Posts Tagged “entertainment”

LOST Season 1

Published on December 19, 2008

Well, four years later I’m finally catching up on LOST (hat tip to Dustin). So far I’m enjoying the show: I gave the first season a 4-star rating (“I Really Like It”) at Netflix. There’s obviously a lot left for me to catch up on, but so far, so good. Mystery abounds, the characters are interesting, and the plot twists and turns all over the place. Hopefully things will start making a little more sense in season 2. Here’s a brief rundown of my current opinions of the main characters:

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Rating Movies on Netflix

Published on December 1, 2008

Netflix has a movie rating system designed to help them recommend titles that you might like. They present the user with six rating options:

  • 5 stars (Loved it)
  • 4 stars (Really liked it)
  • 3 stars (Liked it)
  • 2 stars (Didn’t like it)
  • 1 star (Hated it)
  • Not interested

When I first signed up, I went through the movies that I either owned or could remember well enough, and rated each one as carefully as I could. However, as time goes on, I find it more and more difficult to rate movies that I watch. I often find myself second guessing my initial rating, usually in the negative direction. For example, I’ve recently watched the first four Dirty Harry movies (out of the total five). Here’s what I gave each:

I feel pretty solid on my ratings for the first three movies. The first movie is an all-time classic and set the bar (and tone) for most subsequent police dramas. Magnum Force was nearly as good, but felt a little flat in parts, hence my four star rating. The Enforcer was weaker still, and felt like any generic action film might in the 1970s (the female partner story was particularly disappointing). But what about the fourth title? Towards the end of the movie, I found myself thinking that it was a solid four-star film. But the climax was so epic, that it vaulted the movie into five-star territory for me.

I later found myself second guessing my five-star rating, wondering whether or not it was truly “five-star worthy.” The movie had some flaws (what movie doesn’t?), but were they enough to lower the rating? Which leads me to the ultimate question: what makes a movie five-star worthy? I know I’m over-analyzing the matter, but it’s so hard to compare apples to oranges. Do you use Netflix? If so, how do you rate movies? Are there any rules you follow?

Pushing Daisies Cancelled

Published on November 25, 2008

Damn ABC! Damn everyone that won’t damn ABC! Damn everyone that won’t put lights in his window and sit up all night damning ABC!

(Apologies to all my U.S. history professors. For those in the dark, here’s the cultural reference to the above joke.)

I simply don’t understand it. An incredibly clever, imaginative, and entertaining television show gets canceled because it’s not getting the ratings the executives want. This proves that creativity has no place anymore in Hollywood. In short, it’s not a crime drama, a medical drama, or a reality show, apparently making it the scourge of the land. Maybe the fact that the network didn’t advertise the show has something to do with it. Or perhaps we can blame the failing economy. Either way, I’m disappointed.

I have truly lost what little faith I had left in television. All the more reason not to watch it. My only hope is that Bryan Fuller will come through on his promise to finish out the story with either a movie or through comic books. What a dark day.

Sequel Naming Conventions

Published on November 18, 2008

Every so often, I troll the Apple movie trailers page to see what’s in the pipeline (ironic, considering I almost never go to the theater). In browsing the page today, I noted a trailer for “The Pink Panther 2,” which will undoubtedly be an embarrassment to the good name of Peter Sellers. This got me thinking, however, about how sequel titles have gotten dumber over the years. Here are the original Pink Panther movie titles:

  • The Pink Panther
  • A Shot in the Dark
  • The Return of the Pink Panther
  • The Pink Panther Strikes Again
  • etc…

Note the clever new names for each movie. The upcoming film, starring Steve Martin (who can’t seem to make any good movies anymore), has simply appended the number 2 to the end of the title. Many movies these days resort to this cop-out tactic, which seems to me to be an excellent indication of the lack of imagination and creativity left in the entertainment industry. I can think of only a few recent exceptions to this trend: the Lord of the Rings movies (whose titles come from books anyway), and the Jason Bourne movies (again, which come from book titles). Everyone else just tags a number on the end: Pink Panther 2, High School Musical 3, and Star Trek 12: So Very Tired. Do movie executives really believe that the public is stupid enough to not know a sequel when they see it? Apparently so.

End of The Office?

Published on October 31, 2008

I’m not sure how many of you here follow the television series The Office, but it seems to be headed downhill. Last night’s episode, Employee Transfer, was the first to be directed by Stephen Merchant, one of the original minds behind the British version of the show. I recently had the opportunity to watch all of the episodes of the British version, and I really liked it. Some episodes were full of uncomfortable situations and were painful to watch (a testament to the actors’ strength), but sadly, the characters were more one-dimensional than their American counterparts. Mr. Merchant’s involvement in last night’s episode had me looking forward to it; perhaps it would recall some of the extremely awkward and uncomfortable situations that made the British version so fun (and difficult) to watch.

Frankly, I was disappointed. Last night’s episode was the second misstep in a row, following the previous Crime Aid episode, which was just as weak. Laughs were few and far between, and the episode simply seemed as a vehicle of (presumably) writing Michael’s latest love interest off of the show. Not only is this disappointing from a character development standpoint (Michael has been maturing rather well this season), but it’s a shame to lose such a great actress in Amy Ryan. She played so well with Steve Carell, which was a nice return to form, seeing as we’ve seemingly lost Dwight to this ridiculous Angela/Andy marriage business.

I’m a giant fan of the show, and I’ll definitely keep watching (especially now that I can watch it in HD). But I’m afraid that the show has peaked, and the best times are now behind us. Perhaps the writers will prove us wrong; I certainly hope they do. Do you watch the show? If so, what do you think?

Now if only more people would start watching Pushing Daisies

We Miss You, Mister Rogers

Published on October 29, 2008

In six minutes of testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Fred Rogers was able to persuade John O. Pastore, head of the subcommittee and a man known for his impatience, to increase funding for public television by $20 million. This short video is a recording of those proceedings, and illustrate just what a great man Mr. Rogers was. The song he recites at the end of this video is particularly compelling.

Going to Netflix

Published on October 4, 2008

One of the decisions I made before I moved into my new house was to not sign up for cable television (though RoadRunner was a requirement). Instead, I’ve decided to watch television over the air. This will fulfill nearly all of my television watching needs: The Simpsons, The Office, Pushing Daisies, the news, PBS, etc. Right now, I’ve got an old, tiny CRT television hooked up to some rabbit ears. The reception is shoddy, the picture blurry, and things are generally bad. Hopefully, switching to digital television will fix this (more on this in an upcoming post).

Instead of cable television, I’m going to try out Netflix. I’ve heard great things about it from various people, and it’s way cheaper than paying Time-Warner (in the neighborhood of $40 or $50 cheaper a month). And interestingly enough, I see reports of people dropping cable for Netflix around the web (in a number of product reviews at Amazon, for example). There are a literal ton of movies that I’ve never seen, and it’s high time to catch up. Plus, I’m eager to catch up on some old television shows that I enjoy (M*A*S*H, Cheers, and Frasier to name a few). Just as soon as I can pick up a DVD player (and possibly a new television), I’ll sign up.

Do you use Netflix? If so, what do you think?

2008 Summer Paralympic Games

Published on September 12, 2008

There a really great page with photos from this summer’s Paralympic Games, the forgotten little brother of the Olympics. The things some of the folks in these pictures are doing are way more impressive than anything I saw in this year’s Olympics (excepting Michael Phelps’ craziness). Soccer matches featuring blind players? Crazy. One armed archery? Epic. These people truly define ‘athlete’.

One Bad Mutha

Published on August 12, 2008

I was saddened to hear that music legend Isaac Hayes died on Sunday. He was an incredible composer and performer, and his additions to the music world will be greatly missed. Of his many works, my personal favorite (and, in my opinion, his best) is the soundtrack to the classic 1971 film Shaft. I highly recommend picking it up; it’s top quality stuff, especially if you’re a jazz and soul fan. While you’re at it, pick up the film too; I consider it one of my top ten favorite movies.

Do You Still Use CDs?

Published on June 20, 2008

How do you purchase your music? Does anyone still buy CDs, or has everyone moved to digital music? And where do you purchase your music from?

Call me old school, but I still purchase CDs through my favorite retailer Amazon.com (I gave up buying music from brick and mortar stores long ago). Seeing as my musical tastes are outside of the mainstream, it’s not surprising that many of the albums on my radar are difficult to find. For example, I recently picked up a few albums from 1970’s progressive rock band Camel, and both were imports (and therefore more expensive than the domestic albums might be). But the imports were the only thing available. One other album I’m seeking is currently marked as shipping in ‘4 to 6 weeks’ which, in Amazon speak, means that it’s unlikely to ever be available again. This isn’t an isolated case; I’m finding that it’s increasingly difficult to find certain albums on CD.

As a result, I’m wondering whether it’s worth buying CDs anymore. I primarily listen to CDs on my way to and from work, though I listen to my iPod exclusively at work and on the occasional trip somewhere. When I’m at home, I listen to my music through either iTunes or WinAmp. Having a CD gives me something tangible as well as a backup (in case the digital rip gets destroyed or corrupted). But CDs have their own problems. The jewel cases are bulky (they way a ton en mass), and they’re always a bother to open up after purchasing them (what’s with all those stickers and cellophane wrap?).

The Amazon MP3 Store seems very appealing, in that all the offered music is DRM free. But, not surprisingly, not every album is available. So what do you do?

Predictions for The Office

Published on May 2, 2008

I’m a big fan of The Office, the comedy television show on NBC (hopefully everyone else is too). Last night’s episode was great, and it provided a glimpse of what might be coming down the pipeline (there are only 2 episodes left this season). Here are a few predictions I have for where this series is headed; note the possible spoilers ahead:

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Enjoying ‘Pushing Daisies’

Published on November 1, 2007

I’m not sure if any of you have seen Pushing Daisies (Wednesdays at 8:00 PM EST on ABC), but I am thoroughly enjoying the show. It’s a comedy-drama (described in some places as an ‘forensic fairy-tale’) and is, in my opinion, the most creative thing to come to television in a long time. The story revolves around Ned, a pie-maker, who has the uncanny ability to bring dead things back to life. There are, however, several rules he must adhere to:

  1. If Ned touches something that he has previously brought back to life, it dies permanently.
  2. If the thing that Ned brings back to life is alive for more than one minute, something else nearby dies to take its place.

Emerson Cod, a detective friend who discovers Ned’s secret ability, gets Ned to partner up with him to solve unsolved murders. The general plot is that Ned brings back the murder victim, asks them how they died, and they collect the reward money (if any). But there are further complications to the story.

In his childhood, Ned was good friends with a girl who lived across the street, one Charlotte “Chuck” Charles. Ned’s mother dies unexpectedly, so he brings her back to life, at the time not knowing about his power’s two constraints. As a result, Charlotte’s father dies unexpectedly (from rule 2 above). After touching his mother a second time, she too dies (from rule 1 above). Ned is sent to a boarding school, and never sees Chuck again. Later in life, however, he sees that Chuck has been mysteriously murdered. He brings her back to life and, unable to bring himself to killing her again, keeps her alive (a nearby undertaker dies to take her place). Chuck and Ned are instantly smitten with one another, but their relationship becomes somewhat difficult as a result of Ned being unable to touch Chuck.

The show ultimately revolves around the unsolved murders (a new one each week), and around Ned and Chuck’s relationship and the complications therein: namely that they cannot touch one another (though they find a few workarounds), and that Olive Snook, a waitress at the Pie shop where Ned works, falls in love with Ned. It has been a long, long time since something this unique and engaging has been on television, so I heartily recommend it. The direction of this show is very similar to the works of Tim Burton, so if you like his movies, you’ll like this show.

Update: You can catch full episodes of the show at ABC.com if you want to get caught up on the storyline. You have to install a custom player (yuck), but Dustin tried it out and it says it works OK.

The Totally Rad Show

Published on June 15, 2007

I’ve been meaning to discuss The Totally Rad Show for some time now, and I’m just now getting around to it. For those unfamiliar with the show, TRS describes itself as the “summer blockbuster of geek news shows.” Alex Albrecht (from DiggNation), Jeff Cannata, and Dan Trachtenberg all host the show, and they talk about movies, video games, television, comics, and more. One of the great stylistic elements of the show is that it is shot entirely in front of a green screen. Throughout the show, as the guys bring up various topics, related images appear behind them. The effect is subtle, but it really adds to the overall presentation.

TRS is currently on its 12th episode as of this writing, and I have followed it since episode 1. The content of the show is entertaining, and I’ve been introduced to several really great things based on their discussions. If you’re a geek, or you like video games, movies, and more, be sure to check it out. If nothing else, it’s a great thing to listen to at work. 😀

Video Killed the Radio Star

Published on April 10, 2007

I’ve recently been listening to some music by The Mamas & The Papas, and it got me thinking. Cass Elliot, one of “The Mamas,” was rather heavy-set to say the least. Would a person like this make it in today’s music scene? I’m inclined to say “no” since so much of music today is visual. As I see it, Cass just doesn’t have “the look” to compete in today’s market.

She’s not alone. Roy Orbison is another candidate in my list of performers least likely to make it. Anyone who’s listened to any of Roy’s work can’t deny that he has an incredible voice. But he’s certainly nothing to look at. He would most likely be overlooked if he started today. Who knows how much great music we’re missing out on because the artists aren’t the Ken’s and Barbie’s that producers want them to be?

A Shocking Realization of the Truth

Published on March 20, 2007

Ever have the experience where something that you were sure was right turned out to be wrong? Last night, while browsing the web for some new jazz fusion albums, I happened to read the Mahavishnu Orchestra article over at Wikipedia (MO is one of my favorite jazz fusion groups). I have always assumed that Jean-Luc Ponty was the violin player in the classic line-up of the Mahavishnu Orchestra (the line-up that I prefer; the later incarnation of MO isn’t nearly as good, in my opinion). This assumption led me to buy a number of Mr. Ponty’s albums, all of which I thoroughly enjoy.

It turns out, however, that Jerry Goodman was the violinist in the original line-up! Jean-Luc was the violinist in the later line-up (ironically, the one that I dislike). All this time I’ve been mistakenly attributing the awesome musicianship in the group’s first albums to Jean-Luc Ponty (that being said, Jean-Luc is an awesome musician). Needless to say, my mind was blown at how wrong I was. I’m really surprised that I have lived under this illusion for so long.

Several videos of the band are on YouTube, strangely enough (the original line-up was only together for a few years in the 1970s). The audio in the videos isn’t the greatest, but it’s definitely cool to see the guys in action (Billy Cobham on drums is phenomenal). Here are a few links for your enjoyment:

A Disappointing Turn of Events

Published on December 2, 2006

I’m going to go ahead and call this one: Ctrl+Alt+Del has jumped the shark. What used to be a mildly amusing online comic has devolved into something so far out in left field, so detached from reality, that I’m not going to bother reading it anymore. The current story line is just a joke. Each character is a mindless, empty shell of what they used to be. It’s sad to see the comic take this turn, but I can’t say I’m surprised. In some way, I sort of saw this coming.

Loving The Office

Published on October 29, 2006

Does anyone else besides me love The Office? A coworker of mine (thanks Dustin!) got me into the show, and I’m currently working through season 2 (so no spoilers, please). Season 1 was surprisingly short, and I wish it had been longer. The one thing that I enjoy most about the show is that all of the characters are incredibly believable. I mean, I feel like I could work with any of these people. None of them are overly beautiful, like most television shows where the actors are all Barbie and Ken cookie cutters. Steve Carell does an excellent job as the manager, and John Krasinski is great as Jim. Dwight is a riot, and Ryan the temp plays a good part as well.

Don’t even get me started on Pam; words simply fail me.

Update: I’ve finished season 2. All I can say is wow.

You’re On the Air!

Published on October 20, 2006

My dad and I wanted to donate some money to WNCU, a local jazz station that we both enjoy, so I called the number they gave out tonight to make a donation. Does an operator willing to take my money answer the phone? No. The host of the live talk radio show that was currently on the air picks up. I explained that I was calling about the fund drive, and he explained that this was a live radio talk show. I apologized, gave him my number (hopefully off the air), and hung up. He still hasn’t called back, and he no doubt had a good laugh at my expense.

Oh the humanity!

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