Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holidays!

The Hulu Review will be on hiatus for Christmas. We will return on December 30. In the meantime, feel free to vote for your favorites in the Hulu Awards by using the links to the right.




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Friday, December 19, 2008

The Hulu Top Twenty




Here are the 20 most popular movies on Hulu this week.




1. Go
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: I love this movie and everyone in it. There, I said it. Taye Diggs, Sarah Polley, William Fichtner, Timothy Olyphant, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr, and a just-starting-out Katie Holmes are part of the ensemble cast that Director Doug Liman brings together in a fantastic blend of youth culture and Pulp Fiction. Other movies try to shock us by increasing the amount of money that's been stolen, or demanded in ransom, or whatever. Go shows us that just a couple of hundred dollars can make the world go round in the right circles. There are some great performances, a real sense of style, and a fun, fast-paced storyline that plays with the chronology in just the right way.


2. Wimbledon
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany have turned in a serviceable romance centered around their lives as professional tennis players taking a shot at Wimbledon glory. Bettany is the down and out, past-his-prime, player who is making the most of his last, best, shot to recapture the title. Dunst is a driven young competitor under the tutelage of harsh father/coach Sam O'Neill.


3. A Little Sex
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: This film barely registered a blip when it opened in theaters in 1982, but it's made a strong debut on Hulu, clocking in at #3. The story is an old one-- a man is torn between his wife and his propensity for cheating, but Kate Capshaw and Tim Matheson do their best to punch up the pseudo-intellectual dialogue. Watch for John Glover, who steals his scenes, as per usual.


4. In Her Shoes
Last Week's Ranking: 6
Weeks on List: 3
Notes: Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette star in this novel adaptation that sounds like a complete and total crapfest-- one sister is successful at work but has no social life, while the other is a popular girl with no career. What could possibly happen when these two worlds collide? So, it sounds terrible, but, surprisingly, it is not. Critics actually liked it, crediting an above-average script and some great, nuanced performances by Diaz, Collette, and Shirley MacLaine, whom they reportedly raised from the dead to perform as a kindly grandmother.

5. The Devil's Own
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Ten years ago, Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt teamed up in this international espionage thriller that underwhelmed critics and audiences alike. The setting is Ireland, and Pitt's accent has come under fire for not sounding quite right. I think people would have overlooked that if the overall movie were better, but it's not. Look for this one to drop off the charts quickly.

6. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
Last Week's Ranking: 3
Weeks on List: 3
Notes: In the style of "Snatch," this 1999 caper movie is unabashedly British, starring Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones among others. The frenetic story involves four friends who dabble in a high stakes card game and thereby get in trouble with a local mob boss.

7. Gattaca
Last Week's Ranking: 1
Weeks on List: 3
Notes: This 1997 Jude Law/Ethan Hawke vehicle is a true sci-fi film. It gives us a complete and compelling portrait of a dystopian future in which an intrusive government controls the very genes of its citizens. The romance between Hawke and Uma Thurman is just prevalent enough to give it an appealing, soft edge.

8. Virus
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Jamie Lee Curtis and Alec Baldwin are trying to save the world from evil aliens who consider the human race to be a virus. Donald Sutherland also stars in this stinking pile of a gorefest, which is based on a comic book.


9. We're Back: A Dinosaur's Story
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: It's appropriate that this 1993 animated children's tale about dinosaurs would feature the voice talents of some of the biggest dinosaurs in Hollywood. Larry King, Walter Cronkite, Julia Childs, Rhea Perlman, and John Goodman are just some of the actors who lend their voices to the lowly regarded story of a pack of dinosaurs who triumphantly show up in modern day NYC, announcing: We're back!


10. Speed and Angels
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Any 2008 movie offering is a feather in Hulu's cap, even when it features a hackneyed story about two young fighter pilot recruits who have militaristic adventures on the way to a tour of duty in Iraq. Some places list it as a documentary, but others as a drama.

11. Private School
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Phoebe Cates and Betsy Russell are private school girls competing for the attentions of Matt Modine, circa 1983. It tries for a Porky's sensibility with an all-girl setting, but the raucousness and sexual energy both quickly degenerate into a fizzle of bad moviemaking.


12. The Fifth Element
Last Week's Ranking: 8
Weeks on List: 3 (7)
Notes: Bruce Willis is a cab driver...in the future! Kind of. He and Milla Jovovich tear it up in the pure action adventure that keeps drawing in the Hulu viewers. With "The Girl Next Door" gone for good, this is the most popular movie on Hulu. Strange, innit?

13. 21 Grams
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Charlotte Gainsbourg star in this strangely-structured drama that warms the cockles of our cold, dead hearts. The critics give it high praise, but always with a hint of frustration that this good movie fell short of being a great one.

Last Week's Ranking: 12
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: Jim Carrey goofs it up in a decent comedy that puts all of his face-stretching talents on display. If you can get through his current offering, "Yes Man," without puking, then this will give you paroxysms of delight.


15. My Best Friend's Wedding
Last Week's Ranking: 4
Weeks on List: 3
Notes: Julia Roberts at the peak of her career, this romantic comedy has found a spot in the DVD case of about half of all Americans (the female half, of course). Also features Cameron Diaz, Rupert Everett, and Dermot Mulroney, among others.

16. Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag
Last Week's Ranking: 15
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: There must be something I'm not getting about this I-Max documentary featuring fighter pilots. The message board for the movie has a lot of military folks chatting it up, so that may have something to do with it. After weeks near the top of this chart, it looks like this is finally losing some lift.

17. North Shore
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: A 1987 actioner set in Hawaii featuring Matt Adler and Nia Peeples as surfers who get caught up in a larger plot.

18. Thunderbirds
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: The 2004 crapfest featuring a group of young, attractive law enforcement officers who drive five distinct amazingly cool space-vehicles. Based on the British tv show, and featuring Bill Paxton, to his everlasting shame. Also, Ben Kingsley.

19. Basic Instinct
Last Week's Ranking: 9
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: Sixteen years on, Sharon Stone's hoohoo is still drawing eyeballs in massive numbers. I hope she has that thing insured! At any rate, this is showing some serious staying power on the list. They should make a sequel. Oh, they did? It must have done really well.

20. In The Name of the Father
Last Week's Ranking: NA
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: I haven't seen this 93 drama starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Emma Thompson, but critics went gaga for the tearjerking story of a man wrongfully imprisoned in 1974 for the bombing of a London pub. After reading a couple of reviews on it, I'm adding this to my list for future viewing.


Notably Absent:
These movies dropped off the list in the past 2 weeks.

Air Force One
Last Week's Ranking: 2
Weeks on List: 3
Notes: Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman star in this pre-9/11 actioner about the hijacking of an airplane by enemies of the United States. In this case, the airplane in question has the President (Ford) aboard, and the evil country is Kazakhstan. Where's Borat when you need him? At any rate, the critics ate this one up. After debuting in 2nd place, it proved to fly high and crash hard.

The Professional
Last Week's Ranking: 7
Weeks on List: 5
Notes: Natalie Portman debuts her acting chops alongside a career-best performance by Jean Reno. One of the few quality Hulu offerings that is ranking consistently among the most popular. If you haven't seen it, I strongly recommend that you invest the time to watch this one.

Last Week's Ranking: 5
Weeks on List: 5
Notes: Flyfishing as therapy. This acclaimed Robert Redford-directed movie was a key stepping stone for Brad Pitt on his path to A-list stardom. A tearjerking drama about two brothers and their father trying to coexist in the face of issues. Also, don't miss 10 year old Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Last Week's Ranking: 13
Weeks on List: 5
Notes: The strangely charismatic Johnny Knoxville leads his ragtag crew of misfits through a slew of disgusting stunts. A solid five weeks on the list doesn't speak well of the Hulu demographic.

American Virgin
Last Week's Ranking: 16
Weeks on List: 5
Notes: Bob Hoskins and Mena Suvari star in the lowly-regarded 2000 comedy. How it lasted five weeks, I'll never know.


The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
Last Week's Ranking: 10
Weeks on List: 3
Notes: A 1970 feature directed by Billy Wilder, this is a true comedic classic, earning rave reviews from critics both then and now. Robert Stephens stars as Sherlock. Also features Christopher Lee as brother Mycroft Holmes. I'm a big Holmes fan, but I'm still surprised it lasted as long as it did.

Last Week's Ranking: 11
Weeks on List: 4
Notes: "There's no crying in baseball!" This much-beloved girlie baseball movie features an oddball ensemble cast including Madonna, Rosie O Donnell, Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, David Strathairn, Jon Lovitz, Bill Pullman, and Lori Petty. It's rare that so many disparate actors can be brought together to great effect, but that's exactly what Penny Marshall accomplished here. Four weeks on the list is a little less than I would have guessed.

National Lampoon's Spring Break
Last Week's Ranking: 18
Weeks on List: 4
Notes: Can you really call a 53 minute comedy a movie? The boobs of the hour belong to Nikki Ziering.

Starship Troopers
Last Week's Ranking: 19
Weeks on List: 4
Notes: Paul Verhoeven's futuristic thrill ride gives us a war between humans and giant space alien bugs. Guess which side Neil Patrick Harris is on?

The Russia House
Last Week's Ranking: 20
Weeks on List: 1
Notes: Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer star as two British citizens who are pulled into the world of international espionage. Based on a novel by John LeCarre.


Hall of Fame:
These are the movies that have had the longest run on the list in the past. Right now, the threshold for inclusion is 6 weeks, but I anticipate that it will go up over time.

Underworld: Evolution
Last Week's Ranking: 14
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: Kate Beckinsale as a goth-boy's wet dream can't save this dark and dreary action flick from the weight of its futuristic vampire world. Reappears on the list after a hiatus, but hurry up and watch! It has an expiration notice that should kick in tomorrow.

Last Week's Ranking: 17
Weeks on List: 6
Notes: Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner teamed up in this stoner flick just before they became breakout stars. After an uninterrupted 6 weeks on the list, it's finally slipped from the top 20.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Show: Secret Millionaire

Episodes: Five 43 minute episodes
Clips: Eight 1 minute clips
Studio: Fox
Rank: B-
This is kind of a hybrid between 30 Days and one of those home makeover shows. The concept is simple -- a well-meaning multimillionaire secretly infiltrates a poor community and spends a week incognito, assessing all of the financial hardship he sees around him. At the end of the week, he unveils his true identity and allocates $100,000 (or more) of his own money to a few of the people he feels deserve it most.

The poor people know something is up right from the get-go, since there's a camera crew following the rich person around. I assume that there's a cover story about it being some sort of documentary, although they never address it.

The format allows for a lot of flexibility in the type of person who gets helped, from cancer patients to struggling business owners to amazing individuals who have put their own meager incomes to use helping those around them. What they all have in common is that they're scraping for dollars in a way that the millionaires can only imagine. The checks that the millionaires hand out aren't big enough to set the recipients up for life or anything, but they surely pull them back from the brink of absolute ruin, which is a far more judicious use of the money.

As much as I enjoy seeing a little charitable redistribution of wealth, the show is also a little... greasy. With the exception of the millionaire in episode one, all of the millionaires seem to be unable to let the show be about the people receiving the money. Instead, it's all about how wonderful they are for writing the checks. I feel conflicted even complaining about this, because it is wonderful. Even if giving $100,000 doesn't hurt them, it's still a wonderful, compassionate act with real-world benefits. But the millionaires all choke up as they hand over the checks, and often seem more emotional than the check recipients. What exactly are the millionaires crying about? How awesome they are?

There's also a silly little bit that goes on in every episode where the millionaire pretends to feel nervous about unveiling their true financial status. They pretend that the lie is a shameful one, and play a little game in which they tell the poor person of the moment "I've been lying to you all week," to generate a reaction for the camera crew. The deception is harmless; the way that they come clean is what's shameful.

So, enjoy your Secret Millionaire, folks. It's a feel-good tearjerker, and even though the schmaltz volume is set to "deafening," I still recommend it.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Show: Fat Albert


Episodes: Thirteen 21 minute episodes
Clips: None
Studio: Entertainment Rights
Rank: A-

Hey, hey hey!

I imagine everyone has at least some awareness of Fat Albert, the dramatically obese kid who hangs out with his friends, plays basketball, and watches "The Brown Hornet" every chance he gets.

The show embodies Bill Cosby's philosophy of what constitutes good, clean fun. Albert and his gang of goofy friends walk the line between keeping it real and being a good role model to the poor black kids of America's inner cities.

If it was created today, the show would raise just as many eyebrows as it did in the seventies, what with the big, rubbery lips of the black characters, Rudy's pimp walk, and a street smart vernacular that borders on a parody of ebonics.

But you don't even have to scratch the surface to see the good-natured intentions of Cosby and the other creators of the show. The first episode is all about CPR. When wayward Rudy spurns a voluntary CPR class in favor of basketball, he gets a quick (and unlikely) comeuppance. His basketball buddy has a heart attack, and poor Rudy is left without the skills necessary to save his life. Of course, Fat Albert hears Rudy's panicked cries for help, and shows up in time to save the man's life. There is an overt CPR lesson packed into the episode so that anyone watching will learn how to handle this kind of emergency.

When I watched the Casper cartoons recently, I was struck by how perfectly the cartoon captured the spirit of the 50s. Well, this is an equally compelling portrait of the 70s. Dig it?
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New Show: National Dog Show



Episodes: Two ninety minute episodes, comprising the 2007 and 2008 shows in their entirety
Clips: None
Studio: NBC Sports
Rank: B
One of the greatest myths of our time (okay, that may be overstating it) is the notion that people who like dogs will like dog shows. In fact, only a very small percentage of animal lovers are going to enjoy the tightly controlled, overly-coiffed canines that are trotted around the ring in order to show off their most favorable genetic traits.

I admit that it is somewhat interesting to see the different breeds, which always come in an astonishing array of sizes and shapes (and how about that Samoyed?). There's also a lot to learn in terms of the names of breeds, and the announcers manage to throw out a worthwhile factual tidbit every once in a while.

But the fact of the matter is that dogs trotting around rings are not that fun to watch, particularly when compared to dogs doing almost anything else. After an endless stream of pet videos from YouTube and America's Funniest Home Videos, we've seen dogs be their cutest. Here, they are merely handsome.

The 2008 edition is buoyed somewhat by host John O'Hurley, whose casting was probably inspired by Fred Willard's turn as a dog show announcer in "Best in Show." He is affable and charming, as always.

All that being said, if you are a hardcore fan of dog breeds, this is the Superbowl of your weird little world. If you're an enthusiast, my calling you an elitist isn't going to spoil your enjoyment of purebreds battling it out for the coveted blue ribbon.

If you have only a mild interest in this programming, I would suggest waiting until you have a few friends over, and throwing down some dollar bills on the outcome. It worked to liven up trotting horses around a track, and I suspect it will do the same here.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Best Anime Series: Official Nominees

We are down to the five official nominees for "Best Anime Series!"

Hulu Review readers and the general public can still cast their votes in the comments section of this post. The total audience vote is equal to the vote of one panel member. In addition, the show that gets the most audience votes will be recognized during the Awards Ceremony.

Let's see what attracted the most votes from our panelists:

CLICK ON YOUR FAVORITE TO CAST YOUR VOTE!


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Best Cartoon Series (non-anime): Official Nominees

We are down to the five official nominees for "Best Cartoon Series!"

Hulu Review readers and the general public can still cast their votes in the comments section of this post. The total audience vote is equal to the vote of one panel member. In addition, the show that gets the most audience votes will be recognized during the Awards Ceremony.

Let's see what appealed to our panelists:

CLICK ON YOUR FAVORITE TO CAST YOUR VOTE!


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Best Animated Short: Official Nominees

We are down to the five official nominees for "Best Animated Short!"

Hulu Review readers and the general public can still cast their votes in the comments section of this post. The total audience vote is equal to the vote of one panel member. In addition, the show that gets the most audience votes will be recognized during the Awards Ceremony.

Let's see what animated our panelists:

CLICK ON YOUR FAVORITE TO CAST YOUR VOTE!















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Strolling through some of the best leisure shows

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION

In the race for "Best Travel/Leisure Show," we've gone from 25 eligible shows to 11 proposed nominees.

Hulu Review readers and the general public can vote on their pick in the comments section of this post. The total audience vote will have the weight of one panel member. In addition, the top audience vote-getter will automatically advance into the final round.

The final nominee list is coming soon!

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION
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Panelists warm up the "Best Food Show" race

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION

We've gone from 30 eligible shows to 13 proposed nominees.

Hulu Review readers and the general public can vote on their pick in the comments section of this post. The total audience vote will have the weight of one panel member. In addition, the top audience vote-getter will automatically advance into the final round.

The final nominee list is coming soon!

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION
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People hate them some reality shows

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION

In the race to the bottom for "Worst Reality Show," we've gone from a whopping 102 eligible shows to 22 proposed nominees.

Hulu Review readers and the general public can vote on their pick in the comments section of this post. The total audience vote will have the weight of one panel member. In addition, the top audience vote-getter will automatically advance into the final round.

The final list of nominated stinkers is coming soon!

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION


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New Show: American Greed


Episodes: Nine 43 minute episodes
Clips: None
Studio: CNBC
Rank: B-
This is a very formulaic show, basically aping the true-crime reality tradition set up by "America's Most Wanted." A series of re-enactments, interview footage, and actual evidence piece together a narrative about a dastardly crime. In this case, the stories are centered around the theme of greed-- they are generally nonviolent, and are likely to involve high profile con artists and burglaries. Even if the narrator's dramatic tone can get a little grating at times, the stories are entertaining enough. You might wind up shaking your head in disbelief at the brazen and heartless way in which the criminals have scammed their innocent victims.
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

JJJ Keeping it Real

John J. Joex has cast his vote (and more than his vote) for "Worst Reality Series," a category that has caused many of our panelists to wax eloquently on where television went wrong:

Worst Reality Show:
Don’t get me started here. The easy answer is all of them. Of course then you have to really look at what counts as a reality show, and quite a number on this list don’t fall under what I consider the reality show umbrella. Many steer closer to the documentary genre or travelogue or cooking show or instructional series. A true reality series to me means an unscripted show where people are put together in a situation and the camera captures their actions and interactions. Shows like The Real World and Survivor. Then there is the offshoot of this where the cameras follow around one or more celebrities either during their normal routine or through situations contrived based on the series premise. The latter being the group that gravitate to the top of my worst of list because of their gratuitous voyeurism taken to the nth level. My list is below, but I am withholding comments on the individual entries because this is a family site.
  1. Living Lohan
  2. Pam: Girl on the Loose
  3. The Girls Next Door
  4. Rob and Amber: Against the Odds
  5. Snoop Dogg's Father Hood
  6. Hey Paula
  7. Temptation Island
  8. Paradise Hotel 2
  9. Celebrity Apprentice
  10. Gimme My Reality Show
  11. Make Me A Supermodel
  12. Mad Mad House
  13. Rob and Amber: Against the Odds
  14. Snoop Dogg's Father Hood
  15. Deion and Pilar: Prime Time Love
  16. Denise Richards: It's Complicated
  17. Dr. 90210
  18. ---Oh wait, sorry. I was supposed to stop at six. I told you not to get me started. Just go with the top six above.

Read John's full post here!

Cast your audience vote for Worst Reality Series here!



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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dear Panelists: Vote for Mushi-shi!

Now that Mushi-shi is up for a Hulu Award (for Best Anime), I want to give it a shameless plug. I admit to being a johnny-come-lately when it comes to recognizing both this show and this genre, but I hope you don't take that to mean that I love it any less.

Early in the panelist voting process, I was concerned about "tainting" the results by encouraging the panel to vote for any particular show, but now I'm confident that we have a panel of strong-minded individuals who each offer their own unique, well-formed perspective when they cast their vote.

Here's what I wrote about this brilliant show when I was first exposed to it a month ago...




Not too many cartoons out there are as thoughtful and articulate as this brilliant anime offering by FUNimation. The setup sounds almost like a Japanese version of the X-Files; Mushi are spirit creatures that live in the world around us. While they are not generally evil, their very existence can disrupt the lives of humans. The main character is a white-haired, green-eyed "Mushi Master" named Ginko. He travels the world, helping those who are having problems coexisting with their local Mushi.

The storyline sounds like an excuse for lots of loud battle scenes and frenetic action, but nothing could be further from the quiet magic that fuels this show. I hardly know what to praise first. The whole enterprise is seamlessly devoted to bringing traditional Japanese culture to life. The quiet setting, the delicate artwork, the compelling human stories, and the delightfully imaginative Mushi all work to seduce me every time I tune in.

You might imagine that a "Mushi Master" would be all brawn, but Ginko is a hero of a different color. He usually blows into town, drawn to the local Mushi. He listens thoughtfully to the local human who is having problems, and then offers his advice. His two weapons are his herbal remedies, and his vast knowledge of the ins and outs of the seemingly endless forms of Mushi.

The Mushi are the stars of the show. They are usually presented as some bizarre component of the local ecology, with their own needs for survival. One episode, we might see a type of Mushi that lives in your ear canal and feeds on sounds. Another type might live in the darkness between your two sets of eyelids. A third might be connected with a moving swamp that appears and disappears overnight.

The show is very thoughtful, and always makes an effort to throw out a little food for thought as it moves through the plot of any given episode. The English dubbing is so flawless that I thought it might have been created in the US (but it's not).

In short, this is what anime is all about. If you've never dabbled in these cartoons, this is the one to cut your teeth on.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Worst Web Original

While you peruse the Web Originals seeking out the best content, you're bound to notice a few stinkers.

Smothering a terrible movie, which is liable to have a veritable juggernaut of publicity and box office smash behind it, can be difficult, if not impossible. By comparison, nipping a web original in the bud should be as easy as drowning baby kittens in the bathtub.

Readers of The Hulu Review and the general public can vote on their pick in the comments section of this post. The total audience vote will have the weight of one panel member. In addition, the top audience vote-getter will be recognized on awards night.

Here are the 24 eligible shows: A shortened list of proposed nominees will be posted next week.

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION


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Best Web Original

This category includes content that has been produced or released exclusively on the web. It doesn't include the short-format series that appear in their own categories.

That makes it kind of a hodgepodge of content from a wide variety of sources. I've never looked at a list of eligible shows and thought that there was such an obvious winner among them, but I'll keep that presumption to myself, and see what happens.

Readers of The Hulu Review and the general public can vote on their pick in the comments section of this post. The total audience vote will have the weight of one panel member. In addition, the highest vote-getter will be recognized on awards night.

Here are the 24 eligible shows: A shortened list of proposed nominees will be posted next week.

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION!




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Best Action TV Series

Action! The only genre that's so exciting that it requires extraneous punctuation at the end of all of my sentences!

Historically, action tv series have been faced with a problem-- action scenes require special effects, and special effects cost big bucks. So, they're always lagging behind the latest action scenes in the movies.

In the nineties, action series looked like the movies of the seventies. And in the eighties, action series looked like a bunch of guys leaping through the air in slow motion.

But did they pull it off? Yes!!! They!!!!!! Did!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today's series have almost achieved parity in that they look like the best pre-Matrix movies.

As always, readers of The Hulu Review and the general public can vote on their pick in the comments section of this post. The total audience vote will have the weight of one panel member. In addition, the highest audience vote-getter will automatically advance to the next round.

Here are the 18 eligible action series. A shortened list of proposed nominees will be posted next week.

CAST YOUR VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION!




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Best Classic Movie

On this blog, with these awards, the word "classic" has become a euphemism for "black and white," kind of like calling old people "mature."

In this case, the classic programming in question is feature films, with 24 flicks coming up eligible for nomination.

Readers of The Hulu Review and the general public can vote on their pick in the comments section of this post. The total audience vote will have the weight of one panel member. In addition, the highest vote-getter will automatically advance to the next stage.

Here are the 24 eligible movies. A shortened list of proposed nominees will be posted next week.

VOTE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION


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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

From the Mailbag: Sons of Anarchy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer


A Hulu Review reader took issue recently with the shows that made the cut for "Best Dramatic TV Series." (S)he writes:

"I find it quite unsettling that a group of pop culture bloggers would choose yet another police/medical procedural like Bones/House/ER over a spectacular and gripping new series like Sons of Anarchy. But then, maybe these bloggers only have basic cable."
Oh snap! You did not! Your MOMMA only has basic cable! Seriously, though, I do sympathize with the author of the message. S.O.A. hasn't got me in its leather-gloved grips right now, but I have perused enough of the show to appreciate that it is a solid drama. And in fact, it did pull a respectable total in the audience voting. It just didn't garner enough votes to make the cut. Here's another post defending the exclusion:

FX is a part of basic cable, at least in my state it is. I would hope the other states have it as well. I chose ER because it has staying power and is a veteran of dramatic TV. Now, I'm not saying Sons of Anarchy wont but it cant compare...yet.

Finally, I'm going to address a post that is representative of something I've heard a lot of over the last few weeks:

Buffy SummersImage via Wikipedia
...for Buffy, there should be a best show of the 90's category. which it was...
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has come up in "Best Comedy TV Show," to the bewilderment of a good portion of the audience and panel. They say that while it is consistently funny, it's not really a comedy in the sense that the other shows on the list are. Okay, I take that point, but then I defy you to tell me what the hell it is. I couldn't concretely classify it as an action series, a dramatic series, or even a Sci-Fi/Fantasy series (a category which it resembles, but transcends) in good conscience. Apparently, Hulu had the same problem, as they labeled it with all four of those tags. So, I decided that I would make Buffy one of the few shows that will come up in multiple categories. So, all of you Buffy fans who are wringing your hands over the discrepancy should rest assured that Buffy-as-comedy is not the whole picture. Buffy will get a shot in the Scifi/Fantasy series category as well. This means that you can go ahead and cast your vote for Saturday Night Live, or whatever, and still look forward to casting a vote for Buffy later.
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New Show: The David Susskind Show

Episodes: Nine 58 minute episodes (as opposed to the 42 minutes in a modern one hour show. Damn commercials!)
Clips: None
Studio: Historic Films
Rank: A
I don't know whether I should be ashamed that I didn't know who David Susskind is before I tuned into this Hulu offering (hmmm..."tuned in" doesn't really apply to a digital medium, does it?).

Well, if you're as ignorant as I am on the matter, you should know that Susskind was one of the first talk show hosts in the country, and spent 30 years interviewing interesting people before his death in 1997.

Nowhere on television can you get such an in-depth portrait of this period of American history. President Harry Truman, comedian Jerry Lewis, and actress Mary Tyler Moore each spend a full hour with Susskind, responding to his thoughtful questions as he attempts to parse some intellectual meaning from their experiences.

I don't know that I've ever watched an uninterrupted hour of unscripted television from the 60s, and I was very forcibly impressed by the way American speech has degraded in the last 50 years. Aside from the fact that Jerry Lewis comes off as an arrogant cad, I was spellbound by the endless flow of grammatically correct, complete sentences that kept unspooling themselves from his mouth.

Okay, so what do I think of the show other than the fact that the rules of verbal intercourse have changed dramatically?

Well, it's great to see a piece of Americana frozen in time, in a way that only film can do justice to. The nine offered episodes are spread out over 28 seasons, and there's something fascinating about seeing the issues of the day change while one man, Susskind, also changes.

Susskind himself goes for an intellectual spin, with varying degrees of success. His calm and professional demeanor is a welcome change from more modern hosts, and his soothing, sonorous voice is borderline-hypnotic. Dignity in a talk-show format? It's time for that trend to come back around, let me tell you. After wallowing in the filthy crassness of a Tyra Banks episode, this will feel like a refreshing shower.

You may not find yourself wrapped up in Susskind's interviews the way I was, and the topics are defnitely hit or miss. Listening to successful restauranteurs from the 70s is not as compelling as listening to Harry Truman (who reportedly told Susskind that he would never be a houseguest because of Susskind's Jewish heritage). But I recommend that you do tune in to some of his work, even if only to get a five-minute taste of yesteryear.


Here's Jerry Lewis getting a little testy about the critics

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Emily Gives Reality TV a Smackdown

Hulu Awards panelist Emily of Eclair Fare was asked to weigh in on which Hulu shows constitute the worst of the worst reality shows. She's taken the opportunity to come up with a well-reasoned list that reads like an undiscovered circle of Hell. Here are a couple of the shows that she's come up with:

  • Living Lohan - Where does E! come up with the ideas for their shows, and who continues to watch them all, thus encouraging the production of more pointless celebrity reality shows? This show is one of the lowest of this lowest form of “entertainment.” It follows the adventures of Dina and Ali Lohan, mom and sister to Lindsay, as they try to become superstars in their own right. So, not only are they not really celebrities, but they are trying to “break into the biz” just like thousands of other people. Is the fact that they have a famous family member really enough reason that they should get their own show, when so many others are going through just the same process?
  • Rob & Amber: Against the Odds - I have never been fond of Rob and Amber using their Survivor super-couple status to prolong their 15 minutes of fame. After their (admittedly) impressive win on Survivor: Marquesas, the parade of reality appearances began: The Amazing Race, Survivor - All Stars, The Amazing Race - All Stars, Rob and Amber Get Married, and finally, this poker-themed show that had Rob being tutored by professional player Daniel Negreanu on his quest to become a professional player. It’s not surprising that Against the Odds ended abruptly when Rob and Amber got the more lucrative opportunity to appear on The Amazing Race: All Stars. I was over Rob and Amber about halfway through their first season of Survivor, so I have become increasingly annoyed by each of their subsequent reality appearances.
Read Emily's full post here!

Cast your vote for Worst Reality Show here!
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Tamara gets burned

When panelist Tamara Brooks of Zap2it.com gets dramatic, she gets serious about the shows she loves. Here are her choices for "Best Dramatic TV Series":

Burn Notice
If you take everything good about 80's action TV and spy movies and mixed them in a blender, you'd get Burn Notice. This is so very clearly one of the best shows on television. The actors are great (the quadruple punch of primary cast Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Sharon Gless, and the Bruce Campbell), the writing is superb, and gives you handy dandy spy tips to boot. Like how to know for sure if you're being followed in a car or how to use a cell phone as an impromptu bug in the office of a swindler. And if that doesn't get you, how about guest stars like Tim Matheson, Tricia Helfer, Michael Shanks (playing a delightfully twisted repurposed spy - a big departure from Daniel Jackson on "Stargate SG-1"), and Richard Schiff It's not often that I fall this deeply in love with a show but if I could marry it, by gum I would. Not only are full episodes available for our enjoyment, the special clips include our favorite spy Michael West offering us advice for our humdrum lives based on his spy experience.

John Doe
Ah, Fox. Where good shows go to die. Though they've actually been pretty good about letting new shows roll thanks to a new head honcho, historically they're notorious for pulling the plug on fantastic shows way to early. John Doe is a perfect example of this. Before he was breaking in and out of prisons, Dominic Purcell starred as the titular an amnesiac who knows everything ever except for his own identity and sees practically everything in black & white. John's search for who he is, where he came from and what's going on with the clandestine organization that keeps popping up in his life as he helps the police solve crimes had me tuning in every week. It had suspense, comedy, mystery and a touch of the metaphysical. Too bad they dropped the axe just as it was really ramping up. But, once you watch the show and are interested in where they were going with it, you can find the answer on the interweb. You'll get your answers but it also might make you more mad that they never made more episodes.

Bones
Season 2 is missing but that doesn't dimish my love of the show. Like all shows I dig, the secret to its success lies in the strength of both the writing and the acting. You genuinely get to like the main characters and get invested in their lives and, even if you don't like the case of the week, the personal stories rarely disappoint. Even the merry-go-round of new squints are endearing. With a character like Bones, it can be very hard to evolve her while maintaining key personality points (like being absolutely oblivious to when her frankness comes off as being callous and rude) but they've done a really good job of keeping balance.

Life
Characters, characters, characters. Another great example at how intriguing people make the best subject matters. Sure, it's a cop show, but the real draw are leads Damien Lewis and Sarah Shahi - Adam Arkin, Donal Logue (2nd season) and Robin Weigert (1st season) don't hurt either - and the ongoing mystery that drives the show.

The Riches
Supremely well acted and written, the series creates an almost unbearable amount of tension even in the simplest scenes. The characters are complex and deeply flawed, yet you can't help but root for the Malloys to pull off the con of a lifetime.

See which of Tamara's choices made the cut, and cast your vote for Best Dramatic TV Series here!

Mushi-shi gets John all mushy inside

Panelist John J. Joex weighs in on "Best Anime Series," and his selections shed light on just how diverse and wonderful this booming segment of cartoondom has become:

Oddly enough, I have never been a huge follower of the anime genre. Oh, I have seen many of the pivotal works of the genre, but I have not delved too much further than that. This category gave me the chance to explore further into the offerings, and I liked what I saw.

Death Note – This one is right up my alley. A teenager finds a notebook that will kill anybody whose name is written in it and decides to use it to kill evil people. The episodes I have seen so far are very well done.

Mushi-shi
– This is an interesting and beautifully illustrated tale about a man who seeks out the supernatural creatures known as Mushi and helps people who they have brought misfortune to.

Astro Boy
– Have to include this one in here. It is mostly geared for children, but it includes themes you don’t often see in kid’s programming such as discrimination and responsibility of actions. It looks like the episodes on Hulu are from the 2003 incarnation, but I would swear this is the 1980 version.

Read John's full post here!

Cast your audience vote for Best Anime Series here!

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Sam Christopher loves 3 Amigos (the 3 Amigos who bust ghosts, that is)

Axiom's Edge panelist Sam Christopher must have been feeling a little prickly when he cast his vote for Best Movie Comedy. Only the prospect of Ralph Cramden porking Ed Norton (or was it the other way around?) prevented him from denigrating all four of the nominees that didn't get his vote.

Read Sam's full post here!

Here's what Sam had to say about the Best Movie Comedy nominees:

This was not a difficult choice at all, given these competitors. Raising Arizona was okay, but Three Amigos, for me, is easily the worst film these three people ever made. Men in Black was just silly and Eddie Murphy: Raw had all the nasty of Richard Pryor with none of the insight (other than the gay Honeymooners bit which was only funny because it was so nasty). All of this left me with my original choice. “Who ya gonna call?”:

Ghostbusters!
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Monday, December 8, 2008

Best Short Format Comedy Series: Official Nominees

We are down to the five official nominees for "Best Short-format Comedy Series!"

Hulu Review readers and the general public can still cast their votes in the comments section of this post. The total audience vote is equal to the vote of one panel member. In addition, the show that gets the most audience votes will be recognized during the Awards Ceremony.

Let's see what got the competitive juices flowing for our panelists:

CLICK ON YOUR FAVORITE TO CAST YOUR VOTE!




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