Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hall & Oates still resonate with music lovers after 30 years!

Yesterday decided to talk about literature and for a second day in a row I continue to branch out into other pop culture arenas. Now it’s no secret that I’m a fan of music and even love to sign a note or two. On my other sites I’ve discussed some bands in particular that I’ve become quite fond of over the years.

And so with that, I think that I will do at least a weekly feature on a musician or band that resonates with me in some way. For my first selection I’ve chosen one of the most popular musical dues of the 70s and 80s and at the same time, one of the most over-looked bands regarding their fabulous contributions to the music scene.

While Daryll Hall and John Oates – together as Hall & Oates – formed as a band in 1969, it wasn’t until 1972 that they released their first album and four more years until they had their first top ten hits with “Sara Smile” and “She’s Gone.” The band’s mix of soulful riffs and poignant lyrics shot them to the top of the music scene in the 1970s, but they are often labeled as an 80s band. Not so. Yes, they had some hits in the 80s, but the crux of their best music was released between 1975 and 1980.

And I’d be remiss not to mention that until recently, I didn’t quite appreciate the musical impact these two had on others. Yet each year when the powers that be meet to discuss who should be on the ballet for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Hall & Oates continues to get snubbed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Shutter Island deserves a read before the 2009 movie premiere!

When it comes to comparisons between novels and movies, I consider myself a book guy. That is to say that I find it rare that a movie adapted from a book or novel can live up to the original work. Such scrutiny is typically heightened when the novel in question is by an author I’m particularly fond of. That being said, I really think that Dennis Lehane’s novel, "Mystic River" was done extremely well and was able to retain the soul and feel of the story as told by the greater-Boston native.

While "Gone Baby Gone" was a decent movie, there were quite a few changes and necessary omissions that didn’t do the story or characters justice. Now with Martin Scorsese directing one of Lehane’s most ambitious works in that of "Shutter Island," I really am curious. If you’ve read the novel, you know that the story is not only mesmerizing and complex, but is done in such a way that the reader can’t help but be totally thrown off by the ending. I of course, won’t give that away, but I highly suggest that you go to your local bookstore and read the novel before the movie comes out next fall. For first time Lehane readers, I guarantee you’ll find yourself buying more of his work and you will understand why this mystery fiction master has had so much of his work transformed into major Hollywood productions.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

There's always time to watch one's favorite show!

There are several television shows that I watch throughout the week. Some are ones that I DVR and can’t wait to tune in and then there are those that I watch because my wife enjoys them. That’s isn’t to say that I don’t like them, but it’s suffice to say that The Biggest Loser isn’t my first choice for shows to watch when there are alternatives like the Sci-Fi Channel and some cool shows on the Discovery Channel. That being said, we are both still in the first several months of our marriage and I think that it’s important to have some give and take. I know full well that if I really wanted to watch Battlestar Galactica, Julie would either go upstairs to another tv or just switch it, but the point is for us to be together. It doesn’t really matter what it is we’re watch because family time is family time. This is of course when the DVR becomes such a great thing to have. We can watch The Bachelor all night long and I don’t mind because I can still watch Jack Bauer take on the rest of the world after she goes to bed!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cloverfield - Not a new idea, but masterfully done!

When Cloverfield came out on video last year, I was excited to see it. This J.J. Abrams monster-thriller had been hyped up a great deal and the reviews were pretty good for what is a essentially a horror flick. Admittedly, it actually took me a couple nights to watch it and it’s quite short. It’s not because I didn’t like it, but rather, I think it was because I had a lot going on. Anyway, the point is that I didn’t really get a chance to take it all in.

So when last weekend, Julie and I decided to stay home and rent a movie, decided that I wanted to see it again. Julie had mentioned an interest in seeing the movie after I had rented and so it was an easy choice.

For those that don’t know, the movie is basically filmed entirely from the point of view of a guy with a video camera. And while the person shooting the film changes from the beginning, there are no multiple camera angles or neat camera tricks. What we see happen in the movie we see through the eyes of one of the characters. This isn’t the first time this type of filming has been done, but I think that it was one of the more effective portrayals because throughout the drama, action, and horror of the events, we get a fairly intimate picture of how a group of friends in New York, cope with what has been thrust into their lives on a single night.

And like any review of sorts that I do, I won’t go into the plot or give away any details, but I can say that the movie is both shocking and even rewarding. Rewarding in the sense that the whole story is told and no loose ends are left untied. The shocking part… well, you’ll have to watch it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

It's more than an Oscar show, but like, a whole day!

Let’s be frank, I’ve been sitting here for the past 5 hours watching Oscar related television and I’m about to pull my hair out. Am I the one that wanted to watch all the red carpet show? No, that would be my wife. Are there other televisions in the house I could have used? Yes, but then again, I could have done something else all together and yet I didn’t.

If you go back to an earlier post, I think I may have mentioned my thoughts on all the garbage that goes with award shows. The “red carpet” is the epitome of this. I mean who the hell really cares what the stars are wearing and how they feel about the awards? Okay, I understand that millions and millions of people care, but it’s so damned boring. That being said, watching all of this invested me in this year’s awards show. I mean I can’t just not watch even that my wife has gone to bed. So I sit here so I can basically see who wins the award for the one category that I’m really interested in. Wonder how many guys sit in my shoes right about now?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Who will win on Sunday night at the Oscars?

Is it unreasonable that I have an Oscar favorite for Best Actor and I haven’t even seen the movie? How about the fact I have a favorite for Best Picture and I haven’t seen that movie either? Well, suffice to say, I haven’t been to the theaters all that much this past year, but even it I had, it’s unlikely that I would have seen The Wrestler or Milk. Sure, I could have seen them recently, but for some reason, most Oscar-worthy films become Oscar-worthy before they even hit the screens.

I know I would like to see movies having been released for a certain period of time before being able to be nominated for Oscars. Granted, Oscar winners are often times movies that have smaller ticket sales than summer blockbusters. With the exception of The Dark Knight, which got snubbed in almost every category except for one, this years choices have a decidedly indy feel to them.

All that being said, I truly hope that Mickey Rourke gets the nod for The Wrestler and Milk wins for Best Picture. I see Rourke as the ultimate underdog and having seen a documentary about Harvey Milk several years ago, his story is exceptional. Perhaps you ask why I wouldn’t choose Sean Penn and quite frankly I think he’s the biggest competition for Rourke, but aside from his early roles, I think that Penn is an ass. The same could be said for Rourke, but with both perception is key.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Open your imagination to Due South - You won't regret it!

Long before winning his first Oscar for the original screenplay he wrote for Crash and the multiple nominations for Million Dollar Baby, Paul Haggis was already a successful writer, producer, and director. Having created several television shows, the native Canadian created one of the most beloved series ever to grace TV screens across Canada and, for two seasons, the United States.

In 1994, Due South debuted on CBS with mixed reviews. Critics liked the witty writing and the seemingly intriguing storyline of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who traveled to Chicago to track his father’s killer.

Billed as a comedy-drama, Due South was seen as a bit odd by some and brilliant by others. While each episode was mostly self-contained, the aforementioned theme of solving the mystery of his father’s death turned to Constable Benton Fraser (Paul Gross) chasing mob bosses and common criminals with Chicago Detective Ray Vecchio (David Marciano), all the while be followed around the sprawling city by his deaf half-wolf Diefenbacker.

The show only lasted two seasons in the US, but aired for another two in Canada and made Gross one of Canada’s most-loved and revered actors. With special guest stars in almost every episode, a fabulous soundtrack that spawned two albums, and creative writing that was second to none, Due South became known as one of those rare gems that America just didn’t get.

Fortunately, I returned to this show about 5 years ago and prior to their release in the US, I was able to get all four seasons imported from Canada. All the DVDs are now available everywhere, but the show still remains a mystery to most viewers. And yet whether you use Netflix or Blockbuster, I would highly recommend adding the Pilot and Season 1 to your queue. Due South remains as one of my favorite television shows of all time and made me proud to recognize the true talents of our fine neighbors to the north.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Awards shows and DVRs

We all know that it’s impossible to annotate your DVR recordings, but wouldn’t it be great if you could at least press fast-forward once and have it automatically skip through a set of commercials? Sure it would, but it would be even better if there was a switch made especially for award shows!

Okay, this really is in jest, but for anyone that has any inclination to watch a show like the Oscars, there is so much you just don’t want to see or hear. Some people just want to know exactly who won the top awards and that’s it. Zip – press the new button on the DVR and you’re there. Others like the musical performances and the top awards. This would require multiple zips, but a little preprogramming could keep you away from the award in the “Best Editing in a Feature Length Documentary Made Before Bush Came Into Office” category.

Seriously, we all read and watch a lot of shows and the like, about annual awards, but the shows themselves are overkill. So I think everyone should just set their DVRs and do something else until the end. Facebook anyone?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Unit - Intelligent and Addictive Television

The Unit debut on CBS a little over 4 years ago as a mid-season replacement with a trial run of 13 episodes ordered, a strong cast, but a show that wasn’t given much of a chance to make it past a few aired episodes. Anchored by Dennis Haysbert and Robert Patrick, The Unit has always been a show of two plotlines – the Special Forces unit of elite Army Rangers, who’s missions and true identities are classified on every level and the wives of these men who share in their bond of knowledge, but stay home and worry if their husbands will come back alive.

While I was one of the many that didn’t think the show would survive, it’s success has been a pleasant surprise. Each episodes it by-in-large stand alone although there are subplots that certainly extend from episodes to episodes and season to season.

While Haysbert and Patrick may have brought relative star power to this topical action-packed show that sometimes gets close to that fine line between truth and fiction, Scott Foley and Max Martini often give the performances that have made this show one of the most watched action series on television today. And while the 4th season nears its’ end, there is a good chance that this show, like many, will once again find itself on the chopping block. That may be the stark reality for most scripted television shows these days, The Unit is a well-written and provocative show that is not only highly intelligent, but outwardly patriotic and honest. If you haven’t tuned in yet, don’t wait any longer. You may just find your new favorite show.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Deep Winter is more than just fluff!

While I can’t say as though I’m typically a big fan of straight to DVD movies, there are times when one can find a hidden gem that was overlooked by the big studios for one reason or another. Such films are typically geared towards a certain demographic that doesn’t support a major release and more often than not, the movie hasn’t a chance to make any money given the limited budget for advertising and promotion.

Being a passionate skier, I search the shelves of my local Blockbuster every year looking for any new movie having to do with skiing and/or snowboarding. Let’s face it, the lifestyle sports theme isn’t a big sell and I can think of only a handful of movies that made it to the big screen. Hot Dog and Aspen Extreme made their marks on Hollywood with the former attaining nothing short of cult status, but most other scripted skiing movies are pretty damned awful and rarely have much of a plot to follow.

All that being said, I was fortunate to find one of those rare gems last week on that shelf I was talking about earlier. When I rented Deep Winter, I admittedly had pretty low expectations. While the casting of Michael Madsen as a former big mountain skier turned heli-ski guide was a little promising, it was the description on the back of the cover that caught my attention more. A ski racer, who had fallen from the graces of the U.S. Ski Team returns home to make the harrowing first descent in Alaska with a childhood friend. Add a beautiful love interest and some very well-shot big mountain footage and you’ve got the making of a watchable movie.

With skiing doubles such as the Seth Morrison and Dan Treadway and being co-written by big mountain skiing pioneer and freelance writer, Micah Abrams, Deep Winter not only held my attention, but left me wondering why this film has gone unknown, even through skiing circles. I would have thought that with Morrison’s and Abrams’ connections, some free publicity would have made a name for this flick, but sadly, I’m one of the few who knows about it. And while I really don’t want to give away a lot of the plot or storyline, I will say that this movie is not only visually stunning, but well-written and exciting. I highly recommend you add this to your queue or stop by your local store. I plan to buy it myself.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Battlestar Galactica lets it all hang out for the final episodes!

If I were to sum up the first few episodes of the final half season of Sci-Fi’s hugely successful show, Battlestar Galactica, in two words; I think they would be despair and anarchy. I k now; not the most pleasant of thoughts, but yikes, these people have been through hell and it only gets worse. The alliance with the Cylons makes sense, but what about the Cylons, who are still evil? That’s a huge loose end that they either need to tie up or perhaps hang it out there for a separate movie after the season ends. Additionally, I’m okay with Earth being destroyed, but the final five having come from Earth is a little silly. Scratch that… Being from Earth is fine for the storyline, but to insinuate that the 13th tribe were all Cylons is just too much, in my opinion.

So with 8 or so episodes left, there is lots of work to be done and to be frank, BSG cannot be left out floating in the middle of space. I think that they have to either find away to return to the colonies with a defeat of the bad Cylons or find a new world or civilization. I suppose they would just be destroyed, but we know that isn’t gonna happen. There is just no way they would kill off Apollo and Starbuck, although it’s not like the latter hasn’t happened before.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Are you LOST?

Between season 4 of LOST being available on DVD and the Sci-Fi Channel airing the who show from start to finish of the past few months, people wanting to get into the series don’t have much of an excuse to not be caught up to speed by now. Of course when it comes to LOST, all things are relative (to what, who knows?) and being up on everything that has gone on of the past 4 seasons doesn’t mean people won’t be confused by the nonlinear timeline and ever-changing alliances.

If perhaps you were a fan and watched the show through the first three seasons and then decided to come back now, well, let’s just say things have obviously changed quite a bit. The Oceanic 6 have gotten off the island, but then again, several people have gotten off the island. And then there’s that little part about the island having moved… Yeah, that’s more confusing than one would imagine because initially we were to believe that the island physically was moved, but yet the folks that stayed behind have been moving back and forth through time. I kind of think of that as a different type of movement, but nonetheless, we are to believe that the folks still stranded can be saved from a horrific end if the 6 who left, go back. So if they go back and get stranded again, does this mean they can never leave the island? And what about Ben? Can Ben come and go along with the “others?” And what about the “others?” Where are they? There are so many questions and only about 30 total episodes in which the story will be told. The writers and producers say they have an endgame, but do they, or are they too, LOST?