Friday, May 21, 2010

Saying Goodbye To "Lost"

This won't be easy. I know it won't. I feel like I'm saying goodbye to an old friend as we approach the series finale, that's right, I said series finale of ABC's award winning "Lost." By now, I'm sure you've heard the show will take its final breath Sunday night during a 2 and a half hour spectacular. I won't kid you--that's impressive.
I remember in early 2004, reading an article in USAToday or maybe it was CNN, about "Lost," and the general excitement surrounding this show that would premiere that fall. It just sounded cool. A plane crashes on an island in the middle of nowhere, leaving dozens of passengers stranded. Then strange things start to happen. And as viewers know, there have been many strange things happening on the unnamed island we've all come to know and love.
Listen, I could go on and on about how rich the characters are, how good the writing is, how well the music compliments each episode, how the Cinematographer, Set Designer, and Director work so well to disguise Hawaii as multiple locations around the world, but you sorta get the point. It's a very, very well done show.
And as I've told friends and fellow fans, I feel like we've all been partaking in a delicious feast these last 6 seasons, and now we're about to get that last really fine meal.
That's what makes it so satisfying, at least for me, and also why I think it won't be too bad when it ends. Because, in much the same way you enjoy reading a good book, the show has played out in the very same fashion. There's really so much to appreciate about "Lost," that I will miss a show of its caliber, but I'm certainly very grateful to have been able to watch it from the beginning. And to everyone out there, fasten your seat belts, Sunday's going to be a bumpy ride...
Of course, this whole thing has caused me to reflect on other series finales. I remember some that weren't received so well, like the endings to "Seinfeld," and "St. Elsewhere." I still liked the ending to "St. Elsewhere," even if it was obscure. One of the finest endings to a show in TV history, in my opinion, remains the finale to "M*A*S*H*". Still an outstanding program. I'm also reminded of the end of my favorite sitcom of all time, "Frasier," and how well it was able to bookend the pilot episode. Love that show!
So get ready to raise a glass and say goodbye to "Lost." We've all been on a wonderful journey together, and it's not over yet!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The End Is Near

4...8...15...16...23...42.... The countdown is underway for the final 2 episodes of ABC's "Lost." This time next Monday, there will be plenty of people circled around a water cooler talking about the series finale. It saddens me to even think about it. There's a brand new episode tomorrow night at 8 pm CST on ABC which will lead up to the finale Sunday night. The finale is 2.5 hours long! There's not many things that can offset the news, the Oscars comes to mind, but it's still exciting and flattering that ABC affiliates are pushing back their Sunday newscast for the "Lost" wrap-up. In honor of the end, there are all sorts of magazines, TV show appearances, podcasts, and such that will be happening this week with actors, writers, and creators of the show.

Jody, Katie, and I will have a special podcast this Wednesday night to talk all things "Lost." Be sure to tune in for that. You guys are welcome to call in to the podcast any week and discuss pop culture with us. I'm sure there will be a FEW more posts about the upcoming end. Until then, "Take care, Brotha."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Villain

The "Iron Man 2" series continues as we edge closer to the kick off of the Summer movie season. In the first article, we looked as some of the sequel formulas and how they might translate into this film. Having the formula is one thing, but you MUST get this part right or you're going to fail as a second act.

The Villain is what can make/or break the second step of any franchise. The first movie is all about establishing our hero, now the second one must turn it up a notch by introducing us to a sinister man who dreams of crushing our beloved hero. Villains don't necessarily have to be more sinister than the first film, but their presence must have a bigger part of the plot and story development. You can't have a good movie without a great protagonist and antagonist. Let's take a look at some of the ways to judge the perfect sequel villain.

First, the new bad guy must have a different character/story arc than the first one. Sequels tend to go darker sometimes, and the only way they can achieve that darkness is by throwing in a crazy guy/girl who's got nothing to lose. Even if you don't go darker, just throw us a curve ball to mix it up. With "Iron Man 2," we're on the right track. I was so excited to see Mickey Rourke cast as Tony Stark's opposite in the new chapter. Ivan Vanko or Whiplash is a man that's seen his family and friends torn about by the Stark Industries' weapons. He has a chip on his shoulder and is willing to do whatever it takes to show that Tony Stark can bleed.

Another great element with a new arch enemy is the back story. We know that Whiplash's family has been dealt a tragic blow, but any good sequel should spark our curiosity about his traits/gifts/abilities. I want to know why he is a talented engineer that's able to construct this new weapon and why Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) wants him to be the brains behind this new wave of soldiers.....did I give away too much??? I hope not, but I will stop right there....

Any good villain must have that "IT" moment. You're not going to believe he's the toughest guy in the Old West unless he does something to turn the storyline on its head. That something doesn't have to be a crazy fight scene or stunt, it can even be something as small as a couple lines of dialogue. Speaking of that "IT" moment, it should tie in somehow with his fighting abilities. Everyone in the theatre knows that this guy is the bad guy, but in order to take that character to another level you're going to have to prove it on the battlefront. You don't have use the biggest budget to create the greatest fight scene, but you have to SHOW the audience that this guy has tools and he knows how to punish people.

Finally, the villain MUST have a grand exit! I love finding out new casting notes about who is going to play the new bad guy and see how they translate that into a 2 hour show. I get more nervous at the end of the movie for the villain's exit than I do for anything else. We know that the hero is going to live, but we have no clue about his enemy. If he's going to die it has to be something great and not just a cheap end scene. The baddest guy on film should not die thanks to a cheap bullet, he needs to go out with a BANG! Now, I say die, but he doesn't always have to die. Yes, you can still send someone away to jail/hibernation/isolation with a fantastic finish.

Follow these foot notes and I guarantee you will find a great sequel villain waiting at the end every time. I haven't seen "Iron Man 2" so I don't know the ending, but Whiplash seems to be well on his way as being one of the great Tony Stark villains of all-time. Now, he MAY not be the only villain in the film, but he is the only villain that we KNOW about.....THERE'S YOUR TEASE, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

Enjoy the show!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Sequel Formula

Believe it or not, the Summer movie season kicks off this weekend with "Iron Man 2." Tony Stark and the gang are back in the sequel to the 2008 smash hit. It's easily the most anticipated blockbuster of the Summer bunch. Sequels can be really good, but they can also get really ugly. In honor of this being the start of the Summer season, and "Iron Man" week, I'm compiling a list of thoughts/possibilties/expectations and putting them into a series of articles.

First up, the sequel formula. What goes into making a good sequel? Obviously, Movie studios are hoping to expand on the success of the first film, but you have to follow the right formula for that to work. To quote "Scream 2," "Sequels themselves are inferior films..." -- which means you have to expand on the characters' universe for the movie to stand next to the original. Now, expanding doesn't necessarily mean more explosions/fight scenes/characters/etc. Expanding can also mean taking their first world, and turning it upside down. New characters are always welcome, but they aren't a necessity. If Marvel follows their formula for two other sequels, fanboys like me will be happy with the product and coming back for more.

"Spider-Man 2" still stands as one of the greatest superhero sequels by Marvel Studios. The 2004 Summer hit kept the same, simple product from the first film and just turned it on itself. We didn't see a ton of new villains, characters, or storylines and that was perfectly fine. What made the movie so good was the fact that it kept things simple. Peter fights with the powers of Spidey and his love for Mary Jane. There's only one true nemesis in the film, Doc Ock. Too many times movies try to add too many bad guys and it just makes the sequel messy and irritating. When you have a character such as Dr. Octopus, who is one of the strongest villains in comic book history, he's all you need. Some sequels also try to make the new villian darker and more sinister, but that's not a must. The Doc wasn't darker than The Goblin, but he was still a great evil match to the Spidey Sense. Now, with "Iron Man 2," it's obvious that Whiplash is a darker villian than Iron Monger. Will it work?....only time will tell, but I'm super excited about seeing Mickey Rourke go bat crazy again the suit of armor.

Sometimes sequels can involve plenty of new characters and turn out really well. There's no question that "Iron Man 2" is adding a slew of people as the move towards "The Avengers," but will it work? "X2: X-Men United" worked to the tenth degree. In my mind, this film is one of (if not) the greatest underrated superhero movie of all-time. Bryan Singer did an excellent job of keeping the plot line simple, but throwing in these new and intricate characters that helped stir the pot. Night-Crawler was one of the most exciting and most welcomed people to X2. If you add someone, they must have a purpose. Don't just add bad guys, partners, and side characters just for the sake of a laugh or explosion. There's quite a few new characters in "Iron Man 2" so we shall see how well they all mash up not only in this film, but other movies to come....

That's right, I just ended that paragraph on an Avengers tease. Which I'm hoping is not the case with this weekend's movie. "Spider-Man 2" and "X2" were great, but they weren't building towards a universe like this film is. If Marvel uses the formulas that both Spidey and the X-Men banked on, we should be in for a fun ride for weeks to come. How will Tony Stark's second round compare with these other sequels....we wil find out soon enough.

There's much more "Iron Man 2" coverage to come this week. Also, be sure to check out our weekly podcast for the very latest.