Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Simpsons: "The Boys of Bummer" Review

The episode "The Boys of Bummer" had me singing "Take me out to the animated ball game." It was funny without being too deep. It wasn't a classic episode by any stretch of the imagination, but it was entertaining.

Bart becomes the goat of the town when he drops a routine flyball in the championship game of his Little League. The whole town starts to hate on him, driving him insane, and Marge to the idea to recreate the game in order to give Bart another chance at redemption. The inanity of baseball is highlighted with the announcer who babbles on about their sponsors and what it means to make an error on the baseball field.

The B-plot had Homer becoming a mattress saleman (at one point, he wonder outloud how this will turn out). He trades his mattress to the Lovejoys, the Reverend and his wife, to aid their sex life. He finds his own sex life suffers for it, and he and Marge set out to steal it. Homer can't resist singing the tune from "The Pink Panther" as he sneaks around. The final solution to the Lovejoy's and Simpson's problems is to split the mattress in half, not quite going like King Solomon that Reverend Lovejoy used as an example.

The episode had some funny little bits. Homer thinks about the types of sanwiches the split mattress looks like, gets hot, and pulls over to the side of the road to make love with Marge. Ned Flanders apparently hates oil-based paint and goes a little psycho when "I Hate Bart Simpson" is painted on his fence. There is even a nod to Steve Bartman and his involvement with the Cubs when Homer snatches a foul ball from Bart. Even the towns mean actions towards Bart was hilarious. And who knew that Lenny had a well received series of mystery books? Even Stephen King is a fan!

This episode was light and fluffy, with very little substance to be remembered later. However, that content was enjoyed while it lasted.

3 Old Milhouses out of 5.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lost: "D.O.C." Review

Yunjin Kim, who plays Sun, is an amazing actress. Although the Lost episode "D.O.C." was not that exciting until the last quarter of the show, Kim kept the episode from careening into boring town.

The episode focused on Sun's pregnancy. She learns from Juliet that women who conceive on the Island end up dead. Adding more to Sun's dilemma is that she isn't sure who the father of the bay is: Jin's or her ex-lover's. If it is her ex-lover's she has shamed Jin. If it is Jin's, then she only has a limited time to live. Juliet confirms that it is Jin's baby, and Yunjin Kim goes through all the emotions: relieft, happiness, and fear as Sun realizes she is doomed.

Meanwhile, back with Desmond's group of him, Charlie, Hurley, and Jin, they try to help the female parachutist, as she is suffering from a punctured lung. Hurley accidentally sends up a flare, and who rushes to the scene? The thought dead Mikhail, of the Flame (Communication) station. The group realizes he should be dead, but Mikhail does not give anything away as to why he is still alive. He helps save the parachutist, lying about what she said after she was fine (she said "I am not alone", which Mikhail reported as "Thank you."), and then trying to steal the satellite phone. He doesn't steal the phone, but is allowed to go free, much to Charlie's chagrin.

The last quarter of the episode had two reveals: Juliet infiltrated the Lostaway's camp to collect samples from the females to see if anyone can be impregnated and the female parachutist reveals that Oceanic FLight 815 was found with no survivors. What does that mean? The producers have said that the Island is not Purgatory and the survivors aren't dead. The feasible explanation is that whoever is providing supply for and funding the Others also has the resources to fake a destroyed plane and used that to throw any rescuers off the real trail. It reiterates that the only person who can help the survivors find rescue is Desmond.

Although not mythos heavy, this episode was better than average because of the fine acting. The twist at the end added a new layer to the show that I hope is explored more.

3 1/2 Flare Guns out of 5.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Simpsons Ride!

Here is one of the many articles on a new ride coming to Universal Studios:

I cannot wait till it opens! I love The Simpsons and I loved the Back to the Future ride it is taking over.

Remember, The Simpsons Movie is coming out July 27!

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Monday, April 23, 2007

The Simpsons: "Marge Gamer" Review

The world of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games is ripe for parody. South Park tore into World of Warcraft earlier this year. Now The Simpsons takes on these games with the eipsode "Marge Gamer".

Marge finally discovers the internet and after clicking through some banner ads finds "Earthland Realms", a parody of WoW. The game looks like and plays like WoW, with quests and spells. The big baddie in Earthland Realms is the Black Knight, who is controlled by Bart. Of course, how bad could Bart be with his mom now hanging around? Marge decorates the Black Knight's lair with Hello Kitty stuff and embarasses him in front of his minions. Bart learns to accept his mom, giving up his life to protect her. She then cheerily says that she will hunt down every one of his murders to seek revenge.

The B-plot has Lisa playing soccer with Homer as a referee. At first, Homer does not know anything about soccer and Lisa gets mad at him being uninformed. Then Homer starts to call the games accurately, but with a bias towards Lisa and her flopping. Homer gets called out on this and is forced to call a foul on Lisa. Lisa gets upset and the usual plotline with a Simpson child having a rift with Homer plays out. The only difference is this time Homer is actually in the right.

This episode was not anything special. While the visual references to WoW were funny, the episode often decided to enter the Earthland world and make it seem like The Simpsons were doing a medieval tribute and not a gaming one. Many Springfieldians appeared in EArthland Realms, but their appearances varied from humanoid to hybrid of animals, which really isn't a feature of MMOs. Lisa suddenly picking up soccer seemed to come out of nowhere, occuring almost halfway through the episode.

Some of the jokes hit (Marge's character selection, Mrs. Krabapple's profession in Earthland Realms) and some of the jokes didn't (Homer on "Google Earth"). Overall, the episode is not a memorable one.

2 1/2 Kidnapped Moes out of 5.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Retro Movie Review: "Ghost World"

There have been comic book superhero movies like Spider-Man and X-Men and there have been serious comic book movies like American Splendor. Ghost World (2001) belongs in that second catergory, as it is a movie not about costumed people, but about a teenaged girl struggling to find her place in the world. The geeky girl, Enid, is played by Thora Birch, of American Beauty fame, and her best friend, Rebecca, is played by a mousy version Scarlett Johansson. These two characters turn a cynical eye towards the world around then, yet after their high school graduation, are forced to grow up in this world.

Rebecca easily adjusts to her new life, but Enid rallies against it, especially after she has to attend a summer school class to officially graduate. Enid finds company with an older man Seymour (Steve Buscemi) who she played a practical joke on. She bonds with Buscemi's socially inept character and, against her nature, develops feeling for him. However, in this world, nothing can be easy, as Enid's pursuit of Seymour alienates Rebecca and initially retards her own growth. Enid is truly a "ghost", floating through the world, not wanting to make any real contact with anyone else. She is stuck between two worlds, and she does not want to enter either one.

Unlike American Splendor which used its comic book roots in the presentation of itself, with weird shots and direction, Ghost World plays out as an "indie" movie. It seems like a typical low budgeted movie that doesn't try to outshine itself and the directing is typical of that sorta movie. The film doesn't broadcast that it is a quirky comic book story, rather, it presents itself as just a quirky story. This is ironic, since Ghost World was a fictional comic book story, while American Splendor was an autobiographical comic book tale by Harvey Pekar.

This film was enjoyable and it was nice to see two beautiful actresses, Birch and Johansson, dress down for a role. Since her star has risen, Johansson's looks have eclipsed any talk of her acting ability. Ghost World, which was made before Scarlett's big arrival, shows that she has some acting chops. Birch though has seemed to faded away a little bit since her role in American Beauty, but hopefully she returns to the big screen soon. Buscemi is the key third role in the film, and he, as always, plays the outcast, weirdo role very well. All three actors lifted the movie from typical fare to something more.

4 Old Time Records out of 5.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

New Movie Review: "Fracture"

Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs) is one of those actors who play understated creepiness really well. Hopkins doesn't flail his arms about to create hysteria, no, he keeps his body rigid as he lets his voice tell the story. Skin crawls when he opens his mouth.

Hopkins gets the opportunity to be that type of actor in the movie Fracture. In the opening sequence, he kills his wife with disturbing normalcy. He has perfectly planned out this murder, as he manages to make it seem like he is innocent in the eyes of the court. The prosecuting attorney, played by Ryan Gosling (The Notebook) with a slightly odd Southern accent, is initially arrogant, ready to leave the DA's office for greener pastures. Gosling's character, Willie Beachum, becomes increasingly frustrated as he runs into dead ends that Hopkins character, Crawford, set up. As Willie's bright future seems to be slipping away, Crawford steps up the mind games.

It has been a while since I saw a pure drama. This movie is a pure drama. Aside from the opening murder, there is very little "action". There are no car chases or big explosions. The focus is purely on Gosling and Hopkins. The film tries to shoehorn a romantic subplot with Gosling's character, but it never really materializes and sorta fizzles out in the end. Some lawyer cliches pop up, but they are actually brushed aside as ridiculous and they movie uses them in a refreshing way.

This is a movie with a lot of talking. Normally, that could be very boring. But in the capable hands and mouths of Hopkins and Gosling, the movie never bogs down in exposition. Things move at brisk pace and only drags at bit in the middle. But it is a brief drag and things soon pick up. This movie is definitely an intriguing bit of cinema.

4 Old Sports out of 5.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lost: "Catch-22" Review

While the last couple of Lost episodes were homeruns, tonight's Desmond-centric episode was not quite a four bagger. It was more like a long fly ball that is just out of the outfielder's grasp so that the hitter gets a double. Meaning in the end it was exciting, but for a few moments it was almost routine.

The episode opens up with the death of Charlie. Yep, the Singing Hobbit gets an arrow in the throat, courtesy of the Ironic Island. Apparently, Charlie, Jin, Hurley, and Desmond were treking through the jungle when Charlie got the wrong end of a Rousseau trap. Of course, this is really just a vision, and Desmond sees some other interesting things: Hurley finding the cable that leads to the beacon, a red light in the sky, and someone hanging from a tree. Oh, and his picture with him and Penny in it. Desmond takes this as a sign that Penny is coming to the Island to rescue him and seeks to recreate the events, right down to Charlie's death.

In Desmond's flashback, we see him before he met Penny. He is in training to be a monk, but the real reason why he is in an abbey is because he ran away from marriage from his previous girlfriend. Desmond is always seeking something else, he is always running away from himself, and this flashback reinforces that theme. He thinks he is destined for something big (though he is not egotistical about it) and finds ways to keep going towards that goal, whether it be communing with God or sacrificing Charlie to see his Penny.

In the B-plot, Sawyer, Kate, and Jack are trying to sort out their love triangle. Jack and Sawyer has somewhat grown up and are friendly towards each other, but Kate is still a bit jealous of Jack and Juliet. In fact, seeing them together leads to Kate jumping Sawyer. Sawyer has some funny lines in this episode, with his ping pong discussion with Jack, to his asking of Jack and Juliet whose the favorite Other. Sawyer has seemed to mature a little over the past few episode that although he still calls Kate "Freckles", he has toned down the jackass in him.

Back to Desmond. He can't go through with sacrificing Charlie and saves him from the arrow. He is distraught, especially when they stumble upon the person who ejected from the helicopter Desmond saw in his vision. Desmond thinks it is Penny and calls out for her. But the parachutist is barely alive and isn't Penny. She does however, recognize Desmond, saying his name before she passes out. So was she sent to find Desmond by Penny, and hence why Desmond found his picture in the parachutist's belonging? Hmmmm...

There were a lot of Easter Eggs peppered throughout the episode. The biggest one is that the old lady from Desmond's previous FB, the one who warned Des that he can't change the future, appeared in a picture at the abbey Des was staying in. Also, the monks bottled 108 wine bottles a year and the mention of Abraham and Isaac leads to the fact that Isaac had a son named Jacob. Jacob is an important name this season.

This episode was a good solid hour of entertainment. Though not a mindscrew like last week's was or as mythos heavy as others have been lately, the episode served its purpose. Rescue may be on the horizon for our Lostaways.

3 1/2 Superman vs. Flash debates out of 5.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lost: "One of Us" Review

And the hits keep on coming!

Tension reaches new heights on Lost, as in "One of Us" Juliet, the Other left behind, comes to the survivors' beach, trying to join in. She witnesses the reunion of Jack, Sayid, and Kate with the rest of the cast and is visually apart from them. Being abandoned by Ben, Juliet wants to be accepted by the Lostaways, to find a community. But does she deserve it? After all, she was part of the group that kidnapped and mentally tortured our heroes.

Sayid and Sawyer do not trust her. Sayid wants answers and Sawyer remembers what The Others did to him and Kate. Sawyer continues his character growth, with his touching, tender hug to Kate upon her return, and his teaming with Sayid to keep an eye on Juliet. Jack vouches for Juliet's trustiness, much to the chagrin of the survivors. Cracks are starting to appear in survivor's faith in Jack. They cannot fathom why Jack would side with the enemy over them. And it is compounded even further when he reveals he made a deal with Ben. Hurley even tries to grill Juliet and warn her about the last time an Other entered camp (Ethan).

Through Juliet's flashbacks we learn why she was chosen by The Others: women on the Island have a problem being pregnant. These women's bodies often reject the life growing inside of them and their immune system kills them both. Originally brought to the Island on the sub after being voluntarily drugged, Juliet wants to return home after 6 months, as per her deal. However, Ben uses Juliet's sister against her, and says that her sister's cancer is back and it can only be cured (by the mysterious Jacob) if Juliet stays on the Island. Juliet stays and starts a relationship with later-killed-by-Ana-Lucia Goodwin. However, after 3 years, when Ben gets his tumor and Juliet's faith in the healing abilities of Ben, Juliet wants out again. On the day of the plane crash, Ben takes Juliet to the communication station and Mikhail, who is monitoring the news of the crash. Ben shows Juliet that her sister is still alive, and has a 2 year old boy. Juliet's misplace faith is once again restored.

Juliet finally starts to gain acceptance with the survivors when Claire falls ill. She reveals that she had a part in Claire's abduction and that is the source of her illness. However, Juliet also says she knows how to cure Claire and is allowed to run off to get some medicine. She has a staredown with Sayid and Sawyer, reminding them that they have no moral high ground over her, and seemingly saves the day. The survivors allow her to stay on the beach and Jack has a spot picked out for her. Juliet is now somewhat accepted and seems assimilated.

...Which is what Ben wanted. Juliet turns from sympathetic to snake in the grass quickly in the last five minutes. The final flashback reveals that Juliet joining Jack and company is all a set up. Her and Ben went over a plan, with Juliet handcuffing herself to Kate and all that followed, so that Juliet can accomplish some unknown goal. Ben has the final line of the episode: "See you in one week." What will happen in one week? And the omninous last shot of Juliet, stonefaced, looking over the cast is chilling. Does she want Sun and her Island-conceived baby? Or Desmond and his ability to see the future? Or Charlie for some Ethan-inspired revenge?

Is it Wednesday yet?

4 1/2 Glasses of OJ out of 5.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

New Movie Review: "Meet The Robinsons"

The animated flick "Meet the Robinsons" is the first one from a combined Pixar/Disney studio. When Pixar was abosrbed into Disney, the heads of Pixar too the original "Robinsons" outline and put their mark on it.

The result is a movie that is frantic and funny, but not totally Pixar. The plot is somewhat thin and their is a twist that one can see coming a mile away. Still, it is an enjoyable film that has one unique quality: it has been released in both normal and 3-D prints. I had the pleasure of seeing it in 3-D and it certainly played very well in that format. The 3-D is not intrusive and feels natural.

The plot is a young kid, a genius inventor whose inventions never quite work, has one his inventions stolen by a man from the future. A boy from the future also is around and he takes the young kid, Lewis, to the future to meet The Robinsons, the wacky bunch from whom the time machines that brought the two future people to Lewis's present. The story unfolds in the future as the villain tries to get to Lewis and destroy him, with the usual hijinks. Talking animals, pop culture references, and dazzling animations all make an appearance.

The movie was entertaining, and all though the theater was filled with children, the flick was entrancing enough that they all remained silent. That is a mark of a good children's film. With Pixar's backing, "Meet the Robinsons" also had enough juice in it to entertain us older folks.

3 1/2 Bowler Hats out of 5.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Lost: "Left Behind" Review

Kate gets her moment to shine in the Lost episode "Left Behind." Usually, I find Kate-centric episodes boring, but this one was action-packed enough to leave me satisfied.

With Locke seemingly turned to The Others cause after the reveal of his father, the nefarious group decides to abandon Jack, Sayid, Kate, and surprisingly Juliet at Othersville by gassing them and heading off. When Kate awakens, she is in the jungle, handcuffed to Juliet. The two finally clash over the heart of Jack, with Kate, seemingly accidentally, dislocating Juliet's shoulder. Before anything else can happen, the Smoke Monster arrives, stalks our handcuffed couple, and seems to flash something. Then later, the Monster shows up again, and Juliet acknowledges that the Others know about the Monster but not what it is. She knows enough to tell Kate to get behind the sonic fence they stumbled upon, and turns it on. The Monster can't pass through it and leaves them alone. Juliet also reveals that she has the key to the handcuffs all along, but didn't use it because she didn't want to be left behind. Eventually, the two women make it back to camp and free Jack and Sayid. Sayid is suspicious of Juliet but Jack puts his foot down and tell them they all are going back to camp.

In Kate's flashback, we are taken to a time just after she killed her father. She is on the run, yet she wants to return to her mother to ask her why she gave Kate up to the feds. Along the way, Kate forms a partnership with Cassidy, the ex-lover of Sawyer. Seems Cassidy is now conning for a living and wants to help Kate out. Why? Because Cassidy is still upset at what Sawyer did to her and wants someone to be happy. This is the first time in a while this strong of a connection was made between two survivors and it plays out well. With Jack seemingly moved on to Juliet, Kate should be gravitating towards Sawyer more, and a flashback connection makes more fitting that they should hook up again. Also, in Kate's flashback, her mom says that one can't help who one loves, which Kate should remember, as one of her fears about Sawyer is that he is a man who will hurt her.

However, that may soon be changing. Sawyer has always had a heart of gold. To the viewer, we know he has a gruff exterior but is a damaged little boy. To the survivors though, he is just mean and rude. To this end, Hurley embarks on trying to change Sawyer. Hurley makes up a situation where Sawyer may be bannished if he doesn't start to play nice. Sawyer thinks he can go it alone, but is proven wrong. He finally caves in and starts to make amends, but soon learns that Hurley was tricking him. When asked why, Hurley says that Sawyer needs to step up as leader with Jack, Sayid, and Locke gone. Sawyer denies he wants this position, but Hurley thrusts it upon him. By the end of the episode, Sawyer seems that sometimes you can attract more bees with honey than vineager and seems to slowly recognize his new (temporary) position. Still, as he looks to Sun, he knows he is never going to be a virtuous man.

It will be interesting to see how Sawyer reacts with the return of Jack and company and his "demotion". Sawyer's character has always seemed to swing between the beginnings of redemption and the deceitful habits he has as a con man. Though I don't think we will ever see a truly straight and serious Sawyer, a Sawyer who accepts his role and doesn't rebel might be in the future.

This episode felt like the start of the rollercoaster rising to the top of big drop. Something is building, there is going to be tension, you can feel it, but it is apparent what it is quite yet. The anticipation is starting to creep in.

4 Mud Wrestling Losties out of 5

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