Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Onion Has Lost Their Mind

It's the month of December, so every publication is printing their "Best of the Year" lists. The Onion is no different. I picked up their year-end issue and perused my way through their "Best of" lists. (Most people read The Onion online, but, as I live within 50 miles of two of the 10 cities which distribute the print edition for free, I read the paper version.)

I looked at the Best Albums of the Year list. It was full of albums I've never heard of by bands I could give fuck-all about. Albums by Amy Winehouse, who "rocks like a '60s crack whore." (Not a real quote.) Or by "insert obscure indie rock band name here," who released a "solid, hook-filled rock album that...manages to translate the band's usual anti-capitalist screeds and industry-related laments into digestible, sing-along packages." (Unfortunately a real quote.) It's the same stuff that was on the list last year, and the year before, and etc, etc.

Then, I got to the bottom of the list, and came across the funniest misprint that wasn't actually a misprint. Right there, at number 23, behind all these pretentious records by rock critic spank bank bands, was Infinity on High, the newest record from Fallout Boy.

Fallout Boy? The same Fallout Boy with the lead singer that's a serious version of Jack Black? The same Fallout Boy with that ponce that's dating Ashlee Simpson? Yeah, that Fallout Boy.

Now, Fallout Boy is Top 40, emo band garbage, even somewhat below my tastes. And while I never agree with Best Of lists, I thought this was WAAAAAY below the uppity standards of any decent rock critic. (In the history of Best Album lists, I have agreed with two choices: Is This It by The Strokes and Exile from Guyville by Liz Phair. Everything else is just ridiculous.) But, maybe because I think that it's a shitty record means that rock critics love it. This seems to be the case with every other record; maybe it's the case here as well.

I checked out the two main homes of pretentious rock criticism, Rolling Stone and Spin. Both of their Best Album lists contained every album from The Onion's list...with the exception of that Fallout Boy album. So, either Fallout Boy's inclusion is indeed a misprint or one of their music editors is a 15 yr old girl.

Either way, it looks as though the bad taste exhibited in their news section has spilled over into their A.V. section. I can't wait to see what makes the list next year.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Think I'm Turning Japanese

On Tuesday, the Chicago Cubs did what has become the adopting of Third World children of the baseball world, and signed Japanese baseball superstar Kosuke Fukudome to a four year, $48 million contract. (I'm not really sure how you pronounce that last name correctly, but I'm pretty sure it's not "Fuck-you-dome," as everyone at work calls him.) The Cubs become one of the latest in a list of teams that think that bringing talent from Japan could net them The Next Sadaharu Oh.

While we're on the subject of The Big Oh, I think people may be misled as to his great accomplishment, which was hitting 868 home runs, 100 more than than Bonds has hit in the same number of years. Back in the days when Oh played, the ballparks in Japan were about the size of Little League fields, with the foul poles in the 290 foot range, and 390 feet out to center. In a field that size, Hank Aaron would have hit 1000 home runs...a year. Nowadays, they play in regular-sized fields, and no one's been able to get even halfway to that record. Plus, I'm pretty sure baseball over there is quite similar to the video game RBI Baseball, where you're able to hit like 20 home runs in a game. And yet, teams think just because a guy is the best player in Japan that he's going to cross the ocean and be an immediate impact player on their team.

Here, let's play a little game: Name one player originally from Japan who is just as good here as he was there who is not named "Ichiro Suzuki."

Give up? Well, the answer's "no one," since no other Japanese players that have come over here have had their skills translate to American baseball. Not Hideki Matsui, who did more in fewer games in Japan than he's done with the Yankees. Not Daisuke Matsuzaka, who should be better than the second-best pitcher for a Red Sox team that paid $100 million to acquire him. Not Takashi Saito, who spent 13 years in Japan not being any good, only to come to America in the final years of his career. Not even Hideo Nomo, the guy who started this trend, who was just pretty average. (We got plenty of average, home-grown talent; no need to import it.) Just a lot of guys who were hot shit in Japan that aren't all that great over here.

The biggest problem with these guys is their limited upside. Since most of them have been playing in Japan for some time, by the time they get here, they're already in their 30s or fastly approaching it. They're in the primes of their careers right now, and it's only going backwards from here. (I suspect the days of players having a late-30s resurgence are over with. They'll just get old and retire from now on.) Ichiro is easily on pace to break Pete Rose's hit record; too bad he'll be as old as Rose (who played until he was 87) was when he does it, and that'd only be like 18 seasons!

Fukudome is already 31. Forty eight mil for a guy about to start the downslope of his career seems like a lot to me. It's one thing if you want to bring an old guy like Crash Davis up from the minors for the league minimum. It's quite another to import one who's never played in America before at $10 mil a year. (Dice-K, who's only 27, is a steal at $6 mil.)

But, what do I know? I don't run a baseball team. I think paying a $51 million tariff on a guy is a bad deal, but this is obviously something that time and life experience teaches you is "a good deal."

What's that? Theo Epstein's the same age as I am?!?

Hmmm. Maybe that was a pretty stupid deal after all.

I Am Lightly Disappointed


I recently had an opportunity to see the new Will Smith actioner I Am Legend. For those of you who know nothing about the movie, it's the third adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel of the same name. But, while it has the pedigree of being the only adaptation to bear the name of the novel, it's actually just a remake of adaptation #2, The Omega Man, which had nothing to do with the novel other than the "last man on Earth" theme. (Oddly enough, The Last Man on Earth was the first adaptation of I Am Legend, and the most loyal, as its screenplay was actually written by Matheson.)

So, basically, what you end up with is a warmed-over version of a movie that wasn't that good to begin with. The new special effects are nice, making New York City actually look deserted, instead of just looking like it was filmed in abandoned back alleys. But the "infected" humans look stupid and their increased presence at the end of the film turns this into just another mindless action movie, instead of the study of loneliness that Matheson originally intended.

And speaking of which...the major theme of the book and all three movies has been what happens to a person when they are subjected to complete loneliness, the complete absence of anyone else but you. The book and movies portray this as a bad thing.

To be quite honest, that would be my ideal existence. In this new movie, Will Smith seems to have fun standing on the deck of the USS Intrepid, hitting golf balls off the tailfin of a Blackbird. And going to the video store and interacting with the assorted mannequins he has set up throughout the city. But, the fun all ends when he mopes back to his lab to think about how lonely he is, and find a cure for the virus that wiped out the population.

I think being the last man on earth would be great. Imagine where you could live; imagine what you could do. Smith refuses to leave the island of Manhattan; no wonder he's so pissed (although he does appear to have plundered New York's Museum of Modern Art). Me, I'd be all over the place. Hell, I'd be happy just to drive around town, knowing that I'm not going to have to deal with all the mongoloid drivers. I'd live in Las Vegas, on an entire floor of suites in the Wynn. I'd drive a Lamborghini backwards down the highway. I'd shoot small and large arms fire at all the condos and timeshares. I'd light my cigarettes with $100 bills and use a pile of gold bouillon as a hot plate. And not a person in the world to stop me.

"Last man on Earth"? Hardly. More like, "Best Man on Earth"!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Little Norman Mailer To Pass The Time

For no reason other than I'm psychotic, I've always been a fan of Norman Mailer's Tough Guys Don't Dance. I've read the book and seen the movie of the same name that Mailer himself wrote and directed. And while it ranks as one of Mailer's lesser works, I've always liked it, particularly the title, which I've long used as a motto.

Now, I'm a little behind the times here, as Mailer has been dead for a month now, but, I thought, as a tribute to him and that great piece of shit book, I'd stick a clip from his equally great piece of shit movie over in the sidebar.

Maybe I'm just talking out of my ass here, but I think this may be Ryan O'Neal's greatest bit of acting ever.

Check it out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Once Again, Someone Goes Out Of Business, And I Make Out Like A Bandit


It's a shame when stores go out of business, but, when you can't make it in the marketplace, maybe you deserve to go out. And I'm usually one of the first guys standing at the door to pick over the remains (like the time I bought every good movie Sam Goody had at their going-out-of-business sale). I recently had an opportunity to do so again.

Tragically, the business going under was Premiere Video, probably the best video store in The JVL. I've referenced them here before as the only place in town I could find the Bourne movies. (I've noticed that since I posted that, both Blockbuster and Family Video now carry multiple copies. I don't think it has anything to do with the fact a new one just came out...) And, while they always had a great selection of movies, and the best selection of VHS movies this side of 2003, they just couldn't compete with Blockbuster and Family Video, both of which now have two stores here in town. Even I, a loyal patron, saw my visits decrease after I got hooked on the rent-o-rama that is Blockbuster Total Access.

And so, they went out of business. But not before they had a going-out-of-business sale. And, while I find it tragic that this great little business went under, The Girl and I had no problem plundering their stock. Here's what I made out with from their DVDs:

The Dark Crystal, Patton, Series 7, Land of the Dead, Out of Sight, Valentine, Friday the 13th, Erin Brockovich, The Fog, Manhunter, Spinal Tap, Ripley's Game, and The Omen.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, Premiere Video had a huge selection of VHS tapes. (Up until three years ago, their VHS section took up half the store. They had shit that doesn't exist in any format anymore.) And, since I refuse to accept VHS as a dead format (hell, I just got rid of my SelectaVision player last year), we scored in the VHS section as well with a lot of truly vintage shit:

Fried Green Tomatoes, When a Stranger Calls, Johnny Dangerously, April Fool's Day, Body Double, Stand by Me, Flowers in the Attic, The Lost Boys, The Amityville Horror, The Witches of Eastwick, The Dead Zone, and The Omen 2. (BTW, all the movies here are the originals and not the remakes. There was one exception, which was Psycho, which The Girl mistakenly picked up, thinking it was the original. It was promptly thrown out the window upon discovery.)

How big a score was this? Twenty six movies for less than $80. You can't even rent 26 movies for less than $80. And, compared to other people, we didn't even get that many movies. We bought those over the three days of the sale: I went the first day, we both went the second, and then we checked out what was left on the last day. There were people who bought at least that many just on one day, and I'm sure they came back, as the prices decreased by $2 every day. (While we only picked up movies we actually liked, there are some that were buying shit because it was cheap. I saw one guy buying Chill Factor. Yeah, that's right: Chill Factor. I wouldn't take that movie if it were free. I'm sure Cool As Ice and Stone Cold also managed to make their way into someones' collections.)

Like I said before, I wish Premiere had stayed in business. But, if they did, how would I be able to get Johnny Dangerously for a buck?

Another one of the tragic ironies of life.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Futurama Returns

For fans of the show, it was a dark day when Fox rather ungraciously ushered Futurama off the air four years ago. The brainchild of Matt Groening, it was probably one of the smartest shows to air on TV at the time (which is probably why Fox, which also airs the stupidest shows on TV, was so quick to cancel it (yet they keep bringing back Family Guy)) and was actually better than Groening's other show, The Simpsons, for the time it was on. But, that didn't last.

So, it was off to the video and syndication market for Futurama. And this caused something odd to happen. (Well, not really odd, as the same thing happened to Family Guy.) During Comedy Central's negotiation to pick up the syndication rights for Futurama, due to good DVD sales and high-rated reruns on Cartoon Network, Fox claimed it was open to producing a sixth season of the show, which would air on Comedy Central when they began showing the reruns in 2008. It was decided that, instead of producing 16 new episodes, four feature-length movies would be produced, which would be reedited into episodic format for the sixth season.

This has been in the works for two years. And now we have the first of those movies: Bender's Big Score.

Let me start off by saying that Futurama has lost nothing in its four year absence. In fact, as someone who's seen every episode, I can say that this movie may be the best Futurama episode(s) ever (unlike The Simpsons Movie, which isn't even as good as some individual episodes). The entire voice cast is back, as is most of the writing and production staff, and everyone's at the top of their games. So on top of their games that they have concocted the most complicated story ever, like Mission: Impossible-complicated. But, if you follow the story, it's great. If this is any indication of the quality of the other movies, I think we might be looking at Futurama's best season.

Seeing as this is a stand-alone DVD release (for the moment), there's some nice extras. The commentary with a good portion of cast and crew is funny and informative. And while I didn't watch a lot of the other features, I did watch a rather fascinating lecture on mathematical facts and figures that appear in Futurama. (It sounds dry, I know, but it just goes to show you how clever this show can be.)

I wish there were going to be more than just sixteen new episodes, but, hey, 16 new episodes sure beats zero. And, hey, Fox canceled Family Guy twice, and it's aired almost 50 episodes since they brought it back. If a show that stupid can get a second/third chance like that, I'm sure we can look forward to more Futurama in the futurama.

(Worst...pun...ever.)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Last Five Movies


Hitman (2007)
Remember that Stallone movie Assassins? Yeah, me neither, but, if I did, I'd say this movie was about the same, except maybe a little more stylishly done. Plus, it's got T-Bag from Prison Break; how do ya not like that?

Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Yet more proof that the public is best served by Ben Affleck being an off-screen presence. Much better writer/director than he is an actor (even though he was the bomb in Phantoms). And, just for the record, Casey Affleck's character makes the wrong choice at the end. For the record.

Skinwalkers (2007)
A movie in which every character is some sort of werewolf vampire. Basically, a really poorly-made ripoff of Underworld. The only entertaining part of this movie was the scene in which all the townsfolk drop everything they're doing to participate in a gun fight. Dumbest...scene...ever.

Stir of Echoes, Part Deux (2006)
A made-for-TV sequel to the Kevin Bacon movie of the same name. Not really connected to the first film at all (with the exception of one character) and not entertaining at all. In fact, I was so disappointed that I watched the first Stir of Echoes directly after to make myself feel better. Props, however, go out to the movie for setting part of the action in my hometown of Rockford, IL. But that's about it. Everyone not from Rockford (ie, 99.99% of the population) need not watch.

A no-brainer, what with all the crap I've seen over the past couple o' weeks:

No Country for Old Men (2007)
As good as everyone claims it is; a must-watch for fans of Blood Simple. And I don't know whether to attribute the quality of writing to the Coens or Cormac McCarthy, who wrote the book, but I'd say a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination is a pretty safe bet. Yes, it does drag at times, and has the most abrupt ending in the history of movies, but it's still great.

Check it out.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Goddamned Writers' Strike


If you've read this blog more than once, you know I watch a lot of TV. Needless to say, I'm a little pissed about this Writers' Strike, now entering its second month.

The strike came at a time when most TV shows were about halfway through their production schedules, meaning most shows had around 10-15 episodes in the can before their writers walked out. Others, like Lost and 24, which started production later due to their January premiere dates, have even fewer and may not even come out on time. At least one show that I can think of (Heroes: Origins) has been shitcanned altogether. And as we're already about 10 weeks into the new TV season, every show is going into reruns to preserve their remaining new episodes, regardless of whether they had a hiatus scheduled or not. It's a really great deal for the TV viewer.

I'm going to change gears here for a moment. I've worked in the auto industry for a number of years, and have had to deal with the United Auto Workers for every one of them. The UAW is a huge union, with over half a million active members. (The two Writers Guilds have about 12,000.) Their union contract with the auto manufacturers is the size of the Greater Los Angeles white pages. Every and anything the union can get from the car makers they will take. And, over the years, they've taken a lot.

In September and October, the UAW struck two of the Big Three American car companies, after negotiations on their new contracts broke down. The major sticking points in the negotiations were healthcare and the establishment of a company-funded, union-run retiree pension fund. These were both huge points for the auto makers, as legacy costs have nearly driven the Big Three (especially GM) to the brink of bankruptcy. Now, I can see why you would strike over these points, as healthcare is an extremely important (and expensive) issue for companies and employees alike.

The two strikes lasted three days each. The UAW agreed to pay for some of their health care, agreed to the new pension deal, took a one-time bonus in lieu of yearly wage increases, agreed to the establishment of a two-tier wage scale, and took the auto makers' word on increased production in the US. It doesn't seem like the UAW got a whole lot out of the deal, but, trust me: They got exactly what they wanted.

That being said, the UAW looks like a poverty-stricken monastic order compared to the Writers Guilds. Basically, the point of contention in their negotiations is that they want a cut of everything that can make money. Advertising revenue from internet broadcasts, royalties from DVD sales, even profits from reality programming, which doesn't even have writers (except for The Hills, which is about as spontaneous as a glacier). They even want any possible revenue from internet-only content, which makes no money. In short, if there's money involved, they want a cut.

I read that the average Guild member makes $60,000 a year. Hardly slave wages. And they want every possible royalty on top of that. Most unionized employees would be ecstatic to make that much. Yet I don't see them clamoring for royalties. Can you imagine if the UAW demanded that they be paid a percentage of every vehicle sold? Or if garbage men asked for a bonus based on the amount of trash collected? Their respective employers would laugh in their faces and fire the whole fucking lot and start from scratch. And those are jobs that make the world go 'round, so to speak.

But, apparently it's ok for a bunch of dingleberries who write TV shows to expect to be compensated thusly, and still expect to keep their jobs. I do appreciate the fact that the networks are retaliating by firing the non-writing staffs of their shows: no money coming in, no need for money to go out. Gotta save up the money that these asshole writers are going to end up making while you can.

So, until the strike comes to a close, enjoy the reruns and endless hours of reality programming the networks will be showing in lieu of original programming. I know you'll enjoy it as much as I will.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sesame Street: Not For The Kids

Everybody watched Sesame Street as a kid. I did; you probably did too. But, apparently, what we thought was good, fun entertainment as kids was actually a mind-warping experience.

Over the past year or so, Sesame Workshop (the former Children's Television Workshop) has released a series of videos called Sesame Street: Old School, which is a greatest hits package of the first 10 years of the show. I would see this as a great thing for parents in their 30s, as they could share their memories of a TV show that their children watch to this day. Or maybe not.

An article in The New York Times drew my attention to the fact that every episode on these videos comes with a disclaimer that states that these shows are for the enjoyment of adults only and may not be suitable for children, as they don't reflect the current standards of children's programming.

"Adults Only"? What, Sesame Street is porn now?

How did it become that episodes of a show we loved as children could possibly warp our children? Well, actually, it didn't. It's the same show. It's that our mindsets have changed as we got older.

As kids, we didn't have a problem with the fact that Cookie Monster crammed his gob full of cookies, ate nothing but, as a matter of fact. Yet now, Cookie Monster is on a diet and eats healthy foods. (Actually, Cookie Monster didn't so much as eat cookies as he did smash them up in his mouth before letting the bits fall back out of his mouth. Was Cookie Monster bulimic? The horror.)

We weren't bothered by the fact that only Big Bird could see Snuffleupagus, yet now everyone can see Snuffy. Big Bird wasn't so "crazy" after all.

And we didn't have a problem with Oscar the Grouch, who really was a son of a bitch. He was quite humorous. But now we have a producer of Sesame Street claiming that Oscar wouldn't even be considered as a character archetype if he hadn't already existed from the "old days." There's an HIV-positive Muppet on the South African version of Sesame Street, and we're worried about a character whose "bad" trait is that he's grouchy? Whatever happened to escapism?

Truth is, the reason these "old school" episodes of Sesame Street are for "adults only" is that my generation, the dread Generation X, is afraid of being bad parents. We remember the laissez-faire way our parents raised us, and it scares the hell out of us that if we did that, we'll be perceived as bad parents.

When I was a kid, no one wore seat belts, especially kids. Car seats lasted forever. Now, it's mandatory to seatbelt kids. Car seats "expire" and require regular replacement. Cars are safer than ever, and the all-plastic car seat of today is better than the aluminum tube frame-and-plastic ones we sat in as kids. So, why the worry?

Because our minds changed. The entire concept of child-rearing changed. Those kids of the '70s whose parents disciplined them with a good yell and a swift smack in the ass are now making policy in the "child" industry, and wouldn't raise their voice to their little Timmy if he was dousing the curtains in gasoline.

And that's why Sesame Street: Old School is only for adults. It's nostalgia of a bygone era of child-rearing that doesn't exist anymore. Maybe our kids, who live in a completely different time and have a completely different mindset, wouldn't even enjoy it. Just like they wouldn't appreciate "Carry On Wayward Son," even if you thought that song was cool when you were a kid. (I wouldn't know, as my parents listened to AM talk radio. But I did gain an appreciation for Steve Dahl and Garry Meier, which would definitely be considered "adults only" these days.)

Just like our parents used to say when we were kids, it was better way back when. Sesame Street sure was: No Elmo back in those days. Talk about mind-warping.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Running Out Of Movie Ideas In 3...2...1...

When I saw Gone Baby Gone the other day (great film, btw), I noticed a poster for something called The Other Boleyn Girl. Knowing what little I know about history, I do that if we're making movies about this, we've officially run out of movie ideas.

I'm guessing that the "other Boleyn girl" to which the title refers is Mary Boleyn, the sister of wife #2 of Henry VIII. Mary is alleged to have had an affair with Henry before his introduction to Anne, whom he would persue for years and later marry.

Now, most of my history knowledge comes from TV, and the best source for Henry VIII knowledge on TV is Showtime's The Tudors, which just happens to be entirely about Henry and ANNE Boleyn.

I've seen every episode of the show, and, if I'm not mistaken, Mary appeared in part of one episode, basically long enough to show her tits, before she disappeared entirely. I'd say this wasn't odd, as the show isn't called The Boleyns, except that other Boleyn family members appear in every episode. The father has appeared in every episode and the brother has appeared in numerous episodes as well. But Mary? Just that one.

And if Mary doesn't appear in a show that is tangentially about the Boleyn family, how historically significant could she have been? Apparently enough to merit an entire movie that we don't need to see.

I think when The Other Boleyn Girl comes out, I'll take a pass. I'm saving the money I've alotted for movies about marginally-important historical figures for the upcoming Lewis Powell bio-pic, The Man Who Considered Killing Lincoln. I hear it's great.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Wacky Weekend Box Office

So, this weekend's box office has the same two films finishing in first and second. And while I'm not surprised that Bee Movie was the number one movie this weekend, I am surprised that it took two weekend for it to become number one, because it not winning its opening weekend tends to go against the movie-going tendencies of the general population.

Whenever there's an animated movie coming out, you can almost guarantee it to win the box office. In the weeks coming up to its release, animated movies get advertised the shit out of. Everywhere you turn, there's an ad for these movies. And Bee Movie was no different. They've been advertising this thing since, well, I think Truman was still in office. There have been print and TV ads for at least six months. There was an entire episode of 30 Rock basically dedicated to the movie (or at least to Jerry Seinfeld). There's even an HP commercial that throws in a plug for Bee Movie.

And, since all kids do is watch TV, they see these ads and want to go watch the movie. Happens with every animated movie, which is why they all make a ton of money.

So, what happened on Bee Movie's opening weekend? It got beat by American Gangster.

Now, in terms of quality, this isn't surprising, as American Gangster is an excellent movie that will get nominated for every Oscar. But it is surprising that more people went to see it than Bee Movie, because people will generally go see an animated movies to appease the incessant whining of their children. Unless it's poorly made or advertised, animated movies just don't lose the box office. (Remember Happily N'Ever After? Neither does anyone else, as it got smoked its opening weekend by Freedom Writers. Fucking Freedom Writers, for the love of God! That's terrible.)

Of course, everything was righted last weekend, when Bee Movie actually did win the box office by a slim margin over American Gangster. I guess a week after parents told their kids, "Fuck you, children: We're going to a movie we wanna see," they finally caved and took their spawn to Bee Movie. Yay, Dreamworks!

In other box office news, I found it odd that P2 finished ninth last weekend, as horror movies almost always seem to make money regardless of quality. It's too bad, as it's actually a pretty entertaining movie.

I also found it amusing that After Dark's Horrorfest barely broke $500,000 its opening weekend, as that's an accumulated gross for eight movies. It probably didn't help that most of the theatres only had it on one screen with rotating showtimes for the individual movies every day. Makes seeing any one of those movies a rather dodgy proposition. (The one I managed to see, The Deaths of Ian Stone, would have been good if it wasn't so goddamned boring. I guess these movies couldn't find a distributor for a reason.)

We'll see how this weekend's box office pans out. Maybe we'll get another shocker, and Love in the Time of Cholera will be #1.

HA!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Funniest...Book...Ever


I don't have enough free hours in my day to read books. The last book I read all the way through was Hannibal Rising in December. To accomplish that feat, I read the whole thing in one sitting. I just don't have the time to sit down and read a book.

That being said, if you haven't read Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!), you are missing out on possibly the funniest book ever written. In fact, if you are able to read this book without laughing once per page, you are either 1) dead or b) a Communist.

Do yourself a favor, and go buy it.

Exceeding Bandwidth...Now

You may have noticed that, in the right side column, I've put a YouTube video of Liz Phair in a Gap commercial.

Why?

Because I was hoping that it would make this page load slower than your average html-heavy MySpace profile. (Slowest...website...ever.)

Unfortunately, due to Google (which also runs Blogger) having recently acquired YouTube, the YouTube player has been nicely integrated into the Blogger template, making for seamless, lag-free playback. You don't even have to cut-and-paste the embed code anymore; you just click a button, type in the name of the video, and there it is. And it doesn't even eat up any bandwidth.

So, I tried an experiment, in hopes of pissing myself (and quite possibly the readers of this blog) off, and I failed miserably.

Can't say I didn't try.

Oh, and why a Liz Phair Gap commercial, you ask? Because if you don't like Liz Phair, there's something wrong with you. No use arguing in the comments; you just aren't right.

That, and it's my blog. You can put your Fergie or whoever videos on yours.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hugh Jackman Will Need A New Day Job

In a move that surprised no one, CBS has added Hugh Jackman vehicle Viva Laughlin to the cancellation pile. It had aired a whopping two episodes.

Now, I was lucky enough to catch one of those episodes, and I can safely say it was probably the goofiest show I've ever seen. Honestly, the show itself isn't that much different than NBC's Las Vegas, but with one startling exception:

At any given time, the characters would break into song-and-dance numbers.

And not original songs, written for the show, but famous pop songs (like Elton John's "I'm Still Standing"). And the actors didn't just sing to the music; the actual song played in the background and the actors sang along. It was a uniquely terrifying experience, considering that none of the actors but Jackman had any singing ability.

A genuinely awful show that was deservingly canceled. Hugh Jackman will just have to keep making films, I guess.

Awww, drag.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Meet Your New President


Earlier in the week, during a campaign speaking appearance, Republican Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani made the claim that, if elected President, he would build a wall across the US-Mexican border to cut down on illegal immigration from Mexico. And, while this is complete crazy talk, it might just be good for Giuliani.

Now, the border wall is not a new concept. In fact, it currently exists on parts of the border. In Nogales, AZ, a city which straddles the border, there is a massive concrete and steel wall (pictured at right) demarking the border. The crossing (which you can kinda see at the bottom of the hill) is patrolled by machinegun-toting guards. The top is covered in barbed wire. It's really pretty impressive. And it really wouldn't be that hard to connect all the existing walls into one continuous wall. It's something that hard-line immigration opponents have been toting for years.

What's shocking is that this current proposal is coming from the mouth of Rudy Giuliani. For a guy who's a Republican in name only, this is a pretty severe right-wing agenda. I mean, this is some Great Wall of China-type shit: a massive barrier to keep out invading hordes. (This project would be nowhere near as massive, as the US-Mexican border isn't quite half as long as the Great Wall.)

Quite honestly, this kinda sounds like an empty campaign promise. Giuliani has a lot of appeal to liberals, but his position of "terror" seems to be his only real foothold with conservatives. This border thing is just the type of crazy idea that really nutjob conservatives love. They would vote for Giuliani on that point alone.

But implementing something like this is extremely complicated, if not possibly immoral, and probably won't happen. However, sometimes you only need to say you'll do something to get people to believe you. (Remember what Bush said he'd do with Social Security? Yeah, that happened.)

With this wacky proclamation, I'd say Giuliani just jumped into the lead. Hopefully, Hilary Clinton will come up with a proposal to dig a new Gulf of Mexico/Pacific Ocean canal along the US-Mexico border. People would LOVE that!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I Thought We Got Rid Of This Guy

I really thought we'd seen the last of Al Gore.

After he was "robbed" of the 2000 Presidential election, he kind of fell off the map. He didn't resume his Senate job, he didn't run for President in 2004, he didn't do anything. He was pretty much a non-entity.

And then, in 2006, he starred in An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary which is more about Al Gore than about the global warming. And that won a couple of Oscars.

And now Gore's won the Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental efforts.

What a damn shame. I thought Al Gore was out of our lives forever. Now, I'm sure his ego has ascended to the deity level. His photo and a brief quote actually graced the homepage of Apple.com for a day (and I just wanted to see some iPods). I'm sure he'll be on every television outlet that will have him, and it will be Al Gore all the time.

Oh well. At least we managed to get rid of John Kerry, so I guess that's something.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Last Five Movies


Fantastic 4: The One with the Silver Surfer (2007)
I never really got the Silver Surfer as a character. He seemed to be a product of some '70s acid-induced hallucination. Seriously: it's a silver dude on a fucking surf board, flying through space. And bringing him into 2007 really doesn't make his whole concept any less dated. It also doesn't keep this movie from sucking any less (although the Thames River turning to stone was pretty cool).

The Brave One (2007)
Earlier in the year, we had Death Sentence, which was supposed to be a pseudo-sequel to Death Wish, but was really more of a mindless shoot-em-up. Now, we have The Brave One, which is more of an actual remake of Death Wish, but with a sex change. A really great film, dealing with the issues of what makes people take justice into their own hands. A little too long, and the ending is pretty contrived, but still a great flick, nonetheless.

Black Caesar (1973)
One of the hallmark films in the Blaxplotation genre is really pretty stupid in retrospect. I was somewhat confused as to what Black Caesar's criminal enterprise was, as his gang didn't appear to do anything but kill white people. I find it ironic that such an influential Black film was written and directed by a white guy (Larry Cohen, of all people). And, I was saddened by the fact that Fred Williamson gets beaten to death by some street punks at the end, only to have the sequel, Hell Up in Harlem, retcon that incident right out of existence.

The Condemned (2007)
A great idea for a movie, completely torpedoed by its terrible execution. Kind of a cross between Battle Royale, Series 7, Running Man, and every other movie that steals its premise from The Most Dangerous Game.

A real no-brainer here:

Michael Clayton (2007)
It's a sad comment on the movie business that the best movie I've seen this year came out the second week of October, when absolutely no movies worth watching come out. I'd say it was a sure-fire Oscar winner, but the studios usually save all of their Oscar bait for November and December. But, Oscar loves these George Clooney "message" movies, so we'll see how it pans out in February.

Good stuff; check it out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wave Goodbye, Joe!

So, the Yankees have been unceremoniously ushered from the postseason by a Cleveland team full of 26-year old nobodies. And, since this is becoming a fairly regular thing, the time of scapegoating is upon us. And, since a team not being to able to perform is always the manager's fault, of course Yankees' skipper Joe Torre has fallen directly in the crosshairs. I, for one, think the Yankees' front office of George Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman are aiming at the wrong guy. They should be aiming at themselves.

It's no secret that the Yankees have a tendency to try and win championships by buying them, paying top dollar for the best talent available. It's also no coincidence that this practice started roughly the same time that Steinbrenner took over the team. And, on paper, it's a great idea. But it doesn't work (not all the time, at least). Del Webb owned the Yankees for 19 years; he won 11 Series in that time. Steinbrenner has owned them for 34 and counting; he's won six. In the Steinbrenner era, before Torre (who's been the manager for 12 years), the Yankees went to the postseason six times, winning two Series. Since Torre, they've gone to the postseason every year, and won four Series.

And they could probably win more, if, every year, Cashman and Steinbrenner didn't saddle him with their real-life rotisserie team that they've paid WAY too much money to put together. And they aren't getting much for their $195 million, which is $50 million more than the second-highest team, namely because they just throw money away. (By contrast, three of the four teams remaining in the postseason are in the bottom eight in payroll.)

$28 million for Roger Clemens, who turns 56 this year, to pitch whenever the hell he feels like it. $23 million for Jason Giambi to, apparently, do nothing but blow the lid off the whole steroid thing. $10 million for Carl Pavano to remain in a constant state of disability.

They also love to sign players well after the iron has cooled. Johnny Damon: Great player...with the Royals and Red Sox. The Andy Pettitte they brought back from Houston (at top dollar) is not the same Pettitte that left for Houston. And losing Soriano and assuming the debt load on Alex Rodriguez's contract may have seemed like a good deal at the time, but...hey, that A-Rod sure puts up some great numbers, don't he?

What Steinbrenner and Cashman don't seem to understand is that the Yankees of the '00s are not the Yankees of the '50s: they just aren't going to win every year. And throwing more money at the problem isn't going to help.

Remember the Cleveland Indians? Two years after closing out the '90s with five straight division wins and two trips to the Series, they flushed the entire franchise down the toilet and started over again. And now they're playing for another trip to the Series.

I think the Yankees need to take a look at this strategy. They have close to $100 mil in contracts coming due, and it might not be wise of them to spend all of that in one place, as they usually would. There IS affordable talent out there. You don't have to sign the entire All-Star roster. Hell, the Yankees' best pitcher isn't even making $500,000; there are more (younger) players out there who are that good.

But, these are the Yankees. They've fucked themselves by putting all of their eggs in the same basket, letting A-Rod's contract come up the same year as Posada, Abreu, and Rivera's. So, they either lose a good portion of their team and start over, or they resign the whole thing and end up with the same team next year that couldn't do anything this year.

And all this is Joe Torre's fault HOW?

There is a ray of hope: reports are coming down that Steinbrenner is giving up control of the team to his sons. Hopefully, they're a little bit more sensible than their old man. And they'll keep around the best manager they're likely to see in a long time.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Yet Another Complaint About The JVL's Movie Theatres

I love movies. It's one of my passions in life. And, living in a podunk city surrounded by podunk towns, unfortunately, it's one of the few outlets of entertainment. Needless to say, I see a lot of movies.

Every weekend, I look at the movie listings, because, as I've mentioned before, I usually see a movie every weekend. This weekend was no different. But I was surprised at what I found.

At one of the area theatres, I found that, instead of bringing in a new movie, they were bringing back Shrek 3, which, as you can see from the poster next to this post, came out on May 18th.

Now, the fall months tend to be a kind of No Man's Land in terms of movie releases. Studios release all of their big movies in the summer, and save all of their Oscar contenders and anything else for the winter months. Not much product coming out in the fall. So, I can understand theatres struggling to fill up screens with stuff people want to watch.

But, there are ways to combat this. A theatre in our nearby state capital fills its empty screens with "classic" films, this week's selections being The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and Scarface. No screens going to waste there. And, if you don't want to show older movies that are already readily available on video, why not show something that's in limited release that might interest people, something like The Darjeeling Limited or In the Valley of Elah. That's stuff that's new, and, again, no wasted screens.

But, no. We get fucking Shrek 3 instead, which I'm pretty sure probably just left the theatres here in JVL a month ago. (You must remember that this is the same theatre that took a pass on The Prestige's $15 million opening so that they could show Pirates of the Caribbean 2 for one more week.)

I once commented to The Girl that the only way to improve Janesville would be to drop an atomic bomb on it.

That sounds better and better every day.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

That Time Of Year Again


A month ago, I had an opportunity to see a couple of the new pilots. Those were previews; now, Pilot Season has actually started. My thoughts on what I've seen so far:

Cane (CBS)
I thought this show was going to be about Columbian druglords. Turns out, it's about rum producers. And not illegal, bootlegger rum producers, but perfectly legal, corporate rum producers. That's some interesting TV.

Back to You (Fox)
Refugees from Everybody Loves Raymond and Fraiser on a sitcom about network news. Kinda makes you wish those other two shows were still on the air.

Bionic Woman (NBC)
All things considered, really not a bad show. The writing is terrible, but what do you expect from a show that they probably pitched by showing an episode of the '70s version: "It's like this, but new and with a hotter Bionic Woman."

Dirty Sexy Money (ABC)
Peter Krause plays lawyer for a Kennedy/Hilton-like family. It's a lot like Arrested Development, but without a plot or any laughs.

Private Practice (ABC)
As I mentioned back in May, I'd already seen the "pre-pilot" for this, and the "official" pilot is about the same. In fact, the only difference is that Francie from Alias is no longer on the show. She must have gotten a better offer (as should the rest of the cast, because this show sucks!).

K-Ville (Fox)
Other than the fact that it's shot on location in New Orleans, this is nothing "groundbreaking," despite what the commercials say. Having Cole Hauser be an escaped convict who lies his way onto the N.O.P.D. is an interesting twist, but it's nowhere near enough to outweigh the incredibly annoying presence of Anthony Anderson.

Moonlight (CBS)
Basically Angel without any wit or anything of interest. In fact, it also appears to be devoid of vampires as well, because the only reason that the main character appears to be a vampire is because that's what everyone keeps calling him. (Vampires walking around in the sun? Preposterous!) Also, I'm a little creeped out by the fact that the vampire has had his eyes on the love interest since she was about eight. That's pretty gross.

All and all...well, let's just say I'm eagerly anticipating the return of Lost and 24, because this is a pretty weak lot of shit.

I'll let you know if I see anything of interest, but I wouldn't hold your breath.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Character Actors Going To Pot


So, it's Premiere Week on the TV. Usually, it's the same-old, same-old with Premiere Week, with all the returning shows being good, and all the new shows sucking. This year is turning out to be pretty much the same, with one exception.

I was watching Shark on Sunday, and thought I saw a familiar face. I thought, "That looks like some obscure character actor I should know, but he looks too shitty to be him." But, as it turns out, it was exactly who I thought it was: Alex O'Ross, an action movie staple of the '80s and '90s. Here's a guy that, in his heyday, had the menacing looks a bad guy, now reduced to being a bloated old man.

It continues.

A few nights later, I'm watching House, and the woman playing the patient's mother looked vaguely like someone. Turns out it was Kay Lenz, who, back in the '80s and '90s, was actually pretty hot. Now...well, the term "sea hag" comes to mind. I'm sure there are others, but I can only watch so much TV; I'm only one man.

Now, I know that TV tends to be a bastion for character actors who fall out of vogue. But these folks look like they've not only fallen out of vogue, but out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.

I also find it odd that someone like Hector Elizondo, who's in Cane, looks exactly the same as he did 20 years ago. Hasn't aged a day. Hell, I just saw John Saxon in person a couple of months ago, and he looks the same as he did 30 years ago.

But, it's a fact of life that people get older, and some of them age waaaay worse than other. It's just a shame that we have to see them on TV.

Monday, September 24, 2007

How Not To Retool A Show, or, The New Season of Prison Break

I'll fully admit that I was not onboard from Day One with Prison Break. In fact, I had not seen an episode of the show until about two weeks ago, when I rented the first disc of Season One on a lark, and got so drawn in that I watched the remaining 40 episodes in a week. Turns out, it's a pretty entertaining show.

It's also a very well-plotted show, with Michael Scofield getting thrown into the same prison with his unjustly-imprisoned brother, in order to break him out. Scofield had his entire plan laid out in an elaborate tattoo that completely covered his arms and torso. And, at the end of Season One, they broke out.

The Second Season, somewhat obviously, was going to be about three things: 1) finding D.B. Cooper's money (don't ask), 2) clearing Scofield's brother, and 3) staying out of prison, all while being chased by a cunning FBI agent and a disgruntled ex-prison guard. And, that was pretty much what the second season was about.

Toward the end of the season, you could feel things start to wind down; things were starting to come to a conclusion. Then, something odd happened. With about 5-6 episodes left to go, the shadowy government characters began to talk about something called "Sona." Then, in the season finale, the show became less about the brothers escaping, and more about all of the remaining characters getting locked up in a Panamanian prison (aptly) named Sona.

Something funny's going on here. In the first two seasons, Scofield had the entire escape planned out. Every little detail. Now, Scofield and his cronies are in prison, no escape plan, with another apparent escape pending. Something's not right.

Here's what I think happened: Prison Break was created as a two-season show. Somewhere toward the end of production for Season Two, Fox decided to renew the show, as it was fairly well-received. The producers, really having no intention to make more, but having Fox offering to throw millions of dollars at them, came up with another prison break idea that they cooked up in about 15 seconds, and figureed out a way to tie it into the Second Season. "Hell, they were talkin' about that "Sona" bullshit in the Second Season." But, yeah, not until the end. Up until the point they mentioned that, it looked like the show was just going to end. And, suddenly, it went in a whole other direction. Now, we have Prison Break, Season Three. And it stinks of a show that has been tampered with in a big way.

Maybe it will turn out to be good. I don't know; there's only been two episodes. But...remember when Happy Days went from being about Richie Cunningham to being all about The Fonz? Yeah, I didn't think so, but that's where the term "jumping the shark" comes from. I think Prison Break might be strapping on those water skis right about now.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Missed One

At the start of summer, I wrote a post about the upcoming onslaught of irrelevant and unnecessary sequels. I even put up a poll, which I've rather lazily left on the right side of this page.

And now, Sequel Summer is over, but I appear to have missed an irrelevant and extremely unnecessary sequel (and no, it's not Resident Evil 3, which is still pretty excessive). I'm taking about, of course, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, a sequel to '98's Elizabeth.

Now, Elizabeth was kinda an art film. It was nominated for seven Oscars (winning one) and a shitload of BAFTAs (winning five). It even did pretty good business, considering it's a Period Drama. Movies like this are usually made and then left to history.

Yet, here we are, nine years later, anticipating a sequel. Honestly, what the hell could this movie be about? I know it deals with Elizabeth's dalliances with Sir Walter Raleigh, and appears to feature some sort of war, but do we really need a movie that details, like, five additional years of Elizabeth's life? Who the hell's gonna line up to see this? Not me, and I'll line up to see anything. (Hell, I got in line to see Hostel. That's how stupid I am.)

Hopefully, whatever studio moron that pushed to get this made will get his early Christmas present with an $18 opening weekend. That'll show him.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Maybe This One Will Stick

If you've been buried alive for the past couple of days, you might have missed that OJ Simpson has been arrested on a number of charges relating to an apparent robbery of his own sports memorabilia from a Las Vegas dealer.

I really don't have much to say on this one, other than I don't think that The Juice is going to get away with this one. The evidence is piling up against him. His alleged accomplices are getting immunity deals. And this didn't happen in L.A. county, where murder is not punishable offence; this is Clark county, Nevada, which, despite the glitz and glamour of its biggest city, is pretty much still the Old West, and they don't take no bullshit from some out-of-towner. I wouldn't be surprised if OJ got life for this.

Justice may be slow, but it will get you in the end. I don't think The Juice will be loose for very much longer.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Town That Dreaded Sundown


The city in which I live has always been an odd one. From its assortment of oddball restaurants to its complete lack of ethnic diversity (the US Census claims Janesville is 95% white, making it the whitest city in Wisconsin) to its right-leaning brand of liberalism, Janesville has always been slightly off the norm. And now I've found something else wrong with this town.

I have a regular Sunday night routine for years: The Girl goes to bed, and I go see the late movie. I've been doing this on a near-weekly basis for as long as I've lived here. Until now.

This Sunday, I went to the theatre to see The Brave One. (I've seen the last two Jodie Foster movies theatrically, so why not this one?) So, I show up at the theatre about 10 minutes before show time, and the place is locked up tight. After attempting to open all six doors, I noticed a sign on the door that read, "Box office hours, Sunday-Thursday: 11:45am-8:00pm." It was 9:20pm, meaning that the theatre was closed. I drove across town to the other theatre and it was closed, too. When I got home, I looked up the showtimes, which I assumed would be the same as when I looked them up the day before. But, as it turns out, both theatres in town have canceled their post-9:00pm shows, Sun-Thurs, until further notice. This has never happened before.

Now, I can understand the rationale. Most theatres will cut back on the number of shows during the fall and winter months, as school has started and fewer people go to the movies. But what those theatres do is cut the early shows, when people are actually in school or at work. Not Janesville. They keep their 12:00, 2:00, 4:00, and 7:00 shows and cut out that last one. Even the theatre in Johnson Creek, where no one actually lives (but they have an outlet mall, so they might as well have a theatre), has that last show.

Basically, what the theatres here have done is cut out a showing that people might actually go to, and keep two showings that no one will go to. Absolutely brilliant. But then, this is Janesville, where white is black and up is down and the most fucked up things are completely normal.

I think I need to find a new place to live.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Zeppelin Flies Again


Earlier in the week it was announced that the living members of Led Zeppelin would be getting back together to play a single show in November.

This is probably the biggest news in the history of rock and roll. Led Zeppelin has not been a band since Bonzo died in 1980. The three remaining members have not played together since the Atlantic Records 40th anniversary concert in 1989. (Even though I saw this concert when it aired, I don't remember Zeppelin playing. All I remember is that Genesis played "Turn It On Again," which, oddly enough, I think may be the last time they were relevant. But I may be wrong on that.)

This is the moment that Zeppelin fans have been waiting for for nearly 30 years. This concert will sell out in roughly 17 seconds. The Rolling Stones tour non-stop, and they're able to sell out venues at $200 a pop. They could charge $1 million for this Zeppelin show, and it would still sell out. This is that big.

I'd love to go, but I think I'll just listen to How the West Was Won instead. I don't have to spend any money to do that.

(BTW, this post makes a lot more sense with words in it. Sorry about that.)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Meet The New iPho...od. iPod. Huh.

I don't mean to bust Apple's balls. They really don't deserve it. For years, as an electronics and computer company, almost all of their equipment has been a masterpiece of design and technology. If there were more companies releasing product like this, the world would be a better place.

But, the thing is, when Apple makes a misstep, it tends to be a huge one. Like when they made a USB flash drive that does nothing but play music. Or the big white speaker with an iPod sticking rather conspicuously from the top of it. Or redesigning their iPod Nano into a 12-oz can coaster. These are Apple's jarring missteps.

And then, there's the iPhone. I've ridiculed this creation in the past. And I'm not the only one scorning it. This is the only device in history that I can think of that has spawned an entire subculture devoted to subverting its service plan. There are people who legitimately hate this thing, regardless of how cool it may be. My main problem with it is that, essentially, it's a gigantic iPod with a phone in it.

Now, as though Steve Jobs reads this blog and is designing technology specifically for me to hate, Apple has come out with the iPod Touch, which is (drum roll, please) an iPhone without the phone.

Ya know, in that post I linked to earlier in the post, I floated the idea of the PSP with phone functionality. Well, now that Apple has come up with this phone-less iPhone, I'd have to say the PSP is the better device. It plays movies, music, shows pictures, and connects to the WWW, just as this new iPod does. But, it also plays games, has transferable and expandable memory, AND (this is huge) has a changeable battery. Seriously, you put a phone in this thing, this is a pretty super piece of technology.

Mind you, I'm not shilling for Sony, as I think they're the stupidest electronics company out there, but, if they wanted to do something smart for once, they'd do this. There's apparently a market for rather unwieldy electronic devices that sometimes serve as phones; may as well make the best one there is.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Let Pilot Season Commence


Had an opportunity to watch a couple of NBC's upcoming pilots a few weeks before they air. My thoughts (other than noticing that NBC has cast Britons as Americans in a lot of its new shows (just like Fox did with House, and that show's a hit!)):

Chuck
The promos for this show made me think this was about some nerd who works for the Geek Squad at Best Buy. (They aren't called that on the show, but, it is what it is.) And while "geek" shows have not historically fared well (witness NBC's own Freaks and Geeks), I guess the network thinks this one will do better.

What I found odd about this show is that it's not so much about geeks as it is about The Matrix. It's apparently an action/adventure show about a government-created computer virus that been downloaded into Chuck, the "nerd" of the title.

And speaking of "nerds," the nerds in this show are about as nerdy as, say, George Clooney. When I think "nerd," I look at the Systems guys at work. The guys in this show are waaaay cooler than that. Basically, they're called geeks because, if they weren't, there wouldn't be a show. I mean, the one gaming reference they make in the show is Zork, which is not even in the geek lexicon anymore; that's sooooo 1984.

Really pretty terrible.

-Probability of cancellation: Pretty decent, considering it stars Adam Baldwin (not relation to any other Baldwin), who stars on nothing but canceled shows.

Life
The definition of "high-concept": A cop, framed for a murder he didn't commit, is released from prison and resumes his job on the police force. Twelve years in Pelican Bay have driven him a little nuts, and the wrongful-imprisonment settlement he received from the city has put a big chip on his shoulder, plus, he really wants to know how he ended up in prison in the first place.

The "crazy cop" genre has always been a shaky one (even though Bruce Willis has made an entire career out of it). These shows go from either moderately successful, like Super Cop (also known as L&O: CI) or completely unwatched, like Raines (a show I liked, which, of course, doomed it for cancellation). Unfortunately, this falls toward the latter.

While I enjoyed seeing a guy who's lost a lot of his marbles in prison out solving crimes, meanwhile, grinding a serious ax against those that got him put away, when it comes to dealing with people, he tends to get a little too profound and touchy-feely for my taste. It sours the character for me quite a bit. (There's a lesson to be learned from the success of House: you're either an asshole all the time, or not at all.) And I think it may turn a lot of people off the show altogether.

About 63% watchable.

-Probability of cancellation: Extreme.

Journeyman
A newspaper reporter who, like Billy Pilgrim, has become "unstuck in time," randomly jumps back and forth between the past and present in what appears to be some "Grand Scheme of Things."

Quite honestly, a very good show. If they figure out how to develop the show in interesting ways (like the secondary character that also appears to be afflicted with the same malady), I think this show may gain a following, and become the next Lost or Heroes. Or, it may just crap out like 90% of pilots do.

I enjoyed it.

-Probability of cancellation: A toss up, but, being as I like it, it will probably be canceled.

I also managed to see a brief preview of Bionic Woman, which didn't give me any idea of what the show will be like, but it is nice to see that Katee Sackhoff has lined up a gig for when Battlestar Galactica goes off the air next year. (Also, nice pickup by NBC with Isaiah Washington, who, hopefully, will be less homophobic with this network, so NBC doesn't have to show how racist they are.)

We'll see how things pan out in two months. See ya then.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Halloween Redux (Not That We Needed One)

If you've read a single post on this blog, you may have gotten the impression that I dislike movie remakes, namely because I bring it up like every other post.

I find it hard to believe that, in the Year of Our Lord 2007, we've completely run out of ideas for movies. That there are no literary properties that could be adapted, no unproduced screenplays that could be produced. Instead, a lot of new movies ideas come in the form of amped-up, dumbed-down, and reheated versions of shit we've already seen before, that turn out to be nowhere near as entertaining as the original. (Elmore Leonard, probably the second-most adapted author in history, still has a dozen or so books available for adaptation.)

However, once in a great while, someone will remake a film with enough style and enough altered elements that they, in turn, become great films themselves. Films like A Fistful of Dollars (a remake of Yojimbo) or The Killer (a remake of Le Samourai) are so well-made in their own right that most people don't care (or know) that they are remakes. (It should be noted that Walter Hill also remade both of those films, and his versions should have stayed unmade.)

All that being said, if I were writing a dissertation on why not to remake movies, Rob Zombie's new Halloween would be my thesis. While I understand the fact that filmmakers feel that they have something new that they can bring to a existing concept, as that is what being creative is all about, I don't understand how you think you can improve upon a movie that was pretty much perfect to start with. Throwing tens of millions of dollars, and tons of tits and blood at a movie does not improve it at all. (Well, actually, it does, but for the wrong reasons.) And, other than the aforementioned T-and-B, he really hasn't added much to this movie at all. This is about as straight-forward as remakes get.

I appreciate the fact that Zombie tried to include a little bit of the backstory of Michael Myers. I liked the B-list actors that entirely compose the cast (but was disappointed by the exclusion of PJ Soles, who was in the the original Halloween, and whom Zombie put in The Devil's Rejects, but is absent here; a great call-back opportunity missed). I was pleased to see that little bits of dialogue, visual homages, the "Shatner" mask, and John Carpenter's musical score all carried over from the original.

But, the backstory of Michael Myers was covered to death in Halloweens 4-8. And you can't carry a movie with stunt casting (witness the last couple of Tarantino movies). And if I wanted to see shit from the original movie, I'd watch the original movie, which, 30 years later, may still be one of the best horror movies ever made.

I like Rob Zombie as a filmmaker, but he made a really bad choice deciding to remake this movie; it just can't be done. The original was too good. And I know he can make great films of his own; he made Devil's Rejects. (He also made House of 1000 Corpses, which, conversely, shows he may be the worst filmmaker ever.) Let's stick with original material from here on out. Leave the remake bullshit to the thousands of filmschool jagoffs looking to break into the biz. That'd make me happy.

And, since I usually end these diatribes with an alternate viewing recommendation, go see Death Sentence instead, which, despite the fact that it's based on the sequel to the book version of Death Wish, is actually more of a remake of the movie version of Death Wish than anything else.

Shouldn't stop you from seeing it, though.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Michigan Got Smoked


The big news in sports this weekend was that #5 Michigan, who probably would have played for the National Championship last year if the BCS wasn't rigged, lost to Appalachian St. in a nail-biter. This loss marks the first time that a ranked Division I-A team has ever lost a game to a Division I-AA (or, Division I Football Championship Subdivision, as it's now called) team.

Everyone seems to be making a huge deal out of the fact that Michigan lost to a Division I-AA school. It's not as though Michigan lost to a Division III team or, worse yet, a high school team; they got beat by a I-AA school, which are almost exactly the same as Division I-A schools, except they don't participate in the BCS. And, it's not as though they got beat by Prairie View; they got beat by Appalachian St., probably the best team in I-AA right now. Just because they're in a different classification, due to the bullshit politics of NCAA football, doesn't mean they're not a good football team.

What I found to be most surprising is that this hadn't happened before. I find it hard to believe that the best I-AA team had never beaten the #25 I-A team before, but I guess that's the way it is. The least surprising thing is that it was Michigan that lost this game, as they are just continuing their choke streak (currently at three) from last year.

Congrats to Appalachian St. on a great start to their season, and, GO WOLVERINES!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Best Day Of Jeff Bagwell's Life

On Sunday, Jeff Bagwell had his number 5 retired by the Houston Astros. The ceremony was attended by Bagwell and every other living number retiree, and featured a call from Bagwell's boyhood hero, Carl Yastrzemski.

Now, it's usually a great honor to have your number retired by a team. It's an honor reserved for a team's greatest players, who usually also happen to be some of the greatest ever. For example, the Milwaukee Brewers have retired the numbers of Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Rollie Fingers, and Hank Aaron. All great players, all Hall of Famers. The Astros' retirees are a different story.

Nolan Ryan: He's a given. Mike Scott was probably the best pitcher to spend most of his career with the Astros. I can even see Larry Dierker, one of the franchise's inaugural players and latter-day manager. But Jimmy Wynn? Jim Umbricht? Jose Cruz and Don Wilson? I don't even know if those are real players. Are the Astros such a terrible franchise that this is what passes for greatness? They played in the Eighth Wonder of the World, for Christ's sake! Theirs is not so much a Hall of Fame as it is a Hall of Pretty Alright.

As for Bagwell, he is well-deserving of having his number retired. As for his chances in the actual Hall of Fame, those are a little more shaky. As a guy whose MVP year was the definition of "serendipity," he didn't play quite long enough, and his stats aren't quite good enough to make him a serious Hall candidate. Had he not become prone to broken hands, and continued to play at the same level for another 5-6 years, he's a Hall shoo-in. As it stands now, he's going to need a pretty big fanbase of sports writers to get in on any year's ballot.

Congrats anyway on a pretty great career.

Oh, and since Jeff ain't much to look at, I thought instead I'd post a picture of the ex-Mrs. Jeff Bagwell, who, shortly after their divorce, received $15,000 from gambling website GoldenPalace.com to sport their logo on her boobs for a month.

I'm sure that was the second best day of Jeff Bagwell's life.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Lionsgate Missed A Defendant


Earlier in the week, Lionsgate Films filed a lawsuit against several companies for selling merchandise with the slogan, "Nobody puts Baby in the corner." That line, of course, is from Dirty Dancing, a film to which Lionsgate owns the rights. They allege that their copyright on the film covers its dialogue as well, and, therefore, anyone using the phrase without a licensing agreement is violating Lionsgate's copyright.

Not that I'm a Johnny Do-Gooder or anything, but I'd just like to point out to Lionsgate that they may have missed a defendant in their case. On the Fall Out Boy album From Under the Cork Tree, there is a song named "Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner," which sounds like copyright infringement to me.

Not that this is the first time they've done this. The titles for their songs "Tell Mick That He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today," "Of All the Gin Joints in All the World," "Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying," "Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends" are all quotations from movies that I believe are still coyprighted material. Even the line "He tastes like you, only sweeter" from their smash hit "Thnks fr th Mmrs" is a direct quote from the movie Closer.

Hopefully, the assorted copyright holders of these movie quotes will come forward and sue Fall Out Boy, forcing them to change their songs names to something equally pop-cultural, like "You Brought On the Heartbreak (But All I Got Was a Stomachache)" or "Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn't Get Sued."

Oh wait, they already do have a song called that. I guess lightning can strike twice in the same place.

And on the flip-side of this argument, I think there might be a pretty good case against Bayer for co-opting the name of their new birth control/depression medication from the band of the same name.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Free As A Bird (Pretty Much)


On the same day that Nicole Richie served her 80 minute prison sentence, Lindsay Lohan was sentenced to (approximately) one day in jail for two DUIs, two counts of possession of cocaine, transporting a narcotic into a custodial facility, driving on a suspended license, drinking underage and fleeing the scene of an accident.

Ya know, I'm beginning to think that maybe the L.A. County justice system is working from a different set of books than the rest of the country. I mean, this is the same system that gave O.J. a free pass on two counts of murder. Lindsay got charged with more felonies than the average street-level drug dealer gets five years for, and she gets one day in jail, most of which I'm sure will be spent in the lobby. That's not even enough time for one of the corrections officers to sexually assault her (unless that's what Lindsay wants, then there'll be plenty of time). Lindsay committed a handful of crimes in L.A. that make her a danger to herself and others and gets one day in jail, yet, across the country in New York, Martha Stewart got five months in prison and five months house arrest for selling some stock.

I'm confused. People claim it's favorable treatment for celebrities, yet that dude from Prison Break is about to get sentenced to Chino, which is not a celebrity day camp-type prison, but a genuine ass rape-type prison. (Sounds like someone forgot to blow their judge.) You've got to love a justice system that metes out justice from one extreme to the other on a daily basis.

Today's lesson: if you would like to commit any sort of crime, become really famous and move to L.A. County. Commit whatever crime you like and there's about a 67% chance you'll skate on it. The other 33% is the probability that you'll get the chair, but, hey, I like those odds!

By the way, Lindsay's rehab looks fun as hell. I'm thinking of acquiring a meth addiction so I can have that much fun.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jailbait No More

Just thought I'd mention the 18th birthday of Hayden Panetierre, who plays the indestructible cheerleader on Heroes. It is now officially okay for middle-aged men to ogle her without being pedophiles.

I believe this also begins the T-minus three years until she Lindsays herself into a complete burnout. This includes years of non-stop partying and drug use, making friends with scumbag debutantes, around-the-clock tabloid coverage, numerous public meltdowns, multiple stays in rehab, and the inevitable Playboy spread when she hits 35.

Congrats on making it to adulthood, kiddo. It's all downhill from here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Michael Vick Eats It


It really doesn't come as much of a surprise that Michael Vick decided to plead guilty to the interstate dog-fighting charges that he and his boyz were facing. By taking a plea, he avoids the possible 20 year sentence for the RICO bust if this had gone to trial. Now, he's on the hook for about 12-18 months, with a maximum of five years.

What will be interesting to see is what happens to Vick after this whole "dog" thing is over and done with. The Commissioner has already told Vick, "Do not report to training camp, do not pass go, do not collect $200." I suspect that when he gets out of prison that the League will bench him for at least a year. Somewhere in there, I expect the Falcons to negate the rest of Vick's 10-year, $130 million contract. And, it's expected that, when all's said and done, it may be 2010 before Vick is ever allowed to play football again. And that's if he can get anyone to sign him.

Which I think would bring a end to the career of the most over-hyped running back in the history of...wait, he's a quarterback?

Huh. News to me.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Last Five Movies



Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973)
In a callback to the very first one of these, yet another entry in Meiko Kaji's Scorpion series. Nowhere near as weird as the previous two entries, this one finds Scorpion on the run from the law. You've got to love a movie where, in the first minute, Scorpion cuts off the arm of the cop she's handcuffed to, and runs through the streets with it dangling from her wrist. Oh, and a note to the actresses of today: Kaji is able to come off as the toughest bitch on the planet while uttering about three lines of dialogue. There's something to be said for having a "presence."

The Lookout (2007)
An entertaining little flick, even if I'm a little unsure that it's possible to have the mental illness that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has in this. Otherwise, very enjoyable. And Jeff Daniels doesn't get nearly enough work.

Fracture (2007)
When I see legal thrillers like this, I wonder if they actually do any legal research when coming up with the plots. This movie gives us the shakiest examination of the "double jeopardy" exception since, well, Double Jeopardy (which had no basis in legal fact). And isn't it about time for Anthony Hopkins to stop playing Hannibal Lector? He does have other talents, ya know.

The Bride Wore Black (1968)
Francois Truffaut's take on Hitchcock (of whom he was a big fan) turns out to be a failure, as no Hitchcock movie was ever this boring. However, let it be said that this is probably Truffaut's best (ie, least boring) movie. Also, fans of Quentin Tarantino will be pleased to know that this film is in his "Movies I've Stolen From" file, as it shares its plot with Kill Bill.

No-brainer on this one...

Superbad (2007)
This has replaced Hot Fuzz as the funniest movie I've seen this year. It's basically Pretty in Pinkfor the Gen-Y set, told from the guys' perspective. If you're averse to raunchy talk about sex, avoid this like poison, because it's basically the plot of the movie. I liked the retro feel of the movie, from the clothes to the music, even the vintage Columbia Pictures logo before the opening credits. I was somewhat weirded out by the homoerotic subtext that pops up at the end of the film, but, honestly, it's not really that out of place, and makes sense, if you think about it. And if only cops were as fun in real-life as they are in this movie.

A great flick; check it out.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What I'm Listening To


Here's what's blaring out of my stereo at the moment (as though you cared):

-Beyond by Dinosaur Jr.
J Mascis got the original Dinosaur Jr back together, and they rock harder than ever. But, don't kid yourself that just because Murph and Lou Barlow are back in the band that this is a return to the "classic" Dino Jr sound. This is pure "late-model" stuff, with layer upon layer of heavy Jazzmaster noise, just like the J Mascis solo records that he passed off as Dinosaur Jr records. Great stuff, though.

-White Light, White Heat, White Trash by Social Distortion
The best Social Distortion record, IMO. Most people cite Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell, but I like my punk rock to actually rock.

-Vena Sera by Chevelle
Pretty basic Gloom Metal.

-Soul Crusher by Operator
Imagine Chris Cornell fronting a crappy metal band (much like he did in the early days of Soundgarden), and you have a good idea of what Operator sounds like. It's a shame that this record is better than the two solo records that the real Chris Cornell broke up two awesome bands to release.

-"Metalingus" by Alter Bridge
I've never been a big fan of Mark Tremonti, as all of his guitar work with Creed could have been played by a talented computer program. But this song, with the band that Creed became after Scott Stapp fell off the earth, is full of cool little licks and riffs. Maybe if Tremonti had played like this with Creed, they wouldn't have been the Gayest Band Ever.

-"Umbrella" by Rhianna
How do you not like this song?

-"Anything" by JoJo
It's nice to see Jeff Porcaro earning some songwriting royalties again. Too bad he's been dead for, like, 15 years. Oddly, The Girl loves JoJo, but hates this song. She has no appreciation of shitty '80s songs, I guess.

-Lite Rock on the Hard Rock station
I was listening to WXRX, Screw City's Home of Rock, the other day, when I heard something that I'm pretty sure was Avril Lavigne. I actually checked the radio dial to make sure I was on the right station. So, the Rock station was playing (I think) Avril Lavigne, who is sooooooo far away from rock that she may actually come all the way back around to being rock. I'm sure there's a Einstein-Rosen theory that explains it all.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Tribulations Of A Guitar Player

I recently decided that taking up the guitar might be a good waste of my time. And, despite that fact that I'm absolutely atrocious, I'm already looking for my next guitar.

No one ever plays one guitar their whole life. They're always looking for another one. Even Eric Clapton and Eddie Van Halen retired their famous guitars for something else. So, this means I spend a lot of time guitar shopping, trying to find that guitar/amp combination that's going to take me to the next level.

The great thing about most guitar shops, particularly the big ones, is that they actually encourage you to play the merchandise. Playing it is the only way to see if it's any good and if it's what you want. You're basically a jackass to buy a guitar you haven't played beforehand (like I did), because you're going to end up with something that's wrong for you.

And while we're talking about guitar stores, I think it's a prerequisite that all guitar store employees a) be able to play the guitar really well, and b) know everything there is to know about guitars. And they're insanely helpful. One at Guitar Center literally inundated me with guitars he thought I might like, one of which was a $1700 Les Paul (which played like a $1700 guitar).

However, the problem with guitar stores is that I'm kinda embarrassed to go in there, as I really am not a good player at this point. It's difficult not to be self-conscious of my guitar-playing ability when a guy the next aisle over has the Zakk Wylde Custom plugged into a Marshall half-stack, tearing the hell out of "Eruption," while I have a ukulele plugged into a five-watt practice amp, struggling my way through, well, nothing. Plus, it's difficult to tell what sounds good when 1) I don't know what "sounds good" sounds like, and 2) I don't know what "sounds good" sounds like.

But, all that being said, I keep going. If nothing else, it's fun to just handle the merchandise. Someday I'll be good. Someday.

Maybe.


BTW, there's another problem with guitar stores, and that's taking The Girl to them. On one trip, I showed her a Gibson Flying V that I thought was pretty cool. Her response was, "That is pretty cool...if you're C.C. DeVille."

My own wife. Wow. I guess it doesn't help that one of the songs I do know how to play is "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."

I bring this shit on myself, I suppose.