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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

WWE NXT #6 3/30/10

NXT WTF: The first ten minutes were fucking absurd. They're making it even more up as they go along.

First, they did a complete 180 on the announcement two weeks ago that an NXT Rookie would be eliminated. No one was eliminated tonight. Instead, Matt Striker revealed that now, in another 6 weeks, the first elimination would happen, followed by three more each week until the final four remain.

The winner of NXT will receive a title match on a pay per view against any champion of his choosing (basically Money in the Bank without the briefcase or having to wrestle 9 guys in a ladder match).

So is that it, then, WWE? That's the format you're sticking to? It won't be something else next week?

Then they revealed the NXT Pro's Poll. These are the rankings based on the four criteria of quality of opponent, won/loss record, heart, and It Factor, except... the poll is a total work that had no bearing on those four criteria, or had any logic whatsoever based on the five episodes of TV we've been shown so far.

8)Darren Young
7)Michael Tarver
6)Skip Sheffield
5)David Otunga
4)Heath Slater
3)Justin Gabriel
2)Wade Barrett
1)Daniel Bryan

The crowd was generally not into any of this opening segment. Bryan mocked David Otunga's It Factor: "The truth is he can't wrestle", thus earning a Christmas card from me this year. Bryan also mocked Otunga's pants. He gets a Christmas gift from me for that.

By the way, the bottom four of the rankings are made up of the three black guys. Maybe that's just an odd coincidence.

WWE Pros 8 Man Tag Team Match:
Smackdown Pros CM Punk, R-Truth, Matt Hardy, and Wade Barrett (substituting for the "injured" Chris Jericho) defeated RAW Pros William Regal, The Miz, Christian, and Carlito

Jericho on commentary ripping on Cole and Mathews was twice as entertaining as the match itself. Jericho even called the action, rendering Cole redundant and useless. Then Jericho interfered so Barrett could pin Christian. Chris Jericho is clearly the greatest mentor an NXT Rookie could ever have.

David Otunga won an 8 Rookie Battle Royal, earning the right to become the guest host of Monday Night RAW next week. Will Jennifer Hudson be there? What's the over/under on that? Otunga better wow everyone with the undeniable It Factor Charisma he keeps telling everyone he has or he's pretty SOL.

I gotta say, I've soured on NXT. I already know who I like and who I think should be on the main roster: Daniel Bryan, Justin Gabriel, and Wade Barrett (He's majestic! He's like an eagle!).

The competition itself is anything but, makes no sense, and seems to drag something pointless out. If NXT goes a second season, WWE Creative should think long and hard about how they've bungled this idea they never thought through to begin with and decide what this show actually is.

V 1x5 - "Welcome to the War"

After staring at that big red V during Lost, like millions of others, the last thing I wanted to do afterward was actually watch V. But eventually, I did. And... eh.

Four months off and I didn't miss these people and lizards pretending to be people one bit. It would have been nice if V returned with some slam bang momentum.

Admittedly, a lot of plot development occurred and seeds planted for major events to take place. But I wonder, when and if this show ever picks up the pace and ramps up the action, will people still care? Do they care now?

Erica Evans, a trained FBI counter terrorism agent, was the first person to decide that she can't train anyone to fight as part of a Resistance. Instead, she insists they turn to some mercenary terrorist to be the guy who teaches the fledgling Resistance how to resist. I mean, in the original miniseries, a bunch of ordinary people just banded together and they Resisted. There wasn't all this hemming and hawing about it.

I didn't get the Master Plan Anna had for Erica's stupid son, leaving him on that table reliving all his memories and emotions, so he'd go back home and tell his mom he's outta there and moving in with the Vs. They already had him; Erica couldn't get him off that ship if she tried. And if she tries, the Vs can kill her. Why go through all the trouble?

Anna did say something about Lisa Fulfilling Her Destiny. If its to have the first V/Human hybrid, won't she be pissed off Ryan and his girlfriend have beaten her too it.

I liked the scene where she was tempted to eat the dead mouse caught in the trap. Nice callback to the Famous Gross-out Moment from the original V when the Visitor ate the mouse.

What else? Father Jack got healed from his gunshot wound at the V Healing Center and had a pretty neat dream about turning into a V.

Chad has dinner with the increasingly creepy Anna. He tells her he doesn't want to be healed from his brain aneurysm that he doesn't even have yet by the Vs. Anna feeds him some fugu. Later, Chad announces on television he'll take the Vs up on the offer of preemptive healing. Anna is pleased; continues to be creepy.

Anna, who spent half the episode in a sexy robe like an alien lizard Hugh Hefner, also wants to grow an army to fight the growing Resistance and the Fifth Column, and her method is to literally grow an army. She picked some V who was real buff and then had the least sexy sex scene ever where she just mounted him in the middle of a cloud of smoke for a few seconds and that was it. V sex is not much to speak of.

Then the newly impregnated Anna bared her CGI Lizard mouth and killed the father of her V eggs. And there went any lingering fantasy of getting it on with Anna. Won't Tyler be in for a treat when he finally hooks up with Lisa.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lost 6x10 - "The Package"

"Unless Alpert's covered in bacon grease, I don't think Hugo's gonna be able to track him."

"Why don't you just turn into smoke and float over the water?"
"If I could do that, do you think I'd still be on this Island?"
"No, 'cause that would be ridiculous."

"She hits her head and loses the ability to speak English? We're supposed to buy that?"
"Says the guy who talks to dead people."

Funny dialogue aside, the main story on Lost is shifting to the end game. Battle lines are being drawn, plans are being formed, the confrontation is imminent.

I'm still not used to Lost being so blatant in its explanations as it's been this season. Smoke Locke clearly stated he needs all six candidates to be with him when he leaves the Island, he clearly stated Kate and Claire are not candidates, and he clearly stated why he needs Kate. He was a bit more ambiguous what's to be done with her after she's outlived her usefulness, but I think it was still clear what he implied.

When they opened the episode with the green filtered night vision, it's a shame Kate and Sawyer weren't having sex, as an ode to the Paris Hilton sex tape.

I think Sun and Jin are the first of the Oceanic 815ers to not be better off in the Not Lost flash-sideways reality. "Some people just aren't meant to be together," said Keamy. Foreshadowing, but for which reality? By the way, I like crime boss Keamy a lot more than jungle mercenary Keamy. He's a lot funnier. Mikhail is pretty much the same in both realities, and ends up just as dead.

I really liked both of Jack's conversations with Sun. The first one in the garden when Sun shat all over the idea of their destiny and the second when Jack convinced her to come with them so they can find Jin. Jack's notoriously shitty bedside manner has really improved since he found Island Faith.

I also get a charge when super villains have confrontations. Widmore and Smoke Locke sized each other up (hey, they're both white, bald, and old!) and the dialogue indicated that Widmore never encountered the black smoke when he was leading the Others (and presumably following Jacob), although the black smoke knew who he was. The sonic pylons are interesting too; sure they keep Smoke Locke out, but I'm sure the same thought crossed his mind that the pylons themselves can be attacked and disabled.

Finally, finally Desmond is back! I hope we see Penny again too before the series ends.

Now, what is Charles Widmore so interested in regarding the Island's electromagnetic activity?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine (*)



Let's turn up the heat on Hot Tub Time Machine: I thought it sucked. I went in expecting ribald comedy with 80's nostalgia, and that's what Hot Tub Time Machine delivered, except I'm still waiting for the comedy part. I don't want to be the spoilsport here, but I seriously hated this movie. The problem I ran into with Hot Tub Time Machine was that I hated the characters. John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Clark Duke are a dysfunctional gang of friends who travel back in time via a malfunctioning magical hot tub to 1986. The appeal of John Cusack, an 80's teen movie icon, traveling back to the 80's was totally squandered. I mean, where were the jokes?  That people dressed funny in the 80's? That cell phones were the size of bricks? That the hairstyles were big?  Hot Tub Time Machine is lazy, right down to the editing. Scenes just go on and on, then stop with no punchline, tag, or point. In fact, the movie is so lazy, they don't even pay attention to their own details: It's clearly established Duke is 20 years old and that the four main characters travel back in time to 1986. That means the movie's "present" is 2006, if my remedial math is correct. Except Duke already has a flatscreen HDTV, which indicates its actually 2010 in the "present", and when the characters return to the "present", it's clearly established they return to 2010. Four years are unaccounted for, and the filmmakers didn't give a shit. The action in the past revolves around the four friends trying to do whatever it is they did back then so as not to disrupt the timeline, with references to the time travel plot in The Terminator, culminating in a big reveal straight out of The Terminator. Corddry's character is an unpleasant drunken boor, which is fine, except he wasn't funny.  Duke's 20 year old misfit, the nephew of Cusack's character, turns out to also be a foul mouthed asshole. There's a reason for that, it turns out, involving Corddry getting nasty in the past-y, but it doesn't mean I like them or the movie any better for it.  Robinson fares the best of the four by virtue of just being pleasant. Meanwhile, Cusack mostly sleepwalks through the movie and gives bare minimum effort. Chevy Chase and Crispin Glover appear but the movie hardly knows what to do with Chase while Glover also never quite finds a strong comedic foothold despite a sick runner about losing his arm. Bottom line, Cusack, Duke, Corddry, and Robinson were not four characters I wanted to spend any time with in any decade.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chloe (**1/2)



If everyone wouldn't mind, before I start this Chloe review proper, I'd like to just have a quick word with the fellas reading: 

Dudes, Amanda Seyfried is naked in this. She's so naked. Not just once, like three or four times. And not just in the beginning either, but all throughout, even in the last act. Julianne Moore is naked too. I know, who cares. But then they get it on. That's right, they have lesbian sex together. For reals, yo. Trust me on this, the Blu-ray is gonna be worth it. Oh shit, the other people are waiting...

Now then. In Atom Egoyen's beautifully shot, complex, elegant and intriguing, then frustrating and maddening Chloe, Amanda Seyfried is an escort who is drawn into the fractured marriage of Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson. Neeson is a successful, charming professor with an eye for the ladies (he's quick to point out hookers are people too) whom Moore suspects is cheating on her. To prove it, she recruits Seyfried to seduce her husband and report back all of the sordid details. The plot is very similar to what Jason Bateman does in Extract, with less amusing results. Moore is genuinely surprised by how aroused she becomes when Seyfried details all of Neeson's comings and doings. Moore is even more surprised by how attracted she becomes to Seyfried; the attraction is more than mutual. And then it gets even stranger. Neeson and Moore also have a petulant teenage son who's really more of an obnoxious plot device than anything else. The son is awful, but the performances from the three leads are very strong. Chloe works well for the first half as Moore struggles with the complicated moral and ethical dilemma she puts herself in. Seyfried tempts, pouts, teases, dazzles, lusts, and arouses admirably. When Chloe puts Seyfried's ripe radiance front and center, her stunning beauty distracts from the unseemliness of the story. I don't know how this story would have best been resolved, but the third act turn Seyfried takes (she lied about all of her interludes with Neeson, she's obsessed with Moore, and she's also full on bonkers, showing up like a deranged ex-lover at Moore OB/GYN clinic - before seducing Neeson and Moore's son), pretty much sucked. The "happy ending" final scene is bizarre and terrible, and the entire third act felt like the writers just gave up and literally tossed Chloe out the window.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Black Widow

What idiot, by that I mean genius, designed this Iron Man 2 poster? Looks like Scarlett Johannson lit her fart on fire.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lost 6x9 - "Ab Aeterno"

Nestor Carbonell is one of my favorite actors. Ever since he was Batmanuel in The Tick, I've loved the guy and it was fantastic to see him get his own episode of Lost.

Probably the most shocking thing about the Secret Origin of Richard (Ricardus Ricardo) Alpert is how nothing revealed was terribly shocking at all. Everything was pretty much in line with all the clues dropped about Richard over the years. Yes, he's immortal. Yes, he's of Spanish descent. Yes, he was a slave on the Black Rock. Yes, he worked for Jacob. However, that doesn't mean all of it wasn't really good and very well done.

It was a hard knock life for Richard. Everybody he knew in the Canary Islands except Isabella (we assume) was an asshole. The greedy doctor Richard killed by accident was an asshole. The priest was an asshole. Even his white slave master was an asshole. Jacob thinks the Man in Black was an asshole. The Man in Black thinks Jacob is an asshole. Richard 2007 thinks Jacob is an asshole. And Hurley... he's a really good guy.

I didn't put two and two together when Hurley was speaking Spanish to nobody that it would turn out to be Isabella's ghost or whatever. That was a sweet scene with Richard and Isabella while Hurley translated for the ghost.

Is Miles aware that Hurley is also a ghost whisperer now? Hurley's totally stealing Miles' thunder. But then, Miles has millions of dollars worth of Nikki and Paulo's diamonds in his pocket, so he may be richer than Hurley now. They're like two sides of the same coin.

Richard with the beard looked so much like Jim Caviezel in Passion of the Christ. I liked Jacob baptizing him in the surf four times. "Still think you're dead? Still think you're dead?"

Jacob pretty much laid out bare what his Purpose in life is and why he does (and doesn't do) what he does. It really is pretty much black and white between Jacob and the Man in Black.

When Isabella appeared, and there's no doubt now it was the Smoke Monster taking her form after scanning Richard, at the time I thought it really was Isabella, by way of The Magic Box Ben mentioned when suddenly Anthony Cooper was on the Island and Locke got Sawyer to kill him.

I liked the Black Rock smashing the Egyptian statue en route to being moored in the jungle. And that's how both of those things happened. ALL WILL BE REVEALED! Straight up.

So... what's Richard Alpert doing in the sideways Not Lost reality?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Monsters vs. Aliens (***)


Color me surprised by how good and how much fun Monsters vs. Aliens is. I've long held a "No CGI cartoon movies not made by Pixar" policy, but last year's Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs just about blew me away with its quality. Monsters vs. Aliens isn't quite in its league, nor the equal of Up, but it's very enjoyable as pure entertainment. Reese Witherspoon leads an all-star voice cast as Susan, who grows into a fifty foot tall woman after being exposed to a radioactive alien meteorite. Imprisoned by the US Government and renamed Ginormica, Susan and her fellow monsters, the mad scientist Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie), fish monster The Missing Link (Will Arnett), and the horrible gelatinous blob B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), are soon called upon to halt an alien invasion. Rainn Wilson provides the voice of the alien conqueror Gallaxhar. The screenplay is a go-for-broke crackerjack of witty dialogue and B-monster movie inspired action beats. There are also odes to E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the "Axl F" theme from Beverly Hills Cop for no reason other than it's cool. The animation is terrific and the characters are remarkably expressive. Witherspoon is excellent; her performance is probably her best overall since Election, as Susan learns to accept and even prefer bring Ginormica. She and her fellow monsters become empowered to save the world and more importantly, earn a little respect. Arnett delivers a remarkably nuanced performance as the fish monster; he has the best dialogue and positively kills it. In a good way, not in a monstrous way.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Ghost Writer (***)



The end credits of The Ghost Writer contain one peculiar credit: "With the participation of Eli Wallach". What does that mean, 'participation'?  He acted in the movie. How else did he 'participate'?  Did he park cars or cook craft services on the set? Would The Ghost Writer not have been made if he hadn't 'participated'? That bugged me. I thought it was dumb. But whatever. The Ghost Writer isn't dumb. It's a well-made film from Roman Polanski, a man who himself participated is some sleazy, sordid affairs in his day. Ewan McGregor stars as the title character, a man we know nothing about, not even his name (he's called The Ghost in the credits - also dumb). Former Jedi McGregor is not excited to be asked to ghost write the memoirs of former British Prime Minister and former James Bond Pierce Brosnan, especially when his predecessor is found dead, but $250,000 got him on a plane and ferry to Brosnan's stark compound in Martha's Vineyard. Soon, Brosnan is accused by the International Court of war crimes for authorizing the water boarding and torture of terrorists when he was in power - a scandal that's covered by British and American television news with the gusto of the earthquake in Haiti. Next thing McGregor knows, he's being followed by black cars, being approached by sinister looking Brits in hotel bars, and finds himself trying to unravel Brosnan's labyrinthine past involving the CIA, Tom Wilkinson, and Brosnan's cold fish wife Olivia Williams. Kim Cattrall, as Brosnan's right hand ("Mrs. Bly"), puts on a shaky British accent amidst the real Brits in the cast. Wilkinson, himself a real Brit, is more successful with his American accent, as tends to be the case. The trouble with The Ghost Writer is that McGregor's character is himself not very interesting.  He's a cypher; in fact, the movie goes out of its way to avoid making him interesting.  Perhaps that was the point of his character, but it hardly makes him someone for an audience to root for when all the bad doings are transpiring.  The most interesting person in the movie is Brosnan (I would read his memoirs for sure) but he's really only in a few key scenes and disappears for large chunks of the picture. If you're paying attention to the clues being dropped - especially if you've ever seen a Hitchcock movie - the reveals in the third act don't particularly come as a shock. I did learn that if I ever have to ghost write the memoirs of a scandalous political figure, I'd look both ways before crossing the street.

The Office 6x19 - "New Leads"

"The way this place used to work was make friends first, make sales second, make love third. In no particular order."

It's been pretty obvious for quite a while but The Office really has changed a lot, and they dealt with it head on. In the weirdest way they could, with a lot of key action happening in the city dump.

Michael and Dwight finally had it out, in the sequel to their season two karate fight. Dwight has changed substantially, but whenever I watch Office repeats, I do miss the weird supplicant role he played to Michael in the first three seasons. Michael even pointed out how much Dwight has changed before their fight in the dump. Without Dwight enforcing Michael's power as Regional Manager, he's been more or less impotent. I'm glad they're back on the same page.

I do feel like The Office has peaked in its original form and the show is struggling to reinvent itself. The Sabre storyline hasn't really translated to big laughs or been as interesting as the Michael Scott Paper Company while Charles Miner ran Dunder Mifflin.

Dunder Mifflin Divided was pretty great though, and I found myself siding with the non-salesmen. The sales staff were being real assholes, capped off with them getting away with not sacrificing a percentage of their commissions.

I liked Michael's clues and scavenger hunt. "The first President. Lincoln!"

The biggest laugh for me was Darryl's bizarre reaction to Michael inviting him to the dump: "I can't! You know that!"

Second biggest laugh for me was the weird tussle between Andy and Darryl in Darryl's office. The Hangover vs. Hot Tub Time Machine mano e mano.

The peripheral stuff continues to seem much more interesting than the main storylines to me: Andy and Erin, Ryan and Kelly's constant fights, Creed's glasses. Especially Creed's glasses.

People love shells from faraway beaches.

Parks and Recreation 2x19 - "Park Safety"

Or... The One Where They Make Fun of Jerry The Whole Episode.

This week made it pretty clear making fun of Jerry is pretty much the only thing they can do with Jerry. Sure, they're dicks, but it turns out the guy is a clown.

Aubrey Plaza's reaction shots pretty much ruled this episode. Especially when Jerry was giving his presentation and when Andy and Ron were demonstrating self defense.

Loved Andy trying to use his neck to break out of a bearhug and then passing out.

Ann is just now learning of Andy's capacity for selflessness. She doesn't know he gave Tom $1000 to realize his dream of being part owner of the Snakehole. I don't like Ann sniffing around Andy again. She'd better not ruin this Andy-April thing that has yet to happen.

Leslie's Tom impression is spot on.

Andy Samberg should replace Paul Schneider next season.

The video of Jerry falling in the pond chasing after the burrito really really was great. "He refused to share with a dog!"

Community 1x19 - "Beginner Pottery"

"Want to come, Abed? There's black people!"

Top five episode of the series so far, right here. If I tried to list all the jokes that worked, it'd be as long as the episode itself.

How much do I want to attend Greendale when we now know you can take classes there taught by Tony "I made that Patrick Swayze sign before he died, so it's not in bad taste" Hale and Lee "I see seamen inside you" Majors?

We got the terms "Ghosting" and "Goldbluming" coined, and the return of Abed's voice over.

Annie's phallic pottery - the most obvious visual joke they could make. And THANK YOU for it, Dan Harmon!

I loved how Pierce's life was summed up:
"Good luck."
"Don't need it. Never had it!"

I wonder how the cool group feels about Star Burns spending so much time on a boat with Pierce, Britta, Troy, and Shirley?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lost 6x8 - "Recon"

What a delightful play on words the episode title is. "Recon". Because Sawyer did some recon on Hydra Island for Smoke Locke, and in both Island and Sideways realities, James Ford did some re-conning.

On the Island, Sawyer didn't have sex with Kate, although he had that wistful moment with Kate's old pretty dress in the bear cage when he remembered those good old times when he and Freckles did the nasty in the past-y. But in Not Lost, Detective Jimmy Ford, LAPD, did both Jodi-Lyn O'Keefe and the returning (missed by me) Charlotte Lewis. Not bad at all! Then Jimmy ran into Kate in the end. Some guys get all the luck. (Except when Charlotte told him he blew it. Which he did. Totally. She probably does have a whip.)

I know CBS is working on a Hawaii Five-0 reboot series, but they should scrap all their current plans and make that show starring Miles and Jimmy Ford. And Danno. Two of the three are already in Hawaii and we already love watching them. I loved Sawyer's asking Kate if Miles got out of the Temple alive when they reunited. Sawyer really loves his little buddy.

I liked Detective Jimmy's doggedly cold calling every Anthony Cooper in the phone book. "Can I speak to Anthony Cooper. Speaking? Did you con my daddy and sleep with my mommy? No? Sorry to disturb."

This week, we got both scenarios for Kate and Claire played out: the one where Claire tried to murder Kate and the one where they hug it out and have a tearful reconciliation. Kate's reaction to Claire almost knifing her freckles off was really, really great. Such a good performance the whole episode by Evangeline Lilly. And the writing was great, all the way through to Kate and Smoke Locke's conversations. Now Aaron has a crazy mother just like Smoke Locke.

Smoke Locke also came clean to Sawyer about his being the Smoke Monster and killing everyone at the Temple. I think at the end of the day, Smoke Locke is honestly looking for people to trust, and he's probably gone centuries without friends. Because he didn't have a body. Smoke Locke seems to like Sawyer, who's remarkably pragmatic about the whole situation.

Sawyer's negotiations with Widmore was typical Lost-style. They usually end with an ultimatum of "I wanna get off this Island." Widmore didn't reveal his hand at all, though. Sawyer talked the whole game but we got nothing regarding what Widmore is actually up to, besides laying out a sonic barrier in preparation for Smoke Locke, "just like at New Otherton." (I also liked how Smoke Locke refers to the Others as "the Others". That name really stuck.)

Sawyer: "You and me, we're getting off this Island."
Kate: "Who's gonna fly the plane?"
Sawyer: "We ain't takin' the plane. We're takin' the sub."
Kate: "Same question applies, James. Who's gonna pilot the sub?"
Sawyer: "I ain't thought of that yet."

From now on though, my emergency word for any situation will be "LaFleur."

WWE NXT #4 3/16/10

Darren Young and CM Punk (with Serena and Luke Gallows) defeated Justin Gabriel and Matt Hardy. The Straight Edge Society attacked Young after the match.

The Great Khali defeated Daniel Bryan by special arrangement of The Miz. The Big Show then chokeslammed Bryan post-match. The Miz sure holds a lot of sway with the giants on the roster.

Heath Slater defeated Michael Tarver. Tarver attacked Slater after the match.

Wade Barrett (with Chris Jericho) defeated Skip Sheffield (with William Regal). What?! No post-match attack?

May I suggest new lyrics to the NXT theme song?

"WE ARE Makingthisupaswegoalong!"

Big news: Matt Striker announced that in two weeks, episode 6, the NXT after WrestleMania, the Pros will vote and one of the NXT Rookies will be eliminated. There are eliminations now all of a sudden! What will they think of next?

Also, suddenly the Rookies wins and losses are being recorded on the chyron. I thought I was the only one keeping tabs on that. What's next? NXT Rankings?

I smell an angle where Miz will use his 0-4 record to get rid of Daniel Bryan, who'll then wrestle the Miz for his right to exist in NXT.

Maybe it's just me but Matt Hardy is like a fat, greasy vampire. He's the only Pro who strikes me as sucking on the vitality and youth of his Rookie to help revive sagging interest in his career. I'd love an angle where Khali takes Hardy to task for devoting too much time to Gabriel and not enough to their New Oddities.

After the post victory attack on Young by the Straight Edge Society, I wonder if NXT will suddenly allow Pro-switching next?

Michael Cole
only turns on his obnoxious heel voice when he craps all over Bryan. Cole sure hates the Daniel Bryan Manliness Meter on Twitter.

Cole on David Otunga: "I like this kid!" Of course he does. Cole (i.e. Vince McMahon) likes the big muscle guy who can't work and is married to Jennifer Hudson. And when Jennifer Hudson doesn't appear on WWE TV, Vince will wish him well on his future endeavors.

He didn't exactly impress, nor has he been given as much TV time as his NXT peers, but I think Michael Tarver is generally smoother in the ring than Otunga and Young combined. Why am I only comparing him to the other black guys? Moving along...

I liked when Jericho broke character and laughed at his own yelling at Cole and Mathews.

The crowd only seem to react to Gabriel and Bryan. Maybe NXT should add another innovation and let the Rookies talk more.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (**1/2)


There's too much intriguing imagery From The Imagination of Tim Burton to dismiss Alice in Wonderland entirely, but aside from Burton's patented brand of eye candy, the movie is a dreary kind of drag. Alice in Wonderland returns an older Alice (Mia Wasikowska) down the familiar rabbit hole where she lands in Tim Burtonland. In circumstances that run too close to Hook for comfort, she neither remembers her previous adventures in Wonderland, nor do most of its denizens seem sure it's even her. They all seem to remember Alice as a bright, precocious little girl, and this Alice is a scowly, sullen stick in the mud. (Burton provides flashbacks of the younger Alice's adventures in Wonderland and those looked so cheerful and fun, I'd rather have watched that movie.)  Lots of famous faces pop up: Anne Hathaway flitting about as the White Queen, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen (who must have been paid by the number of times she screeched "Off with his head!" It only got more irritating each time), Crispin Glover as the Red Queen's consort, and of course, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, doing his Johnny Deppiest to act mad. Some of the line readings were incomprehensible; I have no idea what Depp was saying half the time, and that goes for almost everyone in Wonderland. Stephen Fry and Alan Rickman lend their famous voices to the Cheshire Cat and the Blue Caterpillar, respectively, but the attempts by the CGI creatures to provide slapstick comedy are too frenzied and odd to be funny. Paying occasional lip service to the famous events in the book (Alice drinking the potion that makes her shrink, a visit to the Mad Hatter's tea party, etc.), Alice in Wonderland builds to the last thing I was expecting: another one of those "two armies meet in battle" action finales.  Is there something in the Director's Guild where directors must all have a Lord of the Rings-style CGI battle in the third act of their movies? Everything hinges on Alice, in battle armor, turning action heroine against the Jabberwocky, as foretold by a scroll that looks just like Harry Potter's Marauder's Map. In the end, Alice gains her "muchness" and becomes her own woman, so that was good. The grrrowly vocals of Avril Lavigne over the closing credits suited Burton and Wasikowska's surly Alice.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Green Zone (**1/2)



Set a few weeks after the American occupation of Iraq in 2003 ("MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!") Green Zone may or may not be Based on a True Story (who's to say? It's just a movie. Or is it? Yes), but argues that the United States went to war with Iraq under false pretenses; that the weapons of mass-destruction the US invaded Iraq to locate simply didn't exist. Matt Damon plays a solider who isn't Jason Bourne thrust into an action movie that isn't too unlike the Bourne movies, except not as entertaining or enjoyable. Damon, frustrated that his Army unit assigned to locate the WMDs keeps coming up empty, starts asking questions about where their intel is coming from. Soon, Damon goes "off reservation" and, aided by CIA agent Brendan Gleeson, uncovers the far reaching "truth" behind the Reason We Went to War - involving high ranking Washington official Greg Kinnear, Wall Street Journal reporter Amy Ryan, and one of Saddam Hussein's generals. Damon chases after the Truth with dogged determination while forces both friendly and Iraqi try to stop him.  Director Paul Greengrass employs his considerable skill in telling this story, but the blistering urgency of his shaky cam style of shooting action - employed to perfection in The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum - isn't well served by the fact that this story isn't particularly urgent. The idea that the United States went to war with Iraq under false pretenses isn't a new one, but Green Zone treats it like a Holy Shit! revelation. Green Zone even hammers home the point with Damon screaming "The reason we go to war is the only thing that matters!" to Kinnear. Perhaps the lesson will be learned for the next time the US commits to a decade-long war. Though well made and earnest, the trouble with Green Zone is that it neither shocks nor awes.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Office 6x18 - "St. Patrick's Day"

"St. Patrick's Day is the closest the Irish will ever get to Christmas."

Michael's behavior towards Jo was uncomfortable without being particularly funny. He was definitely behaving like himself, but booking himself for a trip to Tallahassee and sucking up to Jo at every opportunity - I don't know. It's weird seeing Michael in such a blatant supplicant mode. Or maybe we've just seen it too often before.

Also weird how everyone is terrified of Jo, who's camped out in the conference room with the door open, but Jim and Dwight still have their war over Megadesk and Quaddesk, with Dwight playing loud music and creating singalongs with Andy. Plus all the usual shenanigans. Even the presence of the Sabre CEO doesn't stop Dunder Mifflin Scranton from behaving in their normal insane fashion.

Darryl gets promoted! "Soulful, smart for the warehouse." The producers were months behind Ed Helms' superstardom from The Hangover, but maybe they're anticipating Hot Tub Time Machine will be a monster hit.

Andy and Erin are sort of too cute for words.


Parks and Recreation 2x18 - "The Possum"

Ann pulled a Lois Lane in Superman III - showed up in the beginning, went on a trip, showed up again at the very end. I'm not sure how letting April watch her house while she's away was going to bring them closer toge--

April: "I don't like Ann."

"The Possum" was another Andy tour de force. Shoeshine head. Sleeping in the hallway. "We're here by special order of Mayor Gunderson's dog!" Andy catching the possum and the post interview literally kissing his own bicep. "I lived in the pit for the better part of last year and made some vermin friends. No, not friends, colleagues." Plus he wasn't even aware of how he upset April but he won her back over lickety-split.

It was also an April tour de force. I liked her and the possum watching the nature show and her asking the possum: "Do you know them?" And her blaming the possum for the ring on Ann's coffee table.

I hope the NBC store sells the sign outside of Ron's workshop, because I really want one:

I hope the possum did lay eggs in Ann's bed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Community 1x18 - "Basic Genealogy"

Katherine McPhee plays one hot grifter. I hear she was a singer once. She should stick to acting like she grifts.

I dunno, not quite a home run this week for me. A solid triple:

1) Britta is insane. I agree with Troy. "I don't understand you, Britta!" Whatever point she was trying to prove was lost on me, but I thought it was weirdly funny.

Whoever decided on a visual like a blonde Caucasian woman with her britches down on the lap of an old black woman gets switched in her behind by that old black woman as a young black man cries in the background while another blonde Caucasian woman straddling a blonde Caucasian man bursts into the room is some kind of mad genius.

2) Pierce drawing the swastika, circling it over and over, to illustrate "windmill" - again, mad genius.

3) Senor Chang's Jewish brother. We need to learn much, much more about this mysterious Chang family.

I'm With Coco at the Wang

I'll be there! Conan's Boston homecoming. June 4th, Wang Center for the Performing Arts. Heh heh. Wang.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lost 6x7 - "Dr. Linus"

What a great, great episode. That had everything that makes Lost Lost.

In two realities, Ben Linus walked away from the episode without his power but a better man because of it. I've never had to dig my own grave - yet - but I would be in even less of a rush than Ben was.

Not Lost's Dr. Linus is a good man no matter how you cut it. He didn't kill his father and in fact looks after him, he genuinely cares about his students, and pressed against the wall with a Faustian bargain, he did what his Island counterpart would didn't or couldn't do and chose Alex over his own Machiavellian ascension to power. The scenes of Ben and Alex together as teacher and student were pretty amazing. They are so much better off for the Island and Jacob not existing in their lives.

Ben's line: "The Island always gets you in the end" (paraphrase) is pretty much the moral of Lost. But not of Not Lost. I wish Not Lost would continue after Lost ends in 9 episodes from now.

Now someone explain to Dr. Arzt why Dr. Linus is a terrific guy. Arzt never got to meet Ben on the Island before the dynamite blew him up and Hurley spent two days picking him off his shirt. He probably wouldn't have liked Island Ben anyway, and vice versa.

Jack is also a changed man. Completely 180 degrees philosophically and internally from the man he was before. Well, he's still a hothead, but he found faith.

Plus we finally got some pretty solid answers on Richard. He's not a cyborg. Jacob touched him and gave him a gift. Not just immortality but unlimited Island credit to the Men's Express hidden somewhere in the Jungle. To this day, no centuries-old pirate dresses better than Richard Alpert.

I think my favorite random thing of the episode was Miles' callback to Nikki and Paulo, two jabronies buried with $8-million in diamonds. Then later, he dug up the diamonds. Miles keeps his head down and keeps doing what he's doing - surviving and being funny - and he'll end up better off than anyone else when this is all over.

"I'll have you." I don't think anyone expected Ilana to say that. Ben was so bowled over, all he could do was follow her back to the beach. I was pretty damned moved seeing Ben break down and bare his soul and his guilt the way he did.

I loved the return of the patented Lost slow motion musical interlude, featuring the reunion of Jack, Hurley and Sun, who haven't seen each other in 30 years, give or take.

When I saw Alan Dale in the opening credits, I got super excited that Charles Widmore was in this episode but I got so caught up in Ben and everyone else's stories in the episode, I'd totally forgotten about Widmore when he appeared in the sub. So Jacob wasn't lying that someone was coming to the Island. Business is about to pick up.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Office 6x16, 6x17 - "The Delivery, Parts 1 and 2"

Wow. The birth of Jim and Pam's baby and aftermath went beyond "comedy of errors". It was kind of like a disaster movie. Jim and Pam completely fell apart, took turns acting insane, and concurrently acted insane.

Pam's refusal to go to the hospital until midnight was genuinely frightening. Obviously, they're not going to kill Pam but it was uncomfortable to watch her be so obstinate about her and her baby's health, even if their HMO is terrible. (Is this the same health plan Michael set up in season one? Sabre doesn't have a better one?)

There were moments when it seemed like their daughter might not live though the night from their combined incompetence - luckily, she was sleeping soundly and it was the roommate's baby Pam was nursing. (Salma Hayek might not see what was so alarming about it.)

I thought the nurse's reactions to Jim and Pam were some of the funniest moments in the episode. "Oh good. You know everything."

Nice guest spots from Pam's mom and Isabelle. Wouldn't mind seeing more of Isabelle. I'm Dwight and Angela-ed out, and I think Dwight also feels the same.

I liked Michael playing matchmaker. "I am going to fill the empty voids in your life with love. I am going to fill that empty hole in your body with another person!"

Poor Kevin. He couldn't get Holly, he couldn't get Erin. What happened to the woman he met last year that he was making out with in "Cafe Disco"?

The throwaway sound gags of the cop pulling Dwight over for impersonating a police officer and addressing him by name over the bullhorn was great.

Dwight finding mold in the Halpert's kitchen: "So I did what anyone would do: I read a book, had a bath, had a good night's sleep, and made plans to eradicate it. I also made plans to ask Jim where he bought his marvelous sheets."

Meredith might have had the line of the episode about never getting married: "Like Clooney!"

Erin and Andy is on! Only good things will happen.

Parks and Recreation 2x17 - "Woman of the Year"

"The IOW are a bunch of sexist jerks who need to get back in the kitchen where they belong, and leave the real feminist work to actual feminists like Ron Swanson - Oh my God! What is happening...?"

"I still think awards are stupid, but they're less stupid if they go to the right people." Ron succinctly summarized my exact feelings about the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, the Slammys and every other awards show.

The relationship between Ron and Leslie is one of the best things about this show. Ron was completely up front about how he does no work, lets Leslie do everything because she wants to and loves it, but didn't hesitate to completely screw with her just to see her grit her teeth and make that Leslie face.

Deputy Director Barbie should be sold in stores. That's a Barbie little girls should aspire to.

Meanwhile, Jean-Ralphio is back! What a phenomenal tool that guy is. Tom's presentation was the bomb. And like Jerry, I have also wondered if Lady Gaga, Snooki, etc. are real people.

I thought April was going to volunteer to move in Andy when they were apartment hunting. Her offer to car pool to work with him was the sweetest she's ever sounded.

Mark blew it. If he part-part owned that club, he'd never have to beg for sex again. I think he's lying; he begs for sex now.

A whole episode without Ann. Didn't miss her.

Community 1x17 - "Physical Education"

Holy bagel, that episode was awesome!

The strip billiards sequence was phenomenal. Totally topped the episode 2 Spanish presentation Pierce and Jeff did.

I had to watch that twice just to look at everyone's reaction shots in the backgrounds (Annie's excited looks, Britta's shocked looks, Dean Pelton's aroused cell phone camera picture taking.) The gasps and cringing from the crowd when Jeff put one leg on the table. Incredible stuff.

"I choose SHORTS!"
"You magnificent son of a bitch!"

I'd like an episode with the vampire version of Abed for the whole thing.

Pierce: "The story of a 37 year old half Polish/half Arab can only end with an explosion!"

No one is credited as playing Joey/White Abed so that had to be Danny Pudi in a wig and makeup.

Britta brought to tears by everyone still mocking how she says "bagel" after announcing she didn't care if people laughed was great.

Annie loving Abed's Don Draper impression was my favorite gag of all.


Wrong Side of Town (*****)



Not that you'd be inclined to in the first place, but in no way should anyone watch Wrong Side of Town. It's terrible. A terrible, horrible movie. Some of the worst acting, writing, and directing you'll ever sit through. There's nothing here for a normal, civilized person, so move along.

Good, now that polite society is out of the way, we wrestling fans can discuss Wrong Side of Town: It's unbelievably great. Complete with a James Bond-style opening credits sequence, Wrong Side of Town stars Rob Van Dam as an ex-special forces Navy SEAL who's just chillin' in the suburbs minding his own business. Before RVD can get around to smoking a little weed and relaxing, his Steve Urkel-like next door neighbor invites RVD and his wife out for dinner. They end up caught in a completely ludicrous set of circumstances where RVD's wife is almost raped, the brother of a local mob boss is accidentally killed, and a $100,000 bounty is placed on RVD's head.  RVD must then survive constantly being attacked by mercenaries and gang bangers. Luckily, he has some reluctant help from his old war buddy played by Batista. Wrong Side of Town boasts the cinematic talents of Ja Rule, Omarion, and even the wrestler formerly known as Big Daddy V and Viscera (billed in the credits as Mabel). David Bautista (his real name spelled properly) is billed as the top star in the movie according to the DVD cover, but it's almost an hour before he makes an appearance, and even then he's only in four scenes. But what scenes! First time we see Big Dave, he's in the strip club he owns sitting next to a topless chick with enormous breasts.  He spurns RVD's request for aid, then tries to cash in on the $100,000 bounty. Then he suddenly turns babyface and pops a cap right in Ja Rule's head. Throughout the movie, Batista, with his low key line readings and the smug coolness that makes him the number one heel in WWE today, is simply hilarious. Still, the DVD cover is false advertising because this is totally Rob Van Dam's movie. RVD carries this whole fucking show and he's also hilarious. When RVD's teenage daughter is kidnapped, the Animal and the Whole F'n Show team up and clean house on all the bad guys. The best part is when the daughter meets Batista and she decides he's cool. Of course. Batista's totally in there; no doubt in the sequel. By any normal measure, Wrong Side of Town is at best a one star movie, but this is the dream tag team of Batista and RVD we're talking about, so, like RVD's frog splash, it's five stars.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Perfect Getaway (***)



Five minutes into A Perfect Getaway, I was sure I was gonna hate it. A newlywed couple honeymooning  in Hawaii, played by Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn, runs afoul of homicidal maniacs and may or may not survive the Worst Honeymoon Ever. I've seen more than my share of shitty movies like this. (Turistas comes to mind.) Certainly the first act, with its bland dialogue and suspect acting by the leads, inspired little confidence. However, hanging in there paid dividends because little by little, A Perfect Getaway got more compelling once it became clear what director David Twohy (Pitch Black) was up to. When news breaks that another honeymooning couple was murdered in Honolulu, Jovovich and Zahn encounter two couples who could conceivably be the killers. The first, a crunchy pair of hostile hitchhikers played by Marley Shelton and Chris Hemsworth, seem like the likely suspects. The next, a redneck couple played by Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez, are even more suspicious. Olyphant clearly has a ball chewing the scenery as a mysterious Iraq veteran with shady stories of wartime heroics. He and Zahn, a screenwriter, engage in meta-commentary of the movie's plot involving "red herrings" and "a second act plot twist" to "screw with the audience".  When the plot does twist in the second act, Twohy does a neat reverse and provides an extended flashback sequence that actually holds up upon closer inspection. To be sure, the big switcheroo was a reach, but I bought it. Things are not what they seemed at all, and the movie spins off to a suspenseful, action-packed third act that was rather satisfying. Sanchez, who played the much-maligned Nikki in the third season of Lost, benefited from that experience of tromping through Hawaii's jungles. She displays a gritty athleticism that made her action scenes relatively believable. Unlike other films of this genre, A Perfect Getaway is refreshingly not nihilistic and provides solid rooting interest in its hero and heroine. The movie is hardly perfect, but Twohy gets away with quite a bit.

Lost 6x6 - "Sundown"

I'll kill you! I'll kill all of you! Kill! Kill! Kill! Die! Die! Die! That about sums up this week's mass murderific episode of Lost. Sayid alone murdered five people in two separate realities, and that was nothing compared to the Smoke Monster.

Poor Dogen. At least we got to hear his tragic and miserable back story before Sayid drowned him. Dogen's another guy who seemingly got screwed by a patented Jacob Faustian Bargain. His fight scene with Sayid was pretty sweet. Best Lost fight scene in a long, long time (my favorite is still Jack's rainy jungle throwdown with Ethan in season one). Dogen was feeling pretty despondent in how his crazy plans to get someone else to kill Sayid kept backfiring. That Sayid's like the Road Runner - he won't go down!

Poor Lennon. We hardly knew ye. But just like his namesake, he was murdered by a crazy Iraqi in a Lazarus Pit. (Wait, is that how John Lennon died? Aw, who cares.) Before Lennon got his throat cut, I was starting to feel pretty bad for him in the midst of the "Smoke Monster's Coming! We're bailing!" panic.

Lennon's head was spinning from the random arrivals alone: Claire strolled into the Temple, then Kate, then Sayid, then the Smoke Monster, then the Ben/Lapidus/Sun Group (sounds like an investment firm). Whatever happened to Temple security? Anyone can just saunter in from out of the jungle all of a sudden? Didn't they have an outer wall?

Miles was pretty awesome. Here's a guy who seems to be completely lacking purpose in the big picture but I think he understands how lucky he is to just be alive, so he's not rocking the boat. He's just directing traffic now.

"Hey Kate, you're back from the jungle. So's that blonde Australian chick. She's still hot."
"Hey Sun! Did you see your husband out in the jungle?"
"Hey, it's you guys! Lapidus! Ben! Remember when I blackmailed you for 3.2 million dollars? Yeah, good times. Let's get the hell out of here!"

Ben also seems to be completely stripped of his power and authority now. He ran like a jackrabbit from Evil Sayid. Maybe one day Ben will remember Sayid shot him when he was a kid. Or maybe he suddenly did. Or maybe he was scared shitless of the psychotic, knife-wielding Iraqi. (Likely.)

No matter what reality Sayid Jarrah is in, someone always wants him to kill or torture someone else. This week, just kill. Kind of neat to see Martin Keamy again. No matter what reality, he's a dangerous criminal. And he always dies. But I suddenly wanted some eggs.

How did Jin go from TSA security to tied up in Keamy's walk-in freezer?

Poor Sayid only ever wants to be with Nadia and can't, but at least in Not Lost, she's alive. Who knew Sayid had a brother?*

I really liked how Kate told Claire about how she raised Aaron and came back so Claire and Aaron could be together. She handled that extremely well. Claire would have to be completely insane to not see Kate's sincerity. I also liked Claire being put in the Silence of the Lambs hole. "Claire puts the lotion on her skin or else she gets the hose again."

Kate's reactions to the Gone With The Wind shot of all the dead bodies strewn all over the Temple were great, and she kept that same face following Not Locke, Evil Claire, Evil Sayid, and the surviving Others out of the Temple.

I liked the look on Not Locke's face when he saw Kate: "Whoa, Kate. One of the top three main characters. I got Sawyer, I got Sayid, Claire, and now Kate. My Oceanic 815 All-Star collection is going really well!"

* Amendment: Who remembered Sayid had a brother? Clearly, I didn't.

Back of the Head isn't Wrestlicious

I'm John Orquiola
I watched Wrestlicious in pain
The only guy who did this right was David McLane
They're acting like GLOW and failing
Not very ambitious
I wish they would cancel Wrestlicious

WWE NXT #2 3/2/10

Quick results:

Darren Young (with CM Punk and the Straight Edge Society) pinned David Otunga (with R-Truth) thanks to Punk tripping Otunga and distracting him.

R-Truth and Otunga have a pull apart brawl backstage.

Wade Barrett (with Chris Jericho) pinned Daniel Bryan. Jericho attacks Bryan and places him in the Lion Tamer after the match. (The Miz and Carlito observed the match from the back.)

Justin Gabriel and Matt Hardy defeated Skip Sheffield and William Regal when Gabriel pinned Regal with a 450 splash.

Carlito spit an apple in Heath Slater's face to end the show.

We learned THE RULES: The winner will be chosen by a vote from the Pros, but the Pros cannot vote for or against their respective Rookie. I still don't quite understand, but hey, it's something. More rules next week when they think of them?

NXT was a bit toned down overall this week from the debut episode.

The Otunga vs. Young rematch was two segments with Young dishing out most of the offense. Otunga seemed lethargic to me; after he takes off his hoodie and tearaway pants, he really hasn't been very impressive. Punk's facial expressions and surprising decision to interfere and help Young win was the most interesting thing during the match. Serena was looking pretty orange, brother.

The Miz slapping Bryan in his injured ribs was... awesome. Bryan sold the ribs like a champ all night. He hit a pretty sick flying knee off the apron on Barrett too. Thus far, Bryan is the only Rookie to have lost both his NXT matches.

I wasn't sure if it was Michael Cole or Josh Mathews who made the "vintage Skip Sheffield!" call but it was hilariously inappropriate since it was Sheffield's debut.

had a training video with Slater where he busted out the old Stone Cold line "I like you. Not very much, but I like you" and admonished him for thinking he's over when the crowd was cheering for Captain Charisma.

Gabriel was mocked for his ring attire by Mathews but he was impressive. Teaming with Gabriel might even resurrect Hardy's floundering career - if the Great Khali is willing to step aside as Matt's partner for an NXT Rookie.

Cole made a comment towards "Twitter geeks" and for some reason has a bone to pick with Bryan (probably should just substitute "Cole" for "Vince McMahon") but he was generally toned down too. Cole did have a bizarre quote from William Regal mocking Sheffield's "workrate".

By my tally, half the Pros hate their Rookies.

Miz and Bryan hate each other, Regal and Sheffield hate each other, Otunga and R-Truth hate each other, Punk hates Young.

Jericho/Barrett, Christian Slater, Carlito/Tarver, and Hardy/Gabriel get along. They must have realized the disparity and broke up Otunga/R-Truth to even it out.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Losties

Whip It! (***)


A fine, feel-good, girl-power romp directed by Drew Barrymore, Whip It! skates on much of the same ground covered by Bend It Like Beckham. There's Ellen Page, a small town Texas girl who discovers herself by joining and falling "in love" with an unlikely sport, lies to her disapproving parents (when she's found out, one supports her and one doesn't), she romances a boy via the sport, and there's the big finish where both parents attend her final match and discover the pride in their daughter that's been missing from all of their lives.  Beckham did all of that in a fresher way, but Barrymore soaks Whip It! in the underground cool of Austin, Texas, and she gets the relationship details of the characters just right. I enjoyed that while Page had some natural talent at skating, she still put in the work, took the bumps and bruises, and strove to improve, though her tiny frame absorbing some of the hits she takes without injury required a lot of suspension of disbelief. Page has terrific chemistry with Alia Shawkat (Maeby from Arrested Development), who plays her best friend. Shawkat was always the most underrated member for the hilarious Bluth family and she's very good here. Kristen Wiig is substantially dialed down from her many Saturday Night Live characters and plays really good dramady as Page's mentor on skates. Barrymore gave herself an on-camera role that's more distracting than anything else, and directs Juliette Lewis to do little but snarl as Page's rival, although there's hidden depth in her animosity towards Page as well. As Page's parents, Marcia Gay Harden and Daniel Stern navigate tricky waters and they may be the best conceived characters in the piece; seemingly stereotypical at first but revealing surprising complexities and depths of understanding towards their rebellious daughter. Whip It! also smartly anticipated that the audience knows nothing about the sport of roller derby and delivered two "here are the rules" montages. Turns out, roller derby isn't all that complicated to follow.