Friday, June 19, 2009

slightly silly: a review of "new in town"

i could try and explain my rationale in why i chose to watch this, but then i realized that there is no plausible reasoning that would explain why i rented this movie [for free, i swear] off of comcast's on-demand service. in any case, i did it with the full expectation that this movie would be terrible.

and in many ways it was. first off, what on earth happened to renee zellweger? she was so cute in jerry maguire:

and since then she's either lived hard, or had tremendously bad plastic surgery. because in new in town she looks more like this:

there must have been a bad plastic surgeon involved with the second picture, right? because her mouth looks completely different. it's like they were striving for pouty and accidentally left her at pinched. and i don't bring this up because i like to make fun of bad plastic surgeries or the celebrities that have indulged in bad plastic surgeries, i bring it up because it's kind of shocking to see her face in the movie. and you don't really want your audience to have that reaction when you make a romantic comedy. because it wasn't a good kind of shocking, it was "what happened to her?" shocking.

anyway, the secondary characters all play up the minnesota stereotype. except for harry connick, jr who plays a down-in-the-dumps widower/union president as the male lead, he's actually not originally from minnesota so that they do have something in common. he's charming, but at the same time, this fish-out-of-water story focuses more on the city-girl-thrust-into-the-backwoods storyline rather than the romance between the two leads, which is somewhat in the tradition of "baby boom" but ends up being considerably less charming.

which is ultimately the major flaw of the film. all the elements of the traditional rom-com are there, and as a non-discerning viewer it's not anymore painful to sit through than say she's all that.

grade: ♥♥ out of ♥♥♥♥♥♥

seriously romantic: my grandmother's books

when i completed my master's project, i dedicated it to my two grandmothers, two women who have had an incredible presence and effect on my life. my maternal grandmother, in particular, shaped my likes and dislikes in ways that i am still sometimes surprised by. she passed away just before the new year, and one of the things i inherited was her collection of harlequin romance books.

she started collecting them after her mother died. she had cared for her mother as she aged and during one last illness and suddenly found that she had a lot of time on her hands. so she signed up to receive six books a month from the harlequin reader service. the bulk of her collection runs from 1977 to 1988, which coincides with my grandfather's death. she didn't save every single book, only the good ones [of the later years she kept very few, which indicates that the books were getting a little, shall we say, spicier and this more than anything likely contributed to her cancellation of her subscription to the service], and she was so organized she kept them in numerical order and had each book listed in a composition notebook by number. when i was younger borrowing one meant my initial was penciled into the book, so that she would know where it was. my grandmother was such a stickler.

i am slowly making my way through the series. as a fairly modern, contemporary woman, reading the older books [some of them are reprints from the 1960s] is on some levels a bit horrifying--the things a young, single woman could and couldn't do at that time are shocking, what is considered scandalous behavior is astounding to me. however, the overall tone of the novels actually convey an innocent earnestness.

the primness and sexism evident in the novels at the time lead to amusement more than a call to arms to militant feminism. these books were written by women for women, so it's clear that the sexism is a mere reflection of the times rather than an ideological manifesto. more often than not, i end up laughing at the more egregiously sexist passages.

in any case, to share my enjoyment of these books, i'm going to be posting some reviews and thoughts on them over the summer. my goal is to read all of them by summer's end. i probably won't review all of them, but will do my best to note down my thoughts as i read them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

slightly silly: a review of "step up 2: the streets"

i believe my love of silly romantic comedies has been well-documented. and because during the [supposedly] long summer months most of my television viewing consists of [torturing myself by] watching "general hospital" and/or on-demand movies, i decided to spice things up around here with a new feature, focusing on the aforementioned on-demand movies.

last night i watched step up 2: the streets, a follow-up to the surprisingly entertaining step up. to be honest, i'm not entirely positive step up is actually as entertaining as i think it is, but i simply enjoy it because...well, perhaps i'll just show you:

i don't know. i just happen to think this guy [channing tatum] is so hot. [you know, i don't often spend a lot of time thinking about how much my television viewing habits are influenced by the "hot guy quotient" but i think it might actually work out to be a pretty high percentage of my viewing choices are based on who i think is hot.]

anyway, i really enjoyed step up and because i was bored [the hubby was out for drinks with the sister-in-law] and knew that no one would object, i decided to take a chance on the sequel being as entertaining as the first movie. did it succeed?

well, sort of:

i mean, the guy [robert hoffman] is cute. but. he just isn't as hot as channing tatum. otherwise, i think in both films there are issues with the story, but in the first movie it seems to flow a bit more smoothly. the sequel is more concerned with dance montages. all well and good considering it is a movie about street dancing, but i think that the story/plot suffers pretty significantly because of this focus. in the first film there was some real tension between the characters' backgrounds and family life. though the second film tries to build this up, it doesn't do it very successfully.

all in all, the movie is ultimately really sweet and fun. and totally worth watching if you enjoyed the first one. is it a movie to watch over and over again? probably not, though if i caught it on tbs the way i have the first one, i might end up rewatching. but that says more about my lack of high standards when it comes to the films i like to watch.

grade: ♥♥♥ out of ♥♥♥♥♥♥

p.s. just found out there is apparently a movie called step up 3-d in development. hmmm.

Friday, June 12, 2009

simply dead and gone

the latest season of "true blood" will kick off this coming sunday, and in honor of the occasion i thought i'd share my thoughts on the latest installment of the sookie stackhouse-southern vampire mysteries, dead and gone. since i first read the first eight books, i've gone back and re-read several of them...okay fine, i'll admit it, i've read dead to the world and from dead to worse multiple times solely because of the eric and sookie relationship. i have no problem confessing to the fact that i'm obsessed with eric! not only the fictional book character, but also the actor who plays him on tv: alexander skarsgÄrd is freaking hot!!

anyway, the latest installment of sookie's story begins on the night that were-creatures and shifters come out of the metaphorical closet, an announcement that seemingly upsets the balance between the supernatural and natural worlds. surprisingly this isn't the chief conflict of the book. instead the supernatural populace currently tormenting sookie are the fairies, and even as her great-grandfather niall does all he can to protect her, she finds herself in the thick of it as per usual.

meanwhile sookie is also juggling her relationship with eric, which has been complicated by the fact that he has regained his memories of the time he spent with her during dead to the world. and she struggles with his need to protect her, her uncertainty about his real feelings, and her own uncertainty regarding her feelings. there is a really nice scene between the characters that gives us some insight into eric's character--where he comes from, who he was before he became a vampire.

ultimately i felt like the book didn't spend enough time with the characters we all know and love by engaging in all the nonsense about the fairy kingdom and its strange war with humans. and i think the issue of the were-creature and shifter reveal really got the shaft in this volume. hopefully now that the fairy story has been seemingly resolved, we can focus on the weres and vampires, and more specifically on sookie and eric.

they make huge strides in their relationship in this book, but these strides aren't given enough time to really sink in. not only do the readers not have enough time to absorb it, but sookie herself doesn't seem like she's really tracking what's happening. in some ways, in this book, sookie is given to more lassitude than usual, she doesn't seem to react as strongly or as viserally to things as she has done in the past. in some ways it's like she's wandering around in a bit of a daze. one can only hope she snaps out of it soon enough.

so overall i liked it, i loved the sookie and eric moments, and i can't wait until the next one. which needs to publish pronto!!

photo courtesy of

simply gone to white

so in the final moments of "lost"'s fifth season finale we are treated to one of the more shocking visual moments ever on "lost". instead of the traditional fade to black with LOST spelled out in its thin white lettering, we get this:

which in the context of a possible h-bomb explosion, fits in perfectly. but it is also so disconcerting and ominous. and i can't help but wonder where the series will go from here.

but i'm getting ahead of myself, this two-part episode sees the flashbacks focus on the mysterious jacob and his interaction with the future passengers of flight 815, and the opening scene lets us know that jacob has been around for a very long time:

throughout the episode we see jacob visit with kate, sawyer, jack, sun, jin, hurley, sayid, and locke. (juliet gets an unrelated flashback to her childhood that is supposed to supply us with some motivation as to why she keeps changing her mind regarding stopping jack from detonating the h-bomb.)

i have to say that i had mixed feelings about these flashbacks, while i enjoyed seeing some of these seminal moments--kate begins her life of crime at the age of 10, sawyer's parents' funeral, jack counts to 5, sun and jin get married, hurley gets out of jail, sayid's wife is killed in a hit and run, and locke gets pushed through a window--the most significant thing about each of these moments is that jacob touches each of the characters and you are left feeling as if being touched by jacob is supremely important and these characters were all destined to meet, that jacob's touch somehow brought them to the island.

the only character who does not have a flashback with jacob is juliet. her flashback takes us to her childhood, the day her parents' tell her and her sister, rachel, that they are getting a divorce. juliet's parents say that "just because two people love each other doesn't mean they are supposed to be together." this is supposed to provide us with juliet's motivation with regard to assisting jack in detonating the bomb. but i don't think it works. 1) why was juliet's flashback the only one without jacob, her flashback was an outlier meant to explain something that didn't really need to be explained. 2)that her flashback doesn't tie in with the other flashbacks made it really dissonant, obviously juliet's destiny differs from the rest of the characters included in the flashbacks, but this could have been accomplished by keeping jacob in the flashback and having him not touch juliet.

also problematic is the focus on jacob, whom i do not find a compelling mystery. i don't mind the time travel stuff, i like the flashbacks because i love the character stuff, but i really don't care for the island mythology crap. i don't care why the island is special. i don't see that as the enduring mystery of the show. i want to see where the survivors of 815 go from here, where they end up, if they can ever reclaim their lives. a big part of me suspects that there is no going home from here, but i really hope that they don't all die in an h-bomb explosion. i also really don't want to have the timeline reset. i don't think it's possible for it to be reset, mostly because i subscribe to the "what has been lived cannot be unlived" school of thought (this was one thing i always found really confusing in the back to the future movies). but i just can't imagine starting over. to have flight 815 land in l.a. as if nothing ever happened would be the most disappointing ending to this story. because so much has happened!

what i really hope we get to see in season six is the cast to come back together in one time period. the time travel has been cool, but it's time for everyone to go back where they came from. here's hoping that juliet's actions in causing the h-bomb to detonate actually sets off the incident that proved to be so pivotal in the history of the dharma initiative.

leading up to the scene around the future hatch were some very good moments with rose and bernard, a confrontation between jack and sawyer that had been five years in the making (interesting that jack and juliet each use their love for kate and sawyer to justify the decision to blow up the bomb, in both cases i think their logic isn't really sound, and that the magnitude of the decision doesn't really mesh well with the motivation behind it), and the discovery that john locke is really dead. by the end of the episode we know that sayid and juliet remain in mortal danger, jacob and locke are dead, and the man in black (a lot of theories abound about who the man in black is, and i like the ones that speculate that he is somehow the smoke monster. somehow that seems about right to me) from the opening scene has clearly taken over locke's body (the loophole he's been looking for).

all hell breaks loose at the hatch, and jack's simple plan to detonate the bomb turns into something like the shootout at the ok corral. as the electromagnetic forces begin to pull in anything and everything metal, juliet gets caught up in some metal chains and is dragged down into the hatch hole. sawyer tries to pull her up, and in one of the most emotionally raw moments of the series she says goodbye. both josh holloway and elizabeth mitchell sell the hell out of this moment. one can only wonder where sawyer goes from here.

for that reason, i can't wait until the final season begins. (of course i will have to wait until january 2010.) but my hope is that the show will focus on answering the questions it has raised over the course of five seasons. what a ride it has been...i can't wait to see where we end up!

screencaps courtesy of and docarzt. video courtesy of

Thursday, June 11, 2009

simply a change is gonna come

i feel like i've been working on this post for weeks (because i have been). anyway, i've had a lot of time to think about the season finales of my favorite shows, and a lot of thoughts to share. just not a lot of time to write them up. but i haven't abandoned this and since agreeing to edit a friend's ~600 page novel, i've been excited about writing again. sometimes it is so exhausting, and when i'm traveling, as much as i want to write out what i'm thinking...i find myself watching television in my hotel room instead (i have a whole blog post forthcoming on what i inexplicably end up watching when i am traveling for work).

but to get to the point, here are my thoughts on the some of the game-changing season finales i watched last month:

this show couldn't have gone out with a better bang. and knowing that we'll get at least 13 more episodes to explore what happened makes the whole thing somewhat sweeter. in the final two episodes of the second season, chuck bartowski manages to get the intersect out of his head, quit the buy more, establish that his feelings for sarah are reciprocated, get a nice paycheck from the us government, ruin ellie's wedding and then save the day by throwing his big sister the wedding of her dreams, and finally being the hero we all know he is by chosing to download the second intersect into his brain before destroying it to avoid it falling into the wrong hands.

the big twist here being that this second intersect somehow allows chuck to tap into some special abilities. his final line of the episode "guys, i know kung fu." it was an especially great cliffhanger because even if the show hadn't been renewed it's cliffhanger was so very clearly a high point. no one's life was in peril, the characters weren't fighting over some silly misunderstanding, the cliffhanger simply allows the story to move to the next level. how lucky for all of us that we get to see how it plays out on our screens. this is definitely one show i'm eager to see back on our screens--though thanks to nbc's insane scheduling decisions, who knows when that might be.

grey's anatomy
what a season this has been. from the insanity of ripping off bad soap storylines (ahem, ghost sex) to some amazing moments for meredith and derek (finally, they're engaged!), the final two episodes of the season (aired consecutively as a two-hour event) pack a pretty big emotional punch and a lot of action that results in one hell of a cliffhanger.

the final scene with izzie in her prom dress and george in military dress uniform in an elevator is an absolutely beautiful moment, katherine and t.r. look amazing in the final shots, but to be honest, i wasn't really appreciating the beauty of the moment when i first watched it. no, i was literally screaming at the television, horrified by the realization that there wasn't any more time left. (see my immediate reaction here.)

there were so many other good moments during the finale, meredith and derek get married via post-it note (which makes me wonder if they'll ever actually get around to the legal thing), christina and owen take a step forward in their relationship (finally!!), mark and lexie continue to be adorable (i want to see more of them, and hope that now that chyler has had her baby, we'll get more mark and lexie scenes), bailey reveals her marital troubles to the chief, and alex mans up (justin chambers is often so underrated, he is fantastic as alex).

all in all, in spite of a shaky start to the season, i think the season five finale really delievered. now i'm dying for season six to start so i can find out who dies. my pet theory is izzie lives and george dies. here's why: 1. it would be more shocking and would provide some pretty juicy storylines for the entire cast, 2. having izzie die on alex would be like kicking a puppy, 3. it's what i want to happen.

private practice
so here's the thing, everybody hates noah, i find him kind of hot. i love charlotte and cooper. and violet and naomi bore me to tears. ultimately, this season finale seemed to be unnecessarily gruesome, and i think this show is still struggling to figure out how to hit the right tonal notes.

so, "lost", "gossip girl", and "dollhouse" are still forthcoming. one i've seen but deserves it's own post, and the other two i have yet to watch but will someday soon.