Top 10 "Star Trek: The Next Generation" Episodes

1. The one where Picard is captured and assimilated by the Borg and Riker is fully prepared to destroy the Borg anyway. Best cliffhanger line ever: “Mr. Worf, fire.” Fade to black. (“The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1”)

2. The one where Q allows Picard to reconsider past choices as a Starfleet cadet, including an unfortunate encounter with a Nausicaan and his knife. (“Tapestry”)

3. The one where an Enterprise from the past appears, changes the Federation timeline, and brings Tasha Yar back from the dead. (“Yesterday’s Enterprise”)

4. The one where, in the blink of an eye, an alien probe makes Picard live out an entire lifetime on a doomed alien planet (and learns how to play a flute) as a means to preserve its culture. (“The Inner Light”)

5. The one that features low-level junior officers, including the super-cute Ensign Sito who dies during an espionage mission. (“Lower Decks”)

6. The one that’s a Die Hard ripoff where Picard must all alone fight terrorist thieves when the ship’s vacated for a baryon sweep. (“Starship Mine”)

7. The one where Dr. Crusher’s the only one who notices that people on the Enterprise are disappearing one by one – because she’s unwittingly trapped in Wesley’s static warp bubble. (“Remember Me”)

8. The one with the trial to determine whether or not Data is the property of Starfleet. (“The Measure of a Man”)

9. The one where the Enterprise gets stuck in one of those pesky causality loops and only Data – with the help of Riker’s command uniform pips – can break them free. (“Cause and Effect”)

10. The one where Wesley Crusher is investigated for his role in a cadet flight training accident. Note to self: don't ever try the Kolvoord Starburst. (“The First Duty”)


My anaconda don't want none

Want a prime example of the artistic genius that might otherwise be undiscovered were it not for YouTube? Here's Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" remixed ala Gilbert and Sullivan and edited with the video from a 1980 TV version of Pirates of Penzance. If you haven't already seen it, check it out.

Knee-jerk review: "Cloverfield"

1. Believe the hype. For those who cynically predicted this would be a big cinematic con job and the movie would never fully reveal the danger (ala The Blair Witch Project), rest assured that it delivers the goods.
2. The subway tunnel sequence is among the scariest, most intense ever put on film. It ranks right up there. This is a very hardcore PG-13.
3. The first 20 minutes are a little dull, perhaps, but you have to set up the characters so you'll care about what happens to them later on. Some critics have snarked that the characters are all cardboard pretty faces, full of callow angst like those on J.J. Abrams' first TV hit "Felicity." There's some validity to that, but keep in mind that "Felicity" was a fairly successful show.
4. The lead character's "Felicity"-ish quest to risk his life to go find the girl he stupidly rejected before the attack began gives the movie what little emotion it has. And it's just enough. We're not here to see dynamic character arcs and subtle internal struggles. We're here to get scared and see things we've never seen before.
5. The conceit with the first-person camcorder works well, especially the way the filmmakers play with the idea that this attack footage has been taped over older footage. The clever juxtaposition between the two timelines is more poignant than you'd expect.
6. Note to self: you don't want to hear the sirens signaling the start of a Hammer-Down.
7. This is a movie packed full of amazing visual effects, made all the more impressive given the shaky handheld camerawork. It's not often that the Cheese Fry is left wondering "how the hell did they do that?" Happens many times in this film.
8. If there's a worry, it's the way Cloverfield so vividly evokes 9/11, especially in the first half hour as a cloud of debris floods the streets of Manhattan as buildings come down and onlookers flee in panic. In what's otherwise a traditional popcorn sort of movie, that imagery feels too realistic, too tragic. The film turns a modern-day horror into entertainment, which is a little queasy.
9. An ingenious idea executed at a high level: a B-movie monster flick told the from the POV of the frightened civilians caught in the middle, not the brilliant monster expert or the dour Pentagon general or the charismatic American president.
10. Go see it.


Knee-jerk review: "The Sarah Connor Chronicles"

1. The pilot felt like a complete retread of the second movie (John on the run, a visit to Miles Dyson, yadda yadda)... until that cool time-travel twist ending.
2. There's some interesting angles to be mined with the teenaged-girl Terminator named Cameron (a too-cutesy nod to the original films' writer-director), but most of the characters are rather dull. The guy who plays John Connor is particularly boring.
3. And really, we all know "interesting angles" above is code for the skeevy kick of seeking a possible android-human romance with Cameron and John. You know that's where we're going.
4. Is Summer Glau hot? It's debatable, isn't it? And that's a problem for this show's core audience.
5. The Cheese Fry will get very tired, very quickly of seeing any more of the obligatory scenes in which two Terminators fight, crashing through walls and floors, and suffer no lasting injury.
6. The headless Terminator was kind of cool.
7. The films had such epic scope and high production values that the TV show suffers by comparison. It feels small and cheap.
8. Yeah, it's a decent show, but did we really need it? We'd rather rent the first two movies.

There is no joy in Cowboy-town

What a disaster.

Cowboys 17, Giants 21.

And to lose at the hand of a Manning. Oh the humanity. Anyone's who had the misfortune to deal with Eli Manning in fantasy football knows what a gridiron retard he is, perpetually struggling in the shadow of his older brother, always looking confused on the field and surely one throw away from yet another inopportune fumble or interception. But not last weekend. In Texas Stadium, Manning had the poise of Joe Montana from 1989.

You have to understand that Cowboys fans aren't used to losing. Like Yankees fans, it's just not in our DNA. Football seasons are about getting to the Superbowl. Eight appearances, five wins. And this season, after so many mediocre seasons and teams led by the likes of the hapless Quincy Carter or the gruff-but-impotent Bill Parcells, it looked like we had a winner. Maybe we couldn't beat the Patriots on February 3. But then again, maybe we could. Maybe we could get a record-setting sixth Lombardi Trophy.

There's always next year.

So why did the NFC's number one seed lose? What allowed them to join fellow Metroplex losers the Dallas Mavericks as a pro team that steamrolls everyone in the regular season, racks up records and accolades, only to crumble like a termite-infested gazebo deck in the playoffs?

Here's the top ten reasons.

1. Lack of discipline - The Cowboys often look like the old Oakland Raiders in the way they continually draw stupid penalties. There's a loosey-goosey quality to this team (a facemask here, a horse collar there, hey, what's the big deal?) that surely connects right with the loosey-goosey head coach. If you played a drinking game that involved taking a shot every time Flozell Adams got a false-start penalty, your ass would be plastered by halftime.

2. Patrick Crayton's ego - He's one of the team's big smack talkers, but although he's a decent #2 receiver (you have to admire the fact that he barely wears any kind of shoulder pads), he's not yet exactly striking fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators. Players who can back up the smack are the only ones who should run it. In this game, if Crayton makes the catch on that long slant and converts a first down, odds are good the Cowboys march down and go up 24-14. But he doesn't and the Cowboys didn't. And he just got a huge contract extension.

3. No running game - Marion Barber 3 steamrolls the Giants in the first
half, so the Giants understandably stack the box to limit his yards in the second. Okay, fine. And the Cowboys counter that with... What exactly? Isn't there some other way to get Barber involved? Throw the guy a frickin' swing pass! Isn't that why offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is such a supposed genius, nay, wizard? Or was Garrett already thinking about all those head coach offers?

4. Tony Romo - You could see the confusion and frustration in Romo's
eyes at the end of the Giants game. For a guy who's always grinning and high-fiving, last weekend in the fourth quarter Romo wasn't having any fun. The Fox cameras even caught him yelling in disgust and anger at his teammates. The O-line did him no favors, but it was Romo who was making the bad decisions, failing to throw the ball away to avoid the sack on one play, then throwing deep for the home-run ball instead of looking short to get a first down.

5. Believing the hype - The Cowboys were playing an elite level back in November when they beat the Packers. And it was all downhill from there. No energy. No urgency. And despite the sudden streak of shaky games Dallas escaped by the skin of its teeth (to crappy teams, no less) and some in which they didn't escape (there is zero excuse to ever lose to Axis of Evil teams like Washington and Philadelphia), no one seemed to be bothered. Don't worry, be happy. The folks at Valley Ranch, in fact, were the only people who figured the December meltdown was just a hiccup on the road to the inevitable Superbowl appearance. Unfortunately, the Cowboys still had to, like, play the games. But the Cheese Fry's fortune cookie read,]: if they sucked in December, why should January be any different?

6. Poor clock management - It'd have been nice to have all three time outs in the waning minutes of the game, but confusion and chaos ruled the second half and the Cowboys had to burn two time outs early on to avoid a delay of game penalty. You could see the reality of the situation dawning as the game went along and panic began to set in. "Y'all, are we really going to lose this game?" Memo to the Dallas Cowboys: the NFL playoffs are single elimination. You only advance if you win.

7. The curse of Wade Phillips - No one applauded this hire last winter. Phillips is an oatmeal-headed, grandpa coach in the mold of the gratefully departed Dave Campo. But with all of those regular season wins, us Cowboys fans began to drink the Wade Kool-Aid. But like all of Wade's other teams (including last seasons #1 ranked San Diego Chargers who lost its first playoff game - sound familiar?), this one choked away a playoff game. The reason seems clear: he's too laid-back and easy-going to crank everyone up to the next level.

8. Bad luck - Not only did the Cowboys need to beat a division rival for the third time in a season, they had the bad luck to go against a division rival who'd regained its footing and found some real momentum. (Everyone always says that December momentum is critical in the NFL.) The Packers may have drawn the higher seed, but the Giants are playing much tougher football than the Seahawks.

9. Terrell Owens - Where the hell was he? All this talk about his high
ankle sprain and the hand-wringing about would he or wouldn't he play... In the second half he was a non-factor. The blame for this must go to Tony Romo (see #4) and Jason Garrett (see #3).

10. Terry Glenn - Enough is enough. He was a speedy, sure-handed player, but it's time to move on. He's old and injured. What if the Cowboys had somehow managed to land another, more able-bodied #2 WR for the season? Someone who could have contributed all season long instead of trying to mesh with the offense in the, you know, biggest game of the entire season.

You'll note that Jessica Simpson was nowhere on this list. She has nothing to do with anything. We're not even sure if she knows what a touchdown is.

Go Packers.