Thursday, November 30, 2006

Note to Self...

I don’t need to see that!

And by that I mean people getting outed (when did it become OK to pressure people out of the closet, anyway?):

What led to Lance Bass’s coming out was a terrible low point in news reporting history, I think, and proof that anyone with a computer – yes, any blogger (I will not name names) – can be a bully. I don’t care if Reichen Lehmkuhl (Bass’ boyfriend, with whom I talked earlier in November) seems to be cool with it because it is anything but. The same blogger went after Neil Patrick Harris, relentlessly, and Doogie Howser had to put out a press release and shut up the rumor mill – and now, he's trying to get Jodie Foster to fess up. Who cares!

By that I also mean young starlets’ nether regions:

It’s just, like, eww much? It used to be that actresses couldn’t show so much as the hint of a knee, and while I’m not saying we ought to go back to that backward mentality, we should reclaim good taste. I can shrug off Paris Hilton dancing on a table while going commando – that’s her shtick and it’ll be her undoing. But somebody needs to tell Lindsay Lohan that getting photographed not once but several times stepping out of a car, va-jay-jay to the wind, does not scream “serious actress” – and you know I live for La Lohan. And don't get me started on Britney Spears! As if hanging out with Hilton wasn’t bad enough, she has made it a habit to show us her everything this week (you can get on the Google and look up these pictures up yourself if you want). So much for a comeback.

Finally, by that I also mean people getting offended oh-so easily:

It is one thing to be offended by Mel Gibson’s drunken anti-Semitic rant, or by Michael Richards’ strangely racist stand-up routine, but by Kelly Ripa? To say that Ripa is a “homophobe” because she tells Clay Aiken she doesn’t want him putting his hand (in a rather abusive and hostile way, mind you) over her mouth, live on the air, because she doesn’t “know where that hand’s been, honey,” is "outrageous," Rosie O’Donnell. I love you to death, but you should know better. And while we’re at it, and coming back full circle, when did it become OK for O’Donnell to (inadvertently?) out Aiken – and how come no one is saying anything about that?

Whatever happened to class?


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

No Ifs, Ands, or Buts About It

The TV season now in full swing, I have decided that the best show on the air right now is…CBS News Sunday Morning.

Hosted by the invaluable Charles Osgood, Sunday Morning features a winning mix of news and feature and commentary pieces that are as fascinating as they are informative.

Don't get me wrong: I'm still living for 24, Everwood (on ABC Family – check it out!), Gilmore Girls, Heroes, Veronica Mars, Jericho, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, and The Office as much as I ever did, but there’s something special about Sunday Morning.

There are many – many – shows in my weekly list of shows to watch. Yes, I love me my stories...and while some have even earned a Season Pass into my TiVo, few have earned an all-seasons pass into my heart.

Go ahead. Make fun.


Nostalgia, Pt. 3

It’s hard to believe that one of the most successful English rock bands of the mid-1990s, Oasis, hasn’t had a hit song in the United States in like, forever, but they haven’t – which only adds an extra layer of looking-back-fondlyness to the fact that their massively successful (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? came out 11 years ago!

Now, the band has come out with Stop the Clocks, its first ever, retrospective "best of" album. (The accompanying DVD features a live performance of fan favorite “Champagne Supernova.”)

You can watch exclusive documentary footage, and watch the trailer and the first 10 minutes of Stop the Clocks


Monday, November 27, 2006

You May Say He Was a Dreamer

Robert F. Kennedy once said “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”

In a way, RFK never was – from what little I know about the man, it would be safe to say that was a real shame – and now, nearly 30 years after his assassination in L.A.'s Ambassador Hotel, writer-director Emilio Estevez has delivered an ambitious and slightly uneven fictional drama in which 22 characters walk through the doors of this now-gone landmark and into “history.”

The film weaves these people’s stories, but doesn’t manage to make us care enough – partly because there’s just too many of’em, and partly because it is RFK that we’re really meant to care for.

Yet in spite of its arrested development, Bobby affords some of Hollywood’s MVPs – particularly Demi Moore, Freddy Rodriguez (HBO’s Six Feet Under), Christian Slater, and Sharon Stone – the chance to knock one out of the park.

It also stays firmly on message: RFK should have been. So why wasn’t he?

I didn’t think the film came alive until the last 20 minutes, but once it did, it was something to behold and take to heart.

My Rating ***

Photo: The Weinstein Company.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Where’s the Party?

Why, it’s on NBC… 8 p.m. Madonna’s hosting.

And I’m going to be there because she is who she is, and I…wouldn’t want her to change a thing.

So don’t ask where’s the party unless you want to free your soul…lose control.

R.I.P. Master Altman

Robert Altman, the prolific director of M*A*S*H, Nashville, Gosford Park, and this summer’s A Prairie Home Companion, passed away today at age 81.

Actors loved him (Altman preferred to work with large ensembles in which there were no stars per se), as did audiences and critics who enjoyed – and got – his irreverence. He will be missed.

Photo: Picturehouse (A Prairie Home Companion).

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stefani Sound Machine

Gwen Stefani has a new album coming Dec. 5 called The Sweet Escape; its first single, “Wind It Up,” is already out, and my initial reaction to it has been, “Where’s the melody, Gwen?”

The song features yodeling and contains a sample of "The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music – and in true Stefani Style the lyrics talk about her clothing line, L.A.M.B., and how boys just love to stare at her and her girls.

I’m not crazy about it (yet?), but I’m hoping her sophomore effort as whole will live up to the promise of her debut album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby., otherwise, I’m gonna go B-A-N-A-N-A-S with disappointment.

You can catch Stefani’s performing “Wind It Up” tomorrow at the American Music Awards on ABC.

Naughty by Nature

I have never been accused of being a tease – alright, maybe once or twice – so I have to start the week by saying that I didn’t see Casino Royale this weekend, after all. Shameful, I know, considering how I plugged the film like it was going out of style, but I did make the effort (every show I tried was sold out – good going, people!).

I did, however, see Todd Field’s Little Children, which finally opened in my neck of the woods.

Starring Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, and Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy), the film centers on a group of young married couples, and pays special attention to the affair that develops between Winslet’s unhappy Sarah, a stay-at-home mom whose husband has become obsessed with an Internet porn star, and Wilson’s unfulfilled Brad, an ex-jock stay-at-home dad frustrated by his filmmaker wife's wishes that he become a big-bucks lawyer.

As Sarah and Brad’s seemingly happy suburban Massachusetts lives intersect on the playgrounds and community pools of their small town in surprising and potentially dangerous ways, it becomes more and more evident that what lies beneath the surface of their beautiful lives is the thing of pain.

Little Children is a little bit of a satire, a little bit of a thrilling noir (there’s a seemingly pivotal sex offender character – played hauntingly by Jackie Earle Haley – who sends the tightly knit community into a tailspin), yet the more I think about it, the film’s also a little bit unfinished…unpolished.

The performances are fantastic: Winslet owns the film with her quiet longing and disquietingly expressed desire and rage, while Wilson reveals enough vulnerability to be truthful to his part – not to mention, if MTV still gave out the Most Desirable Male award at its Movie Awards it would be his to lose. But there are two stories to this film – and I didn’t think they gelled all that well.

Both Sarah and Brad feel trapped in their marriages, but the film never allows them to interact with their respective spouses (hers played by Greg Edelman, his by Connelly) long enough to explore in a meaningful way the root of their married lives’ problems.

Yes, they seem to get each other and should probably run away together – but why, really? The stakes are quite high when the possibility of ending a marriage is tossed around, but just how high are they in Sarah and Brad’s case? They make a fine naughty affair, but will they make a fine something else?

That is the question the film justly raises: It is Sarah and Brad who are the titular little children because they act like it. She starts off a strong, if disenchanted woman who essentially becomes a girl with a crush at the prospect of having a go with the handsome man dubbed The Prom King by three other playground moms. He becomes rejuvenated by Sarah’s enthusiasm over him.

And while I understand the thread of Haley’s story line, I didn’t quite get how it tied in, emotionally and tonally, with the main characters’. His presence is meant to pose a threat to these families’ lives, but then again they do a fine job of inviting danger in all on their own.

With so much on the line, it is best not to think of any of this, I suppose, and enjoy Little Children for what it is: A fantastically acted, often disturbing and humorous look at the trials and tribulations of suburbia.

My Rating ***

Photo: New Line Cinema.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hearting Daniel Craig Is Easy

I’ve never been a hardcore James Bond movie fan, I’ll admit, so I couldn’t help but wonder – all year long, if you can believe – why it is that I’ve been anticipating today’s opening of Casino Royale oh-so very much.

The answer lies in Daniel Craig – I am definitely a fan of his.

We all pretty much have heard a beep or two about the controversy that followed his being chosen to take over the Bond franchise. Many critics and fans hated his casting as 007, but I’m happy to report this recently changed – dramatically.

I believe this 180 is in great part due to the man himself. Craig is a force to be reckoned with on screen: He's charismatic and magnetic, devastatingly handsome, and, more importantly, brilliantly memorable in every turn (like in Road to Perdition, Sylvia, Enduring Love, and Layer Cake).

I am sooo taking a gamble on Casino Royale this weekend. With Craig on screen, I am guaranteed a win.

Photo: MGM/Columbia Pictures.
Go, Robbie. Go, Go – Go, Robbie...

Perennial about-to-make-it-big-in-America pop sensation Robbie Williams has a new album out called Rudebox, which, from what I understand, is a return to his roots featuring plenty of Eurodance and Britpop tracks.

Williams collaborated extensively with the Pet Shop Boys, William Orbit, and Mark Ronson, just to name a few, on the album. The end product is said to be a smash hit.

I’ve only heard one track – “She’s Madonna,” a tribute (of sorts) to, well…you know – and I gotta say it is quite groovy. Go, Robbie, indeed!


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Simply Irresistible, Pt. 6

Buzz worthy Dreamgirls co-star Jennifer Hudson (a former American Idol contestant) is some kind of wonderful – and thanks to this fine film I finally know this (I’m not much of an Idol fan).

Girlfriend can sing! And she’s rather beautiful, too, in an accessibly stunning kind of way – no fuss, no muss.

In short, she’s just a dream. Just you wait until you see her steal the show as Effie White in the aforementioned musical next month. Just you wait.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The People Have Spoken

I guess Carrie Bradshaw was right when she said that George Clooney was like “a Chanel suit. He’ll always be in style” because today, the Syriana Oscar winner was named People’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2006 – joining BFF Brad Pitt in the two-time honoree sexy club.

The magazine’s annual list also singled out Patrick Dempsey (TV’s Grey’s Anatomy), Ashton Kutcher, Taye Diggs (TV’s Day Break), Pitt, and John Krasinski (TV’s The Office) as just a few of the hottest men in Hollywood – and highlighted Jamie Bamber’s tantalizing towel dance as a something “everyone’s talking about.”

Sure – a month ago much? Perhaps next year they will highlight Eric Dane's steamy entrance earlier this fall on Grey's Anatomy.

Oh, well. What do you think of Clooney's choice: Yay or nay?


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

And It Was All Yellow

Mark your calendars for July 27, 2007, because that’s when the long-awaited Simpsons Movie will arrive in theaters everywhere.

You can watch the hilarious trailer here. It is laugh-out-loud funny, so you might want to put that donut down lest you want to go all “D’oh!” on yourself.

Mmmm, donuts…I mean, funny stuff – but donuts worked better with that Mmmm.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Life Is a Mystery

Two films opening this weekend – an existential comedy (Stranger Than Fiction) in which a man finds his life slipping out of his control, and a far-reaching drama interconnecting several people (Babel) – pose what I believe to be a very important question: What’s in a life?

Each arrives at the same conclusion: Life is what you make of it, so make something of it.

I could go on and on and tell you about how much I enjoyed both films (which I really did), but I won’t. It is a holiday, after all, and today’s post is already tragically late.

I’ll say this much, though: Stranger Than Fiction is lovelier than reality, which should make for terrific escapist fun. The film’s star, Will Ferrell, delivers what has got to be his finest performance to date; he was revelatory.

Babel, meanwhile, is decidedly heavier in tone; its all-star cast – led by Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Gael García Bernal – shines (thanks to Guillermo Arriaga’s accomplished screenplay) under the direction of Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu, particularly co-stars Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza.

So, see these films, don’t see these films – just make sure you do something.

My Rating ***½ (Babel); *** (Stranger Than Fiction).

Photo: Columbia Pictures (Stranger Than Fiction).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Royal Treatment

I finally saw The Queen last night, and all I can say – all I will say at this moment – is I found the film to be quite stunning.

It is a fascinating and fictional account of the real events that followed following the death of Princess Diana in 1997, and it is easily one of the best-told stories I have seen so far this year.

From the tightly contained, tradition-bound world of the Queen of England through the clashes with the slick modernity of the country's brand new, image-conscious Prime Minister, Tony Blair, The Queen is a revealing and witty portrait of the British royal family in crisis.

Alright, the moment to gush may have past, but the sentiment remains, for director Stephen Frears’ intriguing take on modern British monarchy is marked by subtlety and poignancy and a surprisingly even-handed approach to all its subjects, which only makes it all the more impressive.

It is stunning, I tell ya – stunning – and such a treat, really.

The film is an intimate, yet thematically epic battle of the first order – thanks, in no small measure to the gorgeous screenplay by Peter Morgan – between private and public, responsibility and emotion, and custom and action, as a grieving nation waits to see what its leaders will do.

Helen Mirren, as Queen Elizabeth II, is magnificent – the actress imbues her performance with the poise that the role requires at first glance, and with the humanity that it needs to be a well-achieved character study – while Michael Sheen is equally fantastic in an accomplished turn as Blair.

Stunning, in one word.

My Rating ****

Photo: Miramax Films.
Bringing Sex-y Back

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have something to tell you all: reported yesterday that a Sex and the City movie project is back on track.

Oh, my Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda – what a fun, sexy time that would be.

First round of Cosmopolitans on me if it happens, OK!


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hi, My Name Is…

And I’m a TVaholic.

I can’t help it.

And I’m just glad I’m not alone.

Now, in other news, some man is trying to bump Britney Spears off the headlines!

I kid, I kid.

Photo: ABC (Lost).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

They Said It Wouldn’t Last…

And they were right.

I’m not talking about Reese and Ryan – actually, I’d rather not talk about them just yet (the wound’s still fresh). I’m talking about Britney Spears, who, showing she has gotten her smart back on, has – finally! – cast her ballot and elected to file for divorce from her husband Kevin Federline, citing irreconcilable differences.

The reasoning is not very original, but hey – at least this means there’s hope that oops, she’ll do it again.

I mean something like this, not marriage.

See you on the Surreal Life, K-Fed – don't let the door hit ya on your way out because, and to quote Beyoncé, "To the left / To the left."

Paying Mind to What They Say

You know how Madonna’s upcoming NBC special airing the day before Thanksgiving was originally titled Live to Tell. Well, it is now known as Madonna: The Confessions Tour Live from London.

Why the switcheroo?

This is why, but I’ll tell you, anyway: The special was originally expected to feature the “controversial” mock-crucifixion the performer staged while on tour last summer, which has now been edited down, meaning the Queen of Pop will not be shown suspended on the cross or wearing a crown of thorns (ergo the photo from the opening section of show).

NBC may have backtracked, and Madonna may not mind, but I feel it’s important that you see the original scene and try to understand what she was hoping to do – raise awareness of the AIDS situation in Africa – especially because nine days after the special airs marks World AIDS Day.

Just a little something to think about.


Friday, November 03, 2006


Irish troubadour Damien Rice has a new album coming out. It’s called 9 and it’s surely going to be fantastic.

I just thought I’d put that out there. You can have a listen here.

Rice will embark on an American tour in two weeks (I have got to find a way to see him!). He will appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Nov. 9, and on The Late Show with Conan O’Brien on Nov. 17.

Respect for Moviefilm for Make Good Time in Theater

Time for a confession: To say that I went to see Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan reluctantly would be letting myself off the hook too easily – it would be lying to you for I never intended to see this film.

Ever since I saw that it had premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year, and that its star, Sacha Baron Cohen (HBO’s Da Ali G Show), had hit the Croisette in a neon green swimsuit, I pre-judged Borat. I decided that was a pretty look-at-me stunt Cohen had pulled and dismissed his film as something that would probably turn out to be quite idiotic.

I was wrong.

Borat has got to be one of the most culturally relevant and smart, albeit rather subversive comedies I’ve seen in many, many years. The “moviefilm” – shot as a road trip faux doc – was a surprise from the moment it started, and had me in stitches throughout. It was fun and insightful and oh-so wrong – best of all, it was relentless.

It follows the journey of Borat Sagdiyev (Baron Cohen), Kazakhstan's sixth most famous man and a (fictional) leading journalist from the State-run TV network, who travels from the Central Asia nation to the United States to interview real people in an effort to learn more American culture.

Every step of the way we see him arousing the most unexpected reactions from the regular folks he encounters, thus revealing their hidden prejudices. Just when you start to think that Baron Cohen is baiting these people for the sake of baiting them, it turns all he is doing is exposing the kinks of their otherwise shiny armors.

I found this insightful and refreshing.

Anyone who feels Baron Cohen or his alter ego is an anti-Semite (Borat is scared of the Jews – but trust me, it works) or misogynistic (there are worse instances of this on TV every day) or wrong for cracking a Sept. 11 joke (even a surprisingly well-executed one), should avoid Borat because, really, this is a film for people who are fearless.

Plus, it features one of the best celebrity cameos (think Baywatch) in recent memory – one that didn’t wear out its welcome. I thought this particular story element showed Baron Cohen’s restraint – you can trust him enough to know he will not take it too far – and tied in nicely with the film’s message (basically, follow your dreams no matter how plastic they are). No wonder he is having a moment.

So, in the words of another of Baron Cohen’s up until today most famous character, Ali G, who was first introduced to America by – who else? – Madonna (see her “Music” video), you have to give Borat respect.

My Rating ****

Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Welcome to the Grindhouse

What is a grind house?

It is a downtown movie theater – usually in disrepair since its glory days as a movie palace of the 1930s and '40s – know for "grinding out" non-stop double-bill programs of B-movies, which are then presented as one full-length feature.

Come next April 6, first in the double bill will be Death Proof (directed by Quentin Tarantino), a slasher flick where the killer pursues his victims with a car rather than a knife, while Planet Terror (directed by Robert Rodriguez) explores an alien world eerily familiar to our own.

At right is a one-sheet for Planet Terror, featuring – that's right – a machine gun-legged Rose McGowan (Scream, TV’s Charmed).

That’s right – Grindhouse is gonna rock.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

This Fan Can’t Help It

Joanna Mills is a tough young Midwesterner determined to learn the truth behind the increasingly terrifying supernatural visions that have been haunting her.

She has made a successful career for herself, but her private life has been difficult. Estranged from her father, stalked by an obsessed ex, and with few friends in her life, she fears that she is losing control.

But when she sees and feels the brutal murder of a young woman she's never met, at the hands of a heartless killer – a man who appears to be making her his next target – she decides to do something about it.

Determined to fight back, she lets these visions guide her to the murdered woman's hometown, where she discovers that some secrets can't be buried, that some spirits never die, and that the murder she is trying to solve may be her own.

Why am I telling you any of this?

Because this is the plot of The Return, which opens Nov. 10, and because Joanna Mills is played by one Sarah Michelle Gellar.

And what kind of fan would I be if I didn’t tell you about my dear ol’ Buffy’s new projects?

Not a very good one – and I can’t have that.

Photo: Rogue Pictures.