Sunday, May 30, 2010

Zach Galifianakis vs. Ben Stiller

These never stop being funny. Good additional bit of unintentional comedy: Ben Stiller suddenly looks SO OLD.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fish Tank/An Education

As a former film major, I can recognize a good essay topic when I see one. Coming soon to a cinematic gender studies class at a university near you, some enterprising young film student will concoct a piece titled "Swimming Upstream: Portrayals Of British Femininity In Opposition To A Male-Dominated Culture In Fish Tank And An Education." Hell, maybe they can even toss a Jane Austen film in there to really connect it up through the ages. (I'm well aware that this title sucks, by the way. The worst parts of my papers were always my least, that's what I tell myself. My professors might've argued otherwise.) The long and short of is that Fish Tank and An Education tell remarkably similar stories in very different fashions. Both films are about teenage women growing up in England, falling for older men, and trying to carve a niche for themselves in a world that doesn't seem to want to make room for them. Now, not being a young woman growing up in England, I can't really directly relate to the situation, so therefore my opinion of both movies is largely coloured by how believable I found the heroine's predicament.

An Education is designed for you to like it --- it's the bigger-budget production, has a pluckier heroine and makes 1960's London and Paris look like the bee's knees. But the problem at the root of the picture is that I never sympathized with Jenny (Carey Mulligan*) for a moment. She faces the choice of either continuing her high school education and then studying English at Oxford, or getting engaged to the dashing stranger David (Peter Sarsgaard) that sweeps her off her feet. The audience is theoretically supposed to embrace Jenny escaping her drab world and get as seduced as she does by David's world, while still noticing the little warning signs that things won't turn out well. This would be well and good except director Lone Scherfig makes the "little warning signs" about as tall as Dikembe Mutumbo. First of all, it's Peter Sarsgaard, one of the naturally more off-putting actors in film today. OF COURSE he'll turn out to be a heel. I'm not spoiling anything for you, folks, since he might as well be wearing a big 'villain' stamp on his forehead. Defenders of the film might acknowledge that you're supposed to easily note the trouble that Jenny is getting herself into since she's a teenage girl being seduced, but David's phoniness is presented in such an overt way that you don't feel sorry for Jenny, but rather think she's a dope for a) falling for it and b) being so shallow. There's a difference between being seduced and being suckered, and it really undermines Jenny's intelligence (which, as we're reminded, she has in spades) to have her so easily fooled by Sarsgaard's bullshit.

Fish Tank director Andrea Arnold avoids this problem rather elegantly, which is probably the only time you'll see that word used in conjunction with this purposely inelegant film. Whereas you're supposed to like and sympathize with Jenny, it's much harder to like Mia, the combative, somewhat ferocious, lower-class would-be dancer from the modern-day Essex projects who will just as soon as headbutt you as look at you. (She actually does headbutt someone in the first five minutes of the movie. It's awesome.) Katie Jarvis doesn't so much say Mia's lines as she does spit them out. It's a charmless performance, but hardly an unsympathetic one. Mia's situation is so dire, in fact, that you can't help but feel sorry for her. The stakes are a lot higher in Fish Tank than in An Education. The worst thing that can happen to Jenny is that she might have to enroll in school again or re-take her A-Level tests. The worst thing that can happen to Mia is, well lord, you name it. The feeling of impending dread is always near, and the fact that Mia's only avenue of escape is her modest goal of being a hip-hop dancer underscores the lack of options open to her given her family situation, upbringing and class.

It all culminates with a stunning sequence that takes place at the home of Mia's mother's boyfriend Connor, played by Michael Fassbender. Mia shows up at the house uninvited and discovers something about Connor. What follows is about 10-15 minutes of pure tension since Mia chooses to vent her anger in a potentially frightening way, and you wonder just where the movie is going with this. "Fish Tank" is not perfectly filmed, but wow, this sequence just might be the most suspenseful scene I've seen in a while. I'm being sparse on the details here, which is a sign of endorsement in itself --- with An Education, I don't mind spoiling parts, but with Fish Tank I want you to see it for yourself.

While I do prefer Fish Tank as a movie, it's a narrower call than you might think given how much I've ragged on An Education. The latter film is slicker, tells its story in a smoother way and the performances do a lot to carry the predictable story. Fish Tank is shot in almost a documentary style, leading to long stretches where you'll be checking your watch. I dare say it all pays off given that great scene at Connor's house, but it's a bit of a slog to get there. There's also a subplot about a horse that's pretty pointless. An Education is more entertaining but you'll forget about it five minutes after you leave the theatre, whereas Fish Tank isn't as easy to get into but it'll make you think more. Put it this way: if you actually do find that hypothetical essay linking these two films, the student will probably spend five pages on Scherfig's movie and 10 pages on Arnold's movie. And if the phrase 'compare and contrast' is used in the introduction, then brother, that's going to be one lazily-written essay.

* = Carey Mulligan reminds me of the anecdote from Joe Posnanski's book about the legendary Buck O'Neill. They're watching batting practice, when Buck points to Willy Taveras and says he looks like a young Willie Mays. Joe was astonished --- Taveras was and is a pretty mediocre outfielder. What, Joe asked, did the wise old O'Neill see in Taveras that reminded him of the great Mays? O'Neill responded by saving that, no, Taveras just physically looked a lot like Willie Mays in terms of facial features. That anecdote applies to Ms. Mulligan since she reminds me of a young Judi Dench. The resemblance is uncanny. It's even more pronounced since Mulligan adopted the short-cut, pixieish hairstyle that looks distinguished when you're in your seventies but looks dopey when you're young. Fortunately for Mulligan, she's a pretty good actress, so the gap talent-wise between she and Dench is a lot smaller than the yawning chasm between Mays and Willy Taveras.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost Finale: Live Alone, Die Together

I probably could've done without the light shining in through the church door. But aside from that, the Lost finale fulfilled my expectations as a conclusion for a truly unique and, yeah, I'd even argue great, television series. I wouldn't say that LOST was my favourite show ever, but it was certainly the one I spent the most time on --- hours spent discussing it friends, analyzing it on message boards, pouring over Lostpedia and writing big-ass blog posts about the show. So, to end things off, it only seems appropriate that we cover "The End" in one final big-ass blog post. I'll put my comments in a numbered list since I have a thing for numbers.

1. So, the ending. There seemed to be a bit of confusion about exactly happened in that church there, but it seemed fairly clear to me. NO, they weren't all dead from the beginning and the whole show was a dream. All of the stuff that happened on the Island actually happened. The alternate reality was itself the 'purgatory' or 'waiting room to the afterlife' or whatever you want to call it. It's almost like Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse got so tired of hearing the fan theories about how the Island was purgatory that they decided to actually feature a purgatory itself on the show. As Christian explained, the rules of the alternate universe seemed to be that everyone there was bonded together by the one defining incident of their lives, namely the plane crash and aftermath. They had all died at different times, but were all 'waiting' for simultaneously realize their fates and thus all be able to 'let go' and move onto the afterlife. Kudos to LOST for the multi-denominational stained glass window in the church to avoid any specific definition of what this afterlife was, though as Kate even chuckled at in the episode, having a guy named 'Christian Shepherd' was kind of a giveaway. Those who were ready moved on, and those who weren't stayed behind, like Ben (maybe to spend more time with Alex) or Eloise Hawking (to spend more time with her son) or Daniel and Charlotte (to spend more time with each other). If you need a quick sketch of what was going on there, remember the ending of 'Titanic' when Rose has that flash of herself as a young woman back on the boat with everyone crowded around the stairway and Jack taking her hand? It was sort of like that. It was her alt-verse, so to speak. Except presumably with fewer gun battles. The only part of LOST's ending I found to be really cheesy was that aforementioned bright light flooding through the church door when Christian left. That was a bit much. but I guess I can handle a little cheese if it occurs in literally the last minute of the episode.

2. If you're going to have a semi-cast reunion for the last episode, though, one can't help but notice who wasn't there. No Michael. No Walt. No Lapidus. No Miles, which was perhaps the most confusing since he was right there in the alt-verse. No Ana Lucia, since she somewhat arbitrarily was deemed 'not ready' by Desmond. No Mr. Eko, and man alive, did I ever think he was popping up. C'mon, they were even in a church! Couldn't he have been the priest presiding over this service or whatever? I guess whomever wasn't there can just fall into the Ben category of not being prepared to go into the afterlife yet. Also, going by the 'this was the seminal event of their lives' rule, I guess that explained why it was pretty much couples-only: Jack/Kate, Desmond/Penny, Claire/Charlie, Sun/Jin, Sayid/Shannon, Rose/Bernard, Sawyer/Juliet, Hurley/Libby. The only singles along for the ride were Locke and Boone. Or were they singles? Maybe when the two of them were out on one of those boar hunts or were digging up the Hatch, a look was exchanged and the sparks flew. Let's save that one for the LOST fan-fiction websites...

3. I really wish Michael had shown up just so he could've joined Desmond and Hurley as the guys in charge of rounding everyone up. Hurley was pretty laid-back about it. Desmond was a bit more aggressive (i.e. arranging a prison break and hitting Locke with his car*). Michael, though, would've been a bit too aggressive. Like, he would've run to Jin and started yelling, "Hey man, we're in an alternate universe! Don't you get it?! An ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLT!"

* = This

4. Terry O'Quinn will presumably get another supporting actor nomination at the Emmys this year, and rightly so (though John Lithgow is winning that Emmy in a walk, but that's for another post). O'Quinn has had a tough job this season, playing a character that was clearly not John Locke but needed some subtle shadings. If O'Quinn just played it straight up 100 percent Man In Black, or if he had played it just as 'Evil Locke,' it wouldn't have been as effective. Instead, O'Quinn made his character about two-thirds MIB, one-third John Locke to keep us all both on edge and at the same time making it reasonable that this disguise could fool people. I mean, the Others knew about seeing spirits and burned the bodies of their dead to make sure that MIB couldn't pose in their identities, and yet Faux-Locke was still so convincing that they marched him right up to Jacob's lair. O'Quinn played a third character in the alt-version of Locke, but then got a few more minutes to bring back the beloved original John once he started wiggling his toes and had his 'flashes.' Really tremendous work from O'Quinn this season, though I guess that's par for the course from this guy. When you think of LOST in the future, he'll be the first actor that pops into your head.

5. Hey, about that Other body-burning thing, if they had burned the original Locke's corpse and set it out to sea like they did to Paula "Trixie from Deadwood" Malcolmson's Other character way back in the day, would that have hurt the MIB's disguise or harmed him somehow? Or would he have reverted back to Titus Welliver mode? These are the kinds of outside-the-box ideas you have to employ when you're fighting a superpowerful crazy smoke monster.

6. Okay, so now that I've expressed how I liked the ending and the reveal of the alt-verse, here's where I pick out the inconsistencies! I would've loved to have gotten a brief 'history of the Island' in the alternate reality since we all saw it on the ocean floor and Ben and Roger Linus were there at one point in their lives. So it did exist in this purgatory world. My question is, why bother? If the alt-verse was something that, as Christian said, the characters created themselves as a 'place to meet,' did one of them decide that it would be fun to pretend that the Island had sunk after the atom bomb's explosion? That was probably Juliet's suggestion, after first slapping ghost Jack across the face for getting her killed in that dumb-ass plan to begin with. Maybe that's what caused their ghost-divorce.

7. I realize that the producers had to fill these little alt-verse side-flashes with drama, but as I mentioned earlier, there sure were a lot of gunfights, carnage and other strife for a purgatory. I mean, Jack got to live a pretty nice life still being a doctor and banging Juliet and having a son, but Kate was still a fugitive, Jin and Sun were still terrorized by Mr. Paik and never did get to be with their daughter, Charlie was a junkie burnout, Sayid was a killer, etc. It was probably great for them to see all their old buds back at the church, but the previous 20-30 years of their alt-lives leading up to that moment weren't all roses and unicorns.

8. Hurley as the 'new Jacob' ended up being a suitable end for his character given that he was Jacob's main conduit all season. As Ben put it, what Hurley did best was look out for everyone, thus making him the ideal candidate to be the Island's new protector. We can all presume that Hurley did a much better job than Jacob or his Mother did, and that he, Ben, Cindy the stewardess, the two kids from the tail section and the other Others lived happily ever after for many years. Hurley and Ben giving each other a shout-out in the alt-verse about this imagined time was a cool touch, if also for logistical reasons (since it showed that time was running differently here and that the various characters had died at various times). Ben as the 'new Richard Alpert' was another good touch, though I probably laughed for the wrong reason when Hurley said that Ben was a pretty good number two. I thought that was a subtle reference to the fact that Ben was such a great shit of a villain over the series. Or, I'm Peter Griffin and can't avoid giggling childishly at any poop reference.

9. Anyone else want to see the adventures of Hurley as Island protector, with Ben as his piece of, number two? Or see how Desmond got off the Island again? (I'm guessing Ben just showed him the frozen donkey wheel and Des took a ride to the Tunisian desert.) Or how the "Ajira Six" adjusted to getting back to the mainland? All sorts of little side-stories involved in that one; Richard adjusting to aging, Miles spending the millions he made from those diamonds he snatched from Nikki and Paulo's graves, Frank somehow trying to explain the plane crash to his bosses at Ajira, etc. I can presume that Kate and Claire ended up raising Aaron together, and Sawyer went back to raise his own daughter. Hey, Kate knows Sawyer's babymama, maybe they all arranged playdates and Aaron and Clementine ended up getting married themselves years later, like how the Will & Grace finale ended up. Sorry if I spoiled the W&G finale for those of you who were waiting to see it, all one of you. The bottom line is, there's plenty of material here for LOST-related novels and aftermath stuff, no matter what the creators say about the story being over. Will & Grace fans, sorry, that one really is over. Deal with it.

10. One complaint = all this time over six seasons and we never found out the origin of the 'Hurley' nickname? Ok, my theory, his dad was really into motorcycles, right? When he was little, Hugo tried to say the word 'Harley' but it came out as 'Hurley,' It became a family nickname and stuck with him forever. Boom, done, finito, I solved that mystery in five seconds.

11. C'mon, they couldn't have had the Man In Black turn into the Smoke Monster just ONCE more for old time's sake? I admit I was disappointed by seeing this big villain go down in such an anti-climactic fashion --- after all that, Kate shoots him and Jack kicks him off a cliff like a piece of trash? How was the bullet able to hurt him? And shouldn't Jack and the MIB not have been able to kill each other as per the Island rules? BUT, then it occurred to me that it made total sense since Desmond had turned off the energy source at that point, so the MIB had seemingly lost all of his powers. He was mortal again, so not only was Jack able to bloody him up, but Kate was able to put him down with one crack shot. Though, I guess technically, had the MIB lost all his powers, he probably should've morphed from Locke form back into his original form, but hey, the guest star budget was probably blown out enough in this episode that they didn't want to bother flying Titus Welliver back for one more guest shot.

12. And, one more great thing about that fight scene is that it included a JUMP PUNCH. My pal Dave and I have had a running joke about the brutality of the 'jump punch' fighting move ever since we saw it in a trailer for that immortal Frankie Muniz vehicle, "Agent Cody Banks." So it just about cracked me up completely when Jack and MIB took off in a dead sprint towards each other and Jack leapt off a rock to deliver a devastating jump punch. Even better, the show cut to commercial with Jack in mid-air so I had a few seconds to laugh and text Dave. His response was "'LOCKE!!!' Frankie Muniz would be proud."

13. Speaking of commercials, I dunno how many of you were watching the American feed of the show, but Target stepped up with a number of clever Lost-themed ads for its products. Like, showing the Monster flying around and then noting that Target sells smoke detectors for $11.99. Well played, advertisers. You were really on 'target' with that one. BWA HA HA HA! ("And that, children, concludes the story of why Mark never got a job in advertising.")

14. At the opposite end of the spectrum (and yet equally awesome) were a series of really, really cheesy ads for a local car dealership. It showed a guy running through a 'jungle' pursued by a 'smoke monster' until he finally comes across the dealership and is saved. When I say jungle, I really mean a thinly-wooded area that looked like the back end of a suburban public park. And when I say smoke monster, I mean a black dot superimposed over the screen. It was hilarious. Even better, the dealership's name was something like Dick Ice Chevrolet...the 'Ice' part isn't right but it was something similar to that, and the Dick is definitely true. I'd do a web search to find out the name for sure, but I'm afraid of what I find if I type 'Dick + Car Dealership' into Google.

15. Sawyer and Juliet finally get their "let's go for coffee" dialogue from the premiere in, though it was rushed in such a way that it felt like a bit of a shoehorn. I almost feel like their bit about plugging in the candy machine so it'll start right up again should've been the words that Juliet mumbled in 'LA X' since it not only would've been more mysterious, but because that dialogue was such a hilariously off-hand way of summing up what Desmond and Jack did with the light source at the heart of the Island.

16. Of the major characters, I felt that the only one who got minimized was Sayid. He spent most of his time as a zombified version of himself, only to suddenly have a change of heart in the submarine and suddenly revert back to being the normal, heroic Sayid trying to protect everyone from the bomb blast. And aside from his one centric episode, Sayid had very little role in the alternate universe. Even his death got the short shrift in the wake of the emotional Sun/Jin drowning scene, though I guess one could argue that Sayid really 'died' in the premiere. All in all, I just wish that Sayid could've had a bigger overall role in things since he was such a strong character over the rest of the series. Naveen Andrews' real accent was more apparent than ever this season, so maybe he just figured 'Oy mate, if I'm not going to 'ave a big role, I'm just gonna 'alf-ass it with me accent then, pip pip!' (English accent approximated.)

17. It was very interesting, though, that Sayid's true love was really Shannon all along. Part of me thinks this is because Maggie Grace was a former cast member and Andrea "Nadia" Gabriel wasn't, but Nadia's role in the alt-verse seemed to confirm Sayid's belief that the two of them were never meant to be together. So it's Shannon instead, and frankly, it's nice that in the end this much weight was given to a relationship that seemed to come out of nowhere when it developed. Literally, it came about due to Naveen Andrews suggesting that it would be cool and unusual to have a love story between an Iraqi soldier and a 'Miss America' type, and the writers agreed. Apparently, the writers also decided to base Ben Linus' manipulative abilities on those of Naveen Andrews, since damn, that's some good convincing. On second thought, maybe Naveen was cool about being sidelined for most of the final season after getting so much play from all sorts of women in the first five years --- Shannon, Nadia, Ilana, that assassin who worked for the Economist, and who knows what he and Rousseau got up to when she had him shackled up in her camp.

18. The guy who kind of gets the shaft in the Sayid/Shannon party, though, is Boone. He gets to sit around and watch Sayid mack on his sister for all eternity. Too bad Boone's heaven isn't a place where step-siblings can get it on without it being frowned upon by society.

19. Nice touch by the producers to put Grace, Ian Somerhalder, and everyone in the episode who had ever been main cast (plus important supporting characters like Penny, Rose, Bernard, Eloise, Christian and Pierre Chang) into the opening credits one last time. I think the only actual guest stars listed were the guy who played Charlie's brother, and the kid who played Jack's son.

20. Oh yeah, Jack and Juliet's son. My theory about David actually being the Monster hiding himself in the alternate reality ended up being, ah, just slightly off-base. As it turned out, David was pretty pointless. Was his whole existence in the purgatory just to serve as a vehicle for Jack to get over his daddy issues and for Juliet to be a mother herself? I guess he fulfilled his duty then, since Jack and Juliet seemed pretty cool about just ditching David to go up into heaven. (Though, in fairness, this is a problem that many parents of miscreant children will have when the Rapture comes.)

21. Juliet ended up being a pretty obvious choice as Jack's ex and the mother of his son since she was basically the only female character left who wasn't accounted for and you knew Juliet had to show up somewhere. Had my 'David is the Monster' theory been true, his mother could've been revealed as the MIB's actual mother from centuries ago who Allison Janney killed, which would've been a real Oh Shit moment of impending doom. This was still in play even into the final episode itself since Juliet was introduced to the alt-verse not as David's mother but as Sun's baby doctor. The writers should've taken that opportunity to hook up Juliet and Sawyer via that connection and then make a totally random choice as Jack's ex-wife. Maybe Bai Ling, as a shout-out to LOST's worst-ever episode. Or an even more random in-show choice, like, I dunno, Charlie's ex-girlfriend when he was a copier salesman. Or cast Neve Campbell as David's mother as a rib on Matthew Fox. So many options!

22. I can't tell who would have the larger bragging rights in the afterlife between Jack and Sawyer in regards to Juliet. "Hey Doc, I'm banging your ex-wife." "Oh yeah? Well I had a kid with the love of your life! And then we had an apparently amicable divorce! So there!" On second thought, Sawyer wins.

23. Loss of bragging rights aside, you know who was awesome this season? Jack. If Season Six did anything, it totally rehabilitated Jack's character and gave us a reason why this guy deserved to be the main character of the ensemble for six years. Once Jack embraced the Island and became a man of faith, he became 100 percent less irritating. Though, since the alt-verse turned out to have no connection to the atomic bomb, then it turns out that Juliet's death really was for nothing. Huh. Well, bad call on that one, Jack. Otherwise you were cool.

24. One of the big turning points is that over the first five seasons, Jack's leadership decisions were pretty much consistently terrible, yet everyone continued to listen to him and trust him regardless. In season six, though, Jack was on point. He figured out that as a candidate, he was special. He figured out that the MIB couldn't kill the candidates himself, thus why he had to try and trick them. And he was right about Desmond being a weapon sent by Jacob. After all, if Desmond doesn't turn off the light source, the Monster can't be killed. I guess after The Mother used the light source to create the rule that Jacob and the MIB couldn't harm each other, Jacob's own loophole around the rule was to have someone with super electromagnetic resistance turn the light source off. Smooth move, Jacob...

25. ...if a bit risky since, y'know, the Island actually would've been destroyed had Jack not put that stone back in the light source's hole. Maybe Jacob knew his brother fought like a wuss and anyone with an ounce of fighting skill could kill him and flip the light source back on in no time. Though Jack was getting his ass kicked by the MIB until Kate showed up. Perhaps that explains why Jacob was willing to let Kate be a candidate again last episode. "Yeah Jack, thanks for offering to be the Island protector and all, sure you don't want another crack at it, Kate? Or how about you, Sawyer? Even Hurley? Come on Hugo, you can use your gut for some Roy Nelson-esque ground-and-pound. That's right, I saw the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter. I'm Jacob! I see everything! My lighthouse mirror gets Spike TV!"

26. Given that Jack's body ended up being launched into the same spot that the MIB did when he went down into the source light, part of me thought that we'd see a white smoke monster (a.k.a. Jack's transformed self) flying around the Island to end the episode. I can't decide if that would've been spectacular or lame.

27. The ending we did see was kind of predictable, and in fact many folks did forecast this as how LOST would conclude ever since Lindelof stated years ago that he already had the series' final shot planned out. Jack's eye closing, with Vincent there and even Christian's sneaker still hanging on the tree, was the reversal of how the series began and it was all nice and thematically fitting. Vincent being there is just more proof that dogs are awesome.

28. Though, in classic LOST fashion, they also gave us something else to over-analyze since the 'real' final shot was that odd look at the plane wreckage over the closing credits. Was that to set off speculation that Oceanic 815 did crash and the whole thing was just a dying Jack's fever dream? Or did the producers just want to show that original setting one last time? Argh, more theories! Lostpedia will run forever!

29. As one poster on the Television Without Pity message boards put it, "I guess Heaven is Evangeline Lilly in a tight black dress, right?" Damn straight, son. I think I'm allowed one shallow observation out of all these, right?

30. Okay two shallow observations: Rebecca Mader looked 100 times hotter when they got her out of the jungle and into formal wear. Though Lilly takes the overall prize since she looked great whether in flashbacks or on the Island in Kate's never-ending supply of tank tops and jeans. I think she shopped at the same store on the Island where Locke kept buying his dark-hued t-shirts.

31. Another interesting quirk of the alt-verse as an afterlife is that it gave us some final confirmation on who the worst villains of LOST really were. Ben, Ethan, Widmore and Eloise all got to live normal lives, perhaps showing that at worst they were just misguided about what was to be done on the Island. Keamy the heartless mercenary? He gets violently killed again. Mikhail the mad Russian? Violently killed again and loses his eye again. Anthony Cooper, awful father and murderous con man? Ends up a vegetable. Way to mete out the punishment, Non-Denominational Supreme Deity of Lost!

32. Ok, time for a general criticism of the season as a whole. As I mentioned earlier about Sayid, it seemed like the writers found themselves with too many characters and too few parts in the last season, as well as (ironically) too much time left to tell the rest of their story. Think about how much time the characters spent walking from place to place around the Island (or boating across to the Hydra) and you'll realize that the storytelling wasn't quite as organic as it had seemed in past years. Pretty much the entire Temple storyline was wasted time, as they ended up being just another group of Others who confusingly knew about candidates (while Ben or Richard inexplicably didn't). The more I think about the Temple stuff, the less sense it makes. Did Dogen serve any purpose aside from being generally cool and bringing a baseball to the Island so Hurley and Ben can play catch for all eternity? Was Lennon, his translator, the most pointless character in the history of LOST? (I vote yes --- I literally think the producers just thought it would be cool to have John Hawkes, a good actor, on the show but didn't think so far ahead as to actually give him a purpose.) Why was the seriousness of the Temple Others immediately undercut by having the Losties just wander out of the Temple whenever they liked it? Man, the more you think about that sidebar storyline, it was even more drawn out than Jack, Kate and Sawyer on Hydra Island in season three.

33. But onto my beef about the characters. As noted, Dogen and Lennon did nothing. Ilana was useless. Frank was useless aside from simply being the guy who would fly Ajira 316 away at the end. Miles had nothing to do but deliver snarky one-liners. Once we got Richard's flashback episode out of the way, he didn't have anything to do. Claire didn't have much to do, which made zero sense since a Claire-centric flashback episode about her three years of solitary on the Island seemed like a slam dunk. Literally two-thirds of Jin and Sun's dialogue this season was some variation on "I need to find my husband/wife." Widmore's presence on the Island ended up being pretty overblown than as a vehicle to get Desmond there, and Zoe got way too much screentime for an entirely extraneous character. Desmond himself had a lot to do in the endgame but was MIA for the first half of the season. A few years back, I think after the Michelle Rodriguez/Cynthia Watros DUI situation, Darlton were asked in an interview about how any other sudden character departures would affect the show's storyline. Their answer was that while every character was important and they'd hate to lose any more actors, but the mythology of the show was loose enough that they could fit several characters into various roles in the story. I now see what they meant. Pretty much any combination of surviving Losties could've been the final candidates, it was just a question of who would still be on the show at the end. As it happened, the cast apparently watched their drinking and driving, since nobody left and suddenly there was a big surplus of people by the sixth season. This was definitely a year that could've had some fat trimmed off. We had 18.5 hours of Lost this season that could've easily been a much tighter 15-episode run. Maybe I'm just getting used to short-season programs like "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men" that manages to squeeze in everything they can into 12 or 13 episodes per year.

34. But, that being said, LOST is probably the kind of show where I'd rather have too much ground covered than too little. I'm at least glad we saw the Temple rather than have that hang over the series as a mystery, though we never really figured out its whole deal. I'm glad we got some answer to the Jacob/Man In Black origin, though that episode had its own flaws. Really, the onus hanging over the final season of the show was that it HAD to be spectacular and it HAD to answer everything. No show could live up to that kind of burden but I believe the creators did their best to fill in as many blanks as they could. As a would-be writer myself, I know first-hand that there's nothing harder than an ending, especially not with a show that has as many moving parts as Lost did. Overall, I liked this season and thought it brought the series to a satisfying end. And if you had to use your brain a bit to extrapolate some of the Island's history yourself, well, that's what the show is all about anyway.

35. And, as final episodes go, "The End" was pretty solid. Darlton's constant mantra that the finale would be all about the characters was a tipoff that it wouldn't be very Island mythology-heavy, but man, it certainly brought the emotion. Seeing all the old characters again in the alt-verse never stopped being cool, and having several of them have their memory flashes in this episode really brought all of those cameos to a climax. Watching the series again in the future, an otherwise average episode like "D.O.C." in the third season will have more impact when you remember that Juliet examining Sun is the moment that triggers Sun's memories in the alt-verse. I think the Claire/Charlie reunion was the one that moved me the most just because those two characters had been separated for so long and their relationship was such a big part of the first three seasons that it was good to see them finally together again.

36. Between this show ending and 24 wrapping up this season, I've inevitably been thinking about the final episodes of some of my other favourite series. Some have been tremendous (The Wire, Angel, Arrested Development, Extras, The UK Office, Star Trek: The Next Generation). Some have been generally satisfying (Frasier, Friends, West Wing, Cheers). Some weren't really finales at all since the shows just weren't picked up for another season or the creators just didn't want to continue (Veronica Mars, Deadwood, Pushing Daisies, Flight Of The Conchords, Blackadder). And some were just straight-up not very good (Buffy, Seinfeld). I'd put LOST's finale into that second category, though on a higher scale since those other series were all sort of running on fumes by their final days. LOST got to tell its story and go out more or less how its creators wanted, and did so on a pretty epic scale.

37. This has been said in other media outlets and by many involved with the show itself, but it might be a long time (if ever) before we see a show like LOST again on network television. In my personal case, with LOST and 24 both ending this season, I am currently watching a grand total of zero network dramas. I never got into any of the Lost knockoff sci-fi series that popped up over the last few years since, well, they all sucked, and I'm bored beyond comprehension with the spate of lawyer/doctor/cop/family dramas that overpopulate the network landscape (I watched the original Law & Order out of sentiment every once in a while, but now even that's gone). With networks getting even more conservative and focus-group oriented with their programming, I find it hard to believe that a network would green-light an absurdly expensive show about people trapped on a deserted island that ends up being a hard-to-follow sci-fi series. It was a tough sell in 2004, and it'd be an almost impossible sell now. Even if you weren't a Lost fan, you had to respect the uniqueness of a show like this being on modern network television. Though if you aren't a Lost fan, then you just really enjoy my writing to plow this deep into an over-long piece about a show you hate. So thanks, fan!

38. And, I'm spent. Geez, I really wanted to get up to 42 observations just so I could reach one of The Numbers. But that said, is there any other show that could even manage to generate 37 lengthy comments? This is the fourth straight year I've written a giant LOST-related piece for the season finale (episode recaps for S3, S5 and S6, and my "best Lost episodes ever" team-up with Kyle before the S4 finale) since this show fires up the synapses like no other. And they always seem to generate a lot of further discussion within the comments section, too, so thanks to everyone in advance for their own insights and theories about the show. What are we all going to fill my time with now? Does anyone feel like reading a novella-length piece about The Cleveland Show? No? Thank god, since I would've shuddered to write it.

39. And now I think I'm actually out of actual notes, so let's just stick to comedy. I missed all of Jimmy Kimmel's post-show interview with the cast, so I didn't see if they were all as drunk as the Cheers gang was on the Tonight Show following their finale back in 1993. But still, Kimmel's show is a great source of Lost-related comedy. Observe!

40. Great moment of unintentional comedy from the finale: Ben gets the jump on Sawyer while James is spying on the Man In Black at the well. The camera pulls back to reveal that Sawyer is hiding behind a single bush, like, 20 feet away from MIB. Way to be stealthy, Sawyer.

41. Great moment of unintentional comedy from the season: Daniel Faraday's hat. That never stopped being funny. I think that Charlotte didn't flash when she saw him simply because of that ridiculous hipster get-up that Dan was wearing. You can take a person from being a geeky scientist, but you can't take the geeky scientist out of a person.

42. Geez, the last thing I write about LOST is mocking a musician's hat? That's sad. And ironic, since that was also the last entry in my '42 observations about the Rock Of Love finale' post. You may have noticed that I've written about each candidate as it corresponded to his 'number' on Jacob's cave wall, so this is technically where I should be writing about Jin and Sun. However, their story ended pretty succinctly. So, uh, um....their love....was....the rock...upon which all of Lost was based. Wow, I can't believe I tied that back to Bret Michaels so well! And get well soon, Bret Michaels! Find a magical Island that can heal you! (p.s. Sorry Kwons, you guys get the honour of being in the post picture, is that cool?)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Nike's World Cup Ad

Geez, with commercials like this one (directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, no less), this whole 'World Cup' thing might really start to get some attention.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Summer Movie Preview (part two)

Picking right up where part one left off....

The Last Airbender
Odds Of Seeing It: 40%
Odds Of It Being Good: 25%
My pal Dave related a story of seeing the trailer for this film the other weekend. When the trailer was over, one guy booed loudly. The rest of the audience laughed. In short, M. Night Shyamalan's credibility is at an all-time low. Remember that Far Side cartoon where the caption was, "Suddenly, Dick Clark ages 200 years in 30 seconds"? That's basically how quickly it took Shyamalan to go from being the innovative director of Unbreakable to the director of an ass-bomb like 'The Happening,' arguably the worst movie of 2008. To say that Shyamalan needs a hit is an understatement. It's probably not happening here with this movie, the premise of which is essentially "Hey, what if we remade The Last Emperor and gave him SUPERPOWERZ?!?!?!"

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Odds Of Seeing It: 0%
Odds Of It Being Good: 0%
When judging the Sex and the City sequel, I gave it an NA since I wasn't in the target audience. So, you might ask, why am I judging the equally out-of-my-demographic Twilight? The funny thing is, I've even seen some SATC episodes so I had some frame of reference, whereas I know nothing of Twilight aside from what I've learned by osmosis from trailers and general pop culture. So really, I'm out of my element in just totally dismissing this movie as a surefire pile of crap and should probably just let the tween girls sigh deeply at Robert Pattinson in peace. But, that being said, this movie will be a surefire pile of crap. If you gave me the choice of watching Eclipse or watching an actual eclipse and thus running the risk of burning my retinas out....well, I'd choose to watch the Twilight movie. I mean come on, intentionally going blind? That's just crazy. But still, this movie will be terrible. The only upside is if Aziz Ansari live-tweets his Twilight-viewing experience again.

Despicable Me
Odds Of Seeing It: 70%
Odds Of It Being Good: 70%
The only thing I know about this movie is that the premise is basically "here's an animated movie about a supervillain" and the voice cast is full of actors I like-to-love. So it all seems good on paper, but then again, friggin' Marmaduke also has a voice cast of actors I like-to-love, so the jury is still out.

Odds Of Seeing It: 60%
Odds Of It Being Good: 70%
Jeffrey Jones and R. Kelly star in this Roman Polanski-directed film about a group of wayward priests who....wait a minute, sorry, wrong movie. This is actually a remake of the original 'Predator,' that featured Ahnuld, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura and T.E. Stosterone as a group of hard-boiled mercenaries battling an alien bounty hunter. The remake features such noted bad-asses as Danny Trejo, Laurence Fishburne, Walton Goggins and....uh, Topher Grace and Adrien Brody. Hm, bit of a dropoff there. While the original Predator is near and dear to my heart (it was the headline event of my buddy Grant's 10th birthday party sleepover), the concept is malleable enough that it can certainly be adjusted into another cool movie, just as long as it isn't one of those wretched Alien vs. Predator movies. I can't wait to see which two members of this cast go on to become U.S. state governors. My money is on Danny Trejo. Hard to beat his campaign slogan of "Trejo: He'll Stab Our State's Deficit Problem In The Face."

Odds Of Seeing It: 100%
Odds Of It Being Good: 100%
A quick summary of Christopher Nolan's last decade of filmmaking: The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Batman Begins, Insomnia, Memento. Good lord. When 'Insomnia,' a perfectly good mystery/thriller, is by far the worst movie on that list, you know you're an ace director. I couldn't be any more fired up for Inception, so much so that I'm purposely avoiding any possible info on even basics of what the movie is about. Apparently it's supposed to be DiCaprio going into people's minds or whatnot, but who cares, it's going to be awesome.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Odds Of Seeing It: 19%
Odds Of It Being Good: 28%
I know that when I was watching the beloved children's classic Fantasia, the only thought* running through my mind was "Hmm, this is okay, but it could use more car chases, shootouts and Nick Cage." Lo and behold, here we are. It's basically the Mickey Mouse-versus-brooms scenario except live action, Jay Baruchel is Mickey Mouse and I dunno, the brooms will know kung fu or something. Sadly, Cage is playing the sorcerer, not one of the brooms. I have low expectations here, given that Nicolas Cage is limited to doing one cool thing every five years, and he already hit that mark for 2010-15 by delivering his Big Daddy lines in 'Kick-Ass' as Adam West. See you in 2016, Nick!

* = Actually, the real thought running through my head was that Fantasia sucked. Am I the only one who feels this way? It's held up as a masterpiece of animation, which I guess it technically it from a production standpoint, but as an actual film, it was about as exciting as watching drying paint read a Margaret Atwood novel. Ol' Walt Disney clearly got a little too self-indulgent with that one. Well, I guess not totally self-indulgent, since if Walt was really running on his deepest impulses, Fantasia would've been an animated "Triumph Of The Will."

Dinner For Schmucks
Odds Of Seeing It: 100%
Odds Of It Being Good: 88%
Paul Rudd plays a guy whose boss has a monthly 'dinner of idiots,' in which the employees compete to see who can bring the biggest douche/moron possible to a dinner party. Rudd stumbles upon Steve Carell's character. Rudd/Carell is a tough comedy duo to beat, so I'm heartily on board with this movie. The fact that it has eight writers is somewhat of a red flag, but, maybe a couple of the writers were encouraged to bring along the biggest douche/moron they could find to collaborate on the script in an art-meets-real life scenario. I'm pretty sure this is how they write pro wrestling shows. Then one day, someone brought Vince McMahon to a writing session and the rest was history.

Odds Of Seeing It: 75%
Odds Of It Being Good: 72%
I like the idea of Phillip Noyce (Quiet American, Dead Calm, Harrison Ford's Jack Ryan movies) directing and Angelina Jolie can carry an action movie. But man, everything about the trailer seemed pretty hackneyed. Oh look, here's an absurdly well-trained superspy, but she doesn't know her true identity! Originality, thy name is Salt! I'm sure it'll be at worst a competent thriller, but I'm not sure it'll be one I would kick myself for not seeing if I missed it. Frankly, I'd rather see a movie starring Jolie as a grown-up Veruca Salt. That would be awesome. Especially since, in real life, Jolie landed Brad Pitt simply by repeatedly yelling, "I want it!"

Get Low
Odds Of Seeing It: 100%
Odds Of It Being Good: 97%
The premise: it's set in the 1930's, Robert Duvall plays a country hillbilly, he throws his own funeral while he's still alive, and Bill Murray is the funeral direction. Money. On paper, it looks like there's a decent chance this one will be up for a few Oscars next spring. And if this acting thing doesn't work out for Bill Murray, I think he'd make a great funeral director. Title aside, there likely won't be any scenes of Duvall and Murray grinding to Flo Rida songs.

I Love You Philip Morris
Odds Of Seeing It: 84%
Odds Of It Being Good: 85%
Lots of critical buzz around this one, which stars Jim Carrey as a con man who's trying to win the heart of his former cellmate (Ewan McGregor). If you consider how often McGregor does full frontal in his movies, he seems like a natural candidate to play a character who becomes a prison-yard object of affection. The movie apparently has nothing to do with the cigarette-maker Philip Morris, which makes the title seem unnecessarily confusing. There's no truth to the rumour that McGregor wanted to take it a step further and have his character be nicknamed 'Joe Camel' since he's hung like a

The Other Guys
Odds Of Seeing It: 95%
Odds Of It Being Good: 79%
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star as buddy cops, and that seems to be the whole movie. Oh, and I guess they're both supposed to be kind of incompetent, too. It's basically your straight-forward "Will Ferrell Movie" for the summer, so since I love Will Ferrell, this one is high on my list. Surely it has to be better than Last Of The Lost, right? Right? Wahlberg has more charisma than a talking man-ape, right? Wait, bad comparison.

Eat Pray Love
Odds Of Seeing It: 20%
Odds Of It Being Good: 31%
A woman goes on a spiritual journey to Italy, India and Indonesia in order to 'find herself' and 'experience life.' *dismissive wanking motion* Sounds to me like she just wanted to check out a lot of countries that began with the letter I. (She couldn't get to Iceland because of the ash cloud.) But don't worry folks; if you were worried that this movie was just going to be a bunch of new age claptrap about some asshole trying to justify her self-centered existence, worry not! Julia Roberts is playing the lead role! She can make any character likable and relatable! Horray?

The Expendables
Odds Of Seeing It: 100%
Odds Of It Being "Good": 100%
Why the quote marks? Since this movie is destined to be 'good' in that classic 80's action movie so-bad-its-amazing way. The whole idea, in fact, is that Sly Stallone wanted to make an old-school action movie about a team of mercenaries who play by their own rules, and then went out to cast every testosterone-dripping bad-ass he could think of to play his fellow soldiers --- Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Danny Trejo, Mickey Rourke, even office linebacker Terry Tate! Plus cameos from Bruce Willis and Ahnuld! How can this NOT be fun?

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Odds Of Seeing It: 100%
Odds Of It Being Good: 90%
Now, in case you've gone a bit off Michael Cera movies in the wake of Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist and Youth In Revolt, never fear, ol' Mark is giving his personal guarantee that this one will be good. Edgar Wright (a.k.a. the Shaun Of The Dead/Hot Fuzz guy) is directing, and it's about Cera having to 'defeat' his love interest's seven evil ex-boyfriends. It's also technically a comic-book movie (based on the Scott Pilgrim indie comic series), but think more Ghost World than superhero stuff. This just looks to be entertaining as hell, and I'll be honest, Cera still has enough build-up Arrested Development cred that I'll see his next half-dozen nebbish hipster comedies.

The Switch
Odds Of Seeing It: 21%
Odds Of It Being Good: 19%
So Jennifer Aniston wants a baby, right? So she goes to a sperm donor, right? But it turns out that her buddy Jason Bateman replaces the sperm she's supposed to inseminate herself with with his own sperm. Then he doesn't tell her about it until the kid is already in grade school. Wacky hijinks ensue! If this movie happened in real life, odds are Aniston has a friend or male relative give Bateman a solid kick in the face (or, perhaps more fittingly, balls). Bateman has a similarly Cera-sized reservoir of Arrested Development goodwill, but yeah, I think I'll be skipping this one.

Odds Of Seeing It: 20%
Odds Of It Being Good: 35%
It's a heist movie with Matt Dillon, Stringer Bell, and then a variety of terrible actors and hip-hop stars. I'm guessing this will be one of those slickly filmed-but-soulless action thrillers that you forget about the moment you leave the theatre. Hell, I've forgotten about it already and I haven't even finished the preview paragraph. Where am I? This is not my beautiful house! This is my beautiful wife!

Going The Distance
Odds Of Seeing It: 14%
Odds Of It Being Good: 34%
Drew Barrymore and the I'm A Mac guy are in a long-distance relationship. It's Chicago to Los Angeles, so it's a real distance that presents an actual obstacle, not one of those B.S. "long-distance" relationships that we have in Toronto, where one person lives downtown and the other lives north of Eglinton and they both bitch about 'how far' they have to go on the subway to see the other. (No, this isn't based on a real-life situation, why do you ask?) Since so many couples these days are faced with similar long-distance issues, there's a chance this one could strike a chord with audiences and become a seminal romantic comedy of our time. But, I'll wait for that actually happen before I buy a ticket.

Odds Of Seeing It: 70%
Odds Of It Being Good: 64%, wait, hang on. Six friends in New York City have their lives change when one of them becomes the legal guardian of a kid. Now, far be it from me to judge a movie based on the star/director's most famous role, but it's Josh Radnor. I cannot help but develop a preconceived notion that this will be like if the How I Met Your Mother gang had one more friend in the group and then Ted adopted a kid. Also, the whole idea of a quirky sitcom star suddenly writing, directing and starring in his own coming-of-life indie film was sorta ruined forever by Zach Braff in 'Garden State,' one of those movies that seemed good at the time, but gets about 20 percent worse with each passing year. I like HIMYM a hell of a lot more than I ever liked Scrubs, so I'd rather not see Radnor become a living joke like Braff did. Hanging your movie on the credibility of the Shins was, in hindsight, a tragic mistake.

Piranha 3-D
Odds Of Seeing It: 0%
Odds Of It Being Good: 5%
Once upon a time, there were a bunch of piranhas. They ate people. In 3-D! Their victims included Richard Dreyfuss, Adam Scott, Elisabeth Shue, Christopher Lloyd....wait, what? See, if this movie was just a straight-up tongue-in-cheek joke, it might be fun. But as it stands, I think you're just going to see a whole lotta red dye in water.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Summer Movie Preview (part one)

With 'Iron Man 2' now in theatres, the summer movie season has officially begun. Not a bad movie overall --- not up to the level of the original, but certainly worth a slot in the 'pretty good' section of my best comic book movies ever list from a couple of years back. One minor quibble was that it seemed just a tad bit too much of an informercial for the upcoming 'Avengers' movie, coming out in 2012 and starring Chris Evans as Captain America (first, an ? to the casting, and the Cap movie is out next year), some no-name as Thor (the Thor movie is out next year too), Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, theoretically Ed Norton as the Hulk, and probably Downey and ScarJo in cameos and so forth. Not that I'm complaining about Scarlett Johansson being in a movie, but was Black Widow really necessary here? Did she serve a purpose to the film aside from making Gwyneth Paltrow look like an old lady by comparison? (They even put Scarlett and Gwyneth together in a bunch of scenes to really drive the point home. Poor Gwyneth.) But really, I can take some Avengers hype given that the movie is being directed by none other than Joss Whedon. The odds of Summer Glau playing the Wasp and Nathan Fillion playing Hawkeye just skyrocketed.

So with IM2 out of the way, what else is on the schedule for the summer? Here's a look at some of the big upcoming pictures, combined with the odds of my actually going to go see the movie and the odds of the movie actually being worthwhile.

Letters To Juliet
Odds Of Seeing It: 1%
Odds Of It Being Good: 9%
Put it this way: unless I pick up a serious girlfriend very quickly, there is not a chance in hell I'm seeing this capital-C Chick Flick. Though, judging from the trailer, Amanda Seyfried apparently finds the love of life within the span of a week, so it's not impossible. The only interest I have in this flick is my minor delight at seeing another Veronica Mars alumnus (Seyfried) continue to get work.

Robin Hood
Odds Of Seeing It: 60%
Odds Of It Being Good: 70%
Ridley Scott has Alien, Blade Runner and Black Hawk Down on his resume, but by and large, when I think of a Ridley Scott action movie, all I think of is the word 'slog.' Too much mud and rain and darkness and gloomy cinematography. And now, here's a movie that looks like it's nothing but action scenes in the gloomy English countryside. I liked the original concept of this project much more --- a drama called 'Nottingham' that was focused on the Sheriff, with Robin Hood himself being basically a glorified cameo character who'd pop in from time to time. The catch is that Russell Crowe would've played both Robin AND the Sheriff in that one. See that movie sounded interesting, but the idea apparently got all summer blockbuster-ized by the studio and now we're left with Gladiator in the woods. Maybe the studio didn't want to call attention to the real-life duality of Cate "Maid Marian" Blanchett, whose performances seem to jump from 'fantastic' to 'eye-splittingly terrible' from film to film. It looks like the Disney animated version will retain its title as the best version of 'Robin Hood' ever put to screen. Sir Hiss kicked ass.

MAY 21
Odds Of Seeing It: 100%
Odds Of It Being Good: 66%
I've got a real soft spot for Will Forte, who I think is one of the funnier and more oddball cast members that SNL has ever had. (I had a similar soft spot for Kristen Wiig before SNL drove basically of her characters into the ground.) While I have doubts about how this sketch can be stretched over 90 minutes, hell, I'll give it a chance. The 'R' rating is a positive sign that Forte has just decided to stick all the subversive stuff he can into it.

Shrek Forever After
Odds Of Seeing It: 20%
Odds Of It Being Good: 20%
The Shrek films have been getting progressively worse with every outing, or at least more progressively aimed at children (basically the same thing). Unless it happens to be airing on a plane, I'll give this one a skip. This will presumably be the end of the Shrek franchise, but even though I'm not a fan, I'm fully in favour of it continuing indefinitely. You see, the more Shrek movies they make, the less time Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy have to film more terrible comedies. It's a public service.

MAY 28
Odds Of Seeing It: 100%
Odds Of It Being Good: 95%
Jean-Pierre Jeunet (the director of 'Amelie')'s new movie that looks about as quirky as 'Amelie' was. Sold.

The Prince Of Persia
Odds Of Seeing It: 40%
Odds Of It Being Good: 60%
Because when you want to cast a Middle-Eastern character, you go to Jake Gyllenhaal! I actually have semi-confidence in Mike Newell's ability to direct a semi-interesting action movie, but this one looks pretty generic from the outset. It'll take some strong word of mouth to actually get me into the theatre. If you offered me a ticket to the movie or the old 'Prince Of Persia' game, I'd take the game hands-down.

Sex And The City 2
Odds Of Seeing It: 0%
Odds Of It Being Good: NA
Again, the "not unless I'm suddenly in a serious relationship" card comes into play. And even if I am, I can still pitch the "hey baby, wouldn't you rather go see with with your girlfriends, maybe have dinner and martinis afterwards, and make a girls' night out of it?" plan. It's foolproof. God bless the marketing executive who thought that concept up. He saved countless boyfriends hours of awkwardness in either making up an excuse or having to actually sit through the movie. My friend Joanne took her boyfriend to see the first one, and when he was telling me about the experience, it was like listening to a veteran talk about Vietnam. By the way, the NA stems from the fact that SATC2 clearly isn't aimed at me, so why be a hater and dismiss a movie that isn't targeting me? I'll save my snark for the movie's poster, a.k.a. the most photoshopped image of all time.

(Also, more bad news for Gyllenhaal's casting. Putting this ultimate chick flick against an action movie is common summer movie counter-programming, but 'Prince Of Persia' is clearly counting on bringing some ladies out to see Gyllenhaal in a tunic. But, the SATC2 folks clearly have no fear that Jake The Persian will do anything to siphon off their audience. Again, bad casting from the POP producers. They should've just cast some unknown Middle Eastern actor to play the role at a tenth of Gyllenhall's asking price and they would've achieved the same result.)

Get Him To The Greek
Odds Of Seeing It: 89%
Odds Of It Being Good: 70%
I could see this being pretty entertaining, given that Russell Brand's character was hilarious in 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall.' But again, in that one Aldous Snow was just in a supporting role. I'm not sure what he'll be like over an entire movie. Once you take away his comic acrobatic sex with Kristen Bell, what else is there?

Odds Of Seeing It: 0%
Odds Of It Being Good: 0%
This is the one where Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl are....wait, do I even need to continue? Their presence should be enough to explain my disinterest. Anyway, they get married but he ends up being a hitman or something and they end up on the run and blergh. The trailer actually elicited groans of displeasure in one theatre audience I was part of. I'd rather see a two-hour long movie with the same title that's just a camera shot of my face as I'm listening to "Hot Fuss" and "Sam's Town" and gradually realizing that the former isn't as good as I once thought and the latter is way better than I originally thought.

Odds Of Seeing It: 0%
Odds Of It Being Good: 0%
Well, Owen Wilson has already tried real suicide once, so I guess now he's just gunning for career suicide. The cast list of this movie is painful to read. It is literally stocked with actors I enjoy lending their voices to this pile --- Wilson, Kiefer Sutherland, Steve Coogan, Emma Stone, Sam Elliott, McLovin, William H. Macy and even Thomas "Biff From Back To The Future" F. Wilson. Even worse, the beloved Judy Greer and Lee Pace will have their faces on camera as they're playing Marmaduke's owners. WTF? This is like finding a bathroom stall wall smeared with feces, then finding out that it was done by Picasso. Could it be possible that this film could be some kind of hidden subversive masterpiece? Am I judging it too harshly? Let's ask guest critic Blueby the Talking Pie. Hey Blueby, could 'Marmaduke' end up being pretty good?

Blueby: FUCK NO.

Huh. Pretty definitive. If you can't trust an anthromorphic blueberry pie, who can you trust?

Odds Of Seeing It: 15%
Odds Of It Being Good: 30%
'Splice' seems like a pretty by-the-numbers sci-fi horror movie. Two scientists tinker with genetic experimentation and (surprise surprise!) problems ensue. But I'm obliged to note that childhood crush Sarah Polley is playing one of the scientists, so if she has to star in the occasional turd to continue to fund her directorial projects, so be it.

The A-Team
Odds Of Seeing It: 90%
Odds Of It Being Good: 80%
I actually have somewhat high hopes for this. The original A-team show was a bit before my time, but there's no reason this couldn't be a perfectly acceptable team action movie. Sure, it delayed Rampage Jackson's fight with Rashad Evans by six months, but meh, small price to pay. If nothing else, the movie will raise the odds of one of the stars presenting an award with Charlize Theron.

The Karate Kid
Odds Of Seeing It: 0%
Odds Of It Being Good: 20%
Speaking of remakes of 80's classics, there's this misfire. I'm not looking forward to seeing the Jaden Smith/Jackie Chan Karate Kid, but I'm very interested in reading my pal Mario (maybe the biggest Karate Kid fan around) inevitably writing a review that just tears this movie to shreds. The chances of Mario being shushed by an usher for shouting profanities at the screen are surprisingly high, given that theatres don't even really have ushers anymore.

Jonah Hex
Odds Of Seeing It: 66%
Odds Of It Being Good: 66%
This is ostensibly a 'comic book movie,' but even a former comic geek like myself has never heard of Jonah Hex. That could be a sign that I'm not as big a geek as I seem (which couldn't possibly be true), or a sign that they're really running out of characters to build a franchise around. This one might be good for a $4 Tuesday afternoon screening at the Rainbow, but not much else. No idea about the quality. So, basically, this summary was worthless. Glad to help, everyone!

Toy Story 3
Odds Of Seeing It: 100%
Odds Of It Being Good: 100%
No-brainer. Though I really should get around to seeing Toy Story 2 at some point, eh? (Fun fact: it's been over two years since I wrote the Shame List, yet I've seen just two of the movies on that list since. Breakfast Club and Rocky II, for the record. So clearly, the trick is to make a sequel and I'll have to see the first one to catch up. English Patient 2: Revenge Of Fiennes must be green-lit.)

Odds Of Seeing It: 10%
Odds Of It Being Good: 20%
Adam Sandler going Adam Sandler things. Meh. The concept is literally "The old pals from early 90's SNL get back together to hang out, except Chris Farley is dead so we brought in Kevin James." It's a real slap in the face to Victoria Jackson, who has spent the last 15 years working her way up to being Farley-sized.

Knight And Day
Odds Of Seeing It: 25%
Odds Of It Being Good: 50%
Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Together. Since apparently the world didn't get enough of their chemistry in Vanilla Sky? I think the hook here is basically just a souped-up version of 'Killers,' except with bigger stars and a bigger budget. Still not very interesting, but I'm giving it better quality odds since Cruise movies are usually at least watchable, if not always good. Also, whoever came up with that title needs to be fired, and this is coming from someone who loves cheesy puns. It doesn't look like I'll be at the movies on the weekend of June 25.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Last Night's LOST

Had last night's LOST episode been, say, the fourth or fifth episode of the season, I probably would've been a lot more fired up. Unfortunately, the baggage of "Oh man, it's the third-last episode ever and they're finally exploring the Man in Black's origin, so this will surely be AWESOME' was just too heavy for the episode to deliver. Now, this isn't to say it was a bad episode --- taken out of that end-of-series context, it was very entertaining. But still, for an episode that promised so much background on the central villain of the series, there are still a ton of loose ends to be wrapped up. Hopefully the Mother's line of "If I answer a question, it will just lead to more questions" wasn't just a pre-emptive STFU to viewers if some of the big questions aren't clarified.

But still, we did end up getting enough information that we can create a loose history of the Island. So, the Island is located over this immense energy source. Those with knowledge of modern technological measurements (a man of science, say) can recognize this source as a vast electromagnetic build-up. Those who lived thousands of years ago and didn't have access to science (let's call them, oh, men of faith) would perhaps interpret this energy source as 'the source of goodness in the world' or some such spiritual description. The threat that "if the light goes out here, it goes out everywhere" might just be a metaphor for the trouble that would ensue if someone took this power for themselves from the Island to the rest of the world. In any case, prolonged or direct exposure to this energy can turn a normal human into sort of a demi-god with superpowers, and more often than not, it also has the side effect of making said normal human a bit of a nutcase.

Whether the title of 'Island protector' is official or not, nevertheless those develop the demi-god powers take on this role in order to keep the energy from falling into the wrong hands. Obviously, if someone were to harness the power of a time-traveling, life-prolonging, disease-healing Island, you could control the world. (coughcoughCharlesWidmorecoughcough) The Island protector isn't on the job permanently, but they can pass the duty on to someone else that they judge to be pure/able/willing enough to take over the job as soon as they ascertain that this new protector won't try to take control of the Island for his or herself. These Island protectors have existed for countless centuries, maybe as long as humanity itself has existed.

The latest in this line of protectors was the Mother, a.k.a. Allison Janney's character that was never given an actual name, so we'll just stick with the maternal designation. (And, p.s. how weird was it to suddenly see Janney pop up on LOST?) Like probably many of the protectors over the years, she had a pretty dim view of humanity since she was trying so hard to keep the Island safe in the first place. But she's also pretty tired of her role and, catch-22 alert since she thinks all humans are scum, can't leave until she finds a good candidate to take her place. When a pregnant Claudia arrives on the Island with two uncorrupted twin babies, however, Mother jumps into action. Suddenly she has her candidates. We've heard about 'claiming' earlier in the series, so my guess is that Mother claimed Jacob and his unnamed brother and thus set up the rules that prevented them from killing each other. You'll note that this rule seems to extend through followers of Jacob too, which explains why Ben and Widmore apparently weren't allowed to kill each other directly since they were both leaders of the Others.

Mother has her eye on MIB to be the next Island protector, but after he goes to live with the human settlers, she turns to Jacob. She officially passes her role onto Jacob via that weird potion and then goes to the caves and gets herself stabbed in the back by the MIB. (Who stabbed her before she could speak, which were the instructions given to Sayid and Richard, respectively, by Dogen and the MIB when they were trying to get them to kill MIB and Jacob.) Mother seems pretty okay with this, thanking MIB before dying, since she's finally been released from her duty.

Jacob, pissed over his adopted mother's murder, beats the tar out of MIB and throws him directly into the source light. This in turns transforms the MIB into the Monster and thus sets up the conflict that we're seeing play out over the entire series. Now, I've already seen a theory that states the Monster is totally separate from the MIB and is merely usurping its form in the same way it usurps Locke's form, Christian's form, Yemi's form, etc. But if that was true, then this entire Jacob/MIB plotline has been pointless since the Monster would be a different entity with a different set of motives altogether. No, it's safe to assume that the Monster actually is the MIB's soul or whatnot, morphed into the smoke thanks to the direct exposure to the Island's power source. It took away whatever soul the MIB had and made him pure vengeance --- it may have been the first case of 'the sickness' overwhelming someone and making them more or less evil (like Danielle Rousseau's shipmates, or like how Sayid was all zombie for most of the season before apparently managing to overcome it to save his pals on the submarine.)

The episode basically just confirmed several theories that were floating around about Jacob and MIB's contest. Jacob has the powers of 'life' for lack of a better term, and MIB has the powers of death since he can pose as the dead if their bodies are on the Island. But whereas past Island protectors just had to protect others from finding and using the source power, Jacob now has the secondary task of keeping his brother from getting off the Island. This is partially why Jacob is so keen on proving his brother's point about humanity wrong, since it's a fail-safe that if the MIB ever escapes, he won't automatically go hog-wild and kill everyone. MIB can't leave, however, until Jacob and all of potential candidates are dead and there's nobody to stop him, though he can't kill them himself as an extension of the "you two can't hurt each other" rule that Mother set up. Note, as well, that Jacob is a lot more democratic about finding a successor than his Mother was. He has a few hundred candidates in mind that he's monitoring to make sure he picks the absolute right person, rather than just the first kid that washes up on the beach. Jacob is also big on making sure everyone has a choice about being a successor, rather than his Mother literally telling him that "he has no choice" but to take over her role. That Jacob, what a class act.

So this semi-game between Jacob and MIB has gone on for centuries now, as different civilizations have come and gone on the Island and built temples, statues, DHARMA stations, etc. and someone even finished the MIB's underground wheel project for him. I guess that's his escape route, not a plane or a submarine --- once Jacob and the candidates are dead, MIB will turn the wheel and pop up in the Tunisian desert. I'd guess that he got someone from the Island's history to give it a test run first, and that's how the knowledge of the escape route got passed down through the generations until Ben used it again.

Now, what does all of this have to do with the alternate reality, or everything else we've seen this season? Damned if I know. But let's hope we can get through the last 3.5 hours of LOST with a few more concrete answers rather than informed fill-in-the-blanks answers. Like, if it turns out that Jacob and MIB's game is as simple as Connect Four.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Get Out Of There!

To summarize, you should probably get out of there.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

UFC 113

The UFC is back in Montreal! Sacre bleu! What will cause more bloodshed, UFC 113 or another Canadiens riot? This will be a post-loss riot, of course, since they're definitely not beating Pittsburgh.

"Hey Mark, didn't you pick Montreal to lose to Washington in the first round? And didn't you pick the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup?"

Be quiet, you!

* Alan Belcher over Patrick Cote, submission, round 3
This is an interesting fight for Belcher, who has proven to be a cut above lower-tier middleweights but seems to lose whenever he fights one of the better guys in the 185-pound division. Cote is ostensibly one of those top guys, though he also doesn't really have any truly great wins on his resume and he hasn't fought since blowing out his knee in a fight with Anderson Silva in October 2008. When in doubt, pick against the guy who's coming back after a huge layoff. Belcher is best known as 'the guy with the ugly-ass Johnny Cash tattoo on his arm.' I have no other comment than to say that he should be fighting the tattoo artist. That looks less like Cash than it does a slowly melting k.d. lang.

* Josh Koscheck over Paul Daley, TKO, round 2
Koscheck should win this easily if he just wrestles the ground game-less Daley to the mat and pounds him out. It should look like a poor man's version of the St. Pierre/Hardy fight. The problem is that Koscheck has gotten it in his head that he's now a good striker and has been eager to trade hands with Daley. If he does this, Kos will be eating the canvas. Hopefully Koscheck realizes that a win here possibly earns him a title fight with GSP and fights with his head instead of his ego. Actually wait, wouldn't his ego be technically considered part of his head? No, I guess it's just a psychological construct. I'm rambling.

* Matt Mitrione over Kimbo Slice, decision
I keep thinking this Kimbo experiment won't deliver much for the UFC, and him losing to a fourth-rate meathead like Mitrione qualifies as not delivering much. One thing Mitrione can do is take punishment, so Slice's questionable punching power won't even be enough. By the way, in terms of both mens' sheer MMA ability, this fight should be on the undercard of a free Fight Night card, not on the main card of a PPV. Or possibly as the semi-main event of a toughman contest down at your local armory.

* Sam Stout over Jeremy Stephens, decision
Once again I pick the good ol' London boy, Sam Stout. According to my brother (not a reliable witness), Stout once got into a fight during a dance at my old high school. Apparently some guy in my brother's grade hit Stout in the back of the head and then took off before the massive beatdown ensued. That guy has no doubt twisted this incident into a 'I once beat up Sam Stout, that guy is a wuss' story that he has told no less than 50,000 times. It would be awesome if the punchline to that anecdote was that the guy was Jeremy Stephens, but nope. It was actually Tito Ortiz. Tito apparently has a habit of hitting people smaller than him.

* Shogun Rua over Lyoto Machida, decision
Perhaps the best proof that Shogun 'really' won the initial fight between these two last October (on my birthday!) is that this immediate rematch wouldn't be taking place had Shogun won the decision. It was pretty clear in my mind that Rua won four of the five rounds in the first match, and had he indeed been rewarded that way by the judges, my guess is that Machida would've had to win at least one fight to earn a rematch, as is the custom for UFC champs who lose their title. It's odd to think how recent UFC history would be different had Rua won. Would Anderson Silva have stepped up to 205 to avenge his buddy Machida's defeat? Who would've gotten the first shot at Shogun? Antonio Rogerio Nogueira? Could maybe Dan Henderson have been re-signed and given a LHW title shot instead of the MW title shot he was asking for? It's weird to think about how one decision (that seemed obvious at the time) would've totally shaken up the MMA landscape.

So now it's the rematch. And this time I'm picking Rua, who I thought would be totally smoked by Machida the last time around. I thought Shogun still had to prove himself after beating only the washed-up Mark Coleman and the mostly washed-up Chuck Liddell, but boy, Shogun shut me up by taking it to Machida like literally nobody else ever has. I'm still not sure how Machida 'won' that fight in the judges' eyes.

But though I'm picking Rua, it's not a definite prediction. I have no clue what's going to happen in this one. Could Rua do it again against the still-technically-unbeaten Machida? Or has the Dragon adjusted his strategy and will come into the match better prepared this time around? This is a real toss-up to call. I feel like Rua can only win via decision, whereas Machida has a better chance of actually finishing things. But still, if it does go the full five rounds, maybe the judges will subconsciously favour Rua if it's close as a make-up for the first fight. Or maybe I'm just picking Shogun since if he wins, that increases the chance of Anderson Silva moving up and actually delivering a good performance in the cage instead of dicking around. So since I'm tired of watching Silva's dancing exhibitions, I'll pick Shogun just cuz.

* Tim Hague over Joey Beltran, KO, round 1
* Marcus Davis over Jonathan Goulet, KO, round 2
* Johny Hendricks over TJ Grant, decision
* Tom Lawlor over Joe Doerksen, KO, round 2
* Jason MacDonald over John Salter, submission, round 2
* Yoshiyuki Yoshida over Mike Guymon, decision

Monday, May 03, 2010

Housing Search 2010

"Hi, is this Nick?"
"Hi Nick, I'm Mark. I saw your Craiglist notice about the room for rent, and I was wondering if I could possibly arrange a time to come over and take a look at the place."
"Oh, sure thing, man. Just one question, though. How tall are you?"
"Uh....around 5'10 or so."
"Oh. That's going to be a problem, then. You see, my basement apartment is a really small basement. I'm looking for someone maybe 5'5 tops, or else you're going to have to crouch down whenever you're walking around the place."
"Yeah, sorry about that bro."
"All right then, nice talking to you. Bye."

Somewhere, Wilt Chamberlain nods and whispers, "Welcome to my hell."


It's never good when the person you're supposed to meet isn't there for your appointment, but it's even more aggravating when the place looks good on the surface. Case in point: I was supposed to meet a guy about an apartment sublet in what turned out to be a very nice building up in the Davisville area. I get there and note the big parking lot, the attractive lobby, the lack of exposed asbestos in the ceiling, and I'm thinking this place looks pretty promising. The trouble was, my appointment didn't answer his phone. I figured out his buzzer number and tried it, but no answer there either. I decided to wait around for a few minutes, a grace period awarded solely because the building looked so great, and sure enough, he eventually called back. He asked me if I'd mind waiting for 15-20 minutes since he was just finishing up a jog.

Now, okay, I'm not a runner by any stretch of the imagination so I'm no expert on planning routes. But still, this isn't like getting caught in traffic or something that's out of your control. If you're out on a run and you realize you might not get back to your place in can just TURN AROUND. And if you say, 'Oh, well, I need to keep going to get my heart rate up and get a proper jog in since I'm a real keener,' then maybe you should've taken that into consideration before you went on the damn run in the first place.

But again, the lure of the nice building. So I reschedule my next appointment and wait around in the aforementioned nice lobby (take that buzzer code, I'm stealthy) until Joggy McRuns finally shows up, sweaty as an ox. We then go upstairs to take a look at his place, which, oh by the way, ended up costing $100 more per month than he noted in the ad, and oh by the way, ended up being totally unfurnished. Had I been a more theatrical sort, I would've said "You should've kept running, pal" and then immediately turned and left. C'est la vie.


Put it this way --- would YOU want to live in an apartment (not just in the building, but the apartment itself) with a vaguely white-trashish couple, their two (TWO!) infant children and the guy's brother, who looked vaguely like the taller McPoyle twin on It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia?


You know you've been renting for too long when it suddenly dawns on you as you drive up to the building that you've seen the place before. Yep, I had been shown this very house before back during Housing Search '08. Now, I just made up an excuse on the phone and canceled my appointment without actually going in, which might've been a time-saver in spite of being a dick move and (potentially) a mistake. After all, what if they'd remodeled the place in the last two years? What if the basement that was far too small and cramped had been extended thanks to the removal of a non-load-bearing wall? What if the kitchen had actually been given its once-per-decade cleaning? (It certainly hadn't during my first look.) What if they'd had a garage put in the back, rather than their old backyard of weeds and oblong pieces of metal? Maybe I gave up on the ugly duckling without seeing that it had really turned into a beautiful swan. I mean, the front of the house certainly still looked ugly, but everyone swan enthusiast knows that its back plumage is the finest example of.....yeah, I'm rambling, this place was a dump.


You know you've been renting for too long when it suddenly dawns on you as you drive up to the building that you've seen the place before --- AND THIS HAPPENS TWICE. So the day after my first double-feature, as it were, I find myself at yet another place I'd previously seen, this one from last spring. This time, I actually went in since there some extenuating circumstances. During my initial visit, of the three rooms in this townhouse, two were quite nice and one was crappy (guess which one I was shown). So I figured, maybe this time I'm getting to look at one of the two good ones. The odds were probably in my favour, right? Right? Sigh.

Even better was the pitch from the girl showing me around (a different one than the previous year, for the record). This was an F-minus performance all around. First, she spends five minutes complaining about the crappy plumbing, which segues into a 10-minute rant about the landlord. She then notes that she is subletting her room because she "wants to get away from" one of the other roommates "who keeps stealing my stuff." Yes, that's right, stealing stuff. Now, this girl seemed like a bit of a drama queen, so there was no doubt a bit of exaggeration involved. But when you're trying to sell your room, you probably shouldn't mention your roommate's kleptomaniac tendencies.


Some places, though, sell themselves. I found myself getting so fired up on my drive to one appointment in the Beaches that the landlord could've told me I was living with not just a klepto, but Lex bleedin' Luthor and I still would've happily signed up. If you're never headed down Queen East to the lovely Beaches area, do yourself a treat and hop on the streetcar sometime. I took the route down Lakeshore past those awesome multi-coloured beach condos as the road turned up into Woodbine, and then hung a right onto Queen and watched in amazement as Toronto suddenly morphed into Bayfield or Kincardine. It would've like living in one of those charming beach towns of my youth except connected to a major city. The place itself was awesome....nice two-story home right on the streetcar line yet within walking distance to the beach and the lake.

Like I said, the place pretty much sold itself, which unfortunately my appointment decided to take to heart. That's right, the douchebag never showed up. A couple of phone calls and messages placed at the scene and over the next two days were to no avail, and sadly my dream apartment was not to be. Since I was on a Beaches bender, I drove around the neighbourhood looking for any other 'for rent' signs, and actually called one listing under a View-It label. Sure, the place ended up going for $2500 a month in rent, so I desperately racked my brain trying to think of anyone else who I knew might be looking for a place to live in Toronto and couldn't mind rooming with me.


There were not one, not two but three instances during this year's housing search when I found myself being shown a not-quite-suitable place by a very attractive woman. Pop quiz for all you would-be Barney Stinsons out there: how do you properly handle a "So yeah, I'm afraid I'm not going to able to rent your place but since I have your number anyway, want to go out sometime?" scenario?

Now, the real Barney would probably just advise to move in anyway and spend the summer working your mojo, but two of the places were out of my price range and the third place was....well, kind of a dive. It was a shame. She had kind of like a young Kyra Sedgwick thing going, except not modern-day Clayface Kyra Sedgwick, the Kyra from 15 years ago or thereabouts when she was actually attractive. Good-looking girl, seemed quite pleasant, but when your house is a dank, musty two-story affair with one room devoted entirely to plants*, it's a tough sell no matter how cute you may be.

All three of these circumstances were unfortunate since of all the different people I've lived with in Toronto, I've yet to experience living with a hot, single woman. I've lived with plenty of women before, but they've either been in relationships or been 75 years old. Is it too much to ask that one of these years, I get to be Jack Tripper? I don't mind pretending to be gay for a few months if that's what it takes...and if this leads to a Don Knotts-esque landlord, all the better. Also, man, I need to get new references. Of all the umpteen sitcoms about men and women living together, I'm still citing Three's Company 30 years after its prime?

* = What was once the dining room had been overrun by an endless amount of plantlife. Now, I'm not trying to be cute here and imply that they were growing weed, it was actually just plants. So clearly, this wasn't Clayface Kyra Sedgwick, this was Poison Ivy Kyra Sedgwick. Had I moved in, I would've been constantly worried that Rick Moranis was going to try and feed me to the room.


Of course, what if I had hit it off with one of these hypothetical hot female roommates, only to have things go sour? I saw a preview of that situation at another place. It was a young couple, Jen and Mike (I don't remember their real names, these are the generic substitutes) probably a couple of years younger than me, and things were going quite pleasantly until I casually asked why the room was becoming available.

Mike: "Oh, well, Jen is moving out since we've broken up."
Jen: "[look of sheer bitterness on her face]"

So basically, things only could've gotten more awkward if I'd asked if they were cool with my sacrificing a live goat every week. Jen left the room not long after that, and Mike gave a bit more background. Apparently they met when they moved in together, fallen for each other, and now things had cooled off to (judging from Jen's look) sub-zero temperatures. The place was already not hitting enough points on my checklist to be worthy of consideration so I decided to leave before I unraveled more details from this soap opera. Also, had Mike ended up being a serial roommate-dater, things might've gotten even more awkward had he put the moves on me if I'd moved in. I'm only willing to go so far for a rent reduction.


Part of me was curious to find out how and why the burned-out, abandoned variety store underneath the room I was viewing had fallen victim to fire. The (much larger) part of me didn't even want to guess. I spend the interview politely nodding while wearing the 'no way in hell' face that I usually only see when I'm trying to chat up a woman at a party.

On the bright side, if the store had already been burned out once, there's NO WAY it could POSSIBLY happen again, right? I like those odds! Pyromaniacs and insurance claim-seeking arsonists operate under the same logic as lightning bolts, right?


Before we get to the final entry, let's go with what I thought was the final entry. As per the tradition, the Housing Search began in late January with the obligatory 'Hey guys, I'm moving to TO and was wondering if you knew of any available places...' e-mail and FB message to my various Toronto friends. Now, as luck would have it, one friend got back to me almost immediately to say that he was moving out of his current house and needed a subletter for almost the exact period of time that I was going to be in town. What a stroke of luck! I happened to have business in Toronto a few days later, so I swung by the place and had a look-see. My friend wasn't there, but one of his roommates was, and this quite fetching woman (one of three actors who lived in the place, so it had the nice bonus of a showbizzy vibe) showed me around this quite fetching apartment. The place was pretty much perfect aside from the lack of a parking spot, but hey, I'd gone four years without needing a street parking permit, might as well suck it up and finally get one, eh?

So all seemed well, and after I got back to London and weighed my options (I had seen a few other places that night), we agreed on an early March move-in date. As I was patting myself on the back for seemingly wrapping up Housing Search 2010 by early February, I should've checked around my spinal region for the knife that had quietly been stuck into it.

Strike #1: The Facebook message a couple of weeks later asking if I could possibly move in by mid-March instead. Ya see, a friend of hers was coming to town and needed a place to crash, blah blah blah, sure, fine, that's not a big issue for me.

Strike #2: The other Facebook message a week later now saying that the out-of-towner was going to be staying until April 1, so would it be okay if....? So a bit more of an imposition, especially since my work responsibilities were due to begin in the middle of the month. But I figured I could always stay at a short-term place in Toronto for a couple of weeks (it would give me time to set up the parking permit anyway), and it would also save me a bit of rent money. So once again, I readily agreed.

Strike #3: The final Facebook message saying "oh sorry, we found another renter who was willing to move in for the full year, and he's already paid up front." First of all, the place was open for a full year? Second of all, you were still showing the place?? Third of all, WTF??? The Search had suddenly been born anew. Now, no leases were signed nor money exchanged during this agreement, so it's not like I was being conned or anything. But really, this was just poor form all-around. I guess they were more comfortable having the cash in hand, since I was just some guy from London that nobody could vouch for. You know, except their FORMER ROOMMATE. I decided to take the classy route and write a "hmm, that's disappointing" response instead of the ode to expletives I wrote in my head, but still, it was pretty deflating. On the bright side, my non-parking permit streak continues! Eat it, Toronto Parking Services! I'm streets ahead of you clowns!


While that missed opportunity led to another few weeks of frantic online searching and two more two-day trips up from London, it ended well, friends. I'm writing this from my room in a perfectly nice little townhouse, where I'm living with (ironically) another actor. Actually, another roommate is a guitarist and a recently departed roomie was a practicing opera singer. It led to some pretty interesting sound collages between his jamming downstairs and her arias upstairs. I felt like I should be, I dunno, rapping or something.

The place looks like it will work out well for the summer, provided that I don't spend half my time trying to coax the house cat out from underneath my bed. He's one of those cats that greatly enjoys hiding in every possible nook in the house. Case in point: I was in the bathroom the other day when I hear a noise from within the room. I pull back the shower curtain to find the cat just sitting there in the bathtub, looking at me. It was disconcerting. For one thing, I didn't know the cat was German (rim shot). Also, if a videotape of me on the toilet ever shows up on the internet, you know who to blame.