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Archive for the 'Media/Entertainment' Category

09 Jun

National Treasure 2, Thirteen Days, and Bruce Greenwood

My husband and I rented “National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets” last night. We had thought the first movie was passably entertaining despite it’s flaws, and thought we’d give the sequel a shot. It wasn’t long before I’d formed the opinion that Book of Secrets contained most of the same flaws, and maybe some new ones. The film was watchable and even made me chuckle here and there, but it was, as I often like to say, nothing special.

Small side characters like Harvey Keitel come and go like the wind, appearing when necessary to the plot (such as it is) and nothing more. Which is a bit disappointing since I like/admire many of the big names in the movie. I mean, Helen Mirren, Jon Voight, Ed Harris, for goodness sake - all largely wasted in this fluffy adventure film. The action is swift and frequent, but the plot and circumstances surrounding it only makes you shake your head. The “bad guy”, played by Ed Harris, doesn’t come off as scary or dangerous, for one thing - he’s just a little kooky and determined to be written about in history books. Poor Ed. Now, one doesn’t typically expect realism in this type of film - but characters are so thin that there’s no excitement, no emotional drama, to any of the action. Another big car chase, will our heroes get away, ho hum. Still, despite all this, Book of Secrets would satisfy those who liked the first film, and it’s watchable enough to pass the time on a Sunday evening with.

The best part of the movie is the segment dealing with the kidnapping of the President of the United States. The President is played by Bruce Greenwood, and some of the brief script exchanges between him and Nicholas Cage as they explore a hidden tunnel/rooms are priceless. Bruce Greenwood is a wonderful character actor, and watching him in Book of Secrets made me want to watch “Thirteen Days” again…where he plays another US President: JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Thirteen Days is an awesomely entertaining political drama/suspense movie…like most historical-drama films, it takes some liberties with history and characterizations, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a fantastic flick. Bruce Greenwood is (or was) an oft underrated actor who’s been in many films - one of those actors where you might recognize his face but not remember his name. In case you’re one of those who can’t place a face to the name, here’s a small picture:

bruce greenwood

He’s most excellent - if you haven’t seen Thirteen Days yet, go rent it. You’ll have to ignore Kevin Costner’s bad Boston accent, but other than that, it’s an A+ movie in my book, mostly because of Mr. Greenwood. So yeah, as you can tell, I think he’s awesome….and best of all, I hear he’s been slated to play Christopher Pike in the upcoming Star Trek movie. I haven’t been too eager over the prospect of a new ST film, since I think Paramount has just about bled that franchise to nothing, but now I have a reason to go see it.

06 Jun

Iron Man mini-review

Hubby and I decided at the last minute to see “Iron Man” instead of Indiana Jones. Mostly because I remembered I wanted to see Iron Man, and I figured that it wouldn’t be in the theater too much longer. While Indiana Jones will likely still be around for a few weeks, at least…even with the rapid cycling turnover of current theater schedules. This was our first trip to the movie complex that’s closest to our new digs…an expansive and modern Century theater in the middle of downtown. The sound system was pretty decent, even for my very treble-sensitive ears. They had the bass so the seats and your heart vibrated with every huge bass note…which was sorta cool, except that to my ears, the bass wasn’t very bass-y. All vibration/shake w/none of the super-deep yet subtle bone shaking. In other words, to me, there’s a difference between bass that makes your pulse beat wildly in time with it and bass that makes your bones resonate but doesn’t make your muscles and pulse feel like they’re being zapped with an industrial vibrator. If that makes sense. No theater yet has beaten the effect of the specific place/sound system/seat rumble effect when I saw Jurassic Park and the T-Rex/watercup scene. So awesome…but alas, that sound system no longer exists in that theater.

We parked in the ‘downtown entertainment’ multi-story parking complex (theater validates your ticket so it’s free), which was the first time I ever encountered/used a soda-like vending machine to pay for the parking ticket. Or in our case, not pay, since we had theater validation. This is a cumbersome automated system…you pull into the lot, grab a ticket to make a bar go up so you can get into the parking space areas. Then when you leave, you have to find a vending-machine like box to push your ticket in - if you owe money for the time, you put in your bills. Then you walk back to your car, drive towards the exit, and put your ticket into yet another machine to raise the flimsy auto-block bar so you can leave. I guess it saves on having to have parking lot employees, but meh.

Anyway….um…hey….what did I think of the actual movie, you patiently ask?

It’s a modern-day, super-CGI, high-tech version of RoboCop, only instead of a sad, tormented soul in the body of a cyborg, there’s a “real live guy” just rattling around inside a hi-tech suit. The suit is powered by something the film calls an “arc converter” power source - wisely, they don’t try to explain how it works, although apparently, when harnessed into a small unit, it glows like radioactive blue lightbulbs. Batman’s cape, Batmobile, grappling hooks/flash powders etc, seem like wooden wagon wheels by comparison. I liked all the character build-up/character conversion and suit-inventing scenes, even if they did go on just a tad too long. The suit CGI effects were awesome. Robert Downey Jr. was awesome.

I guessed who the “real” bad guy was going to be 10 minutes into the movie, however. Plus the ending was weak, since it fell back on the (currently) typical ‘big showdown’ between good and evil counterparts, where our suited-hero and the dastardly evil dude (in a bigger suit) trade unnecessary/delay-device quips and declarations of evil intent at each other between every few blows, while tearing up a city street/buildings during the process. It would’ve been nice if they’d figured out a way to make an ending that was a bit different from the rest of the pack, to go along with the more humanistic aspect of our suited rich-man hero.

But it was an entertaining comic-book movie. For it’s genre, I’d give it 8/10.

21 May

American Idol - Did David win? Yes.

American Idol’s 2 hour extravaganza finale was actually fairly entertaining this year. They had some good guest stars mixing it up with some of the Top12 singers, a few funny bits, and, of course, the announcement of the winner.

Memorable moments for me were:

David Cook playing with ZZTop. Now that was cookin’. I love ZZTop.

Michael Johns and Carly Smithson singing “The Letter”. Perhaps these two should put out a duet album. Judging from this performance and their appearance on “Ellen”, they work and sound good together. It was very nice to see Michael again. :)

Brooke White and Grahmn Nash singing “Teach Your Children.” I grew up with that song, it has some memories, plus it’s an awesome song. And it’s perfect for Brooke.

Renaldo Lapuz!! He came out singing his “I am your brother” song, complete with marching band and at the end, Paula & Randy up on stage dancing alongside him etc. Wonderful cheesy fun. Makes me want to listen to that remixed YouTube version again.

The Gladys Night and the “Pips” segment, where Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black and Ben Stiller were the “Pips.” That was hysterical. At least to me.

Jordin Sparks singing some tepid pop song in a horrible, unflattering dress.

Both David’s did their own version of a Guitar Hero commercial where they ran around in undies and button shirt ala Risky Business…I suppose it was supposed to be funny, but honestly, that’s not exactly the American Idol image I’d like to remember.

Then finally…the results were in. 94million or so supposedly cast their votes, and Ryan Seacrest said the winner had won by 12 million of those votes. And the winner was …. David Cook! He was slightly tearful and motioned for the audience to ‘give it up’ for David Archuleta, before singing the winner song.

Now, since I thought both David’s had a chance of winning, I wasn’t tooo surprised, but I admit I was a little. I guess this year the voters were finally tired of the more predictable ballad-singing pop voice and wanted something grungier and perhaps a bit more creative. So kudos to Mr. Cook.

I still wish David Archuleta had won…not because he was better or because I liked him better - I was pretty neutral about all of it - but because in my opinion, he would likely have been more comfortable/at home with the contractual mumbo-jumbo that winning AI is going to throw at him for the next year. I’m sure David Cook can “handle” that stuff, but he might’ve been a little better off getting a separate recording contract and making a record that’s more indelibly his own, if that makes sense. But I’m not a music industry guru, so what do I know.

Anyway, it was a watchable American Idol finale, and a David won. Until next year, so long, American Idol, and good luck to David Cook. Me, I’ll still be waiting for a Michael Johns CD.

20 May

American Idol - David vs. David in a fight to the finish

I wasn’t sure I was going to write anything about the American Idol show tonight. It’s been a long day, with a sick kitty. But after watching the show, I felt a slight stir of excitement stir within my breast for the competitiveness of it all. As usual, this isn’t a blow by blow style recap … it’s more of an opinion piece.

1st song round:
David Cook sang “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” He moved, he emoted, he danced off the main stage and behind the judges. It was a very good performance. But I still felt like there was something missing and I still wasn’t moved. But since his performance was great, I’d give him 8/10 on this one.

David Archuleta sang “Don’t Let the Sun go Down on Me.” My husband and I were wracking our brains trying to remember who made this a hit single, but failed to recall. D.A started just a tiny, tiny bit weak in the very beginning, but the rest of it was superb. I think he was singing in a slightly lower pitch than his “normal” one, because for this song his voice lost some of that nasal quality and sounded more mature. I prefer him singing in this range and wish he had done so a little more often. It made me wonder what he’s going to be like 5 years from now. I agree with Simon that D.A. won the first round. 10/10.

2nd song round:
David Cook sang “Dream Big”. - Ok, I know I’m not “with it” musically anymore, but as D.C. began, I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He was mumbling. It was an alt-rock kind of mumbling, but the point is, I couldn’t tell what he was mumbling. The arrangement was, to me and my middle-aged frame of reference, very late 80’s alt rock with a dash of late 80’s heavy metal. D.C. sounded like he was straining his vocal cords just a bit in places, which I think Andrew Lloyd Webber referred to when he said that D.C had to watch his voice, or protect his voice, or something like that. It’s late, I don’t remember word for word. Anyway, D.C. did fine, but it wasn’t a big winner for me. 7/10.

David Archuleta sang “In This Moment”. - Back to the boring ballad. Although, not quite as boring as some of his previous ballad choices. Well sung, however - better than his usual I think - and considering the sappy song, fairly well presented. 7/10

3rd round song:
David Cook sang “World I Know.” - He mumbled again at the start. Maybe my ears have wax in them. After that, however, it was the typical D.C. alt-rock performance and vocals, except with a somewhat more mellow arrangement. Again, not bad, and it’s nice that he chose to do a completely new song instead of re-hash a previous performance, but I’m not wild about it. Also, at this point, his wild “I just got out of bed” fluffed up hair that’s spiked higher on one side than the other was distracting me to no end. Someone give this man a comb. Please. 8/10

David Archuleta sang “Imagine.” - I’m probably one of the few who didn’t think his original performance of this song was uber-fantastic. It was all right, and cleanly sung, but nothing special. And tonight, D.A. did it pretty much the same - it was all right, and cleanly sung. If you thought it was great back when, you’d probably think it was great this time around too. But…in a singing competition, it’s never quite as awesome to your ears the second time around. It’s not original to the competitor anymore. Still, I don’t think D.A. lost many points for choosing the safe road. 9/10

So who will win this mighty battle of the singing Davids? Simon pretty much thought David A. won the night. Randy and Paula thought it was more of a toss-up. Myself…I think either stands a good chance of winning, but I personally think David A. is going to come up with the most votes to win. And I say this from a perspective of not finding either David “fantastic” - whether this means my opinion is unbiased by “fandom” and thus my prediction might be more accurate than those who think David C. will win … I highly doubt it. *wink*

It’s still anyone’s ball game…that’s the nature of American Idol. But the “rocker” typically doesn’t win on AI. My theory is that perhaps this is because it (rock) is not quite as universally appealing (from teens, young adults, middle-age, grandmas, rebels, conformists, religious, atheist, all walks of life, all walks of musical tastes) - it’s more of a niche. A large niche to be sure, but still a niche, if that makes sense. And when it comes down to the final two, with no one else to vote for, the ‘niche’ fans tend to get out-voted. Thus, with David A.’s strong and no-mistakes performances this evening, I think that will happen again and American Idol’s pattern of the rocker placing 2nd isn’t going to change.

But if David Cook does win, he certainly would deserve to do so as much as David Archuleta. I mean, c’mon, they’re both very good for what they are. It’s like comparing apples and oranges, really. Too bad they can’t both win.

19 May

CSI:Las Vegas season finale - Noooo, not Warrick!

The season finale of CSI shocked me by killing off one of its main characters…when I tuned in the other night to watch the last episode of CSI for this season, I had no idea that Gary Dourdan - the actor who plays Warrick - was leaving the show/wanted to leave the show…nor did I know about his recent drug possession arrest/alleged drug issues. All I knew was that as the episode was nearing its end with the team celebrating at some small diner/pub in a ‘team-bonding’ scene, I knew something awful was going to happen. And yup, it did. Warrick walked down that (conveniently) dark and empty alley to his car and was gunned down. What threw me for a loop was the finality of the scene…since I didn’t know about Gary leaving the show, that took me totally by surprise.

Now, I was never a huge fan of Warrick’s character, but the thing is, he was part of a whole. An integral part of what makes the CSI ensemble “click”. So now we have Sara gone (which I didn’t personally mind much), Warrick gone, and worst of all, I hear Grissom (William Peterson) isn’t going to be in all the episodes next season. I’ve loved CSI for years, one of the few shows I try to keep up with - not to mention buy the DVD sets when they come out - but this is the point where one wonders if a series should just close its doors, before it sinks into mediocrity.

It’s remotely possible that they could, next season, say that someone heard the shots and rushed out in time to save Warrick, in order to leave it open for him to occasionally come back as a guest-star (it’s TV-land, after all), but that death scene looked pretty damn final to me, and in real life, it would be. To have him not be “dead” would be very cheesy and unworthy. I wonder if Gary Dourdan wanted such an absolute ending to his character, or if that was a producer idea.

So long, Warrick…and perhaps soon…goodbye CSI.

Gary Dourdan

17 May

Simon Cowell’s reaction to Fantasia on American Idol

While I haven’t been recapping American Idol the past couple weeks, I have still been watching. Last Wed. night’s elimination round episode featured a performance by Fantasia. It was a pretty strange/freaky number with an awful song title (”Bore Me”). Fantasia bopped and gyrated all over the stage, and her three back-up singers gyrated behind her in a line, with their butts hanging out of their mini-mini-mini-dress outfits. I didn’t personally like it, but it was amusing…the best thing, tho, as every AI watcher knows already, is Simon’s visual reaction near the end. It was utterly priceless and absolutely hysterical.

I don’t know what he was thinking - that he hated the performance, or just that he was wondering how the sponsors were going to react to those almost-naked butts on the dancers, but oh, it was a classic Simon/American Idol moment. I can watch it over and over and still giggle each time.

simon cowell shifty eyes

If you’re a browser of YouTube, you can find videos of the full performance or some much briefer ones that consist mostly of just Simon’s reaction. But if you happen across this post months from now and those are all gone or have been yanked, I also made my own “Simon reacts” video clip.

Simon Cowell is about 60% of the reason I even watch American Idol. He rules.

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