Greetings! Have you ever wondered if a movie's worth blowing the money on to see at the theater or what to add next to your NetFlix queue? Then you've come to the right place! Enjoy!

May 2010 Review Roundup

Things started to pick up as the TV shows ended and more movie-watching time was available and I was able to finally match January's total of 11 films. On the down side, there were two flicks so bad that I turned them off; they don't count in the view count. A nasty throat infection on Memorial Day weekend allowed me to knock off four movies from the massive backlog pile - too bad only one of them was very good.

May 3 - Chloe (4/10)
May 5 - Iron Man (8.5/10); Toy Story 2 (10/10)
May 7 - Iron Man 2 (8/10)
May 10 - Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers (INC); The Losers (4/10)
May 12 - High Society (7/10)
May 17 - The Tournament (8.5/10)
May 18 - I Really Hate My Job (INC)
May 28 - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (7/10)
May 30 - Across The Universe (4/10)
May 31 - An American Carol (4/10); Hamlet 2 (2/10)

Month's Movies Watched: 11
Previously Unseen: 9
Theatrical: 1
Home: 10
Year-To-Date: 43
YTD First-Timers: 39
YTD Theatrical: 10
YTD Home: 33

"Hamlet 2" DVD Review

Shakespeare said that brevity is the soul of wit, so I'm gonna keep this short: Hamlet 2 blows.

For starters, Steve Coogan is like Ricky Gervais for me - an English guy that a whole lot of people seem convinced is a comic genius, but his inability to make me laugh makes me wonder if others are grading on a curve. There were several times I wanted to turn the movie off, but it kept threatening to possibly develop into something less-than-sucky; it never did.

It's not a total loss if you're held captive by the Taliban and forced to watch this as torture. Catherine Keener is tart as Coogan's wife and has a great scene involving a margarita glass large enough for Michael Phelps to do laps in. Phoebe Strole is a fresh face that needs to work more. The most original idea in the whole movie is Elisabeth Shue playing a version of herself who's quit acting and is now working as a nurse in Tuscon. It doesn't really amount to much, but she's a trooper and looks cougarlicious.

Score: 2/10. Skip it unless the Taliban is forcing you to watch it.

"An American Carol" DVD Review

For Memorial Day and because two of the actors in it - Dennis Hopper and Gary Coleman (yeah, in the same movie!) - passed away in the past few days, tonight's film was David Zucker's conservative comedy An American Carol. Zucker was part of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team that brought us comedy classics like The Kentucky Fried Movie, Airplane, The Naked Gun, Top Secret!, and he also directed BASEketball and Scary Movie 3 & 4. With such a background, I don't know what's more surprising: that he's a conservative in Hollyweird or that the movie isn't a hella lot funnier.

Spoofing A Christmas Carol's format, An American Carol has Michael Moore (ne Malone - played by Kevin "Chris' not dead brother" Farley) visited by the ghosts of Gen. Patton (Kelsey Grammer), George Washington (Jon Voight in a restrained and excellent brief turn), and the Angel of Death (country big dude Trace Adkins) after JFK realizes that Mikey's a big, fat, anti-American a-hole who's trying to ban the 4th of July. Concurrently, a hapless trio of jihadists are trying to exploit Moore, er, Malone to get access to Madison Square Garden to blow the joint up. Hijinx ensue.

While there are many laugh-out-loud moments if Airplane-style slapstick and some witty observations, the overall result is too tame, too safe, and most egregiously, not that funny. Michael Moore has beclowned himself well enough that no one takes his shtick seriously anymore and Matt Stone and Trey Parker lampooned the food-stained moron well enough in their 2004 puppet epic Team America: World Police, four years before AAC. It also doesn't help that the movie is consciously not too risque because it was clearly targeted to appeal to an older Middle American - OK, let's just call them what they are: old, white, Christians who don't go to movies anymore because those freaks, junkies, and queers in Hollywood are filling the picture shows with fornication, nudity and bad words. You know, the stuff South Park deploys to brutal effect in their brilliant satires.

While it's natural to want to credit or demerit An American Carol based on one's politics - humorless liberals (redundant, I know) won't get most of the jokes and desperate-for-payback conservatives will talk themselves into thinking it's funnier than it is - the bottom line is that even though I was sympathetic to Zucker's objectives, it just didn't make me laugh enough to recommended it too highly.

Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable if nothing else is on.

Gary Coleman has a 10 second part with perhaps two lines; Dennis Hopper has a great scene as a judge taking great glee in gunning down zombie ACLU lawyers. Godspeed, Frank Booth.

"Across The Universe" Blu-ray Review

I like musicals. I like The Beatles. I like artsy movies. So why didn't I like the artsy Beatles-based musical Across the Universe? Probably because director Julie Taymor managed to be simultaneously opaquely artsy and painfully obvious in the execution of this meticulously designed and shot, but emotionally vacant and dull fantasia which ends up ill-serving the music and the era.

Starting with a roster of character names culled from Beatles tunes - Jude, Lucy, Max(well), Prudence, Sadie, Rita, Jojo, Gonzo (j/k) - we're primed to await the obligatory name-checks (e.g. Sadie is sexy, Prudence is dear, and Max bangs a silver-headed hammer three times) and as Taymor runs us thru a time warp mashup of the Sixties (it starts as if it's 1963 and ends in 1970 though the whole plot spans no more than a year, if that) and odd takes on the classic songs.

The problem isn't the less-than-powerful vocals - no one expects Marilyn Manson's girlfriend and the kid from 21 to blow the roof off the dump - but the visual style Taymor utilizes. Alan Parker's film version of Pink Floyd's The Wall was like MTV-on-acid (kids, ask your grandparents about the time when MTV used to show these little musical films called "videos"), but ATU comes off as a candy-coated pseudodelic filming of a theatrical numbers. Taymor directed the Broadway adaptation of The Lion King, so this isn't surprising, though it doesn't make it any more appropriate. While it's easy to admire the craft that goes into these numbers, they don't really work and when guest vocalists like Joe Cocker, Bono, Salma Hayek (who starred in Taymor's last film, Frida) and Eddie Izzard pop up, it only pulls us out of the picture more.

More damning is that it was very easy to take breaks during my viewing. I must've stopped a half-dozen times to answer Facebook posts, scan Android forums, get snacks, etc. It took me over four hours to watch the shade-over-two-hour film, which is not a quote you'll be seeing in adverts any time ever.

Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable.

The Blu-ray's picture is generally quite stunning, showcasing the bright colors and fine details, though there are some odd spots where a light haze of what looks like "digital grain" appears, including the opening shots. It reappears here and there, but most of the time the picture looks fine. Audio is front-heavy and generally not too impressive; weird for a musical. If you actually enjoy Across the Universe, then by all means, you want it on Blu-ray.

Cyberspace Open 2010 - Sneaking Into The Finals

NOTE: I'm actually writing this on Feb. 23, 2011, almost nine months after the post date. As a result, tenses are going to be a little squirrely and references that occurred after the post date will be treated as if they weren't in the future. Because I never got around to telling the tale and since I'd just entered the 2011 Cyberspace Open, it seems as good a time as any to reveal what I'd done. With my luck, the organizers will catch wind of this and ding my entry. Boo.

UPDATE: It's March 29, 2011 and I didn't make the Finals, so I'm finally posting it up now. Enjoy.


So I didn't get into the Final Round of the 2010 Cyberspace Open. A lot of people didn't, so I'm not taking it personally. However, I have a hard time accepting that I may not have advanced because of shoddy judging. Sucking? Sure. Because the judge was looking for a lamb shank roast at a oatmeal cookie contest? Not even. While I've beaten up the inequities here, a search around the web found others with similar complaints and this fellow details how the majority of the finalists totally blew the structure portion.

I decided that if I could come up with something for the 2nd round, I'd send it in even though I wasn't a semi-finalist. It'd be fun to do the exercise - you can never practice one's skills enough - and if it got judged, it'd provide a little satisfaction that their process was so porous that anyone could submit. Hey, what if I make the Top 3? Boy, that'd be super-embarrassing!

The appointed time of the second scene prompt arrived on a Saturday because this round was a 24 hour crunchfest with the pages due back at 1 p.m. EST on the Sunday. Did I anxiously refresh the CS Open site as the moment arrived? No. Actually, I don't think I even thought to look at it until very late afternoon, thus giving up one-sixth of the available writing time.
Round 2 Scene Premise:

Your PROTAGONIST has been betrayed by his CONFIDANT -- someone deep within his (or her) inner circle. This betrayal threatens to destroy everything the protagonist has been working towards. The protagonist's only ace in the hole: the confidant is not yet aware he's been found out. Write a crackling scene in which the protagonist confronts the confidant.
I mulled it over and got an idea. Then I took a nap. I was going out that night and wanted some rest, so I wrote a few lines and then snoozed and thought about the scenario a bit more. I got up and spent perhaps 45 minutes writing before I had to leave.

The next morning, I woke up and laid in bed and though about what needed to be done. There was only a couple of hours until the deadline and I had less than half of it done. I got up and sat on the couch with my laptop and wasted time surfing around seeing what others had to say about the jacked-up judging of the contest.

As time was running down, I hammered out the rest of the scene and then rushed back to trim bits until it fit within the five-page limit. I filed it with perhaps five minutes to spare. Here now is Leaving For Lala:


GILLIAN MONAGHAN - late-40s, refined in dress and features -
carries a WATERING CAN into the well-appointed bedroom.
She's got money. She waters a PLANT on the window sill.

(gently to the plant)
You're looking so much better today.

BUZZ-BUZZ. Her attention is drawn to a CELL PHONE on the
nightstand. BUZZ-BUZZ.

She picks it up and flips it open to see what the incoming
message is. It says it's from "LALA".

(text on screen)
did u get $$$ yet?

Gillian looks puzzled. She tentatively types a reply.


better hurry bitch.
cant wait 2 c u

A look of shock starts to spread across her face. She types.

Where are you?

She has opened the closet. Clothes fill the rod, expensive
shoes on the floor. The right side has clothing that looks
like someone younger wears them; more casual and flashy than
the left side. It's not as tightly packed as the left side -
clothes are missing.

The phone BUZZES in her hand. A reply.

my place. are u gona take all the $
or leave a little?

Tears start to form in her eyes as she realizes what this
means. Her hands shake as the thumbs the keys.

What do you think?

She is trembling now. After a moment, the reply comes.

take it all. fuck that old lady.
we need it. luv u. Cant wait 2 be
wit u.

Gillian bursts into tears.


Gillian has pulled herself together. She sits at her desk
at her COMPUTER looking stoic.
>Delete user account: Maria DiNova? OK. Cancel.

She clicks the OK button.
We hear the sound of the FRONT DOOR OPENING. Gillian looks
up and listens as footsteps lightly run up the stairs. As
they move around, she glances down at the watering can sitting
next to the desk.
The footsteps come scurrying down the stairs. Sounds like
they're moving into the kitchen. A woman's voice calls out.

Gillian? Gillian? Are you here?
(calling out)
In the office.

MARIA DINOVA - late-20s, high-fashion punky style, the kind
costs a lot to look nearly homeless - strides into the office.

Have you seen my phone?
No. Where did you leave it?
I thought I left it on the nightstand.
I don't recall seeing it there. I
was in there watering a little while

Maria frowns. Gillian looks Maria over and gives an approving look.

I'm sure it's somewhere. You look
nice. Are you going out?
Uh, yeah. I'm meeting a client for
the gallery for drinks downtown.
Creepy guy. Looks at me like he
thinks all I need is a man like him.
Yeah, right. That's just what I
need, a man like him. But he's got
money and is willing to buy the stuff
we can't get rid of if I tell him
the artist is the Next Big Thing.

Gillian's smile is a little tight. Maria doesn't notice.

Do you think you're going to be out
late? If not, why don't you come
home and have some wine with me while
we look over the samples? We can
turn in early.
Ummm, it might be a late one. I
don't want to make you stay up waiting
for me to come back.

Gillian gets up from the desk and goes to Maria. She embraces her. They kiss tenderly for a few moments.
While still holding her, Gillian looks sadly into Maria's eyes. Maria notices something's up, but isn't worried.
Gillian begins to stroke and knead the expensive leather of
Maria's jacket.

I remember when I bought this for
you. It looks and feels so soft,
but it is so strong.
Yes. You get what you pay for.

Gillian lets go of Maria.

Yes, you do. But sometimes you get

more and not what you bargained for.

She walks back to her desk, pausing next to the watering
can. She looks down into the can.

Oh. There it is.

She bends down and reaches into the can, pulling out MARIA'S
CELL PHONE. She shakes the water off it.
Maria's eyes widen. What's going on here? Gillian tosses the phone on the desk.

How did it--

Maria shuts up. In her eyes we see she's trying to come up
with a story that works. What does Gillian actually know?

Oh, she's no one. She's the assistant
to the guy I'm meeting tonight.
What did she say? Why was the phone--
She texted, "fuck that old lady" and
"take all the money." She also can't
wait to be with you.

Busted! Maria's mouth opens to say something, but no words
come out. Gillian sits down behind her desk with a look of
regretful sadness.

I don't know what I've done to deserve
this. I took you into my home. I
took you into my bed. My heart. My
business. I trusted you in a way I
hadn't been able to since Robert
left and what do I get? The same
damn result, my lover leaving me for
some bimbo. Lala?!? Really?
I...I...don't know what to say,
Gillian. It just happened and--
Oh, spare me! If you found someone
else and left, that'd be one thing.
But you were going to rob me, too?
You know that when Robert left for
his little whore he cleaned out the
bank account, leaving me with nothing.
I almost lost the shop and it was
years before I was back to where I
started. Now you were going to do
the same thing?

Maria looks forlorn. All her plans, up in smoke.

What now?
Now? Now you leave. Leave your
keys. You can have the cell phone,
though I've already killed the service
along with your access to the bank
account and your cards. Everyone
has been notified that you are no my employ.
Gillian, please. Can I get my stuff?
Your stuff? That I paid for? I can
tell you already packed what you
were planning on running away with,
including your favorite jacket. No,
you walk away with what you have on
you. And I mean "walk away." If
you take the car, I'll report it
stolen and press charges. You can
go now.
Gillian, I'm so--
Just go.

Maria sets her KEY RING down on the desk and slowly turns

That really is a beautiful jacket.
Hopefully it will keep you warm
because I'm guessing Lala won't when
she finds out there's no money.

I wondered if they'd catch on that they had too many entries, but apparently they didn't as the results were posted and lookee-lookee at what was in the middle of them all:
Structure: 23
Dialogue: 23
Style: 22
Originality: 22
Score: 90

This is a well-written scene that works great for the most part. It's a big twist when we realize Gillian was using Maria's phone early on. Great division of knowledge! The surprise seems to come a tad early, though, as from there the scene feels a little straightforward and predictable. Gillian is sympathetic and definitely takes charge of the situation. Dialogue is strong and things come full circle nicely. We just crave something a bit more spectacular in the end. Remember to avoid being bland, and always push the envelope! Overall, though, great job! Good luck...
Well, that's more like it! Someone who actually knew how to read and got the point. I can quibble with their wanting more of a action punchline, but I was going for a sad moment of resigned strength. At least it was fair coverage and that's all I want.

For any stats mongers out there, here's the breakdown of scores for the Finals:

97 - 1
95 - 3
94 - 4
93 - 5
92 - 11
91 - 13
90 - 16
89 - 15
88 - 10
87 - 5
86 - 8
85 - 7
84 - 6
83 - 3
81 - 1
80 - 1
Total: 109

I fell right in the fat part of the bell curve. Hmmm, makes me average, I guess. o_O

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" Blu-ray Review

Jeez, does that title even fit? Yeah, I know, welcome to 2006, Dirk. Since my girlfriend barely tolerated The Lord of the Rings movies (she was only there to slobber over Viggo Mortensen) and I never read C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, this has been a low priority for me. I borrowed the DVD from my bassist a couple of years ago and never watched it and bought a used Blu-ray for $5 from Hollywood Video a few months back. I finally got around to it tonight while sitting home sick with a throat infection while everyone else was out drinking and partying. Yay, being sick.

Anyhoo, Naria (as I shall be calling it) is a pretty good fantasy adventure tale about four WWII British kids who are sent to a country estate to ride out the Blitz and discover a magical wardrobe which acts as a portal to the land of Narnia where there is an evil Ice Queen (Tilda Swinton) witch and a CGI lion (voiced by Liam Neeson), thus ticking off all the components of the lengthy title.

Swinton is a hoot, looking like David Bowie playing Crystal Bowersox with icicles sprouting from her head. Very chic and during the final battle, she has this lion's mane-trimmed battle outfit that's a pip; Cher wishes she had it. The Edmond character is a little a-hole, pouting and basically making a mess of things in the hopes of getting candy. That Jesus Lion has to take a blade to save his whack ass and then he gets to still be king at the end doesn't seem right.

While the kids are all good actors - Anna Popplewell is a cute non-Goth version of Thora Birch - the overall story suffers because I'm not quite sure what's driving them and it doesn't really feel like they earn their victory. The Big Battle at the end is clearly going for a LOTR Lite feel and is notable for being waged in bright sunlight and primary colors instead of moody, FX-concealing murky grays. It's interesting to see James McEvoy as Goat Boy before his run of films including Last King of Scotland, Atonement, and Wanted.

The sequel, Prince Caspian, was a box office disappointment and I heard complaints of too much battle stuff, but I haven't seen it yet. The next chapter, The Voyage of The Dawn Treader, is slated to hit theaters in December. At the rate I'm going, look for the review of that one on the new Quantum IMAX® Home™ format sometime in 2016. Mark your calendars.

Score: 7/10.

If you're a fan of the film, buy the Blu-ray. It's gorgeous in its transfer quality and comes with a ton of extras including some interview footage with Swinton where she actually looks like a woman and is kinda hot.

Still, if you're honest, the most enduring cultural result of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is this:

"24 S8.23-4" Recap – “Setting Up For Showing Down/Bang, Bang, My Chloe Shot Me Down”

24 S8.23-4 – “Setting Up For Showing Down/Bang, Bang, My Chloe Shot Me Down”

==== HOUR 23 ====
• A scruffy Kiefer opens the evening with a humble thank-you to the fans who’ve stuck by them for 8 years. However, anyone still watching at this point is owed an APOLOGY, methinks. Seriously.
• Why are they reminded us that events occur in real time? If you’re just tuning in now, screw you!
• Damp Boi and Mr. White showdown at the Whitecave. Odd to see a Tarantino-esque Mexican standoff without everyone getting killed.
• Chloe arrives at the UN and is automatically being annoyed by her minions.
• Damp Boi notifies Chloe about Jack’s bug and then does an infomercial for Hyundai backup camera system.
• WTF? On the day with multiple terrorist threats they’re having a signing ceremony OUTDOORS; not someplace indoors like the General Assembly hall or a TGIFridays?
• PELB calls Prez Chumpy and tells her about everything and Jack hears it, he’s heard it all.
• Mr. Dominic gets into his SUV and finds out that he’s got himself a JACK SEAT DRIVER! Holla!!!
• Widow Regis gives Chumpy the signing pen Regis was gonna give her. Is it filled with blood, guilt and shame?
• Chloe plans to blast any evidence Jack has out to all media outlets and government employees. Unless she titles the note, “Awwww. Cute Kitteh,” no one’s gonna open it until next week.
• Jack gets into the UN and Dominic to stitch him up – what is this, Lost? – and then gets all sentimental, only pistol-whipping Dom. He’d better tie him up and toss him in the trunk.
• Good, Jack left Dom in the trunk and got his Big Ol’ Sack O’ Guns.
• Chumpy looks forlorn at the pen. Gee, handling your guilt badly?
• Widow Regis arrives and wants help finding Blonde Ambition. Chumpy blows it off, but WR ain’t having it. Keep digging, Chumpy, you’ll find China.
• Whoops! Now we know why Chumpy’s poker night nickname was “Unable-to-Bluffer-in-Chief” as WR realizes that she knew about the plot. She says she’s going to tell Dad, er, the UN and Chumpy threatens to attack Kreplochistan unless she shows up for the signing.
• Nothing makes better for a solid and lasting peace than assassinations, lies, and blackmail, does it?
• Jack sets up sniper shop. Convenient that they’ve got a nice unsecured vantage point overlooking the outdoor signing site.
• WR is pissed. Her lackey is trying to chill her out. Is she gonna catch Sudden Little Bitch Syndrome, too?
• Chloe is notified that Jack’s across the street and goes to get him. Is the eager CTU guy who got demoted for Damp Boi going to be a spoiler?
• Jack leaves a message to Kim. He’s sounding hopeful. Why not just call her since if he dies, they’ll likely black hole the tape?
• Chloe’s got a master key. Does Jack have a new pair of roller skates?
• Dr. Benton is the Secretary General of the UN?
• Chloe finds Jack and receives the most tender and loving chokehold he’s ever administered.
• Jack calls PELB and says, ”Smile, you’re on Sniper Camera.” Then he delivers the Line of the Hour, ”Tell him the truth for a change. That you’ve received a credible threat on his life.” Evil Smirk.

==== HOUR 24 ====
• Press conference wraps up and Big Ivan corners Chumpy about Widow Regis.
• PELB calls Big Ivan and says, ”Why don’t you you come on up and see me sometime, like, now?”
• Damp Boi doesn’t hear from Chloe, so orders the go team in.
• Chloe tries to talk Jack out of killing those who need killing by playing the “Renee wouldn’t want a war in her name” card. Are you sure? She was a pretty hardcore chick. She may find a guy starting a war over her to be romantic.
• Whoa! Super intense showdown with Jack forcing Chloe to shoot him by threatening to kill himself. BANG!!!! Now we have the annoyed face.
• Ah crud, they found Dominic and he orders Chloe held.
• PELB tells Dom about the recording and he gets to fulfill the fantasy of probably 27 nerds and frisks Chloe.
• Jack asks Dom if he’d like to see his Mike Tyson impression. Dom foolishly agrees.
• Chloe tries to upload the file, but people downloading cam files of Shrek Forever After have bogged down the Intarwebz and the transfer isn’t completed before she and Damp Boi are busted by CTU Agent Bucky. Tool.
• PELB gives Chumpy the card and tells her that she’s gotta whack Jack. Chumpy silently signs Jack’s death warrant. YOU SUCK!!!!
• Chumpy plays the card and it’s Jack’s video message. Huh? Where’s the real card? Ooooh, I get it. (Chloe’s taking it back to CTU to play, methinks.)
• Dom and PELB have celebratory drinks. Bastards.
• Peace signing ceremony blah-blah-woof-woof…
• Dr. Benton has Big Ivan sign first. Widow Regis follows. Wouldn’t the treaty have to be ratified by the respective countries making this all moot?
• Chumpy calls the whole thing off and tries to save Jack…
• Too late. The ambulance got ambushed. Black hood comes over the camera. Hmmm.
• PELB clobbers Dominic and then puts the gun under his chin. BANG!!!! Is he dead? Jack was supposed to kill him! DAMMIT!!!!
• Commercial Break Thoughts: Heading into the last segment, they’ve got to cover a lot of ground. Do PELB’s minions kill Jack, thus slapping the fans in the face after 8 seasons and making all the movie talk a false flag operation or do they manage to give us some sort of a happy ending?
• Mini-Aaron has already called CTU and got Chloe, Damp Boi, and Drone Boi on the case while Ivanka is hauled off. They find him in less time than they could find anyone this day.
• Hmmmm, black ops guys? Could they be friends of Mr. White?
• Nope. Oh, this looks grim and…..POW!!! Jack starts to beat the guy with his hands cuffed behind his back. Doesn’t work for long, but silver star and smiley face for effort.
• Jack says to get it over with, but Prez Cherry calls off the hit thanks to the most efficient reverse lookup ever. She orders Jack released and tells Jack she’s weally, weally saw-wee and she should’ve listened to him all along. YA F*CKING THINK?!?!?!?!?
• Jack has a tearful farewell call with Chloe and he gets a head start for life on the lam as the clock counts down to 00:00:00…that’s all folks!
Thoughts: And thus the curtain falls on the end of an era. Even though saddled with some tawdry plot baggage due to the messed-up plotting, these final two hours were pretty intense and gut-wrenching. If only they hadn’t botched the first 18 hours of the season. (Anyone else what to dig up Starbitch’s corpse and smack it around some more?) That Prez Cherry came out of the attack of SLBS was predictable, but Cherry Jones played it so well that we almost – ALMOST – felt bad for her total epic failness.

Hardcores: Jack, Jack, Jack, Jack, Jack, Jack and JACK!!!!

Little Bitches: President Evil Little Bitch (he’s not really dead, is he?), Prez Cherry, Mr. Dominic (BIH), national honor.

Up Next: During their call, Jack told Chloe to protect Kim’s family from the Ruskies, thus setting up the first movie, “2: Forget The Cougar, Here Comes The Bear!”

Episodes Score: 8/10; 9.5/10

JBBC: Final total for this final go ‘round is 132 kills – 33 if we scored Starbitch as one, but she counted 100, DAMMIT!!!

Thanks for reading these recaps. I did ‘em for you! Cheers!

Cyberspace Open 2010 Results - Judging The Judge

The results for the first round of Creative Screenwriting magazine's Cyberspace Open 2010 posted this morning and I (along with 1300 others) didn't make the cut. I scored an 86 out of 100 possible and the cutoff for the finalists was 93. In an odd twist, the winners of the "Gory or Scary" genre prize ($200) didn't make the cut either; they wrote the very best scene in that style and missed the cut by a point.

Take a moment to read what the criteria for the scene and my entry were before proceeding so you can follow what comes next. I'll wait here....

Back? OK, good.

Because I'm still developing the full script, I don't want to spill the whole plot but you need to know that Jake is a scam artist and identity thief and Carmine is a very bad guy whose ID was stolen by Jake. This scene would be the break point leading into the third act of the movie; 80-90 minutes in. With that in mind, here's what my feedback was:
Structure: 21
Dialog: 22
Style: 22
Originality: 21
Score: 86

Solid scene, with JAKE'S problem established right up front, allowing for more scene time for rallying and provoking. Would like to know about what the plan was/is up front as well, as we don't get the identity theft info until page 2, and even then it's not clear what it has to do with Jake's CARMINE problem. Perhaps linking the two might help. HARVEY'S option speech is good, but it doesn't feel particularly unexpected. As a matter of fact, the options sound pretty standard for FBI procedure. Good dialogue, but the subject matter starts to drift from the task at hand, and perhaps there's a little too much reminiscing. Good effort here, nonetheless.
What bothers me about this feedback is I appear to have gotten marked down for following the instructions. In the kickoff video, the bloke who runs this shindig said that these weren't supposed to be 5-minute MOVIES but 2-5 page SCENES. My challenge was to take something that would occur an hour-and-a-half into the movie and make it clear to someone reading this scene out of context. I can't stand when characters stand around talking about things they would already know for the benefit of the audience and at this point of the story it would make absolutely no sense to have the guys saying, "As you know, Carmine is a very bad man whose ID you stole and he has been seeking revenge blah-blah-woof-woof..." An audience (or reader of the full script) would be well aware of what was going on, so a visit from Basil Exposition shouldn't be necessary.

The complaint about the FBI agent's options is also unfair since he's a by-the-book FBI agent. He's not going to say, "OK, what we'll do is call in the Autobots and a couple of Jedi Knights to blah-blah-woof-woof..." As for the reminiscing, this is the turning point for the character; he's been a scammer his whole adult life and now he has to choose between running away or changing his ways. THIS IS THE CRUCIAL MOMENT OF TRUTH FOR JAKE and the reader missed the point entirely, choosing to score based on the SHORT MOVIE they were looking for and not the SCENE we were assigned to write.

Now, this probably sounds like sour grapes and sore loserism. "You just can't accept that you suck, Dirk. FAIL!!!" If the feedback was, "Terrible dialog, no characters, did you read the premise?!?", I could deal with that, but when it appears this ONE READER judged on a criteria different from what contestants were assigned, well, that's not very good, is it? It reminds me when an overall very positive review for my band's CD praised the "thoughtfully left-leaning lyrics." Ignoring the tired, baseless shorthand that only liberals can think, I was left wondering, "What album were you listening to?" The songs weren't overtly political, but where you could glean any insight into the leanings of the songwriter (that would be me), "left" is NOT the correct answer. Even though it was a rave review - it really was - it bothered me that they didn't seem to understand what they were liking about it.

BTW, While looking around online for info on this contest, I found a guy's blog where he posted his scene and I thought it was just awful - totally ignoring the scene premise and criteria. I sent it to a couple of friends and they both agreed it was totally off the mark, but he scored an 83. A quick scan of all the scores showed only a handful scored less than 80 with the lowest I found being a 75. Looks like a lot of "Participant" ribbons were handed out.

Even though it didn't pan out for me this time, it was a good and interesting exercise to participate in because it forced me to work on a deadline and to be brutally efficient in going over my writing. The differences between the first and final drafts are stark and showed how ruthless editing can get the same points across in the fewest words. I just wish I'd lucked into a reader who knew what we were supposed to write and not a Gene Siskel-wannabe who reviewed what they wanted to see instead of what was there.


UPDATE: Here is the video we were encouraged to view before writing:

Skip ahead to 4:25 where he says (in case you can't see/hear the video):
"But the main thing is a scene; not a short film; not an entire 120-minute feature condensed down into 4 or 5 pages, OK? Just a scene. That's all we need. Doesn't need a title. Doesn't need any of the character setup or anything like that."
But the reader wrote,
"Would like to know about what the plan was/is up front as well, as we don't get the identity theft info until page 2, and even then it's not clear what it has to do with Jake's CARMINE problem."
Am I wrong in thinking that I got misjudged?

"I Really Hate My Job" DVD Review

Neve Campbell has weird nipples. Even if you were a die-hard Party of Five or Scream fan, you will probably not be able to masturbate to what she shows off in the execrable I Really Hate My Job, the third movie this year that I simply couldn't bring myself suffer through to the end credits. I'd seen them on the Internet (so you can go find them yourselves if you must see what I'm talking about), but I was actually curious as to why she was naked in a restaurant. I should've stayed curious.

For the 15 minutes before I gave up, I was treated to a pack of unlikeable simpy women who work in a small London restaurant. There's the dour, unattractive wannabe novelist who is pressed into cooking duty; a couple of twitty cute girls; an older women who looks like she wishes she was in Havana before Castro and Che ruined it; and Neve, the American actress wannabe who is turning 30 today. That Neve was shaping up as the most interesting of the lot had nothing to do with the promise of skin later, but because everyone else was so vapid.

While fast-forwarding looking for the nudity - it starts at 1:14:31 if you can find a way to tune in during a cable showing; you're welcome - it appears that there are lots of scenes of angst-filled conversation interspersed with rats-eye (I mean this literally) views of the kitchen. It looks dreadful and that's before you get to Neve's boner-killing monologue.

Score: Incomplete - DNF. Skip it.

The DVD's transfer is mediocre with substantial compression artifacts and the audio is so low that I had to really crank it up to hear the whispered, accented dialog; hampered by the lack of English subtitles (only Spanish is available) to flip on. With louder than normal menu audio, when you stop the movie, you'll be blown out of your chair if you don't dial down first. But why would you buy/rent this in the first place? Go watch Wild Things again.

"The Tournament" Review

The vagaries of the movie business are hard to fathom at times. Crappy movies get wide studio releases while nifty flicks get dumped straight to video. An example of the latter is The Tournament, a movie that I'm not sure why I checked out other than it had Kelly Hu (the hottie who was Lady Deathstryke in X2: X-Men United) and the premise sounded appealing: Every seven years, 30 assassins convene in a town and proceed to kill each other until the survivor is crowned "King of the Assassins."

This go around is held in a small English city where the tournament organizers have control of the cops and the extensive closed-circuit camera network. The contestants are drugged and implanted with tracking beacons/heart monitors which allow everyone to know when an opponent is near as well as telling them where the others are at. Hiding isn't an option because if there isn't sole survivor at the end of 24 hours, the trackers explode (shades of Battle Royale) and everyone loses.

When one contestant cuts his tracker out and tosses it into a diner coffee pot, it is accidentally ingested by a drunken priest - is there any other kind in movies? - played by Robert Carlyle and he becomes an unwilling target and participant in the game. Hijinks ensue in spectacularly bloody detail.

Director Scott Mann is practically nobody, but he's got a sensibility about his action that feels like a cross between Hong Kong caper flicks and the films by Luc Besson's proteges like The Transporter and Taken. (Neil Blomkamp got a lot of attention for District 9, but a savvy producer would be wise to give Mann something to do that will be seen.) The action is splashy and trashy, but coherent enough to follow. The performances are as good as they need to be, though Ian Somerhalder (Boone from Lost, currently on The Vampire Diaries) is a revelation as a particularly cruel lunatic from Texas with a white duster and a willingness to shoot dogs or hookers just cuz, yet still be appealing. (My girlfriend is all over him. Whatever.)

The ultimate ending isn't really a surprise, but so much blow-'em-up/shoot-'em-up fun is had along the way, I can give 'em a pass for sticking to the formula. When the subject is a bunch of depraved murderers taking each other out, should we really expect a moral compass and heavy meaning to come with? Didn't think so.

Score: 8.5/10. Buy the DVD.

Here's the trailer. I see most of what I typed in the synopsis is shown here. Lovely.

"24 S8.22" Recap – “Ain’t No Stopping The Jack Rush!”

24 S8.22 – “Ain’t No Stopping The Jack Rush!”

• PELB is basking in his good press. Can’t wait for Jack to chew his ears off.
• Dominic calls from the scene of Sniperov’s demise and warns PELB that Jack seems really interested in finding him.
• Blonde Ambition is still whining about what Jack did. Would someone slap this twit, please?
• Chumpy wraps a meeting with the happy-looking Widow Regis. (WTF? I once lost 10 lbs. in a week after a breakup. I wasn’t looking chipper.)
• PELB lets Chumpy know that it’s all going to hell. Chumpy realizes she’s FUBAR. Waaaaaaaaaaaah!!!
• Chloe and Drone Boy see what Jack did to Sniperov and ID Mr. White. Ivanka is snooping at them.
• White tells Jack where PELB is going and Jack tells him to burn the evidence of their connection, thus disbanding the Gruffy-Voiced Men Club.
• Chumpy tells Aaron Lite to get the FBI to roll BA’s offices. He’s suspicious. Can’t anyone lie smoothly?
• BA calls her editor and sets a meet. I’m all a flutter. (Note: I’m not.)
• Jack turns into One-Man Army and stops the motorcade with the Worst. Security. Ever. – come on, even a weasel like PELB gets decent Secret Service protection – and smokes out PELB. Looks like no kills as Jack does the SS guys T2 style again.
• Chloe and DB figure out who White is. He has all that stuff and a couple of grunt analysts can figure out he’s not dead in 10 minutes?
• Jack makes PELB sweat so bad that Nixon’s ghost feels sorry for him and then chokeholds him. (Jack does, not Nixon.)
• Chloe gets all Yoda and says, ”There is another,” and goes to call someone to get White. Who could it be? I’m guessing Aaron, cuz he’s the only one who hasn’t been brought back for a victory lap.
• Oh, boo. Damp Boi? Bleah. Chloe slaps down Ivanka, making her have the annoyed face.
• Editor tips BA that the Feds are there. Real Ben Bradley moves there. Not.
• Chloe springs Damp Boi and sends him after White.
• Jack beats up Ivan’s driver for the intel and then caps two guards, though one of them gets to stab Jack before Jack manages to make him stab himself. Isn’t this the second time today that Jack got stabbed? What’s up with that?
• Damp Boi still thinks Jack’s out of control and promises to cap him. Ooooooh, big man.
• BA calls Fajita and tells her the Ruskies were behind Regis’ demise.
• Whoops! She gets pinched by the FBI and they’ve got the evidence. FAIL! Aaron Lite tells Chumpy they have the evidence.
• Dominic calls Ivan to warn him and in the best jump cut of the season, we see the bloody aftermath of Jack’s strike on the Ruskies room. Head shot and a FIREPLACE POKER(!!!!) in Ivan’s gut?!?! YOWZA!!! Four more kills. And a carpet-cleaning charge.
• PELB calls Big Ivan and has a lengthy conversation full of admissions of guilt. It’s gotta be bugged.
• Yep! Jack’s pinned a mike on PELB’s collar and is taping all of this, but he’s bleeding pretty bad.

Thoughts: This week had a strong whiff of the crazy vibe that informed Season 7 where it didn’t matter if it was preposterous, as long as it was action-packed and entertaining. Jack On Fire is sorta working, but something’s gotta give with Prez Chumpy’s totally succumbing to Sudden Little Bitch Syndrome.

Hardcores: Jack, Jack, Jack, and JACK!!!!

Little Bitches: PELB, Prez Chumpy, Ivan in the hotel room with the poker.

Up Next: The big finish. Unless they’re lying about making movies and whack Jack – which would require the producers to go into hiding deeper than Salman Rushdie – it’s going to end up in a Pyrrhic victory at best and probably something downbeat and sad.

Episode Score: 8/10

JBBC: Jack busts caps in four while poking one in a manner too strong for Facebook brings the total to 132 kills.24

"High Society" DVD Review

Tonight's film was chosen by a friend whom I'd invited over for a movie night. She's been having a rough patch and it'd been about 9 months since she'd been over, so I pointed her towards the piles of DVDs and said, "Pick something out." Of her choices, Giant was too long (3-1/2 hours!); I'd seen Management; wasn't in the mood for Blindness; and while I've heard good things about Gigantic, wasn't in the mood for that. Then she spotted my Mom's copy of High Society and decided she needed a Grace Kelly fix. I'm not sure if I've seen it before in its entirety. I don't recall other than a line from one of Louis Armstrong's sidemen about having forgotten his library card (when seeing the mansion they'd be gigging at) and the Cole Porter classic, "Well, Did You Evah?"

The 1956 musicalized version of the play and movie The Philadelphia Story transplants the setting to Newport, RI and swap in Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Grace Kelly for the original's Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Kathryn Hepburn. While there are other cool Porter tunes like "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," "True Love," and "Now You Has Jazz," there is far more of the movie's running time spent with rather stagey dialog scenes exploring the icey persona of Kelly's Tracy Lord. (Yes, the rumor is that porn star Traci Lords took her name from here.) There is also a creepy angle with Bing's character - Tracy's ex-husband - lurking around and basically taunting her fiancee with constant reminders that he'd already planted his flag (repeatedly) on that hill.

While it's a minor "classic," I think High Society is a little slow-paced by today's standards and could've used some trimming; it could probably get cut from its 111 minutes to 90 without my gnashing of teeth. If you're looking for musical musicals, stick with MGM fare like Singing in the Rain.

Score: 7/10.

The DVD is an older pressing with an OK transfer, albeit with substantial edge-enhancement artifacts. Shop with care.

Note: This was Grace Kelly's very last role before marrying into royalty and the ring she wears in the film is the one Prince Rainier gave her. I've been watching Mad Men on Blu-ray and have always noticed that January Jones is supposed to be reminiscent of Kelly, but watching this movie really showed REALLY how similar they look. Yikers.

"The Losers" Review

Does this premise sound familiar? A squad of elite, wisecracking soldiers are framed for an atrocity and declared dead by their government after being sold out by their CIA handler. Almost like The A-Team, right? Well, in this case, it's the comic book The Losers - no, I haven't read it either - under discussion and there isn't much to discuss.

The squad - led by The Comedian from Watchmen and including Fantastic Four's Human Torch and three other guys no one but their parents would probably recognize - were in Bolivia to target a compound for bombing when they spotted two dozen kids on site. When their controller, Max, refuses to abort the mission, they rescue the kids and load them on a chopper to safety. Unfortunately, Max orders the chopper shot down, killing the kids and (presumably) The Losers. Set up in menial jobs in Bolivia, the hot Smurf girl from Avatar (aka Lt. Uhrua) approaches them with an offer: she'll sneak them back into the country and bankroll their campaign to kill Max for her. Double and triple-crosses and general incomprehensibility ensue.

While there are some decent action scenes and the film is shot and edited colorfully, it never makes any sense. Max is supposed to be CIA, but he's on the hunt to buy "snukes" - a sonic weapon that can do the damage of a nuke without the radiation or waxy yellow buildup - to apparently deal around the world to terrorist organizations. Huh? Played by Jason Patric in a weird turn that seems like he's trying to move into Christopher Walken territory, he's not really menacing because he's a clown.

There's not much reason for the film's globe-trotting - Miami, Houston, L.A., New Mexico, Mumbai, Dubai, and (I think) Gary, IN (just kidding) are stamps in the passport - and while some of the Losers' banter is amusing, the film is a textbook example on how not to use "Don't Stop Believing" in a movie. My cousin has been ranting that Chris Evans is wrong to play Captain America: The First Avenger and I'm beginning to think she may have a point. The ending scene at a soccer game is just stupid and unfunny. And they're clearly trying to set up a sequel that won't get made.

Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable.

" 24 S8.21" Review – “Anyone Still Think Waterboarding’s Torture?”

Just found out that Chloe is the third cousin of a friend of mine and she was in town last week for an aunt's funeral. Small world.

24 S8.21 – “Anyone Still Think Waterboarding’s Torture?”

• Damp Boi is cuffed and sad panda about Starlittlebitch’s demise. (You’re the only one, pal.)
• Jack watches SB’s video file and is disappointed that it’s not a sex tape. Dammit!
• Mr. Dominic annoys Chloe by not answering her questions. She’s starting to think that Jack may be right about the cover-up. YA THINK?!?!?
• Jack gets to Mr. White’s command center and they have an impromptu “gruff guys sharing feelings” session.
• Tramp reporter Blonde Ambition reappears – memba her? – and takes a call from Jack to meet for coffee and evidence swapping.
• DB ends up in the white room w/o black curtains with Dom who easily manipulates DB into hating Jack. You suck, DB.
• Ivanka knows about Jack’s call. Drone Boi is starting to suspect that Chloe may be onto something.
• PELB hears the tape. Dom is sending the strike team to catch him.
• Chloe uses a Sprint phone – on the Now Network – to set up a mobile hot spot to get around Dom’s security. Good thing she’s not trying to use Sprint Nav to route a trip.
• Chloe sees DB, who’s being a useless little bitch, in his rat cage lockup. Boohoo, DB. Jack whacked your traitor squeeze. (America hates you even more than what you did to Buffy.)
• Sniperkov is at the mall and ready to air out the food court.
• Widow Regis corrects Prez Chumpy and PELB tells her they’re gonna get the evidence, so how about press announcement for some props and a “Whut whut?”
• Jack arrives at the mall and takes advantage of the fact he’s shorter than the average shopper to screen his way into the mall w/o being spotted. (Note to self: Hire Dolph Lungren as a human shield.)
• Sniperov has the drop on him, but because he was so busy peering thru his scope, he doesn’t know that Mr. White has snuck up on him. Whoops.
• Pew! Pew! Pew! Pew! Jack wipes out four crack Ruskie operatives. This never would’ve happened when Putin ran things.
• PELB is choosing his tie, but Dominic calls to tell him that Jack is jacking everything up. Dom tells him to bail, but PELB’s ego gets the better of him. Ivanka’s looking worried.
• Jack, Mr. White – not to be confused with Jack White, mind you – Blonde Ambition, and Sniperov walk out of the store, cross the street, and walk right into yet another of the conveniently vacant buildings with open doors that apparently litter the city.
• BA gets all whiny liberal on Jack when she realizes he may use more than wheedling to get info from Sniperov. Jeez, lady, they just sent a hit squad to whack you and they killed your sweet baboo, and you’re wanting to call Amnesty International?
• Sniperov finds out the hard way that there is nothing – N-O-T-H-I-N-G – that will stop Jack from f*cking your sh*t up when you’ve killed his lady love. Yikes!!! No, make that YIKES!!!
• Jack mops the off the SIM card – ewwwwwwwwwwww! - pops it in the phone, and gets PELB’s voice mail. Leave a message, Jack.

Thoughts: After her two-hour bout of Sudden Little Bitch Syndrome, Chloe is back on the right side, but now Jack is still hosed because Dom and PELB are on the scene. I’m not sure if I’m digging the telegraphed Jack On Fire theme they’re appearing to want to finish with. I love the single-minded-revenge flick genre, but do we want Jack to go out on a personal vendetta note and not some super-patriotic, Captain America blaze of awesome?

Hardcores: JACK!!!!

Little Bitches: Sniperov (spilled your guts there), Prez Chumpy, Damp Boi.

Up Next: Jack goes after PELB. Growl at him, Jack!

Episode Score: 8/10

JBBC: Jack busts caps in four and field-dresses a fifth to bring the total to 128 kills.

"Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers" Review

This is why I bought this DVD:

If it's got hot Asian babes with guns on the cover, I'm in. When I prowl the basement video shops of Chinatown, anything that promises armed babe trashy violence is an automatic pickup and when I saw this on the shelf of a closing Hollywood Video, it was go time.

Now, I'm not expecting Little Women from my exploitation flicks, but Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers managed to make me turn it off just shy of the half-hour mark. While some of the girls are cute, the plot (as best as I can discern) was incomprehensible, the action haphazardly and amateurishly shot, and the English dub howlingly bad. It's so shabbily done that it falls over from "so bad it's amusing" to "it's so bad it's a waste of time" in record time.

Thailand's film industry isn't anywhere as refined as Hong Kong's or Japan's, but they can occasionally kick out something weird and fun like Sars Wars: Bangkok Zombie Crisis. Check that one out.

Score: INCOMPLETE. Skip it.

I may try to slog thru the rest of his sometime; it's not a priority.

"Shutter Island" Review

"Why?" That was my reaction to Shutter Island. Why did Martin Scorsese make this movie? Why was it possible to figure out what the ending would be about a half-hour in? Why did so many critics shower praise on it when if any other director's name was on it they would've panned it? Oh, I just answered my own question, didn't I?

Set in 1954, it stars Scorsese's new DeNiro muse, Leonardo DiCaprio, as a U.S. Marshall who travels to a desolate island where a maximum security mental hospital has had a patient mysteriously disappear. As he investigates, he is tormented by blinding migraines and nightmares of his dead wife and his WWII memories of liberating Dachau. As they pile up, we start wondering if he's going crazy and that's when you realize where this is all going to end up and it does without fail, taking over two hours to get to the unshocking conclusion.

While it's stylish, moody, and well-acted, Shutter Island is a long, meaningless slog that trades on the goodwill towards the Scorsese legacy. He's done trifles before - most notably After Hours - but his first foray into horror is a snorer.

Score: 3/10. Catch it on cable.

"Iron Man 2" Review

Rather than do a standard review, I'm just going to answer the questions you're probably wanting answered.

Is it better or worse than the first one? It's both. Freed of needing to explain Shellhead's origins, it just gets on with telling its story. However, with a couple of new villains and a bunch of interpersonal conflicts to juggle, it manages to feel loaded up AND too short. It could've been another half-hour long, unlike The Dark Knight which needed a half-hour trim.

How are the special effects? Until we see the making-of stuff on the DVD, we won't know just how much is real or fake, but the fact that there weren't many times when the "FAKE!" alarm went off, that means they're better. Take a look at this:

In the movie, all the red long johns and B&W tracking markers are replaced with suit, blending seamlessly with the parts he's wearing. Why they didn't just put him in a practical suit is unknown to me. You'd think it'd be hella cheaper.

Why does it seem there's a "but" coming? Because for some reason, all but one of the big action set pieces occur at night and with the too-close framing, it's hard to follow the geography of the battles.

OK, back to what's really important: How hot is Scarlett Johansson? Even hotter than this:

She kicks ass and I hope she shows up in every Marvel Universe movie from now until Armageddon.

And Gwyneth? She's not as cute as she was in the first one and it feels like they ditched a lot of stuff, starting with that really cute scene in the airplane where she kisses his helmet and tosses it out of the plane. WTF?!? That was a great scene and without it, this spoof doesn't make much sense.

How are Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell as the villains? They're both very good, but Rockwell gets more to work with. That Rourke is able to imbue his underwritten Whiplash with some dimension is a tribute to him, but in the end, we're not quite sure what's driving him and there's a real missed opportunity at the end.

Don Cheadle replaces Terrance Howard as Rhodey; good or bad thing? A very good thing. Howard was too breathy for my tastes and Cheadle is much better at making Rhodey's relationship with Tony clear. It was a great trade up; not for Howard, but maybe he shouldn't have been trouble on the first one. (Fun fact: He was the highest paid member of the cast. Even more than Robert Downey Jr.)

Speaking of the devil, how is RDJ? He rules. He's probably the best match of actor to comic book character since Christopher Reeve was Superman.

Wow. That good. How about another picture of Scarlett? Sure, why not?

So far, it sounds pretty good. What sucks? Nothing sucks, but there will probably be some aspects you wish were handled better. I don't want to spoil it, but the dispositions of the villains could've been a lot better and perhaps when I write about the DVD, I'll elaborate. Suffice to say, there are no deal-breakers, just things that could've been better. Like having Black Widow wear this:

You know, you're coming off as a bit of a pig. Oink.

Is Olivia Munn... No. She plays a TV reporter. A real stretch for her.

Is it going to make money? It's going to make STUPID amounts of money. I went to a Midnight show and had to park farther away than I usual do when I go on a weekend afternoon when 20 screens are showing a dozen different movies, not just one flick. They had at least five rooms running and afterwards, when everyone was coming out at the same time, it was Grand Central Station in the lobby and bathrooms.

In comparison, when I saw the Midnight show of Avatar, one big room was full and the one I went into had less than 20 people in it, and this was a movie that went on to be the Biggest. Movie. Ever. I'm not saying Iron Dude Too, er, Iron Man 2 is going to make that much money, but no one at the studio will be crying come Monday. I think that The Dark Knight's 3-day take of $158.4 million is takeable.

It's after 4 am and you've got to work in the morning; any final thoughts? If you liked the first Iron Man, you will probably like this, too. It expands the universe, deepens the characters - especially Nick Fury, and has some cool gadgets. I'm scoring it a half-point lower than the original, but I can't wait for the Blu-ray to come out.

Score: 8/10. Catch a matinee.

Hey, speaking of after-credits nerd Easter eggs, what's the big reveal? You get a quick shot of Thor's hammer, teasing next summer's Marvel blockbuster. It's no big deal, but at least the credits aren't the punishing length that made getting to last time's Nick Fury reveal a chore. In the movie proper, you also get a glimpse of Capt. America's shield in prototype form.

"Toy Story 2" Blu-ray Review

I probably haven't seen Toy Story 2 the way through since it came out in 1999. I never got/reviewed the Special Edition DVD in 2005 and I don't think I ever watched the disc that came in the Ultimate Toy Box edition from 2000 because my girlfriend absolutely hated the sadness-inducing Sarah McLachlin song "When She Loved Me." (She also hated large chunks of Pixar's Up because it too was weepiness-causing.) I've always thought it was Pixar's best film and it's been long overdue for a revisit. Does it hold up?

Yes, it does. Whether it's still the best thing the House of P has done is debatable - Finding Nemo and The Incredibles are legit contenders - but it holds up very well, even technically considering how far technology has come in the intervening decade. You've probably seen it, so I won't rehash the plot, but it all works and only a couple of cultural reference sight gags may seem vague a decade later.

Whether they can continue the themes of toys being abandoned by their owners when they grow up in Toy Story 3 (out soon) because Andy goes to college remains to be seen, but Toy Story 2 stands with The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, and Terminator 2 as a sequel that more than equals its predecessor. On Blu-ray, it is absolutely stunning; as with The Wizard of Oz on BD, it's like seeing the movie for the first time. The detail and texture is so rich and dimensional, it looks like your HDTV is a window into their world. Even if you have it on DVD, definitely upgrade to BD. (Google around for several upgrade rebate options from Disney.)

Score: 10/10. Buy the Blu-ray.

"Iron Man" Blu-ray Review

Rewatched the original in preparation for the sequel opening Friday - I'll be seeing the Midnight show, so look for a review - and it still holds up nicely thanks to the good performances from everyone, though I suspect Don Cheadle will be better than the breathy-voiced Terrance Howard as Rhodey. I don't usually like - OK, I generally loathe - Gwyneth Paltrow, but she is so cute and appealing here; I'm crediting director Jon Favreau for that.

The one aspect that really doesn't hold together is Jeff Bridges' Obediah Stane character; I'm not sure why exactly he betrays Tony and goes to the dark side. He rambles about restoring the balance of power, but how does arming murderous Afghani soldiers to kill villagers help anyone? Even the basest war profiteer should have a clear motivation; Stane doesn't, and it makes for a less coherent whole.

Score: 8.5/10. It's excellent on Blu-ray with a ton of making of and historical extras, great picture and sound.

"Chloe" Review

Amanda Seyfried gets nekkid!

Score: 10/10! Buy a movie theater and run this movie on continuous loop!

OK, seriously now; Chloe is a supposed psycho-sexual drama-thriller (thrillerama?) in which suspicious Toronto gynecologist Julianne Moore hires hottie escort Chloe (Seyfried) to tempt her professor husband, Liam Neeson, into hanky panky when she suspects him of cheating. Hilarity ensues, especially when Chloe turns around and seduces Moore with tales of her husband's shenanigans. Wait, what?

Even if you can buy into the premise - if you're an aging woman in a chilly marriage and you suspect your husband's seeing younger women, is sending a luscious trollop like Chloe really a good idea, or even a test? It's not like he's chasing Snookie* from Jersey Shore. - the execution falters because it seems to take place in an alternate universe version of Toronto where the people look like us, but don't act like human beings we'd know.

The script has moments where it skates close to the edge of being interesting, but director Atom Egoyan's trademark airlessness manages to drain any carnal or intellectual energy from the proceedings. It's really obvious where this is all heading early on and by the time Chloe is shagging their petulant son (SPOILER ALERT!) it's turned into a cheesy stalker flick - Single White Escort - with an unsatisfying denouement. It also requires Moore to go about confirming her suspicions in a ridiculous fashion when any normal woman upon finding a suspicious message on her husband's phone would be in his face demanding, "Who the hell is this whore?!? Are you f*cking her?!? I want a divorce!!!!", but as I said, these aren't remotely real people.

Only Moore is able to blow some air into her paper-thin character to almost approximate a pseudo-person. But as hard as she tries to sell the idea that listening to Chloe dryly relate cheating her husband is giving her the screaming thigh sweats, I simply didn't buy it. It doesn't help that the big-eyed, Bythe doll-looking* Seyfried doesn't come off as particularly smart or conniving in her dull dissertations of her sexual performances and we never really get what she's about. Neeson merely growls and looks peeved about all that's going on.

Somewhere inside Chloe may be an interesting study in sexual obsession and relationships and considering it's a remake of a 2003 French film called Nathalie..., starring Emmanuelle Béart and Gérard "Is it a French movie? Then I'm in it, oui!" Depardieu, it may have once been. (I'll see if I can track that one down and compare it to this Canuckian remake.) As it stands now, other than the art film skin show (Moore gives up more goodies than Seyfried) and the fun spotting Toronto spots I've visited (hello, Rivoli!), Chloe's best chance is to blow the minds of Seyfriend fans who know her from films like Mamma Mia! and Dear John. O noes!!! Bewbs!!!

Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable.

* Props to my girlfriend for the Snookie and Blythe doll references.


ADDENDUM: In an email chain discussing this with my girlfriend, I elaborated on just how silly Julianne's scheme was. This won't make any sense to anyone who hasn't seen the movie and is SPOILERIFIC, so stop reading if you don't want your enjoyment (*cough*) of the movie ruined.

I wrote, "Really, this is a way to test the hubbie? For what? Infidelity or whether he's gay?"

JULIANNE: Hey, Liam. Did you happen to meet a cute girl at the cafe today?

LIAM: Um, there was a girl there. She asked to borrow the sugar.

JULIANNE: And did anything happen?

LIAM: I gave her the sugar.

JULIANNE: Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

LIAM: What?

JULIANNE: Nothing. So, did anything else happen?

LIAM: Like what?

JULIANNE: Did you happen to go with her to the garden tool area of a greenhouse and get a twisty handjob or go to a four-star hotel and order a $20 room service Reuben and only having a bite before one-hump-chumping her?

LIAM: WHAT?!?!? NO!!!! I just gave her the sugar!!! Why are you asking me this?

JULIANNE: Because I paid her good money to tempt you and you didn't do anything. You're gay, aren't you?

LIAM: NO! What? Honey, what are you talking about?

JULIANNE: How could you not want her? She's totally hot. Jeez, I was showerbating myself about ten scenes back while thinking of her. I think I'm gonna do her since you're too poof to get on it.

LIAM: And you're asking if I'M gay?!?!?

...and SCENE!!!! XD

"24 S8.20" Recap – “When You’ve Got That Itch, You Gotta Scratch Starbitch”

24 S8.20 – “When You’ve Got That Itch, You Gotta Scratch Starbitch”

• Widow Regis gives speech, but doesn’t start singing, “Don’t Cry For Me, Kreplochistan.”
• PELB and Dominic don’t have Starlittlebitch’s best interests at heart, not that she’s worried, ”Bring it on, you son of a bitch.”
• Jack and Damp Boi are at the safe house and Jack gives DB his bullets back. Harsh.
• SLBS-suffering Chloe orders a psyche eval for Jack when he’s brought in. How about you have your memory checked, babe, since you seem to have forgotten the past DECADE!
• Jack and Damp Boi infiltrate the safe house and trick the guards up to the roof by using the old “there’s a horny Girl Scout with free donuts on the roof” trick. (I’d require Asian schoolgirls with pizza to be tricked.)
• Mercenary D.B. warns that that it’s too danger…BAM!!!!! (Saw that coming, unlike D.B.) A quick firefight finnaly boosts the JBBC another 4 kills. Yay violence. More, please.
• Chloe is really annoyed that Jack’s loose again. Suck it, sourpuss.
• Jack threatens Starlittlebitch, it’s looking pretty haggard in an “entertained a frat on Homecoming Weekend” way that’s not so hot. The evidence is in a box in a van by the river, er, bank. Whatever.
• Why is Widow Regis smiling so much? Her husband has been dead less than 4 hours and she looks like she’s announcing her appearance on the next season of “The Widowette.”
• Prez Chumpy is freaking out over SB getting loose. PELB spins and puts Dominic into CTU. Chumpy abides.
• Ivan and PELB meet to worry about SB and Jack and send more bears after him. (And I don’t mean hairy gay dudes.)
• Jack, DB and SB arrive at the bank and the two major questions are: 1) Will DB find a way to sell out Jack (since we see him busted at that doorway in the previews), and B) should Jack pick the toaster oven or clock radio with iPod dock for opening a new account?
• Dominic arrives with sidekick Ivanka Trump and takes over the manhunt for Jack. Chloe is uber-annoyed, but may be starting to realize how pwned she is getting. Kill orders are issued.
• While waiting for the safe deposit box, SB tells her boo-boo-kitty backstory to DB. He’s smart enough to figure a gun’s in the box (maybe he saw her with a gun in the preview), but not bright enough to realize a flashbang is in the box, too. (I smelled that coming.)
• Dominic finds Jack on the bank feed and sends the local flatfoots to get pwned by Jack. (A couple days after the real NYPD kept people in Times Square from getting blowed up, it’s a little lame to see them so easy jumped and shot Terminator 2-style, but such is TV.)
• Jack chases Starbitch down and corners her, getting the evidence. She tries to make a deal with the most pissed off guy on the planet and FAILS EPICALLY as Jack summarily executes the character who (at the command of her writers) single-handedly destroyed 24!!!! That counts as ONE HUNDRED KILLS!!!!!

Thoughts: While it’s nice to have the most crowd-pleasing moment of Jackitude since he yelled at Janeane Garofalo last year, the cost has been too high to bear.

Hardcores: Jack, Jack, Jack, Jack, and JACK!!!!

Little Bitches: Chloe, Prez Chumpy, Starbitch (BIH), Damp Boi.

Up Next: Now the Ruskies get a crack at Jack and Jack gets a blow torch. (Making crème brûlée, perhaps?)

Episode Score: 7/10

JBBC: With the dispatching of Agent D.B., three Red Shirts and Starbitch, Jack’s kill count soars to an all-time high of 123 kills! Booyah!!!!
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