Friday, March 17, 2006

In Entertainment...A Recent Collection

BOOKS:

An open note to a certain #1 NYT Bestselling author of a certain thriller series: All right, you have gotten me hooked on this series because of the characters, particularly the main guy, and the action-packed plots, and the delicious opportunity to figure things out for myself occasionally. Lately, however, I have been disappointed. You're killing my guy, and my long-time love affair with this series, by slow suffocation. I have just a couple of main gripes.

First, go back to letting the plot and the action drive the narrative. We're smart, your readers--give us some credit, OK? We don't have to be told what to think/suspect/speculate over by a constant clutter of what would be, in a bad movie, voice-over narration. Here's an example, from smack in the middle of a high-speed car-chase by our hero of a mystery figure:

"Who the h*** was in the car? Why was somebody running? Could it be __________?"

STOP, already. Admittedly, these books are "brain candy," and not high literature. But how in the world is it that you could possibly not know that we, the readers, are already asking ourselves the above questions, and that we know that the hero is asking them, since we know by virtue of the context of this section that our hero IS CHASING SOMEONE WHOSE IDENTITY HE DOES NOT KNOW, and that _________ is the villain and has been throughout the whole darn BOOK? Stop it! I'm not five years old!

Also? I can appreciate the occasional use of the Deux ex Machina in fiction. Really, I can. But, Dude, when you put us through this whole complex, globe-spanning investigation and personal tribulation to our beloved characters, you do not, repeat DO NOT end the book by having the hero, IN THE FINAL TWO PAGES of the novel, end the story by just SPOTTING THE BAD GUY ON THE STREET BY HAPPENSTANCE, running him down, and then watching him poison himself. That's just bush-league stuff, and it robs us as readers of any real satisfaction. We don't get to see our hero (and by extension, ourselves) figure it out and find the Bad Guy through deduction, we don't get any motivation for or insight into the Bad Acts of Bad Guy, and finally, we don't even know if Bad Guy is really The Bad Guy, or if you're just setting us up for another one of these later. I swear...you better not.

You know who you are, multiple #1 NYT Bestselling thriller author who's had successful movies made from this screamingly popular series. Knock it OFF.

ON THE TEEVEE:

Can't tell you how much I love "Bones." It makes me so happy for so many reasons. First, I'm sick of stale, humorless CSI; all locations, and this is so so SO much better (maybe just because it's even MORE unbelievable, in the sciencey parts, than the CSI franchise). And this last episode was the BEST EVERRRRRR. After all those years of watching David Boreanaz as Angel not quite able to be human, the joy I experience in watching him goofily air-jam to Foreigner's "Hot-Blooded" is unquantifiable. And the Deschanel sisters, Emily and Zooey; love them. We'll get to Zooey later. Anthropology, sociology, and profiling fasinate me, so I love hearing them spouted about constantly, even if it's total hogswallop as far as I know.

And OH! Adam Baldwin! From "Angel" and "Firefly/Serenity," is here in this one! Cool! (No spoilers, my Australian friends.) Also good in this ep is Hodgins getting to see one of his famous conspiracy theories actually turn out to be true, AND getting to don body armor and play along. And yes, there is enough Angel-love left in me that seeing Boreanaz, battered and bloody, hurting himself to save the girl and be the hero...well, it just satisfies me. Mock at will. Favorite dialogue this week, between Boothe and Bones while Boothe lies in a hospital bed after being asploded:

Boothe: "I'm fine...you know...I don't even know if I have to stay here."

Bones: "You got blown up."

Boothe: "I've been worse."

Worst moment: Hearing Temperance (Bones) talk about "beating the soles of the feet with pipes..." STOP!!!

And now, thanks to JenB, I have the books on my queue that this show was based on--written by and about Kathy Reichs, real-life forensic anthropologist. (Seriously--how many of you, when you visited your high-school guidance counselors, were told there was any such butt-kicking job as "forensic anthropologist?" To hear ours talk, the world was totally made up of doctors, lawyers, teachers, and the military.)

And my favorite show on television currently has to be "Boston Legal." (I reserve the right to change this opinion at a whim and/or weekly, but that's how it is now.) The writing is brilliant, the characters consistent and whip-smart, the actors excellent. I can't really say enough good things about it. I adore the conflicted, oddly-principled Alan Shore and James Spader's portrayal of him.

And of course, Captain Kirk's--I mean William Shatner's--turn as the dynamic, befuddled, possibly mad-cow or Alzheimer's afflicted, bafflingly lovable right-wing hotshot undefeated criminal defense attorney Denny Crane...there's nothing more delicious on television right now, for me. Best of all is the friendship between the two characters, one a raging, bordering on anarchist, liberal, and the other a rabid, mouth-foaming Republican...it's a match made in heaven. My favorite part of the show has become their end-of-the-day waxing philosophical over cigars on the firm's balcony. This week's had a particularly wonderful exchange:

Alan: "You know what I miss most about our country, Denny? Not the loss of our civil rights, so much...as our compassion; our soul; our humility."

Denny: "No--uhn-uhn-uhn-uhn. 'Soul;' that's a religious thing: State. Church. It's unconstitutional for the United States to have a soul!"

Alan: "Apparently. "(pause) We seem to be becoming a mean people. Learned Hand once said liberty lies in our hearts. And once it dies there, no constitution can save it.' "

Denny: "Just ONCE I wish you'd quote a Republican."

Alan: (momentary pause) "I want a kinder and gentler nation."

David E. Kelley earns his money.

Also in television, on Nick Jr.: Is it wrong to want to hurt one of "The Wonder Pets?" Particularly the baby duck, Ming-Ming? This is Bella's current favorite show, and every time that blasted duckling says, "This is SEWIOUS!" I want to pinch her fuzzy little head off. For whatever reason, the turtle and guinea-pig are not freaking me like that duck.

INSTANT MOVIE REVIEWS:

"A History of Violence"
Avoid at all costs. Depressingly bad action flick starring usually good actors turning in bad performances, and Viggo Mortensen's nekkid hiney. Not even the latter is enough to save this one. We were tricked into viewing by the Oscar nomination of William Hurt in the Best Supporting category. (SPOILER ALERT) Um, he appears in the last third of the film for approximately 10 minutes total screen time of unremarkable acting, then gets shot in the head. OSCAR? William Hurt, What do you have on the members of the Academy???
Quotable: Um, sorry, I got nothing here. See other movies for words worth remembering.

"Jarhead"

Meh. Depressing, so-so film about past events (Desert Storm) with predictable relevance to current events (Iraq war). Mediocre movie with some excellent, stirring performances (love me some Sarsgaarrrrrrrrrd, arrrrgh) including Jamie Foxx's and Jake Gyllenhaal's. Bonus material: A good bit of Jake's screen time is spent nekkid, and he's been working out. Reccomendation: Read the autobiographical novel by Anthony Swofford (played by Gyllenhaal in the movie) instead. Unless you just want to look at Jake Gyllenhaal's hiney; then this is your best bet.
Quotable: "I am 20 years old, and was stupid enough to sign a contract." --Anthony Swofford

"Good Night, And Good Luck."

Solid thumbs-up from us. Well-done small, depressing film about past events (McCarthy hearings, communism scare) with shocking--to many--relevance to current events (Homeland Security, terrorism scare). Top-notch cast, from the smallest roles to the biggest. Understated, using lots of actual footage from McCarthy hearings. Watch it, but prepare to be saddened at the realization, once again, that the new boss is, indeed, same as the old boss, the rhetoric never really changes, and we're all gettin' fooled again. And again. Possibly even zeldafitz will have to give Clooney some props for this one.
Quotable: "We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home." --Edward R. Murrow

"Manic"
Depressing film (picking up a theme here?) about a teenage boy involuntarily committed by the legal system to a mental hospital, and his, and others', experiences there. Purely amazing performances by lead actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the littlest kid from the T.V. show "Third Rock From The Sun) and, as always, Don Cheadle. We're starting to judge movies by the "Cheadle Factor." Also, Zooey Deschanel does a great job in a supporting role (told you I'd get to her). A little film that needs to be seen. The kid (who is most assuredly an adult by now) carries it well.
THE DISCLAIMER: I'm not sure, if you were in an unstable state of certain mental illnesses that involve manic/destructive/self-mutilating/addictive behaviors, that watching this film wouldn't perhaps provide some negative "triggers." Approach with caution in this circumstance.
Quotable: Little, in this space, due to saturation of profanity, but much, content-wise. See for yourself.

I've been saving these in bits and pieces for a while, so I guess that's enough for now.

25 comments:

  1. Between "Veronica Mars", "Grey's Anatomy" and "Boston Legal", my faith in television has been renewed. None of them ever disappoint.

    I liked the premise of "Bones" okay, but thought the on-screen chemistry between the leads was tragically bad... even though I like them both separately.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Man, oh man. Do we ever part ways on Bones, Belinda. I saw the pilot and it was all I could do to make it through the show. I did yell at the TV a few times just to release tension. On the other hand, the books are GREAT. They are a little depressing, I'll admit. The first few novels aren't bad that way but lately the morbid level has really soared. The TV show has very little in common with the books--I'd love to hear which you like more, Belinda.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm also lukewarm on Bones. I get annoyed when they stop to explain the science behind the experiments, even though the characters already know (for the benefit of the audience). CSI also does that and they bore me to tears. Also, I hate watching actors screwing up their fake science, but that's just me being a nit-picker.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have never seen "Bones" so I did not know that it was based on Kathy Reich's books...guess I may have to watch it!

    Hope you are havin a really green St. Patrick's Day.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dave, we don't get the WB, so we'll have to eventually rent VM. I can't ignore it with your constant whining about it. We watch Grey's Anatomy, too, which we like a lot, but I find myself doing a lot of eyerolling. I think Bones has warmed up considerably in the last few episodes. The one last night may have peaked it, who knows? The chemistry perked up a little, too. They seem to be changing the way they're writing the characters--all of them. I kind of wonder if new writers are on board.

    utenzi, totally agree about the pilot and first few episodes. Painful. And you gotta suspect that a large degree of my appreciation of anything that David Boreanaz does for years to come is going to be rooted in my love of that Joss Whedon character. It's really hard to see him playing "the good guy" and NOT think of Angel. Except that he's not bursting into flame in the sunlight, and he smiles a lot more. And you KNOW the books are always better...hey, there's an interesting blogosphere question. I wonder if anyone, anywhere, has ever seen anything in a film adaptation that surpassed the written version?

    deodand--the "dry" science is boooooring to me, but I love when the anthropology stuff comes in. But the whole holographic computer face-maker? Um, whatever. Disbelief suspended!

    donna, and I was not familiar with Kelly Reich, I don't think. No, we spent this day getting RID of the green! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, I love me some "Bones"! And this week's ep, with Adam Baldwin (I love seeing anyone Joss Whedon has ever hired show up on TV), and Boreanaz saving the day and getting all battered...mmmhmmmm!

    I agree with you on the literary disappointments, and know exactly which author you're referring to. Patricia Cornwell's latest, "Predator" is set in South Florida, and uses the problem of Citrus Canker as a major PLOT POINT. I mean, huh?

    And the Wonder Pets? Who the heck thought this thing up? It is so, so bad. The songs they sing make me want to run screaming from the house. I like "Jack's Big Music Show" much better!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Elizabeth, you are so after my own heart. I couldn't even admit how sappy I got when he lifted her off that hook...*gasp*. What a thrill. How much of it, do you think, is because of Angel? I think a lot.

    And hey, Utenzi likes HIGHLANDER! So we must love him universally! He is not immune! Hee, hee.

    Bella likes Jack's Big Music Show, too. But that duck...oh.

    And yes...make me read a whole book and then sew it up with an accidental encounter in the final TWO PAGES? I mean, I'm close to writing a letter. It was insulting, is what it was. I'm going to read that Stephen King freaky cell-phone book this weekend, cleanse my palate...or not. We'll see. Don't let me down, S.K., I'm running out of reliables, and McMurty is apparently turning over his creativity to Diana Ossana, and...oh, I can't go on.

    ReplyDelete
  8. AHA! I've got it! THIS is the reason I don't like the black background: that was a long post so I was on the black screen for a while and when I started to Sing It! the screen went white and BLINDED ME. I'm scratching my corneas right now. In fact, I'm typing this blind so thank God I took a typing class in high school and don't have to look.

    Crap. I'll be screwed when it comes to the verification word which is fuzzy but looks like: noiowlxa (wasn't that Costner's name in Dances With Wolves?)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have to tell you though -- once you read the Kathy Reichs books, and I've read them all, every single one, you will be PISSED at how they portray Temperance Brennan on the Teeveee. I like the show now because they've softened the main character up a bit, but the first couple of shows I wanted to jump through the damn screen.

    The books are incredible, intricate, entertaining reads. Kathy really does her research before writing one of her novels -- fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I hated "history of violence" with a passion. Totally unbelievable characters, gratuitous sex scenes, over the top gore - blech.

    Hated it and couldn't understand the hype.

    ReplyDelete
  11. jessica, thanks for the review! I'm looking forward to these, now!

    jess--and What is UP with the Oscar nom for Hurt? The movie was awful and pointless, and his part was just...nothing! I mean, Children of a Lesser God, yes. This piece of tripe? NO.

    ReplyDelete
  12. proLIFic!

    boston legal is amazing. i'm now madly in love with jame's spader. it's some kind of mind control, really.

    this post is a work of art!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I can't believe you guys are bashing "A History of Violence". I thought it was clearly one of the best films of the year.

    I'm shocked. Truly. Everyone I know that saw it loved it. I thought it was a powerful film, well acted, and a five star film.

    But that's me.

    ReplyDelete
  14. nita, HA--those were scraps I'd saved; didn't do it all at once! I just figured why not lump 'em all together?

    And Spader/mind-control? Yeah. Ever see the movie "Secretary?" I think he went "method" for that and just stayed there!

    And now for our lesson in HOW to conduct a totally ad-hominem argument:

    Mr. Fabulous:
    #1. You are a liar.
    #2. You are a dork.
    #3. I call into question your intelligence.

    See how easy that is? We didn't even address the actual issue!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Loved this post..Haven't seen BONES but I want to now that I've read what you said. LOVE, LOVE LOVE BOSTON LEGAL! David E. Kelley..Fantastic! Everything about it pleases me no end...the humor, the Political stuff...ALL the actors..Terrific!

    I agree with you on the movies you mentioned that I have seen...

    Utenzi did not oversell you my dear..Yours is a very special blog!

    Utenzi sent me, so to speak. (lol)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Boston Legal is possibly one of the best TV shows I have EVER watched. I love it. I am with dave2 about Grey's Anatomy as well. Grey needs a good hit to the back of the head though...What is she thinking?

    ReplyDelete
  17. i would agree that the recent Bones are way way better. And this week's episode was great. I also agree they water down Brennan to a point of madness for a rapid fan like myself, but I am coming to grips with it. Everyone else, READ Kathy Riechs!

    ReplyDelete
  18. oh, i and i will open myself to the mockery from the crazies who loved Buffy and Angel. NEVER SEEN AN EPISODE. they look dumb. so there.

    ReplyDelete
  19. JenB...YOU'RE dumb. So there.

    I DON'T MEAN IT! COME BACK! I LOVE YOU! I WOULDN'T TRADE YOU FOR THE WHOLE JOSS WHEDON CATALOG!

    Um, unless that actually ever becomes a possibility, then we'll have to renegotiate.

    ReplyDelete
  20. OOOLOTH--thank you...he did say a mouthful, din' he? ;-)

    n8iv--I dunno...my problem with Grey's, which is so well-written, is just the lack of personal ethics of the characters, and the lack of consequences that real people would have to face for their actions. But I do watch, again and again.

    ReplyDelete
  21. My wife has about a dozen Kathy Reichs novels kicking around the house... I might be able to talk her into parting with them for something shiny. Or, y'know... something fun.

    And hey, doesn't she have a Canadian connection? :-) Just had to poitn that out. We Canadians need to be loved, you know.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Ha! I was just clicking to comment that I want to see "Good Night and Good Luck" when I saw my "name."

    I have a love/indifference relationship with The Clooney. I will watch it for sure! Thanks for the recommendation...

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hmmm. Sounds like a certain bestselling author has gotten to big for his/her editor. I've noticed that at some point, many bestselling authors start getting away with a lot of crap. It's like their editors are afraid to "edit." Very weird.

    Never seen Boston Legal, but agree with the sentiment. America isn't a very kind place. Witness Reality TV, most of which is about backstabbing and cheating your way to monetary success. Ick.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Am I correct in guessing that you are referring to James Patterson? Which novel?

    ReplyDelete
  25. I have to agree with you about Boston Legal. I absolutely love that show. The humor is fantastic and characters very deep. I thought I'd miss "The Practice" when it was replaced by BL, but I haven't missed is at all. This is so much better in every way.

    ReplyDelete