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They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ten in the Morning: Oscar snubs

This week, in honor of “The Dark Knight” getting snubbed last week for an Oscar nod for best picture, “Ten in the Morning” counts down the biggest Oscar snubs since 1990 (trying to keep it modern, folks):

10. “The Queen” losing to “The Departed” for best picture in 2006. Really tough call here, but Helen Miren’s stunning portrayal as Queen Elizabeth II and the backlash she receives after the death of Princess Diana is movie making at its best. “The Departed” blows you away with its cast, but its comical, almost goofy ending can’t be overlooked.

9. Tom Hanks (“Cast Away”) losing to Russell Crowe (“Gladiator”) for best actor in 2000. Not many actors can pull off a one-man ensemble for the majority of a movie, but Hanks did it in “Cast Away.”

8. Julianne Moore (“Boogie Nights”) losing to Kim Basinger (“L.A. Confidential”) for best supporting actress in 1997. Moore’s portrayal as a troubled pornstar in the 1970s crushes Basinger’s role as a callgirl in 1950s Los Angeles. This one’s not even close.

7. “Awakenings” losing to “Dances with Wolves” for best picture in 1990. Penny Marshall’s inspiring film about a doctor’s pursuit to find a cure for his group of comatose patients showcased Robert DeNiro in his finest role. As for Kevin Costner’s “Dances with Wolves,” I’ll take “Field of Dreams” and “JFK” over that in a heartbeat.

Speaking of "JFK" ... 6. Oliver Stone’s take on the John F. Kennedy assassination should have taken home the Oscar for best picture over “The Silence of the Lambs” in 1991. “JFK” was a brilliant tale of one man’s vision of a potential conspiracy.

5. Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation”) losing to Sean Penn (“Mystic River”) for best actor in 2003. Penn was fabulous in River, but Murray, who was a bit better in the tale of movie star who forms an unlikely friendship in Tokyo, proved he’s versatile enough to be taken seriously. That was probably his best shot at an Oscar.

4. “Mystic River” losing to “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” for best picture in 2003. Return of the King had the special effects, but a way-too-busy storyline. River had the cast, and an stellar mystery tale.

3. “The Shawshank Redemption” losing to “Forrest Gump” for best picture in 1994. Shawshank is one those perfect movie-going experiences. Gump is great, but not great enough.

2. “Scent of a Woman” losing to “Unforgiven” for best picture in 1992. I’m a huge fan of Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood, stars of “Unforgiven,” but it’s difficult to understand the Academy’s choice to not crown this classic tale of a blind and retired military man struggling to cope with growing old alone.

1. Russell Crowe (“A Beautiful Mind”) losing to Denzel Washington (“Training Day”) for best actor in 2001. It’s no wonder Crowe seems so bitter these days.

- Mark Podolski

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Communication breakdown

Congress is in the process of pushing back the digital TV transition, meaning the nationwide analog shutdown - you know, the one you've been warned about at an increasing rate for the past few years - won't take place until June 12.

Fantastic. ... Now, is there anything else we can bungle in this process before the switch goes through in June?

For those keeping score at home, the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act was signed Oct. 20, 2005. So we've had more than three years to brace for the big day. And yet, with less than three weeks until we were supposed to collectively flick the big switch to digital we have:

- 6.5 million Americans who still need digital boxes
- No government money left to help these folks defray the cost.

Who's to blame? Pretty much everybody involved.

You can point the finger at the government and television industry for putting out such a convoluted message, leaving many Americans confused by the whole process. We now have a shortage of converter boxes and government money. I'd like to know how much of that is a result of people who didn't need converter boxes going out and getting them anyway because they were misinformed.

You can point the finger at cable companies for using the transition to sway basic cable subscribers up to digital packages and for running DTV commercials in the first place. Here's a hint: If you can watch cable channels airing these commercials you don't need a converter box. Why didn't every single message put out by cable companies convey this?

And finally, you can point the finger at the aforementioned 6.5 million Americans themselves. Have you been presented with confusing message about whether you need a converter box? Yes. On the other hand: You have had THREE AND A HALF YEARS to figure it out. PBS thanks you in advance for the $22 million it stands to lose thanks to your procrastination.

- Tom Valentino

UPDATE: The House voted down the bill on Wednesday. The Feb. 17 deadline is still on ... for now.

It will be a dark night

I can’t say I was surprised. No Oscar nod Thursday for “The Dark Knight,” which most likely will be my top film of 2008 (I have a few left to see).

My next favorite film -- a movie I’d love to see win best picture Feb. 22 – “Frost/Nixon” was nominated. But you have to see this as a two-horse race between “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which garnered the most nominations (13) and Golden Globe winner “Slumdog Millionaire.” Both are solid but overrated films.
Although “The Dark Knight” – director Christopher Nolan’s brilliant sequel to “Batman Begins” -- did not receive even a nomination for a Golden Globe for best drama film, the Batman buzz seemed to be building. But, alas, the only important nomination was its lock: best supporting actor for the late Heath Ledger. He’ll win, and he deserves to.

But the movie is deserving, too. There was one, maybe two best picture nods up for grabs, assuming the aforementioned three films would be selected. I’m glad “Milk” was nominated – I thought it was excellent – but I was surprised “The Reader” scored one. I saw it this weekend, and it’s good – but it left me wanting quite a bit more. At least for me, the emotional impact wasn’t there, despite very good performances and direction.

This group of contenders gives the average movie fan more ammunition for criticism. The Oscar voters typically ignore the biggest hits of the year, and most years I have no problem with that. The biggest movie and the best movie are usually two different things.

It just happens to be that this year they are not.

-Mark Meszoros

Monday, January 26, 2009

Where's the Band?

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

While they may not be household names, the bands Bayside, Saves the Day, The Get Up Kids and Thrice have been making thunderous noise in the underground scene for nearly a decade.

Sunday night the lead singers of each band took a more calm approach as they each played a solo acoustic set filled with their own songs as well as numerous covers.

While doors were supposed to open at 7 p.m. at the Grog Shop on Euclid Heights Boulevard in Cleveland Heights, people were standing in line in the blistering cold wrapped all the way back to the Mongolian Barbecue on Coventry Road until about 7:30 p.m.

Anthony Raneri of Bayside took the stage shortly after 8 p.m. He stared his set with an Alkaline Trio cover setting the mood for the entire night.

Fans weren’t exactly sure what to expect of the “Where’s the Band” tour, which prompted Raneri to ask the crowd after his third song if they got what was going on yet.

Raneri played a plethora of his own Bayside material while also covering songs from Bad Religion, Death Cab for Cutie and even country music star, Tim McGraw.

Chris Conley and Matt Pryor of Saves the Day and The Get Up Kids, respectively, followed Raneri.

They didn’t play as many covers as the Bayside frontman, but rather took more requests from the crowd.

Dustin Kensrue of Thrice finished off the show with about a 40 minute set. He played material from his band, his solo records and covers of the Counting Crows, Radiohead and Bruce Springsteen.

The show concluded with all four lead singers coming on stage to do a rendition of NOFX's “Linoleum.”

At the very least, it was an incredibly unique experience where the lead singers were able to connect with their fans in a more intimate atmosphere.

This was the first “Where’s the Band” tour and hopefully, it won’t be the last.

Highlights from the show:

Raneri covering Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into The Dark.”

The four covering NOFX's “Linoleum” for the show's encore.

Kensrue playing “The Artist in the Ambulance.”

*Note: These videos aren't from the Cleveland show except the Kensrue video. The first two are from prior stops on the tour. Not too many videos from the Cleveland show have been posted yet.

Friday, January 23, 2009

'Rocky' book stirs up great memories

Childhood memories are some of the best a person can have. It takes one back to a time without the responsibilities that come with adulthood and, many times, can help shape the person you are today.

Which brings me to today's topic: My love of movies. Whether she knows it or not, no one was more influential for that than my aunt Sheila. She spent her career as an art teacher in the New Philadelphia school system and is now enjoying retirement. She is an immensely talented artist. She also loves going to the movies.

I always looked forward to her taking my brother and I to an afternoon movie while growing up as kids in the 1980s. Whether it was "Superman: The Movie" or "Return of the Jedi" -- two that come to mind -- it was always a treat when Aunt Sheila called Mom and asked if the boys wanted to see a movie.

As a movie buff, Sheila also had plenty of cool stuff -- books, posters, you name it -- in her apartment. Recently, it was time for her to get rid of some of that stuff, which became great news for me.

While going through her collection, she came upon a book she thought would be of interest to me. Was it ever. The book titled "The Official Rocky Scrapbook," written by Sylvester Stallone in 1977, one year after the release of the Academy Award-winning movie, will now be forever treasured as one of my favorite Rocky items.

Talk about a blast from the past. Anyone who knows me knows my affection for what I consider one of the greatest movies ever made, and this books tells the story of Stallone's incredible journey getting the movie made and boasts plenty behind-the-scenes photos any Rocky fan would love.

But more than anything, the book took me back to my youth, when Aunt Sheila opened my eyes to wonderful world of movies. Thanks again, Aunt Sheila. The book will be forever cherished.

- Mark Podolski

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nick’s picks: Most anticipated part two

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

Part two will focus on the most anticipated films (in my opinion) that are scheduled to be released in 2009. Each film title is linked to it’s imdb page for more information regarding the plot, the director and the film’s cast.

-I know I’m in the minority when I say this, but I’m not usually a big superhero film type guy, but something about this film is catching my eye. Maybe I’m just intrigued by the Smashing Pumpkins song, The Beginning is the End is the Beginning, in the trailer.
Release Date: March 6

I love You, Man
-Paul Rudd showed last year that he can hold his own as the main comedic lead following the 2008 Role Models. This time around, he’ll a better wing man in Jason Segel. Sorry Seann William Scott.
Release Date: March 20

-The director of Superbad returns with a film about a nerd who takes the only job he can get out of college, working at an amusement park. If it’s anything like Mottola’s previous film, I’m all in.
Release Date: March 27

The Soloist
-A part of me makes me wonder why this was delayed. It was supposed to be released during the awards season but was pushed back to April. None-the-less Robert Downey Jr. hopes to continue his blazing hot streak into 2009. Early previews look like a cross between Reign Over Me and Resurrecting the Champ, hopefully more towards the former.
Release Date: April 24

I Love you Phillip Morris
-Jim Carrey kissing Ewan McGregor? Gross, but this film is getting some early buzz out of the Sundance Film Festival. This is being tagged as a comedy-drama and I’ve always felt that Carrey is an extremely underrated dramatic actor in roles such as Eternal Sunshine, Truman Show and Man on the Moon. The trailer isn’t out yet but I hope it leads more towards the dramatic side but less down the path of the highly overrated Brokeback Mountain.
Release Date: Spring (tentative)

-After the 2007 surprise hit Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen is back with another one of his awkward, socially inept, and controversial characters, Bruno. Expect this to be undoubtedly the most controversial film of the year, but probably amongst the funniest.
**Nick’s tip: If you haven’t already, check out Cohen’s Da Ali G Show for some more Bruno, Borat and well, Ali G.
Release Date: May 15:

Public Enemies
-Speaking of hot streaks, Mr. Batman himself, Christian Bale teams up with Johnny Depp and Michael Mann for this gangster flick set in the 1930s. Need I say more?
Release Date: July 1

All Good Things
-I’d be remised if I didn’t mention the movie with my favorite actor, Ryan Gosling, which is due out this year. The drama-mystery is about a detective who begins to unravel a missing-persons case that spell doom for the heir of a New York real estate dynasty. Gosling, as cited by many critics, is one of the best actors of his generation. In 2007, At just 26-years-old, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Half Nelson. He’s not Al Pacino or Robert De least not yet.
Release Date: July 24

500 Days of Summer claims this film is “without question one of the best films to grace Sundance.” Those are some high expectations so it’s worth a top 10 spot on this blog.
Release Date: July 24

Funny People
-Seth Rogan, Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow team up for this comedy-drama about two stand-up comedians, one of which suffers from a terminal health condition. A new territory for all three of these men. Should be interesting and probably anything but funny once the credits roll.
Release Date: July 31

Inglourious Basterds
-Quentin Tarantino. Enough said.
Release Date: Aug. 21

I’m sure there will be a plethora of films that will be scheduled to be released near the end of the year in time for the 2009 awards season. We’ll have to do another anticipated list when those dates are released near the summer of fall.

-Nick Carrabine

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Getting lost in all the excitement

The buzz remains in the air.

This has been a monumental few days for our country. No, make that our world.

The faithful knew this day would come, but others weren’t so sure.

Yes, the 12th and final cylon has been revealed!

I speak, of course, about the big revelation during Friday night’s return of “Battlestar Galactica” to Sci Fi channel. (What, you thought I was referring to something else?)

Those who still plan to watch the episode, “Sometimes a Great Notion,” should stop reading now.

The last of the 12 cylon models – the much speculated-about fifth of “the final five” – was … Ellen Tigh? Really??
At first this struck me as a cheat. Surely, this last human-looking robot would be revealed to be a major player – Admiral William Adama, President Laura Roslin, Gaius Baltar or Kara “Starbuck” Thrace – not the late wife of Executive Officer Saul Tigh, previously revealed to be one of the final five. But you know what? It makes sense – at least as much sense as anything in the bizarre mythology of this show is ever going to make sense.

Truth be told, I’ve gone from being a very big, very dorky “Galactica” fan to a less-intense (yet still fairly dorky) fan. Although I’ve always liked science fiction, I think the show was better in the early days, when it was powered by the conflict among the members of what remained of the human population as they drifted through space trying to find a home before they were totally obliterated by their former robot servants. Someone coined it “ ‘The West Wing’ in space,” and I loved it. But as the seasons dragged on, the show became more about silly prophesies and human-cylon hybrids spending their days, for some reasons, in bath tubs.

The show was still better than most things on TV, but I wasn’t sure why I was supposed to still care after the fleet and cylons finally made it to the fabled Earth -- only to find it a nuclear wasteland -- in the mid-season finale months ago. Well, this recent, mostly outstanding episode has rekindled my interest for the series’ last stretch of shows. (Sadly, I do need to know just what the deal is with the resurrected Starbuck. If she isn’t a cylon, what is she?)

All kidding aside, though, I do want to take a moment to address what’s really exciting about this week, the reason so many of us have been distracted and barely able to sleep of late. Yes, “Lost” returns tonight to ABC. Look for my thoughts on the two-hour premiere in the coming days.

- Mark Meszoros

B.I.G. Flick Not That Sick

“Tuned Into Pop Culture” guest contributor Brandon C. Baker is a News-Herald staff writer.

Before reading further, understand that I’ve been a fan of the Notorious B.I.G. since “Party & B.S.” and his early appearances on Supercat and Mary J. Blige remixes. In other words, a bad review of the Fox Searchlight biopic doesn’t equal a misinformed critic.

That said, I was pretty disappointed with “Notorious.” It’s true that we are talking about Hollywood, but the larger-than-life MC’s tale was woefully simplified.

Yes, the film is great for hip-hop and introducing one of the art form’s legends to new audiences. That it got green-lit by a mega studio says a lot of about a music that was branded “trash” and a mere fad less by doubters than 30 years ago.

But none of that should force viewers to hold their tongues about pitiful acting (Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur actually walks into a party saying, “What’s up? I’m Tupac”) or little insight into the mind of one of the genre’s greatest lyricists and storytellers.

There’s not time for everything, but we needed to find out a little more about what made Biggie spew lines like, “F--- the world, f--- my moms and my girl/My life is played out like a jheri curl, I’m ready to die.”

Anyone who’s listened to enough hip-hop will tell you such a menacing, yet self-deprecating line wasn’t uttered just for show. Not in 1993, anyway.

Instead of getting to the bottom of it, we’re left to believe that Christopher Wallace’s life was the same as any other rags-to-riches, hood-to-stardom story. Producers brought little, if any, of his story’s uniqueness to life besides the fact that he was darker and heavier than the average rap star.

The film even managed to make Lil’ Kim appear oversexed, which is as tough a feat as making LeBron James look underpaid. Yet, there’s the Queen Bee’s character, played by Naturi Naughton, in the bed with Big, while his eventual wife Faith Evans (Antonique Smith) and daughter’s mother Jan (Julia Pace Mitchell) are actually developed and presented as more than eye candy.

Jamal Woolard’s overall performance as Biggie was especially solid for a first-timer, but Derek Luke as Sean “Puffy” Combs is reduced to a dancing, catch-phrasing fool instead of the successful entrepreneur he was even 15 years ago. Angela Bassett’s portrayal of Violetta Wallace was OK, but her Jamaican accent sounded too forced. Rapper Jay-Z and producer Easy Mo Bee, both friends and instrumental to B.I.G.’s career, were mysteriously absent.

Bottom line, this movie should be reserved for those wanting a quick, 101-style education on The Notorious B.I.G. If you’ve followed his career, you might get a few moments of nostalgia (hearing “Juicy” and “Warning” will do that), but you’ll ultimately leave underwhelmed and out of $9.

- Brandon C. Baker

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Radio 92.3: Catch it while you can

Odds are by the end of this post, 92.3 FM will change its format or rebrand itself another three times, but stick with me here. And with any luck, 92.3 will stick with what they've got going right now.

92.3 went through its latest makeover in early December, dumping its K-ROCK moniker in favor of "Radio 92.3." It's the fourth identity for the station since Memorial Day 2001. Wikipedia has a nice chronology of 92.3's ongoing identity crisis.

The most noticeable change in this overhaul is that all the DJs have been dumped in favor of a few pre-recorded bumpers. I'm not for people losing their jobs, but I've heard about this happening in other markets. And if it's the only way to keep a station with mediocre ratings like 92.3 afloat, you probably shouldn't hold out hope for a return of Rachel Steele and Bull. Even Clear Channel is slashing jobs, so don't be surprised if this is the way of the future for a number of other area stations. One tip for 92: If you don't have a DJ, you can at least stick in more song IDs, especially on new tracks. I can only listen to Generic Promo Guy's lame quips so many times.

The biggest plus with Radio 92.3? The short-lived attempt to be a poor man's WMMS seems to be done, with less Motley Crue, Ozzy and the like. I know there's a market for that genre, but MMS does it better, and once the Buzzard's short-lived all-day-talk format fizzled last year, the writing was on the wall for 92.

The 92 playlist has expanded and gravitated back towards its alternative rock roots, like the good old days of 107.9 The End.

There is still room to improve (and a lot more bands that fit the new mold). Give me more of The Shins, Our Lady Peace, Modest Mouse and the Tragically Hip. Don't be afraid to sneak in a song by The Postal Service or The Pixies once in a while. Stop bludgeoning me over the head with The Killers.

92.3 is on the right track, and with any luck, CBS Radio will have some patience and let the station build some momentum before pulling the plug again.

And if all else fails, here's a very, very nice alternative station (see what I did there?).

Despite another nondescript name like Radio 92.3 (seriously, does anybody want an identity anymore?), FM 96 (located at 95.9 FM) is a brilliant station based out of London, Ontario. On most days, it comes in crystal-clear in The News-Herald coverage area. Nice wide playlist, good DJs and fun Canadian accents. Makes me want to go buy a car from Probart Maaaazda, grab a Steam Whistle Pilsner at the Honest Lawyer and catch a show at the John Labatt Centre. Good times all around, eh!

- Tom Valentino

Nick's picks: Most anticipated part one

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

This will be a two-part series of most anticipated albums and movies (in my opinion, of course) that are scheduled to be released in 2009.

Part one will focus on albums in alphabetical order:

Brand New, currently untitled
-One of the more underrated bands who released arguably one of my top 10 favorite albums (in about a 600 album collection) in 2003 with “Deja Entendu.” Their follow-up in 2006, “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me” wasn’t as great, but new material is certainly welcome.
Release Date; Unknown

Dr. Dre, “Detox”
-The doctor is pulling his best Axl Rose impression by promising this album each year for almost the past decade. This may finally be the year it sees the light of day, reportedly. If it does, it’ll be months after Rose finally released Guns N’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” last November after 14 years of production. Dre will be 44-years-old if this is released this year, for those keeping track at home.
Release Date: Early-mid 2009 (tentative)

Eminem. “Relapse”
-After rumors of retirement circled on the internet for years, Em’ will release his first solo LP in almost five years. With hip-hop going down the tubes day by day, “Relapse” should be just what the doctor ordered. Pun intended. (Dr. Dre will be producing the majority of the album.)
Release Date: Spring (tentative)

Green Day, currently untitled
-How do you follow-up 2004’s “American Idiot,” which sold 15 million copies worldwide and was nominated for seven grammys? Not sure if you can but Green Day will try. They are reportedly recording another rock opera with three acts to it.
Release Date: April (tentative)

Jay-Z, “The Blueprint 3”
-This album was rumored to be released in February but it’s January and I don’t hear any Jay-Z hit singles yet. Kanye West will be co-producing so hopefully it beats the beats that were on “808s & Heartbreak,” which was Kanye's disappointing album released last year.
Release Date: Early-mid 2009 (tentative)

Joe Budden: Padded Room
-Joey was able to resurrect his career with his critically acclaimed underground “Mood Muzik” mixtape three-part series. His supposed second album, “The Growth” never was able to climb out of development hell at Def Jam but it looks like the New Jersey rapper just needed a change of scenery. He signed with Amalgam Digital and his official second album is finally going to see store shelves six years after his first release.
Release Date: Feb. 24

Lupe Fiasco- LupE.N.D.
-Lupe Fiasco is pulling what all rappers pull after a few albums, the retirement card. Not that anyone should take that threat seriously but if he does retire, that would be too bad because Lupe is a breath of fresh air when hip hop badly needs it. LupE.N.D. is reportedly going to be a three-disc album titled “Everywhere,” “Nowhere,” and “Down here.”
Release Date: Unknown

My Chemical Romance, currently untitled
-My Chemical Romance, a band that originated in 2001 blew up in the mainstream in 2004 and made an even bigger dent on the billboard charts in 2006 after touring with Green Day and releasing their own rock opera, “The Black Parade.” With each of their albums getting better and better, I expect big things on their fourth effort.
Release Date: Unknown

Royce Da 5’9,” Street Hop
-Quite possibly the most underrated rapper/lyricist, Royce Da 5’9” is back with his first LP in four years. The Detroit rapper gained fame by rapping alongside Eminem in the late 90s while also ghostwriting for Diddy and Dr. Dre. In recent years he has set a buzz on the internet with his mixtape releases entitled “The Bar Exam 1 and 2.”
Release Date: March (tentative)

Taking Back Sunday, “New Again”
-One of the more dysfunctional bands of the past seven years, TBS has pretty much had a line-up change after every album, losing John Nolan to Straylight Run and Fred Mascherino to The Color Fred. The band brings in new guitarist and back-up singer, Matt Fazzi, who promises to bring a more classic rock sound to the band. If you want proof, TBS recently did a rendition of “I Want You” by The Beatles during “A Decade Under the Influence.” Youtube it.
Release Date: Spring (tentative)

Thursday, “Common Existence”
-This band has had its ups and downs jumping from independent record labels to major labels in the past 10 years. They now find themselves on Epiteth Records, an independent record label owned by Bad Religion's guitarist, Brett Gurewitz. Their last offering, the 2005 “A City by the Light Divided,” is their best work in my opinion. Hopefully the trend can continue.
Release Date: Feb. 17

Nick’s biggest music surprise of 2009:
Blink-182 reunite

Check back later this week for a list of most anticipated movies of 2009.

- Nick Carrabine

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ten in the Morning: Wish list for '09

Every so often, I’ll throw out 10 topics, ideas, wishes, favorites, you name it, and call it, “Ten in the Morning.” So, let’s get to it. This week’s “Ten in the morning” tackles my pop-culture wish list for 2009, starting from 10 to 1:

10. For The Cartoon Network – Help make my son, Samson, happy when he's in a bad mood.

9. For Sony – Continue making PS2 video games, even though the company announced this week its financial future looks bleak. For those who have to watch every dime, the PS2 route is the most affordable way to continue gaming. PS3 is still way out of my and most people’s price range. Hey, at least I still have my Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo consoles to dust off once in a while, but more on that in future blogs.

8. For the writers of “Bones” – Keep FBI agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) and Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (Emily Deschanel) from becoming a couple. The sexual tension between FOX’s clever forensic TV show’s lead characters, who since the show first aired have yet to take the next step, is so much fun to watch. If they hook up, it’s all downhill from there.

7. For the ShamWow commercial guy – Continue making commercials. Can’t help watching this guy every time he’s on TV. It’s like watching Johnny Knoxville in an infomercial.

6. For Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and the rest of the crew of "30 Rock" – Continue being the funniest show on TV.

5. For George Lucas – If you’re serious about making another Indiana Jones movie, don’t do it. The last one stunk.

4. For NBC – Put an end to the show “Heroes” and move on. It's beyond repair. Sylar (Zachary Quinto) is now a good guy? Talk about jumping the shark!

3. For the writers of "Rescue Me" – Keep Season 5 of FX’s strong series about Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary), a tormented New York City firefighter, interesting and fresh. Some of Season 4’s storylines were a bit ridiculous.

2. For Apple – Stop upgrading your iPods every year. My bank account can’t afford it.

1. For Warner Bros. – An announcement on the sequel to “The Dark Knight,” which might take a while. On Jan. 8, the studio announced it has put all DC Comics movies on hold. Well, you know what they say about following a legend … no one wants to do it.

Next week: A priceless find, courtesy of a family member’s book shelf.

- Mark Podolski

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Welcome back, Jack (... and Bill, Tony and Chloe)

A few minutes after the two-night, four-hour season premiere of "24" wrapped up last night on Fox, I called my sister to get her take.

She summed it up pretty easily: "Freakin' sweet."

Well put, sibling!

There was plenty to like about the first four hours. It was a lot to digest, but here are some quick thoughts and observations:

(WARNING: There is discussion of major plot points from the first four hours below. So if you haven't gotten around to watching the premiere on your DVR and you don't want stuff spoiled, steer clear.)

- Jack gets information out of his former colleague by threatening him with ... a Bic pen. Now, THAT is respect.

- "This is the FBI! We follow the law! You'll do things OUR way, Bauer!" ... Well, that was fun while it lasted for all of 20 minutes.

- My spider sense began tingling that Tony wasn't the big bad guy the previews made him out to be when he didn't actually make the planes collide at JFK on Sunday night. If the past six seasons of "24" have taught us anything, it's this: Real villains don't pass up a chance to trigger massive, chaos-creating explosions. Bad guys want to see stuff go boom.

- Speaking of Tony, I'm a lot closer to accepting that he didn't actually die after the extended explanation from him and Buchanan on Monday night. Much better than the FBI's "You only THOUGHT he was dead" line to Jack in the first hour Sunday night.

- After six seasons in Los Angeles, it's a nice change to be in the nation's capital. The point had come where even the most die-hard "24" fan had to ask: "How many times will uber-villains unsuccessfully target So Cal before trying to take their business elsewhere?" I love the pick of Washington for this season - the monuments make for stunning backdrops in otherwise-pedestrian scenes. Just wait until we have a real car chase.

- Anybody else a little creeped out by the "greater good over all else" vibe coming from the Buchanan/Chloe/Tony/Jack team? Leaving Jack high and dry in the hideout of a bunch of thugs 20 minutes after he agreed to work with you? Fine, as long as it strengthens Tony's position in the villains' camp. Kidnap former Prime Minister Matobo and lead him to an almost-certain execution? Hey, if it gets us closer to Col. Dubaku and Gen. Juma, so be it. ... Jeez, love the loyalty, guys. Maybe that outlook on life is why Buchanan looks like he's aged about 20 years since last season.

- Madam President is no David Palmer, but then again she's a hell of a lot better than Wayne Palmer. The jury is still out on the rest of the White House staff, but I'm intrigued by the president's husband. Conspiracy theorist or not, he seems a lot more grounded in reality than some of the first ladies we've dealt with.

- Four hours in, and Jack has killed one bad guy. The folks over at have to be getting a little fidgety. If I was a henchman for the villains, I'd start asking for a lunch break in the next couple hours because it's a good bet Jack is going to start making up for lost time real soon here.

"24" is back with its normal spot in the Fox schedule next week, 9 p.m. Monday. If you missed any of the four-hour premiere or just need to see it again, Fox has full episodes available online.

- Tom Valentino

Monday, January 12, 2009

'Slumdog' is THAT movie this year

So it’s official: The film that’s going to annoy me this awards season is “Slumdog Millionaire.”

No, it’s not that I didn’t like Danny Boyle’s tale. I did, in fact. I just didn’t like it as much as so many others apparently have.

“Slumdog Millionaire” is the story of a poor young Indian man (Dev Patel) who goes on his country’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” for no other reason than to acquire the means to reunite himself with his childhood love (the beautiful Freida Pinto).

It’s a charming little movie that’s clever in spots and engaging throughout. That’s all it is.

But the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Sunday night gave it the Golden Globe for the best film drama.

Ug. Wrong.

OK, 2008 was a weak year for movies, maybe even a very weak year. But I’ve seen at least three movies more deserving: “Milk,” “The Dark Knight” and “Frost/Nixon.” The latter two are the best films I’ve seen so far – I haven’t made it to a few acclaimed 2008 movies that have only recently made it to Northeast Ohio, to say nothing of those not yet here.

The Golden Globes have been known to influence Oscar voters, so, assuming “Slumdog” gets a nomination for best picture (votes for nods had to be in prior to the Globes), look for it to get serious consideration. I just don’t see it.

Nor do I see what so many find enthralling about “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Another movie that’s good, not great.

“Milk” and “The Dark Knight” weren’t even nominated for best drama at the Globes. Sure, a comic movie – even the best one ever made – is a tough sell, but a great biopic?


Hopefully I won’t be so disappointed when the Oscar nods are announced in a few weeks.

- Mark Meszoros

Friday, January 9, 2009

'Damages' draws you in

"Damages" (Wednesdays, 10 p.m., FX) debuted its second season this week and if this installment of TV’s most clever drama is as good as the first, FX has a blockbuster on its hands.

FX made its way into the TV mainstream with hits such as "The Shield," "Nip/Tuck" and "Rescue Me," but "Damages" is its best effort to date.

The show stars Glenn Close, one of the most underrate actresses of our generation, who is back as the cold-as-ice lawyer Patty Hewes. Also returning is the up-and-coming Rose Byrne, who plays Hewes’ right-hand woman Ellen Parsons, but that relationship was seriously put to the test in the first season. Also back is Ted Danson, who is wonderful as the equally cold-as-ice billionaire Arthur Frobisher, who Hewes took on in lawsuit storyline that had stirring twists, turns and surprises without the courtroom drama.

This season, Hewes has a new case on her hands, Daniel Purcell, played by William Hurt. The new character no doubt holds secrets to Hewes’ past, and when Purcell’s wife is murdered in the season premiere, Hewes decides to help her old friend (or lover?).

With Close, Byrne, Hurt and Danson and host of others including Marcia Gay Harden, who debuts in season 2 as Hewes' new rival, the cast is easily one of the best on TV. With storylines some network dramas could only wish for and jolts seemingly every half-hour, "Damages" is show that should be right at the top of your DVR list, if it isn’t already.

One tip: If you’re coming in late to "Damages," it’s imperative to catch up with season 1. Simply put, you will be lost. Believe me, catching up from the beginning is worth it.

- Mark Podolski

3-D Football: Once - and only once - in a lifetime event

Remember when your first friend to own a high-definition TV told you you haven't seen a football game until you've see it in HD?

Well, you haven't seen a football game until you've seen in 3D. Unlike HD, which is highly addictive when watching a sporting event, watching one in 3D is entertaining and definitely unique.

There is a catch: Once is enough.

Case in point Thursday night at the Great Lakes Mall Atlas Cinema in Mentor, which showed the telecast of the BCS title game between Florida and Oklahoma in 3D.

The wow factor was there early on when both teams ran onto the field. Gator players appeared to be running off the screen and into your lap. From that point on, a 3D Tim Tebow jumping, throwing and diving while leading the Gators to another BCS title was a sight to behold.

It was interesting, mostly because it wasn't the typical broadcast you're used to seeing every college football Saturday. The cameras were tight on the action and low to ground, as if you were sitting five rows up from the 50-yard line or standing on a ladder just behind the team's benches.

Fox's Kenny Albert and Tim Ryan announced the 3D broadcast and gushed about it almost to a fault, but they were entertaining nonetheless. The postgame confetti looked like it was ready to fall at your feet. The few 3D commercials during the broadcast were top-notch, at times much better than the game itself.

There were some big glitches, however. Bad camera angles made following the action difficult at times (especially early in the game), and the best 3D effects occurred more on the sidelines and in the crowd rather than on the field.

But none was more annoying than the 15 or so headache-causing instances when the screen went haywire, giving this viewer and others the feeling of our eyes crossing.

(Anyone got an aspirin?!?!)

For its first venture into 3D, it wasn't a touchdown, but it was a solid effort.

The novelty alone makes it worth viewing at least once.

Whether or not 3D viewing gets repeat business is another matter.

-- Mark Podolski

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Truly the finest group of C-listers anywhere in the world

NBC on Thursday revealed the cast for this year’s edition of “Celebrity Apprentice,” and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

We have current and former athletes (Dennis Rodman, Natalie Gulbis, Herschel Walker and Scott Hamilton), poker pro Annie Duke (apparently, her brother and fellow card slinger Howard “The Professor” Lederer was already booked to get fleeced again by Phil Ivey and Doyle Brunson on NBC’s late-night series “Poker After Dark”). We have E! all-stars like Khloe Kardashian and Melissa and Joan Rivers. We have musical acts like Brian McKnight and Clint Black. And we have a couple weirdos, like Tom Green (and yes, you can throw Rodman in this category too). In all, there are 16 C-listers ready to go to work for our favorite grand poobah of hyperbole, Donald Trump.

Some predictions:
- If Baldwin-Wallace graduate/“Deal or No Deal” briefcase model Claudia Jordan couldn’t stand working for Bob Barker on “The Price is Right,” claiming sexual harassment, there’s no way she stands the dog-eat-dog atmosphere of “Apprentice.” The price is wrong for you, Claudia.

- In the boardroom, Andrew Dice Clay’s defense of a poor performance will somehow devolve into “Hickory, dickory, dock ...” and Trump will can him before a hysterical member of NBC’s standards and practices group collapses off camera.

- Our pick to win? Scott Hamilton. According to an Associated Press story Thursday, Hamilton has watched past seasons of the show (which probably gives him a competitive edge over nearly all the contestants before he even puts on a power tie and pinstripe suit). And don’t be fooled by his nice-guy demeanor on figure skating broadcasts. This guy beat testicular cancer. No way Trump’s boardroom bombast can overwhelm him. Triple lutz, triple salchow, stick the landing, Scott. You’re our guy.

The show premieres at 9 p.m., Sunday, March 1.

- Tom Valentino

Come out and play

OMG! has a pop culture blog?!

That’s right, readers. Welcome aboard “Tuned into Pop Culture,” where a few times a week, we will delve into the worlds of TV, movies, music, video games, gadgets and all that other stuff that keeps you from being productive at work.

Our often irreverent, but never irrelevant trio of pop culturists, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Tom Valentino, are guiding the ship, and we plan to hit on all sorts of topics - whether it’s Mez’s thoughts on the upcoming Oscar nominations, Podo turning back the clock with a war story from “NHL 95” on Sega Genesis (“I’m gonna make Gretzky’s head bleed for number 99 super fan over there”) or Tino tearing himself away from a Foo Fighters album long enough to track the trail of Jack Bauer.

So the next time you feel like you have a case of the Mondays because your boss is standing outside your cubicle wanting to know why you didn’t put a cover sheet on your TPS report, drop by “Tuned into Pop Culture” and waste a few minutes with us.

I finally joined the iNation

It was an event long in the making.

It was preceded literally years of talking, yearning — lusting even — and planning.

It finally happened on the night of Jan. 6.

I got my iPhone.

This may not seem like a big deal, but if you know how I can obsess over my next big gadget purchase, it was. My friends and loved ones have had to hear me talk endlessly about how much I wanted one, how I hated to leave Verizon for iPhone’s exclusive carrier, AT&T — and how I had to wait for my Verizon contract to be up before I could jump ship.

My growing number of iPhone friends had to put up with endless questions about how this worked, how they felt about that app, whether they would hold it against them if I killed them and took their iPhone. (Many, while sympathetic to my motives, felt that would be something that our friendship could not overcome.)

Well, cyberspace friends, this purchase was worth the wait. I’ve had my new best iFriend for less than 48 hours, and I’ve already downloaded more than 20 free apps and imported more than seven gigs of music. I’ve already used the included headphones to carry on a conversation while I ordered a sandwich at the Subway on Vine Street in Willoughby. (Appologies to those around me — I hated me, too.)

There are slight downsides to this experience, the greatest probably being that I’ve yet to buy a case and am living in absolute fear that I will drop it first. But, to be sure, this is a marriage made in geek heaven.

Which reminds me: Apologies also go to my girlfriend, who’s trying to let me work my way through this gluttonous iPhase. You’ll be back to being the most important thing in my life in a day or two.

A week tops.

— Mark Meszoros