Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Re-Reading J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" - Chapter One: An Unexpected Party - In a hole in the ground...


I’m often asked what my favorite film is, and the answer is simple: “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  It’s technically three films, yes, but it counts, and this December, Peter Jackson is finally returning to Middle Earth with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”  In celebration, I’m revisiting the beloved classic novel, “The Hobbit,” for the first time since second grade, and I’m inviting you, my readers, to follow along with me! 

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I will be covering a new Chapter, beginning today with Chapter One.  I’ll give you some general impressions, a brief summary of the action, and then a long laundry-list of various specific thoughts about the story, the characters, Tolkien himself, and the upcoming film. 

Read along with me if you wish; I’ll be covering the second chapter on Thursday.  Today, let’s dive into Chapter One – An Unexpected Party, after the jump...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Analysis of the “2012 SAG Award Winners” – Silly, but for the most part, not insultingly so…


I haven’t covered the Guild awards in the past, but since I’ve been doing a bit more Oscar coverage this year, I thought I would give you a brief rundown on my thoughts about the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which were announced tonight.  These are very significant in terms of the Academy Awards because actors form the largest branch of the academy.  If you want to win an Oscar pool and impress your friends, just pick the performers who won SAG Awards, because it’s a mathematical impossibility that they will lose in February.  In terms of TV awards, SAG is completely irrelevant, and all of their choices tonight were stupid (the nominations, of course, were even stupider). 

You can read the full list of SAG Award Winners, along with my commentary, after the jump….

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: Liam Neeson stuns in the terrifying, profound survival film "The Grey"

Film Rating: A

“The Grey” is an aptly titled film, for the main character, Ottway, exists inside of it.  The Grey, to my mind, is the space between life and death, the place where those without an interest in living or in dying exist, and Ottway, played by Liam Neeson, has been there for a long time.  From the moment we first meet him, he is haunted by an unknown trauma and living no longer holds any allure for him.  But he cannot die.  His fear is too great.  He has relocated himself to an obscure oilrig in Alaska, far away from civilization, happiness, and hope, and spends his days protecting the unruly men who work there by shooting the wolves that breach the perimeter.  He will not die, but he can no longer live, so this is the slice of melancholy he has carved for himself.

Thus, when Ottway survives a plane crash in the middle of the harsh Alaskan wilderness, he is naturally fit to be the leader.  Stranded in the most extreme of conditions, low on supplies, and surrounded by monstrous gray wolves, this is not a scenario where living is a likely option.  Until death arrives, Ottway and the six or seven other survivors are all in ‘the Grey.’  This is a new and terrifying situation for all the other men, but not for Ottway.  The Grey is his home, and for him, the challenge of this scenario does not truly lie with the wolves or the elements, but within his own convictions and beliefs.  “Live and die on this day,” he says in the opening monologue.  Those are words he holds in his heart, words he clings to inside the Grey void he has created for himself, but only now, closer than ever before to death, will he actually discover the meaning behind them.

This is my interpretation.  Yours may differ.  “The Grey” is a film that revels in ambiguity, and the only certain conclusion is that it is a tremendous film, the first great motion picture of 2012.  Were it nothing more than an empty survival thriller, it would still be impressive, for co-writer/director Joe Carnahan weaves tension, dread, and bottomless fear into every frame, seemingly with ease.  The film is remarkable, though, for its philosophical aspirations, its thoughtful and uncompromising mediations on masculinity, faith, and above all else, death.  The thoughts and musings it conjures in the viewer’s head are far scarier than any number of wolves, and though “The Grey” is a harrowing experience, it is also a meaningful and unforgettable one.  

Continue reading after the jump...

The Monthly Stuff Podcast #2 - Farewell to NBC's "CHUCK" - Reminiscing on Five Great Years!

Goodbye, "Chuck."  We'll miss you...

If you’ve read my work for any length of time, you’ll know that I love NBC’s Chuck.  And if you too are a fan, chances are you know that the series aired its final episode last night, and you’ve probably read my comprehensive retrospective of the series as a whole and my emotional, misty-eyed review of the finale.  I highly recommend both pieces.

But for my very last take on Chuck, I’ve recorded a special retrospective Monthly Stuff Podcast with my brother, and fellow fan, Thomas Lack.  We share our thoughts on the finale, trace the life of the entire series with reflections on the best episodes, count down the Top Ten Guests Stars and Jeffster! performances, and more.  If you’re a fan of Chuck, then this is required listening.  We sincerely hope you enjoy it.



Chuck is a very special show, and I hope I’ve done a good job giving it an equally special send-off here on my site.  After years of watching and writing, my wish is that I’ve given back at least some of what I’ve received from the show’s remarkable cast and crew.  As I say on the podcast, goodbye Chuck.  We’ll miss you. 

TIME CHART:

Introductions – 0:00 – 0:09
Finale Discussion – 0:09 – 0:28
Recapping the 5 Seasons/Top 25 Episodes – 0:28 – 1:45
Top Ten Guest Stars - 1:45 – 1:59
Top Ten Jeffster! Performances – 1:59 – 2:11
The Goodbye – 2:11 – end

Friday, January 27, 2012

"Chuck" Series Finale Review: "Chuck Versus Sarah" and "Chuck Versus the Goodbye" - You're my Chuck, one last time....


I openly wept while writing the following article.

I’m dead serious: I was honest-to-God sobbing, and there is now a large blurry spot on my glasses from a dried tear obscuring about half of my vision.  In particular, writing the last two paragraphs of this review broke me.  I’ve never gotten that worked up writing an article, but I try to infuse my writing with my very heart and soul, and tonight, that meant getting embarrassingly emotional.

As it should, since tonight was the two-hour series finale of Chuck, comprised of the episodes “Chuck Versus Sarah” and “Chuck Versus the Goodbye.”  I shared my thoughts on Chuck as a five-year experience yesterday, and tomorrow, there will be a new Chuck-themed installment of the Monthly Stuff podcast.  Couple all that with my years of writing about this series, and perhaps you can understand my heightened emotions.

After the jump, I’ll be reviewing the Chuck series finale.  There will be spoilers, for those who haven’t seen it yet, and a lot of mushy-gushy writing that, like I said, made me weep.  But I’m immensely proud of my final Chuck review, and at the very least, I hope you feel half as much emotion reading it as I felt writing it. 

For the very last time…spoilers for “Chuck” – the series finale – coming up after the jump…

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Life and Times of "Chuck" - As a very special TV series comes to a close, I reflect on five great years...


Tomorrow night, on January 27th, NBC’s Chuck airs its two hour series finale. 

Just typing those words nearly brings me to tears.  Few TV shows…nay, few pieces of media, be they shows, films, or books, mean quite as much to me as Chuck does.  It’s not just a great series, one filled to burst with some of the most memorable and three-dimensional characters ever to grace the small screen.  Chuck has been an important part of my life, a dependable slice of pop culture perfection that has consistently brightened my week ever since my Freshman year of High School.  It’s hard for me to remember a time when I couldn’t depend on getting new episodes of Chuck to share and enjoy with my family, and tomorrow night, it’s all coming to a close.  I’ve said goodbye to some shows I loved before, most notably ABC’s Lost, but as I’ve been watching Chuck’s exceptional final season on NBC, I realized that I’ve never felt this level of emotional connection to a TV series before, and I’ve never had this much trouble accepting that the end is nigh. 

I first heard about Chuck in a movie theatre during the summer of 2007; that was the season NBC began advertising new shows during the pre-movie commercial blocks, and though the swiftly-cancelled Bionic Woman received the majority of the hype, there was always room for a brief Chuck ad.  I was intrigued; it was hard to tell just what Chuck was from these ads.  The show was an enigma, and out of curiosity, I watched the pilot when NBC made it available OnDemand.  As soon as I finished watching, I began singing its praises to everyone I knew, the first bit of campaigning I did for the show.  When it premiered on Monday, September 24th 2007, I sat my parents and brother down in front of the TV and made them watch it again with me; they too agreed that this quirky spy comedy had potential.

Who wouldn’t think that?  By the forty-minute mark, there were many signs that Chuck was something special.  The characters were all well-defined and endearing from the outset, the Intersect brought with it some compelling mythology, and Chuck’s first adventure wasn’t just a throw-away exposition skeleton, but a fun spy story in its own right.  There were classic moments like Chuck singing the “Vicky Vale” song as Sarah walks up to the Nerd Herd counter for the first time, Morgan and Chuck being confronted by a computer-stealing ninja at the apartment, and of course, Chuck disarming a bomb with the “Irene Demova” virus (i.e. using pornography to save the day!).  But it was one of the final scenes that really indicated this show had the heart to go the distance:

Chuck is sitting on the beach, depressed about his new status quo, when Sarah comes in to comfort him.  On page, this scene isn’t anything special, just summarizing exposition; but Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski’s chemistry was so palpable, the heart and soul they lent these characters so vivid, that it was impossible not to fall in love with Chuck that very moment.  

“I need you to do one thing for me,” Sarah says.  “Trust me, Chuck.”

Trust he did.  Trust we did.  Five years and eighty-nine episodes later, I think few fans can properly explain the gifts that trust earned.  Tomorrow night, Chuck finally crosses the finish line, and after the jump, I’d like to trace some of the major moments in the life of this incredible show.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

OSW Review: "Freaks and Geeks" - Episode 3 - "Tricks and Treats" - I'm glad we all decided to celebrate Halloween...


As explained in this post, I’m spending Wednesdays this Spring reviewing and analyzing a short-lived TV classic from 1999….Freaks and Geeks!  The dramatic High School comedy has long been hailed by critics and fans as one of the greatest shows in the history of the television medium, and if you’re unfamiliar with the series and would like to learn more, here’s a link to the extensive Wikipedia page. 

If you’re already a fan, then you know why I’m reviewing this series, and hopefully you’ve been following my reviews of the first two episodes.  Today, we’re looking at Episode 3, “Tricks and Treats,” another wonderful, hilarious, heart-wrenching installment.  (And like all my TV reviews, I expect the reader has seen the episode in question, so if you haven’t, go track down the DVDs and return here when you’ve caught up.  The review will be waiting patiently for you.)

Spoilers for Freaks and Geeks, Episode 3 – “Tricks and Treats” – coming after the jump…

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The "2012 Academy Award Nominations" - My analysis of the Good, the (Very) Bad, and the (Mostly) Ugly....


I hate the Oscars.  A lot.  I've tried making them more entertaining for myself this year, though, revealing over the past two weeks my "Dream Oscar Nominees," the people/movies I would like to see recognized in a perfect world.  You can read my picks for the Technical Categories here, the Music and Sound Categories here, the Acting Categories here, and the Big (Best Picture, Screenplay, Director) Categories here.  Were any of my picks actually be nominated for the REAL Oscars?  Well, to put it lightly…no….

The ridiculous, inane, stupid set of nominees the Academy chose to represent film in 2011 angers me to no end.  It shows a profound ignorance of the art form, and misses many of the best performances and movies of the year.  The craft categories are especially frustrating.  I urge you, as viewers, not to take the Academy seriously this year, and seek out what was truly good in film for yourself, because the Academy has no clue.  

Just a terrible list of nominees all around, and I have full thoughts on every category coming up after the jump….

Monday, January 23, 2012

Live Blog (COMPLETED) - The "2012 Academy Award Nominations" Announcement - Watch them here and follow along with my commentary!



This morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce their nominees for the 2012 Academy Awards, and I am be live-blogging the reveal of those nominees right here, providing up-to-the-minute news and commentary on the announcements as they hit.  You can watch the very same announcements I'm blogging via the YouTube embed above, which streams the announcement show live!  I don't have any fancy live-blogging technology, though, so you'll just have to refresh the page every few minutes; stone age, I know, but it's the best I can do.

As you probably know, I'm not to fond of the Oscars, but since I host a film website, I'm sort of obliged to follow them.  I've tried making it more entertaining for myself this year, though, revealing over the past two weeks my "Dream Oscar Nominees," the people/movies I would like to see recognized in a perfect world.  You can read my picks for the Technical Categories here, the Music and Sound Categories here, the Acting Categories here, and the Big (Best Picture, Screenplay, Director) Categories here.  Will any of my picks actually be nominated for the REAL Oscars?  We'll see in just a few minutes....

The live blog is complete.  You can read it after the jump...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review: There's lots to like in Soderbergh's "Haywire," but nothing particularly memorable

Film Rating: C+

This review is going to be a short one.  I’ve been trying for the past half hour to come up with a well-structured review explaining everything I enjoyed about Steven Soderbergh’s “Haywire,” but try as I might, it’s not a film I can muster up much enthusiasm for, and I’m not entirely sure why.  I really do love many of the individual elements of this film, and I had a perfectly good time watching it, but as a whole, “Haywire” just sort of bounced off me, and an hour after leaving the theatre, I’m struggling to come up with anything substantive to say.  Soderbergh is a director I always try making time for, because whether or not I enjoy each of his films, they tend to deliver an interesting and worthwhile experience.  As a spy thriller infused with Soderbergh’s distinctive directorial voice, “Haywire” is certainly interesting.  But it isn’t particularly memorable, the core problem being that amidst the film’s complex plotting, unique aesthetics, and bevy of fine performances, I couldn’t find a single character worth giving a damn about.  There’s no entry point, no semblance of human contact, and as much as I love so many different pieces of the film, that lack of connection ultimately left me out in the cold.  Continue reading after the jump...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Review: "Fullmetal Alchemist: Exposition" - er..."Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos" is a painful disappointment

Film Rating: F

Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist is one of my absolute favorite stories of all time, a franchise that means something far greater to me than mere entertainment.  My younger bother and I are very close, and I’ve therefore always loved stories about healthy, meaningful relationships between siblings.  Fullmetal Alchemist, in all its forms, epitomizes that theme, and it’s part of why my brother and I latched onto this series when we were younger.  As undeniably masterful as Fullmetal Alchemist is, a critical success on just about every level, it’s how my brother and I have been able to share this story over the years that truly makes it special to me, and I treasure the series in the same way I love franchises like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. 

I tell you all this so that you may understand the full gravity of my following statement: “Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos” is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.”  There.  I said it.  It goes without saying that I went into the film with high hopes, but just as when Edward and Alphonse Elric thought a dark alchemic ritual would bring back their mother, the experience beat me to a pulp, hurting me on emotional and physical levels.  I may not have lost my arm or my leg, but for a good chunk of the film’s 100-minute run-time, I felt as though my very heart were being ripped out of my body. 

Okay, that’s a slight overstatement.  Nevertheless, the film – playing now at the Denver Film Center//Colfax, who I applaud for programming the movie despite its flaws – is still a disgusting stain on the good name of Fullmetal Alchemist, and you can read why after the jump….

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bruce Springsteen Announces New Album – “Wrecking Ball” – My review of first single, “We Take Care of Our Own”


I have three long papers I’m supposed to read for a class tomorrow and a large stack of articles that need finishing, but I am happily, gleefully dropping all other responsibilities right now….

Because Bruce Springsteen has just announced his new album!!!!

You have no idea how excited this makes me or how surreal it feels, unless, of course, you too are a die-hard Springsteen fan.  I certainly am.  Calling him my favorite musician would be an understatement.  Springsteen’s music is an important, nay, crucial part of my life, and since I’ve been a fan, he’s only had one new album released, “Working on a Dream.”  So for the past few years, I’ve been listening to the same sixteen studio albums – plus boxsets of unreleased material like “Tracks” or “The Promise” and live albums – on a nearly constant loop, and as much as the idea of a new Springsteen album gets me pumped – and I am seriously experiencing Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” levels of enthusiasm here – it also feels really, really surreal to be on the verge of hearing a new Springsteen album.  His existing work is so thoroughly entrenched in my consciousness that adding to that almost feels like an impossibility.

But the new album is coming, and faster than we anticipated.  On March 6th, 2012, Springsteen will release “Wrecking Ball,” his latest studio album.  It’s up for pre-order on iTunes, and the first single, which is actually the opening track – “We Take Care of Our Own” – is out as well.

I have some thoughts on the new record and a review of the single coming up after the jump…

Jonathan Lack’s “Dream Academy Award” Nominees – The Big Categories! – Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay


As explained in this article, I’ve been spending these weeks leading up to January 24th’s Academy Award Nominations not by predicting who will be on the final ballots, but by presenting who I think should be nominated for an Oscar in a perfect world.  It’s the first annual Jonathan Lack’s “Dream Academy Awards,” and over the course of four articles, I’ve been going through nearly every category. 

Today, the journey concludes with the final batch of nominees, what I’ve labeled the BIG Categories – Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, etc.  And though this seems deceptively self-explanatory – I already published my top-ten list, so you know what I think the best films of 2011 are - being the best movie doesn’t necessarily mean you had the best screenplay or director.  That’s a fact the Academy often ignores, but I do think that, in some years, the best films aren’t driven by their screenplay, and sometimes, a film can be a great directorial triumph and not necessarily be the year’s best picture.  That’s my long way of saying I’ve put a lot of thought into these nominees, rather than just cutting and pasting my top ten list over and over. 

Without further ado, continue after the jump to read about my nominees for Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, and Animated Feature…

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

OSW Review: "Freaks and Geeks" - Episode 2 - "Beers and Weirs" - Do you prefer to get high on life?


As explained in this post, I’m spending Wednesdays this Spring reviewing and analyzing a short-lived TV classic from 1999….Freaks and Geeks!  The dramatic High School comedy has long been hailed by critics and fans as one of the greatest shows in the history of the television medium, and if you’re unfamiliar with the series and would like to learn more, here’s a link to the extensive Wikipedia page. 

If you’re already a fan, then you know why I’m reviewing this series, and hopefully you already read my review of the Pilot last week.  Today, we’re looking at Episode 2, “Beers and Weirs”, which is even better!  (And like all my TV reviews, I expect the reader has seen the episode in question, so if you haven’t, go track down the DVDs and return here when you’ve caught up.  The review will be waiting patiently for you.)

Spoilers for Freaks and Geeks, Episode 2 – “Beers and Weirs” – coming after the jump…

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jonathan Lack’s “Dream Academy Award” Nominees – The Acting Categories – Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress


As explained in this article, I’m spending some time leading up to January 24th’s Academy Award Nominations not by predicting who will be on the final ballots, but by presenting who I think should be nominated for an Oscar in a perfect world.  It’s the first annual Jonathan Lack’s “Dream Academy Awards,” and over the course of four articles, we’ll be going through nearly every category, with winners announced sometime in February!

Today, we continue with the very exciting Acting Categories, traditionally four of the most-hyped categories at the Oscars.  2011 was bursting at the seams with great performances from men and women alike – in fact, this was one of the meatier years for strong, deep female roles, and I’ve written quite a bit about them in this article.  In any case, I’ve expanded each of the acting categories from the Oscars’ traditional five nominees to seven, as there’s no reason I should have to whittle down a year of great performances into an arbitrary number of slots.  Hopefully you’ve at least heard of most of these movies and performances, and if not, they obviously all come highly recommended.

Without further ado, continue after the jump to read about my nominees for Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress, with extensive analysis to boot…

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review: "In the Land of Blood and Honey" is a flawed but respectable passion project from Angelina Jolie

Film Rating: C+

Angelina Jolie makes her writing and directing debut with “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” a drama depicting the Bosnian War of the early 1990s.  The War was the most devastating European conflict since World War II, characterized largely by the systematic genocide of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and the widespread rape and sexual enslavement of predominantly Bosniak women, both types of war crimes mainly carried out by Serb forces.  Despite the horrors of the War, it’s a conflict unfamiliar to most Americans, and I respect Jolie’s efforts immensely for the bold, unflinching style with which she approaches the conflict.  On a purely visceral level, “Land of Blood and Honey” is an absolute triumph.  It puts the viewer right into the heart of one of the darkest chapters in human history, and while it is extremely hard to watch at times, it succeeds in making us feel the terrifying impact of these atrocities. 

As a narrative, the film is less impressive.  Jolie’s directorial talents far outclass her writing skills, and she has a tough time crafting three-dimensional characters, justifying the core relationship of the film, or clearly articulating many of her thematic interests.  It’s not a movie I would ultimately classify as an artistic success, but on the balance, it comes damn close, and as one of the only films to so fearlessly tackle this subject matter, I do think it’s worth seeing. 

“In the Land of Blood and Honey” opens today at the Denver Film Center//Colfax; continue reading my review after the jump…

Thursday, January 12, 2012

An Early Review of "Man on a Ledge" - Wildly entertaining, endearingly stupid thrills on high!

Film Rating: B+

I loved “Man on a Ledge.” 

Seriously.  I loved just about every single moment of this crowd-pleasing thriller, though not, perhaps, for the reasons the filmmakers would expect.  “Man on a Ledge” certainly earns some positive thriller credentials – it’s extremely well shot, the pacing is superb, the acting is (mostly) very strong, it’s legitimately engaging from start to finish – but it is also, in many moments, stupid.  Spectacularly, enthusiastically stupid.  From humorously inconsistent characterization to cheap narrative contrivances to people making idiotic decisions to giant, gaping, cavernous plot holes, “Man on a Ledge” can be insanely stupid at times.  Technically, these moments are flaws, and in most movies, those flaws would drive me nuts.  But what makes “Man on a Ledge” so much fun is that it has no pretentions.  It exists to entertain, wishes only to engage the audience, and executes this goal with a gleefully go-for-broke sensibility.  If the writing hits a brick wall in natural narrative progression, the film will push on through no matter how many plot holes are created or how much consistent characterization is sacrificed.  When the film is stupid, it’s endearingly stupid, and the dumbest moments are so wonderfully entertaining that they elevate the film from ‘passable thriller’ to ‘jolly old time at the picture show.’

“Man on a Ledge” arrives in theatres on January 27th, and I’d recommend marking your calendars, because it is a surprisingly refreshing antidote to these January cinematic blues.  More thoughts coming up after the jump…

Jonathan Lack’s “Dream Academy Award” Nominees – Music and Sound – Best Score, Song, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing


As explained in this article, I’m spending some time leading up to January 24th’s Academy Award Nominations not by predicting who will be on the final ballots, but by presenting who I think should be nominated for an Oscar in a perfect world.  It’s the first annual Jonathan Lack’s “Dream Academy Awards,” and over the course of four articles, we’ll be going through nearly every category, with winners announced sometime in February!

Today, we continue with the Music and Sound Categories, which I believe are particularly important awards.  I try to pay special attention in my reviews to the powerful, influential role sound can play in a movie, and as a bit of a music aficionado, I collect my favorite movie scores as they are released.  I’ve put quite a bit of thought into this, and I hope my opinions hold at least a little bit of weight.    

Without further ado, continue after the jump to read about my nominees for Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

'One Season Wonders' Review: "Freaks and Geeks" - Episode 1 - "Pilot" - What's your gigantic drum kit?


As explained in this post, I’m spending the next eighteen Wednesdays reviewing and analyzing a short-lived TV classic from 1999….Freaks and Geeks!  Hailed by critics and fans as one of the greatest shows in the history of the television medium, this High School dramatic comedy launched the careers of Judd Apatow, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, James Franco, along with many others, and if you’re unfamiliar with it, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  If you’d still like to know more about the series, here’s a link to the extensive Wikipedia page.  

If you’re already a fan, then you know why I’m reviewing this series.  It’s incredible, and there’s lots to talk about.  Continue reading after the jump for my review and analysis of the Pilot episode - I honestly think this is some of the best writing I've ever done, and I'm very proud of how these reviews are turning out.  (And like all my TV reviews, I expect the reader has seen the episode in question, so if you haven’t, go track down the DVDs and return here when you’ve caught up.  The review will be waiting pateintly for you.)

Spoilers for Freaks and Geeks, Episode 1 – “Pilot” – coming after the jump…

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Announcing the all new "Monthly Stuff" Podcast! Episode #1 - 2011 Top-Ten Lists Galore! Subscribe in iTunes for free!


It’s the tenth of the month, and you know what that means….Podcast time!!!

But it’s not the “Monthly Ten” podcast anymore….no, today, I am announcing the end of the “Monthly Ten,” and the beginning of a brand new podcast hosted by “Jonathan Lack at the Movies,” and it is called…


If you enjoyed the “Monthly Ten,” where my friend Sean Chapman and I counted down the top ten something’s of a given topic each month, then you’ll love The “Monthly Stuff.”  It’s pretty much the exact same podcast.  It’s still hosted by myself and Mr. Chapman, we still talk (at length) about a given topic every month, and the show will continue to come out on or around the tenth of each month.  So don’t worry.  Nothing major is changing. 


After our first year of podcasting concluded in December, Sean and I looked at we felt was and wasn’t working, and since we’d so often broken the ‘top-ten list’ format over the last few months, we felt it was time to change the name and tweak the agenda of our show to more accurately reflect our strengths as podcasters.  It also gave me a chance to create a better RSS feed and iTunes page for the podcast, using everything I’d learned over the last year (The Monthly Ten feed was riddled with bugs, I’m ashamed to say).  Really, there was no downside to starting over with a better name, and we’re very excited for you, the listeners, to experience The “Monthly Stuff.”

If you were a subscriber to the “Monthly Ten,” however, you will need to subscribe to the new “Monthly Stuff” feed in iTunes to continue getting future episodes.  I’ve put the first “Stuff” podcast in the “Ten” feed, so you will get this episode, but after today, there will be no more new episodes of the Monthly Ten.  It’s done.  Kaput.  Luckily, subscribing to the new podcast is as easy as clicking a button…


See?  Simple (and as a sidebar, I am also trying to get the Podcast into Zune Marketplace, but they are much more difficult than iTunes).  On the inaugural edition of the “Monthly Stuff,” Sean and I discuss 2011 in review, with four different ranked lists exploring the best in Video Games, film, TV, and more!  We sincerely hope you enjoyed the new, improved podcast experience, and we’ll see you in a few weeks with the next episode!  

NOTE: The “Monthly Stuff” Podcast is tagged as ‘explicit’ in iTunes due to adult language.  If you are adverse to the F-word or listen to podcasts with young children, this isn’t the show for you. 

Jonathan Lack’s “Dream Academy Award” Nominations – The Technical Categories – Best Art Direction, Cinematography, Editing, Costumes, and Effects


As explained in this article, I’m spending some time leading up to January 24th’s Academy Award Nominations not by predicting who will be on the final ballots, but by presenting who I think should be nominated for an Oscar in a perfect world.  It’s the first annual Jonathan Lack’s “Dream Academy Awards,” and over the course of four articles, we’ll be going through nearly every category, with winners announced sometime in February!

Today, we kick things off with the Technical Categories, which is actually the most exciting part of this project for me.  I love discussing the technical merits of filmmaking, and while I’m happy the Academy does devote time to all these achievements, they tend to mess these up year after year, focusing more on the movies they like rather than which bits of technical prowess really deserve to be called the best.  I aim to rectify that today using the power of my imagination, taking you on a journey through the best technical achievements of 2011!  As with all my “Dream Oscar” nominees, I’ve expanded the field from the traditional five to seven or eight for some of these awards, as there’s no logical reason to try fitting a lot of good work into a rigid number of slots.  I’ve also omitted the Best Makeup field, because nothing this year stood out to me in that regard (and if you say “J. Edgar” I’m going to throw something at you).

Without further ado, continue after the jump to read about my nominees for Best Art Direction, Cinematography, Editing, Costumes, and Effects….

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Announcing “One Season Wonders,” a new weekly Wednesday TV analysis feature – beginning with “Freaks and Geeks” reviews starting January 11th


As I explained in my “Welcome to 2012” post last week, one of my goals for the website this year is to make sure there’s a steady stream of content coming, something that is a bit difficult to achieve in these early months of the year that are generally light on big movie releases.  Back on YourHub, I used to keep content coming through TV blogging, reviewing episodes of my favorite TV shows as they aired, but that’s become increasingly difficult in College, where a lack of cable has left me watching shows a day or two after they air on Hulu (that’s why, if you were wondering, I’ve been unable to review this final season of Chuck – I’m usually out of the house on a Friday night).  I love reviewing TV, because it allows me to go deeper with my analysis than a film review would. 

But I’ve had what I think to be a good idea to get around this TV problem – why not look back to the past and review some beloved shows with brief runs on a week-to-week basis?  That’s the plan, anyway, so starting this Wednesday, January 10th, I’m kicking off a new One-Season Wonder column that will post each and every Wednesday, and the show I’m starting with is probably the best of all cancelled TV series….

Freaks and Geeks!  If you’ve never heard of this show, you should buy the DVD set right away (it’s reasonably priced, it’s awesome, and it’s packed with extras, so blind-buy away!).  Hailed by many as one of the greatest shows in the history of the TV medium, it aired on NBC in the 1999-2000 season, and was created by Paul Feig – director of “Bridesmaids” – and produced by Judd Apatow, the most successful producer of comedy films in the 2000s.  This was where they got their start, alongside now-big-name actors like James Franco, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, and more.  Freaks and Geeks is a chronicle of two groups of social outcasts at a Midwestern high school in 1980, and though often described as a comedy, its hard-hitting, brutally honest depiction of adolescence is what makes it a classic.

But if you’re a fan, you already know that.  After years of hearing good things about this show, I finally got the DVD set, and after watching a few episodes, I see what the hype was about.  So I’m going to give it my usual in-depth, episode-by-episode treatment as our inaugural One-Season Wonder.  There are eighteen episodes, so these Freaks and Geeks reviews will run for eighteen weeks, one review/analysis posting each Wednesday, beginning January 11th.  Continue reading after the jump…

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Announcing Jonathan Lack’s “Dream Academy Awards!” – Nominations Coming Next Week!


The Academy Awards are really, really frustrating. 

I could write a whole essay about why they are silly and not worth putting any stock into – remember, even in the best of times, they aren’t definitive, just the opinions of one group of people – but in short, I’ve been growing increasingly aware over the past few years that, more often than not, the Oscars are wrong about pretty much everything.  As with most award shows, the films that campaign the hardest and have the most “prestige” are the ones that win, whether or not they are actually worthy of recognition.  Sometimes the system works and “The Return of the King” wins 11 Oscars.  That was a good year.  Typically, though, mediocre-at-best fare like “The King’s Speech” walks away with Best Picture, and it takes me months to rebuild any of my faith in Hollywood.  Most years, I pick one or two winners I desperately want to see get a statue (Natalie Portman last year), and if they get at least that right, I can put up with watching the Academy embarrass themselves over and over again for the rest of the evening. 

But since I’m not part of the problem, I should really try being part of the solution, so this year, I aim to rectify the insultingly inaccurate nature of the Academy Awards using the power of my imagination!  The Academy announces their official nominations on Tuesday, January 24th, and in four articles leading up to that date, I’ll be revealing my own nominations in the first annual Jonathan Lack’s “Dream Academy Awards!”  I’ll be going through almost all of the categories, sans Documentary and Shorts, and because this is all in my imagination anyway, I’ve expanded all the categories from five nominees to seven, since five is too few to recognize all the good work from the past year. 

This is a fun project, because while I don’t like the execution of the Oscars, I do like them in theory.  It’s cool to recognize achievements in individual elements of film, rather than just what the best films were as critics do with a Top-Ten List, and I think this will give me a chance to illustrate what I personally value in the technical, sound, and acting categories in the world of film.  Sometimes before the Oscar Telecast in February, I’ll announce the Winners of my Dream Academy Awards as well, possibly in podcast form!

The Dream Academy Award Nominations will begin next Tuesday, January 10th, with four sets of nominations posting every Tuesday and Thursday for the next two weeks: here’s the schedule:

Schedule:

The Technical Categories – Tuesday, January 10th
Music and Sound – Thursday, January 12th
The Acting Categories – Tuesday, January 17th
The Big Categories – Thursday, January 19th
Actual Oscar Nominations – Tuesday, January 24th

I will, of course, also comment on the real Academy Award nominations and compare (or, more accurately, contrast) them to my own imaginary ones on the 24th.  I hope you enjoy this little project, and I’d love to hear who your Dream nominees would be.