Saturday, June 25, 2005

BIG ARISTOTLE UPDATE: Call him the ShaqMaster -- my favorite non-Sixer just earned his MBA.
BOTHERED AND BEWILDERED: The biggest problem with Bewitched is not in the cast (uniformly, they do they best that they can with the material that they're given, especially a supporting cast that includes Heather Burns, Kristin Chenoweth, and Katie Finneran, all immensely skilled comic actresses), but with the fact that they're trying to make three films at once, with none of those films being given enough attention. The first (and least interesting) is a conventional Nora Ephron romantic comedy with the complication being not that the boy and girl are geographically removed or that the boy and girl are business rivals but that the girl is a witch. The second is a "Will Ferrell acts wacky" comedy, which you see glimmers of during an extended scene when Ferrell's character can't get his lines right. The final (and most interesting) is a meta-tastic film about Hollywood making Bewitched. If only they'd gone whole hog with that angle--casting not Will Ferrell as a "fake" fading movie star, but instead casting Ben Affleck as "Ben Affleck, faded movie star" and giving us a vicious Hollywood satire, we would have had a good movie. To be fair, not every meta-portion of the movie works (in particular, an inexplicable bit involving Steve Carrell playing Paul Lynde playing "Uncle Arthur" from Bewitched, but it's the meta that makes the movie interesting--I wish there were more of it.
DO YOU KNOW NOW THAT RITALIN IS A STREET DRUG? DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT? With yesterday's interview with Matt Lauer, Tom Cruise has now crossed over into the zone where I'd like to see them do one of those Daily Show reenactments where kids read the transcripts of outrageous pundit banter.

Friends don't let friends dump their publicists.

Friday, June 24, 2005

THEY DIDN'T SNUB GIAMATTI THIS TIME: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 112 new members today, from the overdue (Stellan Skarsgard) to the premature (Will Ferrell) to the somewhat surprising (Jennifer Coolidge). And, yes, despite his Sideways snub, Paul Giamatti gets invited to membership. Other folks on the list? Devo/Wes Anderson composer Mark Mothersbaugh, Hitch director Andy Tennant, Scott Mosier, Kevin Smith's producer, and the screenwriters of Million Dollar Baby, Hotel Rwanda, Finding Neverland, The Motorcycle Diaries, and School of Rock. My pick for most bizarre invite? Scribe David N. Weiss--is the man who brought us Are We There Yet? and All Dogs Go To Heaven any more qualified to vote for Oscars than you or I?
THE ONLY SHOW YOU'LL EVER SEE IN WHICH THE WORD "SYZYGY" APPEARS MORE THAN FIVE TIMES: I finally got around to seeing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee last week. Thinking about it uncritically, the show is a lot of fun, and parts of it are hysterical. In particular, the fun poked at the types of sentences provided to spellers at spelling bees is a hoot. (A couple of examples: "Billy, put down that phylactery -- we're Episcopalian." "Sally's mother told her that it was her cystitis that made her special.") There is a great bit involving an appearance by a certain member of the Trinity as well as a song entitled "My Unfortunate Erection," which made all of the eight-year-olds and eight-year-olds-at-heart howl with laughter. I enjoyed it. I really did.

Ultimately, though, Spelling Bee felt like an Off-Broadway show. Which is, of course, what it is -- or at least what it was. But when you're plunking down the now-de-rigeur hundred bucks for the privilege of seeing a bunch of people sing on a stage for 90 minutes, you kind of expect something a little more transporting. The epically brilliant Urinetown was at core a Broadway musical. As was the somewhat-less-brilliant-but-still-pretty-damned-impressive Avenue Q. Each of them started out as funky little shows in funky little theatres, but by the time they made it to the Great White Way, they'd matured into something more. Spelling Bee never quite gets there. It feels like a show that stemmed from a bunch of people noodling around in a black box improv studio. And that, enjoyable though it may be, isn't what a Broadway musical is supposed to feel like.
TIPPING 20% ON THE FIRST DATE, HOWEVER, GETS YOU SOME LOVIN' EVERY TIME: First things first. The makeover results on this week's Social Experiment Brought to You by Ashton Kutcher were actually fairly impressive, with the notable but unsurprising exception of Richard. Madeover Richard = Pre-Madeover Richard. But in jeans. And with a slightly mowed 'fro. Obviously Mindi didn't have a lot to work with, but come on. You can do better than a button-down in the so-very-1995 French Blue. Yaaawn.

Shawn and Chuck both looked pleasantly improved, but the big winner of the night was definitely Bill, who turns out to be affirmatively good-looking. Especially when you saw him without that "VP of the Dukes of Hazzard Fan Club" caption. Who knew? Even Mr. Cosmopolitan thought he looked kinda cute.

To the extent that the point of the phone number challenge was supposed to be to use the newly minted suaveosity to coax women into handing over their digits, Chuck's "I am gay and thus harmless" was a screaming failure. Yes, he won the challenge and all that, but to the extent that this episode of Beauty and the Geek teaches clueless men that masquerading as a gay screenwriter is a surefire means of finding love -- well, there's gonna be a whole lot of geeky guys with hastily applied chunky blonde highlights proclaiming homosexuality to the world.
NASCAR DADS TO SCHEDULE RALLY AGAINST "ACTIVIST JUDGES": Semi-random email recieved this morning alleges that the anticipated release of the Dukes of Hazzard Movie will be delayed by an injunction issued out of the Central District of California. Apparently the new flic is too too similar to the based-on-a-true-story basis for the original Dukes series.

Quoth the forwarded (plausible-looking but not independently verified) docket sheet:
06/17/2005 56 ORDER by Judge Gary A. Feess : granting [41] Motion for Preliminary Injunction. WHEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, that in accordance with Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Warner Bros. and its officers, directors,representatives, employees, agents and all person acting in concert with it are preliminarily enjoined during the pendencey of this action from preparing producing, editing, distributing, advertising, exploiting, copying, publishing, or licensing, for theatrical sequels based on or derived from the feature motion picture entitled "Moonrunners." Warner Bros, shall within 10 days of the date of entry of this preliminary injunction, provide a copy of this Preliminary injunction order to all of their respective officers, directors, agents, management level employees, distributors, respresentative and partners. This Preliminary injunction shall take effect immediately upon plaintiff Moonrunners Limited Partnership filing with the court an injunction bond in the amount of $5,000,00 which the court finds reasonable and appropriated under the facts and the law. (yc, ) (Entered: 06/21/2005)

If true, and if the plaintiff prevails, one might wonder how CBS managed to omit the industry standard "in perpetuity throughout the universe" clause from their original purchase of the 1975 Moonrunners franchise.

More importantly for American Justice, however, we might wonder how Judge Feess will weather the inevitable storm of criticism now that his skepticism about Jessica Simpson's hottness is a matter of public record. To wit:
06/17/2005 58 MEMORANDUM RE: PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION by Judge Gary A. Feess The court HEREBY fixes bond in the amount of $5 million for payment of such costs and damages as may be incurred of suffered if defendants are found to have been wrongfully enjoined. Of course defendants estimate their losses to be significantly higher. However, their numbers are based on their own internal estimates of the film's potential profits, which are in turn based on difficult to quantify perceptions such as the "fact" that "Jessica Simpson is extremely "hot right now" and the belief that the film will be stigmatized [if] its release date slips. The court finds the amount reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances. (yc, ) (Entered: 06/21/2005)

Insert joke about in camera inspection of proffered evidence (*here*).

According to, your favorite Muppet curmudgeons will be reviewing movies for Might be funny, but will it be like the old days when they dissed everything? I hope so. I dearly, dearly hope so.
BURGER KINGS: The subhead to this GQ article says it all: "Alan Richman traveled 23,750 miles and consumed more than 150,000 calories while taking the measure of 162 burgers across the countryƂ?with one goal: to find you the best damned assemblage of ground beef and buns this country serves up." Yes, it's The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die.

I am sad to say that despite my love for a great burger, I have not eaten a single one of the 20 listed. How about you, gentle readers? And are there any you would have liked to see make the list?

A quick list of some of my personal favorites includes: Hackney's (Glenview, Ill.), Charlie Beinlich's (Northbrook, Ill.), Redamak's (New Buffalo, Mich.), Blimpy Burger (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Taylor's Refresher (St. Helena, Calif.), Five Guys in Washington, D.C., plus two that exist as vague memories, a little greasy spot outside Detroit I want to say was called the Clover Dairy or something (I think it was on Telegraph near the car dealer with the ceramic elephants) and a place in Gainesville, Fla., where the locals told us to get the burgers at one place and then walk across the street for the fries.

Related: Ask MetaFilter asked where the best cheeseburger in America is served earlier this year. And the Chicago Tribune recently picked Chicago's best burgers, but did not have the one Windy City burger (Poag Mahone's) Richman picked for his GQ list.
MICHAEL, I AM NOT FAMILAR WITH THE TERM "PIMP MY RIDE": KITT of Knight Rider fame tops a list of the all-time Greatsest Pimped Rides, in a poll commissioned by MTV in honor of the launch of Pimp My Ride UK. The Batmobile, a couple of Bond cars, and Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang also made the list of Brit's favorite tripped-out cars.
DR. QUINN, TOPLESS PENTAGENARIAN: For those of you who have always longed to see more of Jane Seymour, you'll finally get your chance in this summer's Wedding Crashers, as the 54-year-old will bare her breasts in a scene in which Owen Wilson rips off her bra.

Related: Retrocrush's classic list of the The Worst Sex Scenes Ever.
FOR YOUR SAFETY, PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE HANDBAGS OR PERSONAL ITEMS ON THE FLOOR WHILE THE FUNERAL IS IN PROGRESS: Ramon Posel, founder of Philadelphia's Ritz Theaters artsy-film-empire, has passed away at the age of 77. No man has contributed more to the moviegoing possibilities of urbane Philadelphians; he was bringing us indie films well before Miramax et al turned them into a phenomenon.

Our friend Carrie Rickey has the details. Thing I didn't know: his first movie theater was the Leo (at the Leo Mall, which he developed) -- the theater right by my house where I spent countless hours in the 1980s. It was named for his father.
WITH ALL DELIBERATE SPEED: Only fifty-one days after the Sixers were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs, it's finally over. Congratulations to Pete Sampras Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.

[Seriously, Robert Horry? 13 seasons, each team making the playoffs, and 6 rings? Wow.]

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I DON'T THINK THIS IS FOR WRITING 'BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS': Congratulations to ALOTT5MA fave Roger Ebert, who today received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In his honor, and with the warning that all the internal links are broken but you can still find the reviews referenced therein easily on his website, this ALOTT5MA Classic post from February 21, 2003, noting Ebert's addition of a new film to the Zero-Star Club after a year of kindness. To find out what film -- starring a two-time Oscar winner, a four-time Oscar nominee and another two-time Oscar nominee, directed by a two-time Oscar nominee . . . follow that link, or, okay, the review's right here.
THE BREAKUP SONGS: A running theme tonight on the Baby-Hitting show, as Billy Vera, Thelma Houston, Glass Tiger, and Billy Vera all sang familiar songs of love lost. Not quite as good as previous weeks, because the artists just weren't as talented, but still, what else were you going to watch?

Best performance of the night? Billy Vera, two times -- a great voice is a great voice. Worst? Thelma Houston's first dress, which I believe is on its way to Go Fug Yourself as we speak, and Glass Tiger, who, now that they're gone . . . wait, I forget, what was I saying?

Other notes: the role of Greg Kihn was played by Friar's Roast favorite Jeffrey Ross, while the Club Nouveau guy looks an awful lot like former NFLer and Philadelphia sportscaster Vai Sikahema. (And by the way, here's some trivia for you: members of Club Nouveau were the basis of Timex Social Club, which recorded "Rumors". Who knew?)

In other reality-music news, via Althouse, John Stevens is back -- and he's still croonin'.
LEVEL 12 BARD: Watching Atomic Shakespeare for the first time in years, a question came to mind--why is it that Taming of the Shrew has provoked so many reinventions, while other Shakespeare comedies haven't? I mean, beyond just Moonlighting, there's the meta-musical version (Kiss Me, Kate) and the teen movie version (Ten Things I Hate About You). While we had Michael Hoffman's version of Midsummer Night's Dream a few years back, that was period and original text rather than a meta re-imagining of the play. I'll argue that Never Been Kissed owes more than a little bit of a debt to As You Like It, but other than that, why haven't Shakespeare comedies gotten the same reinvention treatment many of the tragedies have? To be fair, Twelfth Night is getting the treatment now, both as the basis for the book for Elvis musical All Shook Up and in the forthcoming She's The Man, an Amanda Bynes driven teen comedy, but what about As You Like It or Much Ado About Nothing? There's money to be made, folks.
THERE'S NO NEED TO FEAR: Regular readers of the Times are no doubt familiar with the "Quotation of the Day" feature next to the paper's index on Page 2, in which a single quote from that day's paper is highlighted. Today, for instance, the quote is:
"If there's an asset up for sale anywhere in the world, people are looking to China."
--COLIN BANFIELD, of Credit Suisse First Boston in Asia.
My question to the editors of the Times is why the following gem from the "Arts, Briefly" column didn't merit today's honors
"Anything where you have a dog in that superhero context, that's appealing on a global basis."
--Gary Barber, of Spyglass Productions on the news that a live-action Underdog movie is being explored.
AT LEAST IT WASN'T AT THE HYDE PARK MCDONALD'S: Our good friend TMF,TML links today to this old New Yorker profile of former Miami Herald crime writer Edna Buchanan, which begins with a story of murder instigated when a Church's Fried Chicken in Miami proclaimed to a customer that they were, in fact, out of fried chicken.
MORE GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ: For the first time since the World Monument Fund began publishing its biennial list of the 100 Most Endangered Sites, an entire country, the whole kit and caboodle, has made the cut. It's Iraq, of course, which joins a diverse list that includes 2 Columbus Circle in Manhattan, Blue Grass Country in Kentucky, Hemingway's House in Havana, and most intriguingly, Sir Ernest Shackleton's Expedition Hut in Antarctica.
SAVE KATIE: In case you missed it the first time around, the Tom Cruise episode of Oprah is being rerun today (airing in Chicago as I write this, though you can catch the rerun tonight) and it is truly more bizarre and frightenting than I could have imagined. And the Kool-Aid drinking audience only adds to the oddness.

Money quote from Oprah: "We've never seen you behave this way before." And 20 minutes in, all I can tell is Tom is attracted to Katie because she isn't world-weary--yet.

And memo to Tom, there's better Chicago-style pie than Giordano's, although nice call on the Garrett and Fudge Pot.
UM, WHERE'S HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN? For the third straight year (here's our take on 2003's edition), the Chicago Tribune has endeavored to list the fifty best magazines of the past year.

Its list is topped by Maxim's Blender, of which it states: "Finally, America has a music magazine that unites the zippy, irreverent writing of the best British music press with the serious reporting and terrific profiles that can still occasionally be found in the depleted Rolling Stone."

One trend that's been clear to me: I think The Atlantic has clearly surpassed The New Yorker and Harper's as my favorite Deep Thinking magazine. You?
THE 7'6" 76ER: ESPN is reporting that Shawn Bradley, the much-reviled #2 overall pick of the 1993 NBA draft, will be announcing his retirement from basketball.

One estimate suggests that he earned over $60,000,000 over the course of his eleven-year career, and I'd do the math to figure out how much that works out per-championship, but you can't divide by zero.

I remember being furious that night that we didn't draft Anfernee Hardaway; in a long line of disappointing Sixers draft picks, it remains the one decision that really set back the franchise for a long, long time. (Only drafting Larry Hughes over Paul Pierce comes close.)
NO NUDITY. NO VIOLENCE. UNSPEAKABLE OBSCENITY: The documentary The Aristocrats, about which some here have been very excited, will be coming to theatres late next month.

It will be released unrated, and yes, Isaac, your filthy hero Bob Saget is mentioned in the article.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I STILL PREFER THE ONE WHERE YOU CAN MAKE GRETZKY'S HEAD BLEED: I'm not sure if this is the end of civilization as we know it, but a pair of independent-league baseball teams have come up with a promotion that's certainly "unique" and "now" -- the first two innings of the July 16 game between the Kansas City T-Bones and the Schaumburg Flyers will be played on an X-Box, by fans, on the JumboTron. And they'll count.

Here's more details from the T-Bones. Basically, it's The Last Starfighter, but with pine tar and crotch-grabbing.
VODKA V. RUM: I don't normally talk about work here, but can't resist letting you folks know that I was on the brief in a decision today out of the Second Circuit which our legal and alcoholic audiences may find interesting (albeit for somewhat different reasons)--rum won.
IT'S TIVOLICIOUS! Tonight at 10p, Nick at Nite's 20th Anniversary celebration continues with the Whitney Houston episode of 'Silver Spoons'. And tomorrow, Oprah reairs the Tom Cruise interview.

Okay, you know what I want? A night filled with Very Special Diff'rent Strokes episodes -- Nancy Reagan, Dudley And The Molester, Muhammad Ali, Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, the Knight Rider cross-over . . . someone, make this happen.
THE FUN IS KIHN-TAGIOUS! This week's Ouch, Baby, Why Are You Still Hitting Me? roster is online: Billy Vera (sans Beaters?), Club Nouveau, Glass Tiger (sans Bryan Adams?), Thelma Houston, and, yes, Greg Kihn (sans Band). But why is Kihn doing "The Breakup Song" and not "My Love's In Jeopardy"?

Suggestions for your Dream Hit Me Baby lineup -- featuring a decent mix of rock, pop, r&b and hip-hop, are welcome. Off the top of my head?
  • ABC
  • Rockwell
  • Experience Unlimited (a/k/a EU)
  • Oleta Adams
  • The Divinyls
Bring me your K's Choice, your White Town, your Timex Social Club, and go to it, folks.
WINK WINK, NUDGE NUDGE, KNOW WHAT I MEAN? Today's challenge to you, faithful readers, is a simple one--in honor of today's release of Herbie: Fully Loaded (my personal pick for "most unnecessary remake/sequel of the summer")--find the review that makes the most amusingly oblique reference to leading lady Lindsay Lohan's physical, erm, "assets." The Philadelphia Weekly review is a bit too blatant for its own good, stating that "They're also the only two reasons to see this movie," and making no bones about what the antecedent of "they" is. The Times review goes with overly subtle, referring to Lohan's "sexy, head-turning strut" (though it scores major bonus points for linking to the old Times reviews of prior Herbie films). I'm sure you can do better, dear readers--do so in the comments.
CONTINUING COVERAGE OF CANADA'S FINEST PRIME-TIME TEEN/TWEEN SOAP OPERA: Are you excited for The N's weekend-long DeGrassi marathon? I've been watching two episodes a day just so that I can whittle the impending TiVo armageddon down to manageable. And what have I learned about Canada?
1. Due to Canada's socialist tendencies, three out of five Canadian high-school students have been separated from their parents.

2. On a related note, there's something in Canada called "student welfare" where the government pays you to live alone as long as you keep your grades up. This program could have been extremely useful, say, in Seattle between 1985 and 1988.

3. As a corollary to the first two points, if you can't act and aren't particularly attractive, you have an inalienable right to work off your student welfare by appearing on DeGrassi.

4. Further to the foregoing three matters, because of Canada's excellent socialized medicine, every teen is required to undergo partial paralysis or severe head trauma before completing Grade 13.

5. Approximately 90% of the programming on The N is DeGrassi related.
Okay, that last one wasn't about Canada. But still, I defy you to find one minute of The N programming that is neither DeGrassi nor Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
BAIL BONDS IN PARADISE: Does anyone else here watch Dog, The Bounty Hunter? Mrs. Earthling and I love that show. Dog's probably my favorite reality-TV figure, except for Ish the upholstery guy from Pimp My Ride.
NOT A BUG, A FEATURE: Buddhist tough-guy Steven Seagal is being sued for $14M for showing up late and leaving early from the sets of two films. Fair enough. But the criticism that his absence created a "material and irreparable problem with story logic" is going to be hard to prove.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

IT SHOULD BE DISCUSSED, AND OFTEN, BY SOMEONE WHO KNOWS HOW: I'll stay spoiler free, for now, on the exact rankings from the AFI Top 100 Quotes list, and if you want to know them, don't click on that link.

Here's what you should know, however: I only got half of the top ten correctly, though the five quotes I erred on landed at 17, 23, 28, 42 and 48 on the list. Fans of Casablanca and Bette Davis will be well-rewarded by the program, and I have no quarrel whatsoever with the quote selected at #1, a line that, as Ray Romano (?!?) properly explains, satisfies an audience that has been waiting to hear it for four hours.

What was underrepresented in the list? Comedy, as always. No Spinal Tap, no Princess Bride. If you're interested in a Cinderella story about a former greenskeeper, you'd best have been watching the first fifteen minutes, and the highest-ranked line from a comedy came at #33 from Rob Reiner's mother in a deli. (This is to be distinguished from highest-ranked comic line; arguably, "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore" would qualify for that, or Robert Duvall's darkly comic take on the olfactory properties of wartime defoliants.)

And minorities. I count only three lines from minority actors in the whole list of 100, and Al Pacino playing a Cuban drug lord doesn't count: "They call me Mister Tibbs", "Show me the money!" and "Badges! We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges!" (And two of the three, I'd say, don't exactly paint the speaker in a good light.)

Of course, I can't make that criticism unless I can suggest ones they missed. How about Laurence Fishburne's "Show me" from The Matrix? From Denzel, "King Kong ain't got shit on me!" from Training Day, "With all due respect, your honor, we don't live in this courtroom, do we?" from Philadelphia, or about half his lines in Malcolm X? Mars Blackmon's "Please-baby-please-baby-please-baby-baby-baby-please!" Samuel L. Jackson's rendition of Ezekiel 25:17? Or a single Eddie Murphy line, whether it's "Heh heh heh", "Feeling good Louis" or Donkey's thoughts on parfait? Or a contribution from Morgan Freeman, whether it's his narration explaining Andy Dufresne's five hundred yard escape or "They used to call me Crazy Joe Clark. Well now, they can call me Batman!"

[Jen and I have argued about whether Darth Vader lines should count -- voiced by a black actor, by a guy wearing a black costume -- but Anakin Skywalker, of course, is white.]

Your thoughts, comments and whatnot are welcome. As always.

edited to add: Ann Althouse liveblogged.
BEAR IN MIND, I HAVEN'T SEEN FIRST DAUGHTER: For all the hate we've given to Katie Holmes of late, I want to take a moment and note a film that's underseen and that she's good in--The Gift (and, no, I'm not just saying that because Holmes has an extended topless scene in the movie). After small-town Southern girl Jessica King (Holmes) disappears, her parents hire a local woman with psychic gifts (Cate Blanchett) to investigate, leading to a variety of suspects, including her smarmy fiancee (Greg Kinnear), an abusive man (Keanu Reeves), and the local retarded kid (Giovanni Ribisi). With a script co-written by Billy Bob Thornton, direction by Sam Raimi, and a cast littered with H!ITG!'s, including Michael Jeter, Gary Cole, J.K. Simmons, and John Beasley, I never understood why it never got more than about 800 screens. Blanchett's performance in particular is quite good, and the others don't disappoint either. Pick it up on video--it's well worth your time.
THE RAY-BANS ON THE HORSE WERE MONEY: As part of Nick at Nite's 20th anniversary celebration, they're airing classic episodes of the TV shows of our youth. (I say "our" in quiet inclusive celebration of this blog's target audience -- overeducated urban 20-and-30somethings.) You can see the schedule here -- you've got your Growing Pains, your Facts of Life, your Cosby Show, your Cheers.

But most importantly: tonight at 11 pm Eastern Time (check your local listings), you've got perhaps the best hour of television ever. Not that Love's Labors Lost episode of ER that everyone here likes to yammer about, no sir. I'm talking about the Taming of the Shrew episode of Moonlighting, "Atomic Shakespeare."

Set those TiVos now.
THIS MOVIE BOYCOTTED BY THE AMERICAN FACIAL TISSUE INSTITUTE: The bad news, my Tivo missed a few precious minutes of last night's Lifetime premiere movie Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life, the story of a teenage All-state swimmer and honor's student who almost loses it all when he becomes obsessed with Internet porn. The good news, it airs again Thursday night. From the parts that I saw, this is a return to form for the genre of made-for-TV disease-of-the-week movies, even though it suffers somewhat from a lack of former sitcom stars, starring instead Drugstore Cowboy's Kelly Lynch in a role meant for the Nancy McKeons and Tracey Golds of the world.
THE BEST PART? KATIE HOLMES DOESN'T MAKE A SINGLE APPEARANCE IN ANY OF THEM: Just because I haven't seen Batman Begins (my wife insisted we see Cinderella Man instead on Saturday night, doesn't mean I can't get in on the Joey Potter-hatin' round here. For those of you Dark Knight novices, IGN has the The 25 Greatest Batman Graphic Novels. I've only read a couple, but I can highly reccomend Frank Miller's 1986 classic, The Dark Knight Returns, in which Batman whoops Superman's ass.

Monday, June 20, 2005

REMEMBER, I'M FIGHTING FOR THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE'S HONOR, WHICH IS PROBABLY MORE THAN THEY EVER DID: So this Tuesday night is one of my favorite nights of the summer television season, the night when CBS turns over three hours to the AFI to review the 100 Greatest [Something] In Movie History.

Last year, as we blogged, it was Songs; in 2003, Heroes and Villains.

This year, as we started discussing back last November, it's Movie Quotes.

Here's my guess as to the top ten; the last one will end up in the number one slot and the one before it in second, but all I'm confident in saying about the rest is that they'll be heard after 10:30pm:

  • I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse.
  • Go ahead, make my day.
  • Play it, Sam. Play “As Time Goes By.”
  • Plastics.
  • You don't understand! I could’ve had class. I could’ve been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.
  • Well, nobody's perfect.
  • You talkin’ to me?
  • Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
  • Rosebud.
  • There's no place like home.
[Full list of nominated quotes.] You can never go wrong betting on The Wizard of Oz in a list like this.

[I ought to add this: I don't actually think "Rosebud" is a great movie quote as much as it is a great movie concept. It's a total MacGuffin; y'all know that by now, right? It really doesn't matter at all what "Rosebud" is; it's all about the search, not the result. As Thompson says, "Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn't get, or something he lost. Anyway, I don't think it would have explained everything. I don't think any word can explain a man's life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a piece in a jigsaw puzzle... a missing piece."]

We might liveblog this thing, but we'll certainly be around to discuss afterwards. Predictions, folks?
DID YOU EVER DANCE WITH THE DEVIL BY THE PALE MOONLIGHT? Okay, so L-Cubed's Scott thinks we're a bunch of Debbie Downers because of all the hatin' here on Katie Holmes' suckitude in Batman Begins.

Y'know what? That wasn't even my big problem with the movie -- which, mind you, I liked. But maybe it's a personal tic of mine, but I prefer my Big Summer Comic Book Movies to be fun, and this movie was, instead, relentlessly grim. Which I can admire and appreciate for the consistency of its artistic vision and universe, but when push comes to shove, I prefer Tim Burton's Batman or Spider-Man over the new film because they were joyful at their heart -- in Spider-Man, from the overall bounciness and thrill of discovery and in the former via Jack Nicholson's Joker. Even in telling a story in a bleak city about vengeance, Tim Burton found a way to make us smile.

I saw Tim Burton's Batman midnight of the night before it came out, with my friend Craig. Actually, we couldn't get tickets for the midnight showing; by the time we got to the AMC Orleans at 8pm, all that was left was the 12:45am showing. (So we got tickets for that, and snuck into the midnight showing instead -- who was going to be looking at details in a crowd that large?) It remains one of the singular moviegoing experiences of my life -- I came in with no expectations, no advance critic's impressions, and was completely blown away -- even that swooping camera through the logo during the opening credits is etched in my visual memory.

I recognize that Christopher Nolan's vision is entirely consistent with the mythos of the Dark Knight, and that basically, I'm opting for pleasure over insight here. This story was truer to the source material than Burton's. Fine. But when it comes to my expectations for summer movies, is it wrong to want to have a little more fun?
AND I BELIEVE CARL LEWIS IS AVAILABLE: NBC has had such success in the Fading Celebrity reality subgenre that they've decided to get greedy. Say hello to I'm A Celebrity, But I Want To Be A Pop Star.

Better still, Fox has embraced my mantra that "if a show's good, it'll be even better on ice" by announcing its plans for Skating With Celebrities, a/k/a Dancing With The Stars If The Stars Were All On Ice Wearing Skates And Doing Flippity-Flips.

Longtime readers of this site may remember my call for an America's Next Top Figure Skater reality series, but I can settle for this as long as Katerina Witt is involved.
MORE THAN JUST OK: Radiohead's OK Computer tops Spin Magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the last 20 years. The top 10 are:
  • 1. OK Computer--Radiohead
  • 2. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back--Public Enemy
  • 3. Nevermind --Nirvana
  • 4. Slanted and Enchanted-- Pavement
  • 5. The Queen Is Dead--Smiths
  • 6. Surfer Rosa--PIxies
  • 7. 3 Feet High and Rising--De La Soul
  • 8. Sign 'O' the Times--Prince
  • 9. Rid of Me--PJ Harvey
  • 10. Straight Outta Compton-- N.W.A
WE GOT BOTH KINDS--COUNTRY AND WESTERN: Twenty-five years ago today, The Blues Brothers film opened nationwide, marking the beginning of a month-long period of generation-defining film comedies, which continued with Airplane and concluded with Caddyshack. (And this from a summer that already saw the release of The Empire Strikes Back and The Shining.)

The Chicago Sun-Times today has a fond look back at the movie the late Gene Siskel (whose newspaper affiliation the Bright One conveniently did not have room to mention) hailed as "the best movie ever made in Chicago."

Also of note, the Blues Brothers' competition at the box office its opening weekend included the debut of another big-budget movie musical--the Village People's Can't Stop the Music.
AND MOM SAYS THERE'S NO FUTURE IN THIS POP-BLOGGER RACKET: One Christopher Nelson, aka "Slick McJisman", aka "King" (for long-observed affection for large quantities of King Cobra malted beverages) has scored a six-figure annual salary to blog about The Dukes of Hazzard. Mr. Nelson is a graduate of the St. John's College Great Books Curriculum (Santa Fe Campus) and a shining example of what one can accomplish with a solid liberal arts education. I'm hoping that his diligent scholarship and research will explain how "Cooter" got that particular nickname and how the show's producers got it past the 1970s network censors, but suspect that the "position" (a one-year appointment) is just an attempt to generate buzz the upcoming Dukes movie and/or rationalize casting Jessica Simpson as Daisy therein. Rumors of a parallel position for Herbie 2005, Fully Loaded have gone unconfirmed as of this writing.
WHAT CHANCE DOES GOTHAM HAVE, WHEN THE GOOD PEOPLE CAN'T ACT? I have previously noted the Stockard Channing Syndrome, named for our fictional FLOTUS's role in Grease, in which an actor's performance so clearly outclasses the rest of the movie that it's thrilling to watch.

But piggybacking off of Matt's post, it's clear that Batman Begins has the opposite problem: a one-note, dewy-eyed and garishly nippular performance from Katie Holmes which completely detracts from the rest of the dark, three-dimensional world which she inhabits. It's so bad, it really almost ruins the movie, because you can never believe in her as a dedicated crusader for justice or a compelling love interest. (And I truly believe I'd have said this even without the bizarre news of the past month-plus. It's that bad.)

The example I always use in describing this phenomenon is Keanu Reeves' turn as Don John in Kenneth Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing, in which a buoyant, all-star romcom cast is practically ruined by Keanu's inability to do Shakespeare any justice. You wince when he's on screen.

Surely, friends, you can think of other examples in which one bad apple spoils a perfectly good film.
LONG BEFORE THERE WAS JACK BAUER, THERE WAS TEDDY HOFFMAN: I've been waiting for this for so long, I can hardly believe it's true. The first season of Steven Bochco's Murder One is now out on DVD, a mere ten years after the show initially premiered.

The concept: 15-year-old Jessica Costello, the troubled girlfriend of movie star Neil Avedon, is strangled to death. Avedon is charged with murder, and hires superstar defense attorney Ted Hoffman to defend him. Nothing is as it seems, and much of the confusion revolves around the potential involvement of bazillionaire Richard Cross, another Hoffman client with connections to the murder victim.

At the time, Murder One had a few big strikes against it, not the least of which was unfortunate scheduling (it went up against ER in ER's second season, back when it was can't-miss appointment TV). The central conceit -- follow a single murder trial over the course of a season -- was perhaps a bit ahead of its time. I'm not sure the world would have been ready for Jack Bauer in 1995, much less a way-subtle, way-understated, way-riveting performance by Daniel Benzali as the central defense attorney Ted Hoffman.

What Murder One has are some seriously wow-level performances. First and foremost, Stanley Tucci is monumentally good as is-he-the-villain-or-isn't-he Richard Cross. Add in Barbara Bosson (then Bochco's wife) as the DA prosecuting the case, Patricia Clarkson as Teddy's long-suffering wife, Jason Gedrick as the actor-turned-defendant, and so on. (Mary McCormack also appears as one of Teddy's associates, although I seem to recall that her performance aggravated me.)

Where the show ultimately lost a bit of its footing was in the attempt to find something for Teddy's various associates to do when they weren't jockeying for position to second-chair the Avedon trial. The associates' other cases tended to be a bit silly and underwritten compared to the central Avedon story. But this is a relatively modest gripe about a show that is a whole lot of fun to watch.

In a summer where the choices seem to be (1) see D-level "stars" learn to dance, (2) watch has-been musicians try to become will-be musicians, and (3) wonder how in the world Brad and Eric ever got cast as geeks in a world that contains unsalvageable wack-job Richard, there are far, far worse things you can do than spend 23 hours watching Murder One. My DVDs arrive on Wednesday.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

VIVA LAS VEGAS: Thanks to you folks' fine suggestions, I'll be heading for Las Vegas next weekend. As I've never been, I'll open up this thread for you folks to suggest exciting and fun things to do there that (ideally) don't involve dropping huge sums of money at the poker or blackjack tables or fighting with those one-armed bandits.