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

Thursday, August 09, 2012


Girls_Poster Rev2.inddHBO’s newest attempt at reclaiming the glorious days of Sex and the City doesn’t quite reach those heights (at least not yet) but shows much more promise than Entourage (the male version) ever did.

Girls talks about the lives of four young girls living in New York City and their experiences with love, work, friends, and life in general.

In keeping with SATC’s format, each girl represents what can be best described as a stereotype: Hannah is smart, is open to having fun sexually, has a not-totally-committed boyfriend, and is not particularly beautiful.  Marnie is very beautiful, has a good job, and has a stable and doting boyfriend.  Jessa is sexually free spirited, can’t seem to care to have a job or be able to keep one, and generally lives for the moment.  Finally, Shoshanna is still virgin even though not really by choice, seems quite driven but also a little neurotic.

What really works here is the writing, which enables all the characters to grow and develop into relatable people and not just caricatures.  Lena Dunham, who plays Hannah, is actually also the producer, creator, writer, and sometimes director of the show, which makes her the multi-hyphenated to watch of our time.

Girls has been generally well received by critics, and with good reason, but the show still has room to grow and hopefully we’ll see that in its second season.  It’s still an interesting show to check out though.

Grade: 7

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

In Memoriam

Marvin Hamlisch (1944 – 2012)

Marvin Hamlisch

Marvin Hamlisch was a great composer whose work only became familiar to me thanks to his close collaborations with Barbra Streisand.  Only then did I rediscover the many wonderful scores he had written during his long career.  Among them: The Way We Were, The Sting, Sophie's Choice, Ordinary People, The Swimmer, Three Men And A Baby, Ice Castles, Take The Money And Run, Bananas, Save The Tiger, A Chorus Line, The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Spy Who Loved Me, and his latest effort The Informant!

According to Wikipedia, Hamlisch is one of only eleven people to have been awarded Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, and a Tony (the famed EGOT).  He is also one of only two people to have won those four prizes and also a Pulitzer Prize (the other is Richard Rodgers). Hamlisch also won two Golden Globes.

He won his 3 Oscars for the score and song for The Way We Were and for the score for The Sting.  He was also the composer of the original theater version of A Chorus Line.