Thursday, December 27, 2007

Best of Television 2007

Say what you want about the writers strike or the fall being the worst fall ever (it wasn't, may I remind you about Homeboys In Outer Space?) but it was another good year in TV. So good that I still have yet to make time to catch up on shows I hear are excellent but I don't have US cable so I never started and am waiting for moments to get to the DVD marathon (Dexter, Battlestar Galactica, Big Love, The Wire, Damages, The Riches, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia etc.).

On a side note, my selections for the Best of TV 2007 were also calculated into ModFab's The Best Television of 2007 list.

So here is the Best of Television 2007, with the ranking from the two previous lists (Best of TV - Fall 2006/Winter 2007 Season, and Best of TV 2006) in parenthesis.

1. Friday Night Lights (1, 3) - Like peaking into a real slice of America and watching the tiny dramas that unfold for the real people of a small town who hinge their hopes and dreams off the success and failures of their high school football team. It's more real than reality TV.

2. Pushing Daisies (New) - A delightfully morbid and fanciful dream that lives in some strange and colourful world full of magic touches.

3. Ugly Betty (4, 9) - Campy and heartfelt. Overdramatic and hilarious. Zippy and shocking, and very gay gay gay.

4. Lost (2, 6) - At its simplest form, it's an amazing character drama that slowly peels away at the layers of human relationships and the human soul. Add the whole mystery and shocking twist in the season finale for bonus points.

5. 30 Rock (10, Not Ranked) - Zany and twisted that still seems sweet in that New York bitter type of way. This is one wacked out comedy and all the better for it.

6. Weeds (7, 8) - As if you didn't think Nancy Botwin could get in any more trouble. Or funny. Or heartbreaking.

7. Veronica Mars (5, 5) - It was unceremoniously dumped by The CW and the network didn't help by hacking down its season long mystery arch into smaller plots, but the spirit of Veronica Mars showed more power than Dawn Ostroff ever could so even on a bad day, Veronica Mars was very very good.

8. Chuck (New) - A fun and thrilling ride led by the immensely likable Zachary Levi as Chuck, the hapless nerd herd now thrown into the milieu of the spy world, with a trusting family at home (Ellie, Morgan, Captain Awesome) and a questionably trusting spy family he must now deal with (Sarah, Casey).

9. Aliens in America (New) - A biting look at family politics, American values, our social customs and prejudices and what America looks as a whole to a naive foreigner. Oh, and it's really really funny.

10. The Office / Mad Men (2/New, 2) - Office politics both new and old and while the styling, decor and surface attitudes might have changed, the underlying politics and human desires haven't.

11. So You Think You Can Dance (Not Eligible, 16) - Yes, we think they can!

12. How I Met Your Mother (6, 10) - While it hasn't had as steady of a laugh diet as previously, when this show is ON, it is completely ON. If you don't believe me, I'll just have to slap you.

13. Brothers & Sisters (9, 18) - A terrific melodrama that verges on comedy and soap opera antics rarely falling overboard and just teetering just on the brink of each element.

14. Project Runway / Project Runway Canada (13/New, 14) - A reality show where the competition is creation, with or without the drama, it's always fun to watch.

15. Bones (14, 20) - The sole procedural that makes it onto my list because despite the morbid cases, it's one of the most humanizing and romantic shows on television.

16. Entourage (Not Eligible, 15) - It still hasn't returned to Season 2 glory but the boys were back from filming Medellin and while the director became tedious, everything else was still happy-go-lucky fun, just as the boys are.

17. The New Adventures of Old Christine (11, 17) - A traditional family four camera sitcom can still be funny as long as the material and the actors are fresh and interesting and Christine is both new and old in the best sense of the words.

18. The OC / Gossip Girl (12/New, Not Ranked) - The OC rebounded by killing Mischa Barton's Marissa Cooper off and bumping Autumn Reeser as Taylor Townsend into the forefront and who would have guessed it was their best move since the first season? As The OC came to a close, the drama moved back east to New York where gossip prevailed and Blake Lively and Penn Badgely have taken the reigns to another enjoyable soap about pretty people with ugly problems.

19. Men In Trees (16, Not Ranked) - It's always been comfort food television and it knows it, but by dealing frankly with all sorts of subjects (gays, prostitutes, religion), it manages to be enjoyable light fluff without being dumb.

20. Desperate Housewives / House (Not Ranked/Not Ranked, Not Ranked/Not Ranked) - Two shows I was about to write off came returning in the new season all freshly scrubbed and with more drama and hysterics to deal with, all with a fresh comedic return to their season one glory days.

Shows Fallen off the Top 20: Heroes, Scrubs, My Name Is Earl
Shows on the rise again: House, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, The Amazing Race, Survivor (China)
Solid Shows that are still Tapeworthy: Supernatural, My Boys, Everybody Hates Chris, The Big Bang Theory, Samantha Who? , Notes From The Underbelly, Greek, Top Chef, Corner Gas

ModFab had also asked me to add in my picks for the best performances (individually or cast) so since I'm moving my Best Newcomers list until later this season (mainly because I haven't had time), here was what I submitted for:

Best 5 Performances of 2007:

1. The Casts of my Top 5 Shows, Friday Night Lights, Pushing Daisies, Ugly Betty, Lost and 30 Rock. Each show has amazing writing, are visually stunning and are terrifically entertaining but they also all rank in my top 5 because they all have amazing casts that are rock solid so I'm cheating here by grouping them all together but I wanted to leave room for people not in my top 5 shows, because if I didn't, Connie Britton, Zach Gilford, Kyle Chandler, Gaius Charles, Adrianne Palicki, Scott Porter, Jesse Plemons, Aimee Teegarden, Taylor Kitsch, Minka Kelly, Lee Pace, Kristen Chenowith, Chi McBride, Anna Friel, Ellen Greene, Swoosie Kurtz, America Ferrera, Vanessa Williams, Michael Urie, Becky Newton, Eric Mabius, Christopher Gorham, Mark Indelicato, Anna Ortiz, Ashley Jensen, Rebecca Romijn, Judith Light, Michael Emerson, Yunjin Kim, Matthew Fox, Terry O'Quinn, Josh Holloway, Dominic Monaghan, Jorge Garcia, Naveen Andrews, Evangeline Lily, Elizabeth Mitchell, Henry Ian Cusick, Daniel Dae Kim, Emilie de Ravin, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Scott Adsit, Judah Friedlander and Jack McBrayer would all top my list.

2. Kristen Bell - Whether she's Veronica Mars, being a total Gossip Girl, or being Heroes to us, Ms. Bell adds a spark to the television screen that is just indescribably awesome.

3. The Cast of Brothers & Sisters - The show is basically a really good trashy dramatic soap acted by an A list ensemble. Only Sally Field and Patricia Wettig can turn a full out food fight with spaghetti being thrown around into something comically shocking and artfully dramatic. Calista Flockhart has graciously shared the screen time with Rob Lowe, and connected in incredible family dynamics with brothers and sisters Matthew Rhys, Rachel Griffiths, Dave Annable, Balthazar Getty and Emily VanCamp.

4. Adhir Kalyan and Amy Pietz on Aliens in America - If Adhir plays the "alien" Raja with a deep sense of proper morals on a easy going and lovable naive note, Pietz plays the surprised American mom with feisty zest and a do-right attitude even when she doesn't always do right. He's the zenful ying to her energetic yang and the pair, with a terrific Dan Byrd as the connector in between, gives this show the spark and the heart of the show.

5. Mary-Louise Parker on Weeds - Again, the whole cast is amazing, from Elizabeth Perkins and Justin Kirk to Romany Malco and Tonye Patano, but Mary-Louise Parker singlehandidly anchors the show with her devastating performance. Devastatingly funny. Devastatingly soulful. Devastatingly desperate. Devastatingly damn good!

Best of 2007 Lists:
Best of Music 2007
Best of Television 2007
Best of Movies 2007
Best of Stage 2007
Best of 2007 (The Final Wrap Up)

Previous Best-of Lists:
Best of Music 2006
Best of Television Fall '06 - Winter '07 List
Best of Television 2006
Best of Movies 2006
Best of 2006

Best of Television Fall '05 - Winter '06 List
Best of Television 2005
Best of Movies 2005

More After the Jump...

Best of Music 2007

Let's be honest. It was a weak year in music. Nothing really stood out for me this year. No full album made an impact on me. Whereas last year was filled with stuff that I squeezed into my list, this year, I barely have to do that and I'm only doing that because it's really become the best of the mediocre music of the year. So here are my choices for "best" of music, which for me is a mix between what affected me the most and what I loved, what I found repeat worthy, and what I find was quality (which was in short demand this year and I think I'm getting older because I'm starting to get bored of the "cool good stuff" (as in, you won't see Bob Dylan on this list)) and I'm unapologetic now with my love of fluffy pop ditties.

So here's my list of the Best of Music 2007 (with all the videos below after the jump):

1. Rihanna - singles "Umbrella" and "Hate That I Love You" with Neyo - Songs

It was pretty undeniable that Rihanna's single "Umbrella" feat. JayZ was supposed to be the most annoying song all year, especially with that refrain "'ella, ella ella" but it's damn catchy and I'm still singing it and loving it. Meanwhile, the collision with smooth voiced Neyo granted us another song I'm supposed to hate but really love, and I can't stop loving "Hate That I Love You".

2. Timbaland - singles "The Way I Are" with Keri Hilson and "Apologize" with One Republic - Songs

I still think it's a crock that "Apologize" is billed as Timbaland featuring OneRepublic and not the other way around but So You Think You Can Dance helped introduce both these songs to me and yet again made them some of my favorites of the year.

3. Stuart Matthew Price - "The Old Red Hills of Home" - Parade - Musical Performance on Stage at the Donmar Warehouse, London, UK

From the moment the naive boyish looking blond actor stepped on stage in a full Southern Confederate soldier's uniform and opened his mouth, singing the gorgeous song "The Old Red Hills of Home" to Jayne Wisener (Sweeney Todd movie) in her southern belle dress, in the pared down revival of the Jason Scott Brown musical Parade, I was entranced and captivated and it's been re-playing in my mind ever since, amazing since I've never actually seen it again (and still waiting for the new Donmar Warehouse production Cast Recording to show up in North America).

4. Zac Efron - Songs from High School Musical 2 "Bet On It", "Everyday", "All For One" and Hairspray , "Ladies Choice", and "Without Love" - Songs

Both Hairspray the movie and High School Musical 2 were the epitome of reviving the fun of musicals on screen and you had to give it to Zac Efron for bursting beyond his pretty boy tween stardom image and carrying each song he was given. "Bet On It" alone deserves high praise for the gay corniness of it all, and "Without Love" is such a delight that it made me like Hairspray again (I thought the stage version was okay, not amazing).

5. Michael Bublé - the singles "Lost" and "Everything" - Songs

Some people hate Bublé's crooning to new original songs, personally, I love it, and it plays on high repeat all the time.

6. Fall Out Boy - the singles "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race", "Thnks fr th Mmrs", "I'm Like A Lawyer with the Way I'm Always Trying to Get You Off (Me + You)" - Songs

I didn't like the album as a whole when played properly but separate the songs and I think they were the best of the rock/emo/pop (or whatever it's called now) scene this year.

7. All American Pretty Boys Who Sing - Jon McLaughlin - "Beautiful Disaster" (from Indiana) and "So Close" (from the Enchanted soundtrack) - and Josh Turner - "Firecracker" - Songs

Those good looking guys that can sing lovely tunes? Yeah, we'd hate them too if they weren't so pretty and their songs and voice weren't so lovely. Jon McLaughlin moves in on John Mayer AND takes over the musical ballad throne long disappeared from the Disney animated movie world, while country boy Josh Turner and his low manly voice sings a faster paced ditty that's both sparkling fun and downhome charming.

8. Girls I Like - Colbie Caillat - "Bubbly" - Song, and Feist - "1234" - Video

Cute can't start to describe "Bubbly" or Feist's video (after the jump) for "1234".

9. Girl I Hate with a Song I Love - Amy Winehouse - "Rehab" - Song

Still hate her but there's no denying that her song is pretty good. Now where DOES that voice come from all that mess?

10. Anthony Callea - "Addicted To You" - Song

I would have done the whole album but it's technically 2006. It's pure cheese but with most of the boybands either out of commission but desperate for a comeback, we can at least thank heavens that somewhere in a British colony, they are still producing pop cheese like this!

Honourable Mention: Jimmy Eat World - Chase This Light, Album - given more time and I think it would have made the list since I tend to fall in love with this band's song with time.

Videos after the jump:

1. Rihanna - "Umbrella"

Rihanna feat. Neyo - "Hate That I Love You"

2. Timbaland feat. Keri Hilson - "The Way I Are"

Timbaland feat. OneRepublic - "Apoligize"

3. Stuart Matthew Price - "The Old Red Hills of Home" - Parade

4. Zac Efron - High School Musical 2 "Bet On It"

Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens - High School Musical 2 "Everyday"

Zac Efron and the cast of High School Musical 2 "All For One"

Zac Efron - Hairspray "Ladies Choice"

Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes, Elijah Kelley, Nicky Blonsky and cast - Hairspray "Without Love"

5. Michael Bublé - "Lost"

Michael Bublé - "Everything"

Michael Buble - Everything

6. Fall Out Boy - "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race"

This Ain'T A Scene, It'S An Arms Race

Fall Out Boy - "Thnks fr th Mmrs"

Fall Out Boy - Thnks fr th Mmrs

Fall Out Boy - "I'm Like A Lawyer with the Way I'm Always Trying to Get You Off (Me + You)"

Fall Out Boy - I'm Like A Lawyer (Me + You)

7. Jon McLaughlin - "Beautiful Disaster"

Jon McLaughlin - "So Close"

Josh Turner - "Firecracker"

8. Colbie Caillat - "Bubbly"

Feist - "1234"

9. Amy Winehouse - "Rehab"


10. Anthony Callea - "Addicted To You"

Anthony Callea - Addicted to you

Best of 2007 Lists:
Best of Music 2007
Best of Television 2007
Best of Movies 2007
Best of Stage 2007
Best of 2007 (The Final Wrap Up)

Previous Best-of Lists:
Best of Music 2006
Best of Television Fall '06 - Winter '07 List
Best of Television 2006
Best of Movies 2006
Best of 2006

Best of Television Fall '05 - Winter '06 List
Best of Television 2005
Best of Movies 2005

More After the Jump...

Sweeney Todd, No Country For Old Men - Bloody Good

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Written by John Logan
Directed by Tim Burton
Based on the original stage musical by Stephen Sondheim, Hugh Wheeler and Christopher Bond, originally directed by Harold Prince

No Country For Old Men
Written and Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen

I get squeamish quite easily. Never been a big horror fan, and blood makes me faint. So I think I watch both Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and No Country For Old Men with my eyes closed half the time, but from what I saw and heard, I thought they were excellent, although at a certain point while watching No Country For Old Men, much like I did last year while watching The Departed, I was thinking, it's an excellent movie but why the hell am I putting myself through all this stress? Javier Bardem is one crazy muthaf#$kin scary ass killer. I don't think I watched a single scene he was in, he was that good (and I was that scared).

As for Sweeney Todd, it did help enlighten some of the things I missed from the excellent stage version, and while the casting was aces, I only wished Helena Bonham Carter sang a little better. The duets with Depp covered her weaker voice but I wish she was a better singer because as crazy Ms. Lovetts, she was terrific at least in the acting department. At least the young'uns they cast, Jayne Wisener (from the AMAZING stage version of Parade I saw in London this year) and Jamie Campbell Bower as Johanna and Anthony, were beautiful in both voice and serenity, adding the heart to the show against the madness of everyone else surrounding them.

Also, kudos for Carter's Harry Potter veterans Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall (also having a damn good musical year with Enchanted) as Judge Turpin and the Beadle, rounding out Tim Burton's dark company.

But the movie really belongs back to Sondheims original music, and while I was sad they cut the lyrics to the opening song "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" for narrative reasons (I still think it could have been done over the opening credits), I began to start loving the music, which I hadn't yet when I saw (and heard) Sweeney Todd for the first time on stage. Sondheim has always been a composer whose music gets better with repeat listenings and the movie helped flesh out some of the things I missed from the pared down stage version John Doyle had brilliantly directed (but maybe not the best version to see if a complete virgin to the musical).

Anyways, at this point, I haven't been able to get out "Johanna" out of my head. Nor some of the visuals of all the blood squirting out from the necks of Todd's victims. The macabre of it all makes the musical all the more fascinating, but I guess you needed to know it was a musical in the first place, unlike the incredibly rude couple (that came late after the theatre went dark and was one of those people determined still to get the best seats in the house asking everyone to move down some for seats together right in the middle) next to me that gasped and loudly voiced their annoyances every time a song started, totally clueless that it was a musical (they finally left just as I had enough and was about to say "shut up". God, people. I can totally see why Sweeney Todd did what he did.)

On the other hand, I won't go as far as Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh, the sociopath on the hunt for Josh Brolin's Llewelyn Moss after Moss finds a stash of money from a drug deal gone bad.

I had avoided the critically acclaimed movie No Country For Old Men for a while now, mainly just cause of the violence I heard about it scared me but after enough readers and comments told me I had to, I did. And now you must pay...

Thanks for psychologically damaging me forever folks. I'm going to be haunted for a long time now.

At a certain point I'm not sure I could have taken the suspense any longer (and it didn't help that they cast one of my favorites, Kelly Macdonald as Moss' wife who becomes endangered just because of her marital status) and again, I'm not sure I liked the movie WHILE I watched it, but I will admit it was an excellently made movie in it's simplicity and thrilling affectedness.

Anyways, both these films, directed by directors known for certain stylings, seemed the most unlike their regular styles. I mean, Sweeney Todd still felt like Tim Burton to a point but much less than most of his films and again, I forgot it was Tim Burton directing and cared more about Sondheim's original. Meanwhile, I felt no Coen Brothers usual quirkiness which isn't a praise or a slag. Just a comment I had. I'm still haunted at this point to really make heads or tails of it all.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street = A- or 9/10
No Country For Old Men = A- of 9/10

For My Reviews of the other Best Picture Oscar Nominees:


More After the Jump...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Watch the Project Runway Canada Final Episodes 10 and 11

Before I disappear again for a few days during Christmas, here are the final two episodes of Project Runway Canada (which I recapped here).

Project Runway Canada Episode 10:

Project Runway Canada Episode 11 (The Season Finale) after the jump:

Thanks to MsRoyalT again for the uploads!

Here are my recaps so far for Project Runway Canada:
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episodes 4 and 5
Episode 6
Episode 7 (Includes Project Runway Ep. 401 recap)
Episode 8 (Includes Project Runway Ep. 402 recap)
Episode 9
Episodes 10 and 11 (Season Finale)

Watch Project Runway Canada online:
Episodes 1 and 2
Episodes 3 and 4
Episode 5
Episodes 6 and 7
Episodes 8 and 9

More After the Jump...

Fuerzabruta - I'm Going To Use Brute Force To Get You All To See This - Review

Fuerzabruta - Daryl Roth Theatre - New York

I'm not sure how to write this review without giving away too much (although I can tell you "fuerzabruta" apparently means "brute force"), since one should basically see this show with as little knowledge as possible to the expectations of this show. But for anybody who has already seen De La Guarda 's previous show Villa Villa (more famously known as just De La Guarda at the time, the name of the Argentinian troupe that creates these shows) you already know to expect the adventurous, the dazzling and the crazy wild antics of some very energetic and sexy performers. If you have not seen their previous show though, just GO to this new one. My whole purpose of the New York trip was to see this show. That's how excited I was about it. I'll keep most of the pictures after the jump below, but just go see it!

As a whole, Fuerzabruta as the creator admits, doesn't have a story. As the website says, "Fuerzabruta is Today. It Is Not Theatre of the Future. Nor Does it Repeat Itself Time and Time Again. Fuerzabruta is Now. Does Not Invent Anything. It has No Purpose. It Is."

Whatever it is, it was incredibly fun, though I will admit it did seem to lack some focus and felt less cohesive than De La Guarda (Villa Villa). What Fuerzabruta has is some more impressively spectacular set pieces, though with less acrobatics, but much more equipment. From a man running on a treadmill, to a huge flipping fly swatter, to a human compactor, to the finale with the giant descending pool, Fuerzabruta jumps from fragmented scene to fragmented scene but what scenes they were!

Again, like the last show, there's some audience participation, and the show is viewed while standing in the converted bank space, and again, you will be required to move around. High heels are probably not recommended (and you will probably get a bit wet). But the 70 minute show floats by (like the ladies swimming overhead) in some hepped up dream/nightmare/ecstasy trip in an experience not to be missed.

Fuerzabruta - ****1/2 (4.5 stars out of 5)

Here are some pictures I had already posted previously:

More After the Jump...