Tuesday, July 31, 2012

TV Review: Breaking Bad 5x03: "Hazard Pay"

ML- I watched and took notes on this week's Breaking Bad as it aired on Sunday, but due to technical difficulties and sheer exhaustion I was unable to get to this review until Tuesday night. Unfortunately for everyone, I'm now pretty removed from the episode to give my clearest insights, so I'll be adding in the usual plot recap with some musings on television in general.

It's been said that it it possible to make a perfect film, but not a perfect TV series. Look at Lost- season one was damn near perfect, but the show stalled and faltered much over the next five years until reaching a polarizing finale (which I happened to love). A film can be shot in a matter of a few weeks, while TV series take years, which leaves plenty of time for bad stuff to happen likes kids getting older, actors getting into legal trouble or audiences getting bored.

For my money, Breaking Bad is a perfect television show. Since the beginning, it hasn't seemed to quiver at the reaction of the audience, or the Nielsen ratings, or the conventions of dramatic storytelling.  It truly feels like one long, thrilling movie (can it be that this whole series has only taken place over one year so far? Bonkers). While I haven't seen The Wire or The Sopranos or The West Wing, so those critically lauded shows may in fact be perfect as well, but Breaking Bad is the only one I've seen to stick to its guns and offer an uncompromising, high-quality view throughout every episode of every season.

Mad Men is a close second, because, for better or worse, the tone has shifted drastically since the beginning of the show. Yes, it's because the time the show is set in has changed, but comparing season 1 episodes to season 5 is like comparing Walt's meth to Gale's: quality is high, but the small differences are influential.

Other high-quality shows like Six Feet Under and Friday Night Lights suffered some shaky plot lines and seasons, and comedies like Arrested Development, Community and even Seinfeld all had some episodes that missed the mark. I, too, feel that creating consistent comedy is harder than creating consistent drama, because it's hard to find humor that appeals to the full spectrum of audiences. But that's for another completely unrelated TV Review.

Hold on, Skyler White has something to say:

Well I guess I'll keep my thoughts about TV to myself then....

... yeah right no way. I can't stay away from talking about this show, and if you're reading this, I bet you can't either. So let's cut the chit-chat and dive into the episode:

We started with Mike posing as a paralegal to get one-on-one time with the men on Lydia's list. So far, everyone has proved loyal, but since the feds have seized their hazard pay, rats could begin to emerge. These people have families they need to protect, just like Walt, Jesse and Mike.

Walt moves his things back into the apartment and lingers on a copy of what appeared to be "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman, who has come up many times in the past on this show, most memorably when Hank sniffed out Gale's "W.W." obsession in the journal and Walt pinned it on Whitman. From what I saw on "Leaves of Grass", Whitman was writing it up until he died. Is this a foreboding sign for our Walt? Can we even call him "our" Walt anymore?

Saul isn't too keen on turning the three amigos into four with Mike's addition, but they hit the road to find a new place to cook. After a few less-than-stellar locales, they come across the old laser tag place, where Walt finds his inspiration. He doesn't want to cook there, but rather sees something that gives him the idea: They'll take over houses being fumigated and set up temporary labs that will be broken down by the time the house is finished. Brilliance.

Jesse gets Skinny Pete and Badger in on it, as they buy cases for hauling musical equipment that really will carry the lab parts. Saul has an in with people who can get into the houses, one of them being Jesse Plemons (Landry Clarke of Friday Night Lights). The plan comes together, and their new venture, Vamonos Pests, works like a charm.

That is, until payday arrives. Mike divides up the fat stacks of cash, and Walt is pissed to see his hard-earned share be depleted into the hazard pay accounts. This isn't how he wants to run things, but Mike doesn't care. Just because he shot Jesse James, he lectures, doesn't make Walt the next Jesse James. Walt is constantly trying to stop being the nerdy physics professor with cancer (which he didn't actually deny having to Marie), so the comparisons to the late Gus Fring still irk him. He feels he is entitled to all the power and intimidation that Gus earned over many years of dominance in the drug game. It's been less than a year for Walter.

They're making less than they did with Fring, Walt complains. Jesse shows him the bright side, though: they put out much less product to get proportionally more money. A "bigger piece of the pie". Walt wants the whole pie, and reminds Jesse about what happened to Gus' peon Victor when he "flew too close to the sun". Was this directed towards Mike, Jesse or both? Walt is wild with power right now- power he doesn't really even have.

Jesse broke things off with Andrea this week after a talk with Mr. White about secrets. He planned on sticking with her for the long haul until Walter reminded him how he'd have to live with the secrets of what he does and did (like killing Gale) forever. Secrets, Walt explains, create barriers between people, and soon everything you've done is a part of you. By this definition, Walt and Jesse are becoming some bad dudes, and only one of them seems happy about it.

Walt's interaction with Brock at Jesse's house was just perfect. There was a tangible barrier in that room- we got to see Walt bond with Jr. and Holly like a normal middle-aged man (over Scarface, not planned to coincide with AMC mob week or anything) but with this boy he was shut down, or rather, shut in on himself with all of the horrible things he'd done.

The one horrible thing he did this week that I absolutely loved was his handling of Marie. Skyler gets the MVP award this week for saying what the audience has been dying to shout for years now: SHUT UP!  BOLD BREAKING BAD PREDICTION: Someone will strangle Marie, killing her, shutting her up and turning her face purple. You heard it here first!

Marie goes to Walt to meddle some more and find out what got Skyler all upset about him. He uses her break of character as a punishment and tells Marie about the I.F.T. affair, one again making himself look like the good guy and Skyler the villain. Skyler knows the truth, however, if her shell-shocked face during the shooting scene in Scarface was any indication. My confidence in my prediction about her going to the police is strengthened this week. And Walt, like Tony Montana, is going to go down guns blazing.

Episode Grade: A-
Episode MVP: Anna Gunn
Original Airdate: 7/29/2012

Monday, July 30, 2012

TV Review: True Blood 5x08: "Somebody That I Used to Know"

ML- It all hit me while watching Sunday's episode- Sookie is like Harry Potter. Oftentimes, she's more unlikable than the people around her. She was orphaned as a baby. Now, we find out she has a weird psychic connection to the dark being, Warlow, that murdered her parents, just like Harry had with Voldemort. I think Charlaine Harris (author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels) and J.K. Rowling should have a challenge similar to that of the were's tonight: hunt down and kill whoever wrote those Twilight books.

Things started falling into place for me this episode, at long last. Seeing as how there are so many storylines that these reviews become so unstructured anyways, I'm going to start dividing them into two categories: Things I Liked, Things I Didn't.

Things I Liked:
-Lafayette moving on from Jesus, though jarring how drastically he changed within the episode, was necessary. We need sassy Lafayette back, and he brought it, waving his hands around and doing his medium thing. Hopefully "smoke a blunt bidness" becomes a saying, somewhere.

-Terry and Patrick having to kill each other. It was good to see Arlene and Holly's plan to hold a fake seance backfire, and this leads to some interesting developments. Will killing Patrick really be a good thing for poor, damaged Terry? I could see him giving his life to let his friend live. Or, he kills him, and starts going down a darker path.

-Luna as Sam. I don't understand the logistics of the swap (what shifter in her family did Luna kill to become a Skinwalker?) but it's always fun to see these actors change up their characters, and Trammell did a great job. I'm not sure if I'm ready for Luna to die, though. Hasn't Sam been through enough tragedy? He and Tara should get back together and wallow in their misery.

-Speaking of Tara, I liked her stance against the snob from high school, and loved Pam's handling of her. Line of the night: Pam's angry face and happy face are the same.

-Hoyt and Jessica. I wasn't expecting her to end up in that house, but I knew Hoyt wouldn't hurt her, even though he hates her. Her honesty about falling out of love was a good moment, and hopefully will give Hoyt some closure.

-Eric's handling of Nora and her new stance on Godric was well done. It's always good to see glimpses of Godric and the loyalty Eric truly can show.

-Bill's flashbacks to visiting his ailing daughter, as she begged to be made young like he was. We left the flashback without learning for sure if he turned her or not.

-The fact that the vampire that killed Mr. and Mrs. Stackhouse wasn't Bill or Eric.

-The plan to begin bombing Tru Blood factories. When you start a vendetta against the title of your show, it's either going to be very exciting or a brilliant metaphor for a show running itself into the ground. We'll see how they handle it!

Things I Didn't Like:
-The were stuff is still really annoying, but as long as the actor playing Alcide is willing to get completely in the buff every episode, I have a feeling he'll keep getting big storylines.

-Did Jason know who Warlow was? He had a knowing expression after she said the name, but it wasn't addressed after.

Most everything hit its mark for me this week, but perhaps the mark has just been lowered after 7 weeks of mediocre-to-good episodes. This is the first in the "A" range, and hopefully, a sign of things to come.

Episode Grade: A-
Episode MVP: Sam Trammell
Original Airdate: 7/29/2012

TV Review: Weeds 8x05: "Red in Tooth and Nail"

ML- We got plenty of tastes of freaky relationships tonight, so this review will be in the form of an advice column to the characters:

Nancy & The Rabbi: We found out the creeper staring down at Nancy last week was the same Rabbi guy who met with Andy in the hospital. Coincidence? I think not. Nancy, you've ruined the lives of dozens of men (literal figure), but this is the first that really has me worried for you. Sure, he got you to dispose of all your golden parachute weed from Kiku, and has been spreading his cleansing message to all the Botwins he comes in contact with, but I still wouldn't trust him. That being said, he'll be the guy who Nancy finally forms a loving bond with and they live happily ever after.

Andy and SUGAR FROM SURVIVOR COMPLETELY NAKED: I'm not sure if Sugar's character had a name, but she definitely had a smokin' bod as she rolled around the rink. Andy pulled out some Charlie-Kaufman-in-Adaptation-level philosophy on his evolution and karma in regards to women always stripping down for him. Sugar said it's because he's always talking about the women in his life and never himself, and because her girlfriend was out of town, and because she had no more Law & Order on her DVR. Andy, you work best when you're trying to impress a girl, not fending the crazies off. Go see what Alanis Morisette is up to, perhaps she's forgiven you and can make a guest appearance before the show ends!

Jill and Doug: Ew. The void Jill couldn't fill with big savings from extreme couponing was apparently filled by Doug, a horrible decision by all accounts. Yes, she may have gotten Revenge on Andy (capitalization intentional, as Jennifer Jason Leigh will be playing Emily Thorne's mother on Revenge next season), but at what cost?

Shane and Angela: Double dates are only okay when they're with people your own age. Going to his boss' house and listening to him drunkenly complain about things, in a scene so derivative of SNL's "Drunk Uncle" Weekend Update Sketch that I almost expected Seth Myers to pop out and be smarmy, is not romantic. It worked out, though, when Angela made a move on the balcony. The end justified the means here, Lil' Botwin.

Silas and RJ: This came out of nowhere- one minute they're bonding growing weed, the next RJ is trying to get Silas to go down on him, spouting some business about how it will help him express his manliness. Then RJ freaked out and stole all of the product, on account of him being off of his meds? The whole thing was too weird and didn't add up to the rest of the episode. I hope this isn't completely abandoned next week.

Celia and Dean: Just kidding, they're not back on the show. But wouldn't that be great?

Episode Review: B-
Episode MVP: Justin Kirk
Original Airdate: 7/29/2012

TV Review: Big Brother 14x08: Janie Got Back

ML- It takes quick tongue work to survive each week in the BB house, and Janelle proved she had the right stuff, knocking the Coaches Competition out of the park and foiling Shane's plan of taking out her most threatening competitor, Wil. 

Shane struck back, though, by going against Britney and Danielle's wishes of spreading out the pain to one member of Janie's team and one of Boogie's, and instead he stuck both Joe and Ashley on the block, both members of Team Janelle.

Britney was drunk with power, and rightfully so, after he last man standing took the most powerful seat in the house. She watched as her protege formed a final 2 pact with Danielle of Dan's team. Little did she know, however, he was also plotting things with Frank over on Team Boogie. Shane isn't anchoring himself to Britney, a good decision on his part, but having her be so out of the loop doesn't bode well if she ever does enter the game.

When Joe cooked Shane breakfast in bed, I was praying he would go up on the block. It's a distinct advantage in shows like Survivor and Big Brother to be able to provide quality food to the other contestants, whether you're catching fish or cooking meals. But Joe crossed the suck-up line and, as Boogie said, entered into "patheticness" territory.

We also got to see Ashley at her finest- aka discussing her dream boards and how she's a modern day hippie, but it's weird because she likes rap. She's as complex as any Walter White or Don Draper, no doubt.

Not only does this show reuse challenges, twists and contestants, it also finds small moments to carry over from season to season. The one I noticed tonight was Jenn's discussion of her sexuality with Danielle, a southerner. They had a similar scene with LaWon and Jordan last year, and as I recently watched BB8 I noticed the same thing with Dustin and Kail. Look at BB, breaking down barriers one southern belle at a time.

The Coaches Challenge was tons of fun this week: Feel the Burn, where whoever did the most reps of a certain exercise in a given time while wearing ridiculous 80s workout costumes would win, while the losers could choose consolation prizes in their lockers.

First was a booty scoot that didn't flatter any of the contestants. Britney came in last and gave out have-not status to Ian (who volunteered again, all part of a strategy to accept as much punishment willingly so that he may avoid it later) and Joe.

Next was a hip-shakin challenge that Janie dominated, knocking Boogie out. He won $10,000 to divide between himself and 2 players in the ratios of 6:3:1. He took the largest chunk, and gave Ian and Jenn the rest, respectively. Ian cried, thinking $3,000 was more money than he'd ever seen.

Finally, the tongue trainer, which Janelle again took easily against Dan. Poor Dan got called Kermit Seacrest by Dr. Will last week and now got his kissing skills made fun of by Boogie. It wasn't all bad for him, as he got to invite 5 other houseguests to a cocktail party. He (wisely) chose the other coaches, Danielle and Shane. 

Janelle saved Wil, which, as I said above, forced him to nominate the rest of her team, but not before a last-minute talk with Britney got cut off by the calls to the DR, leading to some genuine drama in the house. I saw one former BB player tweet that this was designed to keep Britney from convincing Shane to put up Frank. If so, it worked.

Frank is sure he's safe with Shane- will that be the case, or is a backdoor in the works? We'll find out Wednesday night! Until then, enjoy your salmon and Froot Loops.

Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Janelle Pierzina
Original Airdate: 7/29/2012

The Veto has been played, and it went to Shane, who is 3 for 3 in Veto competitions thus far. He used it, shockingly, to save Ashley and nominate Frank. As the votes stand right now, Wil/Ashley will vote for Frank to go, Jenn/Ian will vote for Joe, leaving Danielle as the deciding vote. Will she side with the showmance or take the game into her own hands? We'll find out Thursday, when the coaches are expected to be entering the game!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

TV Review: Louie 3x05: 'Daddy's Girlfriend Part 2"

ML- There's a trope in film and TV called the "Manic Pixie Dream Girl". It's extremely well-known, and refers to a female character that is so quirky and odd that her sole purpose is to drag the hero into unfamiliar territory so he can get a feel for a different walk of life. Louie found the MPDG of all MPDGs tonight, and he couldn't have gotten a better actress to play her than Parker Posey.

Posey seemed drastically different from her character in last week's 'Part 1", which was kind of the point. Her personality seemed to shift, leaving me to wonder if it was some type of bipolar/dissociative identity disorder causing her to behave so erratically. We saw the bartender turn her away, knowing she couldn't handle 2 Jaegers that early at night. I expected a pathos-laden reveal of her inner demons, like the episode "Eddie" last year. There was a lot of that type of thing tonight, but not the way I expected.

After being turned away at the bar, Louie and his unnamed lady walked down the street, because she loves to be able to walk in New York without having to stop. Louie agrees, but she calls him on his bluff. He hates walking, because he's fat. She agrees and says that tonight, they have to be perfectly honest with each other.

This fits into the theme established in the opening stand-up of being yourself while with women and the struggles women have. Louie the comic says after taking a girl out for the first time, as soon as the door closes he farts forever. Throughout the episode, we see Louie struggling between who he is, who he wants to be and who she wants him to be. Rarely do any of these overlap. We see his date, who leads him on to believe her birth name was Tape Recorder with an elaborate story to back it up, open up about her past struggles with a carcinoma that lead her to drop out of high school at 15. Or so she says; despite her claim of all honesty, she obviously lied to Louie in the beginning about the bar, so everything she said after deserves an asterisk next to it.

The most obvious representation of this metaphor in action is when she asks Louie to try on a golden dress. He doesn't want to try the dress on, but she begs him to. And he does what people do in relationships every day- he folds and appeases. He humiliates himself for her, and she dubs him "great".  That's relationships in a nutshell right there.

Posey was absolutely brilliant here and should be nominated next year in Guest Comedy Actress (along with Melissa Leo from a few weeks back) but the character was a little too MPDG to be believable. She tries exotic fish, helps out bums on the street and fantasizes about going to North Dakota, but refuses to ever go because she wants to hold onto the desire itself. I'm sure CK was aware of the trope as he wrote this episode and he wanted it to be an exaggeration, but he may have overdone it too much.

She leads him to a building and asks him to trust her to climb all the stairs to the top, something out-of-shape Louie dreads. He does it, however, because she promises it'll be worth it. It's what anyone would expect: a view of the NYC skyline, something a panting Louie has no use for.

When she sits by the edge, things start to get real. He beckons for her to step away, but she hits him with some reasoning: the only way she'll fall is if she jumps, and she's not going to jump so she's not afraid. But since he's afraid to sit, part of him wants to jump. This roundabout logic is actually a moment of clarity for the pair, and soon after she undergoes a visible dispositional shift and mellows out.

She asks to go home and finally introduces herself as Liz. Here, Posey represents the feminine mystery that eludes all men, the shapeshifting, unpredictable, uncompromisable force that can talk you into humiliating yourself, or open your eyes to something you never new about yourself. The trope may be overused in all fiction and overwritten in the episode, but it does the job of allowing our self-centered protagonist to explore the world and change, even if it's just into a gold dress.

Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Parker Posey
Original Airdate: 7/26/2012

TV Review: Big Brother 14x07: Caught in a Bad Showmance

ML- I think everyone watching last night knew who was going to win that HoH competition. It didn't seem like the type of thing that could be rigged in anyone's favor, but everyone I talked to was certain that one person would walk away with the key to the bedroom, and sure enough, Shane proved them right.

He went from being in the dominant alliance to nominated to Veto holder to power again. He survived Danielle's revenge after Ian blabbed about his and JoJo's awkward semi-flirting in the Have Not room. He lost two allies this week, but gained some others with Frank and Boogie and will surely flip the house once again.

The eviction was a no-brainer, as JoJo did her best to show everyone how she fights with her heart, ya know? And she's just gotta be her, Staten Island all the way baby. That was my best JoJo impression, but Britney surely knocked that out of the guacamole with her own of JoJo's "I knows". Britney may be a mediocre coach but her diary rooms are pure gold.

We also got a visit from Dr. Will this week. Confession time: I've never seen a second of either of Dr. Will's seasons. I know, I know, I can't be a super fan without seeing the man who mastered this game, but I'm doing my best, you know? I'm too busy fighting my heart out. But really, I'll get around to BB2 and BBAS eventually.

From his totally unbiased opinion, he predicted good things for Boogie and ripped on Mr. Kermit Seacrest Dan for being blinded by boobies, Britney for letting her players get violent and Janie for... well, he didn't have much bad to say about her. She did enough trash talking on herself this week, between calling herself a lazy bitch and commenting on her large boobs, which apparently weigh more than "emancipated" Shane's head.

Now that Shane truly has been emancipated from the shackles of his position last week, what should he do? He's probably not going after Boogie's team or Danielle, so smart money says he puts up Wil and Joe. It'll be fun to see Team Janelle squirm a little bit!

How will this new "America's Vote" influence the game? If a coach turns down the shot to enter, will they stay or will they leave their players behind? Or will they even get a choice of deciding, with all the power going to "America". Will this eliminate Coaches Challenges from the game? Speaking of which, if Britney wins the CC this week, she has nobody to save with Shane as HoH, so can she solely hand out Have Nots? Or will she not be allowed to play? Or can she steal a player from another team? So many questions, but JoJo is still answering the first one with all of her heart.

Time for fake goodbyes! Hate me or love me, see ya'll next week and thanks for reading, you know?

Winner Prediction: Sticking with Frank Eudy
Next Evicted Prediction: Wil "Jennifer Anus-ton" Heuser (The Soup reference)

Episode Grade: B
Episode MVP: Shane Meaney (and JoJo for the hot mess factor)
Original Airdate: 7/26/2012

No Live Feed reports this week! But it should be mentioned that Willie Hantz was arrested today for drunk driving. He's totally Jack Shepherding right now. Soon he'll be sporting a big ol' beard and yelling to JoJo "We have to go back!" And Kara will be Claire with a squirrel baby. The end.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

TV Review: Big Brother 14x06: Big Three Fall Hard

ML- It doesn't take long to go from hero to zero in the BB house, as Team Britney became well aware of this week. After losing Willie Hantz to his own self-destructive ego, and the subsequent HoH win by surviving nominee Frank, Shane, JoJo and Britney were right to be shaking in their giant tortilla costumes. But, as we saw last week, you're not out in Big Brother until you walk out that front door- and even then, sometimes you move back in.

It was clear who Frank would target, but the producers did their best to add some mystery by showing Boogie's scheme of backdooring Shane rather than putting him up upfront. That wasn't a bad plan, but had he been chosen for Veto and won and saved JoJo, Frank would be getting even more blood on his hands than was necessary this week.

JoJo pleaded her case as a loyal player, basically saying she was willing to abandon all of her previous alliances and join him. Swearing on her grandmother's life wasn't enough to convince Frank, who indeed nominated the remaining Team Brit members Shane and JoJo for eviction.

Britney did her best to coach them in the right direction, but I absolutely would not want to be in her position right now. Picking some of the stronger players totally backfired on her way too fast, and Willie quitting (and the producers not ending Frank's HoH reign right there, as they did to Michele when Chima quit in BB11, I believe) has screwed Shane and JoJo over even more. Sure, they should reintegrate, decrease game talk and be friendly, but in the end, the other contestants are going to do what's best for their games, not keep who they like better.

Boogie made another great suggestion to Frank this week: nurture relationships with Shane and JoJo. One of them at least will definitely be playing for next HoH, so you want to do as much damage control as possible. I think Frank and Boogie make a good team and really hope Frank can keep straight talking' his way through the game.

Danielle wanted to be chosen for PoV really badly, so of course the BB gods denied her and instead Ian, Ashley and Wil joined the others for a date at the Big Brother Cantina. The competition involved digging through thick, margarita-themed liquid for menu items to match them to a main menu, all while wearing a giant tortilla chip costume. Once you placed all of your menus in what you thought was the correct order, ring your bell to lock in your time. Whoever had the most right in the fastest time won the PoV.

The challenge made for entertaining TV, as Wil and Frank took plenty of tumbles and Ashley proved she's either dumber than the fish in the fish tank or working a smart strategic plan of playing dumb. Based on her challenge strategy (creating meaningless mnemonics of menu item first letters) and list of qualities in a good man ("likes to eat food" stood out for me), I'd say its the former.

In the end, Shane narrowly beat Ian in a real nail-biter, and Britney hugged him in the big vat of guacamole. He and Frank quickly solidified an alliance of sorts, a smart move for the short term to keep the power players off of each other's backs. He then planned to save Danielle from certain nomination by proposing to backdoor Wil and weaken Janie's team. Frank was hesitant, afraid to open that can of worms just yet.

Dan basically released Danielle from his coaching, as he saw his affiliation a kiss of death for Jodi and Kara before her. This reminded me of Eric and Pam on True Blood, except Pam is way cooler than Danielle, who cries way too much. This is actually smart for Dan- the weaker she appears, the more time she will spend in the house over the likes of JoJo, Shane, Frank, Wil, Joe and Ian. However, she's not making any friends by moping all the time.

At the Veto Ceremony, Shane did what he had to and saved himself, and Frank did what he had to and nominated Danielle. All of the three nominees were those who voted for him to leave, and therefore he made no new enemies by putting them up. He also secured a deal with Shane thanks to Boogie's nudging. I'd say his HoH week is going a lot smoother than Willie's.

Tomorrow night, either Team Britney will be down to one member or Dan will follow Danielle out of the house. And another HoH competition will shift things up once again (I hope, as this week has been too safe. Good gameplay, bad TV). 

Episode Grade: B-
Episode MVPs: Frank Eudy & Shane Meaney
Original Airdate: 7/25/2012

Nothing major to report after last week's craziness. It looks as though JoJo will be departing tomorrow night without putting up much of a fight, thanks to Britney coaching her to lay low. Ashley has made lots of alliances with lots of people and it seems like most of them trust her. Could backfire later, but for now she's in a good position. If Shane wins HoH he wants to target Wil and Joe from Team Janelle.

Monday, July 23, 2012

TV Review: Weeds 8x04: "Only Judy Can Judge"

Warning: This article contains plot spoilers and some language suitable for only those mature enough to be watching Weeds. Reader discretion advised.

ML- For once, Doug's storyline really hammered home the episode's theme, and also what has been lacking in this home stretch to the Weeds finale: Different day, same shit.

Doug was shocked to find a heaping pile of it on his daily newspaper, and he immediately blamed his neighbor's prized pooch. When it happens again, it spurs a war in which Doug spray-paints the dog, the neighbor calls the police, Doug outsmarts them, and the neighbor sends a bag of feces right onto the table during Nancy's family dinner speech. Hey, at least it's better than a bullet!

I take this as a strong metaphor of the problem currently plaguing Weeds- much of the same old stuff is happening. Nancy is reverting to her drug kingpin, bad mom ways. Andy is back to fawning over her. Silas is doing weird stuff with his lady friends and growing weed again. Only Shane seems to be progressing in an interesting direction, which could spell trouble if he does, as RJ the headship employee warns Silas, goes wild with power and rats them all out.

But after 7 seasons, double as many locales and triple the twists and turns, the show has become like an elderly person in the slow crawl of death. Occasionally there's a spark of life, but no, the end is near. We're all hoping for a spectacular finish to, at best, a hit-or-miss series. Perhaps this is Jenji Kohan's way of letting us know that the show isn't going to stop being what it is, love it or hate it.

I lost interest quickly in Nancy's backslide into the drug game by helping Kiku get out of a jam and finding Demetri at laser-tag. Andy and Jill breaking up over him wanting to cook Nancy a meal was plain stupid. Again, I echo that Shane's advances with his girlfriend (asking her to dinner while grabbing her boob) were the only fresh parts, because we've never really seen Shane, or anyone, with a normal significant other. He really may be the only one to escape unscathed.

Mary-Louise Parker had some good stuff again this week, particularly crying after accidentally calling Stevie "Judah", which isn't even his father's name. The woman has three children from three fathers, and I think that is finally starting to dawn on her. She doesn't want to be a zombie of a mother, she wants to be better. Funny, as in scenes for next week she's tempted back into her old tricks.

Back to the metaphor at hand, the episode ends with Doug checking the surveillance tape he set up, only to find the phantom pooper was Doug himself, under the influence of Ambien. What does this imply for the characters and the show going forward? Drugs are the reason we do dumb things, or at least the same shit on different days? Or that it's these characters that are so well-defined now that there's little excitement left for the audience? The writers probably mean the former, but I'm still giving the latter some thought.

Episode Grade: B-
Episode MVP: Mary-Louise Parker
Original Airdate: 7/22/2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

TV Review: Breaking Bad 5x02: "Madrigal"

ML- Mike is the type of person who thrives in the shadows, never divulging too much information, always observing and reacting rather than actually acting. Getting an episode that almost entirely revolved around him tonight was a treat that helped set the stage as Walt, Jesse and Mike continue to "go forward" in Gus' absence.

Last week's episode needed to tie up the loose ends Walt and Jesse left behind in the lab, while this week put the players into position for the endgame. We got some perspective into the grand scheme of Gus' operations, and intimate looks into Walt and Skyler's current relationship and Mike's real duties. All in all, this was another great episode of television.

The episode is titled "Madrigal" after Madrigal Electromotive, the parent company of Los Pollos Hermanos and many other businesses headed by a man named Mr. Schuler. Mr. Schuler wasn't long for this world, however, once he realized the police were onto him and his illegal dealings. He calmly snuck into the washroom with the AED and electrocuted himself.

I noticed as he died that he landed face-down, and I wondered if perhaps the position the characters in this show die in has any meaning. The only ones I can think of that died face-up are Spooge, Jane and Gale, who were all (mostly) innocent in terms of Walt's treachery. Others, like Combo, Gus and Schuler died face-down. If someone would like to look into other Breaking Bad death scenes and see if there are any interesting patterns, I'd love to know what you find!

The loose end of the ricin cigarette was also finally tied up tonight, as Walt flushed the original and planted a salt-filled counterfeit inside Jesse's roomba. There's got to be some meaning here with Walt and cleanliness- he worked at a car wash, which gets rid of dirt. Tonight, he hid his dirty deed in a vacuum cleaner and cemented his plans with Mike while washing dishes. He's become a master of getting the dirt off of his hands.

After finding the planted cigarette, Jesse breaks down, so convincingly that I nearly made Aaron Paul my episode MVP for that scene alone. He beats up on himself, asking how he could be so stupid, and Walt tries to comfort him by massaging his shoulders. The force which he uses, however, only made me more tense watching it play out. One day Walt is going to slip up and spill everything to Jesse. My guess is Season 5 Episode 8, the mid-season cliff-hanger.

"Poppop" Mike was pulled from his regular life to talk with Walt and Jesse about starting business up again. He politely declined, calling Walt a ticking time-bomb and saying he had no intention being around for the "boom". Now that he has joined with Walt, I think Mike's fate has been sealed- he will in fact be around for that boom, and probably will suffer because of it.

I don't believe there are any coincidences on this show, and therefore I think it's fascinating how Hank has taken up the same walking style as Walter, Jr. after the accident. This signifies the connection between them as innocents and Walt's own disconnect from his son. Perhaps the only reason we ever see Walter, Jr. is while he's eating breakfast is because that's the only thing Walt can bond with him over. Their lives are so separate and different that breakfast is the only thing they share. Maybe.

Hank's boss takes the hit for mishandling the Fring case, and he admits that he spent so much time with Gus without ever realizing there was a drug lord right under his nose. This isn't meant to be subtle, and it's meant to show how blind Hank is- for now. He's absolutely going to catch on in the coming episodes, and I love that I have no idea how he'll handle that information.

Mike gets a visit from a woman in the diner, Lydia, who nervously asks him who killed Gus. She gives him a list of 11 names of people who could connect them both to the workings of Gus and Madrigal and urged him, in not so many words, to kill them. Mike declined, believing them all to be true to their word. She worried about someone named Chow, but Mike wasn't having any of it.

We were treated to a simple but profound shot of Walt rousing Skyler from bed without us getting a good look at either of their faces. The intimacy and emotion that the face conveys is absent, leaving us just with bodies going through motions, obviously with little true love for one another.

Mike runs into Chow before his own meeting with the DEA, and Chow seems nervous. Mike handles Hank perfectly and assumes the upper hand in the interrogation, and nearly leaves unscathed before Hank brings up the bank account with $2 million Gus had created for his granddaughter Kaylee. According to Hank, that money will all be gone unless Mike can give some information about Gus and the lab. Mike declines.

The three businessmen meet with Saul to discuss the next steps- Saul suggests no more RVs, and Jesse is upset, seeing as how the "Crystal Ship" was good for them. Their biggest problem is in precursor- getting the supplies to make the meth. According to Jesse, there's no methylamine on the market, which Walt doesn't believe. Saul is incredulous that they plan on cooking again- after a man wins $10 million in the lotto, he doesn't buy a ticket the next day. Walt counters by saying he hasn't won anything, he's $40,000 in debt. There's no stopping yet.

Mike and Kaylee play Hungry Hungry Hippos when Chow calls and asks him to come talk, all the while with a gun pointed to his head. Mike obliges, but is onto the assassin and fools him by putting one of Kaylee's gyrating toys against the peephole. Inside, Chow is dead, and Mike finds out that Lydia hired this guy to kill off the 11 names on the list for 10 grand each, plus 30 grand for Mike. Mike responds by shooting him, dead.

He hunts down Lydia and holds a gun to her head inside her house. She begs for her life, then not to let her daughter see her be shot in the head, then not to have her body removed so the girl doesn't think she abandoned her. Mike cannot bring himself to kill her, however, and instead uses her connections to get the methylamine for Walt's upcoming cook. He then calls Walt and says he's in and ready to move forward.

A happy Walt climbs into bed with Skyler, who doesn't want anything to do with him. He kisses her and acts romantic, explaining they do what they do for good reasons, and there's no better reason for family. It's clear Walt doesn't believe that anymore, but that doesn't mean it isn't true for others. Marie did as much as she could to help Hank recover; Jesse was great to Brock, despite him not being family. Walt is so blind that he thinks he's still acting in the family's best interests, when really, he can't do any more than serve them breakfast.

Episode Grade: A-
Episode MVP: Jonathan Banks
Original AirdateL 7/22/2012

TV Review: True Blood 5x07: "In The Beginning"

ML- In a night filled with flashbacks and callbacks to beloved characters from True Blood past, we were treated to the dramatic unveiling of Lilith, the vampire equivalent of Adam & Eve, who spouted from a drop of blood like a cross between the bad Terminator in T2 and a naked Aphrodite.

Her arrival was preceded by a V-induced mass-draining by Russell, Salome, Nora, Bill, Eric, Steve Newlin and the rest of the Authority members at a private party, which they hilariously crashed as Russell joined in singing "You Light Up My Life" onstage. Not many actors are able to handle the ridiculous twists and turns True Blood throws at them, but Denis O'Hare is always game and always delivers.

They got to that point when Roman's true betrayer was revealed to be, obviously, Salome. She then forced everyone to drink the blood of Lilith, which Eric believed would have no effect on a vampire. He was quite wrong, and joined in on the macabre draining. After seeing Lilith risen with his own eyes, Godric also appeared to him to tell him what he was doing was wrong and not to follow in Nora's footsteps. It's always great to see Eric and Godric interact, as the latter is the only one who really can reduce Eric to a vulnerable position.

The rest of the episode featured more plot lines than a full afternoon's worth of soap operas. Among them:

-Alcide trained with his #2 (read: wrestled a bit then started making out) until Martha interrupted them to complain about his upcoming battle with JD. She refused to believe he was on V, but later came around when JD offered some to young Emma.

-Lafayette confronted Don Bartolo, who strapped him to a bed, sewed his mouth shut and threatened to kill him, only to be stabbed himself by his creepy captive baby mama. Does this mean he'll stop being plagued by visits from Jesusito?

-Speaking of Jesus, we got to see a glimpse of Kevin Alejandro himself in Arlene's wedding video, which way too much time was spent on. I kept expecting to see a glimpse of something dark or foreshadowing, but there was nothing. I'm also unsure what purpose Holly serves in the story anymore. This show could easily trim a quarter of the characters in a bloodbath and still function fine, if not better.

-Terry and Patrick were taunted by the ifrit and expressed remorse over what they did. Terry threatened to shoot himself in the head, but Pat talked him down. This storyline really isn't doing much for me. I miss Terry as the random, Creed-from-The Office character who got a line or two every episode as comic relief.

-Andy visited former Sheriff Deerborne, who was a sight for sore eyes and provided some good laughs with his spiel about his experimental male enhancement ointment.

-Sam proved to be an expert detective by using his shifter sense to track down the Obama masks, then again smelling one of the shooters in the hospital. He also had a great scene with Sookie about how tired he is trying to change people's minds about things they don't understand. He reminded me of Batman in these scenes; the hero Bon Temps needs, but doesn't deserve. In this metaphor, I guess Tommy would be his Rachel and Luna his Commissioner Gordon, as she is all recovering in a hospital bed?

-Hoyt found acceptance with his hate group and joined them once they found out Junior had been killed by the crossbow last week. It may be all the coverage of the Colorado shootings I've seen this weekend, but this storyline has me uneasy.

-Speaking of uneasiness, Jessica was draining some guy when Jason showed up in need of a talk, and once he tasted the blood on her lips, the two became violent. She pushed him away and he shot her in the head, which had no effect on her, as it wasn't wooden. That was a very blunt example of domestic violence that she show glazed over, and I hope they come back to. If Jason is going to shoot a woman in the head, vampire or not, there should be consequences.

-Jason's troubles came from his talk with Sookie about their parents, as he explained he always felt guilty for their deaths, but now that Sookie actually had reason to feel responsible, he wouldn't let her go through that. What a good brother. Just a bad boyfriend.

-Sookie got her luminescence checked by the faeries, who detected that because she's only half faerie, she'd eventually run out of her powers and be normal. This was music to Sookie's ears, who, after flashing back to a mini-supercut of people like Bill and Mary Ann asking her "what are you?", began shooting blasts from her microwave fingers into the sky like lightening.

-In probably my favorite scene other than Russell's karaoke, Ruby Jean entered Fangtasia to find her vampire daughter dancing on the pole. She disowned her as a daughter, as a minister's wife can't have a vampire for a child. Tara hid her pain but showed it with Pam, who is, in effect, her new mother. When they hugged, it was a great moment for both Pam and Tara. Kristen Bauer von Stratten is really having a great season.

So what is that, 12 storylines? Most shows have an A, B and C story. Here we have A-L, most of which are completely unrelated. Thinking back to seasons 1 and 2, things were more structured, focused and connected. Some of them are working for me (Anything Pam/Tara, Russell, Jason/Jess) but many others aren't (Terry, Alcide, the Authority, even Lafayette). With Alan Ball departing after this season, I hope future executive producers can condense some stories, bring characters back together against common enemies and, if need be, provide some shocking exits for those who are expendable.

Episode Grade: B
Episode MVP: Denis O'Hare
Original Airdate: 7/22/2012

TV Review: Big Brother 14x05: U Can't Touch This (Or U'll Be Ejected)

Warning: The following article may contain plot spoilers. Reader discretion advised.

ML- I had such high hopes for Willie coming into this season of Big Brother. He seemed much calmer, cooler and more collected than his brother Russell, but in hindsight, that was only because he was given a position of power within the first 6 hours of his arrival. Once he did not get his way with the eviction, lost the HoH to his biggest enemy, was reduced to a Have-Not and shunned by his entire team, he self-destructed in classic Hantz fashion.

I missed the first 15 minutes of tonight's episode, but assume a lot of it was spent recapping the eviction and HoH and Willie's new position as a marked man. As smart as it was for Britney, Shane and JoJo to dissociate from Willie, I actually felt bad for him. The psychological pressures of the house must be insane, and to go from everyone wanting to talk to you when you're HoH and constantly kissing your ass to everyone hating your guts and avoiding you, you're bound to react with some hostility. By taking it to a place of violence, however, Willie crossed one of the sacred reality show lines.

While everyone was distancing themselves from Willie, new relationships began to emerge. We saw the Slop Date between Ian and Ashley, which he totally orchestrated because he knows CBS reality shows adore showmances. Ian doesn't seem to me like a threat in a social sense, but he is in the way he knows how to fit into what production wants. While he and Ashley did have some chemistry (though I'm not sure if it was organic or inorganic) the whole scenario felt forced to me.

Having watched many hours of live feeds, the package on Shane and Danielle felt forced as well. I try not to spoil in this section of the blog but it seems misleading for BB to present the relationship one way and know it isn't that way. Basically, Danielle is super into Shane, so much that she's basically admitted she came into the house to find a showmance (if things with Ashley don't pan out, Ian will probably be ready and willing to step in!), however, Shane really doesn't seem to have any interest in Danielle and has talked negatively about her on many occasions. He's using her as a pawn, not being charmed by her brown hair and southern accent.

Janie showed some emotion tonight too as Dan brought up how different it is playing when you have a family at home. Janelle has gotten a lot of flack for leaving her newborn baby behind, which is deserved, and her handling of the situation by saying things like "sometimes I have a little bit of a thought about my daughter" certainly doesn't put her in the running for Mother of the Year.

But she's not looking to be Mother of the Year, she's looking to be the Comp Queen, which she managed to get a step closer in accomplishing today by winning the Coaches Competition. The four coaches were dressed like '90s rapper M.C. Hammer and could only move left-right, Hammertime style. I must say, Dan had the best moves of all of the coaches, but since he was continuing his plot to throw every challenge and appear week, he didn't get to put those moves to the test.

Britney lead the challenge for a while, transferring more stacks of cash back and forth across the balance beam than any of her competitors. Unfortunately, one of the rules was if you drop any cash or fall off the balance beam, you're out. Britney knocked off some cash, ruining her plan to win and trade Willie away to get some heat off of her back.

Boogie, too, didn't properly adhere to the rules. He technically beat Janelle but stepped off before hitting his buzzer, disqualifying him. Janie "won" against two disqualified contestants and someone who was throwing the competition, but a win is a win is a win. She chose not to trade anyone and saved Ashley in an attempt to strengthen their bond. She also chose all of Team Britney- Willie, Shane and JoJo- to be have nots, along with volunteer Ian.

Fuming over his state in the game, Willie then lashed out. He head butted Joe and threw pork rinds at Janelle, neither of whom backed down or showed any fear. Production ordered Willie into the DR, and later the Voice of Grod (Alison Grodner, Big Brother EP) announced over the PA that violence would not be tolerated in the house and that Willie was ejected from the game.

This puts a huge dent in Britney's plans, as Frank is still HoH and will get to knock 2 members from her side out instead of just Willie. It also messes up production, I assume, as by the end of week 2 the house will be down 4 people. Will Coaches enter sooner rather than later? It's possible, as the eliminated house guests thus far haven't been sequestered and can't really re-enter the game.

Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Ian (for manipulating production)
Original Airdate: 7/22/2012


Frank went ahead and nominated Shane and JoJo, but Shane won the Veto. Danielle is the expected replacement nominee with JoJo the expected target, but things could still change before the eviction on Thursday night. Things have definitely calmed down with Willie out of the house!

Podcast Episode 21: Holy Emmy Nominations Batman!

Did you miss hearing our voices? Well you are in luck because we have a brand new podcast for you to enjoy.

In this week's episode David and Mike discuss the Viacom/DirecTV dispute, the Call Me Maybe mania, the possibility of Charlie Sheen joining American Idol, the hysteria around the opening of The Dark Knight Rises, and what Fred Willard was doing in that movie theater. They also breakdown and give their first reactions to the Emmy nominations in the drama and comedy series categories.

You can listen to the episode with the player above or you can even subscribe, listen or download it from iTunes.

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Warning: The following article contains plot spoilers. Reader discretion advised.

Welcome to our first Dual Redundant Movie Review, in which we will both share our opinions on a movie we've both seen and each give the grade we feel it deserves. Today we tackle the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.

Mike: I'd like to start by acknowledging the devastating shootings at the movie theater in Aurora, CO by James Holmes, a man who will likely live in infamy, as he surely planned upon. I expect many, many people to see these horrific events as a sign to stay away from the theater, which, having seen the film, I absolutely discourage. This man who apparently claimed he was Batman's enemy The Joker has created a situation where one of the central themes of the film has been realized: people are living in fear, and only by confronting those fears do they become strong. Don't let the actions of a mad man keep you away from enjoying yourself and living your own life. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, and I hope Holmes is brought to swift justice.

Now, onto the film, which to me felt more like a sequel to Batman Begins than the end cap to a trilogy. To me, Begins and the second film, The Dark Knight, had very different "feels". Perhaps this came about in editing, when everyone involved realized how special the movie became thanks to the late, great Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker. Or the producers decided not to touch on The Dark Knight's memory at all in respect for Ledger and the character. Whatever the reason, the movie relied too heavily on aspects of Batman Begins, the weakest film in the trilogy, and not enough on the superior second film.

Dave: I agree Mike. While I think it was a good decision to not recast The Joker or try to make up some reason why he didn't escape with the rest of the prisoners or from whatever prison he was at I am not sure not mentioning him 100% was good. Batman learned a lot because of The Joker and what he did and to just let the audience forget these lessons especially in the last film doesn't work for me. It did however focus on Harvey Dent from the second film which can be said was The Joker's creation thus making him unnecessary to come back. The Joker was what turned Dent and thus created the reason why Bruce Wayne has become what he was at the beginning of this film.

However even though it did focus on the first film, I liked continuing on to that since it was absent from the second. Ra's al Ghul and the League of Shadows; the things that started it all for Wayne also were associated with how it was all going to end for him as Batman. Also I love the idea of the whole reason of falling down is to rise back up coming back, which was a huge point of the first film as his father constantly reminded him. Not to mention the idea of reconquering his fear that he first experienced in the well and then later having to do the same thing in the prison was perfect.

Mike: I think the film tried too hard to be an important movie of the times, tackling issues in politics, economics and philosophy that are currently resonating throughout the world with too much seriousness. In doing so, I think it became just another larger-than-life superhero movie trying to be too preachy about the messages, whereas The Dark Knight focused more on the personal struggle between Batman and Joker and, in my opinion, achieved film greatness.

Dave: While I can see where you are coming from on that I loved how they tried to tackle the current problems in the world. Film can be a very powerful medium to incite change in the world. Whether it is people paying attention to global warming from An Inconvenient Truth or even trying to expose the homophobia and racism in our country while making us laugh in Borat, film can really change the world. However as for the whole superhero saving the world from a bomb thing. I wish this could have been done differently and there was another reason or way Batman had to save Gotham than another explosive device in another action movie.

Mike: Part of the reason I feel this film was lacking was the absence of many integral cast members from the last film. Without Ledger, Eckhart or Gyllenhaal, Nolan had to create new characters in Bane (Tom Hardy), Tate (Marion Cotillard) and Selina (Anne Hathaway). Did they fill the shoes? Not quite, but overall they did a good job.

As for the characters that did return in this film, many of them had reduced roles. Alfred was absent for much of the film after the first half hour. Gordon was in a hospital bed, out of commission. Even Bale's Bruce Wayne was either hobbling on a cane, back-broken or trapped in a bit. The amount of action these integral characters got was a bit of a let down until the film's climax.

The silver lining to their decreased roles was the increased one of Joseph Gordon Levitt, who played a young cop named Blake who came from a similar background as Batman and wisely caught on to the caped crusader's alias. Levitt has grown substantially as an actor and really carried a lot of the emotion in the film without becoming cheesy or over-the-top. When he threw away his badge after losing faith in the police department, I felt his pain.

Dave: This reminded me somewhat of Spider-Man 3 in the fact that there was too much trying to be shoved into this movie. While Nolan was stuck with characters dead or imprisoned these new characters had to be created, introduced, and somehow reach an ending. Cotillard played another good character turned out to be evil or villainous similar to the crazed character she played in Inception. As for Hathaway I hated her in the beginning and the whole idea of Catwoman but as the film progressed I was right with her (or at least I wish I was right with her on that bike if you catch my drift).

However I believe acting wise each character with what they were given excelled. The moment Alfred quits and tells Bruce the truth about Rachel was very heartfelt. There was even moments I felt bad for Bane occurring in the flashbacks as he tried to protect a young Tate at the prison. Finally Christian Bale is simply the man. Unlike other actors that I usually see through as themselves, with every film Bale is in, whether it is American Psycho or The Fighter, he becomes that character. There is a reason this guy won an Oscar!

Mike: A lot of pressure was put upon Tom Hardy's broad shoulders, and I don't feel the character of Bane worked 100%. The voice, which apparently was fixed from its original version to be easier to understand, was distracting and unrealistic. I think Nolan wanted to create an iconic sounding voice, a la Darth Vader, that people could mimic. This wasn't it. As a villain, Bane was pure force, a different approach from the Joker but, again, hard to compare positively. It's like if Kanye West performed a full set, then Drake came out and did a few songs. While Drake is a good rapper/performer, nobody could follow Kanye.

Dave: During Bane's first scene I was put off by the voice which I am sure was fixed from what Nolan originally wanted. However it did grow on me. It would be interesting to hear the original voice to see if that changes anything. You knew going into it nothing, not even a very powerful Bane, could hold a candle to Heath's Joker but he did a good job trying. Props do have to go to Tom Hardy who really had just his eyes to portray the evil guy that Bane is.

Mike: My expectations were low for Anne Hathaway but I think she did a great job, especially whipping her legs around as much as she did. Marion Cotillard, on the other hand, did not give a great performance and really distracted from the final act of the movie, though Nolan's expositional over-writing of Tate's big monologue could be partly to blame.

As for the end of the movie, I wish Batman had died, but I knew he wouldn't. The reason I knew this was because of Alfred's little speech about hoping to see Bruce in Florence and knowing he was happy and okay. This was exactly the device used in one of my favorite movies of all time, Good Will Hunting, when ben Affleck's character told Matt Damon's something similar. And in both cases, at the end of the film, what the character said ended up happening.

Dave: I knew you were going to bring up that reference! Months leading up to this movie I kept saying I wanted Batman to die one because of the tone of the trilogy and two because it is Christopher Nolan try rebooting this or adding a sequel now to my masterpiece. However during the movie and the final scene I changed my mind slightly. I wanted Batman, the persona that Wayne used, to die but Bruce Wayne to survive and thankfully that is exactly what happened.

Mike: That Bruce/Batman dichotomy is important, and I agree with you, that worked. Lastly, the whole "Robin" reveal with JGL's character was not a problem for me, because JGL sold me on how great he was. If they were to make a movie about Robin starring JGL, I would go to the midnight show. I'm not saying I want them to, but I believe he's proven himself as an adept actor who could fill those tights, or whatever the hell Robin wears.

Dave: While the reveal was not a problem to me I did not like how they showed him becoming the next Bruce Wayne and finding the bat cave. To me this opens up possible doors for a sequel which unless Nolan is attached I would not like to see. Not to mention while it was a cool shot of JGL rising on the platform I would have been much happier if stayed on Bale giving that nod to Alfred as Bruce Wayne. The story started with him a scared boy and should have ended with him as a man confident about the future, whatever that may be. But overall thank god they did not give Robin a costume or they would have really jumped the bat.

Mike: "Jump the bat", I love that! Overall, I thought the stakes were too ridiculously high with the nuclear bomb to really believe Gotham was in any danger. It's like the Community Glee Club episode- Britta mentions how low the stakes are for regionals, but somehow, that made it all the scarier. I truly thought one of the boats in The Dark Knight would blow up, because that was just a boat full of people. But the entire city the series is based upon being destroyed? I didn't buy it, and all of my interest hinged on whether Batman would live or die, where, again, I was disappointed.

Dave: As I said above I do agree about the high stakes but I do have to hand it to Nolan. While Toy Story and Back to the Future may already be my favorite trilogies, Nolan took a subject and characters portrayed in a variety of ways for decades (including sometimes as unintentional humorous) and created a very believable world where a man who dresses up as a bat and saves the city from a man with a bag over his head, an insane clown, and a large man with an oxygen tank. I applaud Nolan for creating a complete trilogy that was not only a box office hit but a critic and crowd pleaser as well. Good luck to the next director that tries to take on this franchise which I am sure will be rebooted within the next five years because believe me they are going to need it.

Mike's Grade: B+
MVP: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Dave's Grade: A-
MVP: Christian Bale

Saturday, July 21, 2012

TV Review: Louie 3x04: "Daddy's Girlfriend Part 1"

The following article may contain spoilers. Reader disruption advised.

ML- We got another glimpse inside the brilliant, messed-up mind of Louis C.K. this week thanks to the use of his fantasies. After pressure from his daughters to get a girlfriend (they slyly brought up mommy's boyfriend who had been on a blimp, in a nudging only kids can get away with), he set his sights on locking down a new serious girlfriend to impress the girls with.

His first choice was another comedian who wasn't all that funny, in my opinion, aside from her spot-on Delilah talk-show impression. She and Louie went back to her place and hooked up, then turned on the ultimate aphrodisiac, reality TV. I must say, I'm already hooked on whatever show they were watching, which featured a guy stab another woman in the house in an attempt to "be more aggressive". This is almost as crazy as the Big Brother house this summer!

She said she wanted another go-around, not because she liked it, but to hopefully improve on the first time. Louie tried luring her into a date, which she vehemently denied, because she was there for "THAT" (his penis) and now he had ruined her all day twice, the first time being the awful sex.

Louie then experienced some well-produced fantasies at his daughter's school. Every time he saw a woman, the seductive music would play that every guy hears in his when he thinks about romancing a girl, and he begins imagining her playing with the kids. Not your average fantasy, but Louie here isn't looking for sex, he wants to not be the loser dad.

The first teacher shuts the door in his face, so he continues down the hall. The next teacher gets the same treatment, until he sees the ring on her finger. He goes again and finds a teacher with no hold-ups, except she's not what one would call classically attractive, and that throws Louie's fantasy into a tailspin. Frustrated, he goes to the bookstore to fill the "librarian" fantasy, and comes across Parker Posey as an employee who really "gets" his daughter's adolescent mindset. They bond, as anyone who comes in contact with Parker Posey would naturally do, and by shaving his beard, we see he's preparing to make a big move.

He makes the move by cornering her in the bookstore and talking until he runs out of things to say, most of them knocking his own appearance and awkwardly complimenting her, and the entire scene is highlighted by Posey's ability to show convincing facial expressions in response to his weirdness. She accepts the date, setting the stage for next week's "Part 2".

Overall, this episode had some nice features with the flashback, but broke the Louie mold of fitting multiple vignettes in a single episode to spreading one over 2 episodes. We'll see how Part 2 wraps things up, but for now, I was just content with this.

Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Parker Posey
Original Airdate: 7/19/2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

TV Review: Big Brother 14x04: Straight Talkin'

Warning: The following article may contain spoilers. Reader discretion advised.

ML- I used to think that Survivor was the greatest game ever created. In it, you must vote out your opponents, and, in order to win, convince the eliminated on the jury to pick you over someone else. Lately, I've been more on the side of Big Brother being the greatest game, because it is designed to allow for constant shifts in power every week. And after the absolutely chaotic week in the house, we saw an absolute reversal of fortune. Game on.

Kara came out of the PoV ceremony claiming she was "all cried out" and ready to secure the 5 votes she needed to stay in the game. Frank, too, battled for his spot, making friends with his betrayer Willie under the assumption Willie had Frank's best interests in mind. Unfortunately for Frank, Willie only has Willie's best interests in mind, all the time. So when Willie subscribed to the plot of sending Janie's team's votes to Frank to re-focus his target on them, and Frank then found out, the Fruit Loops were bound to hit the fan.

BUT FIRST (Seriously, Emmy voters, why keep snubbing Julie Chen for Reality host? She's hilarious!) Britney had an egregious moment of paranoia and shared her suspicions of the coaches entering the game, on the basis of coaches having key holes in the memory wall, with Willie. Willie then called a "No Coaches Allowed" house meeting with the newbies to share this info. Wil at one point declared he was taking a 24-hour break from the game, which Willie later mocked to Frank using an effeminate voice and flamboyant hand motions.

Next, Joe spilled to Frank Willie's plan to pin the votes on Team Janelle, which Frank felt nullified their agreement. He then told Joe about the mocking, which spread like wildfire through the house and made it back to Wil. Britney, now convinced of Janelle and Dan working together, told Willie of his new image in the house. Willie confronted Frank, and the season's first blow-out went down in the backyard.

On one side, Willie "Grown Ass Man" Hantz, who was accused of making homophobic comments by many (not Frank), which I don't actually agree with. I'd mock Willie's voice, I'd mock Wil's voice, and JoJo's, and Danielle's, and Ashley's, because these people are characters chosen for their distinct voices. Wil is, in fact, gay and expressive. Was it nice of Willie to mock him? Absolutely not. But was it blown out of proportion by Frank, Joe and the rest of the house? Absolutely.

That brings us to Frank "Straight Talkin' Mother F*****" Eudy, who made a bold move standing up against bullying in the house which gained him great favor from Wil and Team Janie. Usually, advice is to avoid confrontation to get by, but in this case, Frank made many allies and cemented a leadership status in a new voting block determined to weaken Willie by keeping his greatest enemy around.

At the live vote, Frank expressed loyalty to his new side, while Kara sold someone out by saying they made a final 2 deal with Frank. Who was she referring to? We'll probably find out next week.

In the end, Danielle stood by her teammate and Shane and JoJo stood by Willie to vote out Frank, but Jenn/Ian from Team Boogie and Joe/Wil/Ashley from Team Janie had the numbers and eliminated Kara 5-3.

Last week, I predicted someone from Team Dan would go and chose Danielle instead of Kara. I picked Frank as the winner, and still think he can win the whole thing after surviving this crazy week.

My belief was strengthened at the HoH Competiton, Big Brother Break-In, which asked questions about videos the house guests were shown of a "burglar" breaking into the house and causing detail-oriented trouble. Shane was out first, and then with one question about shaving legs, it was down to Wil and Frank. At that point, it was a foregone conclusion that this new alliance would have the power no matter what. I think Wil threw the challenge so Frank could win, but whatever really happened, it proved that this game is so unpredictable and so entertaining that truly anybody can win.

Julie also announced a new twist to the Coaches' Competition- the winning coach can either save one player from nomination, as was true last week, OR trade one team member for one from another team, HoH excluded. I don't expect any coaches to do this, as there would be no camaraderie between the coach and either their disposed or claimed player.

Who will Frank nominate for eviction? Find out Sunday at 8! Thanks for reading.

Pick to Win: Frank
Next Evicted: Willie

Episode Grade: A
Episode MVP: Frank Eudy
Original Airdate: 7/19/2012

Those predictions were made Thursday night immediately after the episode finished, before the publication of this article. At this point, one prediction has already come true- kind of. Willie went absolutely nuts, swearing at everyone and slamming doors, and entered the DR for a few hours, during which the feeds were down. By the time the Live Feeds came back on, Willie had been expelled from the game. That's right, folks, Willie Hantz is gone.

Janelle won the Coaches Comp and saved Ashley from nomination. Frank remained HoH and made his nominations- Shane and JoJo, both from Team Brit. Apparently the target is Shane, but if he saves himself, they're going to get Danielle out to eliminate Dan from the house.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

TV Review: So You Think You Can Dance: "Top 20 Perform Part Two"

DA- Welcome back to So You Think You Can Dance! Tonight's show is jam packed! We got over 11 dances, four people to vote off save, and a giant commercial for the new Step Up sequel. So without further ado...

The night started off on a weird note. No, really. It was weird. We got a Marilyn Mason routine with a weird CGI video of Cyrus's half skull face that dissolved to the dancers in a Thriller-like setting. While this may have offended some conservative viewers because of the "scary" music it certainly pumped up the crowd. The dancers definitely, as the judges plugged thirty times tonight, "stepped it up."

In a side note: is this episode live? As a former dancer I know how fast dancers can change but going from a strange Manson get-up with makeup to a nice dress in twenty seconds? I don't think so.

Lindsay & Cole: The night started off great with a fun Christopher Scott routine about dentistry. Yes you head me correctly. While the choreography wasn't anything special it was all in their performances. These performances even allowed guest judge Adam Shankman to finally say the critique line of needing "to be more like Jennifer Anniston in Horrible Bosses." While Cole could have toned down the cheesiness I could definetly see why he was that happy. If I had a dentist visit with someone like Lindsay last week when I got my wisdom teeth out I would be jumping for joy too. B+

Amelia & Will: In this contemporary number I was scratching my head wondering why Amelia was smiling in a number that I thought had this week's "tough subject matter." Interesting lifts but a lot of been there done that. Don't you agree Nigel? What's that? You couldn't hear a word I say? Maybe it is because you are sitting right next to the hot tamale train conductor, Mary Murphy! B 

Amber & Nick: In this tango number that would not stop spinning had more lifts where you could see the preparation a mile away. While I thought Nick brought the passion he may have brought too much. But someone had to to make up for Amber's lack thereof. C+

Audrey & Matthew: Holy legs Batman! Between Mr. Tights Matthew and her gorgeous long legs these lines could stretch for days. Not sure about their weird faces and performance, but overall I could not look away. B

Janelle & Dareian: Darien or Donald Duck (since I heard more of that accent then I have ever heard him talk) performed a great 50s number that was perfect. Everything worked together including their costumes, music, and choreography. Also very cute and intricate movements with his jacket and engagement ring prop that reminded me of Jason and Jeanie's "If It Kills Me" routine from a few seasons ago. The judges said America will have a hard time judging based on the lack of choreography but they are forgetting that America doesn't judge on the dancing but instead who their favorite personality is. Whatever is the case, neither should have to worry. A-

Janaya & Brandon: Boy is this show good with benches. In a fun routine that lifted Jason Cheeseman's name from the gutters from last week's routines, both had the fun performances of two quirky strangers meeting on a park bench. While the song was questionable this routine kept me laughing and smiling throughout it. Best of the night between the couples by far. A

Eliana & Cyrus: I missed what genre they said it was before they introduced the routine but when the music started I instantly started laughing and questioning what I was about to see. In this cheesy routine you may see performed at a country bar or line dance club (if that even exists) both dancers did not look like the professional talent this show tries to find. While Cyrus was completely out of his comfort zone and performing air guitar tricks throughout the routine, his personality will save himself from next week's bottom three. D+

Daniel & Alexa: Rub a dub! Let's hop in the tub! In a surpassingly sexual routine involving these two dancers (who look like they are brother and sister) had both dancers in their element (even if it was in a bathtub). Believe me, I have tried some of these lifts and jumps in the tub before and for me they do not seem as graceful and beautiful as they do here. B+

Tiffany & George: Foxtrot. Enough said. I was zoning in and out in this routine like the dancers were whirling around. For me this was nothing special and was glad when it was time to move on to the next routine. C+

Witney & Chehon: I feel like SYTYCD had one good bollywood number to "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire the first time they tried it but nothing since has lived up to that first routine. You can tell it was a long night not only for these dancers but also for the camera crew as they were getting looser with their shots and reactions and making mistakes with their timing and framing. Overall not a great routine to end the night with. C+

This week the bottom six included Janaya, Alexa, and Witney for the girls and Nick, Daniel, and Chehon for the boys (who for the record were all in my lowest rated dances from last week's review). But before we found out who was going home we got a giant "commercial" or promotion for Step Up Revolution. While normally these are out of place and gimmicky, this performance after the trailer was some of the best dancing of the night and (since we are only in episode two) the season!

Finally we ended with the judges saving Witney and Chehon and I jumped for joy that Witney will grace my screen for another week. However I am sad to see Daniel, Alexa, and Janaya go home especially after their great performances tonight. As for Nick who was sporting his Dracula-like costume as he was sent home...yeah. See ya later.

Originally Aired: 7/18/12