Speakin’ Da King’s English

I feel like this post gets harder to write every year. So either I’m getting lazier, or I’m still a little disoriented by all the chocolate cream pie and cream soda.

So another year, another Oscar ceremony in the can and thus my yearly reflection of the night of a thousand stars. To start I thought I’d mention that this year friends and I definitely made an event out of the Oscars. I’m talking snack platters, wings, dip, and even some sweet, sweet, cream pie. Everyone had their ballots and we were ready for laughs and excitement, of which we unfortunately received very little. This could be due in part to many factors, but I’m gonna start with the most evident. I mean I like James Franco and Anne Hathaway as much as the next person, but it takes a certain kind of personality to host the Oscars and tonight we just didn’t get that.

Didn’t the Oscars learn anything after the so-so Hugh Jackman hosting gig? I mean he had a pretty good opening bit, but his lacking comedic skills basically made the rest of the night a forgettable blur. So what did they do the next year? They played it safe and got Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin and the results? It was great! So I guess that means it was the “duo formula” that made it work? Wrong, it’s because they were veteran performers with great comedic chops and you can’t just force that kind of comedic timing out of anyone. I don’t think I laughed once at the forced antics of Franco and Hathaway and almost couldn’t watch all the nervous laughter and dead air. Though even more so I think you can blame this year’s Oscar producers.

Oh yeah the actual nominees… Uh well, I did alright on my picks (about 13 for 24) but there were a few mild surprises. I was surprised by Fincher’s snub, but I could tell early on it was shaping up to be The King’s Speech’s night. I was surprised to see Randy Newman pick up another oscar for Toy Story 3 and Rick Baker nab his seventh makeup oscar for The Wolfman I mean that movie totally sucked, but I’ve always loved Baker’s work.

Hmm, I seem to be drawing a blank but overall it was a bit of a disappointing oscar ceremony. Few too laughs and not enough F-bombs, something to consider for next year I suppose.

More Than I Wanted to Know


Let’s be clear about one thing: Unknown wanted to be 2011’s Taken. It was released early in the year, has a sexy European setting, is practically a one-man Liam Neeson show and is about him trying to get something back. This time it’s his identity, a bit more abstract an idea, and it all goes downhill from there.

The film opens with a loving couple arriving in Berlin for a big biochemistry convention, or something. Anyway, the big man accidentally leaves his suitcase at the airport and he has to go back. Unfortunately for him, his taxi gets in a terrible accident and he wakes up in the hospital days later. When he tries to meet with his wife he finds her with another man – who goes by his name. Indeed, somehow this other man knows everything about the life of Dr. Martin Harris. So, how did he manage to steal Harris’ life? Or is there something even more sinister going on here?

Well it sure takes a long time to find out. At almost two hours, Unknown is able to twist a little too much. This should have been an action movie, and the action sequences are quite good, but much of our time is spent wandering, contemplating. And as the truth slowly, slowly, is revealed, the movie goes from exciting to a bit of a letdown. That said, Neeson is good, the supporting cast is fine, and there is at least one good chase scene in the movie. Surprising lack of ass kicking, though.

Ultimately I was fine with having seen Unknown, but did I chastise my friends who chose not to see it? No, they didn’t really miss anything. If you like Liam Neeson playing the confused yet capable action guy, you might get a kick out of this movie. Otherwise, well, I dunno, go see something else. The pickings are pretty slim these days, however. Maybe buy a video game instead.

British Space Nazis

Killzone 3

The second Killzone game came out under some pretty intense pressure. The original trailer seemed, and in fact was, too good to be true. Killzone 3 not only needed to be one of the PlayStation 3’s first killer apps, it needed to be Sony’s Halo. That’s asking a lot for a sequel to a hyped-but-largely-forgotten PS2 game. Did Killzone 2 deliver? Well, it looked really good and the single player campaign had some incredible moments. The multiplayer had an interesting take on the idea of game modes, and ultimately the game was successful. That said, a lot of people struggled with the controls, and the game never felt like it was quite in the same league as Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4. Now it’s a few years later and Killzone is back and better than ever.

Killzone 3 picks up immediately after the ending of the last game. Like, literally, seconds later. Once again you play as Sev and are teamed up with resident douchebag Rico. You’re still stranded on your enemy’s home world, desperately struggling to put an end to the war between the ISA and the Helghast, who are, as you might remember, basically British space nazis. With Brian Cox dead, the Helghast are caught it in a leadership struggle, between the rightful heir Ray Winstone and the chairman of a massive PMC, Malcolm McDowell. The story is great for giving you exciting battles in visually interesting locales, but the actual dialogue is pretty flimsy. Malcolm McDowell is great as the main villain. I really enjoyed that the biggest threat to our heroes was the constant infighting, even though the payoff for that was not written that well.

The actually gameplay of Killzone 3 is so much more satisfying. The controls have been tightened up something fierce, if I hear anyone complaining about the controls this time around, I might have to destroy them. Everything feels faster and smoother. There are a numerous sequences when you won’t be on foot, instead you’ll be the gunner in a few vehicles, drive a mech, and even fly with a crazy jet pack. This is always fun, although I did feel a few moments made it way to easy for you to die. You’re supposed to feel empowered at those segments, not worried about getting blown up.

Killzone 3 is really good. The characters are fleshed out really well, the combat is top notch, the graphics are still shockingly good. The singleplayer campaign will keep you going for a few hours, the mutliplayer many more hours after that. This is an awesome game and a welcome addition among the PlayStation 3 library.

Baby Hooker

30 Rock – “TGS Hates Women”

Well, congratulations 30 Rock. You made a joke about “v cards,” something I’m pretty sure Kevin invented on one of our many trips to Seattle’s own Dicks restaurant. I don’t know how to deal with that. I don’t think I have the capability to deal with that.

This week’s Jack plot had him dueling with the heiress to the Kabletown dynasty, Hit Girl (I can’t remember the character’s name and the actress’ name is hard to remember how to spell). Jack wants to divert her interests into marine biology, killing the competition at an early age. However, this backfires as Jack finds himself swept up in the world of marine biology, like he was when he was a boy. It turns out Hit Girl is a worthy opponent, and was herself trying to destroy Jack. I hope we get more of her in the future.

But the titular story has to do with Liz feeling bad for making TGS one of the least feminist shows on television. It turns out that even with Tracy gone, she just writes lots of jokes about women being on their period. So Liz hires an edgy comedienne, who apparently is a bimbo. So Liz and Jenna agree to destroy her, only to find out that she was behaving the way she was because she was hiding from her ex-husband. It was a weird story that fell flat in a few places, but I still do enjoy watching Liz try to do a good thing and inadvertently doing a terrible thing. Jenna being there, cheering Liz on, thinking everything was intentional, was a good touch.

But it’s Jack story that will stick with you, as usual. I know there’s talk sometimes of Alec Baldwin leaving the show, I don’t know why but I hear things. And, sure, 30 Rock has a big, funny cast. But Jack is right at the center of it all and this show could not exist without him. If he goes, so does the show. I decree it, and therefore it shall be.

Skywriting isn’t Always Positive

Parks and Recreation – “Indianapolis”

I think, as usual, Ron wins this weeks Parks and Recreation. Why? Because he got to say this: “You may have thought you heard me say I wanted a lot of bacon and eggs, but what I said was: Give me all the bacon and eggs you have.” You see, his favorite steak joint in Indianapolis got shut down, and for whatever reason he can’t find a single restaurant to give him a satisfying slice of cow. So how did we get to this point? Well, let me tell you.

Leslie and Ron are going to the city to receive a commendation from city hall, a great honor by Leslie’s standards. But Ann is worried that Chris is cheating on her, so Leslie and Ron stop by Chris’ place in the city to check up on him first. Leslie finds the damning evidence she needs, so Ann shows up at Chris house, looking for an explanation. And he has a good one: he broke up with her. It turns out the big conversation we didn’t get to see last week was Chris dumping Ann, but in such a nice way that she didn’t even realize she had been dumped.

The rest of the group are going to Tom’s bar because a giant of the perfume business is there. Andy and April spend their time trying to see what they can get for free, a charming little game that proves that even if these two are a couple they can still go on adventures. But the focus is on Tom, who is trying to pitch his personal scent to Dennis Feinstein. Feinstein rejects the scent and laughs in Tom’s face, which breaks his little heart. With everyone else otherwise disposed, it falls on Ben to make Tom feel better, which he succeeds at doing. Ben, who has tried to be distant, finds himself part of the parks and rec family by the end of the episode, even risking his health for his new friends by the end.

I think the long wait to get Parks and Rec. back skewed my appreciation for the show, but I really enjoy each episode every week.

Justice Beaver

The Office – “Todd Packer”

Well, they can’t all be winners. This week’s Office focused on Michael’s oldest friend, Todd Packer. Packer, you might remember, is a huge jerk who makes everyone uncomfortable with his mean sense of humor. The character has been consistently used as someone whom everyone hates, which means he’s pretty hard for the audience to like. You’d think with an episode like they, the show would endeavor to humanize Packer in some way. It kind of did, but it failed.

So Packer wants a job in the office. He’s tired of being on the road and maybe wants to get to know his daughter better. Of course Michael is fine with him returning, fast-tracking his return with Holly’s help. Holly has never met Packer and doesn’t realize the full extant of what she has done. Some bad hump-related humor later, and everyone is desperate to get rid of Packer. Dwight and Jim team up to prank him out of there, but Michael finds out about their scheme. Then Packer makes the mistake of insulting Holly to Michael’s face, so Michael let’s him go.

Frankly, the “this guy’s a jerk” humor just doesn’t work for me. I thought the show could do a lot better, since it is pretty much the master of uncomfortable situations. Instead, Packer just comes off as an unbelievable asshole, and it’s pretty hard to believe Michael still doesn’t realize it (especially since he has realized it before). Jim and Dwight’s scheme didn’t even seem that clever, I guess Packer just realize is that stupid.

In other news, Pam gave Erin a fancy new computer. Andy is jealous, so he convinces Pam to let him destroy his computer so that she can buy him a new one. Once again, this could have worked in a more interesting way, but Andy comes off looking like a selfish jerk. Which he is, actually. But there was some potential to this episode, it just never quite got there.

Pop Pop

Community – “Intro to Political Science”

I salute Community for poking fun at the vice president, a target that hasn’t been as utilized for comedy as I would have imagined. But, then again, lot’s of things haven’t turned out the way I thought they would back in late 2008. Anyway, this was the political episode of the show, in which the satire was so twisted I’m not even sure I get it.

Jumpin’ Joe Biden is on his way to Greendale to meet with the dean and the school president, who doesn’t exist. So the dean has a few hours to rush through the election process before the vice president shows up. The nominees are narrowed by applause, then judged in a debate. As they are narrowed down, to front runners emerge – Jeff and Annie. Annie makes her campaign about one issue, while Jeff speaks in broad generalities and reinforces his love for America. Satire!

Ultimately, the friends back down, leaving the election in the hands of the school’s dark horse political geniuses, Leonard and Magnitude. They find themselves locked in a never-ending struggle, both of them relying solely on their catchphrases, “pop pop” and blowing a raspberry. At the same time, Jeff and Annie have a backstage conversation that shows, once again, that they are a great match except for the age thing.

Also, Abed is the only one to notice the presence of the secret service, which results in him wooing an agent. This was a good episode for Abed, he also got a lot of mileage co-hosting the TV coverage of the debate with Troy “Butt Soup” Barnes. Pierce is back and got in on the elections as well, but only to get back at another candidate, Vicki, for not lending him a pencil.

A solid episode, for sure.