The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

LOST in the…Two Moments

Lindeloph (left) with Cuse (center) in their home -- the editing bay

Lindeloph (left) with Cuse (center) in their home -- the editing bay

Well, it’s all happened at once now hasn’t it? What used to be my wishful thinking has all come crashing down in a heap of escaped dreams. If only I had had the chutzpah – if only I were Jewish. Prepare yourself for the letdown…

A couple weeks back, as I was leaving my place of work, I was walking down a long stretch of road — no cars, no people to speak of, just me and another bloke. As we walked towards each other – we were both trying to exit the premises – all I could notice was the fact that he looked like he was from the east coast. He had on a big coat, his cap, and was holding a briefcase. The only other thing I immediately noticed was his glasses – black, hard rimmed glasses on an unforgettable face; well, unforgettable for a few.

You’ve got to be kidding me. There’s absolutely no way? Well, considering I am in Burbank, CA, close by to many of the major studios, I suppose, in reality, there actually is a way. I continued on my line. The closer we got to each other, the clearer the face and facts became. I’ve done it. I’m walking stride for stride with Damon Lindelof. This is unreal.  Consider the facts here for a moment if you will:  I write nearly every week about LOST — the show the consumes my thoughts, invades my personal sleep and generally spites me around every turn. I created this blog to vent about my glee for the show and combined cynicism it brings to my Wednesdays, and I was now walking in step with its masked man; its proverbial Wizard of Oz. It all happened so fast.

And then we just kept walking. And walking.

To say that my brain was going crazy would actually be false. He was on his phone, I was listening to my Ipod — let’s be honest though, I had it on pause, just kept the ear buds in to be cool. We walked step for step for the next full minute. The entire time I was deliberately looking away from him, as if to say I didn’t know it was him. As we walked — it must have been a block or so — I made the strict decision not to say anything. I wouldn’t bother him. In an ideal world he would have handed me the summary of Season 5, but it probably would have just been too weird, so we just kept our pace. I wasn’t going to say anything. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to be that guy. Oh, my spider-senses were tingling.

For the next couple weeks I milled that night over in my mind. It’s been my dream for 4 years to be a writer for LOST, to start wherever possible, shouldn’t I have said something? I feel as though I made the right decision – nah, I know I did – I just wonder what would happen if I saw him again.

I did.

Two weeks later, I got a call from my roommate who works at the Disney/ABC Lot in Burbank. He invited me over for lunch and we walked down to the Disney cafeteria. On our way over, we walked right past the LOST writer’s offices and I decided it would be best to just take a deep breath and not focus on the past. We kept walking. I kept thinking. I settled for a salad at the cafe (what?!) and we made our way outside. We hadn’t sat down for more than 5 minutes when low and behold, out of the commissary, five feet away, the entire LOST writing crew plops down, save one: Carleton Cuse. I looked at Todd and he at me as I mumbled the words, “Well, that makes twice…” There I sat, trapped in my own skin, this time confronted with the option of not ruining a phone call, but a large group lunch.

Out walks Carlton.

Son of a…!

I wish I could tell you all that I did the proper thing, just a ‘thank you’ or a ‘I love your work’ type of quip. I wish I came bearing great news of great joy, but I don’t. I sat there like a lump, afraid of burning any future bridges and focused on professionalism – its all very elitist and lame, isn’t it? If I had to live it over, I would’ve done it differently. What exactly this different thing would be, I do not know, but I can say this: The next time I see Mr. Cuse or Mr. Lindeloph, they will know the name Bryce VanKooten. I vow to you on the foundation of this blog. I hereby swear that nothing on this side of Saturn’s rings will keep me from telling them that they can keep their money; I’ll work for free. I’ve never wanted anything more than a position within the LOST writing community. The next time I see their face(s), I’ll make it happen. Perfectly honest, I’ll make it happen, you can bet that freeeaking island on that one.

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September 18, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pineapple Express (2008)

(Left to Right) Seth Rogan, James Franco and Danny McBride walk back from a long, crazy night.

(Left to Right) Seth Rogan, James Franco and Danny McBride walk back from a long, crazy night.

One Crazy Night

High as a kite — eh, a great summer escape.

by Bryce VanKooten

There I was, back in high school, watching two grown men wander the streets of their hometown in search of friends and foe, drugs and dreams. I didn’t have to try very hard to see them walk through their front door to standing parents, awaiting their arrival; their disapproving looks saying it all. Before speaking they pause, minds spinning from the night’s many adventures, they rewind, trying to start from the beginning.  Then, very slowly and seriously, they begin, “You guys…I can explain. This could have happened to anyone.”

Armed with a throwaway job as a Process Server and a mediocre high school girlfriend (the very cute, Amber Heard), Dale Denton (Seth Rogan) has his daily sites set on two things: getting high today and preparation for his high tomorrow. Generally, the only thing deterring him from these goals are the minor obstacles in his path – new costume ideas for the next ‘serve’, scraping together enough cash for tonight’s purchase, calling his girlfriend – and even they rarely seem to keep him from his hazy utopia. In Denton’s eyes, he lives in the pinnacle of life’s glorious drag, sucking down joints like yesterday’s leftovers. Its comic genius, I must admit and no joke is lost among the laborious scenes of everyday puffing.The mellow attitude with which the film opens is only enhanced after we meet Saul Silver (James Franco), Dale’s just-as-lazy drug dealer. If Dale’s a pothead, I’m not sure where that puts Saul — maybe, Dale in a decade?

**Spoiler(s) ahead**

The movie stays in its smoky saga only long enough to paint the scene. After Dale witnesses a cop’s murder by the hands of a crocked dealer (Gary Cole) and leaves a joint of the infamously rare Pineapple Express at the scene of the crime the movie switches gears after he finally begins fearing for his life after realizing the rare weed’s traceability and just like that, we’ve got a full blown mouse hunt on our hands. Between Silver’s lackluster zeal for much of anything and Dale’s predisposition to practicality, the jokes are brilliantly normal and the comedy perfectly understandable. What did we expect, really? Every Apatow movie to date has been about the average man; each time finding himself in an increasingly more improbable, but never impossible, situation. Pride yourself on cleanliness and 1980’s comic books and you could be a 40 Year-Old Virgin. Hook up with a girl out of your league and both of you could very well be unhappy and Knocked Up. Follow around high school boys trying desperately to swipe the V-card and successfully purchase alcohol with a fake ID and I guarantee you the footage will be Superbad. Pineapple Express is no different. Smoke enough weed in a short period of time and this could actually happen to you, there’s not a doubt in my mind.

Don’t read me wrong here, this movie becomes more and more outlandish with each passing turn, but the jokes are never too far – save the fighting ninja warriors, those were a bit much, I suppose. After these modern-day Cheech and Chongs realize their notorious stash of PE can be traced back to them, they decide to sprint for the middle man — tweener-dealer Red (Danny McBride) and easily the funniest character of this film (and maybe the entire last year).

Each twist of fortunes finds Red fighting against someone else and by the end of the film the now-famous clip of the neck brace-wearing Red chirping, “thug life…” has never rang truer. With the dealer’s goons (The Office’s Craig Robinson and Superbad’s Kevin Corrigan) hot on their tracks, the three underdogs embark on the save-all-except-themselves mission using the PE to finance the necessities: Slurpees and snacks. After Dale gets arrested for blatantly selling to minors, their plan seems thwarted — all hope lost. Arms behind his back, trying to explain to the driving police officer, Dale glances up to see his counterpart – a Slurpee-holding Saul – standing directly in front of the speeding vehicle, willing to take a hit for his friend. The slushy drinks erupt, mostly on the windshield, make the Police cruiser now both their getaway and a seemingly obvious hit-and-run homicide. Misconception…all one big misconception, but hilarious nonetheless. I wouldn’t want to spoil the rest of the film for you, but bottom line: it’s worth a watch if you feel like a night off from responsibility.

August 6, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lost: Season 4 Finale

LOST Finale

As it all goes down, fans wait, watch and wilt till next season.

There’s No Place Like Home: Part 2 & 3

By Bryce VanKooten

Well, its all over. At least for now. How do we all feel? Can we describe it all in one word? Legit. Two words: deceptively inspiring? I suppose we need a time machine to get out exactly how we feel.

This year we saw lots and lots of things happen. Wait, no we didn’t. The season started with the ever-fateful ‘the folks on The Freighter are coming to get us’ and ended with the incredible twist: ‘the folks on The Freighter, although tricksy little hobbits’s––did not get us’. Granted, we got to meet Faraday (awesome, eccentric, all good things) and Charlotte (hmmm) and I’ll be the first to admit that I like them, but frankly––when all was said and done, plot wise… It was a simple season.

Remember first season when we saw a Hatch and were entertained just by the thought of it for about 15 episodes? Or when we saw only the feet of The Others walking by––just a glimpse––and we had more Goosebumps than a 6th grade library? Those were the days when nitwit fans were mixed in with the rest of the nuts and left to fight amongst themselves as to who would get the last handful of theory crumbs. Nowadays though, where do we live?  What is it going to take to get us back to that state of wonderment without that nostalgic sense of hate we so often feel? Can it be that we are too smart for our own good?  Always thinking outside the magic box, we can only be duped if hand-fed lies? I say nah, but that’s closer than not.

If ever there was a breaking point for me, it was the end of Season 3. It was the first season where I had to moan along with the rest of the world week by week (or should I say, week off to week on) because I had used up my luxury of DVD seasons (see previous post Lost: The Logic-Free Fee). It was then when I sat back and said, “Lost, I hereby swear I will disown you like a right-wing father to his hippie son if you don’t impress me beyond belief.” And like a true nonconforming child, it did. There I was, watching Jack drink his life away–– popping pills like a MLB All-star thinking to myself, “Well, it looks like this is it. I have to quit. I gotta shut er’ off.” And then it happened. They took me to the future. And like Never, Never, Land, I was hooked again.

When this year’s finale rolled around, I can’t say I was in as angry of a place, but I can say that I wanted some movement. When Desmond did his Marty McFly bit in The Constant, I went wild. When Keamy went from ‘not that tough’ to ‘okay, he could be tough’ by going hard as The Wire and shooting Ben’s daughter, I coincidentally wanted to jump up and scream, “That’s what I’m talking about!” You can’t have anyone to really love if you don’t have anyone to really hate. Throw in a loathsome person like Benjamin Linus (who we all love, lets be honest) and you have a terrific show. Leverage that dynamic with the island’s properties and now we’re talking. The Season 4 finale did just that. It didn’t do everything I had hoped (i.e. reveal to us the/a time machine, show where the island went after it ducked below the surface, give us more insight into where Ben goes after banished, etc, etc), but it did enough. I liked how the island disappeared. I liked how Sun sold out for her final scene with Jin (fyi; that was heart wrenchingly painful to watch and I likely won’t watch it again; I liked Jin, I did…. I did). I liked how Sawyer was the man, again––if only for a little while. He kind of went to that hey-don’t-forget-I’m-still-Sawyer place where he does things, almost subconsciously, just to show how much cooler than Jack he is. I thought his jump was well placed and perfect. And if you didn’t hear what he said to Kate in the whisper, you can hear it here.

Bottom line, this finale was like a punch in the belly button. A good punch, though. It hurts a bit; torments you for a while, but its good to know that you can still feel. You can still hurt–– and they still care enough to take the time and effort to punch you.

June 3, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Lost, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Get Smart (2008)

Steve Carrell LOST season 4 Get Smart

Secret Agent Maxwell Smart (Carell) and Agent 86 (Hathaway) in the Mel Brooks favorite, Get Smart.

Didn’t Miss By Much

By Bryce VanKooten

I can’t decide if I like Steve Carell (Maxwell Smart) more when he is silent or when he is talking. Either way he’s a master. Up until about a year ago, I was unsure if he could do anything besides scream with a straight face, although I won’t lie, whether it was newscast gibberish or Kelly Clarkson expletives––I laughed every time. It wasn’t until his role in Little Miss Sunshine that I really appreciated his acting skills and thus, more fully understood the broad range of talent. Still, Get Smart is not about acting; it’s about popcorn. Plain and simply––great laughs, solid entertainment, fun for all the cousins.

Carell delivers once again in this altered, but still very friendly adaptation of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry’s classic mid-1960s TV series, which starred the late, great Don Adams as super-spy Maxwell Smart, a.k.a. Agent 86. For many, Adams will forever be the true Agent 86, and if you see the movie and can’t get over that, I understand, but nonetheless Get Smart, the movie, brings Mel Brooks kind of humor to a new generation––families included.

Obviously an Oscar-worthy movie (let alone the performance…geez, nominate the guy), it’s clear that Carell was born to play this role. Very rarely (and before recent missteps, Will Ferrell seemed to be reaching this plateau) is an actor or actress so brilliantly comedic that they can simply stand on a stage, saying nothing, and get laughs. Think back to the days of Carol Burnett. Or even Bob Hope doing the Oscars. Both comic giants, at ease in any situation––the audience overwhelmed with their charm. I would like to think that this aura is simply ‘comedic charm’, but more eloquently, it is probably closer to ‘comedic genius’. Not that this movie solely places Steve Carell in comedic lore, but it definitely doesn’t hinder his rise. Once again, he holds any scene he’s in and has you shifting in your seat, leaning slightly forward as not to miss an off-the-cuff reference or quip. With Anne Hathaway playing the uptight, overbearing feminist and Carell fitting nicely as the blatant nitwit, there’s little time left for the gadgets to get laughs, save one.

The funniest scene of the entire film takes place in an airplane restroom. Hands tied, seeking freedom from his bonds (seen briefly in the trailer) Maxwell Smart attempts to free himself by using his weapon of choice: a miniature crossbow. Hilarity ensues, as aiming the bow with his mouth becomes something of a nightmare and the plane’s metallic surroundings causing unintended physics. Refusing defeat after the first couple misfires; this scene builds as we watch the entire sheath unloaded, one painful shot at a time. This sequence alone is worth the price of admission and combined with an obese waltz during a fancy gala, your cheeks will likely have had enough hilarity.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of robust corny comedy throughout the movie; more specifically––anything that happens in the Control hallway, but outside of faltered gags (which may be eliminated––I saw 6-months early test screening), the movie flows well. Alan Arkin is superb as the Chief and Borat’s own Ken Davitian (Shtarker) brings normalcy to the utterly ridiculous––this guy would have been at home in any Mel Brooks ensemble. The other actors, although working well in the flow of the film, rarely hit homerun jokes. From the ‘Silent Force Field’ to the rooftop fight sequence, one thing is true: no question, Steve Carell is funny. His timing and his flair for Death-Valley-dry under-acting make him a perfect 86, with the entire film serving as testament to his on-screen charisma––not to mention, he fits a suit better than most. Get Smart is a breath of fresh, classic air in a time of raunch-fest comedies like Semi Pro, and the upcoming and completely worthless Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Dare I say, “Best Comedy of the Year”? Ah, missed it by that much.
————-
*This review is based on a February 2008 test screening

May 6, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews, Television | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lost: The Other Woman…and…Etc.

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Strategically located between episode 6 and 7, respectively; our discussions here are as needless as tassels on wedding tables––but in some minds, still necessary. Throughout this intense and emotional roller coaster that is Lost: Season 4, we’ve been nailed with Time Travel, broken down with the Desmond-Penny story and left out to dry like an old batch of heroine, only to be used when they need us again––Thursday nights at 9pm. Our addictions have been leveraged to a point of contention, but still we talk, we think and we revel in our ability to genuinely hate the thing that we love so much. Time Travel? In your brain? Hmmm, I want to time travel in my brain…

There are a couple quotes I want to share before we see Episode 7. They are as follows:

Jorge Garcia (Hurley):As shocking as these scripts have been for us, nothing has shocked us more than the end of episode 7.

(What he didn’t include, is that he said the same thing about the end of episode 8, which trumps episode 7. why i outta…)

Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet):Yesterday I was reading the script of the episode that comes after the one dedicated to my character. I cried a lot, because I learned something that I didn’t like finding out about.”

Michael Ausiello (AP): “A significant death occurs sometime after Episode 4, but before Episode 8.”

(It hasn’t happened yet, so we’re good to go! America, go for launch!)

For the past couple of weeks, my sister and I have been discussing the various paths that Lost could take, now that its regained strength, story and fervency. I try to be as up front as I can after that weeks episode, saying things like, “Yeah, I thought that would happen”, “I honestly didn’t think they’d take it that way” or even “Molly, no due respect––you are wrong”, but every time that week’s installment ends, I find that I try to seemingly convince myself that I did think that was going to happen. So, once and for all (and probably more than once?), I’m going to get this stuff on paper…er, electronic paper. Earlier today I was asked, “Why do you blog?” My simple response was, “Because if I don’t, I don’t sleep as well.” Five is a good number, so we’re going to go with that. Here’s to sweet dreams.

1. Juliet is going to die––before last weeks episode, I wasn’t sure if this was going to be the case, but after they did a little ‘telling of her story’ it seemed as though she could go. Then she kissed Jack. Then I realized Jack’s life blows. Then I knew she was going to die––at some point.

2. Michael (and Walt) is Ben’s spy on the boat––I know, I know, you’ve heard this already, but the fact of the matter is that he’s his spy in 2004 and 1996, or should I say Walt is. How much would Michael want to go back in time and relive his life, this time with Walt? Ben not only has spies in different topographical locations, but also various time locations. Do we call it time locations? More like, year locations. No, we’ll call it Ben Locations.

3. Sun will actually have her baby off the Island––making her and Jin the last two of the Oceanic Six. Pregnant women die on the island, that’s just a fact. Unless they pull a Thank You for Smoking and add the necessary, ‘Thank god we invented the ________’ explanation line, she’s going to die. And if she did, Jin would go Anton Chigurh on The Others, The Freighter Folk and Mr. Penny’s Dad. It will take a full season to contain his furry. Not being able to speak to anyone + a deceased wife + everyone blaming ‘the island’ + not knowing what ‘the island’ means = Lost-esque frustration. Oceanic Six are final: Jack, Hurley, Sayid, Jin, Sun and that hooker Kate.

4. Jeremy Davies character will continue to be awesome. I’ve never loved a wide-eyed, frizzy haired relativity-fueled, molecular electromagnetic physicist more in my entire life.

5. Kate is going to do a couple things, both of which are explainable (i.e. Its Kate).
a. She will somehow get on The Freighter and screw something up bad––this is like saying ‘there will be a bomb explosion in the middle east in the month of March’, but still, its a prediction. Even great writers have filler.
b. Kiss Jack again soon. They may even get together, but this is obvious speculation. If they did get together, it would explain why jack is so standoffish in the flash forward. Stupid Kate. She’s like that 8th cup of coffee––know its not good for you, but always gets your heart going.

One thing’s for sure: for the next two weeks, Lost is going to be real good.

March 10, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Lost, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lost Season 4: The Constant

Lost Season 4 The Constant

The morning began with a slow and steady beeping, rising with time, gaining momentum as it rang out in my ears. Outside of cancer or a kitchen full of home-schoolers, I don’t’ think there’s anything I hate more than my alarm. Now granted, if I liked it, I wouldn’t get up and its track record for a brisk, day-ruining wakeup proves its flawlessness. However, as I lay there at 5:58am, completely unconscious as to the reason I had set my alarm nearly 75 minutes early––it hit me. Like a bucket of water dumped on the brain, it was time for…

L O S T

Going to Pepperdine’s University’s rendition of The Bartered Bride made it impossible for me to watch the previous night; however, coffee in hand, eggs on the stove––I was the readiest. The Constant (Season 4, Episode 5, Summary: Desmond=Awesome) brought a sense of hope for a series that finds its audience in a very hopeless place. We are all lost on an island together; the island of doubt. We don’t doubt that there’s answers, we just doubt that they’re satisfactory. Last night gave us all a taste of some of the puzzles we have yet to be introduced to. The puzzle piece of time. The puzzle piece of The Freighter. The puzzle piece of new characters. And yet, as my roommate Todd (who has yet to officially start the series [re: obscene anger]) sit in the wee hours of the morning, awaiting The Constant’s end, he could see my face––beaten by feeble morning fog, but simultaneously gleaming with a new light: Progress. We’re making headway! As I said before, I feel as though I am on the island with them. Each episode like a pot hole for a blind man, each mystery as ghastly as the last, as if I were to wage my fate along side them and take up arms against the enemy. Wait, who’s the enemy! Which side would I join? And yes, watching me watch Lost is nearly as good as the show itself.

Regardless, The Constant brought up situations were have yet to see in a full episode of Lost (outside of Finales). For example, when Faraday (Davies, my new favorite character, fyi) decides he needs to talk to Desmond, it actually happens! Obviously, no on thinks they should talk, but then Sayid throws that guy around like its their wedding night and––right on––they talk on the phone! We get some answers! Now, I completely understand that Kate has to do her thing. With last week, we saw that Jack has some Dad issues, Kate has some matronly issues; I get it, it all needs to be laid out. But don’t you just find it ridiculous that we have to waste an entire week on that stuff? Don’t you wish we could get some good ol’ we’re-in-the-future-this-is-JACKED(no-pun-intended)-UP secrets every week? We want answers, but 95…hmmm…96% of the time, they’re pointless. We’re like a guy on the JV bowling team––we want our chance, but we know once we get it, it probably won’t live up to expectations.

So there I sat. So incredibly happy that the way I believed the show would go, was actually becoming a reality. Overjoyed that my two favorite characters (Des and Faraday) got to have an episode all to themselves. And not only to themselves, but also with some progress. Do I still doubt that the show can live up to my hype? Sure. But do I still think it has a chance? Definitely. And up until last night, I would have given a much different answer. One that most likely involved chairs flying across the room.

March 1, 2008 Posted by | Lost, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments