Friday, April 28, 2006

Abate the Hate,
Increase the Peace

With the aid of Galley Brother B.J. I had a rant all worked up and ready for when Kobe Bryant won the MVP award. You'll just have to trust me when I tell you it was hot.

The gist was that while Kobe--the locus of all evil in professional sports--obviously deserved the MVP this year, it was travesty, because by this standard, Iverson should have won three or four MVPs in the late '90s and early '00s.

But instead, Steve Nash has won, for the second year in a row. If I had a vote, I would have cast it for Kobe. But Nash would have been my second choice. He's fabulous and a great MVP.

There's a lesson in all of this. But I'm from Philadelphia, so I refuse to learn it. I'll just hold on to my grudge until next year. Or the year after that. Sooner or later, the universe really will be conspiring against us.

And when it does, I'll be ready with that defense of Answer. Oh yes I will.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Worst Re-Brand Ever?

The Nintendo Revolution is now the Nintendo "Wii" (pronounced "wee"). The Big Brains at Nintendo Corp. explain:
While the code-name "Revolution" expressed our direction, Wii represents the answer. Wii will break down that wall that separates game players from everybody else. Wii will put people more in touch with their games...and each other. . . .

So that's Wii. But now Nintendo needs you. Because, it's really not about you or me. It's about Wii. And together, Wii will change everything.

So, dumbest re-brand ever? Post competing nominees below, please.
On Teri H.:
Man, if there's anything sexier than bloodless mummies, it's bloodless mummies who look like an ad for rum. Put a parrot on her shoulder and I may just fall in love.

Fugging Impossible III

Galley Friend and Hollywood Superstar E.H. sends us a new site to crush on with this picture and captions set from M:I3. Just go, you'll laugh about it all day long.

If you need further proof of the Fud genius, see this Dunst-hating post (Jenny, that's just for you, peaches) and this Tom Cruise-Phil Hoffman triptych, which ends with:
Philip Seymour Hoffman: It's true, America. He's batshit crazy. What can I say?


Philip Seymour Hoffman: I'm not kidding.

Run Tom Run

Jenny sends us to BWE which links to this very fabulous Tom Cruise/Nike mash-up. Very, very well done.

Update: Here's the original Nike ad.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Greatness of Tom Hanks

This morning I remarked on Tom Hanks's impressive streak of 12 of 14 movies going over the $100M mark from 1993 to 2002. It turns out that his streak is even more impressive when you adjust for inflation. How much of a difference does it make? Toy Story's 1995 gross of $190M is actually $280M in 2005 terms.

Anyway, when you adjust the numbers, Hanks has actually by 14 of 17 movies over the $100M mark from 1992 until today. Has any other actor put together a streak that comes even close?

Clint Eastwood is a giant, durable movie star, but look at his adjusted numbers and you see that even during his high point, he only put together 6 or 9 movies that went over $100M. Heck, he only has 14 movies over the $100M mark in his entire career, and he's been around since 1967.

Tom Cruise is a super-gigantic movie star with great numbers. Since 1986, he's put 16 of 20 over the $100M (adjusted). That's a rate equivalent to Hanks. But for my money, Hanks's streak is more impressive because of the movies he did. A lot of Cruise movie's are hits no matter who stars in them. (Also, Hanks's next three projects all look like they have a good chance to join the $100M club.)

Sylvestor Stallone was the biggest star on the planet once. At his height he put 6 of 11 movies over $100M (adjusted). Ditto Robert Redford who also put 6 of 11 movies over the adjusted $100M mark.

Watching Bossom Buddies, who would have thought that we were seeing the birth of our generation's biggest star?

Update: A commenter suggests Harrison Ford, the star who's my personal favorite. I accosted him at a party once, but that's a story for another time. Suffice it to say that he's more gracious than anyone could possibly expect. And that voice isn't made in the mixing room.

But what about his inflation adjusted run? Beginning in 1980 with Empire and going through 1994's Clear and Present Danger, Ford put 11 of 15 movies over the $100M mark.

Musical Chairs

Drew McWeeny has a nice review of MI:3, but the best part is this little recap of how the making of Superman shaped the entire slate of movies for this summer:
So when Paramount announced Abrams as director of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 3, after a long development process that included Frank Darabont, Joe Carnahan, and David Fincher, I was cautiously optimistic.
That development squaredance led to several other people re-aligning in terms of what projects they ended up doing. Because the Abrams script was picked over the Andy Kevin Walker script, Walker was free to go write this summer’s ZODIAC, which was directed by David Fincher, who abandoned the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE job that Abrams took later. Brett Ratner was attached to direct that SUPERMAN, but when he was booted, that cleared the way for Bryan Singer to take over SUPERMAN (after McG flirted with it before his own fear of flying grounded him), which left the director’s chair open on X3, giving Brett Ratner a place to rebound. Wolfgang Petersen, who did not end up making his SUPERMAN VS BATMAN, stayed with Warner Bros. to make POSEIDON.

It's worse than the NCAA Div. I basketball coaching carousel.

McWeeny's final verdict:
M:I3 is, for all intents and purposes, a really big-budget retelling of the ALIAS pilot with Tom Cruise playing Jennifer Garner in a film that could be subtitled RUN, TOM CRUISE, RUN!!

That's enough to sell me.

Who Gives a Rat's Ass?

Apparently scientists in Venezuela. Using rats and their deposits, researchers at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas were able to learn which type of bacteria-infused beans can reduce flatulence among consumers. According to Reuters, the scientists "identified two bacteria ... which can be added to beans so they cause minimal distress to those who eat them, and to those around the bean-lovers...." The researchers also point out that "In spite of being part of the staple diets of these [poor] populations, their consumption is limited by the flatulence they produce."

So will this latest discovery help bring an end to world hunger? It's too soon to tell, and the testing was not entirely accurate. Apparently the rats had also consumed light beer and sauerkraut.

Besides that, not everyone was happy to hear of this latest breakthrough. When GlaxoSmithKline, makers of Beano, got wind of the results, they were reportedly fuming.

Stalker Central

Jenny points us to this mean-spirited post which suggests that Hayden Christensen might be gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The reason I link is that--gay or not--the picture of Christensen with this other fellow is kind of creepy because the other guy is wearing a "Sith Happens" t-shirt.

Makes it look more like Christensen has his own personal stalker.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

United 93 Box Office (cont.)

Continuing our earlier discussion of the box office potential of United 93, we now have another data point: BoxOfficeMojo is reporting that United 93 will debut on roughly 1,700 screens.

That seems like a pretty modest number. If it holds when the screen count numbers come out later this week, it probably means that New Line is hedging its bets and willing to push wider if the response is good. But what does that mean for United 93's opening weekend?

For starters, it means that you can throw out any hope that it does Passion-like numbers. The Passion opened to $83.8M in 3,043 theaters. Even if United 93 did Passion's very formidable per theater average ($27,554), it would just crack $40M.

And even that would be asking a lot. A list of the top 200 per-theater averages on opening weekend has only two movies with averages over $28,000 per theater and opened on more than 100 screens.

So, as we keep sifting this data, it seems more likely that United 93 opens in the $17M to $25M range, with a shot at doing near $40M if it's a real phenomenon. The good news (for New Line) is that the weekend's big release RV shouldn't overlap with its audience at all.

Update: Is there a reason United 93 couldn't do Fahrenheit 9/11-type business? (It opened to $23.9M on 868 screens.) Nope. But that would be a real accomplishment.

Update 2: In comments, arrScott makes the smart point that the appeal of United 93 is exactly opposite that of The Passion and Fahrenheit 9/11--it seems to be a well-made, explicitly non-political movie. Very true. arrScott speculates that it may play similarly to Saving Private Ryan.

I'd considered Saving Private Ryan as a model, but ultimately I don't think it's the best one for two reasons: Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Spielberg is the only director alive today who serves as a significant box office inducement all by himself (Woody Allen is an inducement for a certain audience, but on a much smaller scale). And you could make the case that Tom Hanks is the most durable movie star of his generation. Look at the awe-inspiring numbers for Hanks and you'll see 12 of 14 movies topping the $100M mark between 1993 and 2002--that's Hollywood's version of the DiMaggio hitting streak. And what makes the numbers even more impressive is that not all of these movies were sure-fire hits. A League of Their Own? Forrest Gump? Toy Story? These are risky propositions. This streak wasn't built with flicks like Mission: Impossible 2 or Independence Day. Anyway, I'd argue that the presence of two gigantic stars makes Saving Private Ryan substantially different from United 93 in terms of how it will play on opening weekend.

(There are other differences, too: Remember that DreamWorks did an amazing roll-out for Saving Private Ryan, with packages on the covers of newsweeklies and tons of TV tie-ins leading up to the release. The roll-out of United 93 has been demure by comparison. Also, don't forget the budgets: Saving Private Ryan had a $70M budget, while United 93 was made for $15M. That doesn't mean much except that it's a "smaller" movie, and smaller movies tend to open, well, smaller.)

All of that said, arrScott may very well be right that the cultural mood surrounding United 93 will be similar to what surrounded Saving Private Ryan, and the long-term graph of how they play over the summer may chart pretty closely. But for that to happen, United 93 needs to have a solid first weekend. The way the summer season works, it'll get moved out of theaters quickly if the audience doesn't show up the first two weeks.

Giving Notes

Screenwriter John August has an interesting post on what to do if you've written a movie and the final cut of it stinks. But what's really interesting is that in the post, August has links to PDF versions of the notes he gave Doug Liman after the first cut of Go came out.

If you're interested in how the sausage gets made, August's notes are great reading.

Gilmore Girls Backstory

I know how sad you all were hearing the news about Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband leaving Gilmore Girls the other day. You probably locked yourself in your bathroom and took a long bath while watching Golden Girls blocks on Lifetime.

But now Galley Friend M.R. sends along this truly awesome link discussing the fellow who's now running Gilmore, Dave Rosenthal.

Just a word of caution: If you think Gilmore is for girls, that's fine. You'll want to read this thing anyway. It's like a Chris Buckley version of how Hollywood works. (Except that Hollywood is the Chris Buckley version of itself.)

Hoping to learn more about this guy, I tracked down a rather infamous Los Angeles Times Magazine article on Rosenthal, written by Janet Reitman, from 2002, entitled "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Ranter." Informative reading to say the least. According to Reitman, Rosenthal's success in Hollywood was meteoric by anyone's standards. A 1989 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the son of a rabbi, Rosenthal moved to Los Angeles shortly after graduation to pursue his dream of writing sitcoms.

Within a year, Rosenthal swiftly jumped from being a production assistant on Anything but Love (a sitcom which starred Richard Lewis and Jamie Lee Curtis) to staff writer on the same show; then two years later, another jump, this time to a head writer position on Ellen (yes, that Ellen; Rosenthal stayed for three years and then was reportedly fired). After a year-long stint developing sitcoms for Jeffrey Katzenberg, he was hired as a writer on Michael J. Fox's sitcom Spin City... and was quickly promoted to showrunner. Rosenthal married a fellow Spin City writer, bought a house and a Porsche, and landed a lucrative $2.5 million contract with Fox Television. By all accounts, Rosenthal seemed to have the perfect life.

I know, who cares? Stay with me:

Going through my rolodex of Hollywood contacts, I stumbled upon someone who had actually worked with Dave Rosenthal in the past. I asked if I could ask her a few questions about Rosenthal and she agreed, as long as I maintained her anonymity. . . .

I asked "Julia" how she would describe Rosenthal, based on the time they worked together. . . .

"The guy quit Spin City in order to concentrate on writing a play about his desire to have sex with Heidi Klum," Julia told me. "Dropped out of TV completely to do this. He pretty much had a breakdown, dropped out of society, and became the madman writing a misogynist play. He lived like this until his dad read the play and actually had him committed."

No, really. It gets better:
After speaking to Julia, I did some more digging. Rosenthal had in fact written a play called "Love" about his quest to get supermodel Heidi Klum to have sex with him. Reviews of the play, which apparently contained so many profanities that it rated an NC-17, were not kind. The New York Times called Rosenthal's play "not only offensive but incompetent" and said that the way that Rosenthal talked about Klum--whom he had met during a guest stint on Rosenthal's show Spin City--was "as cruel and disgusting as actual stalking."

The New York Times reviewer wasn't the only one perturbed by Rosenthal's play. Rosenthal had sent copies to his then agents at Endeavor--Ari Emanuel and Richard Weitz--who promptly dropped him as a client. His rabbi father, after reading the play, had Rosenthal briefly committed at UCLA Medical Center.

You can pretend otherwise if you want, but you and I both know you're going to read the rest.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Am I missing something, or is this the the greatest site in the history of the interweb? Choose your city and check out the traffic jam meters . . .

Transformers News

IGN is reporting casting for the Michael Bay Transformers movie. Most notable is that Jon "A Man Can Stand Up" Voight is onboard. What's sad is that he isn't voicing Starscream. He's actually acting. I know: Who cares?

AICN has a visit with Bay, including the movie's tagline: "Their War. Our World." Really, how dumb can studio executives be? The property already has a dynamite tagline with built-in recognition. Perhaps you've heard it? More than meets the eye?

I know you're not going to read the entire AICN post, so let me give you the good stuff, the description of Bay's meeting room:
The meeting room had a long table in the middle of the room, a flat panel widescreen TV on the far wall, giant horizontal posters for BAD BOYS 2 and PEARL HARBOR on the adjacent wall, Leatherface's mask in a displace case underneath, a TRANSFORMERS toy above it (it was a shiny black toy with a customized Michael Bay head on it, a gift from Hasbro, Bay told me), People's Choice award surf boards (for 2004 and 2005) resting in 2 of the 4 corners of the room and the bomb from PEARL HARBOR in another corner.

Displaying his People's Choice awards and a Transformer with a Michael Bay head on it. Admit it, even if you were writing that scene, you wouldn't have come up with that.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Star Trek Prequel Is On

Brendon shouts out to the new J.J. Abrams-helmed Star Trek prequel which we first heard word of a few weeks ago.

United 93 Box Office?

The early word on United 93 is almost universally positive. So how much money is it going to make? It's not unreasonable to speculate that United 93's box office performance will be analyzed as a cultural indicator of one sort or another.

Let's start, as always, with the marketplace. HSX has United 93 pegged at $48, which translates to a $16.5M opening weekend.

Our next stop is the performance of the April 28 weekend over the last few years:

* In 2005 The Interpreter opened to $22.8M.

* In 2004 Man on Fire opened to $22.7M and 13 Going on 30 opened to $21M.

* In 2003, Identity opened to $16.2M.

* In 2002, Jason X opened to $6.6M and Life, or Something Like It, opened to $6.2M.

* In 2001, Driven opened to $12.1M.

* In 2000, The Flintstones Viva Rock Vegas, Frequency, and Where the Heart Is opened to $10.5M, $9M, and $8.2M, respectively.

What we see here (excepting 2000, when this weekend followed the strong release of The Scorpian King) is a trend of increasingly large openings for the fourth weekend in April.

Because of this, it looks as though the floor for United 93 is probably $22M. None of the other April openers are in the same genre as United 93--really, nothing is, except maybe Passion of the Christ. Passion opened to $83M. Could United 93 wind up in that neighborhood? I think it's possible. But I'd be surprised.

Only two movies have ever opened above $40M in April. It's more likely that United 93 will fall somewhere between that $22M floor and $42M. If it's within that range then I'm not sure the audience reaction will really symbolize anything--that's basically business as usual for the month of April.

But if it's significantly outside that range, then it could really say something about American attitudes.

It's a Good News/Bad News Situation

Game maker Aspyr reports:
Development has also continued progressing with Call of Duty® 2 and Sid Meier's Civilization® IV. Look for both of those great titles to be released for Mac in the next few weeks.

Oh well, there goes my summer.

HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray (cont.)

Let the battle commence! IMDB has this unsettling report:
Consumer electronics writers have begun to weigh in on the new HD DVD players distributed by Toshiba this week, and most are unimpressed. Several cite an intolerably long boot-up period, a confusing menu system, and incompatible sound. But nearly all express disappointment in the picture. . . . Writing in the Los Angeles Times David Colker remarked that on larger screens he could detect a subtle difference. He added: "I tested my perceptions by switching between the two formats. I asked a colleague to close his eyes while I chose a version, then had him open them and guess: DVD or HD DVD? He got it right only about 75% of the time.

That's bad news for HD-DVD but I think it might be worse news for Sony. A lackluster $500 hi-def DVD player is better than a lackluster $1,800 player.

Up until now, though, I hadn't considered this possibility: What if both standards fail?

In historical terms, the change from VHS to DVD took much longer than the switch from DVD to HD DVD (or Blu-Ray). The first mass-market DVD players didn't hit until about 9 years ago; the DVD revolution only really completed itself about four years ago. What if it's too soon for a new format that only offers marginal improvements at a very high price point?

Here's the rest of the Colker article.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

So Long, Stars Hollow

Hercules points us to this TV Guide story reporting that Amy Sherman-Palladino is leaving Gilmore Girls.

Sad news. Let's hope she gets a chance to do another good show.

I Should Have Included . . .

this link in yesterday's Sentinel post. I was already planning it while I was sitting in the theater at the screening. That's how much I care about this blog. And you.

And since I feel bad about forgetting, here's some bonus Brendon that I found while hunting for that link:
Eva Longoria claims to be so sure that boyfriend Tony Parker is "the one," she's already planning a family with him. Gabrielle Solis, Longorias character on Desperate Housewives, is pregnant, and now Eva is frustrated that she lives in California while Parker, who is the point guard for the San Antonio Spurs, lives in Texas.

"I want a lot of children, so I told Tony to hurry up because Gabrielle is already two months pregnant, and we're two months behind. Tony and I live in separate states, so that would be difficult at the moment. But he's very family oriented and we both want to have kids."

Yeah. It's cool. I don’t care either. What I do care about is these pictures and what kind of story she's telling that requires her to slap her own ass. Probably about a bee sting or detention or something. What? A sex story? But . . . wait, sex stories involve girls lying perfectly still and crying, don’t they? Oh. They don’t? Well, heres a tip, they do when you're a pretend social worker and you host sexual addiction trust building workshops.

Merry Christmas.

Sienna Miller and the Religion of Peace

Galley Friend B.W. sends along this highly-disturbing link reporting that Islamic extremists are now threatening Sienna Miller.

There's a joke in here somewhere, but I can't find it. And even if I could, there's nothing funny about threatening one of the hottest women on the planet.

Not cool.
Layers of funny:
If I were a OBGYN, I would assume mothers in labor like really funny jokes, so I would definitely get a terrified look on my face whenever I delivered a baby, and hire an actress to pretend to be a nurse and she would gasp in horror and say "Santa Maria!" and make the sign of the cross and step away in shock when the babies head came out, and then I would say "Nurse, get a hold of yourself", but I'm pretty sure all that would have happened with Paltrow anyway. Which is cool because actresses with their own nurse outfit probably aren't cheap.

United 93

To be honest, I don't know if I'll be able to make myself sit through United 93. That said, I still believe that it's going to do really big business. Brian Lowry thinks so, too. And says the movie's pretty good.

Bonus: After spending a long time in the wilderness, David Rasche is back with big roles in two major movies, basically back-to-back: United 93 and The Sentinel. Good for him! This guy deserves to work forever just for giving us Sledge Hammer!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Fine Legal Minds of the Lone Star State

I don't know that these gentlemen are from Texas--I'm guessing based on their accents. But wow, this deposition video is just awesome.

(Bonus: Think any of them went to SMU Law?)

An Inconvenient Truth

I haven't seen the new Al Gore movie, but I'm pretty sure I liked the original better.

Although, I'll say this: Straight one-to-one remakes are always a mistake (did you know that they've redone The Omen?). If you're going to remake a movie, you have to do something different and interesting. Remaking fiction as a documentary is a pretty neat idea.

It's not an original idea, of course. The Discovery Channel remade Perfect Storm as Deadliest Catch. The new season looks pretty great, actually.

Maybe Gore should have used Bon Jovi in his trailer.

The Sentinel

I don't mind bad movies. Making a good movie is very hard to do. Look at the filmographies of even the most talented directors and you'll see a bunch of duds next to the gems. Making a movie, Walter Murch once said, is like playing a game of negative 20 questions. Even if everyone playing is at the top of their game, sometimes the movie is just going to fail. Nothing wrong with that.

What annoys me are incompetently-made movies. Movies so sloppily thrown together that not only does the director wind up with big structural problems, but he can't even be bothered to get the small things right. The Sentinel is the most incompetently-made movie I've seen since Fantastic Four.

The plot is promising enough: There's a mole inside the Secret Service who's trying to kill the president. A respected agent (Michael Douglas) is being set up to take the fall, but he's innocent. An agent who's his protégé (Kiefer Sutherland) is charged with running the mole-hunt. And the protégé has a really hot new rookie agent sidekick (Eva Longoria). Go ahead and watch the trailer--looks okay, right?

Here are a couple of the structural problems:

* When we do finally meet the Bad Guys, we're never told why in the world they want to kill the president.

* When we finally find the mole, we have no idea why he's working for the Bad Guys.

But much more maddening are the movie's mundane failings:

* When Michael Douglas's character goes on the lam, we get a scene were he goes into a hardware store and buys a bunch of MacGuyver-esque items: Krazy Glue, WD-40, etc. He never uses any of them.

* The Bad Guys are a bunch of former KGB agents. The lead KGB agent has a cockney English accent.

* A scene between the mole and the British KGB agent begins in a bar where a waitress comes over and drops off a glass of beer. We see this in a master shot. Cut to coverage of KGBrit ordering "a pint" of beer. Cut to a master shot of the waitress saying, "Yes sir" as she removes an empty beer glass from in front of KGBrit as he and the mole resume their conversation.

* During the movie's coda, Michael Douglas's character is given a large, embarrassing retirement gift as he leaves the Secret Service office. His co-workers laugh as he asks how he's supposed to walk out of the White House with this gift. He shrugs good-naturedly and heads to the elevator. Cut to the exterior of the White House where Douglas bumps into Sutherland and Eva Longoria. The embarrassing gift is nowhere to be seen.

There are niggling mistakes but they're so obvious and sloppy that they become a little insulting to the audience. Everyone should be forgiven the stray shadow from a boom-mike. But to intentionally include unnecessary scenes that are botched is different. It's as if the filmmakers were declaring that they don't really care.

The Sentinel is directed by Clark Johnson, who you probably remember from his time on Homicide as Det. Meldrick Lewis. Johnson's a wonderful actor. Perhaps there were outside forces conspiring to push the movie out the door before he was finished with it. But even so, The Sentinel is the type of movie that makes you weep for modern Hollywood.

Lindsay Lohan as Sailor Moon?

There are like 15 different fetishes going on right here.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

For relaxing times . . .

. . . make it, Santori time.

Brendon has this fabulous Japanese commercial where Bruce Willis is doing an ad for, well, something.

There are so many levels here. The idea of a Japanese director giving Willis the "slower, and with more intensity" speech. Picturing Bruno wandering the Grand Hyatt at 3:00 a.m.

But the best is seeing a commercial that looks like it was designed by the creators of Mr. Sparkle. I half-expected Willis to shout, "I am disrespectful to dirt!"

Monday, April 17, 2006

First came the Segway...

I'm not one to call Americans lazy but an email I recently received doesn't help the case. It was for a new contraption called The Gravitizer. Maybe you've seen this already in your own inbox (you must be 21 to click on that link). But what it does is make things easier by means of a trampoline. With a hole in the middle. (If you do happen to click on that link, notice the one picture with the man relaxing with his hands behind his head as if he is contemplating what's for dinner or which teams are in the playoffs.)

Trivia Time

Name the top four "fourth" movie installments by first-weekend box office take. The first three are easy: Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, and Lethal Weapon.

But who would have thunked Scary Movie 4 would make the list?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Ripped from the Headlines?

Is this story destined for Law & Order:
MIAMI -- The lead prosecutor in the assault case against Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor stepped aside Wednesday after defense lawyers charged that he was using his prominence in the case to promote his moonlighting work as a nightclub disc jockey.

Somehow I don't get Jack McCoy as a dj, working the wheels of steel. Ms. Borgia, on the other hand, I could see . . .

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Classic Sabotage

Jenny, who's basically Marissa Miller's better-looking twin sister, has posted this classic Beasties video.

Be honest, you've missed Bunny, The Rookie, and The Chief.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Smallville: Tattooine?

Dan McLaughlin takes time away from the young baseball season (and Bronson "The Bomber" Arroyo) to look to the coming trainwreck of the Star Wars TV series:
Please tell me that this franchise, which has made so many critical missteps in the past decade and which has something of a chance to start afresh with a TV series, isn't going to make a TV show about young Luke Skywalker. I mean, the entire point of Luke's character in Episode IV is that he's been off the scene for 20 years, at a distance from the battle against the Empire, frustrated and bored living life on a moisture farm in the middle of the desert. Nothing interesting ever happens to him, and at the start of Episode IV he's never seen a lightsaber and never practiced the Jedi arts. Are they gonna rewrite that history, or is this going to be a bunch of tedious stuff about Luke's teen angst having only a tangential connection to events outside of Tattooine?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Why You Should See Scary Movie 4

No, really, there's a reason: it's the first film to come out having been shot on the Genesis HD system, which is the super-duper future of cinema.

Those layout editors at the L.A. Times can be pretty cruel. To the right of an interesting piece about the disappearance of Howard Stern's millions of listeners after the shock jock went to Sirius can be found a photo gallery link featuring the man above and the headline: Faces of Radio

Haven't these editors heard of the old joke, "You've got a great face for radio"? (Or maybe they have.)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Three Bells

Anyone else notice "Three Bells" being played in the last two episodes of The Sopranos? The Jim Ed Brown classic came on just prior to a young man's unfortunate encounter with mafia strongmen (just before he was about to go sculling) in last week's episode. And in yesterday's installment, we hear it once again as Vito Spatafore checks into a motel to either commit suicide or go on the lam from his own crew. Perhaps some of the lyrics from "Three Bells" can shed some light:

All the chapel bells were ringing
Twas a great day in his life
'Cause the song that they were singing
Was for Jimmy and his wife
And the little congregation
Prayed for guidance from above
Lead us not into temptation
Bless oh Lord this celebration
May their lives be filled with love.
From the village hidden deep in the valley
One rainy morning dark and grey
A soul winged its way to heaven
Jimmy Brown had passed away
Silent people gathered in the chapel
To say farewell to their old friend
Whose life had been like a flower
Budding, blooming till the end
Just the lonely bell was ringing
In the little valley town
Twas farewell that it was singing
To our good old Jimmy Brown
And the little congregation
Prayed for guidance from above
Lead us not into temptation
May his soul find the salvation
Of Thy great eternal love

Poor Vito. Getting caught in a leather bar, wearing that hat and that dog collar. "Hey guys, it's a joke," was all he could say. (What else could he say?)

Pepsi Kona: The Revenge

In the early '90s, when soda companies were doing the most ridiculous things--remember clear cola?--Pepsi tested a coffee-flavored cola called Pepsi Kona. No one in America liked it. Except for me. Until just a few months ago, I kept a couple 2-litre bottles of the stuffed stashed in the garage for a special occassion. Turns out, soda doesn't age they way one might hope.

But never fear, because this week there will be Coca-Cola BlaK.
Courtesy of Galley Friend B.W.: Snakes on a Plane fan art.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

SportsCenter Is Back

Not really. The broadcast is still in a tailspin, becoming more of an informercial for ESPN programming every week. It's not as shameless as the TV Guide Channel yet, but it's getting close.

What I mean, is that SportsCenter now has its first great promo in years with this fabulous spot featuring John Anderson and Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin. It's the first ad they've done in a long time worthy of the SportsCenter pantheon.

Remember all of the amazing spots they did during the '90s?

Warning: If you click on that last link, you're going to waste a lot of time today.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Netflix = Slightly Evil (cont.)

IMDB reports that Netflix is suing Blockbuster:
Netflix on Tuesday sued rival Blockbuster, claiming patent infringement and maintaining that, in the words of a company spokesman, "From top to bottom, Blockbuster has deliberately and willfully copied Netflix's business model." In its filing, Netflix asked a federal court in San Francisco to shut down Blockbuster's online rental service. It also seeks unspecified damages.

I'm not a lawyer and I don't know the details of the case, but on first blush it seems to me that if Netflix has a valid complaint, then Blockbuster should have sued Hollywood Video years ago. And Colgate should have sued Crest. And Coke should totally try to get the courts to stop all sales of Pepsi.
With regard to the previous post, I think that JLH has made a perfectly fine career move. For now. I recently saw a commercial on CBS (one of the more palatable ones during the tournament) for Ghost Whisperer and was thoroughly titillated by the suspenseful sneak peaks of a coming episode.

But the point is well taken. I recently came across a show called Student Seduction and starring Elizabeth Berkley (aka Nomi Malone, aka Jessie Spano). I thought I was in for a real treat only to be terribly disappointed. Berkley plays a high school teacher accused of sexual assault on a minor. In fact, the male student hit on her and she turned him down. He then pretends it happened and that he was a "victim." The show, incidentally, was on Lifetime.

It was all too hard to believe. Elizabeth Berkley playing a science teacher?

For Matus

Jenny's new minion on Jessica Alba's attempt to do more serious work:
With all due respect Jessica, you really need to enhance your calm. You were in a bikini on the cover of Playboy then you were kissing a girl for MTV. According to a quick survey of me, you should do both of those more often. So don't get all stuck up on us now. It's not like Fantastic Four 2 or Sin City 2 is going to be about a young single mother and textile worker who agrees to help unionize her mill despite the dangers involved. I mean, you see what's happening with Jennifer Love Hewitt. Look, do you want to be on Lifetime, or do you want to show us your tits?

Alpha Dog

This is why George Clooney is the BMOC.

J.J. Abrams Tells All

In this interview, and not just about Mission Impossible: III, but about Alias, too. He even answers the question of why Milo Rimbaldi basically disappeared from the series after the second season:
Q: Will Milo Rambaldi play a significant role in the “Alias” finale, or has that ship sailed?

A: There will be a Rambaldi component to it. We would have actually gone there far more — and in greater detail, as we originally conceived it — if the network had been more amenable to that. But they were always very anti-Rambaldi, so we kind of had to pull back.

Q: Did you ever consider a circumstance that would have necessitated casting Rambaldi?

A: We actually have. In a flashback once, you actually saw a piece of his hand, but you never actually saw who he was.

[brief pause] We actually have — yes.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Christianism in Korea and Japan

Galley Reader A.M. sends along this link to the Reuter's story where Paul Verhoeven blames Basic Instinct 2's financial woes on the Christian Right, Bush, Halliburton, et al.

(I'm kidding about Halliburton, of course. It's not like Verhoeven is crazy.)

Buried deep into page 2 of the story, however, is the most interesting nugget:
Despite the market downturn, "9 1/2 Weeks" and "Wild Orchid" scribe Zalman King is still penning erotic thrillers, including retro-sounding titles like "Nasty Girls Save the World." But he admits that the appetite for the genre has taken a hit, and he blames the international market.

"Korea used to be a big erotic thriller market (in the '80s and '90s). Japan, too. You used to be able to cobble deals together based on those markets, but it has become more difficult," said King, who also produced "9 1/2 Weeks" alongside Damon. "There used to be a way to finance erotic thrillers if you had the right cast based on the foreign market. The foreign market doesn't support it in the way that it used to. They are now embracing more mainstream fare."

Maybe the problem is the rise of the Christian Right in Korea and Japan. If Paul Verhoeven acts quickly, those countries can still be saved!

Brokeback Nation

First there was the gay rowing movie and now we have Guys And Balls--a gay, German soccer movie.

Although, in fairness to the creators of Guys and Balls, this looks more like a gay Bad News Bears than a soccer-themed Brokeback Mountain.

Monday, April 03, 2006

HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray (cont.)

Hercules has smart thoughts.

Car Porn

Sure, The Call is just a commercial, like the BMW Driver series. And it's got Naomi Campbell.

But it also has John Malkovich as a priest.

Notes on the Ice Age

After jumping out to an impressive $70.5 million, the Ice Age sequel is set to do very good business over the next few weeks. Which isn't much of a surprise--you can count on one hand the number of CG animated flops. But Box Office Mojo has this interesting note:
Pioneered by Pixar, computer animation has arguably been the most consistent box office attraction in recent years with the average title grossing $155 million, but audience's interest in the format will be tested this year as a flood of C.G. features plow into theaters—The Wild is next up on April 14. A genre that has averaged two to three releases a year since 1998 is scheduled to have 12 in 2006 alone.

This means that we may be reaching the end of the CG Golden Age.

The Golden Age, where nearly every CG animation movie was above average in quality and many of them were great, was always a product of economics. The animation was so prohibitively expensive that only finely-conceived products could be made. Budget pressures forced filmmakers to write the movie to within an inch of its life and hash out story problems way before production.

Traditional animation had become so cheap that changes could be made on the fly. For example in the 2003 animated version of Sinbad, the script was a hash. The movie tested very poorly. As Dade Hayes and Jonathan Bing relate in Open Wide:
The movie's themes of loyalty between old friend and the romantic chemistry between Sinbad and Marina eluded younger audiences . . . As changes were made, the film would be tested again and again to maddeningly indifferent feedback. . . . There was a ray of hope, however. There was one character that test audiences perpetually wanted more of: Sinbad's slobbering canine sidekick, Spike.

Spike wasn't originally in the movie, noted producer Mireille Soria. "He was added about halfway through. He started out as an Akita but he was too perky-looking." . . .

Spike didn't speak but he was about to become the star of Sinbad. "Jeffrey Katzenberg decided Spike could be a good matchmaker," codirector Johnson recalled. "A lot of the shots of Spike were late additions." Entirely new scenes were ordered from the creative team. . . . The mantra of DeamWorks Animations became, "We need more dog."

The reason computer animated movies have been so good is because it's just too damn expensive to monkey around like that. Even if Pixar told John Lasseter that they wanted "more dog," the company couldn't afford to do it in a CG production. The upshot of which is that, for the most part, creative team have been getting things right the first time with CG animated films.

But if we're reaching a point where the technology is making CG animation more affordable--so much so that studios can crank out 12 of these projects a year--then it won't be surprising if the quality starts to dip. Once you have a margin for error, you can normally count on more mistakes being made.

Best home made lighsaber dual ever!

From Galley Friend K.N. comes this truly impressive short. Sure, you can make fun of these kids, but secretly, we both know how much you wish it was you in there.

Obligatory note: George Michael, eat your heart out.