Thursday, May 31, 2007

Yet Another Dead Mall

I'm fascinated by dead malls. Since all shopping malls were built in the '60s and '70s, the ones that don't make it or don't get updated decor become time capsules for the hideous concepts that passed for interior design of the times. The miles and miles of stone-inlaid concrete; the dark-brown laminated wood; the odd fountains and topiaries that dot the floorplan; the absent food court; the shiny aluminum surfaces; and everything swathed in brown and harvest gold. There is nothing more beautiful/ugly than a mall on its last legs.

Last weekend, because The Girl and I were in the area and had nothing better to do, we made our annual stop at the Machesney Park Mall, just because we think it's funny to see what stores could possibly still be in that mall. I used to go to the Machesney Park Mall all the time as a kid, because, even though it was out in the middle of nowhere, it was closer to where we lived than the more popular and still-living Cherryvale Mall (or at least that was my mother's logic). And time has not treated it well.

What we discovered on this particular trip was that Rockford has yet another dead mall on its hands, joining North Towne (which was literally sliced in half and turned into a furniture store) and Colonial Villiage (which became a "church" that draws more visitors than the mall ever did) on the "Do Not Resuscitate" list.

The mall is completely empty inside, with only the anchor stores (JCPenny's and Boston Store) on the ends still open. (Imagine the picture up top, but close the Deb, get rid of the plants, benches, and candy machine, and kill those trees, and that's what it looks like inside.) The parking lot was full of cars, but we soon discovered that all those cars belonged to people who had parked there to catch the shuttle bus to a concert at the Rockford Speedway. I was surprised that you could go into the mall part, which is now a skateboarding hoodlum's paradise and rife with vandalism opportunities. It was totally devoid of life in a creepy and ominous way, and I fully expected to see the occasional zombie shambling about. As the anchor stores had signs posted by their mall entrances that said, "The doors to the mall close at 7:00pm," The Girl thought it might be a neat idea to hide out until they closed and just live in the mall. I rebutted with the fact that there probably already are people living in the mall, and I didn't feature the idea of being murdered by CHUDs after the lights went out. All in all, one dead-ass mall.

But, all hope is not yet lost for the mall. While the mall itself is scheduled for demolition in the next month or so, JCPenny and Boston Store will remain, with the 500,000 square foot space in between being redeveloped into a mixed retail/commercial district. It's all part of a huge development push in that area that coincides with the opening of the I-90/Route 173 interchange later this year. So, from death comes life.

While it's sad to see the old dump go, it's probably for the best. I'm just glad I got to see it in its out-dated glory one last time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Those Guys

A while back, during a post on "Poor Man's Versions," I made reference to "Those Guys": character actors with a lot of screen time, but no name recognition. I made a crack that maybe Stuff would do a better job with their list of Those Guys than they did with their Poor Man's Versions.

But, it appears as though Cracked has beat them to the punch by compiling a Top 20 List of Those Guys. And it's actually a pretty good list. (They're even nice enough to include their own Poor Man's Versions for every entry.)

It does have its problems, though. Like, what's David Morse doing on the list? I think everyone knows who he is. And if they didn't, who would play the "David Morse" Roles? Same with Danny Trejo and James Cromwell, both of whom are very well-known and have roles that only they can play.

And then there's the omissions. Like, where's Brian Cox, who is in literally every movie. (He's also very well-known, but, if you're putting Morse and Trejo on the list, you gotta put on Cox.) Or Bruce McGill, who's the Poor Man's Brian Cox (and played D-Day in Animal House, even though you wouldn't know it by looking at him). Or Bob Gunton, who's the TV Version of Philip Baker Hall. Or Dale Dye, who always plays the military guy. Or M. Emmet Walsh, who plays the "Sweaty Guy" Role whenever George Kennedy's not available (which isn't very often). Or James Hong, who played every Asian role in Hollywood for 20 years. Or (of course) Colm Feore, who's name gets dropped more on this blog than anywhere else on the planet.

All around, a good list, even if it does have more dead guys on it than you might expect to see.

Oh, and on a sidenote, in that same post I mentioned earlier, I made reference to Keith David, and about how I sensed his name turning up on a list of Those Guys. Well, I'll be damned if he didn't turn up on this list; even used the same picture I did.

Funny how that works, ain't it?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Charles Nelson Reilly, 1931-2007

Just wanted to mention the passing of '70s and '80s game show staple Charles Nelson Reilly, who died today at age 76.

Although I'm a little too young to have seen him much on game shows, his flamboyant (i.e., gay) antics can be caught with some regularity in reruns on the Game Show Network. I best remember his portrayal of Jose Chung on episodes of The X-Files and Millennium, which he played sans toupee.

Now, when Rip Taylor dies, he'll have just enough people (along with Reilly and Paul Lynde) to form a Blatantly Gay Game Show Guest team for the Heavenly version of Win, Lose or Draw.

Bert Convy will be pleased.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Idol Crowns Another Idle

Tonight, America crowned another idol, and it was...honestly, who cares. (It was Jordin, for those that care.) I haven't watched this show in four years, because it sucks. But, watching from the sidelines, I find it humorous. Not because the show is funny (which it isn't), but because the idiots that vote for who wins on the show almost always get it wrong.

Of the show's five previous winners, only two (Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood) have become "stars". That's 40%, an average will put you into Cooperstown, but a a bit of a failure when you're starmaking.

Season One, you had Kelly Clarkson, who's sold 15 million records. I'd call that a win.

Season Two, Ruben Studdard beat out Clay Aiken, but on the show only, as Clay has tripled Ruben's record sales. Oops. Loser.

I don't even know who won Season Three, but I do know that the seventh place finisher just won an Oscar for her role in a musical. Yes: An Oscar for singing. And I bet you remember William Hung, who didn't even make it past the tryouts, better than you remember who actually won.

Season Four: Carrie Underwood. One record, 6 million copies. 'Nuff said.

Season Five saw George Clooney's older brother beat out the cute bulimic chick. But they're both losers compared to fourth place finisher Chris Daughtry, whose record has sold more copies than those of the three that finished ahead of him combined.

And now, they've crowned another loser. We'll see how their career doesn't pan out.

The thing about this is that I'm sure the producers don't see those as "loses". I'm sure they spin it as, "Well, the person we crowned 'American Idol' hasn't sold a single record, because he/she is completely talentless, but, boy, that guy who finished 19th: 10 million records! Boo-yah!!" Anybody who sells a ton of records who was on that show for even a second is a win for them.

Basically, it all comes back to the viewers. You haven't put their money where your mouth is. Which, pretty much, makes you idiots.

On a side note, the ratings for the season finale of American Idol are being viewed as disappointing, as they were a 15% dropoff from last year's show. Maintaining 30 million viewers throughout a two hour show that is less entertaining than any given episode of The Gong Show, yeah, that's an absolute disaster.

The networks are idiots, too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ronnie Gardocki: My Hero

I've sung the praises of Ronnie Gardocki before, of how he, and not Vic Mackey, is The Man on The Shield. There has not been a better cop since Harry Callahan.

And he solidified my opinion of him on Tuesday's episode of The Shield, after being told by Shane of Vic's complicity in Terry Crowley's murder. When Ronnie confronted Vic about it, and Vic was absolutely speechless, what did Ronnie say? "I wish you'd been straight with me. I could have protected you better."

How cool is that?

If only we all had friends who would protect us from a murder rap. The world would be a better place.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Network Fall Schedules Are In

So, the Network Upfronts, where the networks announce their fall lineups, are over, and the bad news is in: Network programming still sucks.

In a move that is possibly one of the most predictable in the history of TV, ABC picked up Private Practice, the Kate Walsh spinoff of Grey's Anatomy. This surprised no one, as ABC had already aired the pilot episode the week before, cleverly disguised as an episode of Grey's. They also decided to go forward with that sitcom about the Geiko cavemen. (Worst...pickup...ever.)

They also announced that Lost will be on for another three seasons. But, while it's nice to see that ABC took my advice and will produce those three season as short, uninterrupted, mid-season replacements, how the hell are they going to crank out 48 more episodes of that show? I don't see how they can turn out one more to finish up the current season, much less another 48. (This is officially now The Show That Will Never End.)

NBC, in an attempt to firmly secure their position in fourth place, did nothing to improve their lineup. They did, however, figure out a way to circumvent the "hiatus season" that plagued Heroes this year by coming up with Heroes: Origins (or, America's Next Top Hero, as I like to call it), which will air during Heroes' six-week hiatus. (Nice strangling of the "golden egg" goose, btw.) And it's nice to see that Kim Raver is in another pilot, so the chances of her turning up as Audrey Raines on 24 are pretty slim (although I'd've said the same this year, but, I'll be damned if Audrey didn't return from the dead after The Nine got canceled).

They also figured out how to solve their Law and Order problem, by banishing the lowly Criminal Intent to sister network USA, and making them pick up the tab (welcome news to fans of the original Law and Order).

CBS, working the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" strategy, also did nothing to improve their lineup, but, well, when you're the landslide ratings winner, you don't need to do anything. (I was glad that King of Queens was finally shown the door after nine riotously unfunny seasons.) In fact, the only real move they made was to move Shark, the only show I've watched on CBS with any regularity since The Flash got canceled, to the No Man's Land that is Sunday nights at 9c. Bad timeslot, but it's up against, well...nothing. (I like those odds!)

The biggest loser at the upfronts was Fox, which canceled all but one of its freshmen shows. (That's some quality programming.) And that one show is 'Til Death, because they're going to make Brad Garrett's post-Raymond career work, goddamnit! They also chose to move Bones to Friday, The Death Night, despite its decent ratings. And they renewed 24 for two more seasons, which includes an apparent retooling of the show, which I'm sure will effectively kill it (ala Alias). The only positive thing to come out of it is that some of their new shows appear promising, but Fox has always shown what they think of promising shows.

Speaking of which, they did make the ballsiest pickup of the year by bringing back King of the Hill, a show that they've attempted to kill for years, for a twelfth season. (Then again, they did re-up American Dad, so it just goes to show they'll pick up anything animated.)

Actually, I prematurely granted Biggest Loser status. That would be The CW, which canceled Reba, 7th Heaven, Veronica Mars, and Gilmore Girls, the only reasons that anyone watches The CW. I believe that cuts them down to about six hours of programming a week.

(It's also worth noting that, of all the new shows that premiered in '06-'07 that I actually liked, only two (Heroes and Shark) got renewed. I'd say I have bad taste, but I think we know better than that.)

Check back in September; we'll see how the whole thing shakes out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Last Five Movies

Rabid Dogs (1974)
While not technically the last film directed by Mario Bava (that would be Beyond the Door 2), it did take nearly 25 years for it to see the light of day, due to the production going bankrupt and the negative going into hock. And now that it's been finished by his son Lamberto, I kinda wish he hadn't. It's more along the lines of something that lesser directors, like Lenzi or Fulci, would have directed; just not up to the standards of the Godfather of Italian Horror Movies.

Harsh Times (2005)
Yet another movie that I can understand why it sat on the shelf for so long. If seeing Christian Bale overact past the point of insanity is your idea of a good time, this is your movie. If not, don't bother.

The Ex (2007)
The second movie I've seen this year saved solely by the presence of Jason Bateman. I can only hope Scrubs is on for about another five years, because it will keep Zach Braff out of movies, where he clearly doesn't belong. It was nice to see Charles Grodin in a movie again, however.

The Entity (1981)
I didn't think there was enough material out there to make a two hour movie about ghost rape, but I've been proven wrong. And I wish that I'd been proven wrong that this movie was watchable. It's sad when the best part of the movie is Barbara Hershey's prosthetic nudity double. Classic stuff.

A terrible week for movies, but here it is:

28 Weeks Later... (2007)
This movie has two big problems: 1) It wasn't directed by Danny Boyle, and b) it wasn't written by Alex Garland. It was that duo that made the first film such an unexpected treat. This one was written by a slew of unknowns, and directed by a man who hasn't see a handheld jumpcut he didn't like. Still, it's entertaining, like when the US military firebombs London. And I found it humorous that the US military commander is played by a Brit (although I don't think anyone realizes that Idris Elba is actually British, so it doesn't matter). It's not as entertaining as the first one (and contains a particularly stupid role for Robert Carlyle), but it's still a virus-infected good time.

Check it out.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Eli Roth's Career Now Officially A Joke

Check out this clip (courtesy of G4) of Eli Roth at last week's Saturn Awards, and then come back.

Couple o' things:

When does making a movie entirely out of fake trailers (like those featured in Grindhouse) seem like a good idea? There's a half hour-long show on HDNet called Nothing But Trailers, that is...nothing but trailers: no commercials, no commentary, just trailers. A solid half hour block of trailers is about my tolerance level. And yet this idiot wants to make a 90 minute movie of fake trailers; wants to spend millions of dollars compiling a movie full of trailers (which most people hate) for movies that don't exist.

A better idea would be to make a compilation movie (ala Terror in the Aisles) of actual trailers from crappy grindhouse-era flicks. (Much like how Anchor Bay uses the original theatrical trailers for all of their "Coming Soon to DVD" featurettes.) But apparently Roth had such a good time making his Thanksgiving trailer for Grindhouse that he thinks a whole movie of the same might entertain others.

Which brings me to another point: When does it seem like a good idea to steal ideas from Quentin Tarantino? (While I can't confirm that the fake trailer idea in Grindhouse was his, it kinda has Tarantino written all over it.) How bad is your career when you steal ideas from one of the biggest plagiarist working today? Pretty bad, almost to the point where you should stop making movies, like, right now.

On a side note, the best thing about that clip is Greg Grunberg floating around in the background. You know it's a terrible interview when guys in the background are more interesting than the subject.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Terminator 4...Now With Less Arnold!

Some things just never die. And in the case of the Terminator franchise, they can't be destroyed either.

Earlier this week, it was announced that a production company named Halcyon was going forward with plans to produce a fourth Terminator movie. The catch? No Governator in this one.

In fact, none of the parties involved in the previous three films will be involved in this one. Not Schwartzengger, for obvious reasons; not James Cameron, who apparently doesn't make movies anymore; not Gale Anne Hurd, who's too busy with the Hulk remake to worry about this (Yes, that's right: The upcoming Incredible Hulk is not a continuation of Ang Lee's The Hulk); not even Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna, who loved the success they had with Terminator 2 so much that they independently financed the third movie.

And that's how this Halcyon Company ended up with the rights to the Terminator franchise: they bought them from Kassar and Vajna, who, I assume, are still hurting for money since they bankrupted Carolco. (And Basic Instinct 2 didn't exactly put them in the black.)

Of course, this may all change in time, and everyone may jump right on board. Except for Arnold, who will probably keep his post as Governor, rather than resign to play The Terminator again.

We shall see.

Friday, May 11, 2007

It's News To Me

I read on the front page of Yahoo! the other day that, after 25 years, British New Wave act New Order has decided to break up.

WHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT????!!!?!?!? New Order is still a band?!? The last thing I remember from them was "Bizarre Love Triangle," which came out when I was in middle school...and that was 20 years ago. Apparently, they've had some sort of secret existence since then, where only the "cool kids" who listened to them way back in the day are allowed to know they're still around. But now, the gig is up.

Learn something new everyday, I guess. Next, they're going to tell me Silverchair is still a band. That would be a laugh.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Pilot Season Starts Early

If you're a loyal watcher of Grey's Anatomy (as I tragically am), you may have noticed that the last episode was less about the shenanigans at Seattle Grace, and more about Addison's visit to a Los Angeles "wellness clinic." While it may seem like a bizarre one-off episode, there's a perfectly logical explanation.

It's a well-known fact that Kate Walsh, who plays Addison, is getting her own Grey's spinoff next year. And ABC, in its infinite wisdom, decided that they, rather than produce a separate pilot episode for that show, would just take their production budget for Grey's and use it to produce this pilot, and stick it right in the middle of a double-wide episode of Grey's.

It's actually a pretty brilliant idea, as Grey's has a built-in 20 million viewers who will watch every episode, regardless of its content, whereas this new show, well, might be watched by no one. (And, based on what I saw, I believe that might turn out to be true, because it was just not good.) So, 20 million people watched this "pilot," even if they did get duped into it, thinking it was just another episode of Grey's. It's an odd strategy, but goddamn if the numbers don't justify the means.

I did notice something odd about this pilot: almost the entire cast is made up of actors from recently canceled ABC shows. It's as though the producers went through all of ABC's open acting contracts, and said, "Well, we got Tim Daly and Taye Diggs and Francie from Alias still on the hook...look's like we got ourselves a cast!" (I fully expect to see guest appearances by Ericka Christensen and Jonathan Silverman if this show gets picked up.)

I'm sure when this show finally comes to be that it will suck. And be universally loved by Grey's fans.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Let The Summer Movie Pogrom Begin!

Friday marks the start of the Summer Movie Season, where the studios cram all of their movies that they think will make a ton of money. (It could more appropriately be called The Summer of Sequels, as the summer movie slate is composed almost entirely of sequels.) And while I understand why studios give this kind of release schedule to their blockbusters, I honestly think they could make more money by releasing them elsewhere in the year.

The poster child for this alternative release theory is Titanic, the highest-grossing movie of all time, pulling in $600 million in the U.S. alone. Titanic had an absolutely horrible release date, opening the week before Christmas, against Tomorrow Never Dies. (And Bond movies always make $100 million, regardless of their quality.) The weekend before Christmas always leads up to a short week, as movies the next week come out on Christmas Day, regardless of where it falls in the week. So, Titanic was basically set up to fail. But, it won the box office that first weekend, and proceeded to win every weekend until Summer Movie Season started.

Greatest movie ever? Hardly. (A two hour, godawful love story, followed by an hour-long sinking of the Titanic sounds like shit to me.) It won the box office every week because absolutely nothing opened against it. After 15 straight weeks at #1, the movie that knocked it from the top spot was Lost in Space. (Fucking Lost in Space. Talk about a pathetic year.) But, by that time, Titanic had already made $500 million, and nothing else came anywhere close. In fact, of the 70+ (!!) movies that came out during that time, only two made $100 million. Two. (A third, Good Will Hunting, was released before Titanic in limited release and went wide about a month later, and would go on to gross over $100 million.) As a comparison, in the following four months, more than 10 movies made over $100 million. But...that was Summer Movie Season, when all the money makers come out.

And that's how movies like Disturbia win the box office weeks in a row: there's nothing else worth watching opening against them. I enjoy watching movies in the theatre. I sometimes go to the movies just to go, if I can find something worth watching. I might go two, three times a weekend. Last weekend, I went to Hot Fuzz. Before that, Grindhouse on its opening day, 4/6. Before that, 300, a whole month going by. I'll watch anything, but I honestly don't see anything out there worth sitting through.

Yet the studios still insist on cramming all of their movies into the summer months, instead of spreading them out over the other nine. With all the shit that's come out so far this year, can you imagine how much money Spiderman 3 would have made had it come out last month? It'd be past $400 million and counting by now, instead of having basically two weeks to make all of its money before the Shrek and Pirates of the Caribbean sequels cannibalize its box office. And this is the way things are done; makes perfect sense to me.

The only plus side to all this is that I can finally go back to the movies, as, well, it's when all the movies come out. I can't wait.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Law & Order Loses Another D.A.

Over its 17 year run, Law & Order has had three different actors play the New York City District Attorney: Steven Hill, who left the show after 10 years to pretty much retire from acting; Diane Wiest, who left the show to, I don't know, maybe win another Oscar; and current office holder Fred Thompson, who will more than likely leave the show to, of all things, run for President.

While this may seem like an big leap, to go from playing Arthur Branch on Law & Order to running for President, it's not much of a stretch for Thompson. When he first started on the show in 2002, he was the senior U.S. Senator from Tennessee (a post he held longer than his tenure on L&O). Actually, his political resume is more impressive than his acting resume, even though I don't think anyone remembers him being a former politician.

Not that Thompson will have to "resign" his fake office on Law & Order to run for a real one. Rumor has it that NBC is considering cancelling L&O, due to low ratings and high production costs, officially killing the 2nd longest-running show on TV.

Oh well. Good luck to Thompson on his Presidential bid, and may his legacy as one of NY's finest live on in syndication.