So, I've been mildly excited for this movie. I haven't played the video games, but I'm a fan of the concept. And anything that involves Parkour is cool. And then I started hearing the relatively positive reviews and got a bit more excited. Though despite the reviews being positive, they were only mildly so, with ratings around the 3-3.5 out of 5 range. But hey, that's at least entertaining, right? Right.

The movie follows the story of Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), who started out as an orphan but is adopted by the Persian king, thus becoming a prince of Persia. But with his street-based childhood, he has some street cred and knows how to move about (Aladdin-ish). Well, after getting some news that a major city might be selling weapons to Persia's enemies, Dastan, his brothers, and his uncle (Ben Kingsley) are forced to invade them. In the process, Dastan discovers a mystical dagger that has the ability to turn back time, which is guarded by the city's princess, Tamina (Gemma Arterton). But after Dastan is accused of murdering his father, he is forced to leave with Tamina on a quest to figure out who was really behind his father's death, as well as discovering the secrets of the dagger. The movie also features Alfred Molina as a shifty entrepreneur who dabbles with... ostrich racing.

Overall, some parts of this movie are better than others. This movie was pimped out to be the next big "Pirates of the Caribbean." What I loved most about the PotC films, besides the quirky Captain Jack, were the imaginative fight sequences. And this movie had a lot of potential for imaginative fight sequences, what with the video game's basis in parkour and instant time travel. And I felt, for the most part, this potential was wasted. There's maybe one or two scenes that utilized these things well (primarily the parkour), but that's about it. But the scenes that do utilize these things are pretty cool.

The acting is decent, with the witty banter of Dastan and Tamina stealing the scenes. Dastan was a pretty fun character, and Gemma Arterton is absolutely gorgeous. Oh, and her character is decent, too, playing a strong female lead. Alfred Molina really hammed it up, and his character walked the line between funny and bizarrely annoying. There were some moments where he was funny, but the character overall was just strange, and the whole ostrich thing felt out of place. As for the other characters, the smaller roles (like the brothers) were a bit rough. They were flatly written and--sometimes--poorly acted. And Ben Kingsley was just kinda in it for the paycheck, I think.

Which leads me into the script itself. You can tell there are some very video game moments (puzzles, etc.). And those are pretty cool. But there is some pretty rough dialogue that is so forced, so stilted, so bad... I wonder how it even stayed past the rough draft of the script. Luckily, these moments are few and far between, but when they show up (especially around the beginning), they really stick out.

I know this review seems negative, but I didn't dislike the movie. It was actually pretty entertaining, and I can agree with all those other reviews that put it in that middle ground. It's not great, but it's fun, and it's a decent way to spend about 2 hours. Sure, you pretty much see everything coming a mile away, but the journey is still an entertaining one. And isn't that what summer blockbusters are all about?

Stop Saying Okay! Okay.

(P.S. And that's a strong rating... it was a tough choice between this and the next highest rating, but overall I thought this one was more suitable.)

Romeo & Juliet: The Remix (Movie, Bloopers, And Notes).

Here it is, folks. It's finally available online. This is my modernized Romeo and Juliet movie I made with my students. But before I post the videos, let me go into some production details (since I didn't do a Production Diary like I did with my Odyssey movie).

- This movie took forever to finish, mostly because there were issues with students staying after school for one reason or another. In fact, this past week was the last full week of school (as in Monday - Friday, not necessarily all full days), and we were having to rush hardcore to get it done. And Jill, my Juliet, was out for both Monday and Tuesday for health reasons. Then, on Wednesday, when all we had left was the Party Scene and her half of another scene, she had roughly 5-10 minutes to film everything she needed to (and she actually didn't even have that, as her parents kept calling, wondering where she was at. She kept telling them, but they wanted her to come home rather quickly due to her aforementioned issues). So we had to super rush her part of the party scene. I ended up actually missing a couple lines of hers, but I made it work. She also didn't have either outfit she needed for the two scenes, but I added in a throw-away line to the Party Scene, and she had a close-enough shirt for the other that it worked.

- I kept pushing back the Party Scene the entire time we were filming, mostly because it was a big scene and I wanted to do it right. But when the time finally came, time escaped me, and I couldn't decorate the room, get masks, or... you know... people. I had a few extras (which you pretty much see), but that was it. So I essentially had to film in the corners of the room and add in sound effects to make it seem like there were people in the room.

- In other words, the Party Scene sucks. I think the initial conversation between Romeo and Juliet is good, and that went really fast in filming, mostly because it was the audition scene for them and they remembered all their lines from way back then. But every other part of it is pretty lame... even I'll admit that.

- The guy who plays James Capulet (Lord Capulet from the original story) can't really act and has about the blankest expression through all his scenes. The reason I cast him as this character, though, was because he actually volunteered to do it, and I'd been having trouble getting him to do much of anything all year. It was an opportunity not worth passing up.

- You can probably tell the differences in editing between this one and the Odyssey one. I purchased Final Cut Express 4 as opposed to just using iMovie. I also learned some tricks of what to do and what not to do from the first movie. Hell, I even learned some other tricks during the making of this one (like changing angles for certain shots in filming... it helps keep the editing from being too weird or choppy. I still have some issues for that here, but it's less noticeable, I think, than the first movie).

- There is an insane amount of clothing discrepancies in this movie. The worst is from the introduction of Marcus to the party. After filming the Marcus intro scene, Layne (my Romeo) got that shirt stolen. And when we began filming the party scene, he was wearing his white shirt--both of us forgetting he needed a black one of some sort. So we compromised and put a black jacket on him that he unzipped and took off to reveal the white shirt underneath. It's really crappy, but again... it's all part of the Party Scene...

- The guy who plays Ben stopped cooperating very well toward the end of the shoot, so I wrote him out of the scenes we had left that he was in (namely, a big death sequence and the Party Scene). You can't really tell he was supposed to be there for one, but the other is slightly noticeable. I'll give you 3 guesses as to which.

- I actually wrote a large chunk of this script. I had my students write Acts 1 and 2, which follow the play pretty closely scene by scene. But by the time we got around to filming Acts 3, 4, and 5, we were already long done with reading the play. Not to mention time was short, and I didn't have any to spare on them writing it or me filming anything extensive. So I actually found a way to shorten Act 3-5 into 5 scenes (2 scenes for Act 3, and 1 for both 4 and 5, plus an Epilogue). I also wrote all 3 Prologues and the Epilogue. And, of course, like with the Odyssey movie, I did keep a large chunk of what they actually did write, but I did alter or add some stuff of my own.

- My artistic take (writing and directing) on the story is an over-the-top, ridiculous, cheesy love story that just ends in a crazy, violent, melodramatic depression. In other words, I wanted to make the characters of Romeo and Juliet (specifically Romeo, though) as cheesy as possible to emphasize how ridiculous the overall story actually is. My Juliet is kind of a straight-girl character in her reactions to Romeo, though I couldn't have her be like that completely, because she does go along with it. But everybody else around them is pretty much like "WTF?" the whole time. So if something feels cheesy/corny, it's supposed to be. And then the end is hardcore.

- Collin, who plays Larry (the Friar Lawrence character), just cracked me up in this movie. I turned the character into a stoner. His introduction scene is one of my favorite pre-climax scenes of the movie. Not really anything special to say here... just felt like sharing that.

- It was a complete coincidence that Kash (Marcus) was chewing gum in every scene he filmed, but it turned into an interesting character quirk (even to the point of funny--i.e., in the character's final scene).

- During the scene where Adeline (the Nurse character) shows up to talk to Romeo alone about him and Juliet getting married, keep an eye on Peter (the guy with Adeline) in the background. He gets closer and closer to the two of them without you ever seeing him move, and I found that hilarious. Also, the chirping sound when Adeline and Romeo turn around to stare at him blankly was NOT a sound effect. Amazingly, there was actually chirping in the background as I filmed that shot, which was a hilarious coincidence.

- In that same scene, but in the first half, you'll notice the clips with Marcus and Ben are fuzzy. This is because this scene was filmed over about 3 different days, and the day I filmed the Marcus/Ben stuff, the lights had been turned off back there, so I had to turn up the brightness in Post, which caused the fuzziness.

- Fun Fact: The hand that smacks Marcus in the back of the head in that same scene does not belong to Layne (Romeo), because he wasn't there that day. In fact, there were a handful of scenes filmed where only part of a conversation was filmed and the other part had to be filmed later.

- Fun Fact: The guy who plays Marcus had often been compared to a mini version of me during classes. His character is our interpretation of Mercutio. I play Mr. Prince, who is our interpretation of Prince Escalus. In the play, Mercutio and Prince are relatives. To add to the perfect casting choice, he actually is a class clown, never passing up the chance to make a joke, even to a fault, just like Mercutio.

- Fun Fact: The Opening Credits sequence took about 3 days to film, and I'm surprised it turned out as well as it did... the only real discrepancies come from the cars in the mini-parking lot we're in, if you can even tell.

- Fun Fact: Just like with the actual play, there are quite a few puns spread throughout the movie, some more subtle than others. See if you can find 'em :P .

- Fun Fact: Almost all the people who played a minor role in the previous movie received a bigger role in this one. Though some moved up either slightly or stayed the same (Layne (Romeo) moving from Supporting Character to Lead and Kash (Marcus) staying a Supporting Character). Also, Collin (who plays Larry) did actually play a prominent role in the first movie, but you never really saw his face. That's right, he played the Security Guard wherein you only saw his feet through the whole thing.

- Fun Fact: Both movies have a character named Larry. They also both have a character named Penelope/Penny, though the name is never stated in this movie. And, finally, a character with two initials as a name (O.D. in the Odyssey and A.B in this one... though, again, A.B is never named in the context of the film).

- Besides the last names of Capulet and Montague, the only names to really stay exactly the same are Romeo, Juliet, Peter, and Prince (though it's taken from a title to a surname). The following is a character list of names that were altered from the original source to the modernized version:

Sampson and Gregory = Sam and Greg
Abram/Abraham = A.B (ironically being played by a guy whose name really is Abraham)
Benvolio = Ben
Tybalt = Ty
Lord and Lady Capulet = James and Penelope Capulet (In my head, I called her Pen Cap)
Lord and Lady Montague = Nicholas and Elizabeth Montague
Paris = Pierce
Rosaline = Rose (but like the play, she's never actually seen)
The Nurse = Adeline (pretty much the only name that's not remotely similar, because the character isn't even given a name in the play)
Mercutio = Marcus
Friar Lawrence = Larry

*Note: I turned the Capulet/Montague parents into siblings for my version, as parents wouldn't really make sense in the school setting.

So, all in all, there were a lot of behind-the-scenes issues (tons more than I even mentioned here, including casting replacements and one instance where an Assistant Principal thought something we were filming was a real fight), and even I wasn't sure if we were going to finish (my students pretty much gave up long ago and were about as surprised as I was that it actually finished). But, lo and behold, I did get it done... and now here it is for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy (It'd probably be best to full screen it)!

Romeo & Juliet: The Remix from Nicholas Jobe on Vimeo.

And here's about 10 minutes of Bloopers. They're pretty funny, especially the ones involving Layne/Romeo.


An Email From LOST Writer Ryan Jones.

Note: I took this email from fellow blogger Adam Frazier's Facebook, where he posted it. It helped make sense of a lot of things on the show that seemed unexplained. Due to popular demand (from my mentioning it), I'm posting it here.


This is an email from LOST Writer Ryan Jones which gives out some pretty definitive answers - now, I realize a lot of this may appear to be "common knowledge" to most of us... but the more podcasts and articles I read, the more I see how divisive this finale has been and how many crazy thoughts people have had (like they all died in the plane crash...)

Anyways, ENJOY!

First ...
The Island:

It was real. Everything that happened on the island that we saw throughout the 6 seasons was real. Forget the final image of the plane crash, it was put in purposely to f*&k with people's heads and show how far the show had come. They really crashed. They really survived. They really discovered Dharma and the Others. The Island keeps the balance of good and evil in the world. It always has and always will perform that role. And the Island will always need a "Protector". Jacob wasn't the first, Hurley won't be the last. However, Jacob had to deal with a malevolent force (MIB) that his mother, nor Hurley had to deal with. He created the devil and had to find a way to kill him -- even though the rules prevented him from actually doing so.

Thus began Jacob's plan to bring candidates to the Island to do the one thing he couldn't do. Kill the MIB. He had a huge list of candidates that spanned generations. Yet everytime he brought people there, the MIB corrupted them and caused them to kill one another. That was until Richard came along and helped Jacob understand that if he didn't take a more active role, then his plan would never work.

Enter Dharma -- which I'm not sure why John is having such a hard time grasping. Dharma, like the countless scores of people that were brought to the island before, were brought there by Jacob as part of his plan to kill the MIB. However, the MIB was aware of this plan and interfered by "corrupting" Ben. Making Ben believe he was doing the work of Jacob when in reality he was doing the work of the MIB. This carried over into all of Ben's "off-island" activities. He was the leader. He spoke for Jacob as far as they were concerned. So the "Others" killed Dharma and later were actively trying to kill Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley and all the candidates because that's what the MIB wanted. And what he couldn't do for himself.

Dharma was originally brought in to be good. But was turned bad by MIB's corruption and eventually destroyed by his pawn Ben. Now, was Dharma only brought there to help Jack and the other Candidates on their overall quest to kill Smokey? Or did Jacob have another list of Candidates from the Dharma group that we were never aware of? That's a question that is purposely not answered because whatever answer the writers came up with would be worse than the one you come up with for yourself. Still ... Dharma's purpose is not "pointless" or even vague. Hell, it's pretty blatant.

Still, despite his grand plan, Jacob wanted to give his "candidates" (our Lostaways) the one thing he, nor his brother, were ever afforded: free will. Hence him bringing a host of "candidates" through the decades and letting them "choose" which one would actually do the job in the end. Maybe he knew Jack would be the one to kill Flocke and that Hurley would be the protector in the end. Maybe he didn't. But that was always the key question of the show: Fate vs Free-will. Science vs Faith. Personally I think Jacob knew from the beginning what was going to happen and that everyone played a part over 6 seasons in helping Jack get to the point where he needed to be to kill Smokey and make Hurley the protector -- I know that's how a lot of the writers viewed it. But again, they won't answer that (nor should they) because that ruins the fun.

In the end, Jack got to do what he always wanted to do from the very first episode of the show: Save his fellow Lostaways. He got Kate and Sawyer off the island and he gave Hurley the purpose in life he'd always been missing. And, in Sideways world (which we'll get to next) he in fact saved everyone by helping them all move on ...


Sideways World:

Sideways world is where it gets really cool in terms of theology and metaphysical discussion (for me at least -- because I love history/religion theories and loved all the talks in the writer's room about it). Basically what the show is proposing is that we're all linked to certain people during our lives. Call them soulmates (though it's not exactly the best word). But these people we're linked to are with us doing "the most important moments of our lives" as Christian said. These are the people we move through the universe with from lifetime to lifetime. It's loosely based in Hinduism with large doses of western religion thrown into the mix.

The concept that the writers created, basing it off these religious philosophies, was that as a group, the Lostaways subconsciously created this "sideways" world where they exist in purgatory until they are "awakened" and find one another. Once they all find one another, they can then move on and move forward. In essence, this is the show's concept of the afterlife. According to the show, everyone creates their own "Sideways" purgatory with their "soulmates" throughout their lives and exist there until they all move on together. That's a beautiful notion. Even if you aren't religious or even spiritual, the idea that we live AND die together is deeply profound and moving.

It's a really cool and spiritual concept that fits the whole tone and subtext the show has had from the beginning. These people were SUPPOSED to be together on that plane. They were supposed to live through these events -- not JUST because of Jacob. But because that's what the universe or God (depending on how religious you wish to get) wanted to happen. The show was always about science vs faith -- and it ultimately came down on the side of faith. It answered THE core question of the series. The one question that has been at the root of every island mystery, every character backstory, every plot twist. That, by itself, is quite an accomplishment.

How much you want to extrapolate from that is up to you as the viewer. Think about season 1 when we first found the Hatch. Everyone thought that's THE answer! Whatever is down there is the answer! Then, as we discovered it was just one station of many. One link in a very long chain that kept revealing more, and more of a larger mosaic.

But the writer's took it even further this season by contrasting this Sideways "purgatory" with the Island itself. Remember when Michael appeared to Hurley, he said he was not allowed to leave the Island. Just like the MIB. He wasn't allowed into this sideways world and thus, was not afforded the opportunity to move on. Why? Because he had proven himself to be unworthy with his actions on the Island. He failed the test. The others, passed. They made it into Sideways world when they died -- some before Jack, some years later. In Hurley's case, maybe centuries later. They exist in this sideways world until they are "awakened" and they can only move on TOGETHER because they are linked. They are destined to be together for eternity. That was their destiny.

They were NOT linked to Anna Lucia, Daniel, Roussou, Alex, Miles, Lupidis, (and all the rest who weren't in the church -- basically everyone who wasn't in season 1). Yet those people exist in Sideways world. Why? Well again, here's where they leave it up to you to decide. The way I like to think about it, is that those people who were left behind in Sideways world have to find their own soulmates before they can wake up. It's possible that those links aren't people from the island but from their other life (Anna's parnter, the guy she shot --- Roussou's husband, etc etc).

A lot of people have been talking about Ben and why he didn't go into the Church. And if you think of Sideways world in this way, then it gives you the answer to that very question. Ben can't move on yet because he hasn't connected with the people he needs to. It's going to be his job to awaken Roussou, Alex, Anna Lucia (maybe), Ethan, Goodspeed, his father and the rest. He has to atone for his sins more than he did by being Hurley's number two. He has to do what Hurley and Desmond did for our Lostaways with his own people. He has to help them connect. And he can only move on when all the links in his chain are ready to. Same can be said for Faraday, Charlotte, Whidmore, Hawkins etc. It's really a neat, and cool concept. At least to me.

But, from a more "behind the scenes" note: the reason Ben's not in the church, and the reason no one is in the church but for Season 1 people is because they wrote the ending to the show after writing the pilot. And never changed it. The writers always said (and many didn't believe them) that they knew their ending from the very first episode. I applaud them for that. It's pretty fantastic. Originally Ben was supposed to have a 3 episode arc and be done. But he became a big part of the show. They could have easily changed their ending and put him in the church -- but instead they problem solved it. Gave him a BRILLIANT moment with Locke outside the church ... and then that was it. I loved that. For those that wonder -- the original ending started the moment Jack walked into the church and touches the casket to Jack closing his eyes as the other plane flies away. That was always JJ's ending. And they kept it.

For me the ending of this show means a lot. Not only because I worked on it, but because as a writer it inspired me in a way the medium had never done before. I've been inspired to write by great films. Maybe too many to count. And there have been amazing TV shows that I've loved (X-Files, 24, Sopranos, countless 1/2 hour shows). But none did what LOST did for me. None showed me that you could take huge risks (writing a show about faith for network TV) and stick to your creative guns and STILL please the audience. I learned a lot from the show as a writer. I learned even more from being around the incredible writers, producers, PAs, interns and everyone else who slaved on the show for 6 years.

In the end, for me, LOST was a touchstone show that dealt with faith, the afterlife, and all these big, spirtual questions that most shows don't touch. And to me, they never once waivered from their core story -- even with all the sci-fi elements they mixed in. To walk that long and daunting of a creative tightrope and survive is simply astounding.

"it only ends once."


Idol Chatter: The Live Blog #14.2: The Final 2 (Finale Results).

[I wanted to do this last season, but I got the idea a few episodes too late. I do admit, I watch American Idol. I really didn't start until a couple years ago, though (my mom was a much bigger fan). Similar in style to the Live Survivor Blog over at Blog Cabins, Idol Chatter (pun and all) will be a play by play of the episodes and what I think of what's happening. For those that don't know, just continually refresh this page to get new updates as the show goes on.]

I want to apologize if this final Idol Chatter seems less detailed or that I'm a bit distracted, because I'm going to be simultaneously editing my Romeo and Juliet movie that my students and I finally finished today. But I'll try to keep the quality up for all 1 of you that actually reads this. And why shouldn't I? It's the finale! So let's get to it...

7:00: Wow, really? Lee and Crystal both auditioned in Chicago. Pretty cool. AND they just showed a clip of them both at the auditions. They both sat like... 2 chairs away from each other in the waiting room (like, Lee--person--Crystal). How serendipitous. It's almost like LOST...

7:01: "This... is American Idol!" If last night's performances mean anything, Crystal has this in the bag. But Lee has a huge fan base. But I actually think I'm rooting for a Crystal win, just so we have something a bit different to toss into the winner's circle. Not to mention her "winner song" is better anyway.

7:03: Lee seemed to have a bigger applause. And there's Randy with another weird suit-and-tie. Aw... Simon on his very last night of Idol. Oh well.

7:04: Interesting... they're (Crystal/Lee) in school girl/boy outfits.

7:05: The Top 12 are all singing together. Well, that makes sense now. They're singing "School's Out For Summer." I wish... a few more days. To quote Usher, "OMG." I just saw Siobhan in a school girl outfit. I think that about makes this the best finale ever just for that. Oh, and hey, Alice Cooper!

7:12: Here's Kris Allen, last year's surprise winner. I figured he would be singing the song that plays all the time on the radio (which I actually really like). This one's not all that bad, though.

7:15: Now a Tribute to Simon! That was funny.

7:18: Now Siobhan is singing!... with Aaron. Bleh. Way to ruin something good. It's actually not all that bad. And now the original singers of this song comes out (the Bee Gees). And they're incredibly nasally. Well, the one of them that's singing is. The other one just seems to be lip syncing to, well, nothing. It's like he's lip syncing to the other guy standing right next to him. It's almost humorous.

7:26: Big Mike's singing now.

7:28: And now Dane Cook is performing a song set to Simon's greatest insults (actually, the song is completely his insults). Haha... great Abe Lincoln joke. Hey! It's the "I Am Your Brother!" guy!

7:34: Lacey's up singing "Beautiful" with... that other girl whose name I don't remember. The girl whose last name sounded like Panini. Oh, and there's Katie... Hell, it's just the Top 6 girls. And there's Christina Aguilera.

7:42: And now Ricky Gervais is on via Satellite. He's funny.

7:47: Now Lee's singing... with the other Top 6 Guys.

7:53: And now Crystal is performing. (I know, I know... terse comments). And she's singing Alanis' "Ironic." I used this song to teach my students about irony... because nothing in the song is actually ironic. And speaking of Alanis...

8:01: And now Carrie Underwood is performing.

8:04: And now Lee and Crystal are gonna get some surprise cars. And now the last Ford Music Video.

8:07: And Casey is performing.

8:14: Here's a "Medley of Hits" from Chicago (the band) with Lee.

8:18: Another Simon video.

8:21: Hell yeah! Pants on the Ground! I almost forgot all about this. Epic! William Hung comes in for the "feat"!

8:28: And another Simon video. And Paula's back! I wasn't sure if Paula was gonna cuss him out or say nice things. That was really kinda awkward.

8:35: This is pretty cool. All the past winners are coming together to sing. Where's David Cook, though? Oh, that's cool. A bunch of other past contestants.

8:44: The Top 12 are singing.

8:55: Lee and Crystal sing with Joe Cocker.

9:01: And now it's time for the winner! The winner of American Idol 2010 is...

9:02: Lee! Despite Crystal doing better last night, I completely saw this coming. And I'm happy either way. This was a true underdog story, and Lee did deserve to win (but I think they both did, really).

9:05: Poor Lee. He can hardly get through the song from crying.

Final Thoughts: Decent season overall. It wasn't the best I've seen, and the contestants were pretty lame on the whole (a few notable exceptions, obviously). But I'm satisfied with the results. I would have been happy with either Crystal or Lee winning, for different reasons for both. So... yeah! That's it for now. If I decide to do this again next season (if I even watch next season... no Simon...)... I guess I'd see y'all then!


Idol Chatter: The Live Blog #14: The Top 2 (Finale).

[I wanted to do this last season, but I got the idea a few episodes too late. I do admit, I watch American Idol. I really didn't start until a couple years ago, though (my mom was a much bigger fan). Similar in style to the Live Survivor Blog over at Blog Cabins, Idol Chatter (pun and all) will be a play by play of the episodes and what I think of what's happening. For those that don't know, just continually refresh this page to get new updates as the show goes on.]

Wow, have I really not blogged anything since last Wednesday? Sorry about that, guys. It's been a muy hectic week or so. Anyway, this is it, people. The last performance night of the season! It's down to Lee and Crystal! I think they sing three songs tonight each... and I can't wait. This should be awesome. They both need to bring it tonight! Let's do it!

7:00: Cool little intro video here.

7:01: "This is their final chance... and THIS... is American Idol!"

7:03: Aw... Ryan just had to remind us this is Simon's last week on the show. You know, random thought, but I've just been wondering if Crystal's boyfriend is gonna propose to her on the show, especially after her hints earlier on in the season.

7:04: Alright, here's the 3 songs: Their favorite performance of the season that they did, a producer's choice, and the song they'll release if they win (which I don't think Kris Allen did last season, because last year's song SUCKED).

7:08: Lee's up first! He's singing his song from Inspirational Week, which is "The Boxer." I always thought this was a good performance, but it was never my favorite of his. It's still excellent, though.

7:10: Randy says it's a great way to start it off, though he needs to get more energy. Ellen is very proud of him and thought he did better this time than the first. Kara agrees with Randy. Simon wanted more passion and excitement.

7:12: Now getting right into Crystal. She's doing "Me and Bobby McGee" from Billboards Week. Again, this is another great one. But what are we to expect at this point?

7:15: Randy thought it started a bit slow, but it really picked up at the end. Though I certainly hope her album isn't like that. Too country for me. Ellen thinks she's really compelling on stage. Kara loved it. Simon says this brought him back to the time when they absolutely loved her (as she's been having a rough last few weeks).

7:21: Executive Producer's choice for Lee is "Everybody Hurts." Another slow one. Not picking any of his fun rock songs? Strange. Excellent, excellent vocals, though. Much better than his first performance.

7:23: Randy: "That was definitely better." Ellen thinks he pulled back a bit too much. Kara said it wasn't a perfect vocal, but that's what she loves about him. Simon says it was an excellent song choice, and he knows he's nervous, but he wants a 10 out of 10 for that last performance, because he knows he's capable.

7:29: Crystal is singing "Black Velvet." Again, I'm already liking this more than the first one. This has a very blues feel, which is perfect for Crystal. Lee, you really better knock the next song out of the park, because this is fantastic. Probably one of my favorite Crystal performances... ever.

7:31: Randy: "This is what I'm talkin' about!" Ellen: "That was fantastic." She gives her a standing ovation. Kara: "That's what tonight's all about." Simon was conflicted because he doesn't care for the song, but he says she took the song and "absolutely nailed it."

7:37: Alright, let's hope this song doesn't suck like last year's. This is "Beautiful Day." Um, this isn't even an original song. This is a U2 song. And I hate U2. In fact, my hate for U2 began with this song. And Lee isn't doing all that well with it. Having some pretty rough vocal issues. So... yeah. The end here isn't that bad... but the majority of it was... not great. Sorry, Lee.

7:40: Randy says pretty much everything he's said before. Ellen loved how he took the audience's energy, but didn't say much about the song itself. Kara says he got a bit swallowed by the song, but that he still deserves to be here tonight and has grown the most over the show. Simon says he made the most of it, but that Lee is exactly who this show was designed for and he genuinely wishes the best for him.

7:48: What? They have 2 different finale songs? She's singing "Up to the Mountain." Not sure I've heard this one. Sorry about this one, Lee, but I think Crystal definitely destroyed you tonight. This is a great vocal, and she's doing really (really) well. Wow.

7:50: Randy: "THIS is what this show is about." Says this is one of the best performances on this show. Ellen cannot compare Crystal to any contemporary artist out there right now, and I can totally agree with that. Crystal is nothing like anybody else out there, and she's definitely not the typical Idol (she's not a "pop" star). Kara says she was completely, emotionally invested in that song. Crystal wishes Simon good luck on his future endeavors. Simon says that was the best song/performance of the night and then "Since this is the last critique I'm ever going to give, let me say... that was outstanding."

7:54: The Recap. Lee's first song was... alright. His second song was better. His last song was... well, his first song was better. Crystal's first song was alright. Her second song was great. Her final song was... wow.

7:56: A Tribute video for the season with a song sung by the British Idol winner (it's the song that played after every "Goodbye" video. Siobhan sighting! Sorry... anyway...

Final Thoughts: I think Crystal's totally gonna win, but you can never tell... especially after last season. I'd become a Lee devotee in the last few weeks, rooting for him over Crystal. But after tonight, Crystal definitely outplayed Lee pretty hardcore. Sorry, Lee, but I'm going for Crystal now. She'd be the most unique winner ever. So we'll see tomorrow!


Idol Chatter: The Live Blog #13.2: The Top 3 (Results).

[I wanted to do this last season, but I got the idea a few episodes too late. I do admit, I watch American Idol. I really didn't start until a couple years ago, though (my mom was a much bigger fan). Similar in style to the Live Survivor Blog over at Blog Cabins, Idol Chatter (pun and all) will be a play by play of the episodes and what I think of what's happening. For those that don't know, just continually refresh this page to get new updates as the show goes on.]

It's time for the results show where Casey finally gets voted off. Seriously, if anything other than that happens, I'll probably stop watching Idol. Granted, I thought about that anyway with Simon leaving after this season. Anyway, moving on.

8:00: Over-dramatic intro.

8:02: Oh great... Justin Beiber... a 14-year-old boy (I think) who looks and sounds like he's 7 and sings about true love and how he's finding the one for him. You know, I've never seen as big of a mismatch in a song than Justin Beiber and Ludacris. Yeah...

8:03: Ryan is talking to the contestants about how their lives have changed since the show.

8:08: Believe it or not, I actually prefer Ryan interviewing the contestants and having the judges talk to the contestant rather than having a million guest performers. This has been interesting.

8:13: Oh joy! The Ford Music Video! *snore*

8:14: The "Going Home" videos... by that, I mean when the contestants return to their hometowns. First up is Casey returning to Texas. Of course, all they show are females. And... Casey signed a dachshund. Huh. I've never understood why people ask famous people to sign things that are gonna be washed off anyway (pets, babies, boobs, etc.).

8:23: Turban spotting! I don't mean middle eastern headwear... but Tim Urban! Anywho... moving on.

8:24: Now, some new guy named Travis Garland who is apparently better than Justin Timberlake. I've seen this guy for only 10 seconds or so and... he's no Justin Timberlake. Good God, is this guy cheesy. He makes 90s boy band dance moves look classy. This is almost so bad it's hilarious. And is it just me, or does this guy kinda look like a Lawrence brother (remember them)? I think what made it hilarious was that he kept the straightest, most serious face while performing the most ridiculous dance moves. Anyway, it's over and... Yeah... that was... um... yeah.

8:32: Going to Ohio with Crystal now with her "Going Home" video. Well, that answers my question. A guy just had Crystal sign his chest, and when she said "you better bathe," his response was "Oh, this is getting tattooed on, baby" (and say that in your best gay voice). So... is that one woman going to get Casey's signature tattooed onto her dog?

8:36: We did get to hear some original songs from Crystal during that video, and it was really good. If that's what's to be expected from an album, I can't wait.

8:37: Now going home to Chicago with Lee. We get to see the infamous paint store... just a glimpse, anyway. Lee didn't get to sign any washables (except a baseball jersey, but I suppose that doesn't have to be washed). Aw, Lee's crying as he's singing.

8:46: My day is now complete. I get to listen to Justin Bieber do not one, but a mishmash of two of his songs. Seriously, they should stop going after Obama. I think this kid is the one who forged his birth certificate. How can anybody believe this kid is older than 8? Yet he claims he's like... wtf, 16? Trust me, I've taught 14-to-17-year-old Freshmen for a year. This kid is not 16. And... oh joy! More cheesy dancing! Fun Fact: I just went to Google to see how old he was (as I thought he was 14) and typed in "how old is." I didn't even have to finish the sentence, and the first 2-3 choices I was given was Justin Bieber. Apparently other people don't believe him, either.

8:53: Finally, some results. And the first person in the Finale is...

8:54: Lee. Heck yeah!

8:55: And joining Lee in the Finale is... Crystal... who can't believe she's safe (or is unsure). Which means Casey is going home. No surprises there, obviously.

8:56: And now for his Goodbye Song. He's doing "Daughters" again from last night. I actually like this performance. He's really relaxed, going through the audience, shaking hands. He picked up some random little girl (who I'm sure he knows or is related to) and sings with her in his lap.

8:58: The Goodbye Video. Can you imagine it? Casey almost didn't even make the show. He had to take his shirt off to even make it to Hollywood. And he ended up in the Final 3. Though I saw his potential from even his first audition.

Final Thoughts: Next week should be awesome. Lee and Crystal will be a great finale. It can really go either way and I'll be happy, but I'm actually kinda rooting for Lee at this point. See y'all next week!


Idol Chatter: The Live Blog #13: The Top 3 (Personal/Judges Picks).

[I wanted to do this last season, but I got the idea a few episodes too late. I do admit, I watch American Idol. I really didn't start until a couple years ago, though (my mom was a much bigger fan). Similar in style to the Live Survivor Blog over at Blog Cabins, Idol Chatter (pun and all) will be a play by play of the episodes and what I think of what's happening. For those that don't know, just continually refresh this page to get new updates as the show goes on.]

Well, we're down to the Top 3, and it's a pretty pointless week. We all know Casey is going home tomorrow. Though... I wonder what they're doing tonight? I don't think they said last week. I wonder if it's Producers/Judges picks. Shouldn't that be coming up soon?

7:00: Ryan: "This... is the fight for the finale. And this..." Contestants: "Is American Idol!" Hey. A differentiation.

7:03: Hey, I was right! One song chosen by them, one song chosen by the Judges. Casey is singing... crap, I missed it. Give me a moment. Oh, it's "OK, It's Alright With Me" by Eric Hutchinson.

7:04: He has a very Rob Thomas feel here. Nothing overly impressive here, but it's a fun song. Hopefully the judges chose a bigger song for him.

7:05: Randy: "The funny thing about that lyric... That song was just kinda alright with me, too." He says you can't do that kind of safe song at this point. Ellen stumbles over her words, but agrees with Randy. Kara didn't think the song worked in his favor. Simon thinks he's lucky to have two song choices and compares it to the salad of a dinner, as he hopes there's something better to come. He said it was a dud song choice, though he did sound good.

7:11: We're back, and Crystal's up! She's singing "Come to My Window" by Melissa Etheridge. She has a harmonica rigging on her... and an acoustic guitar. Should be fun.

7:12: The thing I love about Crystal is that I can't see how American Idol could pop-ify her. They managed to turn even heavy rockers into more pop-rock (like David Cook or Daughtrey). But with her voice and style alone, I just can't see them messing her up. Anyway, it was good.

7:14: Randy didn't like the arrangement, but he liked her vocals. Ellen really liked it. Kara agrees. Simon agrees. Yup.

7:21: Lee's up! And I believe he'll be doing some Lynyrd Skynyrd. Which song? "Simple Man."

7:22: The song's just starting, and I have to say... sorry, Crystal... despite your incredible uniqueness and great voice, I think I've officially shifted my vote to Lee for the win. Still, you know you'll get a contract, and I'll still listen to your album (And I'm talking to her like she's reading this...). Anyway, this is really good.

7:24: Randy says it's a brilliant song choice, and he did a great job. And he sees that Lee believes he can win this. Ellen agrees. Kara agrees. She says "Round 1 goes to Lee." I agree with that, too. Simon thought the other performances have been OK, but that one was "absolutely on the money." And he didn't just win round one, he crushed the others.

7:31: Time for some judges choices! Kara and Randy chose for Casey, and now we get to see the videos of them back home (partially, anyway). Casey's home in Texas. He's singing "Daughters" by John Mayer. Yeah... don't care too much for John Mayer, but mostly for his voice, so I might go with it. Let's see...

7:32: It's alright so far. Again, nothing spectacular. A couple vocal issues. It was OK. I actually think I liked Casey's choice better.

7:34: Of course Randy thought this fit him. HE CHOSE THE SONG. Ellen agrees with Randy. As does Kara. Simon's laughing crazy about something. Simon thought it was much better than the first one, but thought it was a lazy arrangement. But he thought he sounded very good on it... despite not having the "Wow" factor.

7:41: And we're back. Get to take a look at Ohio with Crystal, where we also get to hear what Ellen chose for her. She's singing "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney. Let's see...

7:43: This is really good. Let's change that to "great." I actually this was a better song choice than what Randy and Kara chose. Or maybe it's just Crystal. Great stuff right there. Good job Ellen and Crystal!

7:44: Randy: "We got somebody else in it to win it!" Ellen loved it. Kara thought she took some great risks, and it paid off. Simon said he was kinda surprised when he heard the song choice, but now he gets it. He thought it was terrific. I concur.

7:51: Simon chose "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen... which I believe has already been sung this season (by Tim), but alright. Let's see! And I'm sure Simon is gonna say it was a great song choice by the end of it :P .

7:52: Wow... this is already better than Tim's rendition (which doesn't say much... though that was a really good one). Amazing. Simply amazing.

7:54: Randy says Lee just threw down the real gauntlet. Unbelievable. Ellen: "Stunning. Just... stunning." Kara: "Lee, you are what this show is all about." She said he just owned the entire night. And, of course, Simon had nothing but good things to say.

7:57: The Recap. Casey was OK and... OK. Crystal was OK and... great. Lee was great and... epically great.

Final Thoughts: Lee was brilliant tonight. Now he just has to do that again next week, and he has this in the bag. Who would have thought 12 weeks ago that Lee DeWyze was pretty much gonna win the whole thing? Casey's gone tomorrow... no real pondering about it. See y'all then.


TV Review: 24 - Day 4.

Warning: Here be spoilers.


Season Four: Day 4.

Season 4 picks up 18 months after Season 3. Jack works for the Secretary of Defense, James Heller, and is in a serious relationship with his boss' daughter, Audrey. He was fired from CTU due to the drug addiction problem from the previous season. CTU also has a new director, a woman named Erin Driscoll, who took over after Tony was sent to prison for breaking protocol (and the law) to save his wife, Michelle. And we have a new President, Keeler (and eventually Logan) after Palmer refuses to run again for a second term. But when Heller and his daughter are kidnapped, Jack is forced to help out CTU yet again to get them back... which leads into yet another set of master plans to attack the U.S. There's really only one way to describe this season: Lame.

Let's look at the character stories.

Jack Bauer

Jack is too... nice... in this season. I mean, right away he starts off in a great mood, loving his life with Audrey and not being at CTU. Not to say I want Jack to be disgruntled and/or depressed the whole season, but there was something about him this season--he was missing his usual edge. Most of it has to do with Audrey, who I'll get to later.

But most of what Jack does in this season feels like it has no real emotional impact. Kim is completely absent from this season, so she's not kidnapped or in any immediate danger. And after the first few episodes, Audrey isn't in any real danger (not like I cared while she was... but again, I'll get to that). There was just no emotional connection to anything he was doing, so his part of the story was boring. And since he's the center of the show, if Jack's story is boring, the whole thing is boring. There's also a torture theme going on, where he (or CTU) are constantly torturing people and with little to no real care about what they were doing.

James Heller and Audrey Raines

There seems to be a common theme going on with introducing a new family in each season. This season we have 2 families, the first of which is James Heller and his two kids, Audrey and Richard (Richard not being all that huge during the bulk of the season, but still mildly important to the story).

Here was my issue with these two main characters: You're introduced to them, given no real emotional connection except that Audrey and Jack are dating and James is his boss, and they are almost immediately kidnapped. Well... so? While they were kidnapped, I couldn't give a crap about either of them, and they bored from "who cares?" to annoying, particularly Heller. However, Heller did become more likable as the season went on; Audrey, on the other hand, went the opposite direction. Once her husband (who she was separated from) returned, she started heading back to him over Jack, which severed whatever care I had for her (I did like Paul--her husband--though. He was a pretty good character, and I liked the relationship he ended up building with Jack).

And after that, Audrey is just... kind of always around, bouncing between meddling in people's affairs at CTU, getting in the way, and whining about everything. And I honestly just did not care about her one bit.

The Araz Family

This is the second major family of this season. Like the previous family, I found it hard to care about most of them, sans one. The plot with this family is that they are connected to the terrorist plot of the season. There's the father, Navi; the mother, Dina; and the son, Behrooz. The father is your typical unwavering, "all for the cause," evil terrorist. In the middle was Dina, who was kind of an interesting character. While all for the cause, she would also do what was necessary to protect her teenage son, Behrooz, even if it included helping CTU and foiling her husband's plans. And then there's just the opposite end of the spectrum: Behrooz. He's really one of the first characters of the season I could actually connect with. He knew what his parents were doing was wrong, didn't want to be a part of it, and eventually tries to get out of it completely. He did have the tendency to get really whiny at times, but at the same time, he was a scared teenager afraid of dying and/or going to prison for the rest of his life. It fit.

The only major problem I had with this family is that, at one point, Behrooz is traded for Jack by the terrorists... and is never seen again! I mean, what the hell happened to him? According to Wikipedia, there is bonus footage on the DVDs that show him getting rescued by CTU, but I would have liked something to be shown on the actual show. It was just an open-ended plot point, and that annoyed me... especially after playing up his character for the bulk of the season.

Habib Marwan

Unlike other seasons, you pretty much get to know the main villain from close to the beginning. And instead of there being two distinct acts (the show being split into two halves), there are a bunch of mini-acts, as it were, and that got kind of annoying. Marwan himself was a great villain, and his portrayal by Arnold Vosloo was really good. But the character got way too repetitive. For instance, this is pretty much how it went: CTU finds somebody connected with Marwan, interrogates/tortures them, gets a location, sneaks in, gets found out, and chases Marwan. Then something blows up and Marwan escapes. Now multiply this by about 5 or 6 (yeah, it literally happens about 5-6 times) and you have most of Season 4.

Here are all of the mini-acts: We start with the Heller/Audrey kidnapping. Then we have the race to stop nuclear power plants from melting down. Then it starts coming out of nowhere... suddenly there's a guy attempting to steal a stealth jet to shoot down Air Force One. From there, we go to Marwan attempting to steal the nuclear football, which holds all nuclear codes and whatnot for the American arsenal. And then, finally, they steal and launch a nuclear missile. Some of the transitions aren't as fluid as others, but some work (the strangest transition was from nuclear meltdown to stealing of the stealth jet). Overall, it was just like Marwan had a million ideas on how to take down the U.S. and couldn't figure out which one he wanted; meanwhile, they portray it as if it was all one master plan, and it just didn't feel like one. Oh well.


Here's where I started having some other issues with this season. For the first chunk of the season, there are almost no returning characters, save for Jack and Chloe. But even Chloe leaves the show after the first few episodes, her character getting essentially replaced with a guy named Edgar. But Tony and Michelle are no longer at CTU. There's the new Director of Field Ops. There's the new commander guy at Division. Chase isn't back. Hell, even Kim is gone. Let's look through the characters we do get one at a time.

First we're given Erin Driscoll, the new Director of CTU/Field Ops. And she's so annoying. I couldn't stand her. She was just so incompetent at her job, but she acted like she was the be-all, end-all of what to do. We're also, eventually, introduced to her schizophrenic daughter (who is almost equally annoying, but in different ways). Fortunately, we don't have to deal with her for the entire season, as her incompetency at her job is doubled after an issue with her daughter (though the hypocrisy that comes from her actions after how she treated Edgar added to my annoyance of her).

Speaking of, we are also introduced to a new guy in the tech department, Edgar Stiles. I actually really liked Edgar. It took a while for him to grow on me, as he was essentially a male version of Chloe, but with a bit more heart to him. After Chloe leaves the show, his character gets really interesting, as he has to go from incompetent newbie to head-of-show real fast. Unfortunately, his character pretty much peaks soon after the "nuclear plant meltdown" mini-act, and then he starts to get slightly annoying--especially once Chloe comes back in. He does, however, still have some likable moments throughout, and does regain tolerable-ness by the end.

And then there's Chloe, who returned from the previous season. She's actually quite a bit more bearable this season, mostly because we start off with a friend of hers in danger and you get to see her actually care about something. She's given more personality and actual heart, and she's not just a bland, blunt, seemingly uncaring character. She even has some pretty awesome moments this season, like near the end when she's forced to go on a field mission. (And not to skip ahead, but I've watched the first episode of Season 5 as of this writing, and she's even more likable already).

There are a couple other CTU characters introduced, like Marianne, Sarah, and Curtis, but really the only one I cared about was Curtis. Marianne wasn't around very long, and there was just something about Sarah that bugged me. Curtis, on the other hand, was pretty cool, being another regular field agent. But he did have some things about him that bugged me, too (such as his dislike of Tony's eventual return). There was also Bill Buchanan, who took over Chappelle's position, basically. He didn't really evoke feelings from me one way or another. He wasn't an asshole like Chappelle, but he wasn't particularly incompetent at his job like... well... half the people this season. He's just kinda... there.

Finally, there's Tony and Michelle, both of whom come in about halfway through the season (Michelle a little after Tony). It's funny that Tony has essentially become one of my favorite characters, as I couldn't really stand him in Season 1 (then again, I don't think we were supposed to). Sure, he has some personality flaws, but they don't upset me like those of other characters. You can really feel the friendship between him and Jack and the trust that has been built over however many years they've known each other. Michelle, on the other hand, just got on my nerves this season... mostly for how she treated Tony. Yeah, Tony apparently became a drunk bum for a while, but the dude lost his job and went to prison to save her life. And how does she reward him? By leaving him. And on top of that, she treats him like crap when she returns, and then when she's put in a similar situation as he was the previous season? She damn-near acts uppity in the situation... yeah, I really liked her in season 3, especially during the Hotel stuff, but she lost most of my caring this season (which really put a damper on the Season 5 opening).

The Presidents (Keeler/Logan/Palmer)

I never really had strong feelings for President Keeler one way or another, except that I found it strange he was on Air Force One for the majority of the season. At one point he says he'd been flying for 20 hours. Where exactly was he coming from? Did it even say? If it did, I don't think I caught it.

(Vice) President Logan, on the other hand, annoyed the crap out of me. I swear, a theme this season had to be "people incompetent at their jobs," because they were all over the damn place this season. And Logan at the top of that list. And on top of that, he would ask for help, then act superior and unthankful when he got it. And he would bounce between pathetic and needing of help to "I got this, bitch" in the span of 3 seconds... and he did it way too often.

Eventually, Mike Novick, whose giant head makes a triumphant return this season, brings in David Palmer as an adviser to help Logan in his Time of Crisis. Thank God they brought back Palmer, despite it only being in the last 4-5 episodes. He was sorely missed for the majority of the season, having been central to the show for the last 3 seasons (and yes, I was like "Gasp!" at the start of season 5). He's not given too much to do here, but as I said, it was a welcome return to an overall boring and/or lame season.

Overall Thoughts

The season does pick up near the end--but its a too little too late kinda deal. Mandy-The-Hot-Assassin returns yet again, which is part of how the season kind of returns to its old self, as it forces Jack to regain his old personality (since it deals with Tony, as well... somebody he cares about). And there's an almost random Chinese consulate subplot that plays out for the last handful of episodes and leads into Jack's fate and Season 5. And it almost felt tacked on to the main plot like a last minute idea to segue into a plotline for Season 5 (or at least a way to kick off said season). This season had a much different feel from the previous seasons. Ironically, I felt the show held more Republican views of things (such as torture), while the season also gained a Republican President (instead of the Democrat Palmer). There's even a bit of "I'm gay, so you must hate me" in there near the end. But overall, the characters were boring, I only cared about those who were mostly innocent and/or inconsequential (Chloe's friend at the beginning, Behrooz, etc.), and half the cast were annoyingly incompetent at their jobs--with only one really overcoming that obstacle (Edgar). It was an awfully lame season that I probably won't be revisiting... but it is a necessary one, as it sets up Season 5... and from what I've seen so far--one episode--well... damn.


Podcast: The Demented Encyclopedia #10 - The One With That Guy.

For our tenth episode, we bring on guest host Dylan Fields of Blog Cabins and The Large Association of Movie Blogs. To compensate for such a long episode last week, we have a bit shorter of an episode this week.

After some quick plugs, in which Dylan plugs the LAMMY Awards, and I plug a scene from my movie-in-progress, we move on to the main topic. The topic this week is "That Guys." These are the actors and actresses who appear in numerous films and television shows, but usually as a secondary character and the common public can't really remember their names (hence "that guy"). We go over some of our favorites (actors and performances).

After that, we move on to Reality Round-Up and start off with our most detailed Survivor discussion yet, mostly because our guest host this week is actually a Survivor fan. From there we move on to a quick American Idol discussion where Travis and I actually have yet another debate and must agree to disagree.

Then, after a quick "Recommend A...", we get into our Mono-Dia-logues of the Week, where none of us are practiced/rehearsed--and you can tell, except for Dylan, who shows us up with a scene from True Romance.

And that's it for this week. Stay tuned after the closing theme for a bit extra!

Thanks goes out to Kevin MacLeod's Imcompetech Website for the music. As always, you can use the player above to listen to the podcast, or you can search iTunes, where we are also available for download. The earlier episodes are being removed from the player for space, but you can still always download them on iTunes. Also, please become a Fan on Facebook... then you can give us your input for the podcast and will probably end up on the show during the D-Bag segment. But as for now... enjoy!


Romeo & Juliet: The Remix - The Balcony Scene.

Note: "Romeo & Juliet: The Remix" is only a tentative title.

So, some of you might remember quite a few months back, my students and I made a modern-day adaptation of The Odyssey, as we were studying that at the time. Well, the next thing we went into was Romeo and Juliet. And, despite the craziness I went through with making that first movie, I decided to do it again.

Now, I've been working on this one for over a month (maybe two) now. The reason it's taking so long could be any number of reasons... students unable to stay after school being the main one. There have been issues with purposeful screw-ups for the sake of creating bloopers, making us lose time. There have been issues with casting and re-casting of characters due to external issues. There have been so many problems during the production of this film that I feel like Terry Gilliam... just not as good.

However, with only about a week and a half of classes left before Finals begin, we really have to rush to finish this. At the point of writing this, we're still missing one major scene from Act 1, a few scenes from Act 2, and we have not filmed anything from Acts 3, 4, and 5. But I did come up with a way to shorten those last 3 Acts into roughly 4 scenes in the context of my story. Will it be rushed? Yes. But I'd rather have a rushed final product than a forever-incomplete one.

On the upside, I learned from all my mistakes of the first film, and I believe my filming techniques have gotten a bit better. The dialogue and editing isn't as choppy... mostly thanks to a mix of filming more than one line at a time (due to making them memorize more than one at a time) and a new editing software (Final Cut Express 4).

All this being said, I wanted to finally show some footage. I thought about putting together a trailer, but I don't think I have enough footage to make a good trailer. Therefore, I uploaded a scene that I feel is pretty dang good... and it's one of the most famous scenes from the story: The Balcony Scene. So... lemme know what you think!


Idol Chatter: The Live Blog #12.2: The Top 4 (Results).

[I wanted to do this last season, but I got the idea a few episodes too late. I do admit, I watch American Idol. I really didn't start until a couple years ago, though (my mom was a much bigger fan). Similar in style to the Live Survivor Blog over at Blog Cabins, Idol Chatter (pun and all) will be a play by play of the episodes and what I think of what's happening. For those that don't know, just continually refresh this page to get new updates as the show goes on.]

Time for the results show. You know, 55 minutes of unnecessary performances and 5 minutes of results. With Big Mike being the only person to get a "Contestants" shirt last night after an "Artist" shirt, I'm pretty much thinking he's gonna go home. Him and Casey in the bottom with Big Mike finally saying adieu.

8:00: Awkward almost-over-dramatic intro.

8:01: No real "This... is American Idol!" Oh well. So who is performing tonight? Bon Jovi... Fantasia... Daughtry. I really only care about one of those, and it ain't Fantasia (who gave such a stupid, painfully awful performance a season or two ago... I can't stand her).

8:03: And, of course, they start the show with her. Ow. My ears. Fantasia's voice hurts my ears. I've never understood the love for her. To me, she's God-awful. And I'm not exaggerating. I think she's freakin' terrible and insanely grating. I want to stab pencils into my ears right now, no lie. I've never wanted to scream "Shut the Fuck Up!" at my TV before... I'm just gonna turn the volume down. Sorry, I can't listen to this.

8:07: Did she just say "This album is much soul"? And then "I've done stuff with Mariah Kelly"? Did Mariah Carey and R. Kelly merge together?

8:11: OMG! The Ford Music Video! Who's excited? I know I'm not!

8:13: They're showing clips of previous Top 3 contestants going back to their hometowns to get parades and stuff... I'm assuming to rub in the fact that whoever goes home tonight doesn't get a parade (or a key to the city). And probably because they don't have enough stuff for this season to fill an hour, so they show footage from previous seasons.

8:16: Love Casey. In asking what Casey would like if he were to go back home, one of the things he says is "To hear a bunch of people say y'all would be nice." That's great. Then again, I think it's weird when people don't say y'all.

8:17: Getting to some results. Everybody stands up. He talks to Big Mike and Casey first. Then Lee and Crystal. And...

8:19: Casey is safe and in the Top 3. I guess Big Mike's going home. But... is there gonna be a Bottom 2? If so, who is in it with Mike?

8:24: Daughtry is performing now. One of the most popular contestants never to win. I actually enjoy Daughtry. I mean, I don't go out of my way to listen to him, but if he comes on the radio or something, I don't change the station.

8:34: Back with more results! Big Mike! This scares me... He better not follow this up with "You're safe" and/or "you're in the Top 3." Those would be the most painful and disappointing words this season.

8:35: Whew... going to Lee now. You know, it's kind of annoying when they ask him questions, because they make it sound like they're ending sentences with awkward adverbs.

8:36: Moving on to Crystal. And I have to say, I love her penguin shirt. The next person safe is...

8:37: Lee! I got scared there for a sec, because Ryan started back to Big Mike again. But then he was like "Hang tight for a minute."

8:42: And we're back with another performance... Bon Jovi. Time to go back to ignoring stuff (nothing against Bon Jovi... I just usually ignore the performances regardless unless they're interesting, and Bon Jovi doesn't really interest me).

8:52: Back to the results. The person in the Top 3 with Lee and Casey is...

8:53: Crystal. No brainer there. Big Mike's going home... again, called that.

8:54: The Goodbye Video. Get to see more of his baby stuff... and his save... and him picking people up... and all that stuff.

8:56: The Goodbye Song. And he's just going for what he sang last night. I suppose Willy has been Freed? (buh dum psh).

Final Thoughts: Not really at all surprised by tonight. It's down to the Top 3 of Casey, Lee, and Crystal. Casey will go next week, and it'll be the Final 2 of Lee and Crystal, with really either up to win it. For once, I would be happy with either one of them winning. But I'm getting ahead of myself. So I'll see y'all next week!


Idol Chatter: The Live Blog #12: The Top 4 (Movies).

[I wanted to do this last season, but I got the idea a few episodes too late. I do admit, I watch American Idol. I really didn't start until a couple years ago, though (my mom was a much bigger fan). Similar in style to the Live Survivor Blog over at Blog Cabins, Idol Chatter (pun and all) will be a play by play of the episodes and what I think of what's happening. For those that don't know, just continually refresh this page to get new updates as the show goes on.]

Whoo! It's "Songs of the Movies" tonight! I'm excited. I wonder if any of them are gonna sing that one song from the Kevin Costner Robin Hood since Crowe's Robin Hood comes out on Friday. I so hope not.

7:00: "This... is American Idol."

7:02: I was wondering how they were going to pad the hour. Ryan just said they would be singing their solos, but they'll also be paired up to do duets. I'm wondering why they haven't started having them sings 2 songs yet. I'm sure that'll be next week.

7:03: Because Jamie Foxx's music isn't annoying (that was sarcasm), they have him back for the second year in a row as a mentor.

7:04: Ha, that's awesome. Jamie Foxx challenged the contestants to a type of T-Shirt contest. He had 2 shirts, "Contestant" and "Artist," and they have to prove themselves to see which one they are, and he gives them that shirt.

7:05: Lee's up first! And he's doing... Kiss From A Rose by Seal from Batman. And Foxx is getting right into his face... he did that last season, too. He gives Lee an "Artist" shirt.

7:06: He was kinda rough at first until he got into the refrain, then it picked up. But he's still a bit rough. Not Lee's best so far. It was alright.

7:08: Randy didn't think he did anything with the song and it was just OK. I can agree with that. Ellen agrees, but still says he's so good. Kara thought it was rough, too, but still thinks Lee is great. Simon's with Randy, and calls him (of the T-Shirt thing) a "Contestant."

7:10: Oh Em Gee. Lee will be doing his duet with Crystal! That's gonna rock.

7:14: Big Mike's up. I wonder if he's gonna sing something like "I Believe I Can Fly" from Space Jam. Wait... or maybe "Hero" from Spider-Man. Wait...

7:15: He's singing "Will You Be There" by Michael Jackson from... Free Willy. Big Mike singing a song about a whale. Too easy... Anyway, Jamie Foxx wasn't impressed.

7:16: It's alright. It's... well, it was Mike. What else can be said? It wasn't a slow-tempo ballad. It was more mid-tempo... and it was alright.

7:18: Randy didn't love it and just thought it was alright. Ellen agreed. Kara agreed (she wanted goosebumps and didn't get them). Simon's never heard of Free Willy (Simon: "What's Free Willy about?" Mike: "Well, it's about a whale..." Simon: "I can't connect what you just did to a whale named Willy." Kara: "The song's not about a whale." Simon: "Is it about a willy?" LOL). No comment.

7:26: Holy crap! Crystal and Lee singing "Falling Slowly" from Once. This is effing epic. I just got goosebumps. This is the performance of the season right here. I'm downloading that immediately.

7:28: Randy loved it. Ellen loved it. Kara: "One of my favorite moments of the entire season." Simon: "I don't know if I'd call that a good song. I'd call that a fantastic song." Absolutely amazing.

7:33: Casey is singing "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon and Garfunkle from The Graduate. Jamie Foxx wants Casey to seduce him. Casey ends up with an "Artist" shirt.

7:35: Not bad. Of the solo performances, this one is the best thus far (sorry Lee). I've enjoyed it.

7:37: Randy wonders why he chose the song. Everybody points to Kara (who has been flirting with Casey all season). Funny. He thought it was a cool, laid back version of the song. Ellen wished he would have gone a bit further with the song, but enjoyed it. She then passes it to Mrs. Robinson (Kara). Kara says he's fighting to stay in the performance and likes it. Simon begs her to tell him what the movie's about (he knows, but he's teasing her). Simon thought the performance was a little lazy and didn't have the substance for this important night for him.

7:44: Crystal's up now. She's singing a song from Caddyshack. Uh huh. She's singing "I'm Alright" by Kenny Loggins. He gave her an "Artist" shirt, but I think just barely... strangely enough.

7:45: Has a kind of blues sound to it, just a bit. She's doing pretty well with it. This has taken over Casey's as the best solo performance, but I figured it would. I enjoyed it.

7:47: Randy liked how she switched it up. Ellen actually thinks she just made that song better. Kara agrees with Ellen. Simon's never heard of Caddyshack, either, apparently. But he says Crystal's back in the game.

NOTE: Ryan just said Casey and Big Mike's duet was to Bryan Adams... dear God, no... they're doing it. They're actually doing it. They're gonna have a skinny white guy and a large black man sing Robin Hood's "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)" to each other. I think just the match-up of those two singing that to each other make it all forgivable, though.

7:52: And... alright, I guess not. They're singing "Have You Ever Loved A Woman?" from Don Juan Demarco. Damn. There went comedy gold. Anywho, this doesn't hold a candle to Lee and Crystal. This is good. Better than either of their solos. Yikes, that duel note there did not sound good, though.

7:55: Randy loved the guitar playing and, despite starting off with shaky vocals, he liked it. Ellen: "Well, as a matter of fact, yes I have loved a woman." LOL. Kara: "The duets tonight were incredible. They were better than all of the solo performances." I agree. Simon agrees, as well.

7:56: The Recap. Lee was... alright. Mike was... alright. Casey was... fun. Crystal was... really good. But the duets freakin' rocked. I'm still hyped about that "Falling Slowly" performance.

7:58: Jamie Foxx thought it was a great night and enjoyed it. I miss Harry Connick Jr.

Final Thoughts: I think the Bottom 2 will be Big Mike and Casey... who knows which will be going, though? Probably Big Mike.


TV Review: 24 - Day 3.

Warning: Here be spoilers.


Season Three: Day 3.

Season 3 picks up 3 years after Season 2. After the cliffhanger, the main thing on your mind is "is David Palmer still alive?" And, thankfully, he is. He survived the biological virus that nearly took him out, leaving a large scar on his hand and wrist. But that only foreshadowed the coming events. The main plot this time out deals with a biological weapon threat against the United States. The season is really a basic rehash of the first season, but mixing in elements of the second. And like the previous season, this one is like two different halves, one better than the other. So which half is better?

Let's look at the character stories.

Jack Bauer

Jack is back, working at CTU. But there's more to it than that. He'd been working undercover for over a year with a Mexican family, the Salazars. And in order to keep his cover, he had to become addicted to heroin. After a body shows up at a lab infected with a super-virus, Jack takes it upon himself to try to find and stop the virus from being released on the States. At first, it appears that the Salazars are involved, but there's really more to the story, more than Jack, Tony, and a man named Gael are letting on.

Jack has a really interesting story this time around, making it more personal again. He spent a year of his life with the Salazars and even came to the point of drug addiction. It also turns out, come the second half of the season, that Jack has more involved with the plot than it first let on (as does President Palmer), and it all pretty much ties back to part of the plot in Season One. But believe it or not, the best moments of the season always involve Jack's part of the story (though it is good). Oh, and Nina Myers returns again... but she's not the main villain by a long shot.

The Salazar Family

With the Warners out of the picture (after only a goodbye phone call from Jack to Kate in the first episode), the Salazar comes in as the new family that will only be relevant for the first half of the season. The Salazars are drug cartels, with one of the brothers being in jail. Jack has to break him out and get him down to Mexico, which is where you learn a major twist in the story that I won't reveal in too much detail. Let's just say that Jack works with the Salazars to try and get his hands on the virus.

The Salazars are, for lack of a better term, stupid. Or lame, rather. I never cared for their storyline, and the brothers flip-flopped how they felt about Jack so much I couldn't remember which one was which (shows how developed their personalities were). Thankfully you don't have to deal with any of them after the halfway point, despite the entire beginning of the show being almost completely about them.


There are quite a few different storylines going on in the CTU building this season. First, there is the introduction of a couple new characters: Chloe, Adam, and Chase. Let's go in order. Chloe is horrendously annoying. She speaks her mind in all the wrong ways. It's like she's the nerd who thinks she's cool and tries to stand up to everybody who messes with her, but just continually makes an ass of herself. And despite being smart and helpful, nobody can stand her... and the more people can't stand her, the more Chloe feels the need to prove herself, which just makes everything worse. Her story in this season is basically just as a plot device, used only when things go bad electronically. But there's also a subplot about a baby that nearly goes nowhere, and the baby just disappears from the show about halfway in, despite supposedly being still there (unless I missed something).

Adam is, for all intents and purposes, Chloe's partner. Played by the ever-present Zachary Quinto (of Heroes and Star Trek fame), Adam is one of the few likable characters this season (I'll get into that later). His character starts off a bit rough, but he grows on you pretty fast. And his story is basically the same as Chloe, minus the baby. He's just there for plot purposes. He does get a bit of minor development near the very end of the season, but nothing monumental.

Then there's Chase. But I can't talk about Chase without talking about Kim Bauer. Kim is now working at CTU as one of the tech squad (in other words, she works with Chloe and Adam), given the job by her father to that she can stay safe and out of trouble--a smart move considering the previous two seasons. Anyway, Chase is Jack's partner, as well as Kim's 3-month boyfriend. There's another twist involving him, but I won't go there here. Chase is impulsive and will go to any means to prove himself. In fact, he often nearly screws things up many times, like when he follows Jack to Mexico to rescue him not knowing Jack had everything under control. And outside of this impulsiveness, he's mildly likable.

Let's not forget Tony and Michelle. Unlike every other relationship in this show, this one actually lasted more than one season. Now married, Tony and Michelle face quite a few hardships throughout the season. From Tony getting shot to Michelle getting caught up in the virus epidemic (the whole string of episodes in the hotel were some of the best parts of the season). Tony's basic story is that, while he's supposed to be running CTU now, things keep happening to put his ability to run the place into question. Michelle, being the second-in-command, doesn't have too much to do throughout the season until the second half, when her moment(s) really come into play.

And then there's Ryan Chappelle. Ryan plays a bigger role in this season than he did in the last, and he's still a total ass. In fact, he's probably a bigger ass in this season than he was in the previous. However, there's an episode late in the season dealing with Ryan that nearly made me cry, despite my dislike of the character. I really think that shows how good this show is, capable of making you go from hating a character to really feeling for them in the span of one or two episodes.

President Palmer

Palmer's story, like a few other things this season, is a complete rehash of Season One. Palmer is up for re-election, so he's in campaign mode. There's scandal involving a psychiatrist (this time his current girlfriend), as well as Sherry being Sherry and a scandal involving a murder cover-up that can't get out to the media, all stemming from something a male relative did (this time his brother instead of his son).

I have to be honest here, Sherry is actually likable for the bulk of her appearance in this season. It isn't until after the murder cover-up stuff starts that she goes back to her old ways. But I thought prior to that, the use of her character was refreshing. David Palmer also gets slightly darker and more serious. He still tries to uphold the right thing, but he has to make some incredibly tough choices this season, putting him in that morally ambiguous area that he rarely ventures into.

But then there's Palmer's brother who he hired as his personal consultant, figuring he could trust him well enough. And the dude is a prick. I couldn't stand him and just wanted him to get fired. But no, David trusted him and needed him, so he had to stay on.

The end of his story is satisfying enough, however, leaving Palmer in a positive light. He's able to stay an ultimate good figure on the show... at least at this point.

Overall Thoughts

As I said before, this is a season in two halves. I said that the first half of Season Two was the better half. For Season Three, I have to say that the second half is the better of the two. We get away from the Salazars and start dealing with the real villain(s) of the season. Things begin to get more suspenseful, including the hotel episodes, as well as the requests that Palmer is forced to go along with if he wants the country to stay safe, not to mention the episode focusing on Chappelle. But the second half isn't without its faults, either. There are a lot of inconsistencies. The baby disappears. Jack's drug addiction just stops. Things that happen to Tony are never mentioned again (I think he collapses at one point, and at another point his wound re-opens... neither issue is ever brought back up). And I'm sure there are numerous other things I picked up on, but that I can't remember at the moment. But the season ends with one of the very rare instances of Jack showing a crack in his hard shell. The stress and emotion of the day catches up with him, and he just breaks down, and that was very nice to see there at the end. Unfortunately, I'm a little ways into Season 4 and... ugh... just... ugh.