Monday, October 20, 2008

Chuck versus the Cougars

The name might imply that Chuck is having a relationship with some much older women (didn't we see that a couple of weeks ago with Julie Cooper-Nichol?), but in reality the Cougars are the mascot from Sarah's high school in San Diego. In this episode, the audience, but more importantly Chuck, gets a glimpse into the elusive past of Sarah Walker. Turns out Sarah was not the cool girl in high school that she is now. In fact, her name was Jenny Burton and she had braces, bad skin, and bad hair (actually, a pretty bad wig, if you ask me). And still unbeknownst to Chuck, her father was arrested in front of her eyes and taken to prison.

The most important aspect of this episode is the reminder that Chuck really knows nothing about Sarah's past and how she came to be who she is. But that matters not to Chuckles (as Anna calls him) since he feels he knows her very well now, and that is enough.

In other news, in case you possibly missed it, Nicole Richie guested in this episode as the popular high school cheerleader AKA Jenny Burton's nemesis, as well as an associate of the Russian mob. Cue wet girl fight. And Jenny kicks her butt.

With all the attention paid to Nicole Richie (who did a good job, I might add), it was regrettably not mentioned ANYWHERE that Ben Savage (Cory Matthews from Boy Meets World) also guest stars in this episode. It was great to see him as I had wondered what he was up to lately. And he was the lovable nerd, who found a hero in Chuck.

Casey allows Chuck to take a bunch of the credit as he is posing as Special Agent Charles Carmichael to Savage's nerdy genius. It wasn't required of Casey to make him look like the hero, and it was rather endearing.

In the side-plot, the Buy More is left in Lester's charge, and, with much ado, he resigns his post. It was the least interesting part of the episode.

My favorite part of this episode was the mention of the DJ at the high school reunion, where we look up to find that John Casey is up in the DJ booth, throwing his arms side to side, jamming with the crowd. Classic!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Movie: Iron Man

I am generally a fan of the comic book/superhero movies. I have managed to skip a few (Fantastic Four and the first Hulk come to mind), but of course this summer has produced a number of box office successes in the form of superheroes straight from the comics. With Iron Man, I have now seen two of the three on my list (I've seen The Dark Knight but not The Incredible Hulk (yet)).

I had high expectations from Iron Man as it was a critical success (critics gave it a 93% on the site, made a large amount of money worldwide (so far about $574 million), and had been recommended by a handful of people I associate with (see Emily's review here). I think I would have enjoyed it more had I seen it in the theater instead of watching it at home on my pitiful excuse for a television. But I still enjoyed it greatly.

First off, I realize it is "beating a dead horse" or "preaching to the choir" or one of those fun cliches, but let me reiterate what I have said a couple of other times in my blog posts: I really love Robert Downey, Jr. (See this, this or this to see my previous RDJ accolades). He is the opposite of who I would have expected to be cast as Tony Stark. And it turned out to be a casting move (and points out how I should never be allowed to cast anything). I also enjoyed Gwyneth Paltrow playing a role a little different than her usual (she has been off my radar lately, though) and Terrence Howard.

What is it with Jeff Bridges that he just seems to annoy me more than anything else. I knew immediately his character was the "bad guy" and wasn't very interested in him. He is just a turn-off to me when I find out he is in a film I was looking forward to. I didn't think he took away from anything in Iron Man, but I would have liked to see someone else with the role and what they could do with it.

The script, execution of the story and CGI were all outstanding. Jon Favreau did an excellent job adapting this for a feature length action movie and directing it. The effects weren't cheesy and were rather realistic-looking.

Unless you just hate action and/or superhero movies, I recommend this to anyone now that it is available for rental.

Next on the list: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

A Baby Shower at The Office

I have read several complaints about last night's episode of The Office. That it is the worst of the season, or perhaps the series. I have to disagree. This show often deals with the hard things in life, and while they are often successful at making it funny, sometimes it just has to be kind of sad. This wasn't a painful episode for me (such as Phyllis' wedding or the dinner party, which made me cringe). Episodes like Baby Shower remind me that, while Michael is a complete idiot and total social disaster, he means well and you want something good for him. More specifically, you want Holly for him. This week he finally fought his way out from under Jan's thumb and did something he wanted for himself by asking Holly out. And it was a genuinely sweet scene with that hug. Especially after he had been so awful to her the entire episode (needlessly, it seems, as Jan had him figured out anyway). I just wish Amy Ryan was a series regular and not a special guest star. Let's cross our fingers on that one...

The Jim/Pam scenes just reiterated that they don't have the fairy tale perfect relationship. They have to work at it and have off days like the rest of us. I don't see this going in a bad direction.

The Dwight stuff was a bit OTT, but not the most annoying for Dwight. Plus, we got to learn that Dwight performed his own circumcision growing up...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Weekend DVD Review

OK, I realize it is really late to be posting something about my weekend. But I have been busy and I am just getting this posted on a Wednesday.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - I had heard of this movie and was curious. However, it is in French and has subtitles, and I was having a hard time selling my husband on it. I added it to my movie queue anyway, and just watched it by myself. I am very glad I did. I was impressed with both the way this film was shot and edited, as well as the tragic but inspiring story that it portrays. In case you aren't familiar, this is the true story of a successful magazine editor who is completely paralyzed in a car accident. The only part of his body that works (besides his brain) is one eye. Through this eye he not only learns to communicate with his family and caretakers, but decides to write a book, which then gets published. This was a touching story and also greatly intriguing. Check it out.

Charlie Wilson's War - I didn't expect to enjoy this movie. Hollywood always makes bold and heavy political statements with its movies, especially ones that are about politicians. With the heavy stuff we have dealt with lately in this country (I write this while watching the 3rd presidential debate), I just wasn't in the mood. But I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't feel that there was an agenda with this one. Just a story that should be told. A man who wasn't always the most moral finds a cause and invests years of his life (along with several other politicians and citizens and a billion dollars) for what he feels is right. I really enjoyed it. Did I mention I will see pretty much anything that Phillip Seymour Hoffman is in?

The Darjeeling Limited - Wes Anderson does not automatically mean an enjoyable movie for me. I like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. I didn't prefer The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The Darjeeling Limited falls on the side of The Royal Tenenbaums. Anderson writes some very strange relationships, especially among families. Darjeeling tells the story of 3 brothers who reunite in India after a year of not speaking. They meet some odd characters and experience some strange events, both funny and very sad. Anderson favorites Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman join Adrien Brody. The three were good together and just goofy enough to pull off this odd plot. I wouldn't buy this DVD or anything, but I might watch it again if it were on TV. And I enjoyed it especially since I have a trip to India coming up myself!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday Night TV Review

My posting has been super slow lately as I have been pretty busy lately. And haven't had too much interesting to discuss. But here it is Monday again, and that leads me to wanna chat about Chuck, among other things.

Chuck - Have I mentioned I am glad to have Chuck back? I think I have. A few times. The appearance of Bryce Larkin sure throws a wrench in Chuck's plans for love. It is clear to everyone that Sarah is as into Chuck as he is into her. But the writers continue to create very valid reasons they shouldn't be together anyway. Before, it was because of their professional relationship. Then, in this episode, it was because her feelings for him would affect her ability to protect him (as seen when she didn't shoot the bad guy!). But tonight, they add a new reason. Even when Chuck is no longer the intersect, he can never fully know Sarah (her name, her background, her location...) because she is a freakin' spy! My solution: Chuck has to really become a spy. And after Bryce left him those sunglasses with an Intersect update in them, he may not have a choice. (Does anyone else think it strange that someone is capable of putting all this information together FOR Chuck but can't put it somewhere else, so Chuck wouldn't have to be the Intersect anymore?)

The side stories were fine. I don't mind Morgan as much as the next guy. It wasn't nearly as entertaining as the rest of the episode. I loved the concern Awesome showed by giving Bryce a painful cleaning and bandaging. And I also love that Sarah is now a bridesmaid in the wedding! Fun times...

Heroes - I watched this episode SOLELY for David Anders. Sigh... No real comment to make on the episode. It wasn't quite as cheesy as the last two, so I will give them that... (I think it is because we didn't go into the future). I thought it was funny how quickly Ando and Hiro lost Adam. Oops!

How I Met Your Mother - Barney's dumb attempts to get women never fail to amuse me. I loved his dressing as a woman last week to get a lesbian. This week he dresses as an 80 year old man to prove that he will still be as AWESOME in 50 years as he is today (I think he will be, too, but maybe not in the same way). In the meantime, the episode focused on the interventions the gangs have planned over the years: Marshall's tall Dr. Seuss hat, Lily's English accent (I found this especially amusing as it seemed to be a throw back to her husband's portrayal of a Brit in Buffy/Angel), Robin's spray tans, Barney's magic tricks, Ted's pronunciation, Barney's old man suit, and then, of course, the now necessary intervention for the gang's interventions. After Ted realized the gang was going to have an intervention about his relationship with Stella, he decides not to move out of his apartment (followed by Marshall and Lily deciding to stay, and Robin deciding not to go to Japan). Change is scary ya'll! But of course it is Barney and his "arthritis five" (hysterical) that makes everyone realize they don't need to be the same person in 50 years that they are now. It was a fun episode. Was anyone else looking for big clues to what was going on in one year from now? I love when they do that. We also find out in this episode that Barney has been diagnosed as a narcissist with severe detachment disorder. Let's laugh at his psychological problems!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Oh TV, How I Have Missed You

I haven't had a chance to mention it, but I am so happy that fall TV is officially back. Here are the returning series I have been so glad to have back:

Chuck - I am so glad to have have Zach Levi and the gang back on my television on a weekly basis. I adore Chuck, Sarah, and Casey. I have missed their spy-hijinks. It is a relief to see the writers "went there" with the relationship of Chuck and Sarah. It is more of a Sydney/Vaughan thing (we want to be together but can't) instead of the all-too-common "we just don't want to admit it" thing.

The Office - I forget how much I miss The Office when it isn't on. I was looking forward to its return, but wasn't ecstatic. But now that we are one episode in, I am back to full fan level. I absolutely adore Holly and wish she could stay forever. I knew Ryan would be coming back to the office. I figured Michael would jump at the chance of having him back as a temp. And I didn't see that proposal coming at all.

Pushing Daisies - Ned, Chuck & and the gang apparently didn't get very good ratings this last week. I feel I contributed to the drop in viewership, as I missed it Wednesday and had to watch it online on Thursday. However, I am back full swing. This show is not only really pretty to watch, it is fun and well-thought out. Watch this show!

Bones - I quit watching Bones last year about 6 or 7 episodes before the season ended. But one night, a couple of weeks ago, when Sean was out at the Karaoke bar with his friends, I decided to watch it and I was completely enamored. I so enjoy the Bones/Brennan interactions, and I also really like (most) of the employees of the Jeffersonian. I am not a big Cam fan, but I adore Sweets. Love his every scene.

Shows I am not as excited about:

Heroes - I haven't even tried to watch it. I missed the first episode, and based on my husband's brief synopsis, I opted out. The opinions I have heard and read elsewhere only confirm I made the right decision. Perhaps I can find a site online that compiles only the scenes with David Anders.

Dancing with the Stars - I always get sucked into this show, mainly because I am curious and then can not let go. This year, I haven't had that problem. I don't feel like I am missing out. There were only two reasons I would have watched anyway: Maks (and he is now out...) and Lacey Schwimmer (but only to support my SYTYCD peeps!).

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Movie Catch Up

My posts on books has slowed down as my movie-watching has increased. I have watched a number of movies lately as I have realized I can find almost anything pretty handily at the local library branch. Here is what I have managed to watch:

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - I really like Amy Adams, especially after Enchanted. I also think Frances McDormand is great, and was really convincing in this role. The movie was set in the 30s and I loved the "period"-ness about it. But, really, I must admit that it was Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) that made this movie for me. Lee Pace + unshaven face + British accent + passionate musician = Delicious. And on top of all that, he sings! And I love him. Okay, have I gone on too much? This was an unusual, but rather likable film. Check it out (for more reasons than just Lee Pace. No, seriously...).

Savages - I love Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He never fails me as an actor. He always brings it all to the table. Savages is no exception. Pair him up with the always-great Laura Linney, and you have a serious amount of acting chops on screen. The question, then, would be whether the story is of equal quality. While the subject matter was dark (dealing with a dying and dementia-ridden father), the characters were quirky enough to be humorous, while bringing a good deal of emotion to the screen. They played off of each other so well and my favorite scenes were between the brother and sister. I say definitely give this one a watch.

The Bank Job - Based on a true story, I was hoping this heist flick would be really entertaining. Instead, I found it a bit slow. True stories often don't entertain to the level of a fiction work (think Oceans 11 or The Italian Job). Most of the cast was amusing, but the movie just didn't hold my attention. At one point, even though I had been watching the screen the entire time, I had to make my husband tell me what was going on because I just hadn't been paying much attention. There are better movies out there. Of course, if you just want to see Jason Statham in his 70s get-ups, give it a watch...

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - My 18 year old sister insisted I watch this. I really enjoyed it and sat on my couch alone and cried. There were really contrived parts of the story and some of it ended up too perfectly, but there were parts that also ended up a little gritty like real life does sometimes. I was annoyed at Blake Lively's character for being skanky, but you come to understand why and feel a bit sorry for her. I like all four of these girls and it was fun to watch. I'll have to add Sisterhood 2 to my online queue.

Sweeney Todd - I had already seen Sweeney Todd in the theater, but thought it would be fun to watch again. It was dark and dirty and strangely amusing. Johnny Depp seems to really inhabit all of his characters to the fullest. If you plan to watch, be prepared for some gross scenes.

December Boys - In his first non-Harry Potter theater release, Daniel Radcliffe plays one of four orphan boys that go on a trip to the coast. While there, they encounter several different people that affect their lives. Most importantly, they overhear a couple say they have decided to adopt one of the boys. After this, the relationship among the boys is strained as they try to win over the potential mom and dad. This was a rather small film, not widely released in the US. The friendship among the boys is the central story and the most meaningful. I thought it was sweet, but it seemed like I had seen it all before.

In Bruges - Strangely enough, this was a comedy, but I didn't know that. It was a dark comedy as it deals with death in a dark way. A hit man (Colin Farrell) accidentally kills the wrong person and he is sent away, accompanied by another hit man (Brendan Gleeson), who serves as his babysitter. They go to Bruges, Belgium to hide out until the fallout has cleared. As they come into contact with other characters in town, their time in Bruges takes some interesting turns. While this movie isn't amazing, there was some really funny stuff in it.

Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale - We finally got around to watching the finale, even though we own the first two seasons. Do I need to say more than George Michael? Didn't think so... But I will anyway. The finale was perfect parts ridiculous, funny, sweet, and sad. Sean and I are huge Extras fans. If you haven't tried it out, give it a chance. I am not promising it will be your cup of tea, because it is certainly a very specific kind of comedy (Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchent tend to be very shtick-y). But it is fun to watch the celebrity guest stars act completely ridiculously.

What Happens in Vegas - This Ashton Kutcher/Cameron Diaz rom-com was actually a bit better than I expected. Two strangers get married in Vegas while drunk, agree to get a divorce in the morning, and then win $3,000,000 on a slot machine. The money creates issues, and the judge decides not to grant them a divorce until they have "worked" on their marriage for six months (including living together). Kutcher and Diaz had pretty good chemistry and also have similar comedic styling. I thought they made sense in a movie together. Just don't expect this movie to reinvent the wheel.

Sleepwalking - Jolene (Charlize Theron) is a selfish mom who abandons her daughter Tara (AnnaSophie Robb), leaving her irresponsible brother James (Nick Stahl) to take care of her. Nick Stahl really stood out for me, but there is something about him that seems really old school to me, and I am intrigued by his acting style (I still find it odd he was in Terminator 3; mainly he impressed me in Carnivale and In the Bedroom). AnnaSophia Robb played a child who was forced to grow up too quickly. I was constantly reminding myself of how young she actually is. While the plot was really slow, and you could see a bit where they were headed, it was a sad and ultimately sweet story.

Just FYI, I was so overwhelmed writing this post, that by the end, I was just writing a basic synopsis and maybe a single sentence of opinion. It took me so long to write that I kept seeing movies and would then need to add them to my post. Now I am just rambling. But I guess that is a disclaimer about how poor my actual reviews (if you would call them that) actually are.

So You Think You Can Dance Tour - Los Angeles

Last night was the Los Angeles stop on the SYTYCD tour, and I was so happy to see our Season 4 Top 10 (plus a few). On hand to dance were

Chelsie H.
Chelsea T.

I think half of the couples dances were Josh & Katee. I can't comprehend how they had the stamina to keep it up. They did tons of dances together, each had a solo, they had dances in other pairings, and several group dances. Shew!

The tour really shows who is good with the audience, who is a performer versus a dancer. Most of the boys came off better than the girls in the personality department (Twitch, Thayne, Gev, and Will were all good when they had to MC between dances (usually with dorky comedy thrown in)).

Numbers that stood out live:
Katee & Joshua's Bollywood Routine, followed by the group Bollywood routine
Chelsie & Mark's contemporary routine to The Garden (by Sonja)
Katee & Twitch's door routine to Duffy
Katee & Joshua's contemporary routine to Hometown Glory by Adele
Joshua & Twitch's Russian Trepak (so much energy!)
Katee & Joshua's No Air routine
Chelsie & Mark with the briefcase

Solos that stood out:
Gev (so good, and so adorable)
Twitch (feeling the beat myself made all the difference for me with his solo)
Katee (love emotion that shows through)
Will (such a pretty body, but more as a work of art)

One of my all-time favorite contestants PASHA (along with Anya) made a guest appearance to introduce the dance they choreographed for Courtney & Gev. I was so happy to see them. Also in the house were Tyce, Tabitha & Napoleon, and Nigel, along with several former dancers, who I assume are all LA-based now (but I didn't see any of them...).

I realized that the last three seasons have given me some great music, that I have subsequently downloaded. I can't remember any from season 1, but season 2 was Rama Lama by Roisin Murphy, season 3 was The Moment I Said It by Imogen Heap (already had this one but my love grew after seeing the dance), and season 4 is Hometown Glory by Adele. Love a good soulful piano ballad!

Sorry for all my scatterbrained thoughts. It was a long show and quite jam-packed. I can't remember everything! It was a lot of fun, though. I did forget my camera but I will try to steal some from Vance once he posts them.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

9 to 5 the Musical

Last night, Vance and I made a trip to the Ahmanson Theatre to see 9 to 5 the Musical (music & lyrics by Dolly Parton and book by Patricia Resnick) in its pre-Broadway run. Since he is busy going to the set of The Office today (lucky!), I am going to beat him to the punch with my review! Here it is:

Overview: If you haven't seen the 1980 film that inspired this stage show, the story is this: three women who are mistreated by their mean-spirited, misogynistic, sexual-harassing boss band together to take action (action that includes kidnapping and holding him prisoner).

The Cast: Megan Hilty was hysterical as the Texas-bred "Backwoods Barbie" Doralee (nailing the part originally played by Dolly Parton). Her southern sass alone brought on many bursts of applause. I give her extra credit for fitting into those outfits and looking so good in them! Stephanie J. Block played shy-then-independent Judy. Her own surprise as she grows and has new experiences (smoking pot!?!) made her so endearing. And then her powerhouse voice was put to excellent use in "Get Out and Stay Out" (I bet she was an amazing Elphaba). Allison Janney was very likable as widowed mom and potential manager Violet. She is the elder of the three and seems to be the leader, and at times, mother to the other girls, as well. She doesn't have a booming Broadway voice like the other two girls, but it worked with what she had. The best part of the show are these women, and the performances together, and the chemistry they share. Marc Kudisch was slimy and dirty and sleazy as Hart, and I wasn't completely disgusted with him... I know, I am a poor excuse for a woman! But I could kind of see why office manager Roz was so in love with him.

The core cast was outstanding and the ensemble was great. Other cast members who stood out for me were Kathy Fitzgerald as Roz (the rule-following office manager pining away for Hart) and Andy Karl (the cougar-hunting accountant). Ensemble pieces were so much fun to watch, mainly due to excellent choreography from Andy Blankenbuehler (In the Heights) and really fun office sets, circa 1979.

One can not forget to mention the person that completely made this show what it is: Dolly Parton. I love Dolly and her music is just so catchy. She gives this show a feel it wouldn't have if someone else had written the music. The song 9 to 5 is so catchy, and from the opening of the show when that piano beat starts playing, the audience is just sucked right in! The trio of songs inspired by the marijuana-muddled dreams of Judy are a real crack-up.

There wasn't a whole lot I didn't enjoy about this show. Well, nothing really. I think the best description I can give it is this: It was a hoot! If you can't check it out at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles before October 19, go see it when it opens on Broadway next Spring!