27 October 2008

What I Watched this Week: 10/21 - 10/26

This is a nifty little feature for me to talk about flicks I watched without giving a critical write-up, being that my reviews are so thorough, in-depth, and expertly written.

Starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Branderis; Written by Anne Rice, Directed by Neil Jordan

** (out of ****)

I’m really interested in vampires right now; with the HBO series TRUE BLOOD being absolutely phenomenal and buzz about the teen flick TWILIGHT on maximum overdrive, I thought this would be a good time to see this critically acclaimed cult favorite. Turns out, it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be (pictures of Tom Cruise’s haircut quite frightened me). What I was most surprised about was Kirsten Dunst’s performance; even as a kid, she did remarkably well. After the initial ‘That’s Tom Cruise in a bad wig’ shock wore off, I began to enjoy his character, Lestat – the Big Honcho of Vampires. Lestat is cool and swift, and if need me, one mean Sam Jackson-like mother. Brad Pitt doesn’t add anything new, seemingly playing himself but with freaky eyes and fangs. Although the actors were distracting, I did enjoy the overall story of Louis (Pitt). I have yet to see QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, or read any of the Vampire Chronicles books, but my interest has been peaked.

Starring Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale; Written by Peter Barsocchini, Directed by Kenny Ortega

*** (out of ****)

A worthy conclusion to these characters storylines, while simultaneously setting up future possibilities for the inevitable continuation of the franchise, HSM3: SENIOR YEAR is just plain fun. The actors have officially shown that they aren’t just pretty faces, that they actually possess the ability to perform and not just be a Disney icon. The music is pretty fun, although I don’t have as many favorites as I do with HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2; to me, a majority of the songs featured here rather sound the same, but it could just be me. My only problem with this movie is the choreography; now, I’m not even close to being a professional dance dude person thingy, but sometimes the dances appear simply lazy. With that said, “The Boys Are Back” is probably the most creative sequence the HSM crew has ever constructed, and is wholly enjoyable. It is somewhat sad to see these characters leave (though I wager some will have cameos in the following flicks), but it was a damn good send off fitting for a theatrical experience.

SAW V, 2008
Starring Tobin Bell, Scott Patterson, Costas Mandylor; Written by Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan, Directed by David Hackl

** (out of ****)

SAW V leaves a lot to be desired, unfortunately, but it is, still, a good movie. There are two points for this flick: show how Detective Mark Hoffman became John Kramer’s accomplice, and how to avert suspicion on his behalf after he and Detective Strahm (Patterson) are the only ones left alive from the events of SAW III/SAW IV (aka SAW III.5). The flick plays very much like SAW II: less about the horror and more about driving the plot, the rising action, and the somewhat irrelevant plight of a group of five stuck in a Jigsaw-like game. Consisting of mainly flashbacks and the most amount of scenes involving the opening of folders and looking at pictures, its pretty much a game of associating this particular scene to this particular movie, and so on and so on - to match continuity; it can be a little fun, but sometimes irritating when you want to just sit back and enjoy the show. SAW V still makes one anxious for SAW VI, but not too enthusiastically.

Starring Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy; Written by Patrick Marber, Directed by Richard Eyre

*** (out of ****)

Wanted to see this for quite a while; the trailer played repeatedly on the SUNCOAST promo disc and the obviously intense performances and eerie music sold me each time it was on. NOTES ON A SCANDAL didn’t disappoint. This flick is about a school teacher (Blanchett) who has a affair with a 15-year old boy (not Bill Nighy), and she is found out by her friend (Dench) who implores her to end it or else everyone - including her husband (Nighy), will know. I was never a fan of Blanchett, though I respect her body of work, but this was truly the first time I was truly uber impressed (scratch that, now I'm remembering ELIZABETH) with her, and her beauty. Judi Dench still scares me half to death when I look at her, and she effortlessly delivers a phenomenal performance. I have a automatic love for Nighy, so it goes without saying anything he does is bloody brilliant. It's a fun waste of 92 minutes, and it is expertly crafted.

Starring Amber Tambyln, Ashton Holmes, Keli Garner, Hilarie Burton; Written & Directed by Beth Schacter

** (out of ****)

I confess: the only reason I wanted to see this was because of actress Amber Tamblyn (THE GRUDGE 2), daughter of Russ Tambyln (WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, a cult favorite of mine), who I believe to be oh-so-very beautiful. Unfortunately, the movie isn't all that great. It's main problem suffers from the script and the supposed "real" dialogue, something that also spelt doom for Christian Bale in HARSH TIMES. The movie is basically about a very, very, very tight group of teens who pretty much do everything with eachother and to eachother, and when one of the members (Tamblyn) meets someone new and wants to leave the group, all hell breaks loose. It's a very strange movie, and one I wouldn't bother seeing if Tamblyn wasn't in it. I get why she chose the part (same reason Hathaway chose the first HAVOC, of which these two movies share no relation with the exception of title). Overall, don't bother with this cup of tea.

Starring Jason Miller, Max von Cobb, Linda Blair, Chris MacNeil; Written by William Peter Blatty, Directed by William Friedkin
**** (out of ****)

Never saw this until Saturday, and it was pretty damn good. Even with the movie’s age, it still has the ability to freak the living shit out of viewers of this age, where we have guts splattering over people’s faces all over the place in the SAW and HOSTEL films. Damn fine performances from every cast member; I was most surprised by Chris MacNeil, playing Ellen, Regan's (Blair) mother. She was a prominent force, not just your typical 'What's happening to my daughter?' Perhaps it's the running time that helps caring for characters who could potentially be quite one-dimensional. The flick is 2 hours, but I can honestly say those two hours flew by quite quickly. Although the initial 20 minutes kinda lack a coherent feel (though the above shot sent frakking chills up my spine), the rest of the movie is spot on perfect. Yes, indeed, a classic!

16 October 2008

Max Payne

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Chris O’Donnel

Screenplay by Beau Thorne, Directed by John Moore

** (out of ****)

Nifty poster, yeah? Too bad the movie is nothing resembling that. If I had the opportunity to meet up with the marketing people responsible for the trailer and poster for
Max Payne, I would attempt to kick some serious Karate Kid-ass on their behinds for misleading me (and the general public). All signs indicated an apocalyptic, Constantine (2005)-like movie – something right up my alley. Imagine my complete and utter disappointment when it was revealed this movie was about a bad drug. Whops, was that a spoiler? (assuming no one played the game before) Feel glad, I just saved you $10.

Mark Wahlberg plays NYPD officer Max Payne, currently working in their Cold Case department; before he was working homicide with his friend (the dude who was Nicholas Cage’s friend in Ghost Rider (2006), and the dude talking about “the pretty lights” in Dark Knight), but the death of his wife and child three years ago has set him in depressed mood, and he now spends his time looking for anything that can lead to new details about why they were killed. His detective works brings about a connection between a street-drug called VALKYR and the Aesir Corporation. This drug makes the individual fairly strong and fearless – downside, they also hallucinate giant winged angel-like beasts. Max is connected to a homicide; people don’t believe his side of the story. Thus, Payne goes outside the law to track down the people responsible for murdering his wife and children and shipping out this crazy drug. Throughout, we are treated to two giant shoot-em-up moments, and, I daresay, they’re pretty damn entertaining!

Payne opens up pretty damn well: Detective Max Payne unconscious, drowning, while he gives a monologue to the extent of, “Look at them, reaching out to grab me like I’m one of them.’ (meaning the bodies below) A pause; ‘Easy mistake to make.’ See, now that’s a fantastic technique to engage the viewer and make them want to stick around to see how the character ended up where he does. Unfortunately for us, the paying audience, the movie doesn’t engage and the poorly-written script is quite laughable (because, really, how could one screw up something this simple?)

One thing it does do right…slightly…is that it emphasizes story over action. Obviously, the flick has the mandatory action sequences (which are quite satisfactory; not Shoot 'Em Up (2007) quality, more like it’s five-year old kid), but the story takes the front and center seat. However, like I said, the script blows. Laughable, clich├ęd dialogue; once certain plot points (or characters) are introduced, you know every beat of the entire flick. Oh, wait, Payne actually does another thing right…scratch that, well: its visuals. Sometimes creeping into Sin City (2006) territory with a almost black & white plate to vibrant colors (such as flashes of red symbolizing one hell of a beating), Payne is quite a visual beauty to behold.

Acting wise, nothing falling under the remarkable category, but passes for being a video game adaptation flick. Wahlberg is pretty much his character from The Departed as far as tone, but lacking the smart dialogue and charisma. Best thing that can be said for the actor is that this was definitely a few hundred steps better than this summer’s bogus load of bollocks The Happening, though any fault with that movie is solely attributed to Shyamalan himself. Mila Kunis shows up as a…something. At one point she tells Payne, “You know what I am, and you know what I can do.’ However, we’re not really explained what it is exactly she does. As for me, I’m assuming she’s some sort of drug lord who keeps check of her domain, or perhaps a mercenary.

Not really in the mood to write anything else down about Max Payne other than if you really want to see it, wait ‘till you can pick it up as a DVD rental; it’s nothing you haven’t seen before, and crafted better. It’s just…there.

10 October 2008

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

Directed by Robert D. Weide, Written by Peter Straughan based on a book by Toby Young

Starring Simon Pegg, Megan Fox, Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Bridges, and Gillian Anderson. Rated R, 110 mins.

** (out of ****)

There’s something I call the Pegg Factor, meaning that Simon Pegg is so awesome I’ll see something he’s done just because he’s so damn awesome. This applies to this movie. Perhaps the only other reason why I would go see HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE would to find out once and for all if Megan Fox can act (debatable). But instead of making this entirely about Pegg (which I will try my hardest to accomplish), I’ll try to talk about the flick a bit. Honestly, I don’t know how to review this movie, so everything’s going to be more like little scribbles of thoughts.

Sidney Young has grown up always wanting to be one of those people invited to the big Hollywood parties…by any means necessary. After a few failing attempts to be in the ‘In Crowd’, Sidney receives a phone call from Sharps Magazine editor Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges) recruiting him to work on the magazine in New York. Evidently, Sydney’s own little magazine peaked Clayton’s interest. His dreams semi-realized, Sydney agrees without hesitation. Even before his first day of work, Sydney parties in the Big Apple, dancing around like a idiot and attempting to hit on miscellaneous women, one of them being a girl at a bar named Allison (Kirsten Dunst). A novelist and mild mannered, Allison shrugs him off. Imagine Sydney’s surprise when he finds her seated near him at work. Causing havoc and mischief wherever he goes, Sydney is the laughing gag at Sharps. Either he shapes up, or he’s fired. What’s a man to do?

HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS is a solid comedy that doesn’t try too hard for the jokes, nor does it try to invoke some serious drama. However, what it does do is attempt to make the audience believe in a relationship between Allison and Sydney, who throughout the entire movie they seem quite platonic. But, I guess they needed a romantic subplot to hit all the formula marks.

At the very least, it’s enjoyable to watch celebrity life made fun of by the filmmakers. PRADA celebrated that sort of life, but here, Sydney wants that life, but he can’t help but notice the ludicrousness of some of the things he encounters, and aptly comments on them (much to the growing agitation of his employer).

Concerning if Megan Fox could act, if I were to judge by this, I would go with no, but this could all be related to her portrayal of this character – ditzy, dumb, and having no business being in the acting scene but her hotness got her a audition; so, I’m on the fence there.

Anderson (X-FILES) chums up a good Meryl Streep-like performance as Bitch-In-Charge woman. Also, I think this is the first time I ever noticed this woman had breasts (no, not being perverted here; they were out there for every human being to see!), and Megan Fox not so much. Anyway, the scenes she was in, Anderson stole the show due to her Icy Cool nature. Jeff Bridges sports yet another strange hairdo (is that in his contract somewhere? ‘Must have uniquely weird hair’) and acts like...well, Jeff Bridges. At least in IRON MAN, the dude was able to channel his character, but here, he’s just Jeff Bridges saying some lines of dialogue with different tones to create a disappointed or agitated atmosphere. Woopie-doopey. And finally, I have no idea why Kirsten Dunst signed on for this role. Perhaps she liked the script, perhaps she wanted to co-star with Pegg, but she adds nothing to it. Imagine Mary Jane Watson, minus the red hair and with a little bit more intelligence, you have her character.

Simon Pegg made my day with SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004), a movie I laughed with many times, but it wasn’t until HOT FUZZ (2007) that I truly, completely fell in love with this guy’s comedy. Unfortunately, I have yet to experience the inevitable awesomeness that is SPACED, but it is on my Netflix Que. Pegg starred in RUN, FATBOY RUN earlier this year opposite Thandine Newton (who makes a brief cameo here as girl Pegg attempts to pick up) and Hank Azaria, and although it was your normal everyday flick, Pegg’s comedic humor and wit helped improve the movie greatly. Same deal goes here.

Is there anything new in this movie? Nope. Does the title really make any sense in the context of the movie? Nope. Will you laugh (at least a few times)? Yep. Is Megan Fox really that hot? Eh. Is Simon Pegg awesome? Yep. Is he the entire reason to see this movie? Absolutely.

08 October 2008

Death Note

Directed by Shusuke Kaneko, Screenplay by Tetsuya Oishi, Based on the bestselling Japanese comic by Tsugumi Ooba and Takeshi Obata

Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kenichi Matsuyama, Yu Kashii, Asaka Seto, 126 mins.

*** (out of ****)

I work in a DVD store, and our best-selling titles are all anime titles. NARUTO, BLEACH, DRAGONBALL Z, and above all, a series called DEATH NOTE. Me, not being much for the Anime crowd, simply scoff at the people shelling out a good amount of cash for a DVD that contains four episodes maximum. However, out of all the Anime in our selection (and we have a lot), DEATH NOTE has intrigued me the most. Certainly, it has a bizarre premise that I can’t really believe has extended to 9 DVD volumes and countless mangas, but its dark tone and intriguing creature designs pulled me in. I finally succumbed to my curiosity when I picked up the live-action adaptation of the Anime series to watch because, frankly, everything I read about it, the images, the trailer, and that damn awesome cover captivated me. (though, perhaps it was due to my allegiance to director Shusuke Kaneko, who re-invented the giant monster genre with the 90’s GAMERA trilogy) Bracing myself for what could possibly be one of the most messed up movie experiences of my life, I am pleasantly surprised to say that DEATH NOTE is a phenomenal movie that leaves you wanting more.

The basic story of the movie (although I don’t know how closely it follows the manga) follows Light Yagami, a very bright, successful student who finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped from the sky (oddly enough, the title and its rules are written in English), with the power to kill anyone whose name is written in the pages. Turns out, the book is the property of a winged, giant Death God named Ryuk, who forms a bond with Light, who finds himself unsatisfied and aggravated by the so-called justice system. Thus, using the powers of the notebook, he vows to use it to rid the world of all evil. His plan christens the ‘serial killer’ as “Kira” by police and civilians who view his work as either a monstrosity or necessary, and agencies around the world are hot on Light’s trail. The mysterious “L” involves himself in the investigation, and Light must quickly cover his tracks, but “L” will not be defeated easily.

As I mentioned above, one of the prime motivations for picking up DEATH NOTE was the involvement of Shusuke Kaneko, the man responsible for granting the giant monster genre a bit of respect with the near-perfect GAMERA trilogy from the 90s. Most recently, he also corrected the giant filmmaking flaws of Ryuhei Kitamura (VERSUS, MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) in AZUMI 2: DEATH OR LOVE (2005), which was a vast improvement over Kitamura’s original. Kaneko knows how to frame a camera, where to position it to create the best amount of emotion; perhaps it is for this reason that these rather one-dimensional characters work so well.

The script, written by Tetsuya Oishi, evidently is quite successful in condensing the manga into a two-hour film while maintaining and acknowledging crucial plot points. Obviously, by me not reading or watching anything prior, I can’t comment on this, but I can say that Oishi’s script is tight, and very, very well written. It’s not DARK KNIGHT, but being based off a manga and Anime series, it has far greater strength than I would have given it credit for. Oishi brings up debates concerning justice, or whether this omnipresent killer known as “Kira” is justified in his actions. The movie touches upon complex questions, but never fully indulges in them – mainly because it is about our characters, and in that, the script excels as well.

Light is played by Tatsuya Fujiwara (BATTLE ROYALE), and his performance is quite haunting. At some points he’s your regular Everyday Joe, then on the tele he watches a criminal or suspect walk away free from justice, he turns into – well, the Punisher (minus the black skull shirt). Fujiwara was awesome – he played his character as determined, sorta off the rocker, but simultaneously sympathetic. Light’s nemesis, “L”, is played by Kenichi Matsuyama (NANA), and he is truly the freakiest thing about the entire movie. Forget the miscellaneous deaths or the winged God of Death, Matsuytama’s deadpan stare that seems to look right through you is friggin’ creepy. Matsuyama is also able to make him a man who is not to be reckoned with. The cat-and-mouse game between these two culminate in a ending scene that just reeks of tension, and the success of that tension can be attributed to the wonderful performances Fujiwara and Matsuyama deliver. These two alone make me anxious for DEATH NOTE II.
Yu Kashii (LORELEI) is Shiori Akano, Light’s girlfriend and an individual quite passionate about the law – believing that “Kira” must be stopped. Unfortunately, Kashii isn’t given much to work with, so she has quite the “Mary Jane factor” of merely being the girlfriend and damsel-in-distress. The other prominent female in the cast is Asaka Seto (ONE MISSED CALL 2), playing Naomi Misora, Raye’s fiance. Once a certain event occurs at the halfway point, Naomi becomes consumed with rage, and determined to find “Kira” at all costs. Seto sells this perfectly. Aside from changing clothes (looking very fetching, by the way), Seto’s whole mannerisms change from playful fiance to “I’m about to go Charlie’s Angels” on your teenage ass!” It is unfortunate her character will not be showing up in PART II, she was an interesting character and a pretty fine actress.

Finally, the film’s conclusion brings about the biggest surprise of them all: the familiar sound of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Initially, I thought it was going to be another strange Japanese pop song, but nay – the person is speaking English! And then the song continues, and it’s the bloody Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Dani California”! Damn, smart move for international appeal, though I am curious if Japanese viewers were thinking, “what the f-?” in their seats.

Overall, DEATH NOTE was an intense and wholly enjoyable experience, and I find myself anxious for DEATH NOTE II: THE LAST NAME, which is coincidentally premiering at my local theater as part of a “Death Note” event October 16th and 17th. For those, like myself, who don’t particularly enjoy Anime but yet are intrigued by this particular title, I recommend you pick it up. It's dark and intriguing, while simultaneously fun to watch.

02 October 2008

My Best Friend's Girl

Directed by Howard Deutch, Screenplay by Jordan Cahan

Starring: Dane Cook, Jason Biggs, Kate Hudson, Lizzy Caplan, Alec Baldwin, 101 mins.

** (out of ****)

For some reason, MY BEST FRIEND’S GIRL has been receiving press not based on the movie itself but because of ‘comedian’ Dane Cook. Evidently his appearance here was horrid. I’m not quite sure that sort of criticism is warranted. Cook has two sort class of movies: the ones where he actually performs in a dramatic, real fashion (MR. BROOKS, DAN IN REAL LIFE) and the ones where he’s the comedic ass who wants the top-billed girl (EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH, GOOD LUCK CHUCK, this). This flick falls in-between the two mediums. Cook plays a ass, but – er, um – attempts to invoke a bit of humanity in his character (hence the bringing up drama). Look, you’re not driving to the theater and paying almost ten dollars to watch Cook play bloody Hamlet; with the exception of the two movies mentioned above, Cook plays the same character, so you come to this type of ‘romantic comedy’ to be entertained, and bottom line: it sorta succeeds.

Dustin (Jason Biggs) is deeply, head-over-shoes in love with Alexis (Kate Hudson), a co-worker from…work… They are sort of dating, but also sort of not. Alexis thinks Dustin is a sweet, awesome guy, but simultaneously not very much attracted to him romantically. Seeking to solve this dilemma and further the plot, Dustin enlists the help of his best friend/roommate, Tank (Dane Cook), notorious for his ability to be a pure, 100% asshole. When not selling air conditioners to clients, Tank also gets paid by ex-boyfriends who want their girl returned to them – and he does this by working his asshole magic and having the ex-girlfriends running back to their dear ol’ ex-boyfriends. Dustin just wants Tank to show Alexis exactly how much of a good catch he is, but a small, tiny problem arises during the date: Alexis doesn’t fall for any of Tank’s tactics, and they end up sleeping together. Tank slowly begins to fall for Alexis, and Alexis just wants some shagging. Will Dustin find out what Tank’s up to? Will Alexis fall in love with Tank, or be with Dustin? How does Alec Baldwin fit into any of this?

MY BEST FRIEND’S GIRL is an alright movie. Much to my surprise, I actually laughed quite loudly (in the vacant theater) during one particular montage/countdown sequence. In the very beginning of the movie, the flick jumps between dates Tank have had and some of the tactics he’s used to repulse his companions. Some of these moments are pure, beautiful genius. The movie has its high points, surprisingly, but the rest of it is just sorta…there. Nothing exciting or new, nothing that will exactly make you want to recommend this ‘masterpiece’ to your buddies – it’s just a nice time passer. And that’s pretty much all I got to say about that, but I just want to touch on something else:

Jason Biggs. Damn, dude, I’m sorry your career isn’t fly-rocketing up. I absolutely love the AMERICAN PIE films (and can endure the direct-to-DVD ones with the exception of BAND CAMP) and after the third one, you could really have done something, man. However, you star in independent titles that don’t get adequate recognition, and your mainstream titles is merely redundant crap (that Woody Allen thing, like five years ago, OVER HER DEAD BODY, and this). I can forgive SAVING SILVERMAN because it was a funny movie, but the other ones weren’t. Biggs, buddy, please fire your agent and seek out some good roles.

There’s two things I haven’t mentioned yet: Lizzy Caplan and Alec Baldwin. Why? Because they’re barely in the movie and hardly worth mentioning. Caplan, not-so-much covered in dust and still has her body intact a la CLOVERFIELD, plays Hudson’s sexually open best friend who delivers the humorous one-liners and directs Hudson to the next plot point. Caplan’s character arc is predictable from beginning to its also funny end. Baldwin is Tank’s sexed up father (imagine a slightly younger Denny Crane/William Shatner) who delivers not-so-serious advice to his son. Yes, Baldwin does have some humorous moments, but frankly, nothing all that fantastic. You want Baldwin comedy, watch 30 ROCK.

So what is there left to say? See the movie or don't see a movie, it's not gonna make a bloody difference in your life; it's not the 'end-all-see-all' comedy (I nominate HOT FUZZ), but, as I said, a enjoyable interlude of everyday life to eat some popcorn and hang out with friends.

01 October 2008

Chuck: Chuck Versus the First Date

“My name is Charles Carmikle, I am a CIA agent, and this is my trap. I don’t think you gentlemen don’t realize the gravity of the predicament you’re in.” – Chuck

“Chuck Bartowski has served this country with honor. Now he’ll die with honor to protect it.” – Tony Todd's character dude

(S02E01) My love for all things CHUCK began when I picked up the first season on DVD. I caught only a few episodes when they first aired, and they were humorous, but nothing too enticing. I don’t know the difference between them and now, but when I bought the DVD, after the first episode, I was hooked. I mean it; I went on a CHUCK-a-thon. Episode after episode after episode, each one was absolutely perfect and entirely enjoyable. Few shows are able to have a ensemble cast that are just entertaining and interesting week to week, and are able to balance action, humor, darkness, thrills, geek references, and espionage so well. (the only other person I can think who succeeds in this regard [minus the espionage] would be TV Master Joss Whedon, who proved this point on not just one, not just two, but three television programs)

Chuck & Co. have a problem keeping the hard drive to the new Intersect in their hands: they lose it, they get it, they lose it again, and now they got to get it again. The best part, the hard drive is in the possession of a very intently intimidating operative (Michael Clark Duncan). Once this hard drive is secure, the new Intersect can be operational, and Chuck can live his life free from the CIA and be with Ms. Sarah Walker! Not so fast – the CIA has their own plans: Chuck is too much of a risk, him knowing the secrets of the government and everything, so he must be eliminated. Meanwhile, at the Buy More, Big Mike is looking for a new Head Honcho to be in charge of sales – naturally, he proposes the job to Chuck, who declines. So, Big Mike has now made it his duty to determine who will take the mantle of Head Honcho. All this and more as Chuck goes on his first official date with Sarah, must locate the Intersect had drive, and finally and most importantly, pick who to be in charge of sales at the Buy More. Just another exciting episode!

CHUCK begins season two on a high note. Fast paced, instant with the comedy, and for those who are just catching up on the show, a sufficient ‘This is who this person and this person are, and this is what they do’ recap. From the opening alone, the nine-month wait for a new episode vaporized instantaneously, and I was sucked into Chuck World. Funny one liners, action, beautiful Yvonne Strahovski, great music choices, and a damn enjoyable good time.

Chuck really owned this episode. Have any reservations about Chuck being a valuable CIA agent? Watch the ep. His total ownage of Intimidating Dude and his team near the end on the rooftop was seriously awesome; if I wasn’t in the school computer lab, I would be whistling (if I actually could whistle) and clapping for our dear Chuck.

By now Zachary Levi is perfectly comfortable with the character of Chuck (though, come to think about it, he seemed to totally get the character from the first episode), and shines in every scene he’s in. When Levi, Baldwin, and Strahvoski are on screen, they are a formidable comedic duo.

Adam Baldwin is a true highlight to any series. I was most familiar with him from the last few episodes of ANGEL as the suit-wearing Hamilton, a liaison to the Senior Partners (bad guys plotting Armageddon). Definitely intimidating but simultaneously funny, Hamilton was awesome. Next up was his stint in FIREFLY and the movie adaptation SERENITY (Whedon dialogue serves him well; they work terrifically together). Further adding to his list of cancelled programs was THE INSIDE, which I only watched a few episodes of because of Tim Minear’s involvement; though I don’t really remember what Baldwin’s character’s role was. Anyhow, point is: Baldwin was made for two roles: Casey and Jayne (FIREFLY). Every episode, Baldwin is terrific. In my opinion, he helps make the show as good as it is.

Yvonne Strahovski is as great as ever, although it is sad she is no longer working at her old place (yep, it’s all about the outfit). But the best thing about Strahvoski is that she is able to be a beautiful, sexy woman when necessary, but the cold-blooded CIA agent comes first, and she sells that brilliantly. To show how much I love this show, I care about Chuck’s future to the extent that I want a new Intersect built so Chuck can be done with the CIA and live this life and thus end the show – as long as Chuck’s happy, I’m happy. Though, of course, that brings about a conundrum because the orders are to kill Bartowski once the new Intersect is operational (unless they keep him around for insurance reasons – just in case).

The last five minutes of the episode were simply awesome. The hard drive being a bomb from Fulcrum was genius (I didn’t anticipate it, evidently some did), and I loved the whole glasses thing (Tony Todd takes his glasses out and puts them on as the other agents take their glasses off). Casey sneaks into Chuck’s house to kill him under orders as Chuck prepares his lines to Sarah. The music playing perfectly compliments these moments as well. Though, I shouldn’t be surprised. Josh Schwartz is Einstein when it comes to music selection.

Also, anyone else begin to think the INDIANA JONES theme was about to start when Morgan was talking about Jeff and his Twinkie eating?

Unfortunately, numbers for CHUCK aren’t good. Thus far, there’s 13 episodes completed, and I’m hoping to whatever deity I worship that CHUCK will persevere. Give teen idiots their GOSSIP GIRL and ONE TREE HILL, just let me keep my CHUCK! (and REAPER…and SUPERNATURAL…)

But in all honesty, if you haven’t started watching CHUCK, I highly, highly, highly recommend it. Nowhere else on television will you find such a fantastic blend of different genres nor wonderfully crafted scripts with an extensive cast of likable characters. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

(Screencaps from ChuckTV.net)