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!)):

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.

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.

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!!