Saturday, July 30, 2005

IT'S NO TRICK, DON'T BOTHER WITH THE AXE: In a year of highly disappointing comic book/superhero movies, some of which were just bad ("Elektra," "Fantastic Four"), and others which decided to put style far ahead of any actual substance ("Sin City," "Constantine"), it's refreshing to see a sleeper of a superhero movie that puts a clever story and conceit ahead of visuals. I speak of surprise summer hit "Sky High," which is a real treat. The conceit is clever enough--transposing a traditional "teen movie" from ordinary high school to a high school where everyone is superpowered, but some are more super than others. And yes, a better movie could have been made with that premise, but this'll do, primarily because of the good will induced by the actors. Kurt Russell does nice self-parody as "The Commander," the world's greatest superhero, and father to Will Stronghold (Michael Angarno, better known as Jack's son on "Will and Grace"). What really makes the movie, though, is a lot of clever self parody and inside jokes from the supporting cast (including "Kids In The Hall" Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald as teachers, Bruce "Ash" Campbell as the gym teacher, and Lynda Carter playing the former superhero who's now principal of "Sky High."

The kids are also good, especially Angarno and Danielle Panabaker as Will's "good girl" love interest, who's clearly making her bid to be the next Lohan (and no, Dave Poland, not in that way), and various unknowns as kids both good and bad, most of whom don't get enough time to make a real impression. Allegedly, they're already planning for a sequel and/or a TV series, and I'd watch them. It's not perfect--the script could be sharper, especially for adults, but it's high-quality entertainment and suitable for not just kids, but adults as well.
MUST CAPTURE SUSPECTS BEFORE HAPPY HOUR IN THE LIBRARY CONFERENCE ROOM: It's nice to see that the U.K.'s tactical assault team observes casual friday.
BECAUSE THE COUCH IS LIKE A BED FOR LITTLE PEOPLE: Spacewoman and I accompanied two friends to the Arclight for The Aristocrats. I don't know if they have these theaters in every town, but they're great. Reserved seats, easy parking, plush chairs, state-of-the-art sound and picture, and all for just about $5 more than you'd pay at a regular theater with ass-flattening seats, fistfights for territory, and some adolescent dropout kicking the back of your head every time he crosses his legs.

Although one of our friends remarked that almost everybody in the audience tonight worked in television or film comedy, the wattage was surprisingly low. Paul McCrane, Nia Vardalos (Spacewoman's friend: "she's so C-list -- don't even look at her") There might have been more, but we had to duck out before Paul Provenza's Q&A -- two pregnant ladies with full bladders.

And then the movie. First, probably the less you know about it, the better. If you've read the Observer article about Gilbert Gottfried's act at the September 2001 roast of Hugh Hefner and you've seen the South Park version, you know two of the four best things about the movie (the others being Bob Saget and Sarah Silverman). Still, riotously funny, and best seen in a theater full of people who want to laugh. If you like incest and poo -- and who doesn't? -- this is the movie for you.

Friday, July 29, 2005

COME WITH ME WE'LL SAIL THE SEAS OF CHEESE: Or the lake. We could dive the lake of cheese. And then, after running a rigorous guantlet of regulatory inspection and detection, maybe, just maybe we could have nachos. But maybe not. Probably there will be forms to fill out... BBC reports on a Canadian culinary experiement. I'd eat it.
FIRST STOP, RICKENBACKER CAUSEWAY: I'm headed to Miami on business. Any suggestions from the peanut gallery for some locations to visit that aren't featured in your average episode of TAR or Miami Vice?
A GAME THAT BRINGS BACK SUMMERTIME ONE MORE DAY: In honor of Peter Gammons' being honored at the National Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies this weekend, ESPN reprints his piece on Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
THE LUGE FACILITY IN FLUSHING MEADOWS WILL NOT BE READY IN TIME: There will be seven cities bidding to host the 2014 Winter Olympics: Salzburg, Austria; Jaca, Spain; Pyeongchang, South Korea; Sochi, Russia; Sofia, Bulgaria; Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Borjomi, Georgia.

Some background here. The Games have not been held in a former Soviet Republic since 1980.
AND "SHE'S LIKE THE WIND" IS THE GREATEST SONG OF ALL TIME: Perhaps the British have been rattled even more than they know by all the recent terror scares. How else to explain the fact that in a poll of 1,200 British film fans, the top scene in the history of cinema was not something like Rick and Louis walking away from the plane in Casablanca, the sled being tossed into the fire in Citizen Kane, or the popcorn bursting from every door and window of the professor's house in Real Genius, but rather Patrick Swayze lifting Jennifer Grey out of the water in Dirty Dancing?

It could have been worse, though. Voters picked Jason Biggs humping a pie as the 10th best scene ever.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

ALMOST AS GOOD AS VOGON POETRY: "Winners" of the Bulwer-Lytton contest have arrived for your amusement. As you may know, the Bulwer-Lytton recognizes the worst possible first sentence for a novel written by a competitor. This year's winner somehow manages to make a metaphor between a woman's breasts and a pair of carburetors, but I think my favorite was the winner in the "Spy" category, which is:

The double agent looked up from his lunch of Mahi-Mahi and couscous and realized that he must escape from Walla Walla to Bora Bora to come face-to-face with his arch enemy by taking out his 30-30 and shooting off his nemesis' ear-to-ear grin so he could wave bye-bye to this duplicitous life, but the chances of him pulling this off were only so-so, much less than 50-50.

edited to add: link fixed.
WE'RE TRYING TO SHOW PEOPLE THAT WE'RE A WITH-IT LAW FIRM: One thought that occurred to me -- why not have challenges on The Law Firm that mirror the tasks that many of us have had to perform in the real world of law?

I'll provide two; you do the rest:
AND YES, ISAAC, HE LOVES THE BOB SAGET VERSION: We've waited six months. Finally, The Aristocrats opens on the coasts today, and Tony Scott breaks it down: "an essay film, a work of painstaking and penetrating scholarship, and, as such, one of the most original and rigorous pieces of criticism in any medium I have encountered in quite some time. . . . [it] is also possibly the filthiest, vilest, most extravagantly obscene documentary ever made."

In other reviews to run tomorrow, Stephen Holden decides that he need not, in fact, love Dogs: "[A]ren't actors supposed to read the screenplays sent to them before they commit to a movie? . . . Ms. Lane and Mr. Cusack have such an acute lack of romantic chemistry that the sight of them pretending to make nice to each other leaves you squirming with discomfort."
ARIZONA WOULD HAVE DONE BETTER, BUT THEY TRADED JAY BUHNER OUT OF THE BOOTH BECAUSE HE HAD A HITCH IN HIS INSIGHT: USA Today (motto: more people trip over us on the way out of their hotel rooms than any other obstruction in America) ranks the Major Leagues' best local broadcasters. The AL's top team gets off the Red Line at 35th; the NL's top team features a legend whom somebody on this list compared to nails on a chalkboard. Finally, some loving in a national forum for the vodka-saturated and slightly senile Dave Niehaus.
ROLLING DOWNWARDS: Not too long ago, Heather Graham was on top of the world -- Swingers, Roller Girl and her casting as Austin Powers' companion in the first sequel. Then we actually saw her lame work as Felicity Shagwell, and it's all been downhill from there, as Ellen Gray catches her pimping her ABC midseason replacement sitcom.

Which begs the question: was she never that talented in the first place, or has she just made some really bad decisions?
EXCUSE ME, MR. HUTZ. ARE YOU A SHYSTER? I wasn't going to watch Law & Order: David E. Kelley's Reality Edition, but, gosh, Newsday now says that by its fourth episode "Surprise - 'The Law Firm' could be the best reality show to hit TV since 'Amazing Race' and indisputably the most compelling one of the summer."
THE LIVIN'S EASY: Billboard has put out a list of the Top 10 songs featuring "Summer" in the title. It's nicely eclectic, with everything from Shaggy to Mungo Jerry making the list, and even Richard Marx making the list. At least one is inexplicable, though--if "Cruel Summer" is going to make this sort of list, shouldn't it be the original Bananarama version and not the Ace of Base knock off? However, somehow, neither Gershwin's "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess or Sublime's song with the same title makes the list.

This provides me with a nice segue into something I've been meaning to talk about for a while. Every summer tends to produce a few songs that are almost inevitably and irreversably linked to that summer--has there been one this year? I know Jessica Simpson's borderline unlistenable "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" and R. Kelly's popera about being "Trapped in the Closet" have been big, but there hasn't been a "Crazy in Love" level smash. My favorite of the summer hit parade so far has to be Anna Nalick's "Breathe (2 A.M.)," which somehow manages to work with its oddball combination of ethereal piano/bass and teengirl lyrics like "I feel like I'm naked in front of the crowd/'cause these words are my diary screamin' out loud."
ADMITTEDLY, HAD IT HAPPENED ON 'IDOL', WE'D BE TALKING ABOUT IT NONSTOP: So, apparently, there was some kind of judging controversy over the 'Dancing With The Stars' finale?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

BETTER PACK A COUPLE EXTRA PAIRS OF UNDERWEAR, BOYS: Today NASA grounded the space shuttle program until its engineers determine the effect, if any, of the debris that fell off of the Discovery during Tuesday's launch.

Maybe I'm just stupid, but won't they know the effect of the debris when the Discovery returns to Earth on August 7? Like, um, when they see if the shuttle blows up or not?

Ah, but reading further, one sees that NASA has a contingency plan: should Discovery turn out to be irreparably damaged, the astronauts will take refuge in the space station until a rescue mission can be launched. Which presumably would involve launching another space shuttle to pick up the Discovery astronauts. But wait -- the program is grounded. So I guess someone at NASA will have to call someone fom the Russian Space Agency: "Guys? Can you send someone to go pick up our astronauts at the space station? Our shuttle has a flat tire."

Just to add to the Keystone Kops feel of the entire thing, the "grounding of the program" has a certain irony to it given that at the moment, there are no future launches scheduled.
IN A SPECIAL EPISODE, BEN FONG-TORRES TEACHES PEOPLE HOW TO WORK THE 'MOJO': Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner to host his own version of 'The Apprentice'?
OK, HOW ABOUT "DOODYHEAD?" CNN is reporting that a substantial number of papers have dropped or censored a portion of today's Doonesbury because of its reference to embattled Presidential advisor Karl Rove by his (rather inexplicable) GWB-given nickname--"Turd Blossom." Yes, apparently, the use of the word "turd" is deeply offensive to a portion of America.
IT'S GOT TO BE BERMAN VS. SCOTT IN THE FINALS: An enterprising blogger has put together a field of 64 tournament bracket to once and for all determine ESPN's most loathsome personality. All four of the top seeds--Chris Berman, Stuart Scott, Dick Vitale, and Stephen A. Smith--seem like good bets, with Smith getting a boost if the tournament lasts long enough for his new show to debut.

The Tournament is already in the second round, but there have been some big first-round upsets including: No. 13 Beano Cook defeating No. 4 Brent Musberger in the Duke Regional, No. 15 Tim Legler taking down No. 2 Lee Corso in the Cowboys Regional, and No. 12 Jeff Brantley beating No. 5 Mike Lupica in the Yankees-Red Sox Regional.

Related: On Milwaukee columnist Steve Czaban has a list of 11 ESPN personalities who do not suck.
IT'S A TOUGH JOB... Highland Park 18-year-old single malt was been proclaimed the world's top spirit according to a list of the top 100 distilled spirits published in the American Spirits Journal and "compiled by the American drinks specialist Paul Pacult, who judged thousands of whiskies, rums, gins, vodkas, tequilas and other distilled spirits for the list."
AND KUMAR PULLANA=RINGO STARR: Slate asks an interesting question--in light of the mess that was The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, is (contrary to general opinion) Owen Wilson actually the smart, talented one in the Wes Anderson/Owen Wilson pairing? Which one is John and which one is Paul? Most interesting is that Anderson's best film is the one that Wilson co-wrote, but does not appear in.

(Hat tip to Lindsay Robertson for the link.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

INTERESTINGLY, UNLIKE PAULA MARSHALL, SHE'S NEVER PLAYED A PORN STAR: I was watching tonight's Seinfeld rerun and was amused to note that it featured Denise Richards in one of her first major professional roles. Amusingly, the point of Richards' character (playing, in a miracle of genetic unlikelihood, Bob Balaban's daughter) was that her cleavage distracted Jerry and George during an important meeting. Is this not an apt summary for Richards' career?

I don't know how to say this, so I'll just say it. You and I both know that it's just not going to work out between us.

I just can't put this off any more. It all started a few months ago when I got the wide-screen plasma TV. I was so excited to get the DirecTV HDTiVo and take our relationship to a new level. But my friends told me to take a hard look at where we were going, and I did. I found out that DirecTV is rolling out a new compression technology, MPEG-4, and that it will multiply the number of HDTV channels by a factor of three. I found out that the DirecTV HDTiVo will be obsolete by the end of the year, and that DirecTV will probably launch a buy-back plan. Worst of all, I found out that DirecTV just won't support you any more.

Don't think that this means I don't still love you. I still can't imagine a life without you. I cherish the way that your fast-forward sound has become part of my vocabulary and even something hardwired into my brain, so that if I miss something on a phone call or on the radio I hear your "badoop badoop badoop" and smile. I love the way you gently chide me with a "bomp" when I ask too much of you. I love the little gifts you leave me -- Temptation Island when I least expect it, for example. You even gave my friend Joanna an entire season of DeGrassi -- that's how close you have grown to my friends.

It would be so easy to get the obsoleting box -- it's only $700 now -- and try to savor our last few months together but that would only make it harder when the end finally comes. And I know that I could wait, should wait, until you have your stand-alone box to pair with the DirecTV receiver, but for how long? I'm weak, TiVo. I can't wait forever, and I hear the whispers from those who say that without DirecTV you might not make it. I don't think I could take it if I committed to making this work and you gave up on me. Don't hate me for leaving you before you leave me.

I won't pretend that I'll ever find someone as good for me as you. My friend Richard is with a Comcast DVR, and he's despondent. I won't tell you which parts he says she sucks, but I'm sure that he doesn't mean it in the consenting-adults kind of way.

Maybe someday it will all be better between us, but we can't pretend we're in the same place right now. If we can't have HDTV together, what's left for us? Please remember that you showed me what TV-watching could be, and in that way you changed my life. I will always remember you.

HER NEXT BOLD MOVE: Ani DiFranco will spend the next twelve months out of touring range to recover from tendonitis in her wrists and hands and, hopefully, prevent permanent nerve damage.
I SUPPOSE SELLING, BUYING AND PROCESSING ARE OUT OF THE QUESTION: TWoP's Sars and Wing Chun debate the important issue: it's twenty years since The Sure Thing, so what's John Cusack supposed to do with his career as an adult?

Up next, no lie? Ibsen.

For what it's worth, my favorite Lesser Cusack movies are One Crazy Summer, which is a total 80s lark, and True Colors, in which Cusack and James Spader play roles that seem to have been written for each other.
SERIOUSLY BITCH U NEED TO WATCH WHAT TEH F-- YOU SAY: I'm three books behind in the whole Harry Potter business, but skipped around Mrs. Earthling's copy of the new one until I found the part where Harry put the moves on Ginny. Awwwww. So cute.

But that's another story. Here's a cute article about the reactions received by an SF Chronicle book reviewer after he gave a tepid review to Harry Potter VI.
FOR STARTERS, MY KID'S FATHER'S NAME ISN'T MICHAEL VAUGHN: One of the burning questions of our time has been answered. Jennifer Garner's pregnancy is being written into this season of Alias.

So let's see: when last we saw our heroes, they were driving along the California coast in Vaughn's way-too-expensive-for-a-CIA-guy car, cooingly cooing about how they should just elope rather than have to deal with Jack Bristow's effort to impersonate a happy father of the bride. Vaughn chose that moment to reveal to his bride-to-be that he wasn't actually the guy she thought she was marrying, and before said bride-to-be had a moment to react, a big SUV slams into the car in a rather serious fashion. Cut to big ALIAS across a black screen signifying that everyone has to wait many many months to find out what's going on.

My guess for the beginning of the pregnant-Jennifer Garner season premiere: Faux Vaughn lies comatose in a hospital bed. He awakens. Sydney is summoned. She walks into Faux Vaughn's hospital room, and both Faux Vaughn and the audience simultaneously come to the realization that Syd is pretty darned pregnant. "Vaughn," Syd says, with that super-intense-spy-girl-with-a-heart look we have come to know and love, "you've been in a coma for six months." And the BOMP (aka the Alias theme song) ensues.

It's a little obvious, but the parallel between this and the "Syd, you've been dead for two years" knock-out finale from Season 2 amuses me. Anyone got anything better?
WHEN DID HE LOSE THE "P?" Details about the 2005 MTV VMA's are out, ranging from the host (the now uni-named "Diddy"), location (Miami), performers (Kanye West, Green Day, and Kelly Clarkson), original music (from crunkmeister Lil' Jon and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park), and nominees (led by Green Day, Gwen Stefani, and Missy Elliot). Most frightening category is Best Pop Video, which pits Ashlee Simpson, Kelly Clarkson, Lindsay Lohan and Jessee McCartney against Green Day, whose "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is inexplicably nominated for both Best Pop and Best Rock Video.
I WONDER WHETHER SHE'LL SING CELEBRATION OR ELECTRIC BOOGIE: In an impressive effort to ensure that the appeal of her show never takes a single baby step beyond its targeted demographic, Fran Drescher has cast Mikalah Gordon, Drescher's coulda-been love child with Barbra Streisand, for the season premiere of Living With Fran. (Ooo, and if you click on that Barbra Streisand link, you get the privilege of seeing what she thinks on a whole range of political topics. O Happy Day!)

The artificially-accented Gordon will play the genuinely-accented Drescher's Cousin Brianna, and will sing at a bar mitzvah in the season's inaugural episode. Also appearing in the premiere are Rachel Hunter (who now apparently gets pegged as Dancing with the Stars' Rachel Hunter instead of Rod Stewart's ex-wife Rachel Hunter or Playboy's Rachel Hunter or the Rachel Hunter Lowland Gorilla Fund's Rachel Hunter) as well as Drescher's own parents, Sylvia and Morty Drescher.

In other news, Drescher's Pomeranian, Esther, is joining the show as a series regular.

Monday, July 25, 2005

AND SPEAKING OF CULTURE WARS: As seen previously at Slate, and published here by contest sponsor Hemispheres Magazine, the winner of this year's Faux Faulkner is very entertaining indeed. (This post is intended as entertainment or entertainment commentary. All collateral political content is merely incidental and not intended to reflect the opinions or proclivities of ALLOTFMA, it's posters, commentors, contribu... oh, okay you know I LOVE IT!!).
SO DOES A PIG: BBC Radio's latest "greatest" poll has the virtue of not focusing on an area of culture about which I can pretend to know anything. So unlike the last one, the results probably won't irk me if Alex deems the resulting list post-worthy.

In fact, I know so little about painting that I could happily join the masses in pretending to sort the merits of Monet vs. Manet vs. the various Hang In There! posters adorning their co-workers' cubicles. Oink!
SHE'S RUNNING FOR MAYOR OF SASSY CITY: Jane Pratt, editor of late lamented teengirl magazine Sassy and currently editor of the eponymous Jane, is calling it quits. Somehow, Gawker managed to miss the easy and obvious joke.
AND THAT'S HOW IT CAME TO PASS THAT ON THE SECOND-TO-LAST DAY OF THE JOB, THE CONVICT CREW THAT TARRED THE PLATE FACTORY ROOF IN THE SPRING OF 49 WOUND UP HITTING TEN IN A ROW: Having escaped the triple-digit heat yesterday at an 11 a.m. showing of March of the Penguins, I really appreciated the brilliance that is Morgan Freeman Buys a Pop-A-Shot Machine.
EVEN A STOPPED CLOCK: I heard a lousy, outdated joke on Le Show this morning about telemarketers calling during dinner. "But telemarketers don't call anymore," I thought. It dawned on me that in October the do-not-call list will have been in effect for two years. It made me realize that, of all the actions my government has ever taken, the one that has had the most palpable and measurable effect on my daily life is the one that made people to whom I didn't want to talk stop calling me.
SHAME, CANADA: Just a few quick DeGrassi notes:

(1) In this week's episode, they introduced three new characters -- two cheerleaders and the new hot guy, all with major speaking roles. At this point, there are more characters on DeGrassi than there are teens in Canada.

(2) The aforementioned "new hot guy" is a hideously ugly gay half-Asian mop-top with ADD (who, of course, can't act). For good measure, they threw in his two (real) hideously ugly gay half-Asian brothers. Watching these three throw the football around is to regular football as watching the Sharks take on the Jets is to gang warfare. At this point, there are more hideously ugly gay males on DeGrassi than there are teens in Canada.

(3) They're setting up the new hideously ugly gay half-Asian mop-top as Emma's new love interest. Let's review earnest good-girl Emma's love life. First she dated the troubled boy who fled his home town after deafening a kid in a fight. Chemistry: Zero. Then she dated the deejay with the debilitating speech impediment. Chemistry: Zero. Then she blew the stoner in an abandoned van to get a homemade bracelet. Chemistry: Zero. Gonorrhea: One. Up next: a half-Asian Crispin Glover with a Carol Brady haircut. At this point, there are more implausible love interests for Emma than there are teens in Canada.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

AND TO THINK HE DID IT ALL WITHOUT ANY HAND-HELD PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS: The WaPo's Stephen Hunter explains the greatness he sees in Christopher Walken's Wedding Crashers performance in a career appreciation essay:
But Walken's more than just the old guy playing the father; he stands for the whole idea of order and rank in society, the sense of an iron structure of probity and mature responsibility against whose rock-hard foundation the anarchistic stylings of Wilson and Vaughn lash and crash. Though Walken's not particularly funny, Wilson and Vaughn (who are particularly funny) wouldn't be funny without him. He contains them. He contextualizes them. He is rock and hard place. In fact, for them to be funny, he cannot be funny. In not being funny he is . . . really funny.

There are just two problems with this conceit: He has almost no lines and no character, only a wardrobe.

So it all comes down to actor's tricks, of which he has a hatful. The best in this movie is his glare. His usual mode of being is the pompous pontification where, completely absorbed in his own power and magnificence, he is unaware of the world around him, or at least convinced that it exists only to further honor him.

Hunter concludes, "Mr. Walken, you are hereby declared an honorary earthling and requested to stay around another couple of millennia. Thank you."
SIMPLY SCANDALOUS! Gamegirladvance passes word that the Right is not content to cede the ever-so-presidential videogame canoodling kerfuffle to the Democrats. Memo to Jack Thompson: There is a difference between a user-created skin and poorly, improvidently hidden content. Further, we are all naked under our clothes, EXCEPT cartoons! Simp.