Thursday, December 11, 2003

TV: "I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown!"

A Charlie Brown Christmas is easily my favorite Christmas special, and my favorite Peanuts special, of all time. There was no way for this new special to match that, and I didn't expect it to. In fact, it ended up being better than I anticipated. Much like in the later years of Schulz's strip, Rerun takes on the main role, and in doing so, suitably distinguishes this special from earlier ones. And Spike is always a welcome presence, in my opinion.

The chief fault of this special was its length. What could have been a tight half-hours was instead dragged out to an hour's length, padded with numerous unnecessary asides (e.g. Lucy and Schroeder at the piano, or Rerun's time on the bike, which I believe was utilized in an old special). Rerun doesn't actually get a dog until 40 minutes into the hour, and even then Spike only stays for a few minutes before leaving again.

Except for Schroeder, all of the voices were good, and we were treated to cameos from Violet, Patty, Franklin, and even Joe Cactus. Seeing Schroeder's house was a cute aside, better than the gags that followed. And ReRun does well onscreen, even if some of his soliloquies get old, and not all of his jokes from the strip translate well to screen (e.g. his card game).

Interestingly, in this week's TV Week, it was said "The Christmas stories are likely to hold at two." I can only presume that the author forgot about It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown!. And when compared to that forgettable special, I Want a Dog wins out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Movie: "Thirteen"

I didn't see Gigli this year. Nor did I see From Justin to Kelly, or Marci X, or Jeepers Creepers 2. I tend to avoid spending money on films I don't have faith in.

With that disclaimer, I can safely say that Thirteen is the worst film I've seen in a theater all year. The fact that Sundance gave this film an award for directing says a lot about Sundance's ability to look past a film's content in order to see the technique behind it. But as for me, I found the story abhorrent, and worse, absolutely and utterly boring.

The protagonist is a thirteen-year old girl who is a good student with good friends, but who wants to hang with the popular (read: slutty) girls. When she gets her foot in the door with them, she starts emulating the most popular girl's behavior. She starts dressing slutty, she shoplifts and steals, she gets piercings without permission, she lies like crazy to her mom, she neglects school, and she starts doing all manner of drugs. She becomes best friends with the popular girl, and throws away her old life.

I literally looked at my watch every five minutes during this 100-minute film. Sometimes more. It was the longest 100 minutes of my life, or at least since I was bedridden with an illness a few years back. After the protagonist stole a woman's wallet in the first 15 minutes or so, I found myself waiting for her to get her comeuppance. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting...

But her uppance never came. Only in the final minutes of the film did she suffer any real fallout from her behavior, and that was just in being told that she'd have to repeat a grade in school, plus a fight followed by a good cry and hug with her mom. All that stealing? No repurcussions. I got the notion at the end that I was supposed to feel some sort of pity or empathy for the girl, but I felt nothing. Actually, that's not true. I felt that she wasn't being punished enough for her activities throughout the film. Pity? No, I felt she got what she deserved, and probably not enough of it.

My review in one word? Avoid.

24: 7 pm - 8 pm

Let's start with the biggie: Gael was working with Tony, as part of an effort to get Jack back undercover with the Salizars. For starters, this alleviates my concern that CTU had *yet another* mole in their system. It makes some of Gael's behavior in this ep a little mysterious, but I trust they'll have an explanation for that coming up.

That last-minute revelation has another, bigger impact, though. Based on Tony's comment, and the fact that we saw Gael in touch with Hector before Jack went rogue, it means that this whole operation was set up *before* the dead body got dropped off at the season's start. There's a bigger story here that we're just now seeing the tip of.

It was also good to see Gael get caught so early in the episode. I was worried they would drag that subplot out longer, especially with Gael being put in charge (why not Chappelle?), but then they wrapped it all up in about 10 minutes.

For a guy who just got out of surgery, Tony got back on his feet awfully fast. They should have at least put him in a wheelchair.

In the last split-screen, we see Ann's ex putting a gun into his drawer. The notion that he's planning to ambush Ann isn't really a shocker. However, it will make me want to pull my hair out if Ann is headed to his place alone. That would be downright irrational for someone of her intelligence and in her position. I take hope in the fact that we didn't see what she did after the phone call, and the shot of her driving was such that it wouldn't reveal if anyone else is in the car, so for now I'm trusting that Ann did the smart thing, and is being accompanied by a Secret Service or US Marshal escort.

Here's a theory of mine. IIRC, they said the virus has a 14 hour incubation period before it becomes infectious. We have 17 hours left in the season. I think somebody's going to get infected in the next 3 hours, resulting in a fight against the clock before time runs out. And the most likely candidate to be infected? Jack.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Supreme Court cuts down the ADA

In a 7-0 decision, the Supreme Court declared that a company is not in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act for failing to rehire an employee who went through rehab after being fired for cocaine use. The ADA is one of the best-intended, but worst-structured, pieces of legislation in recent memory. And while this decision doesn't go as far as I'd like, it's certainly a step in the right direction.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Apparently, Money *Does* Grow on Trees

$3 million to teach golf to kids. Who knows what other pork made it into this $820 BILLION spending bill. $20,000 per household, the highest since WWII. The Republicans are spending like there's no tomorrow, forgetting that they were the balanced-budget party less than a decade ago, and the Democrats make big spending (or as they put it, "investing") part of their platform. Where is the party of federal thrift?

Peanuts Forever

Perhaps following the example of Tupac, who has continued to put out albums years after his death, it seems that there are plenty more Peanuts specials by Charles Schulz on the horizon.

I adore Peanuts, but this doesn't exite me. The only post-Schulz special I've seen was "A Charlie Brown Valentine," and it was disappointing in its plainness, being little more than a string of anecdotes drawn from strips. It also casually showed the Little Red-Haired Girl, which disappointed me. "It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown" suffered from the same simple construction, and it was produced years before Schulz's death. Perhaps these new specials will be better, but it'll be hard for them to equal the classics.

In Memoriam

Jonathan Luna sounds like the type of stand-up guy who should be an inspiration to other lawyers. As a potential prosecutor, I can only hope that his fate was not one motivated by revenge, but then again, it's not as if there's any good reason for a person to die like this.


John Leo has a review of the newest victim classifications to hit the scene. My favorite is the performance of an elementary school Thanksgiving play without either Pilgrim or Indian costumes. It brings to mind the South Park episode with the school's secular Christmas play.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Isn't it Ironic?

Smoker dies of cardiac arrest minutes after testifying that cigarette smoke hasn't affected his health at all.

Slippery Slope

The argument was inevitable.

"It doesn't bother anyone, (and with) no compelling state interest in what you do in your own home with consenting adults, you should be allowed to do so."