who knows when to dial things back. As Cobb as his team move deeper and deeper into the dreams of their mark, trying to plant their idea, nobody gains superhuman powers. And the dreams we see are all still grounded in reality. Well, except for that last one and if you’ve seen the film you’ll understand. But still, I never felt that Nolan was using the film’s subject matter as an excuse to — as the French say — masturbate all over the place, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

But even when Nolan does turn things up to 11, he does so incredibly well. The physics of the dreams and unique architecture of the dream worlds may be the best example of this. Some may find it simplistic, but I think it was probably the best way to convey this sort of concept to a mass audience. Think about some of the dreams you’ve had, and how batsh*t insane they are. Then think about how the movie would have been had Leo and co. had to navigate their way through freaky childhood clowns and that one time I peed myself in the middle of the Wal-Mart in front of my ex-wife. I think you get the point.

People are already talking about what Inception’s Oscar chances are, but unless we’re talking about set design or special effects, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I think films like Inception are doomed to suffer silently while lesser films get all the big accolades. Maybe that’s as it should be. Inception is definitely a blockbuster, but in a way I’ll always think of it as the little film that could. That is, the film that showed us it’s still possible to meld mind-blowing special effects with an actual story.

“What did we do to deserve this?” or “Oh, the humanity!”

Summertime. No school. Vacation. Big, blockbuster movies. It’s what we look forward to. Every summer we God-fearing, patriotic Americans (and our stupid, high school age kids) flock to our local cineplex to watch big-budget action flicks, hilarious and heartwarming animated movies, and slightly homoerotic art house films. But this year, 2010, Summer has been a cruel and unforgiving bitch goddess. While she occasionally dangles a Toy Story 3 or Predators in our faces, we’re forced to pay for it by enduring an unending stream of crap. Here are just a few choice selections.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: Hey! What a cool trailer! And look at those special effects! What’s that? M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t made a decent movie since Signs, and some would argue The Sixth Sense, and Avatar is almost universally hated by critics? Oh. I guess you’re right. Well, for a second there, I forgot how f’ing stupid Japanime or Manga or whatever the hell it’s called is. That was nice.

Jonah Hex: The Jonah Hex movie had been cooking for close to ten years before being released this Summer. And what’s better than waiting on something for ten years? Being disappointed after waiting ten years. I’ll admit, casting Josh Brolin in the lead role got my hopes up. But after Megan Fox was cast as walking, talking case of syphilis, I knew there was no saving this one. Oh well. At least I still have my Wild Wild West DVD.

Despicable Me: Poor Steve Carell. He’s given us big laughs on The Office, but Tinseltown hasn’t been as kind to him. Fortunately he’s found a way around that. Instead of doing more movies like Little Miss Sunshine, which rely way too much on iffy concepts like comedy and depth, he can do a kids movie, where jokes like “I said a DART GUN, not a FART GUN!” are–pffFFFTTT! A fart gun!! Hahaha!! Oh–holy s**t. Okay. You’ve won me over.

The A-Team: I was listening to TV on the Internet a few days ago, and Todd VanDerWerff brought up a good point. The A-Team is about a group of soldiers who were framed by the government and sent to prison. Why wouldn’t a network like FX or Showtime develop that as a rebooted TV series and explore some of that mythology, instead of turning it into a two-hour excuse for Bradley Cooper to smirk at the camera and shoot planes out of the sky. In a tank. On a parachute.

Salt: If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Angelina Jolie’s skin is pulled way too tight around her skull to be taken seriously as a superspy. And if the news is completely honest with me, which I like to think it is, I know that Russian spies don’t spend their time jumping out of windows and shooting people. They live in New Jersey and barbecue. Also, didn’t she retire from acting so she could adopt children full-time? I think I read that in The New Yorker.

All things considered, this is one of the worst Summers for movies in recent memory. So we have to ask: Who will save us?

In a recent article, sci-fi site io9 asked the question: Will Inception be Christopher Nolan’s first flop? The answer? Shut up io9. Of course it won’t. With Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nolan will make us all feel like we’re watching The Matrix for the very first time. And today, when most movies are adapted from comic books or 80s TV shows, that’s a very special feeling, indeed. So, Christopher Nolan, we salute you and hereby name you our new god!

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

It’s official. Ed Norton will NOT be coming back to the role of Bruce Banner for Marvel’s Avengers, which will be hitting theaters in a little under two years. But along with this sad (?) news comes something potentially MUCH more awesome. Right now, there are rumors going around that former actor and Matisyahu impersonator Joaquin Phoenix will come on board to take over the role! Isn’t that great? Awkward Letterman interviews aside, Phoenix is a pretty good actor and could probably bring a certain je ne sais quoi to the film. The Incredible Hulk was a good movie and I liked Norton in it, but I don’t feel particularly attached to him.

Go ahead and file this one under rumor, but run out and tell your friends that it’s a done deal.

Treme, “At the Foot of Canal Street”: New Orleans is still my home.

I think it’s safe to say that Treme is sort of like the Seinfeld of dramas. There’s nothing really happening. I mean, sure, LaDonna is trying to find her brother and Janette is trying to keep her restaurant afloat, but for the most part everyone is just drinking, playing music and hanging out. And while it may seem like a show like that isn’t doing a lot to bring you into its world, I felt like this was the episode that did just that. I finally feel like I’m caught up in the characters and what they’re going through. And while it’s made the show that much more enjoyable to watch, it’s also made me feel like less of an outsider to the whole Treme phenomenon. And while this show may not have the mythology of Lost, or keep me on the edge of my seat like Breaking Bad, I do feel like that’s progress.

While some of the show’s characters still seem to be on somewhat nebulous trajectories, I think we’re getting an idea on where some of these characters may end up by the end of the season. Leading the pack here is Sonny, who went with some friends to Texas to play at a roadhouse. I was worried what we were going to get was some stereotypical Texas honky tonk bar, where guys in 10-gallon hats walk around saying things like, “I’ll take whiskey, and make it a t-bone!” Luckily, what we saw was pretty on the level. Things didn’t work out exactly as Sonny had planned though, and besides making for an interesting scene, I think it speaks to Sonny as a character, and to his arc throughout Treme’s first season. Sonny got to New Orleans as fast as he could. And while I don’t think he had dreams of becoming a famous jazz musician, I think it’s reasonable to say that he expected his music to take him somewhere. But instead, one thing after another falls through. Now, he’s using drugs. Meanwhile’s Annie’s playing gigs back in New Orleans, and after being asked to play with Tom McDermott, it looks like her trajectory may be pointed a little higher than his. We’ll see how things pan out, but I think the happy couple’s days are numbered.

But things don’t look so bleak for all of our characters. Darius, the kid Albert found messing around in his bar stumbles on his Mardi Gras practice. Later, when his aunt comes looking for him, she invites Albert to dinner. It’s not like there’s much to be read into the dinner scene, as her intentions — not to mention Albert’s — were pretty obvious… They’re going to have sex. Both of them. Together. So that’s something to look forward to.

Toni’s come one step closer to finding Daymo, when she discovers that an accused murderer switched ID bracelets with him during the storm. I understand that situations like these are somewhat embellished for television, although I suspect that David Simon would portray them more realistically than most. Still, I don’t want to look at this all doe-eyed, saying, “Can you believe something like this could actually happen?” I can only imagine the madhouse that the justice system had become after the storm, with all the lost paperwork and what not. I think it’s situations like this that give us viewers the bigger glimpse into the post-Katrina chaos, even more than things like Janette and her restaurant.

The last character I wanted to touch on is Davis, who after running his car into a pothole filled with gravel has had the idea to run for city council. You can count me in with the crowd who hasn’t been completely turned off by Zahn’s character, but I am glad that they seem to have finally found something for him to do, and as it seems somewhat of an unlikely path, I’ll be interested to see how it all plays out.

Four episodes in, and I feel like I’ve watched much more of Treme than I actually have. While this show may not have the impact of other show’s, I am glad to be swept up in it, and that it seems to be picking up steam.