Television

Community: Advanced Television Production

Kris and I tried watching Community when it first came on the air, and while we thought it was sort of cute, it initially felt like it was trying too hard, it was too gimmicky, and that it was overstuffed with less-than-interesting characters. I think we stopped watching after a few episodes.

We picked it back up somewhere in the middle of season two, and it’s now one of our favorite shows. It’s still pretty gimmicky, but it’s incredibly funny and clever and has a lot of heart.

I’m bringing this up because The Onion’s AV Club has published a series of interviews with the show’s creator, Dan Harmon, and wow. They’re incredible. I’ve honestly never seen such a candid, honest revealing interview with a show creator, especially not while the show is still on the air. Sure, you might find some interviews with the writers of The Wire or Cheers or something, years after the show has ended, taking about the overall theme of their show, or recalling some memorable moments, discussing specific episodes, or sharing random anecdotes, but Harmon really opened up to the AV Club, discussing every single episode of season two at great length.

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Movies

Summer Movie Fantasy League

I don’t know if you follow Film Drunk but they talked about a fun idea for a fantasy league for summer movies in their last podcast. Basically, they held a draft where they each picked which movies they thought would score big box office takes this summer. You can read about/listen to it here. (Film Drunk apparently got the idea from the makers of this podcast, who apparently got it from someone else, and so on to infinity).

Anyway. It sounded like fun, so Kris and I held our own little draft over the weekend. We started by picking five movies we thought would have the biggest opening weekends by box office gross. Kris picked first, nabbing the final Harry Potter film, a very good pick and a guarantee to score huge. For my first pick, I debated between the Speilberg/Abrams lens-flareaganza, Super 8, and Michael Bay’s Transformers 3: Even More Fucking Robots. I know they’ll both be huge, but I figure Abrams not showing a monster in the trailers won’t draw as big a crowd as Bay showing a million fucking robots in the trailers. So, I went with T3, and my wife immediately snapped up Super 8 as her next pick.

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Television

The Killing: Pork Rinds Don’t Count

Last night The Killing delivered an episode that contained what I’ve been asking for since the beginning of the series: several nice long scenes of Holder and Linden talking to each other. In fact, the entire episode pretty much consisted of nothing but that. This is both great and horrible.

Great, because we finally get to see the two detectives sharing some real quality time, and we learn some new stuff about them both. After Linden’s stupid kid Jack goes missing, Holder and Linden take a break from the investigation to try to track him down. During the course of the day, Linden opens up considerably, and we learn that she’s more messed up than we knew: she’s a former foster kid, her fried Regi (the lady with the houseboat) is actually her social worker, and the case that haunts her so much involved a guy murdering his wife, going to jail, and leaving his kid to navigate the same damaged foster care system that Linden grew up in.

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Television

Lady Business: Dude!

I’m surrounded by dudes. If I carried around a bat, I could swing it and hit a guy at nearly every moment of every day. I might blame my current job in a mostly male dominated field, but I’ve been this way most of my life. At this point, I feel more comfortable being teased than I do having a real conversation. In short, I’ve been punched in the arm a lot.

So, it should come as no surprise that I love dude humor.

The League, FX – I had avoided this the first season because I really didn’t understand what it was about. They had these odd advertisements for the show that were like a beer commercial or something. Had they just shown actual clips from the show, I’m sure I would have watched much sooner. It’s basically a story of five guys in a fantasy football league who have known each other since high school. It’s a non-stop onslaught of insults and jackassery. In my favorite scene, Kevin gets up at a party to give a speech about how much his wife means to him. “Love is a journey, love is a committment…” then he gets all choked up, and his wife cries because she’s so touched. Later, they show a video from a few years before where he’s telling his friend how to give a romantic speech. Love is a blank, love is a blank and then on the third one, you just can’t get it out. Busted.

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Video Games

Bullet Points: L.A. Noire, Part 2

So, I finished up L.A. Noire, at least the main storyline cases.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. The game has plenty of problems and there are a number of elements I wish had been handled differently, but I have to give Rockstar and Team Bondi some kudos for trying something a little different and succeeding where they did. Looks like it took me about 27 hours to finish the cases, handle about half the street crimes, and just muck around in general: well worth the price, and I’ll probably play a little more from time to time until there’s some DLC.

As for where they failed and succeeded, well, I don’t want to get specific. There’s some mostly general, non-spoilery stuff below.

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Television

The Killing: It Ends Up Being Wrong

For weeks, The Killing, to my mind, has been steadily losing altitude, and while the latest episode wasn’t outstanding, at least the series seems to have leveled off and even powered the engines back up a bit. The detectives got to do some long-overdue investigating and interrogating, and their new suspect, though pretty obviously not guilty simply because he looked completely guilty, was at least discounted within a single episode instead of it being dragged out for several.

So, where are we, with only three episodes left?  Bennet is alive and in the hospital (boooo), and Stan has turned himself in for savagely beating an innocent man (and while he’s in jail, Mitch discovers that their bank accounts are empty). Belko is investigated, and while it turns out he’s a violent weirdo creep with mommy issues and pictures of Rosie above his bed (gross), and that he used to hang out in the Larsen’s home when no one was there (yuck), he at least didn’t kill Rosie.

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Video Games

Lady Business: The Traffic Report

(For any newcomers: My wife, Kris, writes a weekly column under the heading “Lady Business”, giving her perspective on movies, television, pop-culture, and in this instance, video games!)

My attempt at playing L.A. Noire ended in tragedy…more than a few times.

I can only really get my mind around two video game controllers. The first being the Atari 2600 joystick, because the thing had a single stick and button. The second being the Wii controller, because if you want to move forward you just push your arm forward. Both are beautifully simple. L.A. Noire for X-box means that I’m stuck attempting to click on a whole host of buttons, all of which seem to be super sensitive.

On Friday night, Chris manned the controller while I made the choices on where to go and what to do. We solved the cases fairly quickly, though I felt squirmy about calling a suspect a liar even though they were clearly lying. Turns out my wussy non-confrontational side calls the shots in video games as well as real life.

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DVD | Movies

Too Many Secrets: Sneakers

Whistler: “I want peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”

Abbot: “We are the United States government! We don’t do that sort of thing!”

Along with L.A. Confidential, which I wrote about here, one of my favorite all-time movies is Sneakers, made in 1992 and directed by Phil Alden Robinson. It’s a light, funny caper film, with a lot of ridiculous but enjoyable hacker nonsense and a great ensemble cast. I first saw it when I was working in a theater pub in Florida, and during its run there I saw twice a night for about two weeks. And that still wasn’t enough: I owned it on VHS and I’ve probably watched it another dozen times in my life. It’s still one of those films that, if it’s on TV, I’ll sit and watch it every single time. Major spoilers to follow.

Robert Redford is Martin Bishop, the head of a security firm who, as a teenager, got caught hacking into bank accounts and computer networks and fled to Canada, leaving his friend Cosmo to take the rap and the jail time. Sydney Poitier is the tightly wound ex-CIA agent Donald Crease, Bishop’s partner at the firm. The rest of the team is comprised of Darryl “Mother” Roskow (Dan Aykroyd), a technician with a head full of conspiracy theories, Erwin Emory, known as “Whistler” (David Strathairn), a blind computer whiz whose sharp ears make up for his lack of sight, and Carl Arbogast (River Phoenix), a young, earnest, yet somewhat awkward prodigy.

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Television

The Killing: Punching A Rock

Okay. I’m going to have to admit that this show is not nearly as good as I’d hoped, and it has gotten clunkier by the week. Still, I’m invested at this point, and I’m going to see it through, and I’m going to pretend I’m still really enjoying it, when I’m only really sort of enjoying it.

This week we got some fairly unsurprising news: Bennet is not a terrorist. Like I had mostly figured out with my huge intelligent brain, what appeared to be some Muslim terror plot was actually a Muslim rescue plot: a little girl was being spirited away to protect her from an unwanted marriage and female circumcision. Bennet is clean, actually, more than clean: he was risking a lot to protect an innocent girl.

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DVD | Movies

Hold Up Your Badge: L.A. Confidential

I’ve been playing L.A. Noire, and what with all the fedoras, old-timey cars, and talk of “bracing” witnesses, it’s put me in quite the mood for one of my favorite movies, L.A. Confidential. I stayed up late watching it again the other night.

There’s a shorthand in a lot of movies, especially cop dramas, when it comes to character flaws. Want to quickly build an anti-hero? Give him a drinking or drug problem. Give him an ex-wife (or a dead wife) or an estranged child. Give him a couple days of beard growth and a crummy, messy apartment. This signifies to the audience that your hero is struggling with demons without having to do all that pesky work of, you know, writing a good, believable character.

L.A. Confidential takes the harder, longer route, and it pays off in spades: the three main characters are all horribly and realistically flawed and thus incredibly compelling. Exley is a overly ambitious weasel, a political rung-climber obsessed with outdoing his father, and happy to wear the disdain of other cops as a badge. Vincennes is a charming sleaze, willing to sell out for fame and headlines and not interested in solving crimes as much as starring in them.

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