Monday, January 25, 2010

Top 10 TV shows of 2009

Yes, I know this is a little late.. but whatcha gonna do? I'm gonna make this one quick and painless. If you've been following this blog these picks should come as no surprise to you. So here goes:

1. "Lost"
Without a doubt the best show of the past year. I recently rewatched the entire fifth season on blu-ray during the holidays. That final scene in the finale -- it's a doozy. I can't wait to see how it all turns out. Less that two weeks to go!!

2. "Dollhouse"
This show has really come into it's own.. now that it's been canceled. The twists and turns have been crazy good (although some better than others). The actors on this show are some of the best I've seen. I can't say enough about them. Still one episode to go and I hope it's awesome.

3. "Fringe"
Perhaps you've been noticing a theme. Yes I love sci-fi... and this show is just starting to hit its stride. The "mythology" shows are my favorite. I wish they had more of those and less of the "monster of the week" episodes... With the two shows at the top of this list being put to rest this season, I imagine this may end up at the top of the list next year.

4. "Chuck"
Last year's last batch of episodes were great (the Scott Bakula ones). And this season has started off with a bang. Sometimes it feels like not enough is at stake in the show... but when things get serious, I'm all on board. That's not to say I don't like the humor.. I definitely do... but maybe the show should kill off a character so the stakes can be a little higher. One other thing... you can't really go wrong if Adam Baldwin is in the cast.

5. "Supernatural"
Another good sci/fi horror show. I love it when this show tries to be funny. They recently did an episode where the characters got stuck inside of TV shows. Hilarious. The dark stuff is also good. (Satan is loose this season, and the apocalypse is around the corner). The show finds a good balance between mythology and standalone stories.

6. "Friday Night Lights"
I know you guys still aren't watching this show. But you should be. One of the most realistic shows I've ever seen. These feel like real people that you could actually meet in Texas. They lost and added a number of characters and the show hasn't suffered. That's a hard thing to do. This show needs an Emmy.

I will now rate my favorite comedies of last year. I don't think they should compete against dramas... so you can think of this as a new list if you want.

7. "Modern Family"
I tried not to watch this series. I didn't need to add another show to the rotation... but I kept hearing so many rave reviews that I finally gave in and tried it out... and it was worth it. This show is hilarious. I laugh out loud in every episode. The crazy thing? It's also a ratings winner.. so it won't likely end up like "Arrested Development" or "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" (now on DVD). If you haven't seen this, you should. You won't regret it.

8. "Parks and Recreation"
The first season of this show was good but not great. The current season is superb. I know it's a good show when I can't decide who my favorite character is. They've really fleshed the characters out and made them funny. I know a lot of people who gave up on this show after the first season.. To you I say: "Come Back." The show is on hulu... start at the beginning of the season and find the charms of Ron Swanson.

9. "How I Met Your Mother"
Another great cast... particularly my favorite characters Barney Stinson and Marshall Erickson. I particularly like it when they have they're own storylines. The show has made a few mistakes... but the laughs outweigh some of the dumb decisions the writers have made. Plus, they have some cool guest stars.

10. tie "30 Rock" and "The Office"
I really like both of these shows... but the reason they are at the bottom of the list is because this season has been hit or miss with me. Particularly "30 Rock".. I don't know what's happened but it's not as funny as it used to be. I still love Liz and Jack and the rest of the game but they aren't as funny as they were the past few years. "The Office" on the other hand is about the same quality as it has been the past few years. Not as funny as the first few, but still worth putting on your DVR because when they're on they're on. Now if they can just make Jim funny again.

All right your turn, what shows did you like this past year?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The 10 Best Movies of 2009

Top Ten Movies of 2009

Okay, I promised a top ten list and here it is. Let me first say my criteria for this list is which movies I enjoyed watching the most. Not which one had deep ideas, or which one had the best special effects. Simply which ones I enjoyed the most. Okay here goes:

1.(tie) Star Trek/(500 Days of Summer)
It was really hard for me to choose between these two movies. So they will share the top spot. Anyone that's read this blog knows of my love for J.J. Abrams and "Star Trek." Combine the two and you get a great movie. I hope people who say they don't like sci-fi or "Star Trek" will give this movie a try. The writers did a great job of appealing to hard core trekkies and those who don't know what a "mind meld" is. I loved this movie.

"(500) Days of Summer" on the other hand, came out of the blue. I had heard a few good things.. but went in not knowing what to expect. What I found was a charming, true to life, taste of modern day relationships. Not only is it a great look at the highs and lows of relationships, it's also one of the funniest movies of the year. I probably laughed more in this movie than any other movie this year. The film doesn't follow a linear narrative, which is fun, but I think even if it did, it would still be a great movie. The thought that went through my head the most as I watched this movie was: "I've been there." I think that's a great compliment.

3. Fantastic Mr. Fox
The second funniest film of the year came to us from the mind of Wes Anderson. I loved this movie. I'm not sure it's a movie for everyone. But I know I've found a kindred spirit when I hear someone use the words: cluster cuss. The old school animation technique is fun and beautiful to look at. It's not as bright and shiny as Pixar.. but it's cool and quirky. The voice cast is also superb. One of the best Roald Dahl adaptations yet.

4. "Up"
Speaking of Pixar... they did it again. I've read and listened to numerous accounts of the way Pixar makes their movies... and it makes me wish Hollywood would adopt their techniques. These guys are so original and so talented, I don't expect that they will produce many duds. This movie is funny, touching, and exciting. The creative team behind this film has found a great way to balance all of it. Buy it on blu-ray... it looks amazing!

5. "Inglourious Basterds"
This movie was really cool. I love not knowing where a movie is going... and Tarantino is very good at keeping me guessing. I had no idea what was going to happen next in this movie. The acting was great.. the set pieces great.. the dialogue great. Just a great movie.

6. (tie) "Drag Me To Hell"/"Paranormal Activity"
Two horror films tie for fifth place. Sam Raimi redeemed himself for the sadness that was "Spiderman 3" with this fun little film. It was intensely gross in many places... and I thought that was great. The parking lot scene is scarred in my brain.

I recently reviewed "Paranormal Activity," so I won't discuss it too much, but I will just say how impressed I was that the filmmaker made a movie with less money than I have in my bank account. He made this scary little movie for around $11,000. And it made millions and millions of dollars. I don't know how much of that money he ended up getting. But, way to go.

8. "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince"

I've always enjoyed the Harry Potter movies, but this one may be my favorite. I found the movie to be funny, exciting, and, yes, magical. I did have a few problems with the movie. I'm not sure what the scene at the Weasley house was all about. And the end battle sequence could've been a lot cooler if they'd stuck to the battle from the book. But I'm hoping we'll see a really cool battle sequence in "The Deathly Hallows." If you're not a Harry Potter fan I'm not sure how much you can enjoy this movie, but if you are one I think it's definitely worth your time.

9."The Princess and the Frog "

I know some people who thought this movie wasn't very good. But they are wrong. I went to the movie with some children... but in the end I think I enjoyed it more than they did. I left the movie in a good mood and talking about how much I liked it. That doesn't happen too often, so I have to put it in my list. Here's hoping Disney's next traditionally animated film, "Rapunzel" is as good.

10. I am going to leave this spot open because I haven't seen every movie made in 2009. I still haven't seen "The Hurt Locker," or "Up in the Air".... and a number of other buzzy movies. So here's hoping I can put something in here that I can be passionate about.

On a completely unrelated note... I had a commenter ask about my take on the whole NBC late night fiasco. Here it is: Jay Leno sucks!!! Jay Leno hasn't been funny since the 80's. Long live Conan O'Brian! I will follow him wherever he ends up. (hopefully with Andy Richter intact).

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Few Movie Reviews

Okay, I know I promised to write my top ten lists. But I've seen a few movies over the past month or so that I am obligated to review. So you can look forward to seeing the top ten lists a little later.

The first movie I'd like to review is "Avatar." By now you probably have seen "Avatar" or you haven't and you don't plan to. I think everyone should see "Avatar"... just for the visual feast factor. And you definitely have to see it in 3-D. I have a friend who was invited to go see it and when he arrived he realized his friend hadn't known there was a 3-D option. Unbelievable. Poor guy had to watch the movie in regular 2-D... what's the point of that.

I saw the movie a few days after it opened at the IMAX in 3-D. I enjoyed the movie. The special effects are quite amazing... but I thought the plot was only okay. I'm so tired of military cliches. Does every military leader have to be bloodthirsty. Can we have one that's conflicted? That'd be nice... maybe something like Kiefer Sutherland's character in "Monsters and Aliens." Yes I'm saying a cartoon character had more dimensions than Colonel Miles Quaritch. Oh well. And yes as "South Park" put it... the movie is pretty much "Dances with Smurfs." My favorite part was the final battle sequence. It was crazy good. I've heard of a few people who have proclaimed this movie, "The best movie ever." I think they're crazy. It may be the best visual effects movie ever... but best movie ever? No way. Not even close. So I am recommending the movie... but don't expect an original plot. For another good review check out the comments section of the "I'm Back" post.


Next I'll be reviewing "Sherlock Holmes." Robert Downey Jr. is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. He just brings so much fun to every role. And his take on Sherlock Holmes is no exception. Jude Law is also great as Watson. The interplay between the two is the heart of the movie. This is a hyperstylized version of "Holmes" and I'm okay with it. I read most of the books when I was in Junior High and enjoyed them a lot. I don't think this movie strays too far from the original Conan Doyle books. Sure it's filled with action scenes... but I think that the stuffy version of Holmes has been done to death and I enjoyed this fresh take. Having said all that it isn't a perfect movie... and I would've enjoyed more classic Holmes deductions. But a fun two hour adventure.

Grade B+

I finally saw "Inglourious Basterds" on DVD a few weeks ago... and it was a great movie. I've enjoyed most of Quentin Tarantino's films and this was no exception. The best part of the movie was the first twenty minutes or so. I won't give too much a way... but the entire scene is just one conversation between two men... it's one of the most intense scenes I've ever seen. My wife also agrees. Christoph Waltz plays Col. Hans Landa and you can expect he'll be nominated and probably win for the role. Every time he's on screen you can't take your eyes off his crazy character. Brad Pitt and his cohorts are also a lot of fun. Their story line wasn't as big as I'd thought it would be from the trailers but they were perfect for the parts. There's also a plot about the owner of a French cinema that I really enjoyed. Obviously this movie isn't for everyone but for those who think they may enjoy this fictional version of WWII.. you probably will.

Grade: A

I watched the sci-fi film "District 9" a few days ago. I realized when I put in the DVD that I didn't know what the plot was. I knew it took place is South Africa and that there were aliens... but that was about it. So I went in not knowing much. A lot of sci-fi geeks are calling this the best sci-fi movie of the year. I wouldn't go that far, but it was a lot of fun. I would definitely recommend it for fans of the genre. But I wasn't as engaged as I thought I should be. I probably need to watch it again to gain a full appreciation for the film...
Grade for now: B+

Finally... I also saw "Paranormal Activity." I'd heard all the buzz back when it came out and was glad to finally form my own opinion of the horror film. It was great. It was scary and real and also fun. It's this decade's "Blair Witch Project." It also has a little in common with the great "Open Water." The movie basically follows a man and his girlfriend as they try to figure out why she's being haunted. Sure, the guy acts like an idiot.. but that's probably what most guys would do in the same situation. It's all videotaped on a consumer camera ala "Cloverfield." I didn't have any nightmares after watching the movie... but if I was the type of person who was bothered by scary movies, I'm sure I would have.
Grade: A

One more thing of note... I'm thinking about creating a Twitter account where I will give quick reviews of films, books, music, and TV episodes. If that is something you think you'd like to subscribe to, let me know. Until next time...