Unless you live under the proverbial rock when it comes to pop-culture, you have undoubtedly heard about the feud between NBC, Conan O’Brien, and Jay Leno, so I will not rehash that entire debate here. Rumors have been flying recently about where Conan will go from here and the most popular rumor seems to be that he will have a new late night show on the Fox Network. This has been met with relatively good cheer by Conan fans. I, however, did not receive this news well. I know of Fox’s track record, a track record that is as clean as NBC’s, that is to say, it sucks. I’ll show you using three television shows why I am worried about Conan’s future if he decides to join the Fox network.

Firefly
Joss Whedon created a television show that aired on the Fox network in 2002. Whedon was known for his hit television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and it’s spin-off, Angel. Firefly wasn’t a hit on television by any means, but that wasn’t it’s fault. Firefly was a sci-fi television series that took place in a world that was a mash up of outer space odyssey’s and tales from the wild west. It centered on a crew of misfits who make a living doing heists around the galaxy. It was witty, funny, had great special effects, and had some of the best characters and writing I’ve ever seen in a television show. Fox picked it up for one season and ran only a few of the episodes it ordered. So why did Firefly fail if it was so great? Because Fox placed it at the worst possible time slot for a television show: Friday night at 8 P.M. Fox also aired the episodes out of the order they were originally intended to be viewed leading to confusion about the overarching plot.

Dollhouse
Dollhouse is yet another Joss Whedon led project. It made its on-air debut in 2009 and lasted until this coming Friday, a whopping 2 seasons. Dollhouse was complex, the characters were interesting, the plot took awhile to develop but was phenomenal once it got going. Again, another great series that failed on Fox. Why? Fox again assigned it to the death slot: Friday night at 8 P.M. Once Fox threatened to cancel the show after just one season, fans of the show responded in an uproar. In an amazing show of loyalty to Dollhouse, fans called in to Fox to demand that it be renewed. So many fans did this, in fact, that Fox’s phone lines actually crashed. Yes, one of the largest television corporations in America was so overwhelmed by fan support for Dollhouse that their phone lines crashed. So after looking at DVR rating and Hulu views, they renewed Dollhouse for a second season. The future seemed bright. Then Fox promptly cancelled Dollhouse about 3 episodes in to season two. Why? Not enough viewers. Despite the fact that fans overwhelmed them, Fox refused to move Dollhouse to a time slot where it would gain more viewers and potentially survive. Well done Fox.

Arrested Development
Finally, we come to a comedy, Arrested Development. This was a sitcom revolving around a family who lost all their wealth due to fraud. Hilarious, witty, smart, well-written. Fox repeatedly moved around the show to different time slots trying to get better ratings. This is the perfect way to kill a television show. I know, this sounds like a contradiction when I just said Fox should have moved Dollhouse to a new night and time to get better ratings and keep the show alive. But let me explain. To move Dollhouse once to a new night and time could be publicized enough that fans would see the time change and switch. I called for a single time change. Arrested Development went through multiple night and time changes. It’s nearly impossible for fans to keep up with when a show will come on when it is constantly moved around. I also think that Arrested Development was far too fast paced and smart to be enjoyed by a Fox audience.

Which brings me to my concerns with Conan being on Fox. Let’s face it, Fox’s biggest shows aren’t exactly smart. The most popular shows on Fox are 24, American Idol, and Family Guy. None of those require you to think. You sit down, turn off your brain, and veg out for the entirety of the show. Arrested Development, Dollhouse, and Firefly required you to use your brain. Conan tells jokes that are witty, jokes that aren’t about farts and fat guys (see Family Guy). You don’t just sit down to watch Conan and veg, you have to think to get his jokes. I honestly don’t think that Fox is a good home for a new Conan O’Brien show. I’m worried that if he goes to Fox we’ll be fighting this same battle again in the future.

So for all of these reasons, I sincerely hope that Conan finds another late night slot where he can do his brilliant comedy. I just don’t think that Fox is that place.

Curse Your Branches is one of the more heartbreaking albums that I’ve heard. David Bazan is known for critiquing the Church in his band Pedro the Lion but for the most part they were just critiques, and always done through character pieces. On Curse Your Branches, Bazan is not only attacking the Church, but the Christian faith in general. Bazan once considered himself a Christian, so it is heartbreaking for me to hear a man who is so bitter towards Christianity.

The first track on the album is titled Hard to Be. Bazan is here attacking the idea of original sin coming from the Garden of Eden and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is honestly probably my favorite track on the album. It’s incredibly catchy and fun to listen to, I just don’t agree with its message.

In fact, that last sentence sums up my view of the entire album. Other stand out songs include When We Fell (A heartbreaking look at our fallen nature, with a personal note to his mother), Bless This Mess (Bazan praying that those who walk away from Christianity will be blessed), and Please Baby, Please.

This is not a place for me to go against the things that Bazan is saying, but I will say that I disagree with a lot of what he says. So theologically, this is an incredibly unsound album. However, musically, this is an excellent album. All of the songs are well constructed, the lyrics are personal, introspective, honest, and well written. The music is talented and excellent. I really enjoy listening to the album. In fact, there’s not a single song that I have to skip over when listening.

I love this album. It’s hard for me to listen to, it criticizes and attacks a lot of what I believe, and it’s heartbreaking, but something keeps drawing me back. I keep coming back to ask, “Why?” I come back again and again to probe Bazan’s brain to see what it was about Christianity that pushed him away. I pray that Bazan’s bitterness will pass.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Avatar is quite possibly the most anticipated film of 2009 because director James Cameron hyped his film so much. He claimed that it would “revolutionize” the film industry; he claimed that we will never look at film the same way again, etc. I was incredibly skeptical of all of this. Any time the creator/director/whatever is hyping his movie or video game or book saying it will change everything, I immediately go on my guard.

Let’s start off with the “revolutionary” aspect of Avatar. It was 3-D. Sure, it was well done 3-D, and sure the animation was impeccable, but it was hardly revolutionary. I’ve seen 3-D films before. I’ve been to Disney World where there are plenty of 3-D rides. Avatar is hardly “revolutionary.”

As long as we’re on the negative aspects of Avatar and the 3-D aspect, I’ll go ahead and mention a few things I didn’t enjoy. Sometimes it felt like Cameron was just showing us what 3-D can do. I know he’s a huge advocate of 3-D films and it really felt at times as if Cameron was jumping up and down screaming “LOOK WHAT IT CAN DO! Isn’t it cool how dirt seems to be flying at your face while he runs!? Look, water droplets are floating near your face!” It really felt like a commercial for 3-D at times. My other problem was the heavy-handed politics in the film. There are a lot of messages about how we have to go green and how we’re destroying the earth blah blah blah. I agree for the most part with going green, I’m all for saving rain forests, but I don’t want the message shoved down my throat when I go to see a movie. There also seemed to be some commentary about imperialism and the slave trade which bugged me.

So with all of that out of the way, I really did enjoy Avatar. The story was well done. Avatar is about humans going to the planet Pandora to mine a rare metal that is incredibly valuable. In the process, they are wiping out the indigenous people. I don’t enjoy doing full plot overviews, I’d rather let my readers go and enjoy the film’s story on their own. So that’s as much as I’ll say about the plot.

The characters were well developed throughout the film for the most part. The character and creature design was absolutely astounding. The design of the planet was brilliant. Some of the vehicle designs were less than creative. I’m relatively certain that Avatar completely ripped off the Hornet design from the Halo universe for their helicopter type things. The mech walkers were also completely unoriginal.

The mythology was well thought out. There was a rich back story to Avatar that was conveyed well. The traditions of the indigenous people was conveyed extremely well. I never felt confused about what was happening or overwhelmed by the amount of information.

The acting was well done for the most part. You liked the characters you were supposed to like and you hate the characters you’re supposed to hate. It’s nothing special, but it’s not terrible either.

Overall, I really enjoyed Avatar. And if you have 10 bucks to drop to see it in 3-D, it’s worth it.

Overall Rating: 8/10

I first saw Hero when it was out in theaters a really long time ago. I thought it was incredibly stupid way back then. But, I was about 13. I decided I’d rent it again to see if my opinion was wrong. I’m glad to say that my opinion was very wrong.

I don’t even know where to start with what I liked about this movie. Since it’s a martial arts movie, I’ll start with the fight choreography. Absolutely stunning. Some of the best sword play I’ve seen in a film. I was glad to see that just because Hero was a martial arts film, it didn’t sacrfice story. Hero tells the story of the uniting of China from multiple different kingdoms into one unified kingdom. It does so through a story about 3 assassins trying to kill the king who is taking over the kingdoms. The acting is wonderful. The cinematography is absoltuely stunning. I was riveted to the TV throughout the entire movie.

The movie has it’s philosophical side as well. It ultimately teaches a story of peace over war. Hero does this without becoming too preachy and annoying. It asks questions such as “How far is it acceptable to go for peace?” and “How many must die that a kingdom may live in peace?” Again, it does all of this without becoming too preachy, without shoving its message down your throat.

I can’t praise this film enough. There really were no drawbacks. I did forget to mention that the movie is Chinese so don’t watch unless you’re willing to read subtitles. I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys a great story, great action, and absolutely beautiful cinematography and set work.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

RocknRolla: A story of sex, thugs and rock ‘n roll. I’m a huge fan of Guy Ritchie films. To this day, Snatch remains one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Therefore, I had really high hopes going into RocknRolla.

First off, the tagline is slightly misleading. There’s almost nothing about sex, and no nudity at all. It’s really a story of a heist, thugs and rock ‘n roll. I wasn’t too surprised to find out it was about a heist in London. In fact, nothing really surprised me. Sadly, Guy Ritchie seems to have found a formula that he sticks with. It worked for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but it didn’t work so much with this. Maybe I just got sick of slight variations on a formula by the third film I’ve seen.

I actually couldn’t make it through RocknRolla my first time through. I got through about half of the film before I got bored and gave up. I decided I’d try it one more time again the next night and actually made it through the entire film.

There are some amazing parts. Gerard Butler does a wonderful job playing a thug. And the shots are impeccable, at times downright amazing. Then there are some really boring parts, some parts where the movie just drags and it feels like a chore to keep watching.

There’s nothing here that causes you to really think. It’s a “sit back and enjoy” kind of movie, which is nice every once in awhile. When it’s not nice, is when it feels like a chore to make it through the rest of the movie.

Don’t rush out to see this. It’s worth a rental if you’re really bored. It’s not great, and it’s not awful. If you want to see a good Guy Ritchie heist film, see Snatch instead.

Overall rating: 5.5/10

away_we_go_poster

I love Dave Eggers. He is possibly my favorite writer. When I found out he had started doing screen plays, I was understandably pretty excited. So far, he has written two movies: Away We Go and Where the Wild Things Are. I got Away We Go from Netflix today and decided to watch it with my roommates. We were not disappointed in the least.

The film follows an unmarried couple who gets pregnant and tries to find a city to settle down in and raise their child. In every city they visit, they see old friends or family members who are parents and see how they interact with their kids. Each family represents a different stereotype of parenting. It’s hilarious and incredibly sad at the same time. There is one family that perfectly represents most American families, broken and careless. Another family represents the new-agers who are into spirituality and let their kids do whatever they want. Another family represents the adopters. And finally, there is a divorced and broken family. I think that the movie accurately portrayed all of these in moving ways.

One of my favorite parts of the film was one family discussing what holds a family together. The husbands answer was that love and patience is what holds everything together in a home. Towards the end of the speech you can see that he is miserable, but I think his idea was dead on.

The camera work and acting were exceptional, and the soundtrack fit the film perfectly. John Krasinski did a wonderful job playing his part. I was really worried that he was going to just play Jim from The Office, but he did a great job with a completely new character.

As far as “objectionable content” goes, this is a rated R movie. There is a decent amount of cussing and one awkward semi-sex scene, but no nudity. Also, as previously mentioned, the pregnant couple is not married. So, with that being said, it didn’t bother me but it may bother some more conservative viewers.

I absolutely loved Away We Go. I will most definitely be buying it on DVD, which is something I don’t do too often anymore. I highly recommend it.

Overall Rating: 9.5/10

revolutionary-road

I saw an advertisement for Revolutionary Road at the beginning of the Gone Baby Gone DVD and I thought it looked amazing so I decided to rent it. I love Leonardo DiCarprio’s recent roles in drama films and Kate Winslet is in one of my favorite movies of all time, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. Some of the camera work was brilliant and beautiful, I was amazed at some of the shots. Other shots seemed unnecessary. There was one shot of Kate and Leo walking down a hall side by side and not talking, the shot didn’t serve any purpose in advancing the plot, it just seemed extraneous. I thought the acting was great. The times when DiCaprio and Winslet were arguing with each other were some of the best instances of acting I’ve seen in a film.

Philosophically the film was rich as well. I can’t go into all the themes but most of the film was about purpose, what is our purpose here? How can I be meaningful? Frank desperately desires to be remembered and to make a mark on the world but falls short because of his fear and his comfort.

This was one of the hardest films to watch. It’s got a pretty slow pace, and the ending was emotionally devastating. This isn’t a happy film, you won’t walk away feeling better about the world or even about yourself, you’ll probably walk away the same way that I did, devastated.

Overall rating: 7/10