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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New TV Time: Sister Wives

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Guess who’s back? List Lady’s back! After many long semesters of graduate classes and unpaid internships, I return to the world of television…oh, how I’ve missed you, sweet, sweet TV!

It really took me a while to figure out what show I could bring me out of retirement on GEP. Glee? Too cliché (and I love it too much, meaning I only have good things to say). ANTM? Too boring and too much Tyra. The Office? Too old. Running Wilde? Too close to being cancelled at any point in time. Kate plus Eight? Too much Kate, not enough Ed Hardy wearing douchbaggery. But, that did get me thinking about the new TLC fall lineup, where I found this gem of a show, Sister Wives.

Going into this show, I had no idea what the topic of the list would be. I figured I’d hate it. I’d hate the people – I mean, come on, who wouldn’t hate someone who names their children: Aspyn, Mykelti, Paedon, Gwendlyn, Ysabel, and Truly ( there should be an “e” in Truly, but Word thinks it’s smarter than sister wife, Christine). I’d hate the polygamy. I’d hate the hairstyles (I was assuming they would be Duggar-esque).

So, my list topic for the first episode surprised even myself – Reasons why the Browns are more normal than the Duggars.

1. They are fundamentalist Mormons, but they still live in the modern-day real world. They use cell phones and text. They send their children to school…albeit, a school for children of polygamists, but can you blame them for not wanting to send them to public school with 3 moms? Try explaining why your homework is signed by a different person each night!

2. They have hairstyles that are not from the mid 90s.

3. The women are encouraged and expected to have real aspirations and lives outside of family and babies. Janelle (the 2nd wife) likes to work outside the home more than being home with the kids all day. It’s kind of crazy, but I could actually see some of the benefits to polygamy…

4. Some of the kids’ names are crazy, but at least they don’t all start with the same letter.

5. They aren’t overbearing with their religion. The parents said that they would be okay if their kids “… live their lifestyle [polygamy] or have no religion at all”. They “try” to pray at the end of the night, but it usually only happens 3 times a week – can you imagine THAT happening in Duggarville?

6. The women wear pants. And stylish clothes. And have normal hairstyles...oh, I think I said that already. Kody’s hair is a little crazy, but if I had to keep track of 3 wives and a fiancée, I think my hair might look like that, too.

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7. They have problems – it’s not all sunshine and roses and family hoedowns.

8. They have been called pligs and pliglets, and they can laugh about it.

Okay, so Christine (wife 3) is a little crazy for not having a toaster based on the “fact” that toasters kill more people per year than sharks, and Kody needs to lay off the “101 Polygamist Jokes and Funny Phrases” book while he is doing his interviews, but other than that, I really kind of liked them. I’m intrigued to see how it will work out for Robin, the fiancée, who is looking to join the family with her 3 kids. Honestly, if I were one of Kody’s current wives, I’d be jealous ‘cuz Robin is younger and hotter than the current ones…maybe they’ll be a big cat fight or something. Stay tuned for more yummy polygamist goodness and let’s all watch TLC destroy yet another family!

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Last Week in Movies (9/19-9/25): Free Skate

We've come to the end of our summer viewing experience at Giant Electric Penguin. For this final week, I decided to go off list and simply watch whatever "tickled my fancy," as they say. One of the reasons I decided to take on this Herculean task--5 movies a week for 14 weeks--was to train myself to make better choices when using Netflix, specifically its Instant Viewing feature. I enjoy quality films, but too many times in the past I've thought to myself, "I'm gonna jump on Netflix and see what's available," clicked around the various choices for five, sometimes twenty minutes, and then chosen something stupid, wasteful, and disappointing. There are so many films I need/want to see during my limit time amongst the living, and I started to feel bad about all the useless garbage I was watching. So, yeah, I think the past 14 weeks have been helpful in getting me back on track. I don't mind an occasional straight-to-DVD horror-comedy about stripper-zombies or something from the Uwe Boll oeuvre for shits and giggles--I mean, I do need fodder for the Movie Penguin blog--but I'd rather fill the surrounding hours with twisty noir; eerie, atmospheric French horror; ambitious indies; and must-see classics. So, anyway, here's the last Last Week in Movies for 2010. Hope you kinda dug the whole thing.

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1. Eyes Without a Face (1959)
I'm not saying that the French are still kicking Hollywood's ass in the horror department, but they sure were in the late-50's. Of course, I'm basing this assessment solely on 1959's Eyes Without a Face, an eerie French creep-out about a young woman with no face and the mad doctor--who also happens to be her father--keen on performing the first successful face transplant. It's kind of like Face/Off without the boat chases and hammy acting. Actually, it's not like Face/Off at all. I want to watch Face/Off.

My grade: B+

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2. Red Rock West (1993)
Why do bad things happen to good people? Nicholas Cage plays Michael, a down-on-his-luck schlub from Texas, who rolls into the small town of Red Rock West with nothing but a pack of cigarettes and an empty wallet in his pocket. When local business owner/town sheriff, Wayne, mistakes Michael for the hitman, known simply as "Lyle from Dallas," he's hired to murder his freckly wife, played by Lara Flynn Boyle, the freckliest actress working in the film at the time, Michael goes for it, taking Wayne's five-thousand bucks. Michael drives out to Wayne's ranch, meets the wife he's been hired to rub out, let's her know what's up, and agrees to turn around and murder Wayne when offered double. Now, with a pocketful of money, Michael hightails it out of Red Rock West. At least, he tries to. Like all good noir, Michael digs himself deeper and deeper and deeper, and things only get worse when the real "Lyle from Dallas" shows up. Oh, brudder.

My grade: A-

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3. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
While hiking through Northern England, two friends--David and Jack--are attacked by a werewolf. Jack is ripped to bloody ribbons, but David only sustains some minor scratches, well, minor compared to his friend's. David wakes up in a London hospital to find himself attended by a pretty nurse, Alex, and a curious doctor who starts to believe David's story about a giant wolf attack rather than the accounts of the residents of East Proctor where the attack took place. David begins having dreams in which he is running through the forest, naked, chasing deer and devouring them alive. He also suffers from weird nightmares that don't seem to have much to do with the film as a whole, like the one in which his family back home is gunned down by weird, Nazi goblins things.

Anyway, two days before the next full moon, Jack, now forced to walk the Earth as a rotting, undead corpse, approaches David and encourages him to commit suicide. This will apparently end the werewolf's bloodline and allow all of his victims to move on to a cushy afterlife. David refuses and two days later he's running around London slaughtering people. Oh, David, no!

My grade: B

On Nurse Alex: An American Werewolf in London? More like An American Boner in my Underpants!

On the pre-CGI werewolf transformation scene: Incredible! Who needs computers?




There you have it. It's been fun. Sometime this week I'll be handing out superlatives, so make sure you tune in for that. Here is a complete list of the films from this summer, along with the arbitrary grade I assigned to them:

1. Them! (B+)
2. The Killing (A)
3. On the Waterfront (A)
4. Metropolis (B)
5. The Hurt Locker (A)
6. Body Heat (B-)
7. In the Mood for Love (A)
8. Die Hard (A)
9. Chinatown (A)
10. The Big Sleep (A)
11. The 400 Blows (A)
12. The Devil's Rejects (C+)
13. Last Tango in Paris (B-)
14. The Constant Gardener (A)
15. Johnny Got His Gun (C)
16. The Unseen (D)
17. Rear Window (A)
18. Gojira (B)
19. Let the Right One In (A+)
20. A Boy and His Dog (--)
21. Peeping Tom (C+)
22. Thieves' Highway (A)
23. Through a Glass Darkly (A)
24. Shoot the Piano Player (B)
25. The Warriors (B)
26. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (C)
27. Red Road (B)
28. Ponyo (A+)
29. The Fog (C)
30. Margot at the Wedding (A-)
31. The Stranger (A)
32. Wendy and Lucy (B)
33. The Hammer (C+)
34. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (A+)
35. Near Dark (A-)
36. Bunny Lake is Missing (B+)
37. Strait-Jacket (D+)
38. Panic in the Streets (B)
39. Man Bites Dog (B-)
40. Creature from the Black Lagoon (C-)
41. Chocolate (A-)
42. The Proposition (A-)
43. Mysterious Skin (B+)
44. Rebel Without a Cause (C+)
45. Double Indemnity (A)
46. Gentleman Prefer Blondes (B-)
47. Cool Hand Luke (B+)
48. Eyes Without a Face (B+)
49. Red Rock West (A-)
50. An American Werewolf in London (B)

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

New TV Time: 2010 Edition (The Second Part)

Welcome back to New TV Time: 2010 Edition, where we share our opinion on new and returning shows several weeks after legitimate television critics have already and weeks after the specific shows have aired. Of course, we hit some shows critics have chosen to ignore for some reason, which could be racism, but is probably more because I made them up. Let's start with my favorite show to feature 20-somethings playing sexy high school nerds who regularly and randomly break into song, performing Top 40 hits glee club-style...

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1. Glee: What show did you think I was talking about? The Mentalist? Does the Mentalist ever break into song? Has the Mentalist ever performed a little soft shoe routine alongside a grisly crime scene? Did the Mentalist ever sing a duet of Aerosmith's "Dream On" with Neil Patrick Harris? If so, which episode was it, because I'd really like to see that.

Anyway, where were we? Yes, Glee. I'm a big supporter of the Glee thing. The show is funny, the characters are of the stock variety, but each actor brings a little something to the role that makes the stockness not-at-all irritating, and, love 'em or hate 'em--and I know plenty of people hate 'em--the musical performances are superb. Really. More than once I've found myself tapping my foot to a song that if heard un-Glee-ified, I would have run from screaming. Dudes, I have Glee songs on my iPod! What the heck? Yep, I've got New Directions rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ted Leo, Superchunk, and Europe on my mp3-playing device. And if there is a funnier woman than Jane Lynch on TV right now, I will eat my hat on the next installment of the Movie Penguin Podcast (which you can listen to right here). Look: if you are a fan of Glee--I believe fans are known affectionately as "Gleeks"--then you've seen the season 2 premiere; and if you aren't a fan, you haven't, you won't, and you hate me for including Glee in this feature, so I'm not going to say much more. I will say, however, that, in my opinion, this week's cold open was, perhaps, the funniest three minutes in Glee history.

2. NBC's Thursday Night Laugh-A-Palooza: Glee wasn't the only think making my cheeks hurt this week. NBC's Thursday night comedies were back, with the exception of Parks and Recreation, which, unfortunately, is my favorite of the four programs. In place of Parks, NBC premiered Outsourced, a "comedy" ten years too late. I did not watch Outsourced. I will never watch Outsourced. So, if you came to this blog looking for a review of Outsourced, you are shit out of luck. I like my racist comedy current, up-to-date. Is the whole "why is it whenever I phone up a call center I get some dude with an Indian accent on the other end?" thing funny anymore? Was it ever funny? What does the Mentalist think?

What was back though, was back in a big way. Community opened strong, taking pot shots at CBS's new abortion, Shit My Dad Says (which also won't be covered on this blog), giving guest star, Betty White, my favorite bit of business, and giving Joel McHale a fancy new haircut. There was also plenty of pouty Alison Brie moments, so, you know, that was good. The episode laid the meta-style jokes Community is famous (infamous?) for on a little too thick and the Lord of the Rings reference was a little dated, but altogether it was a strong season opener.

30 Rock, which comes on at 8:30 now, was also pretty great. Now, this is not surprising to me, for unlike my snarky internet brethren, I have enjoyed 30 Rock from its humble beginnings on. Apparently it was experiencing a downturn or something? Is that right? The wife and I had noticed that, at times, the show would rely to heavily on the Family Guy-style of joke delivery, but other than that, the writing was still smart and the characters were still funny. This season's premiere episode, as I've said, was great--Matt Damon's breakdown was a personal fave--and I've got a sunny outlook for the future.

The Office, on the other hand, is a show of which I've grown tired . I have seen the cracks in its foundation and they are troubling, the biggest crack being Steve Carell's departure at the end of this season. Look, The Office is a good show, but it used to be a great show. I like to see the shows I love bow out before things get bad, before the whole endeavor grows rotten and moldy and falls apart on screen. I've enjoyed these seven years with the Dundler-Mifflin crew--these are the funniest characters on TV, as far as I'm concerned--but I think it's time to wrap things up, leave us with positive memories. All that aside, this season opener was awesome. I still think the show should end after this run, but I think they should keep cranking out potential classics like this one all the way up to the end. I told my wife, "I think this episode was funnier than everything from last season combined." I could be wrong. I didn't memorize last season. Set me straight if I'm being cruelly unfair. The cold opening was cute, though not particularly great--I did like Ryan popping out of the closet to promote his Web site and Dwight's creepy "knife dance," in fact, was it just me or was Dwight creepier than usual (see: Dwight spanking Andy)?--but the episode proper was, well, like I already said, a potential classic. C'mon, how could an episode with the line "Well, we've got to establish a pee corner" be anything short of spectacular?

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3. Robot Senator (ABC Blended Family): I know, I wish it were a reality show too. Wouldn't that be cool if, like, a state voted a robot to be one of their representatives in government for realsies? That's basically the concept of this new hourlong, scripted drama from the creators of Congressional Ape and Pooch for President, which were both, surprisingly, hard-hitting, political dramas and not slapsticky, Disney-produced trifles. Robot Senator doesn't shy away from controversy, like a certain mentalist I could name if I knew his name, in the first episode either. This isn't just the story of a robot from Kentucky who becomes a US senator. This robot is gay! And a woman! And not really a robot! And not really gay or a woman or not not a robot! There are levels upon levels to this show, man! Robot Senator asks you to take everything you know about non-gay pretending-to-be female non-fake robots that are senators and throw it out the window. This would be Must-See if it actually existed. Maybe someday?

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4. Running Wilde (FOX): This one is Must-See, friends. I'm not a huge fan of some (just some) of the supporting characters, but Running Wilde is my early vote for Funniest New Show of the season. It's also on FOX, so expect it to be canceled real quick-like. Tell you what, looks like all the Save Lone Star bullshit ain't gonna pan out, so why don't we get a preemptive Save Running Wilde campaign going? Everybody shift focus from Lone Star and start making Running Wilde banners. I'll provide the glitter.

5. The Vampire Blogs (CW Jr.): First there was Interview with the Vampire. Then there was Casual Conversations with a Sparkly Mormon Vampire (the original title of Twilight). Then there was The Vampire Diaries. And now, The Vampire Blogs. Don't know what a blog is, old people? Google it! Never heard of Google? Seriously, why don't you just kill yourself? I mean, what purpose do you even serve besides keeping The Mentalist on the air?

The Vampire Blogs is about a high school girl, Nina, who keeps her online journal packed with vampire fan fiction and pictures of unicorns. Needless to say, she is not very popular. She so desperately wants to meet and not make love to a vampire that she joins an online vampire dating service where she meets Iago, a 535-year-old vampire who appears 17 (and chiseled and handsome and tan). They strike up a dull relationship, that Nina documents on her blog. A quiet, bookish boy at Nina's school named Porter, stumbles upon Nina's Web site, and falls in love with her. Upon finding out that her stories are, in fact, true however, he vows to do everything he can to kill her undead boyfriend. And blog about it. Actually, there is more blogging than action on this ridiculous show. Iago keeps a blog too. So does Nina's father, Hank, only his is about how much he misses his dead wife, who we also see. In heaven. Maintaining a blog. What?

Still coming soon: Boardwalk Empire, The Ev-Backwards E-nt, Hawaii 5-0, and probably more that I can't remember.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

100 Songs I Love: 55-60

55. "96 Tears" (? and the Mysterians)

My dad could've been a rock-n-roll star! In his teenage years, a friend asked if he could fill in for an ailing guitar player at a gig, but my grandfather forbade him to play in an establishment that sold liquor drinks. So, my dad hung up his rock star dreams, went to college, made a gosh darn success of himself, married my mother, and was instrumental in creating and raising the man writing this paragraph today. I loved listening to my father play his old Washburn--a guitar that eventually became my own--when I was a kid. The set was always the same. He'd open with a little Chet Atkins, then a few times through "Smoke on the Water"'s opening riff, and he'd wrap up with his own rousing take on "Wild Thing," a little number he is still famous for in some circles. What does any of this have to do with "96 Tears," you ask? Well, my dad loved "96 Tears," and he used to tell me about a friend of his who could play the crap out of the organ part of the song. "96 Tears" is a garage rock classic and I, for one, like to imagine my dad rocking out to it with his friends, if not in some seedy Baltimore bar, then in a hot, cramped rehearsal space.



56. "Cathy's Clown" (The Everly Brothers)

A rousing anthem for the pussy whipped loser who's finally grown a pair a decided to leave his coldhearted girlfriend in the proverbial dust. We've all been there, fellas. We've all felt like some evil chick's "clown." Just hearing the Everly Brothers harmonize about it, putting the whole situation in perspective, always made me feel a little better about things. Oh, but now I've gone and said too much.



57. "Take Good Care of My Baby" (Bobby Vee)

I've said it probably a million times, on this blog and in private conversations that are absolutely none of your business, sir, but I love a well-crafted pop song, and "Take Good Care of My Baby" is about as well-crafted as pop songs come. In this song, instead of being a wimpy cuckold like the dork in the Everly Brother's number, Bobby Vee is a jerk who has become pussified after the fact. It's his cheating ways and tendency to paint rainbows all over the place, that has driven the titular "baby" into the arms of another man. I do find it a little strange that girl in this song seems to have very little say in who she ends up with. The lines "and if you should discover that you don't really love, just send my baby back home to me" take the girl's feelings right out of the equation. If I were her I'd be all like, "Look here, fellas, if one of you is going to be a cheating creep who develops enough of an obsession with me after we break up to you write a vaguely threatening song for my new boyfriend, and the other one thinks he can just send me back into the arms of the weird guy I obviously can't stand when he gets sick of me, I'm going to have to bid you both a good day and take myself to a place where the dudes are normal. I hear good things about this internet dating. No, really. There isn't a stigma anymore."



58. "Stuck in the Middle with You" (Stealers Wheel)

A lot of you probably first heard this Stealers Wheel classic (Are there any other "classic" Stealers Wheel songs? Are there any other Stealers Wheel songs period?) via Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. My first exposure to it is far nerdier. I used to be obsessed with tape recording myself putting on what were essentially old timey radio dramas. I didn't do anything like The Creaking Door or the The Long Ranger, but I would stretch out on the floor in front of my tape player/radio, gather together whatever action figures I had hanging out on my bookshelves--they were the players in these dramas--and record myself yammering away for hours, coming up with elaborate stories on the fly. My most epic recording involved Will Vinton's California Raisins. I don't remember the exact plot, but I think it was sort of an origin story of the Raisins forming their musical group, the one that shot to superstardom thanks to their commercials and the Christmas special. I would record about five minutes of story, set up that a certain character was about to impart some kind of widsom or dispense some advice through song, pause the tape, and then turn my radio to the local Oldies station and wait for the next song to start. Didn't matter what the song was. I'd try to make the song make sense with the overarching story after the fact. This is how I heard "Stuck in the Middle with You" for the first time, as well as, "Take Good Care of My Baby" and the next song on my list.



59. "Runaway" (Del Shannon)

I think one of the California Raisins was running away from home to join the band.

Also: I love this song. "Runaway" is one of the songs I've always wanted to play at some kind of open mic night somewhere. I don't know how I would do with all the falsetto parts though. I'd probably do all right.




60. "Midnight Confessions" (The Grass Roots)

It was Tarantino this time. "Midnight Confessions" was track 13 on the Jackie Brown soundtrack. It was also my favorite track. Still is. Pure pop joy. Dig it.


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Sunday, September 19, 2010

New TV Time: 2010 Edition (The First Part)

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TV is back! Finally! No longer must I be content to watch Jersey Shore, explaining to concerned friends and family alike, "But it's the only thing on." It's Fall--or Autumn, for you season nerds--and that means the return of old friends, as well as, a whole new batch of potential friends waiting to be made. I've heard the leaves change color or something also, but why concern oneself with the going-ons of the outside world now that TV has returned? If the trees are so important, I'm sure they'll do an Arbor Day episode of Community. Over the next week or so, GEP is going to take a look at some returning favorites, some new soon-to-be favorites, and probably more than a few stinkers, in our latest feature New TV Time: 2010 Edition. Grab your pork rinds, fellow couch potatoes, because this television season is just getting started.

1. Gossip Girl (The CW): I am an unapologetic fan of The CW's premiere teen melodrama. I've been a devoted fan from the first time Gossip Girl herself started slinging around half-truths and rumors about Serena, Blair, Lonely Boy, Nate, Chuck Bass, Little J, and the rest of them, for the enjoyment of New York City's most elite (see "spoiled) teenaged a-holes. Fans will tell you that Gossip Girl is always best when it goes completely off the rails, and season four's premiere did not disappoint. This show is already off the rails, the passenger cars are upside down, and the engineer is rolling around in a nearby field engulfed in flames and screaming: Serena is vacationing in Paris and banging every French dude in sight; Nate has been using Chuck's little black book to keep himself knee deep in sweet, sweet poon all summer long; Chuck, who when we left him last season had just been mugged and shot in the guts somewhere in Eastern Europe, is calling himself "Henry" and tooling around Europe with the mysterious woman who saved his life; and Dan is the father of Georgina's baby, Milo. Insane! I can't even imagine what's in store for Dan's drug-dealing, jail-baiting, short-skirted sister, Jenny. Come on meth addiction!

2. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX): If you haven't yet watch Sunny (Jonathan!), you need to because you'd love it (Jonathan!). I've only seen seasons 1, 2, and 3--I've actually watched 3 about 4 times, since I own it and all...jealous?--but I was still excited about last week's big Season 6 premiere, "Mac Fights Gay Marriage." And the episode delivered that old Philly magic. Dennis married his 10th grade sweetheart after breakfast at Subway; Dee slept with the older, fatter version of her own high school crush, despite the fact that his presence still made her dry heave and that he was married; Charlie and Frank started the process of becoming domestic partners, aka "two straight guys who are married"; and Mac, upon discovering that the transsexual he's been having an on-again/off-again relationship from the beginning of the series finally got her penis removed and subsequently married a fat dude, did, well, exactly what the title of the episode promised. It's good to have the gang back. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia guarantees that it's always funny in my basement. Was that going too far (Jonathan?)?

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3. Powers of Attorney (ABC Family): Powers of Attorney tells the story of a family of lawyers that discover they have superhuman abilities during a camping trip in the Pacific Northwest. I didn't think I was going to like this show, the premise making it very difficult for me to suspend my disbelief. I could buy the mother and father being lawyers, but their 14-year-old son and their infant daughter? Turns out, the son, Normy, is kind of a Doogie Howser wunderkind or something, who graduated from law school at 12-years-old; and Gracie, the couples' infant daughter, will, in the future, become the youngest trial attorney in the history of the world (The mother, played by Janine Turner, has the ability to see into the future and reveals this plot point before the first commercial break). In the pilot episode, the Jergusons discover their various powers while rescuing another family from a rock slide. Unknown to the Jergusons, the family they save from certain crushing, the Millers, are a family of evil super villains bent on world domination. I don't know if I'm going to keep watching Powers of Attorney. I didn't really like that Janine Turner's character could see that her daughter would be a famous baby lawyer, but didn't know that the Millers were destined to become her family's archenemies. Plus, Normy's power (razor sharp arm and leg hair) is kind of lame. But I liked the locations and thought the editing of the "Next Week on Powers of Attorney" preview was pretty snazzy. I may give it a second try.

4. Terriers (FX): Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James star as Hank Dolworth and Britt Pollack respectively in this new series from the writer of Matchstick Men and Ocean's Eleven. It is the story of a recovering alcoholic/ex-cop and his friend who go into the private investigation business together. They aren't licensed, so they can do all kinds of things PIs bound by the laws of society can't, like steal dogs for laundromat owners, which they do in the first five minutes of the pilot episode. I currently have three episodes of Terriers on my DVR, but I've only watched the pilot, and I've got to admit that I'm pretty excited to see what this show has to offer. The writing is crisp, the characters are amusing and quirky without being irritating, and the overarching story that the pilot lays down is downright intriguing. I'm calling this one a Must-See for 2010.

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5. Comics' Pets Unleashed (Animal Planet): Everyone loves Byron Allen's Comics Unleashed. I mean, how often do we get to watch our favorite stand-up comedians do their acts sitting down? Not often enough, if ever, I'd say. Byron Allen put this groundbreaking concept on the syndicated TV map with this multiple award winning television program. And now he's at it again. We already know how funny Dat Phan, Ralphie May, Big Rome, and Michael Winslow can be when they sit down and perform workshopped bits at one another while a laugh track clues home viewers in to where punchlines are, but what about their pets? Allen knows animals can be as funny as humans, and on his newest venture, Allen invites the pets of famous comedians to sit onstage and be funny for 20 minutes or so. The results are hit and miss. I thought Paula Poundstone's cat, Foofal, was fairly amusing, though his "ball of twine" routine was a little hackneyed. They had to bleep Chris Rock's parrot, Dilbert, so much, I could barely keep track of what she was saying. And Mo'Nique's pug, Freshious, just humped Byron's leg for the duration of the program. Gilbert Gottfried's ferret, Iago, wouldn't even come out of its cage. Altogether disappointing, but I'll stick with it since I'm such a massive Byron Allen fan.

Coming soon: Boardwalk Empire, Running Wilde, The Ev-Backward E-nt, Hawaii 5-0, and more!

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Last Week in Movies (9/12-9/18)

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Double Indemnity (1944)
Beloved TV dad, Fred MacMurray, plays a shady insurance salesman who plots and performs the murder of a local businessman with the blessing and assistance of the man's wife, played by the sultry Barbara Stanwyck. All that stands between a big time payday and romantic bliss is the watchful eye and brilliant mind of chief claims investigator Barton Keyes, played by the great Edward G. Robinson. Double Indemnity is must-see film noir. It's got everything a noir fan could ever need: snappy dialogue, a grisly murder, sexy dames, a shady ethnic stereotype, a heartbreaking double cross, Dictaphones, etc. If Mike, Chip, and Robbie had been aware of their father's activities in the early 40's, they'd be horrified (and maybe a little intrigued).

My grade: A

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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Though I do not agree with its title, I can say that Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as a movie is a likable romp of the brainless variety. There's really nothing much here. The songs are instantly forgettably, with the exception of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend"; the story is simple and empty-headed; and the gender roles and obligations are clearly defined. Remember ladies: it's OK to get out there and playfully (i.e. non-sexually) mix it up with the men folk, as long as at the end of the day you settle down, get married, and fly right. That being said, I enjoyed Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for what it is: a musical-comedy trifle with some genuine laughs and more than a little T & A to make the whole endeavor that much more palatable. I totally get why people are still obsessed with Marilyn Monroe. She is delightful as the bubble-headed half of a singing duo (Jane Russell is the smart, non-blonde one) who knows what she wants from a man (diamonds) and knows how to get it (shameless flirtation).

My grade: B-

So inspiring: Jessica Rabbit's sparkly, curvy-hugging outfit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was clearly inspired by the dresses donned by Russell and Monroe during their opening number. And Madonna's video for "Material Girl" is an homage to Marilyn Monroe's memorable performance of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" late in the film.


According to Jordan Beall: "Science has proven that gentle men do prefer blondes. But violent, ill-mannered men do not." (SHOW ME THE STUDIES!)
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Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Luke Jackson is a former war hero who gets picked up by the cops for being drunk in public and slicing the heads off of parking meters. For these terrible crimes--we're never told whether or not he actually stole any money out of the aforementioned meters, and later in the film he mentions he only did it to "settle a score"--Luke is sentenced to two years (???) in a Georgia prison camp. After befriending the camp's top dog, an inmate called Dragline, Luke's life at the work camp floats by fairly easy, or as easy as one's life can float by in a sweltering Georgia prison camp. It isn't until Luke receives word of his mother's death that he starts to plot his escape. Anticipating this, the warden decides to lock Luke up in the dreaded Box for a few days. This only fuels Luke's hatred for his keepers. See, Luke Jackson, like Randle Patrick McMurphy, is the kind of guy who doesn't like being told what to do, so the night he is released from the Box, Luke takes off. He is captured and promptly fitted with a set of leg chains for his trouble. That doesn't stop him from escaping again and again. Oh, Cool Hand Luke, you lovable scamp! Will you ever learn? (SPOILER ALERT: No. He doesn't ever learn.)

My grade: B+

On egg eating: I wonder how many people have tried to eat 50 hard-boiled eggs in one hour after watching Cool Hand Luke. I bet tons. I wonder how many of them totally died.

On our Lord and Savior: There sure is a lot of Christ imagery attached to old Cool Hand (his crucifixion pose following the egg eating contest; his repeated conversations with the "old man" (i.e. God); the picture he sends his fellow inmates after his second escape being torn into four neat pieces and later, taped back together etc.), none of it deserved. I like Luke and all, but he is no Jesus Christ. (From Jon Morgan via Facebook: "Gotta check the deleted scenes where he walks on water, brah.")

Hey, Cool Hand Luke's got musical numbers too!:



One more week. Be here for the exciting conclusion next Sunday. And then a little something special to wrap up the whole summer viewing thingy. Hooray.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

100 Songs I Love: 50-54

50. "Kid Icarus Title Screen Music" (Hirokazu Tanaka)

I recently purchased the classic NES game Kid Icarus for my Nintendo Wii. I had the game when I was a kid and remembered loving it. I kinda liked it even more than Super Mario Bros, which I realize is blasphemy in some gaming circles. Anyway, I bought it, played it for about an hour, reached the second level and realized, "I have never made it this far in Kid Icarus before." Kid Icarus, for those who don't remember, is damn near impossible. As Pit, the unfortunately named hero of the game, makes his way up and out of the Underworld, the ground completely disappears, which means, one false step, and you're starting over. And the enemies may look relatively harmless, but they come flying at you in chaotic conga lines of doom that are impossible to escape totally unscathed. "Why the hell did I like this so much?" I thought to myself having once again plummeted to my death. And then it came to me: the music. I was enchanted with the score, written by the talented and prolific composer, Hirokazu Tanaka. I especially liked the music that accompanied the game's opening titles. It's triumphant. Epic even. It sets you up for a glorious gaming experience that you, if you are anything like me, will never, ever experience.

Other Hirokazu Tanaka classics: Donkey Kong, Duck Hunt, Metroid, Tetris, and something called Balloon Fight.



51. "Imaginary Person" (Ty Segall)

Ty Segall's Melted is the exact sonic kick in the face I needed this week. The music part of my brain had grown sluggish, and I had become content to pump the same old tunes into my earholes day after desperately boring day. And then, with very little knowledge of what I was getting into exactly, I purchased Melted and, well, it did something to me physically. The sludgy guitars, the fuzzy vocals, the whole "eff it, here's some damn rock songs" attitude--I bought it, man. Melted is a great album--despite its offputting cover art-- and "Imaginary Person" is currently my favorite track. It's kind of like a doctor at a mental institution gave one of his patients a beat up guitar and a shitty amp and said, "Just play through the pain, Ty. It couldn't hurt." Music therapy, if you will.



52. "The Hardest Button to Button" (The White Stripes)

I avoided the White Stripes for a long time for the same reason I avoided the TV show Scrubs: everybody loved them. Now, I know that's a crappy attitude to have, but it was my crappy attitude and I was happy. My friends would gush about what a genius Jack White was and how often they touched themselves to images of Meg, just like my other friends would endlessly quote Dr. Cox's stupid, late-game motivational speeches. I didn't want any of it near me. I wasn't going to join the herd and buy a White Stripes album, no matter how much Conan O'Brien loved 'em, and I certainly wasn't going to give Zach Braff and his goofy doctor pals a half hour of my precious time.

Then, apropos of nothing, I relented and listened to a little White Stripes. Oddly enough it was their song during the opening credits of Jonathan's favorite film, Napoleon Dynamite, that made me reconsider. Also, I think the aforementioned Jonathan put "Fell in Love With a Girl" on one of the many mix CDs he made for me during the early-aughts. I came to "The Hardest Button to Button" on my own. I mostly like it because of the lyrics, but the beat is undeniably awesome. This one is a foot stomper if I've ever heard one.

Incidentally, I finally gave Scrubs a chance and fucking hated it.



53. "This Year" (The Mountain Goats)

Every once in awhile, I will discover a song that I immediately fall in love with. I can't explain what it is about the particular song, it just kind of happens, a love at first sight, or, I guess, listen, that cannot be denied. It happened with "Something Better" by the Postal Service (thought I can sort of explain that one, as it did come along during a particular difficult time in my love life). It happened with "That's Entertainment" by The Jam. And it happened, oddly enough, with "Come to Daddy" by Aphex Twin. The love affair begins as an obsession: I listen to the song over and over and over (etc.) until I've convinced myself that I will never be able to stop listening to the song. Then we kind of fall into a casual routine: it cooks dinner some nights, I wash the dishes, that sorta deal. These songs knock me out in a big way when I first discover them and I never get sick of that feeling. It is, honestly, like falling in love with a girl or watching a movie adaptation of book I hold dear or cuddling with my wife at the end of a grueling work week. It happened last week with "This Year" by The Mountain Goats, a band I've been meaning to get into, but just haven't. Anyway, I love this song. How could anyone not love a song about two whiskey-swilling teenagers making out in an arcade all night? The video, as you will see when you watch it--and viewing is required, readers...there will be a test--is pretty amazing too. All right. Enough of my jibber jabber. Go ahead. Fall in love.



54. "Leader of the Pack" (The Shangri-Las)

When the Lawson's went on vacation, they listened to oldies on cassette. You could basically walk into any gas station in the country and pick up one or two "Best of..." mix tapes and, bang, instant award-winning vacation soundtrack. I have a lot of favorites from those compilations, many of which will probably appear on future installments of 100 Songs I Love, but tonight I thought I'd highlight "Leader of the Pack," sung by the Shangri-Las. I think I always thought it was kinda dumb--I mean, c'mon, she met her boyfriend, the supposed leader of a bad ass biker gang, at the candy store--but I don't mind dumb pop songs when they are as well-crafted as "Leader of the Pack." One thing though: this leader of the pack is kind of a pussy, isn't he? I mean, a chick breaks up with him and drives his motorcycle off a cliff or whatever? Dude, seriously? Also, I don't know if they actually say he plummeted off of a cliff, I just always thought that was the most probable cause of death.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Last Week in Movies (9/5-9/11)

I'm entering the final two weeks of my summer viewing extravaganza and, well, I've fallen way short of my original goal. But that's OK. I'm not bummed about it or nothing. I shot for the stars, man; flew a little too close to the sun. But that doesn't mean I'm going to shut it down here in the home stretch. I'm going to hit as many films as I can in the next two weeks and I hope you'll be here to skim the write-ups between YouTube cat videos. So, I believe we were looking back at the last week in movies, correct?

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The Proposition (2005)
A gritty Western set in the Australian outback in the 1880's, The Proposition is the story of one man presenting another man with a...um...damn, it's right on the tip of my tongue...with a...uh...erm...let's just say, for lack of a better term, a proposition: "Find your creepy and elusive older brother and fill him full of hot lead, and I won't hang your younger brother in town square on Christmas Day." That seems more than fair if you ask me. Violence ensues.

My grade: A-

On the outback: Someone must have left the outback's screen door open because there are flies everywhere. Sheesh.

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Mysterious Skin (2004)
Mysterious Skin is disturbing and icky, but the pitch perfect performances of its two leads (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet) make it necessary viewing. It's basically the story of two young men who choose to deal with being molested by their Little League baseball coach in drastically different ways: Neil (Gordon-Levitt) becomes a hustler of the devil-may-care variety; Brian (Corbet) is convinced that he was abducted by aliens. Mysterious Skin is not for the faint of heart.

My grade: B+

Hey, kids: Beware of mustachioed men who shower you with breakfast cereal and tape record your burps. Better yet, just beware of mustachioed men period. They are not to be trusted.

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Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
This was my first exposure to James Dean. He's fun to watch, like, Nicholas Cage when he's off the rails. That's not a negative critique, mind you. I like it when Nic Cage goes full-on unhinged. Every inch of Dean's performance in Rebel Without a Cause has that feel to me. He's talented as shit, but he's not afraid to play to the back of the room, and I'm talking the nosebleeds, son!

Unfortunately, Rebel Without a Cause is pretty bad. Well, not bad, but infuriating. Nobody does anything that makes any sense whatsoever. For instance, why do Natalie Wood's friends--known affectionately as "the Kids"--have it out for Dean the moment they lay eyes on him? He hasn't even mooed during the planetarium field trip yet and already tensions are high. And was there ever a time when engaging in an impromptu knife fight was viewed as an acceptable way to welcome a new kid to the neighborhood?

But you wanted a quick plot summary, didn't you? Well, James Dean plays Jim, a troubled "teenager" (Dean was 24) who has a hard time making friends for some reason. I don't know why. He's good looking, he's funny in the sarcastic way teenagers love, he drives a pretty sweet car, and he seems to have access to an almost endless supply of booze and cigarettes. Anyway, Jim befriends Plato, a puppy-shooting loner with mommy AND daddy issues, and Judy, his irritating next door neighbor. Judy's big "teenage" problem: her daddy won't kiss her on the cheek when he gets home from work anymore. What? To be honest, her dad is kind of a weirdo. I got the feeling that he may have molested her when she was younger, hence her weird romantic attachment to him. But Rebel doesn't get that deep. So, the three friends are involved in a deadly car accident and the latter half of the film is concerned with them hiding out from three thugs (one of which is played by Dennis Hopper) who want them to keep quiet about the whole deadly car crash thing.

My grade: C+

Be a man, dad!: Jim comes a little too close to promoting spousal abuse when he demands that his father stand up to his mother for my taste.

Video Time: Apparently all it takes is a little Beastie Boys to make Rebel Without a Cause fun. Who knew?

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

What the WTF?!?: Problems I Wish I Had

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Here's one for the Are You Kidding Me?!? file (You know the file. It's the one directly between the Are You Fudging Kidding Me?!? file and the Are Your Kids Planning to Murder You While You Sleep? file. You can't miss it.). This week, 29-year-old bodyguard, Fernando Flores, announced her...I'm sorry, I meant his...plans to sue pop singing weirdo Britney Spears for sexual harassment. Seriously. What did you just say out loud to yourself? You don't believe me? Well, here's an article that proves it, Jack! Suck on that for awhile. Apparently, life is too short and Flores is too pure and good (i.e. poor) to spend his days getting paid to look at Britney Spears breasts, which she allegedly exposes willy nilly for any and all comers, so he's all, like, "nationwide unemployment crisis be damned! I'm-a quit my (probably) high paying job guarding Spears' vagina (which she also allegedly exposes whenever the mood hits her), and I'm gonna sue. Sure, I'll forever be known as the pussy who sued Britney Spears for showing me her pussy, but, whatevs, I'm-a be rich."

If you ask me, Flores is just showing off. I don't know what you do for a living, but I sit in front of a computer in a cubicle in an office in an old building with busted air conditioning in one of the most boring downtowns in the US. I like my job enough, but there isn't a hot pop singer traipsing through the office pulling her titties out of her mesh tank-top just for the hell of it. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that should be happening at my place of work. We're professionals, for Pete's sake! I'm just trying to point out that Flores had a pretty sweet deal going and, as a human male, I've had a hard time coming to terms with Flores' current actions. Who sues a woman for flirting with him, especially if said woman is Britney Spears? I'm not saying Ms. Spears is the height of pop star sexiness--that, I believe, is reserved for either Christina Aguilera or Katy Perry...I'm currently on the fence on that important issue--but I wouldn't kick her out of bed for smoking menthols. Britney Spears tries to have sex with you and you sue her? What the WTF?

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So what kind of heinous, unforgivable acts did Spears perpetrate upon the poor, unsuspecting Mr. Flores. For that, we go to the aforementioned article:

Flores, who worked for Britney from February to July 2010, explained how on one occasion: ‘She leaned over me and I noticed that her right breast was exposed. She looked me right in the eye like she was waiting for something.’

It is entirely possible that Flores is so used to being repeatedly rebuffed by the fairer sex, that when presented with an invitation to grope Spears' boob, he simply "freaked out." Here's what you are supposed to do when a beautiful woman disrobes in front of you and follows that up with a come hither look, Flores: YOU GO FOR IT! C'MON! Britney Spears wanted a roll in the hay and you're taking her to court? Again, I say, C'MON! OK, OK...what else?

‘She [Britney] was wearing a white lace, see-through dress. She walked over close by [Flores], intentionally dropped her cigarette lighter on the floor, bent over to retrieve it and thereby exposed her uncovered genitals to [Flores].

‘The incident caused [Flores] shock and disgust’.

Wha...I...but...how...but she...huh? We've all seen Britney's lady junk. It's not that disgusting. And if you were shocked, well, you've probably never seen a vagina before. They can be quite shocking upon first view. You'll get used to them though, in fact, one day, you might just grow to love them as much as I do.

The suit goes on to claim that ‘in addition to exposing herself to [Flores], Spears engaged in numerous sex acts in front of [Flores].’

Listen, pal, if Britney Spears starts banging a guy in front of you, you sit back and enjoy it. You basically got paid to watch live porn starring Britney Spears all day long. Boo-hoo! Your life is so bad. You should've been paying her!

Oh, he also claims Britney Spears force fed her children crab meat until they puked, but I'm more interested in the kinky sex stuff. If you want to read about the child abuse stuff, do it on your own time, sicko.

(Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1311078/Naked-Britney-Spears-tried-lure-bed-claims-bodyguard.html?ito=feeds-newsxml#ixzz0zEi8mXDC)


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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Never Forget...Your Matches!

This Saturday is the 9 year anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil. It's also International Burn A Koran Day (Or it was? Still is? Might not be? I dunno.). Pastor Terry Jones, seen here standing outside of the ironically named Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL, is the brains behind this brainless operation. He may look like a friendly dude, with his well-trimmed facial hair and blue ribbon smile, but I assure you, he is a fiery sumbitch with a passion for book burning, or as he calls them, "word stories what give me a headache." Jones believes that Islam is nothing but Satanism-with-a-turban-on and has, in the past, manufactured t-shirts and yard signs expressing this hateful point-of-view. His congregation--currently some 50 idiots strong--is ready to deal Islam one final blow this September 11th (maybe) by burning copies of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

But why stop at the Koran? Seriously. There are all kinds of things that need burnin' up. Why set aside one day to torch something millions of people hold dear? This great country could easily be covered with bonfires every day of the damn week if we put our minds to it and really got down to business. GEP has a couple of ideas of what we can start with, followed by the reasons why said items need to be torched and torched now. Grab your matches, morons!

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1. The Bible
*Unapologetically promotes incest, infanticide, misogyny, slavery, and a whole host of other anti-social behaviors.
*Used by youth group pastors to keep teenage boys from having sex with teenage girls. (It's the only time in your lives that you can legally bang teenage girls, fellas. Think about it.)
*Mel Gibson's really into it.
*Constantly being used by radical Christians, hate groups, and crazed loners to justify their horrible actions.
*The book of Numbers is soooooo boring.

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2. The Twilight Saga
*Suggests that vampires "sparkle."
*Has been known to render middle-aged women permanently insane.
*Promotes a dangerous POV of young love.
*Possibly Mormon brain washing propaganda.
*Suggests that vampires play baseball. (Vampires don't play baseball. They conspire to open hellmouths and speak in Southern accents.)

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3. The American Flag
*Viewed as a symbol of hope by immigrants, the disenfranchised, and various other perverts, and we can't have that.
*Thinks its better than us.
*Can totally get you high, man.

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4. The Family Circus: By Request

*So damn unfunny.


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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday Morning Music: Surfer Blood-"Take It Easy"


Jonathan and I saw these guys open for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart a couple of months ago. They were great. Here's proof.

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Last Week in Movies (8/29-9/4)

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Panic in the Streets (1950)
The pneumonic plague has come to New Orleans and it's up to Dr. Clinton Reed of the U.S. Public Health Service to stop it. Reed teams up with Captain Tom Warren of the New Orleans Police Department to round up anyone connected to the plague-infected body of a recent murder victim found shot up in the river. Meanwhile, local laundromat owner/murderer, Blackie, and his overweight right-hand man, Fitch, unaware that they are both breeding grounds for a deadly disease, run around N'awlins doing criminal-type stuff. (SPOILER ALERT--There is very little panicking in the streets.)

My grade: B

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Man Bites Dog (It Happened in Your Neighborhood) (1992)
There are more graphic shooting deaths in the first 6 minutes of Man Bites Dog then in the whole of Saving Private Ryan. For those of you unsure of what I'm getting at, there is a whole lot of shootin' goin' on. Man Bites Dog is kind of ahead of its time. It is essentially a satire of reality television, which is interesting considering reality television wasn't nearly the phenomenon that it is today in 1992. The film is a "documentary" that follows the day to day life of a charismatic thrill killer named Benoit. Between strangling a lady on the train, shooting random strangers in the guts, giving an old lady a scream-induced heart attack, and viciously attacking mailmen, Benoit philosophizes on modern life, usually with a drink in his hand. He's smart, well-spoken, close with his family, a loyal friend, and utterly terrifying. As the film progresses, Benoit invites the film crew to participate in his various crimes, which they do with a nauseating gusto. Pretty soon, the film's director and sound guy are tossing corpses into the quarry at Benoit's direction. They even join Benoit in a stomach-churning Christmas Eve rape-stravaganza. There are only so many murders one can commit, however, before one eventually murders a member of the Italian mafia. Things, as you've probably guessed, do not go well for Benoit and friends after that. No, sir.

My grade: B-

Spoiler Alert: Film contains the most uncomfortable birthday party scene ever.

Help wanted: Man Bites Dog's crew goes through sound men like Spinal Tap goes through drummers.

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Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
As far as famous Universal movie monsters go, the Creature from the Black Lagoon looks the coolest. The movie surrounding him (or her?), however, is an utter waste of time. The story is boring, the characters are flat, the score is irritating, and the underwater scenes are unbelievably bland. Is this what passed as horror back in the day? Listen, I wasn't expecting eviscerated scientists and heads exploding into geysers of blood, but maybe something a little scarier than a scaly hand accompanied by some blaring Henry Mancini. The film follows a group of scientists traveling down the Amazon River to collect fossils. Fun times, right? Unbeknownst to them, the crew is being pursued by a curious creature, known in some circles as Gill-man. I prefer the moniker Fishface McGulicutty, but what are you gonna do? Anyway, Gill-man kills some folks and runs off with the sole female on the excursion, the buxom Ms. Kay Lawrence, who really fills out a bathing suit nicely I must say. Will Gill-man whisk Kay away to his underwater caves and make her his fish bride or will Dr. David Reed save his beloved from the Gill-man's scaly clutches so that the two of them can get married and move forward with their exciting lungfish research? Will Mark capture Gill-man and put him on display at the Institute or will his "harpoon first, ask questions later" attitude earn him a one way ticket to a watery grave? Will you, the viewer, be able to stay awake and find out the answers to all of these ridiculous questions or will you experience the soundest sleep you've had in years?

My grade: C-

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Chocolate (2008)
Zen is a young autistic girl who can watch a kung-fu movie on TV and instantly replicate the moves. Using this uncanny ability, she and her fat friend, Moom, venture into the city to collect debts owed to her mother, a former member of the criminal underground and a current cancer sufferer. That's basically it. There are a ton of mind-blowing action sequences and more ladyboys then you can even begin to imagine.

My grade: A-

What's with the title?: I think it's because Zen eats chocolate a lot.

Martial arts firsts: I guarantee Chocolate is the first film of the genre to feature both Autistic Style and Tourette's Style fighting techniques.
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