Author: Jason Thompson (Page 1 of 67)

The Pleasure of Being Robbed

70 minutes isn’t a long time at all for a feature-length film, but those 70 minutes that are packed into director Josh Safdie’s indie work, “The Pleasure of Being Robbed,” are far too many. The movie is centered around Elenore (played by co-writer Elenore Hendricks) and her kleptomania that may or may not be caused by something deeper going on in her psyche. She steals not to profit, but just to peek into strangers’ lives. Elenore steals a lady’s purse, then a father’s gift for her daughter which consists of a bag containing a dog and some kittens, and eventually she works her way into stealing someone’s car keys just to see what the inside of the victim’s car looks like. It’s literally like watching someone’s bad home movies. At this point, Safdie himself appears as “Josh,” Elenore’s friend who convinces her to drive him back to his apartment, even though she has no clue how to drive. They manage to make it out of the city and back to his pad, and this takes up the majority of the movie and feels like it’s going in real time. Hell, it may actually be. There is no “plot” here, no real tale behind the characters, and no reason to care for anyone involved. This is indie filmmaking at its most uninspired, which of course has led some other critics to absolutely gush over it. But don’t believe the quotes on the back of the box; there is no pleasure of being robbed here, especially when you’ve just had 70 minutes of your life stolen.

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The Mr. Men Show – Little Miss Sunshine and Mr. Tickle

These two volumes of the Cartoon Network series are wonderful in every which way. Adapted from the popular children’s books by Roger Hargreaves, “The Mr. Men Show” is an eleven-minute (per episode) excursion featuring all the favorite book characters, with a few new ones thrown in (and some genders changed for others). Kicking off with one of the snappiest theme tunes in a long time, each episode is centered around a specific subject, such as “Science,” “Dillydale Day,” “Mall,” and “Wildlife.” Jokes, sight gags, and general slapstick humor abound, making it charming for not only the younger crowd but the older viewers as well who will no doubt be won over by the retro-funkiness and rapid-fire approach the show takes. Each DVD contains six episodes and also comes with a special Mr. Men or Little Miss paperback book. DVD extras include games, how to draw different Mr. Men characters, dance segments, and lots more. “The Mr. Men Show” brings to mind the headiness of great ’70s Saturday morning toons while remaining thoroughly modern and refreshing for any age.

2008: The Year in TV – Jason Thompson

You love TV, I love TV, we all love TV! Actually, I am going to start calling it “tee-wee” like my main man Chuck Barris used to on “The Gong Show.” And while I found some groovy stuff for you all to enjoy on the idiot box, the ones I couldn’t take anymore are certainly worth a triple, simultaneous gonging from Arte Johnson, J.P. Morgan, and Jamie Farr. So sit back and tune in to my top three selections for ’08.


1. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” FX

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I may be late to this particular party, but as the saying goes, better late than never. This season found the gang at Paddy’s Pub tackling the serious, groundbreaking issues that they never shied away from in the past. Cannibalism, killing one’s father, and rewriting the history of the Liberty Bell itself were just a few of the topics explored this year. Charlie Day may be the funniest comedic actor on TV currently, and Danny DeVito excels as greasy schemer Frank Reynolds to the point where he may even outshine his stint as Louie DePalma on “Taxi.” This is undoubtedly the funniest show on TV these days, and certainly belongs next to other cult faves like “Arrested Development” and “Flight of the Conchords.”

2. “Burn Notice,” USA
This show climbs its way up a notch from third place on my list from last year. Jeffrey Donovan returned as Michael Westen, former spy who has been burned by an unknown operative. This season found Michael getting even closer to the truth while continuing to help out his old buddy Sam (Bruce Campbell) on his never-ending side missions to right the wrongs brought upon other innocent people. The lovely Gabrielle Anwar also returned as Michael’s former love interest/ass-kicker Fiona, and Sharon Gless also reprised her role as Michael’s mother, perhaps one of the best characters she’s ever played. For seriously exciting action scenes filled with plenty of examples of how you, too, can create your own spy gadgets out of everyday things, plus just the right amount of comedy thrown on top, “Burn Notice” is tops. And the best part of all is that the third season will actually debut this winter, so fans won’t have to wait for its usual summer slot.

3. “Chuck,” NBC
This show got an honorable mention from me last year, but this time out it proudly sits in the number three position. The second season of this hit series proved the first was no fluke. “Chuck” has top notch writers working behind it, making every week’s episode some classic NBC Must See fare. Like “Burn Notice,” “Chuck” mixes tasty action with laughs, and Zachary Levi as the title character is an even more likable schlub than Jim on “The Office.” But it wouldn’t be “Chuck” without Adam Baldwin and Yvonne Strahovsky as special agents John Casey and Sarah Walker. Baldwin’s tough guy act is as laugh out loud funny as Levi’s performance as an average Joe mixed up in crazy caper routines, while Strahovsky proves time and again that she’s not just a gorgeous face but a rock solid actress as well. May Chuck have the Intersect embedded in his brain for a few more seasons to come.

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The Delirious Fictions of William Klein

The best reason to pick up this “Eclipse Series 9” from Criterion is the inclusion of the great “Who Are You Polly Magoo?” Made in 1966, the film is a wonderful satire of the silliness of the fashion and modeling industry – well before it was fashionable itself to make fun of such things. In the other two films included here, “Mr. Freedom” and “The Model Couple,” director Klein continues to point his satirical lens on such things as American imperialist ideals and the humdrum drudgery of middle-class life and its societal trappings. The two films aren’t always as bracingly hilarious as “Polly Magoo,” but no one can deny that it’s a treat to have all three of these works finally available on DVD. For those who aren’t familiar with Klein’s work, this is definitely a great – and affordable – place to start. And not to worry about these being uppity arthouse flicks; Klein’s work can be enjoyed easily by all who care to experience them.

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xxxHOLiC: Third Collection

In this third installment of the popular anime series licensed in the US by Funimation, episodes 9 through 12 are compiled. To make a long story short, this series revolves around Kimihiro Watanuki, a student who attracts spirits. Only Watanuki can see the spirits. After finding his way to a store that grants wishes and is run by a witch named Yuko Ichihara, Watanuki wishes for the spirits to go away. Yuko agrees, but only if Watanuki becomes an employee at the store. Of course, many dramatic shenanigans ensue and a lesson is learned in most episodes. “xxxHOLiC” is a good, if not always great anime that definitely has its share of hardcore devotees. More power to ‘em. This set includes the episodes “Pinky Promise,” “Lamplight,” “Confession,” and “Summer Shade.” Extras include a standard image gallery, “clean” opening and closings, and trailers for other groovy Funimation DVDs.

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