Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Lifelike Facsimile Of A Good Movie

I wasn't expecting much from Surrogates. It's typical Hollywood science fiction in that it emphasizes style over substance and uses the cutting edge of modern movie making technology to tell a story with an anti-technology message. Still, it wasn't as bad as it could have been and sometimes that's about all you can ask out of a high concept special effects movie.

The movie opens with a quick recap of the next 14 years which is cool cause now I don't have to pay attention to the news between now and then. It turns out that robotic technology has grown by leaps and bounds to the point where life like androids called Surrogates can be fully interfaced by a human brain. Now most of the planet spends the bulk of its time letting Surrogates live their lives for them while they just vegetate away in their homes. Got all that? Cool. Moving on.

The son of Miles Canter, the guy who created the Surrogates*, died when his Surrogate was fried by an electric shock, something that's supposed to be impossible. To investigate this, they call in FBI agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis in a not-at-all-stupid-looking blond wig).

Greer and his partner, Agent Peters (Rahda Mitchell) quickly suspect a small colony of anti-Surrogate humans who live in a slum in Los Angeles and, though they are a powerless minority, somehow managed to gain for themselves a level of sovereignty similar to that enjoyed by Native American Reservations so, when they chase a suspect into the Humans Only area, Greer is told, "We can't follow him in there." He does anyway, the result being that Surrogate Tom Greer is both hit by the Surrogate destroying weapon then finished off by the robot hating locals. He was injured by the weapon but disconnected before it killed him so it didn't cost him his life. Unfortunately, entering the reservation angered his immediate superior even though he cracked the case to begin, found the suspect, tracked him down and had to witness several police officers being killed by the weapon. Thus, Greer is told to, everyone say it with me, "Turn in your badge and your gun." This means that Greer doesn't get a new Surrogate from the FBI and must now walk the streets as his real, bald middle aged self. Gee, I wonder if he'll follow orders and not investigate the case.

This is basically every cop movie you've ever seen with some robots thrown in. There is some character development where Greer comes to hates the fact that people allow themselves to be dominated by their Surrogates but to me that was just blah blah blah.

I liked Bruce Willis and some of the action but not much else. It can be entertaining if you're the kind of person who can look past cookie cutter story lines, plot holes and indignant moralizing though at least the moralizing came from action and not droning monologues about the value of humanity.

So, see it or don't. It won't really affect your life either way. I probably won't put too much thought toward this subject again until the day sexbots are look like Kate Beckinsale and Scarlett Johannson are created. Come that day, you will never hear from me again.

*Played by actor James Cromwell who played another robotics developer in I, Robot. Cromwell now seems to be the go-to guy for robot doctors.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Suddenly, Last Summer

500 Days of Summer is may favorite kind of movie to see. I didn't really know what to expect from it. I didn't know much about it other than it was a critical favorite and that it's about a girl who doesn't think true love exists and the boy who falls in love with her.

The girl is Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and the boy is Tom (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and we meet them toward the end of their relationship and jump around through a period of 500 days, from when they first met to, well, that would be telling. It amazes me that telling this story in a non-linear fashion worked so well especially considering it was directed by a music video director and written by the guys who wrote Pink Panther 2 or, as I call it, that godawfully sucky "comedy".

The movie starts somewhere around day 300 when Tom takes Summer out for pancakes and Summer coldly tells him that she wants to break up. That's how Summer comes off, anyway. The movie is told mainly from Tom's point of view and his perceptions are the only ones we see. Eventually, Tom's view of his life and his time with Summer begins to change and that's when we start to see the real story. For most of the movie, though, Tom is upset and depressed over his breakup and the fact that he has no idea why it happened. Honestly, it's not that hard to figure out but Tom can't see it because, as his extremely precocious little sister pointed out to him, he only focuses on memories of the good times. Mainly, they broke up because Tom is a passive/aggressive douchebag.

This is obvious from the moment they first meet. Tom is a writer for a greeting card company where Summer gets a job as the boss's secretary. His attraction to her is instant yet it takes more than a month for them to really get together due to the previously mentioned passive/aggressive douchebaggery. She sends Tom plenty of signals that she likes him too yet he has no clue. Well, he has a bit of a clue but he endlessly analyzes her every action to the point where he assumes he has no shot with her. She runs into him in an elevator where he's listening to the Smiths on his iPod and she tells him she really likes the Smiths too. Instead of seizing the opportunity she presented to him to strike up a conversation and maybe make a lunch date, he reverts to his passive/aggressive douchebag nature and decides his big move should be to play the Smiths really loudly from his desk as she walks by. Summer eventually had to kiss him in the copy room or else they would never have started dating at all.

And so it begins. And so it will go until it ends. In between, we'll see happiness, bonding, sexual experimentation, museums, movies, all the stuff couples do when they're learning about each other. We'll also see Tom's slide into despair when Summer breaks up with him and he spends the remainder of the 500 days trying to figure out why, something he would have figured before it happened had he not been a passive/aggressive douchebag. Tom's actually a decent fellow and a very entertaining character considering he's a...well, you know. A happy ending for Tom won't be getting Summer back. It will be to becomes less passive, more aggressive and lower his douchebaggery by at least 20%. Maybe then he'll be ready for love, marriage and all that other grownup stuff.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Onion Makes Man Cry

Regular readers know that, from time to time, I love to comment on the goings-on at conservative movie site Big Hollywood. They like to do stuff like complain that the bad guys in G.I. Joe weren't Muslim, or that the bad guys in Inglourious Basterds weren't Muslim or that the title of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs should have been called Cloudy With A Chance Of Evil Muslims Who Will Behead You In Your Sleep And Impregnate White Christian Women. I read them for the unintentional hilarity and I got boatloads of that on Thursday. All I had to do was read the headline...
Cowardly 'Onion' Ignores Obama, Ridicules Reagan's Alzheimers know I had a good one.

It was written by Christian Toto, a writer who, most likely to preserve his anonymity, apparently writes under his drag queen pseudonym.
Week after week The Onion bends over backward not to satirize The One. That’s keeping in line with most of today’s cowardly comics, from David Letterman to Bill Maher.

Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” has shown some interest in pursuing the president’s comic potential, but it comes in fits and starts. But The Onion’s latest attempt at humor is both vicious and wrongheaded.
He's talking about this funny bit from
U.S. Government Finds $20 Trillion Buried By Absentminded Reagan In 1987
This is especially well written because it combines a low brow jab at Reagan in the early stages of Alzheimers with what would almost certainly be a dead-on accurate portrayal of official Washington, up to and including Barack Obama, framing the burial of trillions of dollars as a sign of Reagan's foresight and genius rather than the actions of a sick, addled old man.

Christian Toto's response to this was what you typically get from Big Hollywood. He substitutes his right wing ideology for reality and ignores actual facts in favor of his made up ones.
The article tells how Reagan stored away a near endless array of Mason jars, shoe boxes and other small capsules with small amounts of money, keepsakes and other trivial goods toward the end of his second term.

The find means the country’s current economic crisis is over, we’re told, and the article further hints the nation’s money woes can be traced directly back to the 40th president.

Never mind Obama’s stimulus package has led to a ballooning of the national deficit to comic proportions.

Nothing worth satirizing there, folks. Move along.
This is a damning indictment of the liberal bias of nation's premier news satire site. It's also an example of ridiculous stupidity to anyone who has ever read The Onion. Toto made his point in the same way hucksters and demagogues have always made their points. He embraces the evidence that reinforces his assertion while ignoring the evidence that his assertion is a crock of shit. Here are some examples of stuff Christian Toto claims doesn't exist:
And yes, they have made jokes about Obama's stimulus plan:
Taking his cue from President Obama's $800 billion stimulus bill, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan goes on a spending spree not seen since the days of Caligula.
Toto could have found all this, of course. It took me 30 seconds. He simply chose not to because he wasn't interested in seeing if his bullshit view of the world was actually true or not.

Ultimately, Toto assumes that The Onion is doing what he would do in their position. He doesn't think that The Onion's staff gets together every day trying to figure out the best way to make their audience laugh. He thinks they meet up in their socialist collective and try to figure out the best way to advance their agenda, in this case a liberal one. Of course, if they did that, no one would read it because it wouldn't be funny for the same reason it wouldn't be funny if Christian Toto were The Onion's editor-in-chief and every day the front page included jokes that far right conservatives want to see like comparing Michelle Obama to a gorilla, photoshopping a watermelon patch on the White House lawn or saying that the President can't decide if his favorite book is Mein Kampf or the Koran.

Even if The Onion started tossing in stuff like that, it would do no good. Toto wouldn't be appeased unless The Onion became the official humor wing of the RNC and every day their front page had Obama spray painting a swastika on the American flag or that Obama should never be left alone with a fertile white woman lest his jungle nature assert itself. Until that day, Toto will have to console himself with the fact that at least he's not in Kansas anymore.

Friday, September 25, 2009

I Been Down So Long, I Don't Know What Up Is

I was waaaaay too busy to write anything yesterday so sorry about that. As always, feel free to stop not paying me for this. One quick note: Flash Forward looks okay so far though I'm keeping my finger on the DUMP button and will push it at the first sign of people turning into animals and screwing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- 9/24/09

If it's Thursday, that means it's time for yet another edition of everyone's favorite source of news about show business and swine flu prevention, my brief comments on various subjects called Look At My Briefs.

Oh look, another movie about zombies. I think it's been nearly two weeks since one of those was announced.

Oh look, another remake of a classic movie franchise. I think it's been two weeks since we've had one of those. I'm not a huge Highlander fan so it means jack and squat to me if it gets a "reboot" so by all means, feel free to boot this movie's re as much as you want. It has the director of Fast and Furious behind it which means it must be good unless you actually use Fast and Furious as some sort of indicator.

I see NCIS and its new spinoff dominated Monday night ratings. I wonder if the people who complain that television sucks are the same people who keep watching what is basically the same show over and over again.

Speaking of television and sucking, The Vampire Diaries didn't get any better with episode 2. It really is following the Twilight formula of showing the development of a boring romance with approximately one minute of action to liven things up. I doubt I'll watch it again.

I shall close things out with a trip to Big Hollywood. Regular readers know that I have commented on their content many times in the past but haven't done so lately because they've gotten boring*. There was, however, one post written that caught my attention. Yervand Kochar has taken a break from his attempts to defeat Moose and Squirrel to tell us how mega awesome the past was. He tells us all what a man's man Cary Grant was and how he'd like to rub his penis against Barbara Stanwyck's ankle. Then he gets stupid.
The stars of the 40s seduce you, and you like it, because they make you feel comfortable. You believe they know what they are doing.

Does this mean they were better lovers in real life? Was, for instance, Clark Gable a better lover than Matt Damon? Was Barbara Stanwyck better in bed than, let’s say, Jessica Alba?


(Unless, of course, Jessica Alba wants to prove me wrong.)
This is a fine example of three things. One, the fact that he trashes Jessica Alba and then swings into how much he wants to fuck her shows that, on some level, he knows how full of shit he is. Two, Kochar, like a lot of conservatives, longs for an idealized past he didn't even live through in which men are men, woman know their place and no one is black. Three, Kochar, again like a lot of conservatives, can't tell fantasy from reality. He actually says that stars of the past must have been better lovers and fighters because of what they did on screen. He has no idea if Barbara Stanwyck was frigid in real life or if Laurence Olivier had a glass jaw nor does he care. He saw it in a movie so it must be true.

*Click the "Big Hollywood" tag at the bottom to see some of the posts I've written about them.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Waiting For The Worms

I recently spent some time doing something I think all movie fans wish they could do. I recorded my adventure in a journal and proudly reprint it here.

Sunday, September 20:

7:30 A.M. -- Just woke up. *yawn* Wonder what I'll do today. Let's see what movies are coming out this week. Reading MY GOD OH MY GOD How could I have forgotten? Surrogates is premiering this Friday.

Well, guess I know what I'll be doing this Friday LOL. I'd better lay out my movie going outfit now. Can't just wear the usual T-shirt and jeans, not for Surrogates.

9:00 A.M. -- Went ahead and rented a tux for Friday. Should I get a limo too? No Mike, get a limo the next time Bruce Willis saves humanity from whoever is destroying it's robotic surrogates. OF COURSE YOU SHOULD GET A LIMO. Idiot.

11:00 A.M. -- All rightie, everything is set. I decided against the limo in favor of a horsedrawn carriage. Very pricey but how often do I get to see Bruce Willis in a movie set in a dystopian future where robotic technology has been taken to ridiculous extremes?

12:30 P.M. -- Ha ha, almost forgot to buy tickets. I think I'll see it four times on the first day. Let's just log on to Fandango and...wait a minutes, what if Fandango screws up and I don't have tickets waiting for me on Friday? Well, if that happens I'll just buy tickets at the door, unless it's sold out WHICH OF COURSE IT WILL BE. This is Surrogates we're talking about. I'll be lucky if it's not sold out already.

12:40 P.M. -- I can't stand this anymore so I'll just go to the theater and buy some tickets in advance.

1:00 P.M. -- NOOOOOO! They say their computer isn't functioning properly and I have to wait till Tuesday to buy advance tickets. I have no choice. I'll have to camp out in front of the theater until Tuesday. I imagine many other Surrogates fans will show up and turn this into a party.

10:00 P.M. -- Man, it's getting cold and no one else has shown up. I thought maybe some hot cheerleaders who are also Surrogates fans would have been in line by now and we'd all cuddle up for warmth. I tried to build a fire but the security guard made me put it out. Fascist!

Monday, September 21:

3 A.M. -- It's really cold now. Why couldn't this movie have come out in the summer? Stupid movie. Oh no, what am I saying? Forgive me, Bruce Willis and please ask director Jonathan Mostow to forgive me too. He directed Terminator 3 which is how we know Surrogates will be brilliant.

7 A.M. -- Dozed off for a while but, luckily, no one cut in front of me. Getting hungry. There's a McDonalds across the street. An Egg McMuffin would be mighty tasty right now but I don't dare risk losing my place in line.

7:30 A.M. -- Need to go to the bathroom but that's why I brought along these empty plastic bags. I pity the guy who has to clean out these trashcans.

1 P.M. -- Really getting hungry. I paid a kid 20 bucks to get me a Quarter Pounder and a shake. He said sure then ran off down the street away from the McDonalds laughing the whole time. I assume there's another, better McDonalds in that direction. This is gonna be the most awesome Quart Pounder/shake combo in history.

5 P.M. -- Kid never came back with my food. I assume he got hit by a bus. My condolences to his family.

11 P.M. -- I think I may be developing pneumonia as well as other exposure-related illnesses. Seeing Robot Bruce Willis in a blond wig will make it all worthwhile though.

Tuesday, September 22:

3 A.M. -- Finally ate after wrestling a mouse carcass away from a stray cat. Man, this movie better be worth it.

9 A.M. --Finally, the box office opened and I was able to buy my advance tickets to Surrogates. Got one for me and one for whatever hot girl is willing to blow me. Should be no problem getting a girl to do that. This is Surrogates, after all.

So there you have it. I'd ask how many of you are planning to see Surrogates this Friday but there's no point since the only possible answer is that all of you are going. See you at the movies.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Flashing Backward

Not much time to write today but I will comment on this preview of the new ABC series Flash Forward playing right now on Hulu. (Don't think anyone outside the U.S. can see it. Serves you right for not being born here in God's Favorite Country.) It's not bad and I don't think you can really judge it based on only a 15 minute clip but my default position is that it's going to suck. Why? One of the show's creators is Brannon Braga.

For you non-Star Trek fans, Brannon Braga is the author of some of that show's worst episodes including one that even he is supposedly embarrassed by. That would be the Voyager episode "Threshold" in which Tom Paris flew his ship at warp ten. This somehow turned him into a lizard. He then kidnapped Captain Janeway, turned her into a lizard and engaged in lizard sex with her. Seriously, look up the episode's Wikipedia entry if you don't believe me. They even had three lizard kids who were never mentioned again. Add to this the fact that he and his pal Rick Berman nearly destroyed the Star Trek franchise with the boring show Enterprise, that he went on to create another mediocre science fiction show (also called Threshold) and that season 7 of 24 on which he worked was a disjointed mess and you can see why I'm not looking forward to Flash Forward.

Hey, I just said I'm not looking forward to Flash Forward. HA! Everyone feel free to use that.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jennifer Juniper Feeds Upon The Kill

To my great surprise, Jennifer's Body didn't suck. Not only did it not suck, it also didn't blow, choke or bite. I feel no desire to compare watching the movie to having diarrhea. It's hardly a great movie but it does get assigned to my favorite movie-going-experience category: The Pleasant Surprise.

The fact that Jennifer's Body was written by Juno scribe Diablo Cody didn't raise expectations with me. I was wondering of this was something she'd written ten years earlier that she could suddenly sell thanks to the fact that Juno has made her one of the few screenwriters whose name is actually known by the general public. My ambivalence about Diablo Cody was coupled with the visceral reaction I had when I saw that director Karyn Kusama's last movie was the godawful Aeon Flux. Add to the mix the fact that star Megan Fox is not famous for her Streep-like acting skills and you have a recipe for suck. Instead, as I said, it doesn't.

Roger Ebert described this movie as, "Twilight for boys," a comparison I found odd as stuff actually happened in this movie other than two young people standing around for 90 minutes declaring their love before the first action scene finally occured. Diablo Cody's dialogue was sharp and quirky as opposed to Twilight's endless recitation of, "um," and, "uh, yeah." People actually seemed to have a range of emotions in Jennifer's Body whereas the characters in Twilight swung back and forth between morose and clinically depressed.

The story opens in a mental hospital where we meet Amanda Seyfried's character Needy Lesnicky*. She's there because something horrible happened a few months earlier. Those of us who saw the trailer have a fairly decent idea of what that was but the movie goes back and tells us anyway. In Needy's flashback, we meet her best friend, Jennifer Check (Megan Fox). Jennifer and Needy have been best friends since childhood which is why the super hot head cheerleader high school queen still hangs out with the unattractive Needy. Yeah, I know. I pointed out on Saturday how ridiculous it was to cast Amanda Seyfried as the Plain Best Friend Of The Hot Girl but the film makers refused to pull the movie out of theaters and reshoot it with a less attractive actress so we have to take what we're given. This, for me, is one of the movie's biggest sticking points. Repeating something I said in comments, I didn't know when I wrote this just how hideous Needy was supposed to be. People talk about her as if she was misshapen and covered with warts. Her boyfriend, Chip, seems to be dating her out of pity.

All that aside, the pleasant high school existence and the predictable roles they play in it are upset when a band decides to sacrifice Jennifer to get a hit record. I bet you think I made that part up. Unfortunately, they screwed something up and Jennifer ended up getting possessed by a flesh eating demon. The story could then have become a standard assembly line teen horror flick but, an action I'm sure gave many studio executives ulcers, it insists on doing things a little differently. The film makers, for some reason, thought it would be a good idea to have interesting characters, complex relationships and memorable dialogue tossed into the endless gore and violence. Let's hope the audience doesn't insist on seeing more of that in their horror films or we might not get any more Saw sequels.

Oh, almost forgot the shock of shocks. Megan Fox actually turned in a good performance. I suppose I really had no basis for being convinced that the opposite would be true. It's not her fault that her biggest acting break was a movie where Michael Bay poured her into a mini dress and made her provocatively bend over a car.

You could do a lot worse than Jennifer's Body when choosing your evening's entertainment, something I suppose I'll be saying a year or two from now when the sequel comes out. Maybe it will be set a few years later and Angelina Jolie can star as the hottie who is friends with a physically disgusting girl played by Jessica Alba.

*Diablo Cody is nothing if not subtle.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How Hollywood Thinks

In the movie Jennifer's Body, the producers naturally thought that Megan Fox would be a good choice to play the sexy titular character Jennifer. A tougher casting choice was Needy, Jennifer's unattractive friend. Naturally, they thought this actress would be the perfect choice to play an unattractive girl.

And that's How Hollywood Thinks.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Things I've Learned From Watching Movies Part 75

The best way to secure a movie deal about your life story is to have been captured by America's Most Wanted.

George Romero has saved many lives with his numerous tutorials on zombie killing. Now everyone knows how to do it.

Your perfectly normal next door neighbor is almost certainly ex-military or a former spy who could turn into an unstoppable vengeance machine.

Wouldn't you die horribly if struck by giant portions of food falling from the upper stratosphere? Apparently not.

I wonder who would have gotten the lead role if the title had been Jennifer's Interesting Personality.

It turns out that the ridiculous extremes of technological advances are actually quite likely to occur.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- 9/17/09

If it's Thursday, it's time once again for brief comments on various subjects called Look At My Briefs.

I like the MTV Movies Blog and I thank God they had the good judgment to make sure that this culturally important photo didn't simply fade into obscurity.

A movie adaptation of Battleship. Huh. This doesn't even have some lame video game plot on which to base a movie which, now that I think about it, is probably a good thing. Video game movies are, with the exception of Saw sequels and ripoffs, the worst things currently being put on celluloid.

Talking up a sequel to their recent hit Star Trek movie, J.J. Abrams and Roberto Orci say they want to try their hands at a story dealing with relevant issues cloaked in Roddenberry-style allegory. This is a path that can lead to both glory and madness. The madness can come in the form of a heavy handed plot filled with preachy monologues that can get you spoofed by The Onion. The best Star Trek films haven't gone the preachy/allegory route whereas one of the worst Star Trek films was when Picard and crew disobeyed Starfleet orders in order to keep some space hippies from getting kicked off their planet so the Federation could steal their life-enhancing atmosphere. I'm sure Abrams and Orci will see this and completely adjust their thinking and perhaps their very world view.

Why is this news? Isn't every third movie a "Romero-less zombie movie" already? Craploads of zombie movies have come out since the 1968 premiere of Romero's first film and they all follow his rules. Eat flesh, shoot them in the head, don't over cook your quiche lest it get rubbery etc.

To the people who think Red Dawn was Patrick Swayze's best movie: You're idiots. Not so much for your taste in movies but because you think Red Dawn is a documentary and that you could have been one of the Wolverines. You know who you are.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Our Pal Joey

Is it just me or did our planet lose a piece of itself when Matt LeBlanc's Friends spinoff Joey got canceled? Look at how things have gone to hell since it went off the air in 2006. The financial industry collapsed and sent the world spiraling to the verge of global depression ever since we stopped inviting that delightful Joey Tribiani into our homes each week.

Who could possibly forget all those wonderful supporting characters? Go ahead, take a minute to think of your favorite one and reflect upon how that character affected your life. I bet that took longer than a minute. Perhaps you thought of Joey's crude, crazy sister Gina, a true free spirit who we'd all like to be from time to time. Or maybe it was Joey's nephew Michael, the straight laced college student who often looked to Joey for lessons in how to lighten up and have fun. Michael's life lessons became our life lessons and the nation became a much happier place as a result as we all discovered the simple joys of video games, eating pizza and wooing pretty ladies with the simple utterance of Joey's classic catchphrase, "How YOU doing?" Of course, how could I leave out Joey's non-threateningly attractive platonic girlfriend with the potential for more, Alex. Joey and Alex showed us all what true friendship was and how love can blossom from it. Alex made us all want to be Joey's non-threateningly attractive platonic girlfriend with the potential for more and we weren't ashamed to say so.

What about Joey himself? Matt LeBlanc's subtle, ingenious performance should be studied by acting students for decades to come. At first glance, Joey is an immature man-child obsessed with his own hedonistic pleasures. True, he values his friends and family but he often places them second in his pursuit of food, women and whatever else catches his fancy. For example, there was the episode where Joey had arranged a date with a pair of twins who had recently appeared together in Playboy and wanted Joey to help them "test" their new video camera, one of many double entendres for which the Joey writers were famous. However, nephew Michael was competing in a big science show that night. Joey tries to postpone the date but the twins are leaving town the next day to do a nude photo shoot in Monaco and they wanted Joey to help them practice spreading oil on each other. Joey then tells Michael that an old friend of his is sick and that Joey had agreed to spend the night taking of this person. A depressed Michael said he understood but the plucky, clever Alex knew what Joey was up to when she saw him dressed in a way meant to impress women. Alex told Joey that Michael really needed him to be at the science show. LeBlanc's face then became a window into Joey's soul. You could see the doubt and guilt form as Joey's true decency began to emerge. I dare say that Matt LeBlanc transcended mere acting and that he actually was transformed into Joey Tribiani. Then the Playboy twins showed up and told Joey how they'd been doing special bending exercises all day and Joey quickly left with them. Later, we see Michael on stage at the science show. Without his beloved uncle there, Michael lacks the confidence required to properly operate and demonstrate the use of a potato battery. Suddenly, Michael spots Joey's smiling face from across the room. Joey's better nature had won out and Michael was able to use a potato to make a light bulb dimly glow and win the contest. This was an unforgettable moment of triumph that gave our cynical society a reason to hope and smile.

And now it's all gone. No one really knows why. The network claimed that the show suffered from low ratings but fans of the show simply don't see how that is possible. A more likely explanation is that jaded network executives couldn't even begin to grasp the warm, simple and loving genius that was Joey. Instead of embracing this wonderful show as a standard and anthem for a new millennium, they quietly shelved it after two oh so short seasons. Still, we have our DVDs, our memories and the warm spot in our hearts that will never allow us to forget the wonder that was Joey. Farewell Joey Tribiani. Know that the love of a nation follows you wherever you go and we will always think of you and wonder, "How YOU doing?"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Equal Parts Biting And Sucking

If you ever thought that Twilight should have been stretched out to 24 hours a year for the next several years, you're in luck. There's now a show for you on the CW called The Vampire Diaries. It has a guy who resembles Edward, a girl who resembles Bella and a villain who, while not looking like Twilight's douchebag villain James, does look like a douchebag.

It opens with a narration from the show's vampire hero Stefan. Narration always makes me cringe as it's almost always stupid and unnecessary. Don't take my word for it. Read just about any book on screenwriting. They'll tell you that having a narrator isn't a good idea and that you can only get away with having a narrator if you're a writing talent on par with Woody Allen. As the episode I saw didn't have Woody Allen's name in the credits, this was a really bad idea. Oh, but it doesn't stop there. See, The Vampire Diaries decided to double down on the stupid and have TWO GOD DAMN NARRATORS. Stefan and his human love interest Bell...I mean, Elena both read from these dumb little diaries they keep. Stefan mostly makes morose comments about how he wants to know Elena because she looks like some dead chick he knew in the Civil War and Elena goes on about how she's depressed over the death of her parents so, as you can see, this show will be Fun with a capital F and, most likely, a capital U.

Stefan shows up as a student at Elena's school one day. He quickly gains attention from all the girls who like cute, clinically depressed guys. Oddly, no one seems to wonder why a guy who looks 25 is still in high school. The two meet after Elena chases her drug addled brother into the men's room to tell him that Drugs Ain't Cool and that the best way to deal with the death of their parents is to write insipid comments into a diary.

Later on, Stefan takes Elena to a party in the woods where a girl gets attacked by an "animal" who turns out to be the aforementioned evil douchebag vampire named Damon. He's one of these, "Humans are nothing but cattle," types who chastises Stefan for hanging out with humans when he should be eating them. Damon and Stefan don't seem to like each other for reasons, as far as I can tell, are stupid.

And, well, that's about it. Very little actually happened in the pilot episode. I had difficulty even remembering as much as I wrote down and actually had to skim back through it. This was very dull television and I'm amazed that anyone thought that this snoozefest should have been used to make a good first impression of the show, especially since vampire/human hookups are so popular these days. In fact, I will now give The Vampire Diaries the worst insult I can think of. I really hate Twilight. Twilight has become one of those movies I grow to hate more and more. Saying that, I'd rather be strapped to a chair Clockwork Orange-style and forced to watch Twilight again and again before I'd want to rewatch the pilot episode of Vampire Diaries.

Monday, September 14, 2009

White On Ice

Ever been to Five Guys? If there's a better burger chain out there, I don't know what it is. Their "secret" is that they use fresh, decent quality meat, and make it to order while offering a wide variety of toppings. That's all they do and they thoroughly kick the asses of McDonalds/Burger King/Wendy's. Really, the burgers from those places just aren't in the same time zone as Five Guys. I often stop off at Five Guys after I go to the movies. If the movie sucks, I console myself with the thought of the tasty Five Guys burger with A-1 and mustard waiting for me. During Whiteout, I spent a LOT of time thinking about hamburgers.

For some reason, I actually went into Whiteout thinking it might be good. This is because I'm a big fan of Kate Beckinsale and I thought the trailer and ads looked interesting. Also, due to an unusual amount of neglect, I hadn't seen the rating it was given by I thought this may be the rare exception of a decent movie coming out in September but no, it's a typical sucky Fall thriller that came out before Fall even officially started.

The movie opens on a Russian cargo plane in 1957. The Russians are flying over Antarctica in winter transporting some sort of super valuable item the nature of which (trust me) is completely unimportant to the plot. The two pilots decide to kill everyone on board and take whatever they're carrying. When one brought out a bottle of vodka to the armed guards, I figured he'd poisoned the vodka, something that would have efficiently killed the guards with no harm to the pilots or the plane but no, the vodka was just to distract from the genius plan to start shooting up a plane in flight. Well surprise surprise, the plane ends up full of holes and crashes onto the barren Antarctica wasteland where it stays hidden until 2009.

Enter U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko played by the mega gorgeous Kate Beckinsale. When she first showed up, I was wondering if Antarctica, a continent with a population less than that of Mayberry, was such a hot bed of criminal activity that it rated a full time U.S. Marshal as part of its year round population. That train of thought led me to wondering exactly what life was like for the research teams who call Anarctica home and how I was hoping the movie would show us some of that. Then I thought, "HOLY CRAP," when director Dominic Sena lovingly filmed Kate Beckinsale stripping and getting into the shower. That shower scene is the movie's only A+ moment even though it is the very definition of gratuitous. Sadly, the movie quickly travels downhill from here as Carrie and her pal Doc (Tom Skerritt) have to go to an area that's remote even by Antarctica standards to investigate a dead body. This leads them to an abandoned research camp where Carrie is assaulted by an axe wielding maniac wearing a mask whose identity can be quickly deduced by anyone who's ever seen a movie before. After escaping, Carrie and the pilot who brought her there discover U.N. investigator Thomas Pryce (Gabriel Macht) who quickly gains their trust even though he showed up mysteriously right after Carrie was attacked by a masked guy with an axe but really, what are the odds that they guy they don't know who's keeping secrets from them who suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the most remote place on the planet could be a bad guy?

Throughout all this stupidity, Carrie keeps having flashbacks of the traumatic experience (which, unfortunately, does not involve her stripping or showering) that led her to seek a post in the wasteland of Antarctica. When you finally see the whole thing played out, you then know who the second bad guy is. It was nice of the movie to conveniently telegraph all its surprises so far in advance so we, the audience, had the option of going out for burgers early if we wished. This could be Hollywood's version of the public option.

So I ended up seeing Kate Beckinsale almost naked and eating my favorite cheeseburger. Not too bad of an evening except I could have done that without seeing Whiteout.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Recognition Long Overdue

Has Rambo 4 been recognized as the greatest movie ever made yet or is it still ahead of its time?

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Bored of Avon

I was studying Shakespeare recently and I realized something that no one else seems to have figured out. He really, really sucks. Seriously, why am I the only one who has noticed this? Well, I assume I won't be the only one after I inform the world.

First off, what's the freaking deal with Hamlet? He wants to kill his uncle/dad but won't cause it'll upset his aunt/mom so he sits around with his thumb up his butt whining and looking morose while his girlfriend goes nuts and everybody dies. Fun. Why not have everyone catch the plague while you're at it? Soap opera plots where a guy dies but he didn't really die and he lost his memory so he marries another woman then gets his memory back but he needs a kidney so his identical twin he never knew about shows up and it was really him who married the other woman are more believable than anything Hamlet did.

That brings us to Romeo and Juliet. Thanks heaps Will Shakespeare for depressing the crap out of us for the last 400 years. This was supposed to be romantic? Bella and Edward didn't kill themselves as the end of Twilight and that movie made three times what that Romeo and Juliet movie with Leo DiCaprio did. That tell you anything, Willie? Audiences love happy endings. If I was writing that, I'd have had them both be trapped in some tower and then hang glide right out of Verona while their families gritted their teeth both at the sight of their kids escaping and the cheering crowd below yelling, "You go, RoJu!" There was one accurate moment in the play. The morning after Romeo nails Juliet, he goes strolling through the city and runs into his A-hole enemy, Tybalt. Still feeling good from whatever sex hormones are running through his blood, he tries to ignore him and his best friend dies as a result. I feel for you, Romeo. We've all done stupid things because of sex. For instance, I once told a girl I'd slept with that I'd help her move. What a waste of a Saturday that was.

Finally, I want to talk about Julius Caesar. What a load of crap that play is. First, Shakespeare tells us all we should listen to the old crazy guy in the street eating garbage and sitting in a pool of his own urine. When the guy said to Caesar, "Beware the Ides of March," and Caesar ignored it, what did he expect? I'm sure Caesar was thinking the same thing I was, namely, "What the hell is an Ide?" The guy should consider himself lucky Caesar was in a good mood and didn't put his head on a pike or something. And what was the damn deal with the murder? Julius Caesar, the guy who conquered most of the known world, is just going to walk into a group of knife wielding Senators? I don't know who Shakespeare thought he was fooling as something like that would never happen in real life.

Wow, all that and I didn't even deal with Shakespeare's so-called "comedies". Take A Midsummer Night's Dream for example. A guy goes off into the woods, plays with some fairies and wakes up with the head of a donkey. Ha ha! All About Steve had more laughs.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- 9/10/09

There's no better way to both get used to being back at work after a long weekend AND prepare for yet another weekend that's just two days away by reading the brief comments on various subjects I like to call Look At My Briefs.

I wonder how it is I slipped into the parallel universe that thinks lame comedies like Two And A Half Men and Big Bang Theory are funny. Still, that article doesn't actually come out and say that anyone thinks they are funny. It just says they get great ratings. Some of the least funny sitcoms in history scored huge ratings and lasted for years. Ever see Different Strokes? That show's popularity was inversely proportionate to its humor content. Television is always trying to grow out of the models and formulas set in previous decades with shows like The Office or Lost but then you, the audience, pulls them back by making shows like Two And A Half Men or The Mentalist, shows that could just as easily been made in the 70s and 80s, huge hits. Shame on you!

It would be great if the western could be revived. Up until the 1960s, the western ruled both movies and television. There was even an Emmy category for Best Western. The last decent western I can think of was 2003's Open Range with Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall. It was a modest hit and didn't inspire anyone to try to revive the genre. In the end, this is rather odd since the western never really went away. Most action films are just western plots set in a different time period. Hell, take All About Steve, set it in the Old West, change Sandra Bullock from a woman obsessed with following a guy across the country and make her a man spending years trying to track down a relative who'd been kidnapped and you have the plot of The Searchers. See? It all makes sense.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned in any reviews of or articles about Inglourious Basterds is something I noticed on my second viewing of the film. When you first see Brad Pitt's character Lt. Aldo Raine he's wearing an open collar uniform that allows you to notice a scar on his neck. Judging by the appearance of the scar, at one point in his life, Raine was either hanged or had his throat cut ear to ear. Thing is, it's never mentioned and you never get a good look at the scar after that. It's probably something that could explain why Raine is capable of the levels of brutality to which he led his men but I suppose we'll never know unless Pitt or Tarantino ever see fit to explain it. I'll add this to the list of questions I'll ask Quentin Tarantino if I ever meet him along with, "Hatori Hanzo and his assistant argued like an old married couple. Were they lovers?" and, "What was your ex-girlfriend Mira Sorvino like in bed?"

I really want to see Up In The Air. Nothing more to add to that at this time.

If I was going to make a joke about what the next Rambo movie would be, I would probably come up with something like, "Rambo hunts a monster that escaped from a military testing lab." I had to use the phrase, "If I was going to make a joke," because reality caught up with me on this. If I was going to be sarcastic about this, I would say, "Oh yeah, this is an awesome idea."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dolphins: Threat or Menace?

I was watching a shark documentary on Discovery over the weekend. It may not have actually been Discovery since everyone does shark documentaries these days. Anyway, I was watching a show about sharks on Discovery or maybe the Food Network and it was talking about a family who was saved from a shark attack by dolphins. It cut back and forth between recreated action and scientists dryly droning on about how dolphins are really smart and this makes them nice and how the dolphins risked their own lives to save the humans from the sharks so this must mean that dolphins could someday become CEO of Goldman Sachs and totally clean up that company or something. I, however, drew a different conclusion.

Am I the only one who think that, when dolphins do something like that, their intention is not to selflessly assist the poor humans but rather because they want the humans for themselves? Hear me out.

Let's start with the story I was talking about. You might think this was not evidence that dolphins are, in fact, saving us from sharks in order to be turned into meals for themselves BUT as the documentary itself said, dolphins are really smart. There were lots of people watching and taking pictures. Had they ripped the poor, defenseless humans apart and feasted on their organs then, there would have been too many witnesses and by God, the dolphins KNEW that.

In fact, what if sharks never actually attack humans. Sure, there are recorded shark attacks but maybe the dolphins are framing them. They certainly have the brain power to do that. In the bloody water, all you see is the dorsal fin and you just assume it's a shark. If you see a dolphin, witnesses will yell, "Hey look, that dolphin is trying to save the guy being eaten by sharks." Not only do the dolphins get a nice meal but they also get their reputation as "Lassie of the oceans" enhanced.

The guy who took this picture was never seen again.

So be afraid when you enter the ocean. Don't trust the dolphin-centric media when they say that we should all jump into the deep blue sea and give our bottle nosed brethren a tight hug and sloppy wet kiss. For all we know, they're in on it. And hey, you think you're safe if you live far away from the ocean? Yeah, safe, okay. Do you live anywhere near running water or a sewer system? Do you really think such brilliant animals couldn't figure out a way to jump out of the sewer, slither into your home and take out your whole family? If that is possible then it's probably happening right now!!!!

Beware! Keep watching the skies, or whatever the hell you'd watch when watching for dolphins. Oh, the oceans. Yeah, them.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I wasn't rooting against All About Steve. The trailer didn't look that good but I was prepared to be pleasantly surprised since Sandra Bullock's last two movies, The Lake House and The Proposal were movies I expected to suck and ended up enjoying. "Third time's the charm," I was thinking as I bought the ticket. Now, how do I put this? If All About Steve was a man, I would want to take a hammer and pound this guy's crotch until he begged me to kill him but I wouldn't kill him. Instead, I would wait for his pain to subside THEN I would kill him. This is mainly because the movie made me get my hopes up then crushed them.

All About Steve takes the concept of stalking and frames it in the most loving manner possible. Sandra Bullock plays Mary Horowitz. Mary's in her 40s and still single, mainly because she's insane. Oh, not dangerously so. She's not "cut off your skin and wear it as a suit" crazy. Rather she's "Makes crossword puzzles for a living and doesn't understand why the world is as obsessed with boring trivia as she is" crazy. This makes Mary two things. One, she is very good at her job of writing crossword puzzles. Two, it also makes her extremely annoying and even downright repellent. This becomes obvious when she first meets Steve (Bradley Cooper who seems to be in every movie these days). She falls for him so hard the second her eyes land on him that she starts tearing his clothes off as soon as they get into his car. Steve thinks this is cool at first but is so turned off by her inability to shut up and stop endlessly spouting her every thought, be it trivial or borderline creepy, that he fakes a phone call from work to get away from her.

Mary ends up getting fired from her crossword puzzle job when she writes an entire puzzle about Steve. This turns out to be a good thing as she now has time to follow him around as he travels around the country in his capacity as a cameraman for the fictional cable news network CCN. His partners there are a mildly stupid reporter named Hartman played by Thomas Haden Church and their sound man played by Cooper's fellow Hangover alum Ken Jeong. Hartman is annoyed with Steve for a reason that was so good I didn't bother to commit it to memory so he starts making sure Mary can always find them after she starts showing up at their shooting locations unexpectedly. This backfires though when Mary's hijinks begin interfering with their job. That brings down the ire of their boss (Keith David who plays the role as if he were the police lieutenant telling Steven Seagal or someone like that to turn in his badge and gun) and decides to fire Hartman and Steve until Mary actually becomes the central focus of the story they are covering. Without going into too many details, Mary's act of stalking pretty much saves the day and Steve even says to her, "Don't ever change," even though a massive amount of change would do her a world of good.

In real life, being stalked is a horrible and often frightening experience. Stalkers slash your tires and leave dead animals in your mail box to prove their love for you. It would be very difficult to try to build a romantic comedy around a premise like that. I'm not sure what made a first time feature director and the writer of the awful License To Wed think they were up to the job. This "romantic comedy" is anything but romantic and hardly ever a comedy. The only consistently funny character comes from The Daily Show's Jason Jones who plays a rival reporter.

And with that, the summer movie season officially winds down on a very low note. I'll try to keep an open mind the next time Sandra Bullock plays a mature woman acting like a 14 year old when it comes to the ways of love but she has lost loads of credibility with me and cost me the childlike innocence I possessed when I went to see her movies. Thanks a lot, Bullock.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

It's Labor Day so I'm taking the day off from writing. If you absolutely need something, here's a video that made me laugh.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Larry King, R.I.P.

Sad news indeed.

NEW YORK CITY -- America was saddened yesterday to hear that one if its most beloved celebrities, journalist and CNN interviewer Larry King, died unexpectedly at the age of 75. Mr. King was known for his kindness and gentle wit and his pleasant and inoffensive style as an interviewer made him a favorite both among his viewers and the people who came on his show.

Though exact circumstances were unclear, it appears Mr. King died by being stomped to death by a horse with whom he was trying to have sex. A spokesman for the local police department stated that Mr. King's nude, bloody corpse was found at approximately 4 a.m. by a stablehand in the stall of a Clydesdale filly named Snobelle at a horse farm near Mr. King's home. Mr. King had apparently bribed one of the other stablehands to allow him onto the property and, in the stablehand's words, "Make sure he and Snobelle weren't disturbed."

When presented with skepticism over whether Mr. King had actually tried to have intercourse with the horse, State Police spokesman Harold Deever replied, "In addition to Mr. King's state of undress, there were scented candles burning and Peter Gabriel's 'In Your Eyes' was playing on a loop on Mr. King's Ipod. Also, various lubricants often associated with sexual intercourse were found smeared on Mr. King's body. There's really very little doubt as to what he was there to do."

At press time, Mr. King's family could not be reached for comment.
I wasn't a huge fan of Larry King but I'm saddened to hear about this. I'm trying to get past the perverse circumstances of his death and concentrate on the man and his accomplishments. I'm going to concentrate on the all the good that Larry King did in his life and not on the fact that his life ended because he tried to molest a horse. Really, who the hell are we to judge this man? Sure, he was trying to screw a horse but I could stand to lose a few pounds. I know I wouldn't like it if my obituary read, "Mike Clear dies 20 pounds overweight," so I can't see as how Larry King would appreciate all the, "Horsefucker Larry King stomped to death," headlines. I call upon all my readers to focus on the positive aspects of Mr. King's life like his years in broadcasting and how he was a good father to his children and not on the fact that he died while trying to shove his penis into the vagina of a horse.

Larry, we'll miss you. Here's hoping there are 72 virgin horses waiting for you in the next life.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Look At My Briefs -- 9/3/09

Time for a special Labor Day weekend edition of brief comments on various subjects called Look At My Briefs. It's special is. Shut up!

I finally saw the Hannah Montana movie and I must say, I was shocked. The amount of nudity and graphic sex scenes were not was I was expecting. I'm wondering how the hell I could have not heard about this before I saw the movie. Miley Cyrus is only 16 so I doubt it's even legal to film her doing nude sex acts. Really, I just don't understand this at all.

This is nice to read since I'd been reading rumors that the Tim Burton-directed Dark Shadows movie with Johnny Depp as vampire Barnabas Collins wouldn't be made. Burton says, "One of the biggest challenges on ['Dark Shadows'] is to just capture that weird tone of the show." Gosh, I hope Tim Burton is up to making a weird movie.

Really, I was hoping this MacGruber movie was a joke or maybe just idle speculation from the people involved but no, they actually have photographic evidence that this dumb little SNL sketch with no real plot to speak of that's basically the same thing every time they do it is being made into a full length feature film. What, was Horatio Sanz not available to do a "Carol" movie so you all had to do this instead? Look for MacGruber in a year or two in the same DVD bin at Wal-Mart with Night at the Roxbury and Superstar.

I had never seen Mad Men before the recent season 3 premiere since I assumed it would be canceled long ago and I'd be annoyed that I got into it but lookee lookee it's already been renewed for season 4. Good work, AMC. I have no idea if you're making money on this show. I hope you are. At the very least, you'll get a few bucks from me when I buy the DVDs for seasons one and two.

This Big Hollywood post is the height of unintentional comedy. Author Michael Walsh discusses his desire to have his new book, a thriller about a covert super spy who is the sole person on the planet capable of foiling a complex, diabolical terrorist plot to destroy the United States, fill some sort of hole in our popular culture. Yeah, we're really short on stories like that.

CORRECTION: I mentioned above about the Hannah Montana movie showed Miley Cyrus in graphic, provocative sex scenes. It turns out that what I had actually seen was a porn film called Hannah Montan-Ass and it's about a girl who lives an ordinary life until she dons her blond wig to become the world's biggest porn star. I apologize for my mistake.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hardcase and Tinpants

Recently, while lunching with a friend in a coffee shop, I tried to come up with what I thought would be a really bad idea for a movie. I came up with a rogue cop who is constantly in trouble with his superiors because he sometimes breaks the rules to get the job done is partnered with a sexy female android to fight a group of drug dealing werewolves. Little did I know that an executive from Universal Studios was sitting behind me. He immediately offered me a six figure deal to option my "awesome idea". This sparked a bidding war among all major studios and, finally, Fox's $3 million sealed the deal.

So, on 2010's July 4 weekend, you can all go the the movies and see Gerard Butler play Alan "Hardcase" Randall, a cop whose punishment for roughing up a crack dealer who was selling to 4th graders is to partner with a new police officer android prototype played by Jessica Alba called Mya 4 whom Hardcase derisively nicknames Tinpants. Mya is uneducated in what is acceptable behavior for humans thought this mostly means she walks around in her underwear a lot and asks Hardcase to teach her how to have sex. Oh, almost forgot, they fight drug dealing werewolves led by Alan Rickman. He asks Hardcase, "Are you and I really so different, Mr. Randall?" before trying to make him into a werewolf. Mya saves him and they almost kiss but don't cause we're saving that for the sequel.

See you in 2010. I suggest you buy your tickets for Hardcase and Tinpants now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mission Statement

It has been pointed out to me that this site is poorly designed. I actually already knew this but, since this is a low traffic hobby blog, I haven't really been able to bring myself to take the time to do so. The downside of this is that new readers don't really know what the hell is going on here. Hence ergo ipso facto, I shall now tell them.

This is a show biz themed blog centered mainly around movies and, to a lesser extent, television. I've actually been considering making some changes to that theme but, for now, that's what it is. I do movie and television reviews as well commentary and analysis of movie and TV news. My style is very irreverent and I add a lot of humor even when discussing serious subjects. The point of all this is to someday achieve world domination. See? That's some of the humor I was talking about. One of my favorite regular features is Movies I Haven't Seen in which I judge movies solely by their trailers, often months before they come out. I'm pleased to say that success rate of this series is 100%.

I try to stay away from politics here. Except when I don't. When I get political I REALLY get political though it's usually a reaction to what someone else said and that almost always consists of a right winger substituting his or her ideology for reality. The most recent example of this is this woman who said torture works and tried to use the torture scenes from Inglourious Basterds as evidence to back up that statement. Yes, she used a work of fiction and nothing else to prove that torture works. People who can't tell fantasy from reality disturb me on many levels and that's why I sometimes delve into politics. Other examples of this are the posts I've written about conservative movie site Big Hollywood.

So, now you know what's going on. Tomorrow I'll permalink this somewhere on the right hand side and I'll then never have to redesign this site so it doesn't look like crap. It's a win for me.