Saturday, June 14, 2008
An even bigger problem is that in a modern Hulk movie, both the hero and the villain (at least in the inevitable big conflict) are going to have to be CGI creations. Part of what has made so many of the superhero movies of recent years memorable is that the heroes and villains are portrayed by actors who make us invest something in them, and when they're doing the heroism or villainy, we at least hear their voices. Big fights between two CGI behemoths (or CGI behemoth and tank) just don't bring that in, especially when the Hulk delivers three lines of comprehensible dialogue in the movie (assuming you count the repeated "line" "ROAR!" as one). The best superhero movies (the original Superman, Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, the Singer-directed X-Men movies, Iron Man) depend as much or more on characters who connect with the audience than they do on CGI pyrotechnics. Sadly, Incredible Hulk falls into the latter category.
Friday, June 13, 2008
For those of us who love politics, the past eighteen months have been a thrilling roller coaster and Russert loved being at the center of it all. Indeed, when he pronounced, on the night of Indiana and North Carolina, that "We now know who the Democratic nominee is going to be, and no one is going to dispute it," his stature was such that it did, effectively, end the competitive part of the race.
58. Damn. I need to hit that treadmill tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day ...
e.t.a., 5:31pm: Via commenter Chris Wilson:
I asked Adam if I could write about Tim Russert's passing for a moment. I interned at "Meet The Press" last spring, and while my contact with Tim was limited to groggy Sunday mornings and the occasional trip down to his office (the "MTP" offices are on the third floor, Tim's office is right next to the newsroom on the first), he was never anything but the down to earth, nice guy that you'd be led to believe he was watching him on television. Everyone in the entire building just called him Tim – I don't think I ever heard the words Mr. Russert uttered - and he was beyond personable to everyone that came to watch the show. My parents still talk about how wonderful he was to them when they came late in the semester to visit, and my mom e-mailed the picture of all of us to everyone in her address book.
As I watch MSNBC and the parade of NBC personalities that are bravely eulogizing him, eyes red and voice cracking, I think about the staff behind the scenes. I can't imagine how they're handling this, and I dare not consider calling them in this time, because it really was like a family. There were only six permanent staff members on "MTP," all incredibly talented and some of the best people I know. I was just down there on Wednesday, right outside of Big Russ' office, to figure some stuff out for work, as I'll be doing the Desk Assistant program there in a month or so. As it slowly dawned on me how poor and busy I would be for the foreseeable future, it all seemed worth it as I would be working for a legend like Tim and have the capability to wander upstairs and visit the staff he had so masterfully groomed and who treated me so well.
I don't really know what the point of this whole thing was other than to say that Tim was as great of a person as everyone at NBC is telling you he was. My favorite memory will be after my last show, where I was standing around with another intern talking to him and he joked that he already had a Notre Dame degree, and got it with significantly less work, because he gave the commencement speech there a few years ago. Here he was, perhaps the most well-known journalist in the world, taking the time after the show on a beautiful DC spring day to BS with two college kids he very well might never see again.
Rest in peace, Big Russ. The fact you're not getting to see this historic election through to the end is a shame, but no one will ever talk about political journalism without thinking of him.
The decision of the alleged victim not to cooperate with the prosecution, no doubt, was a problem. More from the Sun-Times, Tribune.
e.t.a. For context, Bill Wyman review Kelly's history of sexual interest in and out-of-court settlements with underage girls, none of which, I believe, was presented to the jury.
[I haven't actually seen the finale yet, but it's hard not to know who won at this point. Still, as long as you don't hover your mouse over the links, you won't be spoiled.]
This installment of the ALOTT5MA Summer Cocktail Series is provided by Scott, a DC lawyer (and former DC Law Student), karaoke superstar.
If you (yes, you!) would like to contribute an item, just send us a recipe for a favorite drink and an amusing anecdote about that drink, to the contact email and we'll work you in.
HOW DO YOU KNOW EVERYTHING I’M ABOUT TO SAY? AM I THAT OBVIOUS?: This story begins, as most of my stories do, with a lot of alcohol and a microphone. New Year’s Eve 2006 (the next day would usher in 2007 – I never know how to refer to the holiday of the previous evening) was the date on which the title for, but not the content of, this drink was conceived. A bunch of my best law school friends and our respective wives/girlfriends rented a nice big lodge-type house in the Poconos for the weekend. Despite the fact that our cabin was mere steps from the base of Big Boulder Ski Area, we spent almost the entire time indoors. You see, we had not all been together in a long time, and we had a pool table, a hot tub, a PS2 with lots of karaoke games, and tons of booze. The last of those was helpful, if not essential, to the enjoyment, if not the quality, of the penultimate.
For those of you who have never played “Karaoke Revolution,” allow me to briefly explain. At its most basic level, it is a relatively simple karaoke game: you choose a song and sing the vocal track while the words scroll across the screen and the game provides the music and background vocals. However, it also adds an element of competition. Through technology way beyond my comprehension abilities, the game can tell whether or not you are singing on key and in time into the attached microphone, and you receive a score based on your accuracy or lack thereof. Colorful bars scroll along with the words to aid you in your quest for pitch-perfection. The better you sing, the better you score:
The Phrase Meter will fill up as you sing the notes correctly. At the end of every phrase, your performance will be rated. Fill the Phrase Meter completely to get a Great! rating. This is your current Score for the song. You'll get points at the end of each phrase depending on how well you did. The Crowd Meter displays how the crowd is reacting to your performance. Careful! If the Crowd Meter drops down too low, you may get booed off the stage. If you get the crowd excited enough, you'll get a score multiplier. If you score Good or Great! on three [or more] phrases in a row, you'll start a Combo. Continue getting Good and Great! ratings to keep the Combo going. Keep an eye out for special Crowd Boost! phrases. If you sing this phrase well, the crowd will go wild and the Crowd Meter will get a boost. At the end of the song, you'll get a final score tally based on your performance. If your score is high enough, you'll be awarded a Gold or Platinum record.Got it? Easy. As you get better at the game, you start to get more combination points, the highest of which is called, appropriately enough, “Combo Max.”
The thing is, with the primitive graphics of the first (and successive, unfortunately) version of “KR,” the “x” in “max” looks like an “h.” Don’t believe me? So, through our champagne-tinted lenses, we were reading, “Combo Mah!” and yelling out as such whenever the current competitor received the same.
It was perhaps a couple months later that most of the same group gathered in my condo in downtown DC for an evening of similar revelry. As the resident mixologist of the group, I was in the kitchen figuring out what to do with the 2-liter bottle of Fresca that my Atkins-dieting (now) wife handed to me saying, “Make me something with this.” I reached for a bottle of Stoli Raz, gave it a quick stir, and voila. “This is amazing,” she said, as she licked her lips and admired the clear, crisp concoction. “What shall we call it?” At that very moment, our friend Ashley was ripping through a song by the Simpson of the same name, accumulating points at a rapid pace when all of sudden, having strung together a particularly good stretch of notes, the room exploded with a shout:
Henceforth, I give you, the Combo Mah:
In a tall glass filled with ice, combine:
”Some” (2 oz.?) Stolichnaya Razberi
”The rest” (4 oz.?) Original Fresca
Stir and enjoy.
This drink, sure to be the simplest recipe submitted for this series (until someone suggests “one bottle of beer, served cold”), has proven to be a continuous crowd-pleaser, especially during the summer months, when its refreshing nature is most appreciated. It has also been known to improve vocal performance by large – if not quantifiable – measures. Your mileage may vary.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
If you haven't seen it, try the "planning a reunion" scene, or start with the film's opening six minutes.
That looked cool: I'm not usually a Mia Michaels (or contemporary dance) fan because I mostly like athletic-looking stuff that involves moving in unison or jumping around, and I question the idea of doing a misfit-wedding dance involving Chelsie Hightower (who may be one of the least-misfit-looking people ever to appear on reality television), and I think the costume department got it all wrong when they put Chelsie in that puffy dress that hid so much of what her legs were doing. Yet this was a really cool-looking dance, especially the fluid move where Mark rolled Chelsie down his legs and then somersaulted over her, and especially especially the part where he folded her in two, as if to put her in a bag (that part was particularly badly obscured by the puffy dress). And I liked Joshua and Katee's dance, even though she seemed particularly white doing it and he seemed to linger uncomfortably long in the post-dance hug. Ditto Will and one-dimpled Jessica's exaggerated tango, although I get the sense that she, with her Olympic swimmer's broad shoulders and watermelon thighs, could have danced the lead almost as well.
She's purdy: I don't know if they danced it well or not, but Twitch and Kherrington are so likeable -- they seem to be banking impossible reserves of goodwill. And Chelsea T -- hot damn, that was a sexy dance. Almost made me forget that she was doing it in the vicinity of a guy in an Elvis jumpsuit and a bible-sales grin.
He dropped her: I can't think of any agenda the judges would have in touting the difficulty of the Susie and forgettable-guy waltz, so it must have been difficult. Still, she's about 95 pounds and he looked like he was trying to lift a car. If you apply the Idol tiers to this show, those two are not going to win. And neither are Gev (whose hip-hop is too soft and his partnered dancing too blah), bland Jamie, or unfamiliar Rayven.
- Sci-Fi appears to have submitted Eureka as a comedy and Battlestar Galactica as a drama, but has not made any submission for Doctor Who in acting categories (nor does BBC America appear to have made any submissions for Torchwood). Despite comic elements, Burn Notice, Boston Legal, Dirty Sexy Money, Big Shots, and Men in Trees are all deemed dramas.
- Also competing in the "Comedy"category, despite being hour-longs with dramatic elements? Chuck, Pushing Daisies, and Reaper (though the only performer submitted from Reaper appears to be "Ray Wise as Satan").
- Gossip Girl submits all actors except for Penn Badgley in the supporting category (not that any are serious competitors).
- The female ADA on Law and Order is deemed to fall into "lead," as does Elisabeth Moss for Mad Men.
- The only acting submissions from HSM2 are Efron and Hudgens (lead) and Bleu (supporting). No Tisdale.
- While performers from SNL have previously been eligible in the variety/music/comedy performer category (where they compete with late night hosts and aging musicians who steal awards from Stephen Colbert), they are being considered as supporting comedy actors this year.
- Apparently, the line between guest star and supporting actor is somewhat elastic this year. Even though Nathan Fillion was billed as a guest star on Desperate Housewives, he's being considered a "supporting actor," while Mrs. Landingham, who appeared in at least as many episodes, is a "guest actress." (As is Anne Dudek.)
- Save for Steve Carell, the entire cast of The Office is supporting, and save for Josh Radnor, so is the entire cast of HIMYM.
- The guest star role descriptions are uniformly amusing, particularly the ones from Curb Your Enthusiasm.
I'm sure there are other things worthy of discussion, but I really ought to get some work done.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
For those few of you who were around, yes, the title is a law school musical reference.
I am sure you're wondering if "celebrity" should be in quotes if there's a week of Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford's family versus Dog the Bounty Hunter and his mishpacha, but you've also got The Hickeys from My Name Is Earl vs. The Camden County All-Stars from My Name Is Earl and the American Gladiators (Wolf: yes; Hellga: no) taking on an Office team of Kevin, Phyllis, Meredith, Oscar and Creed. Also: Margaret Cho (with family) returns to prime time almost 15 years later to take on Corbin Bernsen's clan, and, okay, multiple Jenner/Kardashians against Deion Sanders, son Deion Jr., daughter Deiondra et al, so if we're not quite at the bottom of the barrel we at least can acknowledge that the barrel exists.
Well, it's either this or the ABC widely-promo'd faceplant extravaganza that I'm just calling Splat!.
I don't know about you, but ten dollar hand-grenades sound like a great deal of fun.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Dwayne Johnson gets 'Smart' | Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson | 1 | Cover Story | Movies | Summer Movie Guide 2008 | Entertainment Weekly
I hate the Boston Celtics more than I hate any other team in professional sports. It's hard-wired and visceral for me. That uniform evokes so much bitterness in me ... I can't even explain it. That smug, physically ugly team from the 1980s made me puke. Hell, I can find nicer things to say about the Dallas Cowboys and New York Mets than I can about any Celtic. You will sooner see me hail Michael Strahan in retirement or praise John Schuerholz's assembly of the Braves than see me say anything nice about Kevin McHale. Indeed, I only wish Dr. J had kicked Bird's ass sooner.
Now, look, Kobe Bryant's a punk (to say the least**), but between Phil Jackson's squad and the green-and-white and their necrophiliac fans who got Kevin Garnett for a bag of magic beans and a set of jumper cables, this one's easy: Go Lakers. Go coach who makes his players read books. Go Derek Fisher. Build off tonight's fourth quarter to stomp them three straight at home, and crush them back in Massachusetts the way the 76ers did in March. Because as much as I despite Showtime, I can't imagine rooting for the alternative.
** Without getting into a lengthy review of the facts as we now know them -- which is to say that we'll never know for sure what happened in Vail -- the allegations now evoke the same reaction in me as did the Duke lacrosse scandal, which is to say that even on the most minimal, favorable rendering of the facts, I'm still appalled. At a bare minimum, a married Kobe Bryant, alone in a room with a hotel staffer he had never met before, proceeded to engage in various sexual activities with her without (by his admission) adequately gauging her consent. But I'm trying to confine this analysis to basketball court-related sins, and not all-court-related sins.
What absences from iTunes are bugging you these days?
Monday, June 9, 2008
Television - The Emmys - As the TV World Turns, the Emmys Try to Keep Up by Changing Their Rules and Procedures - NYTimes.com
Meanwhile, the NYT notices that reality tv judges are ineligible for any Emmy award, meaning that the ALOTT5MA Award for Reality TV Host/Judge of the Year remains the highest achievement available in the field. [Based on what I've seen so far on Nashville Star 6 tonight, Jewel's not much of a threat for 2008's title.]
Yet along comes the Boston Globe, ancestral cave of anti-progress neanderthals like Dan Shaughnessy, to tell me that standard-definition television is better than HDTV. Matthew Gilbert, who apparently just saw HDTV for the first time, thinks that it is "commodified realness, the world tweaked for effect." Apparently, all of the lighting and makeup and special effects and graphics and costuming and set design and sound editing and hiring of implausibly attractive people that we used to see in standard-def -- that was just gritty realism presented neutrally by saintly broadcasters untainted by any impure commercial motive.
Maybe I'm just proving Gilbert's point, but I can barely even watch SDTV any more. Every time I watch Reaper or The Daily Show (or the Buffy DVDs) I have the same thought as when I see footage from early 1980s videotape archives or stumble across an image from a Jack Kirby comic book -- "we actually enjoyed looking at this stuff?" Yes, I'm easily entertained by bright and shiny things. But if you, Matt Gilbert, are not, may I make a suggestion? Buy some vaseline and smear it on your glasses (or, if you don't wear glasses, directly on your eyeballs). Presto! Your realness is instantaneously uncommodified.
IT BREAKS YOUR HEART. IT IS DESIGNED TO BREAK YOUR HEART. Antonio Carlos Jobim, the leading light of bossa nova, once observed that his music derived its lasting power from the ineffable Brazilian concept of “saudade,” a kind of happy-sadness. It is with a feeling of happy-sadness that I face the end of the Little League season.
I am proud of the children I coached this spring. They accomplished and in fact surpassed the goals we announced at the beginning of the season. They had fun. They tried hard. They all became much better baseball players.
One of my teams led its league, losing only one game all season. The other team finished second in its league. But far more importantly, the children truly took to heart the lessons of sportsmanship that we emphasized each week. In their words and in their deeds they embodied the golden rule. I look back with a happy heart.
These were two groups of terrific kids. And, of course, that’s where the sadness begins. I will miss spending time with the lads and lasses. I will miss our evening practices, running around with them as each day drew to a close, the sun setting slowly just beyond the first base line. I will miss those sunny Saturdays, watching them excel on the field. I will miss yelling “ready position!” and “plant your back foot!” I think this is my 24th season coaching youth sports. This was emphatically one of my favorites.
I can see that before too long my days as a coach will be over. Each year the leagues get more competitive. My sons are getting older. Their interests in the long run lie elsewhere. I’m like a power pitcher who is starting to lose the edge from his fastball. I know that I have a few more good seasons left, but the writing is on the wall.
There are people who live their lives focused upon the past, people who live for the moment, and people who concentrate primarily on the future. I’m certainly in the third category. It’s a mixed blessing. By planning ahead, I can get more out of life (and I suppose you’d have to say that it’s a trait you’d desire in an investment manager). But I sometimes forget, as John Lennon once put it, that life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. This season was “the good old days.” It was great to live in the moment, caught up wholly in the “flow” of these glorious games and practices.
I feel so incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to coach these magnificent boys and girls.
AllMusicGuide describes the moods of Warren G's music as "hedonistic", "detached", "druggy", "soothing" and "street-smart".
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Philadelphia's chefs were shut out, as was ALOTT5MA Fave Mark Bittman. The remaining cook/restaurant/book and newspaper/radio/tv/etc (PDF) awards are linked, including one for Barbara Kingsolver for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.
"Angel," on the other hand, must have been an enormously effective and scary episode when it first aired, but it's unavoidable for anyone who hasn't had their head in the sand popculturally not to be spoiled on it, and the "tormented vampire" shtick has been done one too many times in recent years (White Wolf, Moonlight, Twilight). Sure, it demonstrates (to at least some extent) that Boreanaz can act and have some depth, and demonstrates the real threat that Buffy's slayerdom places on those around her with the Darla attack on Ms. Summers, but there's no shock, which renders it kind of a toothless episode on rewatch.
- An argument that the Democratic Primaries were the best TV drama of the season.
- A profile of FNL star Kyle Chandler that verges on the gushy
- Pitches for Emmy consideration from less-obvious suspects (though Michael C. Hall is pretty obvious)
- A look inside the writing rooms of 5 very different shows with very different rooms.
- A pretty complete list of upcoming summer programming, which ranges from Secret Diary of a Call Girl (Showtime and the BBC's attempt to make Billie Piper the next Carrie Bradshaw) to Click and Clack's As The Wrench Turns (NPR hit Car Talk comes to PBS in animated form).