The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

The Informant!

The Informant!, A Case Study in Lying.

Whitacre (Damon) lays tape... one of hundreds.

A Case Study In Lying

by Bryce VanKooten

The Informant! — with a little jitter at the end — is a quirky movie. Its a spectacle of laughter and stress for just under two hours. When I walked out with my buddy Bryan, we both looked at each other and said, “I’m exhausted … But that was pretty good.”  Now, even hours later, it still seems like a fair assessment.

Matt Damon (and his extra 30lbs, on the ol’ tummy) came out swinging a little slower (re: different) than in his previous Ocean’s or Bourne flicks, while reuniting with his old pal Steven Soderburgh. The Informant!, along with a couple nice new faces to dramedy – the versatile Tony Hale and Joel McHale — finds a niche like an itch you can’t scratch. Never the ending spoiler, I was tossed and turned by this faux Crime Caper so frequently that I must have changed seat positions to three positions on loop: laughter, cringe, horror … Repeat.

Infiltrating the life of whistle-blower-turned-FBI-informant Mark Whitacre, The Informant! keeps it’s pace like a bad summer camp relationship — giggles, realization, anger. There was no room for sympathy. There was no room for understanding. How do you understand a pathological liar? As Bryan and I sat there through the film, we couldn’t help but slowly see ourselves get more and more angry at the pathetic and despicable display of humanity on screen. And he got me! I didn’t know he was lying! And it was so obvious the whole time! I will admit though, I do love a good foolin’.

There’s a couple scenes that make the movie worth the price of admission. Sadly, many of them were spoiled in the trailer (a curse I’ve coined “Being Fox’d”, for its similarity to 20th Century Fox and Megan Fox’s reputation for impeccable previews and horrific results), but a few remain on the screen. Matt Damon’s spot-on execution of all of the ‘bugged rooms’ scenes are brilliant to the core and his portrayal of the ghastly 1990’s ties are pastel-perfect. Props to the Costume Department … (pun). There’s a mid-level biochemist somewhere in the world right now tickled pink, guaranteed.

The most pivotal of all Whitacre’s moments onscreen was between his unflinchingly loving wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey) and the charming, beaten down FBI Agent Shepard (Scott Bakula). Finally caught in a web of lies, Whitacre is confronted by the consequences of his actions. He is, indeed, a pathological liar, among others things … including a felon. It has that Beautiful Mind twinge to it, you know? That feeling that, the truth is out, but reality just somehow got more confusing.

The lesson to be learned for Whitacre is not ‘telling the truth’ – he’s been told, advised, coerced, arm-wreslted, pleaded with, bargained for that countless times – the lesson here, one would surmise, would be to figure out his motivations leading up to his felonious actions. A man who seemingly had it all – countless cars, land, money, a loving wife and kids – risks it all … for what?

And that’s something we never get. I still don’t get it. Fame? Variety? Spice? Sheer boredom?

Why do I like this movie?

I just do.

It’s quirky and funny and well written and sharp. All the actors are spot on and it nails the evanescent truth about lying. I can hear my father’s words now, “I can’t promise you you’ll get caught, but I can promise you one thing: you tell me the truth and you won’t get in as much trouble as you will if you lie to me about it.

Plus, Joel McHale, first major feature role? Come on…

September 23, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews, Movies | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Star Trek — Boom. Roasted. Amazing.

Star Trek Wolverine Bryce vankooten

Treking Along, One Hit at a Time.

by Bryce VanKooten

J.J. Abrams is the Apple® of the cinema – he’s just better than everyone else. Everything he does, every idea brought to the drawing table (board?) is matched with superb in style, fresh execution and noticeable dedication to story. Its masterful; that pretty well covers it.

I was giddy for Star Trek — the newest, Abrams-Directed, 2009 installment of the classic 1966-originated story and characters. Mastered with a bright young cast (including my friend Michelle!), all of which preformed wonderfully in their depiction of their characters on screen, it was only fair that I got to see a movie ‘fresh’ for once in my life (I’d read the LOTR and Harry Potter books, had the Da Vinci Code spoiled for me and discussed Watchmen, at length, before its opening). Star Trek was/is a fan boy’s favorite, and I was happily not one of them.

Throughout the first half hour I urging myself not to lean over to my fellow moviegoers and whisper, “Man. This is so good”. It didn’t seem right. There’s something volatile about talking during a movie other than a comedy. My eyes were glued. Sidenote: are you seriously telling me that Wolverine and Star Trek basically cost the same? What? My ears were glued. And yet I’d read that Michael Giacchino dropped the ball on the score … bullocks. My mind was glued. Yes, there was a bit there when I realized it very well could have been a Wednesday night because that haunting, this-is-the-feeling-I-get-when-they-talk-about-time-travel-in-LOST, feeling was creeping up my spine, but all and all, the plot was feasible. Okay, so we created a black hole, discovered an alternate reality and traveled between the two, meeting ourselves and destroying new lands. But honestly, did anyone get that lost (no pun intended)? It was altogether manageable, was it not?

It was brilliant.

Abrams has found some keepers in Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, his writer’s dejour (as well as Arthur Anderson, who directed the opening scene where the woman so marvelously gets sucked out!!). Together, they’ve scribed a mighty track record in the last few years with seeming success around every turn: Fringe, Alias, Transformers, Mission: Impossible III, The Island, and their upcoming successes, Transformers 2 and the Untitled Star Trek Sequel, due out in 2009 and 2011, respectively.

I was blown away by Spock (didn’t even know he was the smartest ‘man’ in the world until the movie told me — what fun that was), but Chris Pine managed to successfully steal the show as James Tiberius Kirk. He was marvelous actually — funny and charming, the perfect concoction of cocky and courageous. I’ll be blunt: the ‘diving down to stop the drill’ scene: worth the price of admission, easily.

Abrams hasn’t veered far from his roots. Many of his films are good at the same things, which is to say, I think we’re all fine with that. But maybe the Academy isn’t. I don’t think Abrams cares much about what those guys think, which might be a subconscious reason why we love him: he likes what we like. There’s that fine line Abrams always manages to walk between humor and drama: never too subtle, never to forceful. He’s a master of every situation and possibly one of the greatest story tellers of my generation. If I ever met him, I’d love to thank him for that. I hope story will always rule this land.

Action is obviously Abrams’ style and his unmistakable strength — those trademark camera shakes never seem to be mellow dramatic — but its not his only strength. He’s managed to brand great storytelling into his films, great amounts of witty, perfectly placed humor and ease, so that we almost expect it now. We know he’s thought this all the way through, and that’s a safety blanket of sorts. How do we know? Because we can tell he likes making movies. Amidst the clouds of massive, action riddled box offices, Abrams is breath of fresh, virus-free air. Again, like a Mac.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I’m willing to resign myself into blindly purchasing great products, even great marketing. I buy Stride because of their viral marketing style. I bought Red Stripe because their commercials made me laugh – same with Dos Equis. I drive a Honda because they are dependable and write on an Apple computer because, well, its obvious*. My childhood was formed by Nike, so I wear their sneakers. And Fiji Water, though it cost twice as much, has an awesome bottle so sometimes I cave to their coloring. My purchases are my right as an American. It makes it fun again to be a consumer. It’s very American to choose. As stated, Tom Cruise has won me over; I’ll see whatever he’s in because he’s in it. Abrams is now the same**.

I think of my theater tickets as a little investment. Who gets my investment is a decision I get to make every time I plop myself in the seat. From here on out, I’ll gladly go blindly with Abrams.

*see line 1

**The opposite is true for Eddie Murphy; I won’t see it if he’s in it, unless it has ‘Shrek’ in the title, even then, its not really him.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews, Movies | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

LOST Live Blog: LaFluer

Our Boy Sawyer Jim James LaFluer

Our Boy Sawyer Jim James LaFluer

Lost Live Blog

Rules: I will say whatever comes to my mind when and how it comes in. Koppin in my roommate. He may be interjecting thoughts as well if I deem them fit for print. This is un-doctored, straight-from-the-hip first thoughts.

Let’s do this.

9:00: we’re starting, let’s do this. It’s the recap from the last couple. Faraday is talking about dislodging themselves from time. I’m gonna dislodge someone’s dome if I don’t get some answers. Still recapping…

Charlotte just died. That really pissed me off.

Locke is talking. Locke, if anyone can do it; you can. Get me back to the island Jesus.

9:02: the recap is over. The ep is beginning. Hollerluejah. Miles is becoming intriguing.

Holy whaaaa?? We just saw the massive Atlantis/Sphinx guy. Holy Hannah Montana.

I think we’re seeing a different perspective on the folks while John was in the donkey wheel chamber.

Is the episode starting? Sheesh. I need a clue. I need four to six clues.

Our four-toed ancient friend...

Our four-toed ancient friend...

Okay, never seen this. I think we’re rolling.

Are sawyer and Juliet going to be together soon? Nose bleeds stopped… that’s good. Maybe they’re set. Maybe the record is a runnin’.

9:05: Jin is the coolest around. He’s like the black guy this show doesn’t have any more. The quiet one with the one-liner wisdom.

9:06THREE YEARS LATER

9:08: Dharma creeper(s) are dancing in the room. ‘Hoot-i-nanny’, what a word. We need to throw that in more. One’s named Jerry. Prediction: These guys are going to die.

Ben’s dad is drunk and wandering. Horace is Ben’s dad right? No. Horace is … who si Horace? He’s throwing dynamite like a fraternity boy.

9:10: Okay, sawyer is LaFluer. That’s creepy as all get out. That is also awesome.

COMMERCIAL 1 – WTF, I’m going to kill myself. Koppin: WTF.

9:14: Myles is a Dharma, too? Horrace is the leader? Horace is about as capable as a box of crayons.

9:16: okay, so everyone has lived on the island for 3 years after the oceanic 6 left. Got it. The 6 are living on the ‘mainland’ and the leftover folks are living on the island.

She’s having her baby. Whoever she is. I think I missed something.

THREE YEARS EARLIER

9:18: What the FRICK is going on. Are we really doing this? Back and forth and forth and back? There’s faraday. I like faraday. Make everything better faraday; you’re my boy.

Charlotte cannot be DEAD. I will be beyond pissed. There she lay on the ground. Faraday is not doing so good. He should be on suicide watch. Or … maybe … time travel watch. Eh??

9:19: “Charlotte ‘moved on’ and ‘we stayed’. Its over. Wherever we are now, whenever we are now (cliché!?!?) – we’re here for good.” – Daniel ‘kill-myself’ Faraday

9:22: Koppin: this show sucks.

“Maybe when you get there; you’ll want to go back to the orchid again, then back to the beach, and then back to the orchid. It’s the only plan you guys have…” – Myles.

Slow, steady and cynical wins the island race – just ask Ben. Thank you Myles. Someone finally said it. Sawyer is being a douche leader. Hence forth, he shall be known as ‘Sir Walkabout’.

9:24: Someone is screaming. It’s … I don’t know who it is… its some random lady. Some dudes are holding a gun to her brain.

“We don’t even know when they are…” – Myles (no way! Time travel!)

Who-knows-who is about to shoot someone else until Sawyer and Juliet cap em'.

Who-knows-who is about to shoot someone else until Sawyer and Juliet cap em'.

9:25: Sawyer just killed him. Holy, nope! Juliet just killed him. NO! Sawyer killed the other dude.

“Juliet is bad ass, dude.” – Koppin

Guess what – they’re going to go back in time and those two guys they got shot are NOT GOING TO BE DEAD! Called it. Done. Nailed it.

COMMERCIAL 2 — One side comment, this Charles Schwab commercial just said, “who’s bailing you out?” That’s a good point Charles … that’s a very good point.

9:26 (I’m a little off): there is a TON that Juliet knows and she isn’t saying. Which makes me want to beat her with a set of deer antlers until she talks. Or we could blackmail her with a make-out with BEN. Money. Make her talk. Whatever it takes.

9:27: We gotta bury them? Will the monster get them? The dead guys?

Jin. Again, comin through. He said he’d carry the dead guy. Jin is legit. If Locke is Jesus, Jin is John the Baptist.

Apparently either Sawyer or Juliet killed this lady’s husband. That’s a grave deal.

9:28: Okay, we’re back to these mushroom smurph things. Sonic fence or something? Yeah, try a time travel, time warp, brain shredder thingy. Freaking lady. She’s starting to piss me off. Turn it off woman.

9:29: “okay its off” – the lady. She’s a lying sack of hammers.

Koppin: you walk through it first, sister

Sawyer: you walk through it first.

Bryce: mmm hmmm

Here they go. They walked through. They’re down. She pulled something from her ears. She is a tool. I hope she dies in childbirth. Man, her face is so creepy.

The Smurph Fence

The Smurf Fence

9:31: They got an intern delivering a baby. Standard. Seems logical to me.

Koppin: Juliet is working on cars. That is so hot.

9:32: Juliet’s got a few jack issues. (They’re going to kiss [Juliet and Sawyer]… nope didn’t happen). Everything Juliet tries she fails at, in regard to women. A little like jack right? Juliet has a thing for jack. Sawyer is falling for her – they’re gonna kiss!

No, they didn’t again. I’m out of my league here. I want to pre-call something so bad.

Jin’s back — in a dharma suit. I like Jin. Have I said that?

“I pulled Juliet out of retirement.” – Sawyer (cool)

9:33: So Jin and the guys are looking for the oceanic 6!? I like. I like very much.

Juliet delivered the baby. Hollerluejah. Sawyer looks like a proud papa. That’s funny.

COMMERCIAL 3

Update: Is anyone going to see NEXT, wait, its called KNOWING, with Nick Cage? Isn’t that the same movie? I might take a girl to this. It would make me look so good. And by good I mean bad.

Koppin: I will go and see that movie. I hate the title, but I will go and see it.

Bryce: I will watch it streaming on netflix.

9:34 (a little off, again): Horace is a bit of a douche. Sawyer is calling himself James LaFluer. That’s sort of cool. Nice Southern Louisiana name.

9:35: Horace hasn’t heard of the Black Rock. Well news flash, Horace is LYING. Either Horace is literally retarded or he’s lying. Okay, he could be retarded. We all know Jacob runs the show.

9:36: “you are not dharma material” – Horace-suck.

That’s right captain America. Sawyer is not Dharma material. Sawyer is legit. He just can’t lead very well.

9:37: Oh, Juliet used to be an ‘Other’ … sort of. See, Juliet knows crap. Myles needs to read into her dead mind and tell us what’s going on.

“Daniel, no more flash?” – Jin.

Heck yes, no more flash. Keep that blood in the nose. Now bring Charlotte back.

Faraday sees Charlotte! She bounced back to when she was young! Yes! Does that count as calling something?!

9:38: Sirens. I think the monster is coming. I’m positive. Well, maybe. Either that or a hostel invasion … I think.

Koppin: hahaha, creepy FREAKING lady. She has an assault rifle in her hand in the kitchen.

RICHARDS BACK! He puts the proverbial and literal stake in the ground. A man that never ages with good style. Man, so many chicks and dudes want Richard.

COMMERCIAL 4 — Thoughts: what if this is the night that the others attack? And they upset it or something? What if they change time? I don’t even care. Charlottes back. Faraday n’ Charlotte 4 Life. I may or may not be getting that as a tattoo.

9:43: Horace doesn’t stand a chance to Richard. Man, Richard is legit. He should be the face of L’Oreal, right?

9:44: Sawyer just called Myles ‘banzai’, hahahhhaha.

9:45: “It’s a good thing I ain’t asking your permission.” – Sawyer ‘I-think-on-my-feet-and-it-gets-me-in-trouble’ LaFluer.

Koppin: if my wife looks like that (Juliet) at 45 … I will be a happy man.”

9:46: Sawyer and Richard. Having a heart to heart on the bench. “Did you burry the bomb?” sawyer has inside info. Nice. Finally he’s not talking with his Season 5 belly.

9:48: “Two of my men are dead and my people need some kind of justice.” – Richard.

Rich and LaFluer have a beer together on a bench, talking about the days of 2001

Rich and LaFluer have a beer together on a bench, talking about the days of 2001

So kill Horace? Geez, who gives a case of mango’s about him. They’re going to take the baby aren’t they. Richard’s folks are going to take the baby. Nope, I was wrong. They’re talking Paul’s body. I don’t … I just…

I’m LOST. I’m going to punch Koppin’s TV.

9:50: She’s going to take a minute with the body. They’re playing that theme song – ‘Life and Death’ from season 1. I’m going to starting bawling. She took Paul’s wooden cross. Hmmm.

9:51: Juliet and Sawyer-suck on the dock. Juliet’s going to leave. I can’t say I’m surprised. Its 1974. Wow. Bell bottoms and disco. Can’t say I blame her.

Oooooohhh, “what about me” – sawyer. They’re in LOVE. Potentially. They’re going to kiss. I know it. Two weeks sawyer says. Gimme two weeks. Sawyer looks like a proud pappa, again.

Sawyer convinces Juliet to throw her life away.

Sawyer convinces Juliet to throw her life away.

Side note: This could be the worst decision of Juliet’s life.

THREE YEARS LATER

9:53: it’s been more than 2 weeks, Juliet. Whoooops.

Koppin: I just want to point out right now that if Juliet is in this room right now, Sawyer will have gotten with both the women that Jack has been interested in.

9:54: hahah, there’s Juliet. Brilliant! Nice sunflower Sawyer, are you going to give that to Kate when she comes back and you become peanut butter in her dirty hands? Tell me I’m wrong … I dare you.

They pecked, that counts. Ha HA! They kissed. I was right. Okay, they just full on open-mouthed. I was right. However, for the record, this was too easy to count as a pre-call.

Bow-chica-bow-wow

Bow-chica-bow-wow

9:55: Whoa, whoa. The L word. They’re in love apparently. Well there’s nothing on this freaking island. I’d go for a 45 year old washed up surgeon, too.

Side note: Sawyer wants to lead, but Jack is the leader and always will be. Jack wants the girls, but Sawyer always get them, and always will.

9:56: Horace is a daddy. It’s a boy. I don’t like Horace. Sawyer looks like the proud papa again.

9:57: “it’s only been three years. Three years since he’s (Paul/KATE!) been gone. Is that really long enough to get over someone?” — Horace

Bingo was his name-oh. The answer to that is no. Sawyer is in love with Kate and when he sees her it will be like Zues and Athena.

News flash Sawyer, Jim, James, LaFluer: she IS comin’ back. Sawyer hears Horace’s penetrating wisdom and now looks like a depressed father.

9:58: phone rings. What if that is Kate. Gosh I hope it is. I’m the biggest fan of Jack/Kate, but I don’t think I know the subconscious emphasis I have that leads me down the Sawyer Kate path. Hmmmm. We’ll see. (This whole episode has been so lovey-dovey. Where’s the smoke monster? Where’s crazy Rousseau killin’ her friends?

9:59: Hurley, Jack, (the car!), Jin – Sawyer realizes she’s there…

Sawyer sees what he knew he'd see someday.

Sawyer sees what he knew he'd see. Perfect.

KATE. Bam. Who’d a thunk it? I would. We all did. Nicely done.

L O S T

March 5, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Lost, News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LOST: Episode 6 — Doubting Thomas, The Island and Proxy’s.

Jack (Matthew Fox) finds himself where everything started.

Jack (Matthew Fox) finds himself where everything started.

It’s back to the land of the LOST. Except this week – it’s not so cut and dry. I mean, the castaways are back. Some of them at least, but this time the rules have changed. As always, Thursday morning was met with a recap of the previous night’s episode. I’ve heard many takes on this week’s (218/09) sode’:

You [we] learned absolutely nothing in 58 minutes of Lost that you didn’t know in the first 2. Complete filler.”

“It was good not great – talk about a bunch of biblical references.”

“I like the bible stuff – the writers are so smaaaart!”

“This may be my favorite episode of the season, thus far.”

And to think that the first and last comment came from two people who use to be dating.

It was really until this morning that I realized that this episode really was something great. Granted, it was a caught-in-the-middle-of-a-much-bigger-story episode, but was that all? This week we opened with what we all thought was a flash back to the pilot. It was not. And we soon realized – crap, they made it. They made it back!? Then we got one of those 52 minute story’s explaining how they got where they just told us they’d be. Part of me felt like we could have done without that. Let me get straight to the point, though.

The most intriguing thing about last night’s episode was the fact that each person onboard the flight had to recreate the original flight sequence. We saw this clearly play out with jack putting his father’s shoes on Locke’s dead body in order to recreate the original flight. We also saw this when we noticed that Sayid was handcuffed to an officer of the law in order to become a proxy for Kate – who was in a similar boat on her maiden flight. And I thought that was it. That must be that Jack was himself, Hurley the same and Sun, too, right?

Wrong.

Think about it. Here we go.

Locke = Jack’s daddy – coffin-ized

Sayid = Kate, cuffed like a renegade.

Hurley = Charlie, with his guitar and carefree spirit (I made the second part up)

Sun = Sayid, who was looking for a lost love

Ben = Hurley, both ended up being late to their flights

Jack = Jack, because he is weak, and the only person weak enough to play Jack, is Jack himself. Pussy.

And now for the kicker….

Kate = Claire (Kate is prego with Jack’s baby from the night before). Whooooaaaa.

What is going to happen to the extra business classer’s that we got to meet briefly in last night’s episode? It hurts my mind to think about. I’m sure they’ll somehow find a gun, point it at someone and die – or they’ll shoot at someone in a raft as they’re paddling away, just before they jump points in time – wait a second!? Eureka!

As for Ben and his gladiator face, I think it’s obvious that he tried to kill my love, Penelope. Can’t you just see Ben about to execute Penny the same way Widmore’s boy Keamy did in Alex? And then, in walks Desmond – all excited because he just told Ben he wasn’t going to The Island. And then as Dez realizes that Ben always gets the best of everyone, Ben softly says, “Desmond, this doesn’t concern you. But if you stop me, I will hurt you.” What’s the only way Desmond will go back to the island – if Penny’s in trouble right? Maybe she dies, or is really hurt and the only way to save her is to go back. Back from where he once came.

Side note: Jack’s character arc coming on around with the inclusion of doubting Thomas (Jack: someone like me exists?!) and the Good Will Hunting-esque, “it’s not your fault” moment from Ben — of all people — was outstanding.

This is all turning out to get very good. Geeeeez, I love LOST.

February 19, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Lost, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lost Through Four Episodes: The Little Prince

LOST Season 5 -- four down, thirteen to go.

LOST Season 5 — four down, thirteen to go.

“I’ve always been with you…”

–Kate

Such is life. Such is LOST. The all-consuming, abusive relationship I’ve been in for the past 5 years. To be honest, I couldn’t feel more at home with last night’s episode. It was one that fell through the cracks, sure, but when push came to shove – old habits die hard.

We’re 4 episodes in to LOST’s season 5 saga and I can feel the uneasiness building in the air. The premier was a bit weak. The follow up was stronger, but still lacked that spice of answers we all hold hope for. How bad does the audience want answers? Last night I was busy. So … I woke up at 6am this morning to watch last night’s episode. Is there a stronger word than obsessed?

I’ve always been with you LOST.

The 4rd episode – Jughead – did wonders for all of us. We felt like we got some info penciled into a few questions, learned a little about our boy Widmore and managed to make our way back a few decades and see some terrific footage of a blond cutie that may or may not be married to someone, may or may not be someone’s mother and may or may not be in love with Widmore. Answers? Eh, it’s a start. Any time we get Desmond on screen, we’re in for a solid single. Join that with Faraday’s theories of time travel, his professed love for Caroline and a hydrogen bomb hanging feet from the ground and we’re off to a good start. Jughead = money. My favorite episode since last year’s, The Constant. Season 5: I like where its going.

Then we hit last night’s episode: The Little Prince

Sitting there with my cup of morning coffee in hand, it seemed to me that the ‘ol LOST writers were getting back to their old tricks. Did anyone think for a moment that Ben wasn’t suing Kate? Do we need to hear Jack say, “I can fix this” one more time? Does anyone not know by now that Sayid is a little unstable and will be either bleeding, shooting or both in every episode until the finale? The answers to all of this is of course not. We’re fans. We’re loyal fans. We get it.

But then I stopped. Could The Little Prince be a look into something deeper? Probably not, but its worth a look. Thanks to the last two ep’s we know can see where this is going. Faraday (my boy!) and Caroline are falling in love faster than the DOW is falling past 7,000. Jack, despite his inability to see what we all see, refuses to stop trying and will forever fight for Kate – this could come into play big time if we’re in a LOST-esque gun-to-the-head scenario. And Aaron — our hapless hero caught in the middle — could play a KEY role. He’s seemingly the only person BORN on the island (that we know of)…. right? Op, Rousseau’s daughter — but she’s dead, dead. There is a high chance I’m going insane.

I’m growing more and more intrigued to the Faraday/Caroline storyline — I won’t lie. And I finally want Jack to suck it up, have some faith, and trust someone else — I’m almost rooting for him. That’s a first, I think. I want Locke to start killing everything in sight. And finally – maybe I’m the only one – does it seem like Juliet’s into Sawyer?

Ben’s into Juliet. Juliet’s into Sawyer. Sawyer’s INTO Kate. Kate’s … into me … okay, she’s mostly into Jack. And Jack’s into his Dad, because Jack is gay. But he loves Kate. So he’s into her, supposedly. So at least that’s clear as mud.

I’ve always been with you LOST.

Last night’s saga (and all four ep’s this season) have proven to us all that we’ve always been with Lost. We’ll always be with LOST. No matter how many times it betrays us, no matter how much abuse we take, we’ll be right there … loving it.

Millions of questions to answer. 30 episodes left.

I’m so there.

February 5, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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

Babylong A.D. (2008)

Toorop (Vin Diesel) looks onward in the film's finest moment on screen

Toorop (Vin Diesel) looks ahead as Aurora (right, Mélanie Thierry) follows behind in the film's finest moment.

Disappointing Days

by Bryce VanKooten

Babylon A.D. read exactly like the studio knew it would: short, not-so-sweet and entirely forgettable. It’s incredibly unfortunate that a movie which started out as the daring, futuristic novel Babylon Babies got chopped up into an overtly uninspiring and subsequently shallow PG-13 disaster.

Babylon A.D., the story of Toorop, a veteran-turned-mercenary who takes the job of escorting a woman named Aurora from Central Asia to New York, stays fresh and witty in its first hour. What Toorop (Vin Diesel) thinks is an ordinarily dangerous mission soon becomes much more when he discovers that his guest is carrying twin babies, thought to be the next Messiahs. The movie begins quickly and the first hour is brilliantly average — one can only help but admit there is little chance of a blockbuster after hearing zero publicity. All preconceived notions aside, there are actually quite a few great turns at its opening, including a border-crossing scene equaling intensity with any action film. Needless to say, after the 40 minutes my hopes were high.

The movie could have got one of two ways, really. Either it stayed true to its first hour – gritty, surprising evil marked by mysterious characters or get lazy and forever be lost to theatrical mediocrity. Unfortunately (again), it was the latter. What started out great in this production plunder (over budget, cutting room hell, fist fights, tears, etc) ultimately pandered its way boredom. I had justifiable misconceptions walking in because I have seen too many movies like it. I was hoping to be surprised and hoping that the Studio made the right decision by cutting one MPAA rating and 70 minutes from this potentially epic story, however, the Hollywood equation rings sad but true: one star + below average script + cute girl = guaranteed to at least get your money back. It’s nothing short of box-office fraud I know, but I maintain that this movie had at least a chance to be above average, before coming up far short. And my oh my, did it come up short.

The movie ended in the direct opposite way it began. We were met with intrigue and let out with boredom. We were ushered in with mystery and exited with apathy. Nothing kept me thinking, nothing kept me caring. The movie ended in a lump of lazy, backward thinking – as if we cared what happened to the babies? The last scene of the film (which could have been filmed in my backyard for all I know) was about as entertaining as a Colonoscopy. Standing outside some building (his house?), Toorop held the hands of two very different looking children (the babies?) in an act of true love (Someone was in love? Who was in love?) and a commitment to raise the children on his own (Aurora’s dead? How? We just saw her at the hospital…). All this coming from a man whom we’d grown to love by seeing him throw innocent people from a vessel he was trying to board out of self preservation. Apparently Toorop turned nice in three seconds; who would’ve guessed?

If I could be blunter, I would. There were many, many things wrong with this movie outside of the fact that it was created on the floor of a cutting room. The fight sequences had to be ambiguously edited in order to show the least amount of production error and lack of footage. The characters, although almost brimming with development possibility, were left to hang like a basketball mid-flight, as if we were watching a trilogy without the courtesy of seeing part one and having no hope for part three. It was nearly torturous.

However, it’s hard for me to sit here and comment solely on the end of the movie. As I said before, the opening was quite brilliant. The rigidness of Toorop was a lovably fallen character and Aurora, played by the beautiful (and teeny) Mélanie Thierry, brought a terrific, silent balance to the harsh world around her. The characters were there. The story was in place. The stage had been set, if only for an above average picture, if only for those willing to see the two-plus-hour epic, if only given the chance.

We weren’t.

So Babylon A.D. is lost. At least until the next one.

September 8, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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