Monday, March 28, 2011

A Twitter Murder Mystery

Hello everybody,

I’m in a Pop Culture and Communication class and we were assigned a project to show the power and potential of Twitter. For my project, I decided to craft a murder mystery that will take place entirely through a real time Twitter feed.

Seven characters are going to a mansion for a dinner party when—what do you know—a murder takes place. Along with the host of the party, his surly butler, and the determined detective the crime will (probably) be solved.

You can follow along on Wednesday March 30th starting at 7PM EST. It will take place for about three hours.

There are two ways to watch all of the comedic action. Keep track of the hashtag #popclue. All of the tweets will have that tag.

Or you can follow all 10 characters which you can find at these links:

UPDATED: Another way to keep track of the story is to follow the list featuring all of these character:

This will be an entertaining experiment in telling a story with a new platform. There will be plenty of jokes and clues through the duration. The more people follow along the more fun it will be. So if you think this sounds good, please tell your friends to follow these accounts or the hashtag. (If you write about this, I would love to know.)

I hope to see you on Twitter this Wednesday at 7PM!

--Austin Lugar

Film Yap: I Wrote This For You

When looking at the history of the Best Original Song category of the Oscars, there are a lot of really great songs. Lately, it’s been a bit disappointing. Too many studio movies just throw in a new song in the credits and then submit that. Sometimes, they’re fine songs but it’s disappointing they weren’t used in the actual film.

So just like last week, I’m going to highlight some recent examples of film scenes that used original songs well. (Only a few of them were even nominated for the Oscar. I guess they all can’t be Country Strong.)

“You Know My Name” – Casino Royale

“The coldest blood runs through my veins.”

Bond songs are usually as fun as their movies. All you had to do back in the day was awkwardly turn the title of the film into a pop song while juxtapose the lyrics with naked women. With the reboot, everything was changed. The song wasn’t just singing “Casino Royale” over and over again, but instead a cold criticism of Bond himself. The title sequence was inventive and avoided the silhouettes of cleavage. It’s almost like they were taking it seriously…

“Landry Day” – Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog

“That’s the plan. Rule the world. You and me. Any day.”

Here’s my first cheat. Sure this never played in theatres, but it’s 45 minutes long, made by professionals, and is freakin’ brilliant. This online musical got a lot of attention because it was something interesting happening during the writer’s strike and it was created by geek god Joss Whedon and starring Neil Patrick Harris. The first act opened with a three minute monlogue that set up the world. It was a bit exposition heavy but still charming. Yet once the first song started, everyone was hooked. It’s cute, clever and everything you would want from a Whedon musical. Sure songs like “My Eyes” and “Slipping” are stronger, but this one holds a place reassuring this was going to be something special.

“Bangers, Beans and Mash” – Get Him to the Greek

“Love, there’s things I’ve never said. I need to get them off my chest before I’m dead. I feel so bloody dead.”

When the movie is about music, then the music really needs to be good. This movie is filled with songs by Infant Sorrow and its lead Alexious Snow (Russell Brand). Most of them are pretty silly (“The Clap”, “African Child”) but it’s evident why he would be so popular in this world. When he finally gets to the Greek theatre, he plays the song his father recommended and he opens the show strong. Then he plays a surprisingly poignant song. As raunchy as the film is, the movie had a strong sense of sadness. All of his misadventures further distanced himself from the people he wants to be closest to. The imagery of this song are not associated with the partier, but the man alone in his house. Yet true to the Infant Sorrow fashion, there are suggestive words. Judd Apatow said, “It’s a song that makes me cry, but then I realize it could just be a dick joke.”

“Rock Me Sexy Jesus” – Hamlet 2

“He lays down science, it really blows my mind. But He’s also got abs that transcend space and time.”

The film was a bit of a disappointment, but this scene completely delievered. The whole movie is a build up to the inevitable failure of Steve Coogan’s Hamlet 2 play. It is riddled with time travel, daddy issues, and light sabers. More importantly it has the song “Rock Me Sexy Jesus.” It’s so catchy and the ridiculousness is too silly to be controversial. In fact, that’s what saves the day. The religious protesters realize it isn’t blasphemous…He’s kicking Satan’s ass! The linked clip only shows portion of the scene so go find this one.

“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” – Hustle and Flow

“It’s f***ed up where I live, but that’s just how it is. It might be new to you, but it’s been like this for years.”

Everybody laughed when this was nominated and laughed more when it won the Oscar. On its own, it’s a fine rap song with a catchy tune. The reason why this list even exists is because with the emotional connection of their films, the songs have an added weight to them. Making music isn’t just about expressing Djay (Terence Howard) but could be his way out of lifestyle. Everything is on the line so this song has to be good. He’s nervous; Shug’s (Taraji P. Henson) is nervous. But then it all clicks and it’s powerful.

“Falling Slowly” – Once

“Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice. You’ll make it now.”

This list isn’t ranked, but this would be the number one. When I walked in to the theatre, I knew everybody was buying the soundtrack. I made a stupid mental declaration I wasn’t going to follow suit. I’m lucky I didn’t have 3G because I would have tried to buy it right there in the theatre. It’s not just that the songs are good—they are—it’s that they’re used beautifully. Music is what connects these two. It’s how they are able to convey their emotions and pain. Together, they were able to make someone really special. This is the scene when they first realize how in sync they are and it’s one of the most romantic moments I’ve ever seen in a movie. Pure and beautiful.

"La Méme Historie" – Paris Je T’aime

“Life’s a dance, we all have to do.”

Anthology films are always tricky because there are always going to be good and bad segments. So even the best collection is a bit uneven. Setting a variety of stories in Paris is a fun idea and it was exciting to see new shorts by directors like Alexander Payne, Tom Tykwer, Alfonso Curaón, Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven, and The Coen Brothers. What wasn’t expected is that they would all intersect at the very end. To conclude the film, a lot of the characters run into each other at the bar and embrace themselves as long friends. It’s such a sweet moment, juxtaposed wonderfully with this song by Feist. It creates more of a loving setting to each of these characters and, of course, Paris itself.

“Bad Jokes” – A Prairie Home Companion

“Bad jokes, Lord I love them. Bad jokes, can’t get enough of ‘em. Oo oo oo whee, bad jokes for me.”

Robert Altman’s last film captured a wonderful tone of warmth. In many ways, it’s about death, but it’s also about the people you surround yourself with. It’s the family of friends. The ones who will always be there for you and the ones who can make you laugh. In respectful retaliation, Lefty (John C. Reilly) and Dusty (Woody Harrelson) decide to sing a song of bad (and occasionally dirty) jokes on air. Some are as bad as they claim, but most of them are very solid. It’s a last hurrah and having a good time doing it.

"Threshold" – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

“We are Sex Bob-Omb! We’re here to makey ou think about death and get sad and stuff!”

Sex Bob-omb is not the best band in the world. Sure Kim Pine rocks it on the drums, but they keep winning the Battle of the Bands because their opponents keep bursting into coins. All of the fight sequences are metaphors for Scott’s confidence and interest in his relationship with Ramona. At this point, he’s angry, frustrated and is tired of all the BLEEP. That’s the perfect mentality for punk rock. As their awesome skills create a giant gorilla to combat the Katayanagi Twin’s dragons, what’s impressive is the most interesting thing is Sex Bob-omb. They finally have the energy and the song to be the band they wished they were, the one Knives always sees.

“Let’s Duet” – Walk Hard

“Let’s duet in ways that make us feel good.”

A forgotten film under the Apatow label is this dead-on spoof of musical biopics. As John C. Reilly’s Dewey Cox goes through every cliché possible, he has a song to accompany it. The breakaway song in the film is “Let’s Duet” because of it’s clever double entendres. The real reason it’s a hit is because Jenna Fischer is hilarious. She sells the sweetness, dirtiness, contradictions, and absurdity of it all. Once used music to have the characters understand each other on a complex even spirtual level. Walk Hard uses music to make them realize they would really like to have sex with each other. And that’s okay!

“The Wrestler” – The Wrestler trailer

“Have you ever seen a one-legged dog making its way down the street? If you’ve ever seen a one-legged dog then you’ve seen me.”

When you regularly see films at a Landmark theatre, you tend to see the same trailers over and over again. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because they tend to be trailers for good movies. Before I had seen The Wrestler I had seen the trailer a million times, which means I heard this song just as many. In the movie, the plot structure let me down but the character remains strong. This song exemplifies all that is fascinating and tragic about Randy the Ram. Oddly enough, my emotions were strongest for him before I paid for my ticket.

Honorable mentions include

“Fallin’ and Flying” – Crazy Heart

“Heart (Broken)”Dr. Horrible: Commentary! The Musical

“That’s How You Know”Enchanted

“Stu’s Song”The Hangover

“Little Person”Synecdoche, New York

Also from Television:

“It Ain’t Easy Being White or Brown”Arrested Development

“I’ll Never Tell”Buffy the Vampire Slayer

“Getting Rid of Britta” --Community

“Abigail’s Song”Doctor Who

“The Ballad of Serenity”Firefly

Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit”How I Met Your Mother

Film Yap: Treme Season One

As a critic, it is unfair to grade something upon the artist’s last project. It should be looked at on its own. Yet as an admirer of the artist, of course, I want to keep the ast project into consideration. It’s not just about seeing individuals shows and films, but seeing how the evolution and experience has affected the artist.

David Simon is one of the greatest artists working today and it’s funny because I don’t know how much he would identify himself as an artist. He worked the crime beat for the Baltimore Sun for many years. From that experience he wrote the incredible book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Street, which was later adapted into the long running CBS show.

Simon later adapted his second book, The Corner, into an HBO miniseries. This was seen as the test run for what is now seen has his opus: The Wire. Seen as the greatest television show in the history of the medium by many critics—This one included—Simon was able to forgo a lot of familiar writing tactics to let his journalistic sense tell the greater story. It was a brilliant expose into Baltimore and the institutions that fail its people. It feels like a grand Greek tragedy or a Victorian novel instead of a cop show.

After five years, The Wire ended on its own terms. Simon made the impressive Iraq miniseries called Generation Kill, but Treme was his first real return to a television show. Instead of his of hometown of Baltimore, Treme is set in New Orleans a few months after Katrina. A few actors from The Wire are present like Wendell Pierce (Bunk) and Clarke Peters (Lester Freeman). The look of the show feels different, but it’s also very different.

In the city there is a lot of anger. People are mad at the government for not opening up the projects so people can come home. People are made at George W. Bush. People are mad at FEMA. Despite all that anger, there is a different tone with the show. Hopeful is too strong of a word, but there is such love towards their city they all wish it can return to the place they know.

A lot of that is conveyed through the show’s use of music. Pierce plays Antoine, a struggling trombone player who seems to have a baby momma in every neighborhood. He always has to plead with taxi drivers to let him pay them later and he is always looking for any gig that will pay. The music is not just what he’s best at, but it’s what inspires his soul.

The music of the show is enriched with the city’s history and their characters longing for a better tomorrow. Steve Zahn plays Davis, a likable ne’er do well who adores the independent music scene. Peters has recently returned home and desperately wants to put his Indian band back together, despite the hardships of the city. Sonny and Annie are street performers, one of which may be too talented to stay on the streets.

There are plenty of storylines without directly being part of the music. Melissa Leo plays a lawyer who is working with Khandi Alexander who is trying to find her brother who has not been seen since the flood. Kim Dickens is trying to operate her restaurant despite the struggling economy. John Goodman is an English teacher who uses YouTube to rant with profanity about the hardtimes of the city.

The show captures a time and a culture with expertise and authority. The characters in a Simon show move so organically it feels like a documentary but somehow they can’t notice the cameras. To step into their lives like this and form this greater understanding can only be accomplished with smart people at its core. Once the community feels artificial, the emotional connection is lessened.

There are so many storylines that it would be weirder if they didn’t cross every once in awhile. There is warmth when they do. It’s like having different friends of yours meet. To meet friends in this circumstance is such a fascinating moment in time. There aren’t any flashbacks to the city they all remember. It all starts when they are all shaken up and they don’t know what will happen next. The only thing they can really do is try to rebuild and play the music to sooths them.

Is it fair to compare this to The Wire? Absolutely not. This is an amazing show on its own. It isn’t the masterpiece that The Wire turned out to be, but looking back it all seems to fit. There are many reasons why that show and all of Simon’s shows worked. It could never have tackled any of its ambitious themes if we didn’t care about the characters who were affected by it. With Treme, there isn’t the complex plot of a drug takedown. Instead, it’s a new set of characters who immediately feel rich as they all work on moving forward. It’s only been 10 episodes with them, but I’m ready to spend more time with them. Can they recapture what they have lost or work towards something new, hopefully better than before? Hopefully.

There aren’t too many extras, but they have the right focus. There are plenty of commentary tracks about the episodes and the music. There is a special feature devoted teaching more about the songs featured in the episodes. It’s like those radio stations that can tell you the name of the song and artist while you’re listening. It’s more about the show and the music than them praising themselves.

Season: 4.5 Yaps (Can grow on me more to a 5)

Extras: 4 Yaps

Pop Culture: Artificial Reality TV

We talked in class about that certain reality shows exist to show the lives of interesting people. I still don’t believe this. Those shows remain incredibly artificial for a number of reasons. Once a camera is placed in a room, everybody will act differently. People change when they are being watched/observed but even more so when they are being recorded for a larger audience. A lot of the scripted elements of the reality shows come from the contrived storylines of an episode, but also the characters themselves playing up to their expectations. Would the people on Jersey Shore really fight so much if they didn’t know the fan reactions to those moments, which is labeled “good TV?”

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to capture the life of people using the medium of television or film. What is necessary is a sense of journalism. Too many of these shows have intervening producers determining plotlines or what characters should be introduced—an odd concept. A journalist should find an area and create an environment where they can observe their subject in what is close to their national setting and report accurately. That is how you are able to learn something and become emotionally invested. The Up Series ranks amongst the best documentaries I’ve ever seen because they are always showing the subjects are they truly are, flaws and all.

Showing people blissfully transforming themselves into vile caricatures is not the television I want to watch. Yes, Snookie is actually named Snookie so I suppose by definition she is a “real person.” Yet I’ve learned more about the human condition through people like Don Draper, Walter White, and even The Doctor. The best uses of fiction are the ones that are able to tap into the themes and reality of the world around them and convey it into a story that is compelling. Doing that in a reality show setting seems disingenuous when it’s actual people living their lives—or pretending to live their lives.

What remains in these shows is just exploitive sensationalism. The worse they behave, the more screen time they’ll get. Watching their shows and talking about their shows is only supporting this madness. Rising above it and laughing at their scandals is no longer a relevant excuse because it’s reached the point when they are self-aware as well.

Film Yap: Cool It

The worst part about any activism is when the man eclipses the message. Cool It is supposed to be Bjorn Lomborg’s response to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth but it falls into the mistakes of that film and then can never redeem it.

Lomborg isn’t in the belief that global warming is a myth; he just doesn’t think it’s as essential as a problem as so many other problems facing the planet. He displays some more practical ways to tackling some of the energy issues. (Including nuclear power, which makes this the most unfortunate DVD release since Hereafter.)

There are plenty of effective arguments, but the documentary does not cover any of them well. In a brief 88 minutes, majority of the film is spent on Lomborg’s Christ like status. He’s seen talking to children, an impoverished African village, and to his Alzheimer’s affected mother. Al Gore’s personal life was an unnecessary diversion from his PowerPoint in Truth, but it was never half of the film.

The rest of it is underdeveloped and not convincing. There is a portion of the film criticizing Gore and the government for their use of scare tactics. Lomborg says the world shall not fall into the ocean or all of the poles shall completely melt. Instead of focusing on the science, the film keeps focusing on what’s not happening. There are random celebrity clips of them talking about recycling or children being afraid of the end of the world. The film even seems to be using the tactics it’s against by having the DVD cover show the world surrounded by bills and burning up.

Any interview with a professional is undercut by cheap editing and a focus on sound bites than a through argument. There is a lot of potential of having this counter argument. Yet it’s too self-aware about that position. Al Gore’s name is said so many times, it’s almost like it’s a personal attack of him. With a weak presentation of its stance, the film’s message seems more like “Eh, it’s not that bad.” What a missed opportunity.

The extras include deleted scenes from a really short movie.

Film: 2 Yaps

Extras: 2 Yaps

Film Yap: Yogi Bear

Nobody actually likes Yogi Bear right? As a kid I watched some of the cartoons along with the other Hanna-Barbera line-up, but Yogi never seemed to be a character the public was begging for a movie adaptation. Whether it was wanted or not, here it is and it’s horrible.

It’s not just that the film is obnoxious; it doesn’t make any sense. Apparently everybody can hear Yogi Bear and his sidekick/son/something Boo-Boo talk and everybody is okay about this. This could work in a fun heightened world, but this just a very boring depiction of the real world…with talking bears.

The plot is so clichéd, the script may still have some copy and paste typos. Jellystone Park is in danger because the evil mayor wants money or something. This is obviously not a honorable attempt to save a failing city from bankruptcy because the mayor is wearing a suit and says things like “All I care about is power” thus he is evil.

So the park has one week to raise $30,000 or something. It is up to Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) to do so. He is helped by Rachel (Anna Faris), a nature documentarian. Most of her dialog is “I spent __ months with the _______.” If she really is an expert with wildlife why is her plan to save the park to launch fireworks? Why is that a plan at all? Also why does the mayor have an evil laugh when Yogi is water skiing with fire and accidently launches the

Everything happens as expected even with a deus ex machina in the form of a frog faced turtle. Family films don’t have to have really complex stories, but they need to have something real. This film is so empty that I’m just begging for ANYTHING to work. Ranger Smith says over and over again that he loves the park. So how about you show him interacting with the park in a way that shows how much it means to him. Instead all he does is yell at Yogi for stealing people’s food. In fact, nobody seems to enjoy the park. Everybody is either miserable or in mortal danger.

It doesn’t help that the CGI use in this movie is horrendous. The bears are so awkwardly inserted it never is believable. The light never seems to hit them right, they never interact with the environment and they don’t appear to be really three-dimensional. It hurts all of the performances because it’s obvious how much everyone is interacting with nothing. The film is full of really talented and funny people including Cavanagh, Faris, T.J. Miller, Andrew Daly, Nathan Corddry and Justin Timberlake. None of them give a bad performance, but they just aren’t enthusiastic to fake laugh at another ZANY antic by Yogi, which are all involved in the premise that he’s hungry.

Instead they are all trapped in this film that goes out of its way to make everybody look bad. All of the shots are close-ups ruining any sort of comedy between characters. The park looks beautiful, but the filmmakers never really chose to highlight the beauty or the adventure of it. Nobody wins.

The extras continue with the same degree of incompetency. It’s just a ton of featurettes about how great the CGI is, how perfect Dan Aykroyd was, and how faithful they are to the cartoon. I respectfully disagree with everything they said. They also have Miller doing some sketches as Ranger Jones. They forgot to add in the jokes in post. In order to watch any of these you have to naviagate through an annoying map of Jellystone that takes too long to load each time. There is also a matching game to determine if “You are smarter than the average bear.” The concept is that if you match the food, then Yogi can’t steal it? There is also a new Looney Toons cartoon that’s funnier than the entire movie. The only reason checking out the bonus features is this absolutely bizarre “music video” of Cavanagh singing about Rachel and several times he just sings the word “rainbows” over and over again. Also they keep looping the same footage of Faris walking past a green screen while the song is going on. It’s insane, but what do you expect.

Film: 1 Yap

Extras: 1.5 Yap

Insane Level of Rachel Song: 4 Yaps

Actual Quality of Rachel Song: 1 Yap

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Higgens Network: Paul

There are a few comedic staples making films right now. There are the Will Ferrell/Adam McKay movies and more films from Saturday Night Live stars. There is also Judd Apatow and David Wain and their respected troupes. They are the ones leading the charge out of Hollywood. In the past there have been the kings like Charlie Chaplin and Preston Sturges who define a comedic time. Right now, the ones that are my favorite is the team of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright.

Paul is their first collaboration without the aid of Edgar Wright since he was out making Scott Pilgrim, so Frost stepped up as a co-writer. The end result is not as tight of a movie as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but the laughs are just as strong. It takes an overdone formula of the road trip and really playing on the parts that work the best.

Two friends (Pegg and Frost) leave England to finally attend ComicCon and tour America by hitting up all of the reported UFO sightings. They end up finding an alien of their own named Paul who has escaped from Area 51. Paul is being chased down by government including supercop Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman), two oblivious FBI agents (Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio) and The Big Guy (Sigourney Weaver).

As they race in their Winnebago, they encounter more characters they accidently enrage played by very funny comedians. Instead of just being individual vignettes, they smartly play up the chase. It’s more fun knowing that these people will return with greater stakes somewhere down the line.

The best nerdy films are the ones who are actually nerds themselves. This film is wall to wall of sci-fi references and tangents that are hysterical because they aren’t just the usual Star Wars lines. It’s the subtle musical cues and random lines of dialog that really pay off if you are like the main characters.

By recognizing the films of the past, Pegg and Frost know what works the best. Having Paul and a romantic interest (Kristen Wigg) serve as catalysts to shake up the central friendship is something that could be annoying. Yet Pegg and Frost are such talented actors they can sell the frustration while never losing sights of the fun of the movie as well as the heart of the characters.

Some of the plot set-ups are too obvious and there are too many jokes with “probe” as a punchline. What it got right was establishing a strong fun environment for everyone to do what they do best. Pegg and Frost were smart in not showing the lives of their characters before they got to ComicCon. Through subtle dialog, we know their regular days. Instead the whole movie is their adventure and it’s one worth taking part in.

Film Yap: You Played It For Her, You Can Play It For Me

Music in film does something special. It strikes your senses in a unique way creating a new connection. Certain filmmakers are really good at selecting an existing song and using it in a new way. They aren’t just picking what’s on top of the charts right now. The song can enhance a scene into higher level of quality so it’s important it is the right song.

This has been done well throughout the history of cinema, but today I’m just going to highlight the best ones in the past few years.

“You Make My Dreams” – (500) Days of Summer

“What I’ve got’s full stock of thoughts and dreams that scatter. You pull them all together and how, I can’t explain, but you make my dreams come true.”

I’m actually not a big fan of this movie. For every inventive scene, there seems to be a dozen stale ones, but this is the big scene that worked. Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Tom is in the point of his relationship where all of the colors around him are brighter and everything seems perfect. So that is played out through a musical number. He dances down the streets singing Hall and Oates and is even accompanied by a cartoon bird at one point. It’s a lot of fun and further shows the range of Levitt. He’s revived his career by playing heavy characters like the ones in Mysterious Skin and Brick, but here he also shows his joyful energy and fun dance moves.

“Miles From Nowhere” – The Brothers Bloom

“I have my freedom. I can make my own rules. Oh yeah, the ones that I choose.”

This scene was good the first time, but really worked for me the second time I watched the movie. Con movies are always so much about the twists, it’s hard to watch the film and really believe it is about the characters, not the con. In this scene Adrian Brody’s Bloom is finally free to really express himself. He isn’t playing a character or confused about his emotions. In this scene he stops to actually appreciate the beautiful city he’s in and to steal an apple. Cat Stevens plays while he he’s being chased through the park and he recognizes how happy he truly is and who is making him feel that way.

“Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” – Inglourious Basterds

“It’s been so long and I’ve been putting out fire with gasoline.”

Oddly enough this song was first created for the horror remake Cat People. Like most of Tarantino’s references, he takes the tone of something he loved and now puts it into a new exciting setting. The entire movie has been leading up to this confrontation. The entire plot and all of its strands have come to this confrontation, at a cinema no less. The most fascinating character, Shosanna, pauses briefly and then puts on her metaphorical war paint as David Bowie revs it up. She is ruthless and ready to do what she has to do for revenge against the cruelty of the Third Reich. It’s incredibly invigorating. This shows how Tarantino used the subgenre of the “adventure war film” without ever discounting the horror behind it.

“Memories” – Jackass 3D

“Memories make me want to go back there, back there.”

Yes, I like the Jackass films. I don’t need to go back and watch all of the TV show, but the films have this odd blending of fun and friendship. Sure it’s a psychology major’s thesis about why they do the things they do, but that’s not the point of the movies. It’s about guys hanging out and coming up with the worst things possible they could go through. The films are engaging because they are creative and there is this evident love for each other. At the end of this one, Weezer’s “Memories” plays as we see pictures of the gang as children. It’s shows how much they’ve grown and how much they haven’t. It’s a moment of sweetness in a film filled with some of the grossest things imaginable.

“If I Didn’t Care” – Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

“If I didn’t care would it be the same? Would my ev’ry prayer begin and end with just your name?”

This was a charming movie that unfortunately not too many people saw. Francis McDormand is the titualar character who has an exciting day because she gets to hang around Amy Adams’ Delysia. Delysia is a fun bubbly girl but she is also torn. She is all set to marry rich, but she hates that she’s actually in love with Michael (Lee Pace). She denies this and Michael makes her confront her emotions by having her sing this song. Delysia tries to keep the persona for the crowd she desperately wants to be part of, but she can’t keep it up. Michael vocally supports her when she stumbles and they create a personal moment hidden on a stage.

“Baby You’re a Rich Man” – The Social Network

“How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people? Now that you know who you are what do you want to be?”

The bitter irony of plots can be a bit tedious. You don’t know what you have until it’s lost. You get everything you wanted but you’re still not happy. These things make for exciting drama, but it’s too easy to become preachy when it’s time to make the point. The Social Network keeps it simple and very effective. The final shot, which I won’t spoil, starts to play this Beatles tune and suddenly we view Mark Zuckerberg in a different way. He’s no longer the anti-hero but someone more sympathetic. Whether he’s justified or not, is the ultimate question.

“I Won’t Dance (Don’t Ask Me)” – Step Up 3D

“My heart won’t let my feet do the things that they should do.”

Seriously. This isn’t even a good movie, but man I love this one scene. In the Step Up films the dancing numbers are silly, but they are always entertaining especially when they are completely ridiculous. In their third entry, they pay homage to the musicals that paved the way for them. The two most likable and charismatic characters dance to a song that brought them together. It’s Fred Astaire’s “I Won’t Dance.” Just like those movies with Ginger Rogers, these character dance down the streets of New York (In one shot, mind you), communicating and flirting through their common ground: their impressive dancing skills. It’s still shocking how charming this scene is in a movie called Step Up 3D.

“With or Without You” – Tell No One

“Through the storm we reach the shore. You give it all, but I want more. And I’m waiting for you.”

My list isn’t ranked, but if it was this would probably be number one. This is a French thriller based off the American crime novel by Harlan Coben. One of the variations from the book is how Alex Beck solves the puzzle to find the wife he thought was dead. In the movie, the password is from a concert they went on together to see U2. Once he figures it out, he regains hope and runs through the streets of Paris. “With or Without You” is loudly playing as the wide shots fill the screen. Seeing it in theatres made it feel so vibrant and uplifting.

“Put On Your Sunday Clothes” – WALL-E

“Out there. There’s a world outside of Yonkers. Way out there beyond this hick town, Barnaby, there’s a slick town Barnaby.”

I adore WALL-E and I’m not even a big fan of Hello Dolly. It almost doesn’t matter. The movie and this song is just a symbol for how WALL-E sees the world. It’s the kindness and innocence that makes him one of the most sympathetic characters. He plays this song a few times in the movie because it’s one of his movie beloved possessions. He loves the colors, the movement, and the people in the video. In the best scene in the movie, he turns on the video once more to share his world with EVE and even puts on a little hat. It’s a beautiful moment.

“The Times They Are A-changin’” – Watchmen

“There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’. It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle our walls. For the times they are a-changin’”

I liked the Watchmen movie, but I wish it was its own product. Not just an expensive reenacting of the graphic novel. The best adaptations are the ones that stand on its own while being tonally faithfully to the original source. Zach Synder teased us by doing that for one scene, the amazing opening montage sequence. It showed how the alternate universe was different than ours by inserting these vigilantes into iconic moments of our past. More importantly it did show how their time was fading and the difference the future will bring.

“Wake Up” – Where the Wild Things Are trailer

“If the children don’t grow up. Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.”

Yes, I’m cheating but I don’t care. This is my list and this is a song I shall forever associate with this movie. The movie is wonderful because it captures a certain element of childhood. There is a lively attitude to make believe, but there is also a degree of sadness. It’s a confusing time but it’s also an exciting time. Spike Jonze balances these with skill, but what’s even more impressive is that the trailer works as a brilliant short film. It conveys these themes, while not spoiling major parts of the movie. One of the reasons the trailer is so artistic is because of how well this song was used over the edited material.

Honorable mentions include “Non, Je Regrette Rien” –Inception and “All I Want is You” –Juno.

Also from television “Way Down in the Hole” – The Wire; “Don’t Stop Believing” – The Sopranos (NOT Glee); “Breathe Me” – Six Feet Under; “…Long Time Ago” –The Shield; “Dancing Queen” – Community; “Make Your Own Kind of Music” & “Wonderwall” – LOST.

What are some of your favorites that should be added to the list?

Book Review: Buffalo West Wing

Having a cozy set in the White House is an incredibly difficult task. Mixing the fun and lighter nature of the mystery juxtaposed with one of the most powerful and important places on the planet could lead to a clash in tone. With her fourth book in the series, Julie Hyzy continues to masterfully balance the two while maintaining intelligence and respect to both fields.

At the beginning of her latest entry, the White House is in the middle of transitioning for the new President. Ollie Paras is worried about whether or not the new First Family will leave her as Head Chef. Nothing is ever so easy for Ollie because a hostage crisis and poisoned chicken puts everybody on alert. Hyzy continues to shine with a series full of delightful characters as well as a really strong plot.

Hyzy does a good job about having the environment evolve as Ollie’s professional and romantic life continues to be in flux. While it is very unlikely Ollie will ever be completely separated from the White House, there are believable questions on what will happen to her next. The series also doesn’t stray away from examining how many times Ollie will be involved in a major political threats, but this plot remains organic and exciting. This is another strong edition of one of the most consistent series in the genre today.

Book Review: Kismet

Private eyes make great fish out of water characters because they already have to be the one separate from their society in order to expose the immoral. This is exemplified with Jakob Arjouni’s detective: Kemal Kayankaya, a Turkish immigrant living in Germany. Through racism, he feels isolated in Frankfurt even before he turns his attention to stopping the organized crime force known as the Army of Reason.

Kayankaya first encounters them when a local businessman asks for his help because the Army is forcing him to pay a regular payment for his “safety.” One gunfight later, things become more complicated. The investigation is very satisfying, but it’s usually Kayankaya that hurts the pacing of the book. Arjouni tends to have Kayankaya give lengthy mental sidebars in the middle of conversations and plot.

However, Kayankaya is usually very entertaining especially when telling jokes or interacting with his partner, Slibulsky, about his lack of a personal life. The larger examination of prejudice in Germany is interesting, but sometimes the distance feels that something was lost in translation. Kismet is actually the fourth Kayankaya book, but this is the first one published in English. Melville House shall publish the other three in intervals in 2011.

Film Yap: Hemingway's Garden of Eden

There is a level of snootiness in Hemingway’s Garden of Eden that can be mistaken for deep intellect. The film couldn’t even scoot away from avoiding putting Ernst’s name in the title. This is based off his final novel that isn’t as commonly known. It’s about an American writer who quickly marries a girl and then they take part in sexual discovery.

The discovery in sex is underwhelming. Like the rest of the film, ideas are flown around by nothing actually sticks. It tries to play with gender politics and elements of the class system but it always seems empty. Some of that is due to the ill-performed leads: Jack Huston (Boogie Woogie, Boardwalk Empire) and Mena Suvari (American Beauty, American Pie). They have the right look but they can’t seem to make the academic dialog seem naturalistic or believable.

Some of the rest of the cast make it feel more organic, like the fantastic Richard E. Grant (Withnail & I, How to Get Ahead in Advertising). He can take a ridiculous scene that only seems to exist in metaphor and add the proper stakes to the character. Without that expertise the scenes just seem awkward and after a while comical.

While not a horrendous film, Garden of Eden is mostly just lost within its own words. James Scott Linville doesn’t add anything to his direction that gives the film any guidance. Is there judgment, is there stimulation? It all just falls flat by presenting it without any style. The subtle elements of the story are now the only thing on the surface. Haircuts and newspaper clippings are not just motifs, but sometimes the only thing happening in the film.

The actual plot with the introduction of another woman (Caterina Murino) into their love affair is dully predictable. Their compacted romances never feel like they are actually coming from the characters, but happen because these twists are what always happen in these tales. Instead of being provocative, it’s just eye rolling. Cutting away to the African tale that Huston’s character is writing about feels more like filler for an already thin story. It’s unclear what is happening and why we should be interested.

The DVD has no bonus features.

Film: 2 Yaps

Extras: N/A

Film Yap: Barney's Version

Two-hour films are not the right venue to tell a life story. Novels and miniseries have more time to devote to the characters and the long full story. Barney’s Version tries to keep the life of Barney Panofsky by focusing only on three decades, but it still feels a bit compressed.

Paul Giamatti is Barney, a complex life with romantic ups and downs. In the 70s he met his first wife in Rome under unfortunate circumstances. He finds some stability with his second wife, Minnie Driver, when he moves to Canada. Unfortunately it is during his wedding night he meets the real love of his life Miriam played by Rosamund Pike.

The film is told in a series of flashbacks. Barney is thinking about his past as he’s working at his television-producing job that he hates. (Fans of Canadian directors and actors will have fun with these cameos.) This sort of non-linear format was rather unnecessary because instead of the unpredictable nature of Barney’s life, it now feels like it is just completing pieces of the puzzle.

Even though there aren’t enough of the little moments that feel like a completed life, Barney’s Version does a lot of things right. Despite having a difficult character to work with Giamatti creates a lot of depth and sympathy. The strongest parts of the movie are when he is with his father, played by Dustin Hoffman. Those are scenes with two very talented actors who can establish the feeling of a long emotional relationship.

With more time we can see these characters beyond the scenes that have to move the plot forward. Not every scene feels like obvious set-up, but it does give the feeling this is a good adaptation from a great novel. The early days in Rome feel complete but the last third of the film feels a bit empty. His middle age isn’t as exciting as his romantic days, but there could have been more with the evolution of his family life. Especially with his children.

With the abridgment, the film does move with ease. The dialog is sharp without ever appearing too witty. The director, Richard J. Lewis, balances the characters with their flaws and successes that they all feel very layered. A few of the side characters are compromised with simplicity, but all of the major ones get due attention.

Ultimately it all has to come down to Barney. Giamatti gives a very strong performance to help create a full and thought-provoking story. So at the end, we can make our own decisions on the path of his life. As long as that ambiguity remains, then the film is still worth seeing.

3.5 Yaps

Higgens Network: Mars Needs Moms

Why Mars Needs Moms was made is a sobering one. Sadly the answer isn’t about the story or a message that is being told to children Most of the beginning of this film is very realistic (or close enough) humans talking to each other. Even when they get aboard a spaceship, a big question in my mind was why was this animated?

If it wasn’t animated, then there is no movie. It’s an opportunity to play with big expensive toys. This is the evolving technology that helped create films like The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol. It’s exciting to see animation get better and better, but it’s a colossal waste of money for such a lame movie.

Milo is an average boy living in the Midwest. He doesn’t like broccoli, he jumps on the bed, all of those clichés. One night when his mom sends him to bed early before he can watch his zombie film. He tells her that he wishes he didn’t have a mom. Hours later, he couldn’t sleep and he feels bad so he wants to apologize to his mom and show how much he loves her.

Before he can get to her room, Martians have kidnapped her. It turns out that Martians regularly kidnap Midwestern mothers to have them train their robots to raise their Martian babies. Whatever. Milo climbs aboard and is now on a mission to save his mom.

He meets up Gribble, a child from the 80s who also lost a mom so many years ago. That means he will constantly speak in clichéd references from the 80s all the time. Oddly enough his Peter Pan/Lost Boys lifestyle of constant video games and freedom doesn’t allure Milo, but just gets in his way. Eventually they team up with a Martian named Ki who learned English by watching a hippie TV show from the 60s. This means she will constantly speak in clichéd references from the 60s all the time.

The forward momentum is all over the place for this film. They go to the ship then they go to Gribble’s house and then they go to the ship and then they go to Gribble’s house and then they go to the ship, etc. The quest itself seems rather annoying because our hero only whines the entire film and it’s not like he’s learning a lesson through this galactic adventure; he realized he loved his mom before she was even in danger.

The adventure isn’t fun. When the three characters aren’t speaking in references clichés, they’re speaking in sci-fi clichés. For Milo, obviously, needs to teach the Martians about compassion and hugging which leads to groan-worthy dialog like “What is…love?”

Back in the 60s, Disney made a whole bunch of cheesy but likable live action films. Stuff like That Darn Cat or The Computer That Wore Tennis Shoes. They weren’t great, but they were something the whole family could watch. That’s what Mars Needs Moms feels like but instead it cost too many tens of millions of dollars. The most entertaining part of the movie was the credits that showed how they filmed all of the scenes with all of their equipment. After seeing the cool aspects of the equipment, it’s depressing realizing that was more fascinating and awe-inspiring than a boy traveling into space to save his family.

Film Yap: Inside Job

I coined a term about things I dislike in documentaries. It is the “animated bunnies” explaining complex issues. In an attempt to reach a wider audience they have to dumb down the information with heavily animated sequences. It shows what the movie thinks about its viewers and also shows how good their research actually is.

One of the reasons why Inside Job is one of the best documentaries of 2010 is because it never uses animated bunnies to explain itself. This is well done journalism. Charles Ferguson has proved himself as one of the best documentarians working today after his Oscar winning film No End in Sight, the film about the War in Iraq. This one also won on Oscar night, in a year with a surprising amount of excellent documentaries.

Inside Job looks what happened with the economic breakdown and more importantly, who is to blame. There is no escaping it; this is an angry documentary. Ferguson wants certain people arrested for what they’ve done to the economic market and he is furious that nothing is happening to press charges. The film is a very intelligent, well-presented essay that isn’t just raw emotions.

It never talks down and it never compromises to explain what happened. Matt Damon narrates with complete professionalism and ease as he guides through a lot of legal documents and economic situations. Sometimes it is dense information, but the film has an excellent momentum that attributed by the fine writing/editing of Chad Beck and Adam Bolt.

This is not a political movie, but a movie against specific individuals and the actions they took. The film will make you angry that the recession even happened and angrier that not a single wrist is being slapped. This is strong investigative journalism that I wished was seen more in other news outlets and strong filmmaking that never relies on cheap tricks to prove its point. The quality speaks for itself.

The DVD and Blu-Ray are full of solid features. There is a short making-of featurette that is pretty good. There are a handful of deleted scenes, but the real prize is the commentary track. Ferguson and his producer Audrey Marrs do a very good job talking about how they put things together and what they think about some of the interviews and their statements.

Film: 4.5 Yaps

Extras: 4 Yaps

Film Yap: Drive Angry

Let’s just get this out of the way. Drive Angry is a very stupid movie. It was so close to being able to walk the line towards a fun entertaining film, but it isn’t as cool as it thinks it is. The movie is trying to feel like a gritty 70s thriller with all of its cool cars, cheesy lines, and irrational number of naked women. Yet it really fails more than it ever succeeds.

The first problem is Nicolas Cage as the main character, John Milton. (Yes, movie, I’ve taken high school English too.) This former Academy Award winner doesn’t have any expectations from the public anymore. Every once in awhile he reminds us that he’s talented in films like Adaptation, Matchstick Men and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, but most of the times he is just paying his massive amount of debt. Sometimes he’s entertainingly bad and can fill YouTube with his insane choices, but here he is just boring bad. He has clichéd action lines to say and he never can pull them off. He has no presence in this film. While everyone else is high-fiving and screaming “Yeah man!!!” he’s just looking out the window.

Part of it is because he’s secretly old. 47 is not actually old, but this movie considers that to be ancient. The plot of Drive Angry is that he escaped from hell to stop a group of devil worshipers from sacrificing his daughter’s baby. The phrase that stands out is “daughter’s baby.” They never say granddaughter or grandfather during this movie because that could possibly detract from the awesome.

The awesome is all of the fast cars (which can be used on occasion to drive angry), outrageous violence, and attractive women. Amber Heard is the waitress who decides to travel with Cage for pretty much no reason. She’s seen as honorable in Cage’s eyes because she gave some muffins to a poor family, she has a Charger, and she likes to punch people in the fact. Honestly she probably didn’t have to give away the muffins.

While Cage is chasing down the man who killed his daughter to save the baby, The Accountant is also chasing him. This is William Fichtner having a blast as a vulgar Mr. Smith from hell. At least he understands what movie he is and can make it entertaining. Sure every one of his lines has a blunt curse word, which quickly starts to lose appeal, but at least it’s something.

There isn’t much spark in this movie at all. All of the actions scenes are standard, the 3D moments are groan worthy, and none of the lines are that cool. Most of that is because of lack of imagination but some of it is because the budget is too high for its own good. Too many car scenes have obvious green screen and all of the CGI makes it lose its cool. If it wants to be the supernatural Vanishing Point, be the supernatural Vanishing Point. It’s cooler and grittier if we actually believe these are real cars with real explosions. If it had that sort of sincerity, then a lot of the plotholes, clunky exposition, boring characters, and ridiculousness could be excused, but alas. It’s just another dumb forgettable movie with nothing worthwhile.

2 Yaps

Film Yap: Kansas City Confidential

Film noir is similar to the horror genre. The fans of it will eat up just about anything. Every movie, no matter how bad or good, has something in it that people can enjoy. Personally, I’m more of a noir guy than horror so catching up with Kansas City Confidential was fun.

It starts with a robbery of an armored truck from a group of people in simple masks. The plan is perfect researched and is pulled off successfully. The big twist is someone else is taking the fall.

Joe Rolfe is a flower truck driver and he’s the one the police are accusing. In order to clear his name, he has to figure out who was involved. Complications are involved when one of the men who pull off the heist is a former cop with motivations of his own.

In comparison, there have been better heist sequences from the films of this time. There are grittier tales involving the police and trying to clear its name. A lot of the dialog in this one feels rather stilted and awkward.

Within the fan community, this one is a favorite and there are certain elements where the appeal is evident. The plot does move fast and the story is a lot of fun even though there are only so many directions it can go. The film looks good with its set-ups and locations. The conflict with the police works well and the tension is strong throughout.

This isn’t the best movie to break someone into the genre, but it’s a fun entry that will unfortunately be overshadowed by stronger films.

The Blu-Ray has the same problems as “The Stranger.” The only extras are a trailer and a demo showing the transfer upgrade. The Blu-Ray still doesn’t look that great, but there is still an improvement, be it a small one. The Blu-Ray also includes a DVD in the set, but it’s still up in the air whether it’s worth picking up over the several incarnations available through its public domain status.

Film: 3.5 Yaps

Extras: 1 Yap

Film Yap: The Stranger

A lot of movies from the late 40s and 50s focus on creating distrust in suburban America. Most of them were threats against communism like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or the superb Hitchcock thriller Shadow of a Doubt. One of the more underappreciated entries to the subgenre was the Orson Welles film The Stranger.

Edward G. Robinson (Scarface, Five Star Final) is Mr. Wilson from the War Crimes Commission who is determined to track down the infamous Nazi Franz Kindler. There is no photograph of Kindler, in fact the only person alive who can identify him is the imprisoned Konrad Meinike.

Mr. Wilson released Meinike and follows him to Harper, Connecticut. There they find Kindler (Welles) who has assumed a new life as Charles Rankin. He’s a respected professor at the college and is getting married to Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young). In order to maintain his cover Kindler murders Meinike and that is when everything starts to unravel.

As a director Welles is doing a very good job about playing with the film noir model and experimenting with presentation. The opening is not perfect, but the rapid editing is a strong way to establish discomfort. The use of shadows is a staple of noir, but Welles cleverly uses them to creepily transition between scenes.

Welles shows his brilliant eye for shot composition, but this one doesn’t seem to be as tight as some of his other films. The pacing gets away from him at times and Young’s acting needed to be reigned in. (Also he should probably learn the rules of checkers if there are to be several scenes of it.)

What really has the lasting impacting with this film is how they handle the character of Kindler/Rankin. There is a very impressive ambiguity about how to treat the character who is clearly a villain on paper, but there isn’t a rush to stop him. There is sympathy towards a man who wants to start over, but Welles doesn’t downplay his Nazi past. In fact in one sequence, it’s especially horrifying as Mr. Wilson shows footage from his past.

It’s a fascinating movie that would do well with a new Blu-Ray edition. Unfortunately this new transfer isn’t too impressive. The only bonus feature on the disc that isn’t a trailer is a 1-minute transfer demo to compare/contrast the differences in the versions. There is a clear clean-up of pops and contrast, but it’s nothing compared to other recent conversions.

Film: 4 Yaps

Extras: 1 Yap

Film Yap: Nurse Jackie Season Two

The first season of Nurse Jackie wasn’t bad, but it was never great. It was stuck being part of the Showtime label of DARK QUIRKINESS. Dr. Cooper couldn’t just be an annoying young doctor; he also had to have physical turrets where he grabbed breasts. Despite all that, there was still potential tapped in its core about a grumpy nurse who breaks the rules, is addicted to pills, and is leading a double life.

Edie Falco is the titular nurse and at the beginning of Season Two, she’s stuck with the conflict that has been building up. The pharmacist she’s having an affair with, Eddie (Paul Schulze), has been fired so she can’t get her pills easily. Eddie is now starting to learn more about Jackie’s secret family, which includes a bartender husband and two young daughters.

In this season Eddie is becoming unstable and he befriends Jackie’s husband in a threat to expose her affair. Also Jackie’s best friend Dr. O’Hara (Eve Best) has her own romantic troubles with a recovering sex addicted nurse and a world-traveled woman. The episodes move forward with a delicate pace where it doesn’t feel like there are any filler episodes. The world is more grounded and the characters are more relatable.

The season is stronger, but there is still a lack of urgency. It’s never a show I watched weekly, but caught up when the DVDs came out. The show isn’t witty enough and the characters aren’t strong enough to really recommend this show. It’s getting better, but it’s still not challenging enough. Whenever a new conflict appears at the hospital or in the personal lives, Jackie responds just as she always does. It’s entertaining, but never anything new.

Even when things are going wrong, it still seems Jackie knows what to do especially when she says she doesn’t. Due to this familiarity, performances seem stuck. There are a lot of strong people on the cast, especially Falco and Best, but this isn’t a showcase for them…yet.

The show is growing to have a better understanding of its world. What it really needs to do is realize that it isn’t a comedy. Falco was a bit flabbergasted when she was the Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Emmy because she admits she’s not that funny. The show is a drama that does have sprinkles of humor, but it’s not a show where there is consistent laughter. Dramas are not typically 30 minutes long, but just because it is that length doesn’t make it a comedy. The show is learning how to use this format to its advantage and so there is hope for more improvement.

The DVD has a handful of really good features. I was worried that 10 minute featurettes highlighting Best and Peter Facinelli would be tedious, but it really does a good job of shining a light on these two skilled actors and their past roles. They aren’t the best edited, but the content is good. There is also a gag reel and a bunch of lackluster commentaries.

Season: 3.5 Yaps

Extras: 3 Yaps

Film Yap: Weeds Season Six

When Weeds first hit the air, it was a giant hit. Showtime was never a real competitor to HBO until this show and then Dexter added to the channel’s success. Then something happened. The original voices of those two shows started to fade. They became a bit too self-aware of what was popular with them and it stopped becoming organic.

Weeds could have used its season three finale as a solid end to the series, but now it has ran twice as long and it feels incredibly tired. At the end of last season, Shane killed Pilar with a crochet mallet. (It had to be a quirky weapon; this is Showtime.) So the Botwins are now on the run from the police and Nancy’s druglord husband.

Throughout the season they jump from town to town, get involved with misadventures with dark humor, and then continue to be miserable people. They have lost the redemption factor for Nancy and now that is spreading to the rest of them. It’s unfortunate for Weeds that Breaking Bad came out, because that plot really shows how you can morally test a main character in these circumstances and even when he’s unlikable still make him interesting. Nancy is playing the same manipulation game that it’s impossible to even care why she does anything.

There’s a point in the season when I thought there was hope and I feel stupid for that. They all come up with new identities and see this as a chance to start fresh. They even have a nice little cremation for their old ID cards. Then immediately after they all become involved in a stale QUIRKY Weeds subplot where they reacted just like they used to.

There will never be change on this show because it’s not about the story or characters. It’s just about keeping the show on the air. The family is on the run so it would make sense that not everybody would join in. Throughout the 13 episodes, most of it is spent with Silas wondering why he’s still here. That’s almost his entire season like plotline. He keeps trying to leave and then he stays for no reason. Same goes for Andy and especially for Doug, who is so unnecessary that God (aka the writers) saved his life for “a reason” and then never came up with a reason.

There was a two-episode run when I thought the show was back on its feet. They set up doom for the characters and everything came together early in the season. Most of it even made sense! (Except for Shane’s contrived lying to mothers in the park. Not bothering to explain that.) Stephen Falk wrote those two episodes and then it was all easily resolved and everyone was safe.

There are no stakes in this show anymore. Characters will never leave because they like the actors. It’s almost annoying how talented these actors are, because they all seemed trapped by this material. Plots will never go anywhere. Guns will be pointed, but they won’t be fired. If they are fired, it still doesn’t matter. Rumors have it that the seventh season will be the last, but I’ll believe it when I see it. It’s time to let go.

The DVD and Blu-Ray has a few extras on it. There’s a gag reel and a few featurettes including one that is literally called “What Do We Have Left to Say?”. There are a bunch of commentary tracks that are for fans only. Usually the commentary track with the showrunner is the most insightful but Jenji Kohan mostly just narrated what was happening. Oi.

Season: 2 Yaps

Extras: 2 Yaps