Wednesday, June 30, 2010

TV Meme: Day 30 - This is IT

Day 30 - Saddest character death

**Definitely spoilers**
Well, I'm going to come full circle on the saddest character death.  I still cry every time I rewatch the episodes in which he dies.  Yes, there are two because the actor died in real life BEFORE his character dies on the show, and we don't see his actual death, just know that he died.  Sometimes that's the hardest.   John Spencer played Leo McGarry for almost the entire series, and was nominated for the Emmy five times, winning once for supporting actor.  At the beginning of season 6, Leo has a heart attack in the woods at Camp David.  He recovers and CJ becomes the new chief of staff.  In a moment of life imitating art, John Spencer had a heart attack towards the end of season 7, and sadly passed away.  There's a memorial statement at the beginning of the episode the week he died, Martin Sheen does a short memorial speech.  Then the episode when Leo dies is the night of the presidential election, but halfway through the night.  Kristin Chenowith had been his assistant during the campaign, and is the one who finds him in a bathroom (off camera) and then we're told of his death.  He was a terrific actor and I love seeing him in older movies now.  RIP John Spencer (Leo McGarry).

This wraps up the 30 Day TV Meme.  It was actually kind of nice to have a set topic every day, but maybe more of a once a week, next time. To read the whole of the TV meme, check out the page at the top.  The shows involved have been as varied as I could make them: Defying Gravity, Royal Pains, Glee, The West Wing, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Big Bang Theory, Scrubs, Capria, Friends, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Friday Night Lights, 30 Rock, Kate Plus Eight, Angels in America, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, and Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-list. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TV Meme: Day 29

Day 29 - Current t.v show obsession

My current TV obsession is My Life on the D-List with Kathy Griffin.  I confessed during Episode 3 of Reel Insight how much I love it, but now I'll tell the world (since most of you might not listen to the podcast, but you totally should, even I listen to it and I hate my voice).  I watch all of Kathy Griffin's specials, which are all basically her stories of her interactions with A-list celebrities and how crazy or full of themselves they are.  Or, it's about how high she is on their s*#$-list, or what she did to get on their list.  She's pretty high on Oprah, Ryan Seacrest or Lindsay Lohan's lists, I'm sure.  You can see she's sometimes exaggerating, but not by much.  She once described eating a meal next to Anna Nicole Smith, and her imitation was amazing.  On the TV show on Bravo, she does crazy things to attempt to get off the D-list, but mostly it's just things to get attention, with a splash of her actual life and the lives of her crazy assistants.  This season already she's demolished the interior of her house, then fired the designer and told her assistant to fix it.  She's asked Liza Minneli for acting advice when she did her "emmy-bait" appearance on Law & Order: SVU and kissed BOTH Mariska Hargitay AND Chris Maloney.  Oh, and I bought and read her book, Official Book Club Selection, and actually really liked it.  Now I've confessed my obsession and will go bury my head in shame. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

TV Meme: Day 28

Day 28 - First t.v show obsession

I don't remember watching lots of TV as a kid, but I definitely remember Saturday mornings.  I was always really pissed when noon arrived because it meant no more cartoons until the next weekend.  He-Man, Thundercats, Transformers, The Snorks, CareBears, Gummi Bears, Winnie the Pooh, and I'm sure many others, were on during the course of my childhood.  When WWE wrestling came on afterward, I was always so disappointed.    The theme songs and often the voices of the various characters have stuck in my head for years.  The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was my favorite and I still listen to the theme song when I get sad or can't sleep because I watched something scary.  The a capella group at Brown University covers the theme song from The Gummi Bears.  Who knows what it is about the comfort of childhood that makes us feel good.  I feel bad for anyone who didn't have a childhood that included Saturday morning cartoons.  

Musical Mondays! Pixar music

This week, instead of watching a single movie musical, I've been haunted by the music from older Pixar movies, so I thought I'd actually check out which ones were nominated for Academy awards, and whether every movie even had a song attached to it.  The ones below were nominated, but only "If I didn't have you" won, giving Randy Newman his first Oscar. I am planning to watch Finding Nemo today so I'll check out whether there's music to add from that.  Enjoy a musical interlude for Monday.  Which is your favorite?  (Tom, I'm looking at you for comment!)

"Down to Earth" from Wall*E, sung by Peter Gabriel.  Sadly a fairly forgettable song, from a wonderfully memorable movie. 

"Our Town" from Cars, sung by James Taylor

"If I didn't have you" from Monsters, Inc.  A terrific song, particularly when sung by John Goodman and Billy Crystal.  It plays over the end credits during the film.

"When She Loved Me" from Toy Story 2.  When I looked this up, I didn't remember it at all.  It was an odd pairing for a children's movie if you ask me.

"You've Got a Friend" from the original Toy Story.  It plays over the introductory scene and is my absolute favorite song from a Pixar film. 

Reel Insight: Episode 3 - TOM CRUISE

The third episode of Reel Insight has arrived.  Rachel and I discuss Tom Cruise and his career, as well as what we've seen in movies this week and on TV.  We both reveal guilty pleasures (and our accompanying shame).  The Quotable Quotes game has gotten more serious.  Thanks to all for playing.  E-mail answers to








Sunday, June 27, 2010

TV Meme: Day 27

Day 27 - Best pilot episode

We're in the home stretch of the TV meme.  I've always believed you can't judge a series based solely on the pilot.  A minimum of three episodes are needed to get what the show might be about.  Pilots are created to get a show on the air.  They have to hint at what a 5+-season series might be about without over-exposing a story so that the first season will still have some interest.  Particularly when they want to spin-off a character from another series, these days they use a "cross-over" episode instead of an actual pilot.  This actually gives them a chance to change the actors playing certain characters.  Also, it gives the potential audience a chance to see the new characters.  I tend to watch a lot of pilots (that make it to air obviously) and hope to give the show a few episodes, but sometimes I don't.  Friends is the example I tend to use for why not to judge a show based on it's pilot.  The characters became much more full, less crazy, and more fashion-forward than the pilot suggested.  However, the best pilot I've seen lately that also turned into a show almost exactly as the pilot promised is Glee.  They showed the pilot in the spring, then it went viral online so more and more people could figure out this new show was all about, and then the show aired and the pilot was a perfect intro to the entire series.  The pilot had good music, covers of famous songs, an introduction to who would be the main characters, their crushes, and struggles.  They did a terrific job introducing the series.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

TV Meme: Day 26 (Spoilers!)

Day 26 - OMG WTF? Season finale

I'm sure there are lots of season finale cliff-hangers.  ER seemed to thrive on them, and it definitely helps the ratings of the first fall show if people have to wait to find out who lives and who dies and often there's a wedding or the potential for one.  And that's what defined my favorite finale: Grey's Anatomy last year.  It was of course a big two-hour affair, with the goal of Derek and Meredith's big wedding at the end.  However, it ended with Izzy and Alex married, Izzy struggling for her life because her cancer is taking over, and a John Doe who stepped in front of  bus.  We find out in the last 2 minutes that the unidentified John Doe was actually our dear George O'Malley and he was dying.  As part of the dying scenes we see Izzy riding up on an elevator (like she did several seasons ago when she was meeting Denny who had died) and she sees George in a military uniform waiting for her.  We had to wait to see for sure who had died and who had survived.  However, thanks to the wonder of the internet, we knew that T.R. Knight's contract had ended and that Katherine Heigl had struggled to get out of hers but would definitely be returning, so it wasn't quite the cliff-hanger it might have been.   

Also, have to shout-out to the season finale of Dexter season 4, but won't spoil that one.

Friday, June 25, 2010

TV Meme: Day 25

Day 25 - A show you plan on watching (old or new)
 I do try to keep up with shows, at least once they're on DVD. It's hard to know which ones you'll like.  I was never sure I'd like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I did.  Usually it's based on an actor that I like was in a show I didn't see. Rome is one that intrigues me and I'd like to check it out.  Treme is another if only because I loved The Wire and the same creators did both.  Deadwood has been recommended too.  I think because I don't get HBO, I'm often behind on those series.  This is a topic I'd love to solicit advice on - what shows have you seen that most people don't seem to watch, but you know are terrific?  

Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Release: 3D Toy Story 3

Pixar and Disney movies are often some of the best movies of the year.  Wall*E is still one of my favorite movies of all time.  This all started back before college with Toy Story and then Toy Story 2 when I was in college.  Now, more than 10 years later, I was excited to see the third installment, and after having seen it, I'd sign up for number 4 too.  Even more exciting, I'm in the big city this week so I got to see it in a huge theater in 3D even.  I can't say the 3D added a lot too the experience, but I can't confirm that until I see it again in only 2 dimensions.  They didn't do any of the "things flying at you" for effect, which is nice, but they also didn't take full advantage of it.  Avatar and surprisingly A Christmas Carol still did it the best I've seen so far.  Anyway, the story kind of relies on having seen the previous 2 movies, but I doubt you'd actually miss anything if you haven't seen them, you'll just enjoy it.  The movie picks up when Andy, the owner of all the toys, is packing up to go to college and has to decide what to do with his toys.  Some he packs up to go to the attic (though they inadvertently get thrown away but end up at a day-care center).  He wants to take Woody (Tom Hanks) with him to college, but he ends up at the day care too.  The other toys' feelings are hurt and they decide to make the best of their new life at the day-care center, run by Lots-O-Huggin' teddy bear (Ned Beatty).  Lotso makes nice when they first arrive, but then locks them in a separate room where the terror toddlers play roughly with the toys.  Woody still wants to get back to Andy, and leaves them (going home with Bonnie who is a good kid and appreciates her toys).  Meanwhile, the day-care center turns out to be hell for new toys.  Lotso runs it with an iron fist and Andy's toys hate it there, though Barbie does finally meet Ken (the Ken-is-gay jokes alone are pretty funny).  Woody finds out how horrible his friends have it, so he goes back to rescue them and they of course break out.
This is where the movie should have ended to make it just about perfect.  However, there's more drama at a dump before they of course have a terrifically happy ending that I won't spoil (though if you didn't think it would be a happy ending, you are cynical and should see this movie immediately).  It was only about 15 minutes too long, the dialogue is fun, moves the story along, and is particularly original as stories go.  The creators play on our natural tendencies to think certain toys are bad or evil (the cymbal playing monkey has always seems menacing to me) and others are good, but then surprise you pretty well with the fact that the cuddly teddy bear who smells like strawberries is actual a toy-dictator.  I also liked the fact that the movie celebrates imaginative play rather than just watching TV or playing video games.  Bonnie makes up scenarios and her toys are used to "improv" and they might be at a Paris cafe or in a hospital.  Overall, I really liked the movie, both on its own and as an animated kids flick.  4 of 5 lambs/stars.

TV Meme: Day 24

Day 24 - Best quote

This was probably the easiest for me.  I quote Friends more than almost anyone I know, but this particular quote really separates the fans from the watchers.  

Joey:  The big question is, does he like you. Because if he doesn't like you this is all a moo point.
Rachel (pauses, looks puzzled): A moo point?
Joey: Yeah, It's like a cow's opinion.  It just doesn't matter.  It's moo.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

TV Meme: Day 23

Day 23 - Most annoying character

 This has to be a group award.  All of the characters they added to Grey's Anatomy this season were equally annoying.  I find there are a lot of things in my life I don't realize how much I dislike them until they're gone and I say, "wow, that sucked, glad it's over."   (**Spoiler**)  When the first one of them was shot in the season finale this year I didn't even have to think about it.  I just shouted yay!  I was sad when the big guy died at the end, he was actually enough of a jerk to get respect rather than just being a douche like the other 3 (2 girls and a guy).  They arrived at the hospital and while I respect their characters rights to fight for their position as a resident, they didn't fit into the cast of other characters particularly well.  I didn't care about any of them enough (except the big guy just before he died).  Somehow, I don't blame the writers for exposing us to this motley group of actors and characters.  Perhaps if they'd been different or better actors it wouldn't have bothered me so much, or maybe I'm responding exactly as the writers wanted me to.  Just like Meredith, Christina, and Alex felt.  Who knows, either way, I was glad their lives were threatened.  They do not appear in the photo that accompanies this post because they don't deserve to.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TV Meme: Day 22

Day 22 - Favorite series finale

I know I've been talking a lot about Friends, The West Wing, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, none of which are still on the air.  But none of them had particularly good series finales.  They wrapped up with a decent story, ending the story pretty well.  The first one that was terrible that has wrapped up was Sex and the City.  I liked the Paris storyline that ended with Carrie and Mr. Big getting together finally.  The other women ended their stories pretty well too.  However, I did really really like the Lost finale.  Perhaps it's just because it's the most recent show that I liked.  I liked how they wrapped it up, I liked the actual show a lot.  It stood out from the rest of the season (which wasn't terrific) and elevated what might have been an impossible task to wrap up a crazy sci-fi/fantasy story.  It worked well.  Yes, there were some contrivances that didn't really make sense (like Sayid and that chick from the first season getting back together) but otherwise they made sense if you'd watched the whole series. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Musical Mondays: Little Shop of Horrors

Nick over at Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob shares my love for this musical, and thankfully Netflix shows it on their Watch Instantly service so I didn't have to buy the DVD yet.  When I decided to watch it this week all I really remembered was the music, not so much the dialogue or the look of the movie.  I actually saw the 2003 revival on Broadway (though it's a misnomer given that it had never appeared on Broadway before, only touring companies and regional theater) with Hunter Foster and an Audrey II that grew and reached out far into and above the audience. It was pretty amazing to see, but I like the movie better.
Quick plot summary:  Seymour is a loser who works in Mr. Mushnik's flower shop and is in love with the other employee Audrey (Ellen Greene) who is dating a sadistic dentist (Steve Martin).  The business is failing (partly because it's located on Skid Row) and to help business Seymour puts a "strange and unusual plant" in the window that he found at a market after a total eclipse of the sun.  He names the plant Audrey II.  It does improve business hugely, and Mr. Mushnik insists Seymour make the plant grow.  It turns out Audrey II drinks blood.  Once it outgrows what it can suck from Seymour's fingers, Seymour has to start killing to keep his life going.  In exchange for killing people, Audrey II promises Seymour the world, including his love, Audrey.   Most of the named cast dies, but when Audrey II goes after its namesake, Seymour stops it all and attempts to kill the plant.  The final scene leaves you unsure of whether Audrey II takes over the world or dies.

Rewatching Little Shop of Horrors today, I was reminded of why the movie version is the best.  The three main characters - Seymour, Audrey, Mr. Mushnik - matter, but it's really the supporting cast that can make or break the show.  Particularly the three girls (Crystal, Chiffon, and Ronette - named after girl groups of the '50s) who intro the show, and basically sing back up for much of the rest of the show.  However, they also have dialogue and need to be pretty good scene-stealers to make their short moments in the spotlight stand out enough that you remember them.  The women in the movie are strong enough that they stand out perfectly.  The versions I've seen on stage didn't cast those roles strongly enough and I think the whole production suffers for it.  The other thing that makes the movie work so well is the cinematography and production design.  The scenes could all have been from a 1950s comic book.  The edges of the shot are soft and slightly out of focus, even indoors.  Even scenes at the dentist are sometimes from inside a mouth (that's the girl group behind him) are perfectly crafted to invoke the fantasy/horror of those genre rather than strictly the musical genre, even though it's not particularly scary, just creepy at times.   Also, Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene are perfectly cast as a couple of losers who fall in love, make good and after escaping the plant, live happily ever after (we hope). 

TV Meme: Day 21

Day 21 - Favorite relationship

In the list of posts for this meme it said "favorite ship" without any sort of apostrophe, so I just assumed it was actually your favorite ship (like the Love Boat or something).  Thankfully there are a few other people participating in this meme and they are smarter than I.  So sadly you won't get to read about  my love for the actual Battlestar Galactica, but instead about my favorite interpersonal relationships.  There are two and by coincidence they are both married couples.  This is also potentially repeating a previous post from Valentine's Day last year, forgive me.  The first is between Jed and Abby Bartlett on The West Wing.  They're both professionals - he an economist and then President, and she's a surgeon and then First Lady.  They cooperate in all sorts of things - most particularly his health during the third season.  Then they fight and disagree about his re-election campaign and their big problems start when he puts them in danger by assassinating a foreign leader and doesn't tell her ahead of time.  However, through it all they talk about things, discuss their problems and rule the country.
I think that must be the theme that draws me to amazing relationships because the other couple, Coach Eric and Principal Tammy Taylor from Friday Night Lights.  They survive having a late in life baby, changing jobs, adding jobs, a teenager, legal issues and school politics.  They don't talk about things quite as much, but they're on such a similar wavelength that they just acknowledge when they're wrong, apologize and move on.  I love watching them hang out together and solve their problems.  For both couples, neither relationship is the basis of the show, but it's the most interesting part of the side/back story for both shows.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Reel Insight: Episode 2 Joan Cusack

The second episode of Reel Insight was much easier to record.  Thanks to Rachel for all the post production work.  This week with Toy Story 3 opening, we chose Joan Cusack as our Star of the Week.  Also, we're on itunes now.  Just search Reel Insight, and there we are.  You can subscribe and everything.  Please don't forget to make guesses on the Quoteable Quotes at the end of the show.  E-mail your guesses to reelinsight (at)  Thanks.







TV Meme: Day 20

Day 20 - Favorite kiss
There are lots and lots of characters that kiss.  Lots of shows set up a Ross/Rachel dynamic that ultimately ends up with some version of will they/won't they, which usually ends with the kiss.  Some are disappointing (this season Booth and Bones' kiss didn't work out, very disappointing).  Usually the bigger the build up, the less exciting it actually is.  I know I've talked about Friends a lot, but it's definitely the one that fits the bill here.  When Rachel finally finds out that Ross had a crush on her forever, she decides she likes him too, but they can't make it work out.  However, later, when she sees how he was willing to take her to the prom when her date showed up late, she rushes over and kisses him.  That's my favorite kiss.


DVD Review: The Messenger

Okay this isn't technically a DVD review since I watched it on Netflix Instant, but same idea.  I really wanted to see Woody Harrelson's Oscar nominate performance, as well as see another Original Screenplay nominee.  Writing something original is the more impressive part.  Harrelson has been stepping up his game lately with excellent supporting roles (I liked him in No Country For Old Men) so I was expecting a lot, and for the most part he delivered, but this was the year of Christoph Waltz so he didn't get much attention - all the supporting actors this year are also-rans.  The Messenger is about an army Staff Sergeant, Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), who has returned from the war with some minor injuries - a vision impairment, and some healing wounds - and of course the requisite survivors guilt.  He doesn't say much, and plays music loud and sits in the dark because the light hurts, and doesn't react much when he finds out his girlfriend is engaged to someone new.  His is partnered with Harrelson for his last few months in the service as part of the team that notifies family members when a soldier is killed in action.  Harrelson has been doing it for years, and has seen a lot, but admits he hasn't seen everything.  We see them notify a few families who all have different reactions. Steve Buscemi spits on Foster when he's told his son is dead.  They also know the sight of two soldiers arriving is usually bad news so they usually walk from a distance rather than park right outside.  One of the newly widowed women (Samantha Morton) has a particularly odd reaction, she says it must be really hard for the soldiers to notify people and thanks them for coming.  This touches Foster, and he sort of haunts her (almost, but not quite stalking) and they become friends.   We see a very different non-solider side of Foster where you can see why he might have joined the army in the first place, rather than the man he has become. 
Overall, the movie is really good.  It has the indie vibe of not needing to tell you everything about everything, and a very limited score, with most things routed in reality.  Also, the requisite graphic sex scene shocks you right at the beginning but then the rest of the movie is tame in comparison.  The writing and dialogue are terrific, and fairly expertly delivered.  Foster is slowly moving up the ranks (in a similar fashion to Ryan Gosling, whom I love) and will be headlining huge movies someday.  Harrelson is carving out a terrific career in supporting characters that might sustain his career well.  Samantha Morton also plays the grieving widow who never really wanted anything to do with the military so is having conflicting emotions all over the place (grief her husband is gone, relief that she has a life of her own now, and new feelings for Foster).  She's scattered, but believable. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

TV Meme: Day 19

Day 19 - Best t.v show cast
Sometimes a cast comes together and they're made up of amazing actors (Brothers & Sisters) but sometimes the cast comes together can creates a show, wins awards, and ultimately become a famous cast (Six Feet Under).  My favorite cast was one of the latter.  I vaguely remember Courtney Cox having been in a movie or maybe just the Bruce Springsteen video before we saw her on Friends, but ultimately the cast came together and became really famous for being a Friend.  New shows advertise a Friends reunion whenever two or more appear together (Lisa Kudrow guest starred on Cougar Town with Cox).  
All six of them are in every single episode, which is unusual for an ensemble, but I think it's par of what made them awesome.  

Friday, June 18, 2010

TV Meme: Day 18

Day 18 - Favorite Title Sequence

This one wasn't terribly hard, what was hard was getting the actual video to show you.  My first thought was the new Parenthood show's opening sequence.  Like Friends before it, the opening sequence sets a good tone for the rest of the show.  I like the show too, so I enjoy watching the opening sequence.  However, NBC hasn't made it easily available yet.  Second, I thought of the only other show's opening sequence I watch, Burn Notice, which basically explains the shows premise every week, but in a way I like watching.  However, that too wasn't easy to find.  So I'll go with my next favorite.  The opening sequence to Buffy the Vampire Slayer which, while unoriginal in the idea (a song over scenes from the show), I still like it.  

Thursday, June 17, 2010

TV Meme: Day 17

Day 17 - Your favorite miniseries
I actually cheated a bit to go back and see what qualified for Emmys miniseries categories.  However, though I was just looking at nominated (at least for a costume) miniseries, I still think this is my favorite of all time. Angels in America was a Broadway play written by Tony Kushner, with an all-star cast that I still see popping up in new movies.  Set during the mid-1980s, reflecting the political and medical crises surrounding AIDS, there are a few stories that interview.  One follows real life attorney and conservative politico Roy Cohn (Al Pacino) who is living in the aftermath of the McCarthy hearings he assisted with, and prosecuted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as spies which led to their execution.  A homosexual himself, and diagnosed with AIDS in 1984, he participated in clinical trials of AZT.  We see him dealing with the guilt of his former actions, including living a closested gay life.  Pacino plays him so well - strong and butch when dealing with real people, but wimpy and fragile when confronted by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg (he's in the hospital hallucinating) played brilliantly by Meryl Streep.    
Another main storyline is Joe (Patrick Wilson) and Harper Pitt (Mary-Louise Parker) dealing with their marriage.  Joe is also an attorney working with Roy Cohn and  a closeted gay man, and meets a guy in Central Park and has sex.  This guy, Louis (Ben Shankmen) is escaping his lover, Prior (Justin Kirk in his best performance ever) who has just told him he has AIDS.   The story around Prior is my favorite, particularly when supporting actor Jeffrey Wright is on as a nurse and friend of Prior's but also Roy Cohn's nurse.  Wright is not closeted at all, and does a great job trying to help everyone deal with their illnesses as well as the closeted Cohn deal with his past misdeeds.  The climax occurs when Emma Thompson appears as an angel giving Prior a transformation in attitude.  All of the actors give terrific performances, but I love Wright and Streep the best.  They get to be the characters who point out the truth.  Thompson is pretty terrific as the angel too.  The acting and writing made this a Golden Globe and Emmy winning mini-series (six episodes, but I've seen it on 2 DVDs).  I love it and can't wait to watch it again. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

TV Meme: Day 16

Day 16 - Your guilty pleasure show

There are a lot of shows I watch that I feel like no one else watches so I don't really talk about the fact that I watch them, but my guilty pleasure is definitely one that many people will groan and I'm actually embarrassed to admit that I like it.  There are times it's like a train wreck and you can't look away, and other times there were actual moments of sweetness, humor, and insight.  The show formerly known as Jon and Kate Plus Eight, now known as Kate Plus Eight since she got rid of Jon, is my guilty pleasure.  I've seen most of the episodes at least twice.  I only started watching last spring when I was really sick and it was on 4 times a day, so I caught up out of order and hadn't really heard of the show before.  
Of course with a lot of things you watch a lot of in a short amount of time, you get addicted and want to keep watching more.  So now I watch Kate Plus Eight, and actually will watch just about anything that features the family.  I'm not a huge fan of Kate (she was so painful on Dancing with the Stars that I question whether she's actually a robot), but I love the kids.  They're kind, friendly, silly, bratty, etc. and so much fun to watch interact with each other and the public.  So now I've admitted my guilty pleasure.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

TV Meme: Day 15

Day 15 - Favorite female character

I had to think about this one for a while.  There are a lot of bad-ass women on TV today (Glenn Close, Kyra Sedgwick, Holly Hunter, Connie Britton, etc.) but my favorite character that actually seems to separate herself from the actress who plays her is Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey) on 30 Rock.  I don't usually get to watch this show live, and sometimes you do wonder if Tina Fey is actually like Liz Lemon, but if you've ever seen Tina Fey accept an award or give an interview you can tell Tina Fey and Liz Lemon only look alike. Liz is the head writer for TGS (formerly known as The Girlie Show until Tracy Jordan arrived to spice ratings).  She gets to spend her time managing the egos of Tracy, Jenna (Jane Krakowski), and negotiating craziness with Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin).  However, she's so overwhelmed, she often gets caught in her craziness, like holding her bra together with tape.  She's hilarious in her constant struggle to find a guy, self-esteem and to put on a show.  I love watching her try.   In this photo she's trying to get out of jury duty (it almost seems easier just to serve).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Musical Mondays: A Chorus Line

Careful, this review could potentially put songs in your head that won't go away no matter how hard you try.  At least that's often the case for me when I watch A Chorus Line.  Filmed in 1985, based on a stage play from 10 years earlier, and starring Michael Douglas as the only still recognizable actor, it's still got some of the best songs from musicals.  It ran continuously on Broadway for 15 years and is currently the fourth longest running show in history (behind Phantom, Cats, and Les Mis).  For such a simple show it must be one of the most profitable.  There are no superstars; everyone in the show is actually auditioning to part of the chorus for a pretend Broadway show, so being a nobody is actually a requirement.   Michael Douglas plays the choreographer/director trying to cast the chorus of his show.  He's using non-traditional auditioning techniques by asking the final 16 actors to actually talk about themselves in addition to singing and dancing.  We learn little bits of their stories about how they got into dancing ("I can do that", "At the Ballet" and "Nothing").  The biggest difference between the stage play and the movie is the love story in the movie between Douglas and one of the actresses, Cassie, who used to date Douglas.  One of the most famous songs from the show is "What I Did For Love", which in the stage version is sung by the entire cast about what they've given up for their love of dance and the need to be a dancer.  In the movie, Cassie sings it about how her career changed because she fell in love with Douglas.  One other smaller difference that I much prefer in the film is the song Cassie sings "Let Me Dance For You" rather than "The Music and the Mirror".  It's more exciting and explains her character better than just the love of dance.  However, the big things that make this movie incredibly dated even though the themes are relate-able at any time is the synthesized music background, and the unbelievably bad hair extensions they make Cassie use in the flashbacks to her life with Douglas.  Both make it seem out of place.  However, it's still one of the best musicals.  "One" is the song that gets stuck in my head.  "One.  Singular sensation, every little step she takes.   One.  Thrilling combination, every move that she makes.  One smile and suddenly nobody else will do."  It runs through my head.  That scene at the end where they fill the stage with all the other dancers who audition for the chorus all in matching outfits is the one over the top moment that gives you chills when it's done right.  On stage it doesn't work as well, but on film it's kind of magical.

TV Meme: Day 14

Day 14 - Favorite male character

My favorite male character is half of my favorite couple on TV.  Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) from Friday Night Lights and his wife Tammy are the best representation of a healthy, happy,  hard-working married couple on TV.  They live in Texas where football is what people do on a Friday night (I grew up where it's hockey on Friday nights, but I understand the devotion).  Eric Taylor has to bear the burnt of the good games and the bad games - the town will be on his back more so than the players if the team doesn't win.   And he takes it in stride.  He works hard to make the kids he coaches good people as well as good players.  They have to learn respect, team work, the rules of football, and to some degree how to be good men.  He's there for the kids when they get in trouble, need some help, or need a father figure (though somehow he stays separate from them while making sure they know he's available).  He's a realist and know boys will be boys so fighting against underage drinking would be a lost cause, but showing up for practice on time isn't a debate.  He motivates them for the first few seasons with "clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose" and it always gives me goosebumps.  Easily my favorite male character on TV.  Runner-ups are Kurt Hummel from Glee, Patrick Jane from The Mentalist, and Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.  The difference between them and Coach Taylor is how consistently he's written.  His character never reaches a caricature of a coach, but always seems authentic.  How much of that is Kyle Chandler and how much is the writing, we'll never know.  

Reel Insight has arrived!!!

Rachel and I decided writing about movies and TV wasn't enough, so with lots of encouragement from fellow bloggers, we started a podcast.  It will be available on itunes in the not too distant future, just search Reel Insight.  For now, you can listen here or at podomatic.

We talked about movies we saw this week, TV we enjoy, and then our main topic each week will be picking an actor or actress and discussing their career.  With the A-Team opening wide this week, we chose Liam Neeson to start off.  To give a fair examination of his career, we each chose his 3 best and 3 worst movies.  Sadly, Mr. Neeson has been in a lot of great movies, though I'm sure some people can guess what we both agreed on for his worst film.  And finally, since we enjoy the games on other podcasts so much, we came up with our own.  To get your answer in, send it to  I hope you like it.  Please forgive inaugural podcast technical glitches.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Release Review: Get Him to the Greek!

I saw this about a week ago, but couldn't quite find the words to describe what I liked and didn't like about it.  Get Him to the Greek is basically the story of Aaron (Jonah Hill) a fairly big loser, working for a record label (Sean Combs) and reminiscing about the days before music was just reinventions of the same thing ("I found the new Alicia Keys") and proposes a 10th anniversary concert for Aldous Snow (Russell Brand recreating his character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall).  Since the last time we saw him Snow has had an tumultuous love affair with Jackie Q (Rose Byrne from Damages), been totally screwed up on drugs and alcohol, gotten sober, dumped by Jackie and had a son.  He and Jackie also created the worst album ever called "African Child".  The movie starts with the music video for the song and it's crazy, racist, over the top is supposed to be a commentary on where a lot of artists go when they try to change their image and get involved in world affairs.  Now Aaron has to pick up junkie Snow in London, bring him to NYC for a today show appearance and then to LA for a concert at the Greek theater.  The first unbelievable thing that runs the movie off the rails is that Jonah Hill would never have been picked for such an assignment.  We see how schlubby he is in his career, and how lowly he is.  He's never worked with celebrities and the advice Combs gives him about how to "mind f&*" the celebrities to keep them happy but get them to do their work is ridiculous and doesn't actually make sense or make you laugh.  Then there's the rest of the trip where Aaron falls between fitting in with the celebrity crowd and getting drunk and wasted and making a fool of himself.  Snow can handle his drugs and alcohol and has mastered the celebrity life and enjoys hanging out with Aaron, but mostly abusing him.  He's really funny, but Aaron (Jonah Hill) is really, really, not funny.  He was terribly miscast in this role and brought down what might have been a funny movie.  For a reputed comedian, he was as funny as Topher Grace or Tobey Maguire would have been in the same role.  There were a few incredibly funny moments - when they're all high on a drug combo called "Jeffrey" and rubbing a fur-covered wall - and a few really unfunny moments - when they realize a threesome with Aaron, Snow, and Aaron's girlfriend (a really annoying Elizabeth Moss) was a bad idea, and most of the ass-based humor.  Overall, it exceeded my very low expectations, but I went with people who had high hopes and were terribly disappointed.  2 star/lambs