Life in the Slow Lane

December 31, 2008

Win free ‘Gran Turino’ movie tickets

Filed under: Movies — pauljlane @ 2:25 pm

I have in front of me a limited supply of free passes to see a screening of “Gran Turino” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 6, at the Walden Galleria Regal Cinema.

To enter the contest to win a pass (each pass is good for two people), e-mail me at lanep@gnnewspaper.com with your name, phone number, e-mail address and mailing address. Winners will be drawn Monday morning, and you have to be able to pick up your pass from our office (Tonawanda News, 435 River Road, North Tonawanda) either Monday or Tuesday, as passes will not be mailed out.

Note that holding a pass does not guarantee entry, so you should get there early.

“Gran Turino” stars Clint Eastwood as an iron-willed Korean War veteran who’s forced by his immigrant neighbors to confront his prejudices. After the screening, being co-hosted by Warner Bros. Pictures and the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival, a question-and-answer panel will be held to discuss Eastwood’s legacy as an actor and director.

December 30, 2008

An Alfonso Ribeiro sighting!

Filed under: Entertainment,Television — pauljlane @ 3:57 pm

Imagine my excitement when I saw Alfonso Ribeiro – Carlton from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” – working on a new program last week.

Ribeiro is the host of “Catch 21,” a blackjack-based program on the Game Show Network that sees contestants answer trivia questions to get cards, which are used to get as close to 21 as possible.

I haven’t heard much from Ribeiro since “Fresh Prince” went off the air; turns out he won “Celebrity Duets” in 2006 (who knew?) and is set to star in an Internet program on Soulja Boy’s Web site.

I really have nothing else to add. It was just cool to see an old favorite back in action, one of those “Whoa!” moments you have from time to time. To make your visit to this site worth it, here’s the Carlton Dance.

December 24, 2008

Movie of ‘Benjamin Button,’ ‘The Spirit’

Filed under: Movies — pauljlane @ 1:31 pm

As promised in Night & Day, here are reviews of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Spirit” courtesy of Gannet News Service.

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• “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is curious, indeed.
Not just his case, though it’s curious enough — a man is born old and ages backward — but the film as well. Director David Fincher is known for such edgy, dark movies as “Se7en” and “Fight Club.” Here he’s made a Forrest Gump for grown-ups, with Brad Pitt as his Tom Hanks, a simple, decent fellow who forges ahead in life despite obstacles in his path.
An unnecessary framing device opens the film; a woman (Julia Ormond) sits at her dying mother’s bedside in a New Orleans hospital, reading the diary of a former lover — Benjamin Button. Outside the window: Hurricane Katrina. No half-measures here.
Benjamin is born in New Orleans the day the first World War ends. But because he’s born old, Benjamin is an odd-looking creature. In a panic, his father, Thomas (Jason Flemyng) drops him off on the doorstep of an old folks’ home, where he is adopted by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), who works there.
The old-looking but young Benjamin finds easy company in the home’s residents. One day he meets the granddaughter of one, a girl named Daisy who will thread in and out of his life and is his one true love.
Benjamin goes to sea with a drunken captain (Jared Harris), and while in Russia — getting younger by the day — he embarks on an affair with a rich woman (Tilda Swinton), momentarily leaving Daisy (now played by Cate Blanchett) behind. But he returns to New Orleans eventually, and they meet again.
She’s now a dancer in New York, and her free spirit overwhelms Benjamin. Meanwhile, his father, who has been visiting him, dies and leaves Benjamin the button factory he owns. Benjamin heads to New York to seek out Daisy, a quest that will also take him to Paris.
Eventually they unite, in the middle of their lives, heading in opposite directions, each toward life’s inevitable conclusion. It’s startling to see Pitt become younger, even more impossibly handsome. Thanks to digital technology, he plays Benjamin throughout the film; it’s a credit to Fincher and Pitt that the gimmick doesn’t draw attention to itself.
But, while the end of the film is touching, Fincher’s not quite sure how to get there. A young man in an old man’s body is more easily imagined than the opposite. Pitt is good as Benjamin, but in reality the role is more about playing an emotionally stagnant man at different ages than anything else. Blanchett has the more rewarding, if traditional, role because Daisy is far less passive about life.
And while there are some astonishing set pieces, including the build-up to an accident that befalls Daisy, too much of Button feels like just that — sumptuous parts that don’t quite add up to a fully satisfying whole.
A curiosity, you might say.
Rated: PG-13 for brief war violence, sexual content, language and smoking. 2 1/2 stars out of four.

the_spirit_poster

• “The Spirit”

How do you critique acting that’s willfully bad, a story that’s crazy on purpose, dialogue that sets out to be stilted and cliched?
You say “The Spirit” looks great but there’s not much else there.
Based on comic genius Will Eisner’s creation, “The Spirit” looks similar to “Sin City,” blending live action and comic effects in a dark-and-twisted way – like a comic book come to life. That’s no surprise, given that “Spirit” director (and famous comic creator) Frank Miller co-directed “Sin City” along with Robert Rodriguez.
He could have used Rodriguez here, too. While the acting in “Sin City” was campy and the story over the top, it worked in the context of the film. Too often “The Spirit” is just not very good. Perhaps Rodriguez could have helped rein things in or even pushed them farther in a way that made sense. Whatever the case, we’re left with Gabriel Macht trying to carry a superhero movie and proving not up to the task.
Macht plays Denny Colt. At least that used to be his name. A former policeman, now he’s known simply as the Spirit, a masked man who runs around Central City cleaning up the cops’ messes. For reasons that are eventually revealed, he can’t seem to be killed (despite some gruesome attempts).
Central City is being menaced by the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson), a psychopathic scientist whose not-quite-successful creation of dim-witted henchmen is the best thing about the movie (they’re all played by Louis Lombardi, long missed as Edgar on “24”. The Octopus is aided by Silken Floss (Scarlett Johansson), a grad student getting the most out of an unorthodox internship.
The Spirit, when he’s not fighting crime and bad guys, loves his doctor, Ellen (Sarah Paulson). It’s a handy relationship, because while he can’t be killed, he can be wounded and often is. But he’s also troubled by the return of his first love, Sand Saref (Eva Mendes); a childhood tragedy left her bitter and on the wrong side of the law. Everything is headed for a showdown of literally mythic proportions.
The violence is extreme but comical; much of it is shown in shadows, but you certainly get the idea. Jackson has a ball, chewing scenery at every possible opportunity (a bizarre scene that involves Nazi regalia and the possibility of evil dental work is either an inspired nod to “Marathon Man” or an obnoxious exercise in overacting – maybe both). Mendes has never been anyone’s idea of Katharine Hepburn, but even Johansson seems plastic here. Again, that’s by design. It doesn’t mean it’s effective.
Finally, though, the film rests at Macht’s feet. He goes on about his love of “my city,” his devotion to it, and who knows? Maybe some other actor could have made it more interesting. We’ll never know.
Instead, we’re left to enjoy the look of “The Spirit,” to laugh at Jackson and leave it at that.
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of stylized violence and action, some sexual content and brief nudity. 1 1/2 stars out of four.

December 23, 2008

New Year’s Eve TV roundup

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 4:57 pm

No big plans for New Year’s Eve? Fret not. Here are the plans for each major network for holiday coverage.

• ABC: Dick Clark will be unfrozen to once again co-host the “Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” with Ryan Seacrest. Performers will include Will.I.Am, Natasha Bedingfield, Fall Out Boy, Jesse McCartney, Ne-Yo, the Pussycat Dolls, Solange and Robin Thicke. prime time special will air from 10-11 p.m., with Clark’s gang taking over the network again from 11:30 p.m. to about 2 a.m.

• CBS: No special here, just a broadcast of “Late Show with David Letterman.”

• FOX: Daughtry and Lynyrd Skynyrd will headline “New Year’s Eve Live” being hosted in las Vegas by Spike Feresten and Mark Thompson. David Cook and Scott Weiland are also slated to perform, with Robbie Knievel set to defy death with a motorcycle jump. The show will begin at 11 p.m.

• NBC: “New Year’s Eve Live with Carson Daly” will be hosted by, well, you get it. Elton John will headline and be supported by katy Perry, ludacris, the Ting Tings and T.I. Daly will kick off the night with a primetime broadcast from 10-11 p.m., then return from 11:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m.

December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas from Run DMC

Filed under: Music — pauljlane @ 5:58 pm

It’s old and corny, but I just love “Christmas in Hollis,” so enjoy some Run DMC.

December 15, 2008

Buffalo sports talk hosts prefer inanity to insight

Filed under: Entertainment,News,Sports — pauljlane @ 12:30 pm

Even though I often disagree with their viewpoints and on-air tactics, I admit that I still listen to Schopp and the Bulldog on WGR 550 at times on my drive home from work. They (well, mostly the Bulldog) offer intelligent opinions, but the way they (well, mostly Schopp) treats anyone with a dissenting opinion is ridiculous; you’ll either be told that you’re wrong, hung up on and ridiculed, or just hung up on and ridiculed.

That does at times make for entertaining radio, and they seemed objective enough to warrant not completely tuning the show out.

That all changed Sunday.

While listening to their postgame show Sunday after the Bills fumbled away a victory and dropped a 31-27 decision to the Jets, Schopp and the Bulldog spent their show defending the Bills’ decision to run a pass play with 2:06 left in the game, which J.P. Losman fumbled and the Jets returned for the winning score.

The same guys who have spent weeks calling for Losman and coach Dick Jauron to be fired spent Sunday evening saying the play wasn’t that bad a call (despite the Bills’ having run all over the Jets all day) and that it was justified.

That convinced me that the duo is only out to stir the pot. How hypocritical do you have to be to sit there and all week – especially when outspoken Buffalo news columnist Jerry Sullivan is on the show and shouting out the same sentiment, and they have to appear chummy with him – call for Jauron’s head, then defend his play-calling on the worst call he’s made all season?

These are the same two men who earlier in the week almost ran ESPN football writer John Clayton off the air for saying Jauron migh be justified in working in Buffalo next season. There’s no possible reason for reversing course so quickly except that the men only want to get people worked up.

The duo spent the evening hanging up on callers who disagreed with them and defending their incomprehensibly reached conclusion. Even if they’re the only game in town for sports talk, I don’t think Schopp and the Bulldog have an ounce of credibility left, and I think I’m tuning out for good. Considering the lack of respect they (again, mostly Schopp) show the general public, everyone else should do the same thing.

December 10, 2008

NBC sets self up for big things in talk show realm

Filed under: Television — pauljlane @ 12:19 pm

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I am back from an extended vacation, so I apologize to my regular readers for the lack of new posts (hi, honey; hey, Bill; hello, Mar).
I was as surprised as anyone to find out that Jay Leno will stay at NBC. Having been rumored to bolt to another network once his “The Tonight Show” gig ends in the spring, NBC announced this week that Leno will instead stay on The Peacock and do a 10 p.m. weeknight show.
Pure genius all the way around.
NBC gets to bolster its 10 p.m. lineup, which aside from the “Law & Order” shows has nothing to offer. NBC also keeps Leno away from its rival networks looking to draw viewers from NBC’s top-rated late night lineup, and it has five timeslots filled a week at a far cheaper rate than by making clunker series such as “Lipstick Jungle.”
With Leno still leading the way for Conan O’Brian, who will take over “The Tonight Show,” NBC figures to lengthen its lead over CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman,” which has been behind Leno for years and looks to drop back more as younger viewers are more likely to relate to O’Brian.
And love or hate Jimmy Fallon, one has to figure that he will at least initially renew interest in the “Late Night” franchise when he takes O’Brian’s seat there.
I’ve always been a Letterman guy, but even I have to admit that he, ABC’s “Nightline” and all other comers will have a tough time denting the armor that fourth-place NBC has suddenly built for itself.

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