Friday, December 28, 2007

National Treasure 2

I will start by confessing that I liked the first National Treasure. It's a funny romp through early American history to find treasure, what's not to like? I'm nerdy enough to like the references to Ben Franklin sending in letters as a woman to the local newspaper. Anyway, the second one starts with a similar premise, finding treasure will enhance the family name of Nic Cage and Jon Voigt's family. Ed Harris plays another descendant of an early American who passed down a missing page from John Wilkes Booth's diary that shows that Cage's family member helped plan Lincoln's assassination. To disprove this story, Cage and Voigt decide to look for the "City of Gold" which Booth was looking for to fund the Confederacy. Needless to say, he didn't find it, but he didn't have Cage's encyclopedic knowledge of history, nor the fun sidekick. They start on an adventure that leads to the Statue of Liberty in Paris (the smaller one), the Resolute desk in Queen Elizabeth's study, and the Resolute desk in the Oval Office to kidnapping the President at Mount Vernon. Once you acknowledge that they would actually be able to safely break into and out of all these places, it's just fun. Also, I didn't know that you can find secret passages in old furniture - they find a clue in a secret compartment in the desks and in the wine cellar of Mount Vernon. All the previous characters return, but they add Helen Mirren as Cage's mother and Voigt's ex-wife, who is herself an expert in ancient American languages and helps them translate some clues. Since Ed Harris is following them along their entire journey (he really wants the City of Gold), he's a great bad guy trying to ruin their fun, and of course (since it's Disney) ultimately joins their search and helps them search for the City behind Mount Rushmore. Overall, it's a great light-hearted thriller search for lost treasure. Cage has had some amazing hair treatments, and the clothes are better this time around, but overall it's a fun unbelievable movie. 4 of 5 stars for sheer fun-factor.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Two very different movies

I recently watched two newer movies on DVD, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Evening. Both got pretty bad reviews when they were in the theater but given the acting talent in both, I still wanted to see them. Chuck and Larry is pretty dreadful. It's full of every possible fear of homosexuals, and every stereotype about why they're terrific and fabulous. Basically, Larry was so distraught when his wife died that he failed to switch his pension to his kids, so now if he died (and since he's a firefighter, not unlikely) his kids would have nothing. So he reads about domestic partnerships and asks Chuck (Adam Sandler), his womanizing, bachelor, fellow firefighter to be his partner so someone will take care of his kids. In a very predictable manner, they are investigated, and hire a lawyer (Jessica Biel) who Chuck of course falls for. The movie is very predictable, and given that it's an original idea for movies, remarkably cliched. The guys get married and the always stupid Rob Schnieder plays the Asian minister, and as they're homophobic themselves, the guys refuse to kiss. This repeats in the climax of the movie, where the idea of kissing another man is so repulsive, it's going to ruin their scam and land them in jail. Overall, it's a stupid movie that doesn't have enough humor to make it worth watching. 2 of 5 stars.

On the other hand, Evening was also given terrible reviews and I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it. It's not wonderful, but nor is it offensive or particularly cliched. If anything, it's too subtle and should have taken a deeper bite into its material. It takes place in the mind of Vannessa Redgrave, who is on her deathbed, she is remembering being at a wedding in the late 50s/early 60s. In her delirium, she lets escape words to her daughters like "Harris and I killed Buddy". This gives the whole movie a very small mystery to be solved. The daughters are trying to figure out if either Harris or Buddy are real people or her imagination. Toni Collette and Natasha Richardson play the daughters, who obviously mirror the two failed sides of Redgrave's own life - the perfect wife and mother that Redgrave never got to be (Richardson) and the artist that Redgrave was never talented enough to be successful (Collette). Claire Danes plays Redgrave as a young woman, attending the wedding of Connecticutt socialite Mamie Gummer (who in a fun bit of casting is played in later life by her own mother, Meryl Streep). Danes and Gummer were friends in college, along with Gummer's ne'er do well brother Buddy, played well by Hugh Dancy (Ella Enchanted's Prince Char). Dancy is an artistic soul trying to write his first novel and throughout the movie spouts first or last lines of famous works, but doesn't really have the courage to leave his wealthy life to pursue his dreams. He falls deeper into despair as he sees Danes trying to live her dreams, and their former housekeeper's son, Harris, arrives and is a doctor. Harris, played by the ever beautiful Patrick Wilson, has made a success of himself and Buddy sees the connection developing between Danes and Wilson and nearly loses himself. So as not to reveal much more of the storyline, I'll just say, Dancy plays the man struggling with class, dreams, sexuality, and love better than most. Danes is very convincing as Redgrave's younger self trying to be a singer and raise her daughters. Occaisonally the movie does have some trite dialogue, like Streep telling Collette that in the end very little is as important as it once seemed to assuage her fears about having a baby and getting married. I liked the movie, and enjoyed the actors and memories, and of course Patrick Wilson. 3.5 stars out of 5.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Surprising Best Movies of 2007

I'm not sure 2007 will be remembered for much, movie-wise, besides being the year of the sequels, none of which made the top 5 of any of my fellow movie bloggers (except mine, I loved Live Free or Die Hard), which you can peruse here. Enjoy. We'll probably do another list when the Oscars are announced.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Movies I've got to watch

There are lots of movies I enjoy watching during the Christmas season, and sometimes I find a day I want Christmas in June and will watch them again, but I'm just realizing there are 5 that I must watch every Christmas season. And to be sure you don't forget to see them too, here's my list of top 5 movies:

5. Home Alone is just a nostalgic holiday movie. Kevin McCalister is married and divorced since this movie came out, but it's still terrific to remember him as a little kid. Also, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as the bad guys are lots of fun in their bumbling travails. My brother and I could easily recite the entire movie given a few prompts. "Ma'am, I'm eight years old, do you think I'd be here, alone? I don't think so." He's such a great snotty, little kid.

4. I really like the Santa Clause series. In the first one he has to figure out how to become Santa after the previous Santa falls off his roof. It's very cute, and elaborates the story of Santa really well. In the second movie, he falls victim to "the Mrs. clause" and has to marry or he'll forfeit his right to be Santa. Luckily he finds Elizabeth Mitchell (from Lost) and they have fun getting to know each other in the short amount of time he has. The best part is the meeting of magical creatures, including Mother Earth, Father Time, the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny.

3. This one is nearly always on TV right around Thanksgiving and plays a few times between then and Christmas. They sing some Christmas songs, and ultimately have to put on a pageant directed by Lucy. I love watching him find the "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree" which has even become a catchphrase for spindly trees.

2. How can you describe how perfectly Christmas It's a Wonderful Life can be? It symbolizes all that we forget each year, that we are part of a community, part of a family, and that no matter how insignificant you feel, you are important to someone. It's cheesy and always makes me cry, but it's such a part of all Christmas culture, that I really do think of it "every time a bell rings, an angel is getting his wings".

1. Of course the movie I cannot avoid watching every single Christmas and reciting as often as possible is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I actually have used lines from this movie and recognized a kindred spirit when they were parroted back at me from an unexpected source (B-mama, you must teach this movie to your kids someday!). It's a "ree-al, nice" movie to show with your family. One Christmas (so family lore goes) my grandparents were snowed in at my aunt's house and they put on this movie, and my grandparents laughed and laughed. It's really a movie for the whole family. It'll have you sh*tting bricks, sorry sh*ttin' rocks.
Honorable mentions: A Christmas Story (which lost out on the top 5 because it is on 24 times just Christmas EVE!!!), The Holiday, The Family Stone.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Die Hardest Rocks!

Live Free or Die Hard was among the slew of sequels out this past summer, and I admit I missed it in the theater even though I'd liked the previous Die Hard movies. However, I think this one is my new favorite. Bruce Willis has obviously been doing this a long time, and it shows in the laid-back style that has much less of the insanity and go-save-the-world attitude he had in the previous movies. And his curmudgeonly attitude towards the other lead, Justin Long (the Mac from the "I'm a PC, I'm a Mac" commercials) is more fun than his previous cowboy act. He and Justin have to save the world (it wouldn't be Die Hard if the world or John McClane's family wasn't in danger) from the people who hacked into nearly all government. Timothy Olyphant (from Catch & Release) is the least convincing bad-guy from all the Die Hard movies, mostly because he doesn't have an accent, and doesn't seem personally interested in killing John McClane. However, the evil he does, shutting down all the banks, electricity, roads, etc. by hacking into the government controls does seem to cause bigger problems than other bad guys. The best part is when Willis and Long have to find a way to figure out who is behind the mess they visit "The Warlock", a genius computer hacker, played by Kevin Smith, sitting in his basement in a bathrobe surrounded by all sorts of computer and spy equipment. Smith helps them, but spends most of his time making fun of Willis' inability to comprehend computers. Perfect casting. Of course McClane saves the day, but not before racing a fighter jet with a semi. The stunts start off slightly believable - sending a car up a ramp to take out a helicopter, but when McClane jumps on top of the fighter jet as his semi goes off the road, you just remember it's a Die Hard film, and it's okay. I really liked the computer collapse storyline, and Justin Long is terrific as the younger side-kick to Willis' older luddite. And when Willis kills the bad guy by shooting himself in the shoulder (to get the guy standing behind him) I knew it was a classic. 4.5 stars out of 5. Go get it on DVD, best action film of the year.

I am Legend will not be one

I love Will Smith, I think he's a terrific actor, and does a great job in nearly everything he does (though you can see my opinion of his last dramatic work, The Pursuit of Happyness) and was excited to see I Am Legend as I really like sci-fi movies and movies about futuristic science catastrophes, so this movie should have been right up my alley. However, beyond the pretty amazing special effects converting New York City back to nature, the movie is just not fun and really not very interesting. Will Smith is a scientist trying to find a cure to the virus that 3 years ago turned 5% of the global human population (94.9% died from the virus, .1% was immune, hence Will Smith survivng) into zombies of a sort. However, Smith spends a lot of his days driving around the city hunting the deer that have moved in (although given that all the bridges were torn down and the tunnels flooded, I'm a little mystified as to how all the animals got there). He also visits a video and CD store watching new movies and talking to the mannequins that he obviously set up in the store. He also has a wonderful dog, Sam, who travels around with him all the time. They can roam freely during the day, but must get inside and hide by dusk as that's when all the remaining human zombies go hunting (they're supersensitive to UV rays). He's doing pretty well, though can't seem to find the cure, and seems entertained and hopeful until a major set-back upsets his obviously fragile mental state. He starts to attack the zombies, rather than hide from them, to his own near-destruction. After that the big attacks come as the zombies find his home, and start attacking. Luckily another living woman and a kid save Smith from his self-destructive behavior. A bunch of things blow up, and the woman and kid hide in Smith's house while he blows up all the zombies who found them. Yes, I just described the whole movie, but I still don't think there were spoilers as there was nothing particularly shocking or suprising thoughout the movie. There are all kinds of jump-in-your-seat scares as zombies attack and Smith fights back, but overall this is not an entertaining movie, nor a particularly good thriller or sci-fi story. There are flashbacks thoughout the movie that show how Smith thought he could stop the spread before it got out of hand, but it's not clear why he's responsible or why he thinks he should do that rather than escape with his family. There is a good cameo by Emmy Thompson as the doctor who engineered the virus that was supposed to cure cancer. If you're looking for a zombie flick see Shaun of the Dead instead, and if you want a post-apocolyptic story see Children of Men. Only 2 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Revision of Oz

For those of you who don't live in New York City and have been plastered with thousands of ads for the Sci-Fi mini-series Tin Man, and those who didn't understand the ads, it's a reimagining of "The Wizard of Oz" that brings back much of the darker tone of the books, rather than the treacly sing-song of the 1939 movie. It's more of a nod to the books rather than actually using the story. Nearly every familiar element of the books is included, but not always literally. The place where D.G. (rather than Dorothy Gale) landed is not Oz, but rather the O.Z. or Outer Zone. D.G. is played with part innocence and part sarcasm really well by Zooey Deschanel. The scarecrow isn't stuffed with straw, but rather he's the former queen's advisor, Glitch (played by Alan Cumming), who had his brain surgically removed by the new Queen (don't worry, only half, and his head now zips shut to keep it in). She needed it to find the information about how to stop the O.Z.'s two suns behind the moon causing eternal darkness. That is the quest that D.G. and her posse head out on - to stop the Queen's ability to stop the sun. D.G. doesn't want to get back to Kansas, because she finds out really early that she's not from Kansas, but was taken from the O.Z. as a child and raised by nurturing robots in Kansas because her sister (the new Queen) tried to kill her to prevent a prophesy from being fulfilled that only one of them can rule. On her trip, D.G. meets a man imprisoned in an iron suit, and when they let him out find out he's a "Tin Man" or security agent for hire. Rounding out the famous foursome is Rah, a beasty-looking creature who can read minds but has been tortured by the new Queen (so she'll know how to stop the suns) and lacks the courage to do much now. There are all kinds of magical elements throughout the series, and as D.G. pursues her quest, she has flashbacks to when she was a little girl living in the O.Z. with her parents and sister and the magic she knows. The flashbacks are encouraged by her former tutor (who she called Toto as a kid), and she realizes that her sister was taken over by a witch when she was a child, and that her sister wasn't responsible for all the treacherous things the new Queen has done. With the help of her parents, D.G. is able to save the O.Z., of course. Overall, it's a wonderfully dark, but magical story that amazes with its ability to channel The Wizard of Oz. Oh, yeah, and Richard Dryfus plays "The Mystic Man" (aka the Wizard) who gives D.G. the advice and wisdom to defeat the new Queen with her quest. There are some very funny scenes with all the minor characters that come into the story in ways you won't expect, but will definitely recognize them as their Wizard of Oz counterparts. I give the story 4 of 5 stars, and recommend you catch it on the Sci-Fi channel or on DVD someday soon. It's not scary, just dark, and while not geared toward young kids, it really is great for almost anyone.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Golden Compass

I loved the book The Golden Compass, and the movie did not disappoint at all. Just like watching Harry Potter come to life and seeing the wonder that is Quidditch on the screen, The Golden Compass shows us daemons, ice bears and, best of all, Lyra Belacqua. Dakota Blue Richards was wonderfully cast as Lyra, the tough, rule-breaking tomboy who seeks adventure. Richards does not cultivate anything like the cutesy little girls usually onscreen. She's tough, but scared of the adults, loyal to her friends, compassionate to an armored bear's plight, and brave enough to lie to the bear king. She and her daemon Pantalaimon (voiced perfectly by Freddie Highmore of Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) go to live with the icy power behind "the Magisterium's" project to fight "dust", Nicole Kidman's "Mrs. Coulter". Kidman is carefully constructed, with beautiful costumes and a mannered demeanor that makes you afraid the minute it disappears. Her role is trimmed considerably from the book, and the fear she inspires is never realized, but with the obvious openings for sequels, she'll probably get the chance. Daniel Craig also only appears onscreen for a few scenes, so selling them as the stars is a little misleading. However, Lyra (Richards) more than steals the screen, and with Sam Elliot (as aeronaut Lee Scoresby) and Iorek Byrinson, the armored bear (voiced by Ian McKellen) supporting her throughout the movie, their charming interactions make it obvious why they will support her side in the fights to come. The movie is trimmed quite a bit, but it's mostly Pullman's dense descriptive inner monologues that don't make it, and the movie is the better for it. While I agree with critics that the initial voiceover explaining the alternate world could have been better integrated into the story, rather than coming in a heap at the beginning, for once a great movie will only be improved by reading the book AFTER the movie. My favorite comment by a critic, Manohla Dargis: "I would have liked to spend some quality time with Lyra’s friend and protector, the warrior bear Iorek Byrnison, a gorgeous creature whose ferocity is, alas, tempered by his resemblance to some familiar cuddly polar bears. It is, I discovered, hard to keep your mind off the concession stand when you are waiting for Iorek to offer Lyra a Coke." Overall, wonderful casting and a terrific skeleton upon which to build the next great trilogy.

Addendum: After thinking about it for a day, I liked the movie more. Also, I didn't comment on the religious kerfuffle that's been surrounding the movie. Yes, there are metaphysical and spiritual elements to the book, some of which are portrayed negatively (but there have been all kinds of terrible religious leaders, and religion wasn't the problem). And the movie is about extremism and totalitarianism and the State being involved in its people's morality and thoughts, not its religion or any aspect of who or what God is or does. It does not indict religion, but rather extremists who want to control.

Friday, December 7, 2007

New Movie!!! Inkheart

Okay, I went to see The Golden Compass tonight because I could not wait. Usually it's pretty hard to remember the previews at a really terrific movie, which I'll talk more about when I've digested it. However, the preview to Inkheart just blew my mind. It's everything I wanted the book to be visually. Hooray for another wonderful book brought to the screen. This trailer isn't the one that shows before Golden Compass, but it's still awesome.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Razor worth waiting for

As we wait for the fourth and final season of Battlestar Galactica it was nice to have a little taste of the brilliance that this show can be. This two-hour episode doesn't actually bridge the gap between Seasons 3 and 4, but rather explains some missing info from the midst of Season 2. It clears up a few questions that will obviously be important in season 4, but mostly it's a terrific stand alone episode, as long as you've seen through the end of Season 2. It tells the story of what happened (past tense if you're up to date with the most recent season) to the doomed Battlestar Pegasus when the Cylons attacked and how they met up with Galactica without any civilian fleet with them. Michelle Forbes (previously brilliant on Homicide) as the woman in charge is awesome, and we even find out some amazing secrets of her personal life that shed light on her brutality towards the captured Cylon. There are revealing elements that shed light on how Season 4 might happen, but it's kept a pretty tight secret. The story mostly follows another Pegasus officer, Kendra Shaw, as she takes orders from Forbes, as well as trying to explain the history of Pegasus to our favorites Starbuck and Apollo. She's terrific, making tough decisions and trying to survive those decisions. Overall, the episode is really well written, with our favorites making appearances, but focusing on issues that we missed during Pegasus' brief appearance in Season 2. I can't wait for the next season!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ben Stiller is best alone

A Night at the Museum is a funny kids movie. If you've never been to the American Museum of Natural History in NYC, this is a much funnier way of touring the place, with the exception of their new Hall of Biodiversity, which rocks and is not in the movie at all. Basically Ben Stiller becomes the new night-time guard at the museum, replacing Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs. The first night he's left with a list of instructions, the first of which is "Throw the Bone". This gimmick of the instructions was really funny and should have been kept up rather than watching Ben Stiller try to settle disputes between the wild west and the roman empire in his weird comedic way. However, there are lots of really funny moments throughout, including how they figure out how to save the day when the previous guards try to steal the pension they were denied. There are all kinds of special effects that are really effective and funny, but the overall feel for the movie is very kid-centric. It's all the benefits of the museum while sitting on the couch.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Random rant...

I can't tell if this is only due to the Writer's strike, but is it weird that Bones showed its Christmas episode last night? This happened last year with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (a moment of silence for its unfortunate demise) - their Christmas episode aired on December 4th, and then they ran repeats for 3 weeks. The same thing with Bones and House - no new episodes until the new year now. How hard would it be to run the reruns NOW, and then the Christmas themed episodes AT CHRISTMAS! Done ranting...thank you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Definitely Enchanted

It's pretty much impossible that you haven't seen the previews for Enchanted everywhere for the past few weeks. Which means, you've already seen the first 20 minutes of the movie. Personally, I was a little annoyed that I already knew so much of the movie from previews alone - considering I hadn't gone out of my way to watch them. However, after the stuff I'd already seen was over, the movie is delightful. It had an unexpected ending and lots of funny characters that were never even seen in the previews. The squirrel, Pip, can't speak when he's brought into our world, and his miming techniques are awesome - he mimes the entire scene of the bad guy giving our princess a poison apple. Amy Adams was a scene-stealer in Junebug and finally gets her leading role and plays the naive ingenue perfectly. She starts out seemingly insane with her hopes for a good world, and while some of that wears off, she's still a fount of optimism that seems to imbue everyone around her. McDreamy is terrific as the workaholic divorce-lawyer father who can't believe Adams insanity. Oh, and when she makes all her clothes out of his curtains, the result is priceless. A wonderful movie for kids and their parents, boys AND girls.

My cup of geek love overflows

This week 3 stars from Buffy and Star Trek appeared on 3 different shows, and did it with flair. Eliza Dushku played a Britney-inspired starlet with problems on Ugly Betty. Seth Green played a patient of McSteamy's on Grey's Anatomy, who hit on Meredith's sister before his neck started bleeding. And finally, Wil Wheaton played an evil comic book collector on Numb3rs. It was just fun.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bee Movie is better than a B

Bee Movie just mostly for adults. There are small things that will appeal to kids - all the bees dressed in various outfits only in black and yellow, stirring honey, the small fry wanting to fly with the big kids, and a bee trapped under a glass. The rest of the story is really meant for the adults accompanying the kids - being trapped in the same job your whole life, not having a right to fight against abuse, the global significance of the loss of bees for pollination. However, the number of jokes that go along with all the bigger messages makes it a really fun movie for any holiday weekend. Jerry Seinfeld is the main voice of the movie, with a few sidekicks in Matthew Broderick as his best friend since kindergarten (a week ago in Bee world), Renee Zellweger as his mixed-species love interest, and John Goodman as the evil lawyer trying to prove that bees have no right to their honey. The rest of the cast is terrific based on the list but I have to say I didn't notice their talent for the most part. Chris Rock has a few seconds as a mosquito, and Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld's Puddy) as Zellweger's human boyfriend are fun. Overall it's a good movie with lots of sly humor and themes geared more towards adults than kids. Also, the animation is really terrific.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The return of Project Runway

Tonight the best reality show on TV returns for its fourth season. Project Runway on Bravo returns with Tim Gunn, fashion guru, and Heidi Klum, supermodel. This show has been more and more fun with each season. There's no viewer participation - only official judges who have real experience in fashion decide who stays and who goes, and while I don't always agree with who they pick at the end, they do tend to get rid fo the least talented each week. There's lots of bitching and infighting, but the challenges are always fun to watch. They had to design a whole dress out of recyled material like bags and bottle caps, and paper. They've designed useful fashion for dressing for airplanes for hours and arriving impossibly fresh. And my favorite,a "garden party dress" out of garden supplies including flowers and leaves. The challenges are always kooky, but speak to the individual styles of the designers as well as thinking outside the box. Plus, Tim Gunn makes it work by advising them all how to improve. Watch it and judge for yourself...Bravo, Wednesday 10pm.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lions for Lambs

The new Redford/Cruise/Streep movie is a rarity in Hollywood today: a movie for grown-ups that includes no sex, romance, or even much swearing. Yet this movie is still completely made for grown-ups. It's written more like a play in three locations interspersed in real time - a senator's office, a poli-sci professor's office, and a mountain in Afghanistan. There are only 6 real characters, and most of what they do is talk. Cruise is a young senator who is telling a veteran reporter, played with the expected brilliance of Streep, about how he planned a new "strategy" for winning the war on terror. He seems to be arguing all the standard points on that side of the argument, but he does it with a genuine attitude that is lacking in real-life politicians. Streep questions him at every point, and their discussion is a well-written debate on how the war should be fought and won. They bring in topics that always get pushed aside, like the role of the media in the war, and why the same questions keep getting asked. The second location is Redford (who also directed really well) talking to a student about why he's stopped attending his class. The kid, Andrew Garfield, is terrific holding his own against Redford. There are flashbacks to his presence in class, and he even gets to explain why he stopped buying Redford's argument's about the political landscape of today. When asked why Redford cares if he attends his class Redford tells him about 2 other students with the same potential as Garfield, who took a project Redford assigned and decided to enlist after they graduated. While Redford said he was "disappointed they enlisted, he revered their reasons for doing it." That is the final location, watching these two former students begin to take a snow-covered mountain in Afghanistan, implementing the new strategy Cruise is describing to Streep. Overall, the story is well choreographed, showing the real-time causes and effects of decisions in Washington, while recognizing that these are real people who are remembered by others back at home. The acting is terrific, and the movie doesn't try to preach as much as make you think about what you know and what questions aren't being asked. It didn't change my mind, but it definitely opened it a bit further.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Two new cute movies

In honor of election day, I took the day off and went to the movies. I wasn't in the mood for anything super-hyped, and was finally at a cineplex that offered more than 2 movies. So I saw Martian Child with John Cusack and Dan in Real Life with Steve Carell. Both were really good and triggered the same sense of goodness and hope. Martian Child tells the story of an adopted child who thinks and acts like he's from Mars. Cusack plays the recently widowed (is that even the right word for a man who lost his wife?) adoptive father of 7-year-old Dennis, who wears sunglasses and sunblock 'beacuse Earth's sun is too sunny', and a weight belt because 'Earth's gravity is weak' and he doesn't want to float away. Dennis is so convincing throughout that you're not sure he isn't a little bit Martian, but his masking his attachment and abandonment issues this way make the story and its resolution more hopeful than incredibly sad. Cusack is wonderful as the new parent who is also a famous sci-fi writer who understands what it means to be a "different" kid and helps Dennis 'learn to be human'. The movie could easily have spilled into cliche and schmaltziness, but it stays very genuine and convining all the way through. When Dennis proves he can taste color by identifying M&Ms with his eyes shut, you really start to believe he has some Martian qualities. Also, Amanda Peet and Joan Cusack (as John's sister) are terrific supporting cast. They have funny bits and help John see some of the problems with Dennis that need to be dealt with and argue the "society" line of conformity with the best of intentions.

Dan in Real Life similarly tells the story of a man raising his 3 daughters since his wife passed away. Steve Carell is terrific as the dad of teenage girls who watches in disbelief as they go through teen angst and first love. Dan's huge family is gathered at the family home on the Rhode Island shore for the weekend. Dan is sent out for the paper and meets the woman of his dreams (Juliette Binoche in her best character ever, in my opinion) - they chat for hours. However, when he gets home she's beaten him there because she is Dan's brother's new girlfriend! Dane Cook plays the brother very convincingly - some humor, but obviously the family screw-up. The weekend is full of the awkwardness that Carell is perfect for, and he an Binoche keep falling love while trying to deny it. There are lots of funny bits, including a family talent show, and Carell's continuing run-ins with the same cop for traffic violations. Very good movie, with fun and romance.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Golden Age

The new Elizabeth: The Golden Age does a good job of continuing where the previous movie left off. England's at war with Spain, and the new world has been discovered and Walter Raleigh, a common pirate, has come to court to gain Elizabeth's favor. The sets and costumes are wonderful, but the overall pacing and set-up of the movie make it less consuming than the first one. Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh is terrific, and whenever he's on the screen, you can't help being stunned - whether seducing one of the Ladies in waiting, or counseling Elizabeth herself. Cate Blanchett doesn't exhibit as much of the strength and power that came through so well in the first one, and in The Aviator. She alternates between nearly in tears and upset about random things and giving wonderful speeches that inspired her people. I don't think it's her acting that doesn't work, but the editing and direction. Scenes that might have made it more clear where her emotional stuggle was coming from (the impending war with Spain, inability to marry) were obviously cut, so she seems weepy for most of the movie. It's a great story overall, and the war with the Spanish Armada is pretty amazing. Overall, if the first movie was a 5, this is about 3.5.

Addendum: I remembered another example of why the directing was bad. There's a great scene where Elizabeth is inspiring her troops - saying how they'll defeat the Spanish Armada. She looks good - long hair, armored suit, and sitting on a horse. However, in the 90 second speech, the horse wouldn't stand still EVER. She circled and circled and circled, not pacing in front of her troops (the scene in Braveheart was brought to mind). All the director should have done was hold that stupid horse still and let Cate Blanchett speak her heart out to rally the troops - she could barely speak and the best scene was destroyed. Argh....

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Best Show on TV

I'm a little late in coming to the party on this show, but now I've seen the entire first season and agree with all critics that it's the best show on TV, and one of the best shows ever. Friday Night Lights is based on the movie that is dreadful and overly dramatic with a stupid premise and pretty horrible actors. However, the TV show, which won and deserved its Emmy for casting, is terrific. While it tells the story of a football team in the heart of Texas - which really wouldn't appeal to many people - it's really much more about growing up, and dealing with all kinds of pressure: continuing success, disappointing the people you love, living up to your potential, realizing there is more to life than football, and how to be a good person. Since Everwood was prematurely cancelled, Friday Night Lights has picked up on a lot of their themes, particularly living the life you are born into (trailer trash, spoiled rich girl, child of alcoholics) while understanding that you can rise above it (or not). It's a great story about a pretty amazing set of characters, with each episode focusing on different aspects of the town and the football team from the perspective of different people - the coach, the new quarterback, the old paralyzed QB, the daughter of the coach, the wife of the coach, the head cheerleader, etc. It's a really great ensemble cast that are at the same time believable, passionate, flawed, and hotter than any one town could conceivably be. My favorite pair is the coach and his wife (Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton) - they seem to be able to talk about anything, and fight really hard to be good people while not drowning in other people's problems. The star quarterback is paralyzed in the first game of the season, and the town has to deal with moving on, while he tries to understand what living without football can mean. Even if you hate football, there is a lot about this show that is uplifting and will reach you if you have ever played on a team that worked toward a out-of-reach goal. And I can't decide who is hotter - the shy new QB Matt Saracen, or the bad-boy full back Tim Riggins...the eternal dilemma.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Samantha Who?

I watched the pilot of the new vehicle for Christina Applegate, and so far it's really funny. It's got lots of cute moments, and her friends are so different it works. Basically she's awakened after 8 days in a coma with no memory of who she is or who anyone in her life is. Somehow she woke up with a whole new moral code because she discovers that she didn't like a lot of the things she used to do or say (like her affair with a married man, her alcoholism, and being really mean to her boyfriend). She seems to want to fix most of these, and hopefully that'll be the future of the show, and not her turning back into the evil person she seemed to be. I'm going to go watch the second one. It shows on Mondays at 930 on ABC.

Addendum: I watched the second episode and it was still a good show - she realizes she's not the kind of person she wants to be (or is really worth being) and wants to quit her job, but in a send-up of Carrie Bradshaw, realizes she has purchased too many shoes and must work to pay for her shoes. Looking forward to next week.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More TV

Nothing in the new season is jumping out at me as really necessary to watch. But a few shows have really maintained their strength. Ugly Betty has really picked up the story lines from last year and developed them even further - Henry and Betty still seem to be ill-fated lovers that might have a less tragic future than Romeo and Juliet (or whatever the telenovela names would be). Also the whole Amanda-is-Fay's-daughter story is still funny, with Amanda being convinced by Mark that this can be exploited. The stories are still funny and interesting enough to keep watching. House is another one that has become compelling every week, especially with the contest between new interns. They really tossed this show on its ear, taking a VERY good formula and redefining it with new characters and stories, without removing the previous story lines that were working so well. But, they managed to cast and write really good characters as the new interns, and it only develops House's reputation to have all these other doctors bowing at his feet. It was getting hard to remember what a brilliant doctor he is purported to be.

However, while there are two shows hanging on and making strides, there are a few that just haven't stepped up and are in danger of falling off the radar. Heroes had such a brilliant first season - a totally new concept, well thought-out with a long arc with small achievements, so it was hard to lose interest. However, we're three episodes into this season, and I can't figure out what's going on, and why none of the characters seem to know or recognize each other. There was this huge coming together at the end of last year, and yet most of the characters still seems to think the best way to survive is to go off on their own. Most of last year was about discovering others with their talents, and there was drama in that, who would have powers, what would they be, and how can they all defeat Sylar. This season, the best I can figure is the funny symbol seems to be dangerous. That's a big step down from last year. Another show that took a long time to get going this season is Weeds. I'm hoping Heroes will pick up later, and Weeds really seems to be getting back on its initial zaniness. The first few episodes took forever to get rid of the storyline left over from last season, so those were pretty boring. However, it's starting to look up.

Anything anyone would like to recommend that doesn't seem to be making my radar? I'm still interested in new shows. Or rediscovering old ones.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Kingdom

I'm a big fan of Jennifer Garner and Jamie Foxx, so seeing The Kingdom was a treat. And, despite reviews to the contrary is a pretty terrific story. One of the reviews I read described it as a bad episode of CSI but it's more like the smarts of CSI with the energy of Mission: Impossible set in Saudi Arabia. I really liked it. It starts out with a fairly crazy chase/killing spree scene through an American compound in SA. The FBI agents who are killed in the horrific attack are enough to spur the FBI to attempt to get their agents into SA to investigate. They partner with a really terrific actor (Ashraf Barhom) playing the Saudi Prince's military presence who is responsible for protecting the FBI agents. The agents, played by Foxx, Garner, Chris Cooper and a hysterically smart-ass Jason Bateman, are stifled by the rules of conduct by Americans in SA, look but don't touch, etc. However, Foxx, plays the tough as nails agent who will threaten, cajole, and charm anyone who gets in their way. The first two-thirds of the movie are quick clues to uncover the criminals behind the attack, and the last third is a wild-ride chase and shoot-em-up sequence that is really nail-bitingly-well done. Oh, and Jeremy Piven has a small role as the American attache in SA and is all slime and charm and attempting inoffense while offending all.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Second week

This is just a mish-mash of what I still like after the second week of shows. Ugly Betty and Grey's were both good in their second week, though Grey's is still less than wonderful, but it's good. I still love The Big Band Theory after How I met your mother - funny as hell. Chuck was the only show that was actually more fun its second week as the two sides try to kill him. Journeyman was good, but I'm still not sure any characters are as interesting as the main guy - maybe Quantum Leap had it right when it was just the time-traveller and no one else. We'll see how it plays out. Bionic Woman wasn't terrific in its second week, but the introduction of Isaiah Washington was kind of creepy because of all his off-screen issues. Private Practice was perfectly saccharine and weepy, which is the way it should stay, but that might get old. The performances of the two mothers losing their babies were awesome though. Oh, and I still love Numb3ers on Fridays - such great nerdy action. So far though, Pushing Daisies is the most fun and creative thing on TV.

Friday, October 5, 2007

This Ones for The Girls

This one's for a friend going through a break-up who realizes the healing powers of country music and cartoons.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Wow - Pushing Daisies is amazing...

Wednesdays at 8, Pushing Daisies is something totally new on TV - let's hope it survives. It felt to me like Roald Dahl rewriting the movie Big Fish. It's the story of a kid who has the gift of life and death - he can bring back the dead with a touch, but only for a minute, or death will take someone else in their place. AND after bringing someone back, our hero, Ned, can never touch them again or they'll die. Jim Dale (the voice of the Harry Potter audiobooks) narrates and makes the story so much more familiar and exciting than the story would be on its own (not a common touch for narration which is usually distracting). Our hero Ned has grown up to be a pie-maker (he can make even rotten fruit perfectly ripe - how cool would that be?) and his childhood crush Charlotte "Chuck", has been mysteriously killed. She totally reminds me of all the characters Zooey Deschanel has ever played, but not quite crazy. Anyway, Ned brings her back to ask who killed her, but can't bring himself to kill her again (so no one else would die), and they embark on the journey, with Ned's PI partner, to find out who killed "chuck". We meet her recluse, synchronized swimming aunts (played brilliantly by Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen "Suddenly Seymour" Greene) because they've been sent Chuck's luggage after her death. The show is just cheerfully colored with pure heart at its heart, but with the dark edge of having power over life and death. It's really funny with Kristin Chenowith playing Ned's neighbor and waitress who is in love with Ned, and can't understand why he never touches her. I think this might have made a better 2-hour movie, but I'm intereseted to see how they keep it going!

Monday, October 1, 2007

3:10 To Yuma

As far as westerns go this is FANTASTIC! In the world of film, this is really good, with some stellar writing and good performances. Russell Crowe is very well coifed, and slick throughout, while maintaining this sneaky grin that makes him seem more friendly than smarmy. And his relationship with a very tortured Christian Bale is terrific. He continues to ask Bale if they're friends now, after Crowe goes on to kill most of the people who get in the way. Their dialogue is always well timed and reveals bits and bits about their childhood. Crowe is contiuously on edge, ready to take out anyone who looks at him funny if necessary. However, Bale acts in almost opposition to his evil, while always trying to maintain a civil and moral position on whatever is going on, he is still always conscious of his position as a father and husband and what his actions will do to his family. Crowe has none of that obligation, including to the gang that shows him lethal loyalty throughout. Ben Foster, as mentioned below in the guest appearance on My Name is Earl, is TERRIFIC as the second in the gang of thieves and incredibly cruel and with a strong evil streak. Definitely rent this if you haven't seen it in theaters.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Bionic Woman!!!

I loved this intro to Bionic Woman! It looks like it could be a terrific series. It blends some of the best actors with fun storylines. A friend's description of it says everything I want to say, so I'll let her speak for me.

Premiere Week - Returning Thursday Shows

Ugly Betty is still a wonderful show, and there are still mysteries worth following to their end. Betty is back, and still taking on the world, while being totally oblivious to her own appearance. Thankfully, they've stopped making constant jokes about her appearance. It's finally become about her character, which definitely includes, but isn't limited to her appearance. I still don't quite understand Daniel (Eric Mabius) and whether he's going to commit to being a schmuck or finally stand up and run his family's company - he still wavers back and forth in away that doesn't really make much sense. I loved that in the premiere Amanda gained a ton of weight (and wears a fat suit) since she stress eats and just found out she was adopted. She's probably my favorite character on the show. I still want Betty and Henry to get together, but that's definitely my own predilection for nerds cheering.

Grey's Anatomy was just as good as it's been. They resolved all the major things from the season finale pretty well - except the Bailey being rejected for chief resident problem. I understand the not being bogged down in paperwork running things, but she was really good at running things, people listened to her and respected her. That doesn't apply to Torres. Oh well. I don't run the show and they don't ask my opinion about how to run their imaginary hospital. Otherwise, it was terrific. I love that George decided to stay, and that the other new interns look up to him so much because he's already done all of the crap stuff before. It'll be interesting to see where Christina heads for love, and I laughed really hard when McSteamy said that he'd moved to Seattle just to get back McDreamy. When they cracked up, it was perfect. Still very funny and sexy show.

My Name is Earl was just a sad premiere. It shows Earl in prison - and all kinds of people he knew and wronged in prison, but mostly it shows how awful being in prison is. Outside of prision, it mostly shows how pathetic Randy is without Earl. Joy doesn't want to feel guilty about Earl taken the blame for her, so she takes care of Randy, but realizes how incapable he is of taking care of himself. Overall, it's mostly just sad rather than funny. Though Ben Foster (the Angel from X-Men 3 and the sidekick in 3:10 to Yuma) is a terrific criminal!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Premiere Week - Wednesday and a Monday leftover

The premiere of Private Practice, the spin-off of Grey's Anatomy, was significantly better than it's original appearance, but still not really anything special. I do love that they added Audra McDonald (Tony Award winner) to replace Addison's best friend, she brings a more serious tone to the role, which was seriously lacking in all the other characters. I'm not sure all characters on a show have to demonstrate serious personality flaws in order for people to relate to them. Sometimes finding out their neuroses and secrets as the show goes along keeps you watching. Overall, I do find the show appealing and disagree with some reviews that saw Addison lost her IQ when she moved to L.A. - she seemed more like what she is, a woman going through a huge change and kinda freaking out. I'm sure she'll return as the tougher Addison we liked to hate. It'll also be interesting to see who she ends up with on the show - Kate Walsh hinted that she'd have at least a fling with one of them quite soon.

However, a show I forgot to watch on Monday, but really liked after I got a chance to watch it was Journeyman on NBC. It's a very grown-up series. It's on at 10, so they don't have to pander to teens and it actually seems written to a smart adult audience. It's about a guy that seems to get to hop through time (sort of like Quantum Leap, but without a guide so far) to make sure something happens. Since this was the first time he'd changed through time it through him off as well as me (the viewer). However, unlike QL he returns to his originally time as well as to the past (no future so far) which makes his wife and brother think he's gone or drinking or just crazy. In the past he found an old-girlfriend who died, but it turns out she didn't die, she's jumping through time too. That is left unexplained for the rest of the episode, but seems to be the potential "guide" or "teacher" he'll need. It seems interesting so far, and hopefully will get stronger and more detailed over time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Premiere Week - Tuesday's Best

Bones has held on through being on the same network as American Idol, pushed from time period to time period, and I've been rooting for it since the first episode. And it just keeps getting better and better. They tend to rotate between kind of silly focus (Booth shooting a clown) and really serious (serial killers), and the season premiere was serious and perfectly nerdy, with a great back-story about Angela's first husband - whose name "might have a B in it". It was kind of scary with the whole cannibal element, but all the characters were back in full-force and their interactions are always good. My only complaint was the drastic hair changes that occurred in the 4 months they've been off the air. Small complaint.

House is starting off well too. With the departure of his staff, the whole episode going to prove that House only does well when he has a smart variety of people to disagree with him and challenge him to think outside the box. Also, he's now going to start an Apprentice type competition to fill the vacant positions - though we know the old staff is still on the show's intro, so I'm guessing they're coming back. Robert Sean Leonard's scenes of stealing House's guitar and just hysterical! Still on top of its game and starting to go in a new direction that will be terrific.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Premiere Week - Monday Dramas

Chuck - A new offering on NBC (before Heroes) is kind of 40-Year-Old Virgin meets Alias. It's got a pretty impossible concept - a rogue spy blows up an NSA/CIA computer and sends all the images on it to his college roommate (Chuck) before being killed. Chuck sees all these seemingly unrelated images and is able to predict a bomb threat and call it off. Chuck works for the "Nerd Herd" at a electronics store fixing computers and such. He's pretty socially awkward and lives with his sister and her boyfriend. By the end of the episode -and launching a series that could go on forever - Chuck will secretly work for the NSA/CIA as the memories of these images he saw are put together. Presumably they will fill him in on ongoing activities. Overall, it's very cute, and with lots of fun action. It's a pretty tame option, but unlike 40YOV, there's little potty humor and more geek humor, and unlike Alias, we know what the heck is going on. The actors are all pretty terrific, especially Chuck. The return of several other TV regulars is fun - Adam Baldwin (from Angel and Firefly) is the NSA rep trailing Chuck, and Sarah Lancaster (from Everwood and Life of Brian is Chuck's sister). I'm going to keep watching!

Heroes - In case you are only just joining Heroes (and I highly recommend you do) I won't spoil too much, but the season premiere was pretty tame and yet very confusing. Hiro is in 15th Century Japan and meets his hero who turns out to be a money grubbing hired thug rather than the mystical hero he knows. Played expertly by Alias' David Anders ("Sark"), this story could become fantastic, but was pretty slow to get started. The cheerleader is starting her new life and seems to have found another hero at her new school. The best storyline was Greg Grunberg's (the cop) living in NYC and protecting the little girl who finds heroes. He's divorced, but finally a detective, and seems to be getting a handle on life and his gift. Also, there's some sort of big plan to take down the hero-hunting "company", but overall, I wasn't thrilled with the premiere, but based on the last 10 seconds, the next one will be terrific!!

CSI: Miami - Yes, I love this show, and even want to go to Miami to see the city the run around, though as it's been pointed out to me, they play with the colors on the film to make it look that cool and I would probably just be disappointed. The premiere was exactly like all other episodes, so if you already like this show you'll love this episode, and if you don't watch it, it's worth it just for the cheesy one-liners and watching David Caruso take his sunglasses on and off. Check out this blog entry about just that.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Premiere Week - Monday Comedies

How I Met Your Mother - This show is in my top 5 returning shows. It's still very sharp, and still inventing (or at least making those of us aware of) new terms. "Tramp Stamp" - being drunk and getting a tattoo to impress a girl. Mandy Moore guests as the "tramp" to be Ted's rebound girl when Robin brings home Enrique Iglesias as her rebound guy. There are some great arguments as Ted shaves his "break-up beard" (apparently a beard all guys grow when a relationship ends) and the others make fun of the shapes he creates shaving. I love this show and am very happy it made it to it's third season.

The Big Bang Theory - Two REALLY nerdy roommates live across the hall from a new hot woman. Sheldon is the seriously socially awkward one (his answer to the hot girl being a vegetarian is that his roommate "Leonard can't process corn", and "it took you 4 years to get through high school?!"), and seems both somewhat autistic and kind of sweet. Leonard ("David" from Roseanne) is less awkward, and kind of groans at Sheldon's faux pas, but is not a whole lot better at getting the girl to be their friend. Basically, it's written waiting for a laugh after almost every line, but most of them are really funny. They actually have 2 other "friends" who are just as nerdy (one from the recently cancelled Studio 60) bringing over a historical lecture by Stephen Hawking for fun. I'm not sure they can keep up the nerd jokes forever, but this episode is hysterical!!!

Two and a Half Men -
The premiere wasn't anything remarkable. Jake (the kid) is starting junior high school, and basically Alan and Charlie spend the whole time telling him how to avoid getting beat up, flushed, and robbed. They scare him pretty well, while leaving out all the fun they must have had at some point. There are a few jokes, but overall it started out really slow. The sub-plot is that Charlie has jock itch and scratches everywhere, with just about anything. It's two jokes they play out forever. It's much too simple even for a 30-minutes show! Very disappointing for such a great show in the past.

I'll write about the dramas later today after I've watched them!!

Gossip popular request

I did manage to catch the pilot of the new CW Gossip Girl, which will air on Wednesdays at 9, so if you're not interested in either Private Practice or The Bionic Woman, you should watch Gossip Girl. Also, it shows Sundays at 8 for now, if you miss Wednesday. This is a crazy, up-to-the-minute kind of show that will look horribly outdated someday (like when you see huge cell phones now in the age if mini-cells). However, it's even a little ahead of most people across the country I hope. It takes place in New York City, at a preppy, private high school. However, this are nothing like high school was for me. They are extremely wealthy, extrememly techie (everyone has a blackberry on hand), and yet still just like all high school kids: catty, self-involved, insecure, and dealing with sex, alcohol, and drugs on a minute-by-minute basis. Everything is fast-paced, the way it feels like high school is, where everything can change party to party. The actors are pretty good, considering they're so young. The main girl, Serena, has just mysteriously returned from boarding school, and we find out she slept with her best friends boyfriend before she left for boarding school. Serena is played by one of the girls from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and her best friend Blair also has a pretty long acting resume, and they play bitchy while kissing each other on the cheek really well. It's a very trashy show, but in the best way - it's a totally different life than any you've known. It's weird to watch high school students have as much sex and alcohol as they do - openly at bars even, but that's just my knee-jerk reaction to something different. I'll definitely keep watching until I have to actually confess that I'm addicted.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Burn Notice

Well, I didn't post on this amazing show until after the season finale, because I admit, I didn't think it could go the distance. However, the 2-hour season finale that showed last night proved that this show (unlike Prison Break) has many seasons within its inital story idea. Jeffrey Donovan (you've seen him in bit parts on every show) plays a former U.S. spy who has been "burned" which means he's been removed from the spy network and dropped in a city without ID, a job, money or means of getting any of these. Donovan's been dropped in Miami and somehow still wears his Gucci or Calvin Klein suits everywhere (which really works in Miami). The first season revolves around his trying to figure out who "burned" him, while doing small spy-jobs with two friends - Sam (a former navy seal who now reports on Donovan to the FBI) and Fiona (a former IRA hit-woman, and former girlfriend, played really well by Gabrielle Anwar!). The shows runs with commentary from Donovan explaining how to be a spy and the little things that you can do. It's very funny, and pretty informative if you are a paranoid person wanting to evade detection. Donovan is very cute and very smart, and his ability to piss off everyone in his life while still being their favorite person is terrific to watch. Check this out on USA as they re-run the whole season, or find it on DVD. You've got tons of time since the next season won't start until next summer!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My first new fall season post

I'll admit I started watching Prison Break because the lead (Wentworth Miller) went to Princeton and he's wicked hot (and if you've see The Human Stain, a really good actor). And the first season was gripping - sitting on the edge of your seat, looking through your fingers because you can't watch, but you can't look away awesome. And then the title was fulfilled - he broke out of prison. So I watched the second season because, well he's still hot, and I liked his relationship with the female doctor and wanted to find out how they took down the President. Plus, all the other characters actually had idiosyncrasies that were interesting to watch. However, now it's the start of the third season, and the premiere just didn't show me any of the things I really liked about the previous season. He's back in prison in Panama, and I don't like any of the new prison characters. They seem to be focusing on two of the previous characters that I never really liked - Bellick (a really corrupt prison guard/prisoner) and Mahone (the FBI agent), who is intriguing since he has no problem killing people, but also has a drug addiction that cannot be fed while he's in prison. So, I think I'm going to let it go and keep watching How I Met Your Mother and the new show Chuck at the same time on Monday nights, and if I have time Dancing with the Stars! If anyone else keeps watching Prison Break and it gets better, please let me know!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Miss Potter - a play in 3 acts

The story of Beatrix Potter is fairly simple, and sadly represents the lives of many women who sought to be more than their lot allowed (think Jane Austen and the Brontes), and never married and struggled. However, our dear Miss Potter (played well by Renee Zellweger) had such an active imagination she made friends of her characters and actually saw them come to life on the page (and not metaphorically). The first act would be Miss Potter - the nutjob. She does manage to get Peter Rabbit published and enters the world of having people for friends. Ewan McGregor is her publisher and they fall in love creating a whole new world of children's literature. The second act would be Miss Potter - In love. She and Ewan are very convincing as a couple trying to get by undermining society's conventions. They are secretly engaged and send letters back and forth. However, she is alone in the third act - Miss Potter - the Conservationist. She moves to the Lake District and with the profits from her books, buys up farms to prevent them from being over-developed. She continues this throughout her life (according to Wikipedia) and keeps drawing. She left her land to the National Trust and it's still preserved today. Overall, the movie is very cute and tells a good story of beloved characters (Jemima Puddleduck, Peter Rabbit, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottentail). Very cute, but not anything remarkable.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Emmys...from my perspective!

Overall, the Emmys were really funny, and a little less faux serious than they had been in the past, though they were really designed by the American Idol set crew. It was in the round, which looked fine from TV, but seemed to really annoy the people behind all the action. Ryan Seacrest (the actual host of American Idol) was the MC and did a good job - mostly by letting real comedians do the entertaining. There was no single show that ran away with awards. The big winners were 30 Rock (brand new) and The Sopranos (no longer on the air) so that was nice. For acting America Ferrara (Ugly Betty), Katherine Heigl (Grey's Anatomy), Sally Field (Brothers & Sisters) and Jaime Pressley (My Name is Earl) are all wonderful actresses and on very different shows and play very different parts, so that was kind of new and I thought worked out really well. However, on the men's side, there were a few eclectic choices that I wasn't so sure of, though I still think they picked well, just no sure-bets made it. I've never seen Extras with Ricky Gervais, but I know he's wonderfully funny, and when he won but wasn't there to accept, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert decided to give the award to "their friend Steve Carrell" who ran up and celebrated with them. It was hysterical. Terry O'Quinn from Lost gave a great acceptance speech, and was also an unexpected win. However, the leading actor awards were kind of disappointing with James Spader (Boston Legal) winning for the third time in a row, and Jeremy Piven (Entourage) winning for a second time. I would have liked to see Hugh Laurie or Dennis Leary or even James Gandolfini win over Spader (though I do love Boston Legal I didn't think he'd done anything wonderful this season). And in Piven's place I would definitely have recognized Neil Patrick Harris or Rainn Wilson for their funnier work. I had a great time watching - especially fast-forwarding the thousands of commercials for Fox's upcoming season. Oh, and if they're only going to give the Emmy for Reality Competition to The Amazing Race (it's won every year the award existed) then why bother? Project Runway or Dancing with the Stars were a lot of fun this year.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A good message

I love this quote. Samuel L. Jackson says it to inspire his team in Coach Carter. It just sounds like the best mantra you can hold inside.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
-- Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, also quoted by Nelson Mandela at his Inauguration Address in 1994

An excellent replacement for the Harry Potter fix...

I'm sure many of you blog readers must think I only watch TV and movies, but I do occasionally read books too, and here's a great series for all you non-grown-ups. The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer is another story of a young boy without parental supervision who uses his own powers (in this case an extremely high IQ) to improve his lot in life. Also, there's all kinds of magic, but our anti-hero Artemis doesn't actually possess any. In the first book (5 have been published to date), Artermis has figured out how uncover the secrets of the fairy underworld (fairies break down into elves, pixies, dwarfs, etc.). He's going to use this knowledge to kidnap an elf (our hero Holly Short - first female member of the LEP recon squad) and get the gold for her return. The story is wonderfully written, with enough complexity for all "grown-up" readers, and a similar simplicity to the Harry Potter books so it definitely falls under "children's literature". The next 3 in the series involve other adventures between Artemis, his body-guard Butler, and Holly. There are other characters that come and go, and descriptions of life underground in "Haven" and "Atlantis". My two favorite characters are Foaly - a centaur who runs all technology below, which is all light-years ahead of human ("Mud Men") tech, and Mulch Diggums - a thieving, tunneling dwarf with a huge mouth. It's a terrific series, with all kinds of funny magic and fantasy.


Keri Russell is pretty amazing, playing a waitress who finds out she's pregnant, but married to a horrible, controlling husband (played pretty scarily by Jeremy Sisto - from Six Feet Under). She's a waitress at a pie diner, and spends all day designing all kinds of kooky pies to serve at the diner. She gives them all kinds of names and then we get to see her quickly make them - like "I Hate My Husband Pie... You take bittersweet chocolate and don't sweeten it. You make it into a pudding and drown it in caramel". They keep them evenly spaced throughout the movie so the gimmick doesn't wear off. Russell is terrific, finding the strength to live with her husband, by finding comfort in the arms of her doctor - played with bumbling, loveability by Firefly's Nathon Fillion, who will be appearing on Desperate Housewives this season! Anyway, Waitress is a very cute movie, that spends a lot of time making you uneasy with the relationship between Russell and Sisto, but warm and fuzzy with Russell and Fillion. Just so you don't worry, she doesn't get hurt badly, and the ending is terrific!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Ad Men

It took me a while to get into Mad Men, a new series on AMC, Thursdays at 10. It's so carefully representative of the late 50s/early 60s that the very pregnant women smoke and drink, the sexism is rampant at home and at work, and people smoke EVERYWHERE. It's actually very uncomfortable to watch at times, not having grown up with any of those things being true. However, it also has some of the best characters on TV. They're all in advertising, which was just becoming a big deal on Madison Avenue at the time (hence Mad Men), take long, alcohol-laden lunches, and try to make a lot of money. I really like the main character - Don Draper, who seems to be living at least a triple life. He's got a faux bohemian girlfriend in the city, a perfect Betsy Crocker wife and 2 kids in the suburbs, and has been hitting on a client. However, he does all this while seeming in perfect control and still a good guy. And we've found out that he changed his name and some of his identity at some point when a long-lost brother returns and he pays him to stay away. It's not done to be mysterious, but there's a lot of unexplained innuendo and subtlety. There's also the newest kid at the office (who was "Connor" on Angel which took me ages to figure out) that is just kind of spooky - he's from a rich family, just married, but seems to want to be a cool, big-shot kind of guy, and fails miserably. He's of the "F&*k, I'm good, Just ask me" style with nothing to back it up. Plus, he's having an affair with one of the perfect secretaries (cone-bra, corsets, and all). The characters on this show are just so compelling, it's hard to explain why the stories are so good, but you just can't stop watching. P.S. - "Saffron" from Firefly plays the office vixen, she's awesome!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Becoming Jane

First, if you're not someone who already likes Jane Austen's work, then you'll probably find this a waste of time. However, if you're like most of the women I know, you know exactly how awesome Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle really are, then you'll probably love Becoming Jane as much as I did. It's definitely a fictional account of her early writing career, but the screenplay brings in many of the element she would later incorporate into her stories. Anne Hathaway does a credible job playing Jane as a witty woman who knew she wasn't going to live a wealthy life, but thought she could buck convention and marry the man she loved. James McAvoy (from The Last King of Scotland) plays a lawyer sent to live in the country to end his frivolous lifestyle and meets Jane. He teases her about her writing and of course she gets her hackles up and whacks him back. Their banter is good, and McAvoy has succeeded where Jude Law never made it - as a love interest that isn't smarmy but cunning and deserving. The costumes and setttings are perfect. Oh, oh, oh, and Dame Maggie Smith plays a rich neighbor who gets angry when Jane spurns her nephew's proposal. It's clearly the inspiration for P&P's Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Overall, it's a terrific historical romantic comedy. It's not overly complicated, but if you're an Austen fan, you'll see all the elements of her books represented.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Animated fairy tales...

If you're looking for an animated fairy tale of sorts (and you're over the age of 4), choose Hoodwinked over Happily N'ever After. Hoodwinked includes many of the same fairy tales - Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs, etc., but there's a mystery to be solved, lots of funny satire and making fun of fairy tale inconsistencies. It's worth watching more than once, even as a grown-up. However, Happily N'ever After is barely funny, has no satire and actually tries to figure out what would happen if all the bad guys in the fairy tales, specifically the wicked step-mother in Cinderella, were to win for a change. The only thing memorable about this movie is the distracting amout of animated cleavage the wicked step-mother shows. It starts off well, but then doesn't actually go anywhere once the evil people take over. Hoodwinked, however, is fun from the begining to the end - with a large investigation into the goings on at Granny's house - before the wolf eats everyone. Then they parody a cop-drama trying to figure out the bigger mystery while incorporating all the elements of Little Red Riding Hood, and other stories too. It's a great animated movie, and the voices and animation are terrific.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Reservations - Mostly Martha

The American update to German film Mostly Martha, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart, doesn't live up to the original, but is still good entertainment. Abigail Breslin (from Little Miss Sunshine) is orphaned and taken in by her food-obsessed aunt Cat. Zeta-Jones plays the part pretty well, very cold and determined to be the best chef. However, every other person or character I've ever seen obsessed with food actually has joy in experiencing their food - and Zeta-Jones doesn't actually eat her food most of the time, and doesn't enjoy it any more than she has to. Eckhart plays her opposite, brought into the restaurant so she can deal with her sisters death and taking care of her neice. He's fun and professional and good at being a person as well as a chef. He and Zeta-Jones have persuasive chemistry, but her character is so cold it's hard to believe she'd just melt like that (though I would, so who am I to judge). Abigail Breslin is really good at being an 8-year-old girl who lost her mom, but understands enough about life to know that she has to deal with it, and help her aunt figure things out. Good entertainment and will be shown on EVERY airplane for the next year - perfect PG entertainment.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Last Mimzy

This is terrific children's entertainment, but a little slow for adults. The story follows 2 gifted kids who find a box floating in the ocean. The box contains some rocks that spin, a spider-looking plastic thing, and a stuffed rabbit named Mimzy who can speak to the little girl. It turns out this box is from the future and sent back to save the future by collecting DNA from a good person (apparently in the future we've really wrecked everything for ourselves). There are funny bits throughout, and the cast of adults is really very good. Rainn Wilson (from The Office) plays the little boys teacher and figures out that the kids know a bit more about Tibetan past and future mythology than normal kids (Mimzy and the rocks taught them). Inevitably the government gets involved (in the wonder that is Michael Clarke Duncan - the big guy from The Green Mile) and then it takes on many of the threads of the 1980s Flight of the Navigator - trying to escape, running away but back to the alien, and kids fighting for themselves. This is a very creative movie that runs very carefully at children's speed, so very light fare for adults, but perfect for kids and families.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Saving Grace - Holly Hunter is not what's annoying...

The new show that follows "The Closer" on Monday nights on TNT is Holly Hunter's jump into television, called "Saving Grace". She plays Grace Hanadarko, a police detective in Oklahoma City. The setting is actually the most interesting part of the show. Her sister was killed in 1995 when the Federal Building was bombed, and her brothers were fire fighters on the scene as well. Grace has taken her nephew to the memorial to remember his mom. It's the first time I've seen anything mirroring the devastation that occurred on 9/11 in a smaller community. So far, in each episode Grace has to solve some kind of crime, many dealing with cattle ranching or ranchers. Also, Grace is having an affair with one of her partners. All of this would be interesting on its own and would be a terrific series. However, God also has a role, in the angel Earl who comes and bothers Grace about swearing, drinking, and having an affair and basically blaspheming. He's really a superfluous element. The car accident that happens in the pilot and brings Earl's presence into Grace's life would have been enough for anyone to want to change some of their life around. There's not really a need for Earl to keep annoying Grace because it's not done particularly well and draws away from the story each week. I'm going to keep watching as she gets more interesting, and they ordered an additional 13 episodes.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Damages....who's in charge?

I waited a few weeks to comment on the new FX show Damages because I couldn't figure out if I liked it, hated it or didn't care. Glenn Close stars as a high-powered lawyer hiring a new associate played by Rose Byrne who seems to have been in a dozen things this year. However, the episode jumps back and forth between "today" and "6 months ago". In "today," Rose is covered in blood and sits in an interview room at the police station nearly catatonic. "6 month ago" she's being hired to work for Glenn's firm and begins working on a prosecuting a case that bears similarity to Ken Lay and the Enron thing, with Ted Danson playing the role of Ken Lay. Over the first few episodes, we find out there are tons of sinister things afoot, and perhaps our dear sweet innocent Rose was nearly destroyed, but we aren't told who destroys her (Danson or Close) or why her fiancee is dead. Basically there's a serious mystery going on that will be resolved, hopefully by the end of the season - why Rose is covered in blood and who killed her fiancee. But the better mystery is in whether Glenn is bad or just pretending to be bad. We see that she seems to like her son a lot - though when he sends her a grenade in the mail, she ships him off to boot camp. There are all kinds of misdirection, lies, deceit and thiller-esque plot twists, and after the first few episodes, I know I will eagerly watch all the rest. It's on Tuesdays at 10 on FX.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Things I like about the '50s: commercial jingles were a national pastime, women got to wear fun colorful clothes, cars were huge but still awesome, and a house cost $3000. Things the '50s should be punished for: girdles, women not knowing how to drive, a married couple with kids who call each other "Mother" and "Father". However, the movie I just saw on DVD, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, manages to make the '50s seem like a reasonably fun time without glossing over the things that must have made things a nightmare for most women. Julianne Moore plays the mother of 12 children married to a drunk (Woody Harrelson with terrible red hair) who keeps things going in her family by winning tons of little contests - product jingles, poetry contests, and other tiny writing contests. It was a creative outlet for her, and the movie makes it clear that this ability to make some money for her family (or in some cases substantial money) and also her only real mind-bending activity. The movie does it in cute ways showing lots of commercials and jingles she is responsible for. Apparently this was a common practice in the '50s - to get housewives to enter contests to win tiny prizes while the company gets a perfect jingle for their product. It's a good movie, with a new look at a common archetype with a funny background story.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bourne, gone but not forgotten

I think Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) could kick James Bond's (Daniel Craig) butt. I think he's smarter, more resourceful, and never takes advantage of the ladies which can often distract Bond. I would say that Bond has much more fun, but Bourne could win in a fight. So I saw the third in the series, The Bourne Ultimatum, today. It's definitely a good ending to the series because it answers the main question - where did Bourne come from and why does he know how to be a spy? And it still has lots of assassins trying to kill Bourne (and always losing, suckers). The action is well choreographed and I did chew off several fingernails watching them try to win. Oh, and an addition to the Bourne series is David Strathairn as the scary second-in-command of the evil people (some version of the CIA) who is willing to kill anyone around Bourne just to try to get to him. Joan Allen does a great job trying to take down the bad guys and Albert Finney is always excellent explaining why he's bad but you should forgive him. It's not a terrific movie, but the actors and exceptional action sequences make it worth while.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Hot Fuzz

First, if you haven't seen Shaun of the Dead, stop what you're doing and either add it to your Netflix or Blockbuster list or go out and rent it. AFTER you've seen Shaun of the Dead can you really appreciate Hot Fuzz, the 2007 offering from the creators of Shaun. They have nothing in common except an appreciation for funny slayings and the lead actor (Simon Pegg), as well as a kind of hilarity that is both smart and potty-esque at the same time. Hot Fuzz is the story of a top London police officer promoted to a rural post (to get him out of the city and stop making the others look bad). His high-tech skills and virtual paranoia about law-breaking annoy most of the rural cops and residents, but he slowly starts to fit in. However, all kinds of "accidents" start happening and he begins to uncover something I wouldn't ruin (also you have to see it to believe it). But believe me that it's worth every second. Pegg's partner (Nick Frost, also from Shaun) Danny, is obsessed with his hipper partner's background and can't believe he hasn't seen Point Break or Bad Boys II. The final scenes of the movie are an homage (or rip-off) of all the great cop dramedies. I highly recommend this (but only after you've seen Shaun, trust me.)

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Innocence of Fun

One of the main reasons I still subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, besides my entertainment obsession, is Stephen King's column called "The Pop of King". It comes out monthly, I think, in EW, and I look forward to reading it every time. He does lists of things he loves (rock music, summer reading books, music that isn't getting played on the radio but still rocks, TV shows not being acknowledged, etc.) and also comments on things he finds interesting. This week it's about a video he saw on Ellen about a guy dancing in Best Buy. While this is a small thing, he describes why it's terrific so well. The moment of fun in all things entertainment should be savored. Sometimes it's called a guilty pleasure, sometimes chick flick, and all sorts of other ways to describe the moment when you really burst with happiness from something being done just to your taste. I find that moment watching The West Wing all the time. But there are other things too - many of which I've described on this blog. Here's one of my favorites from Boston Legal:

Denny: It's fun being me. (Thinks) Is it fun being you?

Alan: Most of the time.

I just love it!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The History Boys

I have really mixed feelings about The History Boys film. I didn't see the show on Broadway, and it's pretty hard to see how they managed to go from stage to film with the movie, because it's so well put together as a movie. It's the story of a group of senior boys at a British boy's school in 1983 studying for their exams for Oxford and Cambridge ("Oxbridge" in their parlance). They have a "renaissance man" in Richard Griffiths - he teaches them a little about absolutely everything, from singing to acting, to quoting famous poets and statesmen for all occasions, and a stong link to all the historical context for things. They seem to have fun, and would seem pretty cultured at parties. However, a new young teacher has been hired to help them prep for the exam, and he finds Griffiths lessons useless and teaches the boys how to spin history so it sounds different than all the other "Oxbridge" essays, definitely a useful talent, but still feels dishonest to the boys. One of the boys is in love with their James Dean leader, and brings the idea of homosexuality to the entire story. It turns out (and this I imagine would have been implied on stage rather than demonstrated), Griffiths gives the boys rides home on his motorcycle and usually gropes them a bit at 55mph. It's just something they all accept and is joked about between them, but when the headmaster finds out it nearly destorys Griffiths (who is married, it's 1983 after all) and it changes how he interacts with the students. The irony is that our James Dean character has fallen in lust with the new young teacher. There's a lot of examination of how difficult being gay can be and it takes place at a time when certain things were just accepted and others were kept very secret and frowned upon. I totally didn't see the end coming, but it does a terrific job of resolving the story. I liked the overall movie, but some of the topic was uncomfortable to watch. However, one of the fun things was watching Madame Maxime (from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) teach history with Mr. Dursley (from all the Harry Potter movies). The acting is terrific and the story has lots of fun moments and really examines an topic that probably hasn't changed as much as we'd like to think.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Unlikely Destinations...

I have used many Lonely Planet guides to places all over the world. While they are not appropriate for all travellers, they're pretty amazing for anyone going somewhere new. What I didn't know was that the people who started the company in the early '70s, Tony and Maureen Wheeler, were pretty amazing too. I heard Tony on the "Not my job" section of NPR's "Wait, wait, don't tell me" show and in addition to playing the game, they discussed his books about the company, including the one I just finished called Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story. He also wrote one called BadLands but that was about scary countries I have no interest in visiting. Rather, Unlikely Destinations was about their story of traveling overland from Europe to Australia for a year in the '70s and how it led to travel guides for people on a budget - I think Asia on the Cheap was their first book. Their memoir tracks the growth of the both the business based in Australia and their family, a son and daughter. The book has photos and talks about some of the trips they took that led to books, and the enormous boom in their business with backpackers travelling to all kinds of places. I didn't know they actually drew their own maps to cities they travel to - rather than just taking a government issued map and sticking it in their book. It makes sure they are as accurate as needed and actually describe the locations of the places they discuss. There are all kinds of tidbits throughtout the book that if you've spent much time travelling will reasonate - such as the importance of carrying your own toilet paper in Africa, or that eating in restaurants with lots of people usually means good food. I highly recommend this book - it's actually pretty difficult to put down.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Not just Ron Weasley anymore...

Somewhere in the midst of filming all the Harry Potter movies, Rupert Grint found the time to film a really terrific independent film, Driving Lessons. It's a story about a late-teen learning to drive from lessons from his scary religious mother - played with eerie precision by Laura Linney. As part of a summer job (in order to give money to parishioners, wouldn't you kill your mom for making you do that?), he starts working for a retired actress - played by the incomparable Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley from Harry Potter!). She convinces him that his artistic leanings have merit and in the words of Shakespeare, "When the shit hits the fan, get a tent", and so they go camping. He's been raised by a mom who would sell her soul to help someone else, but Walters really shows him what it means to be there for someone, with willingness and not piety. There are hysterical arguments between Grint as he tries to break out of the faux religious mold he was raised in, and Walters as she comes to grips with how her career will be remembered. There are a few great supporting roles, but the soundtrack really makes the whole thing come together, with funny Christian rock used a little mockingly to prove their point. It had a little of the Saved! vibe of questioning faith without destryoing it. Grint has some acting chops that stand up well to both Linney and Walters, pretty terrific company to show off your skills.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Something a little different....

Just an update on something random I saw this weekend. On Saturday there was a marathon on the Food Network, of "The Next Food Network Star". I'll admit that this was not high on my list of things to watch, but just like the marathon of "Grease: You're the One that I Want" sucked me in so that I really want to see Max Crumm on Broadway, I can't wait for Amy's new show this fall. There were challenges, just like on Project Runway, Top Chef, or even American Idol. There was even a scandal at the end where one of the finalists dropped out because they found out he'd misrepresented his military record and culinary training. Overall, the contestants were decent, about the same sort of crop that makes it through all reality shows, with some just ridiculous and some that were obvious winners from the beginning. However, the best thing this show had going for it were the judges. The judges on Top Design were dreadful and even though the contestants and challenges were interesting, the show was not. On "NFNS" the judges were the VP for programming and VP for marketing for the Food Network, and they had a lot of personality and did a good job of giving criticism without saying mean things, but explained very realistic things they were looking for. When the contestants heeded that advice, they usually did perform better. At the end, it was two women, Amy "The Gourmet Next Door" and Rory "Backyard Bistro" that competed for the chance for a new show on the Food Network. Amy won and will start her show this fall. She seems very approachable, knowledgable about food, techniques and cuisines, so I'm excited to see what kind of show she'll do.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Transformers...still fun 20 years later

Okay, I admit it, I loved Transformers. It was funny, fast-paced, and brought back so much nostalgia from my childhood misspent in front of the TV. They totally nailed the voice of "Optimus Prime" and really got the quick, precise movements of the transformation from car to robot soldier really well. There were a few updates to make things more fun with new voices and updated looks for some of the cars (like the fire on the sides of Optimus Prime and a camero instead of a VW Bug for Bumblebee). Overall, the story was really compelling - and kind of magical - and kept you interested. Shia LaBoeuf is terrific as a fast-talking geek trying to be cool with his first car. He starts out very shaky as the action star, but finds his way pretty well to saving the world. The best unexpected surprise was John Tuturro as a government agent trying to keep the Robot invasion a secret. He's hysterical in a very tight-laced way. There's a huge supporting cast that actually create fun side-stories like the super-hot blond code breaker who recruits a friend to help decode the robots signal, and the equally super-hot military guys who figure out how to defeat some of the evil Decepticons. The final battle goes on a little too long, but overall, there were many more moments of hilarity (like when Optimus Prime steps on the garden fountain and adds "oops, my bad") than distractions. Great for kids, and adults alike...