Monday, November 24, 2008

"24: Redemption" or "Jack Bauer's 'What I Did Last Summer' Movie"

I have not sat down to do the math, but I think it has been 8 years since FOX ran a new episode of "24." Last night, they finally relented and gave us a 2-hour sneak preview of the upcoming Season 7 (which begins in January, Dammit!). Between the hours of 8:00 P.M. and 10:00 P.M. last night, I had no clue what the heck was going on- there was a deflated soccer ball, a sarong, a claymore landmine, some English dude that sounded Irish but was supposed to be an old American buddy of Jack's, and some skinny kid hooked on pain pills, getting the Jimmy Hoffa special at the end.

Seriously, what the heck was "24: Redemption" about? In a vacuum, this is a very strange "movie." But despite it being barely comprehensible, I loved every earth-tone minute of this show. Why? Because last night was like running into an old flame you hadn't seen in years. The second you see that person, you go "Oh yeah, now I remember!" Afford me some wiggle-room here on the obvious homoerotic corner I've painted myself into, but seeing Jack Bauer carrying on in the fictitious African nation of Sengala was a moment of revelation- Jack Bauer lives, and so does "24."

While Sutherland is by far the best thing about this show, its weakest elements are still nagging. "24" cannot write politics. I'm sorry, but the Noah Daniels/Alison Taylor stuff was dreadful. And even though it was only a few minutes total, their scenes were grinding and painful to sit through. Gone are the days of David Palmer and his charismatic handling of his two-faced First Lady. Now, we get people sipping the obligatory scotch and talking in hushed tones about absolutely NOTHING. I drink scotch. Scotch is my friend. You, "24" have no clue what to do with scotch.

Other notes: Gil Bellows was pretty good as the morally ambiguous Embassy dude with the thick glasses. I wear thick glasses myself, so I identified with his difficult choices. And I think he wanted to take up the lady on her offer to do "anything" to let her into the Embassy (a wacky moment only "24" could dare to seriously portray). As for Jon Voight... well, there are 2 Jon Voights, I've realized: There's the one that eats snakes and the one that lies on his taxes. While it would have been cool to get the "Anaconda" Voight for "24" I had a feeling we would see the "Enemy of the State" version instead. Too bad... but I'll take any Voight they can spare us.

We got to see a lot of "The Jack Sack" last night. And how about his new friend, "The Jack Satchel"? That bag can hold everything! Bauer looked like a surfer dude walking home from Trader Joe's after doing a week's worth of grocery shopping. But that's all gravy. The gap between last season's emotional breakdown and this year's newly-energized ass-kicking machine Bauer was accomplished last night. Thank you for the 2 additional hours of Bauer. Now, let's bring on the new season.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Dawn of Dammit: "24- Africa"

Tonight, a whole new continent will hear Jack Bauer scream "Dammit!" Ah, the global village gets a little smaller in "24: Redemption."

I'll have reactions to the 2-hr t.v. movie as well. And here's Amy Vernon's advanced review.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Starship Enterprise from the new "Star Trek" Movie

Next year's "Star Trek" movie will be a "relaunch" of the 1960's original series, with new actors playing Kirk & Co. With updated actors, uniforms and props, we also get a souped up starship...


QUANTUM OF SOLACE: The Jack Sack Movie Review

Okay, if you're like me you love this new guy playing James Bond. If you're not like me, then you have lots of cats and you speak Portuguese. But that's besides the point. Bottom line: I have seen the new James Bond and I am here to confirm that it is a solid action movie.

"Quantum of Solace" is, as the title seems to indicate, a very British movie about vengeance. As an American, my idea of revenge is taking someone out to the NJ Turnpike and, well if you've seen "Goodfellas" you get the idea. Well, picking up right after the end of "Casino Royale," Bond is pissed but he's also single-minded. He wants to figure out why (or whether) Vesper Lynd betrayed him, and more importantly who put her up to it.

I won't go into detail about the plot any further than that, but I will say that you need to pay attention while watching the movie. Bond rapidly fills his passport with locales that blend together in a series of violent encounters. This movie is brutal. Bond comes out at the end looking like something not quite human. But beneath the dirt, blood and anger there is a focus and calm that is never lost. Daniel Craig solidifies his standing as one of the best (if not the best) actors to ever play this character. When Bond confronts M (after going "rogue!" Sound familiar?) following a particularly rough outing, we see Bond through M's eyes and we know that he is a necessary evil for her. While brutal and unpredictable, he is also dedicated and unrelenting. Craig sells this all the way.

How's the villain? Not great, not terrible, just someone you want to see get punched. Dominic Greene is kind of a "regional vice president" of terror. He is by no means the head of the secret organization Bond discovers, but that doesn't mean he should be spared a proper ass-kicking. Yet again, Bond's spy buddy across the pond, Felix Leiter, is given a nice (but too brief) cameo. And as for the Bond girls... they are magnificent.

"Quantum of Solace" is a good movie. It doesn't come close to exceeding "Casino Royale" the way "The Dark Knight" surpassed "Batman Begins." Even so, based on the plot, I get the feeling like we are going to get some real payoff in the next Bond movie. "Quantum of Solace" has a middle chapter feel. If anything, this is an entertaining action movie with a building sense of intrigue. It's an enjoyable Bond. Go see it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Okay, on the other hand please STOP quoting Lincoln!

Even though we identified Abraham Lincoln as Jack Bauer's favorite U.S. president, we are beginning to think that the country has forgotten about the other 42 presidents altogether. Yeah, some of them should be forgotten (I'm looking at you, Zach Taylor) but the cliché of our political times is to draw out some timely quote from Abraham Lincoln. It's time to move out from under Lincoln's shadow.

Even during Obama's victory speech last week, the President-elect dipped into "Honest Abe's Greatest Hits" when he said "We are not enemies, but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection." It's a good quote, and if it was the only time Obama quoted Lincoln, I wouldn't complain.

But it's not just Obama. So many politicos (politicians, commentators, anything in-between) sit around tables, under unflattering lighting, and toss around Lincoln like a church collection basket. Doris Kearns Goodwin, John Meecham, Michael Beschloss, Walter Isaacson, your uncle Steve, the guy at the coffee shop, etc. All of these "Barnes & Noble intellectuals" throw Lincoln out there like some badge of legitimacy. It's almost to imply "Well, if Lincoln said it, it must be true!"

This kind of Lincoln-worship is silly. And what's worse, it has become so constant that it actually dilutes what the man said. Just now, I can hear a manager at IHOP saying to his unruly wait staff "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Come on, people-- back away from the Lincoln! It's time to make a little more effort in the quotation department. And Mr. Obama, try throwing us a curveball like quoting James Polk in your Inaugural, where he once said "Well may the boldest fear and the wisest tremble when incurring responsibilities on which may depend our country's peace and prosperity, and in some degree the hopes and happiness of the whole human family."

But I fear the unoriginal, repetitive Lincoln-quoting will continue. This rhetorical piggy-backing robs us of honesty. I don't think William Howard Taft was quoting Lincoln when he said "Politics, when I am in it, it makes me sick." But based on how politicians behave, I'm sure both men agreed with that sentiment.