Saturday, July 3, 2010

CHUCK, IT'S YOUR COUSIN MARVIN. MARVIN BERRY. YOU REMEMBER THAT NEW SOUND YOU WERE LOOKING FOR? WELL, LISTEN TO THIS: One of the most enjoyable, inventive films I've ever seen -- and one whose optimistic we-can-fix-it attitude is quintessentially American, even if it stars a Canadian -- Back to the Future was released in theaters twenty-five years ago today, July 3, 1985.

Related, from the archives: Miriam Paschal on the screenplay ("Marty is more an anti-hero than a real hero. Just like Dorothy, he travels to another time, or dimension, by accident, and his whole journey from there is just to get back home."); Steven Hyden on the power of "The Power of Love"; Chuck Klosterman on "Johnny B. Goode" and what it means to be "an oldie where I come from."

Friday, July 2, 2010

AVAILABLE AT 10, 2, and 4: At least for a limited time, Dr Pepper (my soda of choice) will offer an old school product, with packaging and slogans inspired by earlier years, and with sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener. Dr Pepper is unique in that sugar-based soda (as opposed to HFCS) continues to be available regardless--at least within 44 miles of Dublin, Texas.
WHO WANTS TO BE JOE BLANTON? IT MIGHT BE YOU: After much delay and uncertainty, the screen adaptation on Moneyball starts filming in two weeks. Newly added to the cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman as A's manager Art Howe, Robin Wright as Billy Beane's ex-wife and Stephen Bishop -- not the yacht rocker, but an actor who played Locke's physical therapist on "Lost" and looks a lot like David Justice -- as veteran slugger David Justice.

Brad Pitt remains A's general manager Billy Beane, with Jonah Hill stretching out of his comfort zone by playing a nerd --A's assistant GM Paul DePodesta.
... AND HE WILL GET A JOB WHERE HE INFLUENCES A GREAT GOD-FEARING NATION AND HE WILL NEVER DO AN EVIL THING. HE WILL JUST BIT BY LITTLE BIT LOWER STANDARDS WHERE THEY ARE IMPORTANT. JUST COAX ALONG FLASH OVER SUBSTANCE, JUST A TINY BIT. AND HE WILL TALK ABOUT ALL OF US REALLY BEING SALESMEN: All I was going to do was discuss the oddness of hearing Holly Hunter's distinctive voiceover in a recent Got Milk? ad, but this comprehensive list of all celebrities doing commercial voiceover work is rather stunning. Really, Sarsgaard? And Alec Baldwin is a remarkably busy man.
SMOTHERING AMERICA, CHUNK BY CHUNK: A map of America based on residents per Waffle House.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

ANNE MURRAY TOO: Last Canada Day, we generated 62 comments on things y'all like about ONttN. So go ahead, and tell us something you don't like about Canada, and I've got dibs on their fake October Thanksgiving and, of course, their flappy heads.
SO WHEN I'M IN YA NEIGHBORHOOD YA BETTER DUCK, 'CAUSE ICE CUBE IS CRAZY AS WHAT? To the ever-increasing list of reasons why a guy who doesn't watch late night TV appreciates the fact that Jimmy Fallon has one, we now must add Ice Cube (and MC Ren!) and the Roots on somebody's iPhone warming up the crowd with a so-loose-so-tight, electrifying "Straight Outta Compton." It wasn't recorded for the show (which aired last month), but Fallon will air the footage when it reruns.
BUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THOSE TOSSED SALADS AND SCRAMBLED EGGS -- THEY'RE CALLING AGAIN: Excellent episode of SYTYCD last night, aided by nice choreography, the absence of at least one overused choreographer, and some pretty good pairings. My short summaries after the jump:
IN YOUR SATIN TIGHTS, FIGHTING FOR YOUR RIGHTS: The WaPo's Robin Givhan (plus historical gallery) and EW's Darren Franich evaluate Wonder Woman's makeover.
CHRISTMAS MORNING AT SPORTS GUY MANSION: Welcome to the most exciting NBA free agent period -- hell, any sport free agent period -- that I can ever recall. News, predictions, advice ... post it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

IT KIND OF LOOKS LIKE THEY'RE FIGHTING: Remember all the lousy reviews for "Grown Ups"? They've been supplanted, because M. Night Shyalaman's back in theaters tomorrow:
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: "'The Last Airbender' is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that."

Tony Scott, NYT: "'The Last Airbender'? Let’s hope so, though there is a scene at the very end that gestures toward a sequel. After 94 minutes — was that all? I could have sworn it was days — of muddy 3-D imagery and muddled storytelling, the idea that this is just the first'“Last Airbender' seems either delusionally optimistic or downright cruel. An astute industry analyst of my acquaintance, who is 9 and an admirer of the Nickelodeon animated series on which the movie is based, offered a two-word diagnosis of its commercial prospects on the way out of the theater: 'They’re screwed.'"

Keith Phipps, AV Club: "A lot of headache-inducing CGI-effects sequences, many scenes of children doing tai chi, and some imperiled magical fish.... Shyamalan lets his unimpressive special effects do the work for him while coaxing performances from his young cast that make Jake Lloyd’s performance in The Phantom Menace look studied. (Star Noah Ringer, who plays a messianic figure who might unite the warring forces, delivers his lines as if reading a book report, and his older co-stars don’t fare much better.)"

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer: "Shyamalan compresses a ton of plot exposition in every line and the resulting heavyosity is too much for the younger actors to carry. At many points I was reminded of Harrison Ford's crack to George Lucas on the set of Star Wars: 'You can type this [stuff], George, but you sure can't say it.'"
Previously: our "Lady in the Water" turkey shoot; Fienberg on the greatest line in "The Happening"; the time in June 2008 when I said "What I'd like to see is simple: Shyamalan directing someone else's script. He is a great visual stylist -- and (with a significant assist from composer James Newton Howard) a fantastic creator and sustainer of mood -- who is fallen by his own dumbass script decisions. (Really: "Those We Don't Speak Of"?) If someone were to take away some of that decisionmaking from him and allow Shyamalan to focus on what he does well, I think some fantastic films could result."

Oops. [Added: Double oops. I actually thought he didn't write this script. He did. My bad.]
TEAM WHO CARES: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is now officially the highest grossing movie from midnight showings ever, having picked up more than $30 million last night (and another $2.8M from the Twilight and New Moon showings some theatres offered), with attendees including Sen. Amy Klobuchar . With reviews more favorable than the prior two installments and a fanbase comprised in no small part of younger folks who might not have been awake for a midnight showing, this could make a run at the Dark Knight record.
SHE HIDES COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IN A BURRITO: NPR examines the striking similarities between Lady Gaga's "Alejandro" and Ace of Base's "Don't Turn Around."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

WE HAVE YET AGAIN BEEN EGREGIOUSLY OVERLOOKED: Based on what I'm sure was an accurate, adequate, and well-designed survey, Time gives us a list of the "best" and "most essential" blogs of the year, as well as a list of "overrated" ones. We're not on any of the lists, but I'm sure you have suggestions for other essentials, as well as places where Time got it wrong (Double X over Jezebel in the post-post-post-post-feminist (I think that's where they fall, but I may be off by a "post" or two) blog space seems a contentious choice), so let's do our own survey here in the comments. (Note: we make no claims as to the statistical reliability of such a survey.)
POP CULTURE AND ECONOMICS DESK: With news that she's about to be cast as the female lead on the Criminal Minds spinoff, it's time to ask "what is the Pareto-optimal use of Janeane Garofalo?"
I ENJOY HAVING BREAKFAST IN BED. I LIKE WAKING UP TO THE SMELL OF BACON -- SUE ME. AND SINCE I DON'T HAVE A BUTLER, I HAVE TO DO IT MYSELF: My initial reaction to the news that Steve Carell will be leaving "The Office" at the end of this season, his seventh, is that it's pretty impressive he's stayed with the show this long given his successful film career. This isn't someone like David Caruso, Shelley Long or George Clooney who's leaving a show under the belief that he could become a movie star; Steve Carell already is.

But what a character he's created on the show. Flawed like David Brent, but wholly in his own ways. As I wrote three years ago, "Michael Scott is, at his core, a child who desperately seeks to be the center of attention and believes he's cool enough to deserve it, though he's oblivious to how others see him," but he's also surprisingly smart about his business when it matters, forcing David Wallace to blink against the mighty power of the Michael Scott Paper Company.

I do think his exit is a good thing for the show. Last season just wasn't entertaining, and the process of writing Carell's exit from the show and rethinking office dynamics going forward hopefully will impel the producers to recognize what works for these characters, and bring in someone new to shake things up again.

I don't know how to replace him on the show. Alan Sepinwall has some thoughts on it, and I'm much more strongly inclined to look from outside the show than within. In Michael Scott, Steve Carell has already given us a rich, multifaceted gem of a comic character, and I do believe that a show which has given us as many memorable moments and characters as "The Office" has can do it again. "Cheers" replaced Coach and Diane, after all.

Monday, June 28, 2010

SEARCHING FOR A DISTANT STAR, HEADING OFF TO ISCANDAR: Remake "The A-Team"? Eh. "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" movies? Who cares.

But based on my earlier research, I know there's sufficient interest here to point folks towards the trailer for the upcoming live-action Space Battleship Yamato movie. Our! Star! Blazers! are hitting the big screen, and if there's any justice in this world, a poorly-dubbed version will make its way stateside in 2011.
THE SURVIVAL OF EVERYONE ON BOARD DEPENDS ON JUST ONE THING: FINDING SOMEONE ON BOARD WHO CAN NOT ONLY FLY THIS PLANE, BUT WHO DIDN'T HAVE FISH FOR DINNER: That's actually not just a quote from Airplane! but from Zero Hour!, the 1957 film upon which it's based. How closely? Take a look:

THE THIRD ESCOBAR: I have to apologize to the makers and fans of Glee, which I frequently call the laziest-written show on television. Last night I caught the season premiere of Entourage, and I went, "oh, yeah, now that is the laziest-written show on television." Allow me to relate the plot of last night's episode:

Turtle is running a sexy-driver car service. Excellent business model. Apart from the expense account unreimbursability, how much ogling can one do from the back seat, where all one can see of the driver is the back of the head and whatever is reflected in the rear-view mirror? Turtle sexually harasses his worst driver.

Eric ineffectually makes three phone calls.

Drama doesn't get a new show.

Vinnie Chase is an action hero in an expensive-looking scarf. He doesn't want to do his own stunt, but tells only his agent and manager, and refuses to tell the director. He eventually does the stunt, but messes it up and breaks character, shrieking "the brakes don't work!" in mid-air (maybe the brake pedal got caught on his scarf?), and almost killing the director. Nobody notices. Vince is triumphant.
AND YOU GET A LIFETIME OF FREE DVD SCREENERS TO BOOT! The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has invited 135 new members to join the Oscar electorate. It's heavy on recent nominees (Carey Mulligan, Gabourey Sidbe, Jeremy Renner, and Anna Kendrick all make the list off their nominations from last year), but a few surprises--Tobin Bell? Adam Sandler? Ryan Reynolds? Bono and The Edge? And then there are people who you would have thought were already in--for instance, Davis Guggenheim, who already has an Oscar, was only asked to join this year, and I would have thought Peter Sarsgaard would have been in long ago. Any other surprises you see?
WELL, YOUR MISTAKE IN CALLING ME "JUDGE" IS ALSO MADE IN ARTICLE III OF THE CONSTITUTION, BY THE WAY: In honor of John Paul Stevens' retirement today from a career in public service which began on December 6, 1941, as a cryptographer for the United States Navy and included almost forty years in the federal judiciary (and almost thirty-five as a Supreme), name your favorite bow-tie wearers.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

O'ER THE LAMPARD WE WATCHED: I defer to you -- tell me how to fix World Cup refereeing.