Monday, May 23, 2011

What I’m Checking Out This Month (May 2011)

Here are the various entertainment things I’m listening to, watching or reading this month.


Bridesmaids- Imagine if Jim Carrey circa Liar Liar had boobs and starred in Superbad. That is the tone of this flick about two chicks who are best friends but whose connection gets a bit strained when one of them gets engaged and makes a huge step up in social class and wealth while the other remains barely employed, barely avoiding a breakdown and barely noticed by her late night booty-call. It sounds depressing but it isn’t. Kristen Wiig does an amazing job making you feel empathy for her character and the screenplay throws in plenty of Judd Apatow-style raunchy humor (I enjoyed this movie despite a “bathroom scene” of epically vulgar proportions) and bizarre improv moments.

Fast Five- There have now been five Fast & Furious movies of which I’ve seen one of them (I think; I know I didn’t see the last two) so I’m not sure why I was interested in seeing the latest one. It might have been the cool looking preview, it might have been the fact that The Rock is in it, or it might have been a dearth of action movies lately. Yes, despite the title, this is an action movie not a car movie. I could care less about cars- they are a way to get around and don’t express my personality (otherwise I’d be driving the Batmobile. Or the Weinermobile.)- but I love action flicks. This was a really enjoyable movie because not only was it an action movie and a car driving movie but they threw in several other fun elements. It opened with a prison break, became a chase movie and then finished up as a heist movie- all genres I love, which is good because it wasn’t quite up to snuff as an action movie. The gunfight/chase in Brasil was decent, but the Vin Diesel/Rock fight was lame. It was fun.

Hanna- A revenge flick that almost succeeds. Despite the main character being a 14 year old girl who is supposed to be an unstoppable assassin, I almost believe in her. The acting is excellent, the fight scenes are marvelous- especially the one with Eric Bana in the subway, and the story keeps you engaged up until the very end, when everything unravels and the movie loses its’ grip. Imagine the character of Hit Girl from last year’s awesome movie Kick Ass but without much of a sense of humor and you’ll have an idea of what Hanna is like.

Paul- Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, two of the three principals from the fantastic Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, take a road trip through Area 51, met an alien who loves to party, and try to rescue him from the government agents trying to recapture him. Lots of pop culture references and lots of good comedic setups but it doesn’t quite work overall. I think if they had also had their third principal, direct Edgar Wright, they might have succeeded in their effort at a third masterpiece but instead they come up with a shaggy dog- lovable but a bit too stupid and running all over the place chasing its’ own tail/tale.

Scream 4- This didn’t really feel like a movie. It felt more like a bonus disc on the Scream trilogy box set, with commentaries on the social relevance of the series themes, how the hunger for fame is warping young kids’ minds, and how the original Scream set the standard in horror movies for the next decade or more. As a movie, it wasn’t very scary or thrilling which was odd because the cinematography felt right. Maybe the choreography was off or the editing and camera angles were wrong choices? It had no edge or surprises, even during the surprising scenes. It was funny though.

Sucker Punch- Imagine watching a really good videogame player play a fantasy fight game as a sexy female character. Imagine the game has really cool special effects. Imagine watching this for an hour and a half. Now pay $10 for this. Did you enjoy that or did it feel like a sucker punch? This determines how much you will enjoy the movie. I gave it a 7 (out of 10) because I always play female characters in videogames and I can be swayed by cool special effects. You may not be.

Thor (in 3D)- This movie wasn’t that great and it is easy to pinpoint where the blame lies. It wasn’t with the special effects, which made me believe that Thor wasn’t a ludicrous hero (A hammer? Really? I’d prefer a sword if I was a Norse god.) It wasn’t with the director- Kenneth Branagh did a good job for the type of movie it was. Nor was it the actors- the guy playing Thor did a good job, Natalie Portman was adorable as always and I liked seeing Kat Dennings once again (Doing the Zooey Deschanel type role). So what does that leave? Exactly- the screenplay. The story was so basic and predictable I could have told you what would happen before I saw the movie. Plus, Thor and Jane (Natalie) are supposed to have fallen in love for no discernable reason. He takes his shirt off, they sit on the roof talking, they have breakfast together, along with her friends, and they break into a government facility together. It all seems to take place in a 24 hour period too so how do they fall in eternal love? Because the screenplay says they do. There is no emotional investment in the romance nor the other relationships because they aren’t developed enough to make me care. Then throw in the fact that there aren’t enough fight scenes and you have a fairly dull movie. This movie actually needed to be about 2o minutes longer so it could address these lapses and make a worthwhile movie. All I can hope is that Captain America and Green Lantern will be a lot better. The most depressing thing about the movie? This screenwriter also did the script for X-Men: First Class which I had been really looking forward to until I saw Thor.


The Walworth Farce- imagine a play about a family performing the same slap-stick play in their house every day because they have nothing else to do since they are afraid to leave their house. Throw in a murder, a delusional father, a cross-dressing son and a girl from the grocery store the other son timidly ventures out to for the family’s daily food supplies. Now make it mainly a drama instead of a comedy. Sounds fun, right? I didn’t enjoy it so much as I survived it mentally unscarred.

TV Shows:

Off The Map- Is one thing I won’t be watching anymore, mainly because it has been cancelled. I realize it wasn’t the best show on TV but everyone should have watched it if for no other reason than Caroline Dhavernas. She is everything good about an actress- talented, funny, believable and cute. I mourned the loss of her previous show Wonderfalls some 5 years ago and was thrilled when Off The Map came along to fill the void. Now this is gone after just 13 or so episodes. How will I get my fix of this amazing actress now?

The Voice- I’m enjoying this singing contest and it might even be a better show than American Idol.

All the usual suspects, which are now ending their seasons, like Big Bang Theory, Castle, How I Met Your Mother, The Simpsons, Community, 30 Rock, Survivor, Amazing Race and Celebrity Apprentice plus newcomers Fairly Legal, Chicago Code and Justified. Now I’ll have a chance to catch some other things on reruns, like NCIS, Rules Of Engagement, The Office, and Fringe and see the new seasons of USA Channel’s summer shows like Burn Notice, Psych, Royal Pains, Covert Affairs and White Collar.


Outwitting Trolls (by William G. Tapply)- One of my favorite mystery authors passed away two years ago but I didn’t realize it until now, when his final book came out and the dust jacket mentioned it.
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That means he passed around the same time as Robert B. Parker, one of my all-time favorite mystery writers. I devoured his Spenser series all through college and afterwards and now the last one is coming out. At least with both of these authors they wrote at least one other series which I hadn’t really delved into yet, because I didn’t want to dilute the purity of their main series. So I still have some more of their work to look forward to, although it is a more finite amount than I thought two years ago. I haven’t finished Outwitting Trolls yet, in fact I don’t even know what the title means yet so I can’t tell if it was a fitting finale. Parker’s final Spenser book arrived from Border’s today so I’ll check that out next month.


Emily Osment- Amazon had her second album for $5 so I downloaded it. Her first one was a soft rock / Disney Channel type album and this one is more of a dance-pop album. It’s got three songs that could be (but won’t be) hits so it was worth the $5 to me but probably no one else will feel that way.

Foster The People: Pumped Up Kicks- It’s a really catchy song, one that totally rips off Peter Bjorn & John’s Young Folks but is good nonetheless. I think of it as a song sequel.

Bee Gees @ 10:00 AM and 3:00 to 5:00 PM- At work we’ve recently started playing the radio in the office and the radio station we have set plays a Bee Gees song everyday at about 10:00 AM and then sometime between 3:00 and 5:00 PM. I love the Bee Gees but I’m starting to get annoyed by how often they get played because it “wears out” the song to me. The same thing with Madonna’s Into The Groove and Benny Mardones’ Into The Night (Is this a theme?) which get played a lot too. The same with Bruno Mars but Bruno Mars is always being played on every station, not just the one we listen to. At least it isn’t the crappy song, um…I mean, The Lazy Song, that they play all the time.