Sunday, April 30, 2006

Those Were The Days

Remember Britney Spears? Not the Britney Spears that appears weekly on the cover of Us and Star. No, I'm talking about the Britney Spears that was the masturbatory fantasy of every man alive, pretty much.

How do you fall so far so quickly? How do you go from being any international superstar millionaire to someone who shits out two kids in the same fiscal year? From dating a handsome popstar to marrying two complete losers in the same year? From hot to, well, not?

I only bring this up because Brit is back in the news again for allegedly being pregnant again. Ya know, when your career is about five seconds from being deader than the Kennedys, the first thing you should do is the exact same thing that killed your career in the first place: procreate or have anything to do with that mongoloid, wigger-wannabe husband of hers (who is on his fourth kid in as many years).

Dump K-Fed and his "awesome" rap career, and get yours back on track. You bring more joy to people as "Britney" than as "Mrs. Federline." I don't see how anyone could enjoy that.

Friday, April 28, 2006

When Morons Breed!

If you missed Oh, Baby...Now What? on A&E tonight, you missed some seriously classic shit.

It tells the story of Brad and Sara, two idiots who have a child together. The backstory is that they were going out and having sex, and suddenly, they're knocked up. (To give you a timeline, they celebrate their one year anniversary days before their baby is born. That's a meaningful relationship.) Brad is a complete dummy who moved from St. Louis to L.A. to become an actor (a classic Idiot Maneuver) and always has a toothpick behind his ear. Sara is a flaky ex-stripper who states, first thing, "I don't believe in birth control." (Wow. And they got pregnant? How'd that happen?)

The two really can't stand each other, nor do they live together, yet they go to couples counseling together, and pretend they have some sort of relationship. All of their roommates/friends hate them, as they have no problem alienating everyone around them.

This isn't even the good part; wait 'til the baby's born. Who lets a six-week old baby get second-degree sunburns? Or leaves the same baby at home alone while the mother goes out looking for the father? And who names their kid "Hunter"? If you guessed "these two retards," you slammed dunked it.

The most fascinating thing about this whole mess is the couple themselves. If this story took place in Arkansas or Kentucky, this show would be wholly unremarkable, as this is standard operating procedure for parents there. But these people live in Los Angeles. They aren't poor, white trash living in a trailer park; they're young, attractive 20-somethings living in Hollywood. White trash doesn't know not to raise children like that. It's how they were raised; they don't know any better. But Brad and Sara, who are much farther up the socio-economic ladder, are just stupid. They're terrible parents (and terrible people) because they have non-functioning brains. There should be some sort of governmental agency that monitors people like this, so that when they prepare to breed, they can be sterilized, as to keep their idiot DNA from spreading.

If you're thinking of having a child, watch this first. And then do the opposite of everything you see on this show. Your kid will turn out fine.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Lost Treasures And Guilty Pleasures

I've decided to kick off a weekly (and by "weekly," I mean "whenever I get around to it") feature in which I bring to your attention some things you haven't heard of, but should, or things you have heard nothing good about, but actually are good.

So, in keeping with our "creepy" theme, and because it just came out on DVD today, I thought I'd kick things off with Magic, the 1978 Anthony Hopkins creepshow. The movie tells the story of Corky (Hopkins), a second-rate magician whose act is just as terrible as every other second-rate magician's. So, he does what every crappy magician does: he adds a ventriloquist's dummy to the act. And suddenly, his act is a hit. An agent (Burgess Meredith, in a great toupee) sees his act and catapults Corky into stardom. Pretty simple story, right?

It would be, except that Corky has a bit of a problem: his dummy, whose name is Fats, talks to him. And not just during the act; he talks non-stop. Needless to say, Corky gets a little stressed. So, he and Fats drop out of the spotlight, and take up in the guest cottage of a couple (Ann-Margret and Ed Lauter) out in the middle of nowhere. And when you're stressing, a couple of weeks alone with your living dummy is just what the doctor ordered.

Now, this may sound like a Child's Play-type shocker, but it's not. It's actually more of a melodrama. But what makes it a Horror Movie is that fucking dummy. It is, quite possibly, the creepiest thing to have been created by man. If it were possilbe to see Satan, it would look like this dummy. When I was a kid, I saw an ad for Magic (which looked like the poster posted above) in a magazine, and just that picture freaked me out.

The movie itself is only so-so. It was written by William Goldman and directed by Sir Dick Attenborough (both deserving Oscar winners), but there's only so much you can do with material as goofy as this. Hopkins is great, as always, and Meredith is particularly slimy. Oh, and that fucking dummy; that scary, scary dummy. Throw in some Ann-Margret nudity, and you may have the greatest Talking Dummy Movie ever. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Freaks Of The World Rejoice

While we're on the topic of "creepy shit," I thought I'd bring this to your attention.

This weekend, the U of Pennsylvania claimed they had come up with the cause, and the beginnings of a possble cure, for a rare disease called fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (or FOP, for short). FOP causes the body to produce an extra skeleton (!!) inside the effected person. (The picture to the left is a CAT scan of an effected person.) Basically, your muscles, tendons, and ligaments turn into bone. Any damage to a muscle (like a bruise) or a ligament (like blowing out your ACL) will cause it to turn to bone. Almost all fiberous tissue damage does not heal, but turns to bone. Operations to remove said bones cause more bones to grow.

Yikes. Just looking at that picture gives me the creeps. Freak Show City, man.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Horror Movies You Should See

Saw Silent Hill tonight, and, while it's absolutely gorgeous to look at, it's totally incomprehensible. Unless you're a fan of cinematography and production design, I can't really recommend it.

So, in lieu of a review, I'll give you a couple of Horror Movies you should see. Some you'll have heard of or seen; others will have you scratching your head. Either way, if you're a Horror Fan, check 'em out.

Session 9 (2001)
Who knew that asbestos removal could be so scary? It is, particularly when your project is the condemned Danvers State Mental Hospital. And anytime you throw David Caruso into the mix will make for a scary ride. They just don't make spooky movies like this anymore.

Exorcist 3 (1990)
One of the few sequels in history to be scarier than the original. An odd premise, in that two minor characters from the original are the main characters here (similar to the sequel of another entry on this list). Flawed by some obvious post-production tampering, it still has some really creepy shit (like the old lady on the ceiling) and snappy dialogue (adapted by Blatty himself from his novel) that makes it worth a watch.

Ringu (1998)
The movie that singlehandedly ruined the Asian Horror Movie (as every horror movie released in Asia after this was a knockoff of it) is still one of the scariest things of the last decade. Without resorting to any sort of visual or audio trickery, it delivers the scares on atmosphere alone: something no director in America has figured out how to do.

The Evil Dead (1981)
The movie that launched Sam Raimi's career is still some trippy shit. Many prefer Evil Dead 2, the sequel-cum-remake, but the cheap, fast, and out of control filmmaking of the original makes it my fave. And, without it, we'd have no Bruce Campbell, which would be a damn shame.

Braindead (1992)
And speaking of directors who've sold out, the last movie by Peter Jackson (and yes, I was a Jackson fan from Day One, and then he went Hollywood) before he went to the Dark Side is one of the grossest movies ever. Plus, it's a Zombie Movie (and a funny one, at that), which may make it one of the best movies ever.

The Crimson Rivers (2001)
This little-seen French entry proves that you needn't be in Hollywood to make a slick-looking movie. Even though it's so complexly plotted that you need a Doctorate in Confusing Plots to figure it out (I've seen it several times, and am STILL a little fuzzy on what happens), it's still a fun little thrill ride.

The Changeling (1979)
Probably the last Haunted House Movie worth watching, it's also one of the best. Another movie that doesn't resort to smoke and mirrors for its scares, unlike every other Haunted House Movie these days.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)
C'mon now. You think I'm not going to sneak this one in? The magnum opus of the man who invented the Zombie Movie is one of the best Horror Movies ever. Some prefer Night; some prefer Day. For me, there is no Zombie Movie above Dawn.

And, while I can't necessarily recommend Silent Hill, I can recommend director Christophe Gans' previous endeavor:

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
Not really a Horror movie, but not really any kind of movie. It borrows elements from several genres (including Kung-Fu Movies!!), and crams them all into one wild, scary movie. Waaaayyyy better than any video game-to-movie adaptation I've ever seen.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Matt and Trey Lose Their Minds

Matt Stone and Trey Parker must be burned out. It's the only reason I can explain why, after a couple of brilliant episodes in this season of South Park, they would come up with a pretty unfunny parody of the whole James Frey/A Million Little Pieces brouhaha. The episode isn't even really about that, as it's mostly about Oprah's talking vagina and asshole.

Guys, if you can't come up with any decent ideas, take a week off. I'm sure this idea was absolutely hilarious at like 4:00 in the morning when you're stoned, but really not funny at all when it's on TV. Like Towlie, you shouldn't get your good ideas from marijuana; you should only use it as a reward for good ideas.

So, next week, let's see the citizens of South Park again, and no more "one-off" episodes. Everyone will be much happier.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Didn't That Show Used To Be Called..."

I'm not a fan of reality shows, but The Girl likes them, and, since she controls the TV, I end up watching quite a few. One The Girl watches is Sell This House!, on which the host and a designer help homeowners sell their stagnating properties with some simple interior design tips. I enjoy the show, because it's neat to see what some paint and rearranging your furniture can do to a house (and host Tanya Memme's not exactly hard on the eyes, either).

During a random channel surf, we came across a commercial for a show on WE called Take This House and Sell It, which appears to be exactly the same as Sell This House! (It even contains the title, which borders on outright plagiarism.) Not being a fan of reality shows, I'm not used to this sort of blatant ripping-off of ideas. But then, just watching commercials, and knowing what's already on TV, I saw that it's rampant.

Another one of The Girl's shows is What Not to Wear (which entertains me because the hostess is a total bitch-on-wheels). There's an almost identical show on Style Network called How Do I Look? Then, there's Skating's Next Star and Skating With Celebrities (both of which are ripoffs of Dancing with the Stars, which was a ripoff of American Idol). There's Iron Chef and Celebrity Cooking Showdown, Nanny 911 and Supernanny, and (worst of all), Wife Swap and Trading Spouses.

I can understand copying the formula of a popular show; that's been going on since the beginning of TV. What I don't understand is how big can the audience for some of these shows be? Are shows about swapping your spouse that in-demand that we need two of them? And we've already got two celebrity cookoff shows (the two Iron Chefs); do we really need a third one?

Sometimes, you can catch lightning in a bottle. You can come up with a totally stupid idea, and it turns out to be a hit. If you're a TV programmer, you should be happy for the other programmers, because they lucked out with something stoopid. What you shouldn't do is figure out a way to rip off that show in order to cannibalize their audience. Eventually, what you'll end up with is a whole bunch of shows that are only slightly different than one another that no one watches, because (DUH!!) they're still fans of the original show and still watch that. There's plenty of uncharted territory out there as far as "reality" goes. (I just saw one on A&E about young adults deciding whether they wanted to be priests or get married. That's not a choice at all, as far as I'm concerned.) Why don't you (and it pains me to say this, as it encourages the proliferation of reality shows) come up with some other dumb idea? People will watch it, or they won't. It's the same crapshoot you get if you just come up with some ripoff. But, at least it's your crapshoot, and not your version of someone else's.

Hopefully, my message will reach somebody, but I honestly don't think we've seen the last of Celebrity (Fill in the Blank) Shows. I know I can't wait for the next one.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Parody Has Run Its Course

Twenty five years ago, Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers made one of the funniest movies ever: Airplane! Twenty five years later, two of the three made one of the unfunniest movies ever: Scary Movie 4. How do the guys who essentially perfected the Parody Movie genre make such an unfunny Parody Movie? By forgetting how to write jokes.

Let's go back to Airplane! for a moment. The Zuckers and Abrahams bought the rights to the movie Zero Hour!, and took the screenplay almost intact and filled it full of ridiculous jokes. And we end up with Airplane! And they followed that with Police Squad!, Top Secret!, and The Naked Gun. (Oddly, they had nothing to do with Airplane 2.) And they were all funny

Then, a funny thing happened: Parody Movies stopped being funny. And I blame Mel Brooks.

Yes, Mel Brooks, who may have invented the Parody Movie, and made two of its funniest entries, Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. In 1987, he made Spaceballs, which, while funny, really didn't bother coming up with original jokes. It just took scenes from other movies, and turned them into funny situations, rather than coming up with funny scenes of its own. This opened the floodgates for all kinds of lazy writing in Parody Movies. And the Parody Movie pretty much died. But people kept making the fucking things. (And speaking of people perpetuating dead trends, there was a kid at the theatre today that had six inches of his boxers showing above his pants. That shit went out, to quote Eminem, "back when Mark Wahlberg was Marky Mark," which was longer ago than most of the people who wear them that way have been alive.)

And now we're back to Scary Movie 4, the third sequel to Scary Movie, which repopularized the Parody Movie, but was just as lazily written as its predecessors. And, as is the case with most sequels, the Scary sequels have gotten less funny the farther they've gotten from the original. You'd think the guys who'd done such great work with the genre before could do something with this movie, but they just fall back on the same old hack-ass shit that the previous movies (including the recent Date Movie) used. Who came up with the rule that if a scene doesn't exist in another movie that you can't make a joke about it? I realize that parodying existing material gives viewers an easy frame of reference, but do we really need jokes about it? Yes, we get it: Brokeback Mountain is about gay cowboys. Yes, Tom Cruise making an ass of himself on Oprah is rife with comic material. But we can come up with jokes about that shit ourselves, or hear the same jokes from any comedian. Do we really need a whole movie about it? No, we don't.

So, if this is the course that the Parody Movie is going to continue on, it's dead. (Actually, it's been dead; it's in a zombie state now.) Maybe if guys like the Zuckers and Abrahams could come up with some original material, I might change my opinion of the genre. If not, they shouldn't even bother. Pack it up and head back to Wisconsin; you're pretty much done.

Friday, April 14, 2006

South Park Gets Its Comeuppance

So, I'm watching part two of the "Cartoon Wars" South Park episode, in which Cartman (in cahoots with Bart Simpson, no less) figures out how to get Fox to take Family Guy off the air. I'm ruining the plot here, but he's unsuccessful, and Fox airs a uncensored episode of Family Guy as planned.

Now, I've mentioned this "censored episode" before, but I didn't tell you why it was so "inflammatory." In one of the show's random jokes, there was a depiction of the Islamic prophet Mohammed. On the show, Fox censored the image because various Islamic terrorist organizations claimed they would retaliate if the image of Mohammed was shown. So, Fox censored the image from Family Guy. After Cartman's plot to have another episode containing Mohammed pulled from the air, the Family Guy episode aired with the image of Mohammed intact.

Except it didn't. Right when they were about to show Mohammed, the screen cuts to black title cards that read, "In this shot, Mohammed hands a football helmet to Family Guy; Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network." It's a great joke: Stone and Parker taking a swipe at Comedy Central, making a rather loud comment about the previous censoring of a another "religiously volatile" episode. (For that statement to work, you have to accept Scientology as a "religion.")

But, it wasn't a joke. In an ironic twist, Comedy Central actually censored the image of Mohammed that Stone and Parker inserted into the episode. It's funny when a joke emulates real life, but no so funny the other way.

"What's the big deal," you ask? For some Muslims, it's considered sacrilege to depict Mohammed. Making fun of him could be punishable by death. (For those of you wondering what Mohammed looks like, he's the chap pictured at the top of this post. I'm expecting WMDs to rain down on me any minute now.) I'm assuming that Comedy Central, much like on the episode, feared some sort of terrorist retaliation for depicting the Islamic holiest of holies.

What's completely fucked up about this whole thing is what they didn't censor. On the episode, after Family Guy airs, the terrorists immediately retaliated with their own "inflammatory" cartoon. It, of course, features Jesus, President Bush, and other decadent Americans involved in a scatological fun fest. It's a no-go to show Mohammed holding a football helmet, but just fine to show Jesus and the President shitting on the American flag. (It's a sad state when that 30 second segment is funnier than four seasons worth of Family Guy episodes, but, that's the way it is.) Why don't we get our priorities straight? I'm willing to bet there are more people upset by the depictions of Jesus and the President than would have been by a depiction of Mohammed. I, honestly, could give a fuck-all (because these things don't bother me), but, if you're going to be censoring assholes, you might as well go all the way, and not half-asshole it; something about the goose and the gander comes to mind.

I guess we can forget about ever seeing the "Trapped in the Closet" episode again. If they'll censor the rather innocuous "Cartoon Wars," there's no fucking way we'll ever see "Closet" and its Scientology bashing again. Those are some religious extremists you don't want to piss off.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Joys Of The Shitty Horror Movie

I won't lie: I love Shitty Horror Movies. (I love good ones as well, but the words "good" and "horror movie" tend to be mutually exclusive.) Most great Shitty Horror Movies know that they're Shitty Horror Movies, and they run with it, balls to the wall. There are entire production companies who make nothing but Shitty Horror Movies (Full Moon and Troma are two of note).

But these movies never get a theatrical release. This is strict direct-to-video fare. They're too low-budget for the major studios to want to distribute them. That's why it's great when someone tricks a studio into giving them tons of money to make one. And there's a great one in theatres right now.

Of course, I'm talking about Slither, a great, gonzo piece of crap that some genius conned Universal into releasing. Dozens of movies exactly like this pop on Blockbuster's shelves every week, yet this one makes it into theatres. And I'm glad it did, because it's worth it.

What makes it so great is that the producers aren't even really trying to make a good movie. They just throw as much grossness as they can at the screen, and it all sticks. (I should note the movie is pretty funny, as well.) Honestly, as far as filmmaking and content, this movie isn't any better than, say, Hostel. But, what makes Slither a better movie than the aforementioned piece of shit is that doesn't even attempt to take itself seriously. (I mean, could you make a serious movie about slugs from outer space?) It just goes wherever it's ridiculous premise and cheesy gore take it. And it's all the better for it.

Good, clean family fun. Check it out.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sam Goody Closes, And I Make Out Like A Bandit

As is, I suspect, the case in the rest of the country, the Sam Goody and Suncoast stores in town here are shutting down. Suncoast closed a week or so ago, and now looks to have a jewelry store going in. Sam Goody will be gone in another week, with a last-ditch money grab going on as we speak. Being bored, and making a round of the mall, The Girl and I stopped by Goody's to see if there were any bargains to be had.

I knew, going in, that I wasn't going to find any music I wanted. (They had about a thousand copies of Madonna's Confessions on a Dance Floor at a price that still didn't merit buying it. Not that I would, as that record blows.) I went in looking for movies. And, as I suspected, it was some pretty picked-over shit. Oh sure, if I wanted Superman 4 or War of the Worlds, this was the place to go. A lot of shit, but what did I expect from a store going through a liquidation sale?

But then The Girl stumbled upon the Mother Lode: the Used Movies section, something I didn't even know existed. While all the dumb mallrats were picking through the scattered remains of the "new" movies, all of the hidden treasures were in the "used" section. Look at the stuff I found tucked away:

Spartan: the great Mamet flick from two years ago;
Adaptation: the Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman co-op that should have won more Oscars than it did;
About Schmidt: The Girl likes this one;
Exorcist 3: better than the first one, and a lot scarier;
Phantom of the Paradise: Brian DePalma's cult-classic Phantom of the Opera/Faust/Dorian Gray retelling, with Paul Williams (!!) as The Devil;
and, the Find of the Century,
The Changeling: one of the best horror movies of the past 25 years, and one of The Girl's favorites.

And the cost of this monster haul? Six movies = sixteen bucks. A veritable score, and a historic one, as well: In my near 32 years of movie buying, I have never once bought a George C. Scott movie; today, I bought two. (I'm contacting the Guinness people, as I think this may be a record.)

All things considered, I don't think I could have made out any better. If every trip out of the house was this fulfilling, maybe I'd go "outside" more often. But I doubt it.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Turns Out, I'm Not The Only One...

If you've read this blog more than once, you know that I hate Family Guy. Not just because it's a startlingly unfunny show, but because Fox has seen fit to resurrect it twice, while incredibly funny shows like Arrested Development are shown the door. Arrested could only wish to get as many chances to be as unfunny as Family Guy.

Yet I seem to be alone in my hate of Family Guy. Whenever the subject of Family Guy comes up, I'm told what a funny show it is, and what a dummy I am for hating it. I've even had people tell me about parts from a show that sound funny, but when I watch it, I'm laughing about as much as I would watching Schindler's List. Maybe it's just me: I don't know what "funny" is. Maybe Schindler's List and Family Guy are hilarious, and the jokes are just going over my head.

But then, two guys who have never failed to make me laugh, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, rather boldly showed me that I was right.

If you missed it, the most recent episode of South Park, called "Cartoon Wars," featured a plot in which Cartman is determined to get to Hollywood to get Family Guy off the air, not because of an inflammatory episode (shades of South Park's own recent tribulations), but because it's just not funny. I am totally on the same page.

The funniest thing about the episode, which is oddly serious in tone, are the parodies of the aforementioned "inflammatory" episode. The jokes that Stone and Parker wrote are pretty much exactly what Seth McFarland would write. (I wouldn't be surprised if McFarland, who's an infamous plagarist, used these same jokes in future episodes.) And if jokes that are meant to be unfunny parodies are identical to the "funny" jokes in the actual show, well, folks, what you've got there is an unfunny show.

It's always good to know that you've got powerful friends in what appears to be a losing cause. Now, if only everyone else would see the light...