Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Best Movie of the Aughts.

Bill Simmons recently did a gigantic piece on the year in sports, mostly having to do with a defense of Almost Famous as the decade's defining movie. While some people apparently freaked out over the selection, I couldn't really find anything wrong with it. His three criteria were quality, originality, and re-watchability, and Almost Famous has all three in spades. It's one of the few movies from this decade that you can point to and say that.

I decided to dig through the vault and try to find the 10 most likely candidates for "Movie Of The Aughts," a title we won't really be able to figure out until 10 years down the line. Keep in mind, often the decade's defining movies don't come out until the end of the decade, so there's still hope for 2009 that something like The Hangover, (500) Days Of Summer, or The Hurt Locker might grab the title.

10. Donnie Darko (2001) - Sort of an underground choice, but people still endlessly debate this movie and what, exactly, it's about. There's about to be a sequel that doesn't involve any of the major characters or the writer-director, just because the original keeps sticking with people. That's impressive.
9. Juno (2007) - It's really too soon to know, but this seems most likely to be the indie movie that forever could.
8. Milk (2008) - In 10 years, people will completely incorrectly give this movie credit for changing American opinion on gay marriage. Working in it's favor will be the fact that it will still be a really good movie.
7. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004) - Because - ironically - it sticks in your mind, and ultimately we'll consider it Kate Winslet's greatest movie.
6. Memento (2001) - The Aughts will be remembered for this sort of movie, and this and Sunshine are the two best examples of them. I'm betting on one of them sticking around in the national consciousness.
5. High Fidelity (2000) - Really more of a 90's movie than an 00's movie, it's still one of the strongest romantic comedies of all time.
4. Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (2004) - Every generation has a turning-point comedy, and this was ours.
3. Dark Knight (2008) - The best superhero movie of all time, of the biggest grossing movies of all time, and the special effects are so solid it should age extremely well.
2. Lord Of The Rings (2001-2003) - Decades are remembered for their franchises more than anything.
1. Almost Famous (2000) - Hey, I didn't say I disagreed with him. I just wanted to open up the discussion.

What did I miss? Should movies like Little Miss Sunshine or Brokeback Mountain have made the list? Or has their time already come and gone?

Also, now that enough time has passed, I have to ask: what is the quintessential 90's movie? I vote for either Saving Private Ryan or American Beauty.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Hey, that post under me looks really cool!

This last post is longer than most, but it's loads of fun and worth getting through. Read through the end of "Monday," at least.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Best TV Schedule Of All Time

I've been recovering from a short period of being deathly ill, and while the first 36 hours were pretty rough, the last 48 have been a lot of "well, it hurts to move, but if I stay right here I'm doing fine." So I've had a little bit of free time. I thought I'd share it with you on my new project.

The object was to create the greatest possible TV schedule of all-time. The rules were simple:
1. All TV programs had to be placed on their original network.
2. All TV programs had to be put into a time slot they had once inhabited during their original run. Shows cannot be moved, nor the start times fudged, in any way.
So the point was not to select the best 100 shows, but to create the best TV schedule from TV schedules that had already existed, as if I went through a stack of TV Guides with scissors and tape.

I was also curious if there were spots that certain networks never tried to fill, or used to compete in and then gave up on. NBC was once famed for their consistently formidable Thursday night comedy block (it's okay-ish now) - if that's where their efforts have focused, where have they turned a blind eye? (Mondays at 10 PM, for one thing.)

When I created this, I tried to decide how it would best be experienced, should it become real.

Option A: I have my memory of all these shows be wiped, then start the TV season in September with the first season of all these shows. But that didn't seem right. A couple of these shows only got one season, and some of the others got a lot of seasons, but they didn't really get rolling until season three or four (this is often true of comedies. "Cheers," for instance).

So my next thought was Option B: I should pick out the best season of each show for this. But that didn't work either. I wasn't intimately acquainted with a lot of these shows - I set out to make the best schedule, not my own personal viewing wish list - so I wasn't qualified to guess which season would be best for each show. I planned on doing some research on this afterwards to figure that out, though, until I hit on:

Option C: I still get my memory of these shows erased, but first, reality-be-damned, they all start recording new episodes immediately, as if the show had never existed before. I'm not saying they reboot the franchises, I just say the shows simply reappear, with the original casts and crew and sets and time period and what-have-you, but now all in glorious high-definition. What's more, I pick out directions for all of them. Because, let's be honest, I could fix some of these shows. I know things. I'm savvy. Shows that were great and don't need to be touched get a free pass, shows that were great but lost something over time get a return to glory, and shows that were good but could have been better get some new blood.

One quick note - While the Big Three have had the privilege of broadcasting shows for well over 50 years, newer networks like Fox and the CW have had less time, and so less options for me to pick from. Therefore, I combined the CW with its two forebears (UPN and the WB) and called it one network, which seemed to be playing fair enough. I also made no bones about the quality of programming that has appeared on these networks since they began. If they've never tried to broadcast anything worthwhile after 10 PM, I'm not going to give them any credit.


Alright, Sunday night has become a little bit of a throwaway in recent years, but that wasn't always the case, so there's some quality to be had here. However, changes need to be made. First, "Alias" must return to its early season glory, so let's get J.J. Abrams back as showrunner and bang things out. What's more, he also has to run CBS' "Mission: Impossible," since he did such a bang-up job on directing MI:3. Even better, Tom Cruise and Phillip Seymour Hoffman have to come with him.

Ed Sullivan, not-dead and in the prime of his career, will run his show in 2009, working with modern bands and comics who grew up idolizing him, but the Smothers Brothers will still operate in the sixties and seventies. Steve Martin will return to the writing staff and be named head writer. Likewise, Conan O'Brien will return as head writer of "The Simpsons," and Brad Bird will direct all the episodes.

"The West Wing" will start their run over, but Moira Kelly will never be hired - instead, Emily Procter will be introduced as Republican Ainsley Hayes in the third or fourth episode, and David Caruso will be executed in the street (not in the show, in real life) so that no one can start "CSI: Miami" and take her away from the show. Aaron Sorkin will naturally return to write all the episodes, and no one will ever give him cocaine.

"Psych" will return to network television, but be given a network budget to play with, and Rachel Leigh Cook's character will start having a recurring role. Jessica Biel will return to "7th Heaven," bringing Justin Timberlake with her. Her character will become overwhelming embarrassed when Timberlake forms a hip-hop/beatbox act with her father. Also, zombies are added.


ABC regains the rights to "Monday Night Football." They broadcast the best game, every week, which is selected the week before and not months in advance, so we see the best possible rivalry instead of Browns vs. Bengals in mid-November. Joe Buck is in no way involved.

"The Rifleman" takes on both John Ford and Quentin Tarantino as executive producers. Modern-day Ron Howard directs all of "The Andy Griffith Show." Old-school Ron Howard still stars.

We finally meet the goddamn mother.

"Northern Exposure" gets an added boost of quirk when Rob Morrow's "Numb3rs" co-star, David Krumholtz, joins the cast. Also, Judd Hirsch, just because. "House" combines his original team with his newer team, though Kal Penn still dies a messy and memorable death somewhere midseason (John Cho and Neil Patrick Harris both guest star as 'voices from his past'). There is at least one episode where Hugh Laurie, Robert Sean Leonard, and Lisa Edelstein do nothing but sit in a room together and say witty and acerbic things to each other.

On "24," the series starts over. For once, Kiefer Sutherland dies and gets resuscitated exactly zero times during the season. Elisha Cuthbert shows up and looks very hot for a little while, then dies a clear and irrevocable death so that she can never come back again. Dennis Haysbert returns as President, but it's revealed that he's also his character from "The Unit," and he and Sutherland go off and kick some terrorist tail together. The Chinese are never involved, and no one ever gets amnesia.

"Heroes" starts over from scratch, but someone writes them a truly awesome season finale. The show never comes back again. "Studio 60" starts over after the pilot and no one ever talks about politics ever again. Matthew Perry and Sarah Paulson agree just to disagree about whether God is real or not. Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler write all the sketches seen on the show.

The casts of "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Aliens In America" switch locations, just for fun.


First of all: no one jumps over a shark.

Next, "Sports Night" combines its cast and the sharp writing of Aaron Sorkin with oversight from ESPN executives, giving the show a more frantic, realistic pace. The show will tie in to real sports events, actual sports stars will guest from time to time, and Clark Gregg will join the cast full-time.

David Caruso will re-join the cast of NYPD Blue, then be executed in the street again.

Every episode of M*A*S*H will feature Alan Alda flying away in helicopters while Mike Farrell leaves him messages formed from piles of rocks.

Tuesdays at 9 will be "The Simon Baker Hour," with interspersed episodes of "The Guardian" and "The Mentalist." Eventually, those two shows will combine, and Simon Baker will attempt to win drug cases with the defense "I just know that he's not telling the truth" and a boyish wink at the judge.

On "American Idol," the top 12 will be Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Adam Lambert, Jordin Sparks, Kris Allen, Blake Lewis, Fantasia Barrino, Jennifer Hudson, Elliot Yamin, Allison Iraheta, and just for fun, Kellie Pickler or Sanjaya. Kara will not be judging, Simon will pay attention the whole season, and someone will spike Paula's drink every night.

No one will let Bailey start drinking, ever.

"News Radio" features the original cast, including Phil Hartman, but the show moves to Cincinnati to compete with "WKRP." It also subtracts some Dave Thomas kvetching. "Scrubs" features both Heather Graham and Tom Cavanaugh as permanent guest stars, and Brendan Fraser keeps popping back up as the dead brother only John C. McGinley can see. Zach Braff still goes off and makes Garden State, but this time he doesn't get a big head when he comes back.

"Remington Steele" just becomes James Bond, but weekly.

No Dean, no Logan, no Jess, no Christopher. These Gilmore Girls have terrible taste. Jared Padelecki is allowed to return only if it is revealed he was secretly his character from "Supernatural" this whole time, and he, Sean Gunn, and Liza Weil start a werewolf-hunting team, at which point it is revealed that Edward Herrman is a werewolf (I always suspected it).

"Veronica Mars" gets a complete free pass, on the condition that we get lots of Percy Daggs III.


"Pushing Daisies" gets complete freedom from network control, and Bryan Turner is allowed to run the show however he wants. However, Barry Sonnenfeld has to direct every episode. "The Johnny Cash Show" becomes essentially a weekly live Johnny and June Cash show, with guest spots from modern artists playing with Cash. Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson guest-host.

Chris Rock is added to the cast of "All In The Family." Paul Greengrass is named executive producer of "Hawaii Five-O." The results show of "American Idol" moves back to half an hour. There's a group number, a music video, Simon says something smarmy, and we find out the results. That's it.

"The OC" starts over, but this time Olivia Wilde is a full time cast member, and Mischa Barton isn't on the show at all. The show features Peter Gallagher and Kelly Rowan and almost no other adults. Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson get together and stay together, and hang out saying witty things to a surly Ben McKenzie.

"Law & Order" stays "Law & Order," and doesn't become "Law & Order: Useless Spinoff." Mariska Hargitay, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Jeff Goldblum all leave their spinoffs and join the cast.

I couldn't decide between "Felicity" or "Roswell," so I decided to combine the two. Now Felicity goes to college and discovers her identity in the very spot where aliens established contact with the Earth. Kind of a teen dramedy/sci-fi show, with big special effects. Fortunately, J.J. Abrams is named showrunner. Keri Russell, Greg Grunberg, and all the hot people from "Roswell" star. Especially Shiri Appleby.


"The Odd Couple" stars Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Done. Clive Anderson mercifully returns as host of "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?" "Lost" starts over, is told "you have 100 episodes to solve this thing. Go." Nikki and Paolo never show up, and no one ever tries to teach us the secret of Jack's tattoos. J.J. Abrams also has to return as showrunner.

Andy Garcia and Sean Connery reprise their movie roles in the TV version of "The Untouchables." Kevin Costner does not.

Someone shows Alfred Hitchcock, who was a practical joke player of disturbing intensity, a tape of one of those hidden camera scare shows and just says "you can do stuff like this on television now," then leaves the room. Hitchcock is given a gigantic budget and no oversight whatsoever.

Nobody on "Friends" ever has a baby, or tries to have a baby. They instead are forced to adopt "Seinfeld's" 'no hugging, no learning' policy. "The Office" spends three seasons trying to keep Pam and Jim apart. At the end of season three, they finally get together, and the show ends.

"Cheers" recasts Rhea Pearlman's part. "ER" has a cast of George Clooney, Noah Wyle, Maura Tierney, Anthony Edwards, Eriq La Salle, Julianna Marguilies, Linda Cardellini, Parminder Nagra, Shane West, Jorja Fox, and Busy Phillips. It goes off the air before it tries to do a smallpox scare for a second time.

"Smallville" picks up and moves to Metropolis, and Tom Welling begins his life as a young Superman, finding his way. Brian Singer is named executive producer, and Frank Langella and a young Marlon Brando join the cast.


Friday night's always been a bit of dumping ground, so this one got trickier.

On "Sabrina," we spend way less time with the aunts and way more time with the talking cat. The characters on "Boy Meets World" never go to college, though we do get that great subplot where Will Friedle goes to LA to become an actor. "Joan of Arcadia" is given a couple of seasons to discover how good a show it can be without everybody yelling at it about low ratings. It also stars the current, better-acting version of Amber Tamblyn as Joan, and Jeremy Renner as God.

I couldn't decide between "Dukes Of Hazzard" and "Moonlight," so in this new show, the Duke Brothers split their time between running from the law and vampire hunting. Likewise, I'm combining "The Love Boat," "Dallas," and "Falcon Crest." I can't even imagine what that would look like, but I would totally watch it.

Fox will run both "Firefly" and "Wonderfalls," and outside of broadcasting the programs will not interfere with either show in any way. It would also be up to the showrunners to decide how the show was marketed, not the Fox advertising department.

8 PM on Friday night for NBC was always a low-brain-cell affair, so I combined "Quantum Leap," "The A-Team," "Knight Rider," "Baywatch," and "Dark Angel." In it, the A-Team drives around in a giant talking Trans Am, fighting hordes of evil slow-motion lifeguards, masterminded by a leather jump-suited Jessica Alba. David Hasselhoff stars in it twice.

Nobody ever kills anybody on "Friday Night Lights." The amount of football played on the show is doubled.

"Star Trek" and "Star Trek: Enterprise" both return. J.J. Abrams is named showrunner for both.


If you thought Friday night was bad, Saturday is even worse. These days, the networks literally don't program anything at all on Saturday nights. They just decide a week or two before what old movie or volleyball game they're gonna throw on. Sad.

"The Partridge Family" starts a competitive rivalry with the "Brady Bunch." Hijinks ensue, and everybody laughs and learns a valuable lesson. Then things get violent.

"Lawrence Welk's Dodge Dancing Party" returns to TV, because, oh my God, I can't believe a show was ever named that. David Lynch returns to "Twin Peaks," but Alfred Hitchcock is named executive producer. Gunsmoke is given the HBO "as violent as you wanna be, boys" treatment.

And of course, Fox does nothing but show "COPS" all night. God bless 'em.

Now, admit it - can you find even one thing about that TV season that you would not watch?

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

T9Word Update

I'm dating a girl named Claire, but whenever I try to type her name into my phone, T9 still assumes that I'm looking to type the work "Blairf." Which, in addition to not being a word, sounds like a something I'd use to describe a slightly upscale vomiting, as in "after my seventh Tanqueray and tonic, I just went and blairfed behind the poplars before rejoining the group on the patio."

Man, I need a new phone.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Top 100 Albums Of All-Time: #70-61

70. Gin Blossoms - Outside Looking In (1999)
Gin Blossoms had a number of different hits throughout their career, including a #1 ("Found Out About You"), and two more top-ten hits ("Follow You Down" and "Til I Hear It From You") but to the world at large they're generally considered a one-hit wonder - though weirdly, not for any of their top-ten singles. Instead, the song that springs to everyone's mind is "Hey Jealousy," a song so ubiquitous that a full two years after its release, it still obstinately remained on the Billboard Top 100. In fact, the Gin Blossoms were the first band to usher in that signature 90's alternative-rock sound, writing songs so comfortable and familiar that they would never disappear from radio rotation, even to this day. It's a shame that their songwriter, the oft-soused and troubled guitarist Doug Hopkins, never got to see the waves his music created. He committed suicide in 1993, not long after he was fired from the band, who were so fed up with the music industry that they titled their major label debut New Miserable Experience, which was released to America at large with no fanfare and middling reviews. They had no idea they would end up being the forefathers of a new breed of folk-and-country-infused rock music, eventually giving way to Counting Crows, Toad the Wet Sprocket, the Cranberries, and of course Hootie and the Blowfish. The record ended up going multi-platinum, and by the time the third single ("Until I Fall Away") was released, critics had come around and hailed the record as "pure pop goodness."

I didn't discover the band until much later, when I purchased their best-of record, Outside Looking In, which collected both their hit singles and a number of much lesser-known and rarer tracks. It's spotty at times, but the record takes you back to a different time, when modern rock was an untapped commodity and good songwriting was finally coming back into vogue.

Download This: Until I Fall Away, Not Only Numb, Pieces Of The Night, As Long As It Matters

69. Ryan Adams - Demolition (2002)
This is not my favorite Ryan Adams record, as it's mostly filled with songs leftover from the recording sessions of his far superior works, Heartbreaker and Gold, but like any Adams record, it contains a few songs of such rough-hewn perfection that it's impossible not to be bowled over. Like "Desire," later featured in one of the top-ten "West Wing" episodes of all time (season 6's "King Corn"), and the king of all lost-love anthems, "Dear Chicago."

Download This: Dear Chicago, Desire, Hallelujah, You Will Always Be The Same

68. Copeland - Beneath Medicine Tree (2003)
I stumbled across this record in college, when it spread like wildfire across campus in the way that albums do in colleges these days (God bless you, MyTunes and loose firewall settings). Beneath Medicine Tree is a great album - the only one the band has ever managed to put together - but it still suffers from the same struggles all their records have: it's frustratingly inconsistent. Copeland knows what their strengths are - a band capable of crafting good, simple, pantingly desperate pop songs - but feel the need to try to punk up the record. The result is a vaguely cohesive mixed bag of songs, all of whom were written as simple acoustic melodies and then re-invented and re-layered, occasionally beyond recognition. When the album works, though, it really works, as with the sad, desperate opener ("Brightest"), or its more epic set pieces ("When Paula Sparks," "California"). Despite its shortcomings, the record plays through from beginning to end awfully well, though it's all too tempting to keep skipping back to the beginning of "California" to hear it over and over again.

Download This: California, When Paula Sparks, Brightest, When Finally Set Free

67. Caedmon's Call - Long Line Of Leavers (2000)
We've crossed a line in this list, since I came to this entry and said "how can this be at #67? I love this record!" Then I scrolled up and realized I couldn't move it any higher than I already had it. We've moved out of records I that I merely enjoy and into records with which I have a real lasting emotional connection. As with this record, which has two songs in heavy contention for my favorite Christian song of all time. By far the most controversial record they ever produced, this album came at the height of Caedmon's popularity, and set off a firestorm of fan protest. How dare they ditch their acoustic jam-style and layer in electric guitars and punchy horn solos? Fortunately for fans, the record Caedmon's chose to reinvent themselves on was also one of the best records they ever produced, an album so solidly written it's near-impossible to skip a track (well, maybe the quavering "Piece Of Glass" gets jumped a time or two). Personally, I'm torn between Derek Webb's deeply personal songs of confession and lost love ("What You Want," "Love Is Different,") and Cliff Young and Ed Cash's alternately catchy pop and elegiac dirges ("Love Alone," "Only One"). But then, the great thing about this record is that you don't have to chose.

Download This: What You Want, Love Alone, Love Is Different, Can't Lose You

66. Coldplay - Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends (2008)
This is the first of two Coldplay albums on this list, which is a little surprising, as I've always been a big Coldplay fan, but they just didn't make what proved to be a pretty tough cut here. What's more surprising is how quickly this album rose to prominence in their catalog for me. It's an album that's so strong that even though it was released at the height of Coldplay backlash, people still haven't been able to pick on the quality of the record since it's just such a beautiful recording. It's funny, but even though Coldplay is maybe the biggest band on the planet, Vida is really an underrated record. Working with superproducer Brian Eno, the band strips back all the pounding, semi-melodic piano and overworked lyrics that weakened X + Y and instead create more subtle orchestrations and a grander musical vision. While songs like "Viva La Vida" and "Lost!" have a clear pop radio sensibility, the album as a whole feels like a cohesive artistic statement. And a damn good one.

Download this: Lost!, Death and All His Friends, Viva La Vida, Life In Technicolor

65. Brave Saint Saturn - The Light Of Things Hoped For (2003)
Here's where doing research for these sorts of lists comes in handy - I discovered while looking this album up that Brave Saint Saturn finally released another record! Originally intended to be a "space trilogy," the band semi-disbanded at around the same time they finished this record (the band being a side project of another band - Five Iron Frenzy - that was disbanding at this time, I imagine it seemed pointless to continue), and so it seemed unlikely that the band would ever finish their "astro-rock odyssey," a term band frontman Reese Roper eventually admitted "doesn't really mean anything." The record was the second in a series about space and the voyage of the atronauts of a mythical Saturn 5 expedition, though the record was mixed with songs of all varieties, including Roper's pointed indictment of his ex-fiancé's sudden betrayal ("Enamel") and his memorial to a dead friend whose faith he admired ("Estrella"). A moody and unforgettable record. I'll be purchasing the follow-up very soon.

Download This: The Sun Also Rises, Estrella, Enamel, Daylight

64. Pete Yorn - Nightcrawler (2006)
Like The Light of Things Hoped For, this album is also part of a trilogy. And I'll just say it: not enough artists do trilogies. There's nothing like an artistic statement that says "I'm not just trying to sell records here, I'm trying to tell you story, and I will take six years to do it if I have to." Now, that's admirable. Yorn followed musicforthemorningafter with Day I Forgot, and then this record, through which we learned that it might not be all that fun to hang out with Pete Yorn for an extended period of time, but if we did we would certainly get an epic song out of our experience. I mean, in Day I Forgot, he writes a song about eating a burrito at a 7-11, for chrissakes. Nightcrawler perfectly fits Yorn's aesthetic, though, since Yorn's songs always seemed written the day after waking up from a particularly epically bad night, the theme of this record fits right in line with that mentality. Nightcrawler seems like a record composed at the exact second that you realize that the girl you came there with would not also be leaving with you. It's somehow at all times angry, depressed, vindictive, pleading, and deeply worshipful, which is not necessarily an easy thing to pull off. What's more, it's awfully consistently good.

Download This: The Man, Ice Age, Maybe I'm Right, Vampyre, For Us, Undercover

63. Jack Johnson - In Between Dreams (2005)
Jack Johnson isn't just good at what he does, he's effortless at it. He sounds like he lives in a completely different world than I do, and maybe he does. Imagine a world where you wake up on the beach to a perfect day, every day. You wander up and down the shore, the sun gently winking off the water. Your friends come over and you go out surfing, then you kick back in the shade and let the day wash over you, someone quietly strumming a guitar and humming a tune. Sometimes the mood overtakes you and you all join together in a chorus, but most of the time you lay back in the hammock, the sun flickering through the leaves, and just let the music play. The sun goes down, and you wander out by the water with your girl, the moonlight playing off her tanned skin as the stars come out. You fall asleep again on the beach, gazing up at the sky. Now, that's exactly what this album is like.

Download This: Better Together, Do You Remember, Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

62. Black Lab - See The Sun (2005)
To give you an idea of how long I waited for this record: one of the first CDs I ever purchased was Black Lab's Your Body Above Me, which came out in 1997. I had to wait 8 years for a follow-up record, which is an awfully long time for any music fan, and a touch soul-crushing for someone who's fourteen and has just discovered popular music to learn the hard way that it's never good to hear that your favorite new band is having "trouble with their label" (there's not a music fan in the world who doesn't flinch when they hear those words). Incredibly, the record ended up being worth the wait: not nearly as bleak as their first record, See The Sun was simply packed with well-crafted pop rock songs and heart-on-your-sleeve songwriting. Singer Paul Durham pours a honeyed Brit-whine vocal on top of songs of such desperation it's tough not to be drawn in. It's a rare band who entrances you as much at 22 as they do at 14 (take that, Brian Setzer Orchestra!).

Download This: Lonely Boy, Dream In Color, Circus Lights, See The Sun

61. Collective Soul - Dosage (1999)
I've now reached a point where seeing this CD only makes me think of an argument I once had with a friend, who told me he'd been a fan of Collective Soul since "right as they started getting big," which apparently was during this record. The fact that the band had already gone over six times platinum on their previous three records had somehow eluded him. I could not dissuade him of this perspective. In point of fact, this album was a classic "we're a giant band with something to prove" sort of record: their previous record (Disciplined Breakdown, a growly, early 90's sort of grungy rock record) hadn't sold as well, and there was a sense that Collective Soul was one of those 90's bands that had just overstayed their welcome and were on their way out. Instead, they released an album of outrageously catchy arena rock, with crunchy guitars and unmistakably anthemic choruses - the sort of album that re-invents nothing but makes you say as soon as you hear it "oh, yeah, I forgot how much I liked these guys!" Not that the album was necessarily timeless - their biggest hit, "Run," was part of the Varsity Blues soundtrack, a movie that ages faster than soap opera children - but instead remains perfectly of its time, a reminder of how solid late-90's alternative rock really was before Limp Bizkit ruined things for everyone.

Download This: Run, Heavy, Tremble For My Beloved, Crown

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Friday, July 10, 2009

How awesome is THIS?

Man, I want a Ben Linus bobblehead:

Thursday, July 09, 2009

What's REALLY Wrong With Transformers

It's already become passe to make fun of the Transformers movie, which somehow deserves both all the praise and every piece of scorn that gets heaped on it. Amidst the two and a half hours of amazingly cool footage of robots beating the tar out of each other, there was almost no plot, no character development, and some truly laughable storytelling elements. But while people have picked on virtually every discernible element in the movie, they've missed one of the key points that utterly destroyed whatever hope this movie had of remaining watchable throughout its gigantic runtime: the gross miscasting of Ramon Rodriguez.

Now, Rodriguez is not necessarily a bad actor, but he was cast in a role that required him to:
1. Be a computer nerd.
2. Have a funny alpha-male rivalry with non-alpha-male Shia LeBeouf.
3. Strike out with every girl he came to.
4. Have lots of throwaway "I'm so pathetic!" lines.
5. Panic and fake-cry throughout all the action.
6. Finally grow some balls right at the end, to the surprise of the viewer.

You know who you cast for a role like that? Someone who can play a geeky loser. Somebody short, or fat, who has bad hair or big glasses. Somebody who we root for even as they screw things up for everyone.

Someone like Jonah Hill, who they offered the role to and who turned it down. Someone who's a Jonah Hill type, a schlubby guy the audience feels a connection with and can laugh at.

Definitely not this guy:

No offense to Mr. Ramirez, who seems to be a fine actor, but he's a guy who's best known for his role in "The Wire," a show about life in the projects of Baltimore without a whole lot of slapstick comedy. So here's a list people who could've played that role better than Ramon Rodriguez without blinking an eye:
1.Jonah Hill
2. Josh Gad
3. Jay Baruchal
4. Justin Long
5. Michael Cera
6. Christopher Mintz-Plasse
And really, Michael Bay, you'll spend 16 months on post-production effects of cars turning into robots, but when one geeky actor turns you down, you decide to just ditch the whole casting call and hire whoever you feel like? At least with Megan Fox, there's a legitimate excuse there. Here, there's none.

Also, when Shia Lebeouf dies and travels to the Land Of The Primes, that was the stupidest thing I think I'd ever seen.

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Root Beer Reviews: Virgil's

Virgil's is a cocky sort of root beer. The label, not content to just make one overly exaggerated claim, is packed so full of superlative that it manages to claim twice, in two separate contexts, that its taste is "so pure, you'll swear it's made in heaven." The website is equally verbose in its praise:
Think of Virgil's as a gourmet root beer. We're what Ben and Jerry's is to ice cream, what Dom Perignon is to champagne. We're a micro-brewed root beer made with all-natural ingredients. We use herbs imported from around the world and unbleached pure cane sugar.
That's the introductory paragraph on the website, which also includes a number of recipes to which you can add Virgil's, which include Pecan Pie, Rootin' Tootin' Chocolate Torte, and Prawn Tempura (really!). This is a root beer with a high opinion of itself.

Unfortunately, it's not really a root beer that's all that great. I mean, it has some good qualities to it - it's creamy and has a nice taste to it right as it hits the palate - but it fails on a number of other levels. It's major problem? A nasty aftertaste that forced me to keep drinking to try to cover the strange sensation. When I finished the bottle, I was forced to dig up some pretzels to take out the taste. Not a good way to finish up a root beer experience. It also didn't translate well into other formats - it tasted pretty good cold, but was lousy once it got closer to room temperature. To be fair, I didn't try every available option for experiencing Virgil's Root Beer. I didn't make the prawn tempura.

More intriguing is the rumors of other taste sensations produced by Virgil's, including - wait for it - Bavarian Nutmeg Root Beer, which sounds just thrilling. If someone knows how to get their hands on a bottle, I'd be curious to learn just why Bavarian Nutmeg is superior to all other nutmegs.

All it in all, Virgil's is an acceptable, tasty root beer with some strong marks in its favor and equally strong ones against it. But if this is the Dom Perignon of root beer, Moët & Chandon should double-check their vintage.

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