Friday, February 23, 2007

The OC: the end of an era!

You know, now that I think about it, last week's episode of the OC really could have served as a series finale. Except for the fact that the state of the Cohen house was in question, things were wrapped up relatively nicely. Kirsten's baby was fine, Ryan and Taylor reunited, Julie and Frank reunited, and Summer was going off with G.E.O.R.G.E. Technically it could also have served as a season finale had the show not been cancelled. But because the show had enough fair warning about the series ending, they got the chance to do this week's episode as a real goodbye for everyone involved, including the fans.

That said, because things last week had so much of a "wrap-up" feeling, a fair amount of this week's episode was setup. They skipped ahead six months, and it felt like things were being done all over again. Ryan and Taylor had broken up, so they had to reunite again. Julie and Frank had broken up and she was getting married to the Bullitt, so that had to be resolved all over again. Summer ended up not taking the job with G.E.O.R.G.E. so she had to make that realization all over again. The first 50 minutes of the show did have a lot of great gems, as is true with most of the series as a whole, but it seemed almost unnecessary. I did tear up during the scene with Julie and Summer and the locket with Marissa's picture though. It was a nice minimal and fitting tribute to her.

After the wedding was when things started to really pick up. I was completely surprised but really loved that Julie pulled a Kelly Taylor and chose herself. I knew that Summer wasn't going to end up going to Providence with Seth and their goodbye scene got me pretty teary as well. And the scene with Ryan going through the old house with snippets of scenes from the pilot was wonderfully nostalgic, especially the glimpses of Marissa and Seth. Ryan looked so young back then! (Man I have an urge to watch the pilot again.)

I almost thought the episode was over at that point, but this is the OC, and it can't go out without a song montage. No one does the song montage like the OC. I'm so glad that they showed a little bit of what happened to the characters. Julie graduating from college, Kaitlin being smart at Williams (I appreciated that they had that scene implying she was good at math...I'm really tired of teenage characters on TV, especially girls, being bad at math, although "x=25" is the lamest line ever), Sandy as a law professor, and of course Seth and Summer getting married! I liked that they showed little Sophie as a gauge for how many years had passed so Seth and Summer didn't end up doing it too young. I'm also glad that they left Ryan and Taylor open-ended. As much as I loved them this season, Ryan's story is much more than about her, so the ending with him seeing a kid that reminded him of himself couldn't have been more perfect. The OC comes full circle!

Also, you know, one problem I've always had with teen shows is the whole high school-to-college transition and how they have to come up with stupid scenarios to have everyone end up in the same place. (I'm looking at you, Buffy, and Dawson's Creek, and Veronica Mars.) I mean, the OC did that this season too, but with the series ending, everyone was allowed to move ahead more realistically, with the kids spread all over: Ryan at Berkeley, Taylor in Paris, Seth in Providence, and Summer on the activist bus. So cancellation can bring good things!

Other favorite things from this episode:
  • "Briefcase or No Briefcase"
  • "Aw real-life Jake and real-life April broke up"
  • The bagel slicer gets its own scene being packed away!
  • The ridiculously convenient midwife-and-wedding-planner gay couple
  • The Bullitt boys
  • "Maybe he'll come out wearing a wife beater"
  • Team Julie!
  • No mention of harmony-upsetting people like Trey or Theresa or Jimmy or Volchok

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Counting down to the end of the OC

This week is the series finale of the OC, and I have to say that it makes me a little sad. Despite a significant amount of suckage over the years, it's still produced tons of memorable characters and moments and I think I'm really going to miss it. But at least, like I've mentioned before, the show is going out on a really high point. So in preparation for the finale, here's my list of my favorite things from the show:
  1. Ryan and Seth. The show's iconic beginning might have been about Ryan and Marissa, but ultimately Ryan and Seth have the best relationship on the show. It's not as obvious as JD and Turk on Scrubs, but their friendship has really driven a lot of the show, and I loved that Seth got to help out Ryan this past episode and acknowledged that Ryan has helped him out of dozens of other sticky situations. As cheesy as this may sound, they really are brothers.
  2. Seth and Summer. I definitely had a crush on Seth first season, and in real life I think I'm still kind of looking for a indie-rock-comic-book-geek of my own. As for Summer, she's changed a lot since we first met her, but even with the recent emergence of activist Summer, she's remained one of the most loveable characters on the show. Plus Seth and Summer's Spiderman kiss was probably my favorite moment ever on the show.
  3. The Cohens. Sandy and Kirsten really elevated this show from being your average teen soap. Usually I can't stand when they try to give the parents storylines as well (which seem to invariable involve affairs and babies) but I cared about Sandy and Kirsten as much as, if not more, than the kids.
  4. Marissa's death. Gutsiest move I've maybe ever seen on a TV show. I went up and down with liking and disliking Marissa, but her death was unequivocably one of the saddest moments on the show.
  5. Julie Cooper. Possibly the single most entertaining character on television. She alternates between being immensely likeable and completely evil, she does high drama and screwball comedy equally well, and has had the craziest run of anyone on the show.

Honorable mentions for Taylor, who's really perked up this final season; Chrismukkah; "Welcome to the OC bitch"; the weekly dress-up functions from first season; Atomic County and the Valley; and of course the music department stealing all my thunder and playing all the bands I like the week after I discover them.

What were your favorite things from the OC?

Nerds://A Musical Software Satire

Although with my limited theater experience I'm probably not really one to make generalizations, I feel like there are 3 kinds of musicals out there. There are the epic dramas, like Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera and Evita and Rent; more happy family-friendly fare like Cats and Hairspray and Wicked; and then there are the rest, which I can only classify as "adult quirky." They're usually comedies, sometimes satires, often based on such unlikely things as movies (e.g. the Wedding Singer), the music of a particular group (e.g. Mamma Mia), classic novels (e.g. Little Women), or real-life events that have nothing to do with music. I recently saw two musicals of the latter variety. Over Christmas I saw Grey Gardens on Broadway, and that was based on the story of two relatives of Jackie Onassis that became known for being notorious recluses in the Hamptons. And this past weekend, I saw Nerds at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, which is based on the story of the rises of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

Nerds tracks Bill and Steve as they form their companies, find both success and failure, and learn some lessons along the way. Everything is pretty hilariously exaggerated and some things were obviously not historically accurate, but it was a fun ride nonetheless. Bill is the bullied technical genius, while Steve is the hippie idea man. The first half is relatively earnest: Bill sings "I am just a nerd," both Apple and Microsoft are formed, first Steve rises to the top with his "rock and roll" Macintosh computer, and then Bill retaliates by stealing ideas from Apple and introducting Windows with a hilarious rap number. There's a little romance too, as Steve falls for the idealistic environmental activist Sally.

The second half is where things go past light-hearted satire into full-fledged wackiness. An angel-like figure comes to Steve, Bill's so powerful that he summons an Italian clown to impress Myrtle, a nerd-with-head-gear-turned hottie, and Bill and Steve go at eachother in a light-saber fight in the courtroom during the antitrust suit against Microsoft.But things come full-circle by the end, with Steve bouncing back with his idea of the iPod, and Bill realizing that he's become the bully that he feared so much earlier in his life. Pretty cheesy but even for a satire this is still kind of a feel-good story.

Beforehand I was a little afraid that this was going to be uber nerdy, but it was definitely written for a wide audience and I think that even people who don't know anything about Bill Gates or steve Jobs can enjoy it. Although there was also definitely plenty there for people who were more in the know to recognize and appreciate.

Nerds: A Musical Software Satire
Philadelphia Theatre Company

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday Night Lights rocks my world

First of all, I just about died from adorableness overload when Matt asked Julie, "Will you be my girlfriend?" Man I totally missed out on having a super cute high school romance.

I have to say that I don't really like the Julie/Tyra friendship. It's seems to me to be such cliched TV stuff. But they are handling it really well (as they do with everything on this show) and it made for tons of great scenes in this episode. I was a little worried from the promo of seeing Julie in jail, but I'm glad that it wasn't totally ridiculous and involved Tyra and Matt and Landry too. Can I mention again how awesome Landry is? Everything is funnier when he's around. And of course the Taylors continue to prove that they're the most realistic family on TV. Everything that the Coach and Tami and Julie were saying after getting home from jail was completely spot-on. I especially loved the Coach's convoluted scenario with the "first" and "second" persons, it's so him. I also loved that Julie kept ending their arguments with "Whatever." I'm 23 but I still pull the "Whatever" whenever I'm irritated with my parents and just want the conversation to end. I don't think Tyra's all that bad but I can see how parents wouldn't exactly be thrilled that their previously studious and perfect daughter was hanging out with someone like her.

Anyway, onto the more serious part of this episode. It really didn't turn out like I expected at all, and I was really pleased. I was entirely expecting that Mac would just get fired but the way it all played out had so many more layers of complexity, and it was much more true to life and less cut-and-dry. The scene where Mac resigned at the Taylor's house was extraordinarily well-acted, and I can see why the Coach decided to keep him on. And simultaneously, I loved Mama Smash's little speech to her son about how the best way to prove them all wrong was to play the game and that he would be proving his leadership by bringing all the other players back as well.

And the situation at the game and on the about intense. I was honestly scared when those cops were threatening to pull Smash from the bus, and was envisioning all sorts of crazy overdramatic scenarios that could result, so I was completely surprised and relieved when Mac stood up so firmly and made them back down. It was a little convenient that the Panthers got to win the game anyway, but the whole storyline was so incredibly well executed that I didn't mind that so much.

How is it possible that this show gets better and better every episode? Don't kill me for saying this, but I almost want the show to get cancelled prematurely so I'll have good memories of it and it doesn't have a chance to spiral downward as most shows eventually do after a phenomenal first season.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Illusionist: in which Jessica Biel is actually kind of good and Rufus Sewell once again does not get the girl

Last fall, after seeing the previews for the Illusionist and the Prestige, I wondered, why are there two period dramas about magic coming out at the same time and why is neither based on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell? Now, I'm not saying that I would have wanted a movie based on Jonathan Strange (it's a much too complicated and long to be adapted into a feature-length film) but it was definitely a bit strange. Anyway, I never got around to seeing either while it was in theaters but I got the Illusionist from Netflix and watched it this weekend. The Prestige is next on my queue and I'll probably review it in a week or two.

The Illusionist stars Edward Norton as the Illusionist in the title, along with Paul Giamatti as a police inspector, Rufus Sewell as the villainous crown prince, and Jessica Biel as Sophie, a duchess and object of the Illusionist's affection. I love Edward Norton, I can't think of any movies that he's been in that I haven't loved, so that was already a plus in favor of this movie, but as some of you might know, I LOATHE Jessica Biel. So it was to my complete surprise that I found her to be completely tolerable in this movie. I think most of my hatred towards her has to do with the way she talks and associations with her beyond-irritating character on Seventh Heaven, so to see her in period dress and hear her with a European accent...she was like a completely different person and I didn't mind her at all.

That said, I really enjoyed this movie. It has an interesting "look" and color, with edges of the screen often blurred into darkness, and everything tinted to seem kind of aged. The music was also superb, and fit the mood of the film extremely well. I wasn't sure where things were going at all in the first half of the movie, but once the mystery section kicked off things improved immensely and it kept me guessing. I did figure out the ending well before the police inspector did though.

Does anyone else feel like Rufus Sewell has played an awful lot of powerful men that the more common "hero" of the movie must defeat in order to get the girl (also see Tristan & Isolde and A Knight's Tale)? He has successfully played the good guy before (most notably for me in Dark City) but it seems that he's now the go-to guy for this kind of role....

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Friday Night Lights is awesome. Period.

Best new show this season, hands down? Friday Night Lights. I've done some limited gushing over this show already, but I think it's time to take that gushing to a new level: I'm going to be posting on this show whenever possible from now on.

I went to a school for nerds in a big city that didn't care about football in the least, so I'm probably not one to say anything about how things really are in Texas, but I thought that the racial tensions issue was handled extremely well. Mac's comments to the reporter were definitely not right, but the fact that they were sort of veiled and not outright slurs (except for the junkyard dogs part...) made the situation much more complex. I like that Smash brushed them off at first and wasn't offended at all and gradually realized throughout the episode that he needed to do something about it. Some people might say that Waverly was kind of an instigator here, but I can understand how a more high-profile incident like this one really brings out all the tensions that have been there all along. I'm really interested to see how this turns out, although I don't really see any course of action besides the coach firing Mac, despite this being pretty bad timing with the team going for State.

On a lighter note, how awesome was the powderpuff game? It was the perfect counterbalance to the heavier racial issues plot, and it allowed for a ton of really cute moments. I think what I love most about this show is its ability to have every single scene be worth it. I mean, check out this list: Riggins asking if any of the girls knew what a chop block was before making his first pick (what the heck is a chop block anyway?). Matt looking all flustered and picking Julie third because he obviously didn't know what to do. Riggins taking his coaching duties extremely seriously while Matt telling his team that no matter what they were all winners. Coach Taylor getting all excited that Julie was quarterback and the scene in their yard. Landry as referee and telling the coach to "get off his line." Tyra kicking butt on the field. Matt's grandma holding the sign for Julie! Matt running down the field with Julie while she was making the touchdown and picking her up when they won! They're so getting back together soon.

(Oh, by the way, I didn't even know what powderpuff was until I got to college and someone explained it to me. I also had the actual meaning of homecoming explained to me in the same conversation...everyone thought I was from another planet.)

And for a change, Jason's storyline was sort in the background this week. I'm not really so hot on him thinking that he's going to make the national rugby team, which just seems like a setup for more disappointment to me, but Herc is still awesome. It was strange seeing Jason back in school for that one scene...somehow I'd kind of forgotten that he's still high school aged. I haven't really been too bothered by the fact that most of the cast is played by actors who are in their twenties but it really dawned on me this week how old Jason really looks.

Lastly, Coach Taylor and his wife are so the best married couple/parents on TV right now. Yes, they have surpassed Sandy and Kirsten Cohen and are getting better every single week. How sweet was their scene in the living room?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Veronica Mars: a very mixed bag

This week's episode of Veronica Mars was kind of a weird one. I really liked the mystery-of-the-week and really thought it was one of the best in a long time. I loved that Tim turned out to actually be a good boyfriend, that Rev. Capistrano turned out to actually be a real, geniune Christian and not crazy or hypocritical like televangelists are often portrayed, that Keith and Veronica posed as Carson and Nancy Drew, that Dick was being, well, was all really really great.

But the rest of the episode? Kind of sucked. I feel like the mystery would have worked a lot better had Veronica not been going through her own pretty serious drama that she was completely not dealing with. Besides which, I really hate this twist in the LoVe saga. I'm not that upset that they broke up, because face it, it was inevitable, but this is why? I feel like it was totally out of character for Logan to sleep with Madison. Yeah, he's capable of plenty of stupid stuff, but he's been known to be extremely protective of Veronica and pretty harsh with people who've wronged her, so Madison, of all people? I guess the writers wanted to come up with something that Veronica would find unforgiveable, but to me it's just not believable at all.

I also kind of had a problem with Veronica wanting to crush Madison's car and getting Weevil to do it. I know she's into vengeance, but Weevil really doesn't need to be getting into any more trouble and she knows that. Also, as much as it was nice to see Weevil (and he did have some great lines), can we please bring back Mac and Wallace? I don't understand why Rob Thomas has his supporting cast for less time than every other show on TV...

Oh, and there was also a little more progress on the Dean O'Dell murder front. I'm not sure how many episodes are left in this mystery, but it's moving somewhat slowly. It almost seems like we've already moved onto the standalone episodes thing.

Monday, February 05, 2007

one word for Top Design: eh

Just wanted to note quickly that I checked out Bravo's latest competitive reality show, Top Design.'s no Project Runway or even Top Chef.

I mean, first of all, HGTV already did this reality show, it was called Design Star, and I didn't like that one much either. But here, Todd Oldham is some kind of weird meld between Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum and his voice was kind of driving me nuts. The judges all seem kind of bitchy (has anyone ever even heard of Elle Decor magazine?) and I don't know, I just can't get excited about interior design. Truthfully, I never thought I could get excited about fashion either before Project Runway, but one episode of that and I was hooked. Here? Not so much. I'll probably watch a few more episodes (this is the problem with having a DVR, watching bad TV is entirely too easy) before I make my final judgment, but honestly it's not looking that good.

Jane Eyre: was Mr. Rochester always this hot?

So yesterday afternoon, I sat down to see if there was anything worth watching on TV and the recent BBC/Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of Jane Eyre caught my eye. I'd heard some good things about it so I decided to check it out.

And then proceeded to get completely sucked in for the entire FOUR HOURS (with only one commercial break, since it's PBS), because it was so just so damn good!

Now, I'm not a Jane Eyre purist at all. I read the book a long time ago and it hadn't really a favorite of mine. I thought that parts of it were actually kind of bizarre and I think that perhaps I might have been too young when I read it to really "get" how amazingly romantic it is. I also haven't watched any other film or TV versions of it, which is impressive considering that there are a huge number of them. So I half felt like I didn't really have the proper background to judge this adaptation, but I do have to say that I now have completely renewed appreciation for the story. I'm definitely going to have to read the book again.

I did kind of wonder though, if this Mr. Rochester (played by Toby Stephens) was almost too hot. I felt a little like they were trying to recreate the Colin Firth effect (see Pride and Prejudice), and they definitely introduced quite a bit more um, kissing, than is usual in these kinds of period dramas. Again, I'm going to have to revisit the book, but after watching this yesterday? I'm this close to adding Mr. Rochester on my list of all-time biggest literary crushes (along with Mr. Darcy and Gilbert Blythe).

Anyway, as is customary in most of these BBC/Masterpiece Theatre series, the production quality was excellent, and I thought that Ruth Wilson was quite good as Jane. All in all, an excellent way to spend four hours on a frigid Sunday.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Potter-ific summer!

Best news I've heard in a long time:

The seventh Harry Potter book will be out on July 21!

This is just a week after the movie version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix comes out, so there'll be a ton of frenzy I'm sure.

I can't wait! Although it'll be a bit sad to see the last book come out, I think...

Top Chef (or not)

So despite what I said last week, I watched the finale. And you know what? I was kind of relieved to see Ilan win. Here's why:

1. I hate, hate, hate when competitive reality show contestants say that they "didn't come here to make friends." Marcel didn't have the full support of his sous chefs, and it was kind of his own fault. It was obvious at Judge's Table that while Betty and Elia were firmly behind Ilan, Sam and Michael were somewhat less than 100%. No, he didn't deserve all the treatment he got, but when you come into something thinking, oh, I'm not here to make friends, that comes back to bite you in the ass. This is EXACTLY what happened to Tiffani last year. She may have been more creative and risk-taking but she didn't have the respect and support that Harold got.

2. I really understood Tom's comment that Marcel needed "more time in the bottle." This isn't to say that his food isn't as good as Ilan's. Whereas Ilan just wants to be a good chef and put out good food, I feel like Marcel's ambitions are considerably more lofty. Marcel has that whole mad-scientist-molecular-gastronomy thing going that requires additional experience and training and skill. He's not there yet.

3. Marcel had a few snafus in the kitchen, whereas Ilan executed everything he set out to do. Even though Marcel's heart of palm dish ended up being excellent, he probably shouldn't have mentioned that it was supposed to have fish. And while I disagree that Sam made up that dish on his own, it was definitely his levelheadness that salvaged the situation. Plus traditionally, I think it's uncommon to have two vegetarian dishes in a row on a 5-course tasting menu. And Marcel's salad, even if he had done that weird vinagrette ball thing, was still just a salad.

So in the end, I'm not necessarily saying that Ilan deserved to win, but I can see where Marcel lost points. This is definitely not how I wanted everything to end up. I thought it was going to be Marcel and Sam in the final, with Sam winning it all, so basically I'm less than excited about it all. I'll probably watch next season, but really only because I really do still love the concept of the show and I hope that Bravo learns some lessons from this horrible season.

Also of interest: it seems that Food & Wine really did spoil the finale. A few days ago, someone found an article on their website's server declaring Ilan as the winner. The magazine then tried to cover it up, quickly removing the article and then posting it again, along with another article declaring Marcel as the winner, claiming they prepared both in advance of knowing who the winner was. But word travels fast on the Internet. Since Ilan really did win, well, never underestimate the digging powers of Web surfers.