Archive for March, 2010

What to Expect In Independence Day Sequels

March 31, 2010

Will Smith announced plans or pre-plans for two sequels supposedly filmed back-to-back to the 1996 mega-hit Independence Day. What follows is a list of what one should expect to see/not see in these two films. Snarky commentary begins now:

Home World

Maybe the aliens’ home planet. With the advanced technology we got from the ship, maybe space travel has grown exponentially in the fifteen or so years since the original invasion. Maybe we’ve started to colonize other worlds and we finally make it to the aliens’ place of origin. But think more Aliens than Avatar. Or, with the sequels being filmed back to back, don’t just think Avatar but think of Clint Eastwood’s 2006 World War 2 films, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima showing the Battle of Iwo Jima from the American POV and the Japanese POV, respectively. Create an entire rich mythology of the alien race and run with it as far as the budget will take you; no one’s saying you need to humanize the aliens.

Aliens Doing Stuff


How about having the aliens do stuff this time around? The spaceships blew stuff up but they mostly just sat around in the darkness of their ships or flailed their arms and killed Crazy Eccentric Scientist Data (he had long hair!!! Wild!!!!). Maybe this time we can see them in action. Even the aliens in Mars Attacks (arguably Tim Burton’s last halfway decent movie) got to run around and have personalities.

Evil Politician Guy

One thing the original Independence Day was lacking (or maybe it wasn’t, I haven’t seen the movie in close to fourteen years) was a truly evil (read: ultra-conservative) politician guy. A true Mr. Vice President (see: South Park‘s “Lice Capades.”) Roland Emmerich (director of the original ID4) tried to remedy this in The Day After Tomorrow with, well, an evil Vice President/Dick Cheney clone but really came to the table in last year’s crapfest/poor man’s rip-off of When Worlds Collide, 2012 featuring Oliver Platt as a man so evil, he realized that not everybody could be saved and that only certain people, important people, people who helped pay for the arks should help rebuild society. It doesn’t matter that his logic made sense, the nicer, more handsome guy made a heart-tugging speech about how everyone deserves to live. And if there’s one thing that’s helpful in a major crisis, it’s playing on everyone’s emotions. The biggest problem with Oliver Platt was that his logic did make some sort of sense (though if you agreed, I’m sure you were meant to feel like inhuman slime). Evil Politician Guy having a stance that someone can get behind needs to be remedied for ID4-2+3‘s Evil Politician Guy. He needs to be a true bastard.

More Trite Speeches

(Sorry for the bad quality)

Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!

So douchey. So, so douchey. But it could be douchier. It could be longer. And there can be more speeches just as bad, if not worse, as that one.

More Hackneyed and Ham-fisted Messages

Roland Emmerich movies have a tendency to make condescendingly ham-fisted points. The points are bleeding heart, idealistic, and dumbed down so much for the masses that the fact that the audience doesn’t revolt shows how dumb they actually are.

In Independence Day we had societal togetherness (in a prayer circle, someone says to prayer circle leader Julius “I’m not Jewish” to which Julius replies with characteristic aplomb “Well, nobody’s perfect.”). In The Day After Tomorrow we had global warming and anti-conservatives and the supposed-to-make-you-think final line “Have you ever seen the air so clear?” from an astronaut who will probably be killed immediately upon re-entry because of how the Earth shifted. In 2012, we had global warming and money is bad (which is why we wanted to see those rich Russian kids die). In the Independence Day sequels, we’ll probably get global warming, pro-Obama, anti-money, and anti-conservatives. But how can we make those gun-toting kill-’em-all Republicans look bad while maintaining the savage monster quality of the aliens? Figuring that out is beyond me but I’m sure we’ll get something about racial harmony.

President Will Smith Says Hack Lines

Now that’s what I’m talking about! It’s practically a given that Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) will be elected President of the United States. (Compared to the ineffectual leadership of Danny Glover in 2012, the fast talking spaceship pilot would seem like a Godsend.) And with that, we’ll probably get more of those (non-)smart-alecky comments that Will Smith probably should be away from at this point in his career.

For those who need a refresher for some of his trying-too-hard-to-be-memorable lines from the original: “Elvis has left the building!,” “I ain’t heard no fat lady,” “I have got to get me one of these,” and “Now that’s what I call a close encounter!” Terrific.

More Animals Outrunning Massive Fireballs

Everyone loves the scene in the first ID4 of the dog outrunning a fireball and surviving. Oh how the audience cheered. Fuck the hundreds of thousands of people roasted alive, the dog survived. (A similar moment happened in 2012 where the dog’s life took precedence over two children ready to face certain doom.) The sequels need more animals doing the same thing. Several dogs, kitties, horses, hamsters, cows, turtles, all just managing to survive the scorching heat of a traveling explosion.

More Drunken Hicks

We all remember the martyrdom of alcoholic hillbilly Russell Casse (Randy Quaid) by attaching a nuclear bomb to his crop duster and flying it into the mothership at the end of the first movie. I am almost certain that people not just cried from that moment but still do every time they re-watch it. And they probably re-watch it a lot.

What I’m envisioning is an entire militia of off-the-grid drunken hicks who worship their patron saint/own personal Jesus, Russell Casse. Casse shouldn’t be back as some sort of zombies, since zombies are kind of getting overplayed right now. But as a ghost, Jedi-style? Could work.

Other Countries


We didn’t really get to see what happened to other countries in the original Independence Day, if I remember correctly. I think all we saw was flaming alien wreckage by landmarks at the end of the film while half-naked Africans threw spears. The worldwide aspect has always been missing from the Emmerich collection of disaster films. Futurama did a better job at conveying global destruction in their episode “When Aliens Attack.” While 2012 showed more non-American landmarks being destroyed than we’ve previously seen in his films, for the most part the international angle was taken care of by a Russian guy and his kids who lived in America and a Chinese guy who can speak perfect English willing to sacrifice himself for the noble Americans. Day After Tomorrow might have worked better had it focused on four unrelated stories from four different countries but then we would have missed out on Susan Ward saving some cancer kid and learning that it’s okay to burn Nietzsche.

More Jewishness

Everyone’s favorite character in the first Independence Day was Judd “My Son David!” Hirsch’s role as Julius Levinson, Jeff Goldblum’s (David Levinson) father. Julius was the equivalent of a Jewish step-and-fetch-it. The epitome of what Borat fears. But could he be more Jewish? Sure, why not. I didn’t see any dreidels or potato latkes in the first movie. He didn’t compare the aliens to Pharaoh or Hamen. The good news is that the former star of Taxi is still alive. Let’s hope the screenwriters are doing what they can to see just how far they can push Anti-Defamation League. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a “Today we celebrate our Passover!” speech. Or not.

True Loss of Life

While it’s difficult to show loss of life on a grand scale in a PG-13 summer explosion spectacular, some sense of loss would be appreciated. In 2012, especially, most of the cities already seemed abandoned when the world comes tumbling down. All that was lost were a couple of buildings and a super limo.

Ships Overturning

I don’t know what it is about Emmerich but he loves giant CGI boats, especially when they capsize with a SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH sound so we’ll probably get that in these movies too.

No Adam Baldwin


Nothing against Adam Baldwin. Actually quite the opposite. He’s too good for these stupid movies.

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The Moral Courage To Speak Out Against Nazis

March 29, 2010

Today I saw a girl with an anti-swastika patch sewn onto their hat. It was the infamous twisted cross in one of those Ghostbusters red circles with red bar down the center. Far be it from me to be against young people1 2taking a stand on something that isn’t an ignorant “Yay Obama!” or the equally ill-informed “Boo Bush!!” (no matter how clever those BU(ll)SH(it) signs are)3 but anti-swastika?

You’re against the Nazis. Oooo. What a rebel you are. Willing to speak out against Hitler in 2010. What other paraphernalia do you have to show off your beliefs? An “Idi Amin doesn’t get my vote!” button? A “Say No To Rape” pennant? A “Child Murder Is Not My Bag” Bag? I know the wearer might say “this shows I’m against hate” but again…against hate? Really taking on those hot button issues aren’t you.

I don’t support the Nazis nor am I telling any of you to go out there and sing “Deutchland Uber Alles” but there’s nothing courageous, or even meaningful, about using a crossed out swastika as a statement. It’s an empty gesture.

Of course, if I were really ballsy I’d say “you know the real reason we’re in this recession/depression and you’re begging for change?” (not that it’s true) and let them mull that one over. But I’m a coward.

1One of those “maybe homeless, maybe moochers” type you see begging for change on the sidewalk with a cardboard sign but have that quality that they’re really more dirty than rail-riding hobos.

2Not that I’m probably much older than her. After all, this is the type of snarky cynicism that only comes with being an over-privileged 20-something.

3Not that I’m pro-Bush either. There’s plenty of reasons to be against the former president, I just think most people’s political beliefs are hollow, coming from them wanting to be either a part of, or against, a crowd.

24: Everything Old Is Still Old

March 27, 2010

24 is a unique show. Because of its one episode-one hour-one day structure, if a “day” starts off on the wrong foot, an entire season can be squandered by the time you get half way through. The showrunners can’t start off too slow lest the audience loses interest, but if the show starts off too big (say exploding a nuclear device in LA in the fourth episode), there’s nowhere left for it to go. A day cannot be restarted. There needs to be a reason why Jack Bauer can’t take a nap.

At its best 24 can be the pinnacle of suspense-action-television. At its worst, it’s kind of silly.

This season is very silly.

What You’ve Missed


For those not following this season (and according to the ratings, that’s a lot of people), I’ll give a brief recap. US President Allison Taylor (Cherry Jones) is engaging in diplomatic negotiations with President Omar Hassan of Unnamed-Arab-Country-Istan (Anil Kapoor with a 1950s hair-do) over something. After several false starts with villains (including a couple of Russian gangs), turns out it’s Hassan’s head of security Tarin Faroush (T.J. Ramini) who is working with terrorists to obtain nuclear fuel rods to launch a terrorist attack on American soil. Sounds familiar? It should, because we’ve seen this exact storyline before. Several times. But at least we’re not forced to endure embarrassing PSAs about how just because the show features Muslim terrorists, that doesn’t mean that all terrorists are Muslims (like in season 4). Besides, I’m sure eventually white people will be at fault. They always are.

Meanwhile, CTU is back up and running with borderline-incompetent Chief Brian Hastings (Mykelti Williamson), Chloe O’Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub) continuing to be Jack’s ever faithful sidekick and probably the best person on the team, Arlo Glass (John Boyd) a tech guy, Cole Ortiz (Freddie Prinze Jr. doing his best Jimmy Durante impression to signify that he’s from New Yawk), and Cole’s fiance/analyst Dana Walsh (Katee Sackoff)- more on her later. A lot more.

Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland), as usual, is working with CTU to stop the terrorists though not a part of it. Jack’s partner from last season, FBI Agent/ginger Renee Walker (Annie Wersching), is back after having had some sort of nervous breakdown because of undercover work she did with Russians before last season that Jack caused because of his work last season. The timeline’s kind of convoluted but as this season is probably set close to 2025, you kind of have to accept it.

And there’s all sorts of interdepartmental haggling, Jack once again had to prove himself to the bosses, CTU was attacked (this time by an EMP), CTU has a mole, etc., etc., etc. Basically, it’s everything we’ve seen before and nothing new to balance it out. We’ve been through these plots. The new characters lack any spark that made the older characters so interesting. The villains lack the panache that made people like Charles Logan so good. The President’s storyline also feels like it’s going through the “Sign this!” “No!” “Grumble!” motions (though it seems like she’s been missing for an exceedingly long amount of time). It makes one yearn for last year when we could only dream what a season devoted to Bill Buchanan’s outside-the-government-black-ops-group Deep Sky would be like. Probably awesome. Definitely better than what we have now.

Dana Walsh

I think the best way to explain the failures of this season is through CTU Analyst Dana Walsh (played by Battlestar: Galactica’s Katee Sackoff. Side note: BSG prequel Caprica is fantastic). Though the actress was understandably greeted with great fanfare by sci-fi/action fans, the show simply did not know what to do with her. Feeling compelled to use her, the show gave her one of the “personal” storylines. This show is known for giving side characters humanizing personal subplots to varying levels of success (remember Day 4’s CTU chief Erin Driscoll’s crazy daughter?) and hers is one of the most ludicrous, redundant, and time consuming plots in the show’s eight day history. Let me explain.

Dana Walsh, originally named Jenny Scott, was involved in a felony with comical hick Kevin Wade when she was a juvenile. Despite her criminal past and using a fake name, she still managed to get a job with CTU proving that their hiring practices have not improved at all. Earlier this day, recently released from prison Kevin teams up with his buddy Nick, and starts to blackmail Dana on the day of the biggest crisis CTU New York has ever faced. They even crash at her apartment where Kevin’s friend chills on the couch watching SportsCenter. Their scheme (with the help of Dana) is to rob the NYPD evidence locker.

Despite there being a crisis, and CTU’s staff seemingly small, Dana pretty much leaves her station whenever she pleases. She goes to her apartment to visit the two bungling would-be crooks. She goes from computer to computer creating step by step instructions to rob the NYPD evidence locker and gives them the necessary technology to do so. She does it remarkably easily but nobody seems to notice anything’s wrong, or cares for that matter.

Once they botch the warehouse job by getting greedy and having to beat a police officer half to death, they (shockingly!) continue to blackmail Dana. So drives out to Jersey where Nick kills Kevin and, with the help of Cole, she kills Nick. Then Cole and her hide the bodies in a swamp.

Why am I telling you all this? To force you to endure this stupid subplot the same way I did. Also, to let you know that this storyline took up nine fucking hours, over a third of the season. And it’s not even like we cared about Dana beforehand, basically the first thing we learn about her is that she’s a criminal liar. Though, to be fair, Kevin and Nick were hilarious.

But we’re not done.

Pretty much immediately after the bodies sink to the bottom of some swamp, Kevin’s parole officer Bill Prady (Stephen Root) calls Dana investigating the disappearance of Kevin. He calls her during the 2 am to 3 am hour while driving all across this great country of ours, as I’m sure most parole officers do regularly. Could he be rogue? Seems that way but, well…no. Or if he is, it’s probably irrelevant at this point.

He comes to CTU and, in the midst of national crisis, is let into what is basically the CTU War Room. Without even a Visitor’s Pass showing, he is traipsing across the floors and watching highly classified information plastered across giant TV screens. And nobody seems to raise an eyebrow.

When we last left them on Monday, Dana strangled him to death (why she couldn’t have done this to Kevin/Nick when they were in her apartment thus saving the audience and her a lot of time, energy, and disappointment- I don’t know) and stuffs him in a vent. Then she calls Tarin, revealing herself to the audience as a mole. Even though she’s done nothing particularly moley that we’ve seen nor has a CTU operation been compromised in a way only a mole can do. But CTU always needs a mole. It’s their version of Equal Opportunity Employment.

Far be it from me to be an armchair television writer, but maybe the mole storyline might work better if someone else was the mole but everyone else thinks she’s the mole because she constantly did suspicious activities the entire day but can’t reveal what they were because they were highly illegal nonetheless. Though I’m sure having the obvious person as the mole is the smartest plan.

Should 24 Be Canceled?

Rumors of this being the final season are abounding as the final episodes are being filmed. So the question I have to ask is: should 24 be canceled? In many ways and for many reasons, yes. As this season has shown, while it might be unfair to say that the show is running on fumes, it’s clearly suffering from a lack of ideas. But a bonafide final season might be the thing needed to end this show on a high note. In the same way that Lost: The Final Season sounds epic, 24: The Last Day does too.

Going into a final season knowing it’s the final season opens them up to a lot more possibilities. A changed American landscape. After so many successful terrorist attacks in 24‘s America, with the villains increasing in power and importance, it’s time for America to change too. Whether this means a country under martial law or a barren wasteland of what used to be a major American city, a dark final season that doesn’t just change the rules but changes the country could be the natural end point of what this entire series has been leading to. Jack Bauer might win battles, but he can never win the war.

End Note One: An amazing final season would be the best legacy for the show, far more than the rumored feature film, which would probably be a decent, albeit unspectacular, action movie.

End Note Two: There are rumors about the show moving to NBC if FOX cancels it. While I’m not saying the show should end, moving it to a new network doesn’t seem worth it from a financial or a creative standpoint. Especially not NBC, who should be thankful they still have Chuck.

End Note Three: Just announced 24 is canceled but I spent time writing this so fuck it, I’m posting it. It’s a pity though, the show does have potential and deserves a “proper” finale and shouldn’t have to compete with all the attention that’s going to be given to the finale of Lost. Let’s just hope Heroes gets the axe too.

Movies Based On TV Shows That Don’t Get It (For Good or Ill)

March 24, 2010

One of today’s big pop culture announcements (though understandably not as big as Chris Evans getting Captain America) is that Jamie Foxx is teaming up with Gary Marshall (the show’s original creator) to write a big screen version of Laverne and Shirley starring Alias’ Jennifer Garner and 7th Heaven’s Jessica Biel. Makes…sense. (http://tvguidemagazine.com/kecks-exclusives/a-foxx-y-remake-of-laverne-shirley-4448.html%5Dannouncements)

Marshall describes the movie as a “modern take” of the show series showing “how [Laverne and Shirley] came up on the streets during difficult times” (those mean streets of Milwaukee, I guess) with Garner’s Laverne as a “very tough girl with a big ‘L’ tattooed on her arm.” So apparently the Sapphic subtext will be even stronger this time around, with Laverne as the top. I presume Lenny and Squiggy will be a gang like The Warriors and The Big Ragoo will be Laverne and/or Shirley’s pimp.

So with this information out today and recent interest in reviving Gilligan’s Island as a big screen franchise (http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/2010/03/03/2010-03-03_gilligans_island_castaways_set_sail_for_big_screen.html), I’ll take a look back at movies based on TV shows that didn’t “get” the source material.

Some notes before I begin. Not all of these listed are bad movies or even bad changes; some even improve upon the original material. This is also not meant to be a list of the worst based-on-old-TV-show movies; a list like that would be chockfull of movies from that weird mid-90s and late-90s rash of based-on-TV films (like 1993’s The Beverly Hillbillies and 1997’s Leave it to Beaver and The Saint) that are mostly cheap comedies or cheap action movies co-opting the title and are only worth mentioning if they’re especially bad. Also, despite the change in era, The Brady Bunch movie actually was pretty close to what the series was about (at least until it got too cutesy in the sequel).

Land of the Lost (2009)


Land of the Lost (1974-1976) was a Sid and Marty Kroft kid’s show about Rick Marshall, and his children Will and Holly, who are on a routine expedition where they met the greatest earthquake ever known. They were high on the rapids when it hit and their tiny raft plunged them a thousand feet below. The three found themselves in the Land of the Lost, where they befriend a creature named Chaka and have to fight off toy dinosaurs and lizard-looking things called Sleestaks while trying to find their way home.

Last year’s Land of the Lost movie starred Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, and Anna Friel as Rick (a mad-dish scientist), Will (a hick), and Holly (a fellow scientist who believes in the laughed-out-of-the-institute Rick), respectively. The movie could not figure out what it wanted to be- a McBride/Ferrell romp through an undiscovered world, a family comedy, a CGI-heavy action-adventurer, a gross-out comedy- and ended up never committing to anything, leaving a hollow shell of a film.

Bewitched (2005)


The original Bewitched (1964-1972) was the simple, silly story of advertising executive Darrin (Dick York, then Dick Sargent) who marries witch Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) and has to put up with a cunt of a mother-in-law (Endora (Agenes Moorehead)), nosy neighbors (The Kravitzes (Sandra Gould and Alice Pearce)), sexually ambiguous relatives (Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde)) and the zaniness that occurs when your wife regularly engages in sorcery. Though with Mad Men, you do wonder how a more “realistic” Bewitched would have played out.

The 2005 movie was about egocentric actor Jack Wyatt (Will Ferrell) trying to make a movie of Bewitched and hires a non-actor Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman) to play Samantha, so as not to upstage him (though, of course, she does). Isabel also happens to be a real-life witch. The movie (the actual Bewitched movie, not the Bewitched movie in the Bewitched movie) was levels upon levels of flawed meta that didn’t work nor fit for a mainstream audience.

It would be like if the Gilligan’s Island movie was about the screenwriter for Giligan’s Island going on a three hour boat tour, running into a storm, and getting caught on an island with a movie star, a scientist, the skipper, his first mate, and some other random chick. And, while on the island, he’s still trying to write the script while fending off Japanese soldiers unaware that World War 2 is over, meteorites, and the Harlem Globetrotters. I’m not saying it couldn’t work, it just might be something of a hard sell.

Inspector Gadget (1999)


They fucking show Dr. Claw.

The Avengers (1998)

Britain’s The Avengers (1960-1969) was a Cold War fantasy spy adventurer with a quirky, quasi-psychedelic British eccentricity that was actually somewhat subversive for its time. Patrick Macnee’s well-tailored John Steed was often partnered with iconic women like Honor Blackman’s leather clad Cathy Gale and Diana Rigg’s avant garde wardrobed Emma Peel, who were two of television’s first women of action and able to hold their own against the male lead and bad guys alike.

The movie (starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman) does more than lack the class and cleverness of the television series, it’s one of those movies that could easily make “worst movies of all time” lists and often does. Put another way, there are some movies that are dull and lifeless but relatively harmless. Then there are those movies (e.g. Batman & Robin, Battlefield: Earth) that make you take a step back and honestly wonder “who the hell greenlit this and why couldn’t they be stopped?” The Avengers falls under the latter category. Part of the problem might have been that the film was cut from 115 minutes to 89 minutes but that might also mean that the extra half hour was just as bad, if not worse, than what appears on screen now, though that half hour might have pushed it into camp cult classic territory.

Lost In Space (1998)


The original series (1965-1968) was a sci-fi/fantasy about a family, a goofy robot, a pilot, and Doctor Zachary Smith (who was originally evil and then just became silly and is today commonly associated with a long line of pedophile jokes because of his unhealthy relationship with little William (Billy Mumy)) seeking their way home on the Jupiter 2 after becoming, well, lost in space. The show was known for its bright colors, humor and cheap sets/effects/monsters that are actually kind of quaint and charming.

The movie was your typical (read: bad) sci-fi action-adventurer with an emphasis on explosions and CGI. Despite having some good actors in it (like William Hurt and Gary Oldman), the script was by-the-numbers when it came to the characters (angsty teenage Penny, check; love story between Judy and Major West, check; giant monster Robot, check) and convoluted when it came to the plot (something about time travel by going into the center of a planet or something), losing whatever was appealing about the original series (probably the family element) in the first place.

Mission: Impossible (1996)


The core of the Mission: Impossible TV series was the Impossible Missions Force, the team. The show wasn’t about one guy against a bunch of villains; it was about an entire covert team working together to bring down Cold War ne’er-do-wells. Even today it’s a pretty decent example of what a spy show should be. The Mission: Impossible movies are about Tom Cruise saving the world while being Tom Cruise and blowing shit up. What made the first one especially bad to fans of the original series was making former leader James Phelps (Peter Graves) the villain of the story.

Stuart Saves His Family (1995)

It’s not easy to turn an eight minute Saturday Night Live skit into a movie and the odds of success are quite low (the latest to try is Will Forte and MacGruber, which is actually getting surprisingly good advanced reviews). But Senator Al Franken took his character Stuart Smalley probably the furthest from the source. The movie about the effeminate “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough and Doggone It, People Like Me” guy was a human drama about a person dealing with an abusive family, his own insecurities and seeking help from 12 step organizations. It’s a good film but not one you’d expect with the SNL label.

The Flintstones (1994)

Betty Rubble was played by Rosie O’Donnell.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

David Lynch’s groundbreaking television series Twin Peaks (1990-1991) lasted only two seasons on ABC and ended with a cliffhanger (“How’s Annie?”) that left its cult following yearning for more. Soon after its cancellation, Lynch announced a Twin Peaks movie, which excited many wanting more adventures of Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and that screwy Washington town of Twin Peaks. To the dismay and disappointment of many, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, wasn’t the movie they were hoping for. Instead of continuing the story, the highly divisive film was a prequel about the last days of Laura Palmer’s (Sheryl Lee) life with many of the show’s popular characters missing or relegated to cameo status. The film was closer to a typical David Lynchian psychological thriller and lacked the quirky genius of the series. It didn’t please fans of the series nor was it entirely able to successfully stand on its own for those not into the show (although in many ways TP:FWWM works better as a stand-alone film). The film was understandably a bomb, except oddly enough, in Japan where it was a big success.

Dragnet (1987)

The original Dragnet series (1951-1959; 1967-1970) featured Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday, an uptight/stickler for the rules/kind of dickish detective with the LAPD who really hated people who smoked pot. The dramatic series was one of the earliest procedural dramas in television and radio and its impact can be felt even today with shows like Law and Order and CSI.

The movie starred Dan Aykroyd as the straitlaced Friday and a still-goofy Tom Hanks as his wild man partner Pep Streebek, investigating a Pagan anarchist cult. The film didn’t take itself as seriously as the original series and functioned more as a comedy/parody while still showing an appreciation for the source material (unlike, say, this year’s Cop Out).  Surprisingly it actually worked, in its own late-80s way.

Head (1968)

The Monkees (Peter Tork, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and Michael Nesmith) were not well respected back in the 1960s. Seen more as a boy band than actual artists, they were condemned for not writing their own songs, not playing their own instruments and allegedly, Michael Nesmith didn’t even wear his real hat. Their zany 1960s TV show (1966-1968) further served to lessen their credibility among music fans.

In 1968, they made a movie sequel of their TV show called Head, whose script was written with Jack Nicholson via tape recorder supposedly during a weekend long psychedelic trip. With cameos from people like Frank Zappa, Victor Mature, Dennis Hopper, and Sonny Liston, it’s actually a pretty cool movie/experiment in pop surrealism. It also stands as a testament that The Monkees weren’t about music but they were about rebellion, about political and social upheaval.

Hero: Donna Simpson

March 20, 2010

Every once in awhile a news story comes along that presents us with a real hero. Not one of those fireman/soldier/cop type heroes whom we say are heroes but are really just paying lip service to, but someone we can actually look up to. Someone willing to buck the system and stand up for what she believes in. And that person is New Jersey’s Donna Simpson.

For those who don’t know, Miss Simpson is a pioneer. Not satisfied with only weighing a mere 600 pounds, she wants to go for the gold. She wants to break the half ton mark. She’s not doing this in order to get on disability and work at home with a computer and drinking bird like the icon who shares her last name. She’s doing this just to do it. And for that, she must be commended and lauded with the accolades we only reserve for those people willing to brave new frontiers and go to the beat of their own drum. True Americans.

Miss Simpson, who is married with two children, pays for her $750 a week food bill (and we know she’s not going to Whole Foods) through her website where people can watch her eat or wash her body (presumably with a rag on a stick). Brilliantly, she’s cornering both the fetish market (several fetish markets actually, including chubby chasers and feedies) and freak show fans. (Unfortunately, I cannot find the website which makes me wonder if this was just a hoax (after all, it did come from a British paper) that ended up exploding to news outlets worldwide. But it’s fun to comment on.)

I know that some people look down their noses at her. Some people even dare to make fun of and mock her whilst she proceeds along this noble quest. Those are just fat intolerant people who have been brainwashed by society to think that people who take up more than two bus seats are gross rather than beautiful. Each additional roll isn’t disgusting; it’s a sign of courage. (Fat intolerants, if you ask me, are worse than racists and anti-gay people because they hate people for choosing to gorge and there is nothing uglier than disliking people for the choices they make.)

But what about her health? Well what proof is there that being morbidly obese is actually unhealthy? Doctors? Years ago they said cigarettes were healthy. So if you want to take their word that an excess of cookies and cakes could cause diabetes or heart disease then you starve with your hoity-toity celery and carrots and exercise. You’re just playing into the system!

What Ms. Simpson understands, and hopefully gets other people to realize, is that this is all bullshit perpetrated by a male dominated society with doctors owned by the fashion industry. The proof is there if you’re willing to open your eyes. Hopefully, this is the type of thing former sex symbol Jessica Simpson blows the lid off of in her new MTV series Jessica Simpson: The Price of Beauty. Described as a “road trip around the world in search of what people find beautiful and why,” JSTPOB features her going around the world to see what other cultures consider beautiful. In one episode, as she described on a recent episode of Letterman, we learn how that Ugandan men put Ugandan women into tents and force feed them milk to get fat. It’s quite beautiful really, how those Ugandan men make women look the way they find most attractive, as opposed to our disgusting hedonistic society where disgusting American males want models to wear a size two. We can learn so much from those far more enlightened cultures.

But I’m getting off track here. I’m taking attention away from Donna Simpson who deserves all the praise we lavish on trailblazers, like her and Neil Armstrong. But it’s far beyond my talents and skills to give this wife, mother, woman, hero the credit she deserves. All I can do is wish her well on her glorious pursuit so that one of these days, her daughter will stand up in front of her class and tell her friends and teachers: “My mommy did what no one believed she could do. She set a goal, to be the fattest woman alive. She was mocked by people who didn’t, people who couldn’t understand the far reaching importance of what she was doing. People ridiculed her. People treated her like some sort of sideshow freak that you pay a fee to watch. But did that deter her? No. She set up a website…requesting financial assistance from those who supported her. And she ate. Oh how she ate. Big Macs and fries and donuts and pizzas. It was hard work but through sheer gumption and hard work she became the big fat dynamo we all knew she was inside.” And those listeners, engaged like that army at the end of The 300, will stand up and cheer drowning out “And she died of a massive coronary before I was 8. The medical bills have left the family destitute.”

Could Boardwalk Empire Be HBO’s Return to A-Quality Entertainment?

March 19, 2010

There was a time, not too long ago, when HBO wasn’t just the best place for high quality television programs, but the only place. Each new show announced promised something new, different and exciting for viewers. The shows they put on the air changed television as a whole. But over the past few years, HBO lost its dominance in the medium . . . and not to rival pay cable channel Showtime (not to knock Dexter, which is better than HBO’s current dramatic line-up).

Oddly enough, the best scripted series found their homes on basic cable. AMC, which has somehow labeled Catwoman an American Movie Classic, has the two best dramas on television: Mad Men and Breaking Bad (new season starts this Sunday). Comparatively, FX probably has the biggest number of quality shows on right now: Damages (which has had a creative resurgence this season), Sons of Anarchy, Rescue Me (when it’s good), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Archer. And if the premiere of Justified is any indication, they have another can’t miss show under their belt. Even Syfy has Caprica. But what is HBO up to?

On the dramatic front, Big Love and True Blood are relatively decent shows but neither of them have that IT quality that made HBO so powerful in the late 90s/early 2000s. Do either of those shows have the epic quality of The Sopranos? (Regardless of whether it succeeded or failed in the end, even when the episodes were kind of middling or we had to spend an entire season learning that AJ was depressed, the show had at least the illusion of depth.) Do either of those shows have the sheer craftsmanship and artistry of Deadwood? Or the misunderstood genius nature of John from Cincinnati? (Personally, I thought that show was brilliant.) Does Big Love have the emotional strength in family dynamics that Six Feet Under had? If it was announced that True Blood had been canceled today, would people still be singing its praises years after it went off the air like the two seasoned Carnivale? Does either of them come close to setting the bar for their individual genre or for television as a whole like The Wire did? While that might seem like a heavy burden to lay on any show, it was what HBO was known to and expected to deliver.

For comedies, the network had and still has some genuine successes. The two season (by creators’ choice) Extras and Flight of the Conchords were wonderful. Curb Your Enthusiasm remains to be one of the funniest shows on television. And Bored to Death has a unique quality that has me excited for the second season. But Hung fell incredibly limp (LOL I made a pun!!!) and Entourage, at best, is charmingly stupid. (Not stupidly charming mind you, but charmingly stupid, where you feel as embarrassed for the characters as you do for yourself for watching it. After all, if there’s one way to show a guy at the end of his financial rope, it’s jetting off to Paris with supermodels and being saved at the last minute by Martin Scorsese to star in a movie that’s barely mentioned in the following season yet completely resurrects his career. But I’m sure we’re all looking forward to a Ferrari biopic, how exciting that will be!!)

When HBO showed the trailers for upcoming shows Boardwalk Empire (about the rise of Atlantic City in the 1920s) and Treme (about New Orleans after Katrina) during the first episode of The Pacific, attentions were peaked. Both those shows don’t just have a pedigree to be great (Boardwalk Empire from The Sopranos’ Terence Winter and Treme from David Simon, creator of The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets) but actually looked as though they had the quality and style lacking from HBO’s current programming. The network also has the extremely highly anticipated Game of Thrones, based on a popular medieval fantasy series, expected to debut in 2011. As for whether the new shows will actually be successful, only time will tell, but right now they have created a buzz that has been missing from HBO for awhile.

Treme premieres April 11, 2010. Boardwalk Empire is expected to start in Fall 2010.

Could Boardwalk Empire Be HBO’s Return to A-Quality Entertainment?

There was a time, not too long ago, when HBO wasn’t just the best place for high quality television programs, but the only place. Each new show announced promised something new, different and exciting for viewers. The shows they put on the air changed television as a whole. But over the past few years, HBO lost its dominance in the medium . . . and not to rival pay cable channel Showtime (not to knock Dexter, which is better than HBO’s current dramatic line-up).

Oddly enough, the best scripted series found their homes on basic cable. AMC, which has somehow labeled Catwoman an American Movie Classic, has the two best dramas on television: Mad Men and Breaking Bad (new season starts this Sunday). Comparatively, FX probably has the biggest number of quality shows on right now: Damages (which has had a creative resurgence this season), Sons of Anarchy, Rescue Me (when it’s good), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Archer. And if the premiere of Justified is any indication, they have another can’t miss show under their belt. Even Syfy has Caprica. But what is HBO up to?

On the dramatic front, Big Love and True Blood are relatively decent shows but neither of them have that IT quality that made HBO so powerful in the late 90s/early 2000s. Do either of those shows have the epic quality of The Sopranos? (Regardless of whether it succeeded or failed in the end, even when the episodes were kind of middling or we had to spend an entire season learning that AJ was depressed, the show had at least the illusion of depth.) Do either of those shows have the sheer craftsmanship and artistry of Deadwood? Or the misunderstood genius nature of John from Cincinnati? (Personally, I thought that show was brilliant.) Does Big Love have the emotional strength in family dynamics that Six Feet Under had? If it was announced that True Blood had been canceled today, would people still be singing its praises years after it went off the air like the two seasoned Carnivale? Does either of them come close to setting the bar for their individual genre or for television as a whole like The Wire did? While that might seem like a heavy burden to lay on any show, it was what HBO was known to and expected to deliver.

For comedies, the network had and still has some genuine successes. The two season (by creators’ choice) Extras and Flight of the Conchords were wonderful. Curb Your Enthusiasm remains to be one of the funniest shows on television. And Bored to Death has a unique quality that has me excited for the second season. But Hung fell incredibly limp (LOL I made a pun!!!) and Entourage, at best, is charmingly stupid. (Not stupidly charming mind you, but charmingly stupid, where you feel as embarrassed for the characters as you do for yourself for watching it. After all, if there’s one way to show a guy at the end of his financial rope, it’s jetting off to Paris with supermodels and being saved at the last minute by Martin Scorsese to star in a movie that’s barely mentioned in the following season yet completely resurrects his career. But I’m sure we’re all looking forward to a Ferrari biopic, how exciting that will be!!)

When HBO showed the trailers for upcoming shows Boardwalk Empire (about the rise of Atlantic City in the 1920s) and Treme (about New Orleans after Katrina) during the first episode of The Pacific, attentions were peaked. Both those shows don’t just have a pedigree to be great (Boardwalk Empire from The Sopranos’ Terence Winter and Treme from David Simon, creator of The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets) but actually looked as though they had the quality and style lacking from HBO’s current programming. The network also has the extremely highly anticipated Game of Thrones, based on a popular medieval fantasy series, expected to debut in 2011. As for whether the new shows will actually be successful, only time will tell, but right now they have created a buzz that has been missing from HBO for awhile.

Treme premieres April 11, 2010. Boardwalk Empire is expected to start in Fall 2010.

Second Entry

March 16, 2010

According to my stats, there were three views of my introductory post. I don’t know if that means that I opened the page three times or if there were two readers other than myself. If it’s the latter, welcome. I hope you found it passable. I have to assume that you two must check every single blog that comes out. Although I find it slightly odd, it also makes sense in the same way that people will rent whatever straight to video/DVD crap comes out each week just for something to watch. Of course, hundreds of blogs are re-newed every day as opposed to five different movies a week. Then again each blog is less of a time commitment than a full length movie so… I’m sure there’s some sort of point I’m trying to make, I just don’t know what it is. Feel free to comment, I guess.

If it’s just me re-reading my page then… I’m not surprised. I haven’t advertised this thing at all (my little secret) and there’s nothing tag-worthy about my original post (or this oen, for that matter). All things considered, I actually kind of like the idea of a tiny corner of the internet where I’m just screaming to the wind. Besides, the original post was more a launching off point as I struggle to figure out what I want to do with this thing, or for posterity, or for news organizations to take out of context if anything happens.

Ah damn it, I’m personalizing this. I really didn’t want to make the blog all about me, my thoughts, my blatherings. I was hoping to make it more universal, general, relevant. Something more “objective” that people can enjoy, Digg, Fark, twitter. Instead it’s exactly what I didn’t want to be- a random person spewing their worthless thoughts about their worthless thoughts.

When I made the decision to blog, I did think I was going to get struck with some inspiration. Some pop culture or news thing I can use to be clever. But, instead, writer’s block. I could “go back” and talk about things that happened a couple months ago (like how the already forgotten “Cop Out” didn’t understand the concept of homage (it’s more than just throwing a black cop and white cop together)) but that seems like cheating. I could try to talk about how the Health Care debate is a clusterfuck and will remain a clusterfuck whether the Bill passes or fails, but if you’re looking for anything resembling insightful political commentary you wouldn’t be here.

Just keep writing, I guess, is what people say and what I’m doing now since this entry is just as senseless and useless as my introductory one. It’s really not that easy to figure out what to talk about. Without a topic or reason to write, this venture is actually kind of embarrassing. But I’m resolved not to use this as a 21st century diary where I take you through, in painful detail, what I do every day (brood on life’s failures) in the hope that that causes something to spark. After all, I know you care about my life about as little as I care about yours– (obligatory) no offense. However, if there’s some instance in my life that I feel I can turn into some narrative I will bore you with the details because this is essentially my “portfolio” (whether anything comes from that…probably not) and as such should be used to show some versatility.

So that’s pretty much it for my second post. I guess I’m just bumming around with these posts until I can figure out something interesting to write about. Essentially forcing myself to babble. But at least it’s to nobody in particular. Hopefully next time I’ll come up with some clever pop culture-y thing that people can rally behind. A list of best whatevers or a nostalgic look at some late ’80s/early ’90s thing. Maybe a comprehensive analysis of Dana Walsh’s comically shitty storyline in this season of “24” (how is Steven Root able to walk around the CTU War Room without even a visitor pass showing?). Or run out of steam a paragraph into discussing how Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” is really about the emptiness of club life and no matter how young, rich or pretty you are, you can only be in the game for a short time before you’re shoved aside and left in your own filth. Although I haven’t seen it yet, E!’s “Pretty Wild” comes across like it might be good “angry ranting” fodder, but also seems like kind of an obvious choice as a target. Almost too obvious a choice.

Introduction

March 12, 2010

Just another worthless blog. I’d consider that an accurate summation. Like every other failed and/or wannabe writer, especially those with a shit portfolio, I’ve had no choice but to take to the “blogosphere” in a pathetic and more-than-likely futile attempt to get my words read.

I’ve resisted creating a blog for years. The reason(s) being a combination of not being particularly good enough to rise above the hundreds of thousands of other people doing the same thing and finding something personally off-putting about a world with no “gatekeepers,” no editors, no one to tell you that you suck too much to be published. I so wanted to avoid the blogger’s delusion of talent.

So why do this now? Well I am not, nor have I ever been, a man of great principle. And when faced with borderline, perpetual unemployment, why not give something like this a shot? It’s a gamble that costs me nothing except my dignity. If I’m going to have to spend years struggling to get a dead end job to die at, I might as well try for something that sucks less. I’m not saying I’m a good writer; I’m just not really that good at anything else.

What is my purpose in doing this? Something between (and including) wasting time and getting a book deal. Not going to hold my breath for a movie based on a book on my blatherings.

What will I offer to you, the audience? Uninspired film/TV criticism. Uninsightful social

commentary. Embarrassing attempts at wit and humor (because snarkiness is in such short supply, especially online). Pop culture-y things (not meaning gossip, unless it’s something huge like how Tiger Woods’ affairs destroyed America). Probably not going to go the personal vignettes route. But if my life was anything but humdrum, I wouldn’t be blogging.

So I guess that’s it. My short introduction to the world of blogging. I don’t know what or when my next column will be but maybe I’ll stock this account with some out-of-date and obsolete comments on things that no longer matter.

I’d tell you to follow me on twitter but I don’t have a twitter account and doubt I ever will lest I somehow obtain some modicum of celebrity where random, anonymous people would be interested when I do something mundane. Yet I also spent years saying I’d never do a blog yet here I am now. So who knows, maybe by the time the NEXT BIG THING comes and goes, I’ll make my first attempt to boil my thoughts down to 140 characters.