Self High-Five: January 2011

bill bodkin’s column returns for a look at the snowiest month ever …

When I started the Self High-Five in July, I had hoped I’d be able to create a weekly column where I highlight five things from the world of pop culture — kind of like EW does every week with their Top 10. But the best laid plans of mice and men always end up with a big dude choking you in a barn somewhere. Yes, that was some Steinbeck humor — I am such a wit. No I’m not.

Anyways, due to my schedule at my daytime job and my increasing responsibilities on the site, I figure a monthly round-up will work.

So without further adieu, here’s the first monthly installment of the Self High-Five.

The Blog: The times they are ‘a changing and so are things on the blog. The B&B Entertainment Blog has been finally put to rest — and in its wake Pop-Break.com has arisen. The name change had been in the works since October, but we couldn’t actually pin down a good name (or get the rights to use the name we originally wanted). But after much deliberation and some inspiration from the fantastic film Point Break, our new name was born. In the coming months, we will be rolling out a new design for the site, giving it a more polished and professional look. New writers will be joining our ever-growing roster of talented bloggers. We’ll also be debuting new columns, features, and — if all things pan out — some pretty incredible stories, interviews and features. Stay tuned — 2011 is going to be one hell of a year.

Movies: Netflix and Redbox Were Somewhat Busy …

The Other Guys: Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are two actors that either run red hot or ice cold. Ferrell has dazzled us with childlike insanity in Elf, ultimate bragadociousness in Anchorman and flat-out bat-shit craziness in Step Brothers. But recently he’s been cast as a poor mash-up of all three in films like Tallageda Nights, Semi Pro and Blades of Glory. Wahlberg has been lights out when playing the wounded tough guy in films like The Fighter, Boogie Nights and The Departed, yet when he’s cast as a more sensitive type in films like The Happening and The Lovely Bones, he seems almost out of place. Luckily, The Other Guys plays to both actors strong suits and play them to the hilt — Ferrell as an overly anal to the point of near insanity pencil pusher and Wahlberg as his hyper macho yet extremely sensitive partner. The two are absolutely dynamite as they take turns as the straight man. Their chemistry is the best either has on screen with another actor in years and the results are pure hilarity. However, they are not the highlight of this movie. That credit belongs to Michael Keaton as their TLC-quoting captain. That’s right, he constantly drops TLC references without even realizing, and it’s absolute comedic gold. Highly recommend renting this film.

Valhalla Rising: Wow. That’s really all I can say. And I don’t mean that in a good way. When I first read the description of Valhalla Rising — a one-eyed viking sails to the Crusades but ends up in North America, and that Viking would be played by one of my favorite European character, actors Madds Mikelesen, I thought, “sign me up!” Then, I watched the movie and I absolutely, unequivocally hated it. This is not an action movie at all. It’s not even a historical drama. It’s an art film. We’re talking high-school-student-let’s-film-a-plastic-bag-blowing-around-in-a-parking-lot — yes, you were the stupidest part of American Beauty — type of art film. Our lead, cleverly named “One Eye,” has zero dialogue. The action of the film moves at a snails pace, spiked with completely gratuitous and unnecessary disembowelment and bloodletting. There’s a lot of supposed symbolism and meaning in this film, most of which put me into a deep sleep. I have never watched a new movie and passed out from boredom. I actually did with this movie. And when I woke up, 10 minutes had passed and NOTHING HAPPENED. The point of the entire movie — you got me. It’s was a near two hours of completely wasted life.

Knight And Day: Remember when Tom Cruise made really good movies? Don’t kid yourself, he did. A Few Good Men, Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire — all really good movies. Let’s not forget how good the first Mission: Impossible movie was or that Top Gun is a guilty pleasure. But recently he’s sunk his marquee value with a series of public misfires. Then came Knight & Day — his much ballyhooed return to the action genre. Audiences weren’t receptive and the film was a disappointment. Yet, I say, give this movie a chance. It isn’t terribly well-written and I’ve never been a Cameron Diaz fan, but Cruise is really good in this film. He sublimely walks the line between of action hero and self-satirist, even if it’s unintentional. In the first half of the film, the action sequences all seem to be a big wink-and-nod to his former action-star days. Silly stunts are punctuated with pretty funny lines, making it almost a light-hearted action romp. Then, things get serious. Sadly, this is where the film suffers and it suffers from all the classic action cliches — overly convoluted plot that eventually gets taken over by sappy romance. It’s a shame this didn’t pan out, but there are still some good moments in the film, definitely worth a look.

A Serious Man: I am a huge Coen Brothers fan. I absolutely love their work: The Big Lebowski, Fargo, No Country For Old Men, Raising Arizona, O Brothers Where Art Thou? Some of my all-time favorites. Then there’s A Serious Man. People who’s movie opinions I hold in high regard loved this movie. And I wanted to love it to, but in the end, this movie was like when you hear a joke and everyone in the room laughs, except you. You want to understand it, you want to get it, but for some reason you just don’t. A Serious Man is a tale of midwestern Jewish professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) and how his life is just plain terrible — his wife is leaving him, he’s getting his tenure review (and it doesn’t look good), a student is trying to bribe him, his children are awful and his brother is insane. Sounds like a fun movie, right? But this is the Coens and they pride themselves on out-there characters. Except, these characters aren’t out there, they’re just simply annoying and awful. And the whole time we watch Stuhlbarg’s character with in near tears trying to figure out what he did wrong. I sit here still trying to figure out why this movie was so loved by everyone and why it was nominated as one of the best pictures in last year’s Oscars. I guess I missed the point of the joke.

Crazy Heart: You’ve seen Crazy Heart before — washed up, drunk former star tries to redeem himself and messes up big time along the way. It’s a tried and true tale. There’s a catch here, though: That former star is played by the incomparable Jeff Bridges. Bridges brings to life a character that could’ve easily been a one-dimensional, overacted role. His portrayal of hard-drinking country legend Bad Blake, a man reduced to performing at bowling alleys and staying in sleazy motels, is brilliant, deserving of his Best Actor Oscar last year. Bridges has this quality about him that you just like. I mean, he’s The Dude, remember? It’s this quality that makes Bad Blakes’ alcoholic mistakes even that much more tragic. You’re convinced he’s going to turn his life around and raise a family with a fledgling journalist (Maggie Gylenhaal) and her son — and then he messes it all up (I didn’t ruin anything, you could see it coming a mile away). It’s devastating. What isn’t devastating is the surprisingly awesome original soundtrack. The songs sung by Bridges and co-star Colin Farrell are actually pretty damn good old-school country tunes. Think Johnny Cash — not the current crop of country singers.

Easy A: In the middle of Easy A, Olive (Emma Stone) laments that she wishes her movie were like a classic John Hughes film — she gets swept away at the end by the handsome boy and she gets to perform a random musical number at some point, for no reason whatsoever. It’s funny, because Easy A is the closest thing to a classic John Hughes high school comedy that’s graced the screen since the last good John Hughes movie did. Easy A is a sharp, funny and sometimes heartfelt adaptation of Hawthorne’s classic novel, The Scarlet Letter. The aforementioned Olive lies about losing her virginity to her overly nosy best friends, and she immediately goes from unnoticed to the talk of the town. Her ball of lies keeps getting larger as she helps out socially struggling students at her school by pretending that she slept with them. In classic teen movie fashion, everything spins out of control. Stone is absolutely brilliant in this film, showing that she’s one of the brightest comedic actresses in Hollywood. She’s perfectly self-deprecating, game for pratfalls and has a razor wit. Coupled with a well-written script and a seemingly never-ending supply of strong supporting actors (Thomas Hayden-Church, Stanley Tucci, Lisa Kudrow, Patricia Clarkson), Easy A is an absolute must-see.

Music: “MoneyGrabber” Fitz & The Tantrums


Blue eyed soul in all its glory. L.A.-based Fitz & The Tantrums have produced one of the most fun, get-up-and-shake-your-groove-thing songs in quite some time. Channeling classic Motown soul with a little bit of rock swagger, this song is the white-boy equivalent of the equally fun “Gold Digger” by Kanye West. Both songs about, as my wife puts it, “triflin’ hos” are infectious, worthy of endless listens on endless party mixes. My favorite part of the single is during the breakdown when Fitz (Michael Fitzpatrick) screams “one is for money … two is for the greeeeeeed.” That part just sends chills up your spine because of the amount of soul crammed into it. Don’t believe me? Check out the video.

Concert Review: Life Of Agony at Starland Ballroom
We often don’t post concert reviews on the site, usually because … well, what’s the point? The show happened, you weren’t there — what good is it going to do you? However, I felt compelled to do one. As a result of my interview with Life Of Agony, I was able to snag a pair of free tickets to the show. My wife and I were allowed backstage at Starland Ballroom, where we were greeted by an empty bottle of Grey Goose left over from the previous nights’ show with Jon Bon Jovi and friends. We eventually went into the VIP area of Starland and met the entire band, which was kind of surreal. The show itself was absolutely killer. LoA was in top form, as guitarist Joey Z, bassist Alan Robert and drummer Sal Abruscato absolutely delivered some of the heaviest metal I’ve ever heard live. The thundering groove these three churned out was absolutely sick. Lead singer Keith Caputo, however, was not as I would expect him. On early LoA recordings, he had this massively deep bellowing voice. Today, he’s got more of your classically trained rock ‘n’ roll voice. It took a little bit of getting used to, but by song two or three, he was in full form. He can really, really belt it out. The energy of the show was off-the-charts, moshing was a must and crowd surfing was non-stop. Overall, your classic Life Of Agony show.

Television: Bones
I’m not a big TV series guy, but since the wife and I moved into together last year, I kind of had to. My wife watches tons of TV series, and her newest discovery while nursing a cold was Bones, which is currently re-running on TNT. My theory is that she watches the show because of former Buffy the Vampire Slayer heartthrob Dave Boreanaz is on it, but she denies it. The show is actually a pretty clever and humorous take on now the run-of-the-mill super science CSI-styled crime drama. Yes, there’s a ton of technical mumbo jumbo, but the show cleverly explains it through the scientists having to break everything down for FBI Agent Booth (Boreanaz). It’s a neat trick of dumbing down the technical jargon without talking down to your audience. But we really makes the show is comedic timing and chemistry of Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel (sister of Zooey). Deschanel’s overly blunt and logical Dr. “Bones” Brennan us the perfect compliment to the smart alecky, rough and tumble Booth. If you’ve missed the show then catch it in syndication on TNT most week nights around 6-7 p.m.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

1 COMMENT

  1. Easy A actually reminded me a lot of Clueless – loosely inspired by a lit classic, intelligent, and sharply witty. Also, Emma Stone totally owned that movie much in the way that Alicia Silverstone owned Clueless back in ’95.