May 2005

Law & Order: The Third Year

by Aaron on May 31, 2005

in Uncategorized

Dick Wolf’s legal behemoth is set to become the longest running police procedural show, and second longest running drama in television history. To date there are three spin-offs, and I’ll wager we’ll be seeing Law & Order: Hall Monitors, and L&O: Bathroom Key Attendants before this decade is through. All kidding aside though, Law & Order has earned it’s longevity by keeping current, handling it’s material as un-sensationally as television will allow, and by having a stellar cast portraying interesting characters. Universal has just released the third season on DVD, so we sat down for some 17 hours worth of hard-hitting justice.

Law & Order: The Third Year
4 Stars

The Babyfaces meets Mr. Craggly

Dick Wolf’s legal behemoth is set to become the longest running police procedural show, and second longest running drama in television history. To date there are three spin-offs, and I’ll wager we’ll be seeing Law & Order: Hall Monitors, and L&O: Bathroom Key Attendants before this decade is through. All kidding aside though, Law & Order has earned it’s longevity by keeping current, handling it’s material as un-sensationally as television will allow, and by having a stellar cast portraying interesting characters. Universal has just released the third season on DVD, so we sat down for some 17 hours worth of hard-hitting justice.

For the unfamiliar, Law & Order broke new ground for police shows by spending the first half of the show detailing the detective and police work and the second half detailing the criminal trial. While on occasion this can lend itself to some unduly compressed storylines, all in all the format is infinitely more rewarding than just seeing either story by itself. The 1992-1993 season saw the introduction of Det. Lennie Briscoe, played by fan favorite Jerry Orbach (who passed away late last year), and the exit of Paul Sorvino, but otherwise the show was business as usual. Across the 22 episodes included in this set, the topics range from straight-up murder, to corporate fraud & malfeasance, sweatshops, new partners, drug-running, computer crimes, weapons dealing, mentally handicapped defendents, government cover-ups, and animal rights activists. It’s a pretty breathtaking list of subjects to cover, and they’re all handled with L&O’s trademark style and heft.

As a set this is a pretty satisfying collection, with 3 double sided discs covering the show along with deleted scenes and a tribute to Jerry Orbach. Few television show sets have deleted scenes, and it’s interesting to see what gets cut on a show like Law & Order. Most often you can assume it’s due to running time, but occasionally you can see that some scenes either just don’t work, or detract from episode as a whole. The picture and audio quality is top notch, so you can chuck your A&E taped episodes and enjoy it in digital glory.

There’s a six-minute interview with Jerry Orbach that’s interesting, if a little dry, but the tribute is mostly just clips of various cast members talking about the star.  Strangely, a lot of the actors are from the recent spin-offs of Law & Order, and the whole thing seems like a good idea that wasn’t given much care or attention.  Who cares what the cast of Trial By Jury thought of Orbach?  Bring on the Sam Waterson!

While my own interest in Law & Order has waned over the years, the third season was one in which they’d hit a creative stride that would continue for some time, and this set showcases a show at it’s absolute best. At a standard retail price of $59 dollars, it might be a bit pricey for a show that’s constantly in re-runs on TV, but the great storylines, excellent chemistry between Chris Noth & Orbach, and the overall quality of the show should make this a must have for fans.

Happy Memorial Day, everybody!

by Aaron on May 29, 2005

in Uncategorized

It’s a holiday. Why are you on the computer?
We’re taking the day off to celebrate. Back tomorrow with DVD reviews of Law & Order Season 3, Airwolf Season One, and more!

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Madagascar

by Aaron on May 27, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Madagascar
  • IMDB: link

madagascar-movie-posterSince the inception of its computer animation department, Dreamworks has consistently played second fiddle to the powerhouse of Pixar. Not in sheer numbers, but in the quality of their stories and the sophistication of their delivery. With Madagascar, Dreamworks has made a signifigant step toward making quality animated films that have something to say that’s as important as the jokes.

In what has to be the single best designed animated effort to date from Dreamworks, Madagascar tells the story of Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), four Central Park Zoo attractions who eventually find themselves stranded in the wilds of Madagascar, unprepared for demands of wild life and the changes it brings upon them.

[click to continue…]

The Longest Yard, Indeed

by Aaron on May 27, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

This is a no-brain summer comedy that has a built in audience of frats boys, frat boys to be, and former glory frat men. While certainly not a laugh riot, The Longest Yard is actually awful per se, and filmgoers who want a break from the special effects orgies but don’t want kids fare or teen drama will most likely flock to it in droves.

The Longest Yard
2 Stars

At the recent New York premier of The Longest Yard, Burt Reynolds slapped a reporter for not ever having seen the 1974 version of the seminal football film. (You can read my review of the recent DVD release HERE) While Reynolds’ publicist has tried to laugh off the incident by saying it was a playful jest, I’m left to wonder if star Adam Sandler and director Pete Segal got similar treatment on the set, because obviously they haven’t seen it either.

See that expression. Get used to it

This time around Sandler takes the role of Paul “Wrecking” Crewe a former NFL quarterback who was booted from the league for points shaving. Sick of his life as a kept boy-toy for a harridan-like Courtney Cox, Crewe goes on a wild, drunken joyride through the city and ending up in hoosegow. Unbeknownst to him, the warden (James Cromwell) has had Crewe sent to his facility in the hopes that Crewe will help his guards’ struggling semi-pro team. Soon enough Crewe and ace hustler The Caretaker (Chris Rock) are putting together an inmate team to give the guards an easy win and the inmates some much desired payback. Along the way friendships are forged The Man gets it stuck to, and no real lessons are learned.

I try to avoid comparing remakes to their source material, but in this case what’s missing from The Longest Yard makes it impossible to avoid. Sandler’s Crewe isn’t the selfish and amoral cad that Reynolds portrayed in the original, nor does Sandler experience any form of character arc or change of heart. He’s playing it straight here, which means a nearly comatose delivery almost devoid of likability. To make matters worse, Sandler has to share the screen with Reynolds, who in even his diminished role still bears the charm and aura that made him such a ubiquitous screen presence in the 70’s. Where Sandler can do barely-contained rage, Reynolds is the epitome of macho cool, an ingredient sorely lacking from this film.

Chris Rock continues his unwavering tradition of bug-eyed delivery of invariably racial jokes, but sadly he’s the comedic highlight of the film. The cast of criminal losers they assemble to form the inmate team feel like the kind of caricatures more suited to a Rob Schneider vehicle, all man-childs and morons. There’s no hint of the brutal sociopaths that filled the original, and their desire to inflict brutal revenge on the guards that torment them is mostly talked about but rarely felt.

But this is a football movie, so no matter the plot or characters a film like has to live or die on the quality of the sports action, and yet again this remake falls far short of the superb gamesmanship of the original. Either due to direction, cinematography, or editing the football game that comprises the third act of the film is just a jumbled mass of quick cuts and hit shots with jokes thrown in willy-nilly. The original, while no masterpiece, earned its place in the canon of great sports films on the weight of the game itself as much as it’s anti-establishment underdog story. Sandler’s version plays like it was designed by someone who knew of football, but not what makes it such a compelling sport to watch.

This is a no-brain summer comedy that has a built in audience of frats boys, frat boys to be, and former glory frat men. While certainly not a laugh riot, The Longest Yard is actually awful per se, and filmgoers who want a break from the special effects orgies but don’t want kids fare or teen drama will most likely flock to it in droves.

ZolarCzakl takes a sip of magic brew and contemplates his place in the universe

Imagine a black-magic voodoo priest whipping up a blood-tinted bubbling cauldron of mystical potion. He’s standing there, outside at night at some sort of voodoo camp and he’s all decked out in the feathers and the long things hanging from his hair and he’s even got a bone through his nose. He’s chanting in an ancient language while carefully placing an array of sketchy items into the brew: pieces of bats, assorted insects, cups of various blood-like substances, and even a few powders (which he takes a snort of from time to time). When the ingredients have all been well mixed and the voodoo soup simmers for just the right amount of time, the chanting reaches an orgiastic climax as the priest yells the magic incantation and he gets the crazy eyes, full of fire and full of death.
He raises a clay cup of the heated brew to the sky and speaks one final incantation, and for just a quick moment the thousands of visible stars in the sky seem to shift ever so slightly. You are standing a few feet in front of him, taking all of this in. You see the stars do their thing but try not to be freaked out. You feel a strange rumbling in the ground but think it’s maybe just that Poncho’s burrito you somewhat foolishly ate for dinner. Then the priest, whose name is Benny, steps forward and brings the cup close to your face, right up to your now trembling lips. His crazy-eyed stare has you captive and you have no choice but to ingest a mouthful of the rather warm and truly horrible-tasting brew… then comes the biggest change you’ve ever experienced in your life.
Suddenly you’re flying high above the ground, soaring over houses and Vietnamese restaurants that you know and adore. Time seems to have stopped, for there is no motion on the ground. Everything and everyone are frozen in their tracks, some people in mid-walk on the sidewalks, others in their cars with the lights on and the exhaust streaming from the tailpipes. You now exist outside time and outside the laws of physics, soaring high straight into the mind of what you can only imagine is God.
After flying around in a daze for what seems like quite a while (time is non-existent at this point so you don’t really have much of a concept of it) you feel very overwhelmed and find yourself flying into a glowing white room high up in the clouds. You arrive at the room and float into a very regal-looking but rather comfortable reclining chair. It takes a few moments for you to collect yourself and regain your wits, but once you do you look around the room and see that there is a rather nice widescreen television set suspended in front of you. To the right of your recliner is a TV tray with a bitchin’ assortment of snacks and drinks. To the left is another stand with a remote control on it. A loud booming voice erupts in your eardrums and you nearly leap from your bones. It says, “Watch now as the secrets of all the universe are revealed to you oh special one, for you have been chosen to taste of the holy voodoo brew and be imparted with my perfect knowledge so you can spread the word of true enlightenment to all your fellow man.”
The lights dim, the remote floats into your sweaty hand, and you instinctively press play as the television comes to life.

What you see for the next three hours is a close-cropped dark-haired goofball doing a plethora of shitty and retarded things to himself and to others. He snorts salt into his nasal cavities, takes a shot of tequila and has someone from the audience squeeze a lime into his eyes. He has people staple dollar bills to his shirtless torso and arms. He takes broken glass, slashes his tongue, chews up the glass and swallows it. He goes to a used car lot and pisses himself while trying to test-drive a car. He dresses up in a funny wig and jogging suit (the ass of which he has filled with chocolate pudding) and runs around asking people if he can use their bathroom. He wraps his legs with saran wrap and hires a hooker to pee on him. He climbs up onto the roof of a hotel and jumps into the pool. He and his buddies repeatedly smash their heads into a pumpkin in an attempt to break it. He loads his head with hairspray and has a friend spit fire onto his hair, singing it and burning his face. He dresses up like a clown, gets drunk, vomits a lot, goes to a bar, and gets the shit kicked out of him by a bunch of rednecks. He walks around in a park on stilts, juggling and entertaining families until he falls over and acts like he’s been seriously injured. He dresses in that funny wig and half of the jogging suit and dances around the city while listening to music. He dresses in a suit and hangs out at a train stop, acting like a lunatic until the cops show up. Him and his buddies rub down a barely-clothed crack whore’s ass with Vaseline and light her ass on fire as he skateboards over it. He also balances a rather large knife on his nose.
And all of this only takes place in the first half-hour!
By this point your mind is so overloaded with these images that you realize that your consciousness has forever been altered. After watching such disturbingly banal acts with no hint of social value, not even to mention any real hint of true entertainment, you have reached an almost Zen-like state. Millions of non-sequiturs pop into your mind. Random thoughts, complex questions and juvenile, ridiculous situations all fight for space in your mind and try to find their proper place in the universe. As the voodoo stew has melted your brain into a primordial soup, only one thing snaps you out of this corpse-like sleep of stupidity: the voice of God.
“What you have seen is a sampling of what humanity truly has to offer from this point in history until the end of mankind, which will be in 34,262 years, but that doesn’t really mean anything to you… anyway, now that you have been imparted with this very important information, you must make a choice.
“You must either
1) Accept that humans are silly, stupid, selfish, gross, idiotic, hurtful, mean, nasty, evil, and wasteful and not let it eat you up inside… be ok with it… let all of your bad feelings toward people and society go… just be happy, live your life, and don’t be so gosh-darn angry all the time, or
2) Kill yourself.
God out.”
At precisely this moment you are transported to a ledge outside a very tall building. You have to stand up straight against the side of the building in order not to go tumbling over the edge to your death. This is no longer a weird dream – this is real. To your left you see an open window, which you can easily crawl into and be safe. You’re about to make your move then your mind is filled with images of that close-cropped, dark haired goofball getting peed on by a hooker…

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