Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chris and Steve venture to New York City

Because I'm completely nuts, and because my friend Chris is nuts, we decided to make the trip to New York City yesterday to watch the Rams play. Now, if you're in New England, or watch the national news at all, you may have heard that Rhode Island was dealing with the worst flooding of the past 100 years.

This was absolutely true, which made leaving... interesting. I left my house at 12:45, figuring it would be the usual 15 minute trip to Route 95. Unfortunately though, the most direct outlet - Kings Factory Road to Route 91 - was blocked, as was the other outlets, Burdickville Road and Buckeye Brook Road. As a result, I had to make a big loop to catch Route 95 in Connecticut, where Chris met up with me at about 2. Meaning, 75 minutes for a trip that usually takes 15. Along the way, I almost stalled out in a couple huge puddles, and my engine is now probably wet, because my car continues to stall from time to time. ick.

Once we got on 95 though, it was smooth sailing. Chris drove, and we made incredibly time even though we stopped once - We were on the outskirts of Manhattan by 4:15, and parked around 5. We were at a garage only a block away from Madison Square Garden, which was wicked sweet.

Before the game started, we went to a place near the Garden called Brother Jimmy's for a drink. While there were a couple Rhody fans there, it wasn't anything special, and the drinks were $6 a draft. So, instead of eating there, we ventured off to White Castle! It was my first time, and the onion-grilled burgers really hit the spot. I was less impressed with the chicken rings though; I was expecting something a bit more onion-y with those too. Before the game, we also went to a pizza place at Penn Station, and I had a slice of delicious tomato and cheese pizza, and we each some Coors Light tall boys. (We're classy like that.)

Finally, the games! The opener was Dayton vs. Ole Miss, which was pretty boring, actually. Dayton led comfortably pretty much the entire game. We sat in our assigned 300-level seating to start, but then moved to 115 a little before halftime. At the half, I went outside to meet my friend Allie and to give her her ticket. Then we watched Dayton maintain their lead against Ole Miss for the win.

For the start of the Rhody game, we moved up again, because Chris is the master at this. He found a spot on the baseline, two rows up, in the folding chairs! I think I was on television during a couple inbound plays. While Rhode Island lost in overtime, primarily because they couldn't hit their free throws, it definitely looked like Ulmer got tripped from our angle. The crowd went pretty ballistic at the final horn, as the boos and swearing at the refs far outweighed the cheering for UNC.

My overall impression of Madison Square Garden was kind of... meh. It just feels like a really big version of the Providence Civic Center, or any other generic, multi-purpose arena. I think they try to spice things up with the display boards and scoreboards, but it definitely feels like a 1960s or 1970s-era Grey Blob stadium.

Anyway. The Rams' loss put a damper on my mood, so I didn't really want to stick around in New York to eat. We ate on the road instead, and again, we made great time. Considering that we left New York around 1, I thought it was great that I made it back to my car by 3:30ish. Of course, it then took me 45 minutes from there to get home because of all the road closings, but hey, at least I didn't have to rent a hotel!

Delay tonight.

So, later tonight I'll have a nice, long entry about the journey I took to New York City with my buddy Chris, complete with some photos he took along the way. However, right now I'm dealing with some stories about the flooding for work, so I don't have time right this second to type it up. Therefore, this entry will be delayed.

I also have some At The Commercials and TV review posts queued up on my laptop, but I haven't had a chance to post them yet. Sorry folks! I still love you all very much.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Steve ventures to the Not Invited Tournament

Although I have been mocking it in all of my NCAA tournament posts, at this very moment that you are reading this entry, I am in New York City watching the University of Rhode Island Rams play in the NIT – the Not Invited Tournament, also known by its official and generic name, the National Invitational Tournament. (To be precise though, URI plays at 9; the early game is at 7, and features Dayton vs. Missouri or Mississippi, I forget which one exactly.)

Obviously, I'm not a huge fan of the NIT. However, there are several reasons why I took the plunge and decided to check it out this year.

1) North Carolina. As in, URI's opponent is the University of North Carolina. The Tarheels uncharacteristically didn't make the NCAA tournament, since they lost pretty much their entire team following their national championship in the 2008-09 season. Given the reluctance of power / BCS conference teams to play the Atlantic 10 under any circumstance, this could be the last time in a while that the Rams meet up with the Tarheels.

2)Madison Square Garden. I've never been, and unlike an overpriced regular season New York Knicks game, prices for the NIT are very reasonable. I paid $10 for my ticket, which admits me to both games. In the past, I tried to go to Yankee Stadium the year before it was demolished, only to have the game be rained out; I took this as a sign that I wasn't meant to go. Hopefully, nothing will impede me from checking out MSG.

3)Timing and location. New York City is only about two-and-a-half to three hours from where I live in southern Rhode Island. I do have to work early Wednesday morning, but the 9 p.m. tip for the Rhody game leaves me plenty of time to watch the game and drive home after. I'm going with three other people, with the plan of leaving Rhode Island around 2 p.m. This will hopefully give us some time to check out the local... color... around MSG. If the Rams win tonight, I'm also free to go to their Thursday night game, which would be a fun if not-as-entertaining match-up.

4)The Rams. Yeah, seeing them collapse down the stretch for the third year in a row wasn't so entertaining. If they managed to turn a single of their bad losses – UMass, St. Bonaventure's, VCU – into a win, or managed to beat Temple once in three tries, or eek out the win against Richmond, then they are probably in the NCAA tournament. However, advancing to the Final Four of the NITs is a decent consolation to the season, and better than being at home for the players, I imagine. Hopefully, the performance of the A-10 bubble teams in the postseason – Dayton also made the NIT Final Four – will force the NCAA tournament selection committee's hand in future bubble situations, especially given the Big East bubble teams' performance in comparison.

Anyway, if you are by a television Tuesday night, and you're not watching LOST (my only regret about making this trip), then flip over to see the Rams on ESPN or ESPN2. I'm the balcony 300-level, and probably won't be acting like too much of an ass, so I doubt I will personally be on television. But, you never know – Maybe I'll get chosen to shoot a half-court shot, sink it, and make a million bucks. That would be pretty sweet.

Note: I'll update everyone on the progress of my NCAA tournament bracket later this week. The real fun is always in the opening weekend, although I'm sure my buddy Jared (not the Subway guy), who is a Butler alum, is pretty psyched about Saturday's results.

Monday, March 29, 2010

What if Bill Cosby never hit it big?

I guess the real reason that my wife and I had children is the same reason that Napoleon had for invading Russia: it seemed like a good idea at the time.

While I think Dave Chappelle is the best active comedian out there, since I love every stand-up performance of his I can get my hands on, a review of a legend begs the question - What if Bill Cosby had never stopped doing stand-up?

When I was a kid, I used to ride around with my grandfather, a big tall guy with a shock of white hair. (He still looks that way to this day, even though he has to be in his 70s or 80s by now. And yeah, I don't know his exact age; ages and birthdays are a huge, huge blind spot in my knowledge.) He had a cassette player, and while I had no idea what kind of music he listened to, he had two tapes I loved to listen to, both by Cosby - Himself and For Adults Only.

Although For Adults Only sounded like the worse album, Himself is actually worse. The opening skit is all about drugs, like pot and cocaine. Lest you think my grandfather was corrupting me, he had the clean versions of both tapes. I was shocked years later when I listen to the performances and found this out, but Clean Cosby and Dirty Cosby are pretty similar, since the material (drugs, sex) changes more than his language, which is almost always clean.

Minus the filth, Cosby mostly joked about common experiences anyone could relate to. From Himself, there were legendary sequences on having chocolate cake for breakfast, visiting the dentist and catching his kids - girls - trying to pee standing up like daddy. The signature moment of For Adults Only concerns Cosby's concerns of why a single egg costs $0.89 from a hotel room service. (But hey, at least it is served "any style", right?)

After my adolescence, I lost touch with Cosby for a while, until my buddy Eric noted he was back into him. This reinvigorated my own interest, and I stumbled upon the 1965 classic Why Is There Air?, which remains my favorite CD of his to this day. The title track is splendid, as are his stories about his $75 car, his psychologist shop teacher guilting confessions out of classmates, and best of all, playing for Temple football against Hofstra.

However, because of the success of The Cosby Show, Cosby kind of stopped producing as much stand-up, which is a shame. In the 1960s, he produced 10 records. In the 1970s, he was down to eight, some of which was Fat Albert stuff. He only managed two in the 1980s, one of which was Himself thankfully, and just one in the 1990s.

If you remove the television option from Cosby's career, then I think he develops similar to a guy with much, much different material - George Carlin. Carlin was known almost exclusively for his stand-up, excluding short stints as a Saturday Night Live host, Rufus in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, and Mr. Conductor on Shining Time Station. (This of course setup my favorite late Carlin joke: "You know what I say? Fuck the children! They're getting entirely too much attention. And I know what some of you are thinking: 'Jesus, he's not going to attack children, is he?' Yes he is! He's going to attack children. And remember, this is Mr. Conductor talking; I know what I'm talking about.")

TV Review: Karl Pilkington and Bruce Willis make Ricky great

If Karl Pilkington from The Ricky Gervais Show could be anyone from the annals of history, living or dead, who would he be? Why, Bruce Willis, of course.

I mean, you had doubts? This is, after all, a guy who thought the phrase "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" referred to the period in time when people moved out of caves and into glass houses, literally. His stupidity really has no bounds, which means it is endlessly ridiculed by Stephen and Ricky for our benefit.

Outside of wanting to be Bruce Willis, Karl also revealed that one time, to see what it would be like to live without a body part, he tried to wash the dishes without using his thumbs. Of course, while he was doing this, he spotted a neighbor across the way in the buff. So to make things even, he revealed his butt to her, as his girlfriend in the other room asked him what he was doing.

... It's kind of hard to describe why this is all so great. Sorry. However, if you have any appreciation at all for British humor, then you need to be watching this.

Grade: A+

Sunday, March 28, 2010

TV Review: The rest of Thursday night, and inexplicably, South Park

I'm lumping in South Park with the rest of my Thursday night reviewing, since I forgot to write about the episode until now. Don't like it? Well, start your own god damn blog. As Butters would say, don't be such a phony.

- Even though I aggressively started off this entry by mentioning South Park, and included a photo from it, I still enjoyed Community more, even if it wasn't as good as Parks and Recreation. But hey, that was so good that it deserved its own entry last night. Maybe Community can reclaim its belt with its performance this coming Thursday.

I mean, it's not like this week's episode sucked. While Pierce got the most obvious sight gag of the week (Community loves sight gags, and I love them for it), the best storyline involved Annie and Shirley each trying to prove that they were "harder" than people thought. They were both asserting their dominance as a "bad cop" kind of character, and thankfully, Abed was there to spur them and the bald dean on.

Unfortunately though, their whole plot was based upon a premise that a prank gone horribly wrong caused Brita to frame Jeff for the crime. This fell kind of flat for me. It was enjoyable, but the cop dynamic between Annie and Shirley and Abed was better, and Troy and Pierce were wasted after the initial comic wizardry scenes. This could have been another A or A+ episode, but it fell just a bit short because the Jeff storyline was surprisingly stale.

Grade: A-

- Likewise, I would have given South Park a higher grade if they could have just reigned in the vomit a little bit. Seriously, there is projectile vomiting going on for about a quarter of the appropriately-named "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs."

The underlying message of the episode is actually great, as it is subtle criticism against all of the people who try to assign ulterior motives to books like The Catcher in the Rye, or say, programs like South Park, that simply aren't there. The boys learn from Mr. Garrison that The Catcher in the Rye, the next class reading project, has been chosen for the class because it has been banned in so many classrooms. Unfortunately though, they're disappointed by the lack of swear words.

As a result, they collaborate to write the most disgusting novel of all-time, which shares its title with the episode. However, when they think they're going to get blamed and punished by their parents for it, they say that Butters wrote it... only to find out that the adults love the book, because they think it is an allegory for their own personal beliefs.

If you exclude all of the vomit, a gross-out device that has been used in countless South Park episodes, then this is a strong episode. (Hey, I'm a mark for anything with Butters in it, especially if he's threatening to kill John Lennon and calling people phonies.) Unfortunately though, like "Smug Alert" and "Canceled", the episode veers a bit too much into the gross out shit (or vomit) to really appeal to me fully.

Grade: B+

- Unsurprisingly, The Office still brings up the rear, although this week's episode was much better than last week's effort. The focus has started to shift away from the boring corporate crap and staff drama to where the show made its money: burgeoning relationships and Michael's "aw shucks" buffoonery that makes you cringe while fighting the urge to give him a big hug. It also helps that Kevin was doing Kevin stuff throughout the episode, such as being very, very enthusiastic about seeing Pam, and making thrusting motions in the direction of Andy and Erin.

Tackling it in reverse order, Pam the New Mom is desperate to get out of the house, even if it means hanging out with the crew from the office. She even brings Michael a friend, so that they can do a bit of a double date. Things are going great until Michael finds out it is a date, at which point, of course, he freaks out and almost gets thrown out of the bar. The episode's bartender kind of reflects the viewer's general point of view, in my opinion; she goes from wanting to throw Michael out because of his boorish behavior to taking pity on him, and throwing her hat into the ring for his affection on the sly.

The episode's other plots mostly revolved around the various romantic tendrils of the office's tree. Very minor plots included Oscar hoping to hook up with a potentially gay guy in the warehouse, and the continuing oddness of Kelly and Ryan. Andy stupidly downplaying his relationship with Erin got plenty of screen time, which is a shame, because I've decided that she is the second secretly hottest character on NBC Thursday night, after Annie on Community and slightly ahead of April on Parks and Recreation. He makes amends at the end of the episode though, which is nice of him. Meanwhile, Dwight chooses Pam's freakishly tall bridesmaid to pursue instead of Angela.

Frankly, all of these storylines are retreads from past seasons of The Office - Michael has had a string of stupid love interests, Kelly and Ryan are a sick joke of a couple at this point, and Dwight is now the focal point of a love triangle as opposed to Angela. I guess the Erin and Andy stuff has a kind of fresh feel to it in terms of The Office plots, except that both are so freakin' weird that I can't imagine them having anything resembling a normal relationship. All of THAT being said though, I still enjoyed the show this week.

Grade: B

- And finally, I forgot to mention last week that the 10th episode of the season was the final one for Archer. It'll return at some point next year, which is a shame, since I was just getting used to its greatness. So, sorry, but I won't be able to include silly pictures from it in the foreseeable future.

As pennance, please except this picture of billionaire playboy Xander Crews from Frisky Dingo. See, back before they did Archer, the creators had a show on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim called Frisky Dingo. While it didn't hit quite the high notes that Archer does - the voice talent isn't quite as good, since you didn't have H. Jon Benjamin or Jessica Walter - the show did have its own sort of continuous anarchy that made it wonderful. You can buy the combined season one and two pack, 25 episodes in total, for about $37. The individual seasons go for about $10 each. If you like Archer, or anything like Space Ghost Coast to Coast or Sealab 2021, then you'd also love Frisky Dingo.

Frisky Dingo overall grade: A-
Archer first season grade: A+

Belatedly Liking Stuff: Buster Poindexter (NSFW lyrics)


Yes, really - I'm now listening to a bit of Buster Poindexter.

I can't even claim cool points by insisting that I'm getting into his stuff performed under his actual name, David Johansen, the front-man of the super influential "punk before it was punk" New York Dolls. Although the band never really sold a lot of records, they were later heralded for ushering in what would become punk music in many circles.

No, I'm straight up listening to Buster Poindexter, the snarky and smooth jazz singer persona that Johansen adopted after a couple of his solo albums didn't perform so well.

In particular, the YouTube link above is "Heart of Gold", which I stumbled upon while watching an old Saturday Night Live this weekend. In the late 1980s, Poindexter served as a singer for their house band, and he apparently did songs on live broadcasts to fill time. In an otherwise nondescript episode that featured the immortal Bronson Pinchot (Serge from Beverly Hills Cop) hosting, and some cute guest appearances by supermodel Paulina Poriskova, Poindexter steals the show with a performance of "Heart of Gold." How good was it? Well, in the original broadcast, it ended the show - typically a slot given to crappy or risque sketches. In the repeats, it was edited to shortly after Weekend Update, in front of the second performance by some guy named Paul Young.

Poindexter is just weird as heck, like a tongue-in-cheek version of Richard Cheese. While Dick does obviously humorous versions of songs, Poindexter's feel sincerely artistic and GOOD, even while I feel like he is smirking as he sings. Johansen performed and composed them when he was in his late 30s and early 40s, and from listening to his tracks, I almost get the feeling he is mocking the listener with shit like "Hot Hot Hot" and "Hit The Road Jack." Both are unbelievably bad and cheesy now, the type of song only someone younger than 13 can possibly like, or something that relatives would dance drunkenly to at weddings. Yet for months in the 1980s, they dominated the charts, and I imagine Johansen laughed like a bastard on his way to the bank. Heck, even Rolling Stone got a bit swept up in the feeling, judging from their review.

The second-best example of the cheesiness, since I refuse to link to "Hot Hot Hot":

Saturday, March 27, 2010

TV Review: A new Thursday night champion!

Although Community was still good this week, it was finally surpassed by another Thursday night show - Parks and Recreation.

This week's episode reminded of The Office at its best, since it was a mix of poignant moments - the continued Andy and April drama, Anne's awful photographs with Mark - with the funny, farcical moments between Leslie, Ron and the past parks and recreation directors, which is pictured above. It's nice to see a member of the That Guy Hall of Fame, the guy with the white hair, in the episode. I always forget his name, but he has been in a bunch of stuff, and he's always good. He played a hippie, pot smoking director, the one directly before Ron.

I like how the Andy and April romance is progressing with a very slow burn, and a bit of a pullback this week. The scene outside of the bar was heartbreaking this week, as Andy clearly felt uncomfortable being with someone so young for the first time. Speaking as someone who has dated younger like that, it is a really awkward situation. It was slightly surprising, since April's age in the past hadn't really prevented her from doing anything else with the gang.

I'm not so sure how I like the tease of a Leslie and Ron pairing. I just don't see a woman like Leslie being that interested in Ron. Then again, she is the kind of "Michael Scott crazy character" for the show, so it wouldn't be completely surprising to see her character proceed in that direction. Still though, this was my favorite Parks and Recreation episode of the year so far.

Grade: A

Friday, March 26, 2010

At The Commercials: Dear Reebok, keep up the good work.


You are on a roll with commercials lately, Reebok. I've seen the one above constantly during the NCAA tournament, and while the visuals aren't anything special, that music is SO DAMN ADDICTIVE. I seriously might have to download the MP3 of it - hopefully there is a full song! The bright, cheerful tone is a great way to break up the monotony of most "super serious guize!!!" commercials featured during the tourney.

Note: Sorry again for another late entry. I have a couple queued up for the next few days though, so really, we should be back to a normal schedule soon. Sorry!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Around The Dial: Marcel's On Fire!


Some random news from the television and video game worlds...

- BOOM Shaka Laka! A new version of NBA Jam is going to be released for the Nintendo Wii! This is awesome news, because I loved the original Arcade version of the game, and I actually own a Wii. While this doesn't quite make up for me missing out on the initial release of Final Fantasy XIII (Damn my poverty!), at least I'll be able to play the update of the classic.

For screen shots and a video trailer of the new edition, check out Blast's coverage here, which is where I originally learned of this news. I'm hoping they keep all of the zany extras, like being able to play as Bill Clinton, in the game. And as the above YouTube video implies, on the early arcade versions, you could even play as Mortal Kombat characters! Sweet, eh?

- In television news, Marcel from Top Chef is getting his own reality show! As my friend Kristi said, I'm guessing that there won't be too much foam cooking on the show, but we can always hope, can't we?

For unknown reasons, the show is rumored to be landing on the SyFy Network. This makes almost no sense, but then again, they were also highly interested in the WWE's ECW and still do broadcast some WWE stuff. I guess when people aren't watching your crap like Mansquito, you feel the need to program differently, even if I agree with this Entertainment Weekly writer's take that the network's potential is completely unrealized.

But anyway, focusing back on Marcel. I could see this show being momentarily entertaining, but it won't have staying power if they're just some catering company doing wacky meals. Marcel isn't really that likable, but on the flipside, he is not a monster like Gordon Ramsey. I don't think he will be a good anchor for the show week-in and week-out, unless it becomes a bizarre sort of Top Chef affiliate, featuring a bunch of the ex-chefs from the show.

The picture of Marcel is from this story about his DWI arrest.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

TV Review: LOST back in high gear!

After some merely very good episodes, LOST kicked it back up a notch last night, to steal some terminology from a hack-like television chef. While the first 20 minutes or so just seemed to add further to the mystery, the last half of the episode was just some nice, gooey explanation. The episode was like a chocolate chip cookie in that way - It just got better as it heated up.

Unlike past episodes, which normally intersperse the different stories going on, last night's episode of LOST seemingly only focused on Richard. Except for the beginning and end portions of the episode, the entire episode was a simple flashback. However, I think it's more accurate to say that the episode focused on the "deity" characters of LOST - Richard, Jacob and Fake Locke / The Man In Black, who were definitively revealed to be one and the same.

Like I originally thought, I think last night's episode revealed that Jacob and Fake Locke are good and evil, respectively. Fake Locke tried to manipulate Richard from the second he got on the Island by using his dead wife, whereas Jacob seems to operate more by free will with small signs. I've ripped on Hurley in the past, but his role as the Haley Joel Osment for Jacob and other ghosts has finally given him a purpose outside of being Fat Guy Comic Relief.

My only regret about last night's episode? Well, I couldn't think of a better way to work in this image to the right that I originally saw on the excellent Mel Got Served. Screw it though - I'm posting it anyway! Take that!

Grade: A+

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Plugging along with the NCAA tournament...

After the opening weekend of the tournament, my bracket is still in reasonable shape, with three of my Final Four teams still intact. Like everyone else on the planet, I did have Kansas advancing to the Final Four, but “luckily” for me, I did have them losing to Syracuse. The entire Midwest region is now done for me, since I was prophesying a Kansas vs. Georgetown match-up in the Elite Eight. Whoops!

I finish that region with a 7-8 record, with six of the wins coming on the tournament's opening day. That 1-7 mark to finish up on the third and fourth days of play? Positively URI-like down the stretch. (Sorry, still bitter, even if they have won a pair of Not Invited Tournament games.)

Luckily though, my overall record remains decent at 32-16. I finished the opening round at 23-9, and the second round at 9-7. The Midwest is my sole “bad” bracket, as my six other Elite Eight teams remain alive. For the record, they are Syracuse, Xavier, Baylor, Duke, West Virginia and Kentucky. Mostly chalk, I know – Sue me.

In other news, I'd note that the two teams that beat Atlantic 10 teams – St. Mary's and Cornell – are both still alive in the tournament. Meanwhile, Villanova was thankfully karma-bounced from the tournament, and Pittsburgh lost to Xavier. In the NIT, UConn once again ducked URI, as they managed to lose a lead in the final minute, and thus, will not travel to the Ryan Center. Cincinnati also lost to Dayton. I love Syracuse, which is why I picked them to win the national championship, but otherwise, I still think the rest of the league works as a cartel that mostly exists to protect its own members' interests.

Monday, March 22, 2010

TV Review: Community still tops among Thursday night shows

The last one was well-received, at least by Carly Googles, so why not do it again? A belated look at my Thursday night viewing, ranking them from first to last. (And sorry Carly, I'm still not watching 30 Rock. Was it even on this week?)

- Community is again the top of the pyramid, or maybe more appropriately for Thursday's episode, at the head of the mast. The gang is trying to decide which blow off class to take, and they split between Jeff's pottery class suggestion and Pierce's idea of a sailing class. Ultimately, Pierce's group - with Shirley as the captain, and Troy and Brita and Starburns as supporting crewmates - has the funnier moments.

Helping them out significantly is the fact that the community college is apparently not within two hours of water. The sailing class exists solely because they were given a boat following a drug raid. Therefore, it is just out in the parking lot, and their salty instructor barks out at them how the "sea" - also known as the asphalt - is tossing their boat around. Even better, the instructor is played by Lee Majors, another in a string of surprisingly good guest appearances.

I agree with this review here about the best line of the episode, which is uttered by Majors - “From the moment you climbed abroad, I saw sea men inside of you.”

This whole angle with the sailing class overshadows the other plot of the night – Jeff taking beginner pottery and getting upset with a dreamy doctor who is taking it just for fun. They have a bit of a tortured competition, in that Jeff is tortured by losing the competition that the doctor doesn't even realize he is in. The whole thing falls flat though, excluding the cameo by Tony “Buster Bluth” Hale as the pottery instructor. Annie and Abed are also just secondary characters throughout the episode, which limits two of the best in the ensemble cast.

Speaking of the ensemble cast, there is a very minor subplot with Senor Chang throughout. Someone keeps stealing his clothes when he exercises at the YMCA, meaning we are subjected to him without a shirt. Funny, but not hilarious. Also, there wasn't a payoff with it on Thursday night's episode, which makes me wonder if it will be continued to be milked for a few more shows.

Grade: A-

Parks and Recreation jumps up to the second slot on my list, and it almost wrestled the top slot away from Community. However, I just couldn't put it ahead because the April, Andy and Ann triangle crap bogged down another really good episode.

The highlight of the episode, besides Jerry splitting his pants and farting (see picture), was definitely Andy Samburg. He did a cameo as a super loud park ranger, which was totally awesome. It reminded me of a voice my friend Andy and I would do when we were mocking how stereotypically nerdish we were being about something – typically Heroes or journalism or ladies.

Grade: A-

Archer was a bit disappointing this week. This was yet another episode detailing the various mommy issues that Sterling Archer has. While Jessica Walter (Lucille Bluth!) is always funny as Malory Archer, I feel like the drama between her and her screw-up son has been a little drawn out and prolonged at this point.

Instead, I wish they would focus some episodes on the secondary characters, such as the weird scientist Krueger, choking fetish secretary Cheryl / her name that episode, or Pam, the Human Resources director who can't keep her mouth shut. Parnell is great in every episode as Cyril Figgis, the prudish boyfriend (kinda) of Aisha Tyler's spy character Lana Kane, the closest thing the show has to a “straight” role.

Even a bad episode of Archer still beats the pants off of the last show on my list, though.

Grade: B

And finally, The Office just continues to disappoint. Seriously, how did it all go downhill this fast? Is Jeff Zucker writing for the show, or just Jay Leno?

The episode focused on the sales staff trying to earn back their sales leads after Michael confiscates them. Apparently, the sales staff was acting like bigshots because of the emphasis that Saber places on them. The whole angle felt out of place, since I don't want to see people within the office acting mean to one another, excluding Dwight.

Grade: C-

Sunday, March 21, 2010

TV Review: Ricky Gervais and toffees


Ah, Ricky Gervais. How have I missed you for so many years? In light of watching your HBO show, I feel like I truly am missing out by not checking out more episodes of the British version of The Office.

Anyway, the latest episode had two truly outstanding bits. One, as you can see from the top photo, was regarding Karl mentioning that he hates being in a toffee shop and having to chose from hundreds of varieties; it takes him more than four minutes. This caused Ricky to cackle wonderfully, and Steven to ask if he goes shopping for toffees before or after he is done at the candlestick maker's shop in Fairy Tale Land.

And secondly, this episode follows up on a past episode when Karl said he has never seen a homeless Chinese man before. And, they get an e-mail about a Chinese midget. And then later, there is more monkey news. Ah, so much good times.

Grade: A

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Steve's Bracket: C'mon Atlantic 10!

[Right] John Chaney wouldn't have allowed this shit, Temple. What happened to the dominant team I saw beat URI three times, and twice quite convincingly?

Going into the tournament, I basically kept two things in mind when picking teams - The Atlantic 10 was underrated and the Big East was way overrated.

While I still believe the first statement is correct, you wouldn't necessarily know it from the first round 1-2 record of the Atlantic 10. Unfortunately though, Richmond and Temple, both teams that were ranked for portions of the year, drew really bad, non-BCS draws, like Cornell and Saint Mary's. Both are quality teams, and I'm still annoyed that both A-10 teams only managed to get a 5 and 7 seed respectively from the committee, setting them up for those two tough teams.

At least the Big East has been exposed. Every year, I hear some variation of, "The Big East is so tough and they beat up on each other, so that's why they can't play a tough out of conference schedule!" I think the real reason they can't play a tough out of conference schedule is that it would expose their teams. You know, like when Temple throttled Villanova earlier in the year. After first round games, with the miracle win by Nova with the help of the three officials, the Big East is 4-4, with the four wins coming from its No. 1 to No. 3 seeds - Syracuse, Villanova, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Big East teams have also done shabby in the Not Invited Tournament, I've heard, but I refuse to follow that.

Anyway, as far as my own bracket goes, I'm 23-9 after the first round, with four loses coming from the failures of Temple, Richmond and Georgetown. While I think the Big East is overrated, I thought Georgetown had a great draw, being in Providence - an arena they play in frequently - and as a No. 3 seed, with a beatable Ohio State team lurking. Whoops!

The Chaney photo is from this old MSNBC story about Temple suspending him the rest of the season for sending one of his players on to the court to "send a message" to a player with some hard fouls. Ah, Chaney!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?

Joey, have you ever been in a... in a Turkish prison?

I was saddened to learn this week that classic Hollywood actor Peter Graves died this week at age 83. For more information on his life and movie roles, I think this obit story by Time magazine hits the notes pretty well. He was prolific as all heck, as his IMDB page lists 131 roles.

However, I will always remember Graves for a movie that oddly shaped my youth, considering it was released in 1980 - Airplane! I've exposed on my love for the sequel in the past on this blog, and the performance of Graves in both of the movies is understated and great. I first saw the movies when I was in my teens, along with other fare like Naked Gun, and I think they all shaped what I find funny and how I personally write. The Phantom Tollbooth and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy were the literary versions of the Airplane, with characters playing everything completely serious and literal for laughs. All of this media just has a sort of light playfulness with language and words that makes them all wonderful.

Unfortunately, I find that this is a quality severely lacking in most current spoof movies. I have no idea who buys movie tickets for all of the Wayans' brothers crapfests now, since the last funny Scary Movie was the second installment, and this was primarily due to the presences of David Cross and Chris Elliott. I admit that I will sometimes be tempted by the trailer for one of their movies, only to find horrible reviews on the Internet, or worse, no reviews, which means that the studio barred critics from attending the turd bomb.

This wasn't always the case. Using my standard critic bar, Roger Ebert loved the original Airplane, and all of the Naked Gun movies.

What's the difference? While Airplane used its cast to play against type - such as the aforementioned Graves as not a stoic hero, but a pilot vaguely interested in pedophilia - the new spoof movies use their cast to film B-movie versions of existing movies. There is always an undercurrent of "aren't we so funny for making fun of this?" during the later Scary Movie movies, and it is even worse in tripe like Date Movie and Epic Movie. The characters of Airplane were never, ever in on the joke, which probably helps to explain why everything is actually funny.

Rumack (Leslie Neilsen): Captain, how soon can you land?
Captain Oveur (Graves): I can't tell.
Rumack: You can tell me. I'm a doctor.
Captain Oveur: No. I mean I'm just not sure.
Rumack: Well, can't you take a guess?
Captain Oveur: Well, not for another two hours.
Rumack: You can't take a guess for another two hours?

The cool, signed picture from Airplane! is from this dude's blog.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Steve has a bracket!


I did actually fill out a bracket this year, albeit at the last minute. Unlike past years, this year I did not create a bracket group for my old buddies at The Good Five Cent Cigar, mostly because I had a fever the past two days. (Unfortunately, cowbell was no cure for it - sigh!)

You can see my full bracket by clicking above. As of right now, I'm 4-3, with Butler on the verge of winning to make me 5-3 for the first eight games. Unfortunately, Richmond couldn't prevail over a tough Saint Mary's team. I had the Spiders beating Villanova, who looks ripe for an upset after getting taken to overtime by Robert Morris, a 15-seed.

Who else does everyone like? My Final Four is Syracuse, Kansas, West Virgina and Duke, with Syracuse beating Duke in the finals. Boring, I know, but I've never been a huge upset guy. My one claim to fame was picking Hampton over Georgetown that one year.

TV Review: LOST + shirtless Sawyer = happy women

This week on LOST... We get to see a lot of Sawyer without a shirt in the first five minutes, which surely made all of my female friends happy. In Bizarro LAX, he is now working as a cop with Miles, and they are kind of buddy-buddy. It is a weird but welcome development for me, since I've always liked Miles.

To add to the oddness, Miles sets up Sawyer on a date with Charlotte in Bizarro LAX, who we last saw on the Island making sweet with Daniel Farraday. Their date goes really well seemingly, as Sawyer (James, in this timeline) admits that there was a fine line between becoming a cop and becoming a criminal in his past life. However, he freaks out and throws Charlotte out of his place when she stumbles upon the folder detailing his childhood, which has apparently not changed. Later, Sawyer covers up his trip to Australia, causing Miles to ask for a different partner.

Also in Bizarro LAX, Charlie's brother is haunting around the police station, asking where he is. Sawyer tries to make amends with Charlotte, but she rejects him despite this. However, this spurs him into talking to Miles about his past. In this timeline, Sawyer doesn't find Anthony Cooper in Australia. Then, in a jarring moment, a car smashes into Sawyer and Miles as they're sitting and chatting – It is, of course, Kate on the run. Sawyer catches her.

Back on the Island, Fake Locke sends Sawyer on a recognizance mission to the Hydra station. There, he finds the sole survivor of the second plane crash, a woman in glasses named Zoe. Of course, she's not actually alone, and eventually springs a trap on Sawyer when she calls his bluff. This new group is apparently financed by Widmore, since she brings Sawyer to his submarine. Sawyer proposes double-crossing Fake Locke with Widmore. They shake on this, but with Sawyer and Widmore, who the heck knows if either is being honest? For what its worth, Sawyer seems to double-cross Widmore, telling Fake Locke about his plan with Widmore. He then tells Kate that he and her should escape on the submarine as Widmore and Fake Locke fight it out.

In other Island business, Claire attacks Kate for the whole Aaron thing. Sayid just sits and watches it go down, which lends credence to the idea that he and Claire are “evil” and controlled by Fake Locke. He tells Kate that he gave Claire something to hate – The Others – in order to keep her alive. He reveals that like everyone else, he had a Mother, who he had some problems with. He talks to Claire, who laters apologizes to Kate and hugs her.

All in all, this was another strong episode of LOST. “The Lighthouse” still remains my favorite of the season, probably because of its heavy reliance on Jack, but this is among the better episodes so far.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

TV Review: South Parks starts season 14 on strong note

Ah, South Park. Good times as always. “Why would a man who is rich and famous try to have sex with lots of women???” The episode also starts with a great spoof of the Thanksgiving night event.

Butters freaks out about seeing a vagina for the first time, which is great for his reaction. Various Butters' quotes from the episode: “Did you see the bush on that lady???” “It was just so big and bushy, sir! Why does it look like that?” “Are there berries in it?”

Unfortunately though, it means that Kenny, Kyle and Butters have sex addiction, and are ordered to be separated from the rest of the students. And of course, Kenny dies from auto-erotic asphyxiation. And at his funeral, Butters tries to trim a bush into what he saw between the lady's legs.

From there, the episode is mostly about a Wizard Alien that is casting a spell on all the men in the United States, making them cheat on their wives when they have lots of money. Outside of a segment with monkeys, this portion is less successful, but the Butters quotes alone make this episode worth watching.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Belatedly Liking Stuff: "Take A Picture" by Filter

Just a quickie for tonight, since I had to cover something this morning and most likely will be busy for a couple hours tonight at a town council meeting...

Over time, my tastes in Filter songs has evolved. Back in the day, my favorite song was "Hey Man Nice Shot," which is angry and growling and very 1990s grunge / alternative. One of my oldest memories is watching that horrible Tales From The Crypt movie Demon Knight when I was at a sleepover with friends in sixth or seventh grade. While we loved the movie because there was a naked lady in it, the opening song was also "Hey Man Nice Shot."

In college though, my favorite song was "Jurassitol", which if you can imagine is an even heavier and more driving than "Hey Man Nice Shot." I would listen to it a lot on the way to playing basketball, since there is an extended portion just with the guy screaming. It was good for getting the blood pumping, you know, along with other favorites like Buckcherry, Yellowcard (played very loud), Stabbing Westward, and Incubus covering Big Pun.

Now though, my favorite Filter song is "Take A Picture" and it doesn't really sound like Filter at all. Similar to Green Day going a bit softer for "Time Of Our Life" (I'm not calling it by its actual name; eff you Green Day), "Take A Picture" is uncharacteristically soft for Filter. Sure, he screams a bit at the end, but it works well in the context of the song.

Monday, March 15, 2010

TV Review: All of my Thursday night shows, from first to worst!

If a picture normally tells a thousand words, then this one tells like, a million, and all of them funny about the latest episode of Community. I think this was one of the best episodes of the season, as all three story arcs – Pierce's slutty ex-stepdaughter, Brita getting whupped by Troy's grandma, and Abed and Shirley bonding – were all pretty hilarious. Annie kind of floated between the various arcs this week, but since she had heavily been in a couple of recent episodes, I imagine they're just trying to give everyone equal time at this point.

The singular funniest moment of the episode is captured above, although I found Brita's story angle the best of the three. Normally, she is the weakest part of the episode, but her talents were used pretty well in this episode.

Also, maybe this is just me reading into things again, but she seemed to be a little flirty with Troy. This actually works for me, much more than her and Jeff works. Likewise, he and Annie shared another moment, albeit after he had sex with Pierce's ex-stepdaughter. Maybe it only took 17 episodes for the writers and producers of Community to realize the most natural pairings on the show. In general, the show is really starting to gel for me, and I think this episode was the highlight of the season so far.

Grade: A+

In a close second would be Archer, which continues to delight me as a filthy, animated show that follows in the footsteps of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and The League. While I realize its animated format means not everyone will be into it, the voice work of H. Jon Benjamin, Lucille Bluth and Chris Parnell is splendid.

Thursday night's episode focused on Archer and Lana being wooed by the rival of the Isis spy agency, Odin. While they intentionally express interest in Archer, they are actually more into Lana, and eventually try to off him.

In a weird way, the show feels like a merging of Arrested Development, Always Sunny and The Venture Bros. Besides Lucille, Judy Greer (Kitty the crazy secretary) does a voice, and Jeffrey Tambor guest starred this week week as the voice of the head of Odin. When you add these distinctive tones into the already great work of Benjamin and Parnell, then you just make a good thing better.

Grade: A

In third place for the night was Parks and Recreation, which had a solid if unspectacular episode. Leslie gets asked by the mayor's office to hunt down a rouge possum, which is exactly as “hilarious” as it sounds.

By this, I mean that things continue to be a little too “on the nose” for the show. A possum being loose in the house is more like an idea I would have for My Best Friend Landlord, not an actual network television show developed after 1990, excluding Disney or Nickelodeon or ABC Family shows.

The secondary story arcs were actually much better than anything Leslie was doing this episode. April was house-sitting for Anne, who she doesn't like, because she used to date Andy the Shoeshiner. While this didn't provide many chuckles, it did expand the character of April past her “oh whatever” roots a bit more.

I really wish they had made the focus of the episode the dynamics between Ron Swanson and Mark though. Ron's garage was badly, badly out of code, which made for hilarious sight gags as Mark was going to write him up for 20-plus violations. Their dry wits are normally the best part of any episode, so the two of them combining for a story arc was a dynamite as it sounds. I kept hoping they would devote some more time to it throughout the episode, but they only got two or three scenes together. Still, Parks and Recreation is at least progressing forward and remaining funny, unlike the last place Thursday night show.

Grade: B+

And in last place for the night, third of the three shows I watched, was The Office. With Pam finally having her baby in last week's episode, I thought we could focus solely on the funny this week. Unfortunately though, most of the episode featured whiny, sensitive, unfunny Michael, as he got into a fight with the Paula Dean clone that now owns Dundler-Mifflin.

The funniest part of the episode for me involved two site gags, one of which is illustrated by the picture of the right. When Jim was gone and staying home with Pam and the baby, Dwight took over his desk, and combined the two units with his two units to create MegaDesk. He keeps trying to recreate it through the first portions of the episode, before the middle drama with Paula Dean Clonus makes the funny die. The throwaway sight gag at the end of the episode, with Jim creating a three-desk, two-level creation called Quaddesk, was also funny.

However, The Office seems stuck in a rut right now. While I've mostly ignored the talk on the Interwebz about how it has fallen off, this is the first episode that really made me go, “Meh!” The birth episode was better than this one, and normally, the “special” episodes of The Office kind of suck. Heck, they didn't even reference the Dwight and Angela agreement of the birth episode. I'm hoping they go somewhere with the remaining six or so episodes of the season, because right now, it seems stuck in neutral.

Grade: C-

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Restaurant Review: Seven Moons

So tonight, I'm hitting up Seven Moons with my friend Becca. As a result, I'm kind of half-butting this entry off the top of my head right now, before I go. (As a reminder, entries are time delayed; I don't actually type them all up right before 7 p.m.) I'll have another entry today about the awesome episode of Community that was on this week, and the other Thursday night shows I watch, The Office and Parks and Recreation.

Anyway, Seven Moons is the best restaurant of one type of Asian food - Good food. This is in contrast from places like Chen's, Bali Village and New Dragon, which tend to have cheaper food in greater quantities. In contrast, Seven Moons has sushi and tempura and other better, higher-quality food.

Dear TMZ, thanks.

Thanks for being useful every once in a great, great while, such as for the above picture from this article you did... That is all.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

At The Commercials: Oh, Apple.


I'm not really much of an Apple fan boy. Once upon a time, about a year ago, I bought a refurbished iPod, and it was awesome for the three months that it worked. I don't blame Apple for this development, but having tinkered around on some eMacs and iBooks over the years, I find their computers to be very overpriced for the alleged stability they provide over PCs. Yes, Macs don't crash as much, which is what happens when use what is essentially a specialized computer with little outside development. Saabs and Volkswagons also probably don't break down as much, but they cost more to repair and initially buy as well, and at the end of the day, it's still a car.

All that being said, I must say that their advertising and hype department consistently hit it out of the park, hearkening back to their classic 1984 spot for the 1984 Super Bowl. Heck, I don't even think PCs were in the picture at this point - Apple's ad was just a general statement about the societal structure at the time, if I recall correctly. It is vivid and effective for me to this day.

Along similar lines, while Apple's current ads are easy for their competitors to spoof, they are simple and effective still. And at the very worst, they do provide me with plenty of music that I want to download.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Around The Dial: White confirmed for SNL, Conan confirmed for Boston, and death confirmed for shows


Some more television news for you all to digest, since I am woefully behind on my television viewing because of work...

- Our long national nightmare is over, as The New York Daily News and People and practically every other outlet on the Internet is reporting that Betty White will host Saturday Night Live on May 8. According to them and others, guest appearances by Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch will help White split up the workload of the show.

For myself and other members of the Facebook group devoted to getting her on the show, this is great, great news. I'm just hoping that it doesn't spawn movements for other, inferior hosts, that would water down the entire concept. For example, as much as I love the Chuck Norris facts floating around the Internetz, he would make a pretty horrible SNL host. I think we all got a good dose of his "acting" ability from Walker, Texas Ranger.

- Speaking of Chuck Norris and Walker tangentially, Conan O'Brien is now on tour! It bears the comical name Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour, and Conan will hit 30 cities, along with sidekick Andy Richter and portions of his band. Tickets start at $39.50.

I would love to go to this, but I'm not sure if anyone I know in Boston or Rhode Island would be interested in going with me. (This is assuming that tickets haven't already sold out.) If you'd like to go with me, shoot me an e-mail (sgre6768@gmail.com) or leave a comment. He is playing two shows in Boston, Friday June 4 and Saturday June 5. Both shows start at 8 p.m., and ideally, I'd prefer the Saturday show.

- I talked the other day about The Forgotten being canceled already, which made me curious about what other shows had been canceled so far this year. Luckily for me though, TV Series Finale has done all the work for me already with a great list here!

First, I'm really disappointed that I never saw Blonde Charity Mafia, which frankly sounds like something I would make up. My show would revolve around supermodel blondes pulling bank heists and acting EXACTLY like the characters in The Godfather and Goodfellas. Unfortunately, the actual show was supposed to be a docu-series about a trio of young, influential women in D.C. (I'm presuming they would be blonde.)

Second, I was glad to read that Flight of the Conchords ended of their own accord as opposed to waiting for the axe to fall from HBO. While I enjoy Bret and Jemaine as much as anyone, I found their series to stretch the concept a bit much. Their old stand-up special packed the quality into a compact bit, whereas the show stretched it as thin as silly putty.

Third, I find TNT dramas to be very overwrought. I don't like The Closer or Saving Grace, and a third show, Raising The Bar with Zack Morris, has been axed completely. Good riddance. Zack, please go back to your hijinks at Bayside. Heck, you could probably be the principal at this point, which would lead to HILARIOUS role reversals!

And finally, unfortunately... The Tyra Banks Show is done. NOOOOO! She provides so much great fodder for The Soup with Joel McHale. Sigh. At least he still have Wendy Williams, Maury Povich, The Today Show and reality shows to keep afloat...

The Betty White photo is from here. The Flight of the Conchords photo is from here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Get Dookie on your Wii


Another quickie entry tonight for work-related reasons, although I must admit to liking my entry title for this a lot...

According to Blast and my man Eddie, Green Day is set to have their own Rock Band installment in June. This is great news to me, as Green Day's Dookie was the first compact disc I ever personally bought with my own money. Eventually, that and Insomniac got so worn out that I had to replace them. Even though both are kind of short on length, I like this "quick burst" quality to them.

Like Eddie, I hope that they stick mostly older stuff on the game. While it is a given that the most popular singles will be represented - "When I Come Around" and "Basketcase" and "Time of Your Life" - I am hoping they manage to find some space for "J.A.R.", which was great but initially only available on the obscure soundtrack for the movie Angus that nobody saw. It remains my favorite Green Day single to this day.

The image of the band comes from the Blast article I linked above.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

TV Review: The Forgotten should be

[Right]: Not even Cuthbert can... Um... sorry, I forgot what I was talking about.

There is something authentic but unbelievable about The Forgotten, the Christian Slater vehicle on after LOST. On one hand, it has all of the slick production values and babble that you'd expect from a forensics-style show.

But... When I was watching last night, I just couldn't shake the feeling that it was far, far more sizzle than steak. Frankly, it intentionally shoots for super, duper melodrama. I've watched parts of three or four episodes, since it comes on after LOST, and each time there was always one scene that made me go, "This is too excruciating - I'm changing the channel."

Last night's episode served as the series finale, since the show has been mercifully canceled already. The show apparently got some advance notice of the decision, since the finale did wrap up the series-long angle of Slater's daughter's abduction. Of course, it did so haphazardly, while also tying in some mumbo-jumbo about an Internet scavenger hunt game for money and a serial killer who was probably going to be a recurring character, but isn't now, since the show is canceled.

The show revolved around the idea that Slater led a group of amateur detectives who like to hunt down criminals. Okay, if that's the case, shouldn't things be a bit more lighthearted? Instead, there were plenty of cases about abducted kids and murders and what not. Given the premise of the show and the presence of Slater, I would expect something more in the vein of Psych, and less like Cold Case.

The odd thing is that the supporting characters also seem to be there for mostly comic relief, and thus contrast poorly with Slater's super-serious-guys demeanor. I'm especially referring to Elisha Cuthbert, who is in the last couple episodes of the series. She is so stunningly gorgeous that she steals every scene she is in. Seriously, Elisha, you've got it going on. Good work!

As a result, the show is, well, was, just a big mess. The characters feel like they're fighting for airtime in different shows and Slater is way, way too serious for everyone else. What happened to that baby-faced older brother we all fell in love with in The Wizard? (Note: This was probably just me.)

Grade: D+

Delay while going a meeting

The title says it all. Post up sometime between 8 and 10. Sorry!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

DON'T READ THIS: Blogging LOST, Week 7

As the name of this post applies, don't read this post if you don't want to know spoilers for the season premiere of LOST. In lieu of a picture, please enjoy this montage of Claire craving her baby. Huge, huge spoilers no doubt appear right after this...

9 p.m. - We begin the episode on the Island, as Ben scrambles out of the Temple, and runs into Ilana and some others. He suggests that they retreat to the beach, and the others agree.

In Bizarro LAX, Ben is teaching European history to a high school class, and of course, there are some parallels between his lesson on Elba and Napoleon and his situation now. And of course, one of his co-teachers is the nerdy science teacher who dies from the exploding TNT. This leads to another "coincidence" scene, as Locke the Substitute suggests to Ben that he become the principal, and he'd listen to him if he was the leader. ooooo.

On the Island, Ilana hands Miles the bandanna from Jacob's body, and asks about his death. Miles does his freaky mind-meld thing, and discovers that Ben Linus killed Jacob. "Uh oh," as one of the character says.

9:08 p.m. - We stick with the Island through the break, and Ben, Ilana, Miles and company have already made it to the beach. It is only a quick scene though, as Ben tries to get back in Ilana's good graces, to no avail.

In Bizarro LAX, Ben is taking care of his elderly father, who is on some sort of oxygen mask. In some more plot revelation, Ben's father DID take him to the Island, but they both apparently left at some point, which has caused his father regret - What would have become of his life? And THEN, shockingly, Alex (Ben's "daughter" from the Island) is now one of his prized pupils in History Club!

On the Island, Ilana knows that Sun or Jin are candidates, and she tells Sun. But, only six are left alive, and like Fake Locke, she doesn't know whether Sun or Jin is the candidate.

In another plot line, Hurley and Jack are apparently in this episode as well. At first, it appears like we're headed for a Hurley slapstick episode, but then Richard pops up out of nowhere. He convinces Jack to follow him back to the Temple instead of going with Hurley.

On the beach, Ben and the Pilot exchange some light dialogue, until Ilana presses a gun up to Ben's neck. She has him march out to a clearing, and then ties him spread eagle on a tree. She tells him to start digging a grave - For himself.

9:17 p.m. - In Bizarro LAX, we find out that Alex's mom (Rousseau?) works two jobs to support her. Also, her principal and Ben's boss is a pervert. Nice?

On the Island, Miles brings some food to Ben. He reveals that right up until Jacob got stabbed through the heart, he was hoping that he was wrong about Ben. Awwww.

On the other part of the Island, Hurley starts asking Richard about why he is still alive and doesn't age, which is pretty comical. It is not time travel, or a Terminator thing. Richard tells them both that everyone at the Temple is dead, and he wanders off, telling them that he's going to go die now. (I'm presuming that like Tuck Everlasting, Richard views his immortal status as a blessing and a curse now.)

9:30 p.m. - In Bizarro LAX, Ben starts scheming to get the principal fired. He asks the Bio Teacher to hack the nurse's e-mail account, and he agrees, in exchange for a better parking spot. He then jokes, "Linus you're a real killer!" Ha ha ha!

Back on the Island, Ben is still digging his own grave, and then we flash over to Richard exploring the wrecked ship that he came to the Island on. He is toying around with dynamite, and says that he can't die because Jacob touched him. He expresses disbelief with Jacob, and says that he wasted his life, and asks Jack to kill him. Jack lights the fuse for him. However, he then sits by him and says that it is time to talk. Commercial!

9:40 p.m. - Thankfully, we are back to the Island, and Jack and Richard with the dynamite. He asks Richard the Lighthouse, of which he seemingly has no answer for, and as the dynamite fuse burns down, it extinguishes. Jack is now apparently the man of faith, since he trusts his life to the idea that Jacob won't let him die. He says they'll go back to the beach now.

We flash over to the beach, and Fake Locke is trying to talk Ben into leading the Island when he leaves with the others. He invites Ben to come to the Hydra station on the other island with him, to save his own skin, and tells him where a rifle is to shoot Ilana. He hesitates for a second, and then runs.

Back to Bizarro LAX, Ben has 30 e-mails that cover a three-month period between the principal and the nurse. He tries to blackmail the principal into resigning... and he reveals that he has gotten the e-mail from Alex Rousseau (ooo!) and will torch her "life" (wording mine) with a bad recommendation to Yale. This clearly parallels the situation when Alex was held hostage by Ben's lust for power, and now, we have a redux of it.

Oddly enough, back on the Island, Ben almost immediately brings this up. He gets to the rifle first and doesn't shoot Ilana, and instead, confesses that he was angry when he killed Jacob, because Alex died because of his decision, and Jacob never let him in on what the plan was. He breaks down and says he'll go with Fake Locke because no one else will have him, at which point, Ilana says that she'll take him. As the show fades to a commercial, Ben follows her instead of going with Fake Locke.

9:54 p.m. - We start back from the final break with Ben in the principal's office, but we find out that he didn't screw up Alex's life this time. Awww.

Back on the Island and the beach, Ben makes his way back to the camp, like a puppy with its tail between its legs. He offers to help Sun out making some huts. And as the sad music plays - you know, the usual sad LOST-y music - Hurley, Jack and Richard have made it back to the beach.

To end the episode, hey, I guess the submarine works now! And Charles Widmore is in it!!! An officer asks him if he wants to stop with the plan, because there are people on the Island, and he says no. How mysterious! What is Charlie Ballgame up to now?

At The Commercials: I refuse to believe women talk about this.


Seriously, I don't believe that women talk to one another like this about birth control. Or, that they'd love that first commercial so much! Way to fail on both fronts, ad agency for Nuvaring.

Know what would have been more refreshing? If instead of this commercial, Nuvaring's women had said, "Hey, we realize our first commercial really, really sucked, but honestly, our product is great. Please buy it." It would be similar to Domino's, who fell on their own sword when it came to their cardboard pizza, and just came out and agreed that their pizza sucked. But, unlike Domino's, Nuvaring never had anything as cool as The Noid:

Monday, March 8, 2010

What Steve Thinks About: 42 Midgets vs. A Lion

Unfortunately, this would not be "groovy" for Mini-Me.

Sooooooo. On The Ricky Gervais Show, they read a news story about 42 midgets in Cambodia fighting a lion. Apparently, the athletic commissioner of a traveling circus of midget wrestlers was challenged about their actual fighting skill by a heckler, and the heckler said that 42 midgets couldn't take down a lion. According to the news story, the fight was stopped after the lion killed about 28 midgets, and the remaining 14 were too maimed to continue.

I was curious enough after hearing the story to Google it, and unfortunately, the whole story is an urban legend. (I say “unfortunately” and that probably makes me a horrible person.) However, just hearing about this hypothetical fight immediately makes my mind imagine what would happen if it actually, uh, happened.

First, a few qualifiers. According to the fake news story, the midgets were not armed, and did not have access to weapons. It was just them in a Colosseum-style ring vs. the lion. Also, no mention was made of any special armor. So, I'm assuming that puncture-proof Kevlar vests are unavailable.

With those provisions in place, the lion has to be a heavy, heavy favorite. Its sheer size and speed would make it a lethal killing machine in the ring. It would be very hard for the midgets to encircle it, or to generate enough force with just their fists or legs to significantly damage the lion. Because it would be in a ring, there would be no terrain to use as cover, or to launch a more effective attack. Also, lions are much faster than humans, and presumably have greater endurance, so you couldn't wait for the beast to get tired, especially since it probably wouldn't take much energy for it to mow through the midgets.

If the midgets want to take down the beast, I can only think of a couple ways, and they're all pretty grisly, and require sacrificial lambs. Or, in this case, sacrificial midgets.

1) When the lion is chomping on a midget, shove it even further into its mouth, in an attempt to choke the beast to death. This would be kind of similar to the scene in Return of the Jedi, when the huge beast in the pit at Jabba the Hut's lair momentarily choked on the bone in its mouth.

2) Scavenge a midget corpse for weaponry. While the midgets can't bring any weapons into the ring with them, this does not prevent them from doing the sick deed of using a dead midget for their femur and other bones to craft crude weaponry. Yeah, it is extreme and gross, but do they want to kill the lion or not?

Anyway... Sometimes I worry myself.

The photos of the lion and Mini-Me are from their respective Wikipedia pages. The rancor from Return of the Jedi comes from this page.

TV Review: Oh, you funny English tarts!

Stephen, Ricky and Karl, best of friends.

Following the suggestions of others, I finally gave The Ricky Gervais Show a chance, and boy, am I glad I did! It airs on HBO, and it is essentially an animated version of his podcast. It features him, his writing buddy Stephen Merchant, and this dumb, boring and hilarious producer named Karl Pilkington.

Karl is stupid. Really, really stupid. Like, disgustingly stupid. On one of the initial three episodes, he talks about how he considers sex something to do when there isn't anything good on the telly. (Note: All three are British, so speaking as a piggish, thuggish American, I enjoy their heavy accents immensely. Also, Gervais has the most wonderful laugh – It sounds like he is in the death throes of a vicious tickle.)

By far, my favorite skit shown on the show so far has been Karl reading an e-mail from a radio listener about the troubles faced by a Russian television station. They kept cutting back staff, until finally, they realized that they had nobody to put on-air. At this point, Karl says they noticed a monkey “kickin' about the studio” and decided to put him on the air. From there, hilarity ensues as Karl tells more details of the story, and Stephen and Ricky viciously tear him apart.

In fact, a regular segment of the show is Monkey News, which just features Karl or Ricky recounting news about monkeys or chimpanzees or anything of that sort. In addition to the news story about the monkey newscaster, Karl also believes that the first monkey in space was trained via a banana dispenser to steer the shuttle “left” to the Moon.

Anyway – I really heart the show. The three episodes I've seen, about 70 minutes in all, have been high quality. I think the show only has a six-episode run for now, and I'm hoping HBO extends it for the future, since I'm sure there is tons of archive podcast footage for them to draw from for the show. Also, a bit from the show gave me a great idea for a hypothetical entry for 7 p.m., and you'll know it when you see it.

Grade: A+

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Inexplicable Movie Review: Naked Gun 33 and 1/3

Remember when OJ was funny and not like, a murderer?

Since the Oscars are tonight, there is no better movie to review for the occasion than... Naked Gun 33 and 1/3? Well, yeah! As my blogger buddy Mel notes at Mel Got Served, it does take place at the Oscars, and there are some great scenes throughout the film.

Relevant to this discussion though, the last 20 minutes of so feature Detective Frank Drebin (Leslie Neilsen) at the Oscars, as someone mistakes him for Phil Donahue. It's not as slapstick as some other parts of the movie, especially once Frank ad-libbing during the award he's presenting. "We should skin those cats, and use their fur for warmth..." There is also a nice spoof of The Untouchables that serves as the movie's opening scene.

While Naked Gun 33 and 1/3 isn't as good as the first two movies of the series, or the television show the movies are based on, I realize that is setting a pretty high bar on the franchise. The Oscar scenes are probably the peak of the movie, but they can't compare to the Enrico Palazzo scenes of the original Naked Gun, or when Frank serves as a baseball umpire:

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