The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

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.

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

Rudimentary Thinking

Barack Obama speaks 'hope' and 'change' in Lancaster, PA on Sept 9th, 2008

Barack Obama preaches 'hope' and 'change' in Lancaster, PA on Sept 9, 2008.

Hope, Change, Press Firmly on the Chad.

Guest Writer: Christopher Rudy

A couple of days ago, I wrote to a friend, concerning some of the ambiguity that bombarded me when I entered barackobama.com.

“…As I made my way back to the homepage of the site in question, my eyes caught a glimpse of something I had missed: the central quote to his campaign. The central thesis of his quest against tyranny – the proverbial gospel of our modern-day William Wallace:

“I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington … I’m asking you to believe in yours.”

I was taken aback. I read it again. I read it again. What does that even mean?”

This is the response that followed that email…

(Bryce), I have a few thoughts to add, if I may be so bold.

I.
The inherent simplicity and broad-based appeal of Obama’s proclamation of change belie the inherent simplicity of Obama’s proclamation of change. I did not accidentally repeat myself. In proclaiming “change” as if it is some rarely extolled political virtue, Obama has ignited fervor among his cultish following. But is change a rarely extolled political virtue? Is that word; change, as out of the ordinary as Obama would like us to believe? Most Obama supporters are so worked up in their Obama-frenzy that they forget ask this question, or even question what lies beneath this change (crappy movie, great phrase).

II.
The answer is a resounding no. Change is not novel. In fact, every political candidate ever has run on the exact same platform. If you can tell me the last candidate who proclaimed, “I am going to do every single thing my predecessor did. I will support what he supported. I will not change a thing.” I will give you a bag of skittles. For free.
For those of you keeping score at home, that is one bag of skittles for me, and zero for you.

III.
To make matters worse, Obama has never spelled out his proposed changes in any great detail. Obama’s failure to elucidate his changes are exactly why he has  garnered the sort of mass-appeal that I thought could only come on the heels of Paul McCartney and those
handsome devils from the UK. The vacuum created by the generality of his rhetoric is quickly and inexplicably filled with irrational hysteria. When Obama steps out from behind the Parthenon to a crowd of 80,000 I can’t help but wonder if behind the boisterous applause is the poignant thought, “Yay, I’m clapping and I don’t know why.” Must be clapping for change.

IV.
Yet Obama’s change, he would have us believe, is different from the run-of-the mill-change that every political candidate ever has espoused. His change is going to bring everyone together. That sounds cool. Like Gilligan’s Island meets Candyland (I have no idea what that means). But is it realistic? Have you ever seen a McCain supporter and an Obama supporter interact? Invariably, every time Obama promises this change, he alienates the proportion of the population that disagrees with him. And just how does that bring everyone together? It doesn’t.  Res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself. Now, more than ever, play-at-home pundits are a bumper sticker away from getting their ass kicked by the opposition’s constituency. The ferocity of our partisanship in these tumultuous times is intensifying. And Obama is fanning the flames. The proof is in the pudding.

V.
I have another, slightly longer word for Barack Obama’s vision of change. It is called communism. It tried. It tried again. And again. And millions of people suffer every day as a result of its mechanistic, misleading imposition of the state on its people.  I am not a sensationalist. I am not a Conspiracist. But I don’t have to be either to recognize that the socialistic leanings of Barack Obama are not what this nation needs. Not now. Not ever.

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

Jerry Manuel: Mets Make the Switch

Randolph (left) with Manuel (right) discussing life, liberty and the pursuit of some wins in New York.

Five years ago, I walked into my new dorm room at Biola University more scared than savvy. I didn’t know what to expect. And frankly, I was a little embarrassed that my parents waited there with me. Soon, a body walked into the room––Travis. He was on the baseball team, something that I had hoped to achieve in the next coming months, but would opt out for the game of Lacrosse, instead. To say that Travis was quiet would be like calling an air horn loud. He was one of the most unassuming, easy-going guys on the face of the planet and remains that way today. As I looked around the room, I saw various family pictures of the two current tenants and wondered if there were any space for me––a freshman––among the artifacts of these 20-something Juniors. As I surveyed the desk of the other unidentified roommate, I noticed a familiar face. A face that I had partially grown to hate, but in some ways…appreciated. It was the face of a rival. A famous rival, but a rival nonetheless. There on the desk lay a picture of Jerry Manuel, the coach of the Chicago White Sox (at the time) and a rival of my gloriously over-preforming (at the time!) Seattle Mariners. As I heard a voice behind me, I turned around to see Anthony, my second roommate.  He had about as much fat on him as a Pez dispenser and after introducing ourselves, it became apparent that he was simply Jerry, minus 25 years.

In the year that followed, I got to know the in’s and out’s of growing up in Major League Baseball and the more we talked, the more I felt as though I needed to go out and buy a White Sox hat. We had some great discussions––Anthony was anything but normal, with an upbringing that rivaled the Kardashians, but in many ways, he seemed to see his childhood as memories in the same way I did. My quality time in the backyard, his at Dolphin Stadium. I remember watching Griffey round third in 95’, he rushed the field in 97’.

I got a chance to speak with Jerry a number of times, mostly colloquial baseball chatter, but always with a sense of wonder on my end. When I visited their home a couple years back, I got the chance to speak to Jerry on a little different platform. We talked baseball, of course; steroids, Bonds, expansion, etc, and I tried to convince him to take the Manager position in Seattle, but he maintained that he was, “…done coaching for a while.” At the time, he was really considering taking the Bench Coach position for the Mets and I pleaded with him, “Why the Mets?!” He said that he loved the Mets and that New York was a great city to play in and since his playing days were past tense, it was the atmosphere and the guys that kept it fun. He told us all that if Willie Randolph didn’t last, he wouldn’t be opposed to the Manager’s role, but that Willie would do a terrific job. He signed off by saying, “If ever you’re in New York, and you just need a day off, come on down to the ball park.”

Well, Willie-days have come and gone in New York and June 15, 2008 marked the beginning of Jerry’s interim coaching tenure in New York.

I couldn’t be happier.

Oh, the pains of being a dedicated fan.  Looks like I need to go out and buy a sicky Mets hat.

June 19, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Sports | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Whole Package

Get Out of My ‘Offive’

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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

NCAA Tournament Moments: Elite Eight

The Bruin Issue

Josh Shipp Foul Ucla Blows Texas A&M Hosed

The Tournament has begun. In my respective pools, my bracket is performing like Hillary in front of a microphone; leading me astray with every game it plays. Nonetheless, my spirits remain high, and three out of four Final Four’s remain. If those dill weeds from Duke would have decided to play basketball and not sit on their hands like a home-schooler at a strip club–I may have a chance in this thing. But alas, with no one over 6’8, I should have known. My chances were slim.

With the Terrific Twelve squarely in place, and the Elite Eight being rounded out later tonight, I want to recap on the shenanigans of the last week. Top five moments of the the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament through 2.5 rounds of play:

5. The Belmont Foresight: I should have known, I know, I know. It was all I could do not to put Duke as my winners. My ex-roommate (who has since moved to SC, and is a terrible human for it) is a raging, die hard UNC fan. Hailing from the Northwest, I’m a fan of Washington teams, but really couldn’t bring myself to put Washington St. past UNC–so I compromised. I went with my next favorite team, Duke, because I knew, somehow, that my Zags would piss it down their leg like an overheated 6 year old after too much hot chocolate. However, I didn’t think the Dukies could win it all, so I put them to the next closest thing: playing in The Championship Game. Fact: Duke, I hate you. Coach K, I still want to be you. Go Memphis.

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4. Puke-on UCon:
Whowould have thought that such a big UCon team could literally, physically, mentally and emotionally fold once their best player got hurt? Besides that, what’s a Torero–a bullfighter? Who cares. Here’s the deal: At college, I played lacrosse. And every time we played USD, we got our anuses handed to us on a rusted-out platter. One time we were pretty amped because we were leading at halftime, but and in the second half, once we lost the lead, we just started swinging our sticks at anything that moved and drilling players at random–USD still won the National Title, vis-à-vis, UCon had it coming. Go USD. Go Lacrosse. Go Memphis.

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3. Bobby’s Brain, and Mouth, and Charisma: I have never enjoyed pre-game and post game charades more in my entire life than when I get to watch, listen and stare at Bobby Knight in his V-neck sweater get up. His Mohave-dry take on each Tournament saga is like listening to Dante tell a fairytale. Combine that with Digger Phelps’ increasingly noticeable resentment and blithe hatred, and you have on-screen genius. Pure Joy.

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2. I want Curry! Stephen Curry at, let’s be honest, 6’1 (maybe) 170 lbs soaking wet, has taken not only the tournament by storm, but also the weight room. I guaranteed you, here in West LA, across the street at our little Park-le-gangster, there’s a dozen middle and high school kids spray painting their t-shirts red and adopting an anorexic lifestyle, in hopes of becoming The Next Great Under-165lbs-Kinda-White Hope.

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1. The UCLA Plague: I wish that UCLA never existed. Not because it would be doing all mankind a favor, but because their history is tainting everything we know. Yes, Kevin Love looks like my uncle Craig after 14 beers, a nine course buffet, and in training for a role in Meet the Klumps IX. But besides the fact that he’s bra-less, can we address the brewin’ (pun) issue? UCLA is infecting the world. Its like they have a weird strain STD and every time they play, they infect those around them. Its not Mojo, its…like…athletic syphilis. I don’t want to comment on the foul at the end of the Texas A&M game (see top). Nor do I want to speak on Kevin Love’s 9 foot Halo of Death, where upon entering, a whistle will blow faster than at the start of a co-ed mud wrestling match. The fact of the matter is that we all need to use protection, we need to get something to fight it. Turn to what wins: USC. And not just anything USC … USC Football. Get out there and buy yourself a jersey. Then, come game time, you’ve got protection. Be prepared, be responsible, wrap your rascal. Go Memphis, I think it all makes sense now.

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March 28, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Sports, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment