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Keep Your Feet on the Ground And Keep Reaching For The Remote June 18, 2008

Posted by doctorolove in Pop Culture Rants, TV.
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It was for most of the people in my generation, the show we honestly believed we could someday be on. It had everything one could hope for in an 80’s TV show. Blue and red laser lights in glass tubes? Check. Fog at inopportune moments? Yup. A synth heavy opening theme complete with star wipes and Polaroid picture outlines of last week’s show? Oh, hells yeah. And the host? Big, sweaty, with that kind of assistant principal thing going on. It was Star Search. It was Ed McMahon. It was our dream.

And when it left the air, it left, not with a bang, but with a whimper, we wondered how? This show which produced such talented mainstays as Rosie O’Donnell, Alanis Morissette and the guy from the commercial that did the thing with the thing, couldn’t just fade away. Like a supernova, it collapsed into itself. It exploded and left its talent full goodness all over our TV landscape.

Think about it? They packed so much talent and had such a laundry list of people waiting to get on that the show begat other talent competition themed extravaganzas. And now each show was its own entity. Like Europe after WWII or when the Beatles embarked on solo careers, each section of the show now had its’ moment to shine.

The comics? Well, NBC gave them Last Comic Standing. They even employed semi-famous judges to rate the talents of people who are marginally less famous than they are (a Star Search tradition). And while Bill Bellamy is only slightly less sweaty than Ed McMahon (anyone who actually signed on to be in DefJam’s How To Be a Player cannot not HAVE a post traumatic sweat disorder), the show still gives you comics, fighting it out to be the next person to host a VH1 reality show, open a Harris Teeter in Wisconsin or date one of the ugly interns on an E! show. The comics still have chance to shine, even if they’re not getting 3 and ¾ stars anymore.

The singers? Of course, you’ve got your American Idol, your Nashville Idol, your Singing Office, your Rock Star: The Search to replace a guy who was only marginally successful and died due to asphyxiation related to masturbation (though they shortened that to INXS, which I think was a good choice). And now, not only are there the marginally successful judges, but we get to see the audition process. Star Search just gave you the best of the best. Our tastes have changed though since the go get em 80’s (I think it has to do with the fact that 1 out of every 3 people was on cocaine) and we now want, nay, NEED to see people fail. And fail miserably. And rewind to the exact moment when they have the realization that their dreams are shattered. Now that’s worth a hundred version of Mariah Carey for me.

The Spokesmodels? Thanks Tyra! You have given us a whole show based on a medium where there is no speech required. It’s all about looks and body type. And while you are trying to manufacture drama by placing several women in a house, the whole point of the old Star Search was you only heard the models talk when sending you out to a commercial. While your show provides more opportunities than Star Search could, it’s not as much fun watching girls frolic in a hot tub than watching them play in a Hollywood constructed beach scene. Call me crazy but if I want to watch women I have no shot with dance around, I’ll head to the strip club. At least there they have a good buffet.

Which brings us to the dancers. And while I don’t think I ever saw a good set of dancers on the show (or a group that didn’t rent their clothes from Stereotypical Pseudo Gay Leotard Emporium…where every fifth headband is free), apparently there are millions of them. TV has given us So You Think You Can Dance, Dance Fever, Step Up and Dance, America’s Best Dance Crew, Your Mama Don’t Dance, Dancing With The stars (where the marginally talented are no longer judging but getting involved), Dance, Dance, Dance, Baked beans and Dance, and of course, Hey, Douchebag, Get Up and Dance! Apparently there are too many amazing hoofers that one, nay, seven shows was not enough. I have never seen these people. I know no great dancers. Maybe I am spending my time at too many suburban weddings, night clubs and the local Y, but I know nobody who dances that well. Maybe that’s why? Maybe they are all waiting somewhere in a giant cattle call, hoping David Hasselhoff gives them a thumbs up.

So Star Search may have left but its babies still dot the landscape like so much tasty goodness. Maybe that’s why the Arsenio Hall retread never succeeded. Because a house divided against itself cannot stand. Abe Lincoln said that.

And the Gettysburg Address received….3 and a half stars.

Sweet Georgia Brown Noise June 3, 2008

Posted by doctorolove in Pop Culture Rants, Sports.
1 comment so far

That loud scream, a mixture of joy, sexual jubilation and outright orgasmicness, emanating from the NBA offices last week did not come from another Kobe Bryant paramour. It did not come from Charles Barkley realizing he had one more Ring Ding in a box he once thought empty. And it wasn’t from Marv Albert, realizing that a local Victoria’s Secret was having a “Going Out of Business” sale. Nope, it was from none other than David Stern.

The NBA had fallen on some tough times. Recently it was reported that Mr. Stern was only wiping his ass with fifty-dollar bills, instead of his old standard, 1000 cut Egyptian sheets wrapped in fifty-dollar bills. TV ratings were down. Refs were throwing games to appease mobsters (in real life, too, not just in bad Adrian Grenier movies). And the dumb as rocks children who were once able to jump to the NBA straight from their sham high schools had to attend college for AT LEAST ONE YEAR. That could mean injury, underperformance, or worse, the idea that they might actually like learning and put off the fact that their likeness would be sold on everything from shoes to Beanie Baby figurines for a whole four years.

Nope, Mr. Stern got his wish when the Celtics of Boston and the Lakers of Los Angeles managed to wade through the sludge of teams who sell tickets only in their hometowns. This was David and Goliath (wait, both teams are among the biggest moneymakers in all sports…) This was Bird vs. Magic (wait, Larry Bird now resembles John Holmes without the huge wiener and Magic has enough popcorn at his chain of movie theatres to garner his own zip code….). This is Kobe vs. Kevin Garnett. This is that weird white Lurch guy against the guy who schooled Denzel Washington (no, not Ethan Hawke…). This is Phil Jackson…zen master…against Doc Rivers, whose previously claim to fame was, um, that he once was in a highlight film because he was in the camera’s view of Dominique Wilkins. This is green vs. purple. This is the Hulk’s color scheme taking on human form and fighting against one another. This is money in the bank. A series that takes an amazing rivalry (which hasn’t happened more than two times a year since 1987) and puts it on network TV. Yup. NBA. This happens.

But is Lakers-Celtics the greatest rivalry in sports? I mean, it did have a series of Sega Genesis games, with graphics only slighter stronger than Konami’s Double Dribble, named after it. It boasts some of the greatest players in all of history having taken part in it. And again, it’s all about the color scheme.

While I am in the Red Sox vs. Yankees camp of something being even more monumentous in terms of sheer hatred and the Duke-UNC rivalry being as close our nation has gotten to beating up and hating your kinfolk since the Civil War, neither of these holds a candle to the greatest rivalry in sports history.

Yup, the Harlem Globetrotters vs. the Washington Generals.

Now, one may say, it’s not a rivalry if one team consistently loses. One may say it’s not a rivalry if the teams don’t have some sort of geographic proximity. And some more may say it’s not a rivalry if one team is allowed to utilize buckets of confetti borrowed from the Rip Taylor collection. I say, Pshaw on all of you.

These teams have played an astounding 15,000 plus games against one another. And the Generals have won maybe five of those (Stats not confirmed…in fact, five may be a little generous.) So how can it be a rivalry? For that reason alone. Five times in over 15,000 tries. Meaning that should you actually be present for one of those wins, you are truly, for that day, in love with your team. The Yanks and Red Sox beat up on another and often find the word curse and spooky and Goose Gossage’s moustache bandied about. But they beat one another so often that to witness a victory by either team is just another day. Sure, you get angry and you curse the guy in the cubicle next to you with the “Tessie” ringtone, but you move on.

And Duke-UNC plays twice, three times a year at max. They could play for another 7000 years at this rate and while people are teleporting to their flying cars, each time will have one more than five…thousand times. Not five.

And to actually win five times, while the other team is pantsing you, or bribing the ref, or hiding the ball under their shirt takes moxie. It takes luck. It takes one of those cheat codes you put in your Madden game that allows unlimited stamina. But it has happened.

A rivalry can be one sided but to truly achieve monumental status, one team’s victory has to mean something more than a year of bad blood or the occasional hangover at work the next day. It must be momentous. It must be life changing. It must involve confetti.

And besides, have any Laker or Celtic been on Scooby Doo?

No, Pau Gasol was not the Creeper zombie guy…next question…

As the Rat Says….It’s Summer Baby May 15, 2008

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Pop Culture Rants.
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Summer’s here. And though the time may be right for dancing in the streets (I hear they’re dancing in Chicago, and amidst the debris, down in New Orleans), it also signals that time of year when the fat teat of Hollywood opens its’ lactation period and spills upon us the glorious milk that is the summer blockbuster. Ever since Steven Spielberg showed us (or rather didn’t show us) a giant shark trolling off the coast of New England like R. Kelly at a Hanna Montana concert, summer movies have been part of the fabric of pop culture. Maybe it was the splendor, maybe it was the sun drenched women, maybe it was the theme music (Which eerily sounds like the hum of a 1968 Frigidaire) maybe, just maybe it was Richard Dreyfuss when he had hair and didn’t sound like he was trying to impersonate the Great Gildersleeve in every film, but Jaws did something to Hollywood and to the moviegoer.

Save for teachers, students and the small percentage of America who makes their living from snowboarding, nobody has their summers off anymore. Which means that the blockbuster is your escape from the monotony that is the real world (and I’m talking about the actual real world and not your special time with strangers who have stopped being polite).

Now I am not going to give you a laundry list of the films that are coming out this summer. There are a number of fine publications which have done that already and we all need to keep Roger Ebert’s heart working by reading what films he’s excited for this summer. And unless you are living under a rock, with the Rock or glued to your couch watching Rock of Love reruns, you know what’s coming out. You’ve seen the trailers, the posters and probably even eaten an Iron Man extra value meal (now fortified with extra iron…). No, I am here to discuss the proper ritual one must undergo to watch the blockbuster. These are not your ordinary films and usual candor must be thrown out the window. The art house films you see in December Theater jockeying for awards season and giving us a chance to watch Jack Black get serious so he can win an Oscar are a different breed. Hollywood has spent billions on making sure the robots, aliens and explosions look so real you swear they exist. And we as a people owe it to them to give Hollywood the same respect they gave us (Save for them releasing The Hottie and The Nottie…Hollywood was going through some stuff and was really drunk that weekend…it’s sorry…didn’t you get the Facebook message?) With ticket prices roughly now on par with a Toyota Previa, it’s important you make the most of your moviegoing experience.

First, go in the afternoon. Most theatres have AC nowadays which will provide cooling for your skin. Plus, most obnoxious kids are still home sleeping. Plus that mosquito noise is usually blaring the day. It will also leave you your nights free for knitting, a rousing game of Risk with the autistic kid from next door or a good old fashioned evening of pissing on people’s doorknobs. Plus prices are often cheaper in the afternoon. These are called matinees, which I believe comes from the French word for “Cheap Bastard.”

Next, don’t try to sneak in your own snacks. Sure, we’ve all done it, but think of the candy magnates. Without the inflated marked up price gouging, they couldn’t routinely offer you deals at your local deli, like 99 cent Nutrageouses or they would have to shut down their candy research center that gives us things like Mint M&M’s. And the soda companies would have to shut down many of their local bottling plants, meaning that your Coke will have to travel further to get to you and will often taste like malted battery acid or Fresca. Besides, who wants to feel like they are dropping off a shiv or file at Sing Sing.? Every pimply faced ticket ripper or ex-con who refills the popcorn grease will be eyeing you. Sure they have no idea you are smuggling in enough Smarties to feed Uganda for a year, but your guilty conscience will weigh on you. Each time you crinkle a wrapper and pop open the Pringles, you will be worried that ushers will be dropping from the ceiling on tethers like Navy Seals and remove you from the theatre. And the blockbuster demands a clear head, less you start seeing the plot holes big enough for John Goodman to tumble through.

Watch the promos. Don’t arrive with seconds to spare where you have to break Carl Lewis’ 800 meter dash world record just to make it before the credits begin. Get there early, settle in and watch the promos. Heck, even watch the pre show ads and absurdly easy movie trivia they show before the show. It will make you feel smarter and prouder of your education. And you’ll be satisfied to know that you know where Jim Carrey went to college. The promos also set the mood. They whet the appetite of things to come, the amuse bouche of films if you will (and you did cause you just read it.) Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a preview not suited for all audiences and you may get some boob or an F-word or a shot of Morgan Freeman’s ass (which is known as a “Preview a trios” in the rare event that those three amazing instances all occur in one promo.)

Turn off your phone. Unless you are about to have a child, are a doctor or a member of some sort of undercover body guard force, you do not to be contacted for two hours. Your bar is not going to call you with a peach Schnapps emergency or the office isn’t going to burn down cause Jan from Accounting can’t find the White Out. This is Hollywood’s alone time with you. Savor it. Go with it and Escape (and yes, Hollywood does like pina coladas.)

Now, always sit in the center. The combination of the AC, the speakers and that weird BO from the guy in the projection booth all meet somewhere in the theatre center like some vortex of amazingness. It is there you will truly immerse yourself in the movie experience. That and there’s usually less gum on the seats in the center. The Vortex of Awesome will not allow gum. That and Republicans, just FYI Middle America.

Now, watch the film. DO not speak to friends and say things like “Did you see that?” Did they get there before you did? Are you watching the film with Andrea Bocelli? Of course they did and so did everyone else. And never shout out predictions of the ending, no matter how Shyamalanian the film may be. You will be wrong. Everybody is. If the movie’s ending was that easy to figure out, it would star Ashton Kutscher. Take in the sights, the sounds, the bon mots, and the implausible ability of everybody to survive life threatening injuries. It’s Hollywood.

To cap off the film, leave the theatre immediately and let the oppressive heat smack you in the face. Watch out, the sun will hurt your eyes like radioactive Visine. You will probably look like you just woke up from a nasty hangover to everyone outside, so bring sunglasses. If you do not own sunglasses, feel free to bring a visor or some stem cells to jam into your eyes giving you super human retinas. Call your friends. Tell them how awesome the movie was. If they have already seen it, call them a douche or any combination of the word douche and anything (I’m partial to “douche sweater” myself.) If they have not seen, rub it in. Mock their inability to pay 12 bucks for a movie. Laugh at their blockbusterless existence. Then ask to borrow five bucks.

Follow the above steps and you will enjoy your summer experience. Keep in mind though; you can alter these steps to fit you, provided you stick to the basic tenet. The only exception is if you live in South central and are going to see any film starring a member of Murder Inc. Then bring a flak jacket.

Do You Want A Reason To Get Up Before 8 AM That Doesn’t Involve a McGriddle January 7, 2008

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Pop Culture Rants.
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Oscar Season is beginning to heat up much like the meth lab Britney Spears keeps in the 23rd bedroom in her home (It’s out back just past the solid gold bidet and the life size cut out of the original Cooter from the Dukes of Hazard.) The entries are all in (as the rules state that the film must have been released in 2007, so sorry One Missed Call) and the nominees are probably already hermetically sealed in an envelope.

So let’s say you are an actor or actress who has been shot down more often than Tom Cruise at a WNBA mixer. You have one dream. Not to win, but just to be nominated. A nomination for an Academy Award is like a red wine stain on a white shirt: it is impossible to shake and it will follow you everywhere. It precedes your name no matter what you do (Yup, Snow Dogs was advertised as starring Academy Award winners Cuba Gooding and James Coburn) and it even raises your tax bracket (until you do a movie led the aforementioned Snow Dogs and realize that to pay for your addiction to Hummel figurines, you need to sell some Hanes underwear in a series of sexually ambiguous commercials set in an alternate universe where Michael Jordan has his own talk show….Apparently in that alternate universe, the Magic Hour was HUGE!)

You don’t necessarily need to win. Heck, if you live long enough and don’t do too many appearances on the Lifetime network, they’ll give you one anyway and call it a lifetime achievement (A Lifetime for no Lifetime!….savory the irony….tastes like Dr. Pepper, don’t it?) You just want them to announce that you were nominated and most of the time, it doesn’t even have to be a great job. Maybe you were due. Maybe everybody else sucked that year and you are recognized simply on not sucking as much (the Joaquin Phoenix theory of acting). Or maybe, just maybe you followed these simple steps. Because if you do, you’ll be shown quickly in the audience once and have to try on your best “That piece of shit won?” face.

First, determine the type of actor you are. Are you the budding new generation ingénue? Are you the long suffering character actor whose claim to fame is being called out by the guy next to you at Hooters for being “that guy” in “that Bruce Willis movie?” Are you the actor who has simply coasted on your good looks in a string of straight to DVD features and often find yourself wondering which Tara Reid vehicle best defined your career?  Once you can say you know who you are, then you can move on to step two.

Second is choosing the role that defines your type.  If you are the character actor who often plays the same type of role, your nomination will depend solely on the bon mots you get to throw around during the movie. I can venture to say that Jack Black, who is Jack Black in every film he is in (save for Nacho Libre where’s he’s Jack Black with a Spanish accent), will get nominated when he pratfalls and eyebrows his way into a well written script. If you are the ingénue, tackle a classic role. Sleep with somebody who will gladly let you tackle one of the biggest roles in literature in history (Though be careful not to surround yourself with too much talent in a big period piece…Leelee Sobieski is still waiting for that Joan of Arc movie to pan out). And if you are that guy, it’s simple….play disabled, mentally or physically. Get bonus points for actually spending a few hours with somebody who has said affliction. Or play fat when you’re thin, thin when you’re fat. Basically, don’t be you. You isn’t working. If you was working, you would be garnering seven figure checks and not rushing to get to your scene study class with the guy who played the dad on ALF.

So once the role is chosen, number three is, well, luck. You need the planets to align just right so somebody actually sees your film. You can be awesome in Critters 7: Seriously, They Greenlighted This? But if nobody watches it, then it just goes on your reel. You need the film to open at the right time. Maybe Tea Leoni garners a nomination for her stirring journalist in Deep Impact if she wasn’t overshadowed by the hotter, poutier, less clothed Liv Tyler in Armageddon. Two women in two asteroid movies cancel each other out, like positive and negative ions or more than one Culkin kid. And luck also plays into the fact that everybody else sucks too. You can always rise from the crap that’s around you if everything IS crap. When five great actors give career performance, your paraplegic turn may just fall by the wayside. Eric Stoltz in The Waterdance? Don’t remember it. It followed the rules: crippled, good script, defining moments. But Christopher Walken, Al Pacino and a bunch of other people blew up that year. And what does Eric Stoltz have to show for it?  Yup. About the same as you and I. Though he still does have that Mask prosthetic which is mad cool.

So, you dreamers, follow these rules and you too can join Randy Quaid, Whoopi Goldberg, Dan Aykroyd, Amy Adams, Haley Joel Osment and the little girl from Little Miss Sunshine and get your nomination.  (Coincidentally all of them will be starring in a new Zucker brothers movie…..coming next summer…Critics, start your engines now)

Spies…Spies..Everywhere There’s Spies…Chewing Up The Scenery…Blowing Your Mind…. August 8, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Movies, Pop Culture Rants.
1 comment so far

With The Bourne Ultimatum raking in more cash than Warren Buffett has in the cushions of his couch (the previous metaphor stolen from the Dennis Miller Book of Metaphors…available wherever paperbacks are sold), its safe to say that spy movies are a bonafide action genre. Heck, they may even be one of the best and biggest. They’re here to stay people! So for those of you hoping that romantic comedies set in Middle America or movies starring CGI dogs and cats would win out, you’re SOL.

Spy movies are akin to stealing your friend’s marijuana plants: Hollywood makes money on them because everybody’s too scared and would get in too much trouble if they told the real story. Thusly, every spy movie could be the biggest bunch of fabrication since the Warren Commission Family Picnic (Thanks Dennis, yet again!) and nobody will know. Think the CIA, FBI, NSA and a whole bunch of other acronyms are going to step forward and admit how things are done. Hell to the no. So each film can claim to be accurate and load us up with car chases and gadgetry and strange Cold War scenarios and not a single person can ever call “Shenanigans.” Except for that guy over there…Oh wait, where are those men in suits taking him?

Yet with all these spy films coming 2 fast and 2 furious (Not a spy movie, by the way, I checked) you must ask yourself one question. Which spy defines me?  Which secret agent should I choose to follow intently?  There are several camps on this one. Let us, in attempt to appease all argument, first remove the Daniel Craig James Bond from future debate. Not saying I didn’t enjoy his first foray into the land of 007, but there are too many critics who feel the film was merely siphoning off the ideas the Bourne series had re-established as the new “IT” spy genre. (Some say siphoning: others say blatantly copying.) Plus it’s one chance. Make two good ones and we’ll talk. You can also shake off every single spy that popped up during that dark phase from 1985-1993 where Hollywood tried to re-invent the spy genre with a whole bunch of  “mistaken identity spy comedies.” Richard Grieco, Anthony Edwards, Jackie Chan, Val Kilmer. Not that you guys were doing much anyway, but you can all sit. (Okay, maybe you were, Val….your two minute cameo in Déjà vu…moving stuff…now, here…have another donut.)

Which means you are left with three major types of movie spies: the gritty realistic Jason Bourne type, the kitschy Cold War espionage of the James Bond type, and the uber-kitschy spoofy Austin Powers/ Flint winking at the camera so much I’m sure you have Tourettes goofball spy.

Any spy film from here on out will adhere to these three examples or Venn diagram somewhere in between. These are the examples, people. So, if you’re a Scientologist who is smiting me because I didn’t mention Ethan Hunt, I’m sorry. He’s like a good Chinese dinner: little from Column A, little from Column B. But he is not a Column unto himself. And besides would L. Ron want that anyway? Shame on all of you. Smiting me like that. And to think I actually paid to see Battlefield Earth (Receipt available upon request)

So which spy should you follow? Let’s look at each.

The Gritty Realistic Spy:  He’s either deep undercover or blending into society much like Henry Hill did when he took off the velour track suit. He’s not a blow up the whole building guy. His gadgets and methods are straight out of that annoying video game level you can’t beat (You know the one with all the stealthing…And yes stealthing is a word.) And his exploits are usually shot with the same gritty realism and gritty camera angles just in case you didn’t get that whole gritty realism thing. This guy blows your mind. Not because he escapes eight car pileups and citywide manhunts. And not because he can garrote you with a shoelace and duct tape all MacGyver style. It’s because he is SO real. This crazy behind the scenes stuff could really be happening.  He’s using real names and focusing on real problems (usually oil pipelines in the Middle East, scary biotoxins) and not some nameless faceless supervillain who lives in a cave. He’s the spy you root for because you want him on that wall. You need him on that wall. And you secretly hope there isn’t a wall, but you know better. No sex for me, please…I’m making the world safer. Or worse, depending.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Democrats, people with irrational fear of the Patriot Act, those with stock in Dramamine

The Kitschy Cold War guy: Yeah, this is what spying is all about. Still saving the world but doing it Hefner style. With a woman on one arm and a drink in the other. His entrances and exits are louder than a Metallica show at the Virginia College for the Deaf. He couldn’t save himself from a situation unless he had his gadgets. And oh what great ones they are. Invisible missile laden cars. Dual laser beamed watches. Exploding pens.  And everybody always gets it in the end. There’s no grey area. It’s Good vs. Evil. The Russians or the Eastern Europeans or the Colombian drug dealers. All of them must be stopped. And they will be stopped before they can unleash their havoc on the world. Because only he can do it. He’s like the Class Clown: a smartass remark everybody he does, well, anything that could call for a smart ass remark, from kicking ass to flirting to hanging out poolside in places he first made cool. Monte Carlo, the Caribbean, Antarctica (though maybe not poolside there) None of this could possibly happen. Nameless, faceless masterminds don’t exist. (Real life masterminds are way too media savvy to live in a hollowed out volcano.)  And again, do we know it isn’t like this? That in itself makes us feel safe, hoping it is

RECOMMENDED FOR: Republicans, the Tuxedos Renters Guild of America,  13 year old boys (because the sex is implied, never shown and once you past 13, you need a little more than innuendo)

The Spoofy Spy: Take every cliché you’ve ever seen and beat it into the ground. The only genre of spy films you know could never happen, because can somebody that ignorant really be on a major payroll somewhere (Wait…I’ll strike that from the record)  The jokes are like the plot outline: It’s Good vs. Evil.  Some work, some don’t. The gadgets are often ludicrous, but plausible. It’s like watching an old friend come for dinner: bask in the stories of yesteryear and laugh about when they went wrong. But you get sick of them quick and hopefully, they’re gone before desert

RECOMMENDED FOR: The young, the elderly, the three people who have never quoted Austin Powers ever.

Make your choice wisely, my budding Spy movie aficionados. It is a big choice and one that can determine your future movie-watching career. The debate will forever wage on and someday a spy type will emerge victorious. Let’s just hope it’s not Owen Wilson

(This post will self-destruct in five seconds.)