Thursday, December 27, 2012

A green entertainer

That would be Justin Timberlake.  Read on:

Justin TimberlakeDuring his last concert tour he hired a company to calculate the carbon footprint left by each of his concerts. In the cities that he played in, he then had enough trees planted to offset the carbon footprint that he had left. His work at the Mirimichi Golf Center in Tennessee was no different. He paid special attention to making sure the center was green.

Mirimichi Golf Center is the only golf course in the world to hold both the certificate as an Audubon Classic Sanctuary from Audubon International and one from Golf Environment Organization. Mirimichi Golf Center was the first in the U.S. to receive either of the certificates, too.

From OMG Facts.

2013 Screen Actors Guild Awards

And here are the SAG awards nominations:

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Les Misérables
Silver Linings Playbook

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
John Hawkes for The Sessions
Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables
Denzel Washington for Flight

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty
Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone
Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
Helen Mirren for Hitchcock
Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin for Argo
Javier Bardem for Skyfall
Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master
Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Sally Field for Lincoln
Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables
Helen Hunt for The Sessions
Nicole Kidman for The Paperboy
Maggie Smith for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
"30 Rock"
"The Big Bang Theory"
"Modern Family"
"Nurse Jackie"
"The Office"

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
"Boardwalk Empire"
"Breaking Bad"
"Downton Abbey"
"Mad Men"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin for "30 Rock"
Ty Burrell for "Modern Family"
Louis C.K. for "Louie"
Jim Parsons for "The Big Bang Theory"
Eric Stonestreet for "Modern Family"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Edie Falco for "Nurse Jackie"
Tina Fey for "30 Rock"
Amy Poehler for "Parks and Recreation"
Sofía Vergara for "Modern Family"
Betty White for "Hot in Cleveland"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
Steve Buscemi for "Boardwalk Empire"
Bryan Cranston for "Breaking Bad"
Jeff Daniels for "The Newsroom"
Jon Hamm for "Mad Men"
Damian Lewis for "Homeland"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Claire Danes for "Homeland"
Michelle Dockery for "Downton Abbey"
Jessica Lange for "American Horror Story: Asylum"
Maggie Smith for "Downton Abbey"
Julianna Margulies for "The Good Wife"

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Kevin Costner for "Hatfields & McCoys"
Woody Harrelson for Game Change
Ed Harris for Game Change
Clive Owen for Hemingway & Gellhorn
Bill Paxton for "Hatfields & McCoys"

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Nicole Kidman for Hemingway & Gellhorn
Julianne Moore for Game Change
Charlotte Rampling for Restless
Sigourney Weaver for "Political Animals"
Alfre Woodard for Steel Magnolias

The 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards

Just realized I never posted the Golden Globes nominations, so here we go:

Best Motion Picture - Drama
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Les Misérables
Moonrise Kingdom
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Silver Linings Playbook

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
Richard Gere for Arbitrage
John Hawkes for The Sessions
Joaquin Phoenix for The Master
Denzel Washington for Flight

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty
Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone
Helen Mirren for Hitchcock
Naomi Watts for The Impossible
Rachel Weisz for The Deep Blue Sea

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Jack Black for Bernie
Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook
Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables
Ewan McGregor for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Bill Murray for Hyde Park on Hudson

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Emily Blunt for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Judi Dench for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
Maggie Smith for Quartet
Meryl Streep for Hope Springs

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Alan Arkin for Argo
Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained
Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master
Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln
Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Amy Adams for The Master
Sally Field for Lincoln
Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables
Helen Hunt for The Sessions
Nicole Kidman for The Paperboy

Best Director - Motion Picture
Ben Affleck for Argo
Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty
Ang Lee for Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Argo: Chris Terrio
Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino
Lincoln: Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook: David O. Russell
Zero Dark Thirty: Mark Boal

Best Original Song - Motion Picture
Act of Valor: Monty Powell, Keith Urban ("For You")
The Hunger Games: Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams, T-Bone Burnett ("Safe and Sound")
Les Misérables: Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Herbert Kretzmer ("Suddenly")
Skyfall: Adele, Paul Epworth ("Skyfall")
Stand Up Guys: Jon Bon Jovi ("Not Running Anymore")

Best Original Score - Motion Picture
Anna Karenina: Dario Marianelli
Argo: Alexandre Desplat
Cloud Atlas: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, Tom Tykwer
Life of Pi: Mychael Danna
Lincoln: John Williams

Best Animated Film
Hotel Transylvania
Rise of the Guardians
Wreck-It Ralph

Best Foreign Language Film
The Intouchables
A Royal Affair
Rust and Bone

Best Television Series - Drama
"Boardwalk Empire"
"Breaking Bad"
"Downton Abbey"
"The Newsroom"

Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy
"The Big Bang Theory"
"Modern Family"

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Game Change
The Girl
"Hatfields & McCoys"
"The Hour"
"Political Animals"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama
Steve Buscemi for "Boardwalk Empire"
Bryan Cranston for "Breaking Bad"
Jeff Daniels for "The Newsroom"
Jon Hamm for "Mad Men"
Damian Lewis for "Homeland"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama
Connie Britton for "Nashville"
Glenn Close for "Damages"
Claire Danes for "Homeland"
Michelle Dockery for "Downton Abbey"
Julianna Margulies for "The Good Wife"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy
Alec Baldwin for "30 Rock"
Don Cheadle for "House of Lies"
Louis C.K. for "Louie"
Matt LeBlanc for "Episodes"
Jim Parsons for "The Big Bang Theory"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy
Zooey Deschanel for "New Girl"
Lena Dunham for "Girls"
Tina Fey for "30 Rock"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus for "Veep"
Amy Poehler for "Parks and Recreation"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Kevin Costner for "Hatfields & McCoys"
Benedict Cumberbatch for "Sherlock"
Woody Harrelson for Game Change
Toby Jones for The Girl
Clive Owen for Hemingway & Gellhorn

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Nicole Kidman for Hemingway & Gellhorn
Jessica Lange for "American Horror Story: Asylum"
Sienna Miller for The Girl
Julianne Moore for Game Change
Sigourney Weaver for "Political Animals"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Max Greenfield for "New Girl"
Ed Harris for Game Change
Danny Huston for "Magic City"
Mandy Patinkin for "Homeland"
Eric Stonestreet for "Modern Family"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Hayden Panettiere for "Nashville"
Archie Panjabi for "The Good Wife"
Sarah Paulson for Game Change
Maggie Smith for "Downton Abbey"
Sofía Vergara for "Modern Family"

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Dark Marble

An amazing view of Earth at night, from space:

Nature at its best

Enjoy this gorgeous montage of beautiful vistas from the Southern United States:

Monday, December 03, 2012

In Memoriam

Larry Hagman (1931 – 2012)

larry hagman then     larry hagman now

I was on vacation when I heard the news of the passing of the legendary J.R. Ewing.  Larry Hagman had an impressive resume in his long career, working more in television productions than film, but his star shone (and still shines) as bright as those of the most famous of film actors.

As Dallas’ incomparable bad guy, one of the best examples of baddies we love and hate, he was the heart of that show and it was a pleasure to see him back playing that old character in the very good follow up to the 1980s mainstay.

He will be missed.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Roger RulesThis very unusual title was picked by the kids for Family Night (I clearly would have never picked it on my own!).

The Gist: The middle child in this average American family has to deal with a winy and manipulating younger brother and a grumpy and abusive older one.  His parents seem aloof to his predicament and several awkward and comical situations ensue.

This isn’t the first movie in the Wimpy Kid franchise so I don’t have a way of comparing it to what came before.  As a standalone, it’s just your average teen flick, packed with jokes and situations geared towards getting a rise from middle schoolers, the target audience.

Not much else is there.  The script is quite bare bones and the acting nothing more than acceptable.

The Bottom Line: While it can generate a few chuckles, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules doesn’t impress or leave anything in its pass.  You can watch it with your kids if they’re into it as much as ours are and it’s pretty harmless.

Grade: 5

The Banner #8

The picture I chose for the new banner was taken on October 21, 2012 in Collinsville, Connecticut, during an outing with one of my Meetup groups.

Blog Banner 08

The town is quaint, very pretty, and totally photogenic.  The fall colors simply added to the photo-ops available.  Here’s the full shot:


And the technical details (I was shooting manual):

Lens: Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
F-stop: f/5.6
Exposure: 1/400 sec.
ISO: 200
Focal length: 50 mm

All rights reserved,

The Iron Lady

The Iron LadyI had been longing to watch this movie ever since it came out.  Anything with my beloved Meryl Streep, the greatest actress of all time, deserves watching and this was the one that finally earned her the long-awaited third Oscar, lifting her to the more rarified tier of triple Oscar winners.  Only Katherine Hepburn has more, with four.

The Gist: Margaret Thatcher, now an old lady afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease, was a seminal figure during the second half of the 20th century in Britain but her leadership affected the whole world.  We are taken through the most important events of that time as seen through her eyes and those of the people closest to her.

The Iron Lady is at best an average movie.  Sure, the most important events of Mrs. Thatcher’s reign as one of the most powerful Prime Ministers Britain has ever had are analyzed, but one can feel the countless other events that affected her and the nation bubbling just under the surface.

The editing is only partially effective in creating a good flow and the screenplay is part of the problem.  However, whatever lacks in those areas is more than made up for in others.  Costumes, score, and art direction are all very good, and the makeup is flawless.

Finally, of course, a word about Mrs. Streep’s performance.  While aided by the Oscar winning makeup, it is unimaginably, disarmingly, and utterly impeccable.  Everyone knows she’s a great actress, and I was expecting an excellent performance, but from when she first appears on screen all the way to the closing credits I couldn’t believe the bravura performance I was witnessing.  Over and over I found myself in awe of this woman, mouth agape, staring at the screen.

Now, some might say that’s not a good sign, because it jolts you from the action, or that she was wasted in a movie of such low caliber, but in the end her performance is what “makes” The Iron Lady a movie worth watching in spite of its imperfections.  Mrs. Streep’s performance in this movie should be a case study for every aspiring student thespian.

The Bottom Line: While not memorable as far as biography adaptations for the big screen go, Meryl Streep’s performance is so good that it makes this a must-see for any cinephile worthy of his or her name.

Grade: 7

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


9I was undecided whether to watch this movie with the kids or not, since it was animated, but after a few scenes I realized it would have been too scary for them (especially Nicole).  The movie is correctly rated PG-13.

The Gist: 9 is a rag doll who suddenly awakens in a post apocalyptic world.  After finding others like him, he sets out to find a way to salvage whatever he can of the world as it once was.

A very different kind of animated movie, geared towards an older audience than the usual fare, 9 confronts the perils of what happens when technology and weapons get out of hand very effectively.

The Bottom Line: An original script, solid voice over work, and excellent technical work come together in an interesting film that stands apart from the many animated movies we’re accustomed to see, even though it is no masterpiece.

Grade: 7

Friends with Benefits

friends with benefitsThe title pretty much says it all for this average comedy and I won’t deny that the subject matter and the male lead are precisely the reasons why I decided to check it out.

The Gist: While venting about their recent break ups, a guy and a girl lament the general view each gender holds of the opposite one in regards to sex.  They then decide to prove to each other that they can be friends and have sex without any romantic interferences.

Mila Kunis, a good actress I first admired in Black Swan, is overall good but at times too flimsy.  Justin Timberlake, whose acting chops are improving with time, offers a more uneven performance: sometimes he inhabits his character, others he just plays it.  Perhaps the simple and light screenplay didn’t anchor them enough.

The one cameo worth mentioning is Woody Harrelson’s, who steals the few scenes he’s in as the upfront and outgoing gay token.

The Bottom Line: Friends with Benefits is a fairly inconsequential comedy that moves too fast at times but overall entertains thanks to its easy-on-the-eyes leads.  You can find worse ways to waste a couple hours I guess.

Grade: 6

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Next, by Michael Crichton

Next, by Michael CrichtonCrichton is one of my favorite authors even though this is only the second of his books that I’ve read, the other one being Congo.  The reason I love his work so much is that he’s the author of such fare as Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, and Rising Sun, and while I haven’t read the books, I’ve seen the movies based on them.

Now, some are jewels (like Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain) and others are duds (like Congo and Sphere), but I loved Congo the book, so I feel confident that I’d enjoy his other books as well.

Crichton wrote thrillers with a sci-fi bend, for which I have a natural inclination.  In Next he tackles the troubling to nightmarish scenarios that can occur when scientific exploration as it relates to genetic research is highjacked for financial gain and by unscrupulous lawyers.

The book follows several storylines that at times converge while at others taper off on their own, but is well written, intriguing, alarming, and at times shocking, especially when you realize that all that Mr. Crichton wrote about could actually occur.

Grade: 8

Source Code

Source CodeIf you like a mind-bending, action laden thriller with a serving of sci-fi, look no further than Source Code.

The Gist: A maimed marine is recruited for a super secret mission involving him temporarily “living” inside someone else’s mind.  The goal is to prevent a terrorist attack.

The movies plunges the audience into the action and it takes a bit to understand what is going on in the two parallel realities our hero is operating in, but once you do all you can really do is go “Whoa!”

The magnetically handsome Jake Gyllenhaal expertly navigates his way around the challenges of playing someone whose worldview is upended and blown away over and over again.

The Bottom Line: Source Code’s concept is mind blowing and the execution is fantastic.  Gyllenhaal is great and so are Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright.  It is definitely one of the better movies out there.  Don’t miss it.

Grade: 8

Corpse Bride

Corpse BrideThe King of Darkness, aka Tim Burton, is back with another stop motion wonder, even though this one doesn’t marvel as much as Nightmare Before Christmas.

The Gist: A wedding of convenience arranged by two sets of greedy parents for two very timid souls is upended by the arrival on the scene of a cadaverous bride who believes the groom just married her.

The movie is technically impeccable and in spite of the glaring differences between this type of animation and the computer generated one we’re more accustomed to, it’s well made and endearing.

The vocal cast is great and the score, by longtime Burton collaborator Danny Elfman, a perfect accompaniment.

The Bottom Line: Although it suffers when compared to Christmas, Corpse Bride is an entertaining animated film that perhaps shouldn’t be shown to the littlest ones because after all one of the main characters is still a dead (and rotting) body.

Grade: 7

African Cats

African CatsThis Disney documentary about life in the African savannah for these wonderful animals is incredibly well made. 

Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, we are introduced to two families of lions and lionesses and one fierce cheetah mother with her cubs.

The images are absolutely incredible: amazing vistas, massive migrations, ferocious attacks, and profound familial attachment.  It boggles the mind to think of the technical hurdles that were overcome to make such a movie.

The most touching part for me was watching the oldest lioness fighting to ensure her cub’s survival in the pride when she feels her end approaching.  Having a very old dog ourselves, who is now almost 16 years old, I could see so many similar behaviors and it would often break my heart thinking of how she must feel and how aware she must be that her end too is slowly approaching.

I would recommend this movie to all except maybe very young children since some of the attacks can be pretty intense, even tough some might argue that it’s all part of nature.

Grade: 7

Monday, November 12, 2012


WeedsThe final season of this odd Showtime show was not very good.  I always liked the show’s quirkiness but lately it had started to become long in the tooth.  How long could this woman keep selling marijuana for?  How many ways can she find of getting away with it?  How many more dangerous situations can she get herself out of without serious consequences?

Weeds had clearly endured past its shelf life, and I was all but ready to stop watching it when I found out that this would be its last season.  Ultimately though, it left me wanting for a send-off more in line with the show’s rebellious spirit than this attempt to please everyone.

Many years have passed since we last saw Nancy Botwin and now she’s apparently quite rich, the opposite of what she was when we first met her, which forced her to start selling weed to begin with.  She feels like a completely different character.  Her extended “family” seems to be doing quite well too, each in their own way, which again runs counter to what we had grown accustomed to.  Most jarring though is the fact that they seem to now live in a very distant future without having aged more than a few years (their telephones feel like 2080 and marijuana production is legalized across the nation).

Ray enjoyed the way the show ended but for me it concluded in the worst possible way.  I’d have preferred to see them destitute and on their way to the next big adventure rather than rich and settled.  It just felt like a copout on the part of the creators.

Overall, the show was well made and enjoyable, it had just grown too old and weak under its own weight I guess.  I’d still recommend the first 4 or 5 seasons to everyone though.  Mary-Louise Parker is phenomenal and I’d take any chance to lay my eyes on Hunter Parrish, thank you very much!!

Grade – Season 8: 5

Grade for the Show: 7

Fright Night

Fright NightAfter the bitter disappointment that was watching the original Fright Night, the remake felt like a masterpiece.  Incredible, huh?

The Gist: A teenager figures out that his new neighbor is a vampire, who now starts toying with him before taking him out.

Hollywood is enamored with remaking old movies that are either classics (like Psycho) or have a cult following, like the original Fright Night.  It oftentimes doesn’t work, whether because the original was too good to be topped (and Psycho is only one such example) or because the original has withstood the test of time and doesn’t feel antiquated.

In the case of Fright Night, however, the original was so awfully bad that its remake earns high marks by comparison!  Uber hot Colin Farrell plays the vampire with intensity and gusto, counterweighted by uber cute Anton Yelchin, whose name recognition is quickly rising.

The visual effects and makeup are fantastic, but it’s the screenplay that makes this a good movie overall.  The story is well developed and, in spite of the subject matter, utterly believable.  In the True Blood era vampires are all the rage, but a good vampire story is still hard to tell (just look at the Twilight saga here, here, and here).

The Bottom Line: Fright Night manages to be a frightening tale that doesn’t disappoint and easily makes up for the shortcomings of its predecessor.

Grade: 7

Fright Night

fright night 1985This horror movie from the 80s was recently remade (that review is coming up) and as I often do, I wanted to see both to judge whether the remake improved on the original and whether a remake was necessary or a good idea in the first place.

The Gist: A teenager ends up having more adventures than he bargained for after the discovery that a murderous vampire has moved next door.

Saying that I was disappointed with this movie is not totally correct.  I was more offended by its campiness and what felt like a lack of professionalism.

I thought I was going into a horror movie deserving of its name and instead got bad acting, a discombobulated script, and poor visual effects and makeup (although given the time and perhaps a limited budget, I generally tend to excuse those).

The Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a real horror movie, and not an involuntary laugh-fest, then you might want to steer clear of this one.  There are more times when the acting is bad, the timing is off, and the action is ridiculous than I can count.  All that happens on the screen just doesn’t make sense, vampires or not.

Grade: 3

Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and AliensTwo things attracted me to this movie, the sci-fi genre and Daniel Craig, even though both the critics’ and the public’s reception were only lukewarm.  Ultimately, I feel the same.

The Gist: It’s the 18th century and a violent and brutal alien race has landed on Earth to begin an invasion.  A bunch of cowboys and Native Americans are all that stand in their way.

The premise sounded interesting because usually alien invasions happen in the present or the future, not in such a distant past, which makes fighting them and their necessarily more advanced technology virtually impossible.

The screenplay is a little thin though, so try their best as they might, the actors end up looking like cardboard.  There’s the standard bad guy, the typical hero with a not-so-clean conscience, and the inevitable strong-willed female to fall in love with.  Not too many surprises.

The Bottom Line: Cowboys and Aliens is watchable but you keep hoping for it to soar higher than it ultimately does.  Good action scenes and an acceptable concept make for a generic film that’s soon forgotten.

Grade: 6

Friday, November 09, 2012

Three more friendly states

This past Tuesday, on Election Day, for the first time ever, voters approved same-sex marriage at the voting booth in not one, not two, but three states!!!

A big THANK YOU to Maine




and Washington


It was a glorious night for LGBT rights all over the map.  Aside from adding 3 more states to the total number allowing marriage equality and re-electing the most LGBT friendly president we’ve ever had, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was defeated in Minnesota (again, for the first time), and the first openly lesbian Senator, Tammy Baldwin, was elected to the US Senate.

The tide seems to have clearly turned in our favor and our opponents have lost the last weapon they had against us, that whenever the question was put to the people, we lost, which meant that the people weren’t on our side (regardless of the rightfulness of putting a minority’s civil rights to a popular vote).  This time, the people didn’t just hand us a victory, they did so times three, forever shattering that lone, last argument against marriage equality.

A great night full of positive news and results that will hopefully reverberate for years to come.

Videos that make me smile and hope

Via Towleroad two wonderful videos by Mike Buonaiuto about the power of love:

Wonderful.  Just wonderful.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Four More Years!!

President Barak Obama won reelection last night.  The happiness is indescribable.

Not only that, but we now have the first openly gay US Senator elected to a first term and we won marriage equality in 2 more states, Maine and Maryland.  A third, Washington, looks poised to follow suit and we also defeated a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality in Minnesota.

We kept the Senate and even added a couple seats.

Overall, it was a great night for LGBT people in this country and for Democrats.

Love this cartoon by J.D. Crowe:

O 4

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Things are looking good

After hundreds of millions of dollars spent (this time we passed the $2 billion mark!!), today is, finally, Election Day.

Tonight we should know the outcome of the most expensive US presidential campaign ever, but I like the odds that Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight gives President Barack Obama for winning a second term in office:

11-6-2012 9-19-11 AM

Thursday, November 01, 2012

A non-polluting fuel

It appears that British scientists have figured out a way to create a synthetic fuel that doesn’t pollute at all:

Engineers in London said this week that they’ve developed a new type of synthetic vehicle fuel that’s created out of water and thin air, literally by pulling carbon molecules out of the atmosphere and recycling them.

Speaking to a conference this week put on by the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers, researchers with Air Fuel Synthesis, Ltd. said they’ve successfully married a synthetic fuel production technique that dates back to World War II with modern atmospheric carbon capture and sequestration methods.

The resulting product, they said, works in all current vehicles, can be blended with conventional fuels, and just might be a game changer for human energy and the fight against climate change if it’s ever produced on a large enough scale.

“We haven’t broken the Second Law of Thermodynamics or anything,” Air Fuel Synthesis spokesperson Graham Truscott told Raw Story. “We take carbon, we combine it with hydrogen, put it in a reactor to make methanol, then we take the methanol and put that in another reactor to make petrol. The processes of making synthetic petrol from carbon are well known and have been around for many, many years. The Germans were doing it during the Second World War. The South Africans were doing it during the apartheid years. But they were taking their carbon source from coal. We’re taking our carbon source from the atmosphere.”

That’s been a goal of many scientists over the years, and significant investment has been poured into London-based research on nanomaterials that attract carbon molecules in the atmosphere. Researchers hope that these materials will not only be able to aid in the production of carbon-neutral fuels, but could also be useful in helping prevent carbon emissions from major polluters like coal plans and oil refineries.

[…] The drawback, of course, is that the process of creating this synthetic fuel is quite energy intensive, so it doesn’t get nearly as far toward its goal of being carbon neutral if the electricity used to synthesize atmospheric carbon into gas comes from burning fossil fuel. It’s also expensive: the team only produced about five liters of their synthetic fuel, at a cost of about $1 million for the whole project. But that’s not the point, they say.

Air Fuel Synthesis thinks the tripping points of cost and efficiency can be overcome by using renewable sources to like solar and wind to drive production, and they aim to prove it by building a large commercial plant within the next two years that will turn out up to a ton of carbon neutral fuel every day. They say their first target is the motor sports industry, which could benefit from a cleaner fuel.

Fantastic news.  Hopefully, they will be able to produce this fuel economically enough and Big Oil won’t succeed in curtailing this clear threat to their bottom line.



Here’s a fantastic computer generated video from NASA about the formation and evolution of galaxies in the universe.  It’s simply fascinating.

Star Wars to get a new life

Disney announced to purchase of Lucasfilm Ltd. and all its subsidiaries:

A decade since George Lucas said “Star Wars” was finished on the big screen, a new trilogy under new ownership is destined for theaters after The Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday that it was buying Lucasfilm Ltd. from him for $4.05 billion.

The seventh movie, with a working title of “Episode 7,” is set for release in 2015. Episodes 8 and 9 will follow. The trilogy will continue the story of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia beyond “Return of the Jedi,” the third film released and the sixth in the saga. After that, Disney plans a new “Star Wars” movie every two or three years. Lucas will serve as creative consultant in the new movies.

“I’m doing this so that the films will have a longer life,” Lucas, the 68-year-old creator of the series and sole owner of Lucasfilm, said in an interview posted on YouTube. “I get to be a fan now ... I sort of look forward to it. It’s a lot more fun actually, than actually having to go out into the mud and snow.”

[…] The deal includes Lucasfilm’s prized high-tech production companies, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, as well as rights to the “Indiana Jones” franchise.

Lucas was hailed as a cinematic visionary when the original “Star Wars” came out in 1977. But he had become an object of often-vicious ridicule by the time he released 3-D versions of all six films in the Star Wars franchise earlier this year.

Die-hard Star War fans had been vilifying Lucas for years, convinced that he had become a commercial sell-out and had compounded his sins by desecrating the heroic tale that he originally sought to tell.

They railed against him for adding grating characters such as Jar Jar Binks in the second trilogy and attacked him for tinkering with the original trilogy, too. Any revision in special edition or home video releases — such as making the Ewoks blink or having a green-skinned alien named Greedo take the first shot at Han Solo in a famous bar scene — were treated as blasphemy.

I think this will be good for Star Wars.  Lucas created a fantastic universe with wonderful characters and storylines, but his insistence on keeping full control on scripts and directing duties clearly resulted in the inferior products of the prequels.

Considering that previously he had only directed the original Star Wars, and that the other two (especially The Empire Strikes Back) were much better, I think it’s safe to assume that an injection of new blood will only benefit the franchise.

Hopefully though, Disney won’t frak up…


Monday, October 22, 2012

Sanctuary (Dragonlance: Elven Exiles, Vol. 1), by Paul B. Thompson and Tonya C. Cook

Sanctuary (Dragonlance Elven Exiles, Vol. 1)This book was a gift from my daughter for my birthday.  She knew I liked fantasy and from the back cover description it looked like I might like it.  She was right, except that unfortunately it was the first volume of a series.

The book is quite enjoyable and I started to really like the different storylines intersecting each other and clashing with one another.  Unfortunately, around the two-thirds mark I started to have the dreadful feeling that there wouldn’t be a conclusion to the book (that it wasn’t a stand alone book).  I started to understand that if I wanted to know what would happen next I’d have to get the next volume in the series, and then the next.

Now, you might ask, “Well, what’s wrong with that?  If you liked the book, then get the follow ups.”  Actually, there are two problems.  One is that I didn’t pick the book myself and I probably never would have.  Partly because I’d have had to commit to the trilogy and partly because it didn’t particularly inspire me from the back cover synopsis.

Two, I have 3 shelves of books at home that I’ve been collecting and wanting to read for years now.  Since I’m not a fast reader, I cannot afford the luxury of picking up 2 more volumes just to find out what happens in a book that I hadn’t pick myself.  I feel a little bad because it was a gift, but only a little, since I did enjoy it after all.

Sanctuary tells the story of an elven race exiled by war from its realms and looking for a new place to call home.  There is plenty of intrigue and action, so if fantasy is your genre, do check it out, but make sure you won’t mind having to read all 3 if you want to find out what happens.

Grade: 6

Friday, October 19, 2012

Arsenic and Old Lace

Arsenic and Old LaceRay picked this movie for family night and I was curious to see what the kids would have said with a movie that wasn’t animated and (gulp!!) colorless.  Once again, the kids confirmed that children look at everything with an open mind.  Not a comment was made for either the lack of animation or color, and the only complaint was that it was “too scary.”

The Gist: A famed columnist is about to get married when he realizes that his two sweet aunts are cold blooded murderers who believe that they’re doing a service to the poor souls who end up buried in their cellar.  More high jinks ensue.

The movie is very funny and Cary Grant brings all his notorious charm to the plate.  The aunts are a riot and the screenplay is excellent in how it weaves all the different parts of the plot together.

A side note: they clearly didn’t have people watching out for “continuity” back then since parts of outfits changed here and there and not very subtly either.

The Bottom Line: Arsenic and Old Lace is a very enjoyable movie that deserves to be called a classic.  A good find.

Grade: 7

La Fine è il Mio Inizio, by Tiziano Terzani

La Fine è il Mio InizioThe title of this book translates to “The End is my Beginning” and it’s an interesting biographical account of a journalist’s very rich life.  It is recounted in the form of the journalist, Mr. Terzani, relaying thoughts and memories to his son, who records them on tape.

The stories gripped me right away because of the similarities that there were between Mr. Terzani’s childhood and mine in many ways.  After that, the amazing stories of what this man has witnessed and has been a part of keep your interest firmly in place.

I believe one of the main goals of the book is to help the listener take stock of his life and eventually make certain adjustments and corrections geared towards improving it.  I believe it’s a worthwhile goal and it’s can help those willing to listen.

The most important thing I took away from this book was a sense of freedom and relief for one specific comment the author makes.  Mr. Terzani spent the majority of his life in some country other than Italy, his homeland, just like I seem to be destined to do.  At some point, he tells his son that he didn’t want to go back to live in Italy because he didn’t feel like he belonged there, that it wasn’t were he wanted to be and live.  That it felt like it was too tight for his skin and he felt out of place.

That’s when I realized that I felt exactly the same way.  That realization made me feel a little better about leaving my parents behind and moving to America.  It made me realize that I hadn’t made a mistake or done anything wrong.  That the reason I never felt comfortable in Italy, and still don’t, is that I just never belonged there.  And that there’s nothing wrong with that feeling or with me.  It’s just the way it is.  It was such a huge relief.

Overall, this is a very good book, but I do have a technical gripe.  Whoever cut the tracks should be fired immediately and lose his retirement account.  I’m pretty sure that a large section of the audio book audience is composed by drivers.  Listening to audio books makes long commutes (or trips) more bearable, but driving still has to take precedence, so I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds himself rewinding often or going back to the beginning of the last track.

Well, in this audio book tracks number only 3 or 4 per disc on average and some are under 5 minutes long.  That means that the other tracks are 40-50 minutes long!!  Has the genius who thought that this was a good idea ever listened to an audio book in his life?  Does he realize how easy it is, especially in a car, which can go over a bump or something, to let go of the rewind function and instead skip to the beginning of the track?  What if you were 33 minutes into a 48 minute track?  Now you have to hold down the fast forward or the rewind button for several minutes.  Pick your poison.

I ended up ripping the discs to my computer, breaking the tracks up in smaller sections, and burning them to new discs, but that’s not something everyone can do, and for those people all that’s left is the frustration of having to be super careful when touching the rewind button.  That alone can greatly diminish the desire to listen to any audio book.

Grade: 7

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Barbra and Jason

A beautiful duet of mother and son:

I have to admit that Jason Gould has an incredible voice and has definitely inherited the right genes from his mom!

A Single Man

A Single ManAfter hearing so many good things about A Single Man, I couldn’t wait to see it.  All the praises are well deserved.

The Gist: After the sudden death of his lover, a closeted English professor is faced with the unending sadness of having to face his daily life on his own.

Fashion designer Tom Ford’s first venture into filmmaking is a verified hit.  His day job brings a very sophisticated attention to technical details to the fore: costumes, camera work, photography, makeup, set decoration, everything is highly stylized and perfectly in synch with the movie’s period.  But he also shows an incredible skill in directing his actors into giving memorable performances and in bringing the entire production together.

Julianne Moore is very good as the protagonist’s best friend and only line of support, but it’s Colin Firth who gives the performance of a lifetime.  It’s hard to state that Jeff Bridges (who won that year for Crazy Heart) robbed him of his Oscar since Mr. Bridges had never won himself, was awesome in Crazy Heart, and is an institution in the industry, but Mr. Firth’s win the following year for The King’s Speech was clearly to make up for his loss here (unarguably due in no small part to the gay theme).

The Bottom Line: A Single Man has an elegiac feel to it that pervades it with infinite sadness, but it’s also funny and sweet and will certainly keep you glued from beginning to end.  I can safely say that it’s a must-see movie for anyone interested in good films and one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

Grade: 9

True Blood

True BloodThe fifth season of True Blood started out very weakly but fortunately improved a lot as time went on and finished with the usual bang.  And what a bang it was!!

Also, all the talk about adding the super-sexy Christopher Meloni to the cast turned out to be much ado about nothing, given that he was only in 3-4 episodes (boo!).

Season 5’s overarching theme was the power and goals of the often mentioned Vampire Authority.  Its secrecy and reach were explored in depth and over time they became more interesting then they were at the very beginning.

As usual, be prepared for characters making an entrance or an exit, twists and shockers, and an overall good time.

This was the last season supervised by creator Alan Ball, so we’ll have to see how much things will change next year.  I sure can’t wait, I totally crave this show.

Grade – Season 5: 6

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Star Trek Nemesis

Star Trek NemesisI had first watched this movie in theaters and felt like watching it again.  I remember being excited when it came out, because I really like Star Trek, but not loving it too much.  As often is the case, I also wanted the advantage of the subtitles to make sure all the plot points were very clear.

Unfortunately, my first reaction might have been even too kind.  The movie really is subpar and feels like nothing more than an overlong TV episode.  Even the cast seems to have phoned this one in.

Time has not been kind to the last of the “Generations” Star Trek movies, and I cannot say Nemesis doesn’t deserve the criticism.  It is an inferior product and feels very tired.

Grade: 3

Green Lantern

Green LanternRunning out of super heroes from the top tier of world famous comic books, Hollywood is now reaching down among the “lesser known” characters to milk the comic book craze for all it’s worth.

The Gist: Hal Jordan, a fighter jet test pilot, is chosen by an intergalactic army to replace the Green Lantern assigned to Earth’s quadrant now that he has been killed.  The learning curve, after acceptance and discovery of his new powers, is steep, dangerous, and hampered by the biggest threat the planet has ever faced.

Ryan Reynolds, whose stunning physique perfectly fills the Green Lantern uniform, brings a lot of effervescence to the role of a hero whose only weapon is a big ring and his own imagination.  Unfortunately, that weapon isn’t as striking as Spiderman’s web slinging or Batman’s gadgets, and the result is a less arresting final product.

The Bottom Line: While the visuals might be stunning (both Reynolds’ and the visual effects…) the end result is uneven and looks more like a patchwork than a well flowing movie.  Up to you, but Reynolds doesn’t disappoint.

Grade: 4

Puss in Boots

Puss in BootsThis Shrek spin off looks like a good first effort, even though it never rises to the heights of its bigger brother.

The Gist: Puss in Boots, a cat quite skilled with a blade and a big lothario, falls for Kitty Softpaws after she messes up his latest heist.  Through Kitty, Puss will reunite with Humpty Alexander Dumpty, an old friend and now sworn enemy.

The movie is certainly enjoyable and I was very impressed by the breadth of the action scenes and sets.  This was definitely a big undertaking in the attempt to expand the Shrek brand, and it likely paid off.

I’m not really interested in who does what voice in an animated movie, but the script is quite funny and well written, the storylines sprawling, the animation top-notch, and the direction strong.

The Bottom Line: I’d definitely recommend this for families and kids, but I have my reservations regarding how far the Puss franchise can go.  Considering that Shrek got worse with every iteration and started quite high in terms of artistic achievement, Puss has an uphill battle ahead of him.

Grade: 7

The Haunting

The HauntingThis modern remake of a classic horror movie doesn’t win many accolades and falls mostly flat.

The Gist: A psychology professor lures unknowing test subjects to an uninhabited mansion, mostly segregated from the outside world, to test the sensation of fear in the human mind.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the mansion is really uninhabited.

Liam Neeson looks very stiff and Catherine Zeta-Jones feels too theatrical (I still find her quite sub-par as an actress, Oscar or not).  Owen Wilson and Lily Taylor on the contrary, look more at ease and better fill their characters’ shoes.

I was surprised to see that the movie was directed by famed action director Jan de Bont, whose body of work I mostly like.  Clearly, there was weakness in every department here, from the screenplay, to the direction, to the acting.  The only effective elements seemed to be the visual effects.

The Bottom Line: I’d stay away from it.  The scares are few and the the fun even less.

Grade: 3

Monday, October 15, 2012

Losing the primates

Worrying news for our closest relatives on this planet:

Twenty-five species of monkeys, langurs, lemurs and gorillas are on the brink of extinction and need global action to protect them from increasing deforestation and illegal trafficking, researchers said Monday.

[…] Conservation efforts have helped several species of primates, which are no longer listed as endangered, said the report, prepared every two years by some of the world's leading primate experts.

[…] Among the most severely hit was the northern sportive lemur with only 19 known individuals left in the wild in Madagascar.

"Lemurs are now one of the world's most endangered groups of mammals, after more than three years of political crisis and a lack of effective enforcement in their home country, Madagascar," said Christoph Schwitzer of the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation, one of the groups involved in the study.

"A similar crisis is happening in Southeast Asia, where trade in wildlife is bringing many primates very close to extinction," Schwitzer said.

More than half of the world's 633 types of primates are in danger of becoming extinct because of human activity such as the burning and clearing of tropical forests, the hunting of primates for food and the illegal wildlife trade.

At least there are also some good news:

While the situation appears dire for some species, wildlife researchers say conservation efforts are beginning to pay off, with several primates being removed from the list, now in its seventh edition.

[…] Also, conservation efforts have ensured that the world did not lose a single primate species to extinction in the 20th century, and no primate has been declared extinct so far this century, said Russell A. Mittermeier, president of Conservation International and the chairman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's primate specialist group.

Link here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Will the universe put on a good show for us in 2013?

Scientists discovered a new comet whose trajectory should bring it exceptionally close to Earth next year:

As it flares out of the distant Oort Cloud, the newly discovered comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) appears to be heading on a trajectory that could make for one of the most spectacular night-sky events in living memory.

[…] Astronomers predict that the comet will pass just 1.16 million miles from the Sun as it swings around its perihelion, or closest approach. The close approach will melt enormous amounts of the comet’s ice, releasing dust and gas and forming what should be a magnificent tail.

After it loops around the Sun and forms this tail, the comet should then pass relatively close to Earth—not near enough to cause any worry, but close enough to put on a great show. Viewers in the Northern Hemisphere will get the best view as the comet blooms in the weeks approaching Christmas 2013. The comet could grow as bright as the full moon.

Naturally, I’m totally looking forward to this event and hope it’ll match or surpass expectations, but I also know that a lot of people will think that since it’s coming near Christmas it’s probably a sign of the Second Coming or something.

Well, like Meryl Streep said, Whatever!

Link here.

A new monkey

Scientists have discovered a new species of African monkey whose facial features look, to me, strikingly human:


Scientists have identified a new species of African monkey whose coloring “is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” as one of them put it.

[…] The researchers found that the monkeys live in the central part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and have a range of about 6,500 square miles.

[… ] The lesula lives in remote regions that are largely unthreatened by human settlement. But John Hart warned, “Under the current trends of uncontrolled bush-meat hunting, it could become very endangered.”

I don’t see how anyone looking at this new monkey species can doubt that humans and apes are closely related.  Let’s hope we don’t lose it too soon…

More here.

Adele does 007

Long rumored to have been tapped to record the theme for the latest installment of the 007 franchise, here’s Adele’s Skyfall:

I like it and I find it a good throwback to the golden age of 007 themes, which was around the 70s, a perfect comparison for Adele.

Elton John

Formerly not interested in the fight for same-sex marriage, here’s what he says now:

“I know a lot of people, and perhaps especially religious people, will say that David and I should count ourselves lucky for living in a country that allows civil partnerships, and call it quits there. In most countries around the world, gay people aren't just disallowed from coming together in a legal sense; they are actually persecuted by governments because of their sexuality. Maybe we should just be happy that we at least have a civil partnership, and not push our luck.

Well, I don't accept this. I don't accept it because there is a world of difference between calling someone your "partner" and calling them your "husband". "Partner" is a word that should be preserved for people you play tennis with, or work alongside in business. It doesn't come close to describing the love that I have for David, and he for me. In contrast, "husband" does. A "husband" is somebody that you cherish forever, that you would give up everything for, that you love in sickness and in health. Until the law recognises David Furnish is my husband, and not merely my partner, the law won't describe the man I know and adore.”


P!nk’s latest music video is one of the sexiest and most well made I’ve ever seen:

Oh, and the song is nice too!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

I Think it’s Going To Rain Today

Via Towleroad comes a beautiful video for a very old Barbra Streisand song that was never released:

The Romans

Read this tweet a few days ago from @OMGFactsSex:

The early Roman empire recognized marriage between same sex partners

How come 2,000 years later, give or take, we still haven’t caught up??

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In Memoriam

Neil Armstrong (1930 – 2012)

Neil Armstrong


Neil Armstrong was an American astronaut and the first person to set foot on the Moon. He was also an aerospace engineer, U.S. Navy pilot, test pilot, university professor, and served in the Korean War.

Armstrong joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1962. His first spaceflight was the NASA Gemini 8 mission in 1966, for which he was the command pilot, becoming one of the first U.S. civilians in space. On this mission, he performed the first manned docking of two spacecraft with pilot David Scott.

Armstrong's second and last spaceflight was as mission commander of the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969. On this mission, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface and spent 2½ hours exploring, while Michael Collins remained in orbit in the Command Module.


In 1969, Neil Armstrong was one of several dozen former test-pilots -- all smart, all confirmed adrenaline junkies -- who'd spent the last decade working for NASA, prepping for a variety of ludicrously dangerous possible missions into space. He commanded the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, and, on July 20th of that year, was the first Earthling to walk on it. What he said when he set foot on that alien world is perhaps the most well-known English language phrase of the last century, even though the technology used to relay the message to Earth might have bungled it. What Armstrong thought he said -- or, at least, what he meant to say -- was: "One small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind."

No Earthlings have visited the moon since 1972.

From the Armstrong family:

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Falling Skies

Falling SkiesAfter a very promising start, Falling Skies came back with lots of action for a second season that moved the story along nicely, providing plenty of action and drama.

Our group of fighters/survivors have successfully hit back at the enemy, inflicting casualties and, more importantly, fear.  The aliens, however, still have superior firepower and have no qualms about using it.  Also, they now have Tom Mason.

I have to hand it to the producers and writers of this show for keeping things interesting and original from beginning to end.  All the characters are fully fleshed out and there are no incongruences in the plot development that would cause one to lose focus.

The end of the season brought on the scene a new entity that could be friend of foe, but we’ll have to wait for next summer to find out.  Looking forward to it.

Grade – Season 2: 7

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Meryl’s oeuvre

Here’s a nice little graphical display of the fantastically diversified and multifaceted body of work of my beloved and unique Meryl Streep.  What are your favorite 3 roles?

Meryl's quadrants

Mine would have to be Postcards from the Edge, The Devil Wears Prada, and Sophie’s Choice.

Hugh Hefner

This is what Playboy’s founder and publisher had to say about same-sex marriage:

Hugh Hefner“The fight for gay marriage is, in reality, a fight for all of our rights. Without it, we will turn back the sexual revolution and return to an earlier, puritanical time. Today, in every instance of sexual rights falling under attack, you’ll find legislation forced into place by people who practice discrimination disguised as religious freedom. Their goal is to dehumanize everyone’s sexuality and reduce us to using sex for the sole purpose of perpetuating our species. To that end, they will criminalize your entire sex life...This is a religious nation, but it is also a secular one. … No one should have to subjugate their religious freedom, and no one should have their personal freedoms infringed. This is America and we must protect the rights of all Americans.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

In Memoriam

Phyllis Diller (1917 – 2012)

Phyllis Diller

Famed comedienne and sometimes actress Phyllis Diller passed away today.  She was 95.

I didn’t know her much, aside from some comedic appearance, and the only movie I’ve ever “seen” her in is Pixar’s little gem A Bug’s Life.

In spite of that, even I knew she was a titan.  It’s the end of an era.


In Memoriam

Tony Scott (1944 - 2012)

Tony Scott

Famed Hollywood director Tony Scott took his life yesterday by jumping off a bridge in Los Angeles, California.

While Tony never achieved the commercial or critical success enjoyed by his older brother Ridley, he worked in both film and TV arenas with remarkable success.

Here are the titles I remember him for the most: Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Revenge, Days of Thunder, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, The Fan, Man on Fire, Déjà vu, and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Adam Levine

adam levineSinger-songwriter, musician, front man and guitarist for the pop rock band Maroon 5, and the most famous among the coaches on the American talent show The Voice:

“It's just so silly and it doesn't make any sense to me that you wouldn't be able to marry whomever you want to marry. It's not our business. I don't know why we're obsessed with making everything in this country our business, all the time. It seems we're a little behind on that, and we just need to make it legal and stop caring so much. It doesn't matter. And it shouldn't matter.”


DallasWhen I first heard the news of a Dallas reboot, I immediately decided that I would at least give it a chance, to see if they came up with a show that was as good as I remembered the original being.

I was hooked from the first episode.  The new Dallas has the same key elements of the original: intrigue, twists, and intricate storylines that keep the viewer glued to the screen.

The cast features old guard greats Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, and Linda Gray in regular roles, with Ken Kercheval, Charlene Tilton, and Steve Kanaly all making cameo appearances (although Kercheval’s seems to be turning into a more regular role).  Needless to say, they’re all still perfect in the roles that made them famous worldwide three decades ago.

The new faces are Josh Henderson, Jesse Metcalfe, Jordana Brewster, Julie Gonzalo, and Brenda Strong.  They all play interesting roles and have gradually started creating fully fleshed characters.

The decision to pick up the story right where the characters would have been in a real timeline, rather then attempting to remake the original show (like it’s been done so many times in the last few years, always with miserable results) has paid off greatly.  The show feels fresh and interesting and it’s a treat to watch.

The biggest hat tip goes to the writers and producers, who conjured up a season so full of intrigue, backstabbing, and twists to fill not one but 4 seasons worth of material.  I’m really anxious to find out what they come up with for season 2.

Grade – Season 1: 8

Underworld: Awakening

Underworld AwakeningThe fourth chapter in the Underworld franchise, Underworld: Awakening picks up where Evolution left off and hits the floor running.

Synopsis: The existence of vampires and lycans is no longer unknown to humans and both species have been hunted into extinction.  Or so it is believed.  Selene and Michael have been captured, but one day a mysterious Subject 2 frees Selene from her captivity, restarting the hunt that will bring to light a dangerous conspiracy.

Kate Beckinsale, who was likely offered a heap of money, reprises her role as the fierce vampire in love with the first hybrid.  She’s good as always but the cast surrounding her this time is somewhat inferior.

The story, however, is still quite intriguing and well thought out, making for another enjoyable entry in the franchise.  The visual effects, as is expected, keep getting better.

The Bottom Line: Awakening ends my foray in the Underworld universe.  While I was never awed, I also, fortunately, was never really turned off.  The movies are enjoyable and roll by like a summer thunderstorm.  They are also just as quickly forgotten, but they can be watched without feeling like a waste of time.

Grade: 6

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

Underworld Rise of the LycansUnderworld: Rise of the Lycans might have been a disaster for two main reasons.  One, the third chapter of any franchise often fails to live up to even low expectations.  Two, a franchise often suffers when the lead actor declines to participate.  Neither happened here.

Synopsis: When the vampires need daylight protection from the encroaching menace represented by William’s lycans, they create a new race of lycans to be their slaves.  The new lycans are more evolved in that they can control when they mutate and can maintain a human form.  The progenitor of this race is Lucian, who will soon find himself leading the rebellion against Viktor and his kind.

Kate Beckinsale had decided she didn’t want to make another movie in the Underworld franchise, so the producers were faced with the dilemma of either giving up on a profitable franchise or replacing a successful lead.  They smartly avoided such pitfall by opting to make a prequel, which allowed them to move the story forward without the need to have Beckinsale on board, given that her character didn’t yet exist back then.

Fortunately, the story they came up with is interesting and well written, allowing the very good cast and crew to create a nifty little package with awesome visual effects and a very moody cinematography.

The Bottom Line: While none of the Underworld movies to date have impressed me beyond being simply entertaining, I do have to give props to all those involved for doing their best to make the first 3 movies enjoyable.  Rise of the Lycans stands on its own because of its placement in the timeline, but it ties quite well with the first two movies.  Also, who would have thought that Michael Sheen would be so sexy when ripped and sweaty?!

Grade: 6

Friday, August 10, 2012


VeepJulia Louis-Dreyfus’ newest comedy, Veep, is another hit even though I don’t see it last for long.

Selina Meyer is the Vice President.  She’s not the brightest or most skilled politician, and she is surrounded by what can only be considered a lackluster bunch of “helpers.”  She often finds herself the victim of the political games played by Congress and the President.  She ultimately seems to just wanting to be liked and do something worthwhile, as long as it serves her name and position of course.

Louis-Dreyfus found another funny role in a very original setting.  Her comedic timing is helped greatly by scripts that feel fresh and witty all the while tackling fairly important subject matter.

The reason I don’t think the series will last for long, even though it’s been picked up for a second season, is that I can’t see the writers being able to keep coming up with original scripts episode after episode.  At some point, repetition is gonna start seeping in and then all bets are off.

At any rate, I love Julia Louis-Dreyfus so much, I’ll watch anything she’s in if it’s funny, and this show definitely is.

Grade: 7