Sunday, September 30, 2007

Two and a Half Men - The Complete First Season

Written by Musgo Del Jefe

First, let's tap the brakes a little on what makes a successful comedy. Two and a Half Men is currently celebrating the start of its Fifth Season and the start of what will be a very profitable syndication run. But let's not confuse this with Seinfeld or M*A*S*H. Two and a Half Men is not a failure, it can rightly say that it's been the top-rated comedy the past couple years. Arrested Development could never come close to the numbers that this show draws. A typical summer repeat of the show draws almost 11 million viewers, making it a Top-Ten show in repeats! What draws everyone?

This isn't the type of show that needs to be deconstructed or have the subtleties pointed out. Like many succesful sit-coms, the premise is easily summed up. In most cases (Three's Company or Gilligan's Island for example) the premise can be summarized in the theme song or opening credits. The outline for this show is so simple they don't even bother because it's summed up in the title. Heavy-drinking, sexually active, jingle-writing musician, Charlie (Charlie Sheen) lives in his beach house in Malibu. His exactly opposite brother, Alan (Jon Cryer) is thrown out by his wife and comes to live with Charlie, bringing his 10-year-old son, Jake (Angus T. Jones) with him.

In the first few minutes of the "Pilot", we're already reminded of a slew of other sit-coms. The Odd Couple with an additional kid comes to mind first. Second, I couldn't help but notice that the apartment appears to be a slightly updated version of Laverne & Shirley's apartment from when they moved to California. And the laugh track. The laugh track is overwhelming. I guess the traditional sit-com has become the non-traditional with shows like Scrubs, The Office and 30 Rock gaining popularity. The laugh track here is painful and really takes away from most of the funny sarcasm.

The cast is filled out with Rose (Melanie Lynskey - Heavenly Creatures) as Charlie's stalker neighbor. Her role is like that of other wacky neighbors including Lenny & Squiggy and Kramer that make comedically timed entrances. Judith (Marin Hinkle) is Alan's ex-wife that may or may not be a lesbian, leading to the potential of gay humor every time she's in a scene (Will & Grace). Evelyn Harper (Holland Taylor) is the boy's mother and Jake's grandmother. These are the show's ingredients: ultra male, feminine male, cute-but-troublemaker boy, stalker/funny neighbor, gay/not gay ex-wife, and domineering mother. These ingredients can be mixed and matched into clever combinations.

The concept is simple and yet the amount of plots that can be developed from these basics is impressive. Take the "If I Can't Write" episode. It plays up the relationship of Charlie and Alan as a "couple" with Alan's feminine attention to house cleaning to comedic ends. When it's left up to Charlie to "clean up" Jake, the tables are turned and he learns to appreciate the hard work that Alan does. I believe I saw that episode of The Brady Bunch also. In "The Last Thing You Want" Charlie learns "responsibility" by going to Jake's soccer game. Both Alan and Charlie end up on "dates" with their opposites: Charlie gets the "good" girl and Alan gets the MILFs. With the roles reversed, both learn to see the world from the other's point of view. But like the rules of a sitcom, everything is returned to the way it started by the end of the episode.

I actually found it fun to follow the different combinations of characters. But this is the First Season; I'm not sure how you keep that going without inserting more characters in future seasons. The pedigree is impressive. You've got actors who've been in successful films, not TV retreads. And yet, it's rarely funny or satisfying. Starting with the second episode, the episode titles were quotes from that episode. Like an appearance of Hitchcock in one of his films, I was often distracted (maybe even entertained) waiting to hear the quote instead of following the plot.

The best parts of the First Season are when the two lead actors step out of their "world". In "Go East On Sunset" there's a clever "Taxicab Confessions" nod and in "Twenty-Five Little Pre-Pubers" there's a great skit with Jake's class combining Charlie's jingles with Jake's class play on the Industrial Revolution.

This isn't one of those discs with an overwhelming amount of extras like Lost, Heroes or The Office. There's a solid "Featurette" on the show and a Gag Reel with Outtakes.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

EAT MY DUST (Supercharged Edition)

Written by Puño Estupendo

If you say "Roger Corman" to someone, it seems like they are either completely "in the know" or are happily ignorant of what that name means. I'm not ashamed in the least to say that I love what that man's done, but don't necessarily love all of the movies he's brought into the world. So when I see a DVD with the "Roger Corman" banner on the box art, there's a pretty fair chance that I'm going to check it out at some point.

Eat My Dust is a nice little slice out of time from the 1970s involving stock cars, beer drinking, short shorts, and Ron Howard. Released in 1976 and directed by Charles B. Griffith, it focuses more on fast driving and "good ol' boy" humor than it does on plot or character development. Everything you need to know is all given to you in record time: within the first 15 minutes or so.

Hoover Niebold sneaks his friends into the local stock car races for some semi-rowdy fun and teenage carrying-on. Ron Howard is outgoing and confident in the role, generally likable right away. Hoover's supposed to be quite the character even though his only claims to infamy are a Civil War-styled hat, a jacket with a bunch of racing patches, and "more speeding tickets than anyone else in the county." That would be Puckerbush County to be exact, where Hoover's biggest problems seem to be his father the sheriff and his lack of a blond girlfriend in hot pants. He gets a quick chance to rectify the second problem, but it's going to be hell on the first one.

The blond in hot pants is a little out of Hoover's league wants to go for a fast ride, but Hoover's truck can't give it to her. However, she sees one that will do just right. Big Bubba Jones has his winning stock car within pointing distance and she seals the movie's plot by aiming her finger at it and saying, "I want a ride in that car." Hoover obviously has it bad for her so it doesn't take long for him to be peeling out of there with hot pants riding shotgun and his friends in the back of Big Bubba's (now stolen) pride and joy. This all takes place by the 17-minute mark. From then on it's chase, chase, chase, with Hoover's dad trying to get all of the parents in check and putting a stop to this situation.

There's a huge group of secondary characters in use here. You've got the bumbling police force, the "good ol' boy" car racers, the parents of Hoover's friends, and some miscellaneous one- or two-line jokesters. I knew I was going to like this cast when I saw Clint Howard show up as one of Hoover's buds, but what sealed the deal for '70s fun was when Dave Madden (Reuben Kincaid from The Partridge Family) comes on screen as Big Bubba Jones.

Now, admittedly so, I understand that's not much of a plot but that's not what you watch these movies for in the first place. What there is to be enjoyed from watching Eat My Dust is the joy of a time and place with movies that just couldn't happen now. This flick has every cliché in the book and you love it for it. Cars driving through buildings, fruit baskets and crates that are stacked in the street for no apparent reason, everyone has a beer in their hand while they're behind the wheel, and there's no such thing as sexism. You know the drill. You've seen this kind of action played out a gazillion times and yet it's fun here.

For the Corman fans out there, you get some nice little asides. Director Griffith wrote Death Race 2000, which was directed by Paul Bartel, who makes a minor appearance as one of the kid's dad. Griffith also wrote the 1959 classic A Bucket Of Blood, which turns out to be a tavern of some sort in Puckerbush.

This is the kind of movie that should always be playing on some cable station on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It's not the best movie of its kind but you won't need it to be. Just lie on the couch and smile; it's that kind of movie.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Boston Legal: Season Three

Written by Fumo Verde

Once again the cast and crew of Boston Legal throws the book at our wonderful yet many times broken legal system as the law offices of Crane, Poole & Schmidt seize upon the issues of the day while giving their viewers laughs all night. Can Season Three match the zaniness of Season Two? That’s for you to decide; to me, it’s just one continuous side ache, at times I can hardly breathe I’m laughing so much.

Season Three came off just as politically charged as last season if not more, and the intensity of the drama countered by the pure sidesplitting comedy takes the viewer on a trek through the emotional gamut. With Denny Crane (William Shatner) at the helm, could you expect anything else? Following Denny, Alan Shore (James Spader), and Shirley Schmidt (Candice Bergen) won’t teach you about your legal rights like Law and Order used too, but for a good escape from your day’s worries a little Boston Legal is good for the soul.

As all shows do, Boston Legal added some new and some not-so-new characters. Jeffery Coho (Craig Bierko) is the sneaky almost seedy lawyer we all hate yet want defending us. Sadly, we barely scratch the surface of Coho’s character. I wondered if he knew his last name was type of salmon. Didn’t matter, I was just waiting for him get into a fight with Brad Chase. Jeffery and Brad come to blows over a few issues including Denise (Julie Bowen), who looked as if she was on her way out last season. What transpires through the actions of these three characters alone could be a comedy show itself.

Jerry Espenson (Christian Clemenson) is back with an even bigger part and so is Clarence Bell (Gary Anthony Williams). Both men bring to the table a charm and wit that touches the viewers. These two characters have “special issues,” yet both adapt and change to their environment in a believable way that makes you feel that you can do it too.

It’s not just the new people who are having all the fun though. Alan is still sleeping around the legal offices of Boston while Denny’s new love interest Bethany seems to be putting him in his place—until her mother shows up. Enter Delta Burke; she is Bethany’s mom and one of Denny’s former lovers. As if this isn’t enough for our mad-cow brained leader, he also gets sued for smuggling human fat into the county for the use of making it into fuel.

Still more insanity comes down the pike with Lincoln Meyer (David Dean Bottrell) who was a witness in Coho’s case, overhyped by the media, of sex, love, and murder. Meyer is a psycho who holds Shirley hostage just so he could get more TV coverage. Moments like the one described above are the ones that keep you on the edge of your seat. Such is the episode where a man who hates Denny, straps a bomb to his own body and takes the firm hostage. The writers are highly intelligent and know how to keep you on that edge, yet they don’t forget to lighten up the moment with some comedy. As the police are getting ready to save the hostages, Brad, our former Marine, tries to help as he gets himself stuck in one of the buildings vents. The dialog between Brad and the police captain is classic. It’s the mix of this adrenaline-driven drama with outrageous comedy added with some political wit that puts Boston Legal into a category all of its own.

I love it when Alan is in court. I was never a fan of James Spader until I saw Boston Legal. He plays the part of an accomplished litigator very well, and with his little smirks and courtroom bravado one could only wish for a lawyer with that much ability. How can he not with writers so in tune with the pulse of our nation today. The episode “Angel of Death” puts Alan in the courts of New Orleans, and though Denny is in the Big Easy for fun, Alan has to represent a doctor who had to euthanize five patients in the wake of hurricane Katrina.

Boston Legal: Season Three
peels back the layers of the cast giving us new insight to characters. With twenty-four episodes on seven discs, it may take you some time to watch, but it’s worth every minute.

Friday, September 21, 2007

WALL STREET (20th Anniversary Edition)

Written by Senora Bicho

Greed is good and still alive and well in the United States. We are in a very interesting time in the history of our country. Today is all about instant gratification. Planning and saving for something you want is a thing of the past. Our country is in overwhelming debt, we have a housing market and mortgage crisis, and the U.S. dollar is losing value rapidly. Wall Street can be considered the perfect movie to highlight the excesses of the 1980s but with all of these issues facing us now, twenty years later, the movie is even more relevant and an important statement on the decisions facing young professionals.

I enjoyed Wall Street when it originally came out but it didn’t resonate as much as it does for me today. Over the course of my career I have worked with many powerful men. Some whom I still have tremendous respect for and some who just barely avoided jail. What is interesting about the Gordon Gekkos that I have run across is that they are so crazy with power that they don’t realize who they have become. They surround themselves with yes men and don’t see their downfall until it is too late. The role of Gordon Gekko, played so masterfully by Michael Douglas, which earned an Academy Award for his performance, hits on all cylinders and is a perfect representation of the corrupt businessman.

The story of Wall Street is about the rise and fall of Bud Fox played by Charlie Sheen, who does a great job conveying the naivety of the character and the quick desire for greatness and success that face young people starting their careers. Fox is a stockbroker stuck in the rat race. The film opens with him crammed in an elevator with all of the other rats. He is a nameless broker stuck in a cube maze who is determined to make it big. In order to achieve his goals he sets his sights on bagging Gordon Gekko as a client and therefore calls his office everyday for 59 days. On Gekko’s birthday Fox brings him a box of cigars and scores a few minutes in his office. Fox quickly learns that information is the only commodity Gekko is interested in and shares some insider information that Fox has learned about his father’s airline. This does the trick and earns him a chance.

Bud’s lifestyle changes as money, women, drugs, and entry into all of the New York hot spots are instantly thrown at him. It is easy to see why Fox would be so attracted to this lifestyle even at the price he has to pay for it. While Gekko is having a huge influence on him, there are two good influences in his life trying to steer him back to the right side of the law. His father, Carl Fox, played by his real-life father Martin Sheen, and a co-worker, Lou Mannheim, played by Hal Holbrook. Both of them are philosophers of sorts and provide Fox with pearls of wisdom. Both are wonderful in their roles, however, they do not compare to Gekko’s god-like magnetism. Carl sees through Gekko right from the beginning but Bud must see it for himself. The moment when Fox realizes what Gekko is really all about is very powerful and you can feel his disappointment in the person he looked up to the most. Fox’s decline is just a rapid as his rise. He loses the girl, his fancy apartment and ends up arrested but not before he saves his fathers airline and sets up Gekko for his downfall.

You can’t discuss Wall Street without mentioning the signature “Greed is Good” speech. Douglas has many great moments in the film but this scene is the high point for his character. The fundamentals of this speech are right on. Companies too often are poorly run with too many executives getting paid huge salaries that exceed their contributions to the bottom line. Gekko’s ideas on reforming these organizations are on target. His thoughts on greed being good are also accurate. Greed helps move a society forward. The desire to achieve more and to not be complacent is necessary. Where Gekko goes wrong is that his success becomes never enough. He needs more and more money and fame. He needs to win at any cost and doesn’t realize that he has become the bad guy.

Wall Street was Oliver Stone at his best. His directing is impeccable and he sets up the characters visually and emotionally. For example, the audience is first introduced to Gekko with his voice in the background and a brief peek of his face as many important men are being ushered into his office. Lighting, facial expressions, and camera work help enhance the story and draw the viewer into the film. The movie is also fun to watch for the technology of the time. The computer, cordless phone, watchman, and other high tech gadgets are a kick to see.

There is only one new feature on this DVD release: the “Greed is Good” featurette. This is very well done and worth watching. It has Stone, Douglas, Sheen, and many of the other co-stars discussing the film today. One fascinating comment made by Douglas is that many people even still come up to him and say that Gekko is their role model and is who their career is based on. Pretty scary but considering who we have in the White House these days not entirely surprising. Another interesting perspective provided is from the floor traders and stockbrokers who originally consulted on the movie. The recycled items included are an audio commentary from Stone, deleted scenes, and a making of documentary.

The 20th Anniversary Edition of Wall Street is now available and is a must-have for any film aficionado collection. If you already own a previous release, you should rent this one just to watch the new documentary.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Written by Senora Bicho

, what a feeling! Leg warmers, big hair, torn t-shirts, over-the-top music, and all of the other fabulous aspects of the ‘80s are well represented in this Special Collector’s Edition.

The movie was released in April 1983. I was 10 at the time so I wasn’t even aware of the impact it was having on pop culture. I didn’t come to appreciate it until high school when my friends and I would watch it over and over again along with listening and dancing to the soundtrack. I loved this film and felt that it was a movie engendering female power. The music is still fantastic but the rest of the film leaves a little to be desired.

Flashdance is the story of an 18-year-old welder who dreams of being a dancer. Jennifer Beals plays the lead role of Alexandra (Alex) Owens. Beals is adorable in the role and gives the character warmth and innocence. In order to achieve her dream of getting into a well-renowned dance school, Alex dances in her off time at a gentlemen’s club. The key about this club is that the women do not dance nude and are given artistic freedom in creating their dance numbers with music and costumes. The first dance number Alex performs grabs the attention of Nick Hurley played by Michael Nouri. Hurley turns out to be the boss at the steel mill. He repeatedly asks her out only to be continuously turned down. One night Alex is being harassed by the owner of an X-rated club and Hurley comes along to save the day. Thus, their romance begins.

One big problem I now have with the film is the fact that Alex is only 18 while Hurly is much older. I didn’t remember this when I had watched it way back, but it seems a bit creepy now. However, there is a connection between the characters and their chemistry works. The reason being the music and the dancing carry the movie. The overall plot and subplots are extremely weak; the movie is really just one big music video. The music elevates the film to another level and would make anyone want to get up and dance. The best song of them all is the title track, “Flashdance . . . What a Feeling,” performed by Irene Cara which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Another criticism of the film that created a lot of controversy at the time was the fact that Beals didn’t actually do the dancing; she had a double. This is very distracting because it is very obvious when it’s not Beals. The hair gives it away as well as the times when you can actually see the double’s face. I am not sure why they didn’t go with a trained dancer in the role. Cynthia Rhodes plays a friend and fellow dancer at the club. She is an amazing dancer who also had supporting roles in Dirty Dancing and Staying Alive. I think the film could have been better and more credible if she had played the main character.

Flashdance, while being a cultural icon, also kicked off the successful producing partnership of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson for Paramount Pictures. After this movie, they produced many other films together, such as the hits Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun. Simpson died in 1996 and their last film together, The Rock, was dedicated to his memory. I was surprised to realize that the film was directed by Adrian Lyne. It was only his second film but seems so out of place from the films he went on to direct such as 9 ½ Weeks and Fatal Attraction. The film does have a dark, sexy look and feel about it that translates to his later work.

The special features of the DVD are really one chopped-up featurette that covers the history, look, music and songs, choreography, and the release of Flashdance. Bruckheimer, Lyne, and Nouri discuss all of these aspects along with more producers, choreographers, costume designers, and others. Beals is noticeably missing. If you love the film, you will enjoy getting the insight. Lyne is especially charismatic and interesting to listen to.

One producer referred to the film as the “Girl’s Rocky”. I disagree and would say this is more a film about following your dreams no matter who you are. Times have changed since the time the film was released though, and women have gained more ground and are shown in more powerful roles than ever. Meryl Streep, Glen Close, Kate Blanchette, and Helen Mirren are just a few that inspire and amaze me. The best part of this DVD Collection is the CD with six of the best songs from the film. My drive to work was so much better with this in my CD player.

Flashdance was hugely successful and was the #6 grossing film of 1983 and has earned over $94 million in the United States with the soundtrack selling over 6 million copies. This film is a perfect representation of the ‘80s and is silly fun. If you loved it then, you will probably still like it now, especially the music.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Written by Hombre Divertido

Sometimes They Come Back never should have shown up in the first place.

There have been numerous incarnations of Stephen King stories in theaters and on television, but few have been as poorly executed as this 1991, ninety-three minute, made-for-television bomb directed by Tom McLoughlin from a teleplay by Lawrence Konner.

The story makes little sense, plods along, and is filled with one dimensional performances. Tim Matheson and Brooke Adams, who must have been taking the only roles they could get at the time, look trapped by a script that leaves them nowhere to go.

As a couple returning to the town where Jim Norman (Matheson) grew up, and suffered through a childhood that included the death of his older brother in an accident initiated by a group of stereotypical hoods from the fifties, Jim and Sally (Adams) along with their son (Normally you would list an actors name in parenthesis after referring to the character, but Robert Hy Gorman, who played the son, would probably thank me if I didn't), have returned in hopes of starting over. They need the fresh start due to some violence issues that are never completely revealed that Jim had in his previous teaching job.

So Jim settles into his new teaching job, until his students start dying, and are replaced in class by new kids who just happen to be the same hoods involved in the death of Jim’s brother. The hoods drive a car that not everyone can see and are out for revenge.

The questions as to how they are coming back, why they are coming back, and how they intend to get revenge take far too long to answer, and when the answers come, they make little sense other than "don’t forget your keys."

Though the special effects and make-up are adequate for a B-movie, and the introduction of the one hood (The always wonderful William “Larry” Sanderson) who escaped death in the accident teases the audience with what appears to be an interesting detour, it all eventually leads nowhere.

Recommendation: Some short stories are short for a reason, and should be left that way. There is simply not enough here to warrant ninety-three minutes. Apparently there is a 1996 sequel titled Sometimes They Come Back Again featuring what I am sure are mind-blowing performances by Hilary Swank and Alexis Arquette, so renting the two should make for a nice afternoon nap.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Family Guy Live! in Chicago

Written by Tío Esqueleto

Seth MacFarlane, the creator/writer/producer of Family Guy, took his show on the road for two packed shows at the beautiful Chicago Theatre. MacFarlane, the voice of family guy Peter Griffin, as well as fan favorites Brian the dog and baby Stewie, to name a few, brought the entire “family” with him for a mini variety show of sorts, aptly titled Family Guy Live! The show consisted of a live table reading, musical numbers, a sneak preview of things to come, Q & A, as well as plenty of R-rated insight into both the characters, and the folks who bring them to life.

The stage was set with nine director’s chairs, an overhead screen, and various life-sized cutouts of the Griffins and friends. After a brief clip reel of greatest bits, MacFarlane took the stage, drink in hand, and welcomed everyone to the ten o’clock show or, “the one we don’t remember tomorrow.” If you’ve never seen him, he is your average 30-something, white male, his voice baring a close resemblance to that of his own “man’s best friend,” Brian.

Next, he introduced us to the rest of the team, which included voice regulars Alex Borstein (Lois Griffin), Mila Kunis (Meg Griffin), Seth Green (Chris Griffin), and Mike Henry, the voice of Peter’s friend Cleveland, and fan favorites: the greased-up deaf guy and the neighborhood senior citizen pedophile, Herbert. Filling out the rest of the chairs were executive producer and writer, Danny Smith, voice actors Alexandra Breckenridge and H. John Benjamin, as well as show writer and voice talent John Viener.

Everybody seemed genuinely excited to be there. Kunis appeared to be a little under the weather, but excited nonetheless. Most of them carried their beer of choice onto the stage with them (no less than three bottles at a time), with Green taking the half-full, fifth of Jack Daniels approach. Borstein, a Chicago area native, came out in a Bears jersey, smack-talked QB Rex Grossman (I know the words “hairy” and “vagina” were thrown around), and instantly had the crowd in her pocket.

They then transitioned into the meat and potatoes of the evening’s festivities: the table read. Viener played the part of narrator, reading the stage directions, while the rest of the cast worked their usual magic. They chose an episode from last season titled “Whistle While Your Wife Works,” in which Lois ends up having to work for Peter as he has blown off some fingers in an earlier seen fireworks accident. For the regular “Brian and Stewie” subplot, this particular episode finds baby and dog feuding over Brian’s new extremely stupid, yet forgivingly hot, girlfriend. As usual, the subplot in this one steals the show. They added a third storyline especially for the night’s event in which Meg and Chris start to work at the same place. The material will be aired in an episode later this season. They were looking for audience reaction to see if tweaks needed to be made down the road. I thought it was a nice touch. It gave the audience a feeling of exclusivity, as well as the cast an opportunity for some much-appreciated improv.

Seeing the cast in action was a sight I will not soon forget. I have a new respect for everyone involved, especially MacFarlane. Most of the time when Peter isn’t interacting with Lois, he’s in a scene with either Brian, or his sex-freak neighbor, Glenn Quagmire. The same goes for Brian. If he’s not in a scene with Stewie, he’s with Peter, and vice versa. Here’s the thing, MacFarlane voices all of these characters, and then some. Watching his face contort back and forth from Peter’s Archie Bunker-like “know it all” speech from the side of his mouth, to Glenn’s wide-eyed “giggity giggity,” to Brian’s deadpan omnipotence, was simply amazing. But it was Stewie, the eyebrow-cocked, purse-lipped nellie, that got the crowd the most. From the minute they first showed Stewie in the opening clip reel, it was quite clear that this was a Stewie crowd. One gets the feeling that there is a Stewie nation out there.

Mike Henry is the cast’s secret weapon. He barely had to glance up from his paper to make the crowd roar. His Cleveland drew thunderous applause with each line, but it was Herbert the pedophile (my, hands down, favorite Quahog resident) that really left them pissing, myself included. He has a way of subtly and precisely whistling each ‘s’ that damn near sounds like an effect done in post production. It is voice-talent gold, and exactly why you came to see it for yourself. Everybody was top notch, but it was MacFarlane and Henry who nabbed the most laughs.

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly gain any more respect for MacFarlane and his team, they began their brief, but nothing short of fantastic, musical portion of the show. They started off with MacFarlane doing “I Need a Jew” from the controversial episode, “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein.” Seth sang as Peter, while the footage from the original episode played on the overhead screen. It was easy to just watch the original footage, forgetting that it was being sung live on the stage below. The sync was that close, and the vocals that dead on.

Afterwards, Peter and Lois did an X-rated version of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” that included various call-and-response doozies like “you don’t cup my testes” and “you don’t tongue my asshole.” After which, at a good hour and a half into an already filthy show, they thought it a good time to remind us that if there are kids in the audience, it could get “a little blue” as this is the late show. Brilliant. Finally, they rounded out the musical portion with Herbert the pedophile’s rendition of The Little Shop of Horrors’ “Somewhere That’s Green.” This was a song sung to Chris in an earlier episode and, again, I was brought to body-trembling hysterics. This was the highlight of my night.

There was a sneak preview of the upcoming, Star Wars-themed season opener (airing this Sunday, the 23rd). It was wonderful seeing extended scenes of what looks to be a retelling of Episode IV, with Stewie’s Darth Vader demanding the most applause again.

Rounding out the evening was the dreaded Q & A. I can’t stand these things. They are painfully embarrassing cringe-fests for all involved. If you’ve ever been to a disastrous Comic Con panel, this was right up there with the disastrousest. There was, however, one good question. One we’d all been wondering, and that was what did they think of the South Park episodes dedicated to breaking down Family Guy? Their response? They tiptoed around it, but said they were just thrilled to be featured, and that they have an undying respect for the South Park guys.

Not much, but at least it was covered. And then it was covered again in true, botched Q-&-A fashion when they were asked if they were mad at the South Park guys for calling them dolphins. To which they responded, “It was manatees,” and “Where the hell were you less than five minutes ago when we just covered that?” Q & A’s; I hate them. It pretty much took the rest of the steam right out of the evening, which was actually okay. At this point we were over two hours plus, and it was time to call it an evening.

I have a whole new respect for Seth MacFarlane and the cast of Family Guy. Up until now, I’d always loved the show, but I have to admit, I certainly agreed with South Park’s sizing up of the show on their “Cartoon Wars” episodes. To be fair, they did rip on The Simpsons, but it was Family Guy who was clearly in front of the firing squad for their writing techniques and, further, their use of cutaway jokes that have nothing to do with the plot. It is the Family Guy’s M.O. (along with singing, cursing, and chicken fighting), and it works extremely well for them. Seeing them in action only solidifies this. All I know, is there were nine of the funniest manatees on the planet on that stage that night, and I’m so glad I was there to see it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Written by Musgo Del Jefe

The year 1967 was one of those magical years (like 1972 or 1996) that produced so many groundbreaking movies that I rarely pass up a chance to see one with that copyright date. That year saw the likes of Bonnie & Clyde, Cool Hand Luke, and Bedazzled, and closed out with my own my debut in November and then The Graduate came along just before Christmas. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning only for Directing. The film's been reviewed, praised, and shown in so many college film classes over the past forty years that it's hard to find a new angle to view this for the new Anniversary release.

I was twenty, just like Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) when I first saw the film. Having just graduated from college in Michigan, I found myself watching it through Ben's eyes. The film was still fresh and felt comfortable from the very beginning. I found solace in Ben's restless spirit. Much like Ben rebelling against his future in "plastics," I was hearing the message without really listening. I watched the movie three or four times that summer, loved it, echoed the dialog, but I'm not sure I really "got it." In two months, I will turn 40, too. I've got kids in their tweens now. And can I ask the same thing about myself as I do about this movie? Is this still meaningful after forty years?

The movie starts with Ben landing back in Los Angeles after graduating from college "back East." The opening credits roll to the left as Ben rides the moving sidewalk in the airport, the innocence of youth pulled along into adulthood. Everything's moving forward; there's no going back, even if you wanted to.

Ben's parents throw a party for his graduation. But it isn't full of his friends, it's their friends. Adults. Ben hides in the security of his room like a kid. A couple beautiful shots through his fish tank are evocative of the pet of his youth and also his drowning in the world of adults that will be pursued later in the film.

Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft - only 36 when playing the role but acting at least 10 years older with success) corners Ben in his "fortress," and he gets shamed into giving her a ride home in his Graduation present, an Alfa Romeo. Ben is put into an adult situation without the proper tools to judge Mrs. Robinson's actions. He misreads the signals of Mrs. Robinson's seduction. Or rather, he can't read the subtext of her mixed signals. Mrs. Robinson enjoys this part of the game - "You'll never be young again," she tells him when she finally has to spell out her offer to be his lover. It's hard to say if that's a warning or advice.

Ben's 21st birthday party is another party thrown by his parents for other adults. His father emphasizes the transition when introducing him as "boy--I'm sorry, the young man." Ben's gift of a scuba outfit and the ensuing POV shots show us how removed he is from the world of adults. Ben views the world through a small circle, looking only forward, with only the sound of his own breath in his ears. Moving only forward, without considering the next step is what causes Ben to call Mrs. Robinson and arrange their first meeting at the hotel.

At 38 minutes, we enter Act 2 to the same tune that played over the opening credits, Simon & Garfunkel's "Sounds Of Silence." "Hello darkness, my old friend" plays in full over the progression of their relationship. The darkness of the room an important thematic issue. The silence of their relationship removes Ben, and us, from the experience. It's like he's watching it happen but not really living it. He's still living his life at home, and this affair in a dark, silent hotel room almost isn't real. We get the brilliant Simon & Garfunkel tune "April Come She Will" to show the restless passing of time. The start of the death of the relationship: "a love once new has now grown old."

When Ben's dad asks him what he's doing when he's in the pool in the middle of a summer day, Ben replies, "Just drifting." The pressure of Ben's parents for him to do something he treats as doing something personally instead of in regards to a job. This leads him to his first date with the Robinsons' daughter, Elaine (the beautiful Katharine Ross a couple years before she'll blow me away in Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid). Finally opening up to someone his own age who understands his "compulsion to be rude since Graduation," Ben finds the partner he could never have with Mrs. Robinson. The revelation that his affair was with her mother is one of the best silent moments of cinema in the past forty years.

At 70 minutes, we neatly enter Act 3 with another Simon & Garfunkel tune, "Scarborough Fair/Canticle." Directly after the revelation, this song emphasizes the fact that the journey to adulthood is not a job. It's an emotional journey. The song plays twice consecutively and then directly again an instrumental version and that is followed up directly with another repetition. By the fourth time, the song is like any great break-up song: needling your soul, reminding you of the loss, but it also serves as Ben's final call to action. He views this as his chance to grab happiness and pursue Elaine.

On the way, his Alfa Romeo runs out of gas and is ditched on the side of the road. This is a journey that we all have to make ourselves. It isn't taught in college and it isn't even learned at home. It is experienced by failing and succeeding. Ben and Elaine's journey doesn't end at the back of the "school" bus. They've retreated there at the end of the movie, exhilarated, both uncertain that they've made the best decision but confident that they'll experience it together. The silence of the last scene echoes the drowning feeling of youth. Neither needs words to express that. And we end with "Sounds Of Silence" over end credits as the bus pulls away into the future.

For its entry into middle age, the DVD takes some looks back at itself. The "Students Of The Graduate" and the "The Graduate At 25" featurettes are amazing only in how closely the interpretation of the film was at 25 as it is at 40. Two commentaries, one by Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross and another by Mike Nichols and Steven Soderbergh, are insightful, but this movie isn't about what others think.

Is The Graduate still meaningful? Maybe more than ever. Today's cinema doesn't make movies about 21-year-old college graduates. Movies like Reality Bites, Singles, and St. Elmo's Fire are often too TV-comedy influenced. They don't speak to the journey.

I might say that I work in "plastics." My job isn't what the 20-year-old version of me thought it might be. However, the journey has been more exciting and more continually life-changing than anyone ever said it would be. I work with mainly college-age kids like Ben. There's a creeping population growth of youth that, like Ben, are "just drifting." These restless youth are removed from the experiences of life, just watching them happen on videos, camera phones, and the Internet. They are "people hearing without listening." This is the perfect movie to disturb their sounds of silence.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bones - The Complete Second Season

Written by Senora Bicho

Bones is a crime drama based on real-life forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs. The main character, Temperance “Bones” Brennan, is the protagonist from Reichs’ crime novel series. Creator Hart Hanson pitched the idea of a forensic show to FOX. Afterwards he was asked to meet with Executive Producer Barry Josephson who had purchased the rights to produce a documentary on Reichs. After this meeting of the minds, Hanson agreed to sign on and write the pilot episode. This provides the show with a certain level of credibility as Reichs also serves as a producer and is intimately involved in the storylines. A forensic anthropologist studies the human skeleton; therefore, all of the cases involve a victim that is partial or completely skeletonized. Bones has many similarities to other crime dramas such as CSI and Crossing Jordan, but it does offer unique cases and a stellar cast.

Season Two starts with the forensic team at the Jeffersonian Institute, which is loosely based on the Smithsonian Institute, getting a new boss, Dr. Camille Saroyan. Brennan clashes with Saroyan right from the start because she believes that the position should have been hers. Immediately, Saroyan comes off brash and bossy, alienating herself from the group, but at the end of the first episode, she stands up to a prosecutor in defense of her employees and miraculously wins them over.

Bones sets itself apart by investing heavily in personal storylines. David Boreanaz is perfectly cast as Brennan’s partner, Special Agent Seely Booth, the brooding romantic interest. He is believable in the role, and is sexy as hell. A major plotline revolves around the reoccurring role of Brennan’s father, Max, played remarkably well by Ryan O’Neal. He is a career criminal on the run. This causes an internal conflict for our main character. Is her dad a good man or a bad man? Her scientific mind only works in black and white. All of the scientists on the team are overly cerebral with minimal social skills.

There are very few extras offered with the DVD collection. There are two episodes with commentary tracks. Emily Deschanel (Brennan), director Caleb Deschanel and executive producer Stephen Nathan narrate “The Glowing Bones in the Old Stone House”. This is one of the best commentaries I have listened to. They are each able to provide a different perspective and have fun together in the process. Caleb Deschanel has an impressive resume having directed several episodes of the television show Twin Peaks and his cinematography credits include The Black Stallion, The Right Stuff, The Natural, and The Passion of the Christ to name just a few.

The second commentary by series creator Hart Hanson and executive producers Nathan and Barry Josephson is on the season finale, which sets up a few cliffhangers that really didn’t leave me desperate for the premiere of Season Three. This group is able to provide good behind-the-scenes information, but it is a tad boring.

The additional special features include “The Memories in the Season” and “Visceral Effects: The Digital Illusions of Bones.” There is also the standard deleted scenes collection and a gag reel. The gag reel is painful to sit through. There is nothing remotely amusing and the attempt to present the actors in a different light fails miserably.

While I enjoyed watching this season of Bones, there wasn’t enough to make me sit through the show again, so I wouldn’t buy the DVD collection. However, for those who are forensic crime junkies, it certainly holds its own and fills the void between all of the CSI franchises. If you are not already a fan, catch a rerun or rent it first.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: Seasons 1 & 2

Written by Musgo Del Jefe

I've always kept the FX Network at arms-length. It seems that every time I committed to them, they went and changed their hairstyle, clothing, and accent so that I could barely recognize them. I first fell in love with the upstart fX (attracted by their clever smaller-case "f"), which promised me "TV Made Fresh Daily" through the mid-‘90s with their live shows centered around an apartment somewhere in New York City. I spent mornings with their unique news show that “Robin & Co.” is still copying today. Towards the end of the ‘90s, they changed their name to FX, cancelled all the quirky live shows that had attracted me in the first place, and quickly became a dumping ground for recent and then current Fox shows.

I adapted and found it sweet that they were the only channel airing M*A*S*H and X-Files repeats. When Major League Baseball playoff games overlapped, FX was there to help out. This move, later copied by MTV/Viacom when they turned The Nashville Network to The National Network and then to Spike, proved initially popular with young men. But as that initial attraction was dying, FX hit on the ideal mix when they took a chance on a graphic original program, The Shield in 2002. I found this little number by accident and fell in love with the network all over again. I was addicted and would forgive them hours of Married With Children repeats for an hour of this brilliance.

FX followed this lightning in a bottle with two other successes in 2003, Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me. Neither made my Tivo, but I respect the quality of these offerings. In June of 2005, they ventured into the world of documentary series (a leap considering the formula for their previous successes in original programming) with the brilliant 30 Days from Morgan Spurlock.

In August of 2005, they would take another leap and try original comedy, calling their two shows "The Dark Side Of Comedy." Both Starved and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia debuted on August 4, 2005. My Tivo was so full that I felt I could only add one of the two. I bet on red (Starved) and the wheel came up black (Philadelphia). Starved wasn't "The Dark Side;" it was just plain offensive, three men and a woman with eating disorders, and even worse, it wasn't funny. The other show was "Dark," and it also starred three men and a woman, but it had the advantage of being funny. Philadelphia played out for seven episodes that fall of 2005, and was renewed for ten episodes in the summer of 2006. As the third season gets underway, the first two seasons have been released on a three-disc set.

The premise of the series is simple. Mac (Rob McElhenney, creator of the show), his roommate Dennis (Glenn Howerton), and his childhood friend Charlie (Charlie Day) are co-owners of a Philadelphia bar called Paddy's Irish Pub. Their bartender is Mac's twin sister, Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson). By the start of the second season, Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito) joins the cast as the father of Dennis and Dee and as Charlie's roomate (and maybe Charlie's biological dad?). The formula of multiple men and a woman has worked on plenty of comedies, M*A*S*H and Cheers being older examples. But the bar in Philadelphia isn't the same filter that it served in Cheers. Here, the bar serves merely as a plot device in most episodes for our characters to come into contact with new people or as a catalyst, creating a problem that needs to be solved or explored. The writers have chosen a much more current template for their comedy.

In the post-Seinfeld era, more current comedies have tried to copy the Friends model to a much lesser success. Philadelphia has taken the irreverent aspects of Seinfeld to the next two levels. It's not an accident that our lead characters fulfill the base roles that we're comfortable with. Sweet Dee is Elaine with an exaggerated amount of romantic failures. Dennis is the ultra-confident, successful with women, but never effected by the break-ups exaggerated Jerry. Mac is a slightly less ethical version of Kramer that feels a need to compete, and usually lose to, with Dennis for women. Charlie is George taken to a naive extreme. In a Seinfeld-esque moment during Season 1, Charlie lies about having cancer in order to date the waitress at the coffee shop that wears a Lance Armstrong cancer bracelet.

Each episode stands alone. I like the way we usually get little to no back-story before the plot of each episode kicks off. We start with a title card of a time (e.g. "3:15 p.m.) and a day (e.g. "On a Tuesday") as if telling us that we've just turned on the camera because something interesting is going to happen. Like most good comedies, the episodes rarely go down the path that you expect. For example, the first episode, "The Gang Gets Racist" starts out as a story on racism about Dee's new boyfriend but 10 minutes in, it has completely turned into a story about becoming a "Gay Bar." The "Charlie Wants An Abortion" episode, starts with Charlie finding out that he has a child from 10 years ago to one of the funnier moments of the show as Dennis and Mac try to decide which side of an abortion rally is likely to provide them the best dates.

The episodes are consistent. The gang (including DeVito who just blends in from the beginning as if he was always a member of the cast) is always arguing with each other, they are naive (their takes on the War On Terrorism in "The Gang Goes Jihad" is hilarious), they will throw each other under the bus given a chance, they lie about everything, and in great comedic fashion, they never win. Balance is maintained in the world.

The long-term problem for this show may be the same thing that has made the first two seasons so superb. In small doses, this is the perfect summer show. It's about nothing and it's about no one. We don't really like or root for any of the characters to succeed. In fact, we revel in their downfall, because it's so funny (in "Dennis & Dee Go On Welfare", we don't want them to pursue their dreams while on Welfare, we want to see them fail miserably). The episodes, while funny, don't tend to leave me wanting more, like Arrested Development or even Curb Your Enthusiasm. Summer shows don't have to do that; they rest on my Tivo until I need a mindless break. I expect more of a fall show. You're competing against The Office, 30 Rock and even Family Guy. I fear that a show about no one won't last past the key Third Season when it's not so Sunny outside.

Bonus Features. A "Making Of" featurette, outtakes, and two episode commentaries are hardly worth influencing your decision to buy this set. It's a funny show with a good cast that doesn't come with the baggage of having been in other shows or movies, except for DeVito. Other network offerings have set the bar high, with commentaries on most episodes and enough bonus features to fill and extra disc. I like that this set lets the original episodes speak for themselves.

Is this the new FX? No fancy make-up, short sensible hair, smells like strawberries, and just a bit of a "dark" side? If so, I'm in love again.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Written by Fumo Verde

The City of Violence? Have these people been to Detroit?

Sure there were great fight scenes, but they were few and far between to deal with the Soba noodle of a plot you have to bare just to get to the action. Director Seung-Wan artfully captured some of the best fights I’ve seen in a long time and the actors performed in the usual South Korean soap opera style—not over the top, but just pushing that edge. The City of Violence is fun and exciting but not because it has that air of mystery about it. The beauty of this movie lays in the cinematography and how it masterfully caught the fine choreographed moves of the Tae Kwon Do fight scenes.

The story is about five friends who have grown up together and have already come of age, so no boobs, okay. Three of them are hoods, Asian Mafia types, and another becomes a cop. Why and how these guys come to be who they are is not explained. When Wang-jae, the thug gone straight, gets murdered in the back alley of his own bar, it is up to his friends to figure out who did it and why. Within the first five minutes I knew the character that did it, and twenty minutes later we all find out why. The rest of the time is spent on letting Tae-su and Seok-hwan figure out what happened. Once this is discovered its time for to seek revenge.

The best fight scene comes near the beginning. Tae-su and Seok-hwan are confronted with about sixty teenagers dressed in outfits ranging from school girl uniforms to the baseball kids from The Warriors and so on. After our two heroes fight off this motley crew, they must face even tougher battles down the road. When the final battle happens, it is one hell of a fight. Was it worth waiting for? I thought so. Seung-Wan frames the fight movements like his idol, Quentin Tarantino, making the battle look more like a dance than a brawl. Would I consider these “produced fights” Bruce Lee-worthy? On a scale from 1 to 10, I give The City of Violence an 8 for fights and a 2 for plot strength.

The two-disc Ultimate Edition comes with a “how it was made” DVD. I was amazed how long it took and how hard this crew worked on getting these incredible fights right. I wish the writers would have worked on the script as long. The extras include deleted scenes and interviews with the cast and director. I like extras like this, going behind the scenes and finding out how the studios create “lighting in a bottle” as it is sometimes called, or used to be.

The City of Violence was exciting when the fight was on. When it wasn’t, it really didn’t matter. Dragon Dynasty has a lot of good movies; this one was just one of their lower grade ones. If you can rent it for a buck, or better yet, wait till a lazy Sunday afternoon and see if you can catch it on Kung-Fu Theater. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a double feature that includes Master of the Flying Guillotine.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Elvis: That’s The Way It Is (2-Disc Special Edition)

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Elvis: That’s The Way It Is (Two-Disc Special Edition) is a perfect showcase of the way it was when Elvis’ Las Vegas show was fresh and new. This new edition includes two versions of the documentary, the original version and the 2001 release that was re-cut and edited to show more concert footage. Filmed during the King’s first major run at the International Hotel both DVDs capture the power and excitement Elvis possessed in two almost completely different films. What remains the same is the command that Elvis has over his loving audience.

Let’s start with disc two, the documentary as it was originally released in 1970. This version opens with Elvis at rehearsals with the core members of his band, which includes James Burton (guitar), Jerry Scheff (bass) and Ronnie Tutt (drums). We get to see the guys as they practice the songs for the upcoming Vegas run for the very first time. It’s good to see them having fun and goofing around, especially Elvis. We can see he is in charge and the leader of his band. He’s shown making changes, directing and pointing out where people need to be as a song starts.

The scene then moves to Vegas and the vocal groups learning their parts. The Sweet Inspirations (female) and The Imperials Quartet (male) are later joined by Elvis and the band to get it all down and jam a little. There is a quiet moment with Elvis and the girls, where you get a feel for some of his priorities as far as family is concerned. He is playful here, showing his range and playing with the groups to see what they know and what they can do. He is quite fond of his high-pitched Tiny Tim-like vocals and will even use it many times on stage.

From the practice hall we move to the main stage for rehearsals the day before the big event. More fun and laughter ensue this time members of the Memphis mafia are on the loose and adding to the humor. But it is the show itself that takes the documentary over the top.

Elvis is in top form and still in the best shape of his life, at this time it is said that the man had a 32-inch waist. WOW!! He was a six-foot, Karate-trained, lean, mean entertainment machine primed to deliver the best of shows of his career. As the music fills the air, Elvis’ presence fills the screen. He’s calm and appears a bit nervous because most of the night’s numbers are new and he is a bit unsure of how the crowd will respond. Yet as always the fans adore him and the songs go over well, eliminating any questions the king might have had. From start to finish Elvis is cracking jokes, mixing with fans and band members, giving off an overall good time vibe. Elvis paints the picture of an easygoing guy who’s having a ball performing and doing what he loves and does best.

With the original version we really don’t get enough of Elvis. During filming, director Denis Sanders became fascinated with the fan element of Elvis’ career and put much of the focus on them and other irrelevant situations. The fan interviews aren’t all bad; we get to hear from people of all ages and races give their opinion of why big E is such a positive force in the world. Older folks like the fact that he’s a Christian man, while men see him as the essence of quiet cool from look to attitude. People admire the fact that a Southern white boy was strong enough to go head-on and sing back-porch country and blues tunes inspired by poor African Americans. Children are drawn to him as well for reasons I have yet to figure out. Then there are women, young and old, who just love him from head to toe and think that he is the very definition of sexy masculinity.

Many interviews are interesting, such as the editor of Tiger Beat telling of her excitement over Elvis and random fans waxing poetic about how rock ‘n’ roll is nothing without him. We even get to go across the pond to England and then Germany for a European fan fest, where we get to see Elvis’ tandem bike raffled off for charity. The best part here is the Elvis impersonators. Some are good look-a-likes and others are horrid. Some bands are simply there to play rock ‘n’ roll inspired by the King and other rockabilly legends.

Disc one is the redone version of this same Vegas run but the focus has been put back on Elvis. All the fan interviews and “talking heads” have been removed and replaced with more Elvis footage. The basic chain of events is the same but Special Edition producer Rick Schmidlin looked all over the Warner Brothers vaults for every frame of footage that he could find. Armed with this new material, he put together “The ultimate Elvis performance.” We get to see more of the personal side of Elvis, being himself and interacting with people not in his everyday entourage.

Many good tunes and footage where left out of the 1970 release and are now being seen for the first time. A few of the songs in the 2001 release are different versions from the original, as the overall footage is from six separate shows. Songs from the early days, “Mystery Train,” “All Shook Up,” “Hound Dog,” and “Blue Suede Shoes” are reworked with fury and mixed with new tunes like “Suspicious Minds,” “ I Just Can’t Help Believing,” and “Polk Salad Annie.”

The new tunes reflect the recent R&B sounds of Memphis with soaring horns and heavy, funky bass. “Patch It Up” is a new song that sends the crowd and Elvis into a frenzy. The people are dancing and grooving right along with their king. Elvis’ dancing isn’t all choreographed, like the hyper gyrations of today’s pop idols; his moves have feeling and are driven by the connection with the song he is singing. It’s awesome to see him playing with the vocal groups during a song and then spin back into place as the bridge closes out.

What makes the new version better is the fact that Elvis is center of attention and that’s who we want to see and hear. Maybe back in ‘70s Sanders’ idea of the fans worked because Elvis still walked among us and being able to see him live wasn’t wishful thinking. For today’s fan Elvis is the attraction not what the Hotel staff was doing to prepare or the stress on the promoter. Don’t get me wrong these things interest me too, but to see Elvis at the top of his game is something that simply stirs my soul.

Much of the material on these DVDs can be found on the Elvis: Viva Las Vegas CD that was recently released and his original albums On Stage and the three-disc edition of the soundtrack to the film, That’s The Way It Is.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Grey’s Anatomy: Season 3 Seriously Extended

Written by Senora Bicho

The 2007 fall television lineup starts soon and the season premiere of Grey’s Anatomy is on the top of my list, so when the Season 3 Seriously Extended DVD collection arrived, I was ready to dive in for a refresher. I thoroughly enjoyed this season and think it is some of the best writing out there, although I did not think it was as intense or compelling as Season 2. However, Season 3 does deliver in continuing the overriding theme of tortured love.

For those of you not familiar with the show, Grey’s Anatomy follows the trials and tribulations of Meredith Grey, a surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital. Our beloved characters survived a lot in season 3: careers moving forward and backward, the destruction of key relationships that have been fostered throughout the entire series, and many deaths, of which the most profound and bold was that of Meredith. When I first heard about this, the idea sounded poorly conceived, but it was thought provoking and very well executed.

This show is not just another medical drama. What makes it different is the amazing depth and personality of each character. The writing also helps to create a bond with the viewer. You feel connected to these people and care what happens to them. Even the characters you don’t like, you come to understand and respect. Dr. McSteamy, played by Eric Dane, joined the cast as a regular and is a prime example. He burst onto the scene as an arrogant, sexist jerk. It was great watching his character, learning what makes him tick. The storylines, while overly dramatic and extremely intense, parallel experiences in everyday life. The narration, provided by Meredith in every episode, always manages to hit home at some level.

One of the main storylines of the season was the disfigured Jane Doe character and her relationship with Dr. Karev (Justin Chambers). I was not particularly fond of this storyline. I felt it was trying to replicate the Izzie and Denny relationship without the intensity or real connection. One of the extras is a behind the scenes look at the making of Jane Doe. This was well done and provided more depth to the character and the storyline, making me want to watch it again.

Along with all of the episodes from the season, the set includes some fun extras. There are four extended episodes, and if you are like me and don’t recognize the new material, you will be happy to find a collection of all of the season’s unaired scenes. There are some good moments that provide interesting background, but for the most part it is clear why they were deleted.

There are also some episodes with audio commentary. Chandra Wilson and Kate Walsh cover Episode 1 and it is just like watching the show with your close girlfriends as they giggle their way through it. Ellen Pompeo and Kate Burton discuss episode 14 and it is wonderful to hear their thoughts on their mother-daughter relationship on the show along with their other thoughts and insights. Sandra Oh is the last commentary in episode 21. It would have more compelling if she was with someone else to bounce ideas off of but she does provide some interesting information. The other bonus features include a goofy day at the track with Patrick Dempsey (he races in his free time), and a much better featurette on Pompeo and her character. Last, but not least, there is the usual favorite character scenes and outtakes; nothing particularly engrossing here.

This was a significant season for the series. It moved from Sunday night behind Desperate Housewives against the powerhouse CSI on Thursdays. It was doing well in the ratings, even surpassing Housewives, so ABC decided to make it an anchor show on its own night. It did extremely well and held its own in its new timeslot.

There was quite a bit of drama off screen with Isaiah Washington’s inappropriate comments, which led to his eventual dismissal after the season’s end. He was a critical part of the show and I am sorry to see him go.

We will also be losing Walsh to the Private Practice spin-off. We had to endure a taste of that show through an extended episode. I had high expectations of this new show. With the ensemble cast of Tim Daly, Amy Brenneman, and Taye Diggs paired up with the creative mind behind Grey’s Anatomy, how could it be anything but great? Unfortunately, it was far from it. The situations were contrived and completely unbelievable. I love Walsh's character because she has such a strong personality that allows her to hold her own against all of the male egos. In Private Practice she is a whimpering, pathetic shell of the woman we have come to know and love. If the partial pilot episode is any indication of the show’s future, it will be cancelled quickly and Walsh will return. I certainly hope so anyways.

All in all I enjoyed the DVD collection and it did get me even more excited for Season 4. If you loved the season, it will be a necessary addition to your collection sitting beside Season 1 and Season 2. So go out and get it before the season premiere. Seriously.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Written by Fumo Verde

These awards have been posthumously given out since 1991 and there is a book of all the “winners.” Many take offense to those who make light of the premature death of others, but if you think about it, some of these clownshoes had it coming. Director Finn Taylor not only makes light, he makes you laugh. This movie weaves together true and false claims about past award recipients with the backdrop of romance in the insurance industry. Starring Joseph Fiennes as an ex-profiling expert with the SFPD who joins Winona Ryder, the claims adjuster for a major insurance company, they are out not to save the world but to save the company money.

Fiennes does a wonderful job of an anal-retentive police profiler who passes out at the sight of blood. He lets a killer go in the beginning then tracks his movements through out the movie. After losing a wanted serial killer, Fiennes tries to get a job with an insurance company. Enter Ryder who has seen it all during her travels and has ice water for blood. She has told starving mothers that their claims have been denied with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye, but this shit is getting to her. They are accompanied by a cast that includes David Arquette, Juliette Lewis, Wilmer Valderrama, and Metallica to name few.

I liked the idea of this movie but I found myself laughing mainly at the actions that bring about the untimely deaths of the awardees. The plot surrounding these weird deaths falls short, leaving you wanting to see more crazy ways people have accidentally killed themselves. It would have been nice to dig a little deeper into the workings of the insurance industry and to see why they deny all claims to everyone right off the bat. Anything would have been better than boy meets girl and falls in love as he catches the bad guy while helping poor insurance companies revoke claims due to the stupidity of the deceased. And let’s be honest here, some of the accidents are real award winners while others are urban legends, to find out which are real and which urban legends one will have to visit the award’s website.

It was a fun movie but I’m glad I didn’t pay ten bucks to see it in the theater. See this on cable or rent it for a dollar if you can. Quirky and sick, but that kind of sick where you know you have a shit-eating grin on your face, and you still won’t wipe it off.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Written by Hombre Divertido

Balls of Fury
is the greatest ping-pong movie ever made!

In a movie that easily could have been called Balls of Glory, Dan Fogler takes the Ferrell role as Randy Daytona, a once great Olympian who became an outcast after an embarrassing incident at the Olympics. Sound familiar? What if I throw in Jim Lampley as the commentator?

Picking up the action years later; Daytona is now a cheap ping-pong lounge act. Yes, you read that right. The FBI recruit him to infiltrate the underground world of Ping Pong in order to help capture the evil Feng (Christopher Walken).

George Lopez plays the FBI agent who takes Daytona to the local Ping Pong guru: Master Wong (James Hong), so that he and his daughter Maggie (Maggie Q) can whip Daytona into shape. Maggie is an amazing ping-pong player, and one might wonder why she was not recruited for the mission instead of Daytona since the FBI obviously had access to her, but this is no movie in which you should be thinking.

Fogler plays the character with more subtle innocence than a Farrell creation, and Hong has some wonderful moments, but the rest of the cast just seems like they owed someone a favor or had a mortgage payment due.

The film actually opens with some solid laughs as it manages to spoof numerous other films, but gets bogged down and repetitive about 40 minutes in. Lopez hangs around waiting to do his Scarface impression, and Walken is wasted. Though it has a ninety-minute run time, the last ten minutes amazingly look as if the writers knew the story was over and that the film was too short, so they came up with a couple more gags.

Like Blades of Glory, this film has some solid laughs, but just not enough to justify the price of admission.

Recommendation: Wait for it to come out on DVD; then wait some more cuz it will be on Comedy Central soon after.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Written by Musgo Del Jefe

The synopsis for Kickin' It Old Skool is pretty simple. Twelve-year-old, Justin, goes into a coma while breakdancing in 1986 and wakes up 20 years later in 2006. And wackiness ensues. That actually took less than nine minutes of the movie to set in motion. With clever editing, I could've set the conflict in motion before the first commercial break (Justin must enter dance contest to pay his parents back and win over long lost girlfriend). A few montages later, I could've been to the final dance contest by minute twenty and twenty-four minutes into the movie, I'd have the predictable conclusion to the contest and life back to normal. And there you'd have a typical CW show. One starring many of the actors that you'll see in this movie.

I figured this plot to be more along the lines of Blast From The Past (1999) - naive man from a simpler time finds love by representing a fresh difference to the mores of the current times. But what I got was a very poor man's Big. But I'll get back to that.

The first title tells us that it's April 20, 1986. Unfortunately, the director relies on generic '80s references that place this film somewhere much earlier in the '80s. In fact, it's such a mishmash of cultural clues, that had I not been told, I'd have a hard time to not guess 1983. I don't know when the director, Harvey Glazer, was born but Jamie Kennedy (Justin) was in his teens in this period and should've spoken up. We start the first scene with "Rapper's Delight" from 1980 and Justin wearing a Michael Jackson jacket from 1983. In the course of the first scene at the talent show we get references to Flashdance (1983), Smurfs, Blue Lagoon (1980), and Garbage Pail Kids Series 2 (1985). There's even a mention of Betamax (essentially dead to the world by 1984).

Justin and his friends (The Funky Fresh Boys) are performing at the school talent show. What do these hip twelve-year-olds choose to dance to? Is it some of the important hip hop of the era like Erik B & Rakim's "Eric B. Is President" or Run DMC's "My Addidas"? Maybe MC Lyte's "Cram To Understand" or the funky Doug E. Fresh's "The Show"? Nope. We get the predictably safe Herbie Hancock tune, "Rock-It" (1983). The fact that there's so much good music from this time period that could've been featured and was overlooked is symptomatic of the short cuts taken by the director and writers.

Once Justin awakes from his coma, we are quickly given the "clue" that this film is another Big (remarkably the debut for Debra Jo Rupp who plays Justin's mother here). How do we know? Because 32-year-old Justin is chewing Big League Chew. Get it Big League Chew. It doesn't get any more clever after that. While Tom Hanks worked his Josh character to perfection by employing the simplicity of the 13-year-old's point of view to the adult world, Justin does not apply his 12-year-old, 80's point of view to the world. Josh enjoys the adult world. Justin is only confused and perplexed. When Justin has a perfect chance to point out some of the ways we've changed since the '80s, what does he pick? Two of the most tired references - Star Wars and MTV - and he doesn't even add any commentary other than to point out that it's changed.

Twenty minutes into the film, we change directions slightly. Justin needs to "get the boys back together" to win a dance-off to pay back his parents. Our Blues Brothers quest takes less than twenty minutes and doesn't really meet any resistance. Darnell (the African-American member) needs money to buy diapers and please his bitchy wife. Hector (the Hispanic member) needs to lose weight. Aki (the Asian member) needs? Well, we're not really sure why Aki rejoins and Hector's reason is also a bit of a reach. But don't worry about character motivation here - it won't pay off in the end, anyway.

Justin encounters his beautiful old love interest, Jen (Maria Menounos), who's currently dating his old rival, Kip (Michael Rosenbaum), who comes across as evil Lex Luthor trying out for a lead role in the Derek Jeter story. Kip hosts the show that is sponsoring the dance contest, and of course, he does his underhanded best to sabotage Justin's chances.

Love blossoms, the Funky Fresh Boys find their groove (montage scene), innocence is lost (thank you for clueing me in Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings"), and no lessons are learned based on the 12-year-old innocence from the '80s. In fact, his 12-year-old persepctive only serves to get in his way (taking Ecstasy at the club - explained only in the deleted scenes). There's a dance contest to finish and I'll give the writers two things: we get to hear "The Real Roxanne" (at least it's from the right era), and they at least bother to tie in the failure at the talent contest in the beginning to the finals of the dance contest at the end.

A boy trapped in a man's body is fodder for many Hollywood films. Big took the innocence of the boy and viewed our world through that prism. Kickin' It Old Skool wastes that chance. Why does Tom Hanks eating the food at the fancy dinner party work and seeing Jaime Kennedy at Chuck E. Cheese's doesn't? It's the heart. It's the ache you feel when you realize what you've lost since those days. There is not wonderment here, only confusion.

Special Features: Imagine my surprise to find 29 minutes of deleted scenes. While many of them are true throwaways, one explained a very important event. We were led to believe that Justin drank only a Red Bull and became sweaty and incoherent at the club. In the deleted scene we see that he took an extraordinary amount of Ecstasy too. That event and his experiences were perfect fodder to contrast his innocence with the cruelty of Kip, his rival. The other small scene has him at a loss for words, finally quoting the Facts Of Life theme. That would later inform his quoting the Diff'rent Strokes theme song to his parents at the end of the film. "Everybody's got some special kind of story." Not so much.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Written by Hombre Divertido

Generally, there are two types of people in the world. Those that like Mr. Bean and those that don’t. Considering that Mr. Bean’s Holiday had made 188 Million internationally before being released in the U. S., it really didn’t matter which group it fell upon here.

The pratfalls and antics of Bean (Rowan Atkinson) work well in the brief and simple scenarios of the popular British television show, but his first outing; the 1997 motion picture Bean, had far too convoluted of a story to support the comedy of Bean. Though this effort has a far more simple premise, it appears that the writers took a holiday from writing gags for our talented actor.

Atkinson, who is aging gracefully and still posses the rubber face and athletic ability to pull off the expressions, gestures, and pratfalls that make up all that is Bean, finds his character on his way to Cannes for a vacation. Along the way, he misses a train, causes the separation of a man and his son, attempts to assist the son in finding his dad, losses all his money and passport, and interrupts the filming of a movie. Oh, if only he had interrupted the filming of this one with the same type of humorous effort.

There are some nice moments in this film, just not enough. One should always be concerned when a scene from the commercials does not show up in the film, as is the case here, and at a running time of eighty eight minutes, one must wonder how they felt that anything remotely funny could be left out. Too much was left out, and the final product is just unsatisfying.

Recommendation: The DVD of the televisions series would be a better investment of your time and money if you really want to experience Mr. Bean. If you are intent on seeing a motion picture featuring Rowan Atkinson, go with Rat Race or Johnny English. No awards to be given to those two efforts, but far more fun than Mr. Bean’s Holiday.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Joe Satriani: Surfing with the Alien - Legacy Edition

Written by Fumo Verde

I learned to surf in 1987, which was the same year I picked up a cassette of Surfing with the Alien and within the first thirty seconds of listening to it I was hooked. I’ve been surfing ever since and have listened to the album from time to time until my truck’s tape player ate my Workingman’s Dead, so when I got a chance to review the new digitally re-mastered CD, along with a DVD of Satriani performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival, I was super stoked.

Satriani has had a major influence on young guitarists around the world. Not only a great player of the guitar, he also teaches. His students have included Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Steve Vai. Surfing with the Alien has been called the quintessential guitar rock album of the ‘80s and for anyone interested in playing guitar they should pick this Legacy Edition and just listen, watch, and learn. Joe Satriani is a master musician and his one true passion is creating music with his guitar.

The title track opens up with rocket-like fury, as Satriani blasts off into the waves of the universe, dropping in deeper, carving harder, and getting shacked into tubes of cosmic forces. Contrast that with “Always with Me, Always with You” where Satriani slows it down as he lets the notes do the singing. This jam takes you away to a remote tropical island with sandy white beaches and intense colored sunsets. Next up is “Satch Boogie,” a jazzy jam that brings Satriani’s talents of his former teachers into play. He learned from some of the best, including jazz guitar great Billy Bauer and legendary pianist Lennie Tristano. The hard work and ceaseless enthusiasm Satriani brings to his art can be heard throughout Surfing with the Alien but to get a real idea of what he can do, you need to watch the DVD.

Part two of the Legacy Edition contains previously unreleased concert footage of from the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland from July 1988. The show is great and the camera work is top of the line, getting in close to see the amazing finger work Satriani lays down. He plays seven tracks off the album, including “Always with You, Always with Me,” “Echo,” “Ice 9,” and “Lords of Karma.” The show also includes a sweet bass solo along with the jams “Hordes of Locusts” and “Rubina,” and a very funny interview conducted by Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel, who now has an amplifier that can go up to infinity. The liner notes are good, with pictures of Satriani in studio and on tour, and he gives explanations of how each song came about.

Joe Satriani cares about his fans and if you ask any of his students they will tell you the same. His music comes from the heart and as you watch him on stage, like his idol Jimi Hendrix, the soul and life of each note when played is echoed in his body movements and facial expressions. This is a great set for those of us who love the sound of the electric guitar. Listening to him play or seeing him live is like watching Jerry Lopez ride Pipe, a true master in his element. As soon as I save up enough cash, I’m getting one of those water-proof MP3 players and Joe Satriani is going surfing with this alien.