Archive for the ‘TV, Movies & Entertainment’ Category

Signing off

Monday, June 30th, 2008

G’nite, all. See you on the other side.

The end

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Guestblogging is turned off, and I’ll be shutting down comments in a few minutes, and redirecting this URL to the new blog shortly thereafter.

Thanks for the memories, everybody.

Oh, and don’t be deceived by the title of this post. Much like The Return of the King, this blog will have more than one ending. :) One final “signing off” post will follow…

P.S. Since I’ll be signing off as the “Irish Trojan,” I should probably link one last time to the post that started it all, in regard to that name.

They like WALL·E, they really like WALL·E!

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

I haven’t really been paying any attention to the hype for WALL·E, the Disney/Pixar film that opened Friday, but it’s getting absolutely rave reviews from critics — a 96% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes! — to the point where, for example, it made the Wall Street Journal‘s critic sound veritably Obamaesque in his gushing:

The first half hour of “WALL-E” is essentially wordless, and left me speechless. This magnificent animated feature from Pixar starts on such a high plane of aspiration, and achievement, that you wonder whether the wonder can be sustained. But yes, it can. …

[T]he film stands as a stunning tour de force. The director has described it as his love letter to the golden era of sci-fi films that enchanted him as a kid in the 1970s. It is certainly that, in hearts and spades. Beyond that, though, it’s a love letter to the possibilities of the movie medium, and a dazzling demonstration of how computers can create a photorealistic world — in this case a ruined world of mysterious majesty — that leaves literal reality in the dust. … I must drop my inhibitions about dropping the M word — especially since I’ve already used magnificent — and call “WALL-E” the masterpiece that it is.

See also TNR‘s Christopher Orr:

For over a dozen years now, the best name in American film has been Pixar. No movie star, no director, no writer, producer, or studio approaches its level of consistent excellence. Even Pixar’s weaker offerings (A Bug’s Life, Cars, and–in my moderately heretical view–Finding Nemo) have exceptional depth and texture, moral as well as visual. And its best efforts (Toy Story, The Incredibles) are simply transcendent, rivaling the finest live-action films in sophistication and sentiment.

Pixar’s newest movie, WALL·E, is firmly in the latter tier, and quite possibly at the top of it. It is, in a word, a marvel, a film that recalls in equal measure Hollywood’s most evocative future visions–Blade Runner and Brazil, E.T. and 2001–and the silent intimacies of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. It is a story about love and loneliness, perseverance and triumph, the possibilities and pitfalls of human existence. That this story is told by way of the exploits of a tiny, faceless robot only makes it more extraordinary.

Wow. I guess I’ll have to go see it.

Incidentally, speaking of movies, I finally saw Charlie Wilson’s War; Becky and I watched it Friday night on DVD, having rented it from Blockbuster. It’s really good, mostly because Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman freakin’ rock. Watching their witty banter — fueled also by great screenwriting, by the way — was just an absolute joy. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a movie, with apparent effortlessness, when you’ve got great actors playing the key roles. For a film that didn’t exactly have an elaborate or involved plot, it never seemed to drag at all. It was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. (Becky, who hates Julia Roberts, thought she was poorly cast and outclassed by her co-stars, and that she brought the movie down a notch. I agree that she was the weakest link, but I don’t think she particularly hurt the movie.) If you haven’t seen it, you should; it’s a great film.

Fortune’s Favour

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

The new Great Big Sea album is available on iTunes. Woohoo!

UPDATE: So far, so good; I’ve listened to tracks 1-4 and 7. "Banks of Newfoundland" is, as I thought it might be, quite dissimilar from (and probably more authentic than!) the Irish Rovers’ version; the lyrics are roughly the same, but they’re set to a completely different tune. It doesn’t have the same hairy-chested, belt-it-out feel as the Rovers’ version (or, for that matter, as some other GBS songs like "General Taylor," "Captain Kidd," "The Old Black Rum," etc.), but I still like it, I think. I’ll have to listen to it a bunch more times to decide for sure. :)

One song I definitely like is track #3, "England," which contains the lyric that gave rise to the album’s title, "Fortune’s Favour." It’s a very neat little ditty about the first English settlers who came to Newfoundland (or "the New Found Land," as the island was originally known, and as the song initially describes it). "England" has good lyrics, beautiful harmonies, and some nice little nuanced touches in the way the song evolves and the way the boys sing it.

P.S. Appropriately enough — and, come to think of it, this is probably intentional on Great Big Sea’s part — today is the anniversary of the date in 1497 when John Cabot landed in Newfoundland*, becoming the first European to since the Vikings to reach North America’s shores. (Hat tip: My Adversaria.)

*Probably. Various other locations, including Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, claim he landed there rather than in Newfoundland. But it was most likely in Newfoundland, at Cape Bonavista.

Holy stone and sand

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Great Big Sea’s new album, Fortune’s Favour, debuts tomorrow — and I just noticed that Track 7 is "Banks of Newfoundland," which happens to be the first Newfoundland song that I ever learned! The chorus, as it’s sung by the Irish Rovers (iTunes link here), goes like this:

We’ll rub her ’round and scrub her ’round
With holy stone and sand,
And we’ll say farewell to the Virgin Rocks
On the Banks of Newfoundland!

My father had (and presumably still has) a vinyl record of the 1969 Irish Rovers album The Life of the Rover, which had "Banks of Newfoundland" on it, and he would play it frequently on our old record player when I was a little kid. It was one of my favorites; I used to love singing that chorus when I was, oh, maybe 5 years old. :) I was also a big fan of the end of the final verse — "And to the docks, they come in flocks / The pretty girls will stand / Sayin’ it’s snugger with me than it is at sea / On the banks of Newfoundland!" — though of course I had no idea what those lyrics meant. ;) In the words of Grandpa Loomer, albeit referring to a different bawdy Irish tune that I famously sung at an even earlier age: "What kind of song is that for a three-year-old?" Heh.

Anyway, as is typical for traditional Irish/Maritime music, there are various different versions of the lyrics floating around, and probably different tunes, too. The snippet of an early Great Big Sea demo of "Banks of Newfoundland" that’s played in Webisode 11, Part 1, from 5:32 to 6:20, certainly sounds very different from the version I know. (Hat tip: Between The Rock And A Hard Place.) So I really don’t know what Track 7 of Fortune’s Favour will sound like. But I can’t wait to find out! The prospect of hearing my favorite band belt out the hearty chorus of a song that I’ve known for almost my entire life, a childhood favorite, makes me even more excited than I already was for tomorrow’s big debut.

I’ll definitely be using a portion of one of my Father’s Day presents from Becky — an iTunes gift certificate — to buy the album tomorrow. Great Big Sea rocks!

P.S. After the jump, I’ve posted the lyrics of the Irish Rovers’ version of "Banks of Newfoundland," since I couldn’t find that particular lyrical rendition online anywhere.


George Carlin dies at age 71

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Comedian George Carlin, whose off-color comedy caused him to run afoul of the FCC and led to a landmark Supreme Court case on decency and broadcasting, passed away from heart failure on Sunday in Los Angeles.

Wrong state

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

WDVX just played a song called “Satan Lives In Arkansas.” But that isn't right. She moved to New York! :)

Fighting fire with fire

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

A California blogger fights back against the noise pollution emanating from a nearby Cadillac Escalade that was blasting vulgar rap music "loud
enough to be heard a block away" … by cranking up his own car stereo system and blasting the Clancy Brothers.

I ramped up the volume to "11" and let the boys rip into their version of "Whiskey in the Jar" from nigh-on 45 years ago. … Maybe it was the line about
producing my pistol, and then producing my rapier, but after a couple
of minutes, my problem was solved. No more boom-boom from said Escalade.


Great Scott! Universal Studios fire destroys Back to the Future set

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

An update on this morning’s Universal Studios blaze:

A fire at Universal Studios has destroyed a set from "Back to the Future," the King Kong exhibit and a video vault containing more than 40,000 videos and reels.

Los Angeles County fire Captain Frank Reynoso says the blaze broke out just before dawn Sunday on a backlot stage at the 400-acre property. The fire has been contained.

Officials say the iconic courthouse square from "Back to the Future," has been destroyed, and the famous clocktower that enabled star Michael J. Fox’s character to time travel has been damaged.

Quick! Find the De Lorean, give it 1.21 gigawatts of power, go back in time 12 hours, and stop the fire from happening! :)

On a happy note, it seems there are duplicates of the videos and reels that were destroyed.

Baby’s first hike through the Smokies

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Becky, Loyette and I spent Memorial Day communing with nature, as we hiked the Porters Creek Trail, a roughly 7-mile walk through the woods in the Smoky Mountain National Park.

It was very fun, if somewhat exhausting. (The hike to the campsite at the end of the trail was relentlessly uphill; the walk back was, naturally, downhill, and therefore mercifully less tiring.) We carried Loyette in her Kangaroo Korner slings, Becky using the fleece one and me using the mesh one, as we always do. We passed her back and forth throughout the roughly six-hour hike, and whoever wasn’t wearing the baby would wear the backpack. So that worked out pretty well.

Loyette was amazingly tolerant of the long day. She got cranky exactly three times — twice just before taking a long nap in her sling (i.e., she was tired), and once just before lunch (i.e., she was hungry). She’s a great baby that way. :) Throughout the vast majority of the hike, she was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and seemed very interested in all the new sights, sounds and smells. Of course, that meant not just the natural wonders of the forest, but also the more mundane “wonders” like the feel of cold condensation on the outside of our water bottle, and the way a plastic bag full of peanuts (a handy trail snack) changes shape when you grab the outside of the bag. To a baby, everything new is exciting and wondrous.

Anyway, the trail we hiked is renowned for its beautiful wildflowers in early spring. Since it’s late May, there aren’t as many wildflowers now, but there are some, and they’re pretty. Here are a few that I photographed:

See also this one and this one.

Oh, and the trail also has a somewhat scary bridge, quite reminiscent of the Bridge of Khazad-Dûm (although with a railing, admittedly):

It’s hard to tell from the photos, but there’s really quite a steep drop-off; the water is maybe 15 feet below you in the middle. And given the narrowness of the bridge, it’s legitimately somewhat nerve-wracking to walk across.

I really wanted to find a large stick, hold it up, and proclaim, “You cannot pass! I am the servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. Dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udûn! Go back to the shadow! You shall not pass!!!”

But alas, there was another pair of hikers sitting on a rock nearby, well within earshot, so I had to contain my weirdness. :)

I did, however, do what my dad and I call the Indiana Jones pose — notwithstanding the fact that, to my knowledge, Indiana Jones never did any such pose.

Anyway, I’ll upload some more pictures of the hike to Flickr shortly, and link to them here when they’re online.

P.S. I think this photo is cool:

UPDATE: As promised, here’s the Flickr gallery. It’s two pages long. Enjoy!

What The Hobbit must have

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

With producer Peter Jackson and director Guillermo Del Toro set to host a live chat Saturday about their impending film adaptation of The Hobbit, movie site The Deadbolt has posted an excellent article about the "Seven Things We Want From The Hobbit." They’re spot-on. There’s a lot of detail to each one, but the site’s seven basic demands are:

1. It has to be funny.
2. It needs to work as a stand-alone film.
3. The whole movie can’t be about the Battle of the Five Armies.
4. Smaug needs to be a classic movie villain first, dragon second.
5. Don’t cut out all of the songs.
6. Explain the ring.
7. Don’t be afraid to make Gandalf a bit of a bastard.

In the item about Smaug, I particularly like this bit:

Renaissance festivals and lackluster CGI have defanged the dragon for modern
film audiences, so how can Del Toro hope to make Smaug as cool as he needs to
be? Our advice – concentrate on the drama and dialogue of the Smaug scenes first
and worry about his design later. Smaug, first and foremost, needs to be a
classic villain – we’re talking Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader, Hans Gruber, etc.
– and we need to be much more afraid of his words and demeanor than his spiky
claws or teeth. In fact, Del Toro should use the scene in No Country for Old
Men between Anton Chigurh and the gas station owner as the model for the
tone and level of raised stakes in the Bilbo/Smaug scenes. Chigurh was so scary
it didn’t even matter that he had the haircut that he did, so if Smaug’s
character is handled correctly, it shouldn’t matter that movie audiences aren’t
afraid of dragons anymore.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Welcome, InstaPundit readers! If you’re interested in this topic, you should definitely read the Deadbolt article. It has way more detail than I’ve included here.

Noonan on Wright

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

Peggy Noonan compares Jeremiah Wright to the Wolfe Tones. A must-read.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.)

Respect the world champion SoCal VoCals!

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Back in 2002, I griped in print that the Daily Trojan was ignoring the SoCal VoCals’ newsworthy march to musical glory. (For the uninitiated, the VoCals are USC’s premier a capella group, and I am a proud ex-groupie.) That year, alas, they fell just short of the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella finals. But six years and a world championship later, the VoCals are finally getting some front-page DT love.

Here’s the article. Money quote: "It was absolutely beyond any of our wildest dreams," baritone Adam Hutchison said of the group’s performance Saturday in New York City, which earned them the ICCA title (and a live appearance on the Today show Sunday morning).

The DT notes that the VoCals’ winning set included Michael
Buble’s "Feeling Good," Singers Unlimited’s "All the Things You Are"
and Queen’s "Somebody to Love." The A Capella Blog described it as "probably the best competition set I’ve ever seen," and the judges seemed to agree, giving it a whopping 454 out of a possible 465 points. For comparison purposes, the ICCA champs in 2007, 2006 and 2005 won with scores of 431, 422 and 372, respectively. Moreover, 454 points is the second-highest score of this entire ICCA season — second only to the VoCals’ own near-perfect 463 performing the same set in the semifinals. The 437 earned by Florida State University All-Night Yahtzee at the South semifinal is a distant third. (All-Night Yahtzee finished a very distant second at Saturday’s final, with a 384.)

No cameras were allowed in the Lincoln Center for Saturday’s final, but YouTube has video of the entire Western Regional semifinal, including the VoCals’ 463-point set. So here, without further ado, are the three songs that brought home an ICCA world championship to USC:

Fight on, VoCals!

P.S. And speaking of "Fight on," here, in the interest of school spirit, is a video from this past fall of the VoCals performing their signature medley of the Alma Mater, Tusk, and Fight On, with a SoCal Spellout and some "UCLA SUCKS" thrown in good measure:

SoCal VoCals are world champs!!

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

The International Championship of Collegiate A Capella was tonight in New York City. I don’t know yet how the SoCal VoCals did. I assume The A Cappella Blog will have results up soon. Go VoCals!!!


Congratulations, VoCals!!!

UPDATE 2: The A Capella Blog writes: “The SoCal VoCals’ winning set gave them perhaps the best-deserved victory I’ve ever seen at an ICCA show. This is the sort of set that needs to be seen to be believed and I am proud to have been a witness to something truly fantastic. Believe the hype — this was probably the best competition set I’ve ever seen.”

SoCal VoCals update

Friday, April 11th, 2008

The field is set for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella in New York City next Saturday! The event will be held at the Lincoln Center‘s Avery Fisher Hall, the 2,738-seat venue where the New York Philharmonic plays.

As I mentioned previously, the USC SoCal VoCals advanced to the finals for the first time ever by earning the West Region championship on March 15. At the time I wrote that, however, the identities of most of their competitors were still to be determined.

Well, the last semifinal was held six days ago, so now the full field is known. The VoCals will compete against Oxford University Out of the Blue (Western Europe champion), Northwestern University Purple Haze (Midwest champion), Florida State University All-Night Yahtzee (South champion), New York University N’Harmonics (Northeast champion) and Ithaca College Ithacappella (Mid-Atlantic champion).

You hear that, Kristy? USC vs. Ithaca! Oh, it’s ON!!

Fight on, Trojans! Beat the Seminoles, Wildcats, Violets, Bombers and… um… Oxons?

P.S. Here’s the official ICCA website, including a link to buy tickets. I wish I could go! Alas, I don’t think a random trip to New York City is in the cards. But if any of y’all are in the area, I’d recommend it. I’m sure it’ll be an amazing show.

P.P.S. Newly discovered site: The A Cappella Blog. Cool.