Saturday, December 03, 2005

Condolences to Ben

My friend Ben lost his grandfather this week after an illness, and I know he's in pain right now. Just wanted to tell him to try and keep his chin up when he's feeling better. Posted by Picasa

I Would Be a Terrible Father

And here I find myself, at the age of 29, dreaming about having babies and taking care of children. Everyone I talk to agrees that the reason for this is that my girlfriend and I adopted a rabbit two months ago, and I suppose it is. And yet, for some reason, I can't get the notion of fatherhood out of my mind.

But the rabbit is also an indicator of how bad I would be at taking care of a child on a day-in day-out basis. This rabbit, Thumper, is a year and a half old, and his previous owners didn't exactly lavish care upon him (when we adopted him he still had stains on his fur from sitting in his own urine). He's still aloof and shy; it's only been recently that, when he's out of his cage, he lays on the floor instead of hiding behind the floor-length blinds. He doesn't like us to pet him very much, and he'll bite you before he lets you pick him up. And some days, it just frustrates me how much he just seems to refuse to let me touch him, and my first reaction is to just get mad and stop taking care of him. I don't yell at him or anything lame like that; I just start to ignore him and I get a little upset.

Why does this bother me so much? Is it because I'm afraid that at he's never going to get used to me? Sometimes I manage to convince myself that he just doesn't like me and doesn't want me to touch him. Maybe I just suck with pets; deep down, I'm afraid to have them, because all of my pets died or were taken away from me. And this is just a rabbit! Can you imagine if it was a baby? I guess I just don't have the patience for that.

Besides, the only thing I've ever concretely said about having children is that if I had a daughter I would let her invite as many girlfriends as she wanted for sleepovers as often as she wanted, and that I would spank her until she was twenty years old. So, I'm not exactly father material, yeah?

Friday, December 02, 2005

King Kong Is Walking Down Times Square Again

I just cannot wait for this movie. Wonderful image here. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

A Disney Channel movie starring Danielle Panabaker and cutie Brenda Song as suburban girls who find the PDA of a pop star and basically fuck with the guy's schedule. I find the notion of a tortured, soulful pop star pretty hilarious. And I'm starting to get offended by the fact that every kid you see in Disney Channel movies lives in lower-upper class splendor in the richest suburbs an obscenely wealthy country like America can produce. What, poor people don't have any problems? Lower-middle class kids don't watch Disney? Otherwise, this film is notable for two reasons. One, the budget-breaking pop soundtrack, which is huge for a Disney Channel movie and apparently did quite well (even though it's just a collection of instantly disposable, inane Jesse McCartney crap). Two, it was directed by Savage Steve Holland. Remember him? He was one of the film student success stories of the eighties, and they made a big deal about how his student films were always so savagely funny and strange. He made the so-so funny film Better Off Dead and it's incredibly bad sequel, One Crazy Summer, both of which starred John Cusack in his first leading roles. Now he's directing movies for the Disney Channel (where he's also brought a measure of personal style to episodes of Lizzie McGuire, That's So Raven, and other programs). It's just interesting to me, because Savage Steve was once primed to become Hollywood's It Boy; he might have been the first Quentin Tarantino, once. As for this movie itself, it tries, but it only rates ** stars. Brenda Song is a little cutie, though I wish she'd play something other than the Superficial Rich Girl for a change.

(Trivia note: Savage Steve Holland's films starred John Cusack, who, in the interim between the two films, starred in Disney's The Journey of Natty Gann. Alongside Cusack in the first film was Dan Schneider, future cast member of Head of the Class, and currently the creator of Nickelodeon's All That, The Amanda Show, Drake and Josh, and Zoey 101, as well as the creator of the Amanda Bynes series What I Like About You. Weird how they both got into children's programming.)

Another Disney Channel movie, again starring Danielle Panabaker (a good little actress who was also in Disney's Sky High this summer) and Ricky Ullman (star of Disney Channel's Phil of the Future, a show I find hilarious). It's a lame, predictable movie about a girl making a journey across the country to find the recipient of her brother's heart after he's killed by a car. Without all of the song montages, this movie would be about 55 minutes long. Both of the actors are fine, but the material is heavy-handed and sanctimonious. Funnily enough, I remarked during the beginning of the movie that Ricky Ullman's character Sam was like Samwise "Sam" Gamgee in Lord of the Rings: annoying, troublesome, and probably gay. Then somebody in the movie called him by his full name: Sam Weiss. Well, this movie certainly isn't giving LOTR's epic journey structure a run for its money. ** stars.

My favorite quote this month

"I feel like I got lucky with my wonderful breasts. I really feel like they're my best asset." -- Ashlee Simpson in the new Blender. I love how she refers to her breasts as "wonderful." They really, really are. Posted by Picasa

2005-06 TV Season: The Sweeps Battle

November sweeps are over for now, and to quote a song in Evita, the news is-a not-a so good. Turns out that not as many people are watching TV this year as the networks hoped (especially with its much-hyped new shows, which were supposed to lure people away from their Tivo's and back to the beck and call of programmers). Here's a night-by-night breakdown of exactly who won the battle of November.

Well, Prison Break is the hot new breakout show, hitting at number 43 in the ratings, very good for a new series (especially one on Fox). Everything else is getting killed on Mondays (see cancellation report below), especially on the WB, the Little Network. Related is proving to be one of the WB's biggest disappointments, but the WB is probably going to try moving it around to every other time slot before they cancel it. For whatever reason, they're banking on it to eventually do well. They like to point out that Gilmore Girls started slow, too (and after last season's stunts have calmed down, it's slowing down again), so why don't they just move Related to Tuesday nights after Gilmore Girls? They seem to have similar audiences... CBS continues to hold Mondays, with Two and a Half Men, CSI: Miami, and the exceptionally dull How I Met Your Mother (which I think gets by on its Doogie stunt-casting) winning the night. Surface got picked up for a full season on NBC (the SF-hating network), but Monday Night Football seems to be losing viewers steadily.

My Name Is Earl not only turned out to be a great show, but a successful one as well. Is Tuesday the night everyone watches TV now? Because House, Supernatural, and Law & Order: SVU are all doing really well. The big winners of the night are CBS's NCIS and ABC's Commander in Chief. Of course, all of that said, The Biggest Loser (which was renewed for yet another season), Rodney, and According to Jim are on their way down. Which proves what I've been saying for too long: STOP GIVING STAND-UP COMICS SITCOMS! Gilmore Girls is up since May, the WB reports, but I don't know what that means, because May was the end of the season, and then the ratings go down for summer. Why don't they just say that the ratings are up from last season? Is it because it would be a lie? Incidentally, I used to love that show, but it started to slide further and further into ridiculous lameness, and after Logan, it became a total mess. Now the creators are leaving the show to create a new show about people who inexcplicably speak like they're in a remake of The Thin Man, and they won't be doing Gilmore Girls next season. Should we send in the violins now, because it's all over?

Lost is actually up nearly three million viewers from last season (probably the well-timed DVD release helped, because I only saw the first season on DVD and then decided to watch the second season, and if three million other people did, that's a good marketing move). Invasion, though, loses ABC 40 percent of the Wednesday audience; I've never seen it, but it looks pretty stupid. One Tree Hill is dying a painful death on the WB, America's Next Top Model is up (but, you know, for UPN, which is like an extremely low-rated NBC show), and The Apprentice: Martha Stewart turned out to be a huge disappointment for NBC (who could have known, he asked sarcastically). Veronica Mars is also doing well, relatively speaking.

Smallville's ratings are the best in the history of the show; I think it's because they're starting to advertise it to look more like it's actually about Superman. I've never seen it, but I've never really been into it. Everybody Hates Chris, surprisingly mediocre, is one of UPN's biggest hits ever, but it still gets beaten by The OC (ratings down) and Joey. Man, 66 has to be the lowest rating in history for NBC at 8pm Friday. CSI is the number one show on television, and Without a Trace is the third. The Night Stalker got cancelled, leaving a serious Gabrielle Union void on television.

Ghost Whisperer and Jennifer Love Hewitt's breasts are actually doing better for CBS than Joan of Arcadia ever did, surprisingly. Threshold died, though, and whatever the hell Close to Home is, it's apparently doing better. Reba has the full support of the WB, though What I Like About You and Twins are in freefall. WWE Smackdown! is actually growing viewers. Numbers is doing really well, but Hope & Faith, Malcolm in the Middle, and The Bernie Mac Show are lost causes. I blame Fox's usual "Let's pre-empt everything for sports" tactics for the decline of Malcolm. The quality has been consistent throughout every season, but since it was always pushed to the side for football, it killed the audience and now it's dead. Thanks for nothing, Fox.

Yeah, right. CSI repeats do better than anything but that Fox stalwart, Cops.

Well, Desperate Housewives is still going strong. Grey's Anatomy is doing incredibly well, dropping a mere quarter of the audience. The West Wing, faced with an overhaul of daunting proportions, is not doing well, but Cold Case is doing extremely well. Despite the fact that it sucks and needs to die, The Simpsons is suddenly seeing a ratings jump.

Let's continue this below, though, for what the outcomes really mean for this season's programming.

2005-06 TV Season: The Slaughter Continues

And the post-sweeps reports keep bringing back more and more news of TV casualties.

Man, remember how much hope the media seemed to have for this season? Remember how thrilled critics and viewers were that sitcoms and serialized dramas were returning with a vengeance, after years of lamer and more embarrassing reality shows? Well, it looks like no one's watched the scripted shows, either, because there have been cancellations left and right. Just two months into the new season, here's a call sheet for some of the battlefield carnage.

New shows that have been cancelled: Hot Properties (ABC), The Night Stalker (ABC), Threshold (CBS), Head Cases (FOX), Kitchen Confidential (FOX), Reunion (FOX), The Apprentice: Martha Stewart (NBC), Inconceivable (ABC), Sex, Love & Secrets (UPN), Just Legal (WB).

Not one of these is a surprise. Boy, Carla Gugino's caught the TV cancellation curse, though, hasn't she? And there's Chyler Leigh, murdering another show.

Old shows that have been cancelled: Seventh Heaven (WB), Alias (ABC), Yes Dear (CBS--finally!), Arrested Development (FOX), and The Bad Girl's Guide (UPN).

Yet another cancelled series for Jenny McCarthy. I'm incredibly disappointed by the Arrested Development cancellation, as I've said before. And Yes Dear, gone five hundred seasons too late... I must admit, I'm surprised by the cancellation of Seventh Heaven, which people still seemed to be watching and enjoying. It seemed like the stalwart foundation of the entire WB schedule; but, much like Fox did with Married...with Children, the WB has taken the show that actually built up their viewer base and saw it through their low-rated history and thrown it away without a second thought.

Shows on "hiatus" or rumored to be hanging by a Damoclean thread: Blue Collar TV (WB), Killer Instinct (FOX), Living with Fran (WB), Out of Practice (CBS), Related (WB), Three Wishes (ABC), Twins (WB), What I Like About You (WB), Charmed (WB), That 70s Show (FOX), Still Standing (CBS).

I don't know what the hell happened to the WB this year. As I said earlier this year, their programming strategy for this season was incredibly flawed. Pairing unalike show with unalike show proved out, as I predicted, to be the quickest way to utterly destroy their entire lineup. And even if Smallville jumped in the ratings, everything else (including their precious baby, Gilmore Girls) is way down. I watch What I Like About You, but I'll be the first to point out that they ran this show into the ground in the middle of the second season. Their episode order has already been cut from 22 to 18, so if I were Dan Schneider, I'd be thinking about how to pull off the finale right now. Maybe Amanda Bynes can get something better. Charmed was always an incredibly badly-conceived show, too. Someone should come along and make an actual good supernatural show; I've yet to see it happen, though I have an idea for one based on the DC Comics character Zatanna.

Reba has been renewed on the WB; man, if they cancel Living with Fran, Twins, and What I Like About You, not only will they have to rebuild the entire Friday night sitcom line-up, but my Friday nights of watching hot chicks on the WB are going to be utterly changed. Damn it, leave me with my habits! Habit is the only reason anyone watches TV these days, anyway.

New shows being RENEWED for next season: Hell's Kitchen (FOX), So You Think You Can Dance (FOX)

Reality wins again! I loved Hell's Kitchen, though. And the news has also come out that Fox has renewed American Idol for four more seasons! Jesus, that's not including the one that starts in January, either. Can't we just let this thing die? It's also typical of Fox that they're considering putting Prison Break on hiatus until March so that they can air 24 and American Idol in January. The story on Prison Break is, apparently, uncompleted, but the show has become Fox's highest-rated series. Does anyone else think it might behoove them to leave the show on, rather than completely lose and alienate their audience? It's typical network bullshit; they assume people watch the network to watch the network, not specific shows, and that the audience for Prison Break is the exact same audience champing at the bit for yet more American Idol. Assholes. I don't even watch Prison Break, but maybe the fans of it know why I feel bitter about Arrested Development.

Of course, Fox is also considering running American Idol against Lost. I hope so; AI will die a violent death.

Wow, it's a slaughterhouse, not a battlefield.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Man of Steel Returns, and I Don't Care

I have been a Superman fan since before I can remember. The classic 1978 film, which I still consider the best superhero film ever made (and the obvious template for Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2), was released in theaters when I was two. I can't remember when I first saw the film, but it's always been a part of my pop cultural psyche. More than that, the character himself informed a lot of my opinions as a child about good, evil, justice, and responsibility. I love Superman.

So, I've been watching the development of this new film, Superman Returns, with some interest. As Superman projects go, nothing recent has really excited me. Sure, I like Paul Dini and Alex Ross's oversized book, and I liked Kingdom Come, and I loved the recent animated series. I wasn't much impressed with Smallville, and I don't watch it, and I don't read the comics anymore, because all they do is perpetuate a property rather than tell interesting stories. But I love the guy, I really do. And the prospect of a new movie was interesting to me, even though I think Superman and Superman II kind of render it unnecessary. They're still great movies, and they were only made 30 years ago. Why not release the actual Richard Donner version of Superman II, instead?

Well, as many of you know, the Superman Returns teaser is playing before Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (along with a great, great preview for King Kong). I haven't liked most of what I've seen so far. Casting the awful Kevin Spacey and the personality-free Kate Bosworth. That idiotic dark blue costume with the maroon cape. The fact that Bryan Singer, whose X-Men films have all of the epic scope of two men in a drawing room playing a cramped game of chess, was chosen to direct. But now I've seen the teaser, and I have the first images from the film in my head. And my first reaction is... meh.

That's right, meh. So far, it ain't impressive. But what I noticed is that I had a strong pull towards this movie, deep down inside. Apparently, Bryan Singer is not only using the original John Williams score for the 1978 film (one of many classic Superman themes, though my personal favorite is still the music used for the Fleischer cartoons of the 1940s), but also the performance of Marlon Brando, digitally added into the film. Jeez, why not use the original script, too? It's like Bryan Singer took a look at the original film one day and thought, "I've always loved this movie, and the only thing that could make it better is if I had directed it." Give me a break; why not just get him some editing software and let him play in a room where he wouldn't bother anyone?

The emotional pull was strong, too. The trailer uses the "Planet Krypton" music from the original film, with heavy Marlon Brando voiceover. The people look up at Superman, he looks down at the world from outer space, and Brando, as Jor-El, says: "They could be a great people, they want to be. They only need a light to show them the way. And for that purpose, above all, I have sent them you. My only son." And a tear does come to my eye. But it's because everything about the teaser trailer that's great comes from a movie that's just three years shy of its thirtieth birthday. It's so you won't notice that Kate Bosworth has no personality, or that the special effects look exactly like those in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a film which almost everyone I know despised (they didn't get it). It looks chintzy and ripped-off, and cannibalizes elements from another movie just to get an emotional spark out of you. It's like Cameron Crowe's major trick: using familiar music to get you to remember something you've felt before rather than using writing and technique to get you to feel something genuine.

I guess that's the way it always is with a character over 60 years old. Parts are removed, contemporary parts are added, and the frame is constant. But I'd like a lot more from a movie than simply the latest rendering of familiar concepts and phrases. I ask for a whole, not for slapped-together parts. Is that so much to ask?