Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My wife reads "People" so you don't have to: Olivia Wilde in "Tron"

It's been a while since a copy of my wife's "People" magazine fell off the counter and opened itself up to a page directly in front of me (you do realize, of course, that's the only way I ever read it), but a bit in the cover-dated January 11 issue struck me.

In the Movies section, "3 Questions for...Tron's Olivia Wilde" leads with, "Did you have a say in your sleek Tron look?"

And Ms. Wilde replies, "I was researching Joan of Arc and wanted an androgynous warrior look, not long hair and huge boobs."

Uh...did she think about asking the rest of us what we wanted?

Joan of Arc=great historical figure, terrible box office draw. You don't see teenage males rushing to Spencer's for posters of Joan of Arc and her androgynous warrior look.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Kill the burn, Cody!

Some children grow up harboring dreams of becoming an airline pilot. Some fantasize about designing or engineering a sophisticated new type of aircraft. Well, when I was a child, my dominant ambition was to someday watch a movie in which Lee Majors piloted a sophisticated new type of aircraft designed by Hal Linden. Thanks to THIS-TV's recent airing of "Starflight One," I have finally lived my boyhood dream.

Before I discuss this 1983 sci-fi/disaster epic, I should point out that I saw a truncated version. In fact, it must be wayyyyy edited down because originally it aired as a 3-hour movie, and THIS crams it into a two-hour slot. I generally check out movies' running times before taping them off THIS because they tend to wield either the scissors or the compressors (whatever device they use) liberally.

I've never seen Michael J. Fox snort cocaine--I was a sheltered child in the eighties, too wrapped up in my dreams of seeing Lee Majors/Hal Linden movies to experience such worldly events--and so I was going to check out "Bright Lights, Big City" on THIS one night, but when a 118-minute movie is shown in a two-hour timeslot with commercials, you know more than a few scenes are gonna be missing, and likely some cocaine-snorting ones.

I can't imagine what is missing from the edited version of "Starflight One," but I suspect it's a lot of shots of the craft...floating. That and maybe Kirk Cameron's entire part, because I saw him in the credits but not in the actual movie. Of course, it's entirely possible I was just distracted by the sight of the two old pros Linden and Majors at the top of their games.

Linden designs the commercial passenger ship--the hypersonic commercial passenger ship--Majors flies it, and they and a group of passengers deal with DISASTER when a near-fatal collision with a rogue rocket launch (trust me, the guys that do the launch are just schmucks, and this element of the story isn't nearly as cool as the phrase "rogue rocket launch" indicates) screws up everything and pushes them out of the atmosphere, forcing them to buy time in orbit while everyone scrambles to figure out what to do. See, the hypersonic craft can't re-enter the atmosphere to land because of the lack of something or other. Look, I don't remember the details. All I know is that when Majors, as Captain Cody Briggs, is trying to get the big hypersonic hunk of parts under control, we see a nervous Linden in his seat, saying to himself, "Kill the burn, Cody! Kill the burn!"

THAT'S your movie right there.

I want this to become an iconic phrase. It should be already, of course, but I'm willing to ignore the ignorance of all those who have let this movie languish in obscurity for so long. It's time to look to the future, and while that future might not include hybrid airplane/space shuttle vehicles anytime soon, it CAN involve t-shirts, bumper stickers, and tattoos emblazoned with the phrase, "Kill the burn, Cody!"

I don't even know what that means, but I know cool when I hear it. Lauren Hutton and Ray Milland are also in this film, but neither one of them says "Kill the burn, Cody," so let's not dwell on them.

Kill the burn, Cody!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It ain't rocket science: David E. Kelley's Wonder Woman

Reportedly, no network is interested in David E. Kelley's proposed take on a Wonder Woman TV series. How can they not make this work? I mean, yeah, many of us are over Kelley, and I can't give any exec too much heat for telling him to take a hike if his pitch involves making Diana Prince a lawyer with a bunch of wacky colleagues, but...

I mean, it's not difficult, right? How tough can it be to make this work? I'm not talking a big blockbuster feature film that requires a bunch of families to go see it to make the money back. What I'm saying is, here's how you make a Wonder Woman TV series: 1) Find a hot actress who is willing to wear the costume. 2) Put her in the costume for most of the 42 minutes of program each week. 3) Repeat.

That's enough to get 18-34-year-old men, and isn't that the only audience advertisers care about now?

You know, I'm asking a lot of questions in this post, answers to which I already know the answer, and if there's anything I know from watching David E. Kelley's shows, it's...ah, actually, it's something involving a dwarf, a set of triplets each of whom have Asperger Syndrome, and a courtly elderly black gentleman who hates black people.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why I don't watch the "American Idol" audition episodes

Well, for one thing, I don't watch "American Idol," so, you know, there's that.

But also, consider this: When they play all those clips of the terrible singers making fools of themselves while the judges giggle or make faces, either...

A) The singers are in on it and are faking it, which means it's really not all that funny

B) The singers are not in on it and they're seeing their dreams disintegrate in the form of a spectacular mocking on national television, which means it's really not all that funny.

And Steven Tyler is kinda scaring me, too, by the way.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lights Out

Don't you do it again, FX! Don't you put on a show that's all, like, GOOD and stuff, then cancel it...or, uh, not renew it after sticking with it through its original allotted amount of episodes.

Yeah, I'm still dealing with the loss of "Terriers," and it's affecting the way I look at other television programs. Last Tuesday night, FX debuted a new hourlong drama series, "Lights Out." I watched that program and quite enjoyed it. Too many Americans, however, neither watched it nor enjoyed it. I would like to believe that had more people watched it, but maybe the country just isn't in the mood for a boxing-related drama, even if it is a quality one.

But FX shouldn't be in the business of programming for the American people; it should be in the business of programming for ME. And me, well, I liked the pilot episode. Sure, the show is loaded with familiar elements--OK, cliches if you're less kind--but I like those elements when they come together well.

Unfortunately, the numbers for that pilot episode were weak, and now I'm already worried that the series is dead in the water. I can see that heartbreak and letdown lie ahead. Well, plus a batch of quality TV episodes.

I think the plan will be for me to go ahead and watch this show each week, then be disappointed when it isn't renewed. Sounds good, everyone? All right, break!

(Of course, some of you COULD watch it yourselves and--but, no, no, I ask too much of you as it is. Forget I said anything, really. But it is a good show.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In theaters this weekend...

Green Hornet: I'm just not in the mood to see a "light" take on the Green Hornet, particularly one with Seth Rogen. I don't wish him ill or anything, but I don't wish to see two hours of him in an action movie, either. I'd give the guy a fair chance if the movie weren't all jokey and wise-ass, but every preview I've seen indicates the movie is pretty much all jokey and wise-ass. I don't know what to make of Michael Gondry's involvement, either, but I am starting to wonder if the idea of Directed by Michael Gondry is much more appealing than the execution of Directed by Michael Gondry.

The Dilemma: I was wondering for weeks why there was any kind of dilemma in this movie. Vince Vaughn sees Kevin James' wife cheating on him, and he apparently wrestles with the decision of whether or not to tell him. Of course you tell him in that situation, right? That is, unless there are extenuating circumstances, like that when you saw the cheating, you were looking in a mirror because you're the one sleeping with your buddy's wife. I wondered for a while if maybe that was the dilemma: that Vince Vaughn, who is married to Jennifer Connelly in this story, thinks if he withholds this info from Kevin James, he can somehow parlay it into a 3-way with James' wife, Winona Ryder (Incidentally, the guys are already doing pretty well for themselves in this scenario, 3-way, cheating, or otherwise).

Well, it turns out that there is more to it than I initially knew. Mild SPOILERS here: Winona is practicing ~sexual blackmail~ on Vaughn so he won't squeal (I don;t know if it really qualifies as such, but she threatens him, and sexual blackmail is so much more fun to write than just regular blackmail). Plus Vince and Kev work together, and Kevin has some big-deal project in the works that could go kablooey if James finds out about the infidelity and, instead of shrugging and thinking, "Well, I had a good run with such a hot wife for being such a big schlub," falls to pieces and gets all clingy about it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

MLB Network does it again

MLB Network has another solid offseason programming addition with its "20 Greatest Games" series. Each Monday night, the channel spotlights one of the ranked games of the last 50 yars chosen by an online poll in an hourlong presentation combining archival video, audio from multiple broadcasts of the game, discussions with hosts Bob Costas and Tom Verducci, and interviews with participants.

It's a fun way to spend an hour, and while I'd wish for more old-school and rarer games, and I'm kind of sad this has apparently supplanted "All-Time Games," which offered complete games, I think this is a great idea. This past week's look at a Giants-Marlins playoff game from 2003 was OK, but the week before was a riot.

#20 was a super-high-scoring regular season Phillies-Cubs affair from May 1979, and Costas, Verducci, and guest (and then-Phillies SS) Larry Bowa had a great time looking back at it. Best was when they chuckled along with some of the frustrated announcing clips of exasperated Cubs play-by-player Jack Brickhouse.

The series delivers all the key plays but also finds time for notable un-key plays, like Cubs long reliever (later Tigers closer and MVP) Willie Hernandez swinging and missing horribly in a rare at-bat. Costas and Verducci strike the right tone in showing reverence for the games but having fun with them as well.

I highly recommend this program to any hardcore baseball fan, and I also recommend that NFL Network do something like this. How is it that despite the incredible dominance that pro football has in our culture right now, the MLB Network can so totally slay the NFL Network? With the resources of the amazing NFL empire, plus the machine that is NFL Films, that channel should be much, much better than it is. But despite several high-profile successes like "America's Game" and the recent Top 100 Players of All Time series, there is a real lack of originality going on there, and the channel seems content to run "Total Access" and "Top 10" all the time.

Friday, January 14, 2011

This Week in DVD

It's another slow week, so we'll be in and out of here quickly.

The Social Network: Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher team up to offer a take on the creation of Facebook. The scary thing is, if you're on Facebook, somebody somewhere can probably figure out whether or not you've seen "The Social Network." And how much you paid for it. And what you got at the concession counter.

Piranha: If it ain't in 3-D, what's the use of watching this at home?

Alpha and Omega: Why in the world would you name a kids' cartoon after what sounds like a fraternity rush week event?

The Green Hornet: Nothing against the old serial--which is the content of this VCI release--but that's been available before. Meanwhile, if the new movie isn't gonna get the 1960s TV show on DVD, what will?

Hot in Cleveland Season 1: Betty White=Money. Therefore, I expect this to the number-two-selling TV show on DVD OF ALL TIME. Trailing only "Tabitha."

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Season 4 Volume 2: It's been a looooong time coming for this final batch of episodes. Wouldn't it be funny if Fox produced a super-limited number of sets, then made this go OOP in like a month? No? No, it wouldn't would it? Not even a little?

All in the Family Season 8: There's a funny thread on the Shout! Factory message boards about a DVD encoding issue on Season 7, with fans complaining about it, the Shout rep getting defensive, more fans defending the company, and fans still griping about the issue. I just thought I'd mention it because it is sort of amusing. One would think it won't happen again with Season 8, but one never can be sure.

Louis CK: Hilarious: I was going to go the easy route and watch this on Comedy Central, even knowing it would be censored, until I noticed the run time on the disc is 84 minutes. Comedy Central is showing it in a 60-minute time slot with commercials. Uh, I'll wait for the DVD, thank you.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Should You Watch: Bob's Burgers

There are way too many talented people involved in the production of "Bob's Burgers" for the show to be so bad, but, wow, that first episode of the new Fox animated sitcom was a real stinker. I thought maybe it was going for that edgy but with heart kind of thing, but it just came off as unfunny and crude.

Even if H. Jon Benjamin was the only talented individual involved in the show, that would still be too many to waste. His voicework as Bob, family man and owner of the titular food joint, can't elevate the subpar writing. I wanted to like this, unlike my wife, who predicted that I would laugh at the show, then record it, secretly watch it, and quietly continue with it from that point on. Well, I was up front about recording it and checking it out, and now I'm up front about not wanting to give it a second week.

I can't point to one specific moment that turned me off, but at the beginning when one of Bob's children complained that her crotch was itching, I kind of got the feeling it wasn't gonna be a pleasant half-hour. The whole experience of watching the pilot is off-putting. The visuals aren't appealing, the gags aren't appealing, and even the voices aren't appealing. The plot of the first episode, in which a health inspector threatens to shut down the place amid rumors that human flesh is in the burgers, might have potential, but it isn't executed well.

It's not that I automatically dislike crude fast food humor with limited animation--I'm a Beavis and Butt-head fan, after all--but "Bob's Burgers" doesn't do it for me.

You SHOULD watch "Bob's Burgers" if:

*You think that by watching it, you'll get Joe Buck to shut up about it during Sunday NFL games.
*You have been waiting for a fast food comedy to fill a void in your heart ever since "Life on a Stick" was canceled.
*You think H. Jon Benjamin is such an awesome voice actor that he's worth listening to even if the material isn't great (You know, I'm not being facetious; this is actually a pretty good reason).
*You get a kick out of hearing males give voice to female characters.
*You think the movie "Alive" is a laugh riot.
*The notion of a half-hour block on Fox Sunday night that is NOT animated is too terrifying to contemplate.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Coming soon...and making me laugh

*Those endless NBC promos for "Harry's Law"
--I laughed when my buddy told me David E. Kelley was behind this apparently "quirky" legal show. "It figures!" I thought. But I also laughed in self-deprecating acknowledgment of my own lack of awareness. How could this NOT have been from David E. Kelley? I don't think that NBC is exactly trumpeting that fact, though. You know, a simple "from David E. Kelley" would suffice, or maybe just a still photo of Fyvush Finkel, I don't know.

*"The Dilemma"
--Speaking of "What do you have to hide?" it cracks me up that I saw about 10 ads for "The Dilemma," the new Vince Vaughn-Kevin James schlubfest, before realizing it was a Ron Howard Joint. Come on, Ron, don't be shy, put your name on this thing! Or is it that Universal fears the zany madcapitude of "The Dilemma" will be diminished if viewers are conscious of the involvement of an auteur like Ron Howard?

*"The Chicago Code" on Fox
--Every time I hear Jennifer Beals talk about the "MAHB," I just laugh. I really do.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

One good reason to watch Antenna TV: Totally Tooned In

I don't think I have enough space to explain the deal with the origins of the "Totally Tooned In" syndication package--well, OK, I have plenty of space, but I don't have the inclination. Let me just say it's a batch of 65 half-hour collections of 3 vintage Columbia/UPA cartoons each, and it's now running on Antenna TV in a 6-episode (!) block each Saturday morning. Click here for the full story.

I watched some of these today, then watched some more with my little girl. They are both appropriate and inappropriate for her, and that's the great thing about these 'toons.

It's cool seeing the original Mr. Magoo, but the real highlight for me is the "Fox and Crow" series scattered throughout this package. It's good, old-fashioned confrontational cartoon fun (it's really more like Fox VERSUS Crow) with a little of the old ultraviolence for us traditionalists.

The first one I saw today featured the two animals warring over a grape, and though that may not sound like much, let me assure it was a refreshing dose of animated mayhem in a society that seems to have moved away from that kind of stuff in programming that airs during the kiddie hours. This particular short, for example, featured the Fox pulling a gun on Crow, Crow smoking a cee-gar the whole time, and both repeatedly slamming each other with blunt objects.

This Fox and Crow stuff has fast become my favorite cartoon on Antenna, even surpassing "Too Close for Comfort," although I will admit it's tough to top the mugging Ted Knight does on THAT show.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Last Week and This Week in DVD

The American: George Clooney gets all 70s-ish and COOL in this 70s-ish cool thriller. I don't know, when I think of the 1970s, I think gas shortages, inflation, and disco. I don't know if movies should try to recapture that decade's sensibility.

Resident Evil: Afterlife: These movies keep on coming. Part of me knows that Milla Jovovich does star in other films not in this series, but part of me refuses to believe that.

Archer Season 1: I wanted to love this FX animated spy comedy with H. Jon Benjamin, but not only did I not, I didn't even come back to watch it again. Should I give it another chance?

Classic TV Comedies of the 50s: Alpha Video issued another handful of old-school television releases this week, including a "Meet Corliss Archer" volume, but this one interests me because A) it consists of 4 episodes of the TV version of "The Great Gildersleeve" and B) Alpha didn't just call it "Great Gildersleeve." Seems weird. Some kind of licensing/copyright issue, maybe?

WWE: Bobby Heenan: Hopefully this release does justice to one of the funniest and most colorful personalities in pro wrestling history, a guy who could make dumb things hilarious just through his commitment to his character and his delivery. I'd like to see more about his pre-WWF days, too, though obviously I'm sure this release will concentrate on the 1980s managerial days.

Dinner for Schmucks: Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell = hilarious on paper. But this isn't a paper, it's a movie, and from the clips I saw, eh, not so hilarious.

Machete: I may not be crazy about Robert Rodriguez's output, but I have to admire the guy for seemingly making whatever he wants whenever he wants and not caring about much other than his fanbase. Plus anyone who makes a Danny Trejo vehicle probably deserves some kind of praise.

Rocky and Bullwinkle Complete Series: OK, the countdown to the distinct season 5 release that ought to be coming so fans don't have to repurchase the first 4 seasons starts right...NOW! Well, actually, a few days ago, but the point is it's ON.

Ricky Gervais Show Season 1: Another animated comedy I wanted to love but didn't. I listened to the podcasts and found the material funnier in that format. Yet now I read that it's on DVD and I feel like giving it another shot.

Mannix Season 4: The theme song is already in my head. I really like this show, but I'm way behind in watching the DVDs. Hmm. Maybe I ought to focus more on the shows that I know I enjoy rather than pondering second chances for the shows I don't.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Things Only I Want to See: Night Ranger

A friend and I were talking about seminal 1980s band Night Ranger the other day. Why? Hey, like we need a reason to talk about Night Ranger.

Anyway, the discussion, mostly focusing on the ridiculousness of the "Sister Christian" video, made me realize that I want to see a big Night Ranger comeback, but not just a triumphant world tour and maybe new album. I want to see a big 3-D Imax concert film to immortalize that tour, and I want that film to be directed by Martin Scorcese.

"Martin Scorcese Presents: Night Ranger: (You Can Still) Rock in America" would be the cinematic event of the year. I want this movie to be shot with a big budget, with cameras out the wazoo, with no holds barred.

I want the hits, I want headbands, and I want that drummer guy with the un-rock name of "Kelly" to rock out on vocals when appropriate. And while Jack Blades is a must, I also want that original keyboardist who I used to think looked Michael O'Donoghue even when I didn't really know who Michael O'Donoghue was. I understand he's out of the band right now. Get him back.

I want the music and the band to be prominent, of course, but I want to see the celebrities. Like, in between songs, we'd see big shots like Jack Nicholson and Leo DiCaprio addressing the camera about why they love Night Ranger and how they wouldn't miss this event for the world.

I want a limited release in L.A. and New York to build buzz, followed by a huge release all over America, which will presumably be still rockin' by then.

Tell me THAT isn't gonna be a clear-your-schedule, get-a-babysitter, brave-the-crowds kind of happening! Make it happen, Marty. Do it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Speaking on Sports (on TV)

ITEM: I watch ESPN "30 for 30" episode on the remarkable story of college great Marcus Dupree.
--This is a fine entry in the excellent documentary series, but it maybe could have been an hour instead of a two-hour program. Still, Jonathan Hock's film is a revealing look at Dupree, who showed immense talent and skill as a running back at Oklahoma before leaving the school--I mean, boarding a plane during the middle of the season immediately after a big game and flying back home--then jumping to the USFL before tearing up his knee.

Think how many parts of that sentence make little sense today, some 25-plus years later: leaving a school like that in season, the USFL, and ending your career with "just" a knee injury. This story is a great time capsule of early 80s football, but it also says things about the player/coach relationship, the crooked world of recruiting, and, yes, race (Dupree hails from infamous Philadelphia, Mississippi) that are relevant today.

When watching then-coach of OU Barry Switzer discuss Dupree, even my wife said he sounded like Switzer treated him poorly. I kind of chuckled and thought, "Yeah, figures--it's Switzer." Then I paused and figured, well, Dupree DID walk out on Oklahoma, and it's no wonder his coach was ticked. Then I paused again and realized, "Nah, it's just Switzer."

ITEM: ESPN fires NCAA football announcer Ron Franklin for making offensive comments to a female colleague during production meeting for Fiesta Bowl.
--I'll accept some blame for this, not because I was anywhere near there, nor do I condone his actions, but I may have jinxed him. While watching a game last week, I somehow got the urge to blurt out something offensive during a play--well, actually, I got the urge to hear an announcer say something offensive during a play--and I pondered who would be the funniest ESPN football announcer to hear say something like that. Guess who I pictured?

I don't know, maybe I had Franklin's history, including a chauvinist-sounding exchange with another female sideline reporter a few years back in my subconscious, but I just thought it would be funny to hear Franklin say something incongruous, silly, and possibly profane out of the blue during a telecast. Unfortunately, he decided to say something stupid at work, and we didn't even get to him hear him make an ass of himself on live TV, so really, nothing good came out of it at all.

ITEM: NFL Network "Top 10" episode counts down greatest Pittsburgh Steelers of all time.
--I enjoyed this on Christmas Eve, but the presentation of the countdown baffled me. Most of the individual segments on the featured players devoted much of the allotted time to showing talking heads griping about the player's placement. I guess NFL Network is trying to "get people talking" and "be edgy" and all that crap. I'd rather the show just put together a list, defend it, and maybe have a segment with people making arguments about the overall list. But why waste time in the rankings with the likes of Mark Madden saying, "There's no way Hines Ward should be on this list," or whatever? Love the idea of a Steelers program on Christmas Eve, NFL Net, but the execution was a little off.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's like it never even happened

It's great having tons of stuff available "on demand" through Netflix Instant Watching, but the programming doesn't last forever, you know. I was glancing at my streaming queue the other day when I noticed a couple dozen or so titles were expiring January 1, so I figured it was time for me to finally see Woody Allen's "Radio Days" while it was "free."

Unfortunately, my eyelids won out over the Woodman's delightful, nostalgic look at growing up in the days of Old-Time Radio, and I bailed after 10 minutes before I just fell asleep for good. That was Thursday night. Last night was New Year's Eve, and I just couldn't make time for the film--or any film, for that matter--when the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block were performing on ABC. So I never got back to it.

The weird thing is that when I log onto my Netflix account now, "Radio Days" doesn't show up in a search anymore, and even more bizarre, it isn't in the "Recently Watched" row on my Roku screen. It's like the movie never even existed. I mean, I know I was tired Thursday night, but not so tired as to hallucinate the first 10 minutes of a Woody Allen movie...at least not one of his post early-1970s ones.

I know I missed my chance, but it just seems odd that the movie has not just been deactivated but eradicated. No "Radio Days" for you! Don't even think about trying to stream it!

UPDATE: Mere minutes after posting this, I got an e-mail from Netflix asking, "How was the picture quality in Radio Days?" So they admit, it DID happen! Unfortunately, there is no option for me to respond, "It was fine until you yanked it from the service and I couldn't see the rest of it," so I did not reply.