Dances with Vikings

Ok, when I saw the poster for Pathfinder, I assumed it was a low-rent Lord of the Rings/D&D style ripoff. Someone cashing in on the fantasy trend. And given that there was basically no marketing (I never saw a trailer), I also assumed it sucked.

Oh, how wrong (and right) I was.

Pathfinder is, in fact, a "retelling" of the "legend" of how 600 years before Columbus, the Vikings showed up, raped and pillaged, and then were driven off by some mysterious force. The mysterious force, apparently, being a lone Viking child left behind on a scouting expedition who was raised by wolves. Well, Native Americans, really, but it doesn't make much of a difference.

Flash-forward to when Lil' Viking has adopted the ways of the Native Americans and grown up into proud warrior - Stands With a Sword, if you will. His original Viking family shows up and all hell breaks loose. Fortunately, Lil' Viking was off picking flowers or some such thing, so returns just in time to see everyone butchered so he can exact revenge like it's going out of style. Or maybe he created the style, since it happened long ago, I dunno.

Anyway, he chops off a lot of heads, hooks up with the hot Native American to Poke some Hontas, and chops off some more heads. The film's digitally graded to be forty shades of blue, but it's even more degrees of blah. I'd say pass and find some other path - Netflix Last of the Mohicans instead.


Bourne Again. And Again... And Again.

Friends and I staged The Ultimate Bourne-athon over the weekend. Watched Identity and Supremacy back-to-back on DVD then out to the theater for Ultimatum. Turns out re-watching them was well worth it , as I didn't remember the first two flicks as well as I thought (ha!), and the third not only wraps up the trilogy, but rather ingeniously wraps into the second.

Put simply, these movies redefined the spy genre for this generation – razor-tight action set against a real-world backdrop, with a somewhat unlikely hero at the center. The recent reboot of the Bond franchise, Casino Royale, is a direct descendant. The movies have, by and large, received raves, so rather than just add my cheers to the chorus, let me highlight two particularly impressive traits:

Dueling Directors: Not only did the franchise transition from Doug Liman to Paul Greengrass, but each director battled with the studios at every step. Identity was heavily re-shot, and relations between Liman and Universal became so acrimonious that he wasn't asked back. Greengrass started (and mostly finished) shooting Ultimatum without a script, which cause much hand-wringing among the producers. Yet the final products are brilliant; the outputs of true visionaries.

Actual Action: I don't think there's a drop of CGI tomfoolery in these films. The incredible car chases aren't the result of some messy Matrix-y mixup; it's clearly guys driving cars into other cars. And walls. And other guys. The fight scenes aren't a series laboriously choreographed mano a mano martial arts masturbation sessions; they're brutal displays of what it'd be like to get your ass seriously kicked by a guy that's way way WAY better than you are. Spectacular stuntwork all the way thru.

So if you haven't seen Ultimatum, catch it while it's on the big screen. If you haven't even met Jason Bourne yet, it's high time you got acquainted.


While I Do Think She Can Dance...

...Sabra was the wrong call last night. I'd've gone with Danny or Lacey by a mile. Neil was an afterthought, and while Sabra's a killer dancer, nothing she did was particularly memorable. Aside from the fact that she wasn't a great soloist, Lacey nailed everything from every genre. And all the judges said Danny was, put simply, the best dancer ever to grace that stage. Sigh. Once again, America lets us down.

BTW, if you didn't watch So You Think You Can Dance this year, do so next year. On every level, it's worlds better than Idol.


Had a Threesome...

...with these lovely ladies as I saw a trilogy of romantic comedies lately: Knocked Up, The Holiday and Music & Lyrics. None are particularly recent – I figure if you wanted to see these, you've seen them. Altho, SPOILER ALERT if you haven't. So rather than a traditional review, I present three Rules of Romantic Comedies derived from these movies:

Just Do It, Already
Unless you're pulling some sort of Crying Game-level surprise on us, it's a good bet that Harry and Sally are gonna end up together at the end of the picture. Just like Knocked Up's Ben and Alison, The Holiday's Amanda and Graham and Music & Lyrics' Alex and Sophie. Just like Julia Roberts & Anyone or Hugh Grant and Everyone Else. So don't take two hours and twenty minutes to do it! Knocked Up has lots of laughs, but falls prey to the same problem that sunk Wedding Crashers after an hour and a half or so – it runs out of funny and takes forever to... um... climax.

Don't Just Meet Cute
Encounter some actual, you know, obstacles along the way toward the altar. The hang-ups in The Holiday are minor - at best. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, fresh from getting out of bad relationships, switch houses and meet great guys. Winslet gets over the fact that she's a dishrag and Diaz conquers her inability to cry. Boo hoo. They all meet up for a New Year's Eve party, kiss, and the credits roll. That's a movie?

Stop Singing (Unless You're Supposed to Suck)
Our hero/heroine belting out a big number is often intended to be a high point in these movies. Not so much. It's generally designed to show how footloose and fancy free our characters feel while they're in love, but it mostly points out that actors can't sing (i.e. Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves, Kevin Bacon, Russell Crowe, Juliette Lewis, Don Johnson...) Case in point: the faux 80s numbers in Music & Lyrics that open the show? Side-splitting. The heartfelt ballad that inexplicably closes it? Eye-rolling. Go the safe route – don't say anything.


Rock On, Pop•Tarts!

My man Frank may have posted weekly recaps of American Idol, but I'm throwing down the gauntlet to declare myself the bigger geek, I mean fan... because last night I ventured back to the muddy sounds of the Allstate Arena, but instead of power-popping myself to death, I had tickets to the American Idols Live! Tour... presented (with wild abandon) by Pop•Tarts.

Disclosure: I worked on a promotion with Idol, so this was a company outing with free tickets.
Full Disclosure: I secretly kinda just wanted to go.

It's hard to know where to go with a review like this. If you hate Idol and all it stands for, the sight of the 10 "best" singers in America covering a random smattering of hits isn't going to change your mind. If you're a fan (and a 9-year old girl), tho, it's everything you could hope for and more.

Embarrassingly Full Disclosure: The last time I attended a teeny-bopper show, I thought that maybe half the audience was half my age. This time, I'd consider myself lucky if half the audience had double-digits in their age. Sigh.

The tour is basically a series of greatest hits performances from the previous season: Phil sang Blaze of Glory looking like an extra from The Matrix, Melinda sang You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman looking like she had her neck surgically removed, and LaKisha sang I Will Always Love You looking like Whitney Houston ate Dolly Parton.

The crowd ate it up, altho it's debatable whether the actual performances or text-messaging shout outs like "screem if u luv Blakeee like me do!" posted on the jumbotrons got more response.

Other highlights and lowlights (your call as to which is which):
In truth, Blake's prolly the breakout star. It'll be interesting to see whether Jordin Sparks joins the Kelly Clarksons and Carrie Underwoods of the world, or is reduced to the Fantasia Barrino/Rueben Studdard/Taylor Hicks level, but say what you want about Blake Lewis... that sumbitch can beatbox.

So - a good time was had by all, particularly if you loved Pop•Tarts and assorted Kellogg's products, as the Idols closed the show wearing retro cereal shirts and made sure to thank their corporate sponsor (Pop•Tarts, if you hadn't been paying attention) as well as their friends in Chicago as they walked off the stage.

Oh, and the Season Seven auditions are going on now. We'll catch up with Idol in January – for now, Stewart out!


Five Songs to Die By

I've been tagged by Frank for my fifteen funeral songs. As I'm less of a music guy, I'm going to pretend I misread and go with five. Enjoy (as I wouldn't, being – you know – dead and all ;) So. Without further ado, here's what you can play as I'm dirtsurfin' I haven't put the playlist in order... that'll be your job, livers!

I'd open by Welcoming my funereal guests to my personal Black Parade, thanks to my favorite death-poppers, My Chemical Romance.

Then bring things down a bit with Knockin' On Heaven's Door... the Guns 'n Roses version.

Get back on the power-pop track, but lightly, with I Miss You by blink-182.

Blow the doors off with another big inspirational kicker from MCR, Famous Last Words.

And leave 'em without a dry eye in the house (I hope) with Happy Ending from Mika (the first part, not the random hidden song after several interminable minutes of silence – there's a trend that needs to end).

Anyway, as you can see – while rock & roll will never die, I, apparently, cannot say the same. Cheers.