Saturday, May 3, 2008

U + Me

iTunes Party Shuffle can be a magical thing.
At any given moment a new song can pop up and take you back to a moment in your past or remind you of something you must do today or what is to come in your future.

It has this weird quality to choose the exact song you need in that exact moment to describe how you're feeling or what's going on in your life.

Or it can awaken the nostalgic monster inside you and immediately you're back in a previous life doing and saying things maybe you had forgotten.

Something like this happened to me the other day.
As you know, I've been feeling pretty nostalgic recently. So it's no wonder how happy it made me to hear a song from my boy band past shuffle up on iTunes.

I'm not talking about NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys or UFO (oops, I mean LFO) or 98 Degrees. Oh no, I'm talking about 2gether.

If you aren't familiar with 2gether, you must not have been a teenybopper in 2000 when MTV debuted their first tv movie ever, which, like most tv movies, covers whatever is current at the moment. And what was current in 2000 was boy bands.

It was February of 2000, probably the height of boy band hysteria. I was feverishly counting down the days until No Strings Attached came out. Then I heard about this mockumentary premiering on MTV, called 2gether. Hmm, a movie about a fake boy band? Would this be popular among the dozens of boy bands already out there?

And for me, the answer is yes. I immediately made plans to watch the movie over at my best friend's house . She wasn't a boy band fan really, but she indulged in my boy band habit as long as I didn't make fun of her obsession with Ricky Martin. But really, we were two peas in a pod, since Ricky Martin got his start in a boy band.

Anyways, we watched the movie and were instantly hooked. It wasn't long before we were quoting it, singing the songs and picking out our favorites (mine was and still is Chad, the shy one).

And that was just the beginning. 2gether actually became a legit boy band. They had a video on TRL (back when TRL was good) and even opened up for Britney Spears (back when Britney wasn't crazy).

It's a song from their second album (yes, they had two albums!) that came up on my iTunes that put me on this way back machine. The Hardest Part of Breaking Up (Is Getting Back Your Stuff). Catchy, no?

Well, maybe 2gether won't stand the test of time, but in that moment, they were what I'd like to call a snarky pop music pleasure.

Because they never took themselves too seriously. It was always about poking fun at boy bands and the hysteria that followed them around. But even when they became one of them, it was still all good fun.

And that's why I love my iTunes Party Shuffle. Just a single song can bring up all this stuff from my pop culture past.

Who knows what a tap of the next button will bring?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I Saw It! It's Alive! It's Huge!

Some movies are just made for the movie theater experience.
They demand a larger than life screen, sticky butter coated popcorn, an oversized mug of Coke, a sugar coma inducing bag of Skittles and a group of rowdy and annoying teenagers in the front row.

Case in point: Cloverfield.
The movie theater going experience was invented for movies like Cloverfield. And you better believe I was there.

The events leading up to the release of the movie formally known as the Untitled JJ Abrams Monster Movie should be familiar to any pop culture addict so I won't waste time recounting them here. But if last summer you were living under a rock and missed the teaser trailer that launched a thousand Google searches, then you can check out my very first blog, which will provide you with a niblet of Cloverfield info.

Anyways, back to my point: Cloverfield is a movie made for the theater. If you didn't see it when it was released in January, then you've really missed out. Nothing beats seeing on the big screen the Statue of Liberty's head fly through the air, hit a mile high sky scraper and come to its final resting point in the middle of a street teeming with onlookers.

Though for me, what was most amazing that day in the theater was not how I bitched out a group of teenagers making noise during the opening reel (true story) but how monstrous the monster truly looked up there on the screen.

That's not to say I imagined he'd look anything other than terrifying. Actually, I had no clue what he'd look like before I walked into the theater. But I knew from the half a second I saw of him in the trailer that he'd be bloody fantastic. And since JJ Abrams was involved with the project, I knew I'd be blown away to the Hawaiian islands, captured by a group of Others, and attacked by a smoke monster. That's how crazy I knew it would be.

And like I said, I wasn't let down. I loved seeing the monster crawl through Midtown taking out buildings with his long praying mantis type arms. And in a particularly stunning scene shot from the helicopter, we see what appears to be the monster's final moments as he collapses in the wreckage of Manhattan. Hud, the man behind the camera (and the second best thing about Cloverfield), shouts with glee at the monster's destruction. That is, until the monster lunges out of the smoke and grabs the chopper, sending it crashing into Central Park.

What followed was the monster's marvelous "I'm ready for my close up, Mr. De Mille" moment before he gobbled up poor Hud. His grill was all up in mine and frankly, I was scared. To see that face only a mother could love tower over me on the big screen made me want to hide behind my fingers. It truly felt like I was going to be lunched on instead of Hud.

But when the dust finally settled on a ruined New York City and the credits rolled, I thought ahead to what Cloverfield's DVD release might entail. And that's when I knew it wouldn't be the same watching it on my tiny television.

Flashforward to this weekend when I bought a copy. And I have to say, the experience isn't as good. New York City is tiny, the buildings are tiny, the monster is tiny. But I guess that's to be expected. Movies are never the same once you get them home and pop them into your DVD player. That is unless you have a movie theater sized tv in your living room. And let's face it, we're not all Mariah Carey so we don't have that luxury.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy a second viewing. I still jumped at the scary bits. I got a much better view of the monster babies (they're even creepier than I thought). And since JJ Abrams is a tv man, I'm sure he thought about what the movie would look like on the small screen so I trust that it's the best it can be.

Yet I'm still a bit sad I'll never get that experience again, going to the theater to see a monster trample through New York City, while I scarf down on Sour Patch Kids and yell at the kids in front of me.

I guess there's always the sequel: Cloverfield 2: Electric Boogaloo. You know I'll be there.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Chimpanzee That! No More Monkey News

It's a sad day for us fans of the man with the roundest head in the world.

Karl Pilkington will do no more podcasts.
That means no more monkey news or stories about his Auntie Nora farting for five minutes or hairy Chinese kids or alien abductions or horses living in houses or Rockbusters or freaks or any of the hundreds of topics covered on The Ricky Gervais Show.

If you're unfamiliar with Karl's inane ramblings, it's best if you head over to YouTube and search for "Karl Pilkington". You're bound to find clips of all the things I mentioned above and more, all of which will, no doubt, make you either laugh or cry with laughter.

That is, if you can stand Ricky's hyena like laugh and constant interjection of things like "You've got to be kidding!", "Absolute bollocks!" and "I'm about to burst!", which usually comes after a particularly ridiculous story of Karl's.

But honestly, any fan will tell you that it's often Ricky's outbursts which make Karl's stories funnier. I don't know of a funnier moment (and greater Ricky outburst) than when Karl tells the story of Siamese twins who got run over. When Karl says the story piqued his interest because he thought they should have looked both ways, Ricky lets loose a sound never before heard out of a human being. And while I can't accurately describe the screech, I can say that it never fails to make me double over with laughter.

I also love when Karl and Steve have a go at each other. It usually starts off when Karl makes a comment about Steve's height (he's 6 feet, 7 inches tall). Then Ricky, who always likes to stir the pot, will bring up how Karl felt about Steve when they first met. And that's all Karl needs. Before you know it, he's on about Steve's eyes (as Ricky mumbles, "goggle-eyed freak"), his trouble with women and his stinginess with money.

My favorite bit between the two is when Karl calls in and tells Steve that an alien in Men in Black 2 looks like his brother. It had big eyes and was gangly, Karl said, but ultimately wasn't as weird as Steve because it had a normal voice. At this point, the sparks are flying and I'm dying with laughter. But when Steve comes back and tells Karl he looks like the Humanzee, a hypothetical human/chimpanzee hybrid, I lose it.

Because if you've seen Karl, he really does look like a shaved monkey. Steve's right. He walks like the Humanzee, is bald like him and has the same gormless face.

But Karl's simian features are not what this blog's about. Or maybe it is. It might be that the constant ridicule from Ricky and Steve got to be too much for poor Karl. Or maybe he ran out of stories to tell about his often strange life. Or nothing exciting is going on in the monkey world to warrant an update.

Who knows?

Apparently, Ricky does. He's been keeping fans up to date on the goings on in Karl's life in a blog on his website. And it's in the latest and last blog that he breaks the news that Karl has finally put his foot down. No more podcasts. Well, no more free podcasts. But Ricky wants to give something free to the fans, a one off farewell show to thank everyone for listening.

Yet Karl's having none of it. And that's what makes me sad.

No one has made me laugh more than Ricky, Steve and Karl. I know I can count on them to crack me up to the point of tears whenever I listen to their shows.

That's why I want to pull a Ricky and squeeze Karl's little baldy head for making this decision. But I guess I can't be mad at Karl for too long. Maybe Ricky was right when he wrote on his blog that Karl's sick of playing the fool.

But honestly, all jokes aside, Karl is no fool. He just looks at the world a bit differently than the rest of us. And its his perspective on things which put the podcasts on my must listen to list.

So whatever ends up happening with the trio, it's probably for the best. I mean, Ricky and Steve will write another brilliant tv show or direct a movie or star in one.

And Karl will putter around London rescuing bees that have heart attacks. And that's why we love him, podcast or not.

Monday, April 14, 2008

There and Back Again

At any given moment, I'm feeling the pangs of nostalgia. Whether it's for 80s music or 90s tv shows or the boy band hysteria, I'm eternally hankering for the good ole days of my pop culture past.

These days my nostalgic gaze is turned toward the year 2003 and a little movie about the return of a king and the little hobbit who could.

That's right. I'm totally and utterly a sentimental sap for The Lord of the Rings.

In a previous blog I talked about how LOTR (as the cool kids say) popped my geek cherry. And now, five years later, it has surprisingly come back into my life.

For a class, I've been assigned to read the books and honestly, I couldn't be happier.

Wait a minute, a college student who actually likes and will do the reading assigned? Contrary to popular belief, they do exist and one of them is typing this here blog right now!

Anyways, what was I saying? Oh yes. I remember.

When I cracked open the books a few weeks ago, it all came back to me. Not just of reading the books or watching the movies, but that whole experience. The idea of leaving the comforts of home to journey to places unknown was not just for hobbits, dwarves and elves. As a high school senior that year, I too was about to embark on a journey of sorts. But instead of ending up in the dark and mysterious land of Mordor, I found myself in the cement covered land of UMass Dartmouth, where guys with popped collars roamed instead of Orcs (and they were just as ugly).

And my assignment isn't the only thing bringing back the memories. In fact, it seems like serendipity has intervened and supplied with me with a dish of LOTR goodness to satiate my nostalgia.

First of all, I'm surrounded by many LOTR loving friends. So when I'm feeling extra sad after watching Frodo sail off to the Grey Havens, I can lament to them about how heartbreaking it is to see him say goodbye to Merry, Pippin and Sam.

Then, to my pleasant surprise, all three movies were shown on tv last weekend. Three nights of hobbity goodness is something I couldn't pass up, especially when my DVDs were away from me at home.

But alas! I wasn't without them for much longer. One short trip home and there they were! My DVDs! All six sets! Where should I start? Why, with the commentaries, of course. Nothing is better than listening to the actors (especially Elijah, Sean, Dom, and Billy) tell stories and crack jokes about filming what was to become the greatest trilogy of all time.

And that's not all! The aforementioned Elijah Wood recently appeared on The Friday Night Project (a comedy/variety show from across the pond). There was much talk of LOTR, of course. The hosts dressed up like Gollum and Frodo. Even Sir Ian McKellen made an appearance!

And so, for now, my feelings of nostalgia have subsided. I've had my fix. But talk to me this time tomorrow and who knows how I'll feel. I might be like Gollum, calling out for the return of my precious. So I'll have to pop in a DVD or pick up the book and dive right back into the world of Middle Earth.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fool Me Twice

Dear Project Runway,

It's been awhile since our last correspondence. I know I ripped you a new one and I'm sorry if I came off as a harsh bitch. However, I still stand behind my criticisms of you and your less than stellar four season.

With that said, I will bow down to you for your fierce decision to crown Christian as the king (or queen) of the fashion heap. But honestly, was there ever any doubt he'd win? No one ever came close. Not the constant draper Rami or the always uber stressed out Jillian.

And I even appreciate you including spicy Victoria Beckham, who, if I was a betting woman, would have invited herself to the Bryant Park festivities anyways since she desires desperately to be everywhere and in most cases, succeeds.

But the purpose of this letter is not to wax poetic about your season four finale.

No. I've got a bigger and badder bone to pick with you.
Your deflection from Bravo to Lifetime.

When I said get it together and make it work, I was just quoting your best asset and the always loquacious Tim Gunn. I didn't mean get it together and move it over to another channel! If any move was deemed necessary by your people (I'm looking at you, Weinsteins) then it should be to NBC, not to some channel which caters to middle aged housewives and obese shut-ins.

Now instead of neighboring hits like Top Chef, Inside the Actors' Studio and My Life on the D-List, you'll be among such gems as Your Mama Don't Dance (yes, that's a real show), reruns of The Golden Girls, and countless movies of the week, like, get this, Crimes of Passion: She Woke Up Pregnant.

Now, you have every right to jump ship if you so please. I get it. The entertainment biz is a crazy world and I'm sure you have your reasons for the change. But don't think NBC will be as understanding as me. In fact, as I'm sure you already know, they've filed a suit against you.

And can you blame them? Your sketchiness is off the radar. Secret negotiations with Lifetime all while stringing along NBC? Not fair, Project Runway.

I guess I shouldn't be too shocked about your behavior. I mean, just the other day I went mental over the shady dealings involving a remake of Spaced. But that's neither here nor there. All I'm saying is I guess Hollywood wouldn't appear as shiny and bright without its dark underbelly of shadiness.

Well, like I said in my last letter, I'm not ready to give up on you yet. But you've only got one more chance before I'll have to officially say "Auf Wiedersehen".

(Reluctantly) love,

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Everybody Loves Dan

In my second blog, I talked about my love for all things British. But I couldn't resist making a comment about my favorite thing Stateside. That favorite thing, of course, is Lost.

Here's what I had to say:

Thursday nights at 9pm I'm stupid with excitement waiting for the next installment of Lost. Who gets to go home? Who's left behind? Who's the guy who just parachuted onto the island?

Well, after 8 episodes, I can now answer all of my questions.

Kate, Jack, Sayid, Hurley, Sun and Aaron (aka Turnip Head) get to go home.
Everyone else is left behind (well, everyone besides Ben, who shockingly appeared off island in a later episode).

But the reason I bring this up is to answer my final question. That is, who is the guy who parachuted onto the island?

Well, that guy would be Daniel Faraday, who if you've been reading this blog or know me at all, is my favorite thing about Lost's fourth season.

Like I've said before, Dan is a twitchy and often rambling physicist, who in his off island life, was a professor at Oxford, working secretly on an even more secret time machine.

And as my blog title says, everyone loves him.
No, really. I've yet to meet someone who doesn't find Dan to be the most precious thing ever to be.

During the card game when he failed to remember the third card, I wanted to squeeze him and tell him everything would be okay. Then he amazes me with his genius and I want him to teach me physics. I know I must truly be a geek if the time experiment he did on the island turned me on. What can I say? I love a man who's smart and does sciencey stuff.

But what I really love about Dan is how he genuinely wants to help the survivors. I could totally see it pained him to say to Sun that their rescue wasn't up to him (cue me wanting to squeeze him again).

And it doesn't hurt that Dan is played by the equally twitchy and rambling Jeremy Davies, who has just about killed me dead with his amazing performance not only as Mr. Faraday but in all his other movies.

I could go on and on (no really, you should see my other blog) but since it's Thursday and Thursdays mean Lost, I must depart.

See you on the island.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

McSpaced: I'm Not Loving It

British television remakes are often a hit and miss game.
You hit and get The Office. You miss and get Coupling.

There are many reasons why the Americanized Office succeeded, from the brilliance of Steve Carell to the fleshed out and super funny supporting cast. But believe me, had the remake not received blessings from creators Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant, it might not have made it past the development stage.

Coupling, on the other hand, failed harder than Britney Spears at last year's VMAs. An American remake of a British remake of Friends? That's one too many remakes for me. Thankfully, Coupling was canceled before you could say "Chip chip, cheerio!"

But my grievance isn't with the remakes of the past. Right now, my favorite show from across the pond is undergoing its own Extreme Makeover of sorts.

And all I can say is that in the case of Spaced, imitation is the most insincere form of flattery.

For those of you who don't know, Spaced follows the often surreal and pop culture packed lives of Tim and Daisy, two Londoners who pretend to be a couple so they can rent an apartment, which they believe is reserved for professional couples only.

You're probably thinking, "Wow, that sounds like a great idea for a sitcom! What's the big deal?"

And it's questions like this that make Spaced fans like me really annoyed.

Spaced is about so much more than just two people renting an apartment. It's the baby of creators, Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson. Along with director Edgar Wright, they put their blood, sweat and tears into a show which stands as a specific and singular moment in their lives.

So when the remake was announced last year, I searched for one bit of information: what did Simon, Jessica and Edgar think?

And what I found was that not only weren't the trio involved in the project but they weren't even asked for their blessings beforehand. What? Are you kidding? Remake such a personal show without the people who created it? Who would do that?

Oh, that's right. McG. The man responsible for Charlie's Angels, a remake more obsessed with T&A than its cheesy 70s original.

Needless to say, I was worried. Would an American version of Spaced (titled McSpaced by fans) put the kibosh on what made the show great, the geektastic pop culture references? Would our Tim stay up all night playing Resident Evil 2, doped up on speed? Or break out into a Platoon-esque finger gun battle against a group of hoodlums? Or pay homage to other such staples as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Scooby Doo?

And if they aren't going to keep the geeky sensibilities, then why remake it at all? Why not just take the basic concept and run with it? Two people living in an apartment. Period. Why call it Spaced if you're just going to squeeze out everything that made it what it was, including the creators?

And what really pisses me off is that McG and company claim to be such big fans of the show. Well, as a big fan myself, I call their claims bullshit. Because if they really were big fans (and thus fans of Simon, Jessica and Edgar), they wouldn't have been so shady about developing the remake. They would have picked up the phone and called them. Maybe they thought phone lines didn't cross the big ole Atlantic Ocean. Only a thought that stupid could keep them from doing something so simple.

Oh, and don't get me started on the media. They are just as bad. In everything I read about the remake, it was all about Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Not only did the articles imply that they were actually involved, but they totally ignored Jessica Stevenson. Yes, Simon and Edgar are more familiar to American audiences but it's unfair to leave out a third of the creative force behind the show. It just proves that neither the media nor those behind the remake really have the respect for the original that they claim.

I could easily go on (OMG did you see who they cast as Tim and Daisy? Blasphemy!) but I'll put the issue of McSpaced to bed for now.

And then, while it's sleeping, I'll sneak up real quiet and hack it to death with an ax.