November 2006

Tube Watch

by Alan Rapp on November 30, 2006

in Television Reviews , Uncategorized

Well the new fall shows have been running for a couple months now.  It’s time to give our initial look at eight of these new programs.  Which ones are instant hits?  Which ones are horrific misfires?  Which ones are too close to call?  Well, we’re here to answer, so get your scorecard ready as we get set to play Hit or Miss.

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Simple grading system here folks – pass, fail, or incomplete.  So let’s get down to business and find out which shows are HITs and which MISS the mark.

30 Rock – The “other” NBC show focused behind the scenes of a late night sketch show has been dismal, disappointing, and downright dumb.  Surprising, considering the good early commercials and talent involved (Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey).  More dumb funny (heavy on dumb, light on funny) from a former SNL head writer; it’s a complete misfire. MISS

Brothers and Sisters – I haven’t caught much of Brothers and Sisters, but what I have seen has been brutal to watch.  The show focuses on a dysfunctional family with a harsh eye.  Think Arrested Development done as a straight drama.  Some good acting, but why cast Calista Flockhart in a role that doesn’t allow her to use her considerable comic chops in this dreadfully serious show? MISS

The Class – A third-grade class reunited years later?  Seemed like an odd idea for a storyline, but the pilot was Damn Funny and the off-beat nature of the show works well, though the scripts since have not been as high quality.  There’s some nice situational comedy and some good chemistry between loser Richie (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Lina (Heather Goldenhersh), handy-man Duncan (Jon Bernthal) and trophy wife Nicole (Andrea Anders), and wild Kat (Lizzy Caplan) and straight-laced Ethan (Jason Ritter).  If only they could drop the idiotic character of the gay-acting straight man (Sam Harris) that makes me want to change the channel, or kill something – depending on how far away the remote is.  Right now it looks like it’s one of those shows were the cast is more talented than the writing; we’ll just see if it can skate by long enough to improve, or if we’ll see some of these actors in better shows next year. INCOMPLETE

Friday Night Lights – For those viewers whose lives peaked in their teens, we get high school football mixed with teen soap opera.  You know I liked Varsity Blues, but I don’t need to watch it every week.  Though it’s got its heart in the right place the odd small town atmosphere (seemingly pulled directly out of the 50’s) doesn’t quite mix with the teen sizzle and sexuality shown in the same frame.  A close call, and I admit I might be in the minority here, but I’m saying this one goes wide left. MISS

Heroes – “Save the Cheerleader.  Save the world.”  Save your sanity.  Change the channel.  NBC’s big show this year.  Why is that again?  I know this has become a huge hit for NBC, but seriously, why is that again?  I’ve watched Heroes and come to the conclusion it wants to be a super-hero type show but it’s being made by people who have evidently never read a comic book.  The show might just as well be called Freaks or Mutants.  The characters powers are unexplained including limits, weaknesses, and most importantly origin.  Why did these powers all manifest in such a diverse and random group (and no, vague references to X-Men don’t cut it).  I’ve now seen a half dozen or so episodes and have yet to see anything ‘heroic.”  Although it appears the characters may indeed have special powers, I just don’t see any heroes.  Perhaps the characters, all 50 or so of them (new ones just keep popping up), will be further developed as the series continues, but it hasn’t given me any reason to stick around to find out. MISS

The Nine – ABC’s newest ensemble drama may not be the show everyone’s talking about, but it should be.  The show is focused on nine survivors (Timothy Daly, John Billingsley, Jessica Collins, Scott Wolf, Chi McBride, Kim Raver, Camille Guaty, Dana Davis) of a 52-hour bank robbery and hostage situation.  Each week a little more of the events inside those tense hours are glimpsed, but the real heart of the show is watching these people deal with the after-effects and trauma of this life-changing event.  The pilot was simply one of the best I’ve ever seen, and if the show can keep the drama without falling into melodrama and soap opera (which it’s teetered close too in a couple recent episodes) then it truly has a chance to be great. HIT

Standoff – Pre-empted by the MLB Playoffs and World Series, the show hasn’t aired that many episodes, but what it appears to be so far is a cast who are better than the writing allows.  Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt play lovers and FBI agents called in during hostage negotiations.  The show plays the relationship a little too cute for me, and could use some actual heat between the pair.  There are some nice performances including Whedon alumni Gina Torres.  Will the writing improve or will the cast end up with hernias and broken backs, from carrying the dead weight, by the end of the season?  INCOMPLETE

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – Despite not being the runaway hit NBC imagined when it wooed Aaron Sorkin back to the network, and fighting off rumors of early cancellation, Studio 60 has been a critical smash and one of the best new shows on television.  Sorkin’s backstage look at a variety show on NBS has given us a rant against the state of current television, the battle between free-speech liberals and conservative Christains, the struggle to fight drug addiction, and all of that in just the first episode.  Great writing and a stellar cast (Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Amada Peet, Sarah Paulson, D.L. Hughley and so many more) make this the show I crave more of, and feel pangs each time the closing credits roll.  You’ve got me addicted Mr. Sorkin, please don’t stop.  This one’s a winner in my book and in case you missed Ian’s opinion, know that he agrees as well.  HIT

Comic Book Shelf

by Alan Rapp on November 29, 2006

in Comics

Hey there true believers!  Today the sixteenth issue of our Comic Book Shelf edition hits our newsstand.  Want to know what’s getting released today at the old comic shop but too busy, or lazy (not that there’s anything wrong with that), to bother?  Well no sweat Bat-fans as we’ve got the scoop of what comics and graphic novels are hitting the shelves today.

This week’s releases include Batman, Crossing Midnight, Deathblow, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Ghost in the Shell 1.5, Guy Gardner: Collateral Damage, Immortal Iron Fist, Stan Lee Meets Dr. Doom, Trials of Shazam!, and more!

If you’re looking for graphic novels you don’t want to miss Avengers: Galactic Storm Vol.2, Batman: The Dark Knight Archives Vol. 5, Essential Man-Thing Vol.1, Green Lantern: Revenge of the Green Lanterns, Gungrave Archives, and more.

For the full list check inside…

[click to continue…]

Superman Returns to DVD

by Alan Rapp on November 28, 2006

in Uncategorized

Superman Returns was a big hit at the theaters this summer, though not as big as the studio had hoped (despite making just over $200 million it came up short of making back its $270 million price tag).  Still Superman proved he could be a powerful force at the box office.  The film comes out on DVD today and we’ve got a quick look.

Superman Returns
Custom Rating

I enjoyed Superman Returns in the theater, but had some problems with the script, continuity errors, and the lack of originality (all of which you can read more about in my original review).  December liked the film a little more than me (as you can read here).  So it’s been a couple months, and now it’s out on DVD, so let’s get to it.

After a five-year absence Kal-El (Brandon Routh) returns from the wreckage of Krypton to his adopted home of Earth.  On arriving he discovers life has moved on without him.  Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is engaged and has a young son, and Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has been busy making some withdrawals from the Fortress of Solitude.

The film works as well, if not slightly better on DVD than in the theater, given it’s length and breadth, though you also have more opportunity to wonder at the lunacy of Lex Luthor’s plan.  The effects work just as well on DVD and with a proper stereo system you can sit back and crank John Williams score.

I stick by my qualms with the film.  However, I will say that with each viewing I like Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth more and more in their respected roles.  Though Routh is no Christopher Reeve, he does have a little of his openness and charm that grows on you.  And Bosworth shines in what is one of the oddest casting decisions of the year.

But I still hate that new suit!

Is it a must have for your collection?  Probably not.  But the DVD does give you the remastered John Williams score and some nice performances and fun moments.  Aside from the look at the Marlon Brando scenes, I’m not sure the Special Edition warrants the added cost, except for huge fans of the film, and I think the single disc will serve most viewers just fine.

This Week

by December Lambeth on November 27, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

So what’s out there this week?  It’s an interesting week at the movie plex coming to a theater near you and in limited release: 3 Needles, The Architect, Christmas at Maxwell’s, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj, The Nativity Story and Turistas.

C’mon in and let us get you ready for the week!

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Here’s what’s scheduled to hit theaters this week.  Want to know more?  Just click on the title for film info including a full cast list.  Want a closer look?  Just click on the poster to watch the trailer.

Opening Friday:

National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj

Just in case the first bomb wasn’t enough for you, here is another. National Lampoon is back again and in it’s usual color. They should have stopped with National Lampoon’s Christmas and left it at that. Now we have to suffer through some film that should have went straight to DVD. How do they get such bad humor green lit?  Taj, Van Wilder’s geeky apprentice from the first film, goes international. He heads off to Camden University in England and adopts a group of misfit geeks and teaches them a little Wilder magic. Plenty of T & A and nerds being picked on, but they win in the end.

Rated R for pervasive crude sexual content (like the first), some nudity and language. Projected bomb.

The Nativity Story

Director Catherine Hardwicke and crew painstakingly produce this story down to the finest detail. A great deal of work and fine-tuning went into the set design, costuming and location. Well acted and written, The Nativity Story comes to the big screen in all its marvelous wonder glory. I don’t feel I need to summarize the film, it’s well known throughout. Just in time for the holidays and family gatherings.

Rated PG for some violent content. Projected 3.5 out of 5 razors.

Turistas

Just in case the first bomb wasn’t enough for you, here is another. National Lampoon is back again and in it’s usual color. They should have stopped with National Lampoon’s Christmas and left it at that. Now we have to suffer through some film that should have went straight to DVD. How do they get such bad humor green lit? As if Hostel wasn’t enough, now we have Turistas. A group of young and beautiful Americans go on vacation off the beaten path in beautiful exotic Brazil. After a bus crash and being a little shook up, the group runs into a couple of British travelers and some kind locals.

As the night draws on and the exotic drinks keep coming, the tourists wake up the next morning on the beach with no wallets, id’s or passports. Left in a country with no way out, they trust a local boy to take them to a safe house, or not. They find other passports and photo ids’s from past tourists and start to become unnerved. Sleeping in groups with one eye open, they are attacked in the middle of the night, but by whom? Horrible tortures and experiments locked in a cage and trying to escape the “Turistas” may not make it through their lavish vacation. After some of the films released this year and last, I may never want to travel out of the U.S., or my own hometown, for that matter, again.

Rated R for strong graphic violence and disturbing content, sexuality, nudity, drug use and language. On a fear factor and pure adrenaline projected 4 out 5 razors. You must remember I’m rating this based on the genre, not the Oscars.

Limited Release:

3 Needles

Beautiful visuals and touching stories, 3 Needles hits on 3 continents, South Africa, China and North America. In South Africa, Clara (Chloe Sevigny) tries to lead the dying to Jesus before it’s too late. She and her crew run across a group of orphans and she finds herself making a deal with a wealthy plantation owner to by the safety of the orphans. In China, Jin Ping (Lucy Liu) sets up a blood collection service. A local farmer, Tong Sam (Tanabadee Chokpikultong), has the flu and cannot sell his blood, so he lies about his daughter’s age and sells hers. He uses the money to make improvements on his farm, but when his farm finally prospers his daughter and wife mysteriously die.

Sam sets out on a journey to find out what caused their deaths and when he returns, he finds the whole town ill and the mobile blood collection out of business. In North America, Denny (Shawn Ashmore) is a porn star that passes his blood tests with his father’s blood. He is busted and the family falls on extremely hard times. His mother, Olive (Stockard Channing), takes out a large life insurance policy, purposely contracts a life threatening disease and sells her life insurance for a settlement worth millions. All stories have a strong tie to a particular disease and blood, each story is human and touching and spread through out the world. Projected 4 out of 5 razors.

Christmas at Maxwell’s

From the site:Christmas at Maxwell’s is an inspirational but light romantic Christmas drama, a story about the human struggle, the power of love, forgiveness, trust and uplifting the human spirit. It is the story of a fortysomething man confronting the overwhelming effect his past actions seem to be taking on his life and his family. Christmas at Maxwell’s was created to supplement the lack of family-friendly movies on the market today. It is inspired by a true story of faith, hope, love, and forgiveness, and is a movie based on traditional spiritual values.

Jack and Kyle Strike Back

by Alan Rapp on November 22, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Despite a terrific opening and some pretty darn good music there’s something desperately wrong with Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny.  Parody, fart jokes, and a stoner two-some can only take you so far, ask Kevin Smith.  Actually the film feels quite like Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  I’m all for copying Smith’s style, but couldn’t you have done one of his better films?

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny
3 Stars

It’s not as bad as I feared it would be, but it’s nowhere near as good as it should be.  Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny tells the “true story” of how the band got together and discovered their talent.  The thing is, there just isn’t much talent in the film.  It steals most of its bits and moments by parodying other films, held together by dick and fart jokes, rather than craft a coherent and compelling story.  Well, at least it’s not Nacho Libre.

The first ten minutes of Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny rock.  In an ode to rock opera, the film opens in a flashback scene as the young JB (voiced by Jack Black) is chastised by his father (Meat Loaf) for his his love of Rock.  Having his posters taken and his hide tanned, the youngster heads out to find the land of Rock, Hollywood.  (It’s bad for a film when your best moments all come in the first ten minutes.)

Years later JB finally reaches his destination and meets up with a fellow musician, KG (Kyle Gass), who agrees to train him.  Insert many parodies from Star Wars to the Karate Kid here.  Finally the two become a band, naming themselves after the matching birthmarks on their asses.  Um, yeah…

The band struggles for an audience despite their “awesomeness.”  When a guitar shop owner (Ben Stiller) tells the legend of a magic guitar pick made from the tooth of Satan (David Grohl) the two set out to the Rock Museum (conveniently relocated to Sacramento for the movie) to steal the pick and earn fame and glory.

The film isn’t much of a story, there’s the intro to the characters, the long training scenes, and the trip to steal the pick, all of which contain countless parodies from other films, music, television, and more.  The list contains Entrapment, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and many others.

There’s just such little original content here it’s hard to view the film as anything more than a funnier than avearage 93 minute SNL sketch, with a couple of good hosts and musical guests.

Despite some funny bits and some pretty good animation sequence and title cards there’s little here that’s memorable.  You’ll laugh, you’ll groan, but leaving the theater you’ll promptly forget about the film, about the wasted potential, and the broken promise of “awesomeness” those first ten minutes.  Sure you’ll enjoy yourself, but in the end, there’s just not enough there worth remembering.