May 30, 2006

DVD Review: Something New

Should black women turn to white guys for love? Sanaa Hamri's Something New attempts to answer that question and many others. Along with interracial love, the film also attempts to tackle corporate racism and racial politics in the upper-class black community. But in dealing with all these issues, the problems with the movie come from one direct source: the two leads.

Kenya McQueen (Sanaa Lathan) is a corporate lawyer looking for love — with a black man. Brian Kelly (Simon Baker) is a gardener who, through a job at Kenya's garden, becomes interested in Kenya herself. The problem is, Brian is white. Can a black woman and a white man from different backgrounds find love? Sure they can, but not these two.

Hey, she's got more on her mind than a man. She's got racism at her job, and a shady brother (Donald Fasion) and a pushy mother (Alfre Woodward) to worry about as well. These extra plot points, while maybe important to McQueen's personality, seem to weigh the plot down. The solution would be to simply cut the family down to a couple of scenes and try to tie the racism at her job in with the already-uncomfortable possibility of being outed for dating a white man.

On second thought, dump the romance part and turn this into a remake of Working Girl with racial politics added in.

Stuffy plot aside, the film does create a little tension with Blair Underwood's Mark, who is referred to Kenya by her family, who secretly would prefer a marriage to a black man. Underwood, who displays a good range of acting skills with the right script, is given nothing to do except to distract from her true calling of being with Baker. But the Kriss Turner screenplay doesn't give him anything else. Simon Baker's Brian is pretty, and Underwood's Mark is pretty, and that's about the only thing these two have in common with Lathan's McQueen.

One issue that black women have never been able to discuss without a "Hell No!" in response is whether the man they are attracted to, white or not, is the man inside and not the man outside. Hamri gives several shots of Baker's strong arms and tight frame to lure viewers into the notion that a white man is as hot as a black man. If they changed the Simon to Pegg rather than Baker (better known for his role in Shaun Of The Dead), I'm sure Lathan's character would have simply paid for his duties and wiped his name clear from her mind.

Along for the ride are Kenya's three friends Cheryl (Wendy Raquel Robinson of The Steve Harvey Show), Suzette (Golden Brooks of Girlfriends) and Nedra (Taraji P. Henson, who did this movie before the recently-acclaimed Hustle and Flow). All of them serve little purpose in the movie except for a roundtable discussion of their lives and their dating stories. Golden Brooks, who has struggled to really be the center of a movie, needs to get her own picture. I may even have a script for her if I can ever work up the courage.

Of course the movie ends with the typical happy ending. I won't say which suitor gets Kenya's heart, but it's certainly the one who is given the most screen time of the two male leads.

Rounding out the features of the DVD, an introduction by Blair Underwood is provided. I don't really see the purpose of this, as a good film really doesn't need an introduction by any of the production team or cast. I suppose this feature is meant to be a personal touch and to give a bit of interaction with viewers.

There's also a "Making Of" featurette which includes interviews from the cast and crew of the movie. It was interesting to hear the input from everyone on what they tried to talk about. A lesser-quality addition is a piece on the do's and don'ts of dating. Since this movie covers issues of race rather than dating, I would have excluded this from the DVD release.

If you desire to date outside of your race, do so — but not on the basis of this movie. If you don't know how to date anyone, don't use this DVD to educate you. Find your own way to find Something New.

Posted by Matthew at 04:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 29, 2006

TV Review: Doctor Who - "The Idiot's Lantern"

After the big Tom MacRae “Rise Of The Cybermen”-”The Age Of Steel” two-parter, Mark Gatiss’ “The Idiot’s Lantern” seemed more underwhelming than overwhelming. While too many plots were happening in the former, there didn’t really seem to be a plot with the latter – or at least one that was tied to everything well enough.

This time around, The Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose (Billie Piper) land in 50’s London just in time for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Meanwhile, a man named Mr. Magpie (Ron Cook) was asked by an entity known as The Wire (Maureen Lipman) to spread televisions all over London -- its purpose: to feed off the energy of human brains via the television so that it would take a corporal form. The entity plot should have a familiar ring to it as Gatiss was behind Series 1’s “The Unquiet Dead.” Unfortunately, this one adds on more than its plot should need.

For instance, Charles Dickens (Simon Callow) was a wonderful supporting character in TUD. It also gives some insight into the Doctor’s interests (he’s said to be a fan of Dickens), which don’t always involve saving the world. For TIL, we get Mr. Magpie, the owner of a television store who wasn’t making a lot of money off of it. That’s about the sum of what we get to know about the character until he’s zapped and possessed by The Wire’s magic. If that’s not enough, we get a dysfunctional family as one of the many victims of the Wire’s plan.

Eddie (Jamie Foreman, who closely resembles Oliver Hardy), his son Tommy (Rory Jennings), and his wife Rita (Debra Gillett) end up hiding their grandmother (Margaret John) in a room upstairs because she’s been affected by their new television set. Apparently, it sucked all of her face clean off except the skin. If I were the Doctor, I would have never given their family a hand unless they got rid of Eddie. In just about every scene, he went from blubbering to emotionally abusive within seconds. I know this isn’t the Pertwee era, but if I were writing that episode, I would have slugged him (it would have also been a nice nod to the classic series without guest appearances or old villains).

After it was discovered that Eddie was placing people who were without a face in police custody (including his own Grandma), Tommy and Rita both disown him (with shouting and more shouting, some crying included). What happens next was a tad nonsensical. The Doctor and Rose both tell Tommy to go to his father to console him as he leaves their house. Why? The man was a jerk and forgiveness is hard to come by when you’ve been treated that way for a while. I guess I would have appreciated the family sub-plot if it’d had a bit more to do with the main plot.

There’s a nice little nod to “Logopolis” with the final chase/fight scene on the tower. Wouldn’t it have been interesting to have that as a cliffhanger rather than the RTD Cybermen two-parter a few episodes away? The Doctor could simply fall off after being exhausted from fighting The Wire and cut to credits, as it appeared he was seemingly out of breath. On second thought, it probably would have been terrible given the spoilers that he would come back in the next few episodes of the next season.

After being tight on the accents with the past few episodes, we return to more grumbling. This time the fault lies with Jamie Foreman’s Eddie, whose language is so thick I couldn’t figure out if that was a character trait or the lack of ability to convey his words. Tennant did that a few times himself, which is even more irritating since the show is about The Doctor. Understand, this is not a demand for British actors to speak clear English -- I just want to be able to hear the words coming out of their mouths.

The London Police bits seemed a bit tagged on. Rather than use them to store all the faceless, Gatiss could have easily stuck them in one of the houses that had a large basement or something that wouldn’t have involved having to tag on more characters. The less of them you have, the more centered you can be on the plot at hand, something Doctor Who often loses when it adds on the baggage.

I almost couldn’t review this episode because it seemed so blah. That might even be the case for next week’s two-parter “The Impossible Planet”-”The Satan Pit.” But like everything in television, sometimes the trailer doesn’t tell the whole story.

Posted by Matthew at 05:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 26, 2006

Girlfriends Mediatakeout Story Rumor

I've deleted the story as it is being refuted elsewhere.

Posted by Matthew at 09:13 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Americans Should Give The New Doctor Who A Chance

I haven’t been on Outpost Gallifery in months as a regular poster (I lurk mostly) – I don’t need to be overwhelmed by dozens of threads that usually go over ten pages long on the same subject. Some of the subjects lose their point in petty fighting and the like, but some make valid points. One of the most eye-opening ones was merely these words: “Why is Who doing so badly in the U.S. (United States) ratings?”

There are lots of reasons given in the thread why the show is doing badly (which is currently airing on the Sci-Fi Channel with Series 1): timeslots, language differences, and the rather strange narrative that the show has had for its entire run since ’63. It could just be that Americans largely dislike foreign shows because they don’t have a clear and concise explanation of what their show is about right away. It requires too much energy for them (although this same audience watches the often headache-inducing 24 and Prison Break on Fox). For me, it’s a matter of the script and who writes it.

In my reviews of “New Earth” and “Tooth and Claw”, one of my chief complaints was the clear lack of understanding of the words spoken by the actors, David Tennant especially. Those, however, are under the pen of Russell Davies. Under someone such as Steven Moffat, there is a sense of clarity in not only the dialogue, but even in the story itself.

Things got better with his episode, “The Girl In The Fireplace,” as well as the current Tom MacRae Cybermen two-parter that just finished. I suppose “School Reunion” deserves a mention, too.

If the show keeps displaying good work and a clear sense of what’s being said and done on the screen, the show will eventually win U.S. viewers. As it stands right now with Series 1 being aired in the United States, we may not give ourselves a chance to find that out.

Oh well, there’s always DVD and the old VHS tapes.

Posted by Matthew at 06:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Opinion: 24: No China? WTF...

At the end of season four, Jack Bauer faced the possibility of being arrested by the Chinese government for the accidental killing of one of their own. In turn, he faked his own death and walked away with the possibility of nothing ever being the same on the show. But then, the producers simply had him reappear back in L.A. for this season -- okay, I get it, they don’t wanna deal with it yet.

This season finale, we get a hint of that story coming back via a “slow boat to china” if you will. Now according to TV Squad, that’s not going to happen?

I’m getting pissed.

I’ve been put through the deaths of major characters (Tony, Michelle, and David Palmer) all year after their seemingly aborted leave from the show in Season 4 didn’t work. I’ve had to deal with yet another set of bad guys who don’t have nearly the personality and menace of Victor Gains or The Drazen family. Finally, I’ve had to deal with Crazy Jack again -- not the normal but-forced-to-do anything to get his family back Jack Bauer of season one. In short, Stephen Hopkins or whoever was the genius behind that brilliant first season, needed to be brought back some two seasons ago.

The show, which had the opportunity to be an interesting character study of the 24-hour work day phenom, has turned into a comic book with comic book trappings. It’s cool to add a splash of that now and then, but these past few seasons haven’t even tried to stay within some boundary of reality.

Take the Chinese government story.

According to Howard Gordon, it would take half the season for Jack to get back to the U.S. from China. Okay? So a highway with no traffic seemingly in the daytime was more feasible to deal with than Jack getting from China to the U.S? There’s tons of stories you could pull off in him getting back -- it’s even a good opportunity to explore how our border patrols are really done. Not only that, you have a government which truthfully is worse than our own in that rather than tap your phone, the Chinese will tap your ass -- even kill you. Use the hole you’ve already made for yourself, and find a way out of it that doesn’t involve freaking L.A. again -- we’ve already done that city to death.

Also if you aren’t going to hit upon the Chinese story for most of the season, why not give Curtis Manning a shot or even Chloe O’Brian – she can pack a pistol and whoop some ass. She would even provide some comic relief, which is more than I can say for Jack Bauer himself. Speaking of him, next season would have benefited from one realistic addition to his character -- making him actually go take a piss for half an episode.

I could on and on, but ultimately comes down to this: for one damn season, try to stick to something for god's sake. After you’ve gotten that down, attempt to do something new for a change -- especially with psycho Jack.

Posted by Matthew at 06:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2006

TV Review: BBC's Doctor Who - "The Age Of Steel"

Doctor Who was never your average series.

Apart from the rather unique premise, DW attempted to juggle the development of characters while actually getting on with the story. Sometimes the character development backfired and got in the way of the story, and at other times there was too much story and not enough character development. Tom MacRae’s “Rise Of The Cybermen”/”The Age Of Steel” concluded beautifully last night by managing to do both of these things. There were a few episodes that I had to watch beforehand in writing this review, the first of which was Series One’s “Father’s Day”.

One of the many stories last year in which the companion got more time than the Doctor (Christopher Eccelston), Rose (Billie Piper) found herself with the opportunity to rescue her dad Pete from a fatal hit-and-run accident. After she did so, a hole in time was opened, which unfortunately brought creatures out that would eat up everything living in that period to correct the timeline. Of course the solution was obvious to the problem, but it provided a wonderful contrast for this year’s major two-parter.

In Rose’s real London, her father was a failure and bumbling, and according to his soon-to-be-widow Jackie (Camile Coduri), not a good husband either. Despite these realities bestowed upon Rose, her love was renewed when he sacrificed his life to correct the mistake that Rose made in changing her timeline. It seemed safe to say that any other attempts would cause too much pain for someone such as Rose.

Since the TARDIS is alive in some manner, this year’s two-parter might have been the result of it listening to her cries to see him again.

In “Rise Of The Cybermen”/”The Age Of Steel”, Pete Tyler (Shaun Dingwall) returned in an alternate London which the Doctor, Rose, and Mickey (Noel Clarke) land on when the time stream the TARDIS rides on disappears. In this version of Rose’s world, her father is a successful businessman who stumbled upon a popular flavored soda that caught the town by storm. This allows some influence in life as his company was part of Cyberus industries –- a place that would be responsible for the return of one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies, The Cybermen.

Unknown to its owner and chief, John Lumic, Pete was also living a double life as an agent for a secret underground group (which happened to be lead by Mickey’s alternate, Rickey). These actions were a rather far cry from the “Father’s Day” Pete that I saw last year. But even in last night’s episode, Jackie still couldn’t stand him and even separated from him despite his success.

It’s interesting to watch this arc come to an end, because it gave an unexpected closure for Rose. In both episodes, she reunited with her father and both times he ended up leaving her -– almost as if to say that no matter what time you are in, some relations can never be fixed or rekindled. That brings me to “School Reunion” in which Mickey did a complete 180 and became more of a useful character.

When Sarah Jane (Elizabeth Sladen) asked where he stood in the group, he discovered he was basically K9, but in human form. I don’t exactly agree with that sentiment because Mickey under another writer can be used for much more than comic relief and Jimmy Olsening. Just look at this two-parter and “The Girl In The Fireplace” for examples. Despite what I think about how he felt, him leaving the show was beautiful. Not only was a black hero once again introduced into science fiction, but he wasn’t an overtly jokey sort. He was made into something of a real person.

The only question now, that had been asked in “School Reunion”, is whether The Doctor and Rose could stay together forever in time and space? The answer is rather obvious, but I’ll let the behind-the-scenes people deal with that issue.

Having only seen the Cybermen in clips on various documentaries, they do appear to be more menacing than the Daleks. I do think they would be even more so if they could drop the whole “Delete!” thing that is a direct copy-cat of “Exterminate!” I suppose that’s part of the charm of both: at first corny, but ultimately sinister.

David Tennant also shines here with the crisp and clear language he was given in “The Girl In The Fireplace.” For the first three episodes of Series Two, he appeared to be babbling on without really making much sense. Under the muse of Tom MacRae, he honed in on the actor’s ability to be charming while adding in a bit of Christopher Eccelston’s intensity. Come to think of it, this would have been the episode that would have kept him around for another year if it was given to him.

Let’s hope things get this impressive for the next Cybermen two-parter at the end of the season.

Posted by Matthew at 04:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2006

Jill Marie Jones Leaves Girlfriends ?

When the WB and UPN decided to merge into the CW, it must have occured to all of the actors and actresses of Girlfriends that they may not be back. Jill Marie Jones, who played Toni Childs, decided to leave regardless of which way the axe fell.

Of course the season finale of the show last week was probably a telling sign -- in a moment of craziness, Joan (played by Ross) drank herself to death at a party and ended up missing a custody battle between Toni and her estranged husband Todd (Jason Pace). Although Toni won custody of her child Morgan, Joan felt that she had let down Toni and lost a friend forever. It was mentioned by one of the characters that all of their friendships had been growning apart -- having seen the show over the years, this did come with a bit of truth.

For further confirmation, one needed to do no more than to look at the network's web pressence for the show.

Three out of the four girls (Persia White, Golden Brooks and Tracee-Ellis Ross) have their pictures up on the CW website and are mentioned as a threesome in the related show info.

Hopefully there will be further developments as to whether she will return to the series for guest appearances. But judging by the episode and the lack of Marie Jones' picture on the site, it seemed highly doubtful that would happen anytime soon.

Posted by Matthew at 11:34 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

May 16, 2006

DVD Review: The Waltons - Season Three Box Set

"Goodnight, John Boy"

For a new generation of kids not familiar with the wholesome '70s drama, that's about as familiar as some may be with The Waltons. Set on a family named location - Walton Mountain - the series tells the tale of The Walton clan and their misadventures in life. Neither intense or Disney-Channel sappy, the show is a nice happy medium of reality with a touch of good cheer.

The family consists of John Walton Sr. (Ralph Waite) and his wife Olivia (Michael Learned) whose children are John Boy (Richard Thomas), Mary Ellen (Judy-Norton Taylor), Jason (Jon Walmsley), Erin (Mary Beth McDonough), Ben (Eric Scott), Jim Bob (David W. Harper) and Elizabeth (Kami Colter). Serving as the elders of wisdom are Grandma "Esther" Walton (Ellen Colby) and Grandpa "Zebulon" Walton (Will Greer) who live with the Walton clan in their house on the mountain.

Most of the episodes mainly focused on either John-Boy, his parents and/or his grandparents. The children sometimes got screen-time with the rest of the cast, but they were seemingly underused. But, this was told from the perspective of John-Boy himself, and so a lot of the focus was on him.

The season three box set (which has all the episodes in double-sided discs) sets the stage for change in the family - John-Boy in going to college finds the Walton children then relying on the next oldest, Jason, to keep them in line. John-Boy also found himself interacting with various women throughout the season. There were also a few family fights and one runaway incident (Jim-Bob).

Although it would seem completely boring to viewers of hyperactive 24 and Prison Break, sometimes it's okay to tone it down and relax. If anything would have been a draw to watch this series, it clearly has to do with everything being so quiet - the sound, the theme music and even the actor's performances are all seemingly soft and gentle. For the next Father's Day or Mother's Day event, it could be a good idea to take a trip to a mountain - the mountain of the Waltons that is.

Posted by Matthew at 05:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 15, 2006

Money Is King In Entertainment

Recently there had been some anger over the cancellation of The West Wing retrospective, which was set to air before the final episode tomorrow. Why would such a long running series decide to can such a staple of dramatic television? According to reports, several of the actors wanted more money, as it wasn't written in their contracts to do specials such as these. I can see where fans of The West Wing would be upset, but does it make sense to forget the key in all of this? It's the money — always has been, always will be. Let's look at BBC's The Office for instance.

Everyone in Britain was talking about it — a relatively low-budget comedy/drama about a group of office employees at a paper company. The rather freestyle format of the show never allowed itself to be caught in the usual sitcom conventions — there were no laugh tracks or obvious jokes.Most important is that the faces were fresh and tailored to what real office people look like. By about Series two, creator and head writer Ricky Gervais had run out of ideas; so ended The Office, at least in the UK. In America, The NBC Network has its own version of the show now currently in it's second season (just renewed for a third), which interestingly enough has Gervais attached behind the scenes. Even though he may have run out of ideas for his own version of the show, he knew he'd probably never have that kind of success again. Why not milk it until it's dry and keep the checks coming?

Take for instance Seinfeld. The show about nothing succeeded because, like The Office, the characters looked and physically resembled real people. Like real people, they have real (if sometimes bizarre) problems. Somewhere along the line, all of them got worried; they faced the possibility of being typecast in the roles that made them famous. Jerry Seinfeld himself didn't have to worry as he was pocketing money behind and in front of the camera. Since his co-stars didn't have that kind of reach (or never requested it), they instead pushed for more money. As the seasons went on, I can say I blamed them. The quality had gone down and the jokes got more out there. If you're gonna go out with a whimper, make sure you at least have your pockets full.

There are two words that can describe what happens when you get too high on your success and think you are bankable anywhere; it's called the "David Caruso."

Caruso, who played Detective John Kelly on NYPD Blue, thought he could hold the show hostage by using his own growing star power as leverage to gain more money. After his early season two exit the next year, Hollywood discovered David Caruso didn't have the chops to take a lead role — nor bring in the box office his TV fame was supposed to bring in. It wasn't untilCSI took off that he found himself another hit — CSI: Miami. If you consider the time between NYPD Blue and CSI: Miami, that's a long while to be out of the spotlight. That same thing would have happened to Dennis Franz had he not been smart enough to stay on Blue.

At the end of the day for most actors, it's going to end up being about the money — first and foremost. No matter how much they tell you, no matter how much they speak of "art," the dollar is king in Hollywood.

Posted by Matthew at 06:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

TV Review: BBC's Doctor Who - "Rise Of The Cybermen"

With the new Doctor Who, Russell Davies had said that he would like a clean slate and not a lot of continuity. I'm sure that was a good idea at first. The fact was that however tired the Daleks and all the other big monsters of Doctor Who's past life became, they still drew in the ratings. With this in mind, writer Tom McRae returned the Cybermen with "Rise Of The Cybermen," the first of a two-part epic adventure. He also has to somehow mix in Rose Tyler's Father (Pete Tyler, played by Shaun Dingwall), her mother Jackie (Camile Coduri), and her boyfriend Mickey (Noel Clarke) into it. I will say the quality of it varied depending on how you looked at it. As an episode set out to return a baddie from the show's past, the episode did a good job, but gets lost, I think, in the whole Pete Tyler business.

The last time we saw Rose Tyler's father was in Series One's "Father's Day" in which Rose goes back to witness the death of her father, only to then attempt to keep him alive. The change in events caused a rift in the time vortex and creatures from hell wrecked havoc because of Rose changing her past. The solution to it all was to simply let Pete die and let the timeline heal itself.

Set in an alternate earth, Pete Tyler returns this time as a successful businessman. He married Jackie, but by this episode's timeline, had separated from her. Although this wasn't Rose's father back on earth, it would have been a good idea to do an episode where Rose brings back her alternate earth father to the original earth. Seeing as how things turned out for him with Jackie in the alternate earth, I seriously doubt that episode would have worked at all. Back to the episode at hand.

Roger Lloyd-Pack does a good job as John Lumic, the multi-bazillionare who funds the Cybermen project. Strangely enough, he seemed to channel his character from Darvos - the chief scientist of the Daleks in the classic series. I liked the whole earpiece turning people into zombies stuff, although I swore I saw it in "The Christmas Invasion" in a different presentation. Most impressive were the Cybermen themselves, who as some fans have often said, are far more fearsome than the Daleks. The extent of their powers will, hopefully, be covered hopefully "The Age Of Steel", the second part of the adventure. One thing that did bother me was that "Delete! Delete!" did sound very close to "Exterminate!"

Noel Clarke's Mickey was given even more character development in this episode by having an encounter with his alternate earth grandmother, who unfortunately is blind. That to me was a good plot to explore in another episode also. In any case it seemed to fit nicely in this rather big episode, especially the other plot of him meeting his alternate, more sinister self, Rickey (also played by Noel Clarke). As the leader of the revolution against what Lumic is doing, I didn't get a chance to feel out the other members of the group. They seemed to come in rather quickly as a plot point.

As with Christopher Eccelston, David Tennant got to showcase one of his best performances as The Doctor. As I had said in a previous review, the bigger episodes in the middle of the season would be able to bring out the true talent of whoever took the role. Most of the episodes, previously, have shown none of or just glimpses of Tennat's talent (with the "Girl In The Fireplace" being the exception). Let's hope they really bring it up a notch with the next episode.

I wonder who else they could bring back for Series Three?

Posted by Matthew at 05:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 12, 2006

Website review:

My own life is too filled with drama to really invest in someone else’s thoughts. Despite this, I find one particular blog on in the world-wide web to be of interest: Bittervibes. The sites big draw is that it’s written by person who is connected to Vibe Magazine, one of the largest heavyweights in Hip-Hop journalism. What this individual writes about on the blog explains how hip-hop, especially at Vibe, is being poorly reported and promoted.

I can imagine people even at the magazine would like to silence this person, but I personally don’t think there’s even a point. Vibe itself, along with The Source, has been a picture book for the last several years without saying anything of real importance. Most of its readers have said the same thing and subscriptions have begun to sink of the past few years. All the writer of BitterVibes does is share that same insight with an industry twist.

With only so much to talk about in regards to Vibe Magazine, the writer of the blog goes on to talk about other magazines and other industry news that’s happening. The funny part is that I can see a movie or series being made based on the experiences of this one person -- It could even be more important than the book of Superhead.

Posted by Matthew at 07:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

TV Review: Everybody Hates Chris - "Everybody Hates Father's Day"

Last week, Rochelle (Tichina Arnold) went out on the town and got a chance to cut loose. For the season finale, Julius (Terry Crews) had the house to himself while the kids and Rochelle went to the museum as a Father's Day present. Chris (Tyler James Williams) still wanted to give his father a present, but the question still remained — What could you give a man who never wanted much? The result is something that had to be seen to be believed.

I said once before that I would have liked "Everybody Hates Corleone" to be the season finale, but I sensed that would seem anti-climatic. We all knew Chris would never leave the school — it would have changed the premise of the show too much. For this episode, it was nice to get a small and simple story without a lot of big gags and what not. The most interesting change for this episode was the more relaxed Rochelle.

For most of the earlier part of the season the laughs from her character where more from her over-the-topness. After the Christmas episode, the tone of her character changed bit by bit with each show. Now for this episode she responded with the same control and aggressiveness, but not with the high volume level performance of the earlier episodes.

Tyler James Williams also came into his own as the young Chris Rock. Many would cite the fact that he never cracked jokes or talked smart to everyone. Had that been the idea of his character, the transformation to the older Chris Rock would have been more obvious. Here, he's a normal everyday kid surrounded by unusual circumstances and situations. In the history of black television, an observer of life was introduced rather than one who tries to get in the middle of it.

Considering Chris Rock intended to change the show away from the already altered timeline of his real life after this season, the biggest question is: where can they go from here? Rock has a lot to say — just watch any of his HBO specials. It's also "inspired" by his life as a kid, not as a literal context to it. If he had chosen to do so after this year, I'm sure the laughs won't be less. After all, That '70s Show was never really about the '70s.

Here's to hoping that the CW Network takes the show for the fall.

Posted by Matthew at 03:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Opinion: What Is Going On In Hip-Hop Radio?

Troi Torain is a man whose career has been made by being as crude as possible on radio. Now his latest attempt may end up taking away his freedom. Torain, who is known as Power 105's DJ Star of Star and Buckwild, decided to make beef with a rival DJ who also plays in New York at Hot 97; he was suspended for his remarks. Now normally, beefs like this usually warm over as being "just good business" to keep ratings high and paychecks continuous. What you are about to read, however, makes his firing a bit more justifiable:

Star: Let me see now, uh, DJ Benji attention! In case you didn't hearme, I said, I want to put some mayonnaise in between your baby girl'sass crack and take a bite.

The DJ he refers to as "Benji" is DJ Envy. The baby girl he disrespects is DJ Envy's 4-Year-Old Daughter. You can read the rest of the transcript that The New York Council has at the Follow the Leader website - that is if you have a good stomach. Whether he was being crude for the ratings or being completely serious, no one has the right to put a 4-year-old in the middle of a beef between two grown ass adults. Before someone starts to say the words "Howard Stern" let me say this - you never hear Howard Stern using children younger than 10 in his disputes with the people of the world. Suspension isn't enough; he needs to be fired - completely.

Some folks have already started saying that because this is a hip-hop radio station, this should be expected. Hip-Hop was never created around the theme of violence. That was developed by the less intelligent group of street culture - the type of men who pretend to be so by the physical harm they do to one another and their communities. The smarter version of the street culture got silenced by the new generation and the record sales that have grown due to their newfound fascination with the gangsta side of rap music.

Mr. Torain will no doubt find work elsewhere - he may even go satellite and/or hit the net for another radio outlet. If my ideas about human nature are right, people are going to find they don't want to pay money to hear a loudmouth, and in his case, a loudmouth with a mind that can stoop to pedophilia. Then again, we still have love for Maury, which unfortunately leaves some space in the world for Mr. Torain.

If people cannot make money in a media based career without subjecting harm to another person, they should consider another field. The glue of radio entertainment has become the replacement for old fashion life lessons. No, I don't want radio to be safe - I just want radio to be able to say what it wants without involving people who have nothing to do with the topics at hand.

Posted by Matthew at 03:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 07, 2006

TV Review: BBC's Doctor Who - The Girl In The Fireplace

Doctor Who fans have been so serious: they don't want any humor in THEIR show. I could understand that under the auspices of Russell Davies; Steven Moffat, however, wrote Coupling. This could have been a case of him tapping into his own show's witty charm and sprinkling it into Who, or he spoke to Robert Holmes during the scriptwriting stage.

Either way, Doctor Who was back in last night's episode, and to be honest, I wished during my screening of it for more eps from him. But seeing as how the fans don't like "humor" in their show, that's not likely to be the case. Now onto the episode.

The fourth episode of Series 2, "The Girl In The Fireplace," deals a mystery. A ship, seemingly abandoned was boarded by The TARDIS Crew (with Mickey in tow). There's little or no clue as to what the crew were working on - that is until the Doctor comes across a fireplace. Having hit a secret button, The Doctor went through a time window which lead to the room of a little girl. The little girl would grow up to be Reinette (Sophia Myles), a mistress to a rather famous king, but not before an Auton-like race (change the plastic heads with android heads) attempted to take her body and use her parts to repair their ship. Of course The TARDIS Crew puts a stop to the whole thing, but a mystery still remained: what was the connection between The Doctor and Reinette?

I loved to be confused - I also liked to be confused to where I'd watch an episode again to get more answers. I don't like being confused to the point where I never care for anything on the screen. "The Girl In The Fireplace" was an episode where whether you got the answers or not, everything mattered: the characters had purpose, the dialogue (especially between The Doc and Reinette) was honest and passionate. This episode was so good that I started to feel like the White Sox last year.

Major kudos go to Steven Moffat, who proved that no matter who you cast as the Doctor, it's all about the writing. He made Christopher Eccelston a bit more of a human being with his "Empty Child"/"Doctor Dances" two-parter. Here, unlike those two episodes, the screen was never crowded with a lot of people. You had the Doctor, Rose, and Mickey and Reinette and the Auton-like creatures. You didn't need Captain Jack, Annie, Jamie the Zombie and another guy called The Doctor. Dumping all of that, Moffat concentrates on the least to make the most of an hour; it must have been a relief for David Tennant to get an episode like this, he seemed so damn happy. I loved his happy THIS TIME.

Mickey (Noel Clarke) has been written as a bad sidekick mostly, for "School Reunion" and "The Girl In The Fireplace," his accent wasn't as thick and his words seemed — well — normal. The same could have been said for Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) who while having less to do with this episode also toned down her accent and become as clear as a whistle. Even more wonderful to finally hear David Tennant and catch every lovely word coming out of his mouth - he's even starting to become a more romantic Doctor in this script. This was how Elizabeth Sladen's episode should have been written.

My father always complained about the lack of language clarity in British Television. So far in Series 2, I would have agreed with him; Mr. Moffat, however made me a believer that all Who isn't a wash, that quality can be achieved under the right script. I was waiting for a sex scene - I was that into it.

Steven Moffat, I love you.

Posted by Matthew at 12:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 06, 2006

DVD Review: Law and Order - Trial By Jury - The Complete Series

For a show that was supposed to be about jurors, Trial By Jury didn't give them a lot of time. Trial By Jury, the latest in the series of Law And Order spin-offs, felt more like a retread of the original. The "Jury" part was touched upon near the end of each episode. This provided more interesting scenes than the ones with the prosecutors and the detectives.

While under the guise of being a different Law and Order, it also served as the vehicle for Jerry Orbach, who played Lennie Briscoe on the original Law and Order and had left for this spin-off. In between shooting the first three episodes, Orbach had passed on — so did any sort of hope for the series. The excitement was Jerry's character and his passing made a bigger mess of an already poorly executed series.

Bebe Neuwirth and Amy Carlson were basically the female counterparts of Michael Moriaty and Richard Brooks, except without the soul. As prosecutors, they didn't have nearly the internal conflict that Brooks and Moriaty had. They were too busy frothing over the victims of each episode and seeking justice regardless of evidence or the lack thereof. The detectives who play a part in the show aren't any better.

Without the familiarity of Briscoe around, his replacement (Scott Cohen of Street Time) came in to take his place - as an egomaniac. The partner (Kirk Acevedo), having been an equal to Briscoe, now felt like Jimmy Olsen to Clark Kent. Hey, the detective side was always better than the prosecutors in the original L&O. They had the better dialogue and were fully developed characters in the early years. With that missing here, there's nothing to turn to when one part gets irritating. Speaking of which, what were all those extra people?

It might have been just me, but it seemed they always had a few people on the prosecutors' side and the detectives' side who randomly appeared without much explanation. Sometimes there would be ten to a room, including the main characters on both sides. Law And Order benefited from having a lot of to do with a small ensemble. Here it felt like they had invited a small but noticeable portion of the audience in for the ride.

As for the episodes, they all seemed too fast and too hurried to judgment on cases. Suspects were guilty either because victims and/or relatives said so or because they were hiding it all along. The proof was barely existent and assembled sloppily in the name of putting the focus on the jury. As I said, they were only given a few minutes, even if the name of the show was Trial By Jury.

I didn't bother with the special features of the DVD set. I'm pretty sure even Special Victims Unit's cast could out-act the cast of TBJ (The episode "Night" features two members of the former cast working with the latter). "A Different Look at Law and Order" is the usual public relations fluff piece. I'm sure the Deleted Scenes would be of no interest to me when the scenes they put in were bad.

I will say, the saving grace for the series - in it's original and the spin-off's - has to be composer Mike Post. He knows how to set the tone for what a day of New York's law enforcement is like (he did so several other times, including Hill Street Blues). Sadly, that wasn't enough for me to finish watching the rest of the short-lived series.

Posted by Matthew at 02:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 05, 2006

Opinion: When What You Say Online Leads To An Offline Confrontation

We've all met people through the Internet in either a personal or professional manner — sometimes even made friends. Internet users chat everyday about everything. Then one day, that person goes off — all the way off. I know I can be hotheaded about my opinions, but I'd never take a disagreement to the point where I would destroy the other person. The question is, what if someone you knew online did something offline with you face-to-face?

Writers on the Internet can seemingly bare their entire souls — almost act as if there is a public viewing of the brain of that individual. That doesn't just apply to journalists, but to those who write in public journals. For me I have found it is better to read one's journal and/or any other pieces of work they have written to see whether it's worth the communication in the first place.

I know it's a bit judgmental to make a decision about someone based on their written word, but one can't help but develop an opinion. The greatest decision you have to make after reading enough entries and articles is if you should comment on them in disagreement. People have to think about this long and hard — after all, the writing is on the monitor.

Let's say that a person does make a comment and then suddenly has a strange encounter with that person offline. The best suggestion would be to simply talk. The person who observes their journal entries knows the risk they take in responding back. The rules are no different offline.

Keep a cool head and make like you agree. Eventually, this individual will leave you alone for good, saving your neck and teaching you a lesson. Some people however, get it much worse.
Contact information is available on the Internet depending on whoever puts their information out there. If your comments are rather extreme on a particular issue (including comments about the writer), you could be getting a call from this individual. Let them get your address and suddenly you'll find yourself with a court date for libel. Friends of mine have gone through this.

It's embarrassing and not pretty. Again, if a person takes it offline, keep a cool head. In this case, simply change your contact information or delete it altogether. That includes all MySpace pages and anything else public. But what if the individual decides on none of that? What if a person you merely met online by making a comment on an individual's journal entry or article decides to try and kill you? Simple, you then get the police on them.

The idea in having an argument with someone via the Internet is to keep a record of every piece of email and/or correspondence you have. Do not delete your end of the conversation, especially. It's very easy for the opposing individual to make up emails or comments you made by simply using their word processor. If this fight happened on a website or forum, keep captures of the individual messages. This must be done quickly as the opposing party might actually delete those messages in favor of saving his own face. Lastly, simply wait. It's a costly trip to the courtroom and many simply don't feel the effort is worth it. That's usually the end result of most threats of offline action against a person, nothing but inaction.

It may be just the Internet, but all threats must be taken seriously when it's against your life. You as well as the opposing party have only one to live. Tread gently.

Posted by Matthew at 02:51 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

May 03, 2006

TV Review: Everybody Hates Chris - "Everybody Hates Playboy"

Julius (Terry Crews) had a Playboy magazine in his toolbox. No one, not even his family, knew of its existence. When Chris (Tyler James Williams) went to get a tool for his father, he discovered the magazine. What isn't a big deal these days was still a controversial item of choice during the time period of this show, which is what "Everybody Hates Playboy" focuses on.

I used to pay people to read my books. I thought it was an easy way to make money without working too hard. Little did I know that my stuff would be stolen, which is what also happened to Chris. As he and Greg (Vincent Martella) go about sharing the magazine with students for a $1, Joey Caruso (Travis T. Flory) steals it from him. Back at the house, Julius went on a frantic search for the Playboy and instead came upon $500 in one of Rochelle's (Tichina Arnold) shoeboxes.

The problem with being poor is that a dollar is gold. When it's found, it's cherished. This ideal caused a bit of mistrust between Rochelle and Julius as everything is meant to be shared between the two of them. I must admit that it's kind of hard to save everything you make - it's almost a sin to do so if you are in a family. Sometimes though, you need to have a little spending cash for the things you'd like to have. Chris well understands that as he tries to purchase another copy of the magazine at a newsstand - of course, the cashier takes the money, but doesn't give him the Playboy.

Chris managed to steal the Playboy back at one point, only to run into the vice principal - now he had to get it from her office. With Greg in tow as a lookout, Chris attempted to try and steal it once again. Not only did that fail, but now the vice principal knows who owns the magazine. Rochelle and Julius are called upon for a rather intense scene of "Who's on first?" with Julius signaling via facial expressions not to say that it was his. I would have loved to have seen what happened if Chris had said it was his.

At episode's end, Chris learns the value of never taking things that aren't his and Rochelle learns not to hide money from Julius. I don't exactly agree with either outcome, but families sometimes have to agree to disagree just to get along. This had to be the saddest ending yet with Julius taking the money Chris made from the magazine. If that had been me, I'd have blackmailed him into giving me the money back.

Posted by Matthew at 01:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 01, 2006

TV Review: Everybody Hates Chris - "Everybody Hates Drew"

For most of the season, Drew (Tequan Richmond) had been seen as the dumber little brother to Chris (Tyler James Williams). Despite this, he somehow surpassed Chris in everything. He was better at sports, he was better at getting girls, and he was master of karate. Finally, tired of being second best to his brother, Chris signed up for karate classes to be equal to Drew at something he was good at. The episode also marked another adventure for Tanya (Imani Hakim) who, after months of fighting with her mother Rochelle (Tichina Arnold), finally decided to take her to the beauty shop, a place known for adult conversations. Both plots were funnier than expected and also provided some character depth into Chris' older brother and sister.

Tanya always confided in her father Julius to consider her a favorite, while Rochelle was usually fair with everyone. As she begins to see what her mother and her girls talk about in the shop, she decides to share it with the family at dinner. While this startled Rochelle, she found that Tanya started to share some of her mother's personality with her. She got all the good gossip that might have slipped Rochelle's ears. Of course gossiping isn't good, Rochelle explained to Tanya, but if she's gonna do it, keep it in the shop.

Meanwhile, Chris learned his lesson — the hard way. As he took the classes, he began to learn moves that looked cool on the sliver screen to Drew, but actually were painful as hell in real life. During a play fight between himself and Drew, Chris twisted Drew's arm. Julius, in all of his wisdom, sat down with Chris to tell him it was okay not to be good at some things. However, Chris wasn't quite off the hook yet; he still had to apologize to his brother. In doing so, he discovered that Drew admired Chris for taking responsibility for the house when his parents aren't around, among other things. The two made up and became friends to each other again, but not before Drew twisted Chris's arm.

The rest of the episodes after Christmas may have toned down the language, but the laughs are still there. This is one of those to come since the Christmas episode last year caused the network to pay a bit more attention to the content of the series. This episode also showed, yet again, that you can put all three kids in the same episode without having to have them together in the same room.

Posted by Matthew at 12:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

TV Review: Everybody Hates Chris - "Everybody Hates Corleone"

Did I just see a cliffhanger? I must have, because that's what "Everybody Hates Corleone" felt like. For this episode, Chris (Tyler James Williams) got fed up and decided to find a way out of Corleone Junior High. The plot felt big enough to be a season finale, but it felt like it was re-written half way through because it seemed anti-climatic.

Chris got bullied everyday by everyone — that included Joey Caruso (Travis T. Flory). If your kid was bullied that much, there would be only two options: either the school does something about it, or the parents will. The choice given to him by Chris's parents is that he must learn to deal with it. Julius (Terry Crews) even used black leaders and heroes of the past to cement his reasoning. It would have seemed like a smart-mouth line, but I would have said, "Not everyone is Martin Luther King, Jr" in response to his parent's suggestion. I guess those frustrations are nothing compared to ones I had about the episode's sub-plot.

Julius finally got a new job during the day working at a local fish market. The only problem — he comes home smelling like his work. His children and his wife Rochelle (Tichina Arnold) can't stand the smell. The situation becomes so bad they nearly kick him out of the house. This is comedy and it was a funny plot, but there's something strange about kicking a man out because he takes a good job during the day.

I used to work a night job — that's why I'm up all hours of the early morning writing. I hated it, and I hated being tired at the end of it only to then have to take the bus all the way back home. Five years of sore feet and a sore personality took its toll on me, so I quit. Then in sheer brilliance, I took another night job — full-time! I've eventually come to the conclusion it wasn't for me. If I was gonna work, I might as well do it to suit what I like — Me? I like sunshine and normal sleeping hours.

The episode concluded with Julius quitting his day job and going back to working two jobs — the one at night and the one in the morning. Chris ended up staying at Corleone after he visited a school closer to home. Like at Corleone, he was bullied there, too. I believe leaving his previous school would have meant the end of Greg (Vincent Martella) and his relationship with Chris, which was probably the whole point of toying with Chris leaving. Greg was his partner — or victim — in crime and made him feel like he wasn't the only one dealing with the bullies in school.

Although Everybody Hates Chris was primarily made for an African-American audience, the show has never been afraid to ask questions of the community that aren't asked a lot. Do we leave schools that don't want us? Do we work jobs that suit us more than those jobs that suit our needs? Do we do what's right for our families? No television show will get credit for answering all of these questions. That being said, I like Everybody Hates Chris for asking them.

Posted by Matthew at 12:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Satire: No Mexicans, Get Congress On The Job!

Imagine this. Mexicans all over the United States leave their jobs in protest over immigrant civil rights. Gas Stations don't turn on pumps — Dunkin Donuts shops lie empty with customers waiting for their morning coffee, and lawns end up un-cut. Who do you call in a time of crisis? Who will serve Americans in their hour of need? Our Congressmen, that's who.

These brave men and women who debate the laws of this country for hours on end will use that energy to provide Customer Service to our most cherished institutions. An organization will be built to coordinate the number Congressmen (state and federal) who will work in the field. Some will work the restraints, others will work the convince stores - most will end up in Wal-Mart's across the country.

To keep the expenses of gas down, Congressmen will live near their respective jobs in order to control their budgets. Some will opt to live at their respective jobs by building spaces to sleep in and have leisure time. Schools will be built in within the area of the job site so that families will be able to get their kids within a close distance.

These Congressmen will not take vacations, but instead do rotations. A group of them will take off of one job, and do another job while the other group replaces the first group on their job. This will allow flexibility in skills and provide a variety of employee-to-customer skills not learned in the average college course.

When children of the congressmen reach a certain age, they will become inducted into the College of Customer Service. This college will be funded by the government, and provide work clothes and on-the-job training. If some are good enough, they will be included into a management program where they learn how to run their own retail store. People will pass this part of the advanced program get free funding and a free location of their choosing.

Due to the high crime rate that involves a retail job, Congressmen and their children will be taught crime prevention. In jobs where large amounts of money are given, gun training will be included. Exceptional students will be inducted into the Customer Service Police Force, also funded by the government and trained in preventing disputes from reaching disruptive heights.

These are just some and not all of the ideas that I have for how to solve the impending crisis that may stop the retail industry profits. Then again, I highly doubt Congressmen and their children would want to work such jobs for any amount of time. Taking that into consideration, who do we ask to fill the jobs no one would do on a bet?

Maybe we can turn to the prison system.

Posted by Matthew at 02:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

TV Review: BBC's Doctor Who - "School Reunion"

It must be fun to travel time and space with a man so interested in everything. The problem is, The Doctor can never die — his companions however, do. That is the underlying tension that Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) brought to "School Reunion," the third episode of Series 2. Once again, an episode that is a mixed bag.

The reunion between Sarah Jane Smith and the Doctor was a nice touch, sans the whole "Why did you leave me?" stuff. He was right about one thing: No matter the length a person spends with a Timelord, he will never grow old nor will he die. I couldn't help feeling that a Christopher Eccelston performance would have exploited that loneliness better. In fact, the whole underlying theme of loss made me think of Christopher Eccelston's Doctor rather than David Tennant's. Character development, however, is hard to achieve in science fiction.

As in the previous two episodes, the creature of the week was the main focus — this time, it's bat people. This race had incorporated themselves into human bodies to carry out a dastardly plan — they want to unlock the universe in order to make more of themselves. That's at least what I think they were trying to do. It feels like the dangers of the Doctor and Rose have been so passive and blah. I have the sneaky feeling that when another old enemy comes into play later this season, the writing will finally get a boost in quality.

Noel Clarke's Mickey Smith still came off as the black Adric, annoying and seemingly in the way. This time I think the writers have learned to tone that aspect of his character down, in favor of a more practical approach — make him do the grunt work. From pulling wires to smashing doors down, Mickey is good as a character to cut through the bullshit. This being the case, I think his return would have been better left out until later in the season. It's really hard to pay attention to him and the main plot and the return of Sarah Jane Smith without feeling confused. Since Sarah Jane hasn't been in the program for years, I would have stuck to that more.

John Lesson's K9 also returned for "School Reunion." The last time anyone saw him was in "The Five Doctors" in 1983, and he was relegated to a cameo. For all the technology that has come since the days of Tom Baker's era, you would think that he wouldn't be as stationary as he was this time around. The few moments K9 got to move seem like meters. I can understand the little time he was given as he wasn't the favorite of the Doctor Who production team in the early days. I'd like to see more of him in a Sarah Jane spin-off, but that was already attempted and failed to produce interest.

Rose has been on the sidelines lately — an answer to my prayers since Series 1. Billie Piper's new day companion character seemed to take over the series last year — it very nearly could have been named Doctor Rose. Paired up against Sladen's Sarah Jane, the chemistry felt forced and was creating tension just to do so.

I swear I wanted Anthony Stewart Head to be the Master — He had the creepiness down to a science and demonstrated a good set of acting chops as the Headmaster of the school. The character seemed to have a Nazi theme about him that was rather funny — always walking and turning like he was stiff. I hope the producers use him more for future episodes as he was one of the stronger actors to guest star on the show.

Overall, this was a good reunion of an old guest star to the show. In terms of the quality of the episode, it was only fair. Perhaps when the Cybermen come along later this season, the writers will finally use their full abilities to make a classic episode. That's one of the conditions in being a fan of a show: You stick with it even in the dark times.

Posted by Matthew at 02:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack