Monday, November 24, 2008

Friday Night Lights - My thoughts

I haven't said blogged much, or any, about this season of FNL because most people can't watch it until the spring when it will air on NBC. But Wednesday's episode moved me to tears. And it wasn't anything major. Just the same old reason I love this show. And that is the relationships. While we got to see a good bit of Tami & Eric, Cash and Tyra, Matt & Julie, but the highlight of this episode was the sweet and supportive Riggins/Street relationship. In an episode where Street finally says goodbye to Dillon, we are reminded of his "never stop fighting" spirit. Also, it is revealed that Riggins really enjoys a good musical theater outing, dragging Street to a performance of Gypsy (which he is convinced will be good based solely on the fact that it has strippers in it). And while Riggins and Street can't honestly say "Texas Forever" they can say "Friends Forever" and really mean it. And kudos to Scott Porter and Taylor Kitsch for acting the heck out of their scenes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quick Thursday Night TV Tidbits

The new LOST/The Fray music video. Check it out here for some very cryptic snippets of Season 5.

I just caught the final 20 minutes of tonight's episode of Survivor. I haven't been watching this season, but that tribal council had one of the dirtiest moves I have ever seen. One contestant made a deal with and gave his hidden immunity idol to another contestant. Come to find out, he gave him a FAKE idol. Ouch. The guy got up to use the idol and it was just horrid to watch.

So Pam is back in the Office, and, much to Michael's dismay and surprise, so is Toby. I thought Ryan was really funny tonight, and enjoyed when Pam told him the reason they had a temp was to clean out the microwave. But it reminded me that when this series started, Ryan was supposed to be a very normal, what-am-I-doing-in-a-place-like-this guy. And now he is ridiculous. He cracks me up, but I miss when he actually had a reason to believe he is too good for Michael. Now I think Michael has a reason to believe he is better than Ryan. I loved that the writers/actors made it genuinely feel like Pam would hate the house (that clown painting!) and that she loved it so much. The art studio was so sweet. I am glad Toby is back, even if Michael isn't.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

India or Bust...

So I am headed to Mumbai, India (fka Bombay) in January for about 10 weeks. I am excited/anxious about absorbing the culture, trying new things, and seeing some amazing places. In preparation, I am looking at some films, documentaries, books, etc. that might prepare me and/or educate me before I go. I've had the following suggested to me lately.

My sister Julie recommended the 1989 film Salaam Bombay about a boy forced to survive on his own in the slums of Bombay.

Matt recommended I read A Son of the Circus by John Irving, which is very timely as I have been wanting to read Irving for a while.

I picked up Born into Brothels, an honest look at child prostitution in India.

I also recently saw Danny Boyle's new film, Slumdog Millionaire.

What else might you recommend? Let me know and I can add it to my list!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chuck vs. the Fat Lady

Let me talk Chuck for a second because last night was a great installment. Poor Chuck just can't catch a break in love. On one hand, he has lots more ladies fawning over him since he is basically a spy, but on the other hand, he sure does it screwed over a lot in the love department.

Jill helps Chuck help Sarah and Casey to save the day, and Chuck really wins over the girl. So much so that they decide to run away together (at which point Chuck says, "Safe at last."), just in time for Sarah and Casey to discover that Jill is Fulcrum. NO!

Favorite moments from tonight's episode:

"I have heard the loading dock is like a Five for Fighting concert. So fierce." Said by Emmett (Tony Hale) when he is trying to get Chuck and Morgan to fess up to a pot-smoking secret.

"I don't even care about my own feelings, Bartowski." Said by Casey (Adam Baldwin) when Chuck tries to discuss his feelings with him.

When the secret coded box requires a musical high C, Chuck says, "Where is a pitch pipe when you need one?" This is followed immediately by Casey busting out a high C and the proceeding confession that Casey was a choir boy (not hatched from an egg).
By the way, I checked and this was not a high C. It was an E. Yeah, I am a nerd.

"Nerd code!" Said by Casey after Chuck and Jill plan a meeting using all scientific jargon.

Emmett joins the poker table and brings along a Fuzzy Navel wine cooler that apparently "tastes like high school." It also tastes like high school coming back up, as Emmett can't hold his liquor (or 2 bottles of wine cooler).

Morgan protects Chuck even when he discovers Chuck is a lying cheater. I am enjoying their friendship lately.

LA Twilight Premiere

With only a slight sense of shame, I braved the crowds in Westwood last night for the LA Twilight premiere. While I heard that people spent a couple of nights camped out for great seats, I arrived after the mayhem started. So I can at least claim SOME sense of dignity. As a result, I missed seeing Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black) and Cam Gigandet (James). But there were no shortage of Twilight-star sightings. Here is who I managed to see:

Robert Pattinson (Edward)
Kristen Stewart (Bella)
Peter Facinelli (Carlisle) with wife Jenny Garth
Kellan Lutz (Emmett)
Nikki Reed (Rosalie)
Rachelle Lafevre (Victoria)
Billy Burke (Charlie)

I got some absolutely TERRIBLE quality photos of some of the stars (Rob Pattinson, Peter Facinelli and Jenny Garth, Nikki Reed), but they are proof I was there, at least... I am not posting any because they are terrible, so here is a professional one instead.

By time Rob Pattinson showed up, we just wanted a glimpse and then left because I was literally being climbed by 13 year old girls who were so short that they could see nothing. I was covered in sweat from being in a mosh pit of teens.

We hit up Corner Bakery, which tastily topped off the experience. However, I am not sure I need to do that again...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Movie: Slumdog Millionaire

Tuesday night, we had the opportunity to catch a free screening of Slumdog Millionaire, the latest film from director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later), based on the novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup. Unfortunately, I got there late and sat in the second row. But that did not take away from my enjoyment of seeing this one in the theater.

Written by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), Slumdog Millionaire is the story of a young man named Jamal Malik (Dev Patel, Skins) who goes on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? However, he performs so well on the show that he is arrested before the final question. It is unheard of for anyone to do so well at all, let alone for an uneducated boy from the slums of Mumbai. Through flashbacks, we are told Jamal's story of being homeless, pickpocketing and scamming tourists for money and food. On top of the action of the coming-of-age story, and the excitement of the game show plot, this film is steeped in romance as Jamal finds and loses his love Latika multiple times over the course of their youth. Through everything, he continues to look for her.

Patel was great as the grown Jamal. I had seen him in Skins, and while I liked him as Anwar, his role in this film is so much more gritty and required a great deal more acting skill. The audience clapped for him during the credits. I also enjoyed the performance by Irfan Khan (whom I recognized from The Namesake) as the detective.

On top of the story and acting, the color, the Indian music with heavy beats, the culture, and the editing made this a pleasing film to see. I can't say enough good things about it. One fun thing about seeing movies in Los Angeles is that people clap at the end of movies. They don't do that in Texas. This one garnered some heavy applause.

[Side note: I am heading to Mumbai for several months in 2009, and I am not sure if seeing this made me feel confident about going, but I doubt it will be the same for me.]

Check out the trailer below:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Firefly & Serenity

I'll just place a big SPOILER ALERT here at the beginning.

I became a fan of Joss Whedon in 2001 when I did a two-episode-a-day catch-up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was in syndication on FX. I then jumped on board with the final two seasons when they aired. A few years later, I did something similar with Angel. Most recently, I watched Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog online (as well as purchased it on itunes). Needless to say, he won me over but I never quite found enough interest in his ill-fated Fox series Firefly. The content didn't appeal to me much, I guess. But after several random recommendations lately, I discovered it at the library and picked it up. Here are my thoughts:

I can't say I was immediately sucked into Firefly, but over the course of the series, I grew to care about the characters and had hopes for the storyline. The idea of The Wild West mixed with a little outer space, sprinkled with a smidge of pirates is not one I would have come up with on my own. Leave it to the mind of Joss Whedon to come up with something so odd. But it worked. The main planets were much more advanced by way of technology, and then less-inhabited moons might as well have had tumbleweeds blowing by. Historically, it all kind of made sense.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds, played by Nathan Fillion, was an interesting mix of pragmatism and sensitivity. He really cared about his crew and would risk his life for them, but he would also risk their lives if it was the right thing to do. He could be a jerk but you forgave him that because he had a lot of heart. Similarly to Buffy, he made a lot of snarky Whedon-y remarks in the face of danger.

Summer Glau redeemed herself as I didn't like her much from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (not really her fault as she is playing an emotion-less terminator, but her character just leaves me so cold). River is an enigma and I enjoyed watching her story unfold. River's brother Simon (played by Sean Maher) brought an interesting dynamic to Serenity as an uptight, highly educated, high-strung doctor.

Wash (Alan Tudyk) and Zoe (Gina Torres) didn't make a lot of sense to me as a couple. But they grew on me, and I guess the whole point was how different they were. Wash has some great comedic moments and is very likable.

I kept waiting for Jayne (Adam Baldwin) to show some sort of positive characteristics, or to have some sort of redeeming moment. His best moment was in "Jaynestown" but even then, I was left wanting a little more from him. But granted, we were only given fourteen episodes, and given Jayne's past, that is a quick redemption.

The cast was just well-rounded and really worked well together. You can tell they really enjoyed working together.

My favorite episodes were "Our Mrs. Reynolds" (Christina Hendricks of Mad Men played the heck out of Saffron, and I was taken completely by surprise when she revealed her true self; the episode was quite goofy), "Out of Gas" (Mal basically decides to go down with this ship, but not before kicking some butt, which ultimately leads to him saving the day), and "War Stories" (I have always enjoyed when side characters get sucked into the battles (see Marshall spying it up on certain eps of Alias) and no one thought twice about taking a gun and going after Mal and Wash).

Given that the feature film had a bigger budget (not huge, but bigger), Whedon had a while to work on the script, the story had to be good enough to haul people out to the theater, the actors were so glad to be back to work on Firefly, and especially that FOX was not releasing the film, I found Serenity to be very entertaining, and enjoyed it more than the series itself.

There were great action sequences, some real progression in the story line (especially with River). River got to kick some major butt, and it was shot really beautifully, kind of like a dance (I understand Summer Glau is trained dancer). Chiwetel Ejiofor was great as the operative without a name. He is just the guy that gets it done. Er... most of the time, anyway. Might I mention that Nathan Fillion looked more handsome in Serenity? Perhaps, it was the new hair, or the couple of years aging in between. Whedon never shies away from killing his main characters, both to keep viewers on their toes and to be realistic. The death of Shepherd Book was harsh, but as soon as I saw the ravaged haven, I thought it was a possibility. However, the death of Wash was unexpected and really sad, especially as he had just saved the day!

All in all, I enjoyed the series and feature film. It did not catch my attention when the shows were originally airing, but now that I know the story, characters, etc. I would be very interested to see where else things could be taken (a new movie would be great!).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Chuck vs The Ex

I can't resist blogging about Chuck. It is one of my favorite shows right now. Zach Levi plays Chuck in a way that I can't resist watching. And loving it. He's cute but he is, I mean. He is really smart but not good with ladies (or at least he doesn't think he is).

Tonight's episode was really fun as it added a new layer to the already confusing relationship between Sarah and Chuck: Jill, Chuck's ex-girlfriend from his Stanford years (yeah, the one that cheated on him with Bryce Larkin). She shows up in town and Chuck flashes on her boss, which requires him to take her on a date to probe her for information. The date goes horribly wrong and leads Chuck to grovelling, eventually confessing to being CIA, and helping to save the day (and prove his manliness).

Jordana Brewster plays Jill, and the two have great chemistry. And while it would be mean of Sarah to deny Chuck some romance in a real relationship, it is certainly clear that she is hurting watching their relationship play out.

Jill is not the only one that got to smooch Chuck tonight. When trying to save the day, Chuck believes that an antidote in his system would be transferred to others via saliva. So he gives an ailing Casey a nice big smooch on the mouth. This was absolutely cracking me up, about as much as Casey wearing that getup in the restaurant. I should mention that I literally finished watching Serenity 5 minutes before Chuck started tonight, and the thought of Jayne in such a position was more than amusing.

Back at the Buy More, Big Mike chokes on a donut and the associates are required by Emmett to complete a life-saving training course, conducted by none other than Awesome! It was a fun use of the Buy More crew and an interesting way of bringing Awesome into contact with some characters he doesn't normally interact with.

This was a great episode, and I can't wait till next week when Chuck will seemingly choose Jill over Sarah, Casey, the NSA & CIA, and the Intersect altogether. I love this show!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Extra Extra!

In an effort to blog more often (and the reason behind my lack of blog posts lately being my new job), I am now going to whip up a quick post about my newest venture in employment. I have recently been working as a background actor, aka an extra. Most people do background work to break into acting. However, my main purpose was to have flexibility, a little spending money, and to do something fun. It has been a treat working on TV sets of shows I enjoy and meeting lots of fun and different people.

Today, I hit the mother lode as far as star-watching is concerned. Let me preface this by saying that, when you work a show, it isn't quite as exciting to see the actors from that show because you know they are going to be there. However, guest stars and other surprises like that are always fun for me because they take me by surprise. My friend Amy saw Harrison Ford last weekend and we decided that may be the "best" celeb-spotting either of us has done. I would like to challenge her Harrison Ford and raise her a Clint Eastwood. Yes, Clint Eastwood was driving a golf cart around the Warner Brothers lot today willy-nilly, and he managed to cut through the area where we were shooting Without A Trace. Twice. It was all very exciting. He seemed like a cool, laid-back dude (well, what I saw of him driving by, anyway)

In addition, today provided me with a glimpse of Angela Bassett (on the lot for ER), David Arquette (sitting in his trailer waiting to film Pushing Daisies), and my personal favorite: Lee Pace.

When I discovered we were shooting RIGHT next to Pushing Daisies, I made it my goal to hunt down Lee Pace. I took a very long, out-of-the-way route to the bathroom (making dumb excuses for my path to anyone who noticed). Lo and behold, I was parked in my car waiting to "drive through the streets of New York" when I saw Lee walking to his car in a nearby parking lot, laughing heartily with the person he walked with, and hunched over just a smidge. It was quite adorable. If you need a reminder of my love for all things Lee Pace, look back at my review of Miss Pettigrew...

My extra jobs have provided good discussion topics and it is really enjoyable to see how the "business" works. How long everything takes mainly.

Now, I woke up at 3:30 this morning to get to set at 5 am, so I am headed to bed now. More scoop to come as I get any. ;)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Spring Has Sprung

So, I FINALLY caught a production of Spring Awakening last night. It was on its fourth night touring through Los Angeles. I have regretted not catching it (and, now, probably never having the chance to) on Broadway, seeing all the rave reviews I have read (mostly from Vance, every time he went to see it...). So it was a joy to see it for the first time.

I have had the original cast recording for about a year now, so I knew all the music. I also already knew the story. So I wondered how much I couldn't just piece together without ever taking a step into the theater. Luckily for me, I needed to see it in person to experience it (it was too bad I experienced it in such a large theater, and sitting in the very back (I was dizzy when I first walked to my seat)). I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more if I had not been straining to see, but I managed alright.

It is unfair to compare the cast I saw last night to the one on the recording, because I never really saw them perform it. So I will try to be unbiased in that manner. Let's start with Kyle Riabko (Melchior), who seemed to carry the show, both with his voice and his acting skills. I think his singing/acting/choreo actually changed my mind on a couple of songs I wasn't crazy about before. Christy Altomare, playing Wendla, was the hardest not to compare to her OBC counterpart, Lea Michelle. She sang much more even and pronounced on her songs, so it sounded very different. But she had a beautiful voice and played the naive innocence of Wendla very well. Blake Bashoff (who I recognized as Carl (RIP) from LOST) was quirky and dramatic as Moritz, bringing lots of giggles from the audience. I especially enjoyed him in And Then There Were None and Don't Do Sadness.

As for the rest of the cast, the standouts for me were Sarah Hunt (Martha), Steffi D (Ilse), and Andy Mientus and Ben Moss (Hanschen and Ernst, respectively). The latter two had the crowd in stitches during The Word of Your Body reprise.

I was also thoroughly amused watching the conductor/keyboardist. He was absolutely jamming. He probably does it in part because he has to play the piano and conduct the rest of the band at the same time, so it is a good way to keep the beat for everyone. But it was hysterical and brought a good energy to all the music. I found I looked at him often.

As for songs, I mentioned above that, after seeing the show in person, there are different songs that stand out than the ones I would have picked off the recording. The choreography, blocking, acting, and lighting that took place during some songs made them so much more entertaining to see in person. Examples of this are The Bitch of Living (full of energy), The Mirror-Blue Night (Riabko on that last note just killed me), and Totally F***ed (made me want to stand up and jump around).

I won't say too much of the story in case someone wants to see it and I spoil it. But I left feeling like I had been wrung out like a rag. It is a stick-with-you kind of show. And it is not for everyone. Maybe one or two people in my family would enjoy it at all. I know for the LA production that there are still tickets available. The theater is large and wasn't sold out. Also, I think you can get same day Hot Tix through Center Theatre Group.

[Perhaps my sight should have a disclaimer that there aren't many shows I don't enjoy, and just the energy and experience of live theater always counts for something! Having said that, I think Spring Awakening is worthy of a great review.]

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Songs of My Childhood

I have been working 2-3 days a week and my post-load has really dropped! Fortunately, I don't have that many readers, so not many people rely on me for entertainment...

I have managed to hear several of my favorite songs from early childhood on the radio lately. It inspired me to write this post of my early faves, and to date myself very obviously. In addition, I noticed how much I loved songs with harmonies even from a very young age.

Angel by Aerosmith (1988)

I actually remember singing this at the lunch table with Ashley Brakebill. This was the very first song that I knew all the words to (that weren't on my Psalty tapes). I loved Steven Tyler's "A-ee-a-ee-a-ee-an-gel."

More Than Words - Extreme (1990)
This one is a bit later when I was already 11. About this time I was jammin' in my sister's car to Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer, but this one is one that really stuck with me. I also remember seeing the video (the only video on this list I have ever seen).

Glory of Love - Peter Cetera (1987)

Who doesn't love a man that would fight for your honor. Apparently, I loved that kind of man even when I was 8. It probably helped that this song was in The Karate Kid, Part II... The Peter Cetara parts of that video are AMAZING! :)

Can't Fight This Feeling - REO Speedwagon (1984)

I don't remember when this song caught my ear, as I am sure it was not when I was five years old. But it was one I loved for years (still good!). This was a WEIRD video for 1984...

What songs from your childhood really stuck with you to adulthood?

Book: Stephenie Meyer's The Host

I just finished Stephenie Meyer's latest non-Twilight series novel called The Host. This also happens to be her first book written for adults. I waited a couple of months for this one from the library, as Meyer's popularity has grown so much lately that there were about 100 people in queue for it.

The facts are these (said in Pushing Daisies voice over style): The book takes place in the present where the earth has been invaded by a group of aliens (called Souls) that attach themselves as parasites to human hosts, thereby drowning out each person's true soul and taking over his or her life, including memories. There also exists a gang of still-human rebels, hiding in caves in Arizona. Melanie Stryder is a human that has been invaded by a soul, but Melanie herself finds that she can fight back from within. As a result, Melanie and her parasite (Wanda) team up to locate the rebels, and take refuge there. Yeah, it sounds really strange and I am not doing the best job of explaining it. I think I just confused myself...

It was a little hard to get into. But Meyer certainly thinks through all the details of the worlds she creates for her books. I find that often I can predict where things are going, and I managed that a couple of hundred pages before the end of the book, but I was entertained nonetheless. However, don't automatically assume you will like The Host just because you are a Twilight fan. She managed something pretty special with the Bella/Edward relationship that she won't be replicating any time soon.

In addition, I was as annoyed with Wanda as I was with Bella for being so dumb in drawing realistic conclusions. I realize certain things are written to make things not quite so obvious, but if the reader can guess things to come and you characters are supposed to be intelligent, then you would assume they could come to reasonable conclusions, too. But that is forgivable.

I enjoyed Meyer's creation of a fictional earth and alien invasion. But if you have a laundry list of books you are trying to read, make it Twilight before you make it The Host.