Thursday, December 31, 2009

Catching Up- Sons of Anarchy Season One

I'm glad that I already cemented out The Perspective's January Power Rankings (due out tomorrow) because if I had waited until I finished the first season of Sons of Anarchy I would have had a tough time keeping it out of the top ten. Seeing as though I am not caught all the way up, that wouldn't have been fair. Unless it has a Heroes-ian second season collapse I can see the FX action series climbing the charts by the time March rankings come around.

Not since the days of Danny McCoy have I thought that a character was so incredibly cool. Jackson Teller, the lead character of Sons, is without a doubt one of the studliest dudes on television. As Vice President of the Sons motorcycle gang, he is as hard as they come. But as a brand new father and woo-er of his beloved Tara Knowles, he is as sensitive and loving as they come. The angst he shows in having to do some of the dirty work involved with the gang is unbelievable. The fact that he wants to legitimize the club (as per his late father's wishes) gave me as a viewer something to root for the entire season. In the season one finale, after pummeling one of his brothers, he shows up at a funeral in the most amazing fashion. It was as if he was saying, I am that much better and sweeter than all of you that I can do whatever I want. Jax alone is worth watching Sons of Anarchy.

I have currently only watched the first two seasons of Sopranos. From this point on all of my comments are going to be comparing Sons to Sopranos and noting how much better Sons has been. In regards to my previous rant on Jackson Teller, what makes it better than Sopranos is that he is so much better than Tony himself. Tony, with his anxiety attacks, trips to the psychiatrist and babbling to Carmella have a tendency to make me not enjoy him.

Also unlike the first two seasons of Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy has an ensemble of characters that I really enjoyed. Other than Paulie, there is not one member of Tony's mob that enjoyed throughout the entirety of the first two seasons. I liked Pussy in season one (maybe due to the other things I had seen Vincent Pastore in) but as an informant in season two he was garbage. I think what makes each one of them so good, is that I've already gotten a feeling for who they are, which I have yet to get in the Sopranos (with the exception of Michael). Even though I hate Clay and his inability to correctly run Sam Crow, I absolutely love to hate him as a character. Tony Soprano's uncle Junior on the other hand has just been useless so far. I tend to not care at all when he is on the screen.

And finally the style and pace of the show itself has been much more enjoyable. So much stuff has happened during the first 13 episodes of SoA. Maybe just as much happened in Sopranos, but it sure didn't feel like it. The action keeps coming at ya and coming at ya, but they still make time from slow and emotional moments (like all of the time Jackson spends with his newborn baby).

Looking forward to banging out season two.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Blind Side- Love the True Story

It's been a while since my last post, and it might be a while until my next one. After all, late December/early January is the bleakest time in the world of new television. With the holidays upon us I found myself watching nothing but Christmas movies (mostly Santa Clause 2 and 3) and Modern Family's Undeck the Halls over and over again. No matter how many times I view it, Jay Pritchett's "You too are total innocentes!" continues to be a delight.

As I returned to my life on the road, I found myself traveling to Blacksburg, VA for a tournament at Virginia Tech. Sure in the past I have had to endure the viewing pleasure of What Happens In Vegas and Destiny's Child Live In Concert with this group of inidividuals, but today was different. Someone got their hands on a dvd screener of The Blind Side, which has been in theatres since late November.

I heard about the story of Michael Oher a while back and was highly interested when I saw the trailer. Michael Oher is the starting left guard for the Baltimore Ravens. The Blind Side tells the story of how he made it out of the Memphis projects, because a rich, white family took him in and made him a part of their family. Personally, I love a good true story more than a fictitious one because, for the most part, the people the audience connects with actually exist in this world.

Sandra Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuoy, the woman that takes the homeless Oher in, gives him food and clothes and helps him to earn a Division I football scholarship to Ole Miss. I thought I might be annoyed by Bullock's performance before in this, but I was wrong. I've seen her play the scared heroin in Speed and The Net. I've also seen Bullock play the hapless romantic lead in While You Were Sleeping and Two Weeks Notice. This was the first time I've really been impressed by her acting chops. She did a fantastic job portraying a woman that knew how to get exactly what she wanted, but also had the compassion to take care of a young, black kid from the ghetto.

Whether it was Pistol: The Birth of a Legend or Invinceable, I've often found myself disappointed in the window of life a sports biopic uses. As good as The Pistol is as a film, I want to see more of Pistol Pete. If you don't want to take the time to say anything about his LSU or NBA days, how about a bit more about his days after eighth grade? Yeah I know, it's a story, but it's a story about a real person and that makes me want to see more. In this particular case, I think The Blind Side used the perfect amount of time for the story of Michael Oher. The reason? It's current. He's just entered the NFL. We're watching that part of his life happen right now. He was at Ole Miss only a year ago. Many sports fans saw him excel at the college level on his way to All-American status. The only important storyline America should be curious about is how the heck this family helped him make it to where he is today. And they did that tremendously.

Without mentioning many more details of the movie, I'll just say that i was extremely emotional throughout the entire thing. Quinton Aaron, who played Oher, was terrific at playing a troubled, but genuinely caring human being. I wanted to see him succeed in everything he did.

Jae Head, with the exception of a few moments from Bullock, was the only source of comic relief in the movie. He played Bullock's son, a young kid that adored Oher, helped him with his football training, and did most of the negotiating with the college coaches that were recruiting Oher. Head was almost identical to his character in Friday Night Lights, that loved and adored Tim Riggins. He's great at this character.

The Blind Side was a great movie, but as I look into the future I have a tough time thinking about it as a sports movie. Football was the backdrop for this film about a kid making something out nothing. With that in mind, I think that my only major problem with the film is the beginning. The cold open is really well done, as Bullock monologues about Lawrence Taylor's career ending hit on Joe Theisman. It makes it seem as though the movie is all about teaching this kid how to play football and how to protect a quarterback and that was not this movie at all. I don't think it was the right message to shove in the audience's face to start the movie.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Survivor Samoa Finale

Get comfortable because I have a lot to say about the ending to what was a fantastic season of Survivor.

Russell Has 'Em All On A String
So before Russell decided to get rid of Jaison during the first elimination vote of the finale, there was a moment that so truly depicted this year's season of Survivor. Within a five minute span, Natalie, Mick and Jaison all tell the camera with a straight face that within the first two days Russell told them they were going to the end together and they still believed it. Cut to Russell telling the camera he still had no idea who wanted to bring with him because he had deals with everybody (even Brett, who Russ just recently told he would bring to the end). Fantastic playing by Russ.

Fallin' Soldiers
I feel like this segment, when the remaining survivors go out and pay tribute to the contestants that were eliminated along the way, usually is extremely boring and tedious. This year it was much better and almost moving at times. I think it was because of the voice overs done by the ousted survivors. Was this new? Instead of having the four remaining survivors go on and on with robotic material, we got to hear a quick note from them and then a lengthy comment from the contestant that was currently being remembered. It was a nice touch.

Final Challenge Nerves
Russell kept Mick around so that the three remaining Foa Foa's would have a better chance to defeat Brett in the final challenge and oust him from the game. Who is the first person to get eliminated from the immunity challenge? Obviously Mick. As the contestants balanced a tiny statue up high on top of little poles, I was never more involved in a competition. Mick and Natalie both bowed out early and it was up to Russell to save the world from Brett being in the final three. A win here for Russell and he (and everyone watching) knew he would be winning the championship. I was never more nervous watching Survivor than when Russell's seven foot long poll was leaning in the breeze, but I was never more pumped than when Brett's little statue fell from its pedestal and Russ won his first immunity challenge of the season. The most important won to date.

Probst's Loaded Questions
So I don't get what Probst does while the show is being filmed. Is he just sitting around watching everything that is happening? At tribal council he seems to know every single conversation that has been going on. Not only that, but the questions he asks the survivors have been so loaded recently. Has he always been doing it this way? I can't remember that he ever had before. His questioning of Brett, Mick and Natalie on the final elimination made it seem as though he knew exactly what Russell had talked to each of them about. He said "I'm almost hearing it in Natalie right now, almost like she's talking to Russell, saying You know that's not a good move, right?". Let them play the game! If Mick and Natalie wasn't intuitive enough to figure out what Russell was doing behind his back, don't bring it to light. That wouldn't be fair to Russ or Brett, if Russ truly was blindsiding Mick at the time.

Russell Helping Others?
Down to the final three and Russell is badgering the other two about their final speeches? Maybe this was a part of his strategy, but it just seemed to me like he was helping them. "What are you going to say to the jury?" "You have to have a speech prepared." These types of comments might have been what got Mick and Natalie the idea that they really needed to be ready come time for the tribal council. It might have been what cost Russell in the end. If he hadn't said anything to Natalie, she may have been as unprepared as Sugar was two seasons ago, and basically said she didn't deserve to win.

Final Council
This was easily the best final tribal council I've seen in the past three seasons. It started off with a bang as Russell delivered a ridiculously well planned opening statement that keyed on all of the different things he did so well in the game (even if he did forget to mention his ability to find idols with no clues). He, as well as Natalie and Mick, answered every question honestly but with decisiveness that didn't make it look like anyone was wavering on anything. All three of Bob, Suzie and Sugar two seasons ago were unsure of themselves, and Stephen was babbling all over the place last spring. We actually had three contestants that were prepared to explain why they should win. And although Russell did it the best, some of the jury members are still so immature that they think Russ's awful behavior in the game is a negative.

Erik's Speech
Even though Natalie didn't perform as well as Russell in the game or at the final tribal council, she had someone step up for her and give one of the most profound and almost emotional speeches I've seen on a reality competition.

Natalie, people will call you weak. People will say that you're undeserving. But you know what? Why are those characteristics any less admirable as lying, cheating and stealing? Why does he get a free pass? When your "wrong" way of playing is admonished? If there's one thing I've learned in this game, it's that perception is not reality. Reality is reality. And you are sitting there, and that makes you just as dangerous as any one of those guys there. You would say that you are probably most deserving of the title of Sole Survivor, but maybe, just maybe, in an environment filled with arrogance (points at Russell), delusional entitlement (points at Mick), maybe the person who thinks she's least deserving, is probably the most. You got my vote. I hope you get four more. Congratulations.

Maybe he has a good point. Maybe it was bull sh*t. But either way, it was perfectly executed and I feel he was the reason that Natalie won this thing. He plead with the jury and I think he swayed a couple from Russell to Natalie. My major agreement with the whole thing is this. Sure I, like a lot of people out there, feel that Russell played the best game in Survivor history. But if you really think about it, why is Natalie's strategy (although it probably wasn't a planned strategy) to sit behind Russell not an even better one. If you know this dude is going to manipulate everyone on his way to the finals, why not latch on to him, stay behind the scenes and be nice. If you get to the final vote you know that there are going to be those on the jury that will vote for you because you were nicer than the bully. It might just be the best strategy out there right now.

Fat Natalie
Cut ahead to the live reunion show in Hollywood. What?!?! What the H E double hockey sticks was Natalie doing since the show ended?!? I mean my first guess would be eating a lot. Any other conjectures. How fat can you get in that little amount of time. At one point Probst commented on the amount of weight that Mike B lost since the show. How about pointing out that Natalie is ginormous? She should have lost the title of Sole Survivor for that alone.

Nice Guys Finish First
As soon as Natalie got her second vote I knew it was over. What is going on in the world of reality television. In the last three seasons I've watched, the title has gone to the nice person. Last season on Survivor J.T. won the game without doing any game play. This past season on Big Brother Jordan was a worthless piece of garbage, but won the championship. And now Natalie does absolutely nothing on Survivor, but wins because Russell was a mean guy. When are people going to realize that you get to the end however you can, and it is just a game? But then again maybe the question is, when am I going to realize that if the contestants continue to think the game is about ethics and morals, how do you give yourself the best chance to win under those circumstances? Is Russell's strategy never going to work? Or with a different jury would he have taken home the championship? I guess I'm still at a loss for why Russell did not win this game.

Russell's Emotions
My man Russell was visibly upset. The eyes were watering throughout the finale. He definitely thought he was about to be the the champion and go down as the best Survivor of all time. I still think he may be, but as the '07 Patriots can tell you, without the title it may be all for not. Russell just wanted that title so badly. The dude offers Natalie 100,000 dollars to let Probst say that Russell is the Sole Survivor. She obviously declined.

Russell Vs. Dan
Here's my final thought on the game play aspect of Survivor and Big Brother. Russell play the outright strategy game more than anyone I've ever seen, but Dan from Big Brother 10 might have done it better. Sure I could be saying that because Dan won and Russell didn't. (Also I've heard stories of Evil Dick form Big Brother 7 but never actually seen the season) While Russell was playing the game balls to the wall right from the get go, Dan started off slowly and built relationships with people. Russell was pouring out canteens and burning socks, while Dan was telling jokes and having fun. When it came down to a final vote, Russell's lying and backstabbing were looked upon as a true negative by the jury because none of them really liked him. Dan won the Big Brother final vote unanimously because the people on the jury grew to like him as a person and when they found out he was playing the game so well behind the scenes, they were so impressed that they though he deserved the championship. So as I say that Russell was my favorite contestant in a while to watch, he might not have been the best player.

Fantasy Results

The Technotronics

W. Russell-W15 (106), W16 (121), Im (20)= 247
B. Russell-
Natalie- W15 (106), W16 (121), W17 (137)= 364
Finals= 611

Freecell Makes Me Wanna

W15 (106), W16 (121), Votes (-8)= 219
Brett- W15 (106), Im (20), Votes (-12)= 114
Finals= 333
Total= 1,555

Canon Controversy

Jaison- Votes (-16)= -16
Finals= -16
Total= 949

Sweet Niblets

Finals= 0
Total= 581

Friday, December 18, 2009

Survivor Samoa- Week 14

I have officially been eliminated from yet another fantasy Survivor season, and Shambo has finally been eliminated from Survivor Samoa. I do think that the better move was to get rid of Mick though. Russell explained to the audience the three reasons Shambo was good to keep around. She's not good at challenges, she'll do whatever he wants, and she won't win any votes from the jury. Why would you then not keep her? Because Mick's the only one who can win a competition over Brett? Because Brett's finally won a couple of comps? He can't be that good that you have to sacrifice such an important part of the plan, that was Shambo. I don't like the move.

Fantasy Results

The Technotronics

W. Russell-W14 (92), Reward (4)= 96
B. Russell-
Natalie- W14 (92)= 92
Weeks 14= 188

Freecell Makes Me Wanna

W14 (92), Votes (-4)= 88
Brett- W14 (92), Im (20)= 112
Weeks 14= 200
Total= 1,222

Canon Controversy

Jaison- W14 (92), Reward (4)= 96
Weeks 14= 96
Total= 965

Sweet Niblets

Shambo- Reward (4), Votes (-20)= -16
Weeks 14= -16
Total= 581

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Most Hated College Basketball Players

As a favor to my buddy Bob over at Ballin' Is A Habit, I did a bit of consulting and guest writing on their most recent article. If you want to read some of my thoughts, and those of Ballin' Is A Habit, on some of the most hated (and loved) college basketball players of the decade head over to BIAH.

Here's a taste of what I had to say on the subject.

Tyler Hansbrough

It's one thing to show no emotion at all, it's a whole other thing to be Tyler Hansbrough. This dude showed a lot of emotion during his four years at North Carolina, and every second of it made me want to throw up. There's a reason that his nickname was Psycho T. Hansbrough was a complete nut. His ridiculous actions on the court made me hate him more and more every time I saw him spaz around on the floor for a loose ball.

He was the epitome of getting the most out of what you have. Who likes that? I'm not a Husky fan, (just the first example that came into my head) but I loved cheering for a guy like Rudy Gay who was uber-talented but was labeled as lazy. He knew he was good and therefore didn't have to act like an idiot on the court.

Was he a star in college? Yes.

Is he now a star in the pros? Yes.

Did he ever make me want to throw myself through a window when I watched him play? No.

Tyler Hansbrough had one out of those three aspects.

He's never going to be a great pro, and everyone knew that. Sure he received numerous college accolades, and had the stats to ensure them, but that doesn't mean he deserved those stats. When you play in a manner that many basketball players can't respect, it diminishes your likeability. Falling on the ground every five seconds, pretending that you were fouled, is flat out bush league.

I was a UNC fan growing up. I loved the likes of VC, Rasheed, Stack, Jamison. Tyler Hansbrough single-handedly destroyed my fandom of the Tar Heels and turned it into a hatred for the school I once wanted to attend.

Adam Morrison

Adam Morrison played at Gonzaga, which is a mid-major in the West Coast Conference. We could obviously talk again about how he was hyped well higher than his skill level, but the normal hatred for this college basketball player ran much deeper than undeserved stats and honors. It really comes down to two things. A moustache and crying.

Morrison was extremely gangly and had a girl's haircut during his years with the Zags. Although both characteristics turned me off, neither caused as much pain as his disgusting quazi-moustache. Here is the thing with facial hair. If you can grow a great beard, you do it at some point in college. Hey, if you want to have the luxury of being able to sport a sweet chin strap before you leave high school, then by golly you shave twice a day when you're a freshman (I actually don't recommend this doing this). A nice goatee or some solid muutton chops can do wonders for you as a young man, but under no circumstances do you let a peach fuzz-esque moustache grow in above your lip. When hair starts to grow on your face, but you can still see through it to your face, you know it's not a good look. Not to mention it is just a straight up stash. Unless you are in the 80s or an old man, moustaches just look weird on white dudes.

In the Zags' NCAA Tournament game against UCLA, the Bulldogs led the entire way only to see their lead slip away to the Bruins in the final seconds. Sure everyone and their brother has cried at one point or another, but it wasn't like Mr. Moustache against UCLA. This dude started balling hysterically before the game even ended! Yeah I've seen some dudes tear up at the post-game press conference. It is an emotional time, and when a player really cares about the team's success, his portrayal through tears can some times be heartfelt. Morrison's tears were not simple. The dude's face was going out of control. He couldn't contain himself. Let me remind you that the game wasn't even over yet. He could've taken it down for a game-winning shot. Did he? Of course not. He just finished filling up a soup bowl with massive tears. You can't play basketball like that. If America didn't detest this kid before that, it sure did him in.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Sing Off- Ben Folds Brings It

After two people mentioned The Sing-Off to me I realized that it would be worth checking out. The first two hour episode didn't disappoint. A reality singing competition between acapella groups, The Sing-Off brought a lot of things to the table that made it worth my while. I'll probably give this show one more post (most likely after the finale), but the second two-hour episode is about to start so I'm going to get my thoughts on the premier down real quick.

Sure the singing helps to make American Idol great, but what puts it over the top has been the dynamic group of personalities it assembled as judges and host. Between Simon, Ryan, Paula and Randy, you've always had someone to love and someone to hate. For me, and most sane people, the two former are the ones to love and the two latter are so easy to hate. The Sing-Off has almost brought the same dynamic to the table. Nick Lachey as host brought a cool, calm and classy aspect to the show, and he doesn't try too hard to coexist with the contestants (a la Nick Cannon). When they announced the three judges I thought to myself, "Interesting that they got three people with singing backgrounds. That's a change from shows of past. We probably won't get the blabber that I'm used to with Randy and Paula." So I was wrong, so what?

This Nicole chick from the Pussycat Dolls was right on par with Paula after one episode. She had no idea what to say to any of the groups and ended up saying they had great spirits over and over again. Shawn of Boyz II Men started off similarly in rambling style, but started to get a bit more comfortable by the end. Too bad when he was comfortable he still started to just copy my boy Ben Folds (a la Randy to Simon). The singing knowledge that Folds brought to the table in this first episode was unbelievable to watch. He analyzed every performance with such precision, to the point that he was glancing over at his notebook before reciting what he had to say about each group. He might look like a complete nerd, but he was easily put forth the best performance by a reality judge that I have ever seen.

The next positive aspect I gathered from the premier episode was that they did us all a favor and got rid of any auditions. For once a reality competition just cut right to the meat of the show and gave us the talent. Eight teams competing over a four nights (I think) for one champion. Out of the eight, no one was bad. Well except for maybe the four mom barber shop quarteters, but they made it through to the next round.

And finally they changed something that I've always hated about Idol. When a contestant gets eliminated in Idol, they sing the song that they just sang the other night. I never care about this performance, because we've basically seen it already. On The Sing-Off the losing group is to perform their "Swan Song" as the exit the stage. It is a song they decide before the competition that they will use if they happen get eliminated. Not only is it new, but they sing it as the leave the arena. Great work.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Californication- A Depressing End

After what I thought was a fantastic first season, Californication was in danger of entering the Entourage zone. The Entourage zone is where the plot doesn't go anywhere and the viewer begins to not care what happens to any of the characters. Through the second season and most of the third, I though Californication might be heading there. This week's season three finale changed my mind completely.

It starts with the fact that I genuinely care about what may or may not happen to these characters. Hank, Karen and Becca, and the relationships with each other, matter to me. I continue to hope that Hank and Karen will end up together in the end, and I want Becca to, as she said "love her dad, and always will." Even though Hank is a f*ck up and has messed his own life up more than a little, he still cares for his daughter so much that he puts more effort into her than anything else. That is what makes the audience want to have good things happen to them.

At the beginning of this week's finale we see the three of them sit down to a delightful family breakfast (with the fantastic Oh La La playing in the background). This family comradery is what makes me smile while watching this show. The comedy and the sex are nice distractions from time to time, but the essence of Californication is Hank and his girls.

The whole show started with Hank making the biggest mistake of his life, sleeping with an underage girl that happened to end up being his ex-girlfriend's new fiance's daughter. Throughout the three seasons, it has been the one thing looming over Hank. It has kept the viewers on the edges of their seats, waiting for it to come to the forefront and for Hank's life to fall apart. That was the reason that the season one finale was so good (because it almost did) and that is the reason this third season finale was so good.

Mia (the underage girl in question) has a new manager and boyfriend (played by a skinnier and balder Paul Raines from 24). Mia told this boyfriend the entire story about her sleeping with Hank and that she stole his book and claimed it as her own. After realizing that this douche was going to reveal this to America, Hank finally found the courage to tell his lady the truth. As he gets home and begins to tell Karen the truth about what he had done oh 2 to 3 years ago the audio of their voices stops and Elton John's Rocketman begins to play. At first I get angry. Are you kidding me? The moment that has been hanging over our heads for three seasons and you're not going to let me hear what is actually said between them? But less than a minute into the argument and subsequent arrest I realized that this technique made the scene that much better. We got the essence of what was being said. If we were to hear Karen screaming and yelling, the whole moment would have come across as anger. That's not what this moment was about. Instead it was depressing. The silence and the Rocketman gave that feeling of depression. As the rage was shown on Karen's face, and the disappointment that was on both Hank's and Becca's, we knew that Hank had finally hit rock bottom. All the trouble he had gone through to make necessary changes in his life were all for not. Everything flew out the window when he revealed to her what was the biggest mistake of his life.

I believe Californication is coming back, but I personally would be completely satisfied with such a depressing ending to this series. It really would be going out the right way.

Poolies Watch- Samantha Marquez Award

The Samantha Marquez Award is given each year to the Best Female Character in an Action Series. Last year's top three finishers in the inaugural Poolie Awards are all top nominees heading into the second half of the television season. Last year's champ, Sarah Walker of Chuck, along with Juliet Burke and Chloe O'Brian of Lost and 24, have yet to hit the airwaves this season. All three shows will return in 2010. The only top contender that we have already seen this season is True Blood's Maryann Forrester. As the evil and conniving maenad, she wreaked havoc on Bon Temps before meeting her doom at the end of the second season.

Top Contenders
Chloe O’Brian- 24
Juliet Burke- Lost
Maryann Forrester- True Blood
Sarah Walker- Chuck

Next we have an eclectic group of ladies hanging on to nominations at this point in time. I have no idea why Claire Bennett is still on this list, but for some reason I can't leave her off. Elizabeth Mitchell could make history if both her Juliet of Lost and Erica of V finish with good seasons in 2010. Two characters by the same actress nominated in one category. Unprecedented. Having said that, The Poolies have only been around for one year, so it's not that big of a deal. I've only seen two eps of Sons of Anarchy, but Tara has me interested thus far. Maybe it was Maggie Siff's role as Rachel Menken on Mad Men that has my early interest.

In For Now
Claire Bennett- Heroes
Ellie Bartowski- Chuck
Erica Evans- V
Grace Van Pelt- The Mentalist
Remy Hadley- House, MD
Tara Knowles- Sons of Anarchy

And then we have a few more vying for the coveted Poolie nomination. Cameron didn't show much on the little time she had left on House, and Olivia and Anna of Flash and V, respectively, haven't been on long enough to get a good feel for them. I'll be interested to see how large a role Claire Littleton will play on Lost in this the final season. After all, she is dead. She is supposed to be back in the fold though, so that might give a few clues as to where the plot is heading. Either way, she had been up and down in my opinion before she died. She had her good moments, but she also was terrible at times in the earlier seasons. I have a good feeling about her this year though.

Outside Looking In
Allison Cameron- House, MD
Anna- V
Claire Littleton- Lost
Olivia Benford- Flash Forward
Renee Walker- 24

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Brothers- Good Trailer, Good Movie

There's a lot to be said for making a fantastic trailer (see Whopper trailer). I first saw the trailer for Brothers at the theater this summer. I was in awe. Tonight was the first time since the summer that I sat down and decided it would be nice to take in a movie. When I went to see what was out, I saw that Brothers was playing and there was no decision to be made. I was there.

Now there are good trailers and then there are good movies. Brothers had both. There are many things that came together to make this movie good. Here are some of them. It started off with the setting of a normal family, and for some reason (the personalities, the writing, etc.) I fell in love with Sam, Grace, Maggie and Isabelle. It does help when Grace, the wife and mother, is played by the fantastic Natalie Portman. The ability to get attached so quickly, especially to Sam, gives the audience a comfort that they will need to bring about certain other feelings later on in the film.

After Sam, played by Tobey Maguire, leaves to go back to the war in Afghanistan we start to see both stories simultaneously as they cut back and forth. It feels as if Sam's (quote un quote) death comes immediately after he leaves and that's when the next phase comes into play. Uncle Tommy, who has recently been released from prison, comes in to help the family in what seems as a way to make up for all the screwing up he has done over the years. It's either that or to prove that Sam wasn't the only one who could be counted on. Jake Gyllenhaal portrays utter coolness in the role of Tommy and builds an unbelievable rapport with the children, Maggie and Izabelle. As Tommy does more and more for Grace and the kids, I fell more and more in love with the idea of the being a family together. We saw Sam being good with the kids before he left for war, but not this good. To me, it was this conflict for the audience to decide who deserved the family more that got the juices flowing.

What was surprising to me was how much I also enjoyed the war scenes. Right after Sam's chopper goes down and Grace hears word on his death, we see that Sam is alive. He is captured and imprisoned. You have to sit on the edge of your seat to wonder how he is going to get out alive. You, well I guess I, was so intrigued by every move he made in that it was going to reveal more and more about his character. At first he was so calm and confident, but by the end of his stay in Afghanistan he did one particularly awful thing. It was to save his own life and get back to his family, but is that right? Would you have done something different in that situation? Would I? Probably not. It was this event that kept him alive long enough to get him saved, but it was also probably mainly this event that made him the way he was when he returned.

Back at the ranch we had a fantastic scene between Tommy and Grace. After the two make fun of who each other were in high school (Grace a cheerleader and Tommy getting drunk and into fights), they share a moment with some pot and then lock lips with a big smooch. It ended there and they both knew that it was wrong and left the scene immediately. Both vulnerable, and both knew that the mature thing was to not move forward even though they made a much better couple than Grace and Sam did.

What's this? Sam finally comes home after being rescued by his fellow Marines. The dude is messed up from the word go. Within the first half of a day back he comes up with "did you eff her?" to Tommy. I saw the way you guys were out there skating. Are you joking? How is that your first thought? I know you're messed up, but isn't that the last thing you suspect to have happened, not the first?

After Sam has major troubles throughout his time back, we get to the great scenes that we saw in the trailer way back when. Sure the dinner scenes in Talladega Nights and Step Brothers were fantastic, but this one may have taken the cake. Izabelle has had it with Maggie getting all of the good birthday presents, and she really can't stand how scary and boring her daddy has been acting. As she viciously takes her frustrations out on a balloon, by rubbing it to make a loud noise, Sam seems to get upset as well. Him snapping at her, and popping the balloon in her face, leads to these comments by the little girl...

"Why couldn't you stay dead?!?"
"You're just mad 'cause Mommy would rather sleep with Uncle Tommy than you!"
"Uncle Tommy and Mommy have sex all the time!"

Then upstairs she tells her mom...

"I don't like Dad. I'd rather have Uncle Tommy around."
Maggie chips in, "Me too."

*Ending Spoiler Alert From Here On Out*

The scene that we all were waiting for. Sam loses it, pulls a gun out and points it at Tommy. After hearing police sirens (that Tommy called ahead of time) he walks out to the driveway where we see him screaming and yelling about "WHAT HE'S DONE!!!" This is what drove the entire trailer to that fantastic level. After firing the gun once in the air to get the cops to back off, he points it at his head. I literally held my breath for the next 15-20 seconds as I waited for him to pull the trigger. I thought he was gonna do it. I thought to myself, what a fantastic job by not putting the fact that he kills himself in the trailer. But then he lowers the gun and gets taken into custody.

I was then waiting for something big to happen. Some big revelation that would make the movie even better than what the trailer made it out to be. But it kind of quickly leveled off and ended. Sam's in treatment at some prison/hospital I'm assuming and he gets to see Grace. He finally tells her that he killed the other marine in Afghanistan. Are we supposed to assume that he's on the road to recovery now? That's he basically all better? What about Uncle Tommy and Grace? Are we just supposed to be okay with them never mentioning their feelings for each other again? He'll go on being just Uncle Tommy forever? I needed a little more on that end of things at the end.

All in all it lived up to the trailer, but didn't go above and beyond what I was expecting.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Glee- Three Aspects of Quality

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Quiet Pool favorite Chuck is a fantastic show because it is great at three things...Comedy, Drama, and Action. In that same vein, Glee has become a good show over the first half of its first season because it is good at three things...Comedy, Drama and Music. After I gave up on it during the pilot, I came back to it because of growing buzz and Glee slowly but surely got better and better as the season has gone along.

The drama aspect of the show has gotten better, and more realistic, as the show has progressed. It was strongly evident in this week's fall finale, as we witnessed Rachel out Quinn and Puck's secret to Finn, Finn and Quinn deal with that fall out, and Mr. Shue end his marriage and finally make a move on Emma. Finn's rampage in the choir room was enough for me to give him props on this ep, but he then stepped up again by bring the squad together and getting them through the sectionals show.

The comedy aspect of the show can be explained by two words. Sue Sylvester. Although Rachel is usually good for some comic relief in each episode, this week she was too focused on bringing down the house in her musical number to bring the funny. Sue obviously didn't fail to crack me up every time she was on the screen. Jane Lynch is great, but this character is way better. After watching all but two episodes of Party Down, I can say that her character on that doesn't come close to comparing to the level of Sue Sylvester. Not only is what she says hilarious, but her actions may be better. After her first confrontation in the hallway with Shue this week, she performed a fist pump for the ages. Sue followed that up with a shove of a student in the hallway after her second chat with Shue. Classic.

The music aspect is what really puts Glee over the edge. An underrated part of the singing scenes is when someone is belting out a tune in the choir room, like Mercedes did in this week's ep, and the rest of the Gleesters are reacting to her performance. Watching them loving it reminds me of myself watching American Idol every week of the late winter. As good as those moments are, they aren't nearly as good as the show performances themselves. This week's numbers were two of the best yet, as Rachel went solo on Barbara Streisand's "Don't Rain on My Parade" from the play Funny Girl to start sectionals off with a bang. The rest of the crew joined in for a number that will always get me excited, but this time gave me chills, in the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Great stuff.

Glee doesnt return until April, so I will have to get my tv music fix from Idol which starts in January.

Survivor Samoa- Weeks 12 and 13

Nice little double elimination episode this week. I like it because there is much more game play embedded in the show, and less fluff. After Jaison won the first immunity the group decided to get rid of Dave Bald to throw Shambo some love. As it went on and on, the editing made it seem as though there were going to go against Shambo's wishes and eject her from the game instead. The editing is very sneaky sometimes. So when Russell commented at the tribal council that the most important aspect at this point in the game is getting rid of people that are well liked, I got a bit confused. For as good as he is, how would he think that anyone in this game liked Shambo and would vote for her at the end? I was pleasantly surprised when Russ and the rest of the crew decided to keep the waste of space Shambo around, but I would've been happier if they had figured out to get rid of the ridiculously nice Brett instead.

To start the second half of the episode, Brett found the perfectly opportune moment to win his first individual immunity. Russell came in third in this contest, but was pretty much out of the running about half way through. Has he won a competition yet? Can you imagine how could he could be if he could win a few things when he needed to?

Anywho...Monica, with her life on the line now, started to stir up the pot. It was fantastic as she started telling Russell all of the stuff about him that Jaison and Natalie were telling the old Galus. Russell obviously confronts Jaison and he in turn denies everything. He pull a Michelle of Big Brother and tells the camera he doesn't remember if he told them or not. Please. All of this then prompts Jaison and Mich to start to question whether or not to turn on Russell at this point. How long are you fellas going to wait? One of you two have to make a single move at some point in this game. In the end, all of Monica's moves may have been for not, because she went home with a 6-2 vote. Having said that, it may have stirred the pot enough to make things interesting gearing down towards the end here.

Fantasy Results

The Technotronics

W. Russell-W12 (67), W13 (79), Votes (-8)= 138
B. Russell-
Monica- W12 (67), Votes (-20)= 47
Natalie- W12 (67), W13 (79)= 146
Weeks 12 and 13= 331

Freecell Makes Me Wanna

W12 (67), W13 (79)= 146
Brett- W12 (67), W13 (79), Im (20)= 166
Weeks 12 and 13= 312
Total= 1,022

Canon Controversy

Jaison- W12 (67), W13 (79), Im (20)= 166
Dave- Votes (-28)= -28
Weeks 12 and 13= 138
Total= 869

Sweet Niblets

Shambo- W12 (67), W13 (79), Votes (-4)= 142
Weeks 12 and 13= 142
Total= 597

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

90210- Jasper's Safety Net

Although most people (myself included) have been pleased with the improvement of the second season of 90210, many have been disappointed with the recent story line of the Annie and Jasper relationship. The general view I've heard is that it's been boring and they've completely disregarded the fact that she ran over his uncle in last year's season finale. When they first met everyone thought that you were going to have to watch on the edge of your seat as you waited to see when Jasper was going to enact his revenge on her for what she did. But they went another route with the whole thing and I, unlike some, enjoyed it.

They put the story in the background and made you sort of forget about it for a bit, while the other plot lines grew. The Liam and Jen's saga, Teddy and Silver's budding non-romance, Adriana's second drug stint and Dixon's relationship with an older woman took center stage. As Navid and the others got closer and closer to outing Jasper as a drug dealer, Annie continued to not believe it (mainly because Jasper denied it to her multiple times). When Adriana finally comes forward and admits she has been buy drugs from Jasper for months, Annie believes her. In a crying fit, she gets Jasper to admit his short comings. He is surprisingly calm because he has, what he always knew he had, the safety net that is the truth about Annie's manslaughter drive.

The generic and obvious story line to draw out would have been to have this guy plotting his revenge on Annie. Have Jasper bring her into his life for the sole purpose of taking her down for what she did. Instead what I think they did was take a character that is clearly broken and has no friends, and figured out a new story that I haven't seen on tv before. Maybe he had a few moves that he could pull on Annie, but knew that at some point she was going to turn on him for his drug dealing habit. Therefore he used the dirt that he had on her, not to seek revenge, but to give himself a cushion that would land him this girl for a much longer time. Maybe she'll stay with him even after finding out the truth, because if she doesn't he will tell everyone that she killed his uncle. Very clever in my opinion. And very satisfying.

Alice- Many Twists on the Same Old Story

If I'm anything, I'm a guy who likes familiarity. When I go to the deli down the street from my office, I order the same thing every time. When I've planned vacations it's been to Disney World, not only because it's the happiest place on earth, but because I've grown accustomed to the surroundings. When I start a new tv series, like I did on Monday with Men of a Certain Age, it's usually because I had a previous relationship with someone as I did with the likes of Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula. For this reason, I decided to watch the SyFy mini-series Alice. And for this reason, I enjoyed it more than I probably should have.

Alice took the Lewis Carroll children's stories of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and modernized it for the SyFy mini-series. My previous relationship with Wonderland is mainly with the 1991-95 tv series Adventures in Wonderland. As you could guess from the years of airing, it featured a roller-skating White Rabbit and MC Hammer-esque tweedle dee and tweedle dum. Missy Robinson from that one episode of Boy Meets World, or the lead from Point Pleasant, starred as Alice on the Disney Channel show. A couple of years ago, I watched the Disney animated classic Alice in Wonderland for the first time that I can remember.

SyFy's version started off with Alice, a 20-something girl in the real world, and her boyfriend having dinner with her mother. After her boyfriend, Robinson Crusoe, was captured and taken through the looking glass, Alice followed him to Wonderland. Wonderland was a dark, broken down world that sat mostly high up off the ground. As Alice tries to recover her boyfriend, who's actual name was Jack, she runs into many of the characters we have known in the past. White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat and the weirdest version of the March Hare you could ever imagine. Every time there was another sighting, or mention of a character I knew, I got excited. Even when a fat man with a long mustache was just referred to as the Walrus, I loved it.

Sure there were plenty of flaws, but it did keep my interest throughout the three hours of run time. Caterina Scorsone who played Alice was fantastic even if she did have dark hair. Andrew-Lee Potts was even better as the Mad Hatter. He was funny at most points, but also had the ability to make me care about what happened him. The Hatter and the White Knight followed Alice on her adventure, which started out as a plan to save her boyfriend, then turned into trying to save her absentee father that was stuck in Wonderland, and finished with trying to take down the vicious Red Queen played by the fantastic Kathy Bates. All in all there were plenty of twists and turns and the ending was well worth it. Let's just say I had no idea that was where they were going to take the story when I began watching.

I plan on getting to watch SyFy's Tin Man, made a couple years ago, at some point in the near future. Another recreation of a famous children's story, obviously based on The Wizard of Oz.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Men of a Certain Age- Romano Gives Series Promise

Here's the thing...Why did I go into this series premier with such high hopes? It's a drama on TNT. Oh that's right, because it had Andre Baugher and Scott Bakula in it. I never was a big fan of Everybody Loves Raymond so the fact that Ray Romano was also a lead didn't get me too excited. After the episode ended, my first thought was that Romano was easily the best part about the show.

Men of a Certain Age is a drama about three guys that have been friends since college and are now getting through life in their later years. Romano plays Joe. He's in the recently divorced or in the middle of a divorce, owns a party store, and is addicted to gambling. Braugher plays Owen. He's married with kids, has some health issues and works for his father at a car dealership. Bakula plays Terry. The playboy type, somewhat of an aspiring actor that temps in the meantime.

Throughout the first episode we see the three guys go hiking and eat together, but we also see them dealing with the stresses of their daily lives on their own. While every moment Romano was on the screen it was enjoyable, every Andre Braugher scene was disappointing. I never really watched Homicide, but always heard great things, but I loved him in Passing Glory and his recent short stint on House. I know it was only one episode, but he only had one moment where I enjoyed his character. It was the hip check to the young salesman, knocking him into the water cooler. Hopefully that will be where the character heads in the future.

Although it was interesting and a bit funny at times, the drama was lacking and it was pretty slow moving. If it weren't the series premier I can imagine I would've been a bit more bored. Instead I was continually curious as to where it was going to go. I guess there are some positives to a pilot episode. Anyway I'm going to continue to check it out since we are getting into the holiday television break, but I was not seriously impressed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Poolies Watch- Phoebe Buffay Award

The Pheobe Buffay Award is given each year to the best female character in a comedy series. Last year's winner was Liz Lemon and she should be in the running again in 2010. She's no where near the level of Alex Russo and Miley Stewart, who top my current list, but Lemon has more followers so she remains the heavy favorite heading into this year's vote.

Alex Russo- Wizards of Waverly Place
Jenna Maroney- 30 Rock
Liz Lemon- 30 Rock
Miley Stewart- Hannah Montana

The only two that I currently have as being nominated that I have no confidence in are the only two that were in the running a year ago. Kelly Kapoor and Angela Martin have really brought nothing to the table this year in Scranton, PA. Sleeper alert on Annie Edison of Community. She's been picking up speed during the past three or four episodes, and what I used to find as annoying with her is turning into funny.

In for Now
Angela Martin- The Office
Annie Edison- Community
Gloria Delgado-Pritchett- Modern Family
Kelly Kapoor- The Office
Lilly Truscott- Hannah Montana
Macy Misa- Jonas

Here's where it gets tricky. Well only on one account. I am almost finished with the first season of Party Down, which had one season on Starz last spring. I am torn once again on whether to place it in comedy or drama. Sure it is actually a comedy, but it doesn't seem to be built around the funny to me. The emotions of Adam Scott's lead character Henry Pollard seem to be the main focus. His relationship with Lizzy Caplan's Casey Klein seems to be priority number two. Sure there is comic relief in the surroundings, but it doesn't seem to be what drives the show. Having said that, I'm gonna throw Casey Klein in here for now.

Outside Looking In
Allison Brooks- Gary Unmarried
April Ludgate- Parks & Recreation
(Casey Klein- Party Down)
Claire Dunphy- Modern Family
Sonny Monroe- Sonny With a Chance
Stella Malone- Jonas

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Night Lights- Saracen Slams the Door

In what should have been a let down of an ep, due to the fact that it almost solely focused around the death of a character we hardly knew, it most certainly did not let me down. I don't think Friday Night Lights has bad eps. The way that the writing, direction and acting builds drama on FNL is ridiculously good. On 90210 they had the passing of a character that the audience (or some of the audience) has known for 20 years, in Jackie Taylor, and couldn't really get me to care less. In this week's Dillon saga, they got me to feel for everyone involved with the death of Matt Saracen's absentee father. We saw him what one, two episodes over the three and a half seasons? Why should I care? Because they made me care. Fantastic job.

Several other great moments...

After Vince and Luke decide to run the Wildcat and score a touchdown off of it.
Coach- "Who called the play?!?"
Vince- "I blacked out Coach."

When Coach brings up the passing of Matt's dad in the locker room after the game, he let's Landry say the prayer. Only he doesn't call him Landry, he brings it back to when he didn't know his actual name and calls him Lance.
--I completely disagree with Sepinwall's analysis of the sequence...

I'd like there to be more consistency with the Landry/Lance thing. Either Eric knows his real name by now, or he doesn't. In theory, they could turn the joke into something a bit deeper by having Eric call him Lance when he's annoyed with him in practice, or just in a light moment, and shift to Landry when things are more serious. But to call him Lance while asking him to say a prayer for his best friend's dead father was a distraction.

--You see he used Lance because it was a serious moment. As we know, FNL as with most shows, tends to skip by some moments. What we need to infer is that Coach figured out Landry's real name at some point. He calls him Lance in this moment, and I'm sure he'll do it again down the road, because it was heartfelt. It is something that had together and was something that really only the two of them in the locker room might have understood.

As Saracen's anger builds and builds at his father's wake, JD and Joe McCoy show up at his doorstep offering condolences and gifts. Saracen slams the door right in their faces. Gets no reaction from any of the guests. Awesome.

Unbelievable move to have Coach watching Smash Williams on tv. I thought he was just watching some random football game, but then the announcer starts talking about Smash. Sweet.

A Lyla Garrity sighting! Welcome back for seven seconds.