Friday, September 17, 2010

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been reading The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch this week. Lynch is a poet and undertaker, and this is a collection of reflections about life and death. When I picked it up, I thought it would be much more about his experiences as an undertaker, but the book is not so narrow. There are many tie-ins, of course, but so far I have the impression that he wants to tie in what he does to life, rather than talk strictly about death. The book is still quite fascinating, as he reflects on how customs have changed over the centuries related to family rituals and the rhythms of life. In one chapter he rightly points out that the whole business of funerals is for the living, as he uses the refrain, "The dead don't care." Lynch is a wonderful writer...I once read that a good writer "writes downhill:" when you read his/her work, it flows so easily and naturally like walking down a hill. Lynch does that.

We watched Couple's Retreat this week, starring Vince Vaughn, Malin Akerman, Jason Bateman, Kristen Bell, Jon Favreau, and the brunette from Sex in the City as married couples who all go to a resort for a marriage retreat. Each couple has their own distinct problem: one is overwhelmed with family life, one can't conceive, one got pregnant in high school and never "experienced their 20s." The marriage guru, played by Jean Reno, is your typical unorthodox instructor who puts them through strange-yet-comical situations, and ultimately they learn what they need to learn without even realizing it. I called that part of the movie way before the characters caught on, and I can't recall any laugh-out-loud moments. But I will say that Vaughn and Favreau in particular have a way with banter that is always funny.

Both True Blood and Entourage had their season finales on Sunday. True Blood was meh. Sookie discovered she's part faerie during this season, and her blood being desirable to vampires was a major plot point. So in this last episode, Bill tried to take it upon himself to protect her by trying to eliminate everyone else who knew. This backfired, as Eric survived, told Sookie that the reason she ever met Bill to begin with was because he was sent to procure her for the local head vampire, and so Sookie and Bill, in their absolutely annoying and boring on-again, off-again relationship, are now off-again. Buffy the Vampire Slayer being the exception, I pretty much hate every human-falls-in-love-with-vampire story that I have ever encountered, because the author and/or the actors tend to make them so tedious and awful that I end up pining for the vampire to be staked and for the girl to end up with the werewolf.

Entourage was better. Two of the major storylines this season were Vince spiraling down into a hard partying lifestyle that includes a cocaine habit and Ari's treatment of his employees coming back to bite him and his marriage. Unlike previous seasons that presented a problem but then tied it up in a nice happy little bow in the finale, this season followed these things to their natural conclusion, with Vince being confronted by police after they find a small bag of coke and Ari's wife moving out. They reportedly have one last abbreviated season and possibly a movie to explore what happens next, and as horrible as the characters are doing at the moment, I actually feel more satisfied by this show right now than I have in a while.

And once again, here's the new HBO show I'm looking forward to watching this Sunday night:

Here's a guy doing a hilarious Lou Holtz impression: