Friday, July 27, 2007

Go watch Damages

Wow, what is up with all the great summer shows this year? This week I watched the premiere of Damages on FX, and I'm totally hooked. Originally I thought that this was just going to be another legal drama, but it's actually a kind of mystery/thriller that's really exciting.

The big story attached with this series of course, was Glenn Close. I've never watched the Shield so I haven't really been familiar with her recent work (in fact I don't think I've watched her in anything since those Sarah Plain and Tall TV movies from the 90s) but she really is awesome in this role. She plays Patty Hewes, a high powered, somewhat morally ambiguous lawyer trying a class-action suit against a billionaire named Frobisher. She hires a recent law school graduate, Ellen, to be her new protege, but obviously something else is going on there...the beginning of the episode reveals that 6 months later a bloodied and half-dressed Ellen is running through the streets. The show employs a flashback method of storytelling, with scenes from the "present" interspersed between scenes telling the story from the beginning. Normally I'd be a little nervous about this kind of series, because I've gotten burned by similar things in the past (i.e. Reunion and the Nine) but it's more of a mini-series (well, a long mini-series...13 episodes) and it's on cable so I don't think we really have to worry about that.

With this, Mad Men, Kyle XY, Greek, the 4400, and my reality shows, there really isn't a lack of TV to watch this summer at all. I haven't even gotten a chance to catch up on Doctor Who like I've been intending...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

So You Think You Can Dance: in which Jennifer is now tired of Wade Robson

I can kind of understand why they wanted to have all the dancers perform the same solo. We're no longer considering them as couples, and this makes it easier to compare them. The only problem is how BORING it was to watch the same piece 10 times in 90 minutes. And man did I really dislike that choreography. Starting with the fact that I can't stand that song (or John Mayer in general), all the acting out of the words was just stupidly cheesy and while I'm not exactly an Iraq war supporter the blatant anti-war message made me a little uncomfortable. After the first couple of dancers I just couldn't watch it anymore. Are they going to be doing this every week? UGH.

Moving onto the newly reshuffled couples...

Lauren and Pasha - I actually thought this was quite enjoyable, which surprised me because last week I wanted Lauren to go home. And my Pasha love still continues.

Sabra and Kameron - I really liked this too, but probably more because of Sabra. Sorry, Kam, but you're still the weakest guy here by far.

Lacey and Danny - I have to admit this was pretty hot, but I feel like I've been watching Lacey be sexy for weeks now and I'd like to see something else.

Jaimie and Dominic - I was kind of annoyed by Nigel's harsh comments because I think this was really a choreography problem. It was supposed to be a waltz but the costumes and everything just said something else. Dominic really does need to stop all his mugging for the camera though.

Sara and Neil - I thought this was really a lot of fun. I love Sara, I think she's up there with Sabra in terms of my favorites overall.

So admittedly I didn't watch all the solos, but based on the partner dances, I'd say that Kameron and Jaimie are going home?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter and the End of an Era

As a huge fan of childrens' books, I have to say that it's been really a pleasure to be part of the Harry Potter phenomenon. I can't imagine that the books won't go down in history as a children's classic, and it's just been really exciting to be alive while it all unfolded. I came into the books a bit late--the first three books had already been out before the US buzz really started going and my mom, hearing about it from her friends with younger kids, borrowed them for me to read. I was in high school by then, but I devoured those three in just a couple of days, and not surprisingly, I was completely hooked. And you can guess how the rest goes.

I decided to forgo the midnight parties for the Deathly Hallows because I knew that if I got the book then I wouldn't be able to restrain myself and then I would have had to stay up all night reading it. So I drove over to my local Barnes & Noble at 9AM the next day, waited online for about 15 minutes, got the book, drove home (pretty much trembling with excitement), and proceeded to read the book straight through, and I was done by about mid-afternoon.

And wow. Wow!


Unlike a lot of obsessed Harry Potter fans out there, I hadn't done a lot of speculating about this book. I mean, of course I'd thought about who was going to die and whether Snape was really evil or not, etc., but I hadn't analyzed all of J.K. Rowling's quotes and interviews and I really hadn't thought at all about what everyone was actually going to be doing during the book. So in a way, everything was surprising to me. I was surprised by how early and how frequent the Death Eater attacks were. I was surprised by how early the deaths starting happening. I was surprised that Harry, Ron, and Hermione really were alone and their own for a large chunk of the book. And I was surprised by how much Dumbledore there was.

After the last book came out, there was plenty of speculation about whether Dumbledore was really dead or not. I always thought that he was, and I think Rowling confirmed it at one point, so it was really nice to see what a huge part he played, fittingly, in this final book. I loved that she delved more into his life, because like Harry, I think we readers really sort of took Dumbledore for granted. We sort of assumed he'd always been the Dumbledore we knew and that he always would be. I really felt for Harry when he was feeling guilty about always focusing on himself and consequently knew very little about Dumbledore's early life. And I definitely liked that Dumbledore had a darker phase of his youth. It really humanized him and pulled him back from being this kind of perfect Gandalf-like figure.

And the other character whose past we learned more about, of course, was Snape. I'd kind of always knew that he was going turn out to be good also, but I was really unsure of how Rowling was going to explain all of his behaviors and actions, especially those in Half-Blood Prince. But somehow she made it work. The whole Lily thing was really a bit cheesy but it did make sense, and it really helped create a lot of sympathy for Snape. He's really the tragic figure of the series...he spent the better part of twenty years trying to make up for his mistakes knowing that he'd never even be happy as the love of his life was already dead. And he finally ends up sacrificing his own life. As much as I liked the way the series ended for our main trio, Snape really makes things a bit bittersweet. He'd pretty much never had a good life in any respect, but I am glad that he got his redemption in the end.

I don't really know what to say about the Horcruxes and the Hallows. I did like that each of the Horcruxes were destroyed by a different person--especially liked that Neville got to finish off the snake. I thought it was really wonderful that Harry, in a sort of last minute, spur of the moment thing, decided to ask Neville to do that for him. And obviously I did like that the Hallows kept Harry from dying. But part of me feels like it was all introduced a bit too late. We didn't even find out what they were until halfway through the book and even after a second reading, I still don't think I really understand them. Everything did tie together in the end though, I guess. I also have mixed feeling about the King's Cross chapter. Oddly enough, it sort of reminded me of something out of Charmed (I mean, I guess that was about magic and witches too?), somehow it just didn't fit into the Harry Potter world for me.

There's probably a ton of other things I could talk about as well, but I want to get to the two main complaints I have about the book. Don't get me wrong, as a whole I truly loved it and was really satisfied but you know how it goes...after you have some time to think, a few things jump out. Here are mine:

Lupin and Tonks--I was really upset about their deaths. It happened "offscreen" and was barely given any attention at all. I almost feel like it was thrown in there just to up the body count of people we, and Harry, care about. Because I don't see what other purpose it could have had. I mean, I guess that with them just having had a child sort of mirrors Harry's own experience of being orphaned as a baby and it sort of gives Harry the chance to be the godfather to Ted that Sirius wasn't able to be for him. But I think what saddens me the most, outside of the fact that I really loved these two characters, is that Lupin had really just started to be happy after years of pretty miserable times. And now Harry is really left with very few connections to his parents, with Sirius and Lupin and even Snape all dead...I know that Harry's created his own family now but that's still pretty sad too.

And then of course, there's the epilogue. Now, J.K. Rowling has never really been known to be a great writer. Harry Potter is very much about the world and characters and stories she's created and not so much about great prose, and I'm totally ok with that fact. But that said, I thought the writing in the epilogue was just terrible. I think I read somewhere that Rowling wrote the final chapter years ago, so maybe that's it? As the books have progressed and the characters aged, I feel like Rowling's writing has improved and matured as well, but this epilogue kind of just read like bad fan fiction. I did like the idea of the epilogue, with the next generation going off to Hogwarts, full circle blah blah, but I feel like she could have said so much more in these pages. I'll bet that lots of people out there are angry that nothing was said about what happened to Luna or the other Weasleys, etc., but even that I can kind of understand. She couldn't exactly do a rundown of every single character and what happened to them, unless she did an exhaustive LOTR-like epilogue, which really would have been too much for a series like this. But I really did want a little bit more about our core three, at least a little summary of what happened in the intervening years and what their careers ended up being. I mean, did they go back to Hogwarts for their N.E.W.T.s? I can kind of imagine Ron at the Ministry and Hermione I always thought would do something brilliant but sort of "alternative" but I really never knew about Harry. Don't get me wrong, it makes me really happy to know that the two couples got married and had children and are truly all family now, but overall I found the epilogue lacking. I felt the end of the book was actually kind of rushed...there were really only a few pages after Voldemort died so I guess I just wanted a bit more closure than the epilogue offered.

Finally, some little things I wanted to mention:

- James' animagus form was a stag and Lily's Patronus was a doe. Cute! You know, when I read the books I generally don't picture the actors from the movies at all, but the one thing in my head that's permanently messed up from the movies is Harry's parents. They picked actors that would look like Harry's parents if they were alive during the time of the books, not how old they were when they actually died...which was young. They were only 21 years old...younger than I am now.
- Ron and Hermione's first kiss. Perfect timing, perfect context.
- Luna's ceiling painted with pictures of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Neville. (I realize this would be creepy if it was anyone but Luna.)
- Speaking of Luna, was there some random romance brewing with her and Dean during all the time they were stuck together?
- My favorite quote: "Vot is the point of being an international Quidditch player if all the good-looking girls are taken?" Oh, Viktor Krum.
- Runner-up: "Not my daughter, you bitch!" You go, Mrs. Weasley!
- "Here lies Dobby, a free elf." Sniff.
- I know the battle was all serious and everything but there were so many funny details: Trelawney throwing crystal balls at people, McGonagall and her army of transfigured desks, Kreacher and the house elves attacking ankles and shins...

Edited to add:
You know, it's funny, I was almost going to post this review without even really talking about Harry himself much at all. And I think that's a testament to how much of a regular guy he is. Despite all the extraordinary things he's done, he's still probably the most the straightforward hero we've seen in a long time. He's not particularly unlikely, like Frodo was, but most of the time he's not even the most intelligent or gifted or funny or charismatic kid in the room either. What he has is a good heart, a strong will, loyal friends, and a good dose of Gryffindor courage. And I think we all like that. He's matured over the years and we leave him battle-weary but in so many ways he's still the normal little boy that we met in the first book. Good job, Harry. We knew you could do it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Mad Men mini-review

You know, it seems that as of late, American TV hasn't really had a lot of shows set in past time periods. Off the top of my head I can really only think of a few from the past decade or so: Dr. Quinn (1860s), American Dreams (1960s), That 70s Show (1970s, obviously), Freaks and Geeks (1980s)...what else am I missing? I really like historical dramas (as evidenced by my obsession with the BBC) so when I heard that AMC was doing an original series set in the early 60s, I was pretty excited. And now that I've seen the first episode, I'm even more excited. Summer TV generally has a reputation for being kind of "light" and not necessarily high quality, but this show isn't just good for a summer show, it's just plain good.

Set in an advertising agency in New York City, I think the most fascinating aspect of the show is just how different things were back then, which really even wasn't that long ago. This is a time when everyone smoked and drank, even at work; women were working but part of their duties were to be eye candy for the men; extramarital affairs were almost acceptable. Who knows if that fascination is going to wear off, but thankfully the characters and storylines set up in the first episode look like they're enough to keep the story going. The main character is Don Draper, the creative director, and he's joined by other partners and secretaries in the agency. There aren't any really recognizable faces here, but John Slattery is Roger Sterling, a founder of the firm, and Vincent Kartheiser plays Paul, a junior executive, and is really just as young-looking and creepy as he was playing Connor on Angel.

Am eagerly awaiting upcoming episodes!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

my top 5 favorite series (books) ever

I shouldn't be surprised given my penchant for children's books, but every book on this list is like Reading Level 5 and below. Haha.

5. Sweet Valley High, created by Francine Pascal -- This series played too big of a role in my childhood reading for me to ignore it. Definitely would not go as far as saying it was quality reading by no means, but c'mon Jessica and Elizabeth were and still are my two favorite twins (Sorry Fred & George, they came first!).
4. Satin Slippers, Elizabeth Barnard - Probably the little girl in me who always wanted to do ballet or dance...
3. The Mediator, Meg Cabot - Basically Buffy with ghosts instead of vampires. What's not to love?
2. Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling - 7 of the most imaginative books to ever exist. The characters, the world created, how could this not be on my list?
1. Emily of New Moon, L.M. Montgomery - Three of my all-time favorite books. Most people tend to love Anne (see below), but I've always preferred Emily. I mean I suppose she was a little more stuck up, and a lot more quiet, but I simply loved her more.

Honorable Mentions:
- Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card - Mostly the first book was just so awesome. The remaining books were perhaps too smart and philosophical for me, though there were still a few bright points -- such as Ender's Shadow.
- Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery - A serious classic. But not on my top 5 just because as a kid there were quite a few books that I just remembered snoring through. Perhaps if I were to reread them now, they WOULD be top 5. But the spunk of Anne, the intensity of Gilbert Blythe's attentions towards her... ::sigh::

Saturday, July 21, 2007

deathly hallows!

I haven't read it yet (well because I'm still in the process of rereading the books leading up to it, so I'm fully caught up), but I skimmed the end, even though I know I shouldn't have. But I just couldn't help it!

In any case, all I gotta say is... IT'S GOOD.

And I'm satisfied.

Thank you, J.K. Rowling!

Friday, July 20, 2007

So You Think You Can Dance - And We Have Our Top 10

I'm sort of planning to go see the tour this year so determining the Top 10 was of special interest to me. My ideal situation would have been to get rid of Kameron and Lauren because I thought they were the least interesting but things didn't really work out that way...

I wasn't too surprised by the bottom 3. Lacey's obviously got a huge fanbase and Kam was really just damn lucky to get paired with her. I still have no idea what he's really like as a dancer so I'm glad the partners are getting switched up next week. Dominic and Sabra have been the most consistently entertaining, and I think people love both Pasha and Sara. So that left Anya and Danny, Lauren and Neil, and Jaimie and Hok in the bottom 3.

With those choices...I have to say that Hok was really the only choice. I would have much preferred to see him on the tour because he's really a crowd pleaser, but he's had it rough these past couple of weeks. I know some people would argue that Neil hasn't been that successful either but the truth is that he's been the stronger of his partnership while Hok's been the one struggling. Yeah, it's all pretty sucky.

As for the girls...I wanted Lauren to go home. I mean, it's probably true that since this is ultimately a solo competition that Anya probably wouldn't have made it that far, but I don't see how Lauren's proved that she could either. I don't know. Again, maybe we'll see something different from her with another partner?

I don't know, these elimination schemes are always so frustrating. It's hard to predict how America will react, and then the judges seem to flip back and forth between considering only the "dance for your life" solos and the dancers' history of performances.

Anyway, that's that. We've really had a minimum of partner changes so far so it'll be really interesting to see how everyone does when it all gets mixed. Definitely looking forward to next week.

Edited to add: According to Mary Murphy, Anya and Hok will probably be "alternates" on the tour and will likely make appearances. So there's hope if you really want to see Hok in that crazy hummingbird-flower routine!

Top Chef Does Craft Services

A lot of times, I think what makes this show for me is the guest judges. Someone like Anthony Bourdain (yeah, I know, I really need to stop mentioning him) or Alfred Portale really brings the show to another level. But then sometimes you get these sort of random people, like last week's "mixologist" and this week's Maria Frumkin. I know she must be an excellent chef and obviously they wanted someone who knew Latin food to judge Latin food but I found her to be not so interesting.

The Quickfire was a bit odd this week because they had 90 minutes for it, which is the same amount of time they got for the Elimination challenge. I mean, I can understand why, because pie crust generally points to baking, which needs time. But some of the chefs decided that all this extra time meant that they should make 2 or 3 or even 4 dishes. Very very strange. I have to say that everyone's dishes looked pretty good. Although I have to say, I like making my own pie crust!

The Elimination was definitely tricky. This challenge reminded me of the one from last season where they had to do Vietnamese and Korean food. Doing a specific cuisine can be rough if you don't have the knowledge and experience and that's really where Lia fell down, which is a shame because she was really starting to show her talent last week. With Lia's elimination I have to wonder whether Top Chef will ever have a female winner. There are only a few women left in the competition: Sara M., Sara N., and Casey, and based on their past performance I really doubt any of them are going to make it to the finale unless they really step up their game.

I'm actually really pleasantly surprised and happy to see Howie win his second elimination challenge. He really had a rough start to the competition and he definitely could have been gone weeks ago but it's nice to see that he's really rose to the challenge. Also funny is seeing how buddy-buddy he is with Joey now. It's not often that conflict leads to actual friendship on a reality show like this. Glad to see both of them doing well in fact.

And then there's Hung, the biggest egomaniac this show has ever seen. The other cheftestants seem to be doing a good job at steering clear of him though (literally in this episode as he goes waving knives around the kitchen) so maybe he'll take the hint that his attitude is getting him nowhere.

Harry Potter and the "3D IMAX Experience"

I wasn't quite looking forward to this movie all that much because Order of the Phoenix was probably my least favorite of the books so far. I mean, yeah, there were a lot of good things in it, as with all the books, but I wasn't too big a fan of angry, yelling-in-capital-letters Harry who was making dumb choices. Yeah, yeah, growing pains I guess.

That said, I thought the movie was actually pretty good. Somehow they took the longest book of the series and turned it in the shortest movie so far, and I have to say that they didn't leave out that many important things. I wish that they would have left in the part at St. Mungos where the kids see Professor Lockhart and Neville's parents, and also the bit with Rita Skeeter and the Quibbler, but I can understand why they didn't. The trial was really well done, all the Dumbledore's Army bits were fantastic, and I definitely loved the Weasley twins' exit from Hogwarts. The flying scenes over London were quite spectacular too.

Other good things: Imelda Staunton as Umbridge and Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood. Just perfect casting. Umbridge really made your skin crawl and Luna was just the right amount of spacey and dreamy. I noticed that most of Luna's lines were lifted verbatim from the book, which was smart because, really, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Also liked the casting for Tonks, though we didn't get to see her much. In fact, I feel like we didn't really get to see much of the adults at all. McGonagall and Snape and Moody and Sirius and Lupin and Hagrid were very much offscreen for most of the movie, which can't be helped, I suppose, but kind of disappointing nonetheless.

Our main trio did a commendable job. Seeing the snippets of the first movie throughout really underlines how much they've grown up and it's kind of nice to see. It's not often that we get such a long franchise with all the same actors. Ron was too much in the background for my taste though, and Emma Watson really needs to stop saying all her lines so forcefully. I know that's pretty much Hermione's personality but I was kind of annoyed by all her heavy breathing.

So...other things I didn't like? I saw the movie in 3D IMAX, and it was kind of less than impressive. I've seen one other 3D IMAX movie (Tom Hank's From the Earth to the Moon) but that was entirely made for that format and was really excellent. This one had a 20-minute sequence near the end in 3D and since it was filmed for both regular and 3D, I feel it wasn't really that successful. Seeing it on the huge screen was nice though.

I thought the beginning was odd. We didn't see the Dursleys at all in the last movie and I still remember them with their funny 50s(?) era clothes from the earlier movies. So seeing Dudley in his sports jersey and big chain was strange. And Mrs. Figg wasn't at all like I pictured her.

Bellatrix Lestrange...I know she's a Death Eater and she attacked Neville's parents and she was in Azkaban and all that but somehow I just didn't picture her as being THAT crazy. Helena Bonham Carter obviously had a blast playing her but I don't know, I thought she was kind of over the top.

And Dumbledore. Sigh. I think this is really the biggest problem in the movie franchise right now, and one that can't easily be fixed. Dumbledore is probably one of the most beloved characters from the books but in the movies he's just ALL WRONG. I know Michael Gambon's a fantastic actor, but he's playing the role as all authority and is totally missing the whimsical bent that the Dumbledore of the books (and that Richard Harris had in the first two movies) has. It wasn't really as noticeably bad as in the last movie and in a way I guess I've become resigned to it, but yeah. Not a fan.

And finally I'm not sure what to think about the ending. Maybe because I knew what was going to happen but Sirius' death didn't have quite the emotional impact I was expecting. The fight between Voldemort and Dumbledore was exciting but I was bit confused by the aftermath with Harry's mind being invaded by Voldemort. I don't remember that from the book at all. And I was also kind of confused by the fact that Harry actually heard the prophecy and actually handed it over to Lucius. Not at all like it happened in the book and I don't see how it really helped move the story along or shorten it or anything.

Hm, I know that sounds like a lot of things I didn't like. But honestly there's no point in going into these movies and expecting everything to be how you want it. Prisoner of Azkaban is still my favorite film by far, because I felt like it actually had some style, but I'd probably rank this film third, after the first one, followed by Goblet of Fire, and then Chamber of Secrets in last. (In case you're curious, my book rankings are 1. PoA, 2. SS, 3. HBP, 4. GoF and then OotP and CoS are tied for last for different reasons...OotP was the only book I actively disliked but CoS was was really forgettable.)

The final book comes out this Saturday, although there are already copies of it floating out there (silly online retailers). I'll probably be done reading it this weekend but to respect those who won't read it that fast or right away I will wait until probably next weekend to post a review and even then I'll try to lay off the spoilers.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

2007 Emmy nominations - surprisingly not horrible!

Sooo...every year I claim to not care about the Emmys but every year I pay attention to them anyway. This year, though, they changed the whole nomination process in hopes of fixing the problem of having all the same shows nominated every year and color me surprised but it kind of worked!

The awesome:
  • Jenna Fischer for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series!!!
  • Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series - Jeremy Piven, Kevin Dillon, Neil Patrick Harris, Rainn Wilson?! This is so the dream category!!!

The good:
  • Nods for Sally Field and Rachel Griffiths on Brothers & Sisters.
  • Writing and directing nods for Battlestar Galactica (and some other technical ones). Nothing in acting, but we'll take whatever we can get.
  • Top Chef and Project Runway face off in the Reality Competition category!
  • Tons of nods for Jane Eyre, which I totally fell in love with earlier this year.
  • Haha, Mia Michaels and Wade Robson both got nominations for Best Choreography on So You Think You Can Dance!
  • A bunch of nice Ugly Betty nominations. I wasn't really surprised by this though, the show is pretty Emmy-friendly.
  • Everything Comes Down to Poo and Guy Love from the Scrubs muscial both nominated for Original Music and Lyrics

The bad:
  • Grey's Anatomy for Drama Series, really? Even people I know who love the show agree that this season was pretty bad.
  • At least Friday Night Lights got a directing nomination, but that's all. Sigh.

The weird:
  • What is up with all the love for Boston Legal? I honestly didn't even know it was still on and people were actually watching it. And I mean really, Boston Legal over Friday Night Lights???
  • Studio 60 got a few nominations as well. I mean, truthfully I did like the pilot but uh, talk about a show that lost steam.
  • Ugly Betty for Outstanding Main Title Design. Um, if I'm not mistaken, don't they not have main titles? They just follow up an unattractive shot of Betty with a yellow screen and UGLY BETTY in huge caps. I mean, yes, it's extremely effective, but didn't seem like it was really a lot of work...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My So-Called Life on DVD!

I don't know how I missed this news last week, but it's incredible: My So-Called Life is being released on DVD this fall! It's being released by Shout! Factory, who did the awesome Freaks and Geeks set, and it looks like it'll be chock full of extras and have great packaging. (Okay, yes, I'm shallow and I find the packaging of DVD box sets to be important.)

I'm so beyond thrilled! I'd almost given up hope of a re-release but then when I was in London this May, I saw a poster advertising the re-release of the series over there, and I couldn't believe that they'd be doing a Region 2 release and not one here in the States. So I did a little digging, discovered some rumors that a set was coming in the US, and now it's been confirmed!

October 30, mark your calendars!

Check out my review of the series from awhile back here.

Friday, July 13, 2007

So You Think You Can Dance chatter

I'm a pretty active reader (but not poster) over at the Television Without Pity forums which is where I generally gauge other viewers' reactions to the shows I watch. I realize though, that TWOP isn't always the best representation of American viewership, especially when it comes to pop reality shows like So You Think You Can Dance. But anyway, here are the two hot topics that have been floating around the TWOP boards and my take on them.

  1. Danny. There was actually a New York Times article on him this week. Read it and take what you will from it, but it basically talks about Danny's background as a classical ballet dancer and how his talent and skill is kind of working against him on the show because he's being perceived by some as arrogant. The judges debated this on this week's show too. My take is that yeah, I'm not really a huge fan. I recognize that he's a really beautiful dancer but I don't think it works on this show. Danny, like all ballet dancers, has this certain posture and elegance and seriousness that isn't necessarily entertaining, and when put next to more outwardly joyful or emotional contemporary or ballroom or hip hop just doesn't get received by the general public as well. Watching ballet, to me, is more about appreciating the art than being entertained. And in this contest to find "America's Favorite Dancer"...judging by how much last season's winner Benji was about his personality, I'm not sure how Danny can survive. And honestly, I'm kind of confused as to what he's really doing on this show. Exposure, I suppose, but winning SYTYCD isn't like winning American Idol...there are no record deals or evidence of success because of it. I mean, I don't even remember who won Season 1...

  2. Lauren and Neil. People on TWOP really hate them, and honestly I'm not entirely sure why. No, their performances haven't been that great but I'm not sure what's spawning all this hate, especially for Neil. I kind of do feel like Lauren's somewhat weak, but I kind of like Neil. I feel like with a different partner he could be really good. Which brings me to another point...sometimes it seems like these random pairings are dooming some of the dancers from the start. Maybe good dancers are supposed to be able to adapt to any new partner or something, but I mean, if the chemistry isn't there, it just isn't there. I felt really bad for Shauna this week because I really think she's a great dancer, but she's been saddled with some difficult partners which I think prevented her from the "growth" that the judges claimed she hadn't had. And on the flip side, some of the dancers have been coasting a bit because of their partners, namely Kameron. He's probably the most forgettable dancer for me right now...obviously he's not horrible but he's been overshadowed by Lacey every week and since we haven't seen him do a solo yet, I can't really comment on his talent at all. Soo...I don't know. And with both Shauna and Cedric having been eliminated this week all the couples are remaining the same for the next show...

Bored by Top Chef

Is it still too early in the competition? Because I've sort of been not as interested in Top Chef this season so far. There's no one that's really sticking out for me yet in terms of good or bad which makes reality TV show watching to be somewhat dull. I mean, this week Camille was eliminated, which basically meant nothing to me because they've hardly shown her at all in previous episodes.

I guess I was also not a big fan of the elimination challenge. I find trios to be annoying, and of course it didn't help that most of the courses didn't seem all that appetizing. The shrimp course was the only exception and thankfully that won. I can't believe Hung did a foam though...he must have watched last season since he seems to be friends with Marcel, but evidently he just doesn't care.

The whole dessert thing was really a disaster waiting to happen. I don't remember when a dessert has ever been that successful on the show before...especially when they attempt to bake. I kind of understand Dale's logic that he wanted to take a chance and stand out, but I knew the judges were going to point out that no one said dessert was required. Although I do wonder if the judges would have called the group out for not doing a dessert had a non-dessert 4th course been similarly disappointing.

And I don't understand what the deal with Casey was. I don't remember the immunity thing ever being a problem before but for some reason they were just harping on it to no end this episode.

Ooh, but Anthony Bourdain is guest-blogging for Tom Colicchio on Bravotv!! Yeah, obviously I have a thing for Anthony Bourdain...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

So bad they're good: my favorite guilty pleasure movies

Maybe this is just me, but there are these movies that I KNOW are bad but that I will always watch whenever they're on cable. I would probably never name any of them as a favorite movie if someone asked me, but truthfully I've watched them all way more times than is healthy. And really, I will always watch them again...

  1. Center Stage: Oy. It's horridly acted, because they hired actual dancers instead of actors, and the story itself is pretty laughably bad too. But dammit if I love this movie! It also features a pre-OC Peter Gallagher (okay, Sandy Cohen the surfer I can buy, but a ballet dancer??), figure skater Ilia Kulik in his one and only acting attempt, and the best so-bad-it's-awesome breakdown since Jessie on Saved by the Bell by Susan May Pratt. But really, the dancing is pretty awesome. Which it should be since all the dancing and choreography was by professional ballet dancers. Geez, who knows why I love dance movies even though I can't dance at all myself.
  2. Drive Me Crazy: I actually contend that this really isn't that bad of a movie. The story is actually kind of cute, and was based on a book by Todd Strasser, who writes really great teen novels. But two things move this into bad movie territory: the first is the association with the Britney Spears song (which appropriately is one of those bad songs that I secretly kind of like) and the second is Melissa Joan Hart. I mean, don't get me wrong, I watched Sabrina for years, but I doubt she'll ever be taken seriously as an actress. Ironically she was the star vehicle of the movie, while her co-star, a pre-Entourage Adrian Grenier was basically an unknown. Also interestingly Susan May Pratt is in this movie too, hm. She's also in 10 Things I Hate About You which I was almost going to put on this list, but I don't really feel the compulsion to watch that one as much as the others on this list.
  3. Coyote Ugly: Um, yeah. Really terrifically bad in every sense, but uh, in my defense, the guy in it was hot?
  4. The Princess Diaries 2: The first movie is a geniune favorite of mine because that was an actually great movie. It perfectly captured a lot of the awkwardness of being a teenager in a genuinely funny and sweet and honest way. The sequel is really hugely inferior but really I love it too. It strays completely from the books and skips forward to Mia as a college graduate and full-fledged princess. Due to some bizarre law she has to get married within thirty days. I know, I know. And of course there is the ridiculous sleepover she throws instead of a bachelorette party inviting all these teen and pre-teen princesses from all the over the world where they, and the queen, mattress surf. Yeah.
  5. The Cutting Edge:Again, I don't know, I don't think this movie is really that bad either. Maybe I just have a weakness for the figure skating part of it but it's really a ton of fun. I mean, if anything, the "toe pick" scene is classic. Plus Terry O'Quinn is in it, and DB Sweeney and Moira Kelly have great chemistry. I probably saw this movie for the first time in elementary school sometime and to this day I still love it.

my current entertainment obsessions

  1. BBC period miniseries. It all started with North & South and now I'm on a Netflix-ing spree. I finished Wives and Daughters last week (also excellent) and now I'm working on the new Forsyte Saga. SO GOOD! Have also queued up Our Mutual Friend, The Way We Live Now, Daniel Deronda, and several more...yay for Netflix!
  2. Harry Potter. The last book comes out next weekend! My plan is go pick up the book on Saturday morning (no, I'm not crazy enough to do the midnight party madness) and hole up and read it that day. I've been re-reading some of the books and re-watching some of the movies to prepare.
  3. So You Think You Can Dance! More posts on this to come, obviously.
  4. General Hospital?? I used to watch this soap on and off during high school and suddenly I've gotten re-interested in it, thanks to SoapNet. And now SoapNet is going to be running a limited spin-off series, Night Shift, that's going to feature some of my favorite characters (Robin, Patrick, Jason, etc.) and be more of an episodic rather than serial format. Color me interested.
  5. The trifecta of food reality shows this summer: Hell's Kitchen, Top Chef, and Next Food Network Star.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Going Greek

Once again this summer ABCFamily and the N seem to be having all the same ideas. Last summer it was Falcon Beach and Beyond the Break (both beach shows) and now this summer it's Greek and The Best Years (both college shows). Beyond the Break definitely won last year's matchup but this year I think it's ABCFamily's turn. I thought the premiere of the Best Years was alright, but the second episode was pretty bad. I think the problem is that they seem to be trying very hard to make the show "realistic" but are getting so many of the details wrong. While the show is set in Boston, it's pretty obvious that the writers are Canadian. In the States it's freshman, not first year. And no one says "residence," it's the dorm. And the thing with Sam's "business class" professor was just bizarre. In my experience, college professors don't go out of their way to personally embarrass and weed out students: they let their papers and exams do it for them. And why is the Dean of Students/Admissions EVERYWHERE? And how many times is Sam really going to get in trouble and then get another chance, really?

So maybe the reason I like Greek better is because I wasn't part of the frat/sorority scene in college at all so I don't know a lot about it and can't really complain about inaccuracies or whatnot. I think the premise of the show is really strong actually: Rusty is the geeky freshman intent on having the full fraternity college experience, and his older sister, Casey, is the pretty, popular junior aiming to be president of her sorority (who hasn't even told anyone that she has a brother). The feel of the show is more fun in general, kind of more reminiscent of the OC, where the drama was heavy but the comedy was generally light, than Dawson's Creek, where everything was angst and everyone took everything too seriously.

Anyway, the acting on Greek wasn't so bad either. There's no one that recognizable in the cast, except for Spencer Grammer, who is Kelsey Grammer's daughter, and Clark Duke, who's recently been making the online video rounds with his series with Michael Cera of Arrested Development fame. Also, Jessica Lee Rose (aka lonelygirl15) made a brief appearance and according to IMDB, she'll be a recurring character. The supporting characters include Calvin, Rusty's smooth (and gay?) rush buddy; Dale, Rusty's Southern Christian fellow engineering honors roommate; Evan, Casey's cheating boyfriend and member of the elite fraternity on campus; and Cappie, Casey's ex-boyfriend and president of the Kappa Tau, the freewheeling slacker frat.

Is ABCFamily on a roll? First I get hooked on Wildfire, then Kyle XY, and now Greek?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Random connections

I was browsing Wikipedia (that and IMDB are probably my favorite browsing sites) and found this kind of interesting but random tidbit:

One of Jericho's creators and executive producers, Stephen Chbosky, is also the author of the extremely popular young adult novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It came out back when I was in high school and tons of angsty emo teenagers were claiming it as the BEST BOOK EVER. I remember really liking bits and pieces of the book but kind of disliking it as a whole for the same reason I'm not a fan of Catcher in the Rye...they're both supposed to be these gritty honest portrayals of teenagers that I really couldn't relate to much at all. Not really a fault of the books themselves, I suppose, but not my thing regardless.

Anyway, I've been trying to think of connections between the two things, but nothing's really obvious at all. I always find it really interesting when people find success with very different things...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Recasting news

I know that parts on TV shows regularly get recast after being picked up and before premiering but there seems to be a heck of a lot of it this year. Anyway, the news is that two of my favorite guys from cancelled shows will be back on TV in the fall!

Jason Dohring, aka my favorite Logan (Veronica Mars), has joined the cast of CBS' Moonlight, which is one of the two Angel-esque shows of this fall. He'll play Josef, an ancient vampire who I believe was supposed to be a sort of mentor to the main character. Interestingly his character was played by a 60-year-old in the pilot. And even more interestingly, David Greenwalt, who co-created Angel, has been brought on as the show's executive producer. Hmmm...?

Scott Patterson (Luke! from Gilmore Girls) has been cast in the CW's Aliens in America, which is the half-hour sitcom about a Midwestern family that hosts a Pakistani exchange student. Patterson will play the dad. I originally thought this show was going to be a disaster but after watching a few previews I think it might actually be really funny, and yay for Scott Patterson!