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…

Advertisements

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

I Love You, Man (2009)

Peter (Paul Rudd, left) and Sydney (Jason Segel, right) rock out to Rush in the Man Cave.

Peter (Paul Rudd, left) and Sydney (Jason Segel, right) rock out to Rush in the Man Cave.

I Love You Too, Man

by Bryce VanKooten

For most in this country, it may never happen at all. But for the few million who happen to live in LA — this hotbed of fanfare and traffic — I suppose it a bit more attainable. I’m still getting use to the fact that it’s feasible to see movies before their release. And the opportunity to shoot the breeze with the Director after the film just comes as an added bonus I guess; the ala mode, if you will. Either way, when I got the invite to Brown University’s alumni screening of John Hamburg’s I Love You, Man (Hamburg is an alum), I jumped at the opportunity. Seeing a movie four weeks before its release is like talking to the starting quarterback before the big game: you’re as close to affecting the movie’s process as you can be without actually affecting anything. It’s the little dose of thrill we all need. I hope I never get used to it.

Hamburg — who wrote Zoolander, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers [coming soon: Meet the Little Fockers] and wrote/directed Along Came Polly has an enviable career, to say the least. He has perfect style and the ability to convey reality in a witty and original way. “I just wanted the film to look and act as real as possible. I wanted the characters to be people we all knew and not just [guys and girls] saying cliché jokes”, he recalls. I Love You, Man is a smart satire. Nailed it.

mv5bodi5mdyyote2nv5bml5banbnxkftztcwntuwndaymg_v1_sx600_sy400_

We nearly missed the movie, actually. My friend and I sat in the wrong theater on the Paramount lot for about 20 minutes before we realized we were in the wrong theater. When we finally sprinted to the right one, the curtains pulled to reveal what we all needed: guy and girl find another guy – the perfect spin to the romantic comedy.

The movie opens with Peter (Paul Rudd) proposing to Zooey (The Office’s Rashida Jones). The very next scene takes us on the car ride home where Rashida calls her best gal pals to tell them of the wonderful news. We soon realize that Peter has never had a best guy friend. This poses a problem for the wedding. Who’s going to play the Best Man? Throw in Peter’s younger, gay brother Robby (Andy Samberg) — who’s best friends with his father (hilarious) — a terrific supporting cast, including Jon Favreau and Jaime Pressly as the venomous, bickering married friends and you’ve got yourself a fantastic hour and a half.

There were quite a few scenes worth noting, but of course, I’d never dream of spoiling the surprise. In the end, the poker table scene takes the cake – in an array of drinking games, male bonding and an inexperienced drinker – as the hardest I laughed (or cringed). But there are other moments that are guaranteed good times, including Rudd’s air-guitaring ‘slappa da bay-eez’ and any moment Peter’s new found friend Doug (Reno 911’s Thomas Lennon) shows up. I repeat: Thomas Lennon = hilarious.

man

Rudd’s dedication to his character’s emphasis on this new found friendship (he wants it to work so badly!) provides much of the film’s laughs. Even after the film, Hamburg revealed, “I knew when I wrote the script I wanted Paul in the lead. There are certain lines that only Paul can say.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Paul Rudd finds the perfect balance between apologetic awkwardness and consistent hilarity. And as it turned out later, his awkward appeal was only spurred on by the crew surrounding him. “In the scene when we were filming Paul’s goodbye to Sydney”, Hamburg recalls, “we knew that Paul was going to say ‘see ya city slicker’ or something random and awkward like that, but I couldn’t help it. Once we got rolling, we just left him out there. We must have done forty-two takes of that signoff — him walking out the door saying anything that came to mind, each time getting longer and more awkward. He was dying. We were all laughing. I think it turned out really well.”

Not to be outdone was the rest of the film’s cast. Rashida Jones fit perfectly in the role of Peter’s fiancé and Jason Segel – who ruined comedy for me when he penned last year’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall (only to have it resurrected by Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder) – managed to regain some strength with his normal, all-too-familiar portrayal of everyman’s friend, Sydney Fife. Fife is the guy every man hopes to have – honest, easy going, plays an instrument – and the best man most men end up with – loose-lipped, unpredictable, but by your side.

Amidst all the puke, pillow talk and premarital shenanigans in this homo/hetero-nuetral parade, there are some redeeming moments in this colorful tale of romantic reality. A lesson in love, this film manages to tell a new story with a nice twist on the fairytale ending. In a genre often lost to poo, potty and porking, I Love You, Man is the friend we all need: fun.

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews, Movies, News | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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 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

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

The Whole Package

Get Out of My ‘Offive’

office_walking_ew.gif

There’s talk around the town about an Office spin-off. Are you kidding me? It isn’t on tap to start until sometime after the 09 Super Bowl, but frankly, whenever its scheduled is far too soon. Yes, The Office is a nearly-as-good-but-not-quite-as-epic spin off of the UK version (by the same name), starring the irreplaceable Ricky Gervais, originally aired on the BBC. And therefore, I suppose its true; once American television gets a hold of a successful product, its only a matter of time until it is stripped of its excellence, wrought with product placement and repackaged to resemble only a glimmer from whence it came. Sadly enough, if this remake-fest begins, I’m confident America will tune in…sadly, about as long as they watched Joey.

With all this repackaged garbage bombarding our living rooms, I can’t help but think back on some of the worst repackages in the history of our culture. Ones like Freddy vs. Jason (Monster’s Inc. was more frightful), or the repackaging of an athlete, like…well, every week on Dancing with the Stars. Don’t get me wrong, Dancing with the Stars isn’t THAT bad. I can stand it for about 11 seconds, whereas I can only watch a My Name is Earl for about 10––so hey, its relative. But one thing’s clear, they’re no Planet Earth. And hey, why can’t we get another one of those?!

Regardless of preference, this ‘repackage-everything’ mentality also got me thinking of some cool things that should be repackaged. What? Let me share an example: Hulk Hogan was on the down-and-out, but THEN he got a reality show and bam! Back in the spotlight. Yeah, we know, his family is a car wreck (no pun intended) and about as glaring as Dikembe Mutumbo’s bad knees, but hey, wasn’t it fun? He was back on the proverbial track there for a couple weeks! All that to be said, what should be repackaged? We know Star Wars needed a fifth box set (Gold and Silver Editions), and there was no way Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows could skate through untouched so, why not, split it into two movies. As my mind wanders into the realms of the unknown, I dwell on the things that someday, I hope to see.

Ocean’s 18: Yeah, tell me about it. 19 isn’t as easy to hide as 11, but think of the things you could do?! Everyone split into two man tandems, executing nine different heists, all consummating to form the end of the Iraq war. Yeah, think about it.

Shaquille O’Neill to the NFL: This doesn’t even need explanation. This would be, without a doubt, the most profitable/entertaining saga to hit this planet since the life of Mike Tyson––and possibly as violent.

Aquafina Entering the Energy Drink Market: Let’s face the facts; Aquafina should just take Jerry Seinfeld’s advice and “…put enough caffeine in there to kill you … Then, back it off a little”. Call it Addict. There’s your dang drink.

Punk’d Meets Reality TV: Whenever someone wins their respective competition, curtains part to reveal Ashton Kutcher via video, on the set of his current movie, pre-recorded saying, “Uh, You got Punk’d…”. Quite frankly, this could work effectively on The Miss America Pageant.

All gag’s aside, are we not sick of this yet? Is there nothing to be said for class anymore. If have the choice to buy a jersey of my favorite team, do I go online and look for a classic jersey, the home jersey, the away jersey, the alternate jersey or the 2009 Classic version of that same classic jersey? Have we had enough? What if one day, they repackaged Britney Spears––her faith meant something, she was classy and cool, and southern and spicy? Oh…to dream for what could have been.

April 3, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment