Monday, June 29, 2009

Hung - Series Premiere Review

Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane) is a down and out gym teacher. His kids hate him, his wife divorced him, he has no money, and his house just burned down. But Ray has one plus. He's conveniently endowed with a huge package. Whats a guy to do in this economy? Become a male prostitute of course.

The Hung series premiere follows Ray through the machinations that lead to his job as a gigolo. His motivations are basic. He is a loser just looking for a way, any way, to succeed in a world he feels has dealt him a bum hand. Thomas Jane plays the character in a way that made me want to both root for Ray and slap him at the same time. He's not a bad guy but he isn't an angel either. He exists somewhere in between and thats what makes him believable. Jane plays the part so well that it doesn't seem a stretch at all that Ray Drecker would turn to prostitution in order to pay the bills.

Shows labeled "dark comedies" always make me wary. Adding humor to a dark premise can seem forced or fall flat. Hung does neither. From Ray searching, "How to make money from your large penis" on google to a poet/one night stand becoming his pimp was funny without pressing the issue. Jane plays the "everyman" perfectly and the premiere dealt more with Ray as a person than Ray as a working dude.

Hung has potential and the pilot left just enough for us to think about with out over burdening the viewer with a ridiculous premise or situations. I'll hang around for this show.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Hangover - I was right, Corliss is an idiot

Scroll down for my hammering of Richard Corliss and his inane review of The Hangover. Well I finally got to see it this past weekend and it just reconfirmed what I already thought: the movie is hilarious and Corliss is a jackass.

The movie fired on all comedic cylinders and I won't say too much about it other than the casting was absolutely perfect. The ultimate sign this movie is as good a comedy as you can see this year was when the lights came on and I saw a group of teenagers and a group of middle aged women (separate groups) laughing hysterically. We even passed a 70ish year old lady in the back with a huge smile on her face. (this shocked me a bit tbh) Anyway, The Hangover is well worth the watch just for all the quotable lines I'm sure you will be repeating before you even leave the theater.
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True Blood - Keep this party going

If you like blood, sweat, sex and tears (not to be confused with the crappy "jazz fusion" band of a similar name***) then you will probably like True Blood. If you are fan of good acting then this probably isn't the show for you.

What I like about True Blood:

the blood
the sex
the nudity
the occasional humor
Jason Stackhouse
the vampires other than Bill

What I dislike:
Man just about everything else. On a whole the acting is pretty terrible. That could be a product of the writing which is heavy on plot (which is razor thin as far as being interesting), and low on believable dialogue. The main characters are pretty unlikeable. Like I said before, this is a huge problem if they are the focal points of the show. Most of the time I think True Blood is content in just showing muscular sweaty guys and a ton of tits in order to distract me from what is (or isn't) happening.

But about halfway through this I had a True Blood epiphany. I have been watching this show with the wrong attitude. I was set on it being this intriguing, in-depth drama when it is anything but. If I watch it as a joke and just check baseball scores whenever Sookie is talking the show gets a hell of a lot more enjoyable. There are enough moments of levity and intrigue to keep me going as long as I don't start wishing and hoping for it to be some kind of award-winning program. So there you go. That is how I am approaching True Blood from now on. Focusing on the good. Ignoring the rest of it.


- Eric's vampire character getting a haircut and then getting blood in his hair because he ate someone.
- Jason Stackhouse trying so damn hard and being so damn excited to be in a vampire-hating cult. The Light of Day cult is a fairly great satire on every ridiculous group of right wing retards whose fundamentalism comes off looking even more stupid every time they speak. Actually this part of the show was the highlight including the house band singing "Jesus Asked Me Out Today."

*** Take a look at the Blood, Sweat and Tears Wikipedia page and scroll down to the list of people that have been in the band. Holy crap!
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Entourage - A Moderate Plea

It's a little hard for me to believe Entourage only began in 2004. I am not sure if its hard to believe because '04 seems so close or so far away. Since its premiere season, that I watched on a weekly basis, I've been a rapid season-watcher. Season 2 I got on DVD. Seasons 3-4 were off my buddy Pat's computer. Each one I devoured in about 3 days and with mixed feelings.

Where I thought seasons 1 and 2 hit every right note, I thought seasons 3-4 were hit or miss. The big pull behind Entourage comes from the idea that we plebes will never live Vincent Chase's (Or E's or Drama's or Turtle's) life. By the third season I had become almost sick of their routines. The third and fourth seasons weren't great, but worked more because of

- Drama's perfection of a character
- Ari carrying many, many scenes
- Celerity cameos out the ass

than an actual working storyline. I became bored with the celebrity aspect. It doesn't mean I didn't want it. It just means I didn't need to see anymore of it from good old Vinny and gang. I get it. Hollywood is theoretically tough for superstars. They get high and party, read scripts, and struggle to maintain their self image in the face of ever-increasing criticism. It's basically like the Channelup house. Old news.

Season 5 almost brings Entourage back to pre-roots. From the beginning of the show we have never seen Vince struggle. Oh sure we have seen him fight for roles, stick to his ideals and lobby for what he feels is right. But those aren't struggles, those are harbingers. They are set ups for his success. We know Vince will win. He will get the role, get paid, stick with his friends and live the good life.

What's it like for an actor on the outs? What happens when his faith and his friends' faiths are brought into question? What comes of an actor who gets no gigs? Don't get me wrong, it's still better than my grind up the Parkway, but at least it seems realistic. I root for Vince's redemption the way I root for a struggling actor which he is and isn't. But isn't that the feat of great writing? Make us root for those we probably shouldn't. This past season of Entourage accomplished just that.

So what is my plea? Watch Season 5 of Entourage. Get caught up for the premiere of Season 6 on July 12. Don't even bother with seasons 3 and 4 if you haven't seen them yet. The "previously on" will catch you up on everything you need to know. Just sit back and root for some guys living a life you will never live.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

True Blood - Season 2 - Nothing But the Blood

Mrs. Channelup and I started watching season 1 of True Blood onDemand last month. I got through about 4 episodes before giving up. The missus made it all the way through the season and was actually excited for the beginning of season 2. I decided to give it a second try. After the "previously on" and with some running commentary from Mrs. C. I caught up sufficiently. What I got was a vastly improved show that didn't annoy me as much as the first season (Anna Paquin aside).

For those that haven't seen it, True Blood is about a world where vampires are part of everyday society but are discriminated against. This premise can seem both intriguing and stupid at the same time. Kind of like Heidi and Spencer Pratt.

The second season deals more with the characters and their respective problems and powers. In this world, vampires aren't the only ones living among the normal folk. There are telekinetics, shape-shifters, spiritual healers, and some other crazy shit that I haven't figured out yet. It's basically like Heroes set in Louisiana and with a ton more sex and blood.

I found the characters significantly more interesting and likable this episode. That may be because the plot went light on Sookie and Bill who are the show's two most annoying characters. This is somewhat of a problem being as they are also the main ones. Where I thought the first season had a high campy factor, that seems to have been toned down a bit. True Blood will never be a real serious drama, the storyline and characters don't lend itself to that route. Everyone is a bit of a joke, but last season I was turned off by some of the dialogue and relationships being over the top.

The two main questions right now are:
What are Maryann's motives (and powers)?
How many more times will Anna Paquin get naked?

Getting the answers to those two things are enough to keep me going for at least a few episodes.
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Nurse Jackie - Sweet'n All

I offered to cover Nurse Jackie for three reasons:
1. It’s the summer and very little is on.
2. Shows on premium stations are typically a notch better than broadcast or basic cable because of the freedom they have.
3. The first few episodes are on OnDemand so I can watch them a bit ahead of schedule and therefore feel more important and critic-like.

Read the rest of this review at CinemaBlend.
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Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Hangover - Haven't seen it. Already have a problem with someone else about it

Where I take Richard Corliss to task over his critique of a movie I have never seen.

I'm not one to argue. No would label me a dissenter. I stick to the status quo and rarely cause trouble or rabble rouse. And while none of these statements are technically true I thought they would help in gaining, you the reader's, trust before I go off on Time's Richard Corliss for his review of The Hangover.

I haven't even seen the movie yet and I already have a problem with something someone wrote about it. Does that say I don't have a life and need to find a better Friday night/ Saturday morning activity? Probably. Does Corliss need to be taken to task? Most assuredly.

In his review of The Hangover, after admitting that its Rotten Tomatoes rating is a stunning 85%, he questions the producer's (or studios) choice of actors. To quote Mr. Corliss:

You want to make a comedy about guys who learn the true meaning of bromance on a horrible weekend in Vegas, but you can't spend a lot of money on talent. Which actors do you cast? The leading role of Phil, the smart, energetic audience surrogate, might have suited Jim Carrey or Vince Vaughn, so go with Bradley Cooper, who was Carrey's pal in Yes Man and Vaughn's preppie torturer in Wedding Crashers. Steve Carell would have been perfect for Stu, the amiable, henpecked dentist; but Ed Helms, Carell's cohort on The Daily Show and The Office, costs so much less. Now for Alan, the roly-poly cute guy with a surfeit of energy and a sociopathic streak: can't afford Jack Black, give stand-up comic Zach Galifianakis a chance. OK, we got ourselves a movie!
Look, I like Corliss. I am one of the few, under age 35 people with an actual Time Magazine subscription so I read his movie reviews regularly. (Not like I couldn't on the internet for free). But this criticism is just plain stupid. Lambasting a studio for not casting the world's most popular comedic actors (sorry Will Ferrell) for every single role in a movie and blaming the studio for chincing out on said talent? WTF? Short of Ocean's Ten Eleven Twelve whatever, what movie does this? None.

And besides that, does a casting of these actors help the overall movie? Probably not. Consider if any one of those actors is cast in any one of the roles (much less all of them). What does the movie become? A Carrell, Vaughn, Carry, Black vehicle without any of the inherent "bromance" because movies like this work when the actors are all on even footing. Its funny because each actor is just popular enough in their own right. They are all sitting in that in between "that guy" and "I love that guy" phase. thats what makes these kind of ensembles work so well. No actor steals the spotlight from the other and more importantly, the writers don't feel pressured (or obligated) to hand more scenes off to the star. Instead it becomes exactly what was intended, a "bromance."

Like I said, I haven't seen The Hangover though I intend to. but without even viewing the movie I can tell Corliss's review is massively off base. Condemning a movie for not hiring every (or even any) big name actor is like telling the Tampa Bay Rays they shouldn't have been in the World Series last year because Arod or Pujols wasn't on the team. It doesn't make any kind of sense. If you thought the movie was bad, fine. If you want all of your favorite guys in one movie? That's a different story.
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Listener - I'm an Adult - Review

Toby Logan has telepathy and he chooses to use it for good?!!! I am sick of these moral fundamentalists who insist on using their powers for the greater well being. Give me one day of telepathy and I would be able to retire away to an island. What does Toby do? He becomes a Toronto paramedic. What a waste and a perfectly awesome super power.

Forgive me for being skeptical about The Listener when I read it was :
A: A Canadian television show
B: Made in Canada
C: Produced by our neighbors to the North

Hmm, maybe I just have something against Canada. Its good to talk these things out. The Listener (according to trusty old reliable, accurate and all knowing Wikipedia) has had a pretty nice run in Canada and a few other countries so it isn't technically a new show. NBC picked it up for a summer run. The idea that it has had enough success elsewhere to warrant a new airing in The States was enough to start changing my tune.

Toby's telepathy is a secret from those close to him: his partner Osman, his doctor girlfriend Olivia and I guess everyone else in his life except for his old counselor Dr. Mercer(President Taylor's moronic husband from 24). Toby's an orphan but from his flashbacks we learn his past contains some mystery.

He uses his gift understatedly by playing off the other characters around him. The humor is subtle but effective and the writing rarely tries to do too much. It makes for a very watchable and entertaining hour. I typically am not a fan of of stand alone programs, but I can get behind ones that have over arcing themes with potential subplots. The Listener, much like the quickly canceled Journeyman and Life on Mars, grabs the best of both worlds. In fact it is probably a perfect summer television show because you don't have to overthink it while remaining entertained.

The production has fairly high value, the writing is quickly paced and I found myself rooting for Toby. Really, what else are you hoping for with a show like this?
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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nurse Jackie Review

It is hard for me to hear Edie Falco’s voice and not think of Carmella Soprano. Even with a shorter hair cut and hospital scrubs the voice just gets me thinking Tony and company every time she speaks. Nurse Jackie though, is a far cry from the mafia wife. She is a drug-addicted and adulterous disaster doubling as an exceptional and over-achieving nurse. Nice juxtaposition. Obvious and a bit cliché, but nice.
Continue reading this review at Cinemablend television.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Earth 2100 - Like Drag Me to Hell, but real

I rarely watch shows like this for a couple of reasons:
1. They scare the ever-living shit out of me and I think we are all going to die
2. They make me feel like a terrible person.
Earth 2100 did both in just the first 10 minutes. The rest was just an ever-increasing feeling of nausea that I wouldn't be able to drive my Hummer anymore.

I've read The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (who they briefly interviewed) and seen Wall-E. so I didn't feel like I was going to get too much new info from this program, but hey it was on and I needed something to write about.

The show is narrated by Lucy, a fictional character living in 2100 who's "seen" all the bad shit that has befallen Earth. She walks us through her life to identify where it all went wrong with the planet. She begins with Earth as it is now and then starts laying on the disaster. Her "experiences" are validated through interviews with today's leading experts on global change. These are just some of the uplifting highlights:

Rising gas and food prices
Storms of the Century
Excessive Global Warming
Godzilla vs. Mothra
Population overgrowth
Massive human migration
Animal extinction
Global pandemic
Road Rage

The shock value in this program was off the charts. I understand the "scared straight" mentality of invoking change, but Earth 2100 spends most of its time with laying out the worst case scenario without giving too many solutions. That's what the average person needs, solutions. Specific, real world solutions. It's obvious we are too dumb, as a collective species, to figure out how to handle these problems on our own. We need someone holding our hand through the process and basically treating us like children or poorly behaving pets. Spank us, scold us, and make us do the right thing for the planet.

(Sidenote: there was a 20 minute section that was pretty much Stephen King's The Stand.)

Overall, Earth 2100 was a mostly animated version of something you can read in any one of a number of books out right now. The Earth is going to Hell in a non-recycled handbasket and on different levels, we can all admit this. I just wanted someone to tell the masses how to stop it. Saving all the solutions for a rapid fire, against the clock list in the last 10 minutes probably isn't enough.

Basically the inanely vague and broad solutions were:

Invent new things
Use other energy
Be committed
Set an example
Make sure all my Chinese and Indian friends are on board with this
Use results as my actual solutions
Have faith

Thanks ABC. I will start all of that stuff tomorrow. Earth cured.
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Monday, June 1, 2009

Starting to watch Chuck! - It's about time

Reading Alan Sepinwall's blog today I learned the WB was putting up the whole first season of Chuck for those (like me) who were too lazy to catch on with this critically acclaimed show.

Starting tonight Mrs. Channelup and I are going to try and watch an episode a night and plow through the first two seasons in a relatively short time. Here's hoping it lives up to the expectations. I will do a review after we finish the first season and then another after the second. Don't you love your reviews a couple of years after the fact? Next I will be reviewing the movie Heat and taking a look at this show called Lost everyone is talking about.
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