Chuck Review: “Chuck vs. First Class”

C: This episode saw Chuck on his first solo mission – though “solo” is a subjective term, given that he called Sarah and Casey about once a minute and they ultimately stepped in to save him through satellites!  Still, it was exciting to see Chuck reaching for a place of competence and capability.  Sarah and Casey do baby him, it can’t be denied (though not always without reason).

E: Chuck did pretty well by himself in the end.  Sure, he got himself poisoned, but he flashed on those swords (eee!) and took out Panzer like a champ.  Now that, Human Target staff, is how you set an action sequence in a cargo bay. I’m just bummed Chuck didn’t get to use his nunchuks.

C: My feelings of last week are confirmed.  Shaw?  I like.  I like that he wants to help Chuck but also to let him stand on his own two feet as much as possible.  I’m still deeply suspicious of his larger agenda – and I wonder what on earth good he thinks five-year-old intel about the Ring is going to be – but I am intrigued by how they’re playing him.  You can’t fully get behind him, but he hasn’t given us grounds to dislike him either.

E: Not that it wasn’t obvious, but I totally called the dead agent being his wife.  But what’s with Kristin Kreuk and the all-Superman guest stars?  How will she work out as a member of the nerd herd, I wonder?  Can she possibly just be a nice girl genius, though?  Isn’t it far more likely she’s an infiltrator from the Ring?

C: I find it totally impossible to believe she could be a civilian.  I wouldn’t actually mind seeing Chuck date a civilian for a while – the tension with Sarah would benefit from a break, and we could do with another Lou a la the first season – but a beautiful mysterious traveling IT expert who follows Chuck back to Burbank to work at Buy More?  So not plausible.

E: Yes, exactly.  It’s annoyingly obvious.  And Lou?  I really liked Lou.  Boo.

C: The pranks at the Buy More are just seeming more and more irrelevant to the show.  It’s like watching a Shakespeare play, with the “low” comic characters interjected into the main plot at random intervals.  That said, I liked seeing Morgan make use of Casey’s fearsome powers to quell the insurgency.  About time someone realized what an asset Casey could be in Buy More politics!

E: But with those lines?  “Insurgents.  I hate insurgents!” Not to mention “If I was assistant manager, they’d be ready.” “Ready for what?”  “The Russians.”

And what are you calling low comedy?  I liked Jeff and Lester’s cabal of evil tricksters. Not to mention Shaw making Chuck use Jeff as a tranquilizer guinea pig.  (“I’ve read everyone’s files. Jeff Barnes will be okay.”) For crying out loud, they made a Manchurian Candidate reference!  I about peed my pants when Lester went into that whole Manchurian mindcontrol speech!  And hey, don’t tell me I was the only one reminded of My Bodyguard when Morgan asked Casey for help!  Long live Linderman!  Man I loved that movie.    And also?  Brilliant version of “Respect.”  Love love love Otis Reading.

C: I mean “low” in the sense it’s used about Shakespeare plays – you’ve got your heroes, and you’ve got your buffoons.  The comedy is funny.  The references are good.  It just seems, these days, that A- and B-plots have almost nothing to do with each other.

E: I got the Shakespearean reference, I was just – oh, whatever.  Your point is taken; I guess my quibble is with the word “irrelevant.”  Do they need to be intertwined?  I don’t find it necessary, or even all that desirable.  Speaking of pop culture references, who else wants Sarah’s “Frak off” t-shirt from next week’s previews?  Other than me, of course?

Movie Review/Oscar Talk: Up in the Air

E: Sometimes, we get a little complacent.  We think our lives are zipping along perfectly, just as they should. We think we know it all.

And that is just when life punches us in the gut.

Ryan Bingham likes his life just the way it is.  It’s smooth and practiced.  No one can clickety clack their way through airport security like he can. He knows all the tricks.  He knows what to wear and where to go.  He has all the passkeys, all the codecards, all the frequent flyer miles and all the motel chain membership plans.  His life is up in the air.  He works for an Omaha, Nebraska firm (run by the similarly smooth-talking but less experiences Jason Bateman) that fires people.  That’s right.  If an exec is too chicken to downsize employees on his or her own, contact Bateman, and he’ll send in Ryan Bingham (or one of his compatriots) to do it instead.  And so Ryan lives his life above it all, racking up miles (“I have a number in mind,” he says), lighting down for a terrible moment in stranger’s lives, smoothing it over with platitudes, and flying blissfully away from any mess.  He has a patented patter used to calm panicky firees; they are to use this moment as an experience, as a conduit to greatness, as a chance to make of their lives what they’ve always wanted.

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Movie Review/Oscar Talk: A Single Man

E: Breathe in.  Breathe in again.  Appreciate what it feels like to breathe, what your body does, how your chest moves.  Feel it.  Be alive in this moment.

That’s what the movie A Single Man is, at its essence.  We spend a day with George Falconer, a British ex-pat who teaches English at a small Los Angeles area college in the early 60s, as he exchanges pleasantries with his neighbors and dines with his best friend, divorcee Charlotte. We see him savor each moment of the day, because at the end of it – broken by the death of his lover – he plans to kill himself.

But perhaps because of the precisely observed and beautifully articulate work of an aching, desperate Colin Firth, the movie is not the complete downer you’d think it’d be.  If you look at a synopsis and say, oh, gay suicide movie, not for me, well, you will miss out.

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SAG Awards Reaction: Yawn

E: In the words of an old family favorite commercial, I am bored today.  I am filled with boredom.

I am bored, and the nominations haven’t even come out yet!  Yes, I am easily bored.  I hate it when the winners are all decided this early.  I like figuring out puzzles, and this year’s acting races, my friends, are ceasing to be a puzzle.

You guessed it – last weekend’s Golden Globe winners have all won again.

Leaving aside whether Mo’Nique, Christoph Waltz, Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock deserve all the accolades they’re receiving, there’s little that can freeze the fun out of an awards season like every group picking the same four people over and over again.  Sigh.  It’s not usually quite this static.  I still cringe when I think of Renee Zellweger giving the same speech at the Golden Globes, SAG, the BAFTAs and Oscar.  Her little fingers-over-the-mouth modest thing was so charming the first time, but ah, so not by the fourth.   This is starting to bring me back to 2004, when a fantasy epic topped the box office and won Oscar’s biggest prize, and the four acting winners (Charlize Theron, Zellwegger, Sean Penn and Tim Robbins) remained the same at every blasted awards ceremony.  If I hadn’t been emotionally invested in The Return of the King, I’d have hated that awards season.  I really enjoyed Avatar, but it’s not in the same league as ROTK.  On the other hand, I’ll bet that AMPAS would salivate over a repeat of 2004, the last year they got good ratings.

So, erm.  The show itself.  Dapper little Waltz made a studied effort not to give the same speech; last week, it was constellations, and this week it was about acting for the projectionist (or, the difference between the screen and the stage).  Bridges, who seems to be tremendously popular, got a standing ovation and was genially forgettable.  Thinking about him makes me want to see Star Man again – isn’t that such a good movie?  Sandra Bullock was funny (“if only the show were not televized, so that I could say the appropriate words for what I’m feeling right now”) in a slim black gown with blue embellishments, and most moving (yet still funny) when she talks about her husband.  She got a standing o, too.  Mo’Nique was queenly, powerful and dignified, practically vibrating with righteousness.   Not to mention pretty stunning  in a super flattering pale gown with blinged out sleeves.

Oddly enough, the most enjoyable moment came from the lifetime achievement award – and yes, I was expecting to forward through that, too, but Betty White is a pretty funny lady.  And who knew she starred in 4 different shows called The Betty White Show?  What a bizarre and fascinating tidbit. And I was totally surprised to learn she could sing. I was still more surprised to like the generally useless comedy clip show, and not just because it was introduced by a resplendent Jane Lynch.  They highlighted a few family favorite moments: the classic vessel with the pestle sequence, the ending of Some Like it Hot,  Marisa Tomei’s biological clock, and Cher trying to slap the love out of Nicholas Cage (“snap out of it!”).  Carey Mulligan did get a brief moment – as she introduced An Education – to endear herself to Academy members. The traditional “I’m an actor” opening featured some funny bits by Eddie Falco and some guy from Curb Your Enthusiasm who checked his IMDB star meter on his blackberry.   Kira Sedgewick and Christina Applegate showed off some pretty stunning fashion, and Kira got to watch her husband win his first big award.  Juliana Margulies continued to gather some love for The Good Wife.  Diane Kruger, who clearly has no fear of color, wore mustard gold instead of hot pink. This time I know better than to mock Michael C. Hall’s cancer head wrap (though I still think a shaved head would go better with the tuxedo).  And Glee won again.  Nice.

Usually the SAG show airs a lot closer to the Oscar.  I don’t know what they were thinking, scheduling the show this far back.  I don’t really know what next month’s award show drought will do to the current line up – all we have left is the BAFTAs in terms of acting. For Best Picture, we’ll get the DGA and PGA awards, which could solidify the murky situation for Best Picture.  Avatar wasn’t nominated by SAG (and unsurprisingly so, since most of its performances were motion capture), so this doesn’t say anything much its chances. It was a knock down for Up in the Air, which wasn’t nominated for best cast either despite having the most individual acting nominees, and The Hurt Locker, which was bested by Inglourious Basterds.  We have favorites going on from here, but we also have a long time for Oscar either to just anoint them and forget about it, or for underdogs to launch a Marion Cotillard-style charm offensive.  This is the point where the seemingly inevitable Saving Private Ryan silently gave way to Shakespeare in Love.  Can it happen?  There’s lots of time. This week’s Massachusetts Senate election proves just how quickly momentum can shift – but will it?  Eh.  In the awards season, I’m all about surprises.  There’s no sign of that this morning.

SAG Awards

M: Sanrda Bullock!  Jeff Bridges!  Meryl Streep!  Christopher Plummer!  Hollywood is taking a night off from Botox, and is all about SAG tonight.

Ok, so not THAT kind of sag, as I’m sure you already knew.  It’s the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, where actors tell other actors how awesome they are.  I’t’s totally not narcissistic, really.  Seriously though, this is typically one of, if not the best, indicators for the acting award Oscars, and this year is no different.  After tonight we’ll have a good idea if Golden Globe winers like Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges are building Scott Brown-type momentum, or if their seemingly huge leads will evaporate like Martha Coakley’s did, leaving them high and dry on Oscar night.

We’ll be back with recap tomorrow, but until then you can see our reactions to the Golden Globes here, and enjoy all the sagging!

ETV: Grey’s Anatomy, Project Runway and Models of the Runway

E: Wow, Grey’s Anatomy, but that was ugly.  Pontificate much?  My, but aren’t we all convicted we’re doing the right thing?  That hour was full of a lot of pretty speeches from pretty, petty people justifying ugly, ugly behavior.”I Like You Better When You’re Naked”, indeed.  I don’t know.  I think this episode might have been a little too naked for me.

The topic of the day is ambition, and what part of life is more important – life in or out of work – and how you make that call, if you have to.  And whether you’re allowed to say that kind of stuff aloud or not.  And it’s not that those aren’t good questions, but the answers are painful.  And more than that, the hard and honest answers seem to be leading a lot of these characters into a different sort of lie. Certainly the title states that uncommitted sex is easier than being a grown up and living with someone else’s flaws and differences.

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Movie Review: The Blind Side

E: For the next month or so, I’m going to be watching a whole lot of movies.  And I’ll be reviewing those movies from two points of view – first, what do I think of them as movies, but second, where do they fit into the Oscar race?   The Blind Side is an rather unusual beast – and Sandra Bullock feel good flick, and an Oscar contender.

And it’s also something else.  It’s a really, almost surprisingly good time.  And the best thing about that for me?  It’s a true story.

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