Veronica Mars = Best TV Show Ever.

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006 at 8:28 pm

I just got finished watching the Veronica Mars second season finale, and it’s the best hour of TV I have seen since the season premiere. Not only do the big mysteries of the season get wrapped up in totally unexpected but brilliantly set up ways, old mysteries from the first season get new pieces added that make the whole thing mind blowing. Somehow they keep pulling things you thought were inconsequential or finished back out and showing you something entirely different. The last half of the show is an insane rush of revelations and set up for the next season. There were more questions answered and asked in this one episode than the train wreck of a show Lost has had for it’s entire run. Plus, just about every single person who has had any part in the main stories in either season makes and appearance in the episode.

I still love BtVS and Angel, but Veronica Mars is so consistently great, it’s moved above them in my personal list of best TV shows. Two seasons, 44 episodes, and it hasn’t misstepped once the entire time, not a single mediocre or dull episode. I still think Joss Whedon is the master of TV dialog, but Rob Thomas beats the crap out of him with arc and details.

United 93

Saturday, April 29th, 2006 at 12:27 am

I just saw United 93, and it is the best movie I have seen in a long time. It is incredibly realistic, and exactly what a movie based on actual events should be like. This is the definitive movie for those few hours on 9/11, and I don’t think anyone will even try to make another movie that covers the same people for a very long time. It never gets heavy handed or tries to push an agenda or message, it just lays out what happened as accurately is possible from what we know. The scenes in the ATC centers and NORAD feel accurate in a way that I have never seen on film before. It’s obvious these are real people, not perfect robots, but once they realize what’s going on, they react as well as they can to a situation they are entirely unprepared for. It’s a must see movie.

New Yellowcard Album

Monday, January 23rd, 2006 at 8:10 pm

I just got the new Yellowcard album, Lights and Sounds, and have done a preliminary listen. I’m not sure where it falls yet. It’s different from their previous albums and has a lot less obvious violin, which is what really set them apart from all the other pop-punk bands. No songs caught me right off as genius, which doesn’t really surprise me as that’s pretty rare, but I think I will end up liking a lot of them.

Best New Music of 2005

Monday, January 16th, 2006 at 6:56 pm

There has been a lot of great new music released this year, and these are the albums that have really made an impact on me. Since I got my iPod last January I have greatly expanded music collection with a lot of cool stuff. Half this stuff I would have never listened to just a year ago, and have just recently started liking. Others fit my brain so perfectly I probably would have liked it as a toddler.
Before I list the best, I think I should mention some of the disappointments for me. Ben Folds and Death Cab for Cutie both released average records with a couple of great songs on each, which is ok, but not what I was hoping for. Weezer and System of Down both seem to have forgotten who they are and what made people like them in the first place. The Mars Volta and The Dandy Warhols dove head first into the experimental pool and apparently drowned. Still, there was a lot of great new stuff this year, some from new bands and some from old. These are in no particular order.

The Arcade Fire – Funeral
Technically this came out at the very end of 2004, but I am including it here since 2005 is when it showed up on the radar. This is currently my favorite album, it just clicks in every way. They definitely have their own sound, but they aren’t so far out there that it takes a long time to start liking them. From the genius final minute of Crown Of Love to the awesome chord progressions of Rebellion (Lies), the whole album feels like it is going somewhere.

Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene
This album grew on me when I didn’t really expect it to. It has a lot in common with The Arcade Fire, but Broken Social Scene has a slower, less refined sound. It’s great chill out music.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
This is what you would get if you crossed Radiohead with Modest Mouse. The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth is one of the best songs of the year, and the whole album is very solid.

Imogen Heap – Speak for Yourself
I had to import this from the UK after hearing Hide and Seek on The O.C. I really liked Imogen’s previous Frou Frou album, but this is so much more. I have a weak spot for electronic music, and this just hits perfectly. I can sit and listen to Hide and Seek and The Walk on repeat for hours and not get tired of them.

Rilo Kiley – More Adventurous
This is almost country, which makes it all the more surprising that I have it on this list. Jenny Lewis has one of the most pleasing voices I have heard, and songs like Portions For Foxes and Accidentel Deth have great hooks.

Sigur Rós – Takk…
I have Sigur Rós’s previous albums, but I can’t say I really got into them, they were a little too mellow and uninteresting for my tastes. Takk on the other hand has an energy and brightness that I can really get into. With this record they have moved just far enough away from their post-rock roots into something all their own.

Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
This is without a doubt the most original album this year. It seems like Sufjan will try anything, and it all works. Every song on the album is great in it’s own way, there are some with catchy hooks, some with long instrumental sections, and some that are slow and emotional.

Coldplay – X&Y
Given the disappointing showings most of the other established bands made this year, I was surprised by Coldplay, who put out their best album yet. They picked up the beat on a lot of songs into the range I like, and made an album that doesn’t sound like more of the same, yet still sounds like Coldplay.

The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree
My new found affinity for folkish music brought me back to The Mountain Goats, after I dismissed them a year ago for being too dull. This is a powerful album, and it is only helped by the better production values as compared to their previous records.

Hopefully we will have just as good a year for music in 2006.

Fall TV Season

Friday, October 14th, 2005 at 12:50 am

So far this season, TV has been both disappointing and better than expected. There aren’t any new standout shows so far, and it’s not looking like any will develop into standouts. There are a few that I like more than others, but their long term prospects are very questionable.

Prison Break has been going the longest, and it is interesting enough to have me waiting to watch it every week. The main problem is that sooner or later they have to actually break out of the prison, and then what? You can’t very well call a show prison break if nobody has to break out any more. The whole thing is so focused on the prison, that I don’t know if it will be able to stand as the fugitive conspiracy show it looks like they are aiming for. So far the out of prison stuff has been the real weak point of the series, so I don’t know that expanding that would be a good idea. The only way I can see it continuing with anything near the current mood and drive is if some of the escapees don’t escape, and have to work on a new plan Time will tell.

There are three new shows that focus on alien invasion, and so far it’s almost like everyone went to a "How to make an alien conspiracy show in 30 days" lecture or something. All three of the shows, Surface, Invasion, and Threshold, share a lot of themes and gimmicks, and I don’t think they will all make it to the mid season break. Surface seems to be going for the disaster movie feel, and they pulled it off really well in the pilot. The next few episodes have narrowed the focus quite a bit and I don’t know if it will hold up in the long run. David Greenwalt (Angel) did join the production team for this last episode though, and it picked back up a lot of the momentum that the other post pilot episodes had lost. Invasion is the show I least like, because they are holding everything too close to their chest. We don’t know anything about their aliens other than they like water and may be body snatching or infecting people. They keep purposefully misdirecting, and pretty soon they will have to put up or shut up. I like Threshold best out of the three, it has the best cast, and so far the best writing. You can’t beat having Carla Gugino, Brent Spinner, and  midget on a secret government anti-alien team. I am wary because it is basically a good portion of the freshly out of work Star Trek production guys, but we haven’t seen any ridges or tachyon pulses yet and Berman isn’t involved, so there may be hope. At least nobody has a forward deflector array they can rewire.

Criminal  Minds is a procedural that picks up right where the short lived The Inside left off a few weeks ago. It’s about an FBI team that tracks down serial killers and other difficult cases, and has a much darker feel than standard CSI or Law and Order cop procedurals. Hopefully it lasts longer than The Inside did.

As average as the new shows have been, the returning shows have been full of surprises. LOST is now officially dead to me, since they don’t seem to want to do anything but drag things out as far as they can. When you have "Season Premiere" then "Season Premiere: Deleted Scenes", then "Season Premiere: More Deleted Scenes (with Bonus Ridiculous Arguments!)" as your first three episodes, something is very wrong. Alias didn’t drag things out, but it is in the process of re-inventing itself, and not doing very well at it so far. Cast changes and medical conditions required some tricky writing, but it was done very poorly, and lost all of the great Alias feel the last few episodes of last season had found again. It’s possible that once everything settles into the new places it will return, but I’m not holding out much hope. When you can’t even remember who is dead, who is alive, who is in prison, and why then something is very wrong. J.J. Abrams is 0 for 2 this season on shows, he needs to get back in the game.

On the other hand, we have Smallville, which seems to have totally shed all the weirdness that infested last season and is finally  for the first time in it’s life firing on all cylinders. Smallville has always teetered on the edge of greatness, with a few misguided detours to Dawson’s Creek land, and Charmedville, but so far this season I have been extremely impressed. Superman is so close now, you are almost expecting Clark to rip off his shirt and have the costume on underneath.  They seem to be focusing on arc, and I really hope they keep it up, the show is about Superman, and the farther they move from that the worse it gets. It looks like they may kill off a main character, and done correctly that will be awesome, done poorly it will piss off the fans and lose all their momentum. I still wish my theory that Chloe was actually Lois, and she changed her name and hair color at some point would have panned out, but they don’t consult me on these things.

Veronica Mars is Without A Doubt the best thing on TV right now. It was great last year, and had the best season finale I have seen in a long time, but this season is just amazing. The season premiere is definitely in the top five best hours of TV I have ever seen. It was a perfect resolution to the mini-cliffhanger from last season and then twists and turns and when you finally think you have everything figured out, it says "yeah, well watch this", and takes a flying leap off the damn cliff and opens a new season’s worth of cans of worms. Shows focused on mysteries historically die a slow death once the mysteries are resolved, but VM preformed a perfect transition into a new set of mysteries  without once feeling like they were stretching or uncertain. They know where they are going, and I for one am happy to be along for the ride. Every episode so far this season has been a perfect mix of old story, new story, arc, and side plots. If they keep this up, this season will easily be on par with Buffy seasons two and three, possibly even better.

Hopefully some of the new shows will step up and find their stride, or at least get canceled and make room for better shows.

Serenity = Awesome

Saturday, October 1st, 2005 at 5:56 pm

Wow. I have watched Serenity twice so far, and it is better than what I expected, and I had pretty high expectations. Joss Whedon has proven once again that he is the current master of story and dialog. For the last 1/3 of the movie, I actually believed that it was possible all the main characters would die by the end of the move. It’s exactly what it should have been, Firefly, but bigger, darker, and with better special effects. I will go so far as to say Serenity is the new Star Wars, except what Lucas managed to do by accident, Joss has done with skill and vision.

If you like sci-fi and haven’t seen it yet, go out and buy the DVDs, watch them all as fast as you can, and then go see the movie.

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