Archive for December, 2008

THE BEST INTERVIEWS OF 2008

December 24, 2008

Here’s a list of the interviews I enjoyed the most during the past year. I only included interviews that were live and in person, which leaves out some memorable phone interviews by the likes of Nelly Furtado and Katy Perry. Oh, and I think it will be more interesting if we countdown to number one. Shall we?

10. Kate Hudson & Matthew McConaughey, “Fool’s Gold”:

For once, I didn’t mind it when two stars were paired up. They had an easy chemistry together that made for a fun interview.

9.  Ashton Kutcher & Rod Corddry, “What Happens In Vegas”:

Ashton was very funny, especially when telling a story about how he was watching an old episode of  “That 70’s Show” at a hotel, making the maid think he was a bit conceited.

8.  Paris Hilton & Christine Lakin, “The Hottie And The Nottie”:

Notable because I sat next to Paris, who I had never seen in person. Turns out co-star Christine did most of the talking. When the interview was over, there was a moment when Paris stood up but didn’t leave the room. I think she was waiting to see if anyone wanted an autograph, which I thought was thoughtful of her.

7.  Matthew Fox, “Speed Racer”:

The “Speed Racer” interviews took place in the Long Beach Convention Center, while time trials for the Long Beach Grand Prix went on outside. So every minute or so, there was a loud vroom noise. But I didn’t mind because not only did I get to ask Matthew a question about his work on “Lost,” he became the second “Lost” star to sign my Season One “Lost” DVD set.

6.  Sarah Michelle Gellar, “The Air That I Breathe”:

Totally charming in person, plus she gave a memorable defense of her decisions to appear in unusual roles in small indie projects.

5.  Sir Ben Kingsley, “The Wackness”:

One of the world’s greatest actors gives a 20 minute class on being a great actor.

4.  Jason Castro, “American Idol”:

I sat in on Fred Bronson’s interviews with all of this year’s “Idol” finalists and I enjoyed listening to Jason the most. Yes, David Cook’s thoughtfulness and smarts explained why he was doing so well choosing songs and David Archuleta’s sweetness and love of music shone through, but Jason’s laidback persona was the most enjoyable of all. Plus it was amazing to hear first hand the story of how little he had performed before he reached the “Idol” stage and even more amazing to hear his hints that he was ready to go home.

3.  David Duchovny & Gillian Anderson, “The X-Files”

Mulder & Scully, together again…. even if they did disagree with the basis of my question about how after all the times Mulder saved Scully on the show, it was nice to see the tables turned in the movie (David insisted Scully was always coming to Mulder’s rescue during the series’ run).

2.  Kristin Bell, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”:

My first chance ever to interview Kristin, who was as lovely and funny as, well, Veronica Mars. Plus she signed my Season One DVD set of “Mars,” making up for the fact I had nothing to get autographed when I found out Kristin was doing a signing at the San Diego Comic-Con a few years back.

1.  Russell Brand, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”:

Like many Americans, I had never heard of British comedian Russell Brand before I saw “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” which was one of my favorite movies of the year,  in no small part due to Brand’s hilarious performance. But I assumed that the outrageous rock star persona in the film was an excellent acting job, never thinking for one second that what was on the screen was actually close to the real Russell Brand. But Russell walked in the room in all his leather panted glory and proceeded to give one of the funniest interviews ever. In the radio room, we try not to laugh when the interview subject is talking but this was one day when we had no chance not to!

THE WORST MOVIES OF 2008

December 15, 2008

Every year it seems that while I have a hard time coming up with 10 great movies for my list of the Best Of 2008, I have absolutely no problem filling up the worst list. Here’s this year’s parade of shame:

1.  “OVER HER DEAD BODY” – While Eva Longoria and Lake Bell are very attractive ladies, they are left stranded with a boring script.

2.  “THE HOTTIE AND THE NOTTIE” – There are two Paris Hilton movies on this list, yet Paris is one of the best things in both of them. This might have been a tolerable romantic comedy but for the decision to make “The Nottie” so hideous looking and unlikeable.

3.  “DARK STREETS” – I couldn’t wait for this one to end. Fortunately it was only 90 minutes long. A lead with no charisma and a story that takes place in a rediculous film noir fantasyland adds up to sheer boredom. The musical numbers were okay though…

4.  “WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS” – The typical romantic comedy problem of making perfectly nice people awful to each other for no reason other than that’s what has to happen or there’s no movie rears its ugly head…

5.  “REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA” – Poor casting sunk this one. If a few more of the leads had as much charisma as the narrator, this could have been fun. It was also hurt by the need to include the Genetic Opera in the finale, which made no sense at all…

6.  “SPEED RACER” – A bit of editing would have helped this one. No kids’ movie should be over two hours!

7.  “LEATHERHEADS” – While I’m a big fan of the black and white comedies this movie pays tribute to, they had interesting plots…

8.  “THE MUMMY 3” – Everytime the script said if the Dragon Emperor did something, he would rule the world, he did it… and then it turned out he had to do something else to rule the world, extending the movie on and on. Add to that hiding Jet Li’s expressiveness and charisma under CGI, the loss of Rachel Weitz and the stupid Yeti Ex Machina, you’ve got a big disappointment. I liked the sets though…

9.  “HORTON HEARS A WHO” – While I enjoyed Jim Carrey’s Horton, the Whos not so much…

10. “THE WACKNESS” – While Josh Peck is likable and Olivia Thirlby is the best actress you’ve haven’t heard of yet, the knockabout adventures of a young drug dealer just didn’t connect with me.

NOT-SO-HONORABLE MENTION:  “THE ACCIDENTAL HUSBAND” – Another boring romantic comedy that would have come in third on my list but for the fact it’s release date was changed to 2009 the very day I went to see it.

SPECIAL CATEGORY:  “THE X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE” – While I don’t think I could ever put an “X-Files” movie on a list of the year’s worst (even this misfire had the pleasure of seeing Mulder And Scully again and included a pretty good chase scene), who oh why did Chris Carter not do a scary monster movie while he had the chance? I’m sure that’s what the fans were expecting. A creepy human villain just didn’t make the grade, even if he was kidnapping people to use them for body transplants…

MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2008

December 14, 2008

As my loyal readers know, my job covering movie junkets  lets me see many movies for free every year. In fact, the only movie I paid to see this year was “Iron Man.” Fortunately, most of the movies I wanted to see (the big summer extravaganzas), I got to cover. Unfortunately, I also had to see a lot of very bad movies for the job, making it a lot easier to come up with a “Worst Of 2008” list. You ‘ll see that list in an upcoming post.  I’m still haven’t seen many of this year’s Oscar hopefuls, so there aren’t many of those in my top ten. Not that I like many of the Oscar hopefuls each year anyway…

Without further ado…

1.  “THE DARK KNIGHT” – I loved how director Chris Nolan set this in the real world, full of breathtaking shots of Gotham City. Exciting action and a lot to think about to boot. Plus if you think a movie is only as good as its villain, this was the best movie ever!

2.  “FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL” – “Tropic Thunder” may be funnier overall, but this gets the nod because of the well done romantic arc  (even I would have picked Mila Kunis over my beloved Kristin Bell in these circumstances) and the use of Hawaiian locations.

3.  “IRON MAN” – I have friends who enjoyed this more than “The Dark Knight” because of the comedic scenes. I think the comedy and Robert Downey’s gleeful performance has obscured the fact that this too was an example that superheroes done seriously are superheroes done right! You will believe a man can fly…

4.  “TROPIC THUNDER” – Loved the Hollywood jokes as well as the well directed action scenes. And yes, it’s just comedy but Ben Stiller got some of the year’s most daring performances from Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise…

5.  “FROST/NIXON” – I was fascinated by the give and take between the characters. A true thriller without a punch thrown or gun shot…

6.  “THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM” – An exciting stew of everything I like about martial arts movies featuring a great fight between the masters Jackie Chan and Jet Li…

7.  “GET SMART” – The surprise of the year. I thought this was going to be terrible, and it turned out that everything taken from the TV series didn’t work. Steve Carrell played a smarter Maxwell Smart, but that didn’t stop him from getting into hilarious trouble. And like “Tropic Thunder,” the actions scenes worked well.

8.  “RAMBO” – And speaking of action scenes, I have to admit I enjoyed seeing Sly mowing down the bad guys in the violent finale. A true trip back in time to the 80’s moviewise…

9.  “QUANTUM OF SOLACE” – A bit of a disappointment when compared to “Casino Royale,” thanks to jittery editing in the early action scenes and a villain who really shouldn’t be able to go toe to toe with Bond in the final fight. But hey, I love action movies and the sheer immense rediculousness of the action and Daniel Craig’s emotionally closed-in portrayal of Bond made it enjoyable…

10.  “HANCOCK” – Yes, this movie was not as good as it could have been. But I still enjoyed the idea of a homeless, lost superhero and the centerpiece fight between Will Smith and Charlize Theron was a knockout…

MY FAVORITE SONGS OF 2008

December 13, 2008

I’m currently working as a researcher on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” As part of my work, I’m scanning the internet for “Best of 2008” lists, and that reminded me to put together my own. First up, my favorite songs of 2008.

What fascinates me about this list is that in recent years, most of my faves have been songs I’ve heard on country radio. This year, just two of the songs have been country hits, and one of those was also a smash on the pop and rock charts (you’ll also notice that the only song among the ten that wasn’t a hit single is a country album cut). So 2008 goes down as the year when pop music came back!

Here’s the list:

1.  “Love Song” – Sara Bareilles

I think my first exposure to this song came when I saw the clever video late at night on VH-1, but it was hearing it on the radio that made me a fan. This wasn’t the only catchy song on her album either.

2.  “Tattoo” – Jordan Sparks

Love her vocal on this. Her duet with Chris Brown on “No Air” just missed out on making my top ten.

3.  “Bleeding Love” – Leona Lewis

I admit it… I didn’t think much of this song when I first heard it (which was before it started getting airplay in the U.S.). I thought the song was too simple. But it grew on me after I heard it a few times on the radio and after that, I never once grew bored with it even after months of saturation airplay.

4.  “Love Don’t Live Here” – Lady Antebellum

With Keith Urban’s new album yet to be released, I didn’t have one of his patented love ballads make it into my top ten this year. So this was my favorite country song of the year, a great rocker that’s perfect to sing along to in the car.

5.  “Better In Time” – Leona Lewis

Did I mention that Leona Lewis’ album “Spirit” was my favorite of the year? This is what Mariah and Whitney used to do: put out albums where every song is a killer, there’s plenty of diversity among the music and you can sing along to every one. Oh, and in a brief meeting with Leona at the American Music Awards, you could tell she was a real sweetheart.

6.  “Hot N Cold” – Katy Perry

Speaking of great female pop music, this artist is the closest thing we have to the glory days of Cyndi Lauper and the Bangles. Fun stuff!

7.  “The Time Of My Life” – David Cook

I liked this song the very first time I heard it, which was live at the Nokia Theater during the “American Idol” finale. But it was always a joy to hear it whenever it came on the radio.

8.  “Love Story” – Taylor Swift

While I enjoyed every single off of her debut album, I think she topped it with her new one. The sky’s the limit for her!

9.  “Very Last Country Song” – Sugarland

After Sugarland’s amazing release, “Stay,” last year, I had high hopes for their new album but found it to be a disappointment… until I heard this song at the end of their album. An ingenious lyric and a great vocal!

10. “All Summer Long” – Kid Rock

I might not have heard this song much here in L.A., but I heard it plenty on my annual visit to my hometown this summer. Perfect music for tooling down the country roads!