Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Last Five Movies

Army of Shadows (1969)
Jean-Pierre Melville's long-lost, second-to-last movie, which received its first American theatrical release just last year. A departure from his usual cops-and-robbers theme, this time detailing the efforts of the French Resistance during WW2. It's a shame no one got to see it for almost 40 years.

BTW, a bad week for European "New Wave" directors, with Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni dying within a day of each other. They might be missed. Maybe.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
Worst...Harry Potter movie...Ever. At least this one solves the problem that previous Potter films had of being too complexly plotted by not having a plot at all. The Girl claims they omitted about half the book. And the movie is still two and a half hours long! That's some quality writing.

Premonition (2007)
Finally: A movie version of that episode of Dallas where it turns out it was all a dream, with a non-funny bit of Groundhog Day thrown in for good measure. Terrible.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)
One of those movies that must just be fantastic as a book, full of imagery and symbolism, that's almost impossible to translate into a movie. Still, it's a pretty good movie, if you can buy the premise of a serial killer with the world's greatest sense of smell. (See what I mean about it being better as a book?)

Yeah, like you didn't see this coming:

The Simpsons Movie (2007)
After 20 years in the making, you would think this would be the greatest Simpsons episode ever. It's not, but it's still funnier that most of the last couple of years' episodes. The computer-rendered backgrounds give the cartoon a surrealistic feel that's quite jarring from the hand-drawn TV episodes. It allows for a lot more action. The jokes are just about non-stop. And there's one of the most subversive misdirection gags of all time, in which you actually see Bart Simpson's penis. (Seriously.) My one quibble: no Gil. Oh sure, Arthur Crandall and Gabbo make an appearance, but no Gil.

Maybe this movie wasn't as good as I thought. Check it out anyway.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Does This Surprise Anyone?

Unless you've been in the Arctic Circle for the past week, you've heard about Lindsay Lohan's second DUI bust in as many months. The details of her arrest are fairly standard and boring; it's the things that happened before and after that are hilarious.

Lohan's most recent arrest came just four days after she was booked for her previous arrest. Only in California can you be arrested, take two months off to go to rehab (which, in CA, apparently constitutes nothing more than hanging out in a bikini), and then come in to be booked for that crime. I'm sure that, before she left, they gave her a two-for-one entree coupon for Spago. They were even nice enough to schedule her arraignment for this arrest at the same time as her court date for her previous arrest. Because it works out well for Lindsay's schedule. (That 10.0 earthquake that will break California from the continent and sink it into the ocean can happen any day now.)

Then, not only do they get Lindsay on DUI, but (and this is the one that will stick) they get her for transporting narcotics into the jail, a BIG felony. But, see, she's innocent, because that's not her cocaine. It's not her fault that she had that cocaine; it's whoever's fault that put that coke in her pants. This defense is slightly less plausible than Isaiah Washington claiming it was ABC's fault that he's a homophobe.

We can only hope that Lindsay gets the book thrown at her for everything. Maybe some D.A. looking to make a name for himself will go for blood and put her down for the count. But, I doubt it. I'll be cutting-and-pasting this story with different dates in a couple of months.

See ya then!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Like Father, Like Son

Went to Flashback Weekend in Chicago on Saturday. Some random observations:

-This was the biggest collection of freaks I had ever seen. I saw a C3PO, a TIE fighter pilot, a yellow Power Ranger, numerous Svengoolies, assorted zombies, freaks, and mutants, and tons of people who probably dress like that on an everyday basis. And I thought my outfit of polo shirt and jeans was pretty outrageous.

-The Girl was able to correctly identify Alice from the fourth and fifth Nightmare on Elm Street movies without even knowing she was going to be there; I thought she was somebody's personal assistant. Shows you what I know about obscure character actors.

-Ira Heiden, who played the Wizard Master in Dream Warriors, is just as nerdy and unpopular in real life as he was in that movie. "Moreris: you die," indeed.

-Ya know how Freddy Krueger kinda walks like he just spent six hours on horseback or has a slight case of rickets? Robert Englund actually walks like that.

-Heather Langenkamp is the first person in history to spell The Girl's name correctly on the first try. Who says actors aren't better than we are?

-The Nightmare on Elm Street reunion Q&A was mostly relegated to questions about John Saxon's work on non-Nightmare movies.

-Speaking of John Saxon, I wanted to asked him how it was to work on Cannibal Apocalypse, but I chickened out. Instead, I told him I was a big fan of his work, the most ridiculous thing I've said since I uttered the phrase, "Congratulations on your no-hitter, Mr. Bosio."

-Ronee Blakley has gained four pounds for every year since Nightmare on Elm Street came out. You do the math.

-Anchor Bay Entertainment, which put on this event, chose not to bring any of its hundreds of movies for sale. One of its competitors, Synapse Films, brought their entire catalog.

-I was somewhat disappointed by the fact that they only had two out of a possible, like, nine Jasons there. And neither one was Kane Hodder, who holds the record with three go-rounds as Jason. What kinda horseshit is that?

And lastly, but not leastly:

Michael Berryman, who won the birth defect lottery, and whose appearance would scare small children, turns out to be one of the most cordial people I've ever met. We ended up having quite a lengthy discussion about the sequel of the remake of The Hills Have Eyes and his distaste for the whole thing. He even signed a glossy of himself in Hills Have Eyes with the message, "Let's go camping!"

Classic. I think I may have a new hero.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Emmy Noms

The 2008 Emmy nominations are out. Some random thoughts:

Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour)
No nomination for Family Guy. That's a win for everyone!

Outstanding Choreography
So You Think You Can Dance has choreography? Huh.

Outstanding Cinematography For A Multi-camera Series
It's good to see that all of the laugh-track sitcoms have been mostly relegated to this category only.

Outstanding Comedy Series
30 Rock winning would be nice, but won't happen.

Outstanding Commercial
Do we really need this category? Wouldn't handing Emmys out to people on the street be easier?

Outstanding Drama Series
In a somewhat shocking development, 24, which won this Emmy last year, didn't even get nominated. I'm sure Emmy voters became disenchanted with the series after having sat through last season's "Save Audrey" storyline, which went on for so long that I forgot how the season even started.

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series
If I told you that Martin Landau might win this, would that be something that might interest you?

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
As long as Charlie Sheen doesn't win, I'd be happy with anyone in this category.

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
Just give the fucking thing to Denis Leary already. You can only screw a guy so many times.

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie
See above, but substitute Helen Mirren, and take out that "screwing a guy" part.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
Uh, why is Kevin Dillon's name listed in this category? Must be a typo.

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series
The toughest category of all. All are deserving, but I'd like to see a 30 Rock win.

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series
And, stuck amongst all the usual suspects is that episode of Battlestar Galactica. I'm sure the writers of Grey's Anatomy are pissed that that's what pushed them off the board. Oh well.

Check back in September to see how it pans out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

J.J. Abrams Needs To Focus

If you've seen Transformers, you've seen the trailer for the new J.J. Abrams movie that's coming out. (If you haven't, you can watch it here.) The trailer doesn't reveal much about the movie's plot, and the official website isn't of much help either. The best I can tell (and this opinion is shared by others) is that it appears to be some sort of Godzilla movie, which is an...uh, interesting choice if it's true.

Here's my thoughts on the matter: J.J. Abrams needs to stop messing about with crap like this and do two things before he starts on anything else: 1) He needs to finish the last 48 episodes of Lost in a way that won't piss everyone off; and 2) he needs to make the next Star Trek movie. (I'm not a Trekkie, but I do enjoy the movies, and was disheartened to see Paramount completely shelve the franchise.) Once those two things are done, do whatever the hell you want.

Not that he will just work with the balls he's already got in the air, as he hasn't in the past. He'll get dicking around with something new, and all the other stuff will go on the back burner, and, next thing you know, Lost ends with Pamela waking up and finding Bobby alive in the shower, and the whole thing was just a dream.

Or, maybe it will all turn out all right. But I doubt it.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

It's, Like, Sooo Whatever

I really dislike Avril Lavigne. I cannot think of a more blatant example of a manufactured star than Lavigne. (Some might claim the American Idolers are more so, but at least they kinda earned their fame.) If you look up the word "product" in the dictionary, there's a picture of Lavigne's career. Here's a girl who fully admits she only listened to country music growing up, that she wasn't into pop music until, well, never, as far as I can tell from listening to her songs. Yet, there she is, being cast as a hard-rocking, sass-talking, punk rock grrl. All of her songs come from a Legion of Super-Heroes of writers and producers. She's about as edgy as a bowling ball. And she does even have pop-star looks to fall back on; she's rather ugly, in an ugly sort of way.

Needless to say, I often wish for bad things to happen to Lavigne. And I got my wish when a group no one's ever heard of called The Rubinoos decided to sue Lavigne, claiming that she had ripped off their song "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" to make her song "Girlfriend." Seeing as Lavigne doesn't write her own music, I can see this happening.

I checked into it (and you can too, by going to The Rubinoos' website), and she did kinda rip off the song, ever so slightly. So, they appear to have a (incredibly shaky) case here. What I don't get is why seemingly credible and respectable writers like the folks in The Rubinoos would want to get mixed up with a shitbag like Lavigne. Oh, I know..uh, money.

Hey, if being eternally linked to one of the crappiest songs I've ever heard makes you feel better about yourselves, go for it. Might as well get that payday when you can. And, it costs Avril money, so I'm all for it.

Bravo, you glorious, money-grubbing bastards!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Where Have All The Action Stars Gone?

I was at Blockbuster the other day, and I noticed that Wesley Snipes has a new movie, The Contractor, out on video. If you just casually look around the store, you notice that Snipes has a lot of movies new to video. Then, I got to thinking: When was the last time Snipes was in a theatrical movie? He's been in a lot of direct-to-video movies, but, I believe Blade 3 was the last time he had a movie in the theatre. This from a guy who, in the '90s, used to put out two or three movies a year.

That got me thinking about this: When was the last time any of the action stars of the '90s had a movie in the theatres? Steven Segal has been direct-to-video for years. Same with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Schwarzennger is otherwise occupied. And Stallone and Ford got too old (although both of them still have the occasional movie, but have cut way back).

The fact of the matter is that we don't have any action hero staples anymore. Look at the stars of this summer's big action movies: Tobey McGuire, Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, Shia LaBeouf (the guy's name is LaBeouf, for Christ's sake; he doesn't even have the courtesy to spell it the manly way, like Boof Bonser does). These are guys I would expect to see in a movie about gay cowboys, not one where they're killing everything that moves. And all the guys that we used to rely on for that stuff, movie after movie, are out of the game. The Era of the Action Star is dead.

There is hope, though. The only action hero that seems to have survived the '90s intact is Bruce Willis, who would be done as well, had Joe Roth not saved his career in the late '90s. But, living on borrowed time or not, he's still around. I hope it will stay that way. He's the last of a dying breed. And I'm glad he keeps inviting us to watch him crash cars into helicopters.

"Welcome to the party, pal" indeed.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Big Deal About Nothing

I've been hearing a lot of buzz about this movie Captivity, which came out today. Not the good "Gotta See It!" kind of buzz; it's the bad "This is the most evil movie ever made!" kind of buzz.

It all started earlier in the year when a billboard advertising the movie (pictured at the top of this post) appeared in New York and Los Angeles. Apparently, due to a snafu between Lionsgate (the movie's distributor) and After Dark (the movie's producer), these unapproved billboards were displayed for the public to see. Well, a bunch of soccer moms and weak stomached do-gooders, which L.A. and New York happen to be lousy with, didn't like them. They thought it glorified the torture of women and a genre of movies that have been lovingly called "Torture-Porn." (I prefer the term "Gore-Porn," or "Gorno," for short.)

So, they started a grass roots campaign to get the movie unrated. Apparently, if a movie's ad materials are not approved by the MPAA, it may lose its privilege of being rated. And, it worked. The MPAA withheld from rating the movie until the last minute and forced the film to have all of its advertising approved. This whole mess caused the movie to have its release date pushed back two months. It's a lot of crap for a movie to go through due to a poster.

With this much scorn heaped upon a movie, I think you know that I'm going to see it. And I did.

The verdict? Those idiots made a lot of misplaced stink about a movie that is pretty lame, in terms of gorno. I just watched Saw 3 the other day, and it's a thousand times more sadistic than Captivity, and I don't remember anyone throwing a tantrum over that movie or the three pulled teeth on a wire (as in Saw 3; get it?) that appear on its poster.

And, speaking of posters, I've seen a lot worse that no one has seemed to care about. The original teaser posters for Saw featured assorted severed limbs.
There was a teaser poster for Hostel 2 with a nude Bijou Philips holding her own decapitated head. No one picketing the MPAA on those. (Both are readily available on eBay, as well.)

It just goes to show you that it takes a village to keep our children from seeing inappropriate material. It would be better if the village wasn't full of idiots, but, well, at least they tried.

By the way, on an unrelated note, before Captivity was a trailer for a remake of 3:10 to Yuma. They're very near the bottom of the remake barrel now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sony Still Sucks

I've had a long-time love/hate relationship with Sony. While they make some great products (I loved the Sony Ericsson phone I had, other than the fact it was like 1000 years old), their sky-high prices, arrogant attitude, and ridiculous proprietary technology make them so easy to hate. (The Memory Stick Micro, which is compatible with nothing but Sony Ericsson cell phones, is possibly the dumbest piece of technology ever.) A lot of times, the dumb outweighs the good. So, it comes as no surprise that something new that Sony does might turn out to be much ado about nothing.

Today, Sony announced that they would be dropping the price of their 60GB PS3 by $100, bringing the pricetag down to (a still-staggering) $499. That should make that PS3 fly off the shelf.

...If it weren't for the fact that, about three months ago, Microsoft released a new XBox 360 with a 120GB hard drive that supports 1080p and is HDMI-compatible and still costs $20 less than the PS3 with half the storage space. A rash of unexpected repairs led to a retroactive three-year warranty for the 360. (PS3 still has just the one year.) Add to that the fact that XBox Live is turning into quite the multimedia portal, and, with the release of Windows Vista, it's now possible to play games cross-platform (like Shadowrun, which can be played on-line between a 360 and a PC). Oh, and Microsoft recently released the software that allows you to make XBox games. But what gamer is going to be interested in that? Meanwhile, the PS3...well, it's still a state-of-the-art system that plays crappy games.

It's just not gone well for Sony. First, they got beat to the market by Microsoft. Then, they announced the astronomical price. Then, they pushed back the release date. Once the need to buy "The New Thing" subsided, PS3s became quite plentiful. I remember a visit to Best Buy where I nearly tripped over a literal pile of PS3s sitting in the middle of the aisle; not a good sign for a console that had only been out four months. (And it's still being murdered in terms of sales by the Wii, which, according to people I know who've played it, is apparently the funnest console ever. And, nearly eight months after its release, I've never seen a Wii on a store shelf.)

Maybe this will pay off for Sony. Maybe that $100 is the straw that breaks the camel's back, and these things will just start flying off the shelves. But, the fact that Sony is still producing and releasing new games for the PS2 tells me that not even they have a lot of confidence in it.

We shall see.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Dan Patrick Packing It Up

In news that I'm sure came as a shock to his fans (like myself), long-time ESPN staple Dan Patrick has announced that he is leaving the network after 18 years.

Not that he's much of a presence anymore. Since leaving his anchor duties at Sportscenter last year, he has mostly been relegated to hosting his radio show, which airs on ESPN Radio. Along with his departure from ESPN goes his radio show. So, he's basically out of the business, with, according to him, no real future plans.

Here's my word of advice: MSNBC needs to hire Patrick and get him back on a show with Olbermann. When EPSN hired Olbermann to co-host the middle hour of Patrick's radio show, it made me remember how good these two were together, and how instrumental their time together on Sportcenter was to sports broadcasting. That would make me happy.

Good luck, Dan, wherever you may end up.

The Facts Of The Case Of R. Ankiel

Remember Rick Ankiel? Of course you don't. I'd forgotten about him myself, until his name came up in an interesting context the other day. So, seeing as it's a slow news day (unless you care about Paris Hilton or Clay Aiken, which I don't) and the All-Star Break, I thought we'd look back on the goofy career of Rick Ankiel and the turn of events that makes me bring him up today.

When the St. Louis Cardinals drafted Ankiel straight out of high school in 1998, he was basically the best pitcher high school had to offer. And his skills translated directly to the minor league level. In his two years in the minors, Ankiel went 25 and 10, with a 2.50 ERA, a 1.06 walks and hits per inning, and a remarkable 12 strikeouts per nine innings. He won every award a minor league player can win. Needless to say, the Cardinals were quick to call him up to the Majors.

In his first full year with the Cardinals, Ankiel did better than most would expect from a 21 year-old kid. In 30 starts, he went 11 and 7 with a 3.50 ERA (9th best in the league), 7.05 H/9 (2nd best), and 9.98 K/9 (again, good for 2nd). Ankiel was poised to be The Next Big Thing.

And then he forgot how to throw a baseball.

Not that he had an injury and never got his mechanics back; he just completely lost any semblance of the control he once had. In six starts, in 24 innings, he gave up 25 hits (seven of which were homeruns), 25 walks, allowed 19 runs, yet still managed to strike out 27. The Cardinals, hoping to protect their Golden Boy, sent Ankiel down to AAA, where he actually got worse. In three starts, in a whopping 4.1 innings, he gave up three hits, 17 walks, 12 wild pitches, and allowed 10 runs. He was promptly sent down to the Rookie Leagues, the lowest level of organized ball there is.

That's where Rick Ankiel dropped off the map. He went from the guy that everyone was scrambling to pick up in their fantasy leagues to a guy who couldn't throw a strike if you held a gun to his head. He ceased being anything anyone would care about. I know I'd forgotten all about him.

Until the other day. I was reading an article on ESPN.com about how Rick Ankiel has more homeruns than Barry Bonds. Seeing as this was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard, I looked it up. And I'll be goddamned if he doesn't.

Turns out, Ankiel is now an outfielder. He's leading the Pacific Coast League (a AAA league) in homeruns with 26 (Bonds has 17) and is seventh in RBIs with 66. For a major league comparison, his numbers are similar to Ken Griffey, Jr's, who was the leading vote-getter for the National League in the All-Star Game. The guy may have turned out to be a terrible pitcher, but he's also turned out to be one hell of a hitter.

So, maybe we'll see the once-great pitcher in the Majors yet. Slightly different context, but back in The Bigs, nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Last Five Movies

Reno 911!: Miami (2007)
I've seen Reno 911! on TV a couple of times, and never really found it that funny. I know there are people that find the show funny, but I've never laughed once. Maybe I don't know what humor is. People find Family Guy to be "hilarious," but I think it's the least funny thing to ever air on television (with the possible exception of Roots or anything starring Carlos Mencia). And I feel the same way about Reno 911! So, I'm not sure what made me think that an 80 minute version of the show might make it any funnier. Is the joke suppose to be that a bunch of disgusting degenerates are cops? Or that they're the stupidest people on Earth? Am I suppose to laugh at the fact that Lt. Dangle is obviously gay, yet everyone seems oblivious to it? I don't get it. Maybe I don't know what "funny" is. But I doubt it.

Evilspeak (1981)
If watching a young Clint Howard chop off peoples' heads with a sword is your thing, this movie is for you. All others need not apply.

Knocked Up (2007)
Yet another laffathon from "the guys that brought you The 40-Year-Old Virgin." And while the movie really is very funny, Apatow has made the mistake of giving all the best lines to the supporting cast. It's not a good thing when characters with 30 seconds of screen time (like Ryan Seacrest) are funnier than the two leads are for the whole movie. Seth Rogan is no Steve Carell.

Transformers (2007)
If you were a fan of the cartoon or the toys, you will automatically enjoy this movie. I liked that Optimus Prime had the same voice as he did on the cartoon, and that the classic "Transformer" sound makes a couple of cameos. And any screen time devoted to Megan Fox is always appreciated. But I agree with Roger Ebert's assessment that the Transformers actually have too much screen time; sometimes, less is better. And, this is a Michael Bay movie, and quite possibly the most overblown movie he's ever made, which is a bad thing. (There is a shot toward the end that is the most ridiculous thing ever committed to film. I don't need to tell you what it is; you'll know.) The action scenes are edited in such a way that they resemble a Magic Eye painting: your eyes can't even comprehend what's going on (somewhat on par with Armageddon). And, last but not least, there's waaaay too much Anthony Anderson. I appreciate the effort, I really do, but it could have been so much better.

Tough call, what with Transformers and all, but...

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
A few weeks back, I claimed that the new Die Hard sequel appeared to break from the "Bruce Willis trapped in a _____ with terrorists" formula of the first three movies. Well, turns out I was wrong. In this one, John McClane is trapped below the Mason-Dixon Line with terrorists. See: Pretty much the same. And while this is not the smartest movie in the world, it is never boring. There are cars crashing into helicopters, SUVs driving down elevator shafts, even tractor trailers being chased by a jet fighter. And while the action is great, what I really appreciated was the acting talent. It was good to see Cliff Curtis yet again play a nationality not his own. Consummate "That Guy" Zeljko Ivanek makes an appearance to pad his already lengthy resume. Kevin Smith is perfectly cast as the fat computer geek. And any time you can sneak the adorable Mary Elizabeth Winstead into a film is a good thing. (Justin Long should probably stick to making Apple commercials, but you take the good with the bad.) As I mentioned before, the movie is pretty dumb, and its plot appears to be mostly stolen from Goldeneye, but, c'mon: it's John McClane, The Man That Will Not Die. A good time for the whole family.