Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I See Yellow People...

Just have a second to hop on before the crew heads downtown here in Nashville for some world famous Jack's BBQ. Wanted to let you know that I did get a chance to check out The Simpsons Movie last night with a friend who is an avid Simpsonaholic and another that doesn't much care for them. We were in unanimous agreement, it was hilarious. I think Matt Groening and the crew have hit it out of the park. I will attempt to get a full review up sometime this week or next, but to summarize, If you haven't seen The Simpsons Movie yet, then I point my finger at you and in my most Muntzian fashion proclaim at you, "HA-HA".

Monday, July 30, 2007

Workaholic Intervention (7.30.7)...

Since I'm on vacation this week, expect the posts to be from brief to non-existent. A man needs to take some time with his family. And by "take some time with his family" I mean hang out with friends and let the live in babysitter watch the kids. One of the friends is a big Michael Jackson fan, so in honor of him, here is a video of a bunch of prison inmates performing Thriller.

Woo-Hoo! Vacation!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Freespin: The JJ Abrams Edition...

I'm heading down to Nashville today, but wanted to touch on some recent news before I took off all of which is directly related to Mr. Genius of the moment J.J. Abrams.

The Mystery Machine

The poster to the right is the latest tease from JJ about his new movie project. The date 1.18.08 has been the only clue to what is going on here and I am assuming that it refers to the date when the movie will debut. No title has been announced (Cloverfield is the working fake title, and then Monstrous was mistakenly assumed) but an amazing teaser trailer before Transformers and now this poster have gotten me very excited. Word is that J.J. wanted to bring back the art of the monster movie that died when Matthew Broderick took on Godzilla a few years back. He is being pretty tight lipped, but I am extremely intrigued by this whole thing.

Lost and Found

Some great new info on Lost from Comic Con this week says that Season 4 will feature both flash backs and flash forwards, include an entire episode of Jack and Kate off the island, and tell the story of Hurley's gal Libby. It will also see the return of Michael, which the writers insist has always been the plan (and I believe them). The best show on TV returns in only 5 more months!

Heroes and Villains

Finally it was just announced that bad guy Sylar from Heroes (Actor Zach Quinto, an awesome name by the way) has been cast as good guy Spock in JJ's upcoming Star Trek movie. Visually it's a perfect choice. Putting young Nimoy next to Quinto shows a stunning similarity. With Abrams directing and this kind of casting, I'm actually finding myself getting excited about a Star Trek movie... weird.

I'm not sure of the internet situation for the next week, but I will attempt to touch base Monday.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

DVD Reviews: The Water Rescue Edition (Pride, The Guardian, and Deja Vu)

One of my favorite things about Netflix (other than the fact that I can rent 100 DVDs over the summer for about $68 total) is that you can rate the movies you've seen and it keeps a running tally. Because of this, I know that I just watched my thousandth movie of all time (give or take a few). This means I've watched about 40 movies a year for the past 25 years. I'm genuinely not sure if I should take pride in this or hang my head in shame. Whatever the case, here are mini reviews for exactly .3% of the movies I've ever seen.

PG, 2007, 87%

General Thoughts: Though I wasn't expecting a lot out of this one, it really got me. Maybe it's just that sports movies based on true stories have my number, but I was thoroughly engaged in this story from the first second. It's the story of an inner city Philadelphia recreational swim team that finds purpose and their coach who finds redemption. It deals honestly and dramatically with issues of race, perseverance, making mistakes, and integrity. The swim meets (a sport which I have never found compelling) are genuinely exciting and the characters are each unique and well drawn. Terrence Howard is amazing as expected, but the surprise is that Bernie Mac has a wonderfully touching impact as well. Tom Arnold even shows up to play as the inevitable rival's coach. Which brings me to the only place this film loses points, predictability. There aren't many twist and turns here, and if you've seen Rudy, Hoosiers, or any other underdog sports movies you know exactly where this is headed, but boy does it feel good when you get there.

MCQ: A-/B-/B+

Overall Grade: B+ (87%)

The Guardian
PG-13, 2006, 83%

General Thoughts: I can't believe I kind of liked a movie staring the guy who played Robin Hood, a professional golfer, and a post apocalyptic mariner the exact same way along with the stoner from "That 70's Show" and "Punk'd". It kills me, but I have to be honest, this... movie... (takes breath, attempts to finish) didn't.... stink. It's the story of a Coast Guard rescue swimmer (Kevin Costner) who teaches a tortured swimming prodigy (Ashton Kutcher) to follow in his footsteps. Of course eventually the student has some lessons for the teacher (Sheesh, even the plot summary sounds horrible). Somehow, they made a decent movie out of this and I found myself invested fully in the outcome. My guess is that they played to my deep need for meaning in media, by putting on screen some of the clearest examples of selfless love I've ever seen. OK, fine, Costner and Kutcher were good too. The world must seriously be coming to an end, soon.


Overall Grade: B- (83%)

Deja Vu
PG-13, 2006, 89%

General Thoughts: If I weren't such a stickler for time travel philosophical accuracy (12 Monkeys remains the only movie that gets it right in my opinion) and plot holes this would have been an "A" movie. The performances are incredible all around (even a suddenly fat Val Kilmer is good) with Denzel giving another power house that gives this movie a real sense of life, urgency, and joy. I don't want to give too much away so I won't get deep in the plot, but sufficed to say, this is a head scratcher. It only works if you ignore some fairly obvious inconsistencies in the mechanics of the plot, but it's one of those movies that the action and performances make it a worthwhile endeavor to accept the film's version of reality. Lot's to think about here, including some great thoughts on action and consequence.


Overall Grade: B+ (89%)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Form the Archives: "Lost" Review

In January of 2004 I started my first website to vent on all things pop culture. I updated and ran this site for over 2 years posting occasional reviews and ramblings. After burning out on the website thing I took a 6 month break and did not renew my domain. Still needing some sort of outlet I started this blog in January of this year. Since I do not wish those reviews and posts to be lost, I thought I would begin posting them here. So this one is more for me than you, oh wait, this whole thing is more for me than you. Well, whatever the case, each week we shall take a look into the past, all the way back to (start Conan O'Brien impression here) the year 2000--uh--4.

This week's look back was originally posted November 1st of 2004 about 7 episodes into the first season of Lost. In honor of Lost not getting many Emmy nods this year I thought I'd throw it up here to remember how fresh this show was when it debuted almost 3 years ago. Honestly, I still think it's the best thing on TV, so this review rings as true to me today as it did 3 years ago.


Get Lost
Lost (ABC, Wednesday, 8:00PM)

Character counts.

No, I'm not talking politics, I'm talking TV. In the ever increasing landscape of television, this is a foundational principle that is too often forgotten. In our essence we are relational beings and want entertainment that allows us to invest relationally with the characters we see on the screen. It's no wonder we tune past the blather of sitcoms that present us with prepackaged stereotypes in a candy coated shell. The shows that have won acclaim recently (critical and otherwise) have consistently been the ones that give us new lives and well drawn personalities to invest in. "24" would just be another concept if it weren't for Jack's brooding righteousness. "Alias" would just be another spy show if it weren't for Sydney's persecuted tenacity, Sloan's mysterious lovability, or even Marshall's goofy brilliance. And "Arrested Development" would be just another yuk fest sitcom without, well, a whole family of quirky, unique, well defined personalities. So it's no surprise to see big numbers and big critical acclaim for ABC's new Wednesday night character driven behemoth "Lost".

"Lost" is the story of 48 survivors who crash landed on a mysterious island. Of course they didn't know it was mysterious when they crashed, they were too busy screaming and avoiding flying shrapnel to take note. It was when the loud dinosaur noises, polar bears, and 17 year old French transmissions started showing up that clued them in. (Not to mention when your dead father walks up to you in his burial suit you tend to get a little freaked.) But the beauty of the show is not only in it's mystery or sci-fi elements, it is firmly in the characters. In fact, the show was originally to be titled "The 48" as a reference to how character driven it would be. (The number has already diminished to 46 and I wouldn't be surprised to lose many more by season's end.) To further emphasize how much this is about the people and not the island, each episode (since the pilot) has focused primarily on one member of the 14 core group we have really met so far. Witness how each episode starts zoomed in on a closed eye of one of our survivors, which then opens as they camera pulls back. It's almost as if each episode a character awakes to present their story to us and then fades back to let someone else take the spotlight (It may also represent, as some have postulated, that these survivors are not survivors but are awakening into a sort of purgatory). My favorite story so far involves a man named "Locke" who though previously in a wheelchair can walk unhindered on the island, a change that transforms him from a pathetic withdrawn cubicle dweller to a unflinching, outgoing, boar hunter. Each story draws us deeper into the series, and gives depth to another character. They could continue this pattern for a full two seasons, without draining their character base, not to mention if another ship or plane wrecks on the island, or if there are others already there.

As impressive and engaging as the characters are, the show doesn't stop there. The cinematography and direction are wonderful, as is the writing. If the writing and constant mystery and discovery seem familiar it might be because the same brain behind Alias is also highly involved in "Lost" (that would be the brain belonging to JJ Abrams). It all combines to create an almost instant addiction and craving for Wednesdays to just hurry up and get here already. It's a craving that comes from knowing that every week will result in more answers but also more mystery (sorta like faith, eh?).

Of course it wouldn't be a Siphonics review if we didn't look at exactly what the show is saying. It is true that each story deals with it's own issue; how to deal with limitations, what it means to lead, how to deal with past mistakes, etc. But the heart of the message of "Lost" is how a community in crisis adapts and how important true community is to survival. It's certainly a point that goes against the common individualism that runs so rampant in Western culture. These people are learning week by week that the only way to survive is to be willing to work together and embrace roles. They are also learning what things are truly valuable. Money is no longer an issue, and with the lack of the distractions we face each day they begin to see the value in the relationships around them. A father attempts to connect with a son he never knew, a wife deals with the apparent death of her spouse, a son deals with the impact a demanding father has on him, a drug addict lets go of his addiction, and so on. The point is each character seems to be learning and growing each week, dealing with issues that may have never been dealt with in their normal day to day (more credence for that purgatory theory). In the end this all combines for an overwhelmingly redeeming storyline and an incredibly compelling TV Show.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Summer Reality Scorecard....

Having just passed the summer midpoint I think it's fair to start handing out some midterm grades for the biggest summer of reality yet. 12 reality shows are currently airing in prime time network slots, and keeping in mind that many of these shows have 2 or 3 slots a week, and often for 2 hours worth, it's almost impossible to turn on the tube at night without hitting some unscripted drama.

I think the rumors of Reality TV's death are greatly exaggerated. (It's more likely the typical half hour sitcom that is receiving it's last rites.)

Here's a look at the 10 of the 12 that I have had some contact with this summer. (Sorry if you are a fan of Hell's Kitchen and Top Chef, I've just never had the urge to watch. Feel free to leave your own review of them in the comments.) Let's go in reverse order, shall we?

American Inventor, D+

Of the 10 this is the one I've only seen in bits and pieces. It often conflicts with other shows I like more so my DVR won't snag it. I saw the first 4 episodes or so and was genuinely unimpressed. The addition of George Foreman as a judge sounds like perfect casting, but he turns out to have little to say that is valuable. Haven't seen it in three weeks and don't miss it one iota.

The Singing Bee, C -

The cheesier, less compelling of the battling lyric shows. Yet the one that has the most audience and already has been picked up for fall... Sigh...

America's Got Talent, C

Completely lost my respect by putting through Boy Shakira and that guy that waves his arms around and calls it dancing. I don't mind a tough judge, but Piers is a hypocrite to tell some acts, "This is a show for a million dollars, and you just aren't good enough" and then vote for the joke acts. They wanted their Sanjaya, and so they purposefully put untalented people through over some very talented others (the Redneck Tenors for example). Whatever the case, if this show took itself seriously, it could be amazing, as it is, not so much.

Next Best Thing, C+

My impression I get of this show (get it, impression, heh, eh hem..) is that it would have been better with only one main performance episode. It gives undue preference to the singing impersonators to have several performances because they only need to pick another song. Whereas the often more talented (and dead on) non singing impersonators get lost in trying to do all new "bits" instead of just existing as these famous folks. You can have your Elvii (the plural of Elvis) I'll take the guy who did Howard Stern, who I seriously thought in the first episode was Stern playing a prank on the show. For this reason alone, I'm rooting for the gal who does Lucy. I love her (get it, I love her, she's imitating Lucy. I love... nevermind).

On The Lot, C+

This show should have worked, it really should have. I'm still struggling to put my finger on why it just doesn't cut it. I think it must be that the directors really don't have a chance to put together their own films. They are handcuffed by time restraints, theme nights, and the same actors each week. Now that the field is thinning and my favorites are all still in, it's picking up some momentum for me, but it's still just missing something. I do have to admit though, one of the high points of my week is seeing how out of touch Carrie Fischer is. Ahhh, celebrity judges, how we love you.

Pirate Master, B

The news came through today that they have yanked this one from the air. There are five episodes left and you can watch them online at CBS.com if you like. It's sad that this show didn't succeed because it had some really fresh ways of doing a reality competition. The idea of choosing a leader and then being able to "mutiny" on them is genius, but even more compelling is the idea that each challenge pays people different amounts of money, which can then be used in the game to buy votes, curry favor, or horde. Where Burnett failed with Pirate Master is that he didn't trust it. Instead of casting fresh new faces and personalities to match the fresh new game, he found someone who looked and talked like Rupert and focused the cameras on him. It was annoying and distracted the audience from the fact that there was actually something cool happening here.

Don't Forget the Lyrics, B

The better of the battling Lyric shows because of the host (Wayne Brady), the concept, and most of all, the stakes. Because it follows the tried and true Who Wants to Be A Millionaire formula of progressive difficulty and prizes, it just feels more engaging. It also has enough helps that I feel like I could actually win some money on this one, whereas, I would be completely lost on The Singing Bee.

Big Brother 8, B+

As long as Big Brother focuses on gameplay and human drama and off of salaciousness and immorality, it's an amazing game. This season appears to be headed in the right direction, with an incredibly engaging father daughter relationship mending, and a sweet twist, where we get to direct one of the players by vote. Despite poor casting, Big Brother remains a solid concept.

Last Comic Standing, A-

Another show that absolutely rocks when it hits it's stride. I've always loved that Comic has both amateurs and professionals playing for the title and there are always two or three of these guys that are absolutely hilarious. If they would just get rid of Ant this might be a perfect show.

So You Think You Can Dance, A

The blueprint for reality talent shows. Take yourself seriously, put through the absolute best talent, and respect your audience. After watching SYTYCD I always feel three things; joy, awe, and educated. The routines are fun, often have deep meaning and are amazing to watch. Even though the judges axed my boy Hok last week, I have to give them props for trying to make sure the best dancer wins. It's the only reality show where I trust the judges opinion more than my own and I can't wait to see Lacey follow in her brother Benji's footsteps and take this thing all the way.

Don't forget to mark which of these shows you watch in the weekly poll!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Workaholic Intervention (7.23.7)...

Work is too important in our culture. For too long we have worshiped workaholism and put way too much emphasis on work ethic. So to help people break free of the bonds of overexertion. In light of this, every Monday, I will post a video or a game as simple online time-wasters. Something to keep you less productive at work, home, or school, you know, just so you don't work so hard. It's for your own good.

With the Simpsons movie on it's way this next weekend, I thought I'd point you to simpsonizeme.com where you can turn any photo of yourself into a Simpsonsized version. It seems to work pretty well, and worth your time if you've every desperately wanted yellow skin.

Check it out here and then send me the results

Friday, July 20, 2007

Back in the saddle again...

I was trying to go a full month without posting, you know, as a sabbatical or something, but I just couldn't stand that Emo Phillips picture being the first thing people see at my blog for such an extended period of time.

The truth is there has been a lot going on at The Fuse (that's the radio station I work at) this month, and my energies have been drained with the day to day. I'm hoping now I should be able to at least get something up with the crazy consistency I showed for the first half of the year. I'm not sure what it will look like on a weekly basis, but you should still see some Workaholic Intervention, a review here and there and my general talent for over thinking everything in the world around me.



Wii Fit may just be the "game" that officially launches Nintendo into the mainstream more than any video game system ever. If you don't know what it is just do a Google search. Long story short it's the official exercise game (complete with fancy balance board/scale) for the Wii. Amazing.

Ratatouie is one of Pixar's best (third to Nemo and Incredibles, just ahead of Toy Story 2) and may just earn them an Oscar nod. Especially amazing when you consider the degree of difficulty in making a rat in the kitchen a beautiful thing.

I'm absolutely addicted to this game (the name has nothing to do with it, okay maybe a little).

Transformers was like anticipating a great meal only to be let down by a pretty mediocre main course, but then having the dessert show up and be the most amazing thing you have ever tasted.

You must see Deja Vu if you haven't already, Denzel is the man and the movie is smart and engaging.

Other DVDs I Netflixed that were great: Night at the Mueseum and Flags of Our Fathers.

Harry Potter's latest left me completely unimpressed. I guess I realized how little I actually care about these characters. Once you take away the fantastical magic (which was incredible absent for the most part in this one) I just found myself bored.

Glad Joe went home on Big Brother last night, now I can watch without throwing things at my nice plasma.

I've heard the new Die Hard movie is actually good. Can someone actually back this up for me before I spend my hard earned money on it?

Other DVDs I Netflixed that you should avoid at all costs: Flyboys, Blood Diamond, and A Good Year

Fantastic Four 2 is the easiest review ever, it's Fantastic Four 1 with a better bad guy.

So You think You Can Dance remains one of the most fun and amazing shows to watch on TV this summer. And they remain committed to actually finding the best dancer, and not just puting on a "water cooler" show (I'm talking to you American Idol and America's Got Talent).

Other DVDs I Netflixed that were surprisingly kinda good: Pride, Ghost Rider, and Music and Lyrics.

The second X Files movie should be out next summer. David, Gillian, and writer/director Chris Carter are all on board. Color me pumped.

Other DVDs I Netflixed that deserve a full review: Bridge to Terebithia, Letters From Iwo Jima, and Little Miss Sunshine.

Can't believe the lack of Emmy nods for Lost yesterday, though it's nice to see Heroes get some love.


Whew, I guess that's what happens when you let things build up over a few weeks. The same thing happens when I go camping for a couple days and don't want to use the camper restroom, but that would be both a disgusting and inappropriate analogy to use here so forget I mentioned it. Anyhow, catch you Monday.