Archive for February, 2010

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TV Thoughts: Burn Notice –“Good Intentions”

February 27, 2010

This episode had a better case of the week than the last episode, but this weeks case didn’t directly involve Michael.  It was nice to see a careful bad guy that actually was looking into the past of the people he wanted to work with and thus causing Michael and Sam to work their butts off behind the lines to cover for Fi.  It was just a nice touch that I don’t know they have explored on the show before since normally Michael cons his way into people’s lives by talking really fast or appealing to something emotional with the person.  On the Gilroy stuff this week…that was anticlimactic.  After spending the last five episodes building up Gilroy as basically a metaphorical mustache twirler, he just died for no real reason.  He never really seemed to fit the vibe of the show, or more precisely Chris Vance’s performance didn’t fit the vibe of the show, but his death still seemed like it should have been more.  Finally having Gilroy do something was nice although it was never really shown in both the cases of stealing the machine gun and the airplane heist.  The big question now with only the finale of season three left is who is this prisoner that apparently Michael knows from his past?  I’m betting we’ve never seen him before on the show, but we’ll see.  It seems like it will both an intense and fitting conclusion to this season.  See you next week.  Cool moments after the jump: Read the rest of this entry ?

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Music Review: Fair – “Disappearing World”

February 23, 2010

This is the first music review I have done for this blog and probably the first one I have ever done.  Sure I state my opinion about bands and CDs that I like all the time, but reviewing a new CD feels like a whole different beast to me.  For starters, I have to actually listen to a CD not just hear it if I want to review that CD.  I feel that this distinction is important because I do a lot of hearing of music while I am studying or working on homework or surfing the web, but not all of that is listening.  Rarely do I just sit down with my music for the sole purpose of listening to that music.  Some of the times it happens that while I am hearing the music, for whatever reason, it draws me in more than whatever else I was trying to do.  But for the most part I form an opinion about music because I have heard it enough and I like what I hear so I begin to listen to it.  With both film and TV, I have to completely focus on them in order to follow them, so I feel like I can review those after one viewing.

As is the case with the new Fair CD, “Disappearing World”, I already knew that I liked the band, so I tried to make a conscious effort to really listen to the CD right out of the packaging when it was released two weeks ago.  I feel that in the two weeks since then I really have been able to listen to it and form an opinion about it.

As a result of the way that Aaron Sprinkle and the rest of the band work, I had been hearing about this CD and looking forward to it for quite a while.  “The Best Worst-Case Scenario” came out in June 2006 and in the winter of 2007 I had heard that Fair was back in the studio starting work on a new CD.  That was two and a half years ago that I heard about and began to get excited about a new CD from Fair.  I don’t think it is possible for a CD to live up to two and a half years of anticipation, but “Disappearing World” had to deal with those expectations.  While I don’t think that “Disappearing World” is quite as good as “The Best Worst-Case Scenario”, it certainly is a great addition to the Fair library.

Aaron Sprinkle is a great poet and his new lyrics are on full display in this new album.  The album as a whole has a bit darker and more cutting edge than “The Best Worst-Case Scenario”, but it never delves too far into that end of the pool so as to be too depressing.  There is a wealth of age and experience and emotion in Aaron’s voice and these songs really bring that out.  There is a moment that always gets me in the track “Walking in my Sleep” where he sings, ‘Every time I breathe I tow a fine line.  What’s become of me? A sorry forced rhyme.’ and the way that he sings it combined with the punch of the lyrics just hits me hard.  That line is one of those weird phenomena where, even though the chord progression and Aaron’s voice pattern is the same while singing a different line in the song, the combination of those other words don’t nearly have the power of the first line.  I don’t know why this happens, but it does seem to happen a lot in music.

The album as a whole doesn’t quite fit together as much as I would like unfortunately.  I like it when tracks on a CD have a thematic and musical flow to them and when it feels like those tracks have a reason for being together on the CD.  Though the tone of “Disappearing World” does fit together as a whole, I didn’t feel like the CD flowed as well from track to track creating a beautiful whole picture.  It happens in pockets like the first four tracks or the last few, but “Take Some Risks” and “It’s Doubtful” are a little jarring to me.  On that note, I think that “Take Some Risks” is the only track on the album that I don’t really like.  I’m not sure why it doesn’t work, but the combination of the lyrics and having the last almost 2 minutes of the track be instrumental didn’t work for me.  On the other hand, the presence of Aaron Marsh of Copeland on “The Worst of Your Wear” was a great stoke that totally fit with the overall synergy of Fair.

If “Disappearing World” had been released a year and a half or two years after “The Best Worst-Case Scenario”, I might have overlooked these minor problem, but since I have been waiting for two and a half years I guess that my expectations had been built up to perfection.  “Disappearing World” is not a perfect album, but for the beauty of Aaron Sprinkle’s lyrics and for the solid instrumental performance of the band, I recommend that you check out this album by Fair.

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TV Thoughts: Burn Notice –“Partners in Crime”

February 20, 2010

I didn’t think this episode was wonderful, the villain didn’t work in this universe for me and it felt like there were a lot of missed opportunities.  The villain, Damon, was too over the top in his accent and actions to feel like a real person to me.  That style can work if it is Michael playing an over the top part, but doesn’t work so well for the bad guy of the week.  The missed opportunities came with the fact that the client who hired Michael was killed in the first third of the episode.  If they had played off of this emotionally with Michael, the rest of the episode could have worked, but as it was it felt a bit flat overall.  But, it is still Burn Notice and Michael’s voiceover tips, the acting, and the humor could probably keep me watching this show by themselves, it’s just great if it all comes together as a great episode, like in “A Dark Road”.  There are only 2 episodes left now of this season and it feels like it will be a mad dash to finish up the storyline with Gilroy since we have the new knowledge that he is going to use Michael to help him free a prisoner from a flight.  I’m curious how this will affect Michael’s burn notice and more importantly how it will affect his crew.  Cool moments:

-Michael’s voiceover about finding spy offices by following food

-Easy Target

-“I confess I am a little interested…”

-“Heads”, “Cheater”

-Michael’s voiceover about following multiple conversations

-Michael’s voiceover about lip reading versus following

-Falling over the fence to pull up Michael, that is a pretty good idea

-Michael’s voiceover about claiming to be a criminal

-“Like a blanket”

-“Looks like murder, is in style this season” That was waaaaaaaay over the top Sam, thanks CSI

-“It looks like our killers plan, is coming apart at the seams” Again Sam, lol

-Michael’s voiceover about sabotaging guns

-Light on the Madeline this week, she didn’t really have a necessary arc

-“…which I’ll tell”

-“Actually I had already left the country, I sent that so you wouldn’t know where I was”

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TV Thoughts: Human Target –“Lockdown”

February 19, 2010

Maybe it is just because any action plot set in a skyscraper is reminiscent of Die Hard, but this week’s episode of Human Target, felt very Die Hard-esque.  As such, the plot was very clear this week with a well defined goal to shoot at and interesting set-backs on the way to that goal.  As a show, Human Target seems to be very good about defining what it is trying to do and the stakes that are involved at every step.  But, I did think that the plot holes and cheesiness were a bit distracting this week and robbed the episode of some tension.  Things like, how did the copious amount of cameras in the building not see Chance beat up the guard outside of the target’s office or how come the thermal sensors didn’t automatically go off when Chance and the target went into the Blackroom.  The MacGuffin this time around was pretty silly, I mean really, a plasma cannon in a place called the Blackroom owned by an evil science corporation?  But that is just the MacGuffin and it only serves to get the ball rolling for Chance, so it can be forgiven pretty easily, like the cheesy spy elements in Chuck.  There were a few more glimpses into Chance’s past this week.  There is some sort of an evil boss from Chance’s past that Guerrero knows about, but Winston does not know about.  It will be interesting to see this come to light in the fact that Winston doesn’t know what is up.  Cool moments:

-“She’s just a nice girl, likes to read…she thinks I’m funny”

-“Calling in the cavalry is an Uncle Dan…”

-“Please?”

-“Yeah, what is that?”

-“I had a boss like that once”

-Fight in enclosed spaces #5: an elevator

-I love that there was no one liner after Chance beat the guy up in the elevator

-I like the design of the inside of the elevator too, more elevators need binary code written on the inside

-“Oh, an Aunt Linda”

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Film Review: A Serious Man

February 18, 2010

With this film I have now seen every feature film in the Coen brother’s oeuvre including their little bit in Paris Je T’aime.  It is safe to say that I am a big fan of the work done by Joel and Ethan Coen.  Now A Serious Man belongs somewhere near the top of that list of great works by the Coen brothers.

The plot of the film is simple enough to describe, but I don’t think that really captures what makes this film great.  The film is about a Jewish man in the Midwest during the 1970’s whose seemingly perfect life falls apart and comes unraveled over the course of the film.  That’s the description of the film, but it isn’t really a journey because a journey would have some sort of conclusion.  Conclusion is a luxury that the Coens don’t afford the audience in this film and for good reason.   I have talked to some about the Coen’s third act inversion that they have in a lot of their films where the perspective shifts in the last act of the film and that which seemed important or driving the story turns out to not be what makes the philosophical point that the film is designed to make.  I think this phenomenon is most evident in No Country for Old Men, but you’ll find it in The Man Who Wasn’t There as well as most of their other films.  If the third act inversion is an identifying mark of the Coen’s films, then A Serious Man lives entirely in the third act.

A Serious Man is all build and climax with no real payoff or conclusion.  This plotting issue would kill most films, but the Coens not only make it work, they use it to increase the impact that a conclusion would have dulled.  In high school I remember discussing what I was supposed to get out of a story.  Should a story answer the philosophical questions that it raises and then let the audience decide if you agree, or should it simply ask the questions and allow the audience to write their own answers based on the story they have just seen?  A Serious Man is an example of the second type of story.  There is no real conclusion because the Coens don’t want to answer the questions that they raise, they want the audience to do that for themselves and they know that a conclusion would have to provide some sort of answer.  Just like every action or camera movement in this film, the structure is meaningful and helps to tell you how to watch the film.  I love the fact that at the end of the film it can be argued just as easily that God is real based on this film or that God is not real based on this film.  The question is raised, but it takes you and your perception of the events to answer that question.

Probably the most easily quantifiable thing about the film is the humor.  The humor totally worked for me here whether it was the misinterpretation of the phrase ‘mere surmise sir’ or Sy’s awkward hugs or Arlen’s constant reassurance that the letters don’t matter or the way that the Coens turn from humorous to dramatic on a dime.  This look into Larry’s life might have been too sadistic had it not been for the humor providing a balance for the tone of the film and as such it succeeded greatly.

The last thing I want to mention is the first part of the film.  The prologue, spoken entirely in Yiddish, might seem like a weird fit to the beginning of the film, but I really felt that it provided a context for the rest of the movie and did a great job of communicating the philosophy of the whole film boiled down into a 5 minute intro.  This prologue was, like the film, all build and no resolution, thus telling you what to expect from the rest of the film and how to watch the film.  And like the rest of the film, “When the truth is found to be lies, and all the joy within you dies…”

My rating: 10/10

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TV Thoughts: Human Target – “Run”

February 13, 2010

I don’t know that I can really use any other word to describe this show besides entertaining.  This isn’t stupid entertainment that substitutes action scenes and explosions for storytelling and plotting.  The stories are well laid out and clearly defined.  The characters are likeable and truly are characters, even though these first few episodes can’t really delve into that aspect a whole lot.  The fight scenes are energetic and well filmed and always a problem that Chance has to overcome to go through with the story; in other words, they matter.  Clear, simple, and entertaining, that is Human Target.  I would highly recommend if you haven’t watched it yet, to go on hulu and catch the first 5 episodes because the pilot will only be up until this coming Wednesday.  I felt that the show was a little lighter on the humor this week and a little more into questioning Chance and his past and what he is running from.  I think it will be fun to slowly put together the pieces of Chance’s, Winston’s, and maybe Guerrero’s past throughout this season at least.  Cool moments:

-“In our business we refer to that as a serious problem”

-Chance’s eyes after calling out Allyson’s boss

-“Okay now this…is awkward”

-Fight in enclosed spaces #4: a car

-“Haven’t even gotten to the good part yet”

-“Oh, sort of is an option?”

-“In less than 48 hours you got me talking about the one thing I haven’t talked to anyone about in my entire life”

-“I saw your underpants too”

-“…something tells me you’re just getting started”

-“Really? What is the matter with you?”

-“…trust me, it’s not something you wanna do twice”

-“You can’t run from me”

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TV Thoughts: Burn Notice –“Enemies Closer”

February 13, 2010

This week’s episode was fairly intense.  From facing an enemy that was more of an equal to Michael, to asking Sam to steal something that Sam was not okay with, this episode was a very testing one for Michael.  I liked all of the emotional places it was building to with Michael through the isolation of having everyone seemingly abandon him and then forcing him to make some pretty big decisions on what lines he is okay crossing.  And all it took to bring these questions up was a 45 minute episode, unlike the overarching story with Gilroy that is supposed to be doing the same thing, yet has felt a bit false.  That is probably a result of the lack of clear motivation for what Michael is trying to accomplish with Gilroy.  But, like always, it is the journey of Michael’s that is the most important and this piece of the journey both tested him and was greatly entertaining to watch.  Cool moments:

-“I like you, you know, like a friend”

-“Can I get out now?”

-“That was before you faked your own death and came back without a soul”

-“How attached are you with that couch?”

-“That guy sucks”

-“Hey Fi…Hey Fi” Was that a Burn Notice nod to Valentine’s day?

-Michael’s voiceover about how to store a body

-The look on Michael’s face when talking to Ruth

-“You really know how to kill a buzz bro”

-“…and eat cereal for lunch”

-“He’s kind of a sourpuss”

-“The whole thing seems pretty well thought out”

-“Look, if it was in Russian or Farci…”

-Michael’s voiceover about jumping into shallow water

-“Forget it Houdini”

-“And this is something you’re…hopefully really good at”

-Jack with two aka’s

-Michael’s voiceover about what people are scared of

-Michael’s timing at walking into his Mom’s house

-Jack sucks at being a magician

-“This is my show Carlos and I need him alive!”

-That cut to commercial  and freeze frame on the main characters was great

-Michael tossing a chip into his mouth

-Michael’s head nod

-Michael’s eyes during his talk with Larry

-Michael’s voiceover about isolation

-“Leave no trace, leave no teeth”

-“I’ve said I’m sorry right?”