TV & Film Recommendations for This Week (9/21/09)

I am going to try to provide a weekly list of links to shows, films and general pop culture that I think you would enjoy. Let me know if this is something that you’d be interested in!

Television: Series Recommendations & Reminders

In addition to the following, I will also be checking out the series premieres of Cougar Town (ABC, 9/24) and The Good Wife (CBS, 9/22).

SHO, returns Sunday (9/27)

I will reviewing the first four episodes this week – stay tuned for an extensive (spoiler-free) Season 4 preview right here, on or before Sunday!

FOX, returns Friday (9/25)

One of the most unique new shows of 2008  returns for a sophomore season, following a mind-blowing DVD & iTunes only episode (“Epitaph One”) that did not air with the first season. 

ABC, premieres Thursday (9/24/09)

This is, without question, the best pilot I have seen in five years. Stunning cinematography, fantastic script and cast, immediately intriguing. I have already started a website for the new series, and will be giving away copies of Robert J. Sawyer’s book FlashForward there later this week.

At Comic-Con earlier this summer, I recorded a personal FlashForward video, and had the opportunity to interview the cast after the panel.

I highly recommend that you visit and bookmark the official FlashForward websites, JoinTheMosaic and TruthHack (which are confirmed to be canon), as well as the official message board with both cast and creative team participation and interaction.

Grey’s Anatomy
ABC, returns Thursday (9/24)

Here is my spoiler-free preview/review of the two-hour season premiere. 

FOX, returns tonight (9/21/09)

TiVO/DVR alert: the season premiere runs 2 hours and 1 minute long.

I am giving away House S5 on DVD; if you haven’t entered already, click here for a chance to win! The contest has been extended through tomorrow.

CBS, returns Friday (9/25/09)

New network and night alert: Fridays on CBS.

Modern Family
ABC, premieres Wednesday (9/23/09)

My favorite new comedy series of 2009 (aside from Glee, which is more of a variety comedy show). Original premise, very likable cast and more than a few laugh-out-loud moments in the pilot alone.

Fall Film Recommendations, Part 1

Bright Star
Written & directed by Jane Campion. Starring Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw.
In wide release: 9/25/09

A beautiful film about the secret affair between poet John Keats and his outspoken neighbor Fanny Brawne, in early 1800′s London.

The Informant
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, written by Scott Z. Burns
Starring Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale and Melanie Lynskey
In wide release: now

You can’t go wrong with Soderbergh and Damon, and it’s nice to see McHale both on the new NBC series Community and on the big screen. And of course Lynskey, whom I have enjoyed since her film debut with Kate Winslet in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (1994).

The Invention of Lying
Written & directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson
Starring Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Fionnula Flanagan, Rob Lowe and Tina Fey
In wide release: 10/2/09

Great cast and very funny trailer; I may be attending a screening next week and will then post a review.

Precious (Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire)
Directed by Lee Daniels, screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
Starring Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz and Gabourey Sidibe
In wide release: 11/13/09

There is early Oscar buzz about a potential Best Actress nomination for Mo’Nique in this film, which is Executive Produced by the powerhouse combination of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry.

DVD Release of the Week

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download

Some people love Jennifer Aniston; to each their own. I simply prefer another Jennifer (Garner), given the choice, when buying or renting romantic/relationship films. 

Have a great week!

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what I’ve been doing besides ignoring this

I have rediscovered something that I love, a hobby that I’ve neglected in lieu of new media and technology for the last several years…reading. Overcome by the desire to put down the remote and start turning the pages, it is one of the main reasons that I’ve been ignoring this blog (and you, by extension).

Obviously my main focus every week from January through May is the Lost blog, but when I’m not watching, researching or writing about the show, I’ve been turning off the television more and settling in with a graphic novel or book instead.

The stack currently residing on my nightstand accurately reflects many of my interests; music, sports, superheroes and even the afterlife (which I blame on my undyling love for Six Feet Under; pun absolutely intended)…

I am openly fascinated by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so it was an easy choice to pick up a copy of Scar Tissue. Bonus: HBO is developing a series based on Anthony Kiedis’ childhood.

Moneyball remains a personal favorite, which is no surprise given that I’m a huge Oakland A’s fan. And I am looking forward to reading The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, because Michael Lewis explores football in the same analytical style that he examined baseball in Moneyball.

I know nothing about Captain Freedom, except that the cover and tagline grabbed me instantly: A superhero’s quest for truth, justice, and the celebrity he so richly deserves. Sounds right up my alley on many levels.

The X-Files. Dead Like Me. Pushing Daisies. Bones. True Blood. Just a few of the reasons that I’m enjoying Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. It also doesn’t hurt that my better half is a modern day Scully of sorts. : )

I read Brian K. Vaughan’s Ex Machina series last year, and am now enthralled with and absorbing his visionary Y: The Last Man graphic novels. Vaughan is actually a co-producer and writer on Lost (the 3rd issue of Y was featured as an Easter Egg this season; Hurley was reading it in Spanish at the airport).

Sticking with the post apocalyptic theme, I just finished Brian Wood’s chilling and prescient Channel Zero. It is an alternatingly exciting and frightening narrative.

So there you have it, an excuse which I don’t expect you to respond to. Every night I think about posting something on this site, and apologize for not doing so at least a few times per week. My non-Lost friends and readers deserve an extra virtual hug for being patient with me; I appreciate that you’re still here, and promise to post movie reviews and TV news again soon!

- Jo

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Gift Guide: Pop Culture Presents for $20 or Less

We are all feeling the effects of the economy right now, and the holidays will be particularly challenging for some with regard to gift giving.  So I have compiled a list of cool and affordable gifts for your favorite fanboy or girl, TV addict or film buff. Obviously there are thousands of choices out there, but here are just a few suggestions.

[Unless otherwise noted with a link, you can find all of these items on Amazon.  Keep your eyes peeled for great online coupons from Borders and Barnes & Noble as well.]


Dr. Leo Spaceman T-Shirt (30 Rock)
He’s a fine doctor, and a pretty good dentist!

Edward Cullen’s Replica Wristcuff (Twilight)
Seriously. You can purchase this man bracelet for your swooning daughter or girlfriend.

Top Chef logo cap
$14.99, Bravo Shop
For the top chef in your own kitchen or life.


The Bro Code
Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)
I believe that the cover photo says it all.

Dead Until Dark (Southern Vampire Mysteries, No. 1)
Charlaine Harris
Get to know Sookie Stackhouse and the other cast of characters from Harris’ series, on which the new HBO show True Blood is based.

Heroes, Volume 1
Illustrated by Tim Sale
Regardless of how you feel about the television series now, this compilation of online comics that accompanied the first season is very cool.

Lost Ate My Life: The Inside Story of a Fandom Like No Other
Jon Lachonis & Amy J. Johnston
If you or someone you know has ever posted on a Lost message board/forum or spends hours analyzing and discussing every episode, this is the perfect gift for them; a fantastic behind-the-scenes perspective about how one show has inspired an entire online community.

Roasting in Hell’s Kitchen: Temper Tantrums, F Words and the Pursuit of Perfection
Gordon Ramsay
Even if you haven’t seen any of Chef Ramsay’s shows, this is quite a fascinating autobiography.

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
One of the most celebrated graphic novels of all time; you do not need to be a comic book aficionado to appreciate it. The film debuts next year – read this first.


Can’t Hardly Wait (10th Anniversary Edition)
One of the best ‘guilty pleasure’ teen movies around, featuring an ensemble cast of future television stars and character actors: Lauren Ambrose, Eric Balfour & Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under), Selma Blair (Hellboy), Clea DuVall (Heroes), Jenna Elfman (Dharma & Greg), Ethan Embry (Sweet Home Alabama), Peter Facinelli (Dr. Cullen in Twilight), Donald Faison (Scrubs), Seth Green (Family Guy), Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina the Teenage Witch), Jennifer Love Hewitt (Ghost Whisperer), Breckin Meyer* (Robot Chicken), Jerry O’Connell (Crossing Jordan), Chris Owen (American Pie trilogy), Erik Palladino (ER), Jaime Pressly (My Name is Earl), Sara Rue (Less Than Perfect), Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother) and Sean Patrick Thomas (Save the Last Dance).

* Pop culture sidenote: Breckin Meyer is married to Can’t Hardly Wait writer/director Deborah Kaplan.

Friday Night Lights
The excellent film that preceded the stellar television series, both of which are based on H.G. Bissinger’s book of the same name.

The Office, Season 1
Watch Jim watch Pam, from the beginning.

Pushing Daisies: The Complete First Season
This gem of a show was recently canceled, but it is destined to become a cult classic.


Matt Nathanson: Some Mad Hope
I never pass on the opportunity to promote Matt’s music. Even if he wasn’t a very good friend of mine, I would own this CD. His songs have been featured on Eli Stone, Men in Trees, Private Practice and Scrubs.

OMFGG No. 1: Gossip Girl Soundtrack
An upbeat compilation with tracks from The Killers, Phantom Planet, The Ting Tings, Junkie XL and more.

TOYS & GAMES for Grownups

The Dude Abides: a Big Lebowski talking keychain
Clip this bad boy on when you go bowling or to the bar when you order a White Russian.

LOST Dharma Be@rbrick
$15, Meltdown Comics
What LOST fan wouldn’t want this cute little Dharma bear figure on their desk?

Sex and the City Trivia Game
We all know someone who knows entirely too many details about Miranda, Charlotte, Carrie and Samantha. This should be right up their Manolo alley.

And of course, here are a few items on my personal wish list of pop culture gifts:


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone – safe travels!

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Can’t Fight the Twilight

We didn’t intend to see Twilight last night; we wanted to see it eventually, but avoid the throngs of shrieking girls that would accompany this pop culture phenomenon during opening weekend. When I arrived at the theater early yesterday afternoon to buy us advance tickets for Quantum of Solace, I was surprised to see that none of the Twilight times had sold out (granted, we live in a sleepy suburb – but there are plenty of teenagers here!). After hearing that the lines weren’t long to wait for good seats, I took a chance and purchased tickets for Twilight instead.

To our surprise, they allowed early birds in the theater an hour before the film started rather than making everyone wait in a line outside. And that’s when it began…the palpable excitement emanating from gaggles of girls, proud and loud exclamations about Robert Pattinson’s eyes and whether they prefer brooding vampire Edward or the cute and mysterious Jacob. Swoons and sighs. Giggles of glee. And I sat there absorbing it all, sharing occasional eye rolls with the parents who were chaperoning in large groups of tween BFFs.

Many people have asked me if reading Stephenie Meyer’s first book of the series is essential before seeing the film. The quick answer is no. That being said, the movie is a very faithful adaptation of the book and I found myself looking forward to certain scenes because of how they would translate from page to screen.

I was pleasantly surprised by the direction of Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown); she was able to establish and maintain lead character/narrator Bella’s surreal perspective throughout the film. We walk in her shoes through the dream state that her life becomes upon meeting Edward Cullen.

Everyone can attest to the fact that high school is an awkward time, complicated by love at first blush and unfamiliar lust. If there is one element that Meyer and Hardwicke both nail with great success, it is the blundering interaction between Bella and Edward…which account for a few appropriately cheesy and inadvertently funny moments on film.

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson were perfectly cast and share an indisputable chemistry. I loved that Pattinson chose to portray Edward in a way that it was always unclear whether he wanted to kiss or kill Bella. However, my favorite relationship was actually between Bella and her father (played with quiet, understated grace by Billy Burke).

Without giving away a key scene, I will say that the confrontation between vampires toward the end was very well choreographed and executed, and it was easily the best sequence in the movie. 

Honestly, the hair and make-up used to distinguish the Cullen family from the rest of the town was distracting – it was more Halloween costume than naturally pale vampire (in unflinching close ups, the caked on white powder was painfully obvious). It was announced that they are moving forward with the sequel (New Moon), and I have no doubt that they will improve upon this look.

Overall, Twilight was exactly what I expected and what it was billed as, a PG-13 love story for teens. There is no sex and very little violence; it is the antithesis of True Blood, the fantastic new HBO series. If you are forced to see it (whether escorting your teenager or being dragged by your friends), I think you will at least appreciate the in-theater enthusiasm and on-screen angst.

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From True Blood to Twilight; My Vampire Weekend

I’m standing in a windy tunnel

Shouting through the roar
And I’d like to give the information
You’re asking for

But blood makes noise
It’s a ringing in my ear
And I can’t really hear you
In the thickening of fear

[Blood Makes Noise, Suzanne Vega]

Ok, so I am a passenger on the current vampire bandwagon. My journey is inadvertent and coincidental.

After listening to a group of very passionate women at Comic-Con earlier this summer imploring me to read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (imagine Beatles/Backstreet Boys level fanaticism during their heyday…but for a book), I finally gave in and bought it.  The aim is to finish it by Sunday.

The expectations for the film adaptation appear to be astronomical, and I’m sure that the dedicated masses will both dissect it to pieces and contribute to its monster success at the box office.

And even though I’ve been anxiously awaiting the debut of Alan Ball’s True Blood on HBO, my TiVO is apparently not a fan of bloodsuckers; it has failed to record the premiere episode every single time thus far. Crossing fingers for a successful effort tonight…stay tuned for a review this weekend.

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Comic-Con 08: The Photos

Lost and the Dharma Initiative. Heroes and Pinehurst (the new ‘company’). Dexter. Max Brooks and zombies.  True Blood and Alan Ball. The X-Files. The original Bionic Woman. Peg Bundy. The Middle Man.

If you enjoy any of those people, shows, books, characters, etc., click here to view my photos from Comic-Con 2008.

I may be exhausted, overwhelmed, exhilarated and overstimulated, but the experience far exceeded my expectations. I would like to truly thank those of you who read along or sent encouraging emails and Tweets; they really made me feel like I wasn’t attending alone.  And a huge note of appreciation to my brother-in-law John, who not only drove several hours to join me on Friday, but promoted the hell out of my Lost blog while collecting swag for my nephews all day. I had as much fun watching him in action as I did attending most panels.

Phew. Bring on SDCC 2009.

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