Saturday, August 29, 2009

TV Round-up for the week

Best thing I saw all week - What Would Brian Boitano Make?
"what would Brian Boitano do if he were here right now? He'd make a plan and follow through, that's what Brian Boitano'd do!" (I wonder if you have to pay royalties to use a song as your show's theme, if said song was actually written about you?)
Who knew Brian Boitano could cook, and was so funny with such a self-depricating sense of humor, and liked "riding his bike on rainbows". His new little cooking show is a great way to spend 30 minutes. It's a little bit "Good Eats", a little "Barefoot Contessa" with a little Rachel Ray thrown into the mix. Filmed out of his gorgeous house in San Francisco it looks like the show will focus on food to prepare for entertaining. The first episode dealt with Brian trying to find a date for his straight bachelor friend Tony. This show is fun!
Show that hasn't made a wrong move yet this season? True Blood
While a lot of this season's plots have come from several of the Charlaine Harris books that the show is based on, the writers/producers have embellished and changed things around enough that I truly don't know how this season is going to end. No clue. At all. Only 2 more episodes to go!
Show that ended with a mind f*ck - Nurse Jackie
This week's first season finale was a doozy. Did Jackie try to kill herself at the end? Did she OD? What will happen to her adorable family? Or Coop? Or Zoe? Don't tell me I have to wait 8 months to find out!!
Worse thing my wallet saw this week - Big Brother 11's Thursday show
Russell was stupidly kicked off thus ending my chance at winning $150 in my office pool. Damn Jeff! I now want Kevin or Michele to win.
Obsession renewed this week - Project Runway
So far the move to Lifetime and LA hasn't seemed to hurt the show one bit. Add the new Models of the Runway, the entertaining behind-the-scenes look at the PR clothes hanger girls and Thursday nights are becoming my new favorite thing.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sing it with me - "ACTivEEyAAAH..."

By now the Dannon Activia ads and the Saturday Night Live spot-on spoofs of them are known by practically everyone. And countless folks have blogged and bitched about them before so what I have to say isn't anything new, but I've been seeing the latest ad every time I turn the television on and it's really been bugging me, so allow me to rant.

(on the left - Why is this lady smiling so hard? Did she just poop?)

WTF Dannon? In the latest ad two ladies are relaxing on lounge chairs at a fancy pool (the Dannon website says they're at a "spa") and one turns to the other says "Wanna go for a swim?". The poor lady responds in a loud whisper that she can't - "she's a little irregular" - complete with the swirling hand motions over her belly and a wacky grimace on her face.

I find so many things wrong with this scene - first, if you were only slightly constipated (the lady laughs off the suggestion of eating Activia because her "problems" are so minor) wouldn't swimming in nice cool bouyant water make you feel better? And the exercise would possibly even stimulate your bowels? Second, would a sane person even admit to their friend that they don't feel like swimming because they need to take a crap?! No. You would just say, "hey I want to read this book", or "girl, I'm getting my flirt on with the towel boy/cabana boy/bartender/masseuse, I'd rather not leave this chair", or in this case because the constipated lady is of African-American descent she could've said that she didn't want to get her hair wet.

While I love me some Jamie Lee Curtis, I've never been a fan of these ads. The funky arrow formed out of bacteria orbs that points down indicating that as soon as you eat the yogurt poop will just shoot out of you; the way Dannon insists on calling constipation "slow intestinal transit" like it's some damn light rail train in your body; the fact that Dannon seemingly came up with their own trademarked name for the probiotic bateria that used in the yogurt - Bifidus Regularis, I mean can you just make up your own scientific sounding name like that?
There is a reason I love Tivo, so I think I'll just be boop-beeb-booping over these commercials in the future.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Revisiting a Classic - "Another Country"

Sometimes I just love Tivo. Its little DVR brain looks at my Wishlists and what I’ve been watching and decides to record things that it thinks I will like. In the wee hours of the morning yesterday Tivo decided to record a movie that I haven’t seen in probably 15 years, Another Country, starring a trio of breathtakingly beautiful (and YOUNG) actors Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, and Cary Elwes; long before any of them were stars. Watching this late last night I was transported back to my teen years.

In the mid-80s, I, the daughter of a self-proclaimed anglophile, was in the midst of a wonderful 2nd British Invasion; with all of the glorious music that was around (Style Council, Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Specials, English Beat etc) and all of the great films/mini-series coming out at that time including: Chariots of Fire, Brideshead Revisited, My Beautiful Laundrette, A Room With A View, and 1984’s Another Country. I was obsessed with anything and everything British, and of course I loved cute boys, so Another Country was right up my alley; when it came out my mother and I saw it in the theater its opening weekend. I didn’t totally "get" it back then, but I pretended that I did and added it to my collection of things that I loved. I even had the huge movie poster (see above left) on my bedroom wall that I recall getting from the gay bookstore in Dupont Circle about a month after the movie came out.
Another Country has really held up well, and besides the horrible old man make-up they have on Everett at the opening/ending of the film, this beautifully shot and acted film is a treat that I would highly recommend. I defy you to listen to Colin Firth’s character Tommy utter the phrase “contemptuous sycophant” and not swoon and/or smile.

Some background on the basis for the film - In the 1930s, four young men of rank and privilege met at Cambridge University, went on to earn positions of authority within British intelligence, and then decided to systematically betray their country and their class by spying for the Soviet Union, offering state secrets to the KGB. The notorious Cambridge Spies escaped detection for decades; Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess were exposed in the 50s and defected to Russia, and Anthony Blunt escaped public exposure until 1979. The fact that a traitor like Blunt could have ascended so high in society shocked Britain to its core and was all over the news. It inspired playwright Julian Mitchell in1980 to write a fictionalized account of what might make a member of the elite like Guy Burgess break with his class as a young adult and betray his country.

In the movie Rupert Everett plays the Burgess-like Guy Bennett reprising his character from the original stage play. The film begins in 1983, with a reporter arriving in Moscow to interview an unrepentant Bennett, who recalls his days at an “Eton like” public school. Told in flashback, the movie concentrates on Bennett's alienation from his peers at the boarding school because of his homosexuality; his friendship with fellow alienated peer Tommy Judd played by Firth, who’s a Marxist, Stalin-loving “commie” who openly scorns and shuns the school’s rules and traditions; and Bennett’s transforming love and romance with a student played by Elwes.

The movie surmises that even if you're destined to be on top of the class system hierarchy, it is suffocating and cruel and can lead one to rebel in the worse ways. Eh, the movie never does that good a job of linking Bennett's struggles in school with why he decided to become a spy. But I'm not sure it's supposed to, or has to. It really serves as a window into a time and place that is so completely foreign it's like another planet. One filled with gorgeous angelic boys with awesome accents. Does this make me shallow? So be it. Go out and rent this or catch it on cable.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fall/4th Qtr 2009 Movies - September edition

As we ramp up towards the autumn/early winter extravanganza of TV premiers and the slew of movies coming our way, I've been looking at the roster of films and getting sort of excited about some of the things arriving in theaters in the next few months.
Here's what I'm looking forward to in September:
Gamer - The plot is about how folks in the future play video games using real people (death row prisoners). And if the prisoner can survive 30 games they get their freedom. TV's Dexter, Michael C. Hall is the bad guy “player”, and of course hottie Gerard Butler is the prisoner. Written and directed by Neveldine and Taylor, the duo behind Crank. So yep, this is right up my action movie alley.

Extract - Jason Bateman plays the owner of a factory that makes flavor extracts; and he gets the hots for a new employee played by the chick who was Kelso's girlfriend on "That 70s Show". Eh, who cares about the plot really. It's got Bateman, Kristen Wiig as his wife, J.K. Simmons as the factory manager, and Ben Affleck as Bateman's BFF. And it's Mike Judge's latest movie. I'm sold!

The Invention of Lying - Ricky Gervais lives in a world where nobody lies and everyone is very earnest, TMI-ey, and honest to a fault. Gervais comes up with the brilliant idea to lie, and hilarity ensues. Jennifer Garner, Tina Fey, and Jonah Hill round out the cast so I'm very optimistic that this will be very funny.
Love Happens - I have to admit this romantic dramedy sounds like a rehash of Sleepless in Seattle, with Aaron Eckhart playing a widower in Seattle who falls in love with Jennifer Aniston. But one, I love me some Aaron Eckhart; two, I love watching movies that take place in the city I live in; three, I'm a sucker for schlocky romance. I'm just a little concerned that I have not seen an ad for this yet. Bad sign.

Fame! - There are just a few things that you need to know about me to understand how excited I am about this damn movie:

  1. The original Fame is one of my all-time favorite movies. I defy you to find another person who knows the soundtrack better than I do. Every single track; from the popular title theme to the most obscure gospel choir track.
  2. The 1980 film was a major influence on my childhood. It was the reason I seriously considered going to Duke Ellington (the performing arts highschool in DC) and one of things that got me into musical theater in junior and senior high.
  3. My love for Debbie Allen knows no bounds. The whole "You want fame. Well fame costs. And here is where you start paying; in SWEAT!" thing is totally played out, but still powerful for me if it's coming out of the mouth of one Miss Allen. Add Bebe Neuwirth to the mix and we've got magic people.
  4. I love cheesy dance films. I've seen them all. Center Stage (1 and 2), all of the "Step Up" movies (only two have been released so far, but 3 is coming soon and I'm sure we'll have "Step Up - Keep on Stepping it Up 14" in the future), the crazy menagerie of dance movies from the 80s from Flashdance to Breakin' and it's Electric Boogaloo sequel, Dirty Dancing (and it's horrid sequel), movies about ballroom, movies about ballet, I love at least a small part of them all. Add to that my love of dance stuff on tv and the remake of Fame is perfect because there are kids from So You Think You Can Dance in it and they seem to have modernized the story enough without totally messing with it too much.

I am officially too excited about this.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Big Brother 11 DRAMA

I won't get too spoilery for those of you who don't keep up with the live feeds, but this, up until now boring and tedious, season of Big Brother just got CRAZY.

First, CBS decided to run a taped show instead of a live one on Thursday because outgoing HOH Chima had threatened the producers all week that she was going to go bat-shit crazy on everyone during the live show in front of millions because she suspected that one of the houseguests would use the special "Coup d'etat" power allowing them to overturn her HOH. So they moved to a taped show so that they control anything that might happen before broadcasting. Production has been conceding to Chima's threats all season; ever since she went "off script" during the first eviction and railed against Braden for being a rascist, BB has been a little scared of Chima.
Next, after Michele won HOH on Thursday a whole ton of crap went down with Chima, Natalie, and Lydia banding together moaning and literally crying over Jessie's ouster; going over the BB rule book with a fine-tooth comb to make sure they couldn't catch any mess up that Jeff, Michele, or Russ might've done; taking and hiding Jeff's clothes and his rosary beads; hogging the washer/dryer by doing endless cycles of wash and sitting on top of the machines so nobody else could use them; flipping off and screaming at production whenever asked to put on their mics, or go to the diary room - and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Just when I was about to write this season off, it goes and gets ridiculously dramatic and wonderful. I won't say more, but just you wait until Tuesday's (Aug. 18) show. Way to go Grodner; damn you and your CBS monkeys for pulling me in again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

TV Round-up - first week of August 2009

Final thoughts on So You Think You Can Dance Season 5-
So this little review is very late; mostly because I was on vacation without web access right after the final 4 performances, and partly because I've still been processing the last 4 hours of this season and haven't been able to put my thoughts in any kind of order.

The first problem I had with the finale week was the show's move to the Kodak Theater. On one hand it was wonderful to see that the powers that be have so much faith and pride in the show. They clearly wanted to showcase it in a larger venue and have a bigger audience to appreciate the dancers and allow the great choreographers to have a chance to show off. But for me the larger stage just didn't work. It didn't help that the lighting and the camera work were shitty, but somehow the dance performances were all dwarfed on that big stage and it was hard to pull off the subtle nuances that a few of the routines required. It was very obvious that most of the routines were choreographed for a smaller space originally. Even Wade Robson's opening bit seemed "small" on the Kodak stage.

Anyway, it was clear that the judges had an agenda from the beginning of the final to push Jeanine and Brandon and dump on Evan; and I was totally fine with this because Jeanine and Brandon were the best with Kayla trailing behind in 3rd and Evan a distant 4th. I just wish the judges hadn't been so over-handed with their favoritism.
Thursday's final results show worked much better on the Kodak stage. I don't know if it was the routines that were chosen, or if it was that they got the lighting, cameras, and staging working better but most of the performances worked. I especially loved the return performance of the top 16 "calle ocho" hip-hop/salsa fusion piece that Dmitry and Nappy Tabs did. It popped on the bigger stage.

The encore "judges favorites" routines mostly were those I liked this season (except "butt dance"? really?), but they did come off as producer picks rather than routines that the judges in question actually chose. Big ups to new-to-this-show choreographer Louis Van Amstel for having the most dances highlighted. I also really enjoyed seeing the winner from the Aussie version of this show dancing a Sonya number to one of my fave songs "Shot You Down".

Anyway, the winner came down between the 2 most deserving, Brandon and Jeanine, with my girl taking the big prize. I couldn't be happier except it's sort of sad that her "reign" will only last for a couple of months because season 6 begins in a couple of weeks. As much as I adore this show, one of the reasons I like it is because I associate with summer. Cramming another season so close to the ending of this one feels totally wrong. But if it means more viewers for Glee than I'm all for it.

I'm not going to lie - me and my almost 40 yr old ass will be first in line to see the remake of the movie Fame.

Real Housewives of Atlanta & Watch What Happens L!ve -

I promised myself that I wouldn't get caught up and watch the second season of RH:Atlanta, but dang it they sucked me in right from the first episode. Sigh...

I'm still having a love/hate relationship with Andy Cohen and his little weekly gabfest. On the one hand I like the informality of the show, like we're hanging out with friends gossiping over cocktails. But then again Andy Cohen is very annoying and that seemingly won't be changing anytime soon.

Monday, August 3, 2009

July TV report card

Surprises (Good) -
Drop Dead Diva; Ruby & The Rockits; 2nd season of True Blood
I've already talked these three programs up in previous posts. I'm still enjoying these programs each week.

HGTV's Design Star
I am loving this latest season of Design Star probably more than any of the previous ones for some reason. Yes, Clive Pearse continues to bug, and Tashica should've gone home weeks ago, it's still really fun. And Candice Olson - hello! Go Dan Vickery! He's adorable and talented (and from Portland, OR); I would gladly watch a show that he hosted.

Surprises (Bad)
Miami Social
Part of me gets a thrill out of watching this idiotic group of friends; I mean for real, there are a lot of assholes just like this in Miami. But when Hardy Hill (of Big Brother season 2 fame) is the least tooliest of the bunch, bringing the voice of reason and sanity to the mix, you know something is messed up. I'm close to deleting the season pass on this one like I did for "NYC Prep".

Torchwood: Children of Earth
Let me explain. Hottie John Barrowman and company are still great, and what little I got to see of the "Children" mini-series was well done. The unpleasant surprise was that I got the dates of the premiere of the 3 episode season mixed up so ended up only recording the end which was really confusing for me and made no sense whatsoever. So far BBCAmerica hasn't replayed it either so I might have to bite the bullet and buy it on dvd.

Surprises (Boring)
Anybody else bored to tears by this season of Eureka? My love of Colin Ferguson can only go so far. I miss the good writing. I mean at this point Carter has been sheriff of this crazy town for a few years. Why is he still so naive and continuously surprised by goings-on there. How did he not know about this annual bowling tournament if it was so important? And each week coming up with the latest misguided reckless scientist is getting to be so lame. I miss Ed Quinn as Stark. Good thing I've gotten to see him a little in his role as Stan on the last couple of episodes of True Blood.

Never watched an episode of Great American Road Trip. Just seeing the clips they showed on "The Soup" told me all I needed to know.

Too early to tell -
Being Human
I watched the two episode premiere this past weekend and liked the three leads a lot. Some of the supporting players are annoying and the storylines are a little thin in places but I'm interested enough to keep watching. Aidan Turner is easy on the eyes too.

Big Brother 11
I know I know, how can I possibly say that it's too early to tell if this is a waste of my time? But seriously, there are still 10 people left in the game and except for one of the evictees, I haven't been sad about anyone leaving. And while there are some serious moronic assholes on this season, it's been a more interesting social experiment to me this time around than in the last few years. Plus I have $150 at stake in an office pool, so I feel invested in caring about the outcome.