Tuesday, December 28, 2010
In my music entry I wrote that I probably missed one album, but turned out I was wrong. I missed two!
Transference - Spoon and The Chaos - The Futureheads. Not sure how I forgot them as they're still in constant rotation on my iPod, but I'm basically an idiot so....yeah.
Also, for television I completely forgot to mention the 30 for 30 documentary series on ESPN. Not all of them worked (the fantasy baseball one was nearly unwatchable) but for the most part they nailed it. The SMU football program, the Esteban soccer one, the race car driver with AIDS (sorry, can't recall his name off the top of my head), and especially (for me) the Len Bias one which - while picking at old Celtic wounds - brought the tragedy to a much more personal level.
I debated even writing this entry since my movie watching habits are a year behind everyone else. I don't enjoy going to the theater much due to annoying and/or obnoxious people so Netflix has become my movie land.
I reconsidered for what has become my single favorite movie of 2010, however. Since most of you have probably never heard of it, I wanted to pass it along in the hopes I could convince one of you to check it out. You can even watch it online if you have Netflix subscription.
Let's get to it.
SINGLE MOST ENTERTAINING MOVIE OF THE YEAR
The Good, The Bad, The Weird: This Korean homage (the H is silent) to the spaghetti westerns is the most fun I've had watching a movie all year. Paced like lightning, frequently hilarious, with exhilarating, over the top (do those guns ever run out of bullets?) action sequences and culminating in a chase straight out of a Mad Max movie. Just when I thought it couldn't get any more insane, the Japanese army is introduced. Do yourself a favor and watch the first 15 minutes of this movie. If you enjoy the train scene you'll get a kick out of the rest of it, as well. Even the final showdown between the three main characters contains a punch line that I loved. My Christmas gift to you.
FUNNIEST MOVIE I'VE SEEN ALL YEAR
The Hangover: See what I mean? Everyone else saw this in 2009. I saw this in January, but it still holds the place for funniest goddamn flick I've seen all year. Rewatchability is off the charts and could be the most quoted movie of our life times.
Get Him to the Greek: While it turns into a bro-mance during the last thirty minutes, the first hour is hilarious. See it for Sean (P-Diddy) Combs coming out party. Whenever he's on screen, he's the funniest character. 'Do you feel my dick fucking your mind?'
DayBreakers: How this original, film noirish vampire movie gets over looked for the Twilight saga bullshit is something I'll never figure out. Extremely violent (especially the spectacular, blood soaked finale) yet haunting and emotionally involving in a way most movies could only wish to be.
North Face: The true story of two teams trapped on the North Face of Eiger Mountain while trying to become the first to conquer it. If you've ever wanted to know the challenges and vigors of mountain climbing from the safety of your living room couch, this is the movie to see.
Michael Sheen: Not only nailing it in 'The Damned United' (see below), but brought cocky vulnerability and hidden insecurity to his portrayal of David Frost in 'Frost/Nixon'.
Timothy Olyphant: Starred in one of my favorite movies of the year ('The Crazies') and completely stole the show in 'A Perfect Getaway' with his rouge, deranged yet charming performance as a possible serial killer hiking the Hawaiian outback.
BEST SPORTS MOVIE
The Damned United: Micheal Sheen cements himself as one of the best actors on the globe with his portrayal of egotistical, out of control, selfish soccer coach Brian Clough. I finally understand what is meant when people say 'a player's coach' because Clough is the exact opposite of that.
BEST MOVIE FROM BOOK
Shutter Island: Completely absorbing even though I had read the book and knew the ending before hand. Can't get any more complimentary than that. Between this and 'The Departed' I think DeCaprio and Scorsese should only work with each other from now on. And only film in the Boston area. You're two for two, guys. Why mess up a good thing?
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: This Swedish adaptation of the best seller remains faithful to the book while cutting out 100 pages of bullshit. The rare example of the movie being better.
Bill Murray in 'ZombieLand': 'Just played nine holes on the Riviera. Just walked in. Nobody there'
The Ghost Writer: Starts off harmlessly enough before layering on suspicion after suspicion; building to a climax that is shocking, logical in it's own way and highly disturbing. This would also win for best ending of the year. The final shot is still with me. One other note: that Ewan McGregor comes off as charming and likable as he does here should be further proof that George Lucas is a terrible director of actors. He barely had a personality as young Obi Wan in those Star Wars movies.
BEST ANIMATED MOVIE
The Fantastic Mr Fox: Hip, hilarious, intelligent and much more uplifting than the depressing 'Toy Story 3'. Honorable mention to 'How To Train Your Dragon' for the delirious flight sequences.
BEST ACTION MOVIE
Kick Ass: Violent, funny revenge tale put over the top with the addition of a deranged father and daughter crime fighting duo. The little girl is as coarse and vulgar as any character ever put to film. Not for everyone, but I really enjoyed this.
500 Days of Summer: The scene after our male 'hero' exits his apartment after having sex with Summer for the first time. He gets knowing looks from other women, high fives from random passing men, before the entire city around him breaks into dance routine. Magic!
Waltz With Bashir: While this was great movie making, it's hard to recommend it as required viewing. It's sort of a documentary, but animated as many of the interviewees didn't want to be shown on camera. The story involves the narrator trying to figure out why he's lost some memories of war. The answer is not for the faint of heart (or stomach) and the animated style does nothing to ease the trauma.
WORST PLOT TWIST
Orphan: Little girl adopted by upper class, annoyingly self centered family gets more than they bargained for when it turns out the 'little girl' is actually 35 years old. See she suffers from 'dwarphism' so she looks little which doesn't explain why she likes pretending she's 12 and killing people. Would have been more interesting if she was actually a psychopathic 12 year old.
Dead Snow: Nazi zombies come back from the dead (uh...undead?) after their gold is stolen. Decapitations and intestines galore, but it's approached with humor and some legitimate suspense. Not great, but if you're a horror fan, you'll enjoy this.
The Orphanage: You'll never view a game of 'red light - green light' the same way again.
Paranormal Activity: Legitimate frights (esp the footsteps in the talcum powder) as a couple records some strange activity in their house. Once again, however, the alternate ending works better than the one released in theaters.
SINGLE WORST MOVIE I'VE SEEN THIS YEAR
Knowing: Nick Cage proves he will literally do anything for a buck by starring in this confusing and pointless flick about either A: the end of the world or B: aliens saving the human race. Both movies suck.
Hope everyone enjoys their New Year's and got everything they wanted for Christmas.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Here's how it happened. I get an email from one of my old high school buddies who tells me that there is a new show beginning that is based on one of his favorite comic book series. Now, granted, this isn't a ringing endorsement for me, but I set the DVR and figured I could take it off if the show didn't do it for me.
Bang. I was hooked from the first 10 minutes.
Television seems to be getting better and better lately. I dare say the there are more quality television shows than there are quality Hollywood movies. Yeah, I went there.
Ok, let's get to it. I'm going to try to put the correct channel and time the show is on to get you to set your own DVRs but I have a hard time figuring out when things are on. I usually just hit 'My Recordings' and select the show I want to watch. It really makes life so much more enjoyable.
BEST OF THE BEST
The Walking Dead (AMC, Sunday 10pm): This was the comic book show my friend alerted me to and I will be forever in his debt. Sadly, there were only 6 episodes in the opening season but that also makes it easy for you to catch up on. Maybe Hulu has the episodes? Yes, it's gory and there is one scene that is easily the most disgusting series of events (it involves masking human scent with zombie) ever put on television but it's the characters and acting that put this over the top. The season finale had me rooting for the survival of characters I didn't even know I cared about. Kudos to everyone involved in this violent masterpiece.
The Good Wife (CBS, Tuesday 10pm): I've written enough about this here already, so just friggin' watch it, will ya? Each episode perfectly balances a stand alone court room trial with the ongoing ripple effects of a father/husband political scandal on every member of a family. Last week's death trial episode is a great example: how the decision of the trial changes the religious life of the daughter. Interesting, too, that this is the first drama I can remember that has characters feeling apprehensive about religion. Intelligent, funny, superbly directed, must see.
Modern Family (ABC, Wednesday 9pm): I mentioned this to several people who all say the same thing: 'I don't watch it regularly, but when I do it's really funny'. Well, watch it regularly then. Why deprive yourself of the funniest show on network television since 'Seinfeld'?
Community (NBC, Thursday 9pm): While not as funny as the first season, this still provides plenty of laughs with pop culture references and satire riffing on all sorts of movies. The episode where Troy and Abed built a fort, which becomes a college fad across the country is a highlight. Although, frankly, the jokes come so rapid fire at times they can get lost unless you watch it again.
30 Rock (NBC, Thursday 9:30pm): Somehow this show keeps getting funnier. To be fair, though, this could just be better with the subtraction of the god awful Julianne Moore character. Twenty years ago, who would have ever predicted Alec Baldwin would be the funniest guy on TV.
Boardwalk Empire (HBO, Sunday 9pm): I had my doubts after the series opener, but this show built on each previous episode like a mammoth feature film. Stellar acting from everyone, story arcs that are engrossing, violence, sex (fairly certain every female in the show is naked at some point) and character turns that are shocking even if - in hindsight - we should have seen coming. Special shout out to the actor portraying Al Capone who brings vulnerability, humanity and humor to one of the most notorious gangsters in history. Also intriguing is how the show treats the quiet trauma of the recently ended war. Back when nobody 'discussed' bad things, physically and emotionally scarred men litter the shadows of every corner.
Terriers (FX, Wednesday 10pm): An alcoholic ex-cop and his low life former criminal/now best friend, inadvertently become private investigators and slowly uncover an enormous land grab scandal that has yet to play out. Unpredictable, often funny, always human and - at times - uncomfortably real. Didn't realize how much I looked forward to watching this until FX was gone from Dish Network for a few weeks. Thought maybe it had been cancelled or was a short run series and was very happy to have everyone back in my life.
Cougar Town (ABC, Wednesday 9:30pm): I know, but it's actually sort of strange, ensemble comedy that has two to ten great laughs an episode. The title has little to do with what the show is actually about as the men are what makes this show hilarious.
Detroit 187 (NBC, Tuesday 10pm): Standard police drama that took a huge leap forward it's last few episodes which address the racial scars left behind from the riots of the early 70s.
House (Fox, Monday 8pm): I had my doubts when Cuddy and House became lovers and 13 disappeared without explanation or follow up, but I rather enjoyed the breaking in of newbie (Joan of Arcadia) and the dismantling of her 'always tell the truth' philosophy.
The Office (NBC, Thursday 9pm): Agreed, it's nowhere near as good as it's greatest seasons, but it still provides laughs and the snowball fight episode was it's best in a long time.
Jersey Shore (MTV, on constant rotation): Watching scumbags, douchebags and tramps frollic around should never be this entertaining. That I find myself actually liking a few of these people is a testament to how well this show is put together.
WORST SHOW OF THE YEAR
Outsourced (NBC, Thursday 9:30pm): Really, NBC? I couldn't get past ten minutes of this disaster.
The Event (NBC, no clue): Made it through four episodes before ditching. Confusing, slow moving despite the constant 'action' scenes and improbable escapes in nearly every episode. If this conspiracy has been so effective for decades how can they not stop one 20 something moron from mucking up the works. Just shoot him in the head already. By the way, my theory was that group of people are time travelers from the future. Thus they can't say anything to anyone for fear of messing up their own present. Butterfly effect, if you will. Fortunately, I don't care if I'm right or not. I'll just take comfort knowing my theory is probably better than what is actually going on.
Lone Star: Despite rave reviews and a non stop promotional campaign from Fox, the show was canceled after three episodes. I caught the first one and was left unimpressed. When you ask viewers to sympathize with a con man living separate lives you better make sure you cast the perfect actor for the part. Flashing an 'aren't I good looking?' smile does not equal charisma.
MIGHT BE TIME TO SAY GOODNIGHT
Bones (Fox, Thursday 8pm): Still better than most shows out there and I'll keep watching, but the love triangle is tired and the charm of the relationships seems forced. Every now and then an episode captures that old magic which just makes the other shows pale in comparison.
American Idol (Fox, every friggin' night for eternity): Does anyone outside of Fox think this show can work without Simon? He was the reality check and I sure as hell don't think Steven Tyler or Jennifer Lopez is willing to carry that torch for him. My only hope is a sex scandal involving Tyler and/or Lopez and 15 contestants.
V: What started off as a disturbing, fast paced allegory about terrorism and civil rights quickly veered into camp during the second half of last season. I knew things somehow went wrong when I was rooting for the aliens (esp that hot, blonde one) to finish off the annoying human rebels.
With that, my friends, we head into a new 2011 year. I'm guessing there will be some new shows that we'll be discussing next year.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Local Natives - Gorilla Manor: Indy rock at it's finest. A bit rough in spots, but can't wait to see what they do next.
Citay - Dream Get Together: A modern take on Fleetwood Mac laced with trippy California feel good vibes.
A Day To Remember - What Separates Me From You: Whoever fucked these guys up should be very afraid. Combines hard core metal with pop punk with surprisingly strong results.
Fang Island - Fang Island: Instrumentally, these guys kick some ass while trying to make themselves accessible to the masses.
Far - At Night We Live: Veteran band that influenced Thursday and Blink 182 (among others) returns to prove age doesn't matter if you're still pissed off at the world. Also contains the best cover of the year.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
This blog should be renamed ‘BeachBum’s Occasional Diversions’.
Sorry, but I’ve been busy! Not only is work picking up at the exact time of year when things are supposed to slow down, but I’ve been bettering myself through education. I’ve been taking some classes in an attempt to get certified for some technical mumbo jumbo bullshit (what’s that acronym? STMJBS?)
Luckily for you loyal readers (all three of you), I have time to jot down some notes today.
- Let’s start with the news I’m MOST excited about: A certain Adrian Gonzalez becoming part of Red Sox Nation! Theo and company have been after him for years and finally managed a deal with the Padres to get him to Boston. While I’m confused why it suddenly only took 3 prospects to finalize the trade after all this time (what changed with the Padres?) and I spent Sunday bemoaning the rumors that the deal might fall apart at the last minute (ala Mark Tiexeira), I haven’t been this thrilled with a Red Sox move since….
…well, I can’t remember when. When we first signed Manny? Let’s go with that.
Spring training can’t come soon enough!
- I’m also riding high off the Patriots utter destruction of a supposedly championship caliber Jets team. Neither Sanchez’ nor Rex Ryan’s finest hour last night. I always enjoy watching big mouths get slapped around. That it was the Pats doing the bitch slapping made it that much more enjoyable.
I watched some of the pre game hubbub (how can ‘experts’ talk about one game for so long?) on ESPN and our local channel in Boston and became increasingly frustrated with most analysts view of the Patriots defense as one of the worst. Yes, statistically it is, but – and this is where these talking heads miss the bigger picture – this secondary is extremely young and has been playing much better as the season has progressed. With the secondary playing better, the front line is becoming more effective. So yes, the Pats do have a statistically awful defense up to this point, but they have improved week by week and not one person who spent all this time analyzing these two teams mentioned it.
- My crowning achievement this past weekend was scoring a PERFECT gift for Wifey. I give you the ColorNOOK. It’s one of those eReader things she’s been wanting for a while, only it has a web browser (so she can go on Facebook and tell everyone she got a new ColorNOOK), Pandora’s music service, and a number of free apps available from the Barnes and Noble site. That’s right, it’s more like an iPad than an eReader but it only costs half of what the iPad does ($250). Nothing puts a hop in your step than knowing you’ve picked out the exact right thing. And it wasn’t at the last minute for once! Will wonders never cease?
- Eldest son is asking for a cell phone for Christmas this year so tonight Wifey and I are heading to Verizon to see what sort of deal we can get. If we can score him a freebie while changing to a family plan, he’ll think we’re the greatest parents ever. And he’d be correct.
- There is also some controversy surrounding one of his other requests. He has ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’ on his list and I initially told him he could remove it. I refuse to get a ten year old any game rated M. I allow T (for Teen) occasionally, but never an M game even though he insists on asking every time. Well, this weekend the new ads come in the Sunday Globe and he points out that the game for Xbox 360 is rated T. I check another ad and find it rated M for the Playstation. So what gives? Are there two different ratings for the same game? Does it depend on the system? Are they releasing an M and T rated version? I’m like my father finally: totally confused about what my son is asking for Christmas. Only took 43 years, but I made it.
- I’m considering a Droid. Either the HTC Incredible or the Droid X. Any advice out there on either of these? Currently using a Blackberry but the screen is beginning to flicker and flash.
- Just realized it’s December! Time to get cracking on my annual Year End Review. Unfortunately, I’ll be in DC for the next five days, so I may not have time to get to it until late next week. Stupid work.
- Rumor has it that the Red Sox offered Marino Rivera a three year deal. Can you imagine if they pulled that off?
- Thirty two year old Jason Werth gets a seven year, hundred billion dollar deal for two decent years in Philly? I’m officially putting all my retirement funds on getting my two boys into baseball full time. If I have to move to Texas, so be it.
By the way, this deal will look catastrophic in two years, never mind seven.
- I’ve been away from Saturday Night Live for a few years, but have returned thanks to my DVR. While I’ve only seen a few bits from previous seasons, I think I’m safe declaring this year an unmitigated disaster. Last week wasted Robert Deniro, Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, and an hour of my life. There are sparks here and there, but mostly the skits are dreadful. What the fuck is going on?
- Want another reason to push your boys into baseball? Check out these pics from Big Papi’s charity golf tournament in the Dominican Republic. The first ten in particular show the wives of Papi, Pedroia and Darnell McDonald. I have only two words: Holy shit!
- Apparently WikiLeaks is causing world wide panic with all these confidential documents they’re posting on their site. While I can understand some concern, shouldn’t governments be required to operate with transparency? Democratic countries in particular have a duty to let their citizens know what they’re up to, right? We elected them, we pay their salaries.
Besides, why are they so upset that it’s leaked that Obama was pissed at certain countries because they still fund terrorist organizations or aren’t helping out? Don’t we want to know that stuff? If anything, it makes me feel better that Obama and the U.S. is still working tirelessly to prevent another terrorist attack anywhere in the world. Seems most of this ‘confidential’ information is mostly common sense anyway.
- Put up the Christmas Tree over the weekend and had the boys decorate it. All the ornaments are clumped together from my chest level down. As it does every year, Wifey’s obsessive compulsive disorder took over and she rearranged them all so they’re perfectly organized. Nothing trumpets in the holiday season better than a woman raging against clutter.
- What in holy hell is going on with the Redskins? Shanahan comes in and openly questions Haynesworth conditioning. Things start off ok, but sour when Shanahan benches Donovan McNabb because he was out of shape. As a reward for getting benched and being out of shape McNabb signs a five year, 70 million dollar extension.
Next Haynesworth doesn’t dress for a game. He says it was coach’s decision or illness depending on who you talked. Now Shanahan turns around and suspends Haynesworth for the rest of the season. Without pay!
If you take into account the way Shanahan left Denver, there has to be some serious appreciation given for his ability to submarine his own team. He did the same thing with Jake Plummer halfway through his last season there and named Jay Cutler starter. Things quickly went south for the team from there.
Putting Shanahan together with Haynesworth probably wasn’t a great idea no matter which way you spin it, but I’ll side with the coaches on this one. Some reports are saying that Haynesworth wasn’t sick but hungover on the Friday before practice which is why he was benched for Sunday’s game.
The only two things I know for certain: Shanahan will not win coach of the year and there will never be another 100 million dollar contract in NFL history.
- Tomorrow night is our company holiday party and you can expect many many many many beers to be consumed by yours truly. Last year there was more money left over than the company expected so a buddy and I ordered a few very expensive shots of whiskey that tasted wonderful. I should be rich. I certainly enjoy the lifestyle.
Until next time, friends. Not sure when that will be, but soon.
Today’s distraction: T-Mobile sponsored some singers to greet travelers at Heathrow International Airport. Further proof that life is better with music.