Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ten Random Thoughts on Summer 2011 Movies

While the summer season doesn't really end until near the end of September, I'm sure many kids on their way back (or already back) to school will tell you differently. In fact the summer movie season is essentially over and so before we say adieu, here are ten random thoughts of the films I saw this summer.

1. The first film I saw this summer also became my favorite film of the summer and that was Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. With a truly original concept and a great cast, it's the only film I saw twice this year. Unadjusted for inflation, it is Allen's highest grossing film ever. Now for the past two years, my favorite film for the entire year was also my favorite summer film (District 9 and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). Will it be the same this year? Time will tell.

2. It's pretty insane how there were three films this summer that reached $1 billion worldwide, but what's even crazier was that I only ended up seeing one of them (Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows). I don't even know anyone who saw Pirates of the Caribbean 4 and Transformers 3. HOW DID THEY MAKE ALL OF THAT MONEY? At least I can take solace in the fact that domestically the latter two films made much less than their predecessors while the last Harry Potter flick is the highest grossing film in its series.

Marvel Superhero Hotties

3. Perhaps because I'm a Joss Whedon fanboy, but I was shocked how much I enjoyed the two pre-Avengers superhero flicks this summer namely Thor and Captain America. They both had their flaws, of course, but good vision from their directors and assured performances by their leading men (and some of the supporting characters) elevated both films. Both films also made more than $165 million, which while not blockbuster status, is still good. Speaking of Marvel and lovely leading men, X-Men: First Class starring Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy also impressed.

4. Speaking of not seeing certain films, here are the 10 films I wished I had seen: Hesher, The Tree of Life, Beginners, Beautiful Boy, Submarine, Another Earth, The Devil's Double, Fright Night, One Day, and Our Idiot Brother. I'll watch all of these eventually, but if anyone has seen any of these, let me know how they were, okay?

5. Women fucking rule. I mean this is already a fact, but sometimes people forget this during the summer amidst all of the testosterone-superhero-robot-action orgy. Bridesmaids kicked ass in the box office making $168 million and counting suddenly making Kristen Wiig a big movie star while the much talked about Viola Davis-Emma Stone film The Help just passed $100 million in the dead of August. Both casts had other great actresses as well.

6. Wait, didn't I just see that? The trailers, the marketing, and everything about No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefit felt like they were the same movie. Fortunately the summer film (Friends) had the youthful vigor and palpable chemistry between its leads that its spring counterpart seriously lacked. Of course a week after Friends with Benefits premiered, a similarly-looking star-studded Crazy, Stupid, Love came out. Again, not really the same film once you see them, but all the samey sameyness beforehand got a little tiring. Also Ryan Gosling either needs to always wear tailored suits or be naked. One or the other. Seriously.

7. Netflix helped me by making a couple of films available. So I was able to see the Keira Knightley-Sam Worthington film Last Night, which was pleasant but a bit forgettable as well as the the Mel Gibson-Jodie Foster film The Beaver, which despite my own personal feelings for the lead, I actually quite enjoyed. So there, I confessed. I liked The Beaver. Now shut up about it.

8. Kids, what are they good for? A lot actually, especially when faced against aliens. The young ensembles of Super 8 and Attack the Block had to face extraterrestrial threat and they both did it in style. The kid cast of Super 8 was the best part of the uneven and self-conscious film while Attack the Block made everyday British kids look like superheroes.

9. I didn't expect much from either Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Cowboys & Aliens, but one film turned out to be surprisingly touching and epic while the other featured Daniel Craig wearing the hell out of leather chaps. I poke fun, but it's true. He really did. Who else was fantastic? Andy Serkis as Caesar in Apes. Just an awards-worthy performance through and through. In any case, Apes is looking at an impressive $170 million gross while Cowboys will struggle to reach $100 million (with a $163 million budget!)

10. The summer wasn't that bad! All of the films I just mentioned that I watched? I didn't really hate or even dislike any of them. I was disappointed in 1 or 2, sure, but I was also pleasantly shocked by a handful of them. I think all in all I saw 15 films over the summer and with that I say, bring on the fall season.

What were some of your favorite films of the summer?

Looking Forward To...

The Debt
Release: August 31, 2011
Distributor: Focus Features
Director: John Madden
Starring: Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Ciarán Hinds, Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

US Open Preview

Note: My power was out due to Hurricane Irene so this is being posted about two days too late, with some first round matches already having been played. No changes to what I wrote were made.

Earthquake. Hurricane. It has certainly been an exciting few days here in the East Coast, but that's just the preamble to the excitement that awaits tennis fans at this year's US Open, the last Grand Slam of the year.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal is going into the Open unsure of his form, but he should get through to the second week with ease. He might be tested early in the third round by either 30th seed Ivan Ljubicic or unseeded David Nalbandian, but I highly doubt it. 16th seed Mikhail Youzhny and 17th seed Jurgen Melzer should also pose little problems. Fifth seed David Ferrer is probably Nadal's biggest challenge in the quarterfinals, but 21st seed and 2003 US Open champion Andy Roddick and unseeded James Blake are also in this section.

In the same side of the draw as Nadal, Andy Murray is only one of a few players on a win streak heading into the Open after winning Cincinnati. His first biggest test would be 14th seed Stan Wawrinka in the 4th round. He then could meet 6th seed Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals, but the Swede has struggled of late. Most likely, Murray could meet 12th seed Gilles Simon or 18th seed and 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro.

Leading the other side of the draw, top seed Novak Djokovic has already won two Grand Slam tournaments this year. Losing only twice this year, he will be very difficult to beat despite his lack of form in Cincinnati where he was forced to withdraw. Toughest test for him would be 13th seed Richard Gasquet in the 4th round then 7th seed Gael Monfils or 9th seed Tomas Berdych in the quarters.

Five-time champion Roger Federer looks to recapture his mojo, but it won't be easy. Dangerous opponent Tomas Belluci awaits in the second round with young up-and-comers Bernard Tomic or Ryan Harrison in the third. Then, 15th seed Victor Troicki and 23rd seed Radek Stepanek lurk in the fourth round. Finally tough trio of 8th seed and US Open Series champion Mardy Fish, 11th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (beat Federer two times in a row), and 19th seed Fernando Verdasco are potential quarterfinal opponents. Good thing he only has to take on one of those players.

N. Djokovic d. T. Berdych
R. Federer d. M Fish
A. Murray d J.M. Del Potro
R. Nadal d. D. Ferrer

N. Djokovic d. R. Federer
R. Nadal d. A. Murray

N. Djokovic d. R. Nadal

Defending champion Kim Clijsters withdrew before the tournament began due to injury, but all that means is that 3-time US Open champion Serena Williams has one less player to get through before possibly lifting the trophy once again. Seeded 28th due to injury and lack of play, Serena can meet 4th seed Victoria Azarenka in the third round. Whoever wins this feels like could be the finalist in this side of the draw, but they have to get through two French Open champions, 16th seed Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round and 7th seed Francesca Schiavone in the quarters. Former US Open finalist Jelena Jankovic also lurks in the quarters.

In the same side, top seed Caroline Wozniacki looks to finally win her first major. If on form, which is not at all a given, Wozniacki should easily reach the fourth round where she can face 15th seed and former US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova or 21st seed Daniela Hantuchova. Sixth seed and this year's French Open champion Na Li, who hasn't been playing well recently but always brings her A-game to slams, and 10th seed Andrea Petkovic are her potential quarterfinal match-ups.

Also seeking her first Slam title, second seed Vera Zvonareva has a very good draw on the other side and should have little trouble until the fourth round with a possible face-off against 14th seed Dominika Cibulkova, 22nd seed Sabine Lisicki, or an unseeded Venus Williams. Grand Slam finalists 8th Marion Bartoli and 9th seed Samantha Stosur are her potential quarterfinal opponents.

Third seed Maria Sharapova, who has shown great form this summer, could have a tricky third round match with 26th seed Flavia Pennetta or unseeded Melanie Oudin. Her serve is key to her reaching the latter stages of the tournament. Wimbledon champion and 5th seed Petra Kvitova in the quarters will be Sharapova's toughest test. 12th seed Agnieska Radwanska (who is unfortunately playing against her sister in the first round!) and 20th seed Yanina Wickmayer are also in this section.

N. Li d. C. Wozniacki
S. Williams d. J. Jankovic
V. Zvonareva d. S. Stosur
M. Sharapova d. P. Kvitova

S. Williams d. N. Li
M. Sharapova d. V. Zvonareva

S. Williams d. M. Sharapova

FINAL WORD: The one person I don't want to win on the men's side is the one person I'm predicting to win, but his record this year speaks for itself. And even if he doesn't win, I don't see anyone out of the top 4 winning it. As for the women, predicting Serena is pretty much default seeing as how I honestly can't see anyone else winning it. Then again, Serena can crash out in the 2nd or 3rd round and I wouldn't be that surprised.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How's the weather?

It's a bit rainy where I am. How are you?

Updated 8/30: Lost power on Sunday around 4:30pm and I just got it back this morning. Posting resumes very soon!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Top Ten Performers of 2011 (So Far)

The past couple years, around this time, I try to take stock of some of my favorite film performances of the year so far before we head into the busy glut of fall/winter with its many festivals, Oscar-bait premieres, and holiday offerings. In years past it was easier to come up with my Top 10 list since I wouldn't have seen that many films (23 films in 2009 and 2010) and more than half of those films just weren't that good to begin with. This year, it's a bit different. To date, I've seen 38 theatrical releases and there are more than a bunch of quality performances that merit mention. So with a bit of cheating on my part, here are my "ten" picks:

1. The entire cast of The Help
- Already I'm starting with one of my cheats. I had to do this. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer deliver Oscar-worthy performances, sincere and heart-felt. Emma Stone, her star continually rising, was as solid as ever and the mother-daughter duo of Sissy Spacek and Bryce Dallas Howard was a hoot. Though special kudos goes to Jessica Chastain who was the most pleasant surprise for me. Didn't even get to mention Allison Janney or Cicely Tyson.

2. Andy Serkis as Caesar (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) - Motion capture? CGI? Visual effects? Animation? Who cares really, because I don't. It was a moving portrayal that has captured a lot of people by surprise with many even saying it warrants some sort of award recognition. I'm in that camp.

3. Michael Fassbender as Rochester
(Jane Eyre) and as Erik Lehnsherr (X-Men: First Class) - Sure I saw him first in 300 and then Inglourious Basterds, but like a lot of people, I didn't really take notice of him until this year when he was asked to play two quite complicated characters that have been portrayed before. Yet with his natural charisma and presence he succeeded in making them his own. It also didn't hurt that he had amazing chemistry with both of his co-stars in the films.

4. Daniel Radcliffe as Harry J. Potter (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2) - Does he really compare to the accomplished adult thespians in his film? Probably not, but this was the first film of the series where I thought Radcliffe just nailed the iconic role. Maybe because it was also his character's biggest moment, but Radcliffe impressed me by not only delivering every emotion he was asked to deliver, but also taking absolute command of every scene he was in.

5. Tom Hiddlestone as Loki (Thor) - Another Marvel baddie makes its way into my list and why not? Unlike most superhero villains, we actually get why he is the way he is. We understand his motivations wanting to prove himself against his overbearing father and perfect brother and Hiddlestone just delivered. Part of why he's on the list is also because of his vastly different role as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris.

6. The kids of Super 8 - In a film that isn't aging well with me even though I only saw it a couple months back, the performances of ALL of the kids (but especially from the main trio of Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, and Elle Fanning) have held up. There were times when I had to remind myself that these weren't just kids goofing off, doing their thing, but actual actors working from a script. That's how good they were.

7. Owen Wilson as Gil (Midnight in Paris) - The only reason I didn't see this film on opening weekend was because I had an aversion to Wilson. So of course he blows me away and then some. Not sure why his role worked for me so well. Perhaps it's because he really wore all of his emotions on his sleeves. We're right with him as he struggles to figure out the fantastical and crazy events happening around him. Just an assured performance above all the great performances by the wonderful ensemble.

8. Melissa McCarthy as Megan (Bridesmaids) - I didn't love this film as much as everyone else did, but I did love McCarthy in it as much as everyone else did. You assume from the trailers that she is just the fat girl whose weight will be played for laughs, and while this is somewhat true at first, her character and her performance is more than that. In fact, I dare say she sort of becomes the heart of the film towards the end. Also, kind of a given, but she's really funny.

9. James McAvoy as Charles Xavier (X-Men: First Class) - While Fassbender gets the flashier role of Magneto, McAvoy really steps it up playing a sexy, flirty Xavier that a lot of people are probably not used to seeing. And the thing is, he makes it work. People sometimes forget how damn charming McAvoy is and he puts that into great effect with this role. Plus his chemistry with Fassbender elevates the film. That's a fact. He also deserves a bit of credit for his work in The Conspirator.

10. Alan Rickman as Severus Snape (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2) - I debated about putting this on the list over any of the dozen or so names that made it on my honorable mention list below, but in the end I knew I just had to. He had to do a lot (and simultaneously NOT ENOUGH) in this final film, but he still managed to deliver a heart-breaker of a performance.

Honorable Mentions: Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, Saoirse Ronan in Hanna, Corey Stoll and Alison Pill in Midnight in Paris, Xavier Dolan in Heartbeats, Maggie Smith in Deathly Hallows, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell in Crazy Stupid Love, John Boyega in Attack the Block, Keira Knightley in Last Night, Hiam Abbas in Miral, Chris Evans in Captain America, and Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre.

I'm thinking about doing a Top 10 list of worst performers of the year so far, but that could be a bit dispiriting to work on. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bulleted Thoughts on Breaking Bad, True Blood, & Weeds

It's been a busy week, so instead of my usual writing on the shows I've seen, just a few bullet-points for each. Plus I already talked about Torchwood a couple of days ago. Onwards!

Breaking Bad

- I have this sick feeling that Skyler is going to die by the end of the season. She got to see a glimpse of the real Heisenberg and she ran away only to return. Talk about a life or death decision.

- Speaking of Heisenberg, wow to Walt's "I'm the one who knocks!" tirade. Hello, fourth Emmy award!

- Seeing Mike smile in regards to Jesse getting the meth back from the meth heads freaked me out AND warmed the cockles of my heart. God, Mike's going to die by season's end isn't he?

- Gus and Walt are playing the long game with each other. Since the latter is the main character, he'll probably win in the end, but at what cost? At what cost?

- Do we really think those ladies Walt hired to help clean the lab were just sent on a bus? To heaven probably. They're totally dead. Man, it's all about death with me with this show.

- Walt is so very smart, except when he's not. Last week pushing Hank to re-open his case and this week discovering Gus' plan only to push Jesse away some more by insisting this is all about him.

True Blood

- Nelsan Ellis was superb in this episode playing a possessed Lafayette requiring lots of emotions (confused, sad, angry, hurt) and then with one line post-possession able to exude pure Lafayette-ness "You got it, bitch." Also nice to see Jesus flexing his magic. It's been awhile.

- Still think the whole Hoyt acting like an asshole is out of character, but I'm still enjoying Jessica/Jason. How cute was it that he crossed out the "Monster" label on the box full of her stuff from Hoyt.

- Sookie's extended dream sequence with Bill and Eric was supremely lame. Don't get me wrong, Anna Paquin looked SMOKING, but the whole think was a bore.

- Though kudos to the writers for giving us a bit of Sookie/Debbie doing Thelma/Louise. I find Sookie way more interesting when she's in a scene with someone she's not sexually attracted to.

- So is Arlene's baby still a devil baby or was all of the craziness due to Mavis the ghost? If it is, kind of a dead end story line there and just a bit anti-climactic.

- Kind of sucks that Antonia has quickly become such an unsympathetic character. Her blind rage and need for revenge will surely be her downfall.

- Why did Tommy shift as Sam to confront the werewolves? Bravado? Stupidity? Sense of responsibility over him raping Luna? All of the above?

- Nan Flanagan is great. First her scene with Jessica and how she now knows she never wants to be a maker. Then her confrontation with Bill as they all lie in the cell. And finally, her awesome "Jesus Fucking Christ" reaction as Sookie yelled Bill's name at the festival. We've all been there, Nan. She and Pam need to have more scenes together.


- As soon as Silas got friendly with Michelle Trachtenberg's character, I knew it was going to bite him in the ass. Nice twist making her the boss of their rivals though.

- So Nancy is finally free. No more jail, no more halfway house, no need to spy on her boss, no more lesbian lover... back to square one. Yay, I guess?

- The whole episode was actually just that. Silas getting close with the girl and Nancy dealing with all obstacle the entire season has setup for her.

- Oh and Shane is in jail. Took them long enough.

Looking Forward To...

Our Idiot Brother
Release: August 26, 2011
Distributor: Weinstein Company
Director: Jesse Peretz
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Hugh Dancy, Zooey Deschanel, Steve Coogan, Emily Mortimer, Adam Scott, Rashida Jones, and Paul Rudd

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tomorrow is a latter day...

I'm not sure how many times I tried to win lottery tickets for The Book of Mormon, but I wouldn't be shocked if it was at least a dozen times. But the waiting came to an end this past weekend as I won the lottery and finally saw the Tony-winning musical. And let me tell you, it was a fucking riot.

Now the only things I knew about the musical were that it was put together by a team consisting of the creators of South Park and the composer for Avenue Q, it had something to do with the Mormon faith, and that it won a crapload of Tony Awards a few months back (9 in total). So I had a few expectations about the tone (funny, crude, endearing) and quality (very high) and my expectations were met and then some.

Tony nominees Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad play the two leads as Mormon missionaries Elder Price and Elder Cunningham respectively paired up to spread the word in Uganda. Their odd couple relationship is played for laughs as well as their fish out of water experience in AIDS-riddled warlord-terrorized Africa. The rest of the ensemble contains the other Mormon missionaries led by the effervescent and Tony nominee Rory O'Malley as well as the native villagers which includes Tony winner Nikki James who takes an interest in the "white boys."

The songs and choreography are as wonderful and memorable as they are varied. The show really tried to mix and match various styles and elements--big ballads, tap numbers, a play within a play, chorus lines, a song that will now be a regular part of my Halloween playlist, etc., but it never felt overwhelming or chaotic. Because underneath the crudeness is real heart which grounded the show from the first "Hello!" It's hard to pick a favorite performer, scene, or song. But I'll say O'Malley's performance in "Turn It Off" is the one I kept coming back to. Let's just say I related to it a lot. Also, how adorable is he? I mean seriously. Rannells' performance of "I Believe" is also quite the showstopper and he duly performed it magnificently at the Tony Awards.

With the numbers it's been doing, this show is going to be around for awhile. Sure the cast will inevitably change, but the words and songs will remain and I hope everyone gets to experience them at least once. Hasa Diga Eebowai!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Box Office: Help! Summer Is Over!

The four wide new releases this past weekend were met with ambivalence by most everyone as the top two spots were taken up by holdovers that are continuing to beat expectations and benefiting from great word-of-mouth. Showing some early legs, The Help catapulted to #1 after debuting last week at #2, a rare feat. Strong box office can only help the burgeoning Oscar buzz surrounding the film. That film flip-flopped places with The Rise of the Planet of the Apes which is doing more than fine in its third week.

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World fared the best out of all the new releases making just over $11.6 million for the #3 slot and it should make back its remarkably small budget. On the other hand, Conan the Barbarian is a big flop grossing just shy of $10 million and costing $90 million. Fright Night and One Day are the other two new releases this week making $7.7 million and $5.1 million respectively, but their budgets are low enough that they aren't big flops like Conan.

Bad news continue for a few of the holdovers including Final Destination 5 and Cowboys & Aliens which are making way less than their expectations. On the other hand, late legs for Crazy, Stupid, Love and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows seem to point to audiences preferring quality fare. Then again, The Smurfs has made over $117.5 million so there goes that theory! Finally, Midnight in Paris passed the $50 million milestone this week with the studio planning to expand the film next weekend which should guarantee its reapperance on the Top 12.

Murray, Sharapova Win; Djokovic Retires

I bet there's an intrepid sports journalist somewhere using the follow headline to talk about the tennis results over the weekend in Cincinnati: "Fourth Seed Downs Serbian Opponent." Why? Because this is exactly what happened in both the ATP and WTA tours.

While Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer went out in the quarterfinal stage, top seed Novak Djokovic and 4th seed Andy Murray reached the finals for a blockbuster rematch of their Australian Open final earlier this year. From the get go, Murray was dictating points while Djokovic looked exhausted. It's no surprise since the Serbian has won every match he has played this year, but one, and that's a lot of tennis for anyone. It all came to a head when Djokovic was broken twice early in the second set after getting medical treatment for his shoulder after losing the first set. Djokovic retired down 3-6 0-3 giving Murray the win and Djokovic only his 2nd loss of the year.

Fourth seed Maria Sharapova and 13th seed Jelena Jankovic both took advantage of injuries, withdrawals, and early losses from some of the top seeds to reach the finals. But they both also earned their place beating four top ten seeds between them en route. The final was anything but easy for the two former world no. 1s. Littered with 100+ unforced errors and more than a dozen breaks of serve, it was the player who held on the longest to win. This is Sharapova's first big hardcourt title in a couple of years and should bode well for the upcoming US Open. Reaching the finals is also a great result for Jankovic who has been floundering the past couple of years.

The US Open is just one week away and as per usual, injuries continue to plague both tours. Apparently, 11 of the top 20 men have been injured post-Wimbledon including more recently top seed Djokovic. The women already has one big withdrawal for the Open in defending Kim Clijsters citing a stomach injury and who knows what is really up with Serena and Venus Williams. Nevertheless, it all adds to the excitement of the US Open. Can't wait.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Is Torchwood Back on Track?

By itself, "Immortal Sins" as an episode really wasn't anything super exciting. About 75% of it consisted of a flashback to the late 1920s introducing us to yet another new character while the rest of the episode was essentially two characters just talking to each in a car. But in the context if this troubled season, it felt like a breath of fresh air.

For one, the flashback story felt like a Torchwood story of old. Captain Jack finds himself in New York City, becoming a bootlegger, and hunting down some alien parasite. He encounters a young man from Italy who wants a fresh start. Since this is Torchwood, they end up in bed and unlike the gay sex from earlier in the season, this didn't feel gratuitous. I also love the chemistry between Jack and Angelo, whose character is well-written and acted. So of course things take a tragic turn when they end up separated, Jack "dying" and Angelo being sent to prison. When they reunite a year later, Angelo is admittedly confused and dismayed to find Jack alive after witnessing Jack's death with his own eyes. Angelo's then shocking decision to stab and then hand him over to a crazy blood-lust mob was absolutely chilling in the way "Children of Earth" achieved and the way the writers have been trying to do this season. Somehow this development felt a bit more organic and earned unlike say building mini-concentration camps and burning people alive. Just saying.

The rest of the episode took place in the present day with Gwen kidnapping Jack to appease the people who had taken her family hostage. The whole hostage situation is a bit forced, I admit, but I'll handwave this because it really gave us some wonderful scenes with Barrowman and Myles. Gwen telling Jack that she would see him "killed like a dog in front of her" if it meant she would have her daughter back and Jack countering with "ripping her skin from her skull" before he lets her take his precious mortality away from him were just chilling. Of course all of this is for naught since Esther/Rex/Andy somehow rescue Jack, Gwen, and her family by themselves. Everything seems peachy now, up until the end of the episode when Jack finally hears who wants to see him: Angelo.

No creepy Oswald, enigmatic Jilly, shady government workers, Rex being mean, Esther crying, Category 1s, camps, etc. We even got not one, but two direct mentions of the Doctor, which made me squeal louder than I expected. We also saw some small hints on the bigger picture of "Miracle Day" such as the three guys that now "own" Jack who shook hands by making a triangle symbol. Or how about when Angelo tells Jack that some people thought of him as a "blessing" instead of a devil. Triangle symbol, the Blessing, a 100+ year old Angelo still alive somewhere... it's all coming together. Let's hope it really does with these last three episodes!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Birthday Hotties: Amy Adams & Andrew Garfield

Redheaded hotties Amy Adams and Andrew Garfield celebrate their birthdays today and other than hair color and sharing the same birth date, do you know what else they have in common? If you said they are both starring in superhero film remakes, then you are right! Adams will play Lois Lane opposite Henry Cavill's Superman in 2013's Man of Steel while Garfield will don the Spidey suit for 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man.

Now both of them have also done some bit work on two of my all-time favorite genre TV shows. She appeared on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as one of the main character's white trash sister while he played a man from Tennessee named Frank in two episodes of Doctor Who. Another thing they have in common is that you probably can't guess where they were born. You'd probably be be shocked to learn that the all-American Adams was born in an Army base in Viscenze, Italy, while the Brit-accented Garfield was actually born in the good ol' US of A, more specifically in Los Angeles.

TV Roles: Frank and Beth

Finally, if you thought they were both Oscar-nominated then you would be wrong. While she has garnered three Oscar nominations (though she deserved another one for her work in Enchanted), he was inexplicably snubbed last year for his critically-acclaimed work in The Social Network. And with that note, happy birthday!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Is It The End of Fedal?

First and foremost, let's answer the question I put forth in the title. Is it the end of Fedal (Federer-Nadal for you non-tennis fans)? Well, yes... and hell no. Well, that was clear. In reality the answer isn't as black and white as a simple yes or a simple no.

Yes, gone are the days when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are playing each other in finals sharing the majority of titles in the ATP tour while others play for scraps. This year alone, they only have four titles total heading into the US Open, which I believe is the lowest tally it's ever been. They both entered Toronto and Cincinnati this month to prep for the last Grand Slam of the year, the US Open, and walked away title-less collectively compiling a dismal 5-4 record. In fact, they both lost today in Cincinnati in straight sets. On top of this, their biggest competition is no longer each other, but Novak Djokovic, the best player on tour right now and who, as I write this, is 56-1 with a 7-1 record against Federer and Nadal this year.

So while their era of absolute dominance may have passed, underestimating these two would be just absolutely ridiculous. They are still both ranked in the top 3 and own 26 Grand Slam titles total. In fact one of those wins came just two months ago when Nadal won the French Open against... Federer. The match before, Federer took out... Djokovic, becoming the only player this year to defeat the "unbeatable" Serb. Federer was also the last person to defeat Djokovic before he went on his amazing winning streak.

Dominant? Probably not. Dangerous? You better believe it! And while Djokovic is the clear favorite at the upcoming US Open, Nadal is still the defending champion and Federer has won the tournament five times. Things can still change in a New York minute especially in tennis.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Poster Musings: Apes Will Rise and Main Street

As I was browsing IMP Awards, this set of posters for The Rise of the Planet of the Apes caught my attention. These Banksy-inspired one sheets have some great touches such as the decision to focus on the film's strong tagline "Evolution Becomes Revolution" over its awkwardly long title and a simple hashtag that subtly convey a call to action.

I can't really confirm the officialness of these posters, but if the studio did have them commissioned for the marketing of the film, then the film has yet again pleasantly surprised me.

On the other hand, there's this other poster that caught my attention in a very negative way. I actually saw the trailer for Main Street a couple weeks ago and it looked okay enough with a cast that I mostly liked. I'll still probably see it just to see Orlando Bloom do a Southern accent. But this poster is absolutely horrendous. It's just so very... white and I'm NOT talking about the cast. Are they all dead? Is this purgatory? Why do they guys seem to be marching? Why do the females look like ghosts? And with so much room on top, is there any reason why Patricia Clarkson's name is nesting right on top of Colin Firth's head? Lordy, no.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kelly Clarkson's New Album Plus Mika & Gaga Music Videos

There's finally some news on the new single and album for Kelly Clarkson. My still favorite American Idol announced today that her new single "Mr. Know It All" will premiere at the end of this month ahead of her new album Stronger which comes out on October 25th aka two days after my birthday (just in case anyone needs ideas of what to get me). While waiting for her new album to finish, she's been singing with country music's newest star Jason Aldean on the beautiful duet "Don't You Wanna Stay."

In other music news, a couple of new videos were recently released. Speaking of artists that we haven't heard from in a while, Mika just today released the video for his French single "Elle Me Dit" (h/t Nathaniel). The singer unfortunately doesn't appear in the fun video which instead feature a Wes Anderson-like family lip-syncing to the words. The song, as is the video, is lovely and ridiculously catchy.

Yesterday, Lady Gaga debut her usual psychedelic and highly stylized video full of crazy fashion and vaguely BDSM imagery for her single "Yoü and I" which is one of my favorite songs from her latest album. While the scenes of her singing with her drag king counterpart were a nice touch, I wished that she had switched the concepts for this and "Edge of Glory." The latter demanded something crazier and more epic than what she ended up doing while "Yoü and I" called for a more stripped down version of Gaga. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that contrasting the video styles with the songs is all part of her Gaganess' plans.

Watch the videos below:

Looking Forward To...

One Day
Release: August 19, 2011
Distributor: Focus Features
Director: Lone Scherfig
Starring: Jim Sturgess, Anne Hathaway, Romola Garai, and Patricia Clarkson

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Torchwood Frustrates, Sookie Bores, and Other TV Thoughts

The more I watch this new season of Torchwood, the more I'm missing the good old days with the gang chillaxing in their super secret underground Cardiff base complete with pet pterodactyl and cute ass coffee boy. Both the pterodactyl and the cute ass coffee boy are most likely in a better place, but the rest of us have to continue watching. Now last week it was Rex who said that Torchwood was no longer, only for him to begin this week declaring himself as a proud member of Torchwood after what he has seen the government do to Vera. I'm glad that his anger for the first time feels justified especially as he and Esther both do very Torchwood-esque things in this episode that give me some hope, but it's probably a case of too little, too late.

My biggest problem with this episode specifically though was how much of a filler episode it was. Other than the very last few minutes with Gwen and the message she receives via her lenses, nothing was really revealed. Esther and Rex find out about Vera, but the audience already knew that. Jack tries to find out who's behind this by tracking a Phicorp man only for both of them to come up empty. Gwen and Rhys try to rescue Gwen's father, which of course they do. And even that shock ending, wasn't really shocking. OF COURSE this whole thing has been about Jack. OF COURSE people are looking for him and want him and would totally use the people he cares about against him. Didn't we establish this already in the premiere? So yeah, I'm frustrated, but I'll keep watching. Though I'm thinking the only way I'll be satisfied is if they bring back the cute ass coffee boy and the pterodactyl.

Thankfully, other shows have picked up Torchwood's slack. Breaking Bad is as thrilling as ever, even though I think this most recent episode was a wee bit over-directed to the point of distraction. Still, it was a turning point episode for the two leads. Most obviously it was a turning point for Jesse who now has a sense of accomplishment after Mike takes him on a day trip and making Jesse think he has saved his life (per Gus' plan). Not only does this seemingly pays off in getting Jesse off his funk, but perhaps also useful in Gus' plan to drive a wedge between Jesse and Walt. Then there's Walt who seems to be unraveling more every week--not knowing what's happening with Jesse, not being able to speak to Gus, not being able to dominate in his relationship with Skyler, and finally not being able to take ownership of the blue meth that Hank has attributed to Gale. It almost seemed inevitable that his hubris would drive Hank back to work in finding Heisenberg. The Los Pollos Hermanos clue he unearths in the end was thrilling. Exciting!

I am not a fan of Sookie Stackhouse, but thankfully True Blood has a whole array of characters and this season in particular, the writers have seem to go out of their way to marginalize their leading woman saddling her with boring story-lines while others get to shine. Downplaying the fairy arc has really harmed the rootability of Sookie, but they can still make a comeback. I'm just saying it's a crime for me to fast forward any scene with a naked Alexander Skarsgard, but that's what I did because I really couldn't care about their union. I'm more into the testy love triangle of Jason/Jessica/Hoyt with the first two displaying their awesome chemistry once again while the latter two giving us two great break-up scenes, one real and another imagined, though both were a bit heartbreaking. There's also the continuing Witch vs. Vampire storyline that led to an inevitable melee in the cemetery with everyone involved. Great seeing Tara and a fresh-faced Pam square off once again. I have no idea where this show is heading, but I'm looking forward to whatever. Heck, I just want to see which character Tommy is going to turn into just for the hilarity factor.

Finally, Weeds delivers yet another solid episode that seemed a bit scattered at first, but it all led to a really hilarious end with most of the men of Nancy's life sitting slack-jawed while she kisses the woman in her life. Sonia's sudden reappearance is intriguing to me, but it's just yet another wrinkle Nancy will need to iron out as well as her working as an informant for the SEC against her boss. Silas going up against another model boy and Michelle Trachtenberg has potential and even though Shane's storyline with the cop this week was a bit dull, I still like the direction it is going in.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Link Roundup

Just a few links that I wanted to share with you all. From pop song tournaments to a possible tennis partnership for the ages to a whole bunch of lists.

The Critical Condition The Ultimate Pop Song Tournament ends with Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" winning against Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" in the championship round. Re-live the whole tournament by going to the site.

After Elton kindly put together a list that combines two of my favorite things, hot guys and TV, as they present The Hot Men of Fall TV. Love the eye candy, but they forgot to include Sean Maher who apparently plays gay in the new The Playboy Club.

GoToTennis looks into the possibility of a Roger Federer-Martina Hingis mixed doubles team for the London 2012 Olympics. My life would literally be complete if this were to happen.

Dynamic Duos: Federer/Hingis, Fassbender/McAvoy

Flix Chatter Ruth posts the top 40 reasons she loved X-Men: First Class. Her top two reasons are mine as well: Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy.

Foreign Policy talks about what Harry Potter and the greater wizard world can expect after the brutal war with Voldemort. Just a great read even if you're not a big fan of the series.

Very Aware presents The Geek Bucket List: 100 Geektastic Things To Do Before You Kick. #17 is "Accept Joss Whedon as your dear and fluffy lord and savior." DONE.

Doctor Who And finally, I apparently need to have a Who-link in every link round-up and this one is the prequel to "Let's Kill Hitler" which airs on BBC America August 27th. It's less than a minute, but I found it quite emotional.

Serena, Novak Dominate; Other Seeds Falter

The tennis world headed to the Great White North last week to play for the Rogers Cup, the first big tournament since Wimbledon a couple of months ago. The women were in Toronto while the men dueled in Montreal. The week saw a lot of shocking results and upsets, but it ended with two players who can truly be called the favorites for the final Grand Slam of the year at the US Open.

Serena Williams
was ranked outside the top 150 three weeks ago, but after winning two tournaments in a row, including this past week at Toronto, she is back in the top 32. En route, she took out top 4 seed Victoria Azarenka and 10th seed Samantha Stosur, both with straight-set victories. While Serena dominated, others didn't have such luck. The top two seeds, Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters, were taken out in their first match with the latter withdrawing with injury. Grand Slam champions Na Li, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, and Francesca Schiavone all couldn't even reach the quarterfinals.

It was a similar story in Montreal for the men. Second seed Rafael Nadal and defending champion Andy Murray were upset in their first matches while third seed Roger Federer fell to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga two tournaments in a row. This made way for the best player in the world going up against the best American man. Top seed Novak Djokovic improved his already magnificent record this year to 53-1 by beating Mardy Fish. Djokovic is the first player to win 5 Masters titles in a single year. Fish, who has reached the final in his last three tournaments, lead in the US Open Series rankings along with Serena.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Meteors Fall From the Sky!

BREAKING NEWS: "We now know that meteors will land off the coasts of different cities..."

Today, August 12 2011, meteors will fall from the sky and crash-land around the world only for us to realize too late that the meteors are really spacecrafts containing pissed-off aliens hellbent in ensuring humanity's destruction. Or at least posits the film Battle: Los Angeles starring Aaron Eckhart.

You know what's my favorite part about these news snippets from the film? They show the DOW extremely down. So if they accurately predicted the collapse of our economy, should we prepare for battle against some hostile extraterrestrials?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SYTYCD: Season 8 Finale

Marko, Sasha, Melanie, & Tadd

While the final performance episode that aired last night was a bit lackluster and the results tonight were a bit anticlimactic, So You Think You Can Dance can still celebrate a largely entertaining and winning season. The immensely talented and personable top four consisted of the smooth Marko Germar, the eclectic Melanie Moore, the fierce Sasha Mallory, and the strong Tadd Gadduang. All of them made an impression on me from the very start, I called Marko "cute," Melanie "sick," and Sasha "dynamic." For Tadd, I wanted to like him, but his hair was distracting. Thankfully his moves throughout the season made me forget about his hair.

As I said, last night's performance's episode was a tad disappointing. With the exception of Melanie, everyone seemed to falter with one or more routines. Still, they all had at least one great number and really at this point of the competition the number of casual voters are quite small as they've long consolidated their fanbase. From the very beginning Melanie and Marko rode the frontrunner wave, never once appearing in the bottom, becoming instant judge and audience favorites. Sasha went toe to toe with Melanie as judge Nigel Lythgoe's favorite contestant. Tadd grew the most knocking off styles that were foreign to him week after week.

All-Girl Top 2

Very early in the season, the judges called the girls "beasts" warning the boys to step up their game or else they'll be left in the dust. Last night, Nigel reiterated this, in somewhat poor taste, to Marko and Tadd pretty much brushing off their journeys and already declaring Melanie or Sasha the winner. For his part Nigel did apologize tonight, but the end result was the same as Sasha and Melanie were the final two left standing (the duo getting 79% of the vote!). After they danced an encore of their magnificent Sonya Tayeh duet, which got them a standing ovation a couple weeks ago from Lady Gaga, Cat Deeley declared Melanie Moore "America's Favorite Dancer." She becomes only the third SYTYCD champ to win without appearing in the bottom, joining season 2 winner Benji Schwimmer and season 4 winner Joshua Allen.

Congratulations Melanie!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Looking Forward To...

The Help
Release: August 10, 2011
Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: Tate Taylor
Starring: Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek, Allison Janney, Octavia Spencer, Mike Vogel, Nelsan Ellis, David Oyelowo, Jessica Chastain, Leslie Jordan, Mary Steenburgen, Chris Lowell, and Emma Stone

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

True Blood On Fire, Torchwood Shocks, and Other TV Thoughts

More than halfway through its fourth season and I'm still loving True Blood. Granted I'm getting a bit tired of the "aw shucks" Eric Northman character especially since I find Sookie so unbelievably boring as a character. I mean look at Bill, I couldn't give a rat's ass about him in earlier seasons and suddenly without Sookie by his side, he actually intrigues me. It helps that for this episode he got to spend time with the radiant Deborah Ann Woll who's been on fire, pun mildly intended, as of late. Is she going to die? I doubt it, but I'm already looking forward to seeing her scenes next week with Jason, Bill, Hoyt, whoever.

Now this episode was the beginning of the huge showdown between witches and vampires as Antonia slowly gathered her coven to replicate the spell she used 400 years ago to force vampires out into the sun. Tara and Holly are on her side, but what's more intriguing to me is where Jesus/Lafayette will align themselves. It's easy to say they'll take up arms against the vampires, but I'm postulating a medium vs. medium duel between Lafayette and Antonia/Marnie by season's end. Pam is still deliciously fascinating as her rotting flesh hasn't neutered her sharp personality. She also gives an assist to the funniest scene of the episode where Ginger gets on top of Pam's violently vibrating coffin.

"Look Torchwood is gone. It's just a name these days." Rex utters this line early in the episode and I wonder how many fans feel this exact sentiment. Now I expressed my general disappointment with Torchwood last week and while that feeling is still there, most of this most recent episode actually gave me hope... only for the show to take it away again by the end. The thing is, I love the character of Dr. Vera Juarez. Unlike Rex, she was likable and unlike Esther, she was confidently competent. So of course she is KILLED, or more accurately burned to a crisp. And suddenly I was having flashbacks to Ianto, Tosh, and Owen and how sad/angry I was when they died. So even though Rex wasn't a total jackass this episode and Esther actually seemed to know what she was going and Gwen continued kicking ass, all I could think of by the end was DAMNIT WHY? Maybe that was the point, to shock us, even though the revelation that the government is channeling the Holocaust with their concentration camps and OH YEAH BURNING PEOPLE ALIVE was probably enough to do that. I'm also starting to not really care about Oswald. There are five episodes left, which was how long Children of Earth was, so I'm hoping they can end in great form. God, why am I still this optimistic?

Apparently the character of Skyler in Breaking Bad is an unpopular character in fandom, but I love her. She and Walt are made for one another. That long scene with the both of them going over her meticulous script was HILARIOUS. Plus I love the parallel between that scene and the scene that Walt has with Jesse with Walt taking on the Skyler role demanding Jesse to take the situation they're in more seriously. This episode also had wonderful forward momentum to every single plot thread. We get to see the fallout from Gus' dealings with the Mexican gangs, Hank is finally doing something other than moping and whining, and Jesse by the end is forcibly taken out of his house and out of his extended doldrums since killing Gale. Speaking of Gale, that karaoke scene was perfection. And I don't say it enough, but Bryan Cranston is great. While he took a backseat last week, he was MVP again with his scenes with Skyler, Jesse, and Hank this episode.

Finally, Weeds wasn't as good as the past two weeks, but it did include our weekly dose of Silas shirtless as he gets involved with an underground male model fight club. Yeah, it's all completely gratuitous, but I'm not really complaining. Plus it meant Silas and Nancy's drug-dealing business is finally up and running. Shane is still working with the cops, a somewhat ironic development, but at least he is showing off the smarts that seemed to have been downplayed the past couple of seasons in order to feature his more darker impulses. Nancy also seems to finally be done with the whole halfway house business, because she's now an information (again). Trouble ahead for her though as her lesbian lover from prison is out of jail and probably wondering what she's been up to. Finally, I admit, I missed Heylia already.