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Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

The criticisms of this show are way off base
I read through some of the user comments and I have to disagree with almost every criticism leveled at it. I also have to laugh irony given the main topic of the show.

The characters were not mis-cast. Sarah Paulson's Harriet Hays was perfect, exactly the type of character missing on most TV shows to begin with and the most common face that many of us never see when Christian or religious characters are portrayed. She was not a stereotype, she created her own personality and being just like a real person. Amanda Peet, who I am no fan of, was playing the guarded tough gal in the boys club. What do we expect? Her to break down every time Steven Weber's Jack Rudolph yells at her? Comparing this show to the West Wing isn't fair, that was a show about how our ideals and the White House interact. This show has characters who are less than ideal and are already swayed to their beliefs, they don't spend time hashing them out as much as on the west wing, instead, they fight Amercia's perceived culture war on camera for us and usually wind up showing us just how few differences most of us really have. The sketches were not as funny as SNL's, but that's not the point of the show. Anyone who complained about that is utterly missing the point of the sketches to begin with, they are nothing more than social commentary. The comedy in the happens when the show within the show isn't on the air.

The fact that this show fell victim to the very themes it was portraying may be the best sacrifice it could've made for the American TV audience. I realize not everyone is going to appreciate the things I do, and that's fine, but to allow TV to become nothing but the Real World with different settings over and over again is a waste. The mediocrity of most sitcoms, even Perry's Friends, is fine from time to time but every now and then something a bit more substantial would be nice.

The Incredible Hulk

Fairly mindless
People continue to talk down on Ang Lee's version of the Hulk, but I'll say this for it, it made you think. His version had complicated relationships, a unique visual style, and overall good performances. This reboot required no thinking whatsoever. It was pure popcorn friendly cinema, which is great for some, but when you compare this movie to the Dark Knight or Iron Man, you see how thin it appears. Superhero movies can be more than just impressive CGI and battle scenes. They can provoke thought, they can be intriguing, it's totally OK for them to be, dare I say...good FILMS. Norton seems to be the only outstanding performance here, and that's to say that he stands out from the rest, not that he's outstanding. Liv Tyler's infinite compassion feels a bit overdone, and William Hurt seemed non-existent till perhaps the last scene of the movie. If you want a movie to test out your new plasma or surround sound system, have at it. If you want a good movie that actually engages you just a little, then move along. This isn't for you.

How to Deal

It's true, it's bad
How to Deal is not a good movie. It's a stab at a more adult and grown up teenage film and while it doesn't suffer from bad acting, it does suffer from a horribly written script and what is most likely apathetic directing.

Mandy Moore is a decent actress, not great, but decent, and aside from Peter Gallagher, she isn't put up against too many big names, so she holds her own. The problem is that all of these actors are trapped inside a poorly written movie. There are too many specific instances where this film just doesn't cut it. It boils down to this, Mandy's character has to deal with her parents divorce, her sister's wedding, her father's remarrying, her best friend getting pregnant with her deceased boyfriend's baby (it's not what it sounds like), and the fact that despite her misgivings about love, falling in love with the high school clown named Macon. Yes, his name is Macon. The point is there is way too much going on and the movie does not adequately set up any of these events. At one point Haley (Mandy Moore's character) blows up over her Mom not believing that she could remember the last time Haley's comet passed by. She claims no one believes her when she tells people how she feels. Unfortunately, we never see anyone not believing her in the film and it seems more like the director told Mandy to blow up and get angry in this scene without telling her why. Other problems include a random car crash into a tree head on that leaves a Honda Civic hatchback with nothing but a cracked windshield. It leads to laughter it what is supposed to become an emotional scene. There are a few funny moments, but not many. Allison Janney as Mandy Moore's mother is quirky but not funny although she has the only laughs in the movie.

There is just too much wrong with this movie for anything to be right. It has no real point or plot, the acting is mediocre, and you will laugh at parts that are supposed to be dramatic. I can't think of anything good to say at this point, so I probably should say nothing at all.


Almost great
Gladiator is a decent film. It lacks great emotional value, but it makes up for that with excellent pacing and an interesting visual style.

Russell Crowe plays Maximus, a general who was friend to the aging emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) and betrayed by Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). His family is murdered and he winds up being sold into slavery to fight as a gladiator. At first, he accepts his new life with sorrow and apathy. Too much sorrow and apathy, especially since we know it won't last. Russell Crowe pouts throughout the whole movie and makes Maximus a distant a cold person. It's hard to imagine him being liked so well by his men. We see nothing human about him, he takes pain as if it were nothing and he has no remorse about killing in the arenas. That said Russell Crowe does deliver some excellent lines throughout the film. At one point when one of his subordinates says of the Germans in the beginning of the film that people should know when they are conquered, Russell delivers the line, `Would you know, Quintus? Would I?' The timing is perfect and there's just enough emotion to make it believable, and to help foreshadow Commodus' new vision of Rome.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Commodus and from the first time we are introduced to him, we are aware that he is a troubled man. The movie portrays Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius, as feeling he had an unloving childhood. One needs only to look as far as Michael Jackson to see what happens to someone when they feel unloved in their childhood. Joaquin takes his portrayal to the extreme as his character is in love with his sister and makes little secret of it. Even I felt uncomfortable watching him on screen, which is a statement to how powerful Joaquin is as an actor. Unfortunately, it doesn't fit with the rest of the movie, and while the pacing is good for the most part, it is the scenes with Commodus that seem to stick out.

As the plot unfolds, we learn that Maximus was Marcus Aurelius's chosen successor to restore Rome to a republic. Commodus is of course insanely jealous of Maximus and kills his father to ascend to the throne. He then has Maximus executed, which of course doesn't happen, and his family killed. I must admit that I don't feel it is necessary to show a child being run over by a horse to get an emotional rise out of the audience. Most of the action in Gladiator happens in the arenas both in Rome and in Africa. They are well put together, although as is expected historical accuracy gets thrown out the window in favor of cool fights and emotional drama. The lighting and colors of the movie are odd, mostly dark with a yellowish tone to them, even in Rome. I'm not sure why this was done, and while it's interesting, it doesn't appear to serve anything more than to add to Russell's constant scowl. Oliver Reed and Richard Harris are both excellent in their roles, as is Connie Nielson who shines as Commodus' sister. All of this leads up to the big fight and it probably isn't much of a spoiler if I tell you who wins, it isn't as exciting a finish as one would want to an action/drama. The good thing is that the drama part kicks in and it does a fabulous job of closing the movie. A good film but not quite a great film.

Lost in Translation

Great, a must see for almost everyone
After seeing Lost in Translation, I have only two minor complaints. The movie, while well acted, did not in my opinion warrant Bill Murray's best actor nomination. The role was written for him or someone just like him to play, so there's no reason he shouldn't have been good in this film. The second complaint is that I had a little trouble empathizing with Bill Murray's character, but both of these are purely personal opinion.

The movie centers Bob Harris, a once famous movie star doing commercials for Suntory whiskey in Tokyo, Japan. He meets a young woman named Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson, who was just recently married to a photographer who is on a project in Tokyo. The details of the plot are vague because they are simply nuances as the story revolves mostly around how Bob and Charlotte experience their separate yet linked situations. Bob is in his mid-fifties, married with children, and it bitter and melancholy. Again, being bitter and melancholy is not a stretch for Bill Murray. Charlotte is young, a philosophy major that among other things, is unsure what she should do with her life. Obviously, the two have something to offer each other and they do so while experiencing the culture of Tokyo. Of course the title refers to the obvious fact that they don't speak the language, but it has a more subtle meaning as well and refers as much to the differences between them as it does to their feelings not being realized by those who are closest to them.

The movie is a little slow for most people, but it's made in true Coppola style and is very much a throwback to good old-fashioned character studies. The camera shots are interesting and Tokyo is captured well on film. The character of Charlotte is supposed to be based somewhat on Sofia's own life and it shows her as an intense person who has some disdain for the pop culture that many celebrities revel in. The character of Kelly is one of those representations and it's pulled off superbly by Anna Farris. The movie's funnier scenes involve some horrific karaoke, a night out at a club, in Bob's hotel room, and at a hospital. The wit is intelligent and not laugh-out-loud funny, so its appeal is limited.

The movie's only drawback I found is that for me, it was difficult to empathize with Bill Murray's character. He's sarcastic and bitter, and he winds up making a very poor choice. In the end it's tough to not say that all of his problems are a direct result of his bad choices and that he has no one to blame but himself. And he's supposed to be this way, resigned to surrendering to his marriage and the way his career is, but also happy with it. He's amusing, but not funny even though he could be. He is a complex character, and while I can appreciate that, I still felt less for him than I did for Charlotte. Charlotte is much easier to feel for because she has a fault she has no control over, namely youth. The movie's climax isn't so much about whether Bob and Charlotte will end up together or not, but whether they can feel better about their problems. One of the best scenes in the movie is when Bob whispers into Charlotte's ear. You don't know what he says, and it's done intentionally. After seeing the whole film, it's easy to appreciate this little moment of privacy between the two. This is a very intelligent film and definitely worth seeing. This is not Groundhog Day, however. Think more what American Beauty almost achieved. That's the best way to describe this excellent film.

The Matrix Revolutions

An awful excuse of a movie
This movie is about as disappointing as an end to a trilogy can be. The first movie was great, but these last two have shown what happens when the creators are two creative and are then given a massive budget to play with. Every stupid and ludicrous idea makes its way from the `genius' brains onto the screen because there is nothing stopping them. That's exactly what happened to this movie. To top it off, the dialogue is the worst it's ever been. The Matrix was not known for it's great dialogue, but it did well enough. Reloaded started to get bad, but Revolutions takes the cake. It's as if every character is required to say the most painfully clichéd things ever. The so-called `romance' between Neo and Trinity all but fizzles. At least in Reloaded we got a steamy love scene. In Revolutions, we get a few kisses and a really bad line of dialogue from Trinity.

The plot in this movie has become completely convoluted and we are dealing with characters for most of the movie that were introduced in Reloaded. The plot becomes more of a philosophical debate on life, which is fine, except that little of it makes sense. The highly sophisticated dialogues in the scenes with the Oracle are dumbed down completely by the simplistic actions the characters take. It's hard to care about a lot about them because they say ridiculously stupid things and despite all that is going on around them, they are completely unmoved by it. Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobi is particularly awful, as is Clayton Watson who plays Kid. Niobi was the tough and confident expert pilot when we first met her and she is in the end. She doesn't believe Neo is the chosen one, and she still doesn't in the end. Kid is the exact opposite of her and again is the same even in the end. I heard so many great things about Hugo Weaving's performance and then I saw the movie. He actually does the laugh Dr. Evil does in Austin Powers. He at one point makes his lips look like Steve Tyler's all while saying the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. Someone said he should've gotten an award for his performance, and I agree, but probably not on which award he should win. The whole idea that Neo must make his own choices is supposed to be a big revelation that draws you into the story. Didn't we all learn that in second grade? Why is it taking Neo so long to figure that out, especially when it already was told to him in the first two movies? Many people have complained about the end of the movie, but that is not the worst part, the beginning and the middle aren't so hot either.

Reloaded featured an amazing scene on a freeway and some good fight scenes scattered throughout, but Revolutions has only two hand-to-hand fight scenes, one of which being the climatic battle between Neo and Agent Smith. Technically it has three, but since one of them involves Trinity, Morpheus, and Seraph shooting their way past guards in a room with columns, I tend not to count that one since we saw it already in the first movie. The final scene looks good except that both Neo and Agent Smith have grown two powerful for their own good and the final scene looks more like a fight scene from Superman. There is the battle of Zion, but the drab looking city is difficult to watch because you have no sense of where any of the characters are or what exactly the humans are fighting to save. Freedom, obviously, but no time is spent getting the audience to empathize with the humans. The machines the humans use to fight the machines look drunk, and the machine army seems more interested in flying around in pretty patterns than actually attacking anyone. And if they are supposed to be brutal and efficient killing machines, then why are they oblivious when humans start firing rockets at them? Also, if humans have learned how to generate such a large EMP without the use of a nuclear weapon, why do they still use machine guns? The vague ending makes you wonder if there is a fourth movie planned for the future, which would be unfortunate given the quality of this film.

Overall, the movie appears to be geared towards someone with higher intelligence than perhaps the writer of this critique commands, and if anyone does have that higher intelligence, then by all means share it with me so I may understand. Unfortunately, the Matrix Revolutions appears to be a dismal failure in concluding what should've been an amazing trilogy. Its complicated philosophical implications are watered down with action that is less exciting than in the first two movies. If you haven't seen Reloaded, then don't bother watching it or this movie. If you saw the second movie, then you probably have no choice but to subject yourself to the third one.


It's just allright for me
Underworld is one of those movies you want to see but dread mainly due to the cover on the box. It shows Kate Beckinsale all decked out like Trinity ready to leap through the air with the help of wires and special effects. The movie's problems are not that it steals from the Matrix, but are more basic. The plot had the chance to really lure us in with an almost Romeo and Juliet type romance, but sadly it doesn't get enough attention. Selene is so rigid, you expect her to snap in two every time she walks. Michael Cravin comes across as a naïve child who will believe anything and sympathizes immediately with any sort of sob story. An attempt at an end reel plot twist falls flat on its face because instead of the twist anchoring our emotional hopes on one side or another, it introduces yet another side and makes us dislike two characters we already mistrust even more. The one actor who's the saving grace in this film is Michael Sheen who plays the part of Lucian, the big dog of the werewolves. His eyes convince me that he is not doubt a were-something and if I saw him coming after me, I would wet myself and then run. We are given five whole minutes to understand why Selene fights the werewolves (brought about in the clichéd why are you fighting them dialogue) with such a passion and in those same five minutes realize her love for Corvin. Of course Selene wasting six werewolves single handedly immediately follows that. The movie has little emotional attachment from its audience. It's entertaining and the vampires and werewolves are very modern. The vampires take on more of an Anne Rice-like portrayal sitting around drinking blood that looks like wine in an extravagant old house. They dress pretty and could pass as fashion models for Old Navy commercials if they weren't dressed in black all the time and got a little more sun. The werewolves are fast and agile but they don't look quite right to me, most of them look like blue chow-chows, not werewolves. The whole look and feel of the movie is of course very gothic, as we wouldn't expect anything else. My biggest pet peeve in the movie is that we are supposed to believe that Selene is a killing machine yet whenever she fires a gun it flails in her hand as though it was a salmon out of water. I don't know how she manages to hit anything at all and I wonder if it's too much to ask Hollywood to train actors to look like they know what they are doing when they use firearms. Not a bad movie, rent it sometime if they are out of what you really want.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Great Film
Return of the King is going to become a classic of our time. Peter Jackson was destined to make these movies, the Fellowship, the Two Towers, and Return of the King, simply because after seeing all three of them, I can't imagine how anyone else could've done as good a job.

The movie has been criticized as being too long, but when you consider it came from a 400 page book, three and a half hours isn't that bad. Also, when you consider that Peter Jackson has a difficult task, namely making a movie that is commercially viable and able to attract new fans while at the same time pleasing a very loyal fan base, it's practically a miraculous achievement. The multiple endings seemed to displease people, but it's important to note that all of those 'endings' are in the book and to simply cut them out would be a terrible mistake. Jackson makes excellent decisions when it comes to editing, but his true master is his use of special effects.

The visuals in the movie are amazing, as with the first two movies. The effects are so well done, you're not sure what's computer generated or real at times. The acting too is excellent. Elijah Wood and Sean Astin do amazing jobs, and Viggo Mortenson will undoubtedly have many leading roles from this point on. The female characters, Eowyn and Arwen have taken the most criticism, and while Arwen is only in this film to make use of Liv Tyler, the Eowyn character is well developed and well played. Legolas and Gimli, sadly, are a little short changed in their roles. Legolas seems to be the lookout while Gimli continues to be the comic relief dwarf. These characters in the book represented Tolkien's environmental views, but sadly the movie just doesn't have room for it.

The film is emotionally charged and even the greatest skeptic will leave the theater satisfied. This is a must see, and I'm sure the extended version will be eagerly awaited by fans of Tolkien's work.

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