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Saturday, January 1, 2011


Tangled is funny and sweet, and it also succeeds as a story about control and fear. It has songs, dancing, frolicking, a romantic boat ride, sacrificial love, brilliant Disney animals with unrealistically heightened consciousnesses and personalities, a villain (who is more realistic than most Disney villains), a princess, and a better version of a classic story.

Mandy Moore is adorable as the voice of Rapunzel, and Chuck's Zachary Levi takes on the male lead. Disney is trying to appeal more to boys, so they named this Tangled and put the male lead at the center of the advertising campaign. Enjoy this one, because according to news outlets, Disney is pulling the plug on princess movies. Little girls no longer want to be princesses. Studies show that they are more interested in being "hot" and "cool." Yeah, that's a little sad. We enjoyed this old-school Disney fairy tale and its innocent/non-cynical content.

We went with no kids, and everyone liked it. Everyone in the group (except one guy) teared up. The kids behind us seemed to like it too. Good, clean fun. It’s not as good as some of our favorite recent kids’ movies (Finding Nemo, How to Train Your Dragon), but if you want to see this, you won’t be disappointed.

Movie Grade: A


We heard that we should see this at home, on DVD, rather than in theatres, so we did. This was great advice, because Devil was not worth paying ten bucks each to see. It is an M. Night Shyamalan horror movie that is rated PG-13, which means it isn’t gory or that scary.

It was mildly entertaining, and there were some interesting parts. It was better than his last couple of movies (Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender). We also liked that M. Night is giving unknown actors opportunities. But, overall, if you miss this one, you shouldn’t worry. If it’s on TV some day and you are doing laundry, watch it.

Leeard's side note: I will never see Devil. I got trapped in an elevator the day after it came out in theaters, and the ONLY thing I could think about was this movie.

Movie Grade: C

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When Do Your Shows Start?

January 2, Sunday
-ABC: Brothers and Sisters at 10, Desperate Housewives at 9

January 3, Monday
-ABC: The Bachelor at 8, Castle at 10
-CBS: Hawaii Five-O at 10, How I Met Your Mother at 8, Mike and Molly at 9:30, Rules of Engagement at 8:30
-ABC Family: Pretty Little Liars at 8

January 4, Tuesday
-NBC: Parenthood at 10, The Biggest Loser Couples at 8
-ABC: V at 9, Detroit 1-8-7 at 10
-CBS: Paula Abdul's Live to Dance at 8
-TNT: Southland at 10

January 5, Wednesday
ABC: Better with You at 8:30, Cougar Town at 9:30, The Middle at 8, Modern Family at 9
DirecTV 101: Friday Night Lights at 9
FOX: Human Target at 8
NBC: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit at 9

January 6, Thursday
CBS: The Big Bang Theory at 8, CSI at 9, The Mentalist at 10,
ABC: Grey's Anatomy at 9, Private Practice at 10, Wipeout at 8

January 7, Friday
CBS: Blue Bloods at 10, CSI:NY at 9, Medium at 8
SyFy: Merlin at 10

January 9, Sunday
NBC: The Cape at 9

January 10, Monday
FOX: Lie to Me at 9

January 11, Tuesday
CBS: The Good Wife at 10, NCIS at 8, NCIS:Los Angeles at 9
FX: Lights Out at 10
MTV: Teen Mom 2 at 10

January 12, Wednesday
NBC: Chase at 9
CBS: Criminal Minds at 9
ABC: Off the Map at 10

January 16, Sunday
HBO: Big Love at 9

January 17, Monday
NBC: Chuck at 8, Harry's Law at 10
SyFy: Being Human at 9
Fox: House at 8
MTV: Skins at 10

January 18, Tuesday
CW: Life Unexpected at 8
USA: White Collar at 10

January 19, Wednesday
FOX: American Idol at 8

January 20, Thursday
NBC: 30 Rock at 10, Community at 8, The Office at 9, Outsourced at 10:30, Parks and Recreation at 9:30, Perfect Couples at 8:30
Fox: Bones at 8
USA: Fairly Legal at 10, Royal Pains at 9

January 21, Friday
Fox: Fringe at 9
Starz: Spartacus: Gods of the Arena at 10

January 24, Monday
CW: 90210 at 8, Gossip Girl at 9

January 25, Tuesday
CW: Hellcats at 9, One Tree Hill at 8

January 27, Thursday
FX: Archer at 10
CW: Nikita at 9, The Vampire Diaries at 8

January 28, Friday
CW: Smallville at 8, Supernatural at 9

February 4, Friday
CBS: The Defenders at 8

February 6, Sunday
Fox: Glee (after the Superbowl. This show will be on Tuesdays starting the following week)

February 7, Monday
Fox: The Chicago Code at 10, Traffic Light at 9:30

February 8, Tuesday
Fox: Raising Hope at 9

February 20, Sunday
CBS: The Amazing Race at 8

February 23, Wednesday
CW: America's Next Top Model at 8

February 28, Monday
NBC: The Event at 9

March 29, Tuesday
ABC: Body of Proof at 10

Did we miss a show you need? Comment and tell us. Unless it's Two and a Half Men or Family Guy, two shows we intentionally ignore. Be sure to check the "Recent Interesting Links" page to see some commentary on the new shows premiering.

Glee's Chord Overstreet is Clearly as Awkward As His Character, Sam

Monday, December 27, 2010

Why Ern Hates Twilight - an old rant, edited/re-worked for this blog

Leeard is out of town and unable to get on the internet today. This leaves Ern full reign to trash one of Leeard's favorite books (Leeard's side note: this is NOT one of my favorite books for any other reason than it's mindless and easy to read. In terms of quality, it's not even on my list) on the blog. (Pause for evil laugh.) You may be thinking, "Twilight has been trashed to we really need another blogger trashing it?" The answer is, of course, yes, because it is Twilight, and it cannot be trashed ENOUGH. Now, Leeard AGREES with Ern on most of these points and is certainly smart enough to notice them herself. (You don’t know this, but Leeard is a bona fide genius. It scares me.) We have argued about Twilight before, and Leeard just says that she is able to enjoy it in spite of these things. But I can’t.

I read the first book and thought it was among the stupidest, most self-indulgent things ever written. Alice was kind of a cool character, but she was hardly in it!!! Toward the end, when I realized that nothing was going to happen except two pretty people making googly eyes at each other, I threw the book across the room. I shipped it off to some unknown purchaser (via Amazon), along with a scathing letter to them for buying it from me. I read it because it was popular. I trust my fellow man and I want to discuss things with people. People keep comparing them to Harry Potter. This isn’t right. Harry Potter was about courage, love, anti-materialism, equality, anti-prejudice, etc. Twilight is just a bunch of gush. Harry Potter appealed to millions of people of all ages and genders, all over the world, of different religions, cultures, intellects, and interests. It was truly special. Let’s face it, Twilight appears to girls, young women, and sad old women in the West. That’s it. After I finished “shitelight,” to see what happens later without wasting hours of my life, I read the summaries of the next three books on Wikipedia. Now, I like vampires most of the time, because I think when you get immortal beings with unlimited power, youth, good looks, and money, an author can show how miserable that is. They can show how what humans think they want is the opposite of what they are made for. I also like books set in high schools, and, sometimes when it’s good, romance. But this…ergh.

Things I didn’t like:
• Edward is borderline abusive. His “best” quality is that he loves Bella obsessively. This shows that many girls don’t care about who a guy is, just how he makes them feel about themselves or how obsessed with them a guy is. His abuse manifests itself in little scenes like when he lies to her, takes the engine from her car so she can’t go visit another man, watches her when she sleeps, says creepy things like, “You are my life now,” and beats her to a pulp the first time they have sex (unintentionally, of course). He apologizes profusely, but she insists it wasn’t that bad and that it was “perfect.” Lots of people are thinking, “No, no! He’s just protective of Bella and concerned for her safety!” Nope. In real life, that’s a red flag.
The Domestic Violence Guide lists characteristics of domestic violence:
1.       constantly criticize you and your abilities as a spouse or partner, parent or employee?
2.       behave in an over-protective manner or become extremely jealous?
3.       threaten to hurt you, your children, pets, family members, friends or himself?
4.       prevent you from seeing family or friends?
5.       get suddenly angry or "lose his temper"?
6.       destroy personal property or throw things around?
7.       deny you access to family assets like bank accounts, credit cards, or the car, or control all finances and force you to account for what you spend?
8.       use intimidation or manipulation to control you or your children? hit, punch, slap, kick, shove, choke or bite you?
9.       prevent you from going where you want to, when you want to, and with whomever you want to?
10.   make you have sex when you don't want to or do things sexually that you don't want to do?
11.   humiliate or embarrass you in front of other people?
Edward qualifies for 7 out of 11
• The author writes most of her guys as controlling like this. The other guy after Bella, a werewolf, forces her to kiss him and talks about suicide if she doesn’t stay with him. Clearly, these guys are both drama queens who need a healthy dose of Xanax.
• Romeo and Juliet style, in the second book when they cannot be together, Bella mopes around, acts depressed, and nearly kills herself by jumping off a bluff (according to Wikipedia). When Edward thinks Bella is dead, he tries to have some super-bad vampires kill him. This is pretty much the plot of that whole book.
• Bella is selfish, psychotic and clearly unable to function without a man.
• He’s 107 and she’s 17. Statutory rape, duh. And why would an adult want to be with a child?
• He’s a 107-year-old virgin. This is probably because the author is a Mormon (which is fine, but doesn't make for realistic non-Mormon character behavior when you project your values on them). 107 and a virgin. How unlikely is that? This is clearly a deep-seated, stupid fantasy for this author. Realistically, as a Godless guy, he would have had sex by now. Mormons can pull that off; vampires usually can’t. Twilight lovers will argue, “He didn’t have sex because he was afraid of killing the human he sexed up.” So in 107 years, he didn’t find another vampire?
• One of the main vampire problems is solved because in this series, vampires can live off animals. This takes the bite completely out of the topic of vampires. It makes it more friendly, but it conveniently robs it of conflict and makes vampirism look attractive. It makes vampirism look attractive a LOT, actually. And usually it isn’t. Usually the lesson is to accept the life you’ve been given. Not in Twilight. In Twilight, the lesson is that living forever is the happy ending and that you should totally leave your family for a guy before you are old enough to drink.
• Half of the first book is just a description of how good-looking the guy is. Take a look at this little gem another blogger pointed out: “He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare. His glistening, pale lavender lids were shut, though of course he didn’t sleep. A perfect statue, carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal.” Yes, that’s in the book. That's some of the better writing in that book too.
• The main character’s name is “Bella Swan.” Has anyone thought about this? Also, Bella is one of those flat, weak, passive girls. She falls all the time just to give the main guy character an excuse to pick her up and carry her around. This happens a lot. Bella is not interesting because the author intends for Bella to have no real faults. She describes herself as “plain”, but as soon as she arrives at a new school, every guy is after her. So either she is stupid, afflicted with false modesty, or written so as to not have a fault like pride that freakin’ everybody has.
• Edward is the main male love interest. He is jealous, flat, obsessive, intense, and not nearly mysterious enough. In the first movie that came out this last year, he was played as if he had Aspergers Syndrome. (I saw it with a friend to laugh and then I realized that I was just giving MORE time to Twilight. Yeah, sometimes I make bad decisions. The movie is long, boring, unintentionally funny, and plotless. All that happens is the two fall in love and look at each other for a long time. They don’t even fall in love for any good reason either. Then there is some violence tacked on at the end.) They are going for dark and brooding, but it comes off as creepersville to lots of people.
• Bella gets pregnant and decides to keep the baby, even if it might kill her. Because, to Mormons, there is nothing worse than getting an abortion, except for maybe having sex before marriage. Most rational people, even pro-life people, think it’s ok to have an abortion when the mother’s life and health are at-risk. But the author has her own politics to push. There is a whole gross birthing scene where it’s like half vampire and it shatters her spinal cord or something. She survives (darn). Someone told me that Edward ate the placenta. Actually, that’s kind of awesome/hilarious.
• They go to the prom at the end of the first book. Also, Edward can't go into the sunlight....otherwise he GLITTERS. Gasp! It’s so lame.
• It’s poisoning pre-teen girls’ minds, giving them ridiculous notions about men and love, give up everything (including their souls) for a boyfriend, and teaching them to act pathetically for months after a boyfriend leaves them. Also to cut off family and friends and other interests for the boyfriend.
• It gives girls unrealistic, unhealthy expectations. It’s emotional porn with no other substance. Girls want to be desired and treasured, and that is why these books are so popular. But guys are people too. They are going to have bad days, they are going to dislike things about you sometimes, and they are going to have other interests besides you. Furthermore, they are not going to be obsessed with you right away, to that level, or it’s going to be too weird.
• The books are unoriginal. It’s a complete rip-off of other (better) vampire romance books. Young readers are better off sticking with The Hunger Games, Divergent, Harry Potter, or the Mortal Instruments series.

But this is my main reason---
Even though the main focus of Twilight is that it’s a love story, I would argue that the kind of love Twilight contains isn’t love at all. This quote sums it up. Talking about a song he wrote about struggling to hang onto yourself and your goals while living in a marriage, Switchfoot lead singer Jon Foreman said-- “In our barcode media, love is often portrayed as consumption. As consumers in a commercial driven culture we can begin to view other souls as objects, or potential cures for our deepest fears and insecurities. ‘Perhaps if I found the right lover I would no longer feel this deep existential despair.’ But of course no human soul could be the Constant Other, the face that will never go away. Only the infinite can fill that role. But the silence can be deafening. It's a fearful thing to be alone. Do you love me enough to let me go? ‘I can't live without you’- ‘I would die if you ever left me’- These are not the songs of love, these are the songs of consumption.”

For more Twilight bashing, see these funny videos, where a British recording artist reads the books and adds his commentary. We like his accent:

True Grit

True Grit is advertised as a serious Cohen Brothers Western, along the lines of No Country for Old Men, only set earlier. True Grit is also advertised as being an action movie. This is not the case.

Anyone seeing True Grit should be aware that they are seeing a dry, talky comedy, with a little action doled out every thirty minutes or so. It IS funny, if that’s your sense of humor, but sometimes it was hard to hear what the characters were saying. The little girl in the movie spoke quickly, and the others had growly accents and didn’t open their mouths very wide.

We DO recommend this movie, but we recommend that you see it at home, with subtitles, because the dialogue is the movie, and you want to understand it.

Movie grade: B

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Fighter

Checklist (if you check “yes” next to these lines, you should see The Fighter)

-I like Amy Adams, Mark Wahlberg, and/or Christian Bale.

-I like sports movies.

-I like true stories.

-I like boxing movies.

-I like a movie to be entertaining the whole way through.

-I like some comedy in my dramas.

-I want to see Christian Bale elevate an otherwise normal sports movie with a performance we’ve never seen from him before.

-I want to see Christian Bale play an affectionate coke addict.

Basically, if the idea of this movie appeals to you, the movie will appeal to you. We think it’s one to wait and rent on video though. There is no reason to see this on the big screen. Christian Bale’s funny character will come through on DVD just as well as it does in theatres.

Amy Adams is also good, and her character is a real spitfire. She also has some meat on her bones, which is both realistic for the movie and ballsy for the actress. We approve.

Movie Grade: B+

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen - Mostly spoiler-free review

We just finished the much-lauded Oprah pick Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. We thought the book was smug. There was lots of commentary about the world today, but it didn’t feel like the world we live in. There is some real joy, loyalty, and purpose left, believe us. If our lives were like this, we would kill ourselves. The book was populated by mostly judgmental people with many values, but all the values were shallow, unimportant and based off of being better than other people. The characters were fully-formed, but not relatable; Joey was almost relatable, and he made a wise, redemptive decision before the curtains closed. Patty was the most likeable (even though she would hate US with our flip-flops and headphones.)

We liked a lot of the commentary on the culture, even if it was smug and mostly pessimistic. This book was full of insightful social commentary, politics, and character development, but it felt absolutely spiritually dead. It was trying to be really deep and substantial, and it only reached that level every 100 pages or so. There WERE some brilliant moments, but they got lost in the overall tone and story that made us want to switch books.

We weren’t asking for some sort of religious book by any means, but atheists have a spiritual side too, and these characters were just completely dead, spirit-wise. It’s hard to ask a reader to spend more than 500 pages with them. It was weird that this book ended on a hopeful note, because most people who would make it to the end of this glum, hero-less book probably wouldn’t value a positive finale. Two of the women in this book were absolutely disgusting (Connie and Lalitha) because of the way they worshipped their men so much that they ran their lives into the ground and ended up as nothing but pliant strumpets that made us want to hurl.

There was good writing, nice character background and interesting exposition. We’d like to see what Franzen does with a good story. This story was about a bad marriage/dysfunctional family. You’ve heard it before. You’ve seen it before on countless screens. We suppose all the commentary and the picture of our society was supposed to elevate the story to more than another failed marriage story, but it would have been an amazing book with that commentary and more of a story.

We are wondering if we should read The Corrections. This was a technically good book that plenty of people admire. But we think there are two reasons to read a book: 1) the enjoyment 2) to learn something. This book did not bring us either bounty. The first 187 pages were really good, but then it hits a dull stride until close to the end. It pointed out things that we have already seen, that we are tired of seeing.

You know how there are books that you buy, read 200 pages of, and then never finish? We predict that if you buy this book, it is going to turn out like that for you.

Book quality grade: B
Book enjoyment grade: C-