Thursday, July 31, 2008

Classic Will Ferrell

So, Step Brothers was decent. If Ferrell was Pearl Jam, this would be Binaural --- a solid, if perhaps a bit uninspired, outing. How much of the dialogue between Ferrell and John C. Reilly do you think was improvised? Any guesses lower than 70 percent will not be accepted.

In honor of Ferrell's latest, here are a few of his clips from various media. First, a classic SNL bit that served as the sequel to the 'Get Off The Shed' sketch that basically won Ferrell his spot on the show.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Now, Ferrell and John C. Reilly (I'm convinced they're the same person in two different bodies) discuss and spoil The Dark Knight. Don't worry, they don't "really" spoil it, so if you haven't seen Dark Knight yet, don't worry. Then again, if you haven't seen it yet, what the hell is the matter with you? Have you been in the coma for the last two weeks? Since that's the only excuse.

See more Will Ferrell videos at Funny or Die

Another SNL skit, perhaps the last truly great Ferrell bit he did on the show. By the way, the number of trident stabs? Thirty-three. I counted.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Oh man, the Bird family skit. I haven't seen this one in years. For my money, one of the most underrated great sketches in SNL history. Chris Parnell, to the best of my recollection, never broke character once in all his years on the show. What a trooper.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Am I crazy, or does Ferrell-as-Neil Diamond look like Craig T. Nelson? I can't believe I've mentioned Craig T. Nelson in two straight posts.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Ferrell and John C. Reilly have demands if they're going to host the ESPYs....

See more John C Reilly videos at Funny or Die

....and even more demands.

See more John C Reilly videos at Funny or Die

Ah, Harry Caray. Does this impression ever stop being funny? Poor Goldblum doesn't know what hit him, both in the skit and apparently in real life --- look at his attempts to keep from laughing about halfway through. I love that has 'ribs' listed as one of this video's tags.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

This isn't a Will Ferrell bit, but rather Atlanta Braves reliever Will Ohman doing his best Harry. It's more like Ohman doing an impression of Ferrell doing Harry, but hey, it's still grand.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Alterna-Emmys

My annual alternate ballot of the snubbed and (in some cases) the actual best of the year in TV.

American Dad, Flight of the Conchords, How I Met Your Mother, My Name Is Earl, Pushing Daisies, The Simpsons

Pushing Daisies was (along with Mad Men) the best new show on TV and a bit of a surprise omission given that Lee Pace and Harriet, Kristin Chenoweth got acting nods and the show was nominated for writing and direction. I'm highly looking forward to the second, non-strike ruined season. How I Met Your Mother was apparently, if you ask my pal Kyle, a step down from its previous two seasons, but since this was my first year watching it, I found it perfectly enjoyable. The Simpsons had its best overall season in years, probably due to the fact that the writers didn't have the added pressure of coming up with a movie. My Name Is Earl continues to be the most underrated comedy on TV after a season where it got great comic mileage out of Earl being in prison (where the hell was Craig T. Nelson's 'best guest actor' nomination for his hilarious role as the warden?) and Earl being in a coma. For some reason, I think Earl would get more respect if it was an animated show. And, while on the subject or underratedness and animation, here we have American Dad. I mean, it isn't even close between AD and Family Guy anymore. If the two shows were A Star Is Born, Family Guy would be taking the slow walk into the ocean right about now.

Anyway, in summation, all of these shows are a lot better than fucking Two and a Half Men. Or Entourage. Frankly, given that Entourage had just one or two episodes air within the voting period, I was hoping it would've been rightly omitted. I'm hopeful the full year off helps breath some life into the Entourage franchise.

Best Of The Actual Nominees: This is 30 Rock's year again. I think we can officially go ahead and call it the funniest show on television. Any show with episodes called 'Cooter' and 'MILF Island' and another that heavily involves the Lemon family referring to themselves as the 'Lemon party' is #1 in my books.

Jemaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Jason Lee, My Name Is Earl
Bret McKenzie, Flight of the Conchords

I love that three of these guys are played versions of themselves. I think I've said this every year, but I'm blown away that Lee has yet to get as much as a nomination for his role as Earl. Is it the mustache? Are Academy voters afraid to pick him out of fear of being stink-palmed if they offer to shake hands at the ceremony?

Best Of The Actual Nominees: I love Steve Carell, but Baldwin had this won from the moment of the "Tracy's therapy session" scene. I'm glad I was watching a tape of that episode, since had I been watching it live, I would've missed the rest of the episode due to howling with laughter.

Anna Friel, Pushing Daisies

Once again, this category is lacking since there are so few good lead roles for women that virtually all of them that are of any value get nominated anyways. But hey, while I'm here, Anna Friel. She overcame bring irritating as hell in the second episode to becoming a quality part of the show. Plus, she's British! I've really run out of things to say.

Best Of The Actual Nominees: Tina Fey. Four words: "Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! Ack!"

Will Forte, Saturday Night Live
John Krasinski, The Office
Chi McBride, Pushing Daisies
Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock
Jason Segal, How I Met Your Mother
J.B. Smoove, Curb Your Enthusiasm

As usual, this category is overloaded with possible talent. Since three of the actual nominees (Jon Cryer, Piven, Dillon) were ridiculous, my trio of favorites from this group were Smoove, McBride and Krasinski. It is not a stretch to say that Smoove stole every scene he was in during the last season of Curb. McBride has enough sardonic one-liners to sink a ship. I think I like 'happy-in-love Jim' even more than 'lonely-pining Jim.' Then again, none of these three could've carried the tune of Werewolf Bar Mitzvah like Tracy Morgan. Tough category.

Best Of The Actual Nominees: Rainn Wilson vs. Can there be a tie? I'll give it to Harris, but just barely.

Jenna Fischer, The Office
Alyson Hannigan, How I Met Your Mother
Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
Jaime Pressly, My Name Is Earl
Kristen Schall, Flight of the Conchords
Kristin Wiig, Saturday Night Live

In a sign of true gender equality, the Emmys decided to fill this year's supporting actress category with as many shitty choices as the men. I guess I have no problem with Vanessa Williams being nominated --- I saw Eraser two weeks ago, any anyone who is forced to wear those unflattering 'Mom Jeans' for the entire movie deserves some kind of award. Chenoweth, obviously, deserved her spot, and quite possibly her breasts deserved a nomination of their own. (You might think I'm being crass, but if you've ever seen Pushing Daisies, you know what I mean. More like Pushup Bra Daisies. Zing!) That leaves Jean Smart and Holland Taylor being nominated under the little-known Emmy rule stating that if Jean Smart and Holland Taylor are in a show, they have to be nominated no matter how mediocre their performances are. And then there's Amy Poehler, who was last seen being funny around 2002. But, in the words of Poehler's only amusing SNL bit, really? Amy Poehler nominated for an Emmy? Really?! When I heard that SNL actors were now eligible for Emmy acting awards, I figured this would be Wiig's category to lose. She's the new SNL It Girl --- how in the world does she not get nominated? Combine that with the inexplicable snub of Pressly, who only won the damn award last year, and the continued snubs to Hannigan (now going on 10 years of fine supporting performances with no Emmy love) and Krakowski (who I think was the only person involved with 30 Rock not nominated), and....well, this is just silly.

Best Of The Actual Nominees: Chenoweth is by far the, best of the bunch.

Desperate Housewives

Ah, the ongoing controversy about where to slot the Housewives. This year's season was pretty dark (Lynette alone had cancer, saw her family almost killed by a tornado and saw her step-daughter become a sociopath), so what the hell, let's call it a drama, even though I think the producers actually submitted it in the comedy categories. But in all honesty, given that the Emmys nominated Mad Men AND Dexter AND Lost, I really don't have a lot of beefs with their drama selections.

Best Of The Actual Nominees: Um, like you even have to ask what I would pick. Let's just say that Damages doesn't exactly have its own category on my blog.

Yunjin Kim, Lost
Eva Longoria, Desperate Housewives
Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men

Somewhat stupidly, it came as a total shock to me that Moss' character was pregnant. I didn't even realize she was wearing a fat suit and Weird Al-esque face jowl makeup until I went back and had another look at the latter episodes of Mad Men's first season. Perhaps that's a commentary on either my lack of attention or my low opinion of Elisabeth Moss' looks, but be that as it may, she was the most interesting female character on the show. They really, really, really should've looked harder to find a better actress than January Jones, that's all I'm saying. She seems way out of her league. Longoria definitely deserves a nomination somewhere, and really should be in the comic supporting actress category, but since I'm putting Housewives in the drama head just exploded. Whatever, Longoria will win the AL Rookie of the Year award, who needs an Emmy? I'm torn on the Lost actresses just because the nature of the show basically limits them to just one or two chances per year to really show their stuff. Mitchell deserves a nomination since I'm still shocked she was snubbed last year. And Kim deserves one for just the scenes of her screaming incoherently over Jin's apparent death, and the scene where she tells her father she now owns the company. Just great stuff.

Best Of The Actual Nominees: This category stinks. I dunno, Dianne Wiest is generally good in everything, give it to her.

Naveen Andrews, Lost
Henry Ian Cusick, Lost
Jorge Garcia, Lost
Vincent Kartheiser, Mad Men
Kal Penn, House

Again, Andrews and Cusick are awesome, but a discerning voter might say, "Well, Sayid and Desmond were off on that boat all season and didn't have a lot to do...." and thus vote for someone else. So I can understand why the likes of those two and Garcia wouldn't be recognized, even though they're all certainly better than, say, John Slattery. And if you think about it, Slattery was surely nominated solely on the basis of the one episode where Roger has his heart attack, so by that logic, the Lost actors should get the benefit of the doubt for their centric-episodes (since arguably no actor gave a better single-episode performance than Cusick in 'The Constant.') No knock on Slattery, who plays his role well on Mad Men, but...really? I mean, his role isn't all that special, and I don't think he elevates Roger much above the level of the other characters. Of anyone, I'd nominate Vincent "It Took Me Two Episodes To Remember Him As Angel's Son" Kartheiser for doing such a great job of being a slimy git all season long. He's like an evil Matthew Broderick, whereas Slattery is like an evil Ted Danson. Though I will credit to Slattery, the man has a great agent. In the span of one calendar year, this fifty-something, hawk-nosed actor has had love scenes with Eva Longoria and Christina Hendricks. Well played, Slattery, well played. I don't even watch a lot of House, but Kal Penn should be nominated just because he's Kal Penn.

Best Of The Actual Nominees: If Michael Emerson doesn't win, they should stop having Emmys.

Emily Deschanel, Bones
Felicity Huffman, Desperate Housewives

As mentioned, Huffman's character had a hell of a year. Bones is a show that I may have to watch a bit more of this season. It's got a sense of humor about itself, which is different from the umpteen other crime procedurals, and Deschanel and Boreanaz have great chemistry. Pop quiz, who's the better-looking Deschanel, Emily or Zooey? This might have to be the next poll question once the Batman villains are done with.

Best Of The Actual Nominees: I'd vote for Glenn Close. BTW, isn't it odd that out of all the Law & Order actors over the years in all the different shows, it was Mariska Hargitay who ended up being the Emmy darling?

Wow, for the first time ever, I have nobody to nominate. This year's Dramatic Actor Emmy nominees were actually tremendous. If the category had stuck to just five nominees, someone good would've been left off, but nope, the voters apparently said no dice and all six deserving nominees got their moment in the sun. Nice work, Emmys! Of course, it'll all go to pot if James Spader wins again, but still. What exactly are the voting guidelines in regards to number of nominees? Occasionally you'll get a category with six nods instead of five. Is there a threshold that has to be passed to be a nominee, or was there a tie in the voting, or what?

Best Of The Actual Nominees: This took some serious thought. Let's start by cutting Spader immediately though in all fairness he does rock that role. I've never seen Breaking Bad, so Cranston is out, though I hear he's tremendous. Never seen In Treatment either, so bye bye Byrne. This leaves Jon Hamm, Michael C. Hall and Hugh Laurie. Jesus. By a hair, I'll give it to Hall just because he has the most difficult line to tread.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Er to the Iz-nie

Ok, I'm just going to start posting awesome Muppet-related clips on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. I'm even creating a new category for it. I'm so glad the guy who created this clip had nothing better to do with his life.


Recent poll results......Tom Cruise was judged to be a worse actor than Kevin Costner by a vote of 7-5. I think the results ended up being a slight 'win' in Cruise's favor on Posnanski's blog as well. So the people have spoken, Cruise is in fact a worse actor. Somewhere, Costner is toasting himself and still trying to figure out how the hell he won a directing Oscar over Martin Scorsese.

Also, Fedor won the 'who would you least like to piss off' poll by a vote of 5-4 over Batman. Anderson Silva somewhat surprisingly got zero votes, but then again, Anderson seems like a pretty laid-back guy outside of the cage. It would probably take a lot to really set him off.

This week's poll question is a doozy, so I'll leave it up for a full week. If you have any suggestions of your own, tell me about it in this post's comment section.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The All-Star Game

Dammit, Rob Stone apparently had an even crazier All-Star week than I did. Reason #8159 why I love being Canadian: up here, we can have a mascot called 'Bitchy' and nobody blinks an eye.

Comic highlights included...

* Finally learning how to pronounce Cuauhtemoc Blanco's first name. You wouldn't think from looking at it, but it's pronounced 'Throatwobbler Mangrove.'

* Seeing West Ham United train in Vaughan at the Ontario Soccer Center. In case you've never been up at the ol' OSC, it's a large soccer complex with roughly 59,526 fields available. It was just sort of funny to look at a few of these fields and go, "Ok, there's a pee-wee team, there's a girls' youth team, and oh, there's a Premier League club." What the kids' teams were lacking in world-class talent, they made up for in orange slices.

* The BMO Field getting ticked off when the English and American flags and anthems were sung/displayed, but no Canadian flag. The fans harshly booed and then sang the anthem themselves during the next announcement. Then, like, a minute later, on comes the Canadian flag accompanied by Mounties and a special anthem singer. This was the pre-game ceremony equivalent of Ralphie's parents hiding the Red Ryder BB gun behind the tree just to watch Ralphie get disappointed over not receiving it.

* Discovering that 'Polishezo' could be my name if I was a Brazilian soccer player. That's not bad.

* Gorging at the trough of freedom that was the press box dinner spread. Pasta, hot dogs, bread, salad and (since Pepsi is the official All-Star sponsor) all the Pepsi products one could drink. Let's just say that I made up that cash I had to pay to park. "If you have three Pepsis and drink one, how much more refreshed are you?" "Pepsi?" "Partial credit!"

* Actually walking around the CNE grounds since the commissioner's press conference was held at another building on the property. It was the first time in my life I've done this. Am I the only kid in southern Ontario who grew up without ever attending the CNE?

* Speaking of that commissioner's address, buses were sitting outside BMO Field waiting to take any media to the building. While I applaud the organizers' desire to help out on a rainy day, the Liberty Grand building is less than 500 paces from BMO. I know this since my colleague Matt actually counted his steps as we made the six-minute walk over. We beat the bus, too. I felt like John Henry. A really, really, really poor man's version of John Henry.

* Not playing in the media game on Thursday morning. This is actually more of a comic highlight that I let slip by me. The 'media game' is exactly what it sounds like, a chance for the assembled press to actually get a chance to play on the BMO Field pitch. I should've signed up, then conspired with a guy on the other team to recreate the Zidane headbutt within the first minute and gotten myself red-carded. This idea came to me at around 1 AM Thursday morning, then it was already too late to sign up. Sacre bleu. Usually my great late-night ideas can be translated into blog posts, but not this time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Scariest Movie Of All Time

The Exorcist? Nope.

Rosemary's Baby? Try again.

Blair Witch? Keep guessing.

Jesus Camp? Well, actually, maybe, but that's not the one I mean.

Nope, the clear winner for now and all time is the Madonna/A-Rod sex tape. Don't worry, clicking the link just takes you to a story about the tape, not to the actual footage itself. I wouldn't dare link to such horrific footage since some of you may have a heart condition or just finished eating.

Questions abound. Was A-Rod great for the foreplay and then fell apart when it counted, like he does in the playoffs? When it was over, did Madonna insist that A-Rod make a notch on her bedpost? Was A-Rod frightened by the fact that the bedpost had essentially been whittled down to a twig thanks to all of the notching over the years? Did A-Rod insist that she wear her Blank mask from Dick Tracy, so it looked like he was boning a person without a face? (Frankly, given Madonna's increasingly skeletal form, that might be preferable). Did they put one of her albums on in the background? Was it that crappy American Life album, since it seems like the kind of record you could only listen to while doing something else? Or did A-Rod insist on making love to one of Bernie Williams' classical guitar albums? Did they role play? As in, "You be Breathless Mahoney, I'll be Dick Tracy." "But Alex, I played Breathless in the movie..."?

Ok, I'm done., I'm not. Did Timbaland produce the video? Will there be several snide columns about this in New York newspapers about how A-Rod didn't have sex like "a true Yankee"? Did A-Rod prematurely go after four minutes, mistakenly thinking Madonna would appreciate the tribute to her latest single? Did A-Rod become the first man to ever top Jose Canseco as a 40-40 man in both a baseball sense, and a sex-with-Madonna sense? (I'm not even sure what 40-40 would be in a sexual sense....40 minutes in missionary, 40 minutes in doggie style? Suckas got to know!) Did Guy Ritchie direct the video? Did Brad Pitt play the traditional porno role of 'guy who doesn't have sex but is there for comic relief' as an incomprehensible Pikey? Does this officially make 'Like A Virgin' the most ironic song in music history? Did Madonna have to ask that A-Rod change positions, or did Derek Jeter handle that?

Ok, NOW I'm done.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dark Knight Reviewed


Years ago, I went to see Snatch in the theatres with a group of friends. We ran into another group of friends after the show and they asked us what we thought. My pal Bryan chimed in 'It was one of my top three movies ever.' At the time I thought this was kind of a ridiculous statement --- how could you immediately put a movie in your all-time top anything five minutes after you've finished watching it? You have to let a great movie breathe like a fine bottle of wine. You have to digest it, maybe watch it a few more times to see how it holds up before you can truly state it's one of the all-time greats.

Now I've seen The Dark Knight. And I can confidently state it's one of the three best movies I've ever seen. It might very well be number one. I've spent 24 hours thinking about imperfections and coming up with....I dunno, maybe a few less reaction shots of people watching the Batmobile? That's about it. I came into the film with the highest of high expectations, and they were surpassed.

The movie takes some familiar Batman themes (morality, duality, order, responsibility, justice) and presents them in a fresh package. The script is virtually flawless. It's a wonderfully layered film that takes time to develop its various threads and gives appropriate time to every character and storyline. At this point, Christopher Nolan is pretty much the best writer/director in the world, right? I mean, three masterpieces (Dark Knight, Batman Begins, Memento), one well-regarded movie that I would call a minor masterpiece (Prestige) and a very good noir crime drama (Insomnia). Insomnia's his worst movie, and a remake, not a Nolan original concept, and even that one is a four-out-of-fiver. And this is all in the last nine years! He has to be the leader in the clubhouse for Director Of The Decade, right? I can't think of anyone else off the top of my head who's even in the ballpark.

Some might say it's time for Nolan to get another Oscar nomination, and the Oscars seem to be a common theme in almost every Dark Knight review I've read. The bulk of the attention is going to Ledger, of course, who gives a performance so legendary that he seems destined to join James Dean as the quintessential star who passed before his time. I've mentioned before how Joker is the Hamlet of comic book villain roles --- well, now the role has its Olivier. Ledger was so good that whomever the villain is in the next movie will have a really tough act to follow. (btw, my pal Brian posted about possibilities for the third film, and I put up a big rambling response. Short preview: Michael Emerson as the Riddler. Click the link for the rest.) Ledger found the perfect balance between being darkly funny --- Joker in the nurse costume was pretty hilarious, and his 'magic trick' with the pencil actually got a 'holy shit!' reaction and applause from the audience --- and completely terrifying. There was no moment when Joker got too goofy or comical. He was a threat from start to finish. His schemes never stopped being shocking.

But really, why should the award goodness stop at Ledger? Will there be five movies better than Dark Knight released this year? In the words of Blueby the Talking Pie, fuck no! If the world is just, Dark Knight will be to comic book films what Lord of the Rings was to fantasy movies, or what 2001 and Star Wars were to sci-fi movies: the gateway to mainstream critical respectability. Nominate the movie, nominate Nolan, nominate the script, nominate the makeup (my favourite minor detail was the drops of blood on the side of the pillow that Dent was resting his scarred side upon), nominate the art direction, nominate the cinematography, nominate the score, nominate the FX, nominate Ledger...hell, while you're at it, nominate Aaron Eckhart and Gary Oldman too. I've always found Two-Face to be kind of a dull villain, since the Jekyll-Hyde dichotomy can only be played out so much. Therefore it was a good idea to limit the character's arc to one movie, yet even though 'Two-Face' didn't emerge until two-thirds --- ooh, a duality reference! --- of the way through the film, it still felt like there was plenty of development given to Dent's villainous side. Compare how Nolan used Two-Face to the crammed-in Venom character in Spider-Man III or the crammed in...well, pretty much everyone in X-Men 3. Eckhart makes Two-Face into a Shakespeare-level tragic character, perfectly illustrating how Dent came to madness. It isn't just a simple, flip-the-switch to evil after his scarring, you can see his gradual push over the cliff of sanity --- another great little touch was the revelation of the Two-Face name. As for Oldman, he made Jim Gordon the unsung glue of the entire picture. I mentioned the audience cheer at the magic pencil bit; the other big cheer was for Gordon's reappearance after faking his death. (There was also an ovation for the hospital explosion, which was, uh, kinda strange). An Oldman nomination would correct an oversight in Oscar history, namely that GARY OLDMAN NEVER BEEN NOMINATED FOR A GODDAMN OSCAR. That's inconceivable. One of the 10 best actors in the world and he's never even gotten a token nomination?! I have no joke here.

It will take some time before I decide where to slot Dark Knight on my personal list of favourite movies. But perhaps in keeping with the partnerships of chaos/order, white knight/dark knight, Joker/Batman, Harvey Dent/Harvey Dent, I'll say for now it's at number...two.


And, as if the movie wasn't enough, there was also the added bonus of the Watchmen trailer. Now I'm not one to bust a nut over a movie just because of a cool trailer, since almost any movie can be distilled down to two minutes of quality footage. But Watchmen is a special case since there has been so much trepidation since the film was announced, not to mention 20 years of worrying if/how the graphic novel would be translated to film. (Translation: "How are they going to fuck it up?") The wicked trailer is a good way for Zack Snyder to assure people that he has some idea of what the hell he's doing. It remains to be seen if the movie delivers, of course, but the trailer is at least a sign that Snyder doesn't appear to be Schumacher-ing it up. And, as an added bonus, good lord does Malin Ackerman ever look hot as the Silk Spectre.

Speaking of Schumacher, the musical choice interested me. The song in the trailer is 'The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning,' the slowed-down, remixed version of the better-known single 'The End Is The Beginning Is The End' by the Smashing Pumpkins. The clever bit is that 'The End...' was the single from the soundtrack of Batman & Robin, which was probably the worst movie of all time. Since Watchmen is a deconstruction of the comic book genre, it is perhaps fitting that the film version takes the remixed, 'reverse' version of the song from the definitive nadir of the comic-book movie genre. Does this mean Watchmen will be the direct opposite of Batman & Robin? If so, that'll put it in....Dark Knight territory.


Oh, and this wasn't a superhero trailer per se, but my god did the Tropic Thunder trailer ever make me laugh. If Ledger doesn't win the supporting Oscar, just give it to Robert Downey Jr. right now. Maybe there can be a tie.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dr. Horrible

Attention Buffy fans! (And Firefly fans...and Neil Patrick Harris get the picture). Check out Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, a mini, Internet-only musical created by Joss Whedon and apparently half the dang Whedon family. The first two parts are up now, and the third and final act should be posted by later today or tomorrow.

What's not to like? Singing! Dancing! The legendary NPH! The great Nathan Fillion! The never-heard-of-her-before-this-but-quite-pleasant Felicia Day! Actually, a quick check of Day's IMDB page shows she played one of the slayers in training in the last season of Buffy. I probably forgot about her since I've successfully purged all memories of that horrible, crappy season out of my head.

BTW, who wants to pool their money, buy a racehorse and name it The Thoroughbred of Sin?


Also falling under the category of "This is adorable and musical" is Feist on Sesame Street. Is there really anything that can't be cool involving Muppets? Apparently Jason Segal is going to be writing an upcoming Muppets movie, so, yeah, fourth-last row center opening night, here I come. Has the Sesame Street set always looked so nicely constructed, or did they do some upgrades for the high-def era?


Some blog news. I'm leaving up the Tom Cruise vs. Kevin Costner poll for a few more days since it is becoming a burning debate of our time. Joe Posnanski has had the same question posted on his blog for the last couple of weeks, and after almost 2200 votes have been cast, Cruise is ahead by just three votes! This is truly a topic that has divided people like no other since the epic war of Tastes Great v. Less Filling

The result of the previous blog poll, by the way, revealed that the funniest member of Monty Python is John Cleese. Well, that's not a shocker. I'd rank them Cleese, Palin, Jones/Chapman in a tie, Idle and then poor ol' Gilliam.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Favre Fiasco

Ok, I just had to chime in on this. I meant to post about this last week, but it suddenly occurred to me that by October, Brett Favre could conceivably be a Chicago Bear and Mats Sundin could be a Montreal Canadien. Then my head began to hurt.

You never like seeing a bad breakup. Well, that's not true, bad breakups can sometimes be hilarious, but specifically, you never like to see a breakup between one of your all-time sports heroes and your favourite team. All I can say is, for god's sake. First Favre says he wants to come back, then the team hems and haws over welcoming him back, then Brett's agent says that Green Bay has become a bad atmosphere for Favre and thus he'd like to be released, then the team refuses a release, then say that Brett is welcome back to compete for the starting job in training camp, now the team is accusing the Vikings of tampering.....for god's sakes. This pissing contest between Favre and Ted Thompson has gotten out of control. This soap opera is SOLELY because I really think that Favre enjoys jerking Thompson around and making him look like an ass in public. Fortunately, I think most rational observers are beginning to realize that it is, in fact, Favre who is the jerk in this scenario. Thompson and company are trying to run a football team --- for three seasons, they've put up with Favre's annual melodrama over whether or not he's going to retire, and even a few months after Favre retired and first started to float the idea about returning, Thompson said Green Bay would love to have him back. But training camp is about to start. Opening week is a month and a half away. The coaching staff has spent the last few months adjusting the offense to fit Aaron Rodgers, and they suddenly can't scrap everything just because the ol' gunslinger is getting tired of going around his lawn on the riding mower.

Now on paper, you might say "Mark, you're crazy. Brett Favre gives the Pack a better chance to win the Super Bowl than unproven Rodgers does. The fans want it, the actual Green bay players want it...what's the problem?" Well, would YOU want a quarterback who obviously sees himself as bigger than the team, and seems more concerned about his legacy? I'll be honest, it was great to see Favre have another MVP-caliber season in 2007, but he was pretty much complete dogshit in the previous two seasons. And let's not forget his brutal performance in the NFC Championship. Favre may give Green Bay a better chance to win than a total x-factor like Rodgers, but I don't think Favre is capable of capturing a title any more. And who knows, Rodgers might be terrific. Maybe losing Favre will create a Ewing Theory-esque situation for the Packers on their way to the Super Bowl.

The doomsday scenario about Favre-on-the-Bears or Favre-on-the-Vikings will surely not happen, since there's no way that Green Bay would ever agree to an unconditional release. If Favre does return in 2008, it'll be for an AFC team that the Packers won't play in the next two seasons, i.e. someone from the AFC East or West, since there is no way on this earth that Thompson and company want the spectre of Favre returning to Lambeau in another team's uniform. Green Bay will trade him and work out some kind of arrangement concerning the payment of Favre's $12 million-salary vis a vis their trading partner's salary cap. Or, the Packers could just trade Favre straight up for Tom Brady. I'd be fine with that.

The worst part of this is that for as much as Favre talks about his legacy, it's already been spoiled. The feuding of the last two weeks won't erase all of the great memories that Favre created in Green Bay, but it's just sad that he had to pull a Roger Clemens moment right here at the end of his career. I blame John Madden. He had to go and put Favre on the cover of Madden '09, thus bringing the curse to Lambeau Field. Damn you, Madden. Packer fans should file a class-action lawsuit against him. Or just hope Vincent Price drives his bus into a ditch.

Also, Favre is scheduled to have his jersey retired by the Packers in Week One. On the awkwardness scale of 1 to 10, that night will be a 75.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Odds and Sods

And to think, I thought that covering the TFC match tonight would mean I wouldn't get to see any of the All-Star Game....


Taken from my friend Michelle's blog, what are five books you started reading but just couldn't finish? I had a hard time coming up with five, since I'm one of those people who always tries to finish any novel I start, no matter how much I hate it.

* The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
This is a shocking entry for many reasons. It's a critically-acclaimed novel about a fictional pair of comic book creators in the 1930's. This should be right up my alley. I started it a few years ago, read about 40 pages and just quit. I dunno what the problem was that day --- maybe I just wasn't in the mood for a heavy read, or my mind was elsewhere and I wasn't getting into it, or what. Just so Kyle doesn't come to my house and murder me, I promise I'll give it another shot sometime.

* Flaubert's Parrot, by Julian Barnes
Barnes is one of my favourite authors, too. But I know nothing about Flaubert. I know less than nothing about Flaubert. I'm sure Flaubert fans found the satire delicious, but for me, it went over my head like I was Danny DeVito.

* The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
I finished the first third, so, I guess, is the equivalent of The Fellowship Of The Ring. I'm sorry, I just don't care much about fantasy books. I saw the movies, that should be good enough, right?

* Lake Wobegon Days, by Garrison Keillor
I've written this before in an entry about another Keillor novel, but I think if I bought the audio book of Lake Wobegon Days, I'd eat it with a spoon because Keillor's delivery is just hilarious. Reading it six years ago, however, the text seemed far too dry. I may have been affected by the fact that I read the book while vacationing with my family in a small town up in the Bruce that from what I could tell was actually just like crazy ol' Lake Wobegon. My favourite part of that vacation was leaving. I had to be back early for work, so I loaded the car up with Beatles albums and took a great drive through small-town Ontario. Best drive of my life.

* Timequake, by Kurt Vonnegut
The problem was, I think this was the first Vonnegut book I ever (attempted) to read. That was the literary equivalent of starting to watch Lost and making 'Cabin Fever' your first episode. Vonnegut's books are so intertwined with each other and are written in such a unique way that as a first-time reader, I was lost. I don't think I attempted Vonnegut again until Cat's Cradle a few years later.


I'm curious about something on Facebook. When I add a note, it lists 'people you may have mentioned' in case I wanted to tag them. Usually it's just a similar name or something innocuous, like if I mention Brian Orser in the post, Facebook will list all my friends named Brian. By the way, have I ever written a post about Brian Orser? No? Good, just checking.

What puzzles me, however, is when I write a note and then the suggested people to tag are completely random and have nothing to do with anything I've written. For example, my recent post about the Viagra interruption ads listed the 'suggested mentions' as my Facebook friends Joe, Nina and Don. (I call them 'Facebook friends' not as an insult, but rather because they're all casual acquaintances --- I'm a fan of Joe's writing and have never actually met him, I've met Nina once when I almost sublet a room in her flat, and Don is dating a friend of mine.)

I know that Facebook collects information about its users to sell to marketing companies, so I can only presume that Joe, Nina and Don were tied to this note based on some dark secret that Facebook has gleaned about their lives. Let me guess. Don is actually the inventor of Viagra, but has his money tied up in some shady offshore banking operation. Joe once killed a man using a ski lift. The Viagra people stole Nina's idea for Medieval Times commercials --- in these 'Medieval interruption' ads, two people would be sitting quietly doing some mundane task, and then a knight would run into the room and gore them with a lance.


In other Facebook news, I am now 158-43-1 after 202 Scrabulous matches. Bow down.


iTunes playlist for the evening...

Wicked Rain/Across 110th Street, Los Lobos
This Mess We're In, PJ Harvey and Thom Yorke
Thank You For Sending Me An Angel, Talking Heads
Cordelia, Tragically Hip

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hellboy and Golf

Hellboy II was the perfect appetizer for the upcoming Dark Knight. It had some good action, a few laughs, and was overall a fine entry into the realm of comic book films. I would happily slot it into the 'pretty good' category of the greatest comic movies ever made.

The film continued my fascination with Doug Jones, who has got to have the most unique career of any working actor. Jones has become Hollywood's go-to guy for playing characters under layers of makeup and latex. He's probably best known for playing the Faun in Pan's Labyrinth or (if you're a fan of crappy movies) the Silver Surfer in the last Fantastic Four movie. He also provided the body of Abe in the first Hellboy movie, though the character was voiced by David Hyde Pierce. Jones does Abe's voice himself in this one and....basically just does an impression of David Hyde Pierce. Also amusing was the fact that Johann Krauss, the German spirit man, is voiced by Family Guy's Seth Macfarlane, who is doing the same voice he used for Hitler in the "Peter is Hitler's brother" routine.


Oh, and speaking of Dark Knight, take a look at Dark Knight as written by Michael Bay. Though I was confused by the idea that wearing glasses doesn't automatically mean someone is smart. Does this mean I should stop wearing my thick lenses at the library to try and pick up women? I don't get it. Drew Carey gets plenty of action, right?


I've made major championship predictions in the past listing several guys, but really, the choice in the last decade has boiled down Picking Tiger or Picking Someone Else. This British Open is great because that choice is off the table. I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the wide, Open without carrying any rooting interests beyond the guys on my fantasy team. Yes, that's right, I play fantasy golf. And he's single, ladies!

Instead of predictions, I'm going to list the guys who could win this major without having their victory diminished by the "Well, Tiger didn't play" factor.

* Greg Norman. He's blown it so many times that a shock victory at Birkdale would be such a great story that it wouldn't matter that Tiger wasn't in the field. In fact, any old-timer would provide a similar result, but Norman in particular due to his long history of major collapses and the fact that he isn't even a regular golfer any more.

* Rory McIlwane. At the other end of the spectrum, a young star breaking out to capture the Open would have the same result. If someone like McIlwane won, you'd be guaranteed to read at least a year of "there's finally a young rival for Tiger!" stories.

* Colin Montgomerie. It would keep alive Monty's streak of never winning a tournament that Tiger is entered in. I also don't think that Monty is the type to give a shit if Tiger was in the field or not. The British fans surely wouldn't care.

* Kenny Perry. He could play the "well, Tiger didn't get any 'Kenny wasn't there' questions after winning the U.S. Open, so I should get the same treatment' " card. In fact, given Perry's hot play of late, I'd say he's definitely the favourite to win his first major championship. Good thing he's playing in the Open in search of this career-defining victory instead of playing in some podunk tournament in Milwaukee....wait, what's that? Oh. Never mind.

* Paul Lawrie. Nobody gives him credit for winning the 1999 Open, and if he won this year's Open without Tiger, then those two half-victories would add up to one major championship! Yay!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Peter Pan and Tom Cruise

What are the limits of the 'Tinkerbell comes back to life when you clap' moment in Peter Pan? For example, what if a theatre troupe was performing the play in front of a group of amputee war veterans? Would Tink just die a horrific death, thus leading to the lesser-known alternate ending that J.M. Barrie wrote for just such an occasion? In this ending, a demoralized Peter goes into action against the pirates and winds up being gutted by Captain Hook. You can see why the children, ergo, play such a key role by having to clap for Tink's reincarnation. The other version wouldn't go over nearly as well --- except, ironically, with the amputee war veterans, some of whom probably have hooks. Boy, now that I think about it, Peter Pan is a play that would polarize a lot of theatre-goers. What if, by pure happenstance, the majority of the audience just happened to be comprised of victims of crocodile attacks? What if the audience was comprised of people with growth hormone anomalies, and thus in a way couldn't physically 'grow up'? (The best example I can think of for this is Robin Williams in Jack, which makes me think that another movie about a man-child needs to be green-lighted ASAP.) What if the audience was made up of short, effeminate male actors angry over the fact that such a fitting role as Peter Pan traditionally goes to women playing men?

There are lots of ways this story could go wrong. Good thing nobody has given a damn about Peter Pan in many years. I blame Hook. What a whacked out movie. Are we sure that film actually happened? That has to be the strangest entry in Spielberg's resume. It's also arguably the worst, indisputably in the bottom five given Spielberg's impressive body of work. General critical consensus seems to agree that '1941' was probably Senor Spielbergo's worst, but I'll cast my vote for Munich. I still can't get over that scene of Eric Bana thinking about the Munich Massacre while having sex, complete with his thrusts of passion synched up with the terrorists' gunshots. That might have been the worst scene in any movie in the last 20 years.


So, apparently, Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller are going to appear in a comedy next year about the Hardy Boys as grown-ups. Normally I'm distressed by all things Tom Cruise (I hated the guy's acting WAY before the whole Scientology thing), but by god, this might be one of the movies that I just have to see to believe. Maybe this is how Cruise is choosing to combat his descent into self-parody, by taking the Walken-esque or Shatner-esque step of embracing it head-on.

The reason I'm cautiously optimistic about this film is because the last time that Cruise and Stiller joined forces, it was comic gold. This clip is still referenced far too often by my group of friends. My personal favourite part is the reference to 'TPS.'


I may have just thought of this given that I referred to the role of Peter Pan being perfect for short, effeminate male actors, but....what would be the impact on the world if it was announced tomorrow that Tom Cruise was starring in a new, live-action adaptation of Peter Pan? The only word I can think of is 'unnerving.' I'll bet you got a few goosebumps just upon reading the title of this post, didn't you? You were thinking, "Oh no, is Mark going to post about some new movie with Cruise as....oh lord...." I certainly hope you were thinking that instead of just "Oh no, is Mark going to post?"

The only creepier choice I could think of as Peter Pan would be Michael Jackson, but that's for a much different reason. Goddammit, Michael. I just listened to Thriller again recently and it still sounds awesome. Why'd you have to go and be all crazy and ruin things for everyone? I was telling this story to someone recently, and I'll repeat it here: Michael Jackson may have well been the first 'famous' person I was consciously aware of. Back in my old house in southeast London, we grew up next door to a family named the Jacksons, and one of the kids was named Michael. Now even at age two, I knew it was notable that this kid's name was Michael Jackson. I'm not sure if I ever knew what that name was famous for; it's not like I was going the Thriller zombie dance with my stuffed animals, cute as that would have been. (I was an adorable child, thus begging the question of what the fuck happened.) So I'm pretty sure Jacko was the first celebrity I was conscious of, except for perhaps Dick Clark (I used to watch American Bandstand all the time at age two --- again, no earthly reason why) or Bob Barker. The Price Is Right literally helped me learn to count as a child. I'm fairly confident that I could've replicated Barney Stinson's legendary dominance of TPIR, except I would've done it as a toddler.


Re: Robin Williams in 'Jack.' Jack stunk. Jack was one of those movies that was universally regarded as terrible, and yet here we are 12 years later, and it's still the go-to reference for a "child-in-man's-body" scenario. There are certain bad movies that may lack the charm of cult-classic bad movies (Roadhouse, Plan 9 From Outer Space), but still had at least one memorable hook that kept them from totally falling into obscurity. The next time you find yourself in one of these situations, feel free to use one of these wisecracks...

* Someone is losing a lot of weight: "What is this, Stephen King's Thinner?"

* Someone male is gaining a lot of weight: "Let me guess, you're either fat or starring in a remake of Junior?"

* A friend has shaved their head/needs some sun/is wearing a lot of white clothes/all of the above: "Hey look, it's Powder."

I could only think of these three examples, which prevented this topic from being a full-fledged Listamania idea. Feel free to suggest any others in the comments section.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Viagra Interruptions

The 'Viagra interruption' ads are unusual. If you haven't seen these commercials, the concept is that a couple is just sitting there, and then one suddenly gets a bit of a glint in their eye and says the other's name. The scene cuts to a 1950's-style intermission screen for a few seconds, and then it cuts back to the couple resuming their mundane activity, but with an air of satisfaction about them.

The first one (an elderly couple sitting in their kitchen) was fine, aside from the fact that it's pretty unhygienic to have sex where you eat. The second ad features a couple in a flower shop, but oddly enough, it's the woman who says the guy's name. How did she know he was on the verge of a Viagra-inspired sexual awakening? Does she have the Shining?

But it's the third ad that really got my goat. A middle-aged Asian couple is sitting on a moving ski lift when the 'interruption' takes place. Questions abound...

* How are they able to position themselves on a tiny bench without plummeting to, if not their deaths, at least a painful and embarrassing fall?

* People in snowsuits are bundled up tighter than King Tut. Getting their gear off in order to copulate would be time-consuming and difficult, especially on the aforementioned tiny bench.

* They're on a ski hill in snowsuits, so presumably it's cold. Viagra or not, that guy will be experiencing some shrinkage.

* When the interruption ends, they're both sitting contentedly, still on the lift. Unless they're riding to the top of Everest, ski lifts usually don't take too long. I guess the Viagra got the dude so excited that he jumped the gun, so to speak. But, then again, the woman is smiling at the end of the ad, so presumably she was so easy to satisfy that even a couple of minutes of passion is good enough to do the trick. That guy is lucky. Sure, he needs to take Viagra, but even if you have erectile dysfunction, that's not really a huge concern when your wife is to orgasms what Glass Joe is to a quick knockout.


A bit of site news.....The Wire won the 'which show should I watch first?' poll, so off to the video store I go. Also, Wall*E won the 'best Pixar movie' poll.

This week's poll concerns Monty Python. Remember, you're voting for your FAVOURITE, not necessarily the funniest or the best actor. You can take their whole careers into consideration, not just the Python years (this is to ensure that Gilliam doesn't get negative votes).

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

???? ??? ?????

No, I'm not the Riddler. I just installed a Blog List (which I have renamed 'Blog Awesomeness' because, well, they're all awesome), which lists updates to various blogs. Some of my other friends have the application on their own blogs, but I noticed that my site didn't have the newest post title updated since I didn't actually have the 'title' function enabled on Blogger.

So I found the title block, added it to my posts, and now there's another problem. Whenever I go to write a title, everything comes up question marks.

Fellow Bloggers, help a brother out. Is there something I'm not doing?

EDIT: Fixed! Never mind!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

If I picked the All-Star rosters...

Each team is supposed to have 32 players on the roster, but c'mon, that's just a bit too many. I'm going with 30 per team. Ah, round numbers. I'll keep the 'every team has to be represented' rule since c'mon, that's part of the fun. And this is one of the few years in recent memory when every team has at least one legitimate candidates. No Mark Redmans to be found here! Also, assume everyone is healthy and able to play. Oh, and the fan balloting is being ignored completely, as it should be.

American League, starting lineup
C -- Joe Mauer, Twins
1B -- Justin Morneau, Twins
2B -- Brian Roberts, Orioles
3B -- Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
SS -- Michael Young, Rangers
LF -- Manny Ramirez, Red Sox
CF -- Grady Sizemore, Indians
RF -- Magglio Ordonez, Tigers
DH -- Josh Hamilton, Rangers
SP -- Roy Halladay, Blue Jays

AL reserves
C -- A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox
1B -- Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
2B -- Ian Kinsler, Rangers
3B -- Evan Longoria, Rays
SS -- Carlos Guillen, Tigers (he's not a shortstop anymore, but he used to be, and the other AL shortstops suck)
OF -- Jermaine Dye, White Sox
OF -- B.J. Upton, Rays
OF -- Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
P -- Joakim Soria, Royals
P -- Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox
P -- Francisco Rodriguez, Angels
P -- Mariano Rivera, Yankees
P -- Cliff Lee, Indians
P -- Justin Duchscherer, Athletics
P -- Ervin Santana, Angels
OF -- Carlos Quentin, White Sox
DH -- Milton Bradley, Rangers
OF -- J.D. Drew, Red Sox
OF -- Johnny Damon, Yankees
C -- Kurt Suzuki, Athletics

National League, starting lineup
C -- Russ Martin, Dodgers
1B -- Lance Berkman, Astros
2B -- Chase Utley, Phillies
3B -- Chipper Jones, Braves
SS -- Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
LF -- Pat Burrell, Phillies
CF -- Carlos Beltran, Mets
RF -- Matt Holliday, Rockies
DH -- Albert Pujols, Cardinals
SP -- Tim Lincecum, Giants

NL reserves
C -- Brian McCann, Braves
1B -- Adrian Gonzalez, Padres
2B -- Dan Uggla, Marlins
3B -- David Wright, Mets
SS -- Jose Reyes, Mets
OF -- Jason Bay, Pirates
OF -- Ryan Braun, Brewers
OF -- Adam Dunn, Reds
P -- Brad Lidge, Phillies
P -- Jon Rauch, Nationals
P -- Kerry Wood, Cubs
P -- Cole Hamels, Phillies
P -- Edinson Volquez, Reds
P -- Dan Haren, Diamondbacks
P -- Johan Santana, Mets
1B -- Derrek Lee, Cubs
3B -- Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
C -- Geovany Soto, Cubs
OF -- Corey Hart, Brewers
SS -- Miguel Tejada, Astros

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Movie Reviews

(warning, spoilers abound)

Get Smart has pretty much nothing to do with the original Get Smart TV series aside from character names and general adherence to the concept, but since I've seen maybe two of the original episodes (YTV used to air the series back in the day, I remember it being on before the Adam West Batman show), I enjoyed it without any nagging feeling that it wasn't 'right,' or this character wouldn't act this way, or a bunch of TV nerd stuff that I do with a lot of other adaptations. I'd basically describe as a slightly more serious Austin Powers, so unlike that movie, you might be able to watch Get Smart in a decade and not be put off by how corny and dated it seems. Sorry, I'm still in disgust over Love Guru, which I haven't even seen but still hate just from commercials alone. Steve Carell has now accomplished the difficult task of adopting a well-known comedic role and making it uniquely his own without losing any humour in the translation. First it was making Michael Scott distinct from David Brent on the Office, and now he made his Maxwell Smart different from Don Adams' Maxwell Smart. The one thing he doesn't do is have an iota of chemistry with Anne Hathaway, since I'm sorry, he looks like her dad up there. Her youthful look is actually a plot point, but come on, couldn't they have cast someone at least five years older? The situation isn't helped by the fact that Hathaway isn't a good enough actress to pull it off, nor is she funny enough to justify her presence altogether. In short, Carell generated more sparks kissing the Rock than he did kissing Hathaway. Oh yeah, by the way, speaking of the Rock, he was barely in the movie. C'mon, Rock's a natural comedian. They could've last literally anyone in his role. Ok, well, maybe not 'literally' anyone. Sal Mineo wouldn't have worked as well. Is Sal Mineo dead?


My friend Jordan saw the Happening before I did, and without revealing any of the plot details, noted that the movie probably would've been better (or at least better received) if M. Night Shyamalan had gone all the way and made it a true tribute to those old 1950's horror movies. You know the ones I'm talking about --- the stilted acting, the black-and-white photography, the propensity to make everyday objects into 'the monster' mostly due to a lack of budget, etc. So I went into the movie with the mindset of looking at it as a throwback suspense/horror movie, but I still thought it sucked. I'm just not sure what Shyamalan was going for here. If I had to guess, given M. Night's love of Hitchcock, I'd say this was his answer to The Birds, where nature becomes the enemy. But it's just so poorly done. Signs and the Village, for their faults, at least had genuine moments of suspense and shock throughout. But in Happening, my audience treated it like a comedy. In the scenes when everyone stares ominously at the wind rushing over the grass, the theatre crowd tittered incredulously. It was, in the words of Homer Simpson, the laughter of impatience; THIS was the big threat? No, come on man, this is Shyamalan, there's surely another big twist at the end of the....oh no, wait, that was it? The plants were releasing a killer toxin? Like how Marky Mark casually theorized was the problem in the first 20 minutes of the movie? Oh. Talk about anti-climactic. And speaking of Marky Mark, by God, Wahlberg continues his streak of being the most hit-and-miss actor in Hollywood. He was the most notable of the 'stilted' acting style I mentioned earlier, with his most notable trait being his increasingly high-pitched voice. By the end of the movie he sounds like Stewie asking Brian about his novel. Zooey Deschanel does literally nothing in this movie but deliver wide-eyed reaction shots. By the way, in the latest example of my idiocy, I only just realized that Zooey and Emily 'Bones' Deschanel were sisters. Since apparently Deschanel is a really common last name in my world. Even cooler, though, is the fact that they're both the daughters of great cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, who really should have an Oscar by this point Academy, hint hint.

Shyamalan, at this point, has to sit back and take some stock in his career. With this film and Lady In The Water, he has taken a step back from using a twist ending every time out, which is a good step, but he should really talk to his studio's publicity department for continuing to market these flicks as your typical 'M. Night Shyamalan movies.' This isn't to say he isn't equally to blame given that he consciously made himself into an above-the-title director and a guy who made his name on surprising plot turns. Perhaps M. Night should take a page from Tarantino. After Pulp Fiction, instead of killing himself coming up with an original follow-up, QT adapted someone else's work and the result was Jackie Brown. Shyamalan should stop trying to top himself with the screenplays and just stick to directing for a little while in order to give the creative juices time to build up. Off the top of my head, it's been a while since we've had an adaptation of Ten Little Indians. Take a crack at it, M. Night! The twist ending is already built into that one.


Wanted comes across as a poor man's version of Shoot 'Em Up, which was easily the goofiest action movie in recent memory. The trouble with Wanted is that unlike Shoot 'Em Up, it seems to take itself a bit too seriously at times. The tongue is removed from the cheek when it comes to discussion of James McAvoy's character and his father, which creates a bit of an eye-rolling "get to the fireworks factory" reaction from the audience, who just want to see McAvoy continue to...well, shoot them up. It's bizarre that a movie this relatively unambitious managed such a big-name cast as McAvoy, Angelina and Morgan Freeman. Freeman hasn't been above taking the occasional paycheque role (now known as 'a Michael Caine role') in the past, but as for Angie, doesn't it seem like this is the kind of movie she should've made five or 10 years ago? By the way, like a pitcher with a rapidly decreasing K/BB ratio, bad things are on the horizon for Angelina. She's already looking somewhat stretched and gaunt in this movie --- I shudder to think what will happen in five years. She might make Meg Ryan look like someone who aged elegantly. Brad Pitt is no doubt already updating his Rolodex of young starlets for his next upgrade. Let me be the first to predict it's Emmanuelle Chriqui. Just a wild hunch.

Anyway, Wanted. A minor thumbs-up, but wait for a rental or a matinee screening. My favourite part was when the hero, Wesley Gibson, Googles his name and comes up with nothing, just to underscore what a pathetic nobody he is. Um, his name is Wesley Gibson. If they were going to do this gag, they should've given him a more unique name. I found about 3,320,000 hits when I Googled it. For example, there's a fairly well-known author by the name of Wesley Gibson. The Wanted creators could've easily avoided this problem by calling him Gibley Wesson. Don't see what the problem is there. I don't know anyone named Gibley. And only one person named Wesson -- Survivor: Australia winner Tina Wesson. What are the odds she'd have a relative named Gibley? Pretty slim.


This week's blog poll concerns Pixar's films, though to make things more interesting, I should've made the question "which is Pixar's third-worst film?" I think most would concede that Cars and Bug's Life are the lesser of the Pixar movies, but even those two are pretty good (and if Dave Foley is reading this blog, I'm sure he'll have an angry response). But for third worst, boy, that's tough to pick. You could find people to make passionate arguments in favour of any of the other seven. This list of nine films is basically the animation equivalent of a really killer baseball lineup --- Pixar is the 1927 Yankees, and it's up to each individual to pick their own Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. And all nine of these movies have come out in the last 13 years, which, given the time it takes to craft an animated film, is basically like if the Beatles had condensed their whole recording career into four years.

This is all just a long lead-in to say that Wall*E is yet another Pixar masterpiece. In many ways it's the most ambitious film yet, but everything is pulled off beautifully. Apparently the big concerns from Disney's perspective were a) it might be a bit slow-moving for younger kids and b) the environmental theme would strike some (i.e. idiot conservatives) as preachy. The theatre audience was largely comprised of young children at my screening, and far from being bored, they seemed enthralled. There was no shuffling of feet or whines of "Mommmmm.' It was almost total silence except for laughter at the funny bits, a few awwws at the (for lack of a better word) love scenes between Wall*E and Eve, and one high-pitched shriek of 'Oh no!' in the scene where Wall*E is hanging onto Eve's ship as it takes off. As for the second point, after the film was over, I'm pretty sure I saw a five-year-old carving Al Gore's face into his arm. Sorry conservatives, another one lost.

I'd put it into the upper tier of Pixar films, along with Incredibles and Finding Nemo. Ratatouille and the Toy Stories make up the second tier, then you've got Monsters Inc., Cars and Bug's Life. This may be influencing the poll, but, well, who gives a damn. Think for yourself, people. Pretend you're the ship's captain and I'm Auto and rebel against my tyranny. Fun fact: it is actually a Pixar company rule that John Ratzenberger does a voice role in every one of their movies. That's very cool. It's enough to put him in the top five in the Best Post-Cheers Career Championship. Last place, to no one's surprise, is Rhea Perlman. Second last is Shelley Long. Third last is Nicolas Colasanto...ouch, sorry ladies.


Spoiler alert: Young People Fucking contains several young people, fucking. It's an overall amusing movie, but while I was laughing and smiling throughout, I'd hesitate to call it genuinely hilarious. A good 60 percent of the humour in the movie comes from recognizing situations or lines of dialogue that ring a bell for anyone who has been in a relationship. ("So why'd you find it so funny, Mark?" Shut up, Voice of Reason!) For those unfamiliar with the concept, the movie is structured into vignettes of five couples...well, four couples and a threesome all engaging in different sexual relationships. One group is the long-term couple, one group is on a first date, another are exes, etc. I'm not sure if I particularly favoured any of the couples, though the exes were the most realistic and the threesome was the funniest. The first date couple was probably the weakest, just because the acting was terrible. You know how most British actors seem good just because of their accents and generally elevated demeanor? Well, the guy in the first date was British and yet still terrible. The actress, a former Playboy model (thank you IMDB) wasn't any better. I don't get it! Hef's drama program is usually so reliable! Who can forget Carmen Electra's electra-fying performance as Lady Macbeth?

The other bit of comedy in YPF is, since it's a Canadian film, trying to identify the actors from what low-rent Canadian shows or commercials you've seen them in. "Ooh ooh, he was in an episode of Corner Gas!" "Oh, it's that guy from Billable Hours!" "I think she was on that CBC Hockey Wives show!" Good times. It reminded me of my days studying Canadian film in university, when I'm pretty sure Don McKellar was in every movie made in Canada between 1990 and 1995.

I look forward to the sequel, Middle-Aged People Fucking, starring Andrea Martin, the bearded guy from the Canadian Tire ads and Elvira Kurt. Man, I hope they're not the threesome.


From top to bottom, I'd rank them Wall*E, Get Smart, Young People Fucking, Wanted and the Happening.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Casey Effect (or, why the Blue Jays suck)

The Blue Jays have been near-historically bad at hitting into double plays and hitting with runners in scoring position this year, and baseball fans throughout Toronto have been puzzled over why a team comprised of, on paper, solid hitters would all suddenly suck en masse. Theories have included fired hitting coach Gary "Take" Denbo, a realization that the Jays' hitters just might not be that good, or even just dumb luck.

But everyone is overlooking the real reason: history.

2008 marks the 120th anniversary of Ernest Thayer's legendary baseball poem 'Casey At The Bat.' Everyone knows this classic tale of the Mighty Casey (a character who was half-myth, half-Mark McGwire, half-Paul Bunyan, half-Roy Hobbs) striking out with two men on and his team down by two in the ninth inning. As Jays fans will recognize, you can substitute Casey's name for Matt Stairs, Alex Rios, Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, etc. in many real-life on-field situations this season.

And it suddenly occurred to me, the Jays aren't sucking just 'cuz. They're sucking due to a heretofore secretive tribute to Thayer's poem conceived by Major League Baseball. Every team with a player named Casey has to be terrible at the plate this year. Call it the 'Casey Effect.' Observe...

* Toronto, Casey Janssen. Even though Janssen has been injured all year, it still counts.

* Detroit, Casey Fossum. The Tigers are actually a pretty good hitting club, but certainly are below expectations given their powerful lineup. Perhaps the 'Casey Effect' only applied to their win-loss record. Also, Casey Fossum is still in the majors?! He's got to be one of the 10 worst players in baseball.

* Cleveland, Casey Blake. The Tribe have a team OPS of .714. Yikes. Perhaps they were doubly penalized since (here's a great trivia question) Flynn and Blake were the two guys who were on base ahead of Casey. You remember: "But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake/And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake." I'm going to start a movement to bring back 'lulu' and 'cake' as ways of describing crappy players.

* Kansas City, no players, but the team is near the bottom in every hitting category and K.C. = Casey. Yay homonyms!

* Los Angeles/Anaheim, Casey Kotchman. The Angels have a team OPS of .697, yet are defying all pythagorean projections by sporting a 51-34 record, and they'll probably walk away with the AL West title. Weird. Christopher Lloyd-manipulation-level weird.

* Boston, Sean Casey. Ok, here's the exception that proves the rule. Boston pretty much lived through 86 years of suffering through Mudville's heartbreak, so they were given a pass. It's possible MLB excused the Red Sox because Casey is such a nice guy. Seriously, Sean Casey's main claim to fame as a ballplayer is that he is well-regarded as probably the nicest guy in the majors. His nickname is 'the Mayor,' which I'm not totally sure is the best term of endearment. Does this mean Manny and Big Papi have to be ready with a truckload of TNT in case Casey turns into a giant snake monster?

You might think that it would be strange and pointless for MLB to engage in a league-wide conspiracy like this. Really? Explain why Barry Bonds hasn't been signed yet. More like Collusion At The Bat, brother.

N.B. Ok, two Casey Blake anecdotes. First, my pals and I caught a game in Cleveland a few years ago and had some time to kill during a rain delay. So we were looking through the Indians' team magazine, and one of the features was a piece asking a bunch of little kids about who their favourite player was. One seven-year-old liked Casey Blake because, quote, "he gets a lot of action." I presume the kid meant Blake was an exciting player or something, but that didn't stop us from making a bunch of jokes at Blake's expense for the rest of the trip (and, for all time). Let's just say some cracks were made about Blake liking Michael Jackson and Gary Glitter albums, if you catch my drift.

The second anecdote comes from a Jays/Indians game from last year. My friend Lori took notice of Blake's face on the video screen and said "I wouldn't mind being Lady Blake." This led to us referring to Casey as 'Lord Blake' for the rest of the game in hoity-toity British accents. Unfortunately for Lori, she's not a seven-year-old boy, so it will be tough to win Lord Blake's heart.