Thursday, April 30, 2009

April Movie Reviews - Part III: Boys Will Be Boys

17 Again

A very familiar story of a down-on-his-luck, middle-aged man (Matthew Perry) who magically reverts back to his high school self (Zac Efron) to right some wrongs. Efron is appealing enough -- but it's the supporting cast of Melora Hardin (The Office), Thomas Lennon and Leslie Mann who give the movie the extra humor needed to avert a re-telling disaster. Time for Efron to move out of the high school (weren't three editions of High School Musical enough?).

Grade: B-


Channing Tatum plays a southern stud living in New York City with no money and no direction. He runs into a hustler (Terrence Howard) who lures him into the underground world of no-rules fighting. The story is very predictable, but Tatum is charming enough. It's no Fight Club, but kudos to the sound crew -- for the realistic and wince-inducing fight sounds.

Grade: C


Two dysfunctional families are entwined in this coming of age story set on Long Island in 1979 -- at the height of the Lyme Disease hysteria. Rory Culkin is excellent as the teenager coming to grips with his family falling apart -- at the same time he is falling deeply in love with a long-time friend (Emma Roberts). Funny and moving, yet not entirely satisfying. A great cast includes Alec Baldwin, Timothy Hutton and Cynthia Nixon.

Grade: B

Note: If you haven't seen my movie reviews from earlier this month or last month, click on the archives on the left. Most films showcased there are still in theaters.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

TV Update: Two Hit Shows Returning This Summer

Things will be heating up this August as two hit contestant shows return to the air. Here are the details:

Philbin to Return with New Episodes of ABC's "Millionaire"

ABC is reviving "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" this summer, with original host Regis Philbin. A decade after "Millionaire" became a smash hit, it will return to prime time as a special event. Eleven episodes will air August 9-23. The quiz show burst on the U.S. scene in August 1999. Ratings slid when ABC aired the show too often, and it was canceled as a series back in 2002. But renewed interest has been signaled by "Slumdog Millionaire," this year's Oscar-winning drama about a young contestant on a version of the show in India.

"Project Runway" Returns August 20 on Lifetime

One of the better reality programs, previously on Bravo, will be back this summer on Lifetime. The legal battle over airing "Project Runway" is finally over, and the season six premiere date is set for Thursday, August 20. Lifetime announced the season premiere of the designer-competition series along with a new companion series, "Models of the Runway." Lifetime says "Models of the Runway," which looks at the reality competition from the models' viewpoint, will follow "Project Runway."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

April Movie Reviews - Part II: Foreign Films

Every once in a while, you see a film that makes you stop and think, "wow...and I thought I had it rough." This week, I saw two such films. Both had a similar theme: people dealing with harsh realities in their part of the world. Do they have an option to leave? Or is there really no escape? Both of these foreign movies focus on their youngest characters. Their stories made me appreciate my life more.


Director Matteo Garrone's epic film about Italy's infamous Camorra was a critical sensation at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prize. The Camorra is a mafia-like criminal organization that finances itself through drug trafficking, extortion, protection and racketeering. It is the oldest organized criminal organization in Italy. In the impoverish region in and around Naples, everyone's life seems to be entangled by the Camorra to some degree. The movie's bleak look fits the plot perfectly. But the story-telling is purposefully slow, making it feel longer than its 2hr and 15min run time. (In Italian, with English subtitles)

Grade: B

Sin Nombre

A Honduran teenager reunites with her father in a dangerous trip through the Latin America countryside in hopes of crossing the border into the United States. Along the way she meets up with a teenaged Mexican gang member who is trying to outrun his violent past and elude his unforgiving former associates. You can't help but get absorbed in their plight -- and hope for a happy outcome. Winner of the dramatic Directing Award and Excellence in Cinematography Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. (In Spanish, with English subtitles)

Grade: B+

Note: If you haven't seen my movie reviews from earlier this month or last month, click on the archives on the left. All films showcased there are still in theaters.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Eddie Vedder Back Out on Solo Tour

Curious to know something specific about Entertainment Blogger's musical taste? Well wonder no longer. My favorite band for as long as I can remember is Pearl Jam. And now Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder is heading back out on another solo tour which will kick off on June 8 in Albany, NY and end on July 2 in Honolulu, HI. New Zealand singer-songwriter Liam Finn will open these shows.

Ticket sale information is forthcoming. TENTATIVE tour dates (some still unconfirmed) are as follows:

  • Jun 8 - Albany, NY - Palace Theatre
  • Jun 9 - Albany, NY - Palace Theatre
  • Jun 11 - Philadelphia, PA - Tower Theatre
  • Jun 12 - Philadelphia, PA - Tower Theatre
  • Jun 14 - Baltimore, MD - Lyric Opera House
  • Jun 15 - Baltimore, MD - Lyric Opera House
  • Jun 18 - Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium
  • Jun 20 - Memphis, TN - Orpheum
  • Jun 21 - Memphis, TN - Orpheum
  • Jun 23 - Atlanta, GA - Cobb Energy Performing Arts Ctr
  • Jun 24 - Atlanta, GA - Cobb Energy Performing Arts Ctr
  • Jun 29 - Maui, HI - Arts & Cultural Ctr/Castle Theatre
  • July 1 - Honolulu, HI - Hawaii Theatre Ctr
  • July 2 - Honolulu, HI - Hawaii Theatre Ctr

If you are unfamiliar with Eddie Vedder's solo work, may I suggest listening to the soundtrack of the 2007 film, Into the Wild. While you're at it, rent the movie -- it's a great story. And you will see/hear why Eddie won a Golden Globe Award for his efforts.

PETA is Out of Control

As if we needed further proof that the People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA) is going too far. Now the animal rights group has asked the British electro-pop duo, the Pet Shop Boys, to change its name. PETA sent a letter to Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe requesting they rename their band, the Rescue Shelter Boys. The duo, which has performed under its current name for more than 20 years, turned PETA down.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

ABC to Burn Off Final Eps of Cancelled Series

ABC is burning off the final episodes of Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone and Dirty Sexy Money. They will be aired on consecutive Saturday nights at 10 EST beginning May 30 and ending August 8. Keep in mind, unlike how the network handled another cancelled series, Life on Mars, these three shows did NOT film wrap-up series finales. Here's the schedule:

  • Pushing Daisies: final three episodes will air May 30 to June 13
  • Eli Stone: final four episodes will air June 20 to July 11
  • Dirty Sexy Money: final four episodes will air July 18 to Aug 8

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Today's Music News

Save the Date: 09/09/09 Will Mark New Beatles Invasion

Apple Corps Ltd. and EMI Music have announced that the entire original Beatles catalogue, digitally re-mastered, will be released on September 9. The release will include all 12 Beatles albums in stereo, with track listings and artwork. The release marks the first time that the first four Beatles albums are being made available in their entirety on compact disc.

This news comes on the heels of the two surviving Beatles members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, performing together at the "Change Begins Within Concert" last Saturday in New York.

Question: Are there any Beatles fans under the age of 40 out there?

iTunes Pricing Change

In today's other music news, Apple's practice of selling all songs for 99 cents each has ended. Starting today, Apple's iTunes Store officially began offering three-tiered pricing: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29. Record companies can pick the prices.

Question: Will you pay $1.29 for new tunes?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Farewell, "ER"

After 15 seasons and 332 episodes, the longest-running medical drama in the history of television ended its run tonight. ER was the most Emmy-nominated series in TV history with 122 nominations, 22 of which resulted in wins (including one for best drama in 1996).

During its peak, in the 1995-96 season, ER was the most popular show on television and averaged 32 million viewers a week. To put that in perspective, only one entertainment program - ABC's broadcast of the Academy Awards - has gathered more than 32 million viewers this entire season. ER was TV's No. 1 show for three seasons and, as late as 2000-01, was the top-rated scripted series after reality and game show fare like Survivor and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

This season, ER limped along to 49th place, averaging 8.2 million viewers an episode, according to Nielsen Media Research. But the quality was not the reason for the decline. Viewers have so many more options nowadays. There were no DVRs when ER started, let alone opportunities to watch TV programs over the Internet or on DVD. The gaming industry was in its infancy. The average American home received 41 stations in 1995 and 119 in 2007, according to Nielsen Media Research. Cable stations once content to air reruns now produce award-winning original series.

Thanks to my VCR -- and later, TiVo, I never missed an episode of ER. But honestly, for the most part I was home on Thursday nights glued to my set at 10pm. And come the fall, the time slot will be Jay Leno's. If NBC was smart, I think Leno should pay homage to the show on Thursday nights for at least one year. It would be fitting for him to fill one guest spot for each Thursday night with a past star from ER. There are certainly at least 52 actors who could be considered. The original core cast was fantastic, but ER thrived for as long as it did by always working in equally-intriguing characters -- portrayed by equally-talented actors. The Emmy committee should also follow suit by honoring the show with a final nomination as best dramatic series.

What I loved about ER was its realistic portrayal of humanity. In life, sometimes you have a chance to prepare for hardships. But often enough, illness, injury and death come out of nowhere. And for me the show's main message was always clear: none of us know how much time we have make the most of your life. STAT.

4/3 Update: (AP) - An estimated 16.4 million people paid one last visit to the "ER" on Thursday, as the last piece of NBC's once-mighty "must-see TV" lineup signed off after 15 years. It was the biggest audience for a drama series finale since "Murder, She Wrote" on CBS in 1996, Nielsen Media Research said on Friday.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April Movie Reviews

Here are some mini reviews of advance screenings I've seen this week. The following movies will be released nation-wide over the course of this month.


Greg Mottola, director of 2007's Superbad, is back at the helm with another strong showing. Set at a Pennsylvania adventure park in 1987, this coming-of-age story is a highly-entertaining and well-acted slice of life. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart light up the screen as co-workers who meet that summer and may find love. The entire supporting cast -- including Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig -- are equally good. And the fun 1980s soundtrack plays an important supportive role as well. Be forewarned: more of a 'dramedy' than comedy.

Grade: A-

Observe and Report

Seth Rogen's comic talents are wasted on the second mall cop movie of this short year (after the successful Paul Blart: Mall Cop). We really didn't need this second dose. Late in the movie, a minor character says, "I thought this was going to be funny...but it's just kinda sad." I couldn't agree more. It's sad that this is billed as a comedy. For the most part, the script is not funny. And it was actually painful to watch the once-intriguing Ray Liotta portray a police detective in this mess.

Grade: D

The Soloist

Based on a true story, Robert Downey, Jr. plays Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez and Jamie Foxx is homeless schizophrenic musician Nathaniel Ayers. The two form an unlikely friendship as Lopez tries to help Ayers off the streets in order to give him a safer environment to fully regain his musical talents. Both actors are excellent -- and director Joe Wright (Atonement) gives us a gritty view of not only L.A.'s homeless community, but also the harsh realities of schizophrenia. But Wright also over-uses visual filler to stretch out the story. I have to wonder if the many delays in releasing the movie (which was originally slated for last year) were due to some re-working to pad the story.

Grade: B

Note: If you haven't seen my reviews from last month, click on the March archive on the left. The four films showcased there are still in theaters.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Watch Free Documentaries

Like documentaries? Like free documentaries even more? Then check out which has more than 600 full-length selections. Popular choices include Super Size Me, by temporary fast-food junkie Morgan Spurlock, and Air Force One, an inside look at the President's plane.

Films are organized by title and topic -- and the site allows you to "snag" them and place them on your blog or Facebook page to share with friends.

Longest-Running TV Drama to End its Run

NEW YORK — “Guiding Light” will go dark in September after 72 years and 16,000 episodes, CBS announced Wednesday. The last episode is set to air on September 18, according to CBS spokeswoman Cindy Marshall.

The show, which the Guinness Book of World Records lists as the longest-running television drama, first aired on NBC radio in 1937 as a 15-minute serial, Marshall said. It moved to television on the CBS network in 1952, and is produced in New York.

The daytime soap opera’s declining viewership led to the decision, Marshall said. The remaining soap operas are also dealing with falling viewerships. How long before the entire genre is gone? Stay tuned.