Lars and the Real Girl, 2007 - Proof that good writing and good acting (notably by the never-disappoints Ryan Gosling) can elevate a seemingly dumb premise about a lonely guy who buys a Real Doll to a story worth caring about.
Tropic Thunder, 2008 - Dumb. A waste of time for a lot of talented people (and untalented in the case of one Ben Stiller) involved, including that of the viewers.
Choke, 2008 - Not the best Chuck Palahnuik adaptation, but its only competition so far has been Fight Club, and how are you going to beat that? Admittedly, I didn't think this was a great novel to begin with, but its scattered threads are more cohesive here in a 92 minute film than across 304 pages. Worth watching less because it's great than because most else is mediocre and plays it safe, things that don't describe the source material.
Semi-Pro, 2008 - Enjoyable, but not especially inspired. I was a reluctant Will Ferrel fan a few years ago, and he's brought this far enough to disagree with critics who simply call this a foul.
John Q., 2002 - No. Where the story seems unbelievable, it tries to tug at your heart strings to the point it just comes across as sappy. Denzel never seems desperate enough to do something as, well, desperate(!) as the premise demands of his character. Would have worked better with, say, Martin Lawrence during his crazy years. Also, I hate it when Denzel plays black people because that's something else I just don't buy.
Madagascar, 2005 - Oh, funny animals, how original! NOT! (<-Did you find that funny? No? That's about how inspired this movie is.)
Terminator: Salvation, 2009 - Twenty-five years ago I watched the first movie, and there was this 30-second long flashback to the future (apologies, dyslexics) where Reece is telling Sarah Connor about the robots. I didn't want to see Ahnauld shooting up LA. That's not science fiction. I wanted to see this fucking movie. I wanted to see a scorched Earth with giant fucking robots, hovercrafts, etc. battling it out. The future is here! Granted, there aren't any real surprises in this installment, but there's fucking explosions and killer fucking robots. Fuck you, Transformers! I'd watch the next two sequels to this in a second!
Torchwood: Season 2 - It's all over the map as far as stories, but I'm okay with that. I like variety. What I don't like are shows that don't give a fuck about continuity. Honestly, if the writers don't care about what they've written last week, why should I care about this week?
My Name is Earl: Season 2 - Presumably out of concerns the show's premise might started to get worn, they introduced an arc to the season that may or may not work for you. I think it distracted. Without it, this is one of the best shows on tv. I always describe Earl as "if Steinbeck wrote a sitcom..." and I'm sticking to that. It manages to be personal and examine the human connections across all of us while at the same time offering a larger critique of society's ills and the reasons behind them. What's amazing is that it plays as simple slapstick and one-liners if all you need is another Cheers, but there's depth for those who take the time to read into it.
Mad Men: Season 1 - Wow. There's nothing like this on tv.
PICKS OF THE LITTER: Did I mention Terminator: Salvation was awesome? There's room to grow here, sure, but the future is wide open if studio execs commit to turning this into a trilogy (hint: They should). Lars and the Real Girl is low-key, low-budget, and yet more impactful than any of that Michael Bay crap. And Mad Men, a show about ad execs, is somehow better than the hype lets on as to why.
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