Friday, June 30, 2006

Transformers Teaser

The box is locked, the lights are on, it's robot fighting time.

Now Presenting: Alexandra DuPont

I try never to be too show-offy, but I would like to brag that Miss DuPont is a personal friend of mine. Well, there it is.

Anyway, her Socratic discussion of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 is very, very hot. Here's what you don't want to know: Matrix: Reloaded.

Good News

Warner has done something very right with the Harry Potter series: They've cast George Harris as Kingsley Shacklebolt. Because the world is an unjust place, I was certain Morgan Freeman would get the part, since he's the guy you cast when you need a stately, aristocratic black man. Nothing against Freeman, who's wonderful, but Harris is a fantastic actor and much better suited for the role.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Draft Dodging

Galley Brother B.J. on last night's NBA draft:

Speaking of AI trade rumors, the big theory is that Boston picked up 2 point guards cause they’re planning using 1 in a package for AI. Which point guard would be best for Philly? Telfair, the 5-10 version of Marburry, or Rondo, who has such a bad shot he didn’t even get guarded in college?

Bobcats, keep Jordan the hell away from Morrison unless you want to see your first-round draft pick in a bell tower with a rifle.

Has there ever been anyone who looks as pleased with himself as David Stern? Not even Federline self-satisfied that much.

Why do people keep praising Stern and talking about how tough he is? He’s the players’ union's bitch (age limit which helps the union, the NBA drug testing policy is laughable, and the Allen Houston rule allows overpaid players to collect 2 pay checks), the NBA has the least integrity of the big three sports (no other sport consistently faces rumors of the playoffs being rigged and griping about the god-awful officiating), the NBA ratings ain’t what they used to be (only the Finals were on network TV), and there’s all the money he’s losing by continuing to finance the WNBA. Really, what has he done, the dress code?

The Death of Superman?

Gitesh Pandya has the opening day numbers for Superman Returns. It did $21M on Wednesday, putting it on track to perform like last year's War of the Worlds.

I saw Superman this afternoon and can't really get it up to write anything about it. I've been a DC guy since childhood and the movie is a desecration of everything I've ever loved about comic books. It's so cloying and self-conscious and stupid that I don't even quite know what to say.

Just to take one example, while I understand that Superman himself defies the laws of gravity, is his costume supposed to do so, too? Whenever Supes is landing feet first, his cape hangs demurely at his ankles. It's kind of ridiculous.

Again, that's a microscopic point, but it's a telling one. Superhero movies require such an enormous suspension of disbelief just going in the door that they have to take extra care with all the little details.

Superman also suffers from terrible movie logic at nearly every turn. Events happen and choices are made not because they make sense, but because the story needs to go from Point A to Point B. Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor is ridiculous; he's a low-level thug with neither intelligence nor imagination. But he does have flair. Lots of it. Anthony Lane said that Superman was a quarter inch from camp. I wouldn't go that far.

(Btw, Luthor's evil plot is ripped from one of Cobra Commander's schemes in the Marvel G.I. Joe comic. Just sayin'.)

And all of these complaints leave out the betrayal of the geeks. The Superman we see onscreen in this movie bears no relation to any version of the character we've ever seen before. If Superman meant anything to you growing up, you'll be begging for an appearance by Doomsday before the first reel is done.

I'm a big fan of Bryan Singer. The Usual Supects is pretty wonderful, as are the two X-Men movies and House. And I don't genuflect before the original Richard Donner Superman--it was a nice movie, but certainly not unsurpassable.

But Superman Returns is so daft that it's difficult to find the words to describe it. Maybe the most damning thing to be said is this: There are reports that the budget hit $260M, making it one of the most expensive movies ever produced.

You sure don't see those dollars on the the screen.

Update: Just as another aside, there are some jump cuts during one of the big action sequences when all of a sudden you see, filling the screen, the mug of Richard Branson, who's playing one of the members of the space shuttle crew. I think he has one line. But it's an incredibly jarring cameo, and his face pops up on screen two or three times for no apparent reason other than he's Richard Branson. I wonder if he compensated the studio for this part.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Didn't they read Red Son?

Blog Crush has this on the Superman movie:
Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris, the two credited screenwriters for 'Superman Returns' have changed Superman’s famous motto, "Truth, Justice and the American way", to "Truth Justice and ... all that stuff". Seriously. No, really.

Dan: "I don't think 'the American way' means what it meant in 1945." Mike: "He's not just for Metropolis and not just for America." Dan: "He's an alien, from Krypton; he has come to Earth to be kind of a savior for this world, not our country . . . And he has no papers." Mike: "What would happen with the immigration laws we have now?" Dan: "I'd like to see someone kick him out!"

Yes, yes, good for you two jackasses. Aren't you just so clever. I bet Stalin and Kim Jung-il couldn't be prouder.

(I would have written more about this but I'm just so angry right now, and when I tried it was just "dirty god damn hippies" and "god I hate Hollywood so much some days" for like 8 pages. Yes, "the American way" was fine in '45 when we were fire hosing little black kids trying to go to school and women couldn't vote, but not now that we're enforcing our hundred year old immigration laws. Yeah, that makes sense. You've clearly thought this out. Was it better then, is that what you're saying? So, for the record, you're for fire hosing blacks and against protecting the US. Okay, thanks Hollywood. I knew about the second one, but I just wanted to be clear.)

Kind of makes you long for a Frank Miller Batman to off the Big Red "S."

Whatever that means.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Politics, Sort Of (and just this once)

Galley Friend Mike Russell has posted a fantastic CulturePulp bootleg which features the great Mike Murphy. The likeness, particularly in the eyes, is spooky good.

Monday, June 26, 2006


It seems while I've been away that the world lost one of its most creative geniuses. Yes, I am talking about the passing of Aaron Spelling. Columnist Tom Shales gives a fitting tribute to the man in the Washington Post, mentioning his numerous hit series, such as Dynasty, Charlie's Angels (which brought us "Jiggle TV"), Beverly Hills 90210, and Melrose Place. But let us also not forget Hart to Hart, T.J. Hooker (with a young Heather Locklear), Starsky and Hutch (one of the earliest television shows I can remember), and best of all, The Love Boat. I remember our family gathering around the tube on Saturday nights, watching the crew of the Pacific Princess set sail for another adventure (carefully broken down into comic, romantic, and dramatic subplots). Afterwards it was off to bed and listening enviously to the theme of Fantasy Island emanating from the living room. To this day I wonder how much more I could have learned, had I watched that show.

Across the Pond

I just got back from Lake Como, Italy, where I attended a transatlantic conference cosponsored by the German Marshall Fund and Bertelsmann. And yes, while the international implications of our ongoing War on Terror are profound (and which I will write about at some later date), let me comment ever so briefly on the cultural aspects of my trip:

1. All the female tourists to the area ask the same thing: Where does George Clooney live?

2. The town of Bellagio has surprisingly fewer fountains than one might think (and none are synchronized to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On").

3. Summerland is just as easy to understand in Italian as it is in English (and I don't really speak Italian).

On our way back to the Milan airport, an American girl asked our Italian driver, who spoke very little English, the inevitable question of where George Clooney lived. He smiled, made some gesture with his right hand, and continued driving. Half an hour later, he quickly pulls the car over to the side of the road, along the coast of Lake Como. He points to the town before us (Laglio) and says one word: "George."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Mamba Queens

So, Shaq wins his fourth ring. Dwayne Wade wins his first. But since I'm a hater, this is really all about Kobe.

Throughout most of this season--and particularly after his 83-point outburst--people cluck-clucked about what a genius Jerry Buss was. Of course he traded the right player! Of course Shaq was washed up! The Mamba is the future!

Really? It's obvious that Shaq isn't what he used to be. But the Lakers almost certainly could have traded Kobe straight-up for Wade (and maybe they could have gotten some extra goodies, too). Maybe the Wade-Shaq Lakers could have won a title. Maybe not. But would the franchise be in better shape than it is now? You betcha.

Choosing Shaq over Kobe was an affront to the basketball gods. Last night's game was the beginning of their retribution. Having Wade and Shaq win the title and Kobe being exposed is so satisfying that the thought of Riley also getting another ring hardly bothers me at all.

PS: I would have preferred a Game 7 in the Finals, but even without that, this was the best playoffs the NBA has had in a long time, despite the fact that the Heat aren't a team for the ages. Could it be that the league has finally found its post-Jordan feet?

Update: Galley Brother B.J. weighs in on the Mamba and the post-game:
Could Shaq’s speech at the end have been any better? When he said, “Dwyane Wade is the greatest player in the NBA,” what he meant was, “Fuck you Kobe, I carried you to those rings and you were interchangeable with 10 other players in the league. I’ve won without you and you ain’t never gonna win without me unless you follow Payton’s career path.” When he said, “Pat Riley is the best coach I ever had,” what he meant was, “Phil, for going back to Kobe, you’re dead to me.”

I hope everyone really liked the shot of Mark Cuban clapping on court because it’s the last we’ll see of him for about 2 months. He won't surface again until someone stumbles across him in either a Eastern European hostel or a Southeast Asian opium den.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mobile ESPN Numbers

Like most of America, I have a love-hate relationship with ESPN. I love the idea of an all-sports channel. I used to really, really love SportsCenter. And there are certain times of year when I can't live without it because it's giving me early round matches at the Australian Open or the C-USA conference championship tourney. In many ways, ESPN is a godsend.

But I also hate what ESPN has become. SportsCenter no longer covers "sports" in any meaningful way--it covers sports (or movies or TV shows) in which ESPN or ABC have corporate interests. The network has become a gigantic infomercial for itself trying to spin off every conceivable product under its brand and then using its remainder inventory to bludgeon us with incredibly annoying ads for said products. And it has moved away from televising actual sports in favor of vile, soul-killing programming about sports--the Mike & Mike Show (and it's evening "highlight" show), Cold Pizza, Around the Horn, Rome Is Burning, Quite Frankly, and the host of cinematic features from Playmakers to one-shot movies, like the Bob Knight story.

All of which is why the news that the terribly over-priced and under-powered ESPN Mobile is failing is so satisfying. How many subscribers does ESPN Mobile have, you ask?

Take a guess, I'll wait.

Would you believe fewer than 10,000?

I would love to know how much they spent on advertising (don't forget the elaborate Super Bowl spot!) to aquire that number.

Monday, June 19, 2006

It's in the Vault!

In the event of an "Extinction Level Event" (yes, my nod to Deep Impact), the seeds of our planet will be stored in the Arctic Circle. The Global Crop Diversity Trust, in cooperation with the Norwegian government, has agreed to begin building this "Doomsday Vault." Which leads to a few questions:

If a nuclear or geologic catastrophe were to befall us, our only hope would be to travel to the Arctic Circle? On foot?

Would only the Norwegians have access to it?

Suppose a catastrophic event were to occur in the Arctic Circle and the rest of the world was then covered in water. And the only person who can get to the vault has gills on his neck and lives like a pirate on the High Seas?

Or what if the team building the vault comes across a dog being shot at by the Norwegians, who fail to kill it. The dog then mutates and kills other dogs, and eventually it becomes evident there is an alien virus living among the team, incubating, and ready to terrorize other humans?

I don't think this vault is a very good idea.

Is Kryptonite the New Botox?

Ross Douthat has an interesting observation:
It's a small thing, but it's interesting to look at the various live-action incarnations of Superman over the years (scroll down on this Moriarty DVD column to get a good look), and notice how the Man of Steel gets progressively younger and more boyish as time passes. George Reeves looks like your Dad, Christopher Reeves looks like your youngish uncle, Dean Cain looks like your older brother - and now Brandon Routh looks like, well, the 1980s Superboy. (It's also worth pointing out that there's a new movie coming out about George Reeves, who started playing Superman in 1953 at thirty-nine, and committed suicide at forty-five. It stars, naturally, Ben Affleck - who is thirty-four, and projects the gravitas of a twenty-five-year old.)

Once and Future Jordan?

Take a look at last night's box score and tell me that you still think LeBron is the best guard in the NBA, the heir-apparent to Jordan's throne. Miami won Game 5 with only three players in double-figures. Wade went over 40 for the second time in the Finals. And he went 21 of 25 from the line, including clutch shots to tie and go ahead at the end of OT.

The Bron-Bron hype machine may never relent. Nike and ESPN may continue to shove him down our throats and proclaim him the Chosen One.

But if I was starting a franchise, I'd take Wade ahead of LeBron, no questions asked.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Law & Order Deathwatch

The new cast is here. Refugees from CSI: Miami and Conviction. One of them is a chick replacing Dennis Farina (although the story amusingly refers to him as "Dennis Fontana").

I have no problem with a female detective, but if they wanted to go that route, why not have S. Epatha's character busted down to detective for some sort of insubordination and pair her with Jesse Martin? They have a great, semi-adversarial dynamic already.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Politics of Star Trek

Galley Friend D.D. sends us this amazing link to a detailed, careful, and very scary examination of the government and culture of Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets. (If that gets you hot, there's also this appendix about "The Impact of Marxism on the Federation Council.")

I'm not qualified to discourse on these essays in any substantive way. And I'm okay with that. But I am enough of a geek to appreciate paragraphs like this:
The majority of the evidence points to the Federation Council as the supreme authority of the United Federation. The Council appears to combine executive, judicial, administrative, and legislative authority in one body, in a fashion superficially similar to the supreme power of the Romulan Senate. In 2268, the Federation Council convened on Babel to discuss the admission of the Coridan planets to the United Federation in "Journey to Babel" (Paramount, 1967); this matter demonstrates both diplomatic and legislative powers, as the Coridan planets were independent states, and the matter ipso facto is a question of interstellar relations, as well as a question of internal law, regarding as it does the territory and jurisdiction of the United Federation. In 2285, the Federation Council sat in judgment of then-Rear Admiral James T. Kirk, former Chief of Starfleet Operations, on charge of nine violations of Starfleet Regulations, and ordered his permanent reduction in grade to captain, as seen in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; this is interesting in that it combined functions that normally belong to a judicial apparatus (a court martial) and to an executive apparatus (the demotion of a commissioned officer). In 2370, the Federation Council legislatively set a speed limit of Warp Five for all vessels in the United Federation, as seen in "Forces of Nature" (Paramount, 1993). In 2372, the Federation Council voted to condemn the Klingon invasion of the Cardassian Union (a diplomatic act), and further voted to provide foreign aid in the form of twelve industrial replicators to ameliorate the damage to Cardassian industry, in "The Way of the Warrior" (Paramount, 1995) and "For the Cause"(Paramount, 1996); it passed Special Order 66715 in 2374 authorizing Starfleet to "neutralize security threats to Deep Space 9 by any means necessary" in "Inquisition" (Paramount, 1998); during the Dominion War, the Federation Council voted in 2375 to withhold the cure to the morphogenic plague from the Founders in "The Dogs of War" (Paramount, 1999) and shortly thereafter approved a Starfleet operation to harvest metaphasic particles from an obscure world in the Briar Patch, in Star Trek: Insurrection (Paramount, 1998).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Save Screech

I don't quite know whether or not to believe this story, but it's on the internet, so it's probably true. It seems that Dustin Diamond now lives in Wisconsin. And the bank's about to foreclose on his house. So he's selling T-shirts to pay off the mortgage.

Is this weirder than the Wil Wheaton site?

End of an Era

ILM is shutting down their physical effects unit, meaning that the triumph of CGI is nearly complete.

It's sad not because CGI isn't great, but because there is still a place for models and miniatures--see the amazing work with Minas Morgul and Orthanc in the LoTR series.

The Daily Gut

If you can't get enough Greg Gutfeld at the Huffington Post, or you just want better abs, check out The Daily Gut.

Double Bonus: Don't miss The Adventures of Keira Knightley's Jaw.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Getting Better all the Time?

Bad enough that Paul McCartney's divorce from Heather Mills has led to a nasty custody battle over daughter Beatrice. But now, a German book entitled Die Freuden der Liebe has resurfaced, supposedly with nude pictures of the former Mrs. McCartney, who claims, according to the Daily Mail, that the book was "an educational lovers' guide." Peter Wilson, who also posed for the book, told the Daily Mail, however, that the photo-shoot was "cheap, titillating and sleazy," and included "simulating sex, rubbing baby oil and whipped cream on each other, and acting out scenes with sex toys."

Like Ms. Mills said, it's educational!

On top of all this, cruder allegations have sprung, such as Mills having been a prostitute when she was in her 20s. Clients supposedly include a Saudi prince and Adnan Khashoggi. Petrina Montrose, a former call girl, claims she and Mills both spent time with the prince. From the Daily Mail:

"The prince was tall and greasy and I wanted to leave but I knew that to get my money I'd have to have sex with anyone in the room who picked me. Still, Heather was bubbling over with enthusiasm."

Miss Montrose said she was eventually summoned to the prince's bedroom to find two other women were already there naked--including Miss Mills.

When the orgy finished "Heather made no attempt to put her clothes on" she told the News of the World.

"Instead she started parading naked around the room, trying to impress the prince even more."

Sir Paul says he feels horrible about the "witch-hunt" directed at his ex-wife. On the other hand, I bet this helps his side of the custody battle.

Nacho Libre

For whatever reason, Jack Black doesn't do it for me. He hasn't made me laugh since his brilliant turn in Bob Roberts. But lots of people seem to love him, which is the only explanation for why a movie executive would greenlight a project like Nacho Libre.

In Nacho Libre news there's this tidbit about Danny Elfman taking his credit off of the project. It's a reasonably rare occurence--particularly for someone of Elfman's stature.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Marvel comics writer Brian Bendis interviews Joss Whedon:
WHEDON: I just did that tribute thing they’re doing to Stan [Lee]. I did a story for that with Michael Gaydos.

BENDIS: I know. I’m right after you with [Mark] Bagley.

WHEDON: Oh cool! Oh my God! Gaydos’ pencils were so amazing.

BENDIS: Aren’t they so nice? He doesn’t get nearly enough credit.

WHEDON: [Gaydos’s art] is so textured and so rich and so on the edge of comic books and so human. I was loving life because, you know, the story is really silly, so that’ll sort of help cover it.

BENDIS: What’s your story?

WHEDON: My story? It involves a comic convention of alternate dimensions where people are comparing their comic in worlds where there was no Stan.

Pretty hot, actually.

Also, this Whedon quote:
Sublimating yourself to a story is sort of the opposite of the Quentin Tarantino school. When I watched “Kill Bill,” it was like sitting next to Quentin Tarantino and having him go, “Alright, cool! Check out my music that I love!”

All Hail the Blu-ray!

Galley Brother B.J. sends this story about Sony and Pioneer delaying the launch of the BDPP-HD1.

Aprés Nadal

The Atlantic has a great story by Tom Perrotta on how racket technology saved the men's tennis game. Lots of physics and sports-junkie goodness.

Little known fact:
[C]omposite rackets help players hit better ground strokes, impart more spin, and return rocket serves, but they do very little to speed up serves. In 1997, in a comparative test done by Tennis magazine, Mark Philippoussis, the six-foot-five, 217-pound Australian renowned for his powerful serve, averaged 124 mph when serving with his own composite racket. With a classic wooden racket, he averaged 122 mph.

Who knew?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Oh, Justine!

Justine Henin-Hardenne may be a big cheater, but she's got plenty of moxie. She was the first womens player to attack the Williams sisters at the height of their powers and show no fear of them. As she's gotten older, she's gotten better. Her footwork has improved and she knows how to counter-punch now, too.

With her impressive win over Kim Clijsters today, JHH is poised to win her third French. She already has wins at the Australian and the U.S. Open, as well as an Olympic gold medal.

So how good is she? You could argue that she has a shot to be a top 15 all-time player. On the women's side, the list is:

1) Graf
2) Navratilova
3) Court
4) King
5) Evert

After that, slots are pretty much up for grabs, with players such as Althea Gibson making as much of a claim as Gaby Sabi. You might even have pre-stabbing Monica Seles and a Williams. But how far down would you have to go to put Henin-Hardenne on the list? Even today, I'd say not very far. And if she wins a couple more majors--or a Wimbledon--you might even be able to argue her for the 7-8-9 slots.

Update: For those of you who don't remember her 2003 French Open semi against Serena Williams, here's the Wiki account of JHH's underhanded antics:
Henin-Hardenne won the first set with 6-2 but lost the second 4-6. In the deciding third set, Justine showed all her talent and fighting spirit to prevail 7-5. However, there was some controversy in the third set with Serena leading 4-2 at 15-love. Williams started to hit a first serve, but Justine put up her hand to indicate that she wasn't ready. Williams netted the serve. The umpire did not see Justine's gesture and when he asked her about it she did not respond. The umpire ordered a second serve, and a visibly upset Williams lost the game and later the lead and the match. After the match the replay indicated that Serena was correct, Justine did put her hand as Williams was serving. This win ended Serena's 33-match winning streak in Grand Slam events.

What Would Uncle Jesse Think?

Just when I thought there couldn't be bigger news today than the death of Zarqawi and Abdul Rahman, I come across this from the New York Post's Page Six:

Former Full House child star and crystal meth addict Jodie Sweetin is getting back to work. Sweetin has signed on to host the strip-tastic new show on Fuse, Pants-Off Dance-Off. The show, taped at Fuse music TV's Midtown studio, features people of all ages taking off their clothes to their favorite music videos. No word yet if Sweetin plans to doff her duds, but Fuse says it hopes she will use her connections to get her former little TV sisters--Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen--to join in the freaky fun.

Little Steph? Say it ain't so!

The Death of Western Civilization

New Line is remaking the Japanese juvie snuff film Battle Royale.

I don't know what will be worse for the culture: the movie or the chorus of independent-minded dolts insisting that the splatter-fest is really an incisive cultural commentary and if you don't like it, you're just one of the lemmings who can't handle the truth!

X-Men: Last Stand

Finally saw it last night and it's pretty good. Especially the part at the end where Dark Willow geets all veiny and Wolverine brings her back to reality by telling her that he loves her before he has to impale her to close the mouth of Acathla.

I kid! Obviously Marvel's Dark Phoenix saga came first and Joss Whedon was leaning heavily on it for the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (in much the same way that he leaned on the Teen Titan's Judas Contract for season three). But it was striking how much similarity there was between Ratner and Whedon's envisioning of "Phoenix."

It also struck me that the script Ratner and Fox settled on was particularly self-destructive for the future of the franchise. There's nothing wrong with killing major characters--in fact, that's a virtue. But why loose all of the interesting major characters? ***SPOILER TO FOLLOW***

Magneto, Xavier, Jean Grey, and Rogue are the four most interesting characters in the series. They have the most compelling motivations and internal conflicts and the most intriguing powers. The X-Men franchise will soldier on in the next trilogy and certainly there are no shortage of good characters: Ice-man, Kitty Pride, and Gambit are great. But they're ornaments; the stories are going to need dramatic foundations. Turning the series entirely over to Storm and Wolverine seems like a mistake.

There is much to dislike Last Stand--the way the studio cheaped out on the final fight at Alcatraz; the continuity problems with simple things, like time of day; not bothering to have Beast's hair obey the laws of gravity when he's hanging upside down--for that matter, the movie's incoherent representation of his abilities; the spots of bad dialogue; etc.

But there was much to like, too. Kitty Pride was beautifully realized, as was Juggernaught. The great Bill Duke got to do his thing. And how about the way Magneto crushes the first two cars in the motorcade?

In the end, it isn't quite fair to compare Last Stand to Return of the Jedi, as many have. Jedi left such a sour taste in your mouth that there was no need to see what happens next. I still haven't gotten my fill of the X-Men series. It's easy to see where they go from here, but hard to figure out how they'll do it well.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Thanks to Galley friend S.B. who sends us this link to a Daily Mirror story on a boy born yesterday and named Damian. The mother is a fan of The Omen and thought it would be a great idea to induce labor so that the baby could be born on 06/06/06. Damian supposedly weighed in at 6 lbs. 6 oz. but was delivered at 6:59 am.

So what's next? Dobermans? A tattoo on his scalp? Will he take up ice hockey? Please let this be the end of it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ahh, the Beautiful Game

I don't care what you say, soccer is a real sport.

Of course, this video must be fake. But it sure is funny. Would have been funnier if was the French team, though.

Happy Hell Day

Yes, for my fellow End of Times/End of Days/Armageddon/Deep Impact observers, today is truly significant--the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year of the millennium. Could a baby born today be the anti-Christ? Now before we do something rash, let me offer these thoughts: Being born on 06/06/06 is bad luck, but I wouldn't make much more of it than that. Unless the child is a boy and his parents name him Damian. Secondly, there is some dispute over the anti-Christ being born on 06/06/06 or being conceived on the said date. If it is the latter, I urge everyone to abstain until midnight.

But what more appropriate timing for the release of The Omen with Julia Stiles? From what a friend who previewed the remake tells me, it is pretty much the same film. Except it is Stiles instead of Lee Remick and Liev Schreiber instead of Gregory Peck. Most disappointing is the absence of the chorus chanting "Damian!" and "Sanctus! Dominus!"

But does this also mean we will be treated to remakes of The Omen II and III? Will we again be subjected to horrors such as the kid trapped beneath the ice pond and the woman who gets her eye gouged out by a crow before she gets smacked by an 18-wheeler? (If you saw these films in your youth, thanks to HBO, you never forget them.)

And does anyone remember who played Damian in The Omen III? (Hint: He never got to go to Montana.)

Does Anyone Remember Ready to Rumble?

And how the ill-fated David Arquette wrestling movie did a promotional tie-in with the then Turner-owned WCW?

It looks like Nacho Libre is doing a similar tie-in with the WWE. Do we think it will work?

Kirk Does Rocket Man

Galley Reader E.H. sends along this fantastic video of the Trek-era William Shatner doing a dramatic reading of Rocket Man.


The Cerebral Assassin

If you're not doing anything right now, go turn on the Clijsters-Hingis match on ESPN2. Hingis went down 5-2 in the first set and fought off 3 set points before losing in a tie-break, 7-5.

This has the look of a classic match. Plus, there's no beating Dick Enberg in the morning.

Update: Never mind. Hingis collapsed in the second.

Monday, June 05, 2006

In Praise of the Swiss Miss

Seth Stevenson comes to love Martina Hingis:
I've also come—to my own great shock—to adore her style of play. It turns out I got bored with all those power hitters on the women's tour. What fun is there in watching cannon forehands, flat and low and hard, one after another? Half the players seem to come from a mysterious genetics lab somewhere in Russia, which pumps out 9-foot-tall blondes who do nothing but grunt, crush the ball cleanly down the line, and occasionally attempt an ill-advised drop shot. Meanwhile, Hingis' arsenal includes some gorgeous, looping topspins; bedeviling slices; pinpoint placement; and sudden changes of pace. As with her countryman Roger Federer (though she lacks his floating, ghostlike movement around the court), it's Hingis' tremendous variety that makes her such a treat to watch.

Moviestar or Us Weekly Queen?

Jennifer Aniston is omnipresent in the culture and she just had a bona fide moviestar launch of The Break-Up--which grossed $38M despite bad reviews and misleading marketing. Give her credit: She opened this picture basically by herself.

But how surprised would you be to learn that this is only the fourth time she's opened a movie over $10M:

The Break-Up-$38M
Along Came Polly-$27M
Bruce Almighty-$68M

Bruce Almighty is a Jim Carey vehicle and Along Came Polly was a Ben Stiller vehicle designed as a pseudo-sequel to Something About Mary. What the success of The Break-Up shows is that, if an actor is forced on audiences enough times, eventually they'll get a hit.

Ben Affleck is another great example of this. After the slow-burn success of Good Will Hunting, Affleck was allowed to ride shotgun alongside Bruce Willis and Michael Bay in Armageddon, after which Hollywood assumed that he was a new leading man. He then bombed five consecutive movies, the biggest opening gross of which was $13.5M for Forces of Nature. He helped Pearl Harbor underperform, bombed again with Changing Lanes, and finally opened The Sum of All Fears to a respectable $31M.

You see similar patterns with Josh Hartnett (who hasn't actually gotten his hit yet) and the former Mr. Jennifer Anniston, Brad Pitt, who after being pulled along by Tom Cruise's coattails in Interview with the Vampire, ran off a string of 8 leading roles without opening a movie above $15M.

Most actors don't get all of these extra chances. But the lesson to studio executives is clear: No matter how many failures a "star" has, if you keep giving them work, eventually they'll have a breakout hit.

The International Language of Destruction

AICN sends us to this link for The Sinking of Japan--no subtitles necessary.

It's funny how the medium of film is so universal that it creates nearly identical conventions in very different cultures. This trailer could easily be for an American disaster pic, right down to the annoying R&B ballad in the final third.

Friday, June 02, 2006

There Are Motherfuckin' Snakes on the Motherfuckin' Plane

For real:
Monty Coles was 3,000 feet in the air when he discovered a stowaway peeking out at him from the plane's instrument panel — a 4 1/2-foot black snake.

Coles had left Charleston earlier for a leisurely flight over the West Virginia countryside last Saturday in his Piper Cherokee and was preparing to land in Gallipolis, Ohio, when the snake revealed itself.

"Nothing in any of the manuals ever described anything like this," the 62-year-old Cross Lanes resident said. But the advice given 25 years earlier from his flight instructor immediately came to mind: "No matter what happens, fly the plane."

An attempt to swat the snake only resulted in it falling to Coles' feet under the rudder pedals. It then darted to the other side of the cockpit.

While maintaining control of the single-engine plane with one hand, Coles grabbed the reptile behind its head with his other.

"There was no way I was letting that thing go. It coiled all around my arm, and its tail grabbed hold of a lever on the floor and started pulling," Coles said.

Mother of God.

District B13

So that's where the amazing little French dude is from. Galley Brother B.J. suggests that District B13 might just be this year's Ong Bak.

More Trailer Mash-ups

It's third-rate, but still kind of fun: The School of Rock. Courtesy of Jenny.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Superman Returns

Mike Russell interviews the guys who wrote Superman Returns--and has the answers to everything you wanted to know about the new movie.

Pixar and the Nanny State

Cars looks like another Bug's Life--which is to say, better than Shrek, but far below The Incredibles in the animation pantheon. But who knows? Maybe we'll all be pleasantly surprised.

But in the run-up to release, Cars has given us one very unpleasant surprise: the worst promotional tie-in in the history of movies.

After selling their souls back to Disney, Pixar went on a promotional-partner spree with Cars, signing up 17 corporate sponsors for the movie. Seventeen is a garishly large number, but what's really striking is how few of these corporate tie-ins--Hertz, Goodyear, Porsche, State Farm Insurance, Georgia Pacific, Valvoline--have anything to do with the movie or its intended audience.

Yet all of that pales in comparison to Pixar's least attractive partner: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Cars actually has a promotional tie in with the NHTSA's Click It or Ticket campaign.

Surely you've seen the hectoring TV spots for Click It or Ticket. Somber state troopers pull over rambunctious young men (no female offenders are ever featured in these ads) and hand out tickets not for speeding or running red lights or any other actual traffic violations--but simply for not wearing a seatbelt.

I'm all in favor of seatbelts. They save lives and I wear mine every day. But, like red-light cameras, this is pure revenue-generation for the state gussied up as concern for public safety. It is the worst of the Nanny State: Instead of catching actual criminals, the police turn their attentions to the habits of law-abiding citizens.

The Click It or Ticket campaign is maddening in its own right, but it's almost unfathomable as to why Pixar would allow the that sort of busy-body, nagging message to get mixed up with Cars.

Update: I should have added earlier that those interested in defending red-light cameras should read Matt Labash's excellent series on them which explodes much of the junk science about how they promote safety. Labash argues, convincingly, that red-light cameras cause more accidents than they prevent. But they do gin up a lot of money for local municipalities.