Friday, April 30, 2010
Fear Dot Com tries to use shocking imagery like Saw, but couldn't quite get all the way there. Even more, it is a nearly straight rip-off of an actually good recent horror movie, The Ring. I can't quite make fun of this movie without spoilers, but I suppose nobody will complain. There is a detective who used to chase some serial killer, but could never catch him. Now, people are turning up dead from a stroke exactly forty-eight hours after they visit the site at www.feardotcom.com. Seriously, that's the actual address of the site. When they visit the site (all through a browser that doesn't look like any web browser that has ever been invited, but rather through something like you might find as an interface for some old role-playing game), they see disturbing images and then they hallucinate the thing that scares them most until they eventually die of fear. Note: none of the death-by-fear scenes are scary in any way. The detective assumes it's the work of the serial killer, so he and an investigator from the Department of Health (not sure why she is working on this case once disease is ruled out at the beginning of the movie) are trying to end the hunt once and for all. The investigator becomes especially interested when her boss dies from the site and eventually figures out that the website actually is unleashing the psychic energy of the serial killer's first victim. She realizes that the only way to stop the site from killing is to get the serial killer to look at it so he dies from fear (note: that scene also not scary and actually quite indecipherable). This is pretty much the same plot as The Ring with only slight differences.
The writer spent so much work on the details of the plot that they forgot to include any reality to balance the unoriginal supernatural story. The cops routinely move evidence as soon as they stumble on a crime scene, including handling a newly-found dead body with their bare hands. The Department of Health is apparently in a dirty building where the staff is allowed to chain-smoke. The director helps out by leaving every scene so dark that you often can't actually tell what's going on. It makes the lighting on C.S.I.: look like the lighting in REM's Shiny Happy People video.
And, of course, the writer and director tried to bring a lot of disturbing gore, but they seemed to only be willing to go so far and stopped short of anything memorable. I don't like these movies that are only about showing people doing horrible things to other people, but I suppose I can't complain about other people wanting to see it. It's their right to watch crap. I just hope it's better-done crap than Fear Dot Com.
- The Monologue:
- I have no good jokes, so here's a topic for discussion. Were the Founding Fathers conservative or liberal?
- Random Pop Culture:
- The editing in tonight's Survivor felt either weak or deceptive. The end result was not surprising in the least even though they tried as hard as they could to make it feel like it was.
- Here's what I meant by the Lady Antebellum/Michelle Bachmann thing. It's the 0:56 mark (and probably others) on this video from Idol and this picture. Maybe I'm reaching. I think it's mostly in the eyes.
- Tony Kornheiser had a great thing this morning about how the best comeback for anything is to ask the person: "Is you mother a prostitute?"
- Random Music Video:
- We had Count Basie earlier this week, but today is the 111th anniversary of the birth of DC's greatest artist. Without doing research, I'd guess that Duke Ellington may be the best DC native, period. He deserves more than one video.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
- Lee DeWyze, singing "You're Still the One": This is the only song tonight that I know. So excited. I almost just didn't watch, but where am I going to get my fix of off-key performances. Take this one. Please. Boring and out of tune. Really boring. Did you ever wonder what it would sound like if the Fray covered a Shania song? I'm going to assume you said no.
- Michael Lynche, singing "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing": Relative to this season, this was a nice performance. I think it's the best he's sounded in a while. Can't wait to hear him do this as the love song when he and Kel team up for Good Burger 2: Electric Burger-loo.
- Casey James, singing "Don't!": The vibrato is still really bad and I'm pretty sure that Casey is the worst one left. Boring and a little nasal. And it still sounds like he's sitting on a vibrating stool.
- Crystal Bowersox, singing "No One Needs to Know": For the record, I'm fast-forwarding through everything but the songs and the judges' comments. This really isn't my kind of music. Crystal's great, but tonight she was great at singing music I hate, so there you go.
- Aaron Kelly, singing "You've Got a Way": AK-4'7" was so phonily sincere tonight that I thought one of those Christian music infomercials was about to break out. To be fair, I did close my eyes and stick my hands in the air, but it was by way of saying, "Please! No more! Let this episode end!"
- Siobhan Magnus, singing "Any Man of Mine": Maybe I've heard this song once, but I still don't like it at all. For the most part, Siobhan was the best she's been in weeks, which is not saying much. The slow ending didn't fit with the rest of the up-tempo song, but it was an ending, and I'm at least thankful for that.
Monday, April 26, 2010
- The Monologue:
- George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points, will be released in November. It's an early favorite for the Newberry Award.
- George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points, will be released in November. It was ghost-written by Shel Silverstein.
- The best part of Decision Points? Pop-up Paul Wolfowitz.
- Random Pop Culture:
- I think my NBA/NHL postseason watching will start tomorrow. The Thunder visit the Lakers in Game 5 with the series tied. Kevin Durant is awesome, but Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has to be the secretly most exciting player in the league.
- I also saw Mike Judge's Extract over the weekend. It had some funny moments, but it did not work as a whole. No cohesion to the plot and it seemed to drag on too long.
- Random Music Video:
- Some great music birthdays today, including Duane Eddy, Bobby Rydell, and Stevie Nicks, but the day belongs to William "Count" Basie who was born on April 26, 1904, and died on his 80th birthday, April 26, 1984:
Sunday, April 25, 2010
- The Monologue:
- Stephen Hawking warns that contact with aliens could lead to them plundering our planet for resources. That's kind of the plot of Battlefield Earth, which is a major problem.
- The Obamas will be visiting Asheville on vacation. Or, as it used to be called, Reykjavik.
- Random Pop Culture:
- The last, say, one second of tonight's The Amazing Race was shocking and hilarious in a very unfortunate way. It's impossible to explain unless you saw the episode.
- Went Saturday to see The Losers. It's hard not to like Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Idris Elba (and, yes, I have a soft spot for Chris Evans, for some reason), but the writing is bad. Excruciating. There's one okay plot twist, but the actual dialogue makes you cringe routinely. Jason Patric is a very good actor, but his character is written so poorly and is so overacted that I was embarrassed every time he was on the screen: embarrassed for him, embarrassed for the writers and director, embarrassed for the other actors around him, embarrassed for me sitting there and watching it, embarrassed for the theater employee who took my money with the straight face even though they knew that I was going to have to watch those scenes.
- Random Video:
- Yep, it's a clip from Lopez Tonight. Holy crap, it's funny:
I love courtroom dramas. I don't know if it's the inherent tension of the cross-examination or the idea that what is at stake is always immediately clear. A Few Good Men ranked #3 on my favorite movies of all time (links to the list on the left) and I go crazy for everything from classics (12 Angry Men, To Kill A Mockingbird) to even little court scenes at the end of movies (The Untouchables, Pleasantville). So I will be biased towards a courtroom drama and my review of this movie should be seasoned by that grain of salt.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is a movie from July of last year, starring Jesse Metcalfe (some kid from Desperate Housewives), Amber Tamblyn (some kid from Joan of Arcadia), and Michael Douglas. I was surprised to learn that this was a remake of a classic 1950s film noir thriller, because the premise is ridiculous. In Shreveport, the DA (Douglas) is winning murder case after murder case and about to run for governor. A reporter (Metcalfe) is almost positive that these convictions are being won with planted evidence. In order to expose the DA, the reporter finds a random murder and frames himself so that the DA will plant evidence and the reporter can prove that everything is a fake. Meanwhile, he's dating someone who works for the DA and she has to decide whether he really committed the murder or not. To add to the intrigue, there are three major plot twists: one which is merely head-scratching, one which is pure deus ex machina, and one which is obvious from approximately the first minute of the movie.
Even though the movie takes place in Louisiana, not one character talks with even the slightest Louisiana accent, with the exception of a detective played by Orlando Jones, who acts so much better than everyone else in his few scenes that he seems out of place in the movie. To be sure, the acting is bad. The two main actors are too young to take seriously in their roles and Douglas displays a gravitas which is inappropriate for the rest of the film. The side actors, those with only one or two lines, really stand out for their failure to seem like they're doing anything except reading cue cards.
The real loser here is the script. There's a great moment in one of this past Thursday's 30 Rock episodes when Liz rolls her eyes so dramatically that they get stuck. That's how I felt with some of the back-and-forth dialogue here. The characters almost stumble over each over to deliver their bad lines, leading to conversations that involve a rapid succession of crap, as if someone had built a machine gun that fired cheese and had opened up on the audience. I love great last lines, such as in Casablanca or Chinatown, and Hollywood needs to create a special award for the last line from this movie (actual quote): "I don't have anything more to say to you. [pause] Oh wait, I thought of something. Fuck you."
Having said all that (!), the movie is still a courtroom drama and I still get a little geeked up for the courtroom scenes, even if everything about them is weak. No doubt, it's a bad movie. I thought at one point that it wasn't so bad, only to realize that much, much less time had passed than I had thought. In addition, the worst part of the movie is the last third, so it builds you up to a point of relative pleasant surprise, only to make you crash harder. Granted that I understand that the movie's position on the list is based on its Rotten Tomatoes score and not some subjective ranking, but is it the 14th worst movie of the last ten years? Maybe it's my bias, but there's no way.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
- Casey James, singing Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop": Doesn't Alicia Keyes strike you as a little too awesome to be a mentor for this season, if ever? If Casey keeps it up with the vibrato, I'm going to start calling him "Goat Boy." Casey, a good guitar player, is what would happen if Jonny Lang were singing off-key while sitting on a vibrating bed. He's gotten worse and worse every week. Also, I don't think I ever noticed how long his neck is.
- Lee DeWyze, singing Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer": You want to ruin an American Idol performance? Think, right as it's about to begin, about when Paul Simon sang this song on the first Saturday Night Live after 9/11. Yeah, this isn't going to live up to that. Clumsy. Like the Beatles week, can't hate hearing this song, but this was very weak.
- Tim Urban, singing Goo Goo Dolls' "Better Days": I'm prepared for chillingly awful as the overly sincere Urban sings the overly sincere Goo Goo Dolls. Oh yeah, I didn't even add in the potential key problems which were awful. Awful. So kids in Africa get food if people vote for the contestants? Congrats, Tim, on taking food right out of some kid's mouth.
- Aaron Kelly, singing R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly": Doing an R. Kelly song was magnificent. He showered us with his golden glory. He made water from my eyes. His perfection just tinkled all over the audience. Pee.
- Siobhan Magnus, singing Mariah Carey & Whitney Houston's "When You Believe": Look, I can't take any of this seriously any more. Now Siobhan, who's been pretty bad for a number of weeks, is doing Whitney and Mariah? And it's one of my favorite movie songs ever, to boot (I love The Prince of Egypt). In other words, I'd accept nothing less than perfection, so no acceptance here. I mean, she was okay, but you can't do a Whitney and Mariah song and be "okay."
- Michael Lynche, singing "Hero" by Chad Kroeger featuring Josey Scott: God damnit, even Big Mike sucks tonight. That falsetto at the beginning was not good. If I can be thankful for anything, it's that Crystal's going last. I think it's appropriate today, on Adolf Hitler's birthday, to ask if, with the exception of Crystal, any group of people since the Nazis has been so justifiably vilified as this cadre of Idol contestants.
- Crystal Bowersox, singing The Impressions' "People Get Ready": She saved the show like Spiderman saved both the cable car and Mary Jane at the end of the first movie. Another level. We need the next six weeks to be just her singing by herself.
- Not much to talk about on a night of pure setup, other than to wonder when everyone will have their flashes of memory in the sideways world.
- Richard, Ben, and Miles are still most likely on the main island, but it's set up so Jack and Locke are the only other two people left. Certainly seems like Jack will be Jacob's replacement.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Seven years ago, I had the fortune of driving through Oklahoma City while on a road trip and stopped at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. It's worth going if you happen to be in the area. It's tremendous; up there with FDR as my two favorite non-Lincoln memorials. It particularly stands out because I've been near Ground Zero a number of times over the last six months or so and the lack of a 9/11 memorial is crushing. Just absolutely crushing.
Here's a video someone took of the Oklahoma City National Memorial:
Sunday, April 18, 2010
- The Monologue:
- I'd like to make a joke, but this story is kind of funny on its own.
- Now that she no longer has a show on TLC and is instead appearing on Dancing With The ["]Stars["], Kate Gosselin spends three days a week in Los Angeles away from her beloved kids to appear on the show. Wait, that's not quite right. Kate Gosselin spends four days a week in Pennsylvania away from her beloved TV cameras.
- Among the riders in Sarah Palin's contracts for speaking engagements is a bendy straw. She stole the idea from Dennis Kucinich, who requires swirly straws wherever he goes.
- News came out that Oprah and John Tesh used to be together. If even he can get chicks with music, William Hung still has a chance.
- Random Pop Culture:
- Nobody ever accused David Simon of being subtle, but the beginning of tonight's Treme was a tad heavy-handed. They got past it quickly, though. There is nothing better on TV right now than the reverence and love with which Treme treats the New Orleans music scene.
- I have not yet watched any of tonight's final three episodes of Life, but I'm bummed that it's over. I'm sure it was extraodinarily expensive to make, but it went by so quickly.
- I'm the only person still watching C.S.I.: regularly, right? This past week, they had one of their wacky lab tech episodes to break the tension of a cliffhanger in the season-long story arc. I like those, though; I recently watched some episodes of The Larry Sanders Show and it made me lament that Wallace Langham is often underused in his role on the current crime drama.
- Random Video:
- Today is Hayley Mills' 64th birthday. You may love her from Polyanna or The Parent Trap, but of course I most love her from Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the TV show that was cancelled after thirteen episodes and revamped into Saved By The Bell. I've seen episodes, but they always had the Saved By The Bell intro, since those thirteen episodes went into syndication as the first season of the later show. Here is the original intro to Good Morning, Miss Bliss (I had never seen it until now):
Meet Daniel Sadek and put yourself in his shoes for a second. Sadek was born in Lebanon and came to California, where his acute business sense helped him make money quickly, initially by buying some 7-11 stores. As the housing market boomed, he decided to start a company that took advantage of the consumer hunger for real estate by selling subprime mortgages. Sadek got rich. Millions and millions of dollars rich. He loved cars and used his money to start a large collection of exotic cars (e.g., the $1.1 million Ferrari Enzo that Eddie Griffin famously crashed when doing promotional work for Redline). Sadek became famous for gambling huge amounts at Vegas casinos and he parlayed his money into dating a ridiculously hot soap opera star. He was on top of the world.
So what do you do when you're on top of the world? You assume that everyone wants to be you. Why not? You have everything! So Sadek decided to finance a movie that would have everything that he liked, because if everyone wanted to be him than they would like that stuff, too. Fast, exotic cars. Karate. Loud rap music. Sexy shots of hot women. Millionaires throwing around money like its water, gambling on cars and playing poker with the likes of David Williams and Gus Hansen. Name-checking himself by having a wealthy character talking to him on the phone near the end. Shoot, we can even add some gratuitous violence against women because, hey, we're a man's man, right? And our hot girlfriend, regardless of any talent, can take the leading role. Put this all together and you have Redline, the fetish video of car porn. Very short scenes of a miserable script and really, really awful acting (I did say that Eddie Griffin was in it) that are meaningless next to the orgy of everything a young, obscenely rich man with no reason to control his impulses would like. You can watch this whole scene, but I want you to specifically watch from the 2:21 mark to the end:
I mean, that's horrible. And, even with Sadek's apparently enormous ego, people saw right through it. Sadek raised $26 million for the film and it made $6.8 million domestically, falling out of the theaters quickly. Things went south from there. As the housing market collapsed, the government cracked down on subprime lenders like Sadek. He lost everything. He's broke; he's under investigation from the government; he has ruined people's lives with his predatory lending and, as such, is vilified by numerous consumer groups; he owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to Vegas casinos where he borrowed money. Maybe his downfall didn't start with Redline, but the movie is people's exhibit number one in the effort to prove that the kind of lifestyle Sadek was leading is bound to lead to ruin.
I'm going to have to create new levels of bad as I watch each of these movies on the list of Rotten Tomatoes' worst 100 films of the last decade. I had ranked The Master of Disguise (#18) as the worst movie I had ever seen, but it might be better to call it the least entertaining. Battlefield Earth (#27) is probably the worst-made. Redline inhabits a whole new level of bad. It's a movie that truly never should have been made.
Friday, April 16, 2010
- I should have known that even though they carry no real news, USA Today would have prominent American Idol recaps. No matter, not that excited to catch up with it anyway, so we'll start anew next week with the two worst (Tim Urban is really just in a whole other universe for some reason) gone.
- No reason to change my Lost theory after watching this week's. If anything, it confirmed my part about the flash sideways and how it has to end because the relationships from the island are what's real. Interesting how, at the end, sideways Desmond didn't recognize Ben at all. It would make sense, though. Sideways Desmond seems to be the Jacob of that world, going from person to person and maneuvering/manipulating them into the right places. Maybe Locke was trying to kill island Desmond by throwing him down the well, but I wonder... Does Locke know what trouble Desmond could possibly get into with what we know is underground there?
- Apparently they only had seventeen hours worth of story for 24 this season, so they used hour eighteen to revamp a whole new mini-season. All the story lines resolved for the negative except for Jack and Renee, the writers contrived a way for Chloe to take charge, Logan to come back into the picture, and Jack to get desperate and homicidal. It felt like the season premiere from a few years ago when they killed off Palmer and Michelle (and sort of Tony) to make a whole new story.
- I don't think what JT did on Survivor tonight was the stupidest move in the history of the show. It was stupid, no doubt. He doesn't know what Russell is all about because nobody had seen Samoa, but he still should have recognized that Russell is a villain for a reason. Still though, it's not like JT has been voted out yet. I'll take James going home with two immunity idols or, even more, Eric giving the idol to Natalie. Both directly resulted in the person getting booted. It certainly seems like Parvati's season to lose right now, huh?
- Got the Netflix streaming disk for Wii. Love it. Now I can watch Season 1 of 21 Jumpstreet on my TV whenever I want. Damn, the pilot episode of that show is cheesy. Gloriously so.
Monday, April 12, 2010
- The Monologue:
- Conan will be starting on TBS in the fall, where he'll be bumping George Lopez from the 11PM time slot. That's not a ha-ha joke. Irony, folks.
- The Tea Party in Oklahoma is trying to form a militia. Or, as they called it in 1861, the Confederate Army.
- The Tea Party in Oklahoma is trying to form a militia. Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant is excited to win the scoring title in the Confederate Basketball Association.
- Ohhhhhhhhhhhh-klahoma, where the crazy comes sweepin' down the plain.
- Random Pop Culture:
- How I Met Your Mother is often funny, but it's not always have-to-pause-it-because-I'm-laughing-so-hard funny. It was tonight. Monkey humor? Slapstick? Both combined? Yes, please. I saw the ending coming a mile away and it still killed me. It's the paper airplanes that made it.
- It seems to me that the people behind House recognize how formulaic the show is and they've been trying to shake it up quite a bit this season. Tonight's episode was good -- you really can't go wrong with David Strathairn and Hugh Laurie sharing the screen -- but I think the show overall has taken a little bit of a step back since the great season premiere. It's still my favorite thing on Fox, but Human Target is pretty great and, other than Lost, nothing on network TV is touching cable right now. Putting aside Mad Men, which began shooting its fourth season today, my three favorite things airing on TV right now are all on cable: The Pacific, Life, and Treme.
- This Week:
- No Idol mockery from me unless I wait until Thursday. I'm going to be in Charm City, hun, until Thursday night on business. And by business, I mean the industry. And by the industry, I mean re-upping Poot and looking for Wallace.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
- The Monologue:
- We'll start with the easiest and lamest joke of the day. Tiger Woods conquered eighteen holes and finished with a 69. Or, as he likes to call it, a slow day.
- Texas Stadium was imploded. Tony Romo had the honor of pressing the button, but someone brushed against him and he dropped it.
- CC Sabathia flirted with a no-hitter yesterday, putting up 7-2/3 donuts. Because that's all he had left from the two dozen they got him before the game.
- Random Pop Culture:
- In Homicide, The Corner, and The Wire, the modus operandi was to drop the viewer right in the middle of a different world with no preparation and no explanation. It was up to you, through listening for context clues or through repeat viewings, to figure out what the hell was going on. It's the type of art that demands maturity from its consumers. You need an open mind and patience so that you're not immediately lost, because what comes from such an unapologetic presentation is the real, unadulterated version of the world into which you're getting a glimpse. And so, HBO's new series, Treme, starts with a black screen with just these white words: "Three Months After." And then you're dropped into a world of thick accents, second line jazz funerals, and feelings about New Orleans after the storm that would seem fake if the characters came right out and stated them. The preceding sentences that all could be summed up in six words that I'm sure I've said before: "David Simon is a f***ing genius."
- You'd think that having seen When The Levees Broke (and, I know I say this a lot, but I really mean it this time, if you haven't seen When The Levees Broke, watch it as soon as possible) I would not be affected so much by what's most likely a staged version of the houses that took six feet in the flood. But I was, all the same, maybe because it took me back to what the documentary showed.
- When David Simon premieres a show, it's just not worth writing about anything else. So let me finish by saying that I could watch Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters play any role in anything. Man, can they act.
- And the music in Treme is nothing short of sick.
- Random Music Video:
- Happened to have a really bad night's sleep last night for no apparent reason. As I was tossing and turning at 4AM, I decided to throw on the Beatles channel on Pandora, figuring it would be music that I know and isn't too loud, easy to fall asleep to. At one point, "Sympathy for the Devil" came on and, be it the lack of sleep or the stereo headphones, it totally blew me away. I think I sleep on it. Here's a live version from 1989.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
- New Moon: Pretty boring in spots, but better than the first Twilight movie. Not enough blood for a movie that involved angsty werewolves fighting angsty vampires. Kristen Stewart is not a great actress.
- Cars: The redneck Pixar movie. Lots of NASCAR and country music. Not my thing. It was okay, but it's probably my least favorite Pixar film. Cliched and not as intellectual as the last few.
- Zombieland: Loved it. It's both clever and funny and has a great random cameo in the middle of the movie. Woody Harrelson is great in it, especially compared to his role in this next one.
- 2012: Oof. From the people who brought you Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow comes a movie that is only slightly less overblown than Tiger Woods, Jesse James, and Bill Clinton. It had some enjoyably bad parts and some science that made your head hurt with the impossibilities. Also, it's two hours and forty minutes long. Don't know why I stuck with the whole thing.
- Fantastic Mr. Fox: It's clever and it's very Wes Anderson, but I found it to be fairly slow. There were some laugh-out-loud parts, but I mostly split my time between smirking and trying to figure out if people loved it because people feel like they're supposed to love quirky Wes Anderson movies, especially animated ones that star George Clooney and Meryl Streep. It's quick though, and worth a look.
- I got the DVD for Precious, but I haven't quite worked up the mindset to see it yet. Feel like that's going to be a tough one to watch.
- The Street Stops Here: This was a documentary on PBS last week that followed the 2008-09 season of the St. Anthony High School basketball team in Jersey City as their senior class faced the prospect of being the first class in thirty-five years to not win a state championship during their tenure. St. Anthony is coached by Bob Hurley (the father of Duke point guard Bobby Hurley), who is a former corrections officer and runs his team with an iron fist to make sure the kids get discipline and don't succumb to the temptations of the streets. As the economy began to collapse, the school also faced a financial crisis and the prospect of having to close its doors. This was an amazing movie, the best basketball documentary I've seen since Hoop Dreams (if you've seen Hoop Dreams, you know that's very high praise; if you haven't, I don't know what's wrong with you) and the best sports documentary since Murderball. They must have it online somewhere or they'll re-run it at some point.
- Sugar: This topped Bill Simmons' list of the best sports movies of 2009 and for good reason. Written and directed by the same team that did Half Nelson, this one follows the path of a Dominican teenager from a team's baseball academy and into the minor leagues in Iowa. It's mostly in Spanish with English subtitles, but a good bit of it is in English as he has to learn the language to communicate with his coaches and the family that hosts him. It's a pretty frank look at the life of kids coming from nothing with the chance to provide for their families and the weight of expectations, both their country's and their own, hanging on them with every move. If nothing else, it definitely makes you reconsider your thoughts on the morality or immorality of steroid use that was so rampant in Dominican players.
- Fantasyland: Another sports movie, this one a documentary about fantasy baseball as an amateur joins Tout Wars, the most elite fantasy league in the world. It's entertaining and just a bit frightening. The main character is obsessed with fantasy sports to the point that it overtakes his family and work (he is on the phone in the hospital lobby trying to work out a trade as his wife is in labor) and he flies around the country to meet with his players to ask them to perform better. Funny stuff, especially in how the real life players react to him, as Todd Jones makes fun of his team, Justin Verlander kindly but uncomfortably humors him, and Vernon Wells screws with him. I'm currently sweating my shortstop and fourth starter positions, but I'm happy that I'm not anywhere close to where these top, top guys are in terms of time and energy. You can watch it here.
- Winning Time: The 30 for 30 documentary about Reggie Miller versus the Knicks in the mid-1990s. Interviews with Miller, John Starks, Patrick Ewing, Spike Lee, and others, as they talk about the two legendary Pacers-Knicks playoff series in 1994 and 1995. I was a Knicks fan at the time (now I just don't care about pro ball), so I assumed it would be painful to relive that. Yes and no. Miller is so funny and the players are now so happy to talk about those great games that it was just a joy to watch.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
When I first studied this list of Rotten Tomatoes' 100 worst movies of the last decade, three movies towards the end of the list jumped out at me for their ratings. Gigli (#73), The Adventures of Pluto Nash (#79), and Glitter (#99) are all more famous for being bad than the average movie on this list. One would think, considering the hoopla that went around the critics' bashing of the movies, that they would be a bit higher (lower?) in the rankings. For Glitter to only barely be on the list surprised me. The consensus on Rotten Tomatoes says that the film is bad (a 7% rating), but that it's not bad enough to warrant so-bad-it's-good status. I find that sentiment amusing since the movies I've seen at the very top (bottom?) of the list have been bad beyond any possible sense of sick enjoyment. I hit play on the remote, wondering if it would be funny-bad or just lame.
It's just lame. I suppose there are parts that could be laughed at, but only if you're really going out of your way to find something to laugh at. There is also one sequence that is simply baffling, but not really funny in any way. We'll get to that. I was surprised to see that only one of the performances was potentially funny, but a) it is not even slightly amusing compared to Chris Klein's comic brilliance in that Street Fighter movie and b) the performance is not, in fact, Mariah Carey's.
Mariah is actually okay in the movie. She tries hard to act and mostly succeeds. I have no complaints at all about her role or performance. She doesn't have a show-stopping moment like Jennifer Hudson did in Dreamgirls, but neither do most actors in a given movie. Carey did win the Worst Actress Razzie, but I think that's because they like to make a splash with big names -- for instance, this year's Worst Picture winner was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, when that movie was Casablanca compared to All About Steve -- and the real criminals of the movie (we'll get to it) didn't win anything. The film also has one great actor in it, Terrence Howard, who essentially plays the same sort of role that he would later play so brilliantly in Hustle & Flow. All of the credit for this movie's failure goes to three people: actor Max Beesley, director Vondie Curtis-Hall, and writer Kate Lanier.
Max Beesley is a British actor who plays Mariah's DJ beau/ producer, who is supposed to be from Brooklyn. His fake accent in this movie, simply put, is the worst fake accent I've ever seen on screen. I can't find video of it on YouTube and I can only suspect that this is because any evidence of that accent has been wiped from the internet. The best way I can describe it is if you imagine a British accent that tries to add a bit of New York and somehow some Boston works its way in as well. There's more to it, but it defies description.
The script is bad with plenty of eye-roll-inducing lines, but it's mostly just a bunch of cliches. I like that someone is credited with the story on imdb, as if I couldn't predict everything that was about to happen every second of the way, down to even some of the actual words spoken. Maybe the cliches wouldn't have been so bad if the director had decided to give even an attempt at respectable film-making. The direction is awful. The shots are too choppy and city scenes are interspersed at inopportune times, giving the movie a frenetic feel as if you are watching it on cocaine, but cocaine that also bores you. Doesn't make sense? Neither does the direction! More than anything, the movie suffers from an incredible lack of attention to detail by the director and writer.
The movie takes place in 1983. Mariah's big song throughout the movie is a cover of "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On", originally recorded by Cherrelle and made famous by Robert Palmer. Cherrelle released it in 1984. At one point, the bad-accented DJ/ producer/ boyfriend is shown on the cover of Spin Magazine. Which was started in 1985. Maybe the director and writer didn't have Google when the movie was made back in 2001, so they couldn't look this stuff up. But wait, there's more! A city street shot in Glitter has some of the passers-by talking on cell phones. Towards the end, someone uses a wireless remote control with a modern-looking TV set. The DJ talks at one point about how Quincy Jones has won Academy Awards when he has a grand total of zero.
The greatest lack of attention to detail involves the end of the movie. It's perhaps the one laughable part, but only after you really think about it, which I don't recommend. I guess I need to put a "SPOILER ALERT" here, but you're not worried about me spoiling Glitter for you. I'm going to end this review with a recounting of the last fifteen minutes or so of the movie, with my commentary on it:
Mariah and The Accented Wonder have broken up because she feels like he resents her success and is jealous that she recorded a song with Eric Benet. Her record hits big and she sells out Madison Square Garden, which is a dream that the two had discussed when they first met at the beginning of the movie. On the day of the Garden concert, Mariah decides to write lyrics for a new song based on her life. At the same exact time on the other side of town, the DJ writes the music that would go with Mariah's lyrics. They never talked about this song. She goes to the Garden, but stops by his apartment on the way. He's not home, but she leaves him a ticket and kisses some sheet music, making a red lipstick stain even though she's wearing pink lipstick. She leaves and he walks in, having just missed her. He picks up the ticket and walks out the door, where he is confronted by Terrence Howard's character, who shoots the DJ because of some money that was owed. Mariah gets to the Garden to find out that the DJ is dead. She then goes on and sings the song that she and the DJ wrote together that afternoon (apparently psychically) and the band has all of the music to provide the background. When the concert is over, Mariah returns to her dressing room backstage to find a rose and a note from the DJ, talking about how he's happy she stopped by that afternoon and was looking forward to seeing her. Even though he was killed immediately upon getting the ticket and would never have been able to get anything to the Garden. He also says that he has miraculously found Mariah's estranged mother who was formerly homeless and drug-addicted and is now inexplicably living a clean and successful life in a country house in Maryland. She jumps in a limo and, never having changed, rides to Maryland (which apparently takes somewhere longer than eight hours because it's light when she gets there) and has a warm reunion with her mother. The end.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
- Aaron Kelly, singing "The Long and Winding Road": Can't stand him. He's less like Yoda and more like Jar-Jar. I had to look up from typing to see if he was lip-synching because he sounded so much like McCartney at the very beginning. For a second, but then he got pitchy. Considering the theme tonight, all of these songs are going to be great, but this one was maybe a little slow to kick off the night. Looks like a number of the contestants are going to be doing slower Beatles songs tonight, which feels like a mistake.
- Katie Stevens, singing "Let It Be": See above. Mistake, especially considering the judges just knocked Aaron for the same reasons I did.
- Andrew Garcia, singing "Can't Buy Me Love": He put a "cool twist" on it. Uh oh. Why did he even play the guitar when you couldn't hear it and it wasn't a key part of the arrangement? Security blanket? Nice arrangement, but he doesn't have the voice to pull that off. Bad.
- Michael Lynche, singing "Eleanor Rigby": He was in a family music group, an African-American family music group, called "The Lynche Mob"?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Oh my... Fine version. Again, even super hyper Kara said it at one point, that everyone will love the songs tonight because they are such great songs. I just can't get over that initial revelation during the video piece.
- Crystal Bowersox, singing "Come Together": Didgeridoo? She's on a different level from everyone else.
- Tim Urban, singing "All My Loving": Oh, good. Now, he's added cockiness to his bad voice with the nodding while he was singing. Again, he stinks but the song is great. He did manage to make it fairly boring. Can you tell that I really just don't care about tonight's episode? Lost was so freaking good. Also, Urban should have gone home weeks ago, but he keeps hanging around. So Andrew or Katie is probably out.
- Casey James, singing "Jealous Guy": The only non-Beatles song of the night (it's off of Imagine). Dude can play guitar, but that vibrato... I think he was going for an Eddie Vedder type of vibe, but that vibrato gives me a headache. It's like if Goat Boy sang a John Lennon song.
- Siobhan Magnus, singing "Across the Universe": This sucks. Her voice is barely balancing on the edge of pitchy and the arrangement is boring. I'm totally about to fall asleep and miss Lee's performance. I really loved Siobhan a few weeks ago.
- Lee DeWyze, singing "Hey Jude": Seemed like he was struggling with his voice. A lot more pitch problems than he usually has. Again, another song that you can only but screw up so much as long as you don't try some wacked-out Blake Lewis or Adam Lambert version. The bagpipe? What the what?
Okay, are we done with that?
- That was an incredible episode, a companion piece to the two great Desmond episodes, "Flashes Before Your Eyes" and "The Constant." Those two episodes moved the show towards the time travel story and then explained it to some extent. Besides Des and Penny, two of the most important characters in those two episodes were Eloise Hawking and Daniel Faraday, so I know that when both of them showed up tonight in the flash sideways, we'd be getting into the meat of what that timeline/ story line is really all about. Sure enough, with what Dan told Desmond tonight, the light bulb went on for me. I could easily be completely wrong, but I've finally put together my first reasoned theory for what the hell is happening on this show. Here we go:
- My theory: Destiny exists in the form of people that we are meant to be with. Eloise had Daniel study physics (eventually coming up with the Jughead plan) to break the cycle of killing him. But, when Jughead worked and it created the flash sideways it also meant that the people's lives went in different directions so most never met their destined love. They were making decisions that gave them what seems like, for the most part, a happy ending compared to the lives we've been used to, but they're missing that one person. Charlie and Claire didn't meet because the plane didn't crash. Ditto Daniel and Charlotte because there was no need for Widmore to send the team. Sayid's not with Nadia and didn't meet Shannon. Des isn't with Penny. Hurley never met Libby (so far as we know to this point). Sawyer isn't with Juliet (or Kate, for that matter). So, something's not right with them. It's why Jack and Kate looked at each other so weirdly in the season premiere.
- There are two sides to the story now, especially since we can throw out any theory that the sideways world is the epilogue to the series. In the flash sideways, Desmond needs to set the world right by making sure the Oceanic 815 passengers find their destinies/ true loves. Maybe because this is the one thing missing. Maybe because they'll see that the sideways world isn't right and that split side of the timeline will go away. Sort of like when they focus on their Constant (though slightly different, since Daniel focused on Charlotte here but Desmond was his Constant). On the island, Des needs to stop Locke from escaping because Locke represents anti-destiny. Locke is the id that lets people make whatever choice they want, not necessarily what's right for their destiny or long-term best interest. The island traps Locke to make sure that destiny wins out.
- If this is the case, my question is: Which candidate will sacrifice their destiny to be the one to watch Locke? I say Jack gives up Kate. Hurley is also a reasonable choice. Even Sawyer makes some sense, since he could give up Kate to Jack, having lost Juliet.
- Again, I could be wrong with still a number of episodes to go, but this feels right to me right now.
Monday, April 5, 2010
I believe that few critics understand what we want out of them. I absolutely want to hear someone discuss the literary themes behind Aronofsky or the constant homages by Tarantino, but I also want to know if something is just entertaining on its own merit. When one grades on a scale, it becomes difficult to take the other movies out of a rating. I may give, say, Ocean's Eleven five stars (it's as entertaining as a movie can be, totally rewatchable, great for background), but I gave Schindler's List five stars. Can I really say that Ocean's Eleven is as good as Schindler's List? I'm choosing two good movies, but I hope you get my point. Besides, that's at one extreme. It's even tougher when you look at bad movies, which brings me back to the point that it seems that most people enjoy a bad movie now and again.
Most of these enjoyable bad movies are now called "cult classics." Rocky Horror Picture Show? Indecipherable. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes? Ridiculous. The Warriors? Awful. Some or all of us enjoy these movies -- The Warriors made the list of my 100 favorite movies (see the left menu bar for the full list) -- to the point that we're fanatical about them. And that brings us to one of the great bad movies of my childhood, one that many people my age are fanatical about, and a movie that is downright awful: Clash of the Titans.
Clash of the Titans came out in 1981 and I don't remember if I saw it in the theater or not, but I know I watched it a number of times on cable and video. The four movies I remember watching the most when I was a kid are Star Wars (duh), Raiders, Rocky III (also not so good), and Clash of the Titans. The movie had special effects that probably weren't even that good for 1981. The acting was way over the top. Did I mention the special effects -- and it was an effects-driven movies -- were awful? Yet I, and many other people my age, remember it fondly because it was exciting and it made me love Greek mythology. A great movie for a kid. An average, at best, movie for an adult. So five-year-old me loves the movie even though I watched a few minutes a year or so ago and was horrified at its quality. And now thirty-three-year-old me hears that Hollywood has decided to make a new Clash of the Titans with digital effects and they even got the lead from freaking Avatar to play Perseus. Uh-oh, right?
On the way to the theater today (to see it in 2D so as not to waste my money), I read in Entertainment Weekly that the goal of the 2010 version was to be a remake, not a reimagining or reboot, of the 1981 version. This is an important distinction and potentially a dangerous one for the filmmakers. By doing this, they basically begged me to compare the 2010 version (v2010) to the 1981 version (v1981). In my eyes, there's only one way that this works out well for v2010 and hear my reasoning out. If v2010 is well-made then it makes me regret my enjoyment of v1981 and I'll resent v2010. If v2010 is boring or stupid then I'll hate it for trying to be v1981. The only way this works out well for v2010 is if it captures the cheesiness of v1981. Sure, the effects have to be better than the original, but can they fit into the movie without making it seem like a The Day After Tomorrow-esque film where the effects overshadow everything else? Can it, in spite of the money behind it (a reported $70 million budget), not take itself too seriously? Tall orders because I'm asking for them to, essentially, have made an enjoyably bad movie, which is not only difficult but unpredictable, because you can never tell when one of those is going to pop up and anyone who shoots specifically for that outcome ends up making unwatchable, pretentious garbage. Followed the reasoning? See where I'm coming from? Okay, enough! The verdict!
Didn't expect that, huh? Me either. I was ready to hate it and I ended up with a huge grin on my face. It had everything I needed for it to work. The dialogue: cheesy. The acting: over the top. Maybe the filmmakers didn't shoot for those things, but they did succeed in one thing they set out to do, "dumbing down" the special effects so that the effects didn't overtake the movie. The effects are pretty -- the final battle scene with the Kraken is actually quite a good action sequence -- but they don't seem fake. The best analogy I can come up with is how Lucas had his effects people scratch up the models for Star Wars so that the universe looked authentic. I don't know what's so authentic about giant scorpions and snake-haired Gorgons, but they fit with the rest of the movie.
The dialogue is your classic movie Ancient Greece/ Rome talk with big words and clumsy sentences and British accents, so much so that it made me resent 300 a little bit for being equally cheesy. The actors that play Perseus' group so overact and are congenial about it that you can't help but love their failure to be believable. On the other hand, the main gods, Zeus and Hades, are played by Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, respectively, and they absolutely succeed in their aim to do homage to the cheesiness of the original. No way that two great actors like that are going over the top unless they mean to do it. And that brings us to the one thing that almost -- thankfully, it was only "almost" -- ruins the movie: Sam Worthington.
Worthington takes himself too damn seriously. There's a little joke about the mechanical owl from the original and Worthington apparently threw a fit over even that little scene because he thought the owl's mere presence would make a joke of the movie. There are a number of scenes where you see the other warriors hamming it up and the camera pans to Worthington's Perseus, who is either scowling or stone-faced (not literally). Whereas the others overact, Worthington shows next to no emotion in much of his line delivery, as if he's collecting the paycheck and biding his time until Avatar 2 starts production. But, I said he "almost" ruins it. He does laugh it up a little bit and, much like in Terminator: Salvation (which was not enjoyably bad in any way, it was just horrible), his Australian accent creeps in every so often even though he's supposed to have an Ancient Greek (read: British) accent. So even though I was worried at times about his sincerity ruining my enjoyment, I was still able to mock him enough in my head.
Almost every critic hates the new Clash of the Titans, with the only exceptions I've seen being Roger Ebert and Entertainment Weekly. Almost every critic also, much like Sam Worthington, takes themselves and their work too seriously. The reviewer for EW loved the 1981 version and used that to couch his review, much as I've done here. Ebert was able to enjoy the movie for itself, in disregard for how it compares to anything else other than the original. In his review, he kept using the words "entertainment" and "goofy." Indeed. It's the kind of movie that a kid is going to eat up with a spoon, much like I did with the original.
It's also the kind of movie that those many of us who enjoy a bad movie will have a great time with. Don't bother going to the theater. Not because it's not worth the money (even the early, early matinee price I paid), because I enjoyed myself. Wait because it's the kind of movie that Mystery Science Theater 3000 was made for, where you get the DVD, throw a party for people who aren't film snobs, and mock the hell out of it. If that sounds like fun, and movies are supposed to be fun, then how can you hate this movie?
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Baseball starts tomorrow. Quick picks (subject to change as I think about it more):
- AL Playoff Teams: New York, Tampa (Wild Card), Minnesota, Seattle
- NL Playoff Teams: Philadelphia, Atlanta (Wild Card), St. Louis, Los Angeles (but the West really stinks)
- AL MVP: Joe Mauer
- Al Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
- NL MVP: Albert Pujols
- NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay
- World Series: Philadelphia over New York
- Dark Horse Teams: Seattle (AL), Florida (NL)
Thursday, April 1, 2010
There are two cardinal rules regarding a movie based on a video game. Such movies should never:
- A) change the plot of the game in any way.
- B) exist.
Unfortunately, SF: TLoC-L breaks both of these rules. At the end, there's a setup for a sequel (oh, please, happen!) that involves a martial arts tournament, but the plot of this movie might as well be any crappy action film that just has some familiar character names plugged in. Kristin Kreuk (Smallville) plays the title character ("Chun-Li", not "Street Fighter") and is entirely unbelievable as an action star. Also, even though Chun-Li is supposed to be from Hong Kong and they throw some dumb bone about how she was born in San Francisco so her English is perfect, Kreuk is from Vancouver and her Canadian accent pops up weirdly in one of her many poorly-read voice-overs. Neal McDonough (Minority Report) plays Bison. McDonough is from Massachusetts, but seems to have some sort of bad Irish accent in the film, even though his daughter turns out to be Russian. Best to not worry about it. Michael Clarke Duncan continues his ability to show up in crappy films by playing Balrog. Some guy from the Black Eyed Peas plays Vega and thankfully he's barely in it.
That's it for the video game characters, but some extra attention needs to be paid to the "work" done by Chris Klein as the Interpol agent. Klein was pretty good as the goofy nice guy in American Pie and Election. Sure, he was in the awful Rollerball remake, but I don't remember him being particularly bad in it. None of that could have prepared me for this! Klein plays the stereotypical bad-ass cop. He has stubble, but they seemed to have neglected makeup because the actual beard never grew in and it mostly looks like he's trying to grow a mustache. He puts on a New York accent (he's from Illinois), but only intermittently, and somehow a little Southern twang works its way in at the end of the movie. After seeing Battlefield Earth, I had proclaimed that John Travolta's performance in that was the worst acting performance in the history of cinema. Klein seriously challenges that notion. The movie is pretty boring, but every Klein scene is laugh-out-loud fantastic. In fact, someone did an homage to Klein's performance:
Video game movies... Just remember as you see all of the trailers for Jake Gyllenhaal's Prince of Persia that no video game movie has ever worked. I'm not quite sure why that's the case, because some of the storytelling in games has reached the level of at least weak movie scripts, but it's the way things are. Maybe some day there will be a hidden treasure in Guitar Hero: The Movie or Paper Mario: The Legend of Princess Toadstool. Maybe some day...