Oscars Host Shuffle-Up

I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to have Eddie Murphy host the Academy Awards. He’s a fantastic actor and a comedy genius…or at least he was. That aside, he was a poor choice of host and I’m glad that he has departed the gig (due to producer Brent Ratner’s stepping down over some controversial comments).

In Murphy’s place…Billy Crystal. And to this I say, great choice. Billy has done it before and he’s done it well. There seems to be some concern that Crystal’s hiring is safe and middle of the road. Good. The Oscars appears to have some chip on its shoulder that it needs to provide a spectacle on par with MTV’s Music Video Awards. Unfortunately, it’s the dorky uncle in this case who will never be as cool and exciting. Nor does it have to be.

The Oscars needs to keep the speeches short. Keep it entertaining. And maybe take itself a little less serious. But with Billy now on board the latter shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Nominations for the 84th Academy Awards will be announced January 24, 2012.

Harry’s Law: Another Hit from David E. Kelley

I would love to say that I’ve always been a huge David E. Kelley fan. The truth is – I didn’t know who he was until I stumbled across a little show called ‘Boston Legal.’ It had heart. It had humor. I was hooked.

So when I first heard about Harry’s Law (NBC), considering it was a David E. Kelley offering, I thought I would’ve been more excited. But I wasn’t. It looked serious. It had Kathy Bates. It looked, dare I say it – boring.

It wasn’t until I was stuck on an airplane with nothing else to do for eight hours that I finally watched the pilot. It had all the ingredients ‘Boston’ had: heart, humor, eccentric characters, and thought-provoking cases. I was hooked. The first two episodes of ‘Harry’s Law’ have to be two of the best written episodes of Kelley’s career to date.

I cannot recommend this show enough. Kathy Bates is a standout as Harriet, a patent lawyer who makes the transition into criminal law after a mid life crisis. Bates does a fine job of balancing Harriet’s rough exterior against a simmering vulnerability and a teddy-bear like softness. And she doesn’t stand alone. A great supporting cast full of unique and interesting characters are also present.

In the end ‘Harry’s Law’ succeeds on two levels: great writing and great acting. It sounds so simple and yet so many shows fail to miss the mark on either one of both of these areas. And just to add a little extra, Kelley even adds a little intelligence in there for us too and opens up all kind of debates and discussions (Episode 3 will have you asking whether there might just be something to China’s One Child policy).

If you like humor, heart, and though-provoking content – this show is for you!

Grade: A

Cowboys & Schmaliens

All I can say is so much potential and yet such a disappointment.

Could have been so cool.

Epic failure.

Jon Favreau [director] and Damon Lindelof (of LOST) [co screen-writer], why did you get involved in this?

Grade: C (and that’s being generous)

End of an Era (nearly)

 

The 2004-2005 TV season was a big one for ABC. That year heralded three of the biggest scripted TV shows on TV – and all on the one network. It was a big turnaround for the network.

First LOST, then Desperate Housewives, and to top it all off Grey’s Anatomy. It was a big year for ABC. (To find out more about the history behind each of those shows or if you’re a bit of a TV buff, I would highly recommend Desperate Networks by Bill Carter, great read).

Unfortunately though, all good things must come to an end.

After 6 seasons, LOST was put to rest. (I’m still not sure I quite get the finale though)

And now Marc Cherry has announced that after much speculation, season 8, premiering this fall (in US) will be the last season for the women of Wysteria Lane.

The only question left now is how much longer can Grey’s hold on. Creator, Shona Rhimes has said that the series will continue after season 8 (also premiering this fall), however, after eight seasons, I can’t help but wonder if those left from the original cast will want to continue on much longer.

That being said, when the doors finally do close on Seattle Grace, it will be the end of an era at ABC.

Life without Facebook

I’m taking a one week break from Facebook.

It’s something I like to do every few months. Because I think it’s important to remember what life’s like without it and that there’s more I could do with my free time than just refresh my news feed.

That being said, I still find myself thinking in status updates and wanting to check my account after a night out with friends.

And what surprises me even more is the amount of interest my Facebook furlough has generated among my friends. The question ‘why’ almost always invariably pops up. And even more surprisingly, more often than not, I’m met with the reaction, ‘I don’t get it.’ Truth be told, I actually find myself more present and more connected when I’m not on Facebook.

The hacking group Anonymous have announced that due to annoyance and frustration with Facebook’s privacy settings that on November 5 they will take the social network site down. I don’t know if that’s possible and I don’t know if they’ll actually do it. But should they manage to be successful, even if just temporarily maybe my friends will come to realize that life without Facebook, as inconvenient as it may be, may just actually be a welcome change (that is as soon as the thinking in status updates dies down, in which case they can just jump over to Twitter).

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

 

Kenneth Turan of the LA Times refers to Caesar, the lead chimp in Rise of the Planet of the Apes as ‘one sophisticated chimpanzee.’ Yep, agreed.

Turan refers to the film itself as ‘one sophisticated summer blockbuster.’ Umm, maybe that’s a bit much Turan.

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes is very aptly named for that’s exactly what the movie is all about. Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s in an attempt to save his own father (John Lithgow) from the debilitating disease. When Will’s employer Gen-Sys begins testing the drug on apes, Will notices an unexpected side-effect, the drug makes the apes smarter.

When the main test subject, Bright Eyes, goes on a wild rampage in Gen-Sys HQ, the project is closed down and all the apes are put down – except one, Caesar. And now to make a long story short. Will takes Caesar home. Caesar grows up. Caesar attacks a man in defense of Will’s senile dad. Caesar is taken to a primate facility. Caesar is mistreated. Caesar retaliates. And therein begins the upRISing.

There’s more to the story but I don’t want to give too much away. Because, the one thing I especially enjoyed about Rise of the Planet of the Apes was that it kept you thinking even as the credits began rolling (unless of course, you’re one of those smarty pants who figures everything out 5 minutes into the movie).

There’s even small details thrown in, just for something a little extra. For example, during one scene Caesar is seen playing with a 3D jigsaw of The Statue of Liberty. Accident? I don’t think so. (If you’ve seen the 1968 Planet of the Apes you’ll see the connection.)

That’s another thing that surprised me. Rise of the Planet of the Apes seemed to be more in line with the 1968 Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston, which seems strange to me as the whole idea of Rise of Planet of the Apes was to continue building the franchise from Tim Burton’s 2002 Planet of the Apes.

Either way, I do admit that I did enjoy Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It works great as a prequel and really answers most of the questions that Planet of the Apes brings up. Mainly, how did the apes come to rule the planet? That being said, there were also some pretty huge logical compromises we as the audience had to make in order to accept the plot. Things like the animals’ behaviour in the primate facility. Pretty sure apes aren’t quite so civilized and pretty sure they don’t communicate through human sign language. Which makes me a little disappointed because I think the screenwriters could have addressed those issues better with a little extra creativity.

Oh, and pretty sure it’s illegal to keep a pet ape in the US and pretty sure that somewhere in the eight years that Will had Caesar that someone would have ratted him out to the cops. But otherwise, it’s a good genesis movie and alright entertainment if you’ve got 100 minutes to spare.

Grade: B+

Media Ownership

With the current News of the World scandal in Britain and with so much attention currently on Rupert Murdoch and his media empire (News Corporation), what better time to take a look at just who controls mainstream media.

We’re used to thinking that media outlets like CNN and The New York Times are entities in and of themselves but the reality is that they are just pieces of much larger media empires (CNN being a part of AOL Time Warner and The New York Times with News Corporation).

Here’s some food for thought:

A little scary? I think so. I’m all for mass media but when it comes to control of the media, there need to be limits.

Thor

 

I saw Thor last week. As I’ve never read the comic books, I didn’t have a lot of background knowledge apart from what I’d seen on the trailer. I walked in with no pre-conceived notions and no expectations. And yet, somehow I left, well, a little underwhelmed. I think that when it comes to blockbusters we expect big action, big names, and big effects, but surely it wouldn’t hurt to also expect a storyline with umm, a little more depth, as just a little extra somethin somethin.

What is impressive is that fellow Australian Chris Hemsworth (Thor) used to be a scrawny guy like me. Goes to show how far enough weight training and protein shakes takes you.

But at the end of the day, the final battle reminded me of when I was a 6 year old watching Power Rangers. And Power Rangers was great and all – when I was 6.

On the plus side, I think this was the first movie were Natalie Portman (Jane) was happy-go-lucky, nice, and friendly. I’ve never seen a Natalie Portman movie where she smiles so much. It was a nice change.

It wasn’t the worst movie in the world and it’s definitely not the best either. It’s one of those, ‘something to do for fun’ movies.

Grade: B

3 Doco’s U Need 2 C

I’m a huge documentary nerd. I love them and to be honest I don’t know why. I think it boils down to the fact that more often than not truth really is stranger than fiction. Below is my list of recent doco’s that I would definitely recommend:

Freakonomics

Inspired by the book of the same name (also worth checking out), Freakonomics is all about the hidden side of everything. From sumo wrestling and US standardized test cheating to abortion and crime rate drops to how the name you give your baby may just ruin his/her life. Freakonomics educates and entertains effortlessly.

Grade: A+

I.O.U.S.A.

Considering the recent US debt crisis earlier this month, this 2008 film is maybe more relevant than ever. It tracks the history of debt in America and looks at how the US debt got to where it is today (pre-GFC) and what can be done to fix it.

Grade: A+

The producers are so passionate about the subject that they even made a 30-minute online version so that anyone can watch it anytime:

Burma VJ

This was one of those movies where it looked like it could be good and it got nominated for an Oscar (Best Documentary Feature 2009 nominee) but it just looked a little…boring. So, when I finally ran out of other things to watch and actually found myself putting the DVD in the player, I was pleasantly surprised. Burma VJ is not boring!

Because most of the film was shot during the 2007 demonstrations and because the cameramen and women are risking their lives and freedom, there’s something unnerving and exhilarating about Burma VJ. With much of the world closed off to Burma, a group of brave video-journalists make it their job to document for the rest of the world what Burma’s junta doesn’t want us to see.

For their bravery alone, much less their commitment to freedom of speech and democracy, the Burma VJ’s are much deserving of their A+.

Grade: A+

‘The Adventures of Tintin’ Trailer

I have to admit, ever since I was young, I have been a huge Tintin fan. For those out of the loop, Tintin is a comic book series about a young reporter who has a knack for solving mysteries and getting himself in trouble – constantly.

As it turns out Steven Speilberg is a fan as well. But when it was announced a few years back that Speilberg had bought the rights and that Tintin was going to be made into a feature length movie, I was a little apprehensive. And then when I also heard that it would be filmed using CG (computer generated) motion capture, I was even more uneasy. (Can anyone say The Polar Express and last year’s A Christmas Carol?)


But earlier this year, when the trailer was finally released, I realized that I never should have doubted the coupling of Steven Speilberg and Peter Jackson. On their own, well, as talented as they are, they have made their mistakes. Jackson with The Lovely Bones (he totally ruined a perfectly good book) and Speilberg with 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (aliens? really Steven?) but together I’m trusting that Tintin is in safe hands. Finger’s crossed.

Release date: December 23, 2011

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