Thursday, September 10, 2009

Review Day

There are no spoilers in these reviews.

Breaking Bad, Season One:
This is one of those critically acclaimed experiments that's actually really good, but fails to find an audience, like the game, Grim Fandango, or one of Doobie's tuba recitals. Bryan Cranston, the dad from Malcolm in the Middle, stars as a high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking crystal meth to support his family after he learns he has terminal cancer. Everything about this show bleeds "good" from the acting to the plots -- the problem is that the dramatic parts do "unrelentingly grim" so well that it can be hard to watch. The first season is seven episodes long (because of last year's writers' strike), and the episodes that focus on the fish-out-of-water aspect of a teacher in the drug world are very enjoyable. The ones that deal with Walter's cancer and mortality are artful but obviously not entertaining, and I tend to watch TV shows as a BREAK from real-world problems. Reviews of the second season suggest that the tone gets even grimmer, but I don't think I would justify watching another twenty hours of downers solely for the great acting, when there are more escapist shows to be seen.

Final Grade: B

Rage Against the Meshugenah by Danny Evans:
This book is written by the man behind Dad Gone Mad (in my Bloglog), the next in the line of bloggers-turned-authors, and it's a memoir of his experiences with depression, fatherhood, and other deep-seated issues that I hopefully won't have to deal with for at least a couple more weeks. The prose is well-written and easy to read, and the humour is handled expertly (as you would expect if you read his blog). Towards the end, the mix of flashback anecdotes seem a little disjointed from the main narrative, and maybe 20% of the book has already appeared in some form on his blog (which I've read from the beginning), but neither issue kept me from enjoying it.

Final Grade: B-

Scrubs, Season Eight:
The seventh season of Scrubs was easily the worst season ever -- one of those unfortunate mistakes that you wish you could quietly excise from the main mythology and hope no one remembers (see also, The Covenant and the time a company I knew tried to become a Large Business by hiring a thousand people in a week and then had to lay them all off). Season Eight redeems the series (which had been slipping ever since season five) and wraps everything up well. It's not a series high point (and Ted and the Janitor are both still overused) but it's once again a Scrubs worth watching.

Final Grade: B+

Adventureland:
In hindsight, the "TRULY HILARIOUS!" on the cover should have warned me, because things billed as hilarious never are (except when I make fun of NASA or Kanye West, or both at the same time). Despite the appearance of so many Apatowian stars (including Bill from Freaks and Geeks), this movie about a pretentious English major working in a theme park for the summer is slow, unrewarding, and not worth the time. It might have been better if the main character were at all likable, and not just someone you'd want to drop-kick out a window if you met them at a college party. They were going for "shy and earnest" and came away with "awkward and annoying". (I haven't used enough parentheses today so here's another pair).

Final Grade: D

Repentant man breeds 4600 scorpions
Super glue assault victim: 'It got chaotic real quick'
Man flings jellyfish at teens

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