Saturday, July 12, 2008
Oh, wait, that's not what happened. Instead, Peter King says that Green Bay's GM "mishandled [the] entire affair" and that Favre is actually being a great guy by demanding his release because he doesn't want to stand in the way of his former backup.
Honestly, sometimes I don't understand you white people.
Yes, in case you had not noticed the theme currently playing at full volume on the Summer Movie Hypetrolux 9000, know now that Hellboy II opened in theaters yesterday. And while we have a “trust, but verify” approach to the Hypetrolux around here, even with films we’re predisposed to love, like this one, and while we expect that it was really just shaking of the rust and limbering up for the long Dark Knight of hyping that is in store this coming week, we are pleased to report that for Hellboy II you can, mostly, believe the hype.
Hype has been focused primarily (and justly) on director Guillermo del Toro and Hellboy Ron Perlman. There has also been much mention of the purported “environmental” bent of the film, but mostly to the effect that you shouldn’t worry about it being such a preachy downer of a tale that the dying oceans or accelerated extinction of the world’s bird species winds up ruining the simple joy of doing battle with an army of monsters who’ve finally rebelled against the evolving disorder of things. Here, it suffices to say that this theme does exist, and provides for one truly stunning and beautiful CGI sequence in which a forest elemental is vanquished on a non-existent street corner in Brooklyn.
Depending on your age and inclinations, your earliest memories of Perlman may be as cat-faced Vincent, opposite Linda Hamilton the late-80s romantasy series Beauty and The Beast, or as the hunchbacked heretic Salvatore from the Sean Connerized / Christian Slaterated movie version of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. In this house, we remember him first and always as nose-picking Zeno from The Ice Pirates (1984, feat. Robert Urich, Angelica Houston, John Matuszak, John Carradine and Bruce Vilanch, for crying out loud). Zeno’s paradox? Perlman was permitted to reprise the role in Alien: Resurrection.
The hype around Perlman is that Hellboy is the role he was born to play and that he’s amazing in it despite being 105 years old. This is half right. He’s damn good as Hellboy, and only 58, but he has brought charisma and intensity to many, many characters over the years, in small projects and large, good films and stinkers, and it feels unfair to endorse hype (even high praise) that ties him to this single role in any limiting fashion. Besides, he seemed like he might have had more fun playing Hellboy the first time around. Perhaps because expectations weren’t quite as high?
Speaking of high expectations, hypewise, Guillermo del Toro emerged into the limelight in 2006 with the richly deserved success of Pan’s Labyrinth. The Hypetrolux has since been attaching words like “visionary” and “spellbinding” too his name at every opportunity, often willfully ignoring his pulpy work on Blade II — including the frank and mirthful director’s commentary he provides on the DVD version. (If you like the genre, and director’s commentaries, this is a can’t miss.) He seems to have endorsed the refrain in numerous Hellboy II reviews that his work has straddled a divide between “personal” dramas with elements of the supernatural or occult (Cronos, Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth), and “Hollywood” action / horror films (Mimic, Blade II, Hellboy). The Ebert reviews for all of these are linked from his discussion of Pan’s Labyrinth, linked above, and he does loving justice to the both high and the low work from the list. Hellboy II reviews often end by suggesting that Hellboy II is the first film for which Hollywood trusted in the promise of profit from fully indulging del Toro’s creative eccentricities. Probably dead on, seeing as he’s been tapped for The Hobbit, but if you’re going to trust that potential why cram three hours of ideas into a two hour movie?
There was a lot of fun in Hellboy II, but it was at its worst when it was moving too quickly between boldly conceived premises that could have been enjoyably explored in much, much more detail. Don’t let that stop you. It’s a faint criticism of a thrill-ride PG-13 blockbuster, for sure, and a strong indication of how quickly we’ll go looking for any box set that includes a director’s cut.
If you are an existing AT&T customer whose few-month-old phone/laptop modem decided to go into perma-stall on the Saturday before an out-of-town trial beginning Monday -- i.e., an event where a phone and a modem are actually important, and not just for downloading music -- the AT&T store today is your worst nightmare. I could run down the options they would give you if you were lucky enough to convince the doorman, after a half hour of telling you that you should get in line for four hours like everybody else, that you should at least be able to speak to a manager -- the best of which is to take time out of your trial prep to make the hour-long (each way) drive to the warranty service center, where they might replace the phone but will leave you without email or tethering service for the duration of the trial -- but I think I can sum it up better than that: we could give two shits about existing customers; we're busy selling iPhones to new people.
The competition is made up of multiple stages, beginning with an intense eating contest. Contestants are challenged to consume a massive portion of some popular All-American favorite, as quickly as they can, with items ranging from chicken pot pies to New England chowder, fish sticks, hot dogs, blueberry pie, and more. Those who devour the largest quantity and keep everything down move on to the second stage where they must face nausea-inducing physical challenges, designed to shake them up from carnival rides to belly flops off a high dive, to mechanical bull-riding. Each episode features two different cuisines and a new outrageous challenge.
The few survivors remaining who have held on to their stomachs are forced back to the food table, where they must gorge an additional serving of a surprising new menu item. In a comedic and gag-inspiring display, the remaining few desperately try to prevent themselves from getting sick. If the competition is still underway after the second round of eating, they advance to the final tie-breaker stage, heading back to the daunting physical challenge. And this time, for added pressure, the physical challenge introduces a surprise twist, making the final stage especially difficult.
The vomit itself, apparently, will be digitally blurred. What happened to the courage of the producers' convictions? "Actually," claims an executive producer, "The show has very little to do with vomit, and everything to do with competition and camaraderie. It's like a college dare all grown up into its own TV show. It's nothing different from what fraternity boys do. ... It's more wholesome and uplifting than any dating show you'd care to make."
What is the bottom of the reality tv conceptual barrel -- the dueling torture-quiz shows? If not, it's probably something in the dating genre, whether it's Who Wants To Marry A Violent Faux-Millionaire?, "The Littlest Groom", or, of course, Monica Lewinsky's "Mr. Personality,", the masked dating show.
Friday, July 11, 2008
I've told the story here before of my own midnight trek for Tim Burton's Batman, but I'm mostly interested in some non-film, non-Potter stories ...
I write this because I read on Lookout Landing today that, in almost 200 plate appearances this year, Kansas City Royals shortstop Tony Peña Jr. has earned an OPS+ of 1. One. His offensive value is 1/100th that of the average major league player. If you had a team where every player was Chipper Jones playing a team where every player is Tony Peña Jr., you'd have to let the Peñas have 5,130 outs just to make it a fair fight. The second-worst player in the entire major leagues with at least 100 plate appearances -- the epochally bad Chin-Lung Hu (eta: continuing a tradition of major league baseball players whose names follow the pattern [body part-body part interrogatory]) of the Dodgers, with an OPS+ of 13 -- is 13 times as valuable offensively as Peña.
Incidentally, it seems important to mention that Andruw Jones of the Dodgers is making $18 million this season to put up an OPS+ of 39 -- 61% worse than the average major league player.
It doesn't seem to be offending anybody else, either, and I think that's part of its appeal. In the story I heard on NPR about the controversy, or more accurately the "controversy," scare quotes intended, the teens interviewed seemed unable to muster any enthusiasm for the thesis that there is something daring about the lyric. Part of what a high school kid isn't going to say on NPR, I'm guessing, is that "girls kissing" may come right between "beer pong" and "drunken sing-along" in the stylized Kabuki drama known as "frat party." Though I really should ask someone 20 years younger than me to confirm, I surmise that the song isn't popular because it breaks some taboo (unlike Jill Sobule's song of the same name and sentiment 13 years ago, which got itself widely banned), but rather because it describes something that actually has some currency -- heterosexual girls kissing each other with the permission of their boyfriends for minor and brief titillating effect. It's a song about the slightest act of consequence-free rebellion possible. The lyric might as well be "I got a small butterfly tattoo on my hip" or "my boyfriend is half-Jewish." But again, I don't expect a summer song to tax my brain or challenge my politics, so nothing wrong with that.
Beyond that, I agree with commenter Tortoiseshelly (
So now that the touring company has been established, we can turn our attention to the ultimate question of who America's favorite dancer will be. I will confess that I don't have the foggiest idea. Will is seemingly the most technically proficient, but "best" doesn't always equal America's favorite. Maybe I'll have a clearer sense after next week's new partnerships, but for now this is all I can really do, and I don't feel all that confident about it.
Not Going to Win: Jessica, Mark, Gev, Courtney
Two of These Three Girls Will Make the Final Four: Kherington, Chelsie, Katee (a/k/a "who are three girls whose mothers were feeling kreativ?")
One of These Two Guys Will Make the Final Four: Twitch, Joshua
Will Make the Final Four: Will
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I mean, what -- was he going to pull a Shatner on his audience just because someone wanted to ask him about creating perhaps the most compelling dramatic character on 1990s television? What's next: Jason Priestley pulling an "I don't want to talk about Brandon Walsh; let's discuss that Barenaked Ladies documentary I directed that no one saw"?
- Female bootee*: Comfort or Jessica? I'd keep Jessica. Comfort has danced with a couple of different partners with no discernible improvement over the weeks. What's more, she's taken heavy criticism on two hip hop routines -- if she can't nail those, she's got no business being here. (Unlike Twitch's krump, which was so awesome, or, dare I say without getting glared at by the you-are-way-too-white-to-even-think-the-word police, buck, that I felt embarrassed for everyone else who's ever tried to krump on the show.) Jessica, on the other hand, has been laboring under Will's shadow for a full five weeks and that no-clothes-no-music Tyce Diorio routine was gorgeous. I'd give her one more week to see what she can do with a new partner.
- Male bootee*: Thayne or Mark? I'm a little surprised at myself for even throwing Mark into the mix instead of simply pronouncing that Thayne should go. But the comments last night concerning Thayne's technique versus Mark's lack of technique make me wonder whether the judges might keep the guy who arguably dances well enough to make it to the final four rather than the guy with the higher performance level but lesser technique. I am not actually expecting Mark to be in the bottom three, given how well his dances with Chelsie went over last night; but unless Mark falls into the danger zone, Thayne is toast.
- Nigel's drug of choice: Viagara or Cialis? Seriously, the guy is getting loopy. I can't do better than one of my colleagues (give you one guess who that was) at translating the not-so-veiled subtext of his remarks: "I am so heterosexual that I am a threat to do any woman who comes within 10 yards of me -- Asian, Mormon, or Cat in the kitchen. Did I mention that I flew to Las Vegas for the specific purpose of seeing Bette Midler?"
My favorite routines of the night: the previously mentioned Will/Jessica contemporary routine, Twitchington's krump (or pied piper's assistant), Gev and Courtney's Mapquest of the Lost Ark, and Mark and Chelsie's salsa. I appreciate the fact that we now have Bollywood on the show, but the dance itself didn't really click with me to the same degree as the others did. I'd much rather see a big Bollywood group number (perhaps tonight!).
And, in keeping with our customary praise of Cat Deeley, I must flag her bemused head scratch at the camera after the "not to cook" remark.* bootee is not pronounced booty, but rather boo-TAY
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
The full channel-by-channel, day-by-day schedule is here, including the promise of all 32 swimming gold medal finals live on NBC in prime time. Not listed, however, are such defunct Olympic events as tug-of-war, one-hand weightlifting, the standing high jump, dueling pistols and live pigeon shooting, an event held in the 1900 Games.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
For now, I'll take this pledge as seriously as R.E.M.'s promise to break up on December 31, 1999 (among other broken promises), or "read my lips: no new taxes". But if he follows through, this is good, right?
- "Every Breath You Take" – The Police
- "Electric Avenue" – Eddy Grant
- "Flashdance ... What a Feeling" – Irene Cara
- "Never Gonna Let You Go" – Sergio Mendes
- "Too Shy" – Kajagoogoo
- "Wanna Be Starting Something" – Michael Jackson
- "Time (Clock of My Heart)" – Culture Club
- "Come Dancing" – The Kinks
- "Don’t Let it End" –
- "Our House" – Madness
Either way, I hope you are not too busy to troll through the many worthy submissions to the Song Fu competition over at Quick Stop Entertainment. In Round One, contestants submitted
Round two voting is open through Wednesday.
I buried the lede, however. You can also pay $30, $40 or $50 to watch Kevin Costner talk. No, he doesn't cook. Instead, Caesar's explains ...
This is a non-televised event. This is a lecture, question and answer event. Kevin will discuss movies, antidotes, etc.Hey, Kevin, I just got bitten by a Chilean recluse spider. What should I do?
e.t.a. But that's not all! The night before, Kevin Costner Sings! Heartbeat, I'm looking for a heartbeat ...
- "Pour Some Sugar on Me" -- Def Leppard
- "The Flame" -- Cheap Trick
- "New Sensation" -- INXS
- "Hold On To the Nights" -- Richard Marx
- "Mercedes Boy" -- Pebbles
- "Roll With It" -- Steve Winwood (probably my favorite among these)
- "Hands to Heaven" -- Breathe
- "Make Me Lose Control" -- Eric Carmen
- "Nite and Day" -- Al B. Sure
- "Dirty Diana" -- Michael Jackson
I can understand why the magazine omitted many non-rock songs from the list (no Django Rheinhardt? No Hank Williams?), but how in the world could the editors have overlooked "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple?
Two other omissions that I happen to love: Steely Dan's "Reeling in the Years" and Jeff Beck's "'Cause We've Ended as Lovers."
His accomplishments angered a raving and racist extortionist, culminating in the man making an elaborate death threat in 1982 targeting Auerbach. Under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, Bob Hohler of The Boston Globe obtained from the FBI a copy of a letter outlining the threat. His chilling article about it and threats against other sports figures is here.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Structurally, this show is more or less what I'd thought last summer's "Grease: The One that We Want" was going to be -- the quest for a bona fide acting/singing/dancing triple threat. And as such, the amount that's being required from the contestants is pretty significant. Haylie Duff and the judges are pretty much a total waste of airtime, but watching these girls, whose blondeness quotient is inching ever closer to 100%, sing and act and dance and have rapport with the actor portraying Bruiser Woods (!) and Be Blonde shows the degree to which being a Broadway star is not easy. Not so much with the suspense, though, as I have accurately predicted the order in which each girl would appear on The List correctly every single week. Whether this (a) underscores the fact that editing is the most important aspect of any reality show, (b) indicates that there are obvious talent distinctions between the girls, or (c) displays my infallible casting astuteness, I could not say.
I was, however, a bit surprised to see Emma get cut rather than Autumn this week. Not because I found Emma to be so fabulous -- on the contrary, I have consistently found her to be way too sour and dour to play the effervescent Elle Woods -- but because everyone else on the show seemed to consider her the frontrunner. Was it because of her Broadway lineage as the daughter of Jerry Zaks and Jill Rose? Perhaps her Reese Witherspoon-minus-some-Zoloft demeanor? The fact that she's one of the only contestants old enough to be a Harvard Law School student? In any event, her bronchitic junk shaking was deemed insufficiently boppy, and off she went in suitably snarly fashion.
Which leaves us with five potential Elles going into tonight's episode: Lauren (Baby Elle); Autumn (Desperately Seeking a Blonde Wig Elle) Natalie (Squiggy Elle); Bailey (Catty Elle); and Rhiannon (Goldie Hawn Elle). Who ya got?
“Today” has capitalized on the depth and popularity of its cast, especially [Matt] Lauer. How strong is Mr. Lauer? A production executive from a competing morning program had no reservations. “Matt is simply the best morning anchor in history,” said the executive, who asked not to be identified when praising the opposition. “He is perfect at the job. It makes me crazy.”Better than David Hartman and Jane Robelot, sure. But in the history of morning tv, better than Charlie Gibson, Jane Pauley, or, um, Katie Couric, who herself seemed perfect for the role?
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Frankly, I think July 6th is way to early too debate this subject (last year we discussed this in early August). If forced to vote today, I'd have to pick Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl," which tops the Billboard Hot 100 at the moment. Note that I'm not saying that it's necessarily my favorite song this summer. but I seem to hear it semi-constantly and it will remind me of this summer in the future.
Among the songs DeLuca lists, I like:
- "Mercy" by Duffy (you know I'm a sucker for soul music, right?),
- "Oxford Comma" by Vampire Weekend (although I think I prefer their first hit "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," which must have won the award for the song of the spring of 2008),
- "Lollipop" by Lil Wayne featuring Static Major,
- "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here" by She & Him, and
- "Always a Friend" by Alejandro Escovedo (whom I plan to see in concert later this week).
What about you guys? What is the most memorable song of the summer of 2008 so far?
The Phillies' Pat Burrell is one of them, largely due to interviews he gave Philadelphia Weekly and Penthouse in 2002-03 (text NSFW). So I will implore you to use this handy widget and cast your vote today for Pat to join the National League All-Star Team -- #4 in the NL with a .995 OPS, .278/.411/.585 with 21 HR. He deserves your Final Vote, cast as frequently as the MLB will allow:
In other All Star news, something I've long called for is that the Commissioner -- yes, even Selig -- should have the right to name a player to each squad who may not necessarily deserve the honor for this year, but who ought to be honored by Baseball Nation as a whole in this marquee event during the twilight of his career. Regardless of how they're doing this season, Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas ought to be playing in Yankee Stadium next week. Who's with me?