Monday, September 26, 2011

One Day, We'll Be Able To Watch Our Own Brainwaves As Entertainment

Researchers at UC Berkeley have figured out a way to reconstruct the images that play within the human brain. Screw iPhone 5, this is the shit!

I suppose this means that once this technology is perfected, our own dreams can be imaged and played back for us in waking life. People will be able to sleep wearing affordable neural-nets that connect to an app on their smart phone -- then they will be able to create viral videos on YouTube of their dreams and share them with the public to be commented on and rated.

It's stuff like this that reinforce my belief that everything we are used to right now will be completely altered within 5-10 years -- not just technology and its impact on our daily living, but our own conception of reality.

You can see the amazing footage of these "brain movies" here:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lion King's Success Story: Should Hollywood Be Thinking Of Re-Releases Rather Than Reboots?

I'm getting a major case of deja-vu right now that The Lion King is currently the #1 movie in America -- and thanks to its re-release, it's close to becoming  the number-three animated movie of all time! Maybe the strategy in Hollywood should be not rebootings -- but simple re-releases (3-D where applicable)?

In Lion King's case, it boils down to families wanting to take their kids to excellent movies that they'll remember the rest of their lives. Sure, I'm champing at the bit to see Moneyball -- but my 3-year-old nephew isn't. And while the new family flick Dolphin Tale is a solid pick for the kid demographic, how many of these sorts of movies do they make anymore for children?

The new top ten Animated Movies Of All Time list at the moment is as follows:
1. Toy Story 3
2. Shrek 2
3. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
4. Finding Nemo
5. The Lion King
6. Shrek the 3rd
7. Shrek Forever After
8. Up
9. Kung-Fu Panda
10. Ice Age: The Meltdown

Again, I have to wonder with initiatives to re-release classic films like Lion King, Titanic, and Ghostbusters, if the new Hollywood strategy -- especially in a recession -- isn't to just stick with the classics, they same way they are focusing more on public domain properties rather than licensed ones.

What is on your own Top Ten list for desired movie re-releases?

How I Watch Most Of My Weekly TV Shows Without Cable, DVRs, Or Other "Traditional" Methods

I was tempted to call this post "How To Watch TV For Free" -- which, technically, you could do in a manner that does not involve illegally downloading them. But I'm including my modest Hulu and Netflix subscriptions in the mix, because I think they add a lot of robustness to my options. And remember -- almost any legal option is going to include some form of advertising, so it's all never quite "free" without a trade-off.

When the new Fall television season rolled around, I didn't think I could keep up with the new shows and returning favorites without our former cable hookup. We had been sitting pretty watching chunks of reruns like Family Guy, American Dad, Star Trek, and one billion Marvel Comics cartoons, but I didn't think this arrangement would work for first-run shows. The shows would take too long to get on the Web or on Hulu, or they might run in weird buggy online players that would diminish my enjoyment of said programs to the point it would not be worth it. But this largely turned out not to be the case.

All of the major TV networks -- CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, and CW -- have full episodes running on their sites. CBS seems to be the fastest, with new episodes showing up on their site often the morning after first run on a nicely-sized, bug-free (as far as I can tell) online player. ABC, NBC, and FOX have the advantage of running on Hulu Plus, which means we can watch first-run shows day-after, or a couple days after, in the comfort of our livingroom TV set. CW is the slowest to run new shows, with a gap of about 4-5 days (at least for the new show Ringer); I've had some problems/browser issues with their player, though they have seemed to work their way out.

For the cable networks, this becomes a bit different. Networks like FX and Showtime will offer specific full episodes of pilots such as American Horror Story and Homeland for viewing on their site, but to catch up with regular viewing you'd need an on-demand option such as the Season Passes available on Zune (which is what we use for Doctor Who, and could, in theory, use for It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia -- if we wasn't such cheap bastids!). However, another thing to keep in mind is that if you're patient, you can wait 'till FX, Showtime, BBC America, and other programs find their way to Netflix.

HBO is a tricky animal. They generally don't run full episodes on their site, and instead offer something called HBO GO, which is free if you have an HBO subscription. It sounds expensive, but I think if you are a big fan of everything HBO, this is probably your best option. It's ironic because when we used to have cable, a lot of HBO material was free on-demand. I find that any programming that falls under the Time Warner banner, such as HBO and CW -- as well as any movies made by the company -- are just going to be harder to access without having cable (which, since Time Warner also owns a cable co, is not the most surprising thing in the world). This also means that while we have Marvel Comics cartoons up the ying-yang through Netflix, it is extremely hard to find the animated adventures of Superman, Batman, and the rest through any of the options I've outlined, except buying them (and not a very comprehensive list of offerings at that) through a place like Zune.

The thing is, I have no intention of going back to cable TV. I have no intention of moving backwards. I use an Internet connection, in the form of a wireless thin box about ten inches tall and one inch wide, to access my programming. In addition, I want programming more or less when I want it -- picking and choosing what shows I want and during what time I want to watch them. This is what everything is going to move towards, leaving traditional "scheduled" TV to be the purview of call-in song and dance shows. I mean, we even watch our daily news in segmented clips on Hulu. This is the future. And while this post is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to online/streaming TV, it is meant to document my modest little adventure away from one tried-and-true model of entertainment consumption to a completely different one.

Suggestions are welcomed!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Spader, Goodman, and Clarkson Take Over Office, Community, and Parks And Rec

All three of my fave Thursday night NBC shows --The Office, Community, and Parks And Recreation -- are being taken over by outsiders this season. Will these changes augur a new period of creative growth to these returning shows, or do the cast additions reveal a lack of faith on the part of the network? Every case here is a bit different (and spoilers are likely so be warned).

First, The Office. When "The List" opens up, the enigmatic Robert California (played by James Spader) shows up on his first day as manager of Dunder-Mifflin only to turn right around and leave -- and then convince the head office (through his uncanny, guru-like mental powers) that he should be CEO instead. California then places Andy in the manager position, and puts the entire staff through somewhat sadistic (uh, this is the guy from Secretary that we're talking about) social experiments, revealing their basic strengths and weaknesses through a system of, as he puts it, "positive and negative reenforcement."

Despite the high "meanness" that California's experiments brings out (sort of on the same level as the stuff in the Will Ferrell episodes), "The List" ends on quite a touching, genuine note as Andy bravely confronts the new CEO and sticks up for his "loser" staff members. While Andy becoming manager may seem like an arbitrary, random choice (I'm always pulling for Pam, pregnant or not), he grows a lot in this episode in a believable way, making his story arc throughout the series really count for something. At the same time, a list of Jim's own, delineating what's most important in his life, will just about make you cry. And no, I'm not pregnant, though like Pam I do get weepy at certain television commercials.

Spider-Man "Rules" GetGlue

I recently joined this awesome new social network called GetGlue. Rather than feeling like a totally boring self-absorbed shut-in who prefers large amounts of TV/movie viewing and book reading to actual human contact, I get points ("stickers" -- just like in school!) for not only consuming said media but announcing my choices, in real time, to the world.

To my surprise, various Marvel comic books filled the Trending Books section on GetGlue. Not trending comic books -- but actual books, rubbing shoulders with Stephanie Meyer, Stieg Larsson, and George R. R. Martin. In fact, the top ten trending books at GetGlue at the moment I write this are:
1. Twilight
2. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man
3. Breaking Dawn
4. X-Men: Schism
5. New Moon
6. The Help
7. The Hunger Games
8. Eclipse
9. A Game of Thrones
10. Spider-Man: Spider Island

UARS Satellite and 2011, The Year Of Living Dangerously

UARS satellite, actual size
I totally was not freaking out over that falling NASA satellite for the last week, not obsessively checking various websites for updates -- not feeling a cool tingly wave of relief every time I was sort of reassured that the odds of me personally getting hit by said satellite was like 13 trillion to 1, and wouldn't even go near North America (or *gasp* New York City).

OK, totally lying -- I was completely freaked out. Always checking various reputable sources of information, and then Googling less reputable sources of information that might better back up my story (my story being: I was not going to be crushed by plummeting death from the skies). Always asking that silent, screaming question: well, it won't hit the *United States* will it? I mean -- it's sort of our satellite and all, but we're not really supposed to (nervous reasonable smile) endure a 1,200 pound flaming piece of space junk the size of the Partridge Family bus falling down on our heads?

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Free Agents" And The Infinite Sadness: A Review Of The First 2 Episodes

There's a palpable sense of desperation interwoven in the new NBC comedy (if this is indeed the right term) Free Agents, one that can best be summed up by the ever-increasing number of wine bottles dwarfing the female protagonist's single-serving frozen dinner at the supermarket check-out line. Surely in a TV show starring the ever-adorable Hank Azaria, this should not be -- but fear not, his big dark puppy-dog eyes are used to maximum heart-breaking potential here.

Azaria is in the role of recently divorced (and sorta schlubby) Alex, who will think about how much he misses his kids and consequently cry before, after, and during sexual intercourse. Alex has a one-night stand with fellow public-relations professional Helen (played by Crossing Jordan's Kathryn Hahn), who is still mourning the loss of her husband. Alex is extremely desperate, clingy, and needy, and Helen is a tough-as-nails broad with a heart of putty who won't admit her own feelings for her co-worker. Add Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Anthony Stewart Head as sexually perverse adventurous boss Stephen, and stand-up comic Natasha Leggero as...well, another tough, cold female...and you have yourself a sitcom!

Catwoman, Starfire, blah blah blah

I have to say that the viral marketing concerning the new Catwoman and Red Hood books, in which an inordinate amount of very vocal bloggers and such went online to say Selina's boobs were offensive and that Starfire was "a slut," was very effective. Had these concerned people not gathered en masse to increase brand awareness for these comics over the last week, many less people would have been aware of them and they might have even fallen between the cracks, just more mid-level debuts that would have lost steam in their second and third issues. But now we all have to "tune in," so to speak, issue after issue to find out what new "outrages" might happen -- and how your favorite pundits might lose their shit over them. And perhaps this strategy might elevate comics back to its former status as "mass market entertainment" yet.

But when the keyword "sex" is splashed all over your blog or website, everybody wins. You'll find that those feminist screeds you've written, complete with carefully scanned pictures of every salacious panel you could find, will end up being the most popular posts on your site -- largely through organic search engine results. By focusing so intently on the horrors of wank material, you have inadvertently created...wank material. Only your wank material is more concentrated, because you've cut out all the plot and exposition and ads and shit that were in the original comic book itself. Why keep a copy of Sexx Comix under the mattress when I can access your blog that has so helpfully catalogued all the best bits?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Shatner: "Star Wars Is Derivative Of Star Trek"

William Shatner keeps the Star Wars Vs. Star Trek flame alive with his declaration that Star Wars was "derivative" of Star Trek -- he emphasized the derivativeness of the movie by repeating, "DERIVATIVE!"

Far be it from me to start a debate on the forum about whether there is any validity to Shatner's statements. I'll just let the Shat talk (with added reading-between-the-lines commentary by me):

"Star Trek...had relationships (UNLIKE STAR WARS!!!) and conflict among the relationships (UNLIKE STAR WARS!!!), and stories that involved humanity (UNLIKE STAR WARS!!!) and philosophical questions (UNLIKE STAR WARS!!!)...Star Wars was (shrugs shoulders dismissively) special effects."

Do We Really Need A Rebooted Scarface Movie?

It's a hell of a drug
Well heck yes -- that's guaranteed buckets bathtubs of money! The Scarface limited edition Blu-ray just hit stores, and air-brush artists everywhere have painted more rhinestone-encrusted denim jackets featuring Tony Montana on the back than the Earth presently has a need for. Solution? Reboot, redesign, resell.

But before Scarface purists get their collective panties in a twist regarding these recently announced plans by Universal to "update" Scarface -- and the movie seems to be definitely a project very loosely based on the basic plot of the 1983 film -- it is helpful to keep in mind that the cult movie itself is a loosely-based remake.

When the version of the Scarface we all know and love was announced in the early 1980s, there were some grumblings about it diverging plot-wise from the 1932 film Scarface, which featured Italian and Irish mobsters in Chicago. Could the public really embrace a new Scarface, one of Cuban descent, selling cocaine in Miami? And while the film opened to mixed reviews and so-so box-office, it gained later cult superstar status. And hence all the airbrushed Tony Montana portraits on denim.

So it would seem that there is an essential iconic, archetypal quality regarding the narrative of Scarface's rise and fall. Maybe this "updated" movie can capture that. You know, I never see enough of Ryan Gosling in the media lately, maybe this is the breakout role that can finally get him noticed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Are Public Domain Heroes The Best Option For Hollywood In A Recession?

“It’s every studio in town that’s looking for pre-branded entertainment … if it’s in the public domain.”

So says Dan Jinks, the producer of American Beauty, to the Vulture blog. Whereas the mantra of movie and, to a lesser extent, TV producers over the last several years has been licensing licensing licensing -- the bigger the property, like Twilight, Harry Potter, Iron Man, and Batman, the better -- a new slate of upcoming films and television shows reveal that Hollywood is turning back to the (free) classics for inspiration.

Take the rash of recent in-production or announced projects featuring Sherlock Holmes, Snow White, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Frankenstein, Greek Mythology, the Oz books, and on and on...Even Dreamworks has a new animated movie, Rise of the Guardians, slated for 2012 that features "a public domain Avengers if there ever was" -- The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Sandman (yes, the basic idea of a "sandman" is apparently public domain, though I wonder what the trademark issues are w/DC Entertainment).

Referred-to in the Vulture piece as "free stories," public domain literary works offer often universally recognized/loved iconic heroes to movie and TV producers for zero licensing fees. Hell, Disney has been doing this successfully with their animated movies for decades, most recently with the hit Tangled. But with an uncertain economic future, will this become more and more the norm? And if so, will the unwillingness to spend big bucks on licensing and adaptation rights impact book and comic book publishers?

Certainly, there will always be movies based on Spider-Man and the latest Stephen King novel. But what about smaller, quirkier projects on the level of Locke and Key, even Wonder Woman? Instead of Wonder Woman, couldn't movie studios turn to another Diana -- Artemis of Greek mythology? Instead of another vampire franchise based on a series of novels, why not revisit Dracula? And hey, is Gladiator, that science-fiction tale by Philip Wylie which was one of the main inspirations for Superman, in public domain yet?

Wolverine Guest-Star On WWE; Fractures Wrestler's Jaw

Celebrity guest-stars on WWE events is not a new occurrence; I was quite partial to that of Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper, back in the day when they were called WWF. Hugh Jackman, promoting the upcoming sci-fi flick "Real Steel," recently appeared on Monday Night Raw and even participated in a match, teaming up with Zach Ryder and going against Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero.

I was really stoked to see an actor of Jackman's caliber (he's played both Wolverine and Peter Allen) camping it up to this extent with the WWE (best parts: the announcer not only calling the actor's moves "X-Menesque," but calling the match a "Real Steel Steal" for Ryder. And Jackman looked like he had a lot of fun. He also apparently fractured Ziggler's jaw, if this Tweet from the wrestler is to be believed. Just goes to show: don't mess with Logan, he will kick your ass.

The video is here:

Plus-Size "Anna Rexia" Halloween Costume And Other Fat-Free Delights

Did you know you can dress up as the eating disorder anorexia for Halloween? According to the Village Voice:

"Apparently this is for real: Ricky's, the costume and beauty store chain, is selling an outfit that allows you to dress up like anorexia nervosa for Halloween. As you can see, it's a black dress with a skeleton on it, plus a tape measure for your ever-shrinking waist. The heart on her chest says "Anna Rexia" and that's a bone in her hair."

Ricky's has since pulled the costume, but you can still find it -- including, incredibly, a plus-size version -- all over teh internets.

Meanwhile beer heiress Daphine Guinness tells The New Yorker that she lives on only Red Bull and Ensure and will "eat when I'm dead" (via Gawker). I'll admit that upon first blush, a Red Bull/Ensure diet sounds vaguely intriguing, like some sort of rocket-fueled cleanse full of sparkles and ten essential nutrients.


wow, I'm going through this Halloween website, and they have at least 4 variations of poo costumes. Oh, and the fat granny with her lost dog stuck up the crack of her butt. Something for tomorrow, then.

Ringer Review -- And My Crazy "Fight Club" Theory Regarding The Show

Warning: this post might contain spoilers, but only maybe because I'm perhaps misinterpreting things (or am I?).

The pilot episode of "Ringer" on the CW was good enough (1960s-era "they're cousins sisters! identical cousins sisters!" special effects aside), but the only way I can see this premise stretched out over multiple seasons is if some strange LOST-type pseudo-mystical/sci-fi craziness finds its way into the storyline. Luckily, we have Nestor Carbonell on-board just in case this happens.

Sarah Michelle Gellar is, in essence, "Ringer's" biggest special effect -- not in terms of the fact that she is playing identical twins (we're talking a lot of obvious split screens and a second actress with a blond wig playing Gellar from behind here), but simply because Gellar's Gellar. We can't keep our eyes off her spunky, oft-sulky diminutive frame -- after several years of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" being off the air, and her doing not a lot of TV in-between, she's still a small-screen superstar. And she's perfect in these dual (or are they?) roles of Siobhan (the fuck-up stripper sister trying to get her life back together) and Bridget (the rich sister who has an ideal life -- or does she?) -- the former appropriately angsty, and the latter a complete ice-queen in over-sized sunglasses.

Following a plot very similar to that of the popular manga Arisa, the twin with a crappy life reunites with the twin who has a seemingly perfect life after many years. The "perfect" twin suddenly jumps overboard a motorboat they are both riding on (in Arisa it was an open window), and the other sister takes her place only to discover that her twin's life wasn't so great as she thought. Bridget's husband Andrew (played by Ioan Gruffudd -- that's right, Mr. Fantastic) is a cold douche, and she's cheating on him with another married guy, hot douche Henry (who's married to Bridget's red-haired best friend Willow Gemma). Complicating the mix even more is her husband's bratty horny teenage daughter from a previous marriage, Dawn Juliet. Rounding out the cast is Carbonell as the darkly handsome FBI agent Angel Victor who keeps mysteriously popping out of nowhere to keep Siobhan safe, and wise NA coach Giles Malcolm as the only person who knows her double life.

Again, this all sounds very intriguing -- though perhaps not enough to justify a multi-season series. I mean, how long can Siobhan keep up the charade? How much dysfunction can she possibly learn about her sister's life? How long can the mystery of these twins be stretched out?

My theory is -- it can't be stretched out unless there is another element here that is not immediately obvious but will be slowly played out more and more throughout the course of the series. That element could possibly be that there are no twins -- that either Siobhan (who had past sobriety issues) or Bridget (who is apparently on some sort of meds) is hallucinating the other girl as a way of dealing with her problems (a la "Fight Club"). Additionally, we could have a case where she has a multiple personality -- or purposely took on another identity as a way to escape her problems, but then that tactic got out-of-control.

Now, this storyline could eventually get even more esoteric and crazy if it takes a "Mulholland Drive" turn out of nowhere, with nothing we are seeing in these first episodes really happening the way we thought it was. In that scenario, Victor is not an FBI agent at all, but rather some sort of Rod Serling type character leading Siobhan/Bridget through various aspects of her life.

I'm probably reading way too much in this series based on just one pilot episode -- but I'm willing to give the show a few more weeks to see how things are panning out. I just hope they don't focus too much on Dawn Juliet in order to cater to that all-important teen audience...that's what "Secret Circle" is for!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Netflix, Qwikster, And Movies At The Speed Of Magic

Really, is there a more "Newspeak" term than Quikster Qwikster to describe a service that snail mails your DVDs rather than streaming them instantly to your computer? And yet, without the continued access to said library of physical DVDs -- still a relatively impressive collection, last time I checked -- how am I to watch countless movies and TV shows -- old and new -- that aren't available through Netflix Instant, Hulu Plus, etc.? Do they actually expect me to *gasp* go to the DVD store and buy these @*&%ers myself? Do they even make DVD stores anymore?

Good God, do you know how many stores that I regularly visited to buy DVDs in New York City are now extinct? And decent rental places? My boss at the video rental store back when I was in high-school was already predicting the end of physical copies for rent, felt he was saddled with a dinosaur of a company. Maybe he should have renamed it Qwikster.

The irony is, now that I'm on the cutting edge of entertainment technology, I'm pretty close to where I started. I knew that obscure Italian horror movie from the 1970s was probably waiting for me at my local upscale video rental store; and if not, there were several good shops that might have it at a decentish price for immediate purchase, if I just *had* to watch it (and those urges happen, and that's OK). But the fastest way now to watch what I want, when I want, is the illegal option. And while I don't download pirated content, it's pretty much the option of choice for millions of people. And you know what? Chances are, that pool of contraband flicks doesn't include said obscure Italian horror movie from the 1970s, and even if it did, it could be a shitty connection or dead link. 500 people streaming "The Hottie and the Nottie," nobody seeding "4 mosche di velluto grigio." It's beginning to look a lot like Blockbuster all of the sudden.

Which is why the movie studios and rights-holders need to stop standing in the way of progress and just facilitate getting everything on one or two (no more than three) different full-service streaming platforms for the public. Figure out a good deal that recompenses them in a manner that maybe they're not quite accustomed to, but is at least decent -- and that might be Netflix, Amazon, or some new application that's just a glimmer in some venture capitalist's eye as I write this. And then just put everything on this service, a complete library, and give me the ability to access this library instantly for as cheap and easy as possible.

Basically, I'm looking for magic. I want to access my movies at the speed of magic.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Emmy Observations And Questions

These might not all be in the form of complete sentences or fully-birthed paragraphical thoughts, so bear with me:

Why are some TV shows like "Modern Family" and "Mad Men" critical darlings with heaping piles of awards, while others like "Community" are seen as "meh" by the Emmy people? How is "Modern Family" smarter and hipper a show than "Community"? How does no actor on "Community" get even nominated but the guy from "Big Bang Theory" beats out Alec Baldwin? How does one exactly become a critical darling, and are blueberry yogurt muffins involved?

Who has a better agent/PR people right now -- Ryan Gosling or Jane Lynch? Who deserves the media over-saturation more? And why is TV more accepting of older women? I was always of the impression that Hollywood thinks a woman ought to be dead or only good for Polident commercials after she reaches a certain age, but there were plenty of women over the age of 35 at this awards show being nominated, and not just of the freaky Jennifer Aniston "ageless" kind. But is this all luring me into a false sense of security? Are they merely the Hollywood version of what "normal" 35+ women are supposed to look like? Would my arms ever look that good in that silver dress Lynch wore? Is this all just a more devious plot by the entertainment machine to lower my self-esteem yet again? Are the little people in my TV set really talking to and having a personal relationship with me?

When will Ashton Kutcher's status as the young upstart guilelessly usurping the rightful place of the veteran actor -- complete with photo opps of him talking with said "not even angry" veteran actor -- ever end? And is this current phase of Charlie Sheen's career sort of like the "Tiger's Blood" tour but only the exact opposite? Who comes up with all this? Is this like in professional wrestling where you go backstage and they're all buddies sharing golfing stories? Sheen climbs to the top rope, beating his chest, and then we cut to a reaction shot of Chuck Lorre?

Some people say this was the year of the network TV "comeback" -- with cable shows receiving markedly less awards than in years past. I don't have cable and depend on various venues such as Hulu Plus, Netflix, Zune, and the good graces of various official TV show websites. I have no concept of this network TV/cable TV thing, either as a dichotomy or singly as separate entities which I regularly frequent. Does this make me a shitty TV writer (probably)? When will the year of the completely fragmented viewership across multiple streams of as-of-yet unconverged entertainment options take place at the Emmys? And when that time comes, will we see a song-and-dance routine about it starring Megan Mullally, Ed Helms, and one of the third-tier cheerleader characters from "Glee"?

Why do I get more hits on a daily basis for a random post I did on Chris Colfer ages ago than anything else I've written combined? Where's the justice in that? Should I just pack it in and become a dedicated "Glee" blogger with a catchy url like Or maybe just focus on..."Modern Family" recaps.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Up All Night" Like "30 Rock" + Baby (No, Really)

Forgive me for boiling down the new NBC comedy "Up All Night" into such a trite high-concept -- oh, like TV shows themselves aren't pitched like this at least sometimes. But please do not let that proclamation give you the impression that I did not like the pilot episode -- I did, far more than I expected to! But the best parts of "Up All Night" are when they don't try to shoe-horn the "30 Rock" elements into the story, and instead let co-stars Will Arnett and Christina Applegate just be their sincere, foul-mouthed (albeit bleeped), selves.

The basic premise of "Up All Night" is that a thirty-mmmmph high-powered couple have just had an unexpected baby, and must rearrange their lives to deal with the new arrival. This rearrangement includes lawyer Arnett temporarily quitting his job to be a stay-at-home dad while his wife works at a TV production company (where the shades of "30 Rock" start creeping trampling in), and the two of them learning not to stay out all night drinking and performing questionable karaoke. So good to see Will Arnett not play an asshole here (though admittedly it is enjoyable watching him portray an asshole as well), and Christina Applegate is great. Their characters are totally believable and natural, and their interactions with the baby are definitely touching but never quite saccharine (in particular I'm thinking of a reoccuring scene where they are so enthralled with their adorable spawn that they cannot stop cursing -- it plays out far better than my meager description illustrates).

*sigh* more emblems of my generation
Maya Rudolph's character -- which I assume is supposed to be Oprah but feels more like Ellen crossed with Tyra -- is just way too over-the-top in this pilot, and drowns out the subtlety of the scenes with Arnett/Applegate. This is anything but a Rudolph hate-fest here, as I've loved her in SNL and especially in the movie "Away We Go" with John Krasinski. But it's obvious "Up All Night" is trying to repeat the magic of "30 Rock," with the actress playing a cross between demanding and shrewd Jack Donaghy and demanding and childlike Tracy Jordan. Rudolph is an amazing actress and there's no reason for her to ham it up here; she's more than capable of creating her own unique foil for Applegate's character (which is the theoretical Liz Lemon in this arrangement). As I've only seen the pilot, I'm sure there's going to be time for all the actors to get more comfortable and define their roles. I just don't want to see "Up All Night" lose its unique charm and end up as something more slapstick a la "30 Rock."

we love you "Ava," but take it down a notch

Anyway, the NBC pilot for "Up All Night" is available now on Hulu Plus, as well as on the official site until October 20; the show itself premieres September 21. I'm going to add some clips of Arnett on Jimmy Fallon, as that's the sort of sad Arnett-junkie I am:


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Notes On The First Two Weeks Of DC's "New 52"

Because some people have asked my opinions, I've written some basic notes on the first two weeks of DC's "New 52" comics. It should be assumed that there might be spoilers here. And for a more in-depth look at each issue, check out the reviews written by Alex Zalben and Charles Webb over at MTV Geek.

August 31:
Justice League #1-- I guess if you're going to make a comic book product that is truly aimed at the mass market and looks like the equivalent of the slick movie blockbuster of the month, this would be it. Complaints regarding its decompressed storytelling -- and the fact that we are only introduced to half the team in this issue -- are duly noted. However, I would suspect that as this title seems to be one specifically created for the mass market -- as opposed to, say, Justice League International (which I enjoyed a bit more, but then again I am a long-time comic fan not the mass market) -- DC has a solid eye on collecting this up for the eventual hardcover and trade paperback, where such storytelling makes more sense.

September 7:

Action Comics #1 -- Now, here is Superman truly taken from a completely different angle than anything else I've read previously. And I'm not sure how I feel about that. Obviously, this story begins before the current continuity of the "new" DC Universe, and Superman has changed a bit since then -- but even that more "mature" Superman seems a bit cold, a bit distant...somewhat more "alien" (almost serving, in a sense, the Martian Manhunter role in the new Justice League). Certainly a sea-change from the love-letter to a smiling icon in All-Star Superman. Is Grant Morrison saying with this new interpretation of the character (though it can be argued that it's just a hearkening back to its very early Golden Age roots) that the previous earnest "Big Boy Scout" Superman can no longer exist or be effective in this sort of brutal world (recent art I've seen of Captain America holding a gun also mirrors this question)? These are questions that really deserve a larger analysis, after several issues of both this and the new Superman title are released.

Animal Man #1 -- I really liked this book -- though, unlike many other readers, I'm not sure I would position it as the number one book of the new crop. I'd put it in the top five. Certainly, in tone and art it feels more Vertigo than anything else. Specifically, it reminds me of the pre-Vertigo era, when some of DC's titles were getting more artistic and adult but the "Vertigo" label hadn't been created yet. By subtly placing himself in the story with the first text page, Jeff Lemire in a sense references Morrison's earlier run on the book. It seems like Lemire is getting positioned at DC as the "next" Morrison.

Batgirl #1 -- If this is supposed to be a "new era" for the Barbara Gordon Batgirl, the first issue sure hearkens back to the previous one a lot. Between flashbacks of the Joker and and an unusual focus on her legs (both in relation to said experiences with Joker and in just sort of a gratuitous, overly-metaphoric way in dialogue and battle), there seems to be a struggle here between moving forward in a new direction and possibly going back to the old thru a "side door." Best thing to do here with this character, in my estimation, is shit or get off the pot -- go back to Oracle or say "fuck it" and unapologetically work with a pre-Crisis, pre-Killing Joke Batgirl. I'm fine either way.

Batwing #1 -- There's a lot of potential here, helped by the intriguing and stylistically unique art of Ben Oliver. The storyline and sense of place seems genuine and well-researched. Unfortunately, this always seems like the type of book to get axed first unless somebody steps in and vouchers for it. Be great to see the title get a chance.

Detective Comics #1 -- This is a great comic. Some have mentioned that Batman's dialogue seems too short and choppy, but I kind of like that. Just really wish the last page wasn't so gory; the book is so strong, with an effective sense of menace and danger, that it really didn't need that. Deciding to go with such a "shock" ending is a crap shoot -- you might pick up new readers just based on the ballsy quality of it all, or it might be the "line" that certain readers draw to not pick up another issue. I like to err on trying to get as many readers as possible with a showcase title such as this (I mean, the name of the comic is essentially the name of the publisher) and using such extreme moments only if they are absolutely necessary to the story. Maybe I'm just a nervous Nellie.

Green Arrow #1 -- I'm very happy with the direction this character is going as a whole; it's an update that is long overdue and that I think can be positioned well for various spinoffs in other media, such as movies. Of course, this interpretation is very close to that of Oliver Queen in Smallville -- which is fine. The story itself was much more of an old-school straightforward comic book story, which was not a bad thing in my opinion.

Hawk and Dove #1 -- I like Sterling Gates as a writer, but this is obviously a book that is dominated by Rob Liefeld's art style and storytelling layout. You're either going to love it for that or hate it for that.

Justice League International #1 -- Like Green Arrow #1, this solid issue features an old-school style of storytelling. Old-school, or is it just good storytelling? While not of the level of the great DeMatteis/Giffen/Maguire run, it's still enjoyable enough and reminiscent of that era. The book seems to be the antidote to the more mass-market feel and storytelling of the main Justice League title.

Men of War #1 -- This book got really panned, but I didn't think it was that bad. I mean, it's a War genre comic book. It is going to have a different pace than a superhero comic. The unique thing with this title is that it features current wars told with a very World War II style; maybe some people find that off-putting. Again, I really didn't think it was that bad.

O.M.A.C. #1 -- The Kirby elements here are very true to the original source material, with clean, polished art. A number of books in this new 52 line seem to have somewhat murky coloring, but this was not the case here; it's like you could divide the titles into those that had appropriate coloring and those that had murky coloring.

Static Shock #1 -- I had a really hard time getting through reading this and I have no idea why. I don't know if it was because the story and/or dialogue was too dense, or the visual storytelling was too confusing, or I just didn't empathize with the main character enough. Sometimes, books just don't click.

Stormwatch #1 -- The delicate linework of the art here was massively overwhelmed by the (often murky) coloring, creating a barrier to an initial read-through. The story itself was OK, though it's weird seeing these characters presented as if for the first time. Of course, the whole thing is a real advantage to Martian Manhunter, who seems like a real badass in comparison to everybody else (as opposed to the JLA second/third-stringer nobody really knew what to do with).

Swamp Thing #1 -- My mom is really into botany, so I really appreciated the scientific references here to the weirder aspects of plant-life. This book seems, in some ways, very similar to Animal Man, as both characters are avatars of nature and trying to escape their true "duties" in exchange for a normal life. Also -- the situation with Animal Man's daughter seems to mirror that of Swamp Thing's own daughter in the previous incarnations. There's the idea that if you get mixed up with something as materially and spiritually massive as an aspect of nature, you're going to be "infected" with it no matter how you try to escape it; certainly, these ideas are fodder for another post.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Second Acts - It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia Season Premiere (Spoilers)

In the season premiere of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Dennis and Dee assures the prostitute Roxy -- who Frank is determined to marry -- that there are indeed "second acts" to look forward to in one's life and build towards. However, it's clear by the end of "Frank's Pretty Woman" that not only are none such new beginnings in store for doomed Roxy, but probably not for the rest of the cast as well, as Charlie pukes blood, Mac gets self-induced diabetes, Dennis is dehydrated, and Dee considers whoredom (albeit, only foot fetish whoredom with a Tiger Woods impersonator).

I've always seen Always Sunny as being the Seinfeld of my generation, if I'm allowed such a trite, douchebag observation. It's true. I've always hated people who followed Seinfeld religiously, and now I hate myself, finally understanding the wisdom and utter self-understanding of their choice. Watching Mac and Dennis in polka-dotted medical gowns, each getting their miserable prognosis, I feel as if I'm observing an emblematic moment concerning me and everybody I know in my age group, each in one of the two represented categories -- falling into self-justified hedonism and sloth as Mac, or Spartan pseudo-anorexic hyper-athleticism as Dennis does. Dennis believes he can look like he's in his Twenties forever. Mac -- who has gained at least 50 pounds -- has loftier goals, wishing to be an immovable mass. As much as I enjoy the almost retro charm of How I Met Your Mother, unfortunately Always Sunny seems more like *the* show about life in one's Thirties.


Just when you thought this show couldn't get any darker -- it totally goes there. The ending is as miserable and bleak as Requiem For A Dream -- Roxy's heart literally breaking as Frank makes a heartfelt proposal for marriage, only to be left as so much anonymous ballast by the Always Sunny gang in a dirty hallway. It's comedy by way of Hubert Selby, Jr., completely unforgiving and unsympathetic to those delicate souls who might be offended. So why do I keep watching? People who salvage abandoned crates of eggs, boil used denim, and inject themselves with insulin in the belly while pigging out -- this shit happens. Far more than being reminiscent of the urban neuroticism of Seinfeld, it's pure John Waters.

"Frank's Pretty Woman" puts the lie to just one more myth of my Late Eighties/Early Nineties teen years -- that a prostitute can find happiness with Richard Gere, or at least a hippy-haired aged Danny DeVito. And yet if there is one thing that separates Dennis and the gang from those like faint-hearted crack-overdosing Roxy, it's their insane paradoxical optimism. These idiots are *the* most positive-thinking, optimist characters in TV. Charlie never stops scheming. Dennis never stops reaching for a ticket to eternal youth. Mac sees even his extreme weight gain as some sort of weird martial-arts achievement. And whether it's pit-bulls or prostitution, Dee never stops trying to "better" herself and achieve some degree of satisfaction and success in her life. So screw the Kurt Cobaineque fatalism and nihilism of the 1990s -- the Paddy's gang are little achievers, and proud we are of all of them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dork Through This: Zooey Deschanel's "New Girl"

I found myself chuckling quite a bit at FOX's new comedy "New Girl" -- especially in regards to a recurring gag involving a "Douchebag Jar" (I'll let you discover that on on your own). Zooey Deschanel is also quite funny in the show, not quite as annoying as I remember her being, making me wonder if she was ever truly annoying but rather some sort of omni-present "it" celebrity suffering from media overkill who I considered annoying based on principle alone. That said, the premise of "New Girl" is that Deschanel's character is a nerd of sorts -- she wears glasses, makes LOTR references, and sings at inappropriate times. As the ads describe her, she's "simply adorkable" (cringe), depending on her cute 3 new male roommates to lift her spirits after a big breakup and make her feel attractive again.

She gets more dorky than this in the show, I swear!

Thus, "New Girl" addresses two basic primal romantic fantasies at one time:

1) For men: the fantasy that they will find a really cute girl with very low self-esteem and, through selflessly granting her much-needed attention, she will blossom into a really hot chick;

2) For women: the fantasy that she will find one or two or several cute guys who can be respectful and attentive girlfriend substitutes, protective big-brother types, and latent potential romantic interests all in one, depending on the particular need at any given moment in time.

I call #2 the Wizard Of Oz fantasy, which the basic premise of "New Girl" seems to be quite reminiscent of. Deschanel is the lost and emotional Dorothy, and it's up to three wacky guys with various hilarious neuroses and personality quirks to navigate her to "Oz" (which I assume would be out of their house and into the arms of "the One" -- though more than likely this show will take a "How I Met Your Mother" turn and feature her having an affair with at least one of these platonic "friends"). Considering that Deschanel was Dorothy in the recent "Tin Man" TV mini-series, this all begins to take on some added resonance.

See, her model-friend is the sexy one, not her! She's just a big dork.

I would suspect that the biggest controversy of "New Girl" -- if anyone could look at Deschanel's adorkable mug, comedic oversized eyeglasses perched far on her nose, and think "controversy" -- is the topical debate on whether some women are too pretty and non-geeky to really be considered geeky at all, and whether it's just an affectation to seem hip. I don't know...Deschanel has always seemed somewhat sincere -- if not quite a certified Dork per se, then at least convincingly quirky. How long can they prolong the "adorkable" schtick over the course of this TV series before her character finally learns how to pull her hair up in a sexy way and wear heels on a consistent basis? That remains to be seen. But I'm giving the show a shot, at least for the Douchebag Jar.

10 Fan Pictures Of Johnny Depp's Barnabas Collins Done Right

Just looked at some of the behind-the-scenes pix of Johnny Depp in the upcoming Tim Burton-helmed Dark Shadows movie and...ruh-roh:

The clown makeup...the flamboyant clothing...I'm smelling another cartoonish Willy Wonka/Alice In Wonderland thing going on here.

Are the fans the only ones who can get this right, people?!

Once again, the fans are always right.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Megan Fox: Robo Chic

I just thought the words Fox used in this interview with Moviefone are somewhat ironic -- I mean, this was the star of Transformers Uno and Deux:

"I just think the media, in general, I just don't really get portrayed as someone who has feelings or who is sympathetic. Or I sort of am portrayed as this—I feel—like a self-absorbed ice queen. Maybe…. But, you know, I care about people. I care about my life and I love people. I'm not this robot. I feel people think I'm almost like a robot—like an android."
Creepy photo shoots like the one she did last year for Interview with the dead-eyed mannequin doppelganger which she simulated foreplay with probably didn't really help with the image problem.
But somehow this topic brings me around to this sadly-neglected gem of late 1980s direct-to-VHS goodness: Robo-C.H.IC. (a.k.a. "Cyber-C.H.I.C.") there a better professional name than Kathy Shower? Isn't time that this film be picked up by some enterprising Michael Bay type and remade into a tight and snappy blockbuster? And who would play Burt Ward's role in the updated film? And where do the ducks go in the Winter?

"The Social Network's" Winklevoss Twins In A Nut Commercial

I just watched "The Social Network" for the first time last week, so I got a kick out of this nut commercial starring the real-life Winklevoss Twins:

I love that their biggest claim to fame is getting their idea stolen by Mark Zuckerberg. Well, that and being Olympic rowers. And...they're twins too, I guess.

God, it's early.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Is This The Worst Piece Of Public Art In The World?

Virtual Tourist thinks so:

"Detractors have found so many things to criticize about this work that it's hard to know where to start: its 26-foot scale, its impropriety given that the movie to which it pays tribute is set in New York, and its perceived crudeness given that viewers are able to look directly up the screen siren's dress. Luckily, she'll only be there until 2012."
Yes, the piece is essentially one big giant upskirt photo opp. But isn't it also just a giant hunk of Paul Bunyanesque Americana?

Actually, looking at "Forever Marilyn," I cannot help but think of this scene from the movie Tommy with Eric Clapton:

While we might quibble on the Marilyn statue, I am hopeful that we all agree that naming this statue of America's Sweetheart Mary Tyler Moore as the #3 most ugly piece of public art is just plan mean: