Saturday, October 3, 2009

STILL, BETTER THAN SUPER MARIO BROTHERS: I agree with most critics about Zombieland. It's a heckuva a lot of fun, and features some impressive visual stylings, and a spectacular cameo (and seriously, the less you know about the cameo going in, the better--I was about 60% spoiled, knowing who it was and half of the character information). Yes, there's not a whole lot of plot there--four mismatched people try to get from point A to point B while evading zombies. Why are they going there? Well, we're given dirty reasons for 3 of the 4 characters (not sure why Harrelson's character wants to go there). But what surprises me in how little it's been remarked upon, is how, even though it's not based on a video game, the movie owes far more to a pair of video games than anything else (yes, including Shawn of the Dead, its obvious forebear).

First is Left 4 Dead, in which four survivors fight off hordes of "infected" (primarily using guns) as they strike to get to a "Safe zone," climaxing in a big environmental firefight. The movie's structure feels like a L4D "campaign," down to a final firefight in a cool and tricky environment with survivors running out of ammo, and I'd be shocked not to see a mod for the game that's based on the movie. The second is Dead Rising, in which a photojournalist fights off hordes of zombies in a mall using whatever comes to hand--several of the more inventive zombie kills in the movie (Harrelson's improvised weaponry in a grocery store in particular) draw directly from DR, which lets you kill zombies with garden shears, plates, baseball bats, and anything else you can imagine. If you enjoy the movie, check out the games--they're good fun.
HONG KONG PHOOEY: Other than being a tiny bit sloppy with travel times - LA - Utah - Stakeout - Firefight - Arson - Investigation - Home for Supper - and things seem to be recovering a bit too easily from the event itself, but another fine episode of Flash Forward for my money. A few spoilerific thoughts in the thread.

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Sexual Favor Fail" by Sarah Schneider on CollegeHumor


[I'm trying to find a way to tie this to the whole Tufts Sexile issue and failing; we tossed it around at ALOTT5MA HQ for an afternoon earlier this week, with much discussion not only of the importance of enforceable background rules to minimize transaction costs but also the less-discussed 72-hour waiting period on overnight stays (p38, PDF). If there's interest, we can still get into all that.]
BUDDY MAKE A BIG NOISE IN YOUR LIVING ROOM: Soon, you'll be able to get fully in touch with your inner Freddie Mercury, Jeffster!, or McKinley High School Glee Club member, with a 10-pack of Queen coming to Rock Band as downloadable content. No "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions," but the idea of "playing" the riff for "Under Pressure" alone makes this a good time.
HOW I MET THIS GIRL NAMED SUMMER: Michael Ausiello is reporting that we may have casting of the other title role on How I Met Your Mother in the form of Rachel Bilson, who'll appear in the series' 100th episode in a role that they've hinted might well be Mrs. Ted. Perhaps even more exciting is that the episode will also feature "an enormous musical number that we’re going to spend way too much of Twentieth Television’s money on" headlined by NPH.
SOMEWHERE IN THE THIRD WORLD NEXT WEEK A LARGE SHIPMENT OF CHICAGO 2016 T-SHIRTS WILL BE ARRIVING: We're still waiting for the final vote to see if it's Rio or Madrid in 2016, but in a stunning upset the IOC decided Chicago was not their kind of town to host the Olympic Games. Apparently that John Malkovich and Dennis Franz sketch held a lot of sway.

Update: Her name is Rio and she is going to host the 2016 Olympics. Required viewing this weekend, City of God.
YOU'RE NOT A LOSER 'CAUSE YOU HAVE SEX, BUT IF YOU WEREN'T HAVING SEX, WE COULD DEFINITELY DEBATE THE ISSUE: We've done this before, but since it came up in the Sepinwall-Simmons podcast yesterday, and since we now have Doodle to do the heavy lifting ("we can rebuild him -- we have the technology"), let's settle this once and for all now. If you were to pick your four favorite seasons of television -- your Mount Rushmore of television seasons, to use ESPN's annoying phrase -- what would they be? I'll put what appear to be the contenders into a Doodle poll and we'll hash this out, wisdom-of-crowds style.

Mine, in no particular order: Deadwood, Season 2; Freaks & Geeks; Arrested Development Season 1; Friday Night Lights, Season 1.

Update: The poll is live. I just put everything that was mentioned more than twice into the poll. Vote here, vote early, and vote often, where often is less than or equal to four seldom.

Annoying Update: Only four votes per person. If you vote for more than four things, I will delete your entry. If you get deleted, feel free to go back and vote for only four. Tara and Abby G, try again. Your Mount Rushmores had too many presidents.

Thoroughly annoying update: I accidentally typed "Office S2" as "Office S1." If you already voted and you want me to change something to "Office S2," let me know in the comments.
BRAAAIIIINNNNSSS! It's a big weekend at the multiplex yet again, and we ask, "what's getting your entertainment dollar this weekend?" New options include:
  • A 3 hour double feature of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 (one of those sequels that arguably exceeds the original), remastered into 3-D for a limited two-week engagement.
  • The Invention of Lying, a star-studded Ricky Gervais comedy about a world in which only one man has figured out how to lie.
  • Whip It, in which Ellen Page makes sardonic remarks on roller skates under the direction of her co-star, Drew Barrymore, and with a pretty impressive supporting cast--Kristen Wiig, Marcia Gay Harden, Daniel Stern.
  • Joe Schmo creators Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick's Zombieland, with a ragtag group of folks killing zombies in a quest for safety, and the continuing quest to break Emma Stone as a star (and apparently, a very funny and surprising star cameo).
In addition, there's Michael Moore's newest polemic going wide, A Serious Man, the new Coen film, in limited release, and More Than A Game, a doc about LeBron James' high school career, in NY/LA/OH. For me, it's Zombieland and Invention of Lying as top priorities, with Whip It a possibility, particularly next weekend.
THE LISA STANSFIELD SPECIAL: Results for Humiliation IV are in, and congratulations to Ella (and Jim S) for having somehow avoided McDonald's your entire lives. Starbucks (Andrea J) and A College Class (Maddy) trailed closely behind, followed by Anywhere West of the Mississippi River (Tosy and Cosh) and A Voting Booth (Jordan). More of us have been to a strip club (including Mrs. Cosmo, but not Mr. Cosmo) than to prison; to Vegas than to the Pacific Northwest or a synagogue; more to Chicago than Boston.

Russ achieved this week's only perfect score, with KR, gretchen, myself, Heather P. Scott and Tracy trailing closely behind. (Had there been more overseas locations, I'd have been screwed.) Among those needing to get around a bit more are erin, Lauren, D'Arcy, MP, Sara C, bill_, Alex's son Charlie (but he's got time) and Billiam. Average was 26.14 out of 34 locations, median of 27.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"MY RESPONSE TO THAT IS YES, I HAVE": I really don't know what to say about this breaking story on the attempted extortion of David Letterman, but as the facts come in I imagine we'll want to discuss.

added: Here's video of what Letterman said on the show last night, and here's a transcript. At the end, and yeah, the applause/laughter was uncomfortable:
Now of course, we get to, what was it? What was all the creepy stuff (laughter) that he was gonna put into the screenplay and the movie? And the creepy stuff was, that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show. Now. My response to that is, yes I have. (laughter/applause) I have had sex with women who work on this show. (more applause) And would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would. Perhaps it would. (laughter) Especially for the women. (laughter/applause) But that’s a decision for them to make if they want to come public and talk about the relationships. If I want to talk about the relationships. But what you don’t want is a guy saying, oh, I know you had sex with women so I would like $2 million or I’m going to make trouble for you. So that’s where we stand right now.

I just want to thank the people at the Special Prosecution Bureau and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Robert Morgenthau, who is head of that. It’s been a very bizarre experience. I feel like I need to protect these people. I need to certainly protect my family. I need to protect myself – hope to protect my job – and the friends, everybody that has been very supportive through this. And I don’t plan to say much more about this on this particular topic. So, thank you for letting me bend your ears. (applause) Now. I know what you’re saying. ‘I’ll be darned, Dave’s had sex!’ (laughter) That’s what the grand jury said also. (laughter) Really? You’ve had sex? Alright, now what do we do? I guess we do a thing. Thank you again for your patience. We’ll be right back…
WORLDS COLLIDING: Congratulations to our friend Alan Sepinwall, who appears on today's B.S. Report. Or is congratulations the right word? I guess it's weird to congratulate someone for appearing on a podcast. Then again, I think of the B.S. Report as the only big-deal podcast out there. Then again again, I'm pretty sure that Sagarin ranks Alan as the most influential TV critic in America, based upon a complex computer algorithm that takes into account, among other things, "number of times name-checked by Chris Fedak" and "how often linked to by" So maybe "congratulations" isn't right; it's more like "how strangely pleasant to find this person who I know in one context appearing in another."

If this post isn't weird enough yet, I'll just close, as Alan reminds me I should, with the poetry of Ronald Jenkees:
it might be cool
i dont know
and if its not i dont care
bill simmons works for espn
hes also named
the sports guy
he writes a chronicle
sports column
he must be a popular dude
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
mr. death
GOOD CHABLIS SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE A LITTLE BITE: So much good stuff in last night's Glee. This was easily the best episode since the Pilot and this despite Jane Lynch only having a single scene. ALOTT5MA favorite Kristin Chenoweth stepped in and did the heavy lifting as former McKinley glee club star April Rhodes, who thanks to being three credits shy of her diploma is able to join New Directions and teach the kids some valuable lessons both on and off the stage. What made the episode great and remains the show's strongest feature were the musical numbers, not the least of which was the much anticipated "Somebody to Love" finale with Mercedes actually blowing Finn and Rachel away at the end. Chenoweth herself had three big numbers, a great diva showdown with Rachel on "Maybe This Time" from Cabaret, which literally brought Kurt to tears, a boozy karaoke take on Heart's "Alone" (as an aside, I have a weak spot for cheesy late 80s Heart ballads, especially "These Dreams," but I digress), and a campy crantini-enhanced version of Carrie Underwood's "Last Name." In between the big numbers (my wife and I must of rewound the Tivo a dozen times to watch "Somebody to Love"), there were so many great one-liners ("...and two weeks later Versace was dead") to keep the momentum going. With Chenoweth grabbing the spotlight, there wasn't a lot of room for the regulars, but we got a lot of insight into Finn as he struggles with the whole Quinn vs. Rachel dilemma. And what the episode lacked in terms of Lynch nastiness was tempered by some hilarious and disturbing Sandy Ryerson outbursts (I'm not sure if Lima, Ohio, is ready for his take on "Equus.")

"I've never been a fan of numbers, but I'll give it a try."
Give what a try, gang? As before, your best and funniest (and least accurate) responses are welcome.
PUT A STICKY SMILE ON OUR FACES: Mad Men, Sesame-style. [Related, and far more disturbing: Bert & Ernie, Japanese live-action grown-up style. HT: PopWatch.]
HEAD GAMES: If Tim Tebow really wants to be a role model, Slate's Josh Levin convincingly argues that he ought to sit out next week's game until he's fully recovered from his concussion.

[Our previous coverage of developments in football/concussion research is here; full NYT coverage here, including news on a study released this week claiming that "Alzheimer’s disease or similar memory-related diseases appear to have been diagnosed in the league’s former players vastly more often than in the national population — including a rate of 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30 through 49."]
  • If an audition episode is dragging a little, maybe seeming a little too familiar, New Orleans is the perfect city in which to imagine that all of the dancers are either disguised demons from Hell or ass-kicking angels sent down to protect Cat Deeley. Really, get a look at some of these kids. Scary.
  • "Boom Boom Pow" is to dance auditions what "Hallelujah" is to montages.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

THE MAGIC NUMBER IS ZERO: Three straight NL East titles is nice, but we're greedy. We want it all. Again. Red October awaits.

Penske Deal Fails, and G.M. Moves to Close Saturn -

DOES JOE FRANKLIN JOIN IN? In the fascinated-to-horrified continuum, where does the phrase Alleged Jimmy Kimmel-Sarah Silverman Sex Tape fit?

[Kimmel's rep is denying the tape's authenticity; anyway, we know who Silverman's really doing.]
MAKING PUCK RAINEY LOOK GOOD: With respect to Spencer and Heidi, we have generally followed an "ignore it and hope they'll go away" policy, but there are so many statements in this interview with Spencer that are worthy of mockery that I can't let it go. Among the greatest hits:
  • Spencer has "never been so excited for any type of content that you can watch and hear" as he is about the new season of The Hills. (Not even porn?)
  • Joel McHale is "a struggling wannabe actor just clowning on reality stars" in comparison to the Speidi entertainment empire. Spencer "pray[s] for him every day." (For what it's worth, Community scored 5.3 million viewers last week. The Hills? 3 million average last season.)
  • Heidi has Spencer "debating cutting off my nuts." (This would be good for America!)
  • "Speidi is Barack and Michelle famous, not Kardashian famous!" (To be fair, you aren't (yet) famous for having a sex tape, like Kim Kardashian was.)
  • "The Hills is the most powerful franchise I've ever witnessed and I will continue to do whatever's humanly possible to maintain this level of entertainment!"
"TO ME" IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE ANSWER: For our fourth round of the game of Humiliation, we turn not to the screen or the palate or your childhood but rather to The Map, and with a simple question: Name some place you've never been which you assume everyone else here has.

Now, "place" is a somewhat elastic term, and while you're obviously welcome to claim some specific geographic location for your ignominy ("The Grand Canyon," in my case), feel free to be more generic if it suits you. "Chick-Fil-A," say. Or "a major league baseball stadium." Please select only one place, and if there's any questions about eligibility we'll figure something out.

To be sure, the 1-2 readers we have whose answer is "America" likely have a leg up in this round, so second place will matter too. So tell us your most humiliating haven't-been-to. I'll take the responses that appear to be the biggest outliers, and around 3pm EDT or so we'll vote.

added: We're voting. Go to it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NEW MATH: If Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck visit Ms. Gosselin's revamped show, will they call it Kate Plus 8 Minus 5?
THE TIEBREAKER, OF COURSE, IS COOPER VS. VINCE: At what point can we safely say that Peyton and Eli Manning have surpassed Joe and Dom DiMaggio as the best brother combination in professional sports history? [I'm assuming the Williams sisters clean up on their side of the gender divide but don't know how to make the cross-sport comparison for them but who else enters the conversation -- the Espositos? the Waners?]
BETWEEN JOBS: DOT-COM BUST; BANKING COLLAPSE; VAGARIES OF ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY: Sepinwall mentioned in his post on HIMYM that it's always nice to see Lindsay Sloane (Jen from last night's episode), but I swear that I was already going to write an appreciation.

Sloane pretty much operates in H!ITG mode, occasionally pulling a third lead on a small romantic comedy or a doomed sitcom (like the brilliant Grosse Pointe), but more often popping in as a one-episode romantic foil. What she does, she does exceedingly well and improbably likably. Her voice is a little shrill, always threatening to muster into a shriek, but Sloane's natural inclination is to underplay that in favor of her dimples and her faintly conspiratorial eyes. She's pretty, but with an earnestness and a shoulders-forward eagerness that makes her seem believably nerdy. The fact that she could make the Tori Spelling role on Grosse Pointe the most engaging of that show's characters, or that she could sweetly and credibly play love interest to both Ted Mosby and Vincent Chase without making anybody ill, demonstrates that her appeal can be broader than the material she's given. I don't mean to suggest that she should be a big star. I guess I think that she's both well-used and underused.

Since we haven't had a HIMYM post this season, feel free to use the comments if you're getting that particular itching, burning sensation. And, as usual, to threadjack for Big Bang Theory.
IF IT'S LONGER THAN A REGULATION BULL RIDE, I'M OUT: Just out of curiosity, when you queue up a video on the Internet that has an advertisement before it, how long can the ad be before you bail out? I just tried to watch the video of Conan O'Brien hitting his head, but the pre-video ad was 30 seconds, and there's no way I'm waiting 30 seconds for a one- or two-minute video. I'm about 50-50 on 15-second ads. So let me appeal to the wisdom of crowds here: how much ad will you sit through for an Internet video?
NOW AVAILABLE FOR STOCK TIPS AND GAMBLING ADVICE: Listen to the audio links here to find out what happens when a pregame baseball analyst (or, since it's Mike Blowers, "analyst") gets a little slap-happy and tries to predict a player's first major-league home run, right down to the at-bat, ball-strike count, pitch type, and location.

(Via USS Mariner)
BUSTED, DISGUSTED: "Am I supposed to be enjoying this?" asked a guy in the row behind me during Sunday's Eagles game, and while I'm not sure whether he was referring to the Wildcat-wacky offense or Michael Vick's participation therein, I'm happy to assume for present purposes that he was referring to the latter.

Because whether it's with current newsmakers Vick or Roman Polanski or John Phillips, there's not much debate about whether each engaged in disgusting, reprehensible acts. Vick was criminally punished for his actions; Polanski, hopefully, finally will; and Phillips, being dead, can never. [Want to complicate this? Throw the acquitted Michael Jackson and R. Kelly into the mix.] In each case, their sins produced victims. And in each case, at some point we have to make judgments as to whether to appreciate their work in spite of their sins, or perhaps in light of their sins, or to decide that the sins prevent us from appreciating their work at all.

Now, this is the part of the blog post where I'm supposed to insert some grand theory or complicated nuance which sorts this out neatly, but the truth is my visceral ewww, gross! reaction pretty much overwhelms the rest. There are enough good films out there which I don't have the time to see that I can skip Polanski's oeuvre easily. Why listen to Michael Jackson when there's always more Prince to listen to? And when was the last time you were invited to a Roscoe Arbuckle film festival?

Those who've been here for a while may recall that it's with R. Kelly that I've been most able to still appreciate the art, even before the acquittal, and that surprised me too when I realized it. When I can figure out why, I'll let you know, because it's mystifying me. YMMV.

Monday, September 28, 2009

With the Seltzer Man, Ronny Beberman, Laid Up, Brooklyn Thirsts -

HERSCHEL, LIFE IS NOT FUN. LIFE IS SERIOUS. SELTZER IS FOR DRINKING, NOT FOR SPRAYING: Meet Ronny Beberman, Brooklyn's last seltzer deliveryman.
THE WORLD - OR AT LEAST THE NEXT HUNDRED YARDS OF THE LOS ANGELES RIVER - IS WAITING: Traditionally, the first episode of The Amazing Race has been a very long drive from some obscure locale on the west coast to the international airport with a series of teams saying "wow! I can't believe we're on the Amazing Race!" And there was some of that. But Phil et al started strong with any easy-to-solve-if-you-stop-for-three-seconds challenge to boot out the extraneous Team Numero (if-I-pronounce-the-next-word-wrong-it-will-make-me-sound-tough) u-NO.

The rest of both legs were very well constructed - maybe the best opening leg in years: a doable, but not inherently nasty, eating challenge, navigating through Tokyo, a couple of good challenges in Vietnam, and some thoughtful racing by the folks in the second bus. Some bunching, yes, and a not-very-complex Speed Bump for a NEL, but that may be unavoidable as a logistics matter.

It's hard to keep track of who is where at this stage - I like Team Montana, but then I like it when folks can bring a specific set of real world skills to the game ("I've herded a thing or two") and bolt ahead - but TAR 15 looks as promising as any in years.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

BONO LECTURING ABOUT THIRD WORLD DEBT FOR 22 MINUTES WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE FUN: I've got to say, last night's SNL was pretty much a disaster. Whenever Megan Fox attempted to act, it didn't work, and the writers wisely wrote around her, building sketches where the hostess' sole purpose was to stand in one place and look hot (the flight attendant, "mail order bride," and "Your Mom Talks To Megan Fox" sketches all being examples of that). But even stuff that could have worked didn't. The Fox-free Update and Qadaffi sketches both were toothless and poorly written, and we give Kenan Thompson a good 6 minutes of uninterrupted airtime between "Jean K. Jean" and the inexplicable return of Grady Wilson.

Of course, the big story is Jenny Slate pulling a Charles Rocket, and replacing a "frickkin'" in a (generally unfunny) "biker chick chat!" sketch with one of those seven words you're not supposed to say on TV. Even that doesn't save the mess. Last year, the show was firing pretty strongly, helped by some serendipitous political material in the first half of the season in the form of Sarah Palin and Justin Timberlake in the second, but it needs to find its footing again right quick.