Monday, March 31, 2008

Hope for Iron Man?

This weekend I saw 21 (I'll do my write-up on it soon...), and the new trailer for Iron Man ran beforehand. I had seen the original preview of Iron Man a few months ago, after which my husband and I looked at each other and said, "That is going to be AWFUL."

It's another movie version of a comic book series, and Robert Downey Jr., of all people, is playing the superhero. Gwyneth Paltrow (of whom I've never been a big fan) and Terrence Howard are also in it... but perhaps the worst thing about both of the trailers is the use of the "Iron Man" song... you know the one: "I... AM... IRON MAN!" It's by Black Sabbath (not like I knew that before I just googled it... I'm not exactly of fan of theirs, either), and despite the fact that it's supposed to be all scary and heavy metal, it just comes off as goofy.

But I have to say, despite its lame soundtrack, the second trailer at least showed some promise and was much better than the original version. All comic book-based movies, with the exception of the Christopher Nolan Batman series, are somewhat cheesy... they kind of have to be, right? So once I remembered that, I had a lot more patience for and interest in Iron Man.

I'm still on the fence about whether or not I'll see it when it comes out May 2nd. It would be kind of fun to wait in line on opening night with all of the geeky fan boys--they always make for the best theater audiences.

It will probably come down to how sick I am of the "Iron Man" song by that point in time... if they over-hype this movie, I'll probably have to pass. Otherwise, I may give it a shot.

Here's the newer, better trailer:

- e

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wherefore Art Thou, Mulder?

Last night I officially blocked July 25th off on my calendar... The X-Files Movie is less than 4 months away! While it still doesn't have an official name, the bootlegged preview below looks awesome. Here's a short article about it... to get you as hyped up as I am. Seriously, though, I'm going to need to refresh my memory before I see this movie, even though it's supposed to have a "stand-alone" plot. For instance, I totally forgot that Scully had a kid. But I didn't forget that Mulder rocks the house!

Anyway, all I know is that I'm going to have to bust out my Mulder action figure to go to the premiere with me, and that will be awesome. Everyone else in line will be very jealous. Nerd envy.

Below is the trailer filmed by someone in the audience at WonderCon (convention for nerds held last month).

The Truth is Out There!

- e

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

Those of you who have been reading my blogs for a while now know that I try to keep things light-hearted. But I felt compelled to share an article I recently came across in The New York Times which attempted to explain the "credit crisis" that has been making headlines for the past several months.

Why bore you with this stuff? Because last week I found myself thinking, "Hmm... I spent over a decade in the financial industry and have two business degrees, but I don't understand what in the hell is going on."

I figured I wasn't alone.

So I asked my husband to explain it to me, and he did. And I was going to attempt to write out everything he said, but then the very next day I found this article. It made me realize that the vast majority of people, including those in the thick of (and who possibly are responsible for) the crisis, don't really know what happened to get the financial industry to the precarious state in which it now finds itself.

I won't lie and say that the piece makes things crystal clear, but the journalist tried. He's basically saying that after people started buying homes they really couldn't afford (with the encouragement of banks and mortgage companies, who were whispering sweet nothings in their ears), those high-risk loans were bundled up, then split apart various ways and sold off to investors. Investors such as... almost every major financial institution in the country, if not the world. They were attracted to these mortgage bundles because, since they were high-risk loans in the first place, that meant that the interest rates on them were also higher than average. (You know the old adage, "High risk, high reward"...) Everything might have been OK if housing prices continued to rise, but they didn't. Party's over!

The story is much more complex than that, but you can read it for yourself. The same thing is going on with credit card debt... people charge more than they could ever possibly pay off, they are billed really high interest rates in the process, and then those "portfolios" of debt are bought and sold to investors. All of this is eerily similar to an account of massive derivatives blow-ups in the 1990s (remember The O.C. going bankrupt?) that I'm reading right now: F.I.A.S.C.O. by Frank Partnoy. While what is covered in F.I.A.S.C.O. is highly sophisticated, it provides a heads up to anyone who invests in almost anything. Its lesson: What you invest in usually not what you think you're investing in (ranging from single-company stocks to mutual funds to pension plans). Buyer beware!

OK, that's enough seriousness for a Friday. I'm going to go stuff $20 under a mattress now. (I kid... but maybe I'll just put $5 under for good measure.)

- e

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Strange Beginnings: The Hills and The Bachelor

How much longer until The Office is back on the air? I'll even take Dirty Sexy Money.

Anyone... anyone... Bueller?

The Hills

I don't know what was worse--the latest episode of The Hills, or the fact that Mariah Carey was involved with its premiere. Mariah--you are not that young anymore, it's embarrassing that you are desperately trying to promote your new album to the young'uns. Please stop. Even though I am also too old to watch The Hills, at least I do so in the privacy of my own home. But then I write about it online. OK, so I'm a hypocrite.

While I have long bemoaned the fact that The Hills is about nothing and is perhaps the stupidest show on the air, for some reason I keep watching it. To add insult to injury, it was actually even more boring when LC and Whitney went to Paris than it usually is... how can that be?!?!

Here is the entire episode in a matter of bullet points:
- LC and Whitney once again made their generation look like a bunch of idiots when they chose to NOT follow their assigned itinerary and secured their own Crillon Ball gowns instead of picking up models' shoes like they were instructed.
- Lauren then went on to ruin her gown, which most likely cost thousands of dollars. Not only did she risk wearing it to a smoky club (on top of altering its length on her own), she left it hanging next to a curling iron and burned the fabric (after hitching it up around her waist to ride around on a moped through Paris IN THE POURING RAIN).
- While I thought the entire season was going to be set in Paris for the two girls, they were only there for like 5 days or something. And in that time, Brody apparently found himself a new girlfriend. I felt completely tricked. They were only in Paris for less than a week?!?!
- The guy that was obviously paid to pursue Lauren was absolutely ridiculous. Not only was his name Matthieu, he was in a band, constantly smoked, and wore women's tights. Because there's no way they make skinny jeans for men that fit that snugly.
- Whitney is going to leave Teen Vogue because, she, like, needs to be "one with fashion."
- Lauren chose to text and take international phone calls from Audrina rather than do her job at the Ball.
- Back in the States, after what I now realize was probably only 2 days of Heidi being gone, Spencer goes to Colorado, only to receive the cold shoulder and looks of hatred from both Heidi and her stepdad. Her stepdad was the only good part of the show. You know he wasn't acting! That dude HATES Spencer, even more than I do. Which is saying something.

At least next week everyone is reunited in L.A. And Justin Bobby will be making an appearance, hooray! How can I both despise and look forward to this show? It defies all logic.

The Bachelor: London Calling

I have not watched The Bachelor in any way, shape or form since whatever season ended in early 2003. But when I was with Miss M (who I watched it with back in the day at grad school) in NYC and we saw the promos for the latest season, I just HAD to check it out... because the guy is British and is by far the best bachelor they've ever had on the show. The women are still all pretty horrid, but he makes it worth watching.

In the premiere, a chick named Stacey totally represented Chicago by getting drunk out of her mind, swearing up a storm and passing out on a random bare mattress in a back room. That's how we roll in the Windy City! Deal with it!

No, seriously, she was awful. No surprise that she didn't make it to the next round.

In this week's episode, I was stunned once again by the women who thought it was somehow a good idea to sing for the bachelor (whose name is Matt, by the way). How couldn't that be an uncomfortable situation? Especially when one of them sang opera-style?

None of the girls seem totally normal. Either they have "stress-induced hiccups" or are double-jointed and proud of it or are the spawn of Lorenzo Lamas. It is insane--does America have nothing better to offer this British hottie? I am ashamed of my country right about now.

My husband doesn't understand how I, "a modern woman," could watch this show. He thinks it represents everything I am against... namely, women who chase after men because they think that getting married will solve all of their problems and make their life perfect. While I do admit that the contestants on the early seasons of the show seemed to have that mentality, I don't get that sense as much from the London Calling ladies. They're just insane. So it's entertaining. Watching this show, and The Hills, and The Gauntlet, and American Idol (are you getting the picture?) is my way of unwinding and clearing my mind at the end of any given day. Very few things in life take less effort or thought or energy than does watching reality TV. And so, I will keep watching. But I will also hope for the sake of Matt, who seems fairly normal and smart, on top of being impossibly gorgeous and having an awesome accent, that he ends up with NONE of those women.

- e

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hate Catalogs As Much As I Do?

Just a quick note to make others aware of a great site I came across after reading a recent Real Simple magazine:

If your household is anything like mine, you get ten bazillion catalogs in the mail each day and don't look at any of them. After I buy baby gifts for friends, or some new skin potion online, or a wedding present for someone, I start getting the catalog of the vendor/store in the mail. it's the worst... it makes me feel guilty for inadvertently killing trees!

So that is why I jumped at the chance to stop the catalog insanity with You register with the site, and then each time a catalog comes that you don't want, you look it up on the site and hit "decline" and then within 10 weeks it should stop coming to you. I just did 2 Crate and Barrels, 1 Pottery Barn and 1 Williams-Sonoma today alone. I enter in the customer number on the back, too, just to be SURE they get me out of their system.

While it takes a few minutes of effort each time a catalog comes, in the long run I know it will be worth it. And I also check the "I'd like to help the environment" choice at the end of the process (you don't have to select anything, though) just to help get the message through to these printers that they need to get with the times! I found all of the stuff I've bought from these places without a catalog...why do they keep thinking it's going to help get me to buy more if they barrage my mailbox with mounds of paper?!?!

I hope some of you find the site useful...
- e

The Veterans Have Some Explaining To Do.

The Gauntlet III has finally come to an end; no more CT for me. Luckily, The Bachelor: London Calling and The Hills have started up, so as to ensure that my brain cells will continue dying off at an alarming pace. I will write about those shows tomorrow, but today I must devote to the controversial ending of The Gauntlet. Even if you have never watched this latest Real World/Road Rules Challenge, you should read this post. Why? Because it will make you proud that you were smart enough to never watch this show...

Going into the final installment of The Gauntlet, I had a sneaking suspicion that the Rookies would end up winning it all. But I never would have guessed that they would pull off a victory only because Eric (aka "Big Easy") almost died?!?!!

Say what you want about this show, but the finale made for good TV. It also made me finally admit that my husband was right... he stopped watching a long time ago because he couldn't stand how selfish and egotistical all of the players were. The finale proved his point.

The members of the Rookie and Veteran teams were chained together, respectively, and sent off to complete a series of mini-versions of past challenges. The Rookies immediately had an advantage with only six people, whereas the Veterans had ten. And one of those ten was Eric, an extremely large dude. Whatever team won would split $300,000 amongst its members... so each of the Rookies would get $50k if they won, and each of the veterans would get $30k.

Early on in the final challenge (which was, mind you, completed outside in the searing hot Mexican sun), Big Easy started slowing down. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that they all had to swim a half-mile at the very beginning of the mission. Anyway, Eric soon could barely keep up with the rest of the team, who was literally dragging him along, as they were all chained together. Brad was THE ONLY ONE on the Veteran team who showed any sort of compassion or concern for Eric. He was like, "Um, hello everyone... this guy's gonna keel over... um, helllooooooo.... his eyes are rolling back into his head... hello... he's gone white.... helloooo....we need to stop... he's gonna die.... HELLO YOU @$#(#%*()#$#(@$s!!!! STOP!!!!"

Sure enough, Eric passed over and dropped down onto the pavement just like Brad had predicted. And what did the rest of the team do while Brad was calling for a medic and making sure Eric got air? They started throwing hissy fits and crying and complaining about how Eric just lost them $30,000 each.

A few things:
1) In the whole scheme of life, $30,000 is NOT WORTH someone dying over!! Are you kidding me? No amount of money is. Are these reality show brats that hard up??? I know I sound like a grumpy old lady, but seriously, they should be ashamed of themselves.
2) Yes, Eric should have kept better care of his health. But he came onto the show overweight, so the entire Veteran team should have known that he could end up as a liability to them, as so prophetically pointed out by Johnny Bananas early in the season. It is their own fault that Eric ended up costing them the final challenge, because they didn't have the foresight to get him off the team before the end.

So Big Easy gets whisked away by the medics, and then (and only then) does Evan rise to the challenge of being a leader and encourages the rest of the group to finish the mission and to "do it for Easy." But it was too little, too late.

I'm sure I am not the only one who watched with a mixture of awe and horror as the Veteran team actually caught up to the Rookies, and then surpassed them to "win" the final mission of digging up a crate and hoisting up the flag that was locked inside. I know my mouth was hanging open.

But there was no victory horn blown by that loser host guy who always wears straight-billed baseball caps like a dork. The Veterans lost on a technicality. They needed to have everyone on their team cross the finish line, and Eric still counted. Since they "left him behind," their effort was forfeited and the Rookies won.

Now, this bothered me, if for no other reason than I'm sure the next round of Gauntlet players will NOT be smart enough to figure out that they should kick off the players who may not be physically up to the final challenge early in the game. Instead, these people are going to interpret the Veterans' loss by thinking, "OK, so they should've let Eric die and carried his body over the finish line... because THEN they'd have $30,000 to spend on... you know, new sunglasses and tanning oil. And that would totally be worth it."

The reunion show is on tonight at 10 PM EST and I cannot wait to see if that brat Ev or Kenny or any of those idiots even attempts to redeem themselves after their obnoxious behavior in the final show.

Who am I kidding? They won't.

- e

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Little Too Close for Comfort?

While most of my time in St. Maarten was spent eating, reading, writing, buying pirate crap, going to the gym and then eating some more, on the last day we did make a stop at the Sunset Beach Bar to watch the airplanes coming in right over the beach. There were signs all over the place warning of the possibility of getting blown into the air or killed by the jet blasts!

Here's a shot of a Continental plane coming in... but the video I uploaded below of an Air Transat jet skimming the beach is much better. The video is only 12 seconds long, but for those of you working for The Man, note that it does have sound.

I wasn't brave enough to stand on the beach as the planes came in overhead, but now I wish I would have tried it, just for one of them. I'm a scaredy cat.

- e

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pirate Paradise in St. Maarten

An unexpected surprise on my recent vacation to St. Maarten was the abundance of pirate goodies all over the island. I got myself a keychain, a mouse pad (some of us still use them, OK?) and a magnet, and also enjoyed the festivities of "Pirate Night" at the Westin.

Yes, I almost passed out from excitement when I saw the sign for Pirate Night!

I am lucky enough to be headed off on vacation again in two weeks, and rest assured, there will be more pirate adventures for me on that trip, too...

- e

Top Chef Chicago: e's Millisecond of Fame

As I hinted at last week, I was indeed at the filming of "Zoo Food"--episode two of this season's Top Chef in Chicago. While I tried to make some ridiculous comments on camera in order to get on TV, my strategy did not work. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I hated everything the judges liked and loved everything they hated. This should be no surprise, as my definition of fine dining is adding blueberries to a bowl of Cheerios.

Anyway, it was extremely cool to see how the show came together. When I first watched it, I didn't see myself or my husband at all. So a big shout-out to my brother and JB, who caught my back, arm and half of my face on the edge of the screen during minute 37. If you have Tivo, they replay Top Chef all of the time on Bravo, so look for a scene during minute 37 where Padma and the other chick are in the middle of the frame. I am at the far left of the screen in a red dress with my back facing the camera, and as I turn to look back at the judges, the scene switches.

Now I can officially say I've been on TV!

- e

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Xanadu on Broadway is Like a Dream... A Really Bad One

As many of you who read my other blog (Long Live Locke) know, I was really looking forward to seeing Xanadu on Broadway while in New York last week. I was one of the people who loved the 1980 movie, and still listen to its soundtrack often. As a young girl, I wanted to be Olivia Newton-John. Between her roles as Sandy in Grease and Kira in Xanadu, I thought she was the coolest person on the planet. The Broadway version was actually garnering some decent reviews, so my hopes went even higher.

Alas, when I saw advertisements for the musical plastered across garbage cans in the Big Apple, I should have known that was a bad sign. Because that's what Xanadu on Broadway was: complete garbage.

Before I go any further, I probably should explain the movie's ridiculous plot, so you know what the Broadway peeps had to work with. Xanadu is about a muse (literally--as in, one of the Greek muses) named Kira (making the name popular decades before Ms. Knightley pouted her way onto the silver screen) who is transported to southern California via a mural that comes to life. She falls in love with Sonny, a down-on-his-luck artist, which is "against the rules" according to her father, Zeus. Kira hopes to stay with Sonny long enough to ensure that his dream--opening a rollerskating disco (with Danny, played by Gene Kelly!)--comes to fruition. Along the way, there are a ton of awesome songs, most of which are performed by ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) or the main actors. The end.

So, um, yeah... I admit that the premise is totally goofy. But it worked for me back in the day, and even though the movie was universally panned, its soundtrack was extremely successful. When I bought tickets for the Broadway version, I thought, "OK, if nothing else, the songs will be good."

I was wrong! Not only was the stage version drastically different from the movie, it also absolutely butchered the songs. It became clear early on that the musical did not intend to pay tribute to its namesake; it intended to mercilessly skewer it. Which I probably would've been OK with, had they not messed with the story and the songs as much as they did. All of the other muses (Kira's sisters), who essentially had no role in the movie, were a major presence on stage. There was even a new subplot about two older "evil sisters" who tried to put a curse on Kira. And while it was funny when the performers initially poked fun at Kira's Australian accent and some of the other inside jokes from the movie (or from the 80s overall), it got really old really quickly when those gags ran incessantly for ninety minutes. But the worst part was definitely how they destroyed the songs. Either the woman playing Kira was singing in a purposefully nasally and obnoxious faux Aussie accent, or the guy playing Sonny was hamming it up to the point that the melody was ruined. Needless to say, I was really, really disappointed.

The reaction from the audience was split down the middle. People either loved it or despised it. I was obviously in the latter camp, and I felt awful for poor Miss M, who I dragged to the show with me. She hadn't even seen the movie, so I think she was especially confused!

I seriously need to see the movie again as soon as possible so that I can rid myself of the awful memories from the musical and remember why I was such a big fan of Xanadu as a kid. I've already replayed the soundtrack on my iPod, but it just made me that much angrier at how the Broadway production absolutely obliterated some wonderful songs. There will be no justice for Xanadu in my lifetime, I fear.

Below is a five minute, thirty second spot on Xanadu on Broadway (which also shows a lot of clips from the movie) that aired on Nightline before the musical opened.

If you've never seen the movie, I honestly can't recommend it. When seen as a kid, it may be cool, but if you see it for the first time as an adult, you may be thoroughly disturbed. But if you are OK with the crazy premise and like ELO and/or Olivia Newton-John, or if you want to see Gene Kelly tap dance AND roller skate, then this is the movie for you. Below is its original two-minute trailer, which in and of itself is hilarious. Trailers sure have come a long way in 28 years!

See? How could I not love this movie?
- e

Friday, March 21, 2008

For the Love of Carbs

Talk about extremes... last week I was surrounded by palm trees, brilliant blue water and beaches--and tried to avoid getting burned in the hot sun. Today I sit here under three layers and a robe, as city workers SHOVEL SNOW off of the sidewalk in front of my condo. How depressing.

But I always have memories of my vacation to cheer me up, right? Since I was back to my normal breakfast routine this morning, I thought I would reminisce about my favorite meal of the day on the two islands I visited recently: Manhattan and St. Maarten.

For some unknown reason that is really starting to upset me, I can only find "whole wheat everything" bagels in New York. WHY someone hasn't thought of selling them in Chicago, I have no idea--I might have to start up a store myself because I'm so desperate for them. They are the ultimate bagel... you've got your whole wheat grains (much healthier than white flour) and you've got your sesame seeds, onion seeds and poppy seeds for delicious flavor. Miss M has been known to stink up the overhead bins of large aircraft just to bring me two dozen WWE bagels when she visits Chicago, God bless her.

If anyone knows of a company that makes WWE bagels in the Chicago area, it is your duty to inform me now!

In St. Maarten, I enjoyed a different (and much less healthy) breakfast treat: the johnny cake. It wasn't the same thing as a johnnycake, which can be found in southern states. This thing was like a fried donut, and therefore it was awesome. This picture does not do it justice. We would sprinkle sugar on it right after it was delivered to us piping hot, and it was incredible. We could've gotten them with all sorts of weird things in the middle, like eggs, but it was much better on its own. Eating a johnny cake while looking out at the ocean on a bright sunny day, with sailboats and St. Barts out in the distance, is just about as good as life gets, I dare say.

- e

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

e on TV?

I'm still on vacation, but just wanted to post a quick note to let you all know that there is a chance I will be able to be spotted on TV tomorrow (Wednesday, March 19) night. I have to be kind of vague about it for reasons I can talk about after the show airs, but here are a few hints:

- The show is on Bravo
- It is about cooking
- It is in Chicago this season
- I will be in the crowd, and I am one of two women there who wore a red dress--I have straight brown hair, the other woman had curlier hair

Look for me, especially if they show overhead shots of the group! It is not a studio audience, but rather a bunch of people attending a function. I did get interviewed on camera, but so did a lot of people, so I have no idea who will end up actually getting air time on the show. I tried to say something ridiculous to up my odds--hee hee. We'll see if it worked...

- e

Monday, March 10, 2008

e's on Vacation

This is where I am right now.

So I'm sure you don't blame me that I'm taking a little break from my daily posting routine. I will be back to my normal schedule on March 20th, but will try to write again before that if I happen to get Internet access.

In the meantime, I'll do my best to send some warmer temperatures up to my cold-climate peeps,
- e

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Reality Roundup

Lots to report in the world of reality TV... the most important news being that The Hills finally returns to us on March 24th. Not a moment too soon!

The Hills

Have you seen the previews? They are ridiculous... they totally hired the ultimate stereotype of a Frenchman to be Lauren's love interest. He's like, "Luh-RUUHN, have you seen the II-fel Toww-wuh?" while wearing a beret and sporting a skinny mustache and smoking a cigarette and donning a scarf and horizontally-striped black and white top AND drinking wine!

Check it out here... it's about a minute and a half, and Frenchy comes on at around 30 seconds. Sorry for the poor quality... it's the only one I could find...

OK, so maybe he didn't have on a beret and scarf and whatnot... but still, how staged was that? It's going to be AWESOME!!! In another preview they're showing, Heidi asks Spencer to move out. Unfortunately we know from their constant presence in the gossip magazines that they are still together. He is THE WORST?!?! Needless to say, I didn't miss him at all.

[The following all contain references to the latest episodes of each show, so don't read them if you aren't caught up...]

Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites

As I've mentioned before, I didn't know any of the "Favorites" except James, Amanda and Fairplay. But man, do I wish I had caught Ozzy's season now. That guy is a machine--he's incredible. He is seriously super-human, I've never seen anything like it. It's even crazier when you consider that he's not that big of a guy, either. Unlike, say, The Incredible Hulk on the "Fans" team. He creeps me out. I have been enjoying the season so far and am very curious to see if anyone falls for Ozzy's faux immunity idol.

The Gauntlet

I'll say it again: Where in the hell is CT?!?! He must make it to the very end or else they'd be showing much more of him by now. It looks like next week Frank tries to provoke him while they've both been drinking, which might be fun to watch.

At the beginning of the season I was really rooting for the Rookies, because they were just so obviously and blatantly outmatched. Now, however, I am sick of them. Yes, the Vets have bigger, stronger and more people, but they are also smarter and actually take the time to plan out strategies. Frank used to be one of my favorites on Real World: Las Vegas, but he's annoying the heck out of me now--he has changed a lot, and not in a good way.

I don't blame Coral for leaving, either. Everyone was trying to make her out to be the bad guy for screwing the Vets by quitting (which made them have to kick out another person they didn't want to), but it's not like they were being straight with her or being good teammates to her. I never thought the day would come when I would stick up for Coral, but this time, I do. It will be interesting to see if she ever is on one of these shows again, since I think Evan nailed it at the end: she's the old generation and just doesn't fit in anymore.

I still have a weird feeling that the Rookies are going to win the whole thing, though.

American Idol

I almost stopped watching American Idol after last week's episodes because I really think this year is awful. Ryan straight-up LIED to us... without me even watching the first several seasons, I know for a fact that there's no way this season has the "biggest talent ever" like he keeps saying over and over again. You can't brainwash me, Ryan! Stop trying!

The vast majority of contestants are bad. There's no other way to say it. While I like the little tiny smiley dude (David), I do hope he follows Simon's advice and picks a more upbeat song next time. I continue to like Chikezie, and can at least stand the Australian guy. But everyone else I can hardly bear to watch. Even though my husband thought that one dude busting out "Hello" by Lionel Richie on the electric guitar was awesome, I just can't deal with that guy--he seems SO arrogant and cocky. He reminds me of someone I don't like and I can't figure out who it is.

As far as the women go, my favorite is Brooke, the Carly Simon chick. But she seriously is way too skinny and it's kind of painful to look at her. She's always trying to hide it with flowy tops, but pay attention next time and you'll see what I mean. Everyone else is, as Simon would say, forgettable. I particularly don't like Kady--I think she has ZERO personality--even on her clips.

And what is UP with Paula this year? First off, her new word is "tenderness" and that is bugging the crap out of me. Secondly, she's definitely whacked out this season... the last two episodes were really bad--she was basically incoherent.

Why do I watch this show again?

Oh yeah, because nothing else is on.

Randy Jackson Presents America's Best Dance Crew

This show takes all of ten minutes to watch if you forward through everything but the dance segments on stage. I really like it. Tonight, all performances are going to be set to classic Michael Jackson songs, and it looks really good--I'm excited for this one.

Check out the commercial here... it's on tonight at 10 PM EST!

- e

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Gangsta Gangsta

I love being pleasantly surprised.

In retrospect, however, why I didn't think I'd like American Gangster is beyond me. It stars Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington, it scored Golden Globe nominations for Best Film and Best Actor (Denzel), it was directed and produced by Ridley Scott (whose movies I tend to like more often than not, with the exception of TAOJJBTCRF) and it was on almost every major film critic's Top Ten list for 2007... so I should've known it would be excellent. And it was... it was excellent.

Going into the movie I was scared that it would be ultra-violent, and I generally avoid those types of films. The very disgusting opening scene gave me a sinking feeling... that "Oh great, I'm going to have to cover my face with my blanket for the next two-and-a-half hours" feeling. But those initial few moments were misleading, because all in all, the movie wasn't that violent. Certainly not as bad as The Departed, for example. Almost all of the gross parts you could see coming (which gave me time to dive under my blanket).

Perhaps the most incredible thing about American Gangster is that it is based on a true story. Set in New York during the Vietnam War, it followed the rise to power of Frank Lucas (played by Denzel), a Harlem drug lord. I had no idea that there was such a huge heroin addiction problem during the war--both among our troops and among people back in the States. So I dare say there was a bit of a history lesson in the movie as well. If you don't know anything about the story of Frank Lucas, try to keep yourself in the dark about it if you follow my advice and plan to rent the movie... because how he achieved his great success plays like a mystery, and if you find out how he did it beforehand, it will ruin a bit of the film for you (my husband figured it out right away... but I didn't). (And please don't leave any comments about it so as to not spoil it for others...)

Russell Crowe plays a down-on-his-luck cop who's no angel himself, but who is trying to unravel the mystery of who is supplying the city with potent heroin.

I highly recommend this movie--especially if you have a fondness for either of the two leads--they are remarkable, and the rest of the cast is great as well. Below is a two-minute-long trailer to give you a taste for the film.


- e

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Stardust and Volver--Similar Yet Different

I've got a HUGE backlog of movie reviews, so I figured I better start doubling up again...

A month or so ago, I watched Stardust and Volver over the same weekend. While some might say that these movies are extremely different, I would argue that they share some very similar "fantasy" elements. But I can't say much about Volver without spoiling it, so you'll just have to trust me.

Stardust was hyped to the hilt when it came out, but then got fairly awful reviews, so I didn't end up seeing it in the theater as I had originally planned. Since it had been compared to my absolute favorite movie of all time, The Princess Bride, I was very curious about what it would be like, but then skeptical after the scathing critiques rolled in. So I forgot about it.

Eventually it made its way to my place courtesy of Netflix, and I have to tell you that I don't understand why there were so many haters out there for this movie. I wouldn't go as far as to say that I loved it, but I truly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who liked The Princess Bride. Perhaps the movie-going audience at large has grown too cynical to enjoy a true fantasy tale that's also downright goofy in parts, but not me. It probably didn't hurt that my expectations were really low before I watched it. I usually can't stand Claire Danes, who plays one of the leads, and I even got over my dislike of her (and I dare say she did pretty well in her role). Perhaps it was because I was distracted by all of the other stuff in the movie for which I'm known to have a particular affinity: unicorns, magic, witches, pirates, ghosts--I was in my glory.

There are also some other big names in the Stardust besides Ms. Danes... Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro... even Ricky Gervais and Sienna Miller have small roles. And none other than Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is the narrator. Here is a two-and-a-half-minute trailer that will give you a good feel for the movie.

I thought the only downside was that it was pretty long at 2 hours and 35 minutes... but it didn't drag or anything.

As for Volver, like I alluded to above, it's kind of hard to say much about the movie without spoiling a few of the twists. It comes to us from acclaimed Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, and therefore is in Spanish with English subtitles. Both my husband and I realized that you have to read REALLY fast to catch everything. It stars Penelope Cruz as a mother who is trying to make ends meet for herself and her teenage daughter... very much a story about friends and family. I knew absolutely nothing about the movie before I watched it, and I really, really liked it. Some crazy things happened early on that I did not expect (and which made me wonder, "What kind of movie is this?"), but you just have to trust me and stick with it past the early scenes and you will be rewarded. But if you don't like subtitled movies and aren't a quick reader, then it's definitely not for you. All of the trailers I found gave away major parts of the movie, so I'll leave it at that!

- e

Monday, March 03, 2008

You Got a Big Fine Couch!

I was recently made aware of this absolutely crazy commercial, which you must see to believe. It's been playing recently in the Washington DC area, and aired during the 2007 tax season as well. It's a very bad attempt at a play on the 1999 song by Juvenile entitled "Back That Thang Up" (at least that is the non-explicit title of the song).

Please watch this 30-second ad, because I've got some questions for you afterward.

Here is what I can't figure out:

1) Of ALL SONGS, why would you pick "Back That Thang Up" to mock in an ad for a furniture store? I could see maybe for a truck or something, but for furniture?

2) Does that man at the beginning have the biggest belly button of all time, or what?

3) Speaking of that, why don't the guys in this video have on shirts? Why does the woman at the very beginning whose back is facing the camera appear to have on only a bra and skirt? What exactly is going ON in this furniture store?

All I know is that the next time I'm in DC, I'm totally going there. And they better have a party waiting!

- e