Monday, June 27, 2011


Wilfred is a new show on FX that's airing as a lead-in to their wonderful show Louie on Thursday nights.  I'd seen a clip of this show earlier and had no idea what to expect.  It appeared to be a show that could be either completely amazing or an achingly high concept miscarriage.

Elijah Wood plays a depressed man, Ryan, whose suicide attempt is interrupted by the cute girl next door, Jenna, who asks if he would watch her dog Wilfred while she's at work.  The catch is that Wilfred appears to be an Australian man in a dog costume that only Ryan can see.  Wilfred can talk, smokes pot, drinks beer, loves nachos, and has a knack for getting Ryan to break out of the rut his life has become.  They strike up a friendship where Wilfred becomes Ryan's Tyler Durden, getting him to let go and live a little. Like Tyler Durden, we're not sure if Wilfred is conjured in Ryan's head, or if he's something entirely different.

On my first viewing, I thought it was pretty damn good, but it took a second viewing with my wife for it to really open up.  I caught things that I didn't the first time, and the situations became more absurd when I consciously thought about the dog everyone else saw, and not the man that Ryan was having a conversation with.  So far I'm loving the show, and can't wait to see what else is in store.

Wilfred is based on an Australian show of the saw name that ran for two seasons on SBS One.  Jason Gann is one of the creators of the show, and reprises his role as Wilfred for the US version.  I've seen the first Australian episode, and it's refreshing that they took the show in a new direction without spoiling the original by being a mere facsimile.

I heartily recommend this show.  The US version can be found on FX at 10pm.

Or watch the Australian version here:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Super 8

This is the first movie in a long time that I've taken the time to see on opening weekend.  Even my wife has been excited for this film to come out.  The ad campaign reminded us both of the awesome movies of our childhood, like E.T. and Goonies.  The trailer looked amazing, so we ventured out Sunday and saw it.

I wasn't disappointed in fact it was better than I thought it'd be.  The best trick J.J. Abrams was able to pull, was to hide a character movie about loss and redemption inside of a summer blockbuster.  Yes there's a train accident, something terrorizes the town, the army takes over to hide what's going on, but it's all somewhat of a macguffin.  The real story is about young kids coming of age under difficult circumstances, and I'm not talking about the monster, I'm talking about their parents.  These kids lack all of the prejudices and guilt that their fathers so desperately need to shed themselves.

It's also a love letter to the type of movies that Steven Spielberg brought us so long ago, which have now sadly been replaced with movies that rely too much on explosions, car chases, and paper thin characters.  This is a movie with real heart, and real emotion, and can only be seen as a breathe of fresh air in a time of comic book movies and sequels.

The only problem I had with the film, and it may just be me, is that I felt they showed too much of the monster.  I'd rather not have seen it directly, and I think it'd be more frightening to have the audience fill in the blanks and use their imaginations, which will always be more harrowing than a CGI representation of our greatest fears.

All in all, it was a touching and extremely enjoyable film.  I want to see it again, and encourage anyone that hasn't seen it yet to do themselves a favor and check it out.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rome - Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi

I've been a huge fan of some of the recent Danger Mouse collaborations, and once I read what this album was about, my interest was piqued.

From what I understand, this album has been 5 years in the making.  Danger Mouse and Italian composer Daniele Luppi have both been inspired by the music of spaghetti westerns, and Ennio Morricone in particular, and wanted to try to do something similar.  Both men wrote the music, and then recorded it in Italy.  They were able to gather the choir and musicians, now mostly in their eighties, that had worked for Morricone on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly to be their session musicians.  The outcome is fantastic.

This album is a tip of the hat to the beautiful film score work of Morricone without ever being derivative.  To listen to one song randomly from the whole, is to do yourself a disservice.  This is an album that needs to be internalized in its entirety.  There are nine instrumental songs, and six with singing.  Of the six, the vocal duties are split between Jack White and Norah Jones.  The singing on their own albums is so dissimilar, that before you hear the music, you'd never guess how well it actually works, and it does work.

The lyrics are filled with loneliness, lost dreams, a troubled world, and being your own worst enemy.  The tone matches the music so well, and it's so absorbing, that I've found myself lost inside of it, humming it to myself at work, and now have listened to the relatively short album (35 minutes) at least a dozen times already.

I'm a sucker for a good soundtrack, and even though there's no film to go along with the music, there might as well be for the images it evokes in the listener. 

Do yourself a favor and pick up this little gem:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

1776 by David McCullough

Having been a history major, I've read my fair share of dry, dull, and snooze inducing texts over the course of my studies.  There are some great historical non-fiction books that are also page turners, but for some reason my professors always assigned books that were too technical for public consumption.  Most were a real slog to get through.  Now that I've closed that chapter of my life and can read what I like, when I like, I'm prone to enjoy a good historical book now and then.

My first introduction to David McCullough was as the narrator of Ken Burns excellent documentary, The Civil War.  What a voice.  I had no idea he was both a historian and a writer until much later.  I'd heard good things about his novel 1776 for a long time, so I put it on my Christmas list.  Some how my letter must have gotten through to Santa, because it was one of my gifts.

McCullough writes in a way that just carries you along, swept away by the current of the narrative.  The book was hard to put down.  In fact, I spent several nights reading far later than I should have.

One of my biggest pet peeves with historical novels, is when a writer makes up dialogue for the characters, and intuits what he or she believes might have been said by these characters.  McCullough doesn't do anything of the sort, in fact, the only quotes he uses are from source material such as diaries and letters.  Hurray!

Everyone knows the generic grade school version of the Revolutionary War, but this book gets into the thick of the action right at the siege of Boston in 1776.  Nothing is glamorized in the book.  It deals with the hard facts of how rag-tag and hopeless the cause actually seemed to those involved.  We get first hand accounts of the massive and devastating defeats the Continental Army suffered at the hands of the British and the Hessian mercenaries in New York.  I never realized how bad things were, how frustrated Washington was, and what little supplies and massive sickness there were among the troops.

Some of the characters that McCullough pulls out from the shadows of history, should be the heroes that everyone remembers.  Two that stand out the most, are Nathanael Greene and Henry Knox.  Both men had no military training, and instead learned about war and tactics in books.  Knox is the more remarkable of the two, having been a bookshop owner who eventually did the unthinkable.  He trekked through the wilderness to Fort Ticonderoga to fetch all of the cannons and pull them back to Boston just in time to give the Americans the upper hand.

As the title suggests the book deals with just the first year of the war, which was really the make or break moment of the revolution.  It seemed everything was going horribly wrong, and that the British would swiftly put down the rebels.  The Americans were at there most desperate, but this is when we're shown the decisions, and the opportunities that saved the Revolution and gave the Americans the momentum to persevere.

The book was a complete joy from beginning to end, and I'd highly recommend it.  I may actually hand it off to my father with the hope that he likes it as much as I did.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Childrens Hospital Season 3

I find myself in the doldrums.  It's that special time of year when most television series have ended, and the waiting game of May and June stretch out until the summer television series begin.

Lately the only thing on television that's kept me going, has been AMC's The Killing.  The series is a slow burn, but in a good way.  My only qualms about it are, having watched Twin Peaks, I find that I'm always one step ahead of the show.  There are way too many similarities in the way the investigation of the murder of Rosie Larsen unfolds, and that of Laura Palmer.  Don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic show, it just borrows too much.

So needless to say, I was overjoyed to find that the third season of Childrens Hospital had already begun.  The series was created by Rob Corddry and is a send up of hospital shows in general, and Grey's Anatomy in particular.  It mocks the genre in such an amazing way, with each episode filled with the absurd and hilarious in just the right ratio.  Childrens Hospital is a dysfunctional place, filled with dysfunctional people.  Rob Corddry's character is dressed as a blood smeared clown who insists that he can cure people with the "healing power of laughter".  He can't.  He's surrounded by other inept staff played by Lake Bell, Ken Marino, Rob Huebel, Megan Mullally, Erinn Hayes, Malin Ackerman, and the Fonz himself Henry Winkler.  There's even a hospital administrator making strange announcements over the intercom voiced by Michael Cera.

An example of the absurdity of the show, would be the premise of the first new episode.  A child falls into quicksand at a quicksand farm and is rushed to Childrens Hospital.  He's in a trough of quicksand and they have difficulty extracting him before he sinks to the bottom of the small tub.

Each new episode is 15 minutes long with commercials.  They're quick, they're fun, and have made me laugh harder than any other show on television.  If you're a fan of Arrested Development or Party Down, you will love this show.  It airs midnight on Thursdays on Adult Swim.

Watch some clips here.

Or buy seasons one and two here:

Friday, June 3, 2011


I never spent a lot of time as a kid reading comic books.  I was too preoccupied by Star Wars to get excited about superheroes.  There was a stint ten years ago when I really got into one series, The Maxx, but I didn't diversify and explore what else the medium had to offer.  Until now.

I found the first issue of Echoes by Joshua Hale Fialkov online.  I was drawn in by the cover, but by the time I finished reading it, I couldn't wait to run out and buy a copy.  It was so good, it blew my mind.  Each Wednesday the issues were released, I ended up at the local comic shop to grab a copy, and hurried back home to read the next installment.  My hats off to Top Cow Productions for putting out such an amazing creator owned comic.

The story is amazingly well crafted, and the black and white art by Rahsan Ekedal, fits the emotional core of the story exquisitely.  When the main character is lost or confused, his face and world visually echo his inner turmoil.  I had always thought that you needed color to best convey a story in comic form, but this series proves that color is not king.

Echoes is a limited series (and I say that sadly hoping for a 2nd arc) that has so many twists and turns, that it kept this reader on edge wondering what the hell happens next.  The ending is ballsy and killer, and It's hard to believe he pulled off such an amazing story without someone saying, "We need a more feel good ending" interfering and ruining the dynamic of the whole series.

I'll give a brief setup of how Echoes begins:

Brian Cohn's father is in the hospital dying of Alzheimer's.  His last words to Brian are an admission to killing a bunch of girls.  There's an address given and he mentions a box in a crawlspace under the stairs he wants Brian to find.  He then dies.

Thrown for a loop, Brian goes in search of this box.  Once in the house, an alarm on his watch goes off, he needs to take his pills.  Brian shares the same mental illness as his father, schizophrenia.  Without the pills he begins to get paranoid, and if he goes long enough before taking them he could begin to hallucinate.  He makes his way under the house, where he finds the box and opens it.  Inside are hundreds of dolls with little notes in their hands.  Each one has the name of the girl killed, birth and death date, and have been made from the skin, flesh, and bones of the girls.

Brian is shocked and confused, suddenly afraid that the schizophrenia is not the only thing he shares with his father.  Is there a killer lurking inside of him too?  He tries to put it out of his mind, but a little girl he's seen at a playground goes missing, then a detective shows up at his house asking questions, and a doll made from the missing girl is mailed to him.  Brian either has to unravel the mystery and discover what's going on or face up to what he's becoming.

The brilliant thing about the story, is that the more confused Brian gets, the more he loses grasp of what is real and what's a hallucination.  He's the ultimate unreliable narrator, and we see everything through his muddled perspective.  The series is dark and twisted, and we the reader, just like Brian, have to figure out what's real and what's imagined.  By the last page, I too questioned whether the ending was real or a figment of Brian's imagination.  I wasn't frustrated in the least, instead it pushed me to give the series another read.

I can't wait to see what these guys do together next.

You can find Joshua Hale Fialkov at
and artist Rahsan Ekedal at

Order the Hardcover of Echoes packed with extras and goodies here: