Saturday, May 29, 2010

The 100 Greatest Characters Of The Last 20 Years

Entertainment Weekly’s latest edition features a list called "The 100 Greatest Characters Of The Last 20 Years" so of course, being the list person that I am, I had to write about it. What’s interesting about compiling a list of characters is that it shows how much fictional people affect our lives. This is a list of characters; not actors, musicians or writers. These people are not real, yet they left such an impact that they could not be ignored.

As I’ve mentioned before, making lists opens the door for criticisms and complaints because no one will ever completely agree with you. Although I thought EW compiled a pretty good list (and some of their choices are definitely on my list) I’ve decided to make one of my own, but only of the Top 20 Characters because 100 is WAY too ambitious and time consuming. To be fair I will give both lists: EW’s Top 20 Characters Of The Last 20 Years and mine. Let me know what you think.

EW’s List:

1) Homer Simpson
2) Harry Potter
3) Buffy The Vampire Slayer
4) Tony Soprano
5) The Joker (Heath Ledger)
6) Rachel Green (Friends)
7) Edward Scissorhands
8) Hannibal Lecter
9) Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City)
10) Spongebob Squarepants
11) Cosmo Kramer (Seinfeld)
12) Fox Mulder & Dana Scully (X-Files)
13) Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)
14) Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski
15) Shrek
16) Bridget Jones
17) Lara Croft
18) Sue Sylvester (Glee)
19) Morpheus (The Matrix)
20) Ally McBeal

My List:

1) Forrest Gump – Tom Hanks exemplifies that the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is no cliché. Call it luck or call it genius but either way Forrest Gump changed the lives of more people than he realized.

2) Jerry Maguire – Tom Cruise should have won an Academy Award for his performance as a high-powered agent who trades all his power for a soul.

3) Ari Gold (Entourage) - Inappropriate, the negation of P.C. and funny as hell, Jeremy Piven kills it as a ruthless agent who will do anything for his clients.

4) Will Hunting (Good Will Hunting) – Angry, beaten and misunderstood. With the help of Robin Williams, Matt Damon (in his debut) plays it brilliantly.

5) Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding (Shawshank Redemption) – Although we meet Morgan Freeman’s convict in jail, he is the epitome of what is means to be a best friend. (Also, see: Carly Brown)

6) William Miller (Almost Famous) – Patrick Fugit plays a young writer who is based on Cameron Crowe and his experience writing for Rolling Stone magazine. He is a teen who is along for the rock and roll lifestyle ride and ends up doing and seeing way more than he bargained for.

7) Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction) – One quick conversation says it all:

Jules: I want you to go in that bag, and find my wallet.
Pumpkin: Which one is it?
Jules: It's the one that says Bad Motherfucker.

8) Keyser Soze (Usual Suspects) –Never has there ever been a more tangled web of lies as the one Kevin Spacey spins in this classic. No one saw it coming and then all the sudden the man in question disappears. Amazing.

9) Hank Moody (Californication) – David Duchovny kicks ass as a writer who has more addictions than common sense while showing that charisma and talent might just conquer all.

10) Sawyer (LOST) – Josh Holloway’s Sawyer starts off as an angry man living his life for revenge but turns into a person we can relate to regardless of the fact that his favorite phrase is “Son of a bitch!”

11) Angela Chase (My So-Called Life) – Never has there ever been a more accurate and gritty portrayal of what it means to be a high school teen. The dialogue, the acting and the storylines are a force to be reckoned with.

12) Cher Horowitz (Clueless) – Unapologetic comic genius. Alicia Silverstone brings a whole new meaning to the term “high school movie.”

13) Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and the City) – Although she can be self-centered at times, SJP brings humanity, comedy, fashion and writing chops to a ground-breaking show that pushed the boundaries of both television and clothes.

14) Vivian Ward (Pretty Woman) – Julia Roberts shows us that hookin’ ain’t easy but driving a Lotus is in this very clever spin on the overplayed rags to riches story.

15) Tony Stark (Iron Man) – Obnoxious, charismatic and brilliant are a dangerous but fruitful combination for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. He is too smart for his own good but that fact is also saving the human race.

16) Dr. Greg House (House) – The phrase “doctors without borders” doesn’t even begin to describe Hugh Laurie’s addict/genius/handicapped character. He does whatever it takes to make sure to a) solve the medical puzzle and b) save the patient. In that order.

17) Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean) – Johnny Depp shows his range is a good as his looks with his hysterical and believable turn as a pirate who may or may not be drunk, a rock and roll front man and the most clever pirate in history.

18) John J. Dunbar (Dances With Wolves) – While adapting to a culture on the other side of his spectrum, Kevin Costner pulls off an Oscar-winning performance as a lieutenant who breaks on through to the other side.

19) Dylan McKay (90210) – Probably the blueprint for Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass, Dylan McKay went to rehab before he could drive and was forever haunted by his father’s death. Luke Perry fuses James Dean looks with a character that can definitely be described as a rebel with a cause.

20) Chuck Bass (Gossip Girl) – Dark, angry, rich and troubled, Ed Westwick’s Chuck Bass is the ultimate bad boy/rich boy who makes no apologies for being exactly who he is regardless if he’s wearing plaid pants or not.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Best New Artist: Crystal Bowersox

Last time I wrote about American Idol (February 25, 2010) I concluded my post by mentioning my two favorite contestants: Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze. Apparently I know something about musical talent because my two favorite contestants are also the two finalists that will be battling it out tonight for the title on the American Idol finale. My point is not to brag but to say that I’m proud of myself for being able to recognize musical talent even though I cannot sing or play an instrument myself (although I really, really wish I could).

Although DeWyze is an incredible singer and musician there is no chance in hell that he is going to beat out Bowersox tonight. Have you heard her renditions of Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason,” Alanis Morissette’s “Hand In My Pocket” and Kris Kristofferson’s/Janis Joplin’s “Me And Bobby McGee”?! Go download these songs on iTunes right now. Bowersox sings these classics like she went through the heartache that inspired them to be written. And, to top it off, she can play the guitar! Speaking of which have you seen the acoustic she’s been playing? It looks like it’s been on the road with Johnny Cash, The Eagles and Bob Dylan for the last 100 years. And the way Bowersox sings –as if her life depends on it – sounds like she could have been there with them.

I always thought that American Idol was for creating pop stars but Bowersox is no pop star. She’s got dreads in her hair, piercings on her face, used to play music on the streets of Chicago, is a mother and is 24 years old. As much as like Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, Bowersox does not fit their mold my any means. She is an old soul and, in a room full of egos, has been gracious and kind on every episode I’ve seen this season.

Although the winner tonight may have a bit of thunder stolen by Simon Cowell’s departure, I’m very excited for Bowersox. She will win tonight and she will have an incredible career. There is no one out there right now who has got her talent and humility. Instead of wondering if she can hit a note or if the synthesizers need to be turned up, the people who help make her debut album can breathe easy because there is no question that this girl can sing and play her instrument. Congrats in advance Crystal….you’ve earned it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

LOST Comes Full Circle

I have really tried to stay away from writing a blog post about LOST for several reasons: 1) As much as I’ve absolutely loved watching every single episode of the six-year show, some of the science aspects were a little out of my league. I’d much rather focus on the characters’ stories. 2) There are so many details and so much to discuss and I didn’t want to get bogged down in a bunch of theories and recaps. I’ll let the nerdy LOST-obsessed bloggers do that. 3) So much has happened and it has been so awesome that I wasn’t sure how I could possibly tackle such a beast. Because LOST was a beast of a show in every way possible. From the number of characters and storylines to the time travel to figuring out what was real and what wasn’t to the actual beasts like the polar bear and the smoke monster, it was just too much...but in a good way.

But since it was such a groundbreaking show and the finale was last night I knew I had to write something to pay my respects. Between the actors who literally had to pick up their lives and move to Hawaii for six year to the crew and the writers, I can just imagine the kind of epicness that went on to make sure the show went on. In the recap before the two-and-a-half hour finale, the actors were interviewed (which I thought was extremely enjoyable and well done) and they said how this show was a total team effort. And I totally believe it. I don’t know how something like LOST could be pulled off any other way. Much like the characters in the show, the people who were responsible for making the show happen had to either live together or die alone in the sense that if there was no collaborative effort there would have been no show.

The finale averaged 13.5 million viewers which according Entertainment Weekly was “solid but not spectacular.” Just to put that number into perspective the M*A*S*H series finale, which is the most-watched series finale of all time, attracted 105.9 million viewers when it aired in February 1983. The second most-watched series finale of all time was the Cheers series finale which aired in May 1993 and attracted 42.36 million viewers. LOST’s number ties with the King of Queens series finale which ranks #56 on the list of most-watched series finales. I honestly can’t believe that an incredible show like LOST ranks so low but maybe DVRs had something to do with it. Which brings me to my next point:

Since I was unable to watch the finale live last night I relied on my DVR to record all things LOST for me. That being said, because of the popularity of the show I knew that I could not open a computer, search the Internet or check Facebook before I watched the finale because I didn’t want anybody spoiling anything. I think that not only is that fact a testament to how much LOST changed and challenged television but it also shows how engaging the show was from beginning to end.

The finale showed LOST coming full circle. Episode one began with Jack on the ground, waking up after a plane crash and the final episode shows him laying on the ground seeing a plane take off (with his friends who finally get to leave the island on board) before he dies. I loved the idea of the show coming full circle and concluding the way it began, while still making sure that everything that happened in between not only happened but was important.

I think it will be a very long time before we see a show like LOST that sparked so much conversation and went so deep into so many characters’ stories. There is no question that these writers knew what they were doing and were ballsy from the beginning considering the two-hour pilot cost $11.5 million, making it the most expensive pilot in TV history. They knew they had something great and they had the courage to run with it and everyone in the pop culture world thanks them.

So here’s to LOST: a show that took big risks and didn’t just jump over the bar set by previous television shows, it hurled, leaped and took flight over the bar. A show that brought us characters from all over the world with intertwined stories that were so intricately woven that you literally could not miss one episode. A show that brought out all kinds of emotion and discussion. A show that relied just as much on its writers as it did its actors. A show that will never be duplicated.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Don’t Need Nothin’ But A Good Time…

How can you not love Bret Michaels? Any 80s hair metal star that makes it through the Aqua Net haze and it still relevant two decades later is doing something right. Michaels has recently been in the news due to a near-fatal brain hemorrhage that put him in the hospital and on the cover of People magazine. He spent almost two weeks in the ICU but is expected to make a full recovery.

Michaels rose to fame as the lead singer of 80s hair metal band Poison. His long blonde hair and eyeliner infested blue eyes made him the perfect front man for one of the most notorious party bands from the decade of decadence. Poison’s debut album Look What The Cat Dragged In was released in 1986 and contained their breakout hit, “Talk Dirty To Me.” In 1988 the band released the song “Every Rose Had Its Thorn” about Michaels’ breakup with Tracy Lewis, which would become one of the most recognized rock power ballads in music history.

“Every Rose” was on their most successful album entitled Open Up and Say... Ahh! Released in 1988 through the Enigma label of Capitol Records, Open Up ultimately sold ten million copies worldwide and spawned three other hit singles including “Nothin' but a Good Time,” “Your Mama Don't Dance,” and “Fallen Angel.” In 1990, the band released Flesh & Blood which produced hits like “Ride The Wind” and “Life Goes On.”

In recent years Michaels has released solo albums that have leaned more to the country and blues genres and have generated hits like “All I Ever Needed” and “Nothing To Lose.”

Besides being known as a rock star, Michaels gained a whole new genre of fans and threw himself into the mainstream by starring in the VH1 reality show Rock of Love which spanned three seasons (2007, 2008 and 2009). While there was no question that Michaels loves the typical rock and roll elements such as women, booze, stripper poles and Ed Hardy clothes, there was a question about whether or not those blonde locks are really his. Either way he has become a fixture on reality television and currently appears as a contestant on the reality television series Celebrity Apprentice 3. Michaels’ next show will take a break from the boozy porn star nutjobs and take a look at his struggle to balance his family with his rock and roll lifestyle in VH1's Life As I Know It.

Regardless if you are a Poison fan or a reality television show watcher, Bret Michaels is hard to ignore. Even with his salon commercial hair that may or may not be real and his ever-rotating bandanas, he is still well-spoken and charming. We will be hearing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Nothin’ But A Good Time” for many years to come and Bret Michaels is the reason for that. I’m definitely glad to hear that a brain hemorrhage didn’t turn our rock and roll hero into someone to remember and that instead he is still someone to watch. And you should be too.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Give Kevin Costner A Chance!

Why do people give Kevin Costner such a hard time? Is it because he made a few bad career choices? (I.e. Waterworld and The Postman) Please….take a number. If I had a nickel for every time a Hollywood actor made a bad career choice I could buy the Hollywood sign from Hugh Hefner.

Costner has done some of the best movies of the last few decades, for example number one on my Best Movies of the 1990s list (May 8 post) Dances With Wolves. It was on television last night and Rodney and I found it impossible turn it off even though we were exhausted. From the incredible western landscapes to Costner’s excellent use of narration to the magnificent buffalo hunt scene to his relationship with the Sioux Indians, his horse and Two Socks the wolf, there is no question that the movie is a masterpiece.

Whether Costner is playing a baseball player, a cowboy or is protecting Whitney Houston, your eyes are always glued to him. He is hard to look away from and he makes you feel like he’s someone you want to get to know. More recently Costner has played a Coast Guard veteran (The Guardian) and a drunk, pool-playing father who is unexpectedly left with the task of choosing the President of the United States (Swing Vote), but he still maintained the charisma and likeability he demonstrated as a ball player or cowboy.

Either way you could arguably say that everyone likes at least one of Costner’s movies. Fan favorites other than Dances With Wolves are Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, The Bodyguard and Tin Cup and for good reason. People not only remember Kevin Costner starring in those movies they remember his characters’ names (Lieutenant John J. Dunbar, Crash Davis, Ray Kinsella, Frank Farmer and of course, Roy 'Tin Cup' McAvoy) which shows that these characters made such an impression on the audience and were so memorable that it’s almost like they are real people.

My Dad got me into Costner movies close to 20 years and ago and I’m still mesmerized by him to this day. If you’re still not convinced rent one of these on DVD and get back to me.

Costner’s Greatest Hits:

Silverado – 1985
The Untouchables – 1987
Bull Durham – 1988
Field of Dreams – 1989
Dances With Wolves – 1990
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – 1991
JFK – 1991
The Bodyguard – 1992
Wyatt Earp – 1994
Tin Cup – 1996
For Love Of The Game – 1999
Open Range – 2003
The Upside of Anger – 2005
The Guardian – 2006
Swing Vote – 2008

P.S. When Costner isn’t doing movies he is playing in his band called Kevin Costner & The Modern West. Download “Hey Man What About You” and “The Sun Will Rise Again.” If you like the sound of Costner’s speaking voice and country music then you won’t be sorry.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Iron Man 2

The most anticipated blockbuster sequel of the summer didn’t just hit theaters this weekend, it hit them big. Earning $133.6 million in three days, Iron Man 2 has clinched the fifth highest opening weekend ever, putting it just shy of Pirates of the Caribbean 3’s $135.6 million debut. (Fellow comic book movie The Dark Night still holds the weekend record of $158 million.)

Numbers aside, both Iron Man 2 and Robert Downey Jr. have gotten a lot of attention leading up to this movie (i.e. my May 3 post) and both the movie and Downey deliver. Iron Man 2 has all the good stuff: a star-studded cast, amazing cars (all hail the Audi R8), massive explosions, jaw-dropping gadgets, clever dialogue (often horrifyingly absent in popcorn flicks) and a plot that is actually interesting (also absent in popcorn flicks to an agonizing degree).

Rather than giving you a premise that you’ve probably already read in a magazine or online, I will give you my top ten reasons to go see Iron Man 2 as soon as soon as possible:

SPOILER ALERT! (Yeah, I said it)

10) AC/DC tunes make up a majority of the soundtrack and are used as background for pivotal scenes in the movie.

9) Justin Hammer’s (Sam Rockwell) gun show which includes bigger, badder versions of a pistol, shotgun, minigun and grenade launcher.

8) The late DJ AM’s (Adam Goldstein) surprise posthumous cameo. The credits list the film as being in his memory.

7) The sparks between Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) are palpable and helps to humanize Stark which is quite a feat considering his credentials, bank account and IQ.

6) An old video of Stark’s genius father eases our hero’s pain and also gives us a great line: “After almost 20 years, you're still taking me to school.”

5) Another comedic gem that takes place when Tony Stark is speaking to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) regarding "The Avengers” initiative: “I told you before- I don't wanna join your super- secret boy band.”

4) Mickey Rourke’s tattooed, gold-toothed, Russian nutjob self is like the enormous car wreck he causes in the movie – you want to look away but you just can’t.

3) The Iron Man suit folds out of a compact brief case and onto Tony Stark within seconds. So awesome.

2) Robert Downey Jr. is as charismatic, smart and awesomely arrogant as he was in the original. He is one hell of a leading man, not to mention a movie star.

1) Every character in this movie has their own unique kind of swagger but no one steps on anyone else’s toes.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The 20 Best Movies of the 1990s

Before you start reading this post keep in mind that this is a list of my favorite movies that were released in the 1990s, not necessarily a list of movies that defined the 1990s (although some of them definitely did). I didn’t take into consideration which movies won Academy Awards and which ones didn’t. All I was concerned with was if they were they good movies and most of all if there were memorable.

1) Dances With Wolves – 1990: Kevin Costner at his finest...riding horses and talking to wolves in the wild west.
2) Jerry Maguire -1996: This movie spawned so many quotable lines which is no surprise coming from my favorite director and rock n' roll writer Cameron Crowe.
3) Good Will Hunting – 1997: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck before they were Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. I love those apples!
4) Forrest Gump – 1994: Covered so many genres with killer acting and a killer soundtrack.
5) Shawshank Redemption – 1994: Gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. Unbelievably creative and authentic.
6) Titanic - 1997: Classic story of romance and tragedy. It is our generation's Gone With the Wind.
7) Pulp Fiction – 1994: This is when we learned not to mess with Samuel L. Jackson or John Travolta. Ever.
8) As Good As It Gets – 1997: Jack Nicholson portraying the nutjob we know he really is and Helen Hunt showing softness without losing her cool.
9) The Usual Suspects - 1995: Keyser F-ing Soze!
10) Pretty Woman – 1990: Julia Roberts' debut where she shows that street-walking on Sunset Blvd can be classy.
11) Varsity Blues – 1999: Some of the best high school football sequences ever. And Dawson finally proves he's not a tool.
12) Clueless – 1995: So clever...and you would not believe how many times we quote this movie without realizing it.
13) Armageddon – 1998: I'm ok with this movie's soundtrack being an Aerosmith greatest hits album since the drama and special effects are so awesome.
14) Thelma and Louise – 1991: Girls with guns who are on the run. Suck it Clyde!
15) Point Break – 1991: Ladies and gentleman...Johnny Utah!
16) The Sixth Sense - 1999: What an one saw that coming.
17) Dazed and Confused - 1993: "I keep getting older and the girls stay the same age..."
18) The Wedding Singer – 1998: A hilarious tribute to the 80s with possibly the greatest Billy Idol cameo ever.
19) Mallrats – 1995: Kevin Smith doing his thing while calling out Brenda from 90210.
20) True Romance – 1993: "You're So cool."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Robert Downey Jr.’s Comeback Tour

Before finally sitting down to watch the latest movie version of Sherlock Holmes yesterday I thought I might be able to get blog post out of it. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Although Holmes featured three actors I like very much, Robert Downey Jr., Rachel McAdams and Jude Law, I was not impressed with the movie as a whole. The only aspect of the movie that really caught my attention was Downey, who, since starring as Tony Stark in Iron Man, has shed his reputation as being an acting liability and has instead become known as one hell of a badass actor.

A little background: Things started out pretty well for Downey. In 1992, he starred as Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. His other films in the 1990s included Heart and Souls, Only You and Natural Born Killers, among many others, which had him costarring with big names. But as the 1990s continued Downey would have more of a rap sheet then a resume which included getting arrested numerous times on drug-related charges and going through countless drug treatment programs unsuccessfully.

In 1996, Downey was arrested for possession of heroin, cocaine and an unloaded .357-caliber Magnum handgun, while he was speeding down Sunset Boulevard. A month later, when on parole, he trespassed into a neighbor's home while under the influence of a controlled substance, falling asleep in one of the beds. He was sentenced to three years of probation and was required to undergo mandatory drug testing. In 1997 he missed one of the court-ordered drug tests and had to spend four months in the Los Angeles County jail. When Downey missed another required drug test in 1999, he was arrested once more. Downey finally went to rehab for the last time and in 2001 he began rebuilding his career again.

In 2008 Downey finally hit it big with Tropic Thunder and of course, Iron Man. In the latter, Downey is the epitome of awesome: besides being a genius inventor he is also charismatic, funny, charming and good looking. And also he drives an Audi R8 which is pretty much the most amazing car on the road these days. Iron Man 2 brings its AC/DC-laced self into theaters this Friday, May 7, and it is arguably the most anticipated movie of Summer 2010. I know that I can’t wait to see Downey in his red and gold armor again and I’m also very curious to see Mickey Rourke as the villain. This movie bleeds “Summer Blockbuster” and I’m all for it.

If seeing Iron Man (and hopefully Iron Man 2 as well) doesn’t convince you that Downey has officially made his comeback then check out your local newsstands. He is on the cover of BOTH Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly this week. You really can’t get more badass than that.