Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty

I love nerds.  Or geeks, or people who are just passionate about something (usually these types can tend toward the nerd realm), and that’s okay, cause I know I’m a nerd.  I owned the Star Trek: The Next Generation BRIDGE PLAYSET in middle school and actively PLAYED WITH IT AND TOOK PICTURES OF THE ACTION FIGURES at their tactical stations.  Which is TOTALLY something I can see (most of) the cast of CBS’s adorably hilarious The Big Bang Theory doing any day of the week.

Theory is one of my favorite comedies, which astounds me because it is so completely different from all the “cool” sitcoms of late.  Modern Family, The Office, Parks & Rec, Community, the relatively new Raising Hope – they are “single-cam”, have no laugh tracks, and feel vastly different from shows I grew up with.  Like an old dog who refuses to learn a new trick, CBS will not  acquiesce to this trend, but it just doesn’t affect them – they dominate the ratings.

The Big Bang Theory works because even though it’s an old-fashioned comedy, the subject matter is timely (being a geek has never been more in-fashion), and the characters have been given the chance to evolve and have progressing storylines, while still remaining true to who they are:  A bunch of harmless, lovable nerds.  The marvelous cast has such fantastic chemistry, and the show is so, so consistently funny, it all adds up to charm and appeal, which Theory has in spades.

I look so forward to spending a half hour each week with these guys, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have been jealous of  Kaley Cuoco’s Penny (who is ADORABLE, and relatable, and who you just root for, constantly), for getting to eat take-out with them every night.  Jim Parsons’s portrayal of the socially awkward and fiercely stuck in his ways Sheldon Cooper is unparalleled – I don’t think there has ever been a more hardcore geek.  I was thrilled to see him win a Golden Globe (and how darling was it to see Cuoco jump up and down to hand him his award).  Johnny Galecki’s Leonard Hofstadter is the “safe” one – he’s so nice, and smart, and adorable, you just want to play some Wii with him.  Howard Wolowitz and Raj Koonthrappali (Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar), are each extreme versions of guys you probably know or have known – the geek who lives with his mom, the geek who is terrified to speak in front of females – they’re all pretty nuts, but they never fail to be endearing.

I think the writers deserve a lot of credit for giving the guys their advancing storylines, without it ever feeling forced or fake.  The completely asexual-seeming Sheldon now has a female friend (the AWESOME Mayim Bialik as the female version of Sheldon – Amy Farrah Fowler), but he’s still the same old Sheldon.  Leonard is dating Priya (boo, hiss) but did have a lovely relationship with Penny, and even though they’re no longer together, the chemistry remains.  Wolowitz might be getting married soon, Raj had a scandalous one-night stand, and with a couple of new ladies added to the mix (very successfully, I might add) Penny, Amy, and Bernadette have become the cutest little group of thrown-together besties around.

But the best part is the trickle down effect this show can have.  The inspiration for this post came from talking to one of my bestest-ever friends, who is NOT a nerd, and is not into anything even remotely nerdy, and she LOVES her some BBT, and was actually talking to me about the Leonard Nimoy episode and how much she loved it, and to hear her say the name “Leonard Nimoy,” (two words I never would have conceived could have come out of her mouth) was awesomesauce.  (By the way, that’s my favorite episode, and I think anything involving Penny + Sheldon = WIN.  See: Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty).  I cannot tell you how tickled I was that somebody who wouldn’t know Star Trek from Star Wars now knew who Leonard Nimoy was, and what his place in pop culture is.  BBT is educating the uninformed masses about nerd culture in a spoonful of sugar fashion, which I’ll take, as it means that maybe I can dig out the ‘ol bridge playset and actually have somebody else to enjoy it with.

~Annie

Killing Me Softly With His Song

I saw Bill Maher live the other night and, though I didn’t believe it was possible, I love him even more now.  He says the things I feel and try so hard to articulate but for which, I can’t ever find the right words.  Repeatedly throughout his stand-up, he pieced together the incoherent thoughts in my head with such razor sharp wit and biting sarcasm, I damn near came in my capris.

I admit I do not find him attractive, but his intelligence and poignant, scathing humor literally turn me on.  I watch his show weekly and find myself, over and over, shouting at the TV: “Finally!  Someone is saying what I’ve been thinking!”  He’s so damn clever, so quick, so sharp, so, so…so funny.  I regularly watch his show, Real Time With Bill Maher, on HBO and I admit his opening monologues often leave something to be desired.  Which made me mildly nervous that his stand up would be the same.  Or, like so many other comedians who recycle material, I feared it would consist mostly of the shtick I hear from him every Friday night.  Au contraire, mon ami, he rocked the muthaf**kin house.

The hour-and-a-half show was 80% politics, 15% religion, 5% relationships/sex and 100% hilarious.  If you’re a godless liberal who bases your opinions on facts (those things that are scientifically sound) like myself, check him out.  You’ll love him.  He basically tries to get people to use their brains.  You know, actually think about the world around you and how you fit into it.  Research issues from every perspective before forming a solid opinion about them, back up what you say with factual data, not fairy tales or blind ignorance.  Pull your goddamn head out of the sand and take a hard, clear look around.  And most of all, be honest.  I know Maher offends tons of people -conservatives, believers of any religion, Republicans, members of the Tea Party, the extremely wealthy who want to hoard their money, the bleeding hearts on the far left- but what I admire most about him is that he refuses to placate or pander to anyone.  He says exactly what he means.  Like it or not, at least you always know what he genuinely thinks.  While I don’t always agree with the things he says (though I usually do), I am always certain he’s not bullshitting me.

~Nikki

You’re Just A Step On the Boss Man’s Ladder

Horrible Bosses is a consistently funny, harebrained, and slightly frustrating comedy from a lot of people who have made a lot of things you probably like.  A lot.

A group of three friends, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis, all suffer the misery that most of us endure on a never-ending, constant basis (although, probably without the super bad drugs and homicide):  They despise the shit out of their bosses, who are each suffering from severe mental issues ranging from sociopathy, psychosis, nyphomania, and being a ginormous cokehead.  The buddies get the brilliant idea to exterminate all three of the crazy f***ers, and it’s to the writers’ credit that this is handled in an organic way, making it seem (almost) not that crazy.  Let’s just move past the fact that I find it “not that crazy”….

Needless to say, madcap, hair-brained lunacy ensues (this is the kind of movie where you want to pull your hair out over the stupid mistakes everyone is making – don’t leave your DNA at the crime scene, moron!  Don’t drop your f***ing cell phone!), but the plot had a few twists that actually surprised me.  The director, Seth Gordon, has a resume of some awesome stuff (NBC comedies Parks and Recreation, The Office), along with Four Christmases, which is the complete and total opposite of awesome, but also The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which is completely awesome.  So, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, and this falls somewhere in between those two realms.  It’s not crazy awesome, but isn’t crazy bad, either.

One of the main reasons this film works is because of the cast.  Each of our fearless heroes plays to their strengths, i.e. the same kind of character they usually play:  Bateman – the frazzled straight man, Sudeikis – the sarcastic man-child, and Day – Charlie from Sunny with better hygiene and a higher IQ.  But that’s fine, because these guys do these guys SO DAMN WELL.  As for the bosses – oh my, the bosses.  Jennifer Aniston gets to step outside of her usual comfort zone of being the bland lead in a romantic comedy bomb to become a batshit nympho.  She utters phrases that would have made Rachel Green weep with shame.  The always majorly badass Kevin Spacey really gets into this one, playing a COMPLETE dick/jerk/evil, evil asshole, who is quite open about making Bateman’s life a living hell.  Colin Farrell is the spoiled, entitled son of Sudeikis’s employer, who inherits his dad’s business but only wants to bang hookers, do tons of drugs, and fire everyone.  And I haven’t even mentioned Jamie Foxx’s “hitman” MotherF***er Jones.

This was no Bridesmaids, but it certainly holds its own in a landscape littered with scraps like Bad Teacher and Your Highness.  The sturdy writing and chemistry-rific cast make up for a slightly flimsy story, even if that’s part of Bosses’ charm.

Tired Of Not Being A Millionaire

Do you remember that scene in “Office Space” during which Peter asks his neighbor, Lawrence, what he would do if he had a million dollars?  The idea being that whatever you’d do if money weren’t the main motivator is what you’re ideally suited to do, or be.  (By the way, I love Lawrence’s response: “Two chicks at the same time, man.”  Classic.  Maybe that means he should be in porn?)  I’ve been thinking about this lately because things at my place of employment are somewhat unstable and, though I genuinely love the work I do – I am a science-nerd, after all – what I would do if I could magically pay my bills without having to punch a clock day in and day out, is write.  I would write story after story, blog post after blog post.  Novels, screenplays, short stories.  I would sit, fingers poised on the keyboard of my laptop, cup of coffee within reach, and see just what, exactly, I might have to say.

As I’m sure you’ve surmised, I already do this.  A bit.  I love to read and write the way athletes love to play, the way musicians love to jam.  It’s my hobby but also my passion, my love.  If I were a trust fund baby, this is how I would use my time.

It may seem like a frivolous way to spend one’s energy and I understand that logic, really.  It’s a small part of what led me to my career in science, the idea that writing isn’t relevant enough to be more than a hobby.  But the truth is, even though it isn’t vital in the way medicine is, for example, storytelling must be essential to the plight of man because it has existed in one form or another for nearly as long as man has existed.  The story as told in a film, in a book, in a song, a poem, was part of the oral tradition before the written language came to be and I suspect that when man came down out of the trees, part of his survival (maybe part of what drove him further along on the evolutionary trail) depended on the need to tell a story.  And his need to hear one.

It’s how we discover ourselves, the true nature of humankind.  It’s how we learn what we believe to be truth.  It’s how we make sense of life.

If I had a million dollars, I would tell a million stories.

~N.

I Like It, I Love It – July Favorites by Annie

A few things I’m currently loving and obsessing over during this flaming hot and steamy month:

1. Owl City – All Things Bright and Beautiful – I know this is wayyy deep into guilty pleasure territory, and I recognize this music ain’t for everyone – do you like video-game sounding beeps and straight up non-sensical lyrics usually involving fruits and vegetables?  Yeah … I didn’t think so …  The thing is, I don’t really either, but OC’s new album of completely infectious summery-sounding electronica is like a glass of lemonade on a hot day.  There’s not much to it, but it’s refreshing and yummy and makes you feel awesome.

2. The Naked and Famous – Young Blood – Oh holy shnikes, have you ever experienced TRUE serendipity?  Well, I have, and “Young Blood” is it.  The journey I took to discovering this song is not important, what is important is that I managed to find this nugget, this gem, this earworm of simultaneous seam-bursting joy and soul-stabbing melancholy. There has never been a more perfect track to want to run wildly through a field to.  My God, I love this song almost unhealthily.  It’s essentially on repeat in my car and I can’t remember how I managed to live through my days NOT knowing what the experience of listening to this was like.  The whole album is awesome, (the love child of Passion Pit and MGMT) but this track makes my internal organs vibrate.

3. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins – I got to the Hunger Games game late, as always, but am loving every second.  Nikki has beat me to the punch, but all I know is, this is a fantastic series of books.  It’s living up to the hype for me, which is saying something, since expectation is 9/10 of the law.

4. Anything and everything Harry Potter related – Here I go, beating the dead horse, but I’m gonna live this month up as much as possible, and immerse myself in all things wizard-related, because this is it, folks.  This includes, but is not limited to:  The movies, the books, watching fan-made montages on Youtube, browsing hilarious Potter-related blogs full of nerdly musings, re-reading my favorite fan-fics (that’s right), a Slytherin-themed mani-pedi (oh yes), DVR-ing every special airing anytime soon, and wondering what J.K. Rowling’s new website Pottermore is all about.  The only thing missing is a trip to Universal Studios. :(

5. Nicki Minaj – Super Bass – F***, I love this song!!  Summer girly dance music at it’s most bubbly, irresistible best.  Minaj is like a hip-hop Lady Gaga, crazy talented and original.  I dig all of her release “Pink Friday”, but “Super Bass” IS summer.

6. The Real Housewives of New Jersey – I realize I enjoy a lot of complete shit, and Real Housewives franchises are like a steaming bag of defecation sitting on your front step.  You don’t want to look, but you gotta know from whence it came.  I’m not proud, what can I say.  It’s entertaining.  And this season is amping it up with the introduction of crazy table-flipper Teresa’s little brother Joe and his crazy hot (and almost the same person as Teresa) wife, Melissa.  Not to anger the Bravo gods, but I enjoy Melissa and Joe Gorga a helluva lot more than the treacly and insipid Guidices.

7. The Food Network – I had a few days off of work, blessedly, and this was on in the background almost the whole time (much to Mr. Annie’s chagrin).  I cannot get enough of this shit.  I want Ina Garten to be my mom and Claire Robinson my BFF.  Have you SEEN 5 Ingredient Fix?!?!  Every recipe = FIVE ingredients!  Which fools me into thinking I can be a chef too!  And makes me want to narrate in my kitchen, like I have my own show!  In all seriousness, I do plan on attempting to make this sometime over the next few days.  I hope the force is with me on this because holy cow, does it look incredible.

~Annie

Anarchy In The CA

You know those commercials on the FX network that boast: “FX has the movies!”?  Well, I disagree.  FX does not have the movies.  What they have are some damn superior TV shows.  I freely admit that I watched Nip/Tuck back when it was good (read: before Sean and Christian moved to Hollywood) and anyone who’s seen The Shield cannot deny its insane, sinfully delicious appeal.  I’ve watched Justified since it began and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia may be the most original and ballsy show currently on TV.  You know how I feel about Louie and Wilfred and now, after having watched the first season of Sons of Anarchy in its entirety, I can say I am completely hooked.  FX is kicking serious television ass.

I liked Charlie Hunnam back in the days of Undeclared and my goodness, has he grown up.  He ably carries the lead role of Jackson “Jax” Teller, the VP of the biker gang, Sons of Anarchy, who all but own the town of Charming, CA.  His deceased father helped found the gang, conveniently called a “club” by its members, and his mother, the fantastic Katey Sagal, is now remarried to the club’s President, the always-intimidating Ron Perlman.  Sagal is such a bad-ass, she more than holds her own in a show almost wholly dominated by male roles; she very often steals her scenes.  And Ryan Hurst, the oh-so-sweet captain of the football team in Remember The Titans, shines as Opie, the guy who just can’t tear himself away from the life of crime.

There’s plenty of action for those of you who like a fast-paced storyline and about as much intense, high-emotion drama as I can handle.  Sex, violence and eye candy (for both genders) pop up in every episode but it never feels cheap.  On the contrary, the story demands it.  Not to mention all the killer music.  Any show that regularly showcases tunes by the Black Keys is okay by me.  And the heavy, bluesy sound matches the tone of the series, which I CANNOT WAIT to continue.  Seasons 1 & 2 are now available on Netflix and Season 3 is due out next month.  That gives me just enough time to get all caught up before the start of the 4th and newest season this fall.  I know I’ll be ready.  How about you?

-Nikki

I’ll Keep On Smiling From The Times I Had With Them – Part 5 of 5

*This contains spoilers, and is also, really, really long*

Alright, it’s here.  It’s finally happened.  And it’s over.  *sigh*  And it was … interesting.

I wanted to write this review at 3 am this morning when I burst into my house after attending a sold out, nerd-filled showing at my local favorite theater.  But I needed time to marinate.  I feel as though I need to see it a second time to fully appreciate and understand, but I like to keep things timely, if I can.

The Harry Potter series (in case you haven’t figured out if you’ve glanced through this blog) is one of my favorite things, pretty much ever.  I got into the game late (2009), even though my lil’ sis (Prof. X) was a devout believer from the start.  And now that it’s over, I feel empty.  As if there will never be anything else like this, something that captures your mind, heart, and soul so entirely,  you truly cannot fathom how you existed before you knew about this world and these people.  So um, yeah … it means a lot to me.

Coming in, I had high expectations.  Part 1 was very faithful and websites like Rotten Tomatoes had nothing but awesome buzz and tons of snippets of early, excellent reviews.  At the age of 30, one would think I’d eventually learn not to get too amped up, but I guess I’m still a 3-year-old at heart.

The film picks up right where the first left off, and then jumps right on in.  The pace is brisk, and it’s all very action/emotion-packed, but that petulant 3-year old in me is bothered by the changes that were made and things that were glossed over.  Many, many things are omitted:

  • Any explanation of why the Hufflepuff cup or Ravenclaw diadem were chosen as horcruxes, and how they came to be such objects, let alone how the kids figured out how they were going to find them, is just eliminiated.  Harry literally says something to the effect of “I have a feeling the cup is in the Lestrange’s vault, let’s go.”  No, it would not have been prudent to try to explain 100% how those things came to be, but it just felt so rushed, that the horcruxes ended up seeming quite easy to destroy, which is certainly not the case on the page.
  •  There’s no Dumbledore back story here, which breaks my heart because I thought it was so sordid and tragic, and as always it makes you understand why the character is who he is, the choices he makes.  Why mention that Dumbledore has a shady past in Part 1 if you never bring it up again?
  • Certain deaths that take place, while not explained in great detail in the book either, are literally relegated to Harry glancing over at their dead body; if I was a casual movie-goer, I’d have no goddamn clue who any of the dead were, or why I was supposed to be sad.
  • Harry never uses the Elder Wand to repair his own, he simply snaps it in half and dumps it over a cliff.  (!)
  • When he finally kills Voldy, once and for all, it’s only the two of them, no one else witnesses, and it’s like, never mentioned again.
  • The Epilogue is clunky (although to be fair, ’tis the same in the book, so I shouldn’t be bothered).
  • Harry never asks Neville to kill Nagini, he keeps bugging Hermione and Ron to do it, and they keep failing.
  • Harry never explained Snape’s true allegiance to Voldy, they just fight and blast themselves all over the castle, and the awesome scene in the trailer, where he says “because I have something to live for” is nowhere to be seen.
  • They don’t let Ron call Draco a “bastard.”  Can’t you say “bastard” in a PG-13?
  • When certain characters died, they exploded into confetti….when, in the entire saga, has this ever happened?
  • I also had problems with Voldemort himself … he honestly at this point has become a bit silly.  Many in my screening laughed when he was on-screen.  He even awkwardly “hugged” Draco.  Yes, you read that right.

Despite the tone of this post, I don’t want to vilify the film too greatly; in defense of screenwriter Steve Kloves, there probably wasn’t much way to get exposition like the story of Helga Hufflepuff’s cup in without making three movies.  The film did get some things right, one in particular, spectacularly, and I’m ready to go full bipolar and change to the happiness gear:

  • Some of the characters are finally allowed to get the screen time they’ve always deserved.  McGonagall (the marvelous Maggie Smith), who is kind of badass throughout the series, finally gets her awesome scenes on-screen, and we get to watch her duel with Snape, and cast the spell for Hogwarts to start protecting itself.  These were some of my favorite parts of the book, and while they’re a bit truncated here, they were still included, and for that I’m thankful.
  • Neville (Clive Owen-minus-fifteen-years lookalike Matthew Lewis) gets to shine as the badass that he is, fulfilling his pivotal role of chopping the shit out of Nagini.
  • And finally, Snape.  I was TERRIFIED that they’d ruin his death scene and memories, two of the most heart-wrenching, touching, and pivotal moments in the entire saga. Shockingly, most of the Prince’s Tale is included here, and it’s done marvelously.  All the credit goes to the ridiculously talented and plain EXCELLENT Alan Rickman, who hits it out of the park, conveying the pain, tragedy, unrequited love, regret, bravery, and sacrifice that his character embodies.  The death scene was sudden, shocking and violent, even though I knew it was coming.  It’s fair to say a pin drop could be heard during this stretch of the movie; almost 24 hours later, I’m still slightly stunned that the filmmakers managed to get this part so RIGHT.

The Snape-amazement kind of nulls and voids my disenchantment with the rest of the film, and I’m hoping that with another viewing, I might pick up a few more snippets that I missed the first time around, or I’ll just be in a less psyched up frame of mind, ready to see things a little differently.  Overall, I was simultaneously disappointed, and greatly entertained.  I was hoping that with two films and almost 5 hours, nothing would have been missed. However, The Deathly Hallows is an enormous, insanely complex tale, that wove together thousands of pages of plot details and character bits from ten years of story-telling; we as viewers should not expect it all to fit.  Given that it seemed to be a lackluster adaptation, but overall enjoyable film to just sit back and watch, I can’t put it at #1 in my personal ranking.  After some soul-searching, I decided it fits below Part 1.  As time goes on, this may change, but currently, this is the final ranking, and it’s with a heavy heart and choke in the back of my throat that I use the word “final.”  I know we’re all luckier for something of this magnitude to be in our lives.     

  1. Prisoner of Azkaban – the best :)
  2. Deathly Hallows, pt. 1
  3. Deathly Hallows, pt. 2
  4. Goblet of Fire
  5. Chamber of Secrets
  6. Half-Blood Prince
  7. Sorcerer’s Stone
  8. Order of the Phoenix – the worst :(

~Annie

The rest:  The Trailer Test, Part 4, Part 3, Part 2.5, Part 2, Part 1