Friday, November 30, 2007

CTU Inter-Office Memo from Howie the Security Guy

TO: Steve, the new security guy
FROM: Howie, the retiring security guy
RE: You luck bastard!

Welcome to the team, you lucky bastard. Unbelievable. I've worked at CTU Los Angeles for the past ten years. The job started out great, good benefits, a government pension and all Federal holidays. I thought "Great, with this job, I can focus on my music career, maybe get some traveling in too." And then Jack Bauer had to show up and screw the whole damned thing up. It's a miracle I'm even alive to write this memo to you. Who's Jack Bauer, you ask? Oh yeah, that's right, he doesn't work here anymore, so you're totally out-of-the-loop! It almost doesn't even matter because your job has become a million times easier (and more safe). But I'll tell you anyway, so you realize how your job is a f@#$ing cake-walk compared to what I've dealt with.

Good 'ol Jack Bauer. Got his wife killed at the office. Jack got a few people shot at the office. Jack was around when terrorists unleashed nerve gas on the office too. Heck, he even got the office blown up! (see below).

But now, Jack is gone. He's off in D.C. testifying that he tortured bad guys. Yeah? What about me, Jack? Every single day you showed up to work, I was in a constant state of terror. And I never got a raise since I was there! Why? Because I never had a consecutive review by a CTU Director (they kept getting fired or killed too). We're talking at least 12 different directors in the 10 years I worked at CTU. Thanks a lot, Jack.

Yeah, Steve, so the next time the coffee machine goes on the fritz in the break room, just be glad you aren't inhaling nerve gas or getting hosed down with bullets by some Chinese mercenaries. And don't use the middle bathroom stall on the second floor, it gets jammed up all the time.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Joel Surnow's Trash: Rejected Plot Ideas For Season 7

The writer's strike has paralyzed the entertainment industry, including a little show we follow at this site called "24." Out of boredom (criminal mischief) we recently rummaged through Executive Producer Joel Surnow's trashbin and uncovered various notes concerning the show's upcoming seventh season. Here are a few ideas that didn't make it to the set:

1. Jack Bauer no longer uses weapons! So, this sounds like a pretty good idea, right? I could get behind a completely vicious brand of violence from Jack, without the aid of firearms or explosives. Well... unfortunately, Joel Surnow's idea was to have Jack "improvise" with regular household items, a la MacGuyver. In one proposed scene, Jack spends thirty minutes reprogramming a universal TV remote to set off a microwave oven that he filled with spoons earlier, to start cooking thus causing sparks to go off, distracting the terrorists. Yeah. Spoons.

2. Edgar is the terrorist. Yeah, before they decided to bring Tony Almeida back from the dead, Joel Surnow had it in his head to revive Edgar Stiles. Edgar, miffed by Chloe's inability to save him from the Sentox nerve gas attack on CTU, swears sweet revenge on his gal-pal and his former employer. As a sidenote, Edgar was able to survive (here comes the fat joke, wait for it, wait for it...) because at the time of the attack, he had a whole loaf of bread lodged in his larynx, which absorbed the toxic gas. When Edgar collapsed, it was from oxygen deprivation. But his above-average saliva capacity quickly "digested" the loaf of bread to allow air back into his system. A day later, Edgar awoke at the local dump (apparently CTU didn't spring for a proper funeral).

3. "The Audrey Raines Show." With several lifetimes of tragedy behind her, Jack's former lady-friend is given a daytime talk show on ABC, following Oprah Winfrey. Show topics include "How to speed up menopause", "What's the best home security system?" and "How to make your nervous ticks cute!" In her "favorite things" episode, Audrey showers her audience with anti-depressants and vodka. Amazingly, she is canceled in the first 5 hours of Day 7.

4. The Bill Buchanan Reality Tour. Unemployed and an ex-con (but pardoned by the new lady President), former CTU honcho Bill Buchanan has written a tell-all book about his ex-wife Karen Hayes-Buchanan and her corrupt cronies at Homeland Security. Bill tries to get a booking on talk shows, but only Audrey Raines' show makes an offer, and then is canceled. Buchanan instead chooses to go to a local supermarket and sell books out from the trunk of his Saab hatchback, drinking Evian, eating beef jerky and cranking Jethro Tull on his stereo. He sells no books over the course of 8 hours.

5. Bringing Corey Feldman and Corey Haim to the show as psychic twins. The two Coreys would have been integral part of the Day 7 plot. When the trail of the terrorists goes cold, Jack reaches out to the twins, former Yugoslavian teens that he met while on his Special Forces mission to kill Victor Drazen in the 1990s (whom he secretly adopted to bring back to the States). The plot thickens when Kim Bauer shows up, looking to reconcile with her father. When the Corey Twins see her, they begin to lose their ability to tap into the psychic realm. Technically, Kim is their sister, but not by any blood relations. While caught up in this moral dilemma, Jack deems them useless and kicks them out of his house, returning to anonymity for another decade.

There are more abandoned plot ideas, stay tuned.

MAXIM MAGAZINE: The Tony Almeida Interview

(excerpt from the Jan. 2008 issue)
TONY ALMEIDA Interview by Gee Luv

He was shot in the neck and went back to his desk within hours, he shared a duplicitous lady with friend Jack Bauer and now he's calling in Uncle Sam's markers after being declared dead for over a year. And Tony Almeida wants you to help destroy America!

First off, we gotta ask- what's with the soul patch?
I thought we were going to talk about our nation's future?

Indulge us, Tony. Our readers are dying to know why you have that scruff on your chin.
Well, I moved out to Los Angeles back in the mid-1990s. The party scene was pretty good and I met this guy Chino Arroyo, who did custom bikes out in the Valley. He invited me up to his place one weekend, set me up with a chopper and well, you gotta have some facial hair to ride, I mean that's gotta be a law somewhere, right? Hence, the soul patch was born.

Is the Latin sex symbol craze over now that Marc Anthony and Rickey Martin are certified lame?
I think that's a question you should ask of the two blondes in my hotel room.

Now that you're not working for the government, you don't have to drive their boring vehicles. What are you cruising in nowadays?

I don't drive a car.

How are you getting around?
I ride a horse now. Saves on gas and women love petting it.

You are a freakin' genius, Tony! Speaking of, we hear you're looking to destroy America. What's the plan?
Well, I don't think "destroy" is the right word. I look at it as fixing what's broke, ya know?

Oh, totally!
Yeah, so I'm going to do away with the Federal bureaucracy, knock out the infrastructure and probably return the United States to the 1700s in terms of technology.

Wait, so no more Guitar Hero III for the bunch of us?
Dude, learn to play a real guitar, you'll get laid by real women that way.

You're a retro God, Tony Almeida. Good luck with that terrorism thing!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

REAL SPORTS with Bryant Gumbel: The Tony Almeida Interview

Hello, everyone. This is Bryant Gumbel and welcome to REAL SPORTS.

Tonight, we have an exclusive interview with former CTU Agent Tony Almeida. Almeida, believed dead, has recently turned up as one of the most dangerous men alive, threatening to disable this nation's infrastructure using his intimate knowledge of our defenses. In my one-on-one interview with Almeida, I asked him why he has shifted his lifelong loyalties and whether he is being wrongly characterized by his former friends and co-workers within the federal government. Patriot or pariah? You decide.

GUMBEL: You're a baseball fan, right?


GUMBEL: What do you think of the recent indictment against Barry Bonds?

ALMEIDA: He is being singled out by a corrupt power structure that is pointing fingers at him. Bonds didn't break any rules of the game. Even if he used steroids, I think the game knew about it all along. And he wasn't the only one to use them anyway. He just happens to be the guy who did the best out of the group. He's a patsy, Bryant.

GUMBEL: Now, my producers tell me that you're a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. Well, so am I--

ALMEIDA: I'm not a Cubs fan.

GUMBEL: I- we have numerous pictures of you with a Chicago Cubs mug. I think your fans refer to it as "Cubby" in fact.

ALMEIDA: Yeah. I had a Cubs mug. I also had a long-held trust in this nation. Things change. I drink Budweiser out of a new mug now; I follow the White Sox.

GUMBEL: Why did you change your loyalties?

ALMEIDA: It started with Steve Bartman.

GUMBEL: You're not going to make him a scapegoat like so many other Cubs fans, are you?

ALMEIDA: Bartman was no scapegoat. He was, in fact, a CTU agent working out of the Chicago branch. I have reviewed the internal files, which show that Bartman was sent to Game 6 of the 2003 NLDS series to disrupt the Cubs' chances of winning the series by botching the foul-ball play. Bartman is just one of several federal agents sent to keep the Cubs from winning another World Series over the years. Harry Carey was another agent, a master of mass deception. And I have it on good authority that Carlos Zambrano is the current mole within the Cubs organization.

GUMBEL: I'm astonished by these claims. Do you have proof?

ALMEIDA: I'm not in a court of law. The proof I have would be discredited by the government anyways. Look, I was drinking the Kool-Aid myself for a long time. The Cubs will never win a World Series because the powers that be have decided so. The White Sox are not a target of this conspiracy.

GUMBEL: Were the Boston Red Sox a victim of this corruption as well?

ALMEIDA: No, they just sucked for a really long time.

GUMBEL: Moving on, I understand that your former co-workers have called you, and I quote, "a terrorist who is threatening to destroy this nation's infrastructure." How do you respond?

ALMEIDA: Our founding fathers were called similar things by the British crown over two hundred years ago. They, like myself, had renegade facial hair and a love of liberty. I apologize for nothing.

GUMBEL: After you destroy this country's ability to function, what do you have planned next?

ALMEIDA: I'd like to take a break, maybe hit a few ballgames and catch up on some reading. It's a lot of work getting free time. Heck, I'm still picking up pieces of my dead wife off the kitchen floor. I make lists, I try to keep organized. I'll probably get a cat too.

GUMBEL: Any chance you'll play softball again?

ALMEIDA: Funny you should mention that. I have a good team I'm lining up. CTU's team is overrated. And most of their players are dead or fired now. Stay tuned.

Well, that's our interview with Tony Almeida. As Coach John Wooden said: "Sports do not build character, they reveal it." And the same can be said for a fan's approach to his beloved games. That's our show for tonight. Come back next week when I interview Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez about his ties to Iran and his love of horses. Good night.

h/t to Rickey Henderson.

THE MIST: The Jack Sack Movie Review

DAMMIT! There are no Gorillas in "The Mist!"

And too bad, because this movie would have been a lot better of there were some monkeys flinging their poop. Filling in for the gorillas are a bunch of uptight, annoying New Englanders who toss their own brand of feces at one another, in the form of silly dialogue. If you had any hopes for this movie, prepare to be disappointed in a big way.

PLOT (using the term loosely) AND THOUGHTS: "The Mist" is a modern fable of fear, distrust and paranoia in this post-9/11 world. Or is it this post-McCarythism Red Scare world? I lose track-- apparently mankind is consistently screwed up.

The movie takes place in Lazytown, Maine where a bunch of slow-moving locals are hitting the supermarket after a storm rolled through the night before, causing power-loss and extensive damage to the area. About ten minutes into the movie, we are with the film's hero, David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his little boy (we'll call him "Skippy" because it doesn't really matter) as a thick fog, dare I say MIST, envelopes the area. But this is no normal mist. Like Steve Martin's terrible B-movie from "Bowfinger" this is some chubby rain indeed.

This story comes courtesy of a Stephen King novella from 1980. Updated for modern tastes, we get a lot of fake-looking computer-generated creatures running around in this mist, glad to eat any human foolish enough to venture out into the soupy hell-on-earth beyond the supermarket's front doors. And people keep running outside! Hell, I stay in if there's a hailstorm. But 100 ft.-tall lobsters apparently can't keep these slack-jawed locals at bay. But where did these 50 lb. spiders come from anyway? Haliburton? The Religious Right? No, silly, the Military! For an organization that can barely find weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. military has some bitchin' scientists that have opened up a portal through space and time which unfortunately happened to come across a place where the bugs run the show. And these bugs are not shy, no ma'am!

Without mincing words, the movie flat-out sucks. The allegories about fear and self-destruction are trite. The religious zealot that causes trouble in the supermarket (played by Marcia Gay Harden) is a caricature not a character. And in the immortal words of Rodney King (no relation to Stephen): Can't we all just get along? Apparently not. People throw cans of peas at one another to start. But by the film's third act, full-on stabbings and shootings are the order of the day. Come on people, wake up! Big oil compan-err big bugs are the enemy!

The script, written by the guy who wrote "The Shawshank Redemption," has about as much in common in terms of quality with that movie as my car has with a Porsche. And the film's ending is not ironic like it wishes to be. Instead, it elicits a Nelson Muntz laugh ("HA-Ha!"). Our "hero" makes a fool-hardy decision so lame as to rival someone putting a million bucks down on the N.Y. Jets winning this year's Super Bowl. What a douche.

WHAT WOULD JACK DO?: See, this is where a WWJD question comes in handy. Jack would have thrived in this situation. He first would have identified himself to the supermarket folk as a federal agent. That would have been helpful to start. All Thomas Jane's character brought to the table was that he was an artist! Oh yeah, art-boy, save the day! And you know what, after dealing with several ass-bag CTU directors over the years, Bauer would have handled the religious lady with expert hands, probably convincing her to go out and negotiate a peace with the killer lobsters early on. And the boy, who asks his father to promise to keep him safe, would have gotten Jack Bauer's word to that end, and things would have ended up a lot better for all involved. This movie needed Jack Bauer in the worst way.

SCORE (out of a possible five sacks):

This is, by far, the worst movie I've seen this year. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN: The Jack Sack Movie Review

Let's just say that I'm tremendously grateful that this Writer's strike didn't take place before "No Country For Old Men" was produced. Without exaggeration, this is a perfect film. Now do I have your attention?

PLOT: Taking place in 1980s West Texas, this is a classic tale of good versus evil and the choices we make that determine where we fall in that spectrum. Take the good: local Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who looks out at his world with sad exasperation. Then there's the evil, a soulless killing machine named Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). And in the middle is a rather unremarkable man, Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin),who stumbles across a satchel filled with $2 million while hunting one day. Again, it's about choices, and Moss decides that he can control his own fate by taking the money and going on the run.

Moss sends his young wife back to her Mother's place to hide out as he tries to fend off the men chasing him and the money. As the body count goes up, so does Sheriff Bell's apprehension. This is not a typical cop and robbers story where the policeman is sifting through evidence, piecing together the story and staying on the heels of the bad guys. There's a moment where Bell and his Deputy are within minutes of catching Anton, but instead of dashing out of the building after the villain, Bell takes a deep breath and hopes internally that he doesn't get sucked into the tornado of violence that's building. And Anton is not concerned about who may be after him either. He moves at the speed of a Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers. And the horror analogy applies here, because for the most part we don't get much insight into Anton's character. But that doesn't mean he is without substance. There are two moments in the movie where Anton elects to put a person's own life in their hands. He flips a coin before his potential victim and tells them to "Call it." In one instance, the person calls the toss. But in the other, the person refuses. And this is what I refer to earlier about making choices. From Anton's perspective, he's not choosing to kill anybody. His victims are the ones that have sealed their own fate. So, when people say to Anton "You don't have to do this," he is completely unimpressed. But when one victim puts the choice squarely on Anton, that's when you see him finally face his own nature.

THOUGHTS: This film is an example of technique. The acting is flawless. From the main characters down to those who appear for a scant few seconds, you believe the world in which this story is set. And the words they speak are both authentic and interesting. On the production side, the sound editing is incredibly good. When you hear boots on gravel, you are transported to this place. When you hear the whine-pitch of Anton's air tank and stun gun, you cringe at it's use. And the camera work shifts between being placid and sinister throughout the movie.

It's hard to get into the nitty-gritty themes of this movie without giving too much away. But temptation constantly appears in front of Moss (and his wife to a lesser degree), and each time he succumbs to it, he closes the circle of his own fate around him. And the symbolism of Sheriff Bell as God's son and Anton as the Devil incarnate are subtle enough that you don't feel the filmmakers are bashing you over the head with their ideas. But as a modern day "Expulsion from Paradise" this is the best morality play I've seen, period.

While "No Country For Old Men" is an example of cinematic perfection, it is not a movie for the masses. It is quite violent. There are no conventional moments of humor either (but there are some funny parts). And you don't get a typical resolution at the end. In short, it's not a crowd-pleaser. It's a challenging film, and one that surprised me several times throughout. I recommend it to anyone that wants the same film-going experience.

WHAT WOULD JACK DO?: Okay, to keep it 24-related, like I mentioned above, people say to Anton repeatedly "You don't have to do this!" Well, Jack Bauer says this a lot when he's facing down terrorists. Anton would have made a superb villain on "24" as he is a killer without a conscience or a typical agenda. He kills, plain and simple. So, Jack would have to basically drop a nuke on this guy to do away with him, and even then, it may not be finished. There are bad guys and then there is evil. Jack may need more than 24 hours to handle this one.

SCORE: (out of a possible five sacks)
Yeah, that's six out of five!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

No "24" until Sept. 2008

The Writer's Strike has forced FOX to push "24" back to a fall 2008 premiere (from it's original January 2008 premiere). With only about 1/3 if the episodes shot, there's no chance of them finishing the series in time for a continuous airing of all episodes week after week. I never felt like busting up a union like today.