Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Looking Forward To...

Iron Man 2
Release: May 7, 2010
Distributor: Paramount
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Robert Downey Jr.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Streaming French Films on My Wii

This weekend I ended up seeing a lot of movies thanks to Netflix. Not only did I have all three discs per my normal account, but with their new disc enabling to stream movies via my Wii system, I was like a kid in a candy store.

It's worth noting that the three movies that came in the mail were all comedies: The Hangover, The Informant!, and Men Who Stare At Goats. I already knew I'd like the first movie. I had high and low expectations for the other two films respectively so of course I ended up liking the latter more than I did the other film.

Without even meaning to, I ended up seeing three French flicks that have been in my queue for awhile. The fact that they were all French didn't even occur to me until I was midway done with the last film, so it wasn't a conscious decision on my part to have French movie marathon of sorts. The three films were...

A young man sidelined by a heart condition and his sister, played by Juliette Binoche, closely watch the streets of Paris as their lives gradually intersect with a diverse array of strangers.

Chacun sa nuit
Based on real events, this erotically charged drama follows the lives and sexual liaisons of five young denizens of a provincial French town.

Donne-moi la main
Twin brothers journey on foot to their mother's funeral in Spain, but romantic entanglements along the way stir up resentments.

I recommend all of them if you're so inclined. If you do have Netflix, I must also recommend the first two seasons of The Guild starring Felicia Day (Dr. Horrible, Dollhouse). The entire two seasons take less than two hours and they are, of course, available instantly.

Citrusy Federer & Nadal in Miami

Down in Miami for the Sony Ericsson Open, Nike brought out the citrusy fashion for their two top tennis players. Rafael Nadal is lemony in yellow complete with blue accessories and yellow/white plaid shorts. Roger Federer breaks out of his usual blue/red/black preferences to give us a refreshing orange collarless shirt offset by white.

Huge thumbs up from me on both kits especially following their less than exciting choices in Indian Wells last week. For a reminder, Federer wore a nice, but drab red/gray combination while Nadal was half awesome/half awful with his candy inspired shirt and tacky inspired shorts...

Here's to hoping better fashion means better results. Last week, Federer lost to Marcos Baghdatis in the third round and while Nadal reached the semifinals, he has been title-less since Madrid last year. Both made it through their first match this week, something last year's finalists Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray can't say.

Will we finally get a Federer-Nadal final since May of last year? It's felt much longer than that, that's for sure.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

24 Runs Out of Time

It's official. The current and eight season of 24 will be its last. I'm not exactly heartbroken about the show ending, but it will still be sad to say goodbye to some of these characters more notably 'Jack Bauer' as played by Kiefer Sutherland and 'Chloe O'Brien' as played by Mary Lynn Rajskub. They are two of three actors who have appeared in more than 100 episodes of the show. Carlos Bernard playing 'Tony Almeida' is the other.

No matter what anyone says, it really was one of the most important television programs of the past decade. Debuting only a few weeks after September 11th, many thought the show about terrorists would not find much footing. Luckily for the show, Americans found themselves a hero in Jack Bauer. Impervious to bullets and torture, he was seen as the Great American Hero saving America from the bad guys during the course of its worst day ever (times eight).

The format of the show was the hook, of course. The show would take place in one day and be shown in real time. To say it was new and ambitious would be understating it. This strength was also the show's weakness because more often than not, the weight of telling a 24-hour story would show with repetitive and/or filler story lines.

Critics, fans, and definitely non-fans have loved picking apart some of the more ridiculous aspects of the show. We never see Jack Bauer going to the bathroom. Cell phones work everywhere and anywhere and don't need to be charged. Jack is tortured one minute and running after the bad guys the next. That car/helicopter/subway/bus could not have reached that place in so-and-so minutes. There's ANOTHER mole working inside the government. Etc.

All in all, it's been a fun ride. I actually didn't start watching 24 until its second season and only caught up with the first season well into the show's run. I have since seen every single season and episode save for the last few episodes of the much maligned (and deservedly so) sixth season. At that point, it was refreshing to see the show switch it up a bit moving the locale from sunny Los Angeles to Washington D.C. last season and now in New York City.

This final season has been a mixed bag. It started out with some promise and then sort of leveled off with some story lines too stupid to endure (Dana, I'm looking at you). But with 11 episodes left, I'm hoping for the best. In fact, the past two episodes have actually been pretty good. So to Jack, Chloe, and the rest of the cast and crew, thanks for the past eight seasons. Looking forward to seeing some of y'all in the big screen.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thoughts on Idol's Top 10

It's interesting that earlier this season it was all about how the girls are better than the guys this season and that Simon predicted that a girl would win this season and yet the first time the guys and the girls sing together, it was two girls who got the boot early, Lacey Brown and Paige Miles. Neither of them were going to win, but I'd probably keep Lacey and get rid of Tim Urban instead.

In any case, the top 10 is set and these are the ten guaranteed a spot in the annual Idol summer tour, which means a lot of moola and exposure for those ten. Here are my current thoughts on those ten:

Didi Benami - She's good, but she's a bit bland and a wee bit forgettable. She tried to sex it up this past week only to look desperate and fake. She needs to do a performance that will make people remember her or at least feel more inclined to vote for her.

Crystal Bowersox - She's my pick to win and it seems like the judges and the voters agree. It's a difficult position to be in so early in the competition though since SO MANY things can still happen between now and the finale. But if she keeps staying true to herself and belting out great songs one after another, she's golden.

Andrew Garcia - I agree with the judges that not only is he disappointing me, but he's making me regret rooting for him so early on. He's clearly talented, but his song choices and arrangements have been off.

Casey James - I admit I'm a bit of a fan. I mentioned his confidence early on as something very appealing about him and he's continued to display that. Add that to his raw talent and there's not much he can do wrong. He knows who he is as an artist and knows how to play to the audience. Dark horse?

Aaron Kelly - Last time I talked about him, I said he didn't deserve to be in the top 12. I take that back. I still think it would've been better if he came back a year or two older, but he really has held his own again his older counterparts. Plus I was impressed at how he handled sickness this past week.

Michael Lynche - I haven't been wowed by his performance during the past two weeks and I agree with the judges in feeling that he is coasting just a little bit. It helps that he is freaking lovable and that will carry him far, but he needs to step it up and challenge himself a bit more.

Siobhan Magnus - The faux-hawk said it all really. She's someone to watch, crazy talented, and a little bit divisive. She's exciting and is one of my favorites because she's quirky and doesn't mind taking risks.

Katie Stevens - I'm still not jiving with her pop-rock/R&B interests coupled with her old soul voice. It's a little bit like oil and water at least for now. No doubt those two things could combine to a potent performance. Just that she really needs to be careful picking songs and arrangements.

Tim Urban - He's cute. That's pretty much it really. He doesn't have a terrible voice. Far from it, but he's just overly stiff. He tried to dance and slide on stage this past week, but it came off more cheesy and less authentic. His voice caliber just doesn't hold up compared to the others and I do wish he goes sooner rather than later.

Later, I'd like to talk about Crystal Bowersox possibility of winning (or not winning) plus how her "rivalry" with Siobhan Magnus reminds me a little bit (not totally) of the Kris Allen-Adam Lambert rivalry of last season.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Birthday Hotties: Jim Parsons & Alyson Hannigan

They're both talented, hilarious, and damn sexy. Plus you can catch both of them on Monday nights on CBS.

Happy Birthday Jim and Aly!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Castle & Chuck in Charge

Apart from being Monday one-word shows that begin with a C (with the title being the name of the main character no less), Chuck and Castle are both shows I enjoy watching even though their fates last season were a bit hazy. With NBC's fortunes dwindling and its Heroes franchise losing major buzz, Chuck's "just okay" ratings and plenty of buzz should help it go for another season. Castle, in the meantime, seems to be enjoying an upsurge in viewers and it's about damn time, people. Last night both shows delivered one of their best episodes of the season, so I thought I'd give them some ink...

This past season of Chuck has mostly been dealing with Chuck's new goal of wanting to be an official spy. In last night's episode, he finally became one changing once again the ever-evolving relationship he has with Team Bartowski, but more specifically, Sarah. I am actually totally loving the complexities of Sarah and Chuck's roller coaster relationship. Sarah is pulling away from Chuck because he's becoming less the person she fell in love with while Chuck, on the other hand, is thinking that the only way he could be with Sarah is to be a real-life spy. Yay for Catch-22s!

And while Chuck has gotten much better at lying and even hurting people, he's still not a murderer, something he'd have to be if he wanted to pass his final spy test and be a "real spy." Fortunately, newly-civilian John Casey was there to help Chuck kill his target. So he passed. But in turns out he got the worst of both worlds in return. Knowing he didn't really pull the trigger, he still doesn't consider himself a real spy worthy of Sarah's love even if he has the official badge and gun. And of course he also loses Sarah since she believes he actually killed someone.

Last night's Castle really gave the show much needed urgency. It's already a fun romp, but this episode ramped up the darkness and suspense. When a serial killer targets Nikki Heat aka Castle's character based on Detective Beckett, things get a little too personal for both of them. With things getting a little heady, the FBI steps in with their fancy gadgets and Agent Jordan Shaw, the federal version of Beckett, played with aplomb by Dana Delaney.

It was nice seeing Beckett just a wee bit jealous of the quick rapport that developed between Castle and Shaw, but the show is at its best when Beckett and Castle bounce off on one another be it in front of a crime scene, the white board, or in Beckett's apartment. Speaking of, he stayed the night and made her pancakes in the morning. Nothing happened, but still... aww. Since this was the first part of a 2-part episode, it had to end in a cliffhanger and what a cliffhanger it was: Beckett's apartment blowing up while she was still in there. Clearly, she's not dead (please?) but with Martha possibly moving out, Castle does have a spare room now. Let it be so.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Indian Wells Surprise Winner

Let's start with good news/bad news for Rafael Nadal who I dubbed, a little too prematurely, as the "man of the tournament." The good news is that he finally won a title since May of last year. The bad news is that it was only for doubles as he lost in the semifinals against an inspired Ivan Ljubicic who then went on to defeat Andy Roddick. For the American, it's another "so close, yet not" results while the unexpected doubles win for Nadal against the number one doubles team should alleviate the sting of not winning a title. Though it would do him a lot of good to get a title before his usual dominant clay season.

Ljubicic, on the other hand, wins his first Masters title defeating three top ten players (2nd ranked Novak Djokovic, 3rd ranked Nadal, and 7th ranked Roddick). It capped off a strange BNP Paribas Open with the favorites faltering including Australian Open finalists Roger Federer and Andy Murray.

I was hoping for a French Open rematch between Nadal and Robin Soderling, but after the semifinals, the man with the losing record against the other player would go on to win: Ljubicic (1-5) d. Nadal, Roddick (0-2) d. Soderling, Ljubicic (3-7) d. Roddick. In any case, this is a great result for the veteran player who was the runner-up at Masters events three times prior. He takes his new top 15 ranking into Miami where many people will sure pay closer attention to him.

Two former US Open finalists went head to head in the women's final with Jelena Jankovic winning in straight sets over higher-ranked Caroline Wozniacki. This was Jankovic's first title since nabbing the Cincinnati title last summer. Her win restores a bit of stability in the tournament that saw some of its biggest draws like Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, and Svetlana Kuznetsova making early exits as well as the conspicuous absences of the Williams sisters.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Caprica Is Getting So Good

Caprica is really starting to hit its stride. I admit that as a big Battlestar Galactica fan, I was worried, but open to the idea of this prequel. When I saw the two-hour pilot, I was mostly underwhelmed, but knew I'd see the next few episodes before giving up on it entirely. Thank the gods I did.

Here's a quick backstory for the non-watchers. Caprica is a show that takes place in the seemingly futuristic city of Caprica. There are lots of commentary about religion, technology, politics, sex, faith, etc., but the show filters all of this through the family drama within and between the Graystones and the Adamas. You see, the daughter of the Graystones (Zoe) was inadvertently involved in the terrorist attack that killed the wife and daughter (Tamara) of Joseph Adama killing herself in the process. The twist? Dr. Daniel Graystone is a big time technological genius who has developed a virtual world where people can play (or do pretty much anything) with their virtual identities or avatars. Guess whose avatars are now stuck inside this world: Tamara and Zoe.

Joseph Adama has had a hard time trying to get over the loss of his daughter, but as he was finally about to let her go, he finds out she's still "alive" in the virtual world. As expected, the virtual world is a hard and dangerous place and to survive one must in turn become hard and dangerous. While not a saint in real life, Joseph has never killed anyone directly. This past week's episode, he has had enough. Getting some way-too-on-point advice from his gangster brother, he successfully pulls the trigger a few times and I bet his journey will only get darker as he tries to find his daughter.

And yet his story is nothing compared to Daniel Graystone and his quest to "find" his daughter. Unlike Tamara, who is stuck in the virtual world, Zoe's avatar was accidentally placed in a military robot. Zoe is able to control the robot's body (sometimes to hilarious effect), but she doesn't tell her father because of a sense of betrayal from him. It's worked so far, except Daniel is now suspecting her daughter is in there. This past episode was devoted to him psychologically torturing her in order for her to give herself away. He starts out small by making her do monotonous tasks while he smokes, an activity she disapproved of in the past. She bears it, but momentarily flinches giving Daniel what he wanted. He then sets the robot on fire knowing that his daughter had a traumatic fear of fires. She nearly gives herself up, but holds strong. His final test was difficult to watch. He orders the robot to shoot the family dog. Talk about taking the character to a really dark place! She does shoot the robot only for us to find out that not only were they blanks, but that she knew they were by the weight of the gun. WHEW.

Heady stuff, right? Next week I'm expecting both of these story lines to come to a head especially since it's the season finale. As great as it is seeing New Cap City, I'd really like to see a reunion between Joseph and Tamara finally if only for Joseph to see that Tamara is not the same little girl he once knew. I'm okay with Zoe not "coming out" to her father yet if only to drive him more insane than he already is becoming, but I hope she tells someone else she's in there other than her best friend... perhaps the cute assistant she has a mad crush on?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Catching Up on Indian Wells

I admit that after Roger Federer was upset in the third round (he had three match points!), I didn't really keep an eye out on what's happening over at Indian Wells, but there has been some interesting results. Like world no. 2 Novak Djokovic out in straight sets in the fourth round to Ivan Ljubicic. Or how about 6th seed Robin Soderling blistering to the weekend by pummeling Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and more impressively world no. 4 Andy Murray in straight sets? Andy Roddick also have done well for himself to reach the semifinals.

And other than his absolutely hideous shorts, the man of the tournament, however, is no one other than defending champion and world no. 3 (weird, right?) Rafael Nadal. People underestimated him, but not only is he one match away from the final of the first Masters tournament of the year, but he is also in the finals of the doubles tournament. Bad knees? What bad knees? Whatever happens, he should be quite proud at what he accomplished in the past few days, though it's certainly not over yet. I'm hoping to see a French Open rematch between Nadal and Soderling. Both will have more than a title to play for.

As for the women's side, it was hard to really feel passionate about it after Svetlana Kuznetsova, Kim Clijsters, and Justine Henin faltered early. Great showing for Sam Stosur to reach the semifinals and it should mean she will crack the top 10 in rankings next week. Stosur is also still alive in the doubles tournament. The finals will have a face off between 2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki and 6th seed Jelena Jankovic. It will be the first title of the year for either one of them.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Long-Awaited First Kiss on Ugly Betty

The writing was already on the wall for Ugly Betty after ABC moved it on Fridays this season and then moved it back on Wednesdays with its ratings continuing to free fall. So it was nice that ABC gave the cast and crew enough advance warning on their inevitable cancellation in order for them to fashion an appropriate ending for the show and its characters.

Already this season has shown its titular character undergoing quite a transformation dressing a bit more fashionably, sporting better hair, and in next week's episode the braces are finally (FINALLY!) coming off. Other story lines such as Hilda's getting engaged to a high school love, Wilhemina trying to figure out what she really wants out of life, and Claire reuniting with her long lost son are par for the course and are quite entertaining by themselves. But there was one question long time fans have been wanting answered since episode one: Will Justin ever come out?

It was clear from the get go that Justin was gay, but due to his age, the show decided to wisely not focus too much on his sexuality as much as they focused on his "uniqueness." The adults in his life, from his family in Brooklyn to his very much out mentor Marc, for their part, didn't try to push him and instead gave him plenty of support.

With the show ending, the writers admit they had to fast track Justin's storyline and with only a handful of episodes left, Justin took a big step in tonight's episode. Caught up in a love triangle over a girl he "liked" with a guy "friend" he constantly talked about, the episode couldn't have ended in a more predictable and yet very satisfactory way...

And yet it was quite nice that after The First Kiss, Justin didn't suddenly declare himself the next Adam Lambert. He was shocked. He was confused. He went home and was then comforted by his mom's words (not to him):

Somehow you got it in your head that this is your story. You've got to let that go. You've got to come up with a whole new story for yourself. You are who you are. And the sooner you are okay with that, the sooner that you see what I see, the happier you're going to be. I swear to God.

Amen. I do hope the writers don't end Justin's storyline there. I don't think they'd just leave it hanging, so I'm looking forward to seeing where they go from here. Then again, next week I'm just excited to see Betty sans the braces. God, aren't you?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When Irish Eyes...

Golden Globe winner and Dubliner Colin Farrell wishes you and yours a happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Stupidity Rules on Idol, Runway, and Race

Right now I'm only watching three reality shows and while I know better than to expect anything other than stupidity reigning, I had hopes. These three shows, however, has given me an opportunity to rant about the audience, the judges, and the contestants. Here I go...

I already posted my thoughts on this year's American Idol Top 12 and it's not an awful bunch. Plus with Paula Abdul gone, the caliber of the actual judging have gone up. The stupidity comes solely in the form of the voters who thought that Paige Miles, Katie Stevens, Tim Urban, and Aaron Kelly were actually worthy of being included in the top 12. It wouldn't have been so bad if there weren't great singers who could've taken their place, but alas there were. Now I've never had high hopes for this season especially after the trifecta of awesome that was Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, and Alison Iraheta last season, but with Crystal Bowersox, I at least have found for myself someone to root for. Don't be stupid now, America.

The judges on Project Runway must be seeing something I'm not, because I thought they got rid of the wrong designer two times in a row now. To those who know me, I am far from a fashion expert, but I also know a major wreck when I see it. Last week, Jesse was sent home for a poofy and uncomfortable dress, but his dress was a masterpiece especially in comparison to Emilio's washer-inspired swimsuit which was as classy as a three-dollar whore. Eventually, I was okay with it, but then the judges did it again this week. Ben's suit was not well-made and bordered on the cheesy, but Amy's black leotard-inspired outside complete with hairy tits burned the retinas. So of course, she made it through. Of course. If I see Amy and Emilio in the final three, I'll probably throw something. I don't have anyone I'm rooting for yet. Maybe Jay.

Finally, we get to Amazing Race, which, in my not-so-humble opinion, is the best reality show out there right now. Nothing is inherently wrong this season and I'm enjoying the locales and challenges so far, but there are just some crazy stupid people in the race this year that makes me want to strangle them. I am shocked that Brent/Caite and Jordan/Jeff are still in the race. For the most part, they've gotten by with some luck and one of them definitely would've been eliminated this week if it weren't for Joe/Heidi's U-turn. Their strength as "young fit" couples are dampened by their inability to work together and figure out simple instructions. We, then, get to Louie/Michael who aren't stupid as they came in #1 for two times in a row now, but going after Joe/Heidi? How was that strategically wise? Why not go after the teams that could threaten them down the line like the affable Jet/Cord or the nasty Carol/Brandy? Sure, they succeeded in getting rid of Joe/Heidi, but it was still a waste.

My dream results next week: Miles, Stevens, Urban, or Kelly goes home on American Idol. Emilio gets the cut on Project Runway. Louie/Michael gets their comeuppance or one of the stupid teams go on Amazing Race. Though I probably just jinxed Bowersox, Jay, and Jet/Cord. We'll see.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hit for Haiti, Part 2

A couple of hours ago, the tennis stars came out in Indian Wells, California, where the BNP Paribas Open is being currently held, to hold a charity exhibition to raise money for Haiti relief. This is the second time the tennis world has come together this year for Haiti. The first time was during the Australian Open in January as Roger Federer organized a Hit For Haiti exhibition with his fellow players including fellow Grand Slam champions Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters, and Novak Djokovic.

Federer and Nadal took part in tonight's festivities as well this time being joined by fellow tennis legends Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport, and Justine Henin. They all share 94 single Grand Slam championships among themselves. Insane.

Both the men and the women played doubles with the first team to reach 8 in one set winning. The night started off with Henin/Navratilova v. Davenport/Graf with the former team leading for most of the match and finally winning it 8-6. Navratilova was the MVP here as she did most of the talking and played brilliantly. Clearly, she's still a world-class doubles player even now.

The women's match towards the end turned a bit quiet (i.e. boring) and so it was up to the men to bring back the fun and excitement with Federer/Sampras v. Nadal/Agassi. All four men held their serve during the first four games and for the most part it was Agassi and Federer doing most of the talking and ribbing. It was towards the middle when things got just a tiny bit interesting and uncomfortable with Agassi and Sampras exchanging some choice words between one another.

It sort of sucked the fun out of the event even though Nadal and Federer did the best they could to add some levity. In the end, things seemed to have settled down as Sampras/Federer won it 8-6. Sampras and Agassi followed the younger players' example as they hugged at the net showing no hard feelings between them.

$1 million was donated to the charity and many more will be collected from both the fans who showed up live and the fans who watched the exhibition online. Click here to donate now.

Both Federer and Nadal have yet to play their first matches at the BNP Paribas Open. Federer is looking to improve his semifinal results last year as he tries to get his first title since winning the Australian Open back in January while Rafael Nadal is hoping to defend his title after being title-less since May.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thoughts on Idol's Top 12

Didi Benami, 23 (Tennessee) - There's something to the fact that I can't remember any of her performances. I do know she's a good singer and deserve her spot in the top 12, but again I wish I can say more about it.

Crystal Bowersox, 24 (Ohio) - I love her. And I'm just glad the judges and the audience (for now) agree. She's my unofficial horse in the race just the way Kelly and Kris were early on. Her voice is just phoenomenal.

Lacey Brown, 24 (Texas) - She has such an interesting voice, but I think she has a hard time connecting with the audience. I mean she's doing enough to get this far, but she really needs to separate herself other than by her unique voice.

Lee Dewyze, 23 (Illinois) - I noticed him all the way in Hollywood. He has a great swagger, good look, and more importantly a great voice. I can't help comparing him to David Cook. We'll see if that's good or bad.

Andrew Garcia, 24 (California) - I was rooting for him early on and he was my "pick" until I heard Crystal sing. He has faltered a bit in both performance and self-esteem, but he just needs a great performance to bring him out of this funk.

Casey James, 27 (Texas) - There's something very appealing about him. I think it's his confidence, which A LOT of the guys this season have been lacking. But his confidence never goes over to cocky, which is great.

Aaron Kelly, 16 (Pennsylvania) - I'm not saying he's not talented. He's super talented, but he doesn't belong in the top 12. I know why he made it in. I mean Justin Bieber is constantly trending on twitter. That tells you all you need to.

Michael Lynche, 26 (Florida) - Wasn't really a fan of his until this week's performance which he just knocked out of the park. He has an amazing personality and he is a real threat to go really far based on that alone really.

Siobhan Magnus, 19 (Massachusetts) - She's interesting. And yet I feel as if I'm still underselling her by saying that. She's crazy talented and so much fun to watch. I'm hoping America doesn't get too annoyed by her quirks, because I love them.

Paige Miles, 24 (Florida) - She has a good voice, but she's not harnessing it. All of the performances she's done I felt as if she's held back. She's a bit all over the place and well I don't actually think she was supposed to be in the top 12.

Katie Stevens, 17 (Connecticut) - Her place in the top 12 is debatable, but she does have a pretty good voice. I wished she sang more "her age" but that's the type of music she likes. Not a big fan, but she's all right.

Tim Urban, 20 (Texas) - Last night's performance was above average, but the ones before were pretty bad. While he's undoubtedly cute and not talentless, I'm not convinced he should be in the top 12 (or top 24 really). His good looks will take him so far though, I'm hoping.

Should've Been In the Top 12: Katelyn Epperly, John Park, and Lilly Scott. Though I wouldn't have minded seeing Alex Lambert also grow out of his shell.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Looking Forward To...

Date Night
Release: April 9, 2010
Distributor: Fox
Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Tina Fey, Kristin Wiig, Common, Mark Wahlberg, Steve Carrell, Leighton Meester, James Franco, Taraji P. Henson, Mila Kunis, and Mark Ruffalo

Monday, March 8, 2010

Davis Cup 2010: First Round

The Academy Awards wasn't the only thing happening this weekend. Davis Cup was also being played around the world. Here is how it all went down.

Argentina d. Sweden 3-2

Top ten player Robin Soderling won both of his rubbers for Sweden, but with the score tied at 2-2, David Nalbandian gutted out a four-set win for Argentina.

Spain d. Switzerland 4-1

Stepping in for absent Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, David Ferrer and Stanislas Wawrinka both won in the first day for their respective countries. Day 2 and 3, however, went Spain's way as the defending champion moves on.

Russia d. India 3-2

As expected, Russia dominated in the first day while India took doubles in the second. It was up to Mikhail Youzhny to clinch it for Russia on the third day and he did.

France d. Germany 4-1

France headline by Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, dominated the match up winning the first three games rendering the next two matches dead rubbers.

Serbia d. United States 3-2

Second ranked Novak Djokovic won both of his matches against Sam Querrey and John Isner to lift Serbia to the next round. The United States had to do without Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Mike Bryan.

Chile v. Israel 3-1

With a 2-1 advantage heading into the third day, Fernando Gonzalez beat Dudi Sela in straight sets in the fourth rubber to hand Chile the win.

Czech Republic d. Belgium 4-1

Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek both won in singles in the first day and then partnered to win doubles on the second day to give the Czech Republic the win.

Croatia d. Ecuador 5-0

Nicolas Lapentti took Ivo Karlovic to five sets in the first rubber, but still lost to the big man. Croatia then went on to dominate the rest of the tournament.

Academy Awards Winners

I'm going to not really talk about the ceremony though I do have to say that it wasn't as bad as I expected. That's high praise indeed since I was expecting an epic fail. Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman had some nice surprises and their crazy radical ideas on paper didn't really seem so crazy on stage. Maybe I'll change my mind after I've had a day or so to think about it, but for now, they did fine.

But of course, it's all about the winners:

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Lead Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Best Lead Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, Precious
Best Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker
Best Adapted Screenplay: Precious
Best Animated Film: Up
Best Foreign Language Film: El Secreto De Sus Ojos, Argentina
Best Original Score: Up
Best Original Song: "The Weary Kind," Crazy Heart
Best Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Art Direction: Avatar
Best Cinematography: Avatar
Best Costume Design: The Young Victoria
Best Makeup: Star Trek
Best Documentary: The Cove
Best Documentary Short: Music by Prudence
Best Animated Short: Logorama
Best Live Action Short: The New Tenants
Best Sound Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
Best Visual Effects: Avatar

6 - The Hurt Locker
3 - Avatar
2 - Precious, Up, Crazy Heart
1 - The Blind Side, Inglourious Basterds, The Young Victoria, Star Trek, The Cove, El Secreto De Sus Ojos, Music By Prudence, Logorama, The New Tenants

I wouldn't exactly say I'm happy with the results unlike last year where all of my "should wins" won, but I'm not unhappy about any of the wins. As predicted, The Hurt Locker cleaned up getting 6 wins including Best Picture and a historic Best Director win. The acting categories also stayed true to form as Bullock, Bridges, Mo'Nique, and Waltz walked away the champions. Avatar had to settle for getting the second most wins of the night with three wins, all technical awards.

As for my predictions, I went 16/24 (67%) which is pretty bad especially since I was complaining about how predictable this award season has been. In my defense, three of my misses encompassed the short films categories and really they are always a crap-shoot.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Final Thoughts Before the Oscars

In about 5-6 hours, the stars will begin walking the red carpet to the Kodak theater and 2 hours later, the first award will be given out. It's been a long and sometimes winding road to Oscars this year completely with radical changes, surprising last-minute twists, and your list of obvious front runners.

The story of the season, however, is no one other than Kathryn Bigelow. Not only is she racking awards left and right, but she is also the director of the Oscar Best Picture front-runner, The Hurt Locker. If she does win, she becomes the first woman to ever do so in the 82 years of Oscars. Her film is quite the Cinderella story itself with it debuting in early 2009 and making only $12 million on the box office. It was seemingly forgotten until it reaped awards after awards after awards knocking down big competition.

And thus we get to James Cameron Avatar which broke Titanic-sized records at the box-office amassing nearly $3 billion in worldwide sales including an impressive $700+ million gross in the United States alone. It managed to get Golden Globes for itself and its directing, but precious anything else. Many people still think it's a two-way race between this and The Hurt Locker, but the latter is so far ahead in terms of industry support, it's hard to see the upset.

If anything maybe people should be looking at other Best Picture nominees such as Inglourious Basterds, Precious, and Up in the Air. The first two have been trying to create more buzz for themselves amidst the Avatar-Hurt Locker battle and why not? Both are guaranteed acting wins and are nominated for those important screenplay and editing categories. Basterds also nabbed the SAG Ensemble Award while Precious dominated at this year's Indie Spirit Awards. So if there were films to upset, I'd bet on those two films.

But wait, there was a radical change about this year. Instead of 5 Best Picture nominees, there are 10. The other five films, however, will most likely not threaten to win, but their inclusion does add that extra wrinkle of changing the way votes are tallied. The preferential voting has been analyzed and dissected so much that I feel as if flipping a coin would be more efficient and less migraine-inducing. It'll be interesting to see if any "weird" results happen because of this new way of voting, but no one will ever know because we will never see the voting details. Oh well.

The radical changes kept coming especially since this year's producers, Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman, saw it as their mission to make the Academy Awards the "biggest reality TV show" there is. Many traditionalists vomited at that very thought and were less than pleased with many of the changes the men have made (relegating honorary awards to another night, getting rid of the Best Song performances, inviting Taylor "look at me I'm shirtless" Lautner to present, etc.). Hopefully it'll be like last year where the changes were worrisome and yet they still came off well. I have my extreme doubts, but why stressed out about it? In fact even if the whole ceremony is an epic fail, how fun would that be to talk about the day after?

We then get to the acting categories where it seems the drama usually resides. And yet, this year, not so much. While last year, it was a slam dunk year for Heath Ledger, this year we get two slam dunk performances in Mo'Nique and Christoph Waltz. An upset for them would be unthinkable unless the Academy does its own thing for the latter category and award Tucci or Plummer for their bodies of work. Weirder things have happened in that category. Jeff Bridges for lead actor will win since he's like Mickey Rourke last year without a Sean Penn counterpart.

Here's the bit of drama: Meryl Streep vs. Sandra Bullock. For most of the awards season Bullock was largely absent and it was a three-way race between Streep, Sidibe, and Mulligan. In a last-minute twist, Bullock came in strong grabbing up the BFCA, Golden Globes, and the SAG while the latter two actress faded a bit. Streep has gone toe-to-toe with Bullock, but she ended up losing at the SAGs and Bullock's film was nominated for a Best Picture. ALL INDICATIONS point to Bullock winning tonight, but dammit when is Meryl Streep ever going to get that second Best Actress Oscar? It's just criminal. Fun fact: Sandra Bullock won two Razzie Awards last night and can make history tonight as no one has ever won a Razzie and an Oscar in the same year!

The techs, like always, will let us know the tone of the Academy early on. We will see if it'll be a big Hurt Locker night, a big Avatar night, or a big "everyone gets an award" night. Pay extra attention to who wins Editing, to the sound categories and if they split, and to Original Score.

Finally, just wanted to say that for some reason I ended up getting a bit weary of the awards season this year. Maybe it's because The Hurt Locker wasn't one of my very favorite films of the year (still top 20!). Maybe it was because the precursors happened so early relative to the Oscar ceremony that everyone got complacent. Maybe I was severely spoiled last year with everyone who I wanted to win, winning. I don't really know, but I do have to give a shout-out to the true little-film-that-could this season, District 9.

District 9 is my favorite film of the past year and when I saw it, I had NO HOPES of it being nominated for an Academy Award. When the decision was made to expand the Best Picture category, I still didn't believe a film like this could make it in. I was just happy it made $100+ million at the box office. Come Oscar morning, it was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture only less than the five Oscar front-runners! The other nominations were also pretty huge. It goes toe-to-toe with Avatar in Visual Effects, is up against the four Oscar front-runners in Editing, and contends in really hard-to-predict Adapted Screenplay. So while The Hurt Locker (or Avatar or whoever) will most likely reap the lion share of the awards tonight, in my heart District 9 has already won.

Related links:
Click here to see my official predictions.
Click here to see my own personal ballot.
Click here to see my initial thoughts on the Oscar nominations.
Click here to see all my posts on "Awards Season."

Razzies "Winners"

The Raspberry Awards, more commonly known as the Razzies, are celebrating 30 years in dis-honoring the absolute worst films and performances of the past film year. Per tradition, they gave out their winners the night before the Academy Awards ceremony.

Click here for the nominees of this year's Razzies. The lucky recipients are below:

Worst Picture: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Worst Director: Michael Bay, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Worst Actress: Sandra Bullock, All About Steve
Worst Actor: The Jonas Brothers, 3D Concert Experience
Worst Supporting Actress: Sienna Miller, GI JOE: Rise of the Cobra
Worst Supporting Actor: Billy Cyrus, Hannah Montana: The Movie
Worst Screen Couple: Sandra Bullock & Bradley Cooper, All About Steve
Worst Screenplay: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel: Land of the Lost

The Transformers sequel, which I thought was one of the year's worst films, took home three Razzies while in a remarkable twist, Oscar front-runner for Best Actress Sandra Bullock received two awards, one for Worst Actress and another as part of the Worst Screen Couple. Her dual Razzie-Oscar nominations already made history. Can she go one further and win the Oscar as well?

Since the Razzies were celebrating it's 30th year, they decided to give out special Worst of the Decade Awards to the following performances and film:

Worst Picture of the Decade: Battlefield Earth
Worst Actor of the Decade: Eddie Murphy
Worst Actress of the Decade: Paris Hilton

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Spirit Awards Winners

Despite releasing its nominations earlier than most of the award shows, the major guilds, and the critic groups, the Spirit Awards is the last one out of the gate with its winners opting to hold off until close to Oscar weekend. And so last night, they picked the winners, which were the following:

Best Feature: Precious
Best Director: Lee Daniels, Precious
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Best Actress: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Best Supporting Actor: Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, Precious
Best Screenplay: 500 Days of Summer
Best First Feature: Crazy Heart
Best First Screenplay: Precious
Best Foreign Film: An Education
Best Documentary: Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Best Cinematography: A Serious Man
John Cassavetes Award: Humpday
Robert Altman Award: A Serious Man
Producers Award: Karen Chien, The Exploding Girl and Santa Mesa
Someone to Watch Award: Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Easier with Practice
Truer than Fiction Award: Bill and Turner Ross, 45365

Oscar Best Picture nominee Precious walked home 5 for 5 dominating the night with Gabby Sidibe finally winning her biggest award this season benefiting not only from all the Precious love, but from the absence of Oscar competition Bullock, Streep, and Mulligan. With the absence of Oscar front-runner Christoph Waltz, Woody Harrelson was also able to shine with a win, his first since his win with the National Board of Review earlier this season. Finally, Oscar-snubbed 500 Days of Summer gets a consolation, but very well-deserved screenplay prize.

What does this mean for the Academy Awards? Probably not much. Jeff Bridges and Mo'Nique are probably the only two winners to repeat at the Oscars. Interestingly enough, this years Oscar front-runner The Hurt Locker was nominated for last year's Spirit Awards in actor and supporting actor and going 0 for 2. Weird and particularly peculiar, huh?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rafa and the Gypsy

...'Cause I'm a gypsy
Are you coming with me?
I might steal your clothes
And wear them if they fit me...

Majorcan tennis champion Rafael Nadal lent his hotness to Colombian Grammy winner Shakira appearing in the music video for her new single "Gypsy." He doesn't do much but be shirtless, smile, and look great in a pair of jeans. She does all the dancing, seducting, and singing. So really, the video has a little bit of something for everyone.

Big Screen 'Rome' On the Way

According to Hollywood Insider, the HBO series Rome will head to the big screen with its lead stars Kevin McKidd (Journeymen, Grey's Anatomy) and Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone) likely to return. Rome creator Bruno Heller has finished the script and according to the article, HBO Films will not be involved so they still have to find a director and more importantly a studio.

I am just flabbergasted and insanely happy to hear about this. The show, which took place in Ancient Rome, aired on HBO 2005-2007, but I caught it on DVD at the end of 2008. Like the critics, I quickly became enamored by the characters and the wonderful and gruesome world of Ancient Rome.

I understood why it got canceled since it must have been so costly to make. It certainly *looked* expensive, which was just one of many reasons why I loved it. I like it so much that I can't really bear to watch similar-looking show Spartacus currently airing on Starz. I've seen the first three episodes, but I quickly lost interest as I really did keep comparing it unfavorably to Rome.

If you haven't seen it, I implore you to check it out. Rent it. Buy it. Download it. Whatever. Just watch it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Oscar Predictions

Members of the Academy of Arts and Sciences have until the end of the day today to cast their votes on who they want to win at the Academy Awards taking place next Sunday.

It's been an odd award season with baitier films faltering late in the year to be replaced by more alternative films from earlier in the newest and most exclusive top ten. Many have commented on the length of the award season and maybe this year it's felt much longer due to the repetitiveness of the winners, especially in the last few weeks.

With that said, my predictions below will look quite conservative. I'm NOT going to think outside the box this year, but my goodness if there is at least one big shocker to happen on Sunday, preferably one reflected on my personal ballot, I will be ecstatic. For now, here are the favorites my predictions:

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Lead Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Best Lead Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, Precious
Best Original Screenplay: Inglourious Basterds
Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air
Best Animated Film: Up
Best Foreign Language Film: Un Prophete, France
Best Original Score: Up
Best Original Song: "The Weary Kind," Crazy Heart
Best Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Art Direction: Avatar
Best Cinematography: The White Ribbon
Best Costume Design: The Young Victoria
Best Makeup: The Young Victoria
Best Documentary: The Cove
Best Documentary Short: China's Unnatural Disaster
Best Animated Short: A Matter of Loaf and Death
Best Live Action Short: The Door
Best Sound Editing: Avatar
Best Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
Best Visual Effects: Avatar

Tally: 4 - The Hurt Locker; 3 - Avatar; 2 - Inglourious Basterds, Up, Crazy Heart, The Young Victoria; 1 - Precious, Up in the Air, The Blind Side, Un Prophete, The White Ribbon, The Cove, China's Unnatural Disaster, A Matter of Load and Death, The Door