Friday, December 17, 2010

The Best of 2010 - The Films of the Year

What follows is a quick review on what I felt was the best film of 2010, preceded by eight others which were impressive in their own right. Beyond that, I've also taken a look back at some of the other movies I watched this year -- good and bad. If you're curious about any of the films I list here, each is linked to a trailer.
The Town 
The Town is perfect... just an absolutely perfect heist flick, that is. There's really nothing new going on here when it comes to this sort of story, but I can't think of another movie so successful in the execution of all these standard elements at once -- internally tortured lead character, engaging romantic interest, bucking against the pull of childhood friendship, FBI agents who aren't one-dimensional, great getaway/chase scenes and even better stick-ups. What a cast; everyone in this movie knocked it out of the park -- Renner, Hamm, Hall, Lively, Cooper, Welliver. And Affleck is solid as well.
People may scoff at me when they read this, but even with only two films under his directorial belt, Ben Affleck is starting to turn into this generation's Clint Eastwood -- a big-time actor morphing into a top-notch filmmaker. Pay attention to whatever it is he does next as a director. He's earned it.

At the surprise no one, Christopher Nolan continues to own our asses. I'm not sure what I can say about this film that hasn't already been posted somewhere on the internet. Maybe it didn't reach the heights of some people's lofty expectations, but I think even many of us who walked into the theater this summer hoping for a great film weren't disappointed. I recall being mesmerized for a few days afterward. The only legitimate critique I've heard regarding it was that it didn't go far enough within the dreams as it could have. Touche. Anything else seems to be obnoxious nit-picking.

Winter's Bone
This movie follows the trek of young Ree Dolly as she attempts to learn the whereabouts of her fugitive father in order to save her impoverished family from losing their home. Treading through both strained family history and violent locals, the teenage girl repeatedly sacrifices herself and her dreams in order to care for her young siblings and disturbed mother. The highly original setting in the Ozark Mountains gives this bleak drama a sense of foreboding I can't recall seeing in some time. Winter's Bone is haunting and harrowing during its most-intense moments, yet still has the ability to fill an audience with vigor by its conclusion.

The Killer Inside Me
Now THIS is some film noir, baby. Based on Jim Thompson's classic 1952 novel, The Killer Inside Me is the picture of a criminally warped mind encased in a community pillar of a small Texas town. Casey Affleck's portrayal of small-town sheriff and complete sociopath Lou Ford is brilliant. Now, this movie has been labeled as a work of misogyny, which I see the argument for, but egregiously overlooks and distracts from the film as a whole. You can't watch this movie and not have the violence burned into your memory. It contains scenes that, without a doubt, are some of the most brutal I have ever seen on film -- they are completely revolting, yet simultaneously mesmerizing. But, honestly, these assaults make up a only few minutes of the film, unlike some of the others I've referenced in this article (Kick-Ass and The Expendables in particular) and many entries from the filmographies of countless celebrated directors, such as Tarantino for example. Critics should give it another shot, because Michael Winterbottom pulled off this adaptation. At times, Killer is downright beautiful and should be recognized as such.

Everything you need to know about why Kick-Ass was phenomenal is in this clip.

The Ghost Writer
An excellent political thriller. Everything is top-notch here. Ewan McGregor delivers a necessarily strong performance as we weave along with him on a journey through a British politician's personal life and past. On the way to the truth, we're also given memorable scenes from Tom Wilkinson and Eli Wallach, as well as good work from Olivia Williams and Pierce Brosnan. The parts of this movie I'd normally delve into here are too spoilery for those who haven't seen it (which is probably most of you). This may not be a classic like Chinatown or as fun as The Ninth Gate, but The Ghost Writer shows Polanski is still at the top of his game.

Animal Kingdom
A simple, yet superb crime drama from top to bottom. After the death of his mother, confused teenager "J" Cody begins living with his grandmother and uncles, who are seeped in the Australian underworld. From there, his introduction into the criminal world takes his life and the lives of those he cares about into an uncontrollable tailspin. Guy Pearce is predictably fantastic as the cop trying to get the kid to turn on his family. Joel Edgerton oozes charisma as J's likable uncle (wouldn't be surprised to see him make an Eric Bana-esque splash in the next few years). And, man, what a performance from Jacki Weaver as the matriarch of the Cody clan. She makes Livia Soprano look like the mother of year. This crime drama is very curious in that there is barely any actual crime shown. Much of it is alluded to of course, but even then it's vague. But that doesn't take away from the story. If anything, it draws you in deeper. Highly recommended.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Soooooo much fun. I had a smile on my face the entire time. The editing and direction of this movie really deserve some sort of major recognition they'll undoubtedly fail to receive. I suspect Pilgrim will become regarded as an innovative movie for future filmmakers. Now I'm really looking forward to Edgar Wright's Ant-Man, which I believe is still in the works after The Avengers debuts in a few years from now.
After the jump, my selection for Film of the Year, in addition to mentions of 28 other movies from 2010.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Best of 2010 - The Albums of the Year

Unlike the past few years, I threw a ton of new music at my eardrums in 2010, and a high percentage of it came out this year, too. So, while last year's pick of Yonder Is The Clock for album of year was unmistakably worthy, it may have been joined by some other selections had I actually made any effort to keep up with new music. That isn't the case this year.

What follows are the top eight albums I listened to this year. And, since I'm such a swell mofo, I linked a track from each one below the artwork for your listening pleasure.

Track 1: "Blue Blood Blues"
Sea Of Cowards 
The Dead Weather
Another Jack White side project gone amazing. This album is angry, mysterious and subversive, all while rocking the f out.

Track 13: "When I'm With You"
Crazy For You 
Best Coast
I was intoxicated by this group and their lo-fi surf rock for most of the summer. They remind me a little of a female-led version of the Ramones with early Beach Boys mentality seeped in today's world. Simplicity at its finest. Good luck not getting addicted to it.

Track 3: "Power"
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 
Kanye West
Even President Obama recognizes he's a jackass, but the ridiculous celebrity antics can't stifle my ability to praise the dude's brilliance as a musician. Kanye sampled King Crimson's "21st-Century Schizoid Man" to perfection on "Power"; growing up with a father obsessed with that great prog-rock band, that's the previously unimagined highlight for me. Sit down, embrace and revel Kanye's narcissism. It's the best way to absorb this one.

Track 2: "Drugs"
I find it tough to classify this instrumental duo. Electronic tracks with a smattering of synthesized guitars is the best portrait I can muster up. Despite the lack of ability on my part to describe their music, the fourth album from these two dudes is the bomb. You're taken on a mini journey on LP4 (much as you were on LP3) as they drastically alter mood and atmosphere within virtually each song. Check it.

Track 7: "Cousins"
Vampire Weekend
Those preppy fuckers somehow one-upped their debut album with their second effort.

Track 4: "Kill My Baby"
Reform School Girl 
Nick Curran & The Lowlifes
Nick Curran is a white dude covered in tattoos that has pipes Little Richard might be jealous of. Combine that with 1950s rock 'n roll song structure, a healthy dose of punk attitude and lyrics a more upstanding member of society might find tasteless, and this album is impossible to not enjoy. The title track is my personal favorite, but Curran and company didn't dump any filler on this album. There's plenty of good tunes to devour here.

Track 3: "Laredo"
Infinite Arms 
Band of Horses
Another triumph. Well done, boys.

Track 4: "Howlin' For You"
The Black Keys
This is a slight musical step up for the blues-rock duo, as they brought in additional instrumentation for some of the songs this time around to supplement the lone guitar and drum makeup of their previous five albums. But have no fear, there aren't any overly drastic changes going on here; you'll know this is a Keys' LP from the start with tales of wayward ladies breaking hearts and those gloriously fuzzy riffs they deliver so well.

More of the Best of 2010
The Films of the Year
The Year in Television

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Drawing the Human Body - A Genres & Judgments Mixture

Before hitting you up with the Fall TV report card and my end-of-year media rundown, here's a brief alternative to the plethora of Christmas music playing right now. This is more or less a burning-off of some cuts I've been digging of late, so ring in the new year with a crisp selection of tunes.

Track list and download link available after the jump.

Friday, October 01, 2010

And Thus Spoke The Graffito - A Genres & Judgments Mixture

Been listening to some good jams lately, but hadn't sourced any into a playlist since my last endeavor. Some entries were relatively brand new to my ears since July, while others are long-forgotten favorites recently rediscovered via a shuffling iPod.

Whether it be a testament to a diversity of soundscapes or merely an example of musical psychosis, is for you to determine. Regardless, I implore you to enjoy.

Track list and download link available after the jump.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

TV's Summer 2010 Report Card

I'm back with another comprehensive recap of the past few months of my television viewing. Looking back, it was an excellent summer for TV. I mean, when the David Simon entry is the amongst the least interesting shows you've watched, I believe that's a sign you've surrounded yourself in some quality programming.
This edition covers shows having ended after June 1st, when my last recap was published, through September 12th.
Breaking Bad
(Season 3, AMC)
Is this now the best show on television? In my mind, only Mad Men gives it a run for it's money. Season 3 was THAT good. A horse with no name. Gustavo. Hank slamming the SUV into reverse. The tortoise. Saul. Leg blood on a hospital floor. Motherfucking Badger's voice. The Chicken Brothers. Mike the PI/hitman. That one god-damned fly. And those are just the ancillary bits of Breaking Bad I get jacked up for. I don't think Mad Men, as phenomenal as it is, is constructed in a way that I can enjoy it as I now enjoy the trials of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.  A+

Doctor Who
(Series 31, BBC)
What a blast this latest incarnation of Doctor Who turned out to be. Even if you prefer David Tennant as the Doctor, I think you have to admit Matt Smith did an admirable job taking over the reigns of the series. I feel he did a fantastic job and accepted him by the time the second episode of the season rolled around. And of course, there's the mega-crushable Karen Gilliam as Amy Pond, who is easily my favorite companion not only because she's a cutie pie, but also because she's intelligent, mischievous and . Rory was also a nice addition, and was in perfect doses. But let us not forget Steven Moffat, who I justifiable praise on this site constantly, taking over the show's direction from Russell T. Davies. A fabulously entertaining season resulted from mixing high concept science fiction, simple humor, and repeatedly tugging and tearing at our heartstrings as each week's story progressed. As much as I enjoyed this season, I expect 2011 to bring an even better one.  A-
After the jump, you'll find the nine other shows I watched to completion this summer, including Entourage, True Blood and some more fantastic imports from overseas.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Summer 2010's TV Supplement

There are only a handful of shows worth watching during the summer (a recap of those will arrive once True Blood and the other HBO shows wrap up). Compound that with the fact that other than Inception and Iron Man 2, I had zero interest in the cinema these past few months, I embarked on a massive TV binge this year, catching up on loads of shows I'd been recommended by friends and acquaintances, or just plain wanted to check out. Behold.
Being Human
(Series 2, BBC)
This show continued to show great balance between horror, drama and humor wrapped into a well-crafted universe of the supernatural, and provided another strong season. For those of you who are not familiar, Being Human revolves around the lives of a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost who live together in a flat (hey, it's British), and deal with everyday problems of existence in modern society in realistic, yet interesting ways relative to the show's context. They gave us a very nice cliffhanger this season, and series 3 is amongst the shows I'm most looking forward to return. In addition, there's an American version on the horizon via SyFy at some point, although I'm sure they'll find a way to f it up.

Charlie Jade
(Season 1, Canadian Space Channel)
A parallel universe jumping version of Blade Runner? While it certainly gave off that vibe in the early episodes, Charlie Jade didn't quite live up to my initial lofty expectations. Revolving through a trio of universes, this sci-fi tale had all the grand hallmarks of modern noir, while simultaneously warning of the dangers of big-brother commerce. Making its premiere the same year that brought us LOST (2004), this joint project from Canadian and South African companies probably was a bit ahead of its time in terms of widespread audience acceptance.Also, its inconsistent level of engaging stories during the middle portion of its lone season wouldn't have helped its changes of success much. However, it ended rather triumphantly, and had some nice little tales in spots. I wish the second season, which was written, had been produced. There was a lot of potential in those three universes, not to mention all the others they could've explored and exploited down the line.

(Season 1, NBC)
As you'll see later on in this column, this was a very good year for new comedies, as Community joined the ranks of my favorites this year. I always enjoyed Joel McHale on The Soup, but he's even better in this format. Add in a rejuvenated Chevy Chase, Pittsburgh's own Gillian Jacobs (who I dare you not to develop a TV crush on), and Ken Jeong's Senor Chang who all highlight the cast, but certainly don't overshadow the ones I haven't taken the time to list, and I'm constantly laughing out loud. Easily graduated to must-watch status for me.
After the jump, I liked some of what I saw from the highly recommend list of Dexter, Modern Family, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Arrested Development. But not all of them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Heard in Summer 2010 - "You Are Not A Number You Are Many Numbers"

When I woke up this morning, I wasn't planning on making a mix. My life is different now. Today, I heard my first Justin Bieber song.

I believe in maintaining a balanced media diet, consuming a mixture of high and low culture. I don't have any guilty pleasures, and I often get as much enjoyment, both sincere and anthropological, out of hugely popular entertainment as I do more "challenging" "art." I don't disparage people for being into stuff that I don't find substantive, and in fact I like to live vicariously through people who go apeshit over stuff like Twilight or professional sports. On TV, I run the gamut from Mad Men to iCarly. In a given movie-watching week, I could be taking in The Archers' "Black Narcissus" or "Step Up 3D" (make sure to grab some glasses before you sneak in).

Kelly Clarkson comes between Vashti Bunyan and cLOUDDEAD on my iPod. And I know Justin Bieber. But somehow his music eluded me. Until now.

Enter the internet meme of the week: a version of Bieber's "U Smile" stretched from its original 3:21 length into a 35-minute ambient drone. It's a funny idea, but I found the end result legitimately mind-blowing, and oddly moving. In a weird way, it amplifies, to absurdly epic proportions, everything that I love about "disposable" pop music. The original Bieber track is grating and overproduced, soulless but well-constructed. The 35-minute version moves beyond the bland sentiment of the vocals and allows you to appreciate the song on a subatomic level, to revel in its airtight construction. Its valleys and crescendos take on massive weight, it's like a Pixies song played by a choir of angels.

Above all, this song made me feel like I was on the beach in the middle of the night. And I got to thinking about the end of summer. So, Justin Bieber inspired me to make a mix of end-of-summer songs, some literal, most just appropriately wistful or angry. Plus, I included one of the best and most insane hip-hop boast tracks that I've heard in a long time, wherein Busta Rhymes uses the word "frankfurters."

001 Brian Eno - Spider and I
002 Cloud Nothings - Even If It Worked Out
003 Royce Da 5'9" - Dinner Time (feat. Busta Rhymes)
004 The Soft Pack - Down On Loving
005 The Chap - We Work in Bars
006 Tamaryn - Choirs of Winter
007 Janelle Monae - Tightrope (feat. Big Boi)
008 Arcade Fire - City With No Children
009 Gauntlet Hair - Our Scenery
010 Dum Dum Girls - Yours Alone
011 Pop Winds - Owl Eyes
012 Courier News - Empty Clouds
013 Sufjan Stevens - Heirloom
014 Justin Bieber - U Smile (Slowed Down 800%)


Friday, August 20, 2010

TV Tweets: Aug. 14 - 20

As always, you can follow me at LowBrowJon for an advance peak at my potentially forgone fallacies, as well as other LBM updates.
Aug. 19th [Louie]
I find it kinda creepy that each ep of #Louie finds a way to slightly mirror my life more than it did the week prior.
Okay, so I don't have kids, I've never done drugs and I love my mom, but damn, lots of situations on Louie really hit home with me.
I love it. 
Take this week's episode, titled "Bully." (Major spoilers for this particular episode follow, so some of you may want to skip ahead to the next portion of the article at the link below.) Louie is on a date with a woman way out of his league, but he's convincingly winning her over anyway with his humor, because we all know it's not his physique or what's left of that ginger hairline of his. In walks a group of rowdy high schoolers, who he yells at to be quiet. Things continue to look promising for the date. However, one kid walks over and eventually challenges Louie to a fight. Of course Louie doesn't fight him, but he backs down in such an overwhelmingly emasculating way, I wanted to bash my head in because I know there's a very good chance I'd do something similar. Seriously. Fight a teenager? Please. Now, maybe knowing there's woman across the table watching all of this would spring me into action, but if she weren't there, yeah, I'd let the kid run over me. However, Louie backs down, forever ruins his chances with the woman and is humiliated all at the same time. Then the next two-thirds of the episode unfold. Pure genius.
This new show from Louis C.K. is so fantastic, I'm happy Lucky Louie didn't catch fire during it's only season -- although it was rad, too. Oh, and the dude flipping off the camera in the foreground for a split second during the Louie intro is an added bonus each week. See if you can catch it before the censors do.
For further reading, I offer you the opportunity to follow me after the jump, where you will find a mini discussion on Hung's exploration of American life amid the recession and Big Johnson t-shirts.

Friday, August 13, 2010

TV Tweets: Aug. 3 - 13

As always, you can follow me at LowBrowJon to get my ostentatious oratory (so to speak), as well as other LBM updates.
Aug. 9th [True Blood, Mad Men]
Ho-hum. Another week, another f'ed up sex scene to end an episode of #TrueBlood.
He's on a horse.
As is no surprise, True Blood continues gettin' it on with its sexually explicit self, which is as it should be. Although the Beeeeel/Sookie reunion was nowhere near as over-the-top as the Bill/Lorena escapade earlier this season (mainly because there was nothing comparable to The Exorcist this time), it still left me with an uneasiness all the same.
Overall, I've been enjoying this season. The Sam storyline is super annoying and lame, but the rest are at least entertaining, which is really all I expect from this show. Give me crazy creatures doing ridiculous things to each other, and I'll continue to be happy.
After the jump, Mad Men rings in the new year, and the pieces of Rubicon get more interesting.

Friday, August 06, 2010

TV Tweets: June 1 - Aug. 2

Welp, I done did it again. Been away for far too long. But my life changes appear to be over now, and hopefully I can get back into the groove. Here's a catching-up edition.
June 16th  [Breaking Bad]
Gah! #BreakingBad, you are some cliffhanging bastards.
What an amazing season this was. Plenty of time to catch up before season 4 returns if you're not watching. Do yourself a favor and start it up sooner than later.

After the jump, we'll delve into the Treme finale, the return of Mad Men and the BBC's latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

mojito - A Genres & Judgments Mixture

Playlists used to be one of my grand specialties in another age, mainly of the 90-minute cassette tape. Hadn't made one for at least 5 years before this one, so I'm probably rusty, but dig it nonetheless.

This being a particularly sweltering mid-July in the Northeast, I had summer on the gray matter. So as I sat in my new apartment and somehow resisted turning on the A/C to keep my dollars in tow for autumn, I cobbled together some of the best music that was new to me in the last two or three months. And I only cheated once with The Explorers Club with that time frame, but they just scream summer and begged for inclusion.

There's a decent mix of styles here which I feel encapsulates the spirit of summer from the mad jam of a house party, to the longing crush you won't see for months, to the drink that tastes just a little better on a day with a high dew point, to the realization that fall's about to kick in and you better enjoy the heat while you still can. I tossed in two fantastic covers (Bob Dylan & Buddy Holly), and limited myself to only two tracks from Best Coast (my current musical obsession).

Btw, I just discovered So if you're feeling so inclined, become one of my listeners to see what music I'm into at any given moment. Without further delay, I present mojito.

Track list and download link after the jump.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Reel Low: The Last Airbender

It’s hard to imagine a movie can fail in as many ways as M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender” does.  Given the apparent rich source material, it makes me question Shyamalan’s ability as a film maker and as a storyteller.

“The Last Airbender” is the first of what is presumably a trilogy of films adapting the three television seasons of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, which tells the story of the boy Aang who is the last of the Air Nomads and prophesied savior of the world.  Aang has been trapped in ice for the past 100 years having run away from his duties as the avatar.  While he’s been on ice, the world has been devastated by war as the Fire Nation has moved to subjugate the world under its fist.  Now that Aang has resurfaced, the armies of the Fire Nation and its dishonored prince pursue him to prevent him from thwarting their plans.  Aang and his newfound friends, Katara and Sokka, set off on a journey so that Aang might learn to bend the other elements and become the hero the world needs.

A pretty standard setup that looks great on paper but is so poorly executed it makes me wonder how Shyamalan was unable to do anything great with it.  The dialogue is poorly scripted and often gives characters lines describing actions the audience has just seen on screen seconds earlier.  I like to think audiences haven’t become that inattentive.  There also seemed to be some disagreement on how names and words should be pronounced, most being pronounced in a way that makes me think the actors were trying to sound either smart or Brittish.

The action scenes felt clunky and poorly shot with a lot of the wire-work standing out as wire-work.  There is little about them that builds tension or excitement.  The only thing about the action scenes and the movie in general that really worked was the music.  Also, Shaun Toub’s performance as Uncle Iroh was one of the few shining points, breathing the only sense of humor into an overall dull atmosphere.

Before “The Last Airbender” came out, there was controversy over casting Caucasians in ethnic roles.  Now that it is out, it can be said that is least of the film’s problems.  This movie was lacking in so many ways that it’s (hopefully) doubtful that the other two seasons will get covered.  If they do have a go at them, I hope they can bring someone else on board who might be able to salvage the mess Shyamalan has left in his wake.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

TV Tweets: May 23 - 31

 As always, you can follow me at LowBrowJon to get my boisterous blips, as well as other LBM updates.
May 24th [Lost, Treme]
Can the haters at least agree that the last #Lost was better than the #Sopranos finale?
I've discussed this show enough in the last 10 days.

Those trailers were a haunting sight. LaDonna probably just moved to the top of my favorite #Treme storyline list after this week.
As expected, Treme continues to be excellent. I'm sure I'll change my mind on my favorite storyline soon enough. Khandi Alexander's heartbreaking performance as LaDonna is the Treme character du jour, but there's just too much good here to stay fixated on one element for too long. Wendell Pierce is lovable. Steve Zahn is electric. Lucia Micarelli is pure talent. Clarke Peters is inspiring. Kim Dickens is a joy. And John Goodman cusses like no other.

May 25th [American Idol]
RT @simonsam Goodbye, Simon Cowell. I'll think of you whenever I see a guy in a t-shirt acting like an asshole, which is pretty often.
After the jump, I say goodbye to 24, hello to Dexter, and am initially rendered speechless by Breaking Bad.

Grading the 2010 Television Season Thus Far

As I've let the Lost finale marinate in my mind these past few days, I've been contemplating why we watch TV. For me, it's more than just passing the time. A finely-crafted, serialized story is probably the most enjoyable form of art I can think of. A great movie is a wonderful feat, but I prefer the evolving tales of a group of characters since it allows extensive exploration of plot and character if done well. Since there are just so many damn good shows on right now, I've felt the need to analyze and discuss them here on the site. All of that is a long way of saying that this week's Lost made me want to assess each show I watched since 2010 began.
It feels odd only looking at the shows which have just recently ended even though most began back in the fall, but I had to have a cut-off point. Plus, I know I loved shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm this year, but too much time has passed for me to properly rate them after nearly six months time has passed. As a result, anything that concluded before 2010 will be ignored.
(Season 8, Fox)
Decent ending to a show that should've bowed out a few years ago. I know there's a movie in the works, but this felt rather uninspired for a series finale. This year, the show tried to pull new twists and brought back some old villains, but I think we've all become desensitized to everything 24 has thrown at us at this point after eight days. On a side note, I don't think they really ever topped that absolutely insane decapitation early in season 2.  C

30 Rock 
(Season 4, NBC)
Part of me wants to chastise them for using so many high-profile guest stars and instead focus on more great shenanigans for Jack and Liz, but when they come up with ways to use Jon Hamm, James Franco and Julianne Moore as they did, I have to remind myself to just enjoy the ride instead. Don't need to see Matt Damon again though. Best part of the show is still Alec Baldwin, who slays me each week.  B+

Big Love 
(Season 4, HBO)
I have never hated a main character of a show the way I despise Bill Henrickson right now. Part of me feels I should hate His power trips are purely for self glory; I don't buy this testament bull for a second. The politics angle struck me as unnecessary as it unfolded, but the end result has set up season 5 to have some truly extreme hardships for that family on the horizon. And, man, did I miss Roman this year. They got rid of him too soon. Although the result was more Alby, which I found to be fascinating storyline.  B-

(Season 1, SyFy)
Sadly, Caprica was not as great as I hoped it'd be. There's certainly room for it to improve, but measuring up to it's parent show, Battlestar Galactica, is probably not going to happen. Technically, season one hasn't concluded, which is fortunate since it's midseason finale was only mildly exciting. However, the sooner we all stop wishing it to be BSG, the better.  B-
After the jump, see the other 11 shows I covered that recently wrapped up.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reaction to the Lost Finale: Leon Takes Us Outside

I’m not quite sure why I’m writing this.  You see, I never really got into Lost, having been made to endure the first season a few years back on DVD.  By endure I don’t mean that it was a wholly unpleasant experience, however with all of the build up that was heaped upon the show I was left with a very “meh” feeling after.  It should also be said that I was made to watch it all over a two day period having spent three days on the road from Los Angeles for Christmas holiday.  It’s possible that tainted my experience.
In any case, it’s kind of surprising the show didn’t hook me.  It had elements that would have drawn me in otherwise.  First, you had average people in extraordinary circumstances.  Second, there were the oh so mysterious mysteries.  Third, there was Terry O’Quinn who I loved in Chris Carter’s other TV show (no, not Harsh Realm), Millennium.  None of these things helped me overcome the inertia I felt for the show.  Even later when I dropped in for a few minutes with various episodes, I caught glimpses of things that probably should have piqued my curiosity but didn’t really do anything for me,  “Oh, look, why is he turning that thing and why did the island just disappear?”
Now I’m immersed in the zeitgeist over the shows finale as familiar names are flung around, mingled with others that mean little to nothing to me.  Is this the final straw?  The one that makes me run out and buy/rent/borrow the multiple seasons that are available on Blu-Ray or DVD?  Not just yet.  I’m thinking that at some point in the future I might give this show a shot.  Once all of the smoke has cleared and the ashes have settled to the ground, and everyone has stopped talking about it, I’ll quietly sit down and give it a go.  Maybe then I can find myself Lost.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Reaction to the LOST Finale: The Stages of Loss

Consider my Complete Series boxed set pre-ordered.

I am a little surprised by the negative feedback this super-sized episode is receiving in the forums, because for my money ($0, granted) the Lost series finale was every bit as emotionally and intellectually satisfying as I could have hoped, perhaps even more so. It was also frequently thrilling on a visceral level, as with that insanely epic showdown between Jack and Locke on the cliff face. I watched the finale as part of a 9-person group, which was an extremely enjoyable and enriching viewing experience, and we all lost our shit as Jack advanced on Locke, leaping into the air to deliver a knockout punch. We also exalted with nerd glee over pretty much everything Lapidus (!) said, including, "In case you haven't noticed, I'm a pilot."

But action-adventure and laughs aside, what really makes this show special is the ideas that it provokes, the discussions it fosters and the communal experience it creates. Lost is without a doubt an anomaly on network television. It is a singularly weird, creator-driven show that completely denies passive viewing and yet somehow became hugely popular. As such, it has transformed even the most conventional of TV viewers into dedicated followers. The images of Jimmy Kimmel and his audience watching the final moments of the show, tears streaming down their rapt faces, were surprisingly poignant and indicative of this odd shared human experience. I've experienced little in my pop culture life quite like the minute-plus of complete, reverent silence among my previously jovial viewing group after the final image of Jack's closing eye. Nor have I experienced much like the hour-plus of spirited discussion that emerged when the dust settled. And in response to this season's critical battle between character and mythology, we definitely weren't discussing food drops and Hurley birds.

I, of course, don't mean to discount the fun of getting lost in Dharma history and contemplating time paradoxes, but these ancillary diversions were always secondary to, and deepened by Lost's emphasis on character. This is a lesson that ABC has failed to learn as it scrambles to replace Lost, evidenced by the trail of cardboard mystery shows it has left in its wake. What seems to be infuriating finale viewers the most - the lack of a concrete explanation of the Island's power - is one of the things I liked most about the finale, and ultimately the series. It is infinitely more intriguing to think that anyone who could even approach understanding the source of the Island's ancient power is long, long dead, and the various characters who have stumbled across it over the millennia (from Jacob to the Dharma Initiative to Jack) are acting on guesswork and pure faith. The Island is in many ways an existential Rorschach blot, and the methods by which the individual characters attempt to interpret its mysteries are far more valuable than any rote "answer" Lindelof and Cuse could have provided as to where "The Light" comes from and who built "The Cork."

The controversial Flash-Sideways storyline follows through on the show's promise of a character emphasis. Just as the Flashbacks at the start of the series fleshed out these characters and hinted at their importance to one another, and the Flashforwards of mid-series emphasized just how much their experience on the island impacted their lives, the Flash-Sideways was an unexpected, moving and thoroughly appropriate coda illustrating the "Live Together, Die Alone" motto so prevalent from the start. Some are arguing that the "purgatory" aspect of the Sideways universe renders the Island reality meaningless. I disagree. As Christian tells Jack, everything that happened to him on the Island is real, and everything matters. So I still don't know why Walt was special. And I don't know who built the statue. I'm happy to theorize. We see the universe of Lost through the characters' eyes, and therefore we can only understand it as they do. And right now, as a fan, in the moment, I have no complaints. The show wasn't perfect, though it very frequently came close. But it didn't have to be perfect, it just had to feel like Lost. And all that really matters to me is that poor John Locke, eternally hopeful and just-as-eternally beaten down by the world, finally found peace. And Jack Shepherd, so emotionally-repressed and frustrated by his unfulfilled need for empiricism, finally let go. I could go on forever. And Vincent... You know, speaking purely as a dog lover, this show gave me everything I could ever want.

Reaction to the LOST Finale: A TV TWEETS Special

Well, I just got home from a little Lost party and, other than the three other people I watched it with, haven't heard any other people's reactions as of yet. We all seemed a bit unsure if we completely liked it, but no one was outraged either. At this moment, roughly half of an hour after the wreckage on the beach rolled with the credits, I think I liked it. Here's why.
For me, Lost hasn't been about the puzzles or the monsters or the fantastic impossibilities for a while. Probably been two, maybe three years since I gave a shit about what those damn numbers meant. But I continued watching more out of just habit and water cooler sustainability. I wanted to see if Desmond was ever going to get to be with Penny. If Jin would ever get to meet his daughter. If Sayid could ever forgive himself. If Jack would stop trying to fix everything. And why were these people doing these crazy things in the first place?

Well, we learned last week that Jacob picked this group (excuse the paraphrasing) because they were flawed, lonely people. And what does Christian explain to Jack in that penultimate scene? That he will be with his fellow castaways, the people he loves, presumably forever in the afterlife. The journey they went on together forged deep bonds of friendship and love, the kind of relationships none of them had prior to crashing on that island. The group became greater than the sum of it's broken individual parts. And they got to be together, forever.

I'm sure there's a mountain of hate and nitpicking going on right now across the interwebs. But, in this moment, I like "The End." A lot. Chalk it up to the memory of that magical first season or my iPod striking a chord while very coincidentally playing Billy Bragg and Wilco's "Hesitating Beauty" on my trip home from that viewing party (key lines for me being: "By the stars and clouds above/We could spend our lives in love"), but in my book it was a fine ending. Certainly not perfect or as grand as we might have dreamed in 2005, but still satisfactory.

I think only the truly depraved amongst us wouldn't want to spend eternity with the most beloved people in our lives. Ultimately, what else is there?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Longbox

The Avengers
issue: 1
writer: Brian Michael Bendis
artist: John Romita Jr.
publisher: Marvel
Siege is over after what seems like four long months of event and tie-in books.  Now Marvel begins what it calls The Heroic Age with a relaunch of one of its core titles, The Avengers.  This first book in the series does not give the heroes much time to breathe before their first big threat is thrown at them.
The book starts out with a strong two pages as we see Immortus taken down by a group of heroes that bear an uncanny resemblance to the youngsters from the Next Avengers animated movie.  Elsewhere/when, Steve Rogers, having taken over the position vacated by Norman Osborn and Tony Stark before him, is assembling a team of Avengers once again to protect and inspire the world.  It isn’t long though before a super villain shows up to crash the party, namely Kang the Conqueror.  It seems that Kang’s lifeline and all of reality are in jeopardy because the children of The Avengers (guess it really is the Next Avengers team) are wielding some kind of ultimate power.  Kang charges the new team with building a time machine and stopping their offspring before all is lost.
I’m not as familiar as some are in regards to Avengers history, I’ve mainly been an X-Reader when it comes to Marvel books.  Having said that, I found this new Avengers book to be instantly accessible and invoking a feeling of grand adventure that calls back to days gone by.  There’s also that cool factor of having so many A-list heroes in the same room, on the same team.  Bendis skillfully blends his brand of chummy super hero dialogue with some really great moments (the Spider-Man/Hawkeye exchange is pretty nice).  Thor’s response to Kang’s arrival reminds us just what level of hero this team is on.
Here’s where I’ll probably get murdered by fanboys, but I’m just not a big fan of John Romita Jr. when he’s doing these kinds of super hero books.  I love it when he handles more street level kinds of characters, like Daredevil, but with something like this, I’d prefer the talents of a George Perez or an Oliver Coipel Both of whom are just amazing at rendering heroes and action.  Also, I’ve always thought Romita’s women look funny.
In the end, I liked how this book sets up not one, not two, but three different possible threats for the new team right out of the gate without it feeling strained or rushed.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the other new Avengers titles bring to the table this month.  Also, I might just have to check out Next Avengers.

Here is Jon's review of Next Avengers from last year.

TV Tweets: April 26 - May 22

Well, maybe NOW I'm back in the saddle again since the last time didn't go so smoothly. It appears my technical issues are behind me with my new computer from Best Buy (always buy the service plan, boys and girls). Without further ado, away we go...

April 29th [The Pacific]
I've watched 7 eps of #ThePacific and still the most exciting part each week is the charcoal pencil getting splintered apart in the intro.
Having finished this miniseries now, I need to make a slight addendum to that statement. Yes, I was incredibly dulled by this show. I could not understand why the perspective was constantly jumping from different groups of characters when I hadn't been given a chance to care about any of them. Then during the show's final installment, a bio for each character was flashed up. Somehow I had forgotten that these were all real people and the events were entirely based on historical record. Then the pieces came together. If it were a pure work of fiction, The Pacific would have been a colossal failure. I still don't think it was great, but at least I can understand why the story followed its course in the manner it did.
However, I really was most enthralled by that charcoal pencil during the opening credits. As well put together as the battle effects were done, they simply did not pull me closer to the characters as those first few minutes of Saving Private Ryan did so many years ago. The Pacific is well-made, but certainly not a must-see.

April 30th [Party Down, Happy Town]
Man, I forgot how good #PartyDown can be.
A really great comedy that pretty much no one is watching. Martin Starr's Roman is the man, and my True Blood crush on Lizzy Caplan has become as big as they come for a totally different skill set she unleashes on Party Down. A third season is a pretty remote possibility, so I'm gonna enjoy this great little show while it lasts.
After the jump, you'll find if Happy Town measures up to Twin Peaks, one of the worst situations to watch The Office in, and how Lost spoiled the end of The West Wing for me.