Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Quick bites on entertainment

Here's a few quickies on what's entertaining and what's not lately:

"Biggest Loser" - This show gets big ratings and has low production costs so it isn't going away anytime soon. If you like watching fat people cry about how they gain weight because they "eat all of their aggression and pain," you'll love this show. I wonder how many people are motivated to lose their own weight by watching this program, and how many others watch the show while they polish off a quart of chunky monkey ice cream.

"Rescue Me" - This FX show finally came back after being gone for a year and a half due to the writer's strike. Well it's back and just as good as ever. Denis Leary and Peter Tolan (the writer/producer/actors) behind the show haven't lost their touch.

"Tropic Thunder" - I finally saw this about a year after everyone else by downloading it to my XBOX in high-def. I got a lot of yucks out of it, especially in watching this cast of big Hollywood actors lampoon the very industry that provided them all with such a lavish lifestyle. I wonder though: Do they all really get the joke?

"Battlestar Galactica" - Yeah, I know this show is over, but I sometimes pine away for it like I would an ex-girlfriend who provided me with some of the most entertaining evenings imaginable and other times bogged me down with stories that weren't very exciting. And I think the "Caprica" prequel will suck, by the way. Who wants to watch "Dallas" in space?

"Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and the Damned"
- This expansion pack for the popular video game is a blast and gave me just the right excuse to go back to playing the "guilty pleasure" title known to fans as "GTA4" on the XBOX 360. - I just discovered this video streaming site that allows people to broadcast video from their televisions, gaming systems, video cameras, or webcams live via the web for FREE! I broadcasted one of my son's hockey games and I can't wait to find some other applications for this great site.

Twitter - I'm tired of hearing about it on the news. I have an account but nothing to report; regardless, I gain followers daily. Try and figure that one out.

"Hell's Kitchen" - I still love this show even though every season is pretty much the same. I never get tired of hearing chef Gordon Ramsay tell someone to "piss off."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Movie review: State of Play

This former BBC series turned into an American feature film provides some interesting parallels to real life in its portrayal of political intrigue and corruption in the wake of the current war on terror. A decent group of actors, led by Russel Crowe as a grizzled veteran reporter who woefully awaits the demise of the print media to make way for more viral "blog based" Internet news, does a good job of moving the plot forward believably. He is paired up with Rachel McAdams, the cub reporter who represents the future of news via blog gossip journalism.

There is no romantic spark between the two, just a mentor relationship that works for the most part despite questions of how realistic it would actually be. The love interest in the film (if you can call her that) is the beautiful Robin Wright Penn, whose turn as a tortured politician's wife is worth the price of admission. The other part of the Penn-Crowe triangle is Ben Affleck, who plays an ambitious and talented rising star in congress, despite his shaky marriage and lack of any friends besides the slovenly hippy-dippy reporter played by Crowe. (By the way, it was kind of nice to see a sloppy overweight Crowe in this role after he made so many men feel inferior with his cut physique years ago in "Gladiator.")

Without giving anything away, the plight of the modern newspaper business and the controversy over privatizing war (read: Blackwater) are examined and the ethical, moral, and political questions pondered in the film give the audience some decent substance to chew on. I have to also note how much I enjoy watching Jason Bateman, who plays a sleazy, morally and sexually ambiguous Washington D.C. PR guy. Whether Bateman is playing drama for laughs (as he did in "Juno"), comedy (TV's "Arrested Development), or straight up drama (as he does here) he's always a joy to watch.

"State of Play" has shades of a modern "All the President's Men" without the level of drama or story of that film, but still achieves what it sets out to do. In a side note, as a former newspaperman, I felt that the end title sequence showing the newspaper making its way from filed story to printing press all the way to the delivery truck felt like a fitting epitath to the current state of the industry I grew to love during my time there.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention there's also adultery, murder, and possibly a plot twist? And that Helen Mirren plays the newspaper editor? I still haven't figured out how a Brit became editor of a major U.S. newspaper in our nation's capitol with an Australian for her star reporter, but I still give "State of Play" three by-lines out of five.