December 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Shows: Why Homeland Must Become 24 To Survive


The mighty Emmy venerated "Homeland" had a really disappointing season because it has no idea of what kind of show it is. All the big shows on TV right now are extremely confident in what they're doing. "Walking Dead" is a rip-roaring horror adventure. "Boardwalk Empire" is a bloody historical drama. "Mad Men" & "Breaking Bad" are studies in masculinity & American identity. Shit, even "Game of Thrones" is kind of a fantasy parable of power and family. But "Homeland" like it's two main characters is in the middle of a massive identity crisis. It has no idea if it wants to be a smart dramatic dissection of the war on terrorism or if it wants to crackle and pop with "24" style counter-terrorism action and twists. Right now it's attempting to be both and it's coming apart at the seams like Carrie on wine,jazz,and pills bender.

I covered the ways that the show tries to make it "real world" in my last takedown of the show. I don't need to get into it again, but I feel bad I neglected to mention how the creators and their relentless drive for realism managed to anger the real life nations of Israel & Lebanon. Last night's attack from beyond the grave was further evidence of how far away the show has gotten from the real world.

I found the explosion last night, while certainly unexpected, to be completely ridiculous and reeking of the stench of a group of writers who had no idea what they were doing the whole season. The only way that an attack of that magnitude would be possible would be with extensive help on the inside, and as we all know, "Homeland" has been playing coy with it's mole-hunt for the past two seasons. It's obvious they have no idea who it is, it is not a "leak," but rather a "well" of story devices that writers can use to kind of explain necessary plot occurrences. In the "real world" drama-politics of the show, you really believe that at the VICE PRESIDENT'S FUNERAL, somebody could park a car on a sidewalk in front of a giant glass room full of important people and that no one would notice? Even by the shows already established rules, it was preposterous. Sure you might say it's only a TV show and I'm being nit-picky, but, again this is a show that links to the real world terrorism in it's opening credits and plot-lines so it doesn't get a free-pass. And you know what else it is? It is "24" shit, through and through.

You see, no matter how hard it tries, "Homeland" will never escape from the legacy of "24." It doesn't matter how many times Saul says the Hebrew prayer for the dead over a stunning sea of dead bodies or each well-written Abu-Nazir monologue about the nature of US Imperialism, as they say on that other show, "resistance is futile." With all plausibility out of the window now, the only way to save the show is to go full throttle with the "24" level madness. I'm all for it. I miss "24" every ticking second of each day. I hunger for the movie. And I think most people to do. When people talk about "Homeland," they talk about the crazy VP bunker scene last season, the brazen terrorist attack at the tailor's office, or the countless surveillance missions. No one says (at least anymore) says "Gosh I love Homeland for it's murky dissection of middle Eastern politics." I'd rather have a completely implausible well-acted espionage thriller, than a bumbling show failing to engage on any level. After all, we all need to pick a side sometime.

December 6, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness Teaser Drops

So here we have it the reveal trailer for the highly anticipated "Star Trek Into Darkness," which is the sequel to 2009's epic reboot of Star Trek which pretty much everyone in the Universe/Galaxy loved. This one continues the standard trend of getting daaaarrrrrrhhhhkkkkk dude with some moody villains and high stakes, you can thank "The Dark Knight" for that.

I't s semi well known that I am not a Trekkie, but I since I did love the last film and thought that Wrath of Khan was hype worthy, I'm really jazzed for this. I mean this is the movie to beat for Summer 2013 or at least until that FAST 6 TRAILER DROPS.

November 28, 2012

What's Your Fantasy: How Game of Thrones Has Made Me Not That Excited For The Hobbit

I'm about a level 5 Tolkien nerd. Let's go over my credentials here for a second.
  • Before I could read myself, my Dad read me The Hobbit and the entire Lord of the Rings (LOTR) series to me before bedtime. This took about a year. We warmed up to this endeavor by reading The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • I saw every LOTR movie in the theater on opening night and loved every single second of them. I even stood in the cold New England rain for The Return Of The King on opening night, totally worth it.
  • I've played The Return of The King for PS2 to completion. Game is totally on point btw.
  • I know what The Simarillion is, but haven't read it.
  • I've dabbled in the special editions (aka the long ass versions) of the movies but have never watched.
  • I can tell you that it was bogus that Tom Bombadil wasn't in the movies.
  • I can tell you it was even more bogus that they didn't include "The Sacking of the Shire" even after they show a glimpse of it in Fellowship.
So yeah, I'm semi-deep into it, not nearly as deep as others, but I like to think I have some nerd/street cred in that area. Yet when I see the trailers, posters, and other relentless press the machine is cooking up for the feature adaptation of "The Hobbit," I'm just not that excited. I mean, I'm still a nerd, I almost exploded in nerd joy at "The Avengers," got way too deep into the semi-bullshit mythology of "Prometheus," and really enjoyed "The Dark Knight Rises." For weeks now I've been trying to figure out what about "The Hobbit" wasn't getting me on the hype train, and then I started seeing billboards around town for something else and it all clicked.

It comes back to HBO's epic fantasy series "Game of Thrones," which if you haven't seen it, is pretty much the iron price / gold standard for fantasy these days. If you've been following along with my recaps of the show, you know I'm a fiend for it, and I'm not alone in my addiction. Pretty much everyone who watches it is positively stark raving madly obsessed with it. And they should be, with its complex web of characters, fantastic production values, racy sex, awesome violence, stacks of political intrigue, and of course healthy doses of fantasy/magic, the show is incredible. 

Which brings me to "The Hobbit," the trailers for it have made the whole thing to look like some type of sleek cartoon, full of zany dwarves and fantastical creatures that don't look that real or dangerous. I don't know if they are just bad special effects, but I get a bizarre Star Wars Episode 1 Phantom Menace vibe from the whole thing. It looks to cartoony and after watching the gritty battles of Thrones with limbs getting hacked off, mud and dirt flying, and just the intensity of the whole thing , "The Hobbit" is looking like it was created on a green screen, kind of a "King Kong" vibe to reference Peter Jackson. 

If you want to get deeper into it, you can point out that "The Return of the King" came out in 2003, in a time where they wasn't any serious fantasy TV shows. Prior to "Thrones" almost all fantasy shows were syndicated programs like "Xena" or "Hercules," which were mediocre at best. The movies was where you went for epic fantasy. However, now, the three new Hobbit films seems like a limited way to tell epic stories, regardless of their lengths. The Game of Thrones series of books will max out at seven, and if you figure that each season will be one book, that's seven seasons of 10 episodes each an hour long. That's about 70 hours of fantasy goodness as opposed to the nine hours of "The Hobbit" (and I'm being generous assuming each movie is 3 hours long!) And when it comes to Fantasy, longer is always better.

Honestly, I hope I'm wrong, I really want to like "The Hobbit," and I'm definitely seeing it opening weekend, but there is no doubt then when I step out of that theater into the cold night air, I may be thinking how awesome it was, but I most certainly in some corner of my mind will be thinking "winter is coming!"

November 25, 2012

Tigers, God, & Faith: My Take On The "Life of Pi" Ending

For some, the ending of the book/film "Life of Pi" can be infuriating. I remember being confused by it when I read the book and also slightly befuddled when I saw the astounding screen adaptation this past weekend. For those of you who need a quick refresher, here is the basic gist of it:

After Pi is safely on the shore, he gives the testimony of his survival to the Japanese company that owned the sunken ship. In the narrative we've heard for most of the book, he's on the boat with Richard Parker the tiger, an orangutan, a zebra, and a hyena. The hyena ends up killing both the orangutan and the zebra, and then Richard Parker kills the hyena, leaving just Pi and the beast on the boat to survive. In the second story, there were no animals, each one is really a person. The hyena is really the crude French cook who kills both the zebra (a kind sailor) and the orangutan (Pi's mother ) and then eventually is killed by the Tiger (Pi). The reader/viewer much like the Japanese fishing company has to decide which one they believe.

There is no doubt this is initially a frustrating ending, I mean, it undermines most of the narrative! But stick with me with here, I think I have a reasonably good take on what it all means!

It all comes down to Richard Parker and whether you believe in God or not. 

If you don't believe in God (nothing wrong with that) than the rugged non-animal version of the story is for you. This is a tale of the gritty, can-do human spirit, which has the power to vanquish any foe, and conquer any task. This is the highly individualistic way to look at the narrative. No one is going to help us. Not our parents, not strangers, not the world, not even God (if he was real). The only person you can rely on is yourself. And if you believe in yourself and your will to survive, you have a tiger within you who can help you overcome any obstacle.

Throughout the story Richard Parker plays many parts for Pi, all of them related to how different religions view God. 

Islam believes that God is all powerful and unknowable. This is similar to the violent power of the Tiger but also how ultimately after all the duo goes through, Richard Parker leaves him on the beach. They have may coexisted with each other, but Pi never really knew or understood him.

Christianity believes in a loving God who was made real and walked the earth to help us. This is similar to Richard Parker because as the story progresses the two begin to share a real bond and Pi leans on him to survive both physically and emotionally. Sometimes he may be a harsh first testament type of God, but ultimately the connection between the two is one of love. This is evident is the heartbreaking scene where Pi consoles the dying Richard Parker.

Hinduism believes in multiple Gods, and that true knowledge of God is when a person gives them-self completely to the Universe. Pi through Richard Parker and his ordeal on the boat, ultimately learns to give himself to Vishnu, the God mentioned in the film as the entire Universe. Think about the scene where Pi is on the raft screaming that gives himself to God as evidence of this. Richard Parker also represents the many different evil and kind Gods found in Hinduism.

Finally, I want to touch on one last thing, which is how Richard Parker seemingly abandons Pi on the beach, just walking off into the jungle without looking back at him. The point of this is the same for the all the religions in the book and also faith in general: God is there for you, even if you can't see him/her/it. Richard Parker doesn't abandon Pi, he gets rescued after all. He just walked off into the jungle, maybe to go help someone else who needs him. If you believe that Richard Parker was Pi himself, then Richard Parker never looking back signifies that Pi's individualistic self is leaving him because he's not needed. He will resurface again, when the time comes.

Either way, both stories are pretty inspiring and the beauty of the book/film is that both of them work for different people. If you're a rugged individualist atheist, the film can be seen as a powerful testament to the human spirit. If you're a spiritual person, the film is jam packed for you with a bounty of belief systems of and spiritual knowledge. I'm sure I have missed some things here so if you have a theory, please leave it in the comments.

Faith & Tigers: Life of Pi Astounds

A teenager and a dangerous tiger are trapped on a lifeboat. That simple premise for Yann Martel's "Life of Pi" was enough to pull me into the novel when I first read it upon publication in 2001. I can recall that some of the novel's themes of religion, spirituality, hope, the nature of truth, and man's relationship with nature were totally lost on me when I read it. Nevertheless, like classic survival stories like "Robinson Crusoe," "Castaway," or even"Lost" I found the tale to be gripping and highly memorable. So like many of my favorite books, I tracked it's journey to the screen with a fierce diligence. And boy, since 10 years have past since I first read it, it certainly took a long time to get to the screen.

Like most best-selling books turned films, many exciting directors were linked to the project. M. Night Shyamalan (when he was at the top of his game) was connected to it at one point and so was Alfonso Cuaron.  Whimsical French director Jean Pierre Jeunet was linked to it as well. So in 2009, when Ang Lee was announced as the director, I was skeptical that it would actually get going. And since the story doesn't really require any movie-stars, the production was mostly silent. When the first image of the film was released last year, I was shocked that it had actually made it to the screen. With every new image, trailer, and article, I found it harder to believe that one of the novels that I had loved growing up was finally hitting the screen after all these years. When I finally found myself seated in the theater with my 3D glasses on I was fully on board the TPG hype train and the it was jam packed with 10 years of anticipation.

The movie does not disappoint. I found it to be a rousing adventure story with a strong spiritual element . Beyond the narrative though, this is an incredibly breathtaking film. How ironic that last week I was praising the visuals in "Skyfall" and then this visual firecracker of a film comes right in and keeps the party going. Everything from the incredible computer generated tiger, the massive mountains of water rolling in the ocean, and the trippy underwater/intergalactic scenes are jaw-dropping. Real talk, in 3-D they're positively mind blowing. It doesn't matter if it's a massive storm tearing apart a ship, the migrations of thousands of meerkats, or just the tiger leaping out at the audience,  this is visual storytelling at its finest. Sure, they are flashy, but they only aid in the telling the story, with only one speaking character for a majority of the film, the visuals are almost a second character, capable of really making the audience feel.

But ultimately, a film needs more than trippy vishuals maynnne, it needs a strong story, and the narrative here is still resonant and effective. Using a simple framing device of having a present day Pi narrate it to a young author, we get some great scenes of his early childhood and experimentation with love, family, nature, and most of all religion. The film, like the book makes a point to show how our characters uses aspects of Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism to inform his believes, which are important because they are repeatedly tested. Once our hero's boat crashes and he is stranded with the tiger, who goes by the name Richard Parker, the scenes of them learning to survive with one another are extremely rewarding. One would think that surviving on a lifeboat with a tiger would be impossible to film, but Lee and his team get it done with brilliant flying colors.

This film is an incredible treat for the eyes, heart, and soul and I highly highly recommend it. Don't wait for it on the small screen as the big screen 3D is the way to see it. It will make you believe in the power of the human spirit, the importance of faith, and in some ways, just how rewarding a trip to the movie theater can be.

November 20, 2012

The New Normal: How Skyfall Uses The Past To Re-Invent The Franchise

I saw the new James Bond flick "Skyfall" about a week ago and I'm still basking in how awesome it was. Longtime readers will know that I have been hyping up the flick for over a year, with most of my attention on the babes that they were were supposed to be cast. Of course, while I was wrong about who ended up being the bombshells, I was correct to have extreme confidence in the flick. For me, it was one of the most exciting movies of the year and easily the best big budget practical action film I've seen in 2012. Yet beyond the film's epic action spectacle, visual nirvana, and amazing villain, I was most thrilled to see the franchise finally come into it's own for the 21st century.

Way back in 2006, I reviewed "Casino Royale" for the Syracuse University paper.  I announced that the film was a successful re-invention of the character, yet lamented that Bond had become almost all ass-kicking and had lost most of his suave spy swagger. Yet the Bond of that film was the one that was needed for the times. Facing down spy challengers like Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer, Bond had no choice but to evolve as a character. From Bourne he gained a brutal fighting style that saw him smashing through walls and free running through construction sites like some British Olympian. From Bauer, he gained the concept of heroism through sacrifice. In the 21st century, you can't be a true servant of your country if you don't lose the ones that matter to you.  Both of these thematic imprints were all over the dismal "Quantum of Solace." From a filmmaking style, the action took the trademark "Bourne" shaky cam and used to it hide everything cool about James Bond action - epic stunts, exotic locations, and nice gadgets/cars/guns. The story involved Bond hunting down his true love's killers and getting mixed up in some water/oil politics was bogus. In the two years since "Casino Royale," Bond had once again become outdated. Things can change quickly for spies.

In the new film, one of the wisest decisions director Sam Mendes makes is to abandon any connection to the previous two. Gone is the broken-hearted loner of the past films who is plagued with a quest for revenge. The Bond is "Skyfall" is confident, deadly, and an effective team player. This last detail is important as the new film introduces us to many characters who will be with 007 moving forward for some time. These include classic characters such as "Q," re-imagined here as a hacker genius, and Moneypenny, who gets a nice little 21st politics gender update. Re-introducing these characters is just one of many ways the franchise draws on its past to define it's future. 

Speaking of that, the genius of Skyfall is how effectively the past of the franchise is used to shape it's new direction. The villain, Silva, creepily played by Javier Bardem has many traits of the villains of the yonder-year. With the ability to hack governments and cause chaos he's a international-threat, just done up hacker style. He even has his own secret Island base where he interrogates Bond in one of the films most memorable scenes. The film uses these familiar tropes as the building blocks to give us something new in the villain, a deeply personal motivation. Gone are the days of dastardly plans for world takeovers, no, this villain just wants to kill your employer, which in the case of James Bond, who we learn is an orphan, is equal to killing his family. It's a more personal motivation for the villain which makes the stakes even higher. I'm not gonna get into the vague gender politics of the gay elements of Silva, and while they lead to a great scene, they don't really contribute to the plot. I find it weird to say that Silva is more evil/more creepy cause he vaguely threatens him sexually.

As the film progresses, we continue to get familiar Bond essentials to bring us back into the fold and make us forget the previous films. Here's an updated version of the PPK handgun. Oh look at that, there is a pit filled with dangerous creatures that Bond must avoid. There's the Martini, prepared without the tagline,  but present nonetheless.  Here comes the Aston Martin, weapons intact. All of these are welcome additions and but the real star of the show here is cinematographer Roger Deakins and Mendes direction. This is easily the best looking Bond film ever made, and it ranks up there as one of the best looking movies ever made. Every shot is beautifully constructed with a tremendous visual palette. The editing is smooth and fluid and knows how to show off the action well. But if you didn't hear me before, visually this film is knockout, in fact I hope it wins the Oscar.

Ultimately the film is a rousing spectacle of entertainment that is just very well made. The franchise successfully stops trying to emulate the other spies of the era, and sticks to it's roots, but isn't afraid to grow new branches. The babes are stunning, the action is kick-ass, and Daniel Craig has never been better. Longtime readers will you know your boy TPG puts the theatrical experience above anything else and with the mind-blowing visuals and bombast sound, "Skyfall" is a perfect example of just how fun going to the movies can be.

*Best all around action film of the year is still "The Raid."

November 13, 2012

India The Dreamland: Thoughts on Gregory David Roberts Novel: Shantaram

It's rare that so many different people from a variety of facets of your life all recommend the same book. Granted, talking about books outside of book club (Hollywood Book Club represent) is not common, but when car-pool buddies, co-workers, hippie meditating dudes who work at spiritual bookstores, random travelers in Costa Rica, and even trusted friends all recommend a book you gotta pay attention. If you couldn't guess by the title/picture to the left, that book was Gregory David Roberts 936 page epic Indian tale; Shantaram, which after a two year odyssey of false starts, throw-aways, and diversions I have just finished.

Simply put, the novel is sprawling epic that while highly memorable but also plagued with contradictions. Roberts as a writer is adept a writing an engaging story with memorable characters, but his style, full of observations about every situation grows irritating over time. I know that sounds kind of confusing, but just take a look at the first line of the whole book.

It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.
Phrases like this are the backbone of the book. There is a philosophical musing combined with some "thug life" observation. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The novel's protagonist, Lin, the Roberts substitute will stab some gangsters and then say some nonsense like "The knife is just God's way of a reminding us that we're all made from the same material." All these observations also fit into the general theme of everyone in the story casually being awesomely stoned all the time. Maybe that's how they did it in India in the 80s or maybe Roberts knows his audience and he is giving them what they want, I suspect it's a combination of both.

But actually that's pretty much my only gripe with this story. It's much more violent and exciting than I thought it would be. Don't let the gold-tinged cover fool you, this is an epic crime novel more than anything else. The characters from the all powerful mafia boss Khan to the lowliest slum dwellers all seem to pop off the page and the novel makes Bombay sound so damn exciting, I really wanna go there.

So am I recommending it? Yes, I am, it's not as mind-blowingly awesome as the hype but it's still exciting, just be ready to tackle all 936 pages. If that page count is intimidating to you, I recommend the equally mystical Rule of the Bone: Novel, a (Google Affiliate Ad). But if you're up to get transported to  Bombay and all the grime, love, and excitement, yar, I'd grab a copy of it today.

October 25, 2012

Arnold Returns To Conan (With King-Sized Expectations)

At the final scene of John Milius's epic "Conan The Barbarian," Conan aka Arnold aka The Barbarian aka The Destroyer sits on his throne surrounded by glowing red mist, decked out in shiny armor and the latest fur fashions of the Hyborian time, thinking about all the enemies he's crushed, all the people that his armies drove before him, and all the lamentation he's heard (yes in that order.) This scene assures us that Conan lived a good life and became a king, aka the biggest boss of all bosses. It's a comforting ending to a brutal movie.

But we all know that Conan can't sit on a throne forever, there are always camels to punch, snakes that need to come together, and Crom to be praised to/scorned. So today we get the announcement that Arnold will reprise the role of King Conan in a new film coming out in 2014. We will finally learn just what happened when the red smoke cleared.

Gotta say I'm pretty excited about this, Conan is straight up a wild ass movie fulls of tons of Arnoldisms, gore, sex, battles, and James Earl Jones turning into a snake. If this sequel is Rated R* and snags a great director* we could be in for a awesome cinematic treat that delivers on the epic promise of  King Conan. So, yeah, at this point I'm extraordinarily thrilled about the announcement and the premise.

*It's being targeted as a tentpole release for Universal so who knows if it will be rated R
**Getting the right director is essential here. My vote would be for Ridley Scott, Alfonso Cuaron, or Darren Aronosfky.

October 23, 2012

Iron Man 3 Trailer

This looks like Marvel is finally making their "serious" super hero movie. I would have seen it if the whole thing was Iron Man watching the highlights from The Avengers while eating popcorn, but this looks pretty great.

October 2, 2012

The Terrorist At Home: Why Homeland Praise Is Misplaced

"Homeland," returned to the airwaves with the vengeance on Sunday night. Now sporting a host of well deserved Emmy trophies for stars Damian Lewis, Claire Danes, and of course the top prize for best drama, and based off the massive ratings increase, everyone is hooked again. Understandably so, it's a fantastically thrilling piece of entertainment. And yet despite it's golden hardware and ripped from the headlines plots, it still resides in the shadow of the big daddy terrorism show of the 20th century - "24." Coming from Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa, the same creator's of the seminal real-time thriller, "Homeland" is billed as the more liberal, thoughtful, interesting follow up to the Jack Bauer power hour. As the New Yorker put it, "Homeland" is the "antidote to 24."
“24” was also a carrier for some terrible ideas, among them the notion that torture is the best and only way to get information; that Muslim faith and terrorist aims overlap by definition.

Whaaaaat? Between the Emmy wins, the prestige that cable brings, and decreased dependence on "24" famous torture scenes, everyone seems to be looking past all extreme right wing paranoia that, just like Sgt. Brody laying in wait in our government, has infiltrated this show. First things first, "Homeland" like "24" features Islamic terrorists hell-bent on destroying the United States. The man behind this jihad is Abu Nazir, our Bin-Laden substitute, a terrorist puppet master who has his paws in EVERYTHING around the world. As Sean T. Collins points out in his great write up on the show in Rolling Stone, here is Nazir's  organization so far:

  • A fully trained Marine sniper
  • A second fully trained Marine sniper, partner of the first one no less, presumed dead and smuggled back into the United States to live totally off the grid
  • Enough crowbar-wielding goons to successfully kidnap the first fully trained Marine sniper out of a supermarket parking lot
  • A college professor
  • The college professor's all-American daughter-of-an-oil-exec wife
  • Enough bomb-making, machine-gun-wielding agents across the Midwest to booby-trap a safehouse and go full ending-of-Scarface on a motel room where the college professor and his wife were hiding
  • A Saudi diplomat with full immunity and extensive goon access
  • A Saudi prince who may not be on the payroll per se but doesn't mind hugging the world's most wanted man
  • The Saudi prince's right-hand man, who takes breaks from his main gig as the prince's pimp to tap into an extensive network of jewelry fences, off-the-books money managers and limo-driving hitmen
  • A Gettysburg-based suicide-vest tailor
  • A reporter powerful enough to get high-ranking CIA officials to drop everything and run to meet her on demand
  • And last but not least, a freaking mole inside the CIA capable of tipping off surveillance targets, triggering suicide bombings and stealing the combinations to hidden office safes.
  • I didn't have a problem with these larger than life villains in "24," because the whole show was preposterous, but in "Homeland," having a villain like that is irresponsible. Why? Because "Homeland," deals with issues like drone strikes, Iran-Israel relations, CIA legalities, and Brodie's Islamic faith so well, it's disappointing that they opt for the cartoonish villain. "24" never dealt with issues like that, it was too busy defusing bombs and kicking ass. But having the shadowy terrorist with the turban lurking in the background pulling the strings in "Homeland" is inconsistent with the rest of the dieas of the show, and the whole thing suffers.

    But if Abu Nazir is the mastermind who lurks (mostly) overseas, Sgt. Brodie is his man on the ground in the U.S.A. Since the show first began, the central premise always reminded me of season four of "24," where your normal suburban neighbor is actually a bloodthirsty terrorist. In that season the Araz family including their teenage son actively planned terrorist attacks, tried to kill Jack Bauer, and of course murdered the all American teenage girl next door because she knew too much. This central concept of the "terrorist next door" was revisited again in season six with Ahmed Amar (played by Kal Penn of all people.) It is an effective story device that plays on our timeless fears of enemy infiltration, and it's no wonder that "Homeland" uses it as well, it's just slightly ironic that when "24" showed terrorists next door it was controversial and required Fox to release disclaimers before episodes, but when "Homeland" shows Islamic terrorists next door and infiltrating our government, it doesn't matter if the whole thing is Michelle Bachman inspired insanity, it's just gripping television.

    "Homeland" is great television (even President Obama loves it), yet the path ahead for it is not easy. So far it's been more engaging politically than "24," but we'll see how long that lasts with more and more sleeper terrorists emerging from the woodwork. Things like that make realize that the reason we are flipping for it is because it's just "24" in different packaging.

    September 23, 2012

    The Thrill of Mystery - The Master, Prometheus, & The Appeal Of The Difficult

    "The Master" is all the rage in theaters right now and everyone from your wanna be filmmaker nephew to your ultra preppy neighbor has seen it, wants to see it, or is getting ready to pretend like they have seen it. The film, like it's central protagonist Freddy Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is wildly unpredictable, insanely well acted, beautifully shot, and incredibly hard to understand. When I walked out of the film I couldn't tell if it was a bad movie or I wasn't smart enough to understand it. My enjoyment of the film didn't really kick in until I had engaged in a numerous amount of discussion on what the whole was really about or..."what it all"

    The film is deliberately set up to be difficult. There is no strong narrative and the finale involves a bizarre song not some bowling alley beat down or frog monsoon. No, the film wants you to be perplexed, because it wants you to figure it out, sorry, this is no buckle up "ride" experience, this is cinema that taxes your brain and demands your to think! This concept that some entertainment demands to be dissected into little pieces is not a new one, but recently our entertainment is starting to really challenge us more and more.

    Think about this summer's films. We had the much hyped alien thrill ride "Prometheus," which sparked lengthy discussion about our relationship with the heavens (both literally and figuratively) and where the original alien monster came from. Even "The Avengers" factored in a random villain at the end that needed some moderate level comic book nerd explanation. And let's not forget the "The Bourne Legacy" which almost drowned out it's motorcycle chases and hallway beat-downs with characters actively engaged in theorizing about shadow programs, chemical supplements, and the implications of an unseen character & the plotlines of three other movies. It's hip to be convoluted, the audience can figure it, hell, the audience wants to figure it out. One of the biggest groans of the whole summer, was in "The Dark Knight Rises,"when heroic cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) reveals his old name is "Robin" induced not yelps of joy, but rather groans of "Why you have to tell us that."

    Why is this theorizing so popular these days? I think it's because we want to feel like we're figuring something out. It's so easy to figure out simple problems that onced vexed us. Google provides us to literally the answer to everyone of our questions from "what is the boiling point of water," to "what do Snake Eyes mean in Monopoly." Gone are the days of working it out for ourselves, so when a film or a TV openly challenges us to engage it, it's open season for everyone to come up with their own take. In a world of constantly given answers, sometimes the thrill is having someone actually make it difficult to unravel it all. "The Master" is the apex of this wild "just try to understand it" story-telling that' we've found ourselves in, so just be warned, you don't have to bring a pencil and paper into to take notes to get it, but prepare, as you've now been accustomed to, to have your brain/soul/past life challenged.

    September 19, 2012

    New Trailer For The Hobbit. Cool I Guess

    Why does this trailer not excite me? As a kid my Dad used to read this book a loud to me and I remember loving every second of it. Now, I'm just like, dayumm, that looks exactly like LORD OF THE RINGS. That is exactly what they're going for, but the problem is The Return Of The King was almost 10 years ago and y'know, things have changed. What has changed? GAME OF THRONES.

    Nobody is doing medieval fantasy better than Thrones right now and with the next series promising more "R" rated insanity, this just comes across as kind of a cartoon, and this is coming from someone who watches Aragorn kill the evil dreadlocked Rasta Orc at least once a month. What do you guys think?

    September 6, 2012

    With My Giant Machine Gun Part 1 - Getting Ready For The Showdown

    I'm going to keep this shit real simple for y'all, Walter wanted Hank to find that book. It's no different than his drunken dinner boasts or his "You got me" moment from season 4. Walter has always hated Hank for thinking his police officer tough guy act was better than his science teacher nerd act. He takes great pleasure from manipulating Hank and now he knows that rather than let Hank dictate how he connects the Heisenberg machinations, he will. If this sounds crazy, well, dayuum son, Walter is crazy and logic has never slowed him down before. 

    This is a man that was planning on murdering Lydia in broad daylight, makes drug dealers say his name just because he's the bawsss, and dominated everyone and everything that has stood in his path, including...umm cancer. You think he's scared of the DEA, hell no, he's been right under their noses for years, he bugged their office! Let's go! Bring that shit! He's the man who killed Gus Fring! You wanna play rough? Okaayyy I'm reloaded (with my gigantic machine gun!)

    Frankly, we all should be grateful because this is going to be the showdown we've been waiting ever since tighty whity Walter first heard those sirens in the distance. It's easily the biggest showdown on TV ever, well maybe not ever, maybe some older Westerns had showdowns, but I didn't watch them, but this, HANK VS HEISENBERG is going to be the most incredible thing we've seen on TV.

    Of course it does raise some interesting questions though. Check out some of them below.
    1. The big theory on the information super-highway right now proposes that Hank is really the central protagonist and hero on the show. I could see this working as a satisfying ending only if the action stays on Walt throughout, if we suddenly switch over to heroic Hank, ehhh, will be cool, but not that cool.
    2. How Jesse factors into things? Tough question, ultimately I think Jesse is going turn on Walt and break good (?) and side with the DEA once he learns about Brock, Jane, and Mike. He's knows that Walt is hyper dangerous and is a nervous and emotional wreck. The DEA will offer him an out and he'll take it...but Walter will probably kill him for it in the most emotional scene in TV history.
    3. What about Todd? Toast?
    4. Skylar? Smoking a Ricin cigarette
    5. Walter Jr? Might become a meth addict or get killed by Neo Nazis/Declan/Czechs/Madrigal.
    6. Saul? He'll live on for his spin-off series.
    7. Gigantic Machine Gun in the Car - It will be used, oh sweet Chekhov, it will be used.

    August 27, 2012

    TPG's Chemistry Class - Episode 5007 "Say My Name"

    Somehow when you kill an innocent kid two episodes prior, the death of one of the main characters doesn't seem that tragic. Actually, yeah, seeing old man Mike sitting there by the river was pretty sad, but for reasons I'll get to, I thought this was one of the least satisfying episodes this season so far. So let's get our "go bag" and get into it.

    Meaning of Title - An obvious reference Walt basking in praise from the other dealers at the opener, I think the reinforcement of Heisenberg!!!! in that scene also showed just how far Walt has come, so much to the point where he is cooking with Todd and killing his former partners.

    Acting  - Jonathan Banks who plays Mike had a great run on the series and his final line about wanting to die in peace was perfect.

    1. MIND MELT MEGA SANDWICH RIGHT OUT THE GATE YO - Earlier in the episode Walt taunted Jesse by saying they were both doomed for their sins, which to my memory is one of the first times the show has acknowledged spiritual punishment for their actions, so right away my "this is some spiritual shit yo" detectors were going crazy. Having seen Mike earlier getting deep at the river, and casting aside elements of his earthly life (ie a lot of guns), and preparing for his trip (getting his go-bag) it was clear that he soon he would be making some kind of journey. And when he died sitting at the river surrounded by symbolism, my head exploded. Check out this passage about the Greek Underworld river journey.
    The five rivers of Hades are Acheron (the river of sorrow) Having a good thing with Gus go wrong Cocytus (the river of lamentation) Not getting to say goodbye to your granddaughterPhlegethon (the river of fire) See above imagery on waterLethe (the river of forgetfulness) tough but case could be made about using about the sloppy Lawyer and Styx (the river of hate) Mike hates Walter, which forms the boundary between upper and lower worlds.
    2. To drive home this whole mythological quest when Walt confront Jesse on whole "you're damned to Burn" issue he was dressed in Red overalls and a black shirt. Fire and Brimstone! Forget Heisenberg, Walt is evil incarnate now.

    3. Gotta love how many cell phones Saul has. Guess you could call them "saul phones?" Anybody? Anybody?

    4. By invoking the "New York Yankees" and "Classic Coke" in his speech to the rival dealers/business partners, Walt has further proved that his story of a relentless quest for personal liberty and profit is an American tale just like those who came before him - Tony & Michael!

    5. Sometimes we forget that Walter White was a teacher before he became a Meth Kingpin Ego-Maniacal Madman, but we got a reminder this episode in the way he interacted with young people. First he chastised Jesse for his lack of motivation and skills outside cooking. This scene cut deep and it had more of a teacher/student discipline vibe than is usually in their relationship at this point. Then he kept asking his new student Todd to apply himself when it came to his new studies (meth-studies yo!). He's a teacher through and through.

    6. Again we get a dinner scene, with almost the same exact shot, but now Jesse isn't at the table. In fact Skylar doesn't even last long at the table before she leaves. This was a great visual hint about how all Walt's "allies" are abandoning him.

    7. As sad as it was to see Mike go, I was bummed out by Walt's final actions, he should have blown Mike's brains all over that sun glazed river. Seeing him revert back to the bubbling, botched plan Walt was kind of depressing. If he's gonna be full on "say my name" evil then he needs to be all the way there by now. Having him realize he could have gotten the names from Lydia gave him a dash of fleeting humanity, and this point, there is no humanity left in him. I'm calling it now, if does have anything left, the thing that will snuff it out will be him killing Skylar.

    8. Todd telling Walt he doesn't care about the money right now must be the most wonderful thing Walt has ever heard.

    9. The impact of Walt's actions are huge because there is no way that Jesse wont' 100% know that Walt did it even if he tries to hide it. Even if he does admit to it, there is no way that Jesse will let that slide.

    10. If Walt is keeping his meth supplies at the car wash, that's just sloppy and in fact everything Walt is doing now is sloppy. His killing of Mike, his cooking with a rookie like Todd, using the same sob routine to get the bug out, etc. Sloppy is the complete opposite of Gus Fring, the man who Walt wants to be. He wants to be in the empire business but he can't handle his own shit.

    11. I miss Gus.

    I'm going to be travelling next week so I won't have a blog up til Tuesday at the earliest, enjoy the finale!

    August 20, 2012

    TPG's Chemistry Class: 5006 Buyout

    "Breaking Bad' continued it's hot streak of being a way to end your weekend on an incredibly stressful and dark note. Doesn't really matter if you were at the beach all day frolicking or winning a Monopoly game, this show will still rope you into a sea of darkness and meth. But looking past that, we had another strong episode, albeit, one that was not my favorite of the season. So let's grab our wine glasses and pour ourselves a generous amount.

    Meaning of Title - The "buyout" of the title is obviously the one that Jesse and Mike thought would provide them a clean exit. Of course it also refers to the Gray Matter buyout which was pretty enlightening peak into Walter's true psyche.

    Acting - Not one real standout here, but I gotta say, I think Anna Gunn is a great actress, but she just can't hang with Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston. I mean in that dinner scene, they seemed so natural, and while she was good, I knew she was acting. Maybe some of readers who are actors can enlighten us in the comments section.

    1. The opening sequence of the methodical destruction of the bike was one of the most disturbing sequences the show has ever done. Judging by the increasing destruction of the relationships between the group, it was clear that the bike getting dismantled was a visual metaphor for the partnership. On some real deep level though, it was pretty much a dismantling of their humanity, I mean after you kill a kid and destroy the evidence, there isn't really anything to go back to.

    2. Hearing Todd call Walter Mr. White really jumped out at me for two reasons. It's obvious Todd is becoming the new Jesse in his eyes, at least in a business sense, but also about as close to "The Don" as we're gonna get to show us that Walter White is a true criminal genius/warlord in the traditional sense. Maybe that's a little too Reservoir Dogs, but you know what I mean.

    3. As Walter descends into the dark depths of humanity, his environment is as well. Gone are the glitzy well lit labs and car-washes, instead we have the stark mechanical bare bones of the office, his muffled earth tones of his home, and the washed out dull houses he cooks in.

    4. I don't even know why they even bother giving the rival drug cartel people names. Sure this guy is named Declan and he's cool, but no way this dude lives longer than 3 episodes.

    5. MINOR MIND MELT - They keep talking about Jesse James this season and I'm starting to wonder if this prophetic for what's come down the pipe. Looking at the story, an eager new recruit came into Jesse's gang with a desire to prove himself. This man was Robert Ford, this man killed Jesse James. Am I suggesting that Todd is ultimately going to kill Walt? Yes, yes I am.

    6. We've always known that Walt harbored some serious grudges over Gray Matter, but him coming clean to Jesse about it was one of his most honest moments yet. Remember that Walt has been jazzed off the meth cooking since the beginning; in the pilot alone he beat Walter Jr.'s tormentor and had serious passionate sex with his wife, oh how far we've come. He's craves recognition, and the dark side of recognition is notoriety.

    The Dinner Scene - This will probably go down as one of the most epic scenes in the history of the show so I'm going close out escalating readings of this scene.

    1. Jesse represents normal people. Skylar and Walt are both completely off the rails for a variety of reasons, but I mean just look at what's happening here. Jesse is the only one not drinking alcohol. He's also the only one eating.

    2.  Jesse represents everything that has divided Walter & Skylar. The dude is wearing a shirt with a jagged lightning bolt on it!!! None of the White family's complications would have happened if Jesse hadn't been there to introduce schoolteacher Walter to the meth game.

    3. Jesse is the real Walter Jr. He's always been some kind of surrogate son to Walter, and now at this scene he makes it official, of course in true Heisenberg fashion it's all manipulative bullshit to further his agenda.

    4. Jesse represents humanity. Both Walter and Jesse has shown horrible things, but while one can't even work after seeing the news report about the boy, one of them merrily whistles. Skylar on the other hand, essentially sold her family off for money? Jesse, he's the moral core in the middle with the extremes on either side. After all he's the only one with the light on him. He's protected yo.

    5. Jesse has an empty space across from him representing Mike/Hank/A Way Out.  Walter is tied to Skylar in this scene whether he likes it or not. Jesse, across from him, is the great wide open, getting away. Cause that's what we want right?

    August 17, 2012

    Forget Action Films, All You Need Is Personality Films

    Today "The Expendables 2" comes out and to answer your question, I already have my bro'd out pre-film extravaganza planned. It will involve some combination of slamming bud deez (that's bud normal for all y'all craft beer drinkers), eating steak, bicep curls, and lots of high fives and talk of potential fantasy football sleeper players. The film is the most "masculine" of all the summer movies, so I'm kind of surprised that once again there is some buzz in the press about the death of the "American Action Film." This bashing of American Explosion Cinema is a real "hip" journalistic trend with everyone from the ""The New York Times to Grantland bemoaning it's loss.

    In The New York Times piece, writer Adam Sternbergh praises the action driven cinema of 80's (A time period where almost every Expendable thrived) and points to it as a signal of American dominance of the genre. But now he says thanks to a combination of CGI and lack of quality American stars, we have failed completely, or in his words:

    Our great national product is now in laughable decline. As with many such problems, we, as a culture, throw money at it, and it eats that money, then spits back garbage.
    Sternbergh is assuming that our great national product is the actual action film, and he's wrong. Our real export is the ultra-charismatic American Hero, which is has been a constant since the early days of American film. You take the heavy hitters of "The Expendables," Arnold, Sly, and Bruce Willis and see that more than any movie in their body of work, it's their massive charisma that has carried them. Sure I love seeing Arnold   kick ass as much as the next guy, but it's his perfect delivery of one liners that set him apart. Stallone is cool when he's popping out of mud walls and shooting bad guys with arrows, but it's the never give up "Rocky" spirit that makes him endure. And everyone who's seen "Die Hard" knows Bruce Willis's wise cracking cop John McClane really makes the film and to some extent his career.

    And this export business of the American Hero is booming. We have The Rock, Vin Diesel, Channing Tatum, Mark Wahlberg, Will Smith, Jeremy Renner, Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, and Tom Cruise all continuing to prove that they can handle kick ass and rip off one liners with ease, and I'm not even including Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans because they might be considered non qualifiers because they're in super-hero movies, which apparently doesn't count, see Stallone's quote below:

    You have the superheroes today which are possessed with all extraordinary powers; they can blink and a fireball comes out of there. It's great. And then you have a bunch of us which is just your basic male-pattern badness. … Kind of like hands-on action."
    Don't get me wrong, ya boy TPG loves his explosions, gun fights, car chases, battles, mayhem, and destruction, but really it ultimately comes down to the characters. The often praised "The Raid:Redemption" (which is incredible) is mainly just a 24/7 exhilarating brawl, with a very flat protagonist who barely even speaks. I mean this is a dude who blows up an army of henchmen by sticking a propane tank and grenade in a refrigerator, and doesn't even say "Stay cool." I need my dynamic stars ripping one liners man!

    If you wanna get real deep with this whole thing, you can make a case that every generation of action stars contributes to the next. If younger stars grew up watching Stallone & Arnold, and in turn they grew up watching John Wayne & Clint Eastwood, who grew up watching James Cagney, who um, I don't know grew up watching real life strongmen fight at the OK Corral, then I'd say the American action star and his genre are far from dead and in fact are very healthy indeed.

    August 13, 2012

    TPG's Chemistry Class - Episode 5005 "Dead Freight"

    Heyyyyy There Monday! Nothing has the power to start you week off in a strange way like seeing a kid get shot. In an episode that saw Walt with his Heisenberg rating off the scales, we were greeting with a brutal ending. Kudos to the show for cutting right after the moment, just so we have to process it for a whole week. So let's grab our hoses and dive in.

    Meaning of Title - It's easy to see that "Dead Freight" probably relates to the death that took place post heist. But "freight" also means load or burden, so it's safe to say that the death of the child, is now a load and burden that all parties will have to bear, some more easily than others.

    Acting - I've never seen Friday Night Lights so my mind wasn't shattered like the rest of you "Clear Eyes Full Hearts Go Watch The Wire" maniacs, but Jesse Plemons quick reaction in that final moment was chilling.

    1. A boy in the desert riding his motorcycle aggressively. He hits the big jumps and then captures a dangerous spider and contains it. Twice in the opener did this young man escape death. This theme was everywhere in the episode. Lydia escapes execution by Hank making a phone call. The two railroad guys escape getting killed by Jesse's brilliance. Jesse narrowly avoids getting run over by a train. Yet, as the show tells us, for every careful move, you can't escape it. I'm not trying to get all Final Destination on you folks, but this was just very expertly designed episode leading to that final moment.

    2. I'm at the point now where I trust everything that Heisenberg does and nothing that Walter White does. Every time Walt expresses some kind of kindness or emotion (buying Walter Jr. a car, playing with his kid, etc) I second guess it. No scene so far indicates just how extinct Walter is in the scope of Heisenberg then him crying to Hank and then promptly bugging his office. He may not be wearing the hat but Heisenberg has taken over.

    3. The way the sky is shot in Breaking Bad makes me think it should get nominated for a best supporting actor Emmy. Nominations for Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito, Dean Norris, and the sky.

    4. Last week one of my readers called Mike..."Mike Da God" and I thought that title is fitting considering how much wisdom he drops. "There are two kinds of heists....." Yeah brah, he's like the criminal Obi Wan Kenobi. Old, white dude with grey hair who instructs padawans in the way of the force/crime/murder.

    5. Everybody wants it to happen, can Skylar please just die already. They've been building to it forever, making us hate her more and more. That "I'm your hostage" line tonight, please, Heisenberg is gonna do you real quick and then go buy a new car for Walter Jr.

    6. What you talking about TPG? #5? You kidding, have you become TPG Heisenberg? It's fascinating that in the scope of the whole show so far, we're still rooting for Walt/Jesse and want to see Skylar go. She's not innocent, but by no means is she deserving to be killed. Yet, the show is so brilliant at making us sympathize with the criminals, it's almost impossible to root for her.

    7. Dave Porter is the composer of the bulk of the music on the show and I think his music during the heist is the finest work he's done so far. Building off the rhythm and sound of the train plowing down the track, the score evolved into an extremely tense pounding theme and then reverted back to silence for the final disturbing coda.

    8. We have 3 episodes left and we haven't had the big epic earth shattering reveals that fans have been waiting for, but we're getting closer. Here's what everyone is fiending for:
    • Hank learning who Heisenberg really is - Walt's getting sloppy, it has to be coming. Skylar looks to be a breaking point as well
    • Jesse Learning Who Poisoned Brock - This potentially could disappear like Walter killing Jane, but I think it will be addressed by the end of the season.
    • Walt Killing Mike - This is def coming, but how is he gonna do it.
    9. There is a new trend of demanded realism for highly acclaimed pieces of entertainment/art, it was everywhere when "The Dark Knight Rises" came out and now it's reared it's head again with this episode. Sure we want our stories to be consistent in their realism, but we have to allow them room to tell the story. Once we start questioning every decision in recaps and forums, then we lose our ability to enjoy the story. Tonight, sure, the setup involved a lot of coincidences (bridge position, truck dude being there, etc) but ultimately it was incredible television, so who cares. These realism fanatics would probably scorn Melville for having the whale be white (what are the chances there would be that whale did it get there...Ahab is so not convincing...)

    10. Show is so dynamite man, I love it!

    August 1, 2012

    TPG's Chemistry Class: Episode 5003 Hazard Pay

    One of my favorite Breaking Bad episodes ever. And yeah I do love the crazy head on turtle wheelchair bomb madness but episodes like this one, are the real reasons that Breaking Bad is the business. Just incredible storytelling on every level. And all great stories speak to larger themes so we're going to take a break from the usual and just talk about the metaphors in the episode. BREAKING METAPHORS yo...

    1. Right out of the gate we get the lawyer with the headphones on while Mike does business. This is the warmup metaphor for all you low level metaphor maniacs. The legal system is both a key enabler part of the American Drug trade but also oblivious to how it works. Note at the end of this scene Mike assures the gentlemen that his "family is gonna be fine," taking us back to last week's emphasis on family.

    2. The whole show could be seen as a metaphor for pure capitalism and this episode served as a guide for business. Sure it's tha drug game yo, but problems such as overhead, and taxes (which Walt apparently he in the tea party?) face everyone who runs a business. Notice that before they settled on the pest control plan we got a nice little tour of American businesses. Speaking of that, what's going on with the car wash?

    3. As my pal Chicago Swift put it - "Who knew Skinny Pete could play keys like that." Skinny Pete is the ultimate metaphor for a "drug dealer." He looks shady as hell but deep down he's a talented musician individual/lost soul. Don't judge a book by it's cover, you don't know shit about anybody in the drug business, and Skinny Petes should be making sweet sweet soul music and needs to break free from the game/music store.

    4. VAMANOS PEST - Genius! Ever since the real life war on drugs began, everyone has always feared "drugs in my home" or in simpler terms "you brought this under our roof," you can play it anyway you want, but the fact that Jesse and Walt are now producing drugs in ordinary citizen's homes is so brilliant and metaphorically awesome I feel like I'm on some blue magic myself. It's a metaphor for how drugs can invade our homes & lives, for how drugs both prescription and none are a central part of our culture/nation, and also in the case of the home owner how oblivious we are to what's really going on with the drug war.

    5. Let's take a break from metaphor mania and talk about...couches! Multiple times during this episode we get family "units" watching TV on the couch. First we had the epic Jesse/Walt scene, this is basically a father/son conversation about trust and the value of family. Yes, at this point, Jesse so distraught about almost killing Mr. White last season is full on in "son" mode with Walt. Walt gives him the classic dad line "I know you'll make the right call." Then we get the line's impact with Jesse, Andrea, and Brock chilling on the couch playing video games (word), but Jesse can't process this anymore because of his earlier conversation, he ultimately chooses "family" over friends. Finally we get the MIND BONE scene where Walt and Walter Jr. are cackling watching Scarface. This is Walt's true family, not Jesse, and let's not forget that in the legendary film, Tony Montana kills his business partner in the drug game, has a last stand with a machine gun, and loses his family; shades of the opening of the season anyone? Walt like Tony Montana, will kill all the cock-a-roaches either with pesticide or a machine gun. Bad news for Jesse.

    6. And finally we have the final shot of the closing door as Jesse looks at Walt after his creepy speech about Victor. Is this Mike's fate, about that and to send us off is our old pal The Spirit of the West 
    'The Searchers' ends with an iconic shot that's been aped many, many times: John Wayne's silhouette framed in a doorway, literally halfway between "home" and the vast Monument Valley landscape beyond. All movie long he's wrestled with his WILD NATURE. He's killed. He's scalped. Can he even survive in a domestic setting? Last night we saw Jesse and Walt in exactly the same position -- in this case caught between their new meth lab (a fumigated house) and the ABQ sun outside. If we want to get real up our buttsabout it we could say that Team Baldie is "playing house" here, thematically holding onto whatever vestiges of normalcy (and family) still exist for them by cooking in someone's house. As with Wayne, we're not so convinced either of them -- poor, innocent Jesse included -- can ever really go home again. Have they Broken too Bad?

    July 31, 2012

    New Skyfall Trailer Drops And It Looks Pretty Fresh

    I've been following this new Bond flick for a while and I gotta say, it looks pretty dope. Yet, I was burned hard by the horribly directed QUANTUM OF SOLACE, so I'm not all in yet in yet. That being said I'm kind of a sucker for a exciting action so yeah I mean cranes versus train versus truck versus Bond versus Mr. Friendo Bardem = looks out of control per usual.

    July 25, 2012

    TPG Batman Facts

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families of the tragic attacks in Aurora. I struggled if I should post this but since the character of Batman has brought me and so many others great joy and memories for so long, I think it's fitting that a personal reflection on the character gets posted. Seeing Christian Bale visit the victims on his own accord reminded me of the power of this character, so here you go, some real deep TPG Batman Utility Belt tools.
    1. I endured two Christmas and two Birthdays of not getting the "Batcave Commander Center" toy. Do you you know what it's like to expect the Batcave Command Center and end up with some bullshit like the Baxter Building. Whatever, that was my first true test of Batman fandom and it made me the fan I am today.
    2. In the build-up to to The Dark Knight Rises I once theorized that Tom Hardy was going to be playing Superman and that Superman would be the villain in the film. Right actor/wrong villain.
    3. My good friend Jesse, notable comic book guru and internet music deity gave me his copy of The Dark Knight Returns to read when I was in 9th grade. Best Batman story in any medium ever made. Read it.
    4. Someone is borrowing my copy of that, if you have it, please give it back.
    5. I've been deep in the potential Knightfall storyline connections to the film for a while. Peep my post here. For good reason though, my oldest brother is a huge fan, and made sure that my other brother and I were totally immersed in the story. When we scored this epic poster of the Azrael Batman for his birthday it was the greatest gift I've ever given my brother.
    6. The first comic I ever bought was a Tim Drake Robin comic where he fights the Joker when Batman is overseas. Bought it at Bob City Comics in Natick. Bought it cause it had a hologram on it. Holograms are still cool btw.
    7. The Batman Forever soundtrack was a key part of my childhood. Full of choice songs from U2, Method Man, and The Flaming Lips.
    8. Batman Forever was the first Batman movie I saw in theaters. Batman & Robin was one of my first cinematic disappointment experiences. Bad explosions, stupid villains, and somehow they made the girl from Clueless not hot.
    9. I once wrote a college essay on the connection between Batman and Gothic literature. Got an A and everyone thought I was a I a nerd?
    10. Bruce Wayne is cooler than Tony Stark? Do I believe that? Not sure. Do you?

    July 23, 2012

    TPG's Chemistry Class: Episode 5002 "Madrigal"

    I wanna be like Mike! I mean, not really, but, seriously, Mike man, dude's got that ice in his veins (or does he, more on that later.) In every other TV show this would be a "setup" episode, and while it does serve that function, it's also an insightful look into one of the show's best characters. And finally also provided me with the first mind bone of the season, but we'll get to that later.

    Meaning of Title - Hmmm, while some names on this show are easy to decode - Los Pollos Hermanos - means Chicken Brothers, just kidding, this one is tough. The wikipedia page is full of shit about music, soccer players, and characters, in books. But perhaps if we look at like a "Lost" like anagram we find meaning. Ahh...what's this? I found "A Mad Girl" which could be prophetic considering the woman we met tonight.

    Acting! - With the show raking in the Emmy nominations, we got a nice little reminder here from Aaron Paul about why he's just as good if not better than Bryan Cranston. His speech where he broke down about the cigarette was phenomenal.

    1. This was far removed from the somewhat zany magnetic antics of last week, instead we got some serious back story on everyone's favorite cleaner - Mike Ehrmantraut. We learn about his past in Philly, that he used to be a cop, and retired under somewhat dramatic circumstances. The scene where he is questioned by Hank & Goateemez was tense and classic "Breaking Bad." But that wasn't even it, the hit he dropped on the assassin was so smooth from the piggy on the door to the quick shots to the chest, it reminded us that aka the ear man is such a great strong vicious character.

    2. It's nice seeing Jesse and Mr. White do insipid tasks like tear through apartments for poison cigarettes set to rock music.

    3. Also nice to see that Heisenberg is up to his old tricks stashing money/drugs/guns/poison in his house where his family rests their heads.

    4. Speaking of family, that's what this whole thing is about right? I when I say whole thing, I mean the entire show. It's providing for family that makes Walt start cooking. It's family that drives Tio Salamanca's rage that takes down Gus. And it's family that makes Mike not ice the Sylvia, the Madrigal woman. But who's family is Mike thinking about. His own, who now has lost that two million the DEA found? Or is it Slyvias

    5. Walt is motivated wants to save his family. Mike wants to save his family. Jesse? We haven't seen his family in a long time, and while he may care about Brock and Andrea, we haven't seen them around. And yet, so far this season we have seen Walter get reaaaal creepy with Skylar and tell her the value of family. I'm not sure if Jesse shares those values at this point, this could be a serious asset.

    6. Let's talk about Madrigal company for a little bit. If they're above Gus, then it's kind of disappointing,  I really wanted him to be the top dog. But if they are, then what are to make the Germans? They seem just a reserved as Gus in their sit down with the D.E.A and they're also ruthless enough to start icing people right away. Where the story goes from here, I'm not sure, but I don't think we've seen the last of them, and in fact at Comic Con, series creator Vince Gilligan said we will be hearing more German than Spanish this season.

    7. MIND BONE WITH PESTO TOMATO SPREAD WITH SOME MOZZARELLA - There are 12 Madrigal associates including Gus. 12! That's some biblical business folks. Does that Jesus the head of Madrigal? Are we looking at a Meth German Jesus? That's almost too much to handle.

    8. What's that, a cold wind blows on the New Mexico sands, yes, it's the Spirit of The West chiming in with his Western thoughts:
    Last week's classic Western trope, TEAMWORK gives way this week to its counterpoint, BETRAYAL. New character Sylvia -- who works for Gus Fring's (former) multinational chemical supplier, Madrigal -- comes to ABQ looking for assurance that Mike's guys aren't going to rat them out. He assures her they're solid, that they're in no danger of losing their heads. And everything seems fine.…except Sylvia's skittish and hires another hit man to dispatch all 11 partners, including Mike. BIG MISTAKE, LADY. Before you can say "broken friendship bracelet" Mike has dispatched his would-be assassin and confronts Sylvia, like a boss. You see it  in every Western: fragile alliances shattered, so often by money (or the prospect of money). Everyone looks out for #1. There are true friends sometimes, but ultimately the cowboy rides alone -- to his fortune, or to his death. I expect we'll be seeing both this season on 'Breaking Bad'!
    9.  Gotta love how Walter says that "There is gold in the streets waiting for someone to scoop it up," and then we cut to a nice game of Hungry Hungry hippos, gotta gobble up that cash!

    10. I loved how Sylvia lived in some modern new age glass house. It works as a double metaphor because A) People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks...because bald dudes like Mike will come to your house to kill you B) All these people are under the microscope now, both by their employers and the D.E.A.

    11. With Mike decreeing that he's calling the shots now, is he the new Gus? And if he is....I'm totally cool with that.