Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So, what else was great about 2008?

Well, after looking back a bit, it was not that bad a year.

I will admit there were a few things I wish were the Posting Board Party in L-A. The music was great, but I wish there were more people at the El Rey looking back at what was once an annual Slayer holiday.
Wondercon in San Francisco could also have been better. Sure, we had probably the only appearance of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny to plug the second X-Files movie. We also had Anne Hathaway 24 hours before the Oscars. The main room though, seemed a bit dingy. There wasn't enough evening events, either, except for the Chinese New Year Parade. I suspect that in 2009, Wondercon will take up the entire Moscone Convention Center, if not by 2010.

Still, there were highlights...

3. Winning fame within the internet

My cheesy blogs helped get me an invitation to be a contributing writer for Whedonopolis, which is big among L-A Buffy/Angel/Firely Whedonverse fans. I was able to get interviews with the cast from Kings, gave an extensive report on Repo! with a Paris Hilton picture, and did one of the first reviews of the second-season premiere of Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles. The fact that I got a screener a month before the premiere helped.

Not only that, people are complimenting me for my photos on my Flickr site. My most popular picture was Jennifer Holliday at the inauguration of Governor Schwartzenegger..even if it came from a LED screen. The most popular picture I took in 2008 was me with Felicia Day at Comic-Con. I even contributed a few to some websites.

Then there was a Whedon Haiku contest. I won that one with a haiku remarking on the cost Dr. Horrible paid to be part of the Evil League of Evil. Not bad!

4. Mad Men at the Paley Festival

While entire continents wanted to attend the special panel on the 10th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there was a suitable consolation prize: a panel on Mad Men that still has a strong Whedon influence, namely Christina Hendricks and Vincent Kartheiser. Still, Jon Hamm was the man there, and at least I got his autograph. Considering how he scored big on SNL, I feel more proud.
Besides, Best Buy customers have a DVD of the Buffy panel.

5. Completing My Serenity Autograph Book

This was one of those last-minute things. I decided to attend a CreationCon on Serenity only because my radio station wanted me to take more replacement holidays off after being the go-to guy as holiday fill-in work. So, I had a quick weekend in L-A and got Gina Torres' autograph to complete the set. Too bad heavy fog prevented me from seeing all of her appearance with the fans in Burbank. Summer Glau and Adam Baldwin were also great, too, as they always are. Next November, they're planning to make it a full weekend. Depending on the economy, I may come back.

6. Buy a cookie, see a movie premiere.

I went to Westwood to take pictures of big-time movie stars entering the Westwood Village to see the premiere of Will Farrell's new movie, Semi-Pro. Of course, it's a chance to take pictures of big-time stars. I went to a place to buy some fresh cookies, when someon egave out some Semi-Pro. That meant I had to put the camera away...quickly. While the movie wasn't a big hit, I did get Andy Richter's autograph. I wish I could have done the same for Will Arnett or Woody Harrelson, but I couldn't find them. Farrell was feeling ill that night, but maybe next time.

7. Seeing Imax's Dad

Before Imax was around, the "ultimate" movie experience was Cinerama. Seeing movies in great big screens wowed people back then. Even though I get the big-screen experience going to a Cinemark theater, I always wondered what it would be like to see a movie inside one of the original Cinerama domes. If it was a good movie, that's even better. That's why I decided to see The Spiderwick Chronicles at the Arclight Dome. It was a good kid's movie, and was also the first time someone used a P-A system to introduce the movie.

8. Discovering Bonnie Hunt

Usually an ideal talk-show guest, and creator of sitcoms too unique to last, I was curious how interesting Bonnie Hunt would be as a talk show host. Turns out she's quite good, and is now my go-to visit along with Jimmy Kimmel. Of course, another good reason is that she's the host that provides lunch beforehand.

9. Holding an Oscar

Of course, it's attached to a stand, but getting an idea of how heavy one of those awards are is a nice experience. It's a good idea the Oscar people allows this, and hopefully will do the same next February. So how come the Emmy guys won't do that? Maybe the Grammy people would, because they have that new museum at the Nokia Theater. I should check into that.

10. Being at the Emmy Bleachers

I would have liked to be a seat filler again, but being outside the Nokia was great, too. My only regret was that I should have had extra photo batteries. That way, I would have gotten a few more pictures, including one with Christina Hendricks.

At least I know how I'll welcome 2009, but that's another post.

2008: Horrible and Titanic For Me

Everybody's doing a Top Ten list as we say goodbye to 2008. It was a year that had an adequate opening, a nerve-racking middle and a depressing end. It could almost be a horror movie, if not for a bit of hope for the future at the end. Kind of like Battlestar Galactica, or what's happening to Pushing Daisies.

I called this year "horrible" and "titanic" because of the two big events of my life.

1. Dr. Horrible

The first time I heard about this guy was a throw-away comment made by Neil Patrick Harris when he was talking his role as "himself" in Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay:

I’m doing a web short film that Joss Whedon is directing and wrote called DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-A-LONG BLOG. That’s a musical about super villains and crossing my fingers for the next round of Dancing With The Stars. (long pause) No…

Of course, he was kidding....right? That's as silly as creating a show about a girl who can be literally programmed to be anyone, except herself because she doesn't have that ability.
Oh, wait...
Well, as we went into the summer, we learned that this Dr. Horrible thing was real. It's Joss Whedon's way to make something special for the Internet, without the need of a media mega-glob or something. Add unique songs, a Captain with tight pants and a red-headed gal who was last seen with a Guild, and you have.....well....something that just may revolutionize show biz.

Then again, that's putting it mildly: millions of hits on its own website and others, thousands of sales on iTunes, and now the biggest DVD hit of the Christmas shopping season.

As a loyal Whedonista, I was all too happy to lend my support for the project. In fact, I can say Dr. Horrible made me buy a video iPod, and I've never looked back. I was right up front at Comic-Con, willing to see episodes of Eureka and Stargate: Atlantis to wait for the first big-screen showing of Dr. Horrible. The pictures I got from it made it all worth it. Not only that, I got to meet Felicia Day, my first Slayer since meeting Bianca Lawson in Sacramento a few years ago. I was glad that she knew me as one of her MySpace friends, and that's enough. That, and getting my Guild DVD autographed. Too bad I couldn't get closer to Nathan Fillion or Neil Patrick Harris, but I saw history. That's big, and there's always another chance.

2. Cinematic Titanic: The Other DVD Rule-Breaker

Even after Mystery Science Theater 3000 departed from Sci-Fi in 1999, Man still has a basic need to express himself when he realizes he has spent ten bucks to witness a pile of manure made from film...or specifically Fox, Warner Brothers or Universal. Mike Nelson has picked up the slack thanks to The Film Crew, and later Rifftrax (basically the home version of MST that allows him to give recent "films"...even the good ones....the business). Then we hear that Joel Hodgson, who created MST has something new called Cinematic Titanic. He finds his crew from the first season, and adds TV's Frank and Mary Jo Pehl, and recreates the Traditional Method of Riffing. So far, CT has made five DVD's, with a sixth coming in early January. It hasn't been as popular as Dr. Horrible, because it's a niche DVD. This is a mom and pop operation, but it is one that has achieved success and praise.

Like DH, this has touched me in a special way...I finally got to meet Joel, J. Elvis Weinstein (Tom Servo 1.0 and Dr. Ehrhart), Trace Beaulieu (Dr. Forrester) and TV's Frank Coniff in San Jose under a heavy canvas tent that was technically part of the Convention Center. I may have worried Joel because I found a jump suit that fit me. I am hoping I'll get one closer to the official colors, whether it's Joel red or Mike Nelson blue or green.

You know, since Neil Patrick Harris once riffed a movie on Rifftrax, maybe you combine DH with Rifftrax or CT and make something even more glorious. Of course, to make it perfect, you'd have to add Sarah Michelle Gellar, and they all riff on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as in the 1992 movie people usually forget--with some justification, maybe.

After all, who wouldn't want a battle of the mad scientists between Dr. Forrester and Dr. Horrible, which winds up them both of them riffing on the same movie--because Buffy made them.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Benjamin Button: Life Begins at 86

Even though Brad Pitt couldn't overcome his ex-wife's dog movie during the post-Christmas weekend, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is still a very good fable about life, and how it should be lived, even if you're born as a baby with the body of an 86 year old man. Putting Brad Pitt as an old man in a boy's body is a neat technical trick, but it doesn't get in the way of the story, expecially after an hour. Pitt portrays Button as ageless, someone who wants to live what life has to offer, even if his body is doing it backwards.

Before this year, I had no desire to see Brad Pitt movies, and not just because he and his wife, Angelina Jolie, are constant gossip fodder. Despite their high-profile life, they are good actors. We just forget it when we heard about their adopted kids and such. If you see Pitt in action, he can put together god work. He was hilarious in Burn After Reading as a dopey gym worker who gets in over his head. In Button, he's also great as someone who lives under unusual circumstances. The fact that he has his "childhood" in an old-folks home helps him transition to adulthood, while turning younger.

Of course, there is always a woman, and her name is Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett. While Button looks wise beyond his years, she enjoys her youth as she works as a dancer. Yet the older she gets, the more interesting she becomes. Before Daisy, Button has an affair with a married woman played by Tilda Swinton. She was more interesting than Blanchett, when she talked about how she wished she could change things she did in the past, while he says it isn't too late. How she deals with something she nearly did as a teenager shows what kind of impression he makes.

The other key woman in Button's life is Queenie, a maid who takes in Button when he's abandoned by his father. Taraji P. Henson is very touching as someone who looks after Button despite his unique condition.

As for the film itself, it's a very interesting fantasy inspired by a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. As far as the Best Picture race goes, Pitt shines best here, but the overall movie doesn't shine enough. So far, Slumdog Millionaire would be my choice for Best Picture, although Wall*E would actually be a close second. That will still get Best Animated Film. As far as the Best Actor race goes, I am still eager to see what Mickey Rourke does in The Wrestler. I have liked the trailer, and the praise he's gotten so far. Whether Oscar voters would actually make him their top choice is another matter. The signs seem to suggest Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon, but we should know more in a couple of weeks.

Now, for the future: I saw two trailers I really hated. One was Bride Wars, whose only purpose is to see Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson turn into UFC fighters because only one of them can get married at a swanky hotel. If Hathaway gets snubbed for Best Actress for Rachel Getting Married, it may be because she made this movie, which may make some voters question her judgement.

It could be worse...she could be in The Proposal, which will be Sandra Bullock's last movie ever because no one will ever hire her again after this "film" bombs next summer. She plays a cruel boss who forces an underling (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her so she's not deported to Canada. Now, the said underling could have waited until she is deported, and not have to do this at all. But it has to be done, or there's no movie...which is a better idea. The trailer shows Bullock at her worst, which means unsuspecting movie goers will have no sympathy for her coming in. I mean, a cruel boss forces some guy to marry her, which leads to them falling in love and getting married for real? I'd rather believe Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz dressed in wedding gowns fighting in the Octagon than this.

I also want to announce my website will get a new look. Let's just say I have made my own version of a very special solar system. You'll see New Year's Day.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Frost/Nixon...Oscar-winning history?

It has been many years since a play that's won the Tony Award for Best Play also won Best Picture as a film. After a little checking, I found out Amadeus was the last to pull off this trick in 1984.

Frost/Nixon didn't get Best Play at the Tonys, but it has a chance to take top honors when the movie honors are given out. It has been a big hit on Broadway and London, thanks to its two stars, Michael Sheen and Frank Langella. It's a recreation of the history-making interviews of Richard Nixon by David Frost. The movie shows this event as a David vs. Goliath struggle, even though at least one person says it wasn't quite like that. Art may imitate life, but not perfectly for the stage or screen. That being said, the story certains on Frost and Nixon, and how they are both hoping this event will revive their careers. Nixon, after resigning the presidency in 1974, is hoping he'll clear his name, or at least clean it up enough to be important in Washington again. Frost, meanwhile, is portrayed as more of a playboy than a serious interviewer. He's hoping this will help his career, too, but he's portrayed as maybe too much like Ryan Seacrest. However, it also shows how much Frost is putting into the project, even trying to sell air time himself after the networks turn him down. I can recall some of the commercials he made when it was syndicated.

The movie is framed with interviews of some of the characters who were behind the scenes, from researcher James Reston Jr (Sam Rockwell), who wanted Nixon humbled for what he had done, to Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon), one of Nixon's aides.

Over the years, Frank Langella has made the role of Nixon his own. This is certainly true in this movie. He has the voice and mannerisms down cold, only because he's been doing this for so long. However, let's also hear it for Michael Sheen, who also does an incredible job bringing back Frost, the jet-set version. His researchers may not think Frost is taking it seriously, but we see that he does. It's really too bad Sheen isn't getting as much praise as Langella is in this movie, since both were in the original play. It looks like Sheen will be eclipsed again, this time by a president instead of a Queen. Make no mistake, Sheen is great here.

I'm taking advantage of what's left of my Christmas/Boxing Day weekend to take in as many movies as I can. I plan to see Benjamin Button with Brad Pitt, who has proven he is a real actor, and The Reader, which hopefully will finally help Kate Winslet strike Oscar gold in February. What really frustrates me is that The Wrestler, with Mickey Rourke, still hasn't reached Sacramento. It is expected to get here in three weeks or so. Until then, I'm not making my choice for Best Actor yet. I may be influenced by the Golden Globes, because they'll be shown before The Wrestler gets here. Still, it looks like Langella may have an edge over Rourke for Best Actor, only because I really doubt members of the Academy would reward a wrestling picture. I may have a better idea when the SAG Awards arrive at the end of January.

For the record, there is a movie that's a possible Oscar contender that started out as a winner of Best Play at the Tonys. It's Doubt.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Hidden Sequel

By now, evil visions of evil, along with the usual sugarplums, have been dancing around the heads of Whedonistas since their copies of the Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog DVD arrived from Amazon this week. The classic tale of a villain and the girl he dreams about may not be typical Yuletide fare, but the fact that it exists at all may be a miracle in its own right.

Not only that, it comes with its own built-in sequel called "Commentary: the Musical." It's not enough to invent an Internet musical, but to also add a spin to the classic commentary track where the actors, writers, director and such talk about how they came up with this scene or that scene. No one every tried to set this typical DVD extra to music...until now.

Once you hear "Commentary," though, you get the idea the play is not the thing. It's really about how getting such a project off the ground and into our computers can be a pain, but a pain worth suffering. They also admit a commentary set to music is a cheesy gimmick...

Moments like these sell DVD's
We need to sell more
We've only sold four
(yeah, four per minute!)

So is the idea of DH itself: An Internet musical is a wacky idea that's zany! Where did it come from? (Nathan Fillion: It came from pain!)

This is followed by a song that summarizes the Writer's Strike from last year. This basically led to the creation of Dr. Horrible. The song is so peppy, SAG members may be inspired to strike for better wages, too. Too bad some don't want to strike because the economy's becoming one big hellmouth. The unsung bit players make their own song so someone sings about them, while Felicia Day refuses to talk about the "process", but will sing about it and squeeze in a plug about her web sitcom. Through all of this, the songs have nothing to do with the images of Dr. Horrible...until Nathan has his song of how he's "Better than Neil". It's no accident it comes just as Captain Hammer makes his first appearance..or is it?

Zach Whedon, brother of Joss, then comes in with a sexy rap that's cooler than Jay-Z, or Kanye West. Then, Simon Helberg, who played Moist, DH's sidekick, sings the song that would have been in the musical if there was time. Let's just say, there should have been a director's cut with Moist. After Nathan sings about Ninja Ropes, and whether Ninjas can survive in space, the "unsung" bit players sing again about how important they believe they are. Then, Maurissa Tancharoen, one of the musical geniuses behind DH, sings about why she didn't get the part of Penny...which leads into a commentary of why there's few Asians on TV and movies.

Even Joss gets into the act about what commentaries do, and that takes an interesting turn. Soon, Neil Patrick Harris is all alone, and takes musically takes advantage of that...until it's too much. The song actually reminded people of "Rose's Turn", the finale from Gypsy. However, the gang reunites for the finale, which sums up the real purpose of a commentary that's so legendary, the guys from Cinematic Titanic may be left in awe...

Hope you had fun
'Cause now we're done
You've listened to every word
Seeing it through
Makes each of you
A huge f**king nerd

But you're unfazed by the maze of crazed malaise
The lazy phrasing betrays how well this pays
So here's a toast to who suffered most
While we coasted through this

This is followed by a guy who sings with a lisp, but is also one of the "unsung" cast members. He'll be known as the guy who sings through the closing credits.

Of course, if you want the traditional commentary where the cast and crew talk about boring stuff about scenes and music and how it all came together, the DVD has that, too. I haven't gotten to that, but I will maybe before I toast the New Year. I still need some time to see the traditional Christmas fare, even if I have to cheat and see them through the weekend.

I also looked at the ELE applicants who made the DVD. My faves were Mr. Terrible with his witty song, and L'Enfant Terrible because she's from San Francisco and is really cute. I looked at some of the "Dishonorable Mentions" on YouTube, and whoever said DIE-Ronic and The Cutinator were shafted may have had a point. The Top Ten usually had two advantages: good special effects or good songwriting skills. That helped Mr. Terrible get right to the top, and The Reverend is a logical choice for Crank Yankers if they ever revive that show.

Now, if I wanted to get into the Evil League of Evil, I'd be an "evil" guy whose crimes avenge other acts that are even worse. I would be the Couch Potato, and unleash his wrath against terrible programming decisions. I would build a 50 foot pie filled with coal, and launch it at the ABC offices in Burbank, while yelling, "Merry Christmas from the Pie Hole, you @#!!&&%%$ dickweeds!!"

Yes, I watch Pushing Daisies, even if ABC denies it exists. Any questions?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hey! See a clip of the Dollhouse Pilot

It's from Entertainment Weekly, and you see how Echo loses her mind, or at least any trace of what she did, while some guy claims he's a humanitarian. Whether you believe him is another matter.
Anyway, since this clip can't be embedded in various blogs yet, just click here.

'Twas the weekend before Christmas...

Was it three years ago, during the best convention I ever attended?
If so, you'd be surprised how much hair I've lost from the top.

When my radio station wondered why I had so many replacement holidays, they soon found out I was the go-to guy to fill in during the holidays. I had thought it would be different this year, with the possibility of two five-day weekends this week and next.

Then I found out the weekend overnight guy is spending the week out of town, and can't fill in for me for Christmas Eve and Day. So, it will be another typical Christmas for me...except I take the swing shift on Christmas, and I get Christmas Eve off to reduce my unused vacation time to 10 days. That's the maximum allowed by my bosses to roll over to the new year. It would, of course, mean I'll have nearly two months of unused vacation time to start the new year, but I'll use more of it because they insist on it this time. For example, it means a four-day Wondercon weekend in late February, because I have a million replacement holidays I have to use.

I will still get a five-day weekend for New Year's, including New Year's Eve. So, at least I will welcome 2009 somewhat loaded but still able to stagger home.

I've also spent a lot of time burning DVD's of shows requested by Bill, my Canadian game show fan who doesn't get Game Show Network. The network has had some holiday marathons of the old classics, from Family Feud to Card Sharks, Wheel of Fortune to Super Password. What struck me was a block of four shows from Body Language, a 1980's version of Pantomime Quiz with a dash of Password mixed in. Robert Morse was one of the guests, and you'd be surprised how young he looked compared to how he looks now on Mad Men. I did see him at the Paley Center Fest last March, and he looked good. Lucille Ball was also on the show, and she didn't exactly look her best here because the show is so physical. You might say this is No Game Show For Old Icons. You should see her in Password instead. At least thanks to this DVD exchange, I'll get the whole set of Trailer Park Boys, and a liberal sampling of other Canadian sitcoms. I just wonder what to ask for next.

It is hard to believe tha tsuch an exciting, and eventually difficult, year is almost done. I have to really think about what I did, and also make sure it did happen during 2008. All I know is meeting Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, Felicia Day, Harold and Kumar and Dr. Horrible were definitely part of my year. After that, I'll have to pause a bit.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I have my certainty about "Doubt"

As part of my effort to burn off as many vacation days as I could so that I don't lose them, I went over to San Francisco to see how festive the downtown area looks during the holiday season. This picture says it all....

Then, I went to the multiplex at the San Francisco Center to see a movie that won't be in Sacramento until after Christmas. I chose Doubt, which seems to be a front-runner for glory at next year's Academy Awards. I can say the cast brought its "A" game in this story about suspicion, jealousy, righteousness, and faith at a Catholic high school in the Bronx in 1964. The school's principal, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), is very strict, and unforgiving of anyone who doesn't follow her example. Such secular things like the Bossa Nova or Frosty the Snowman have no place in her school.
She suspects the local priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffmann), of an inappropriate relationship with Donald Muller, the only Aftican-American student there. The suspicions start, however, because of something Sister James (Amy Adams), a younger nun who teaches history, thinks she sees something wrong.

But is she right, and does it matter? Not to Sister Aloysius, who is determined to prove Father Flynn has done something wrong. She thinks she has her true faith on her side, and that is enough. Father Flynn, who is more progressive, insists he hasn't done anything wrong. Still, there are a few things, like the fact Donald was found with papal wine on his breath after visiting Father Flynn in his office. There's also the fact Flynn has been in three parishes in five years. That must mean something....

The performances by Streep, Adams, and Hoffman really make this movie go. The scene where Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn have their first confrontation in her office is a great example of how she tries to control the situation. They play off each other while Sister James is stuck in the middle. Adams is heartbreaking as the young nun who may wonder what she has started. It's been mentioned Natalie Portman was considered as Sister James, but declined. Adams, who was a sensation as Giselle in Enchanted last year, makes this role her own, as she's able to hold her own with Hoffman and Streep.

The movie also points out how different the male and female worlds within the Catholic Church, and how that may be a factor in Sister Aloysius' suspicions. The nuns, most of them elderly, eat quietly in their plain lifestyle. When we see Father Flynn have his dinner, it's with other priests, and it's loud and boisterous. It's also made clear that while Sister Aloysius is the principal, Father Flynn is the boss.

Another scene that will really break your heart involves Viola Davis as Donald's mom, Mrs. Mullar. While they discuss what Father Flynn may or may not have done, Mrs. Muller is more concerned that her son stay in the school. Just look at Viola's emotion and concern on her face, and you can see it's real. Just hear her response to Sister Aloysius' suspicions, and it will stun you. Viola's performance in that one scene has many predicting an Oscar for her. While some people may say her appearance is too brief, tell that to Beatrice Straight or Judi Dench, who have won Oscars with a brief yet effective appearance.

When I was at the theater, I heard a few people laugh at some of Streep's lines. I was a bit surprised, but I think it shows Sister Aloysius can be funny, and an very dry way, but they were quiet when she had her final battle. I think Streep has a good chance of getting her third Oscar. This actress has had some year, from this role to singing ABBA in Mamma Mia! (which my mom will get for Christmas this year). My grandparents may have had Katharine Hepburn, but my generation would say Streep is in that league, and more.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oliver Twist Lives in Mumbai

Most of us know about a "rags to riches story"...someone who comes from the lowest rung of the social ladder climbs to the top through faith, hard work, and luck. It happens all the time in the U-S and even England.

But India...not so much. When someone is born at a certain level of the social ladder, climbing to the top isn't expected to happen.

Consider Jamal. He's on the verge of winning the top prize in the Indian verson of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. How could be do it?

A. He cheated
B. He's lucky
C. He's a genius
D. It is written

That's how Slumdog Millionaire begins, with Jamal being interrogated by the cops in such a rough matter, people may think they're actually seeing Rendition. They think the right answer is "A", because slumdogs aren't supposed to be so smart. Well, Jamal got his education through the School of Hard Knocks, and got a Ph.D. The movie jumps from his appaearance on the show, the police asking him how he got those questions right, and his life overall.

When we meet him and his brother Salim, they're a couple of mischevious kids who do what they can to survive. They are orphaned after their mom is killed by rioters. From then on, they are on their own. They are soon joined by a scappy girl named Latika, who would soon be part of their lives for some time. What they do for money and food isn't exactly legal, but it's all they have. When they are found by an "orphanage" which is really run by an Indian version of Fagan, Jamal narrowly escapes being a blind beggar. Circumstances split the two brothers and Latika, as they try to find their place in the world. As we see Jamal's story, we understand he's had an unusual education. So unusual, in fact, even the cops are skeptical, but they stay for the end.

Throughout the movie, Jamal is always looked upon as a slumdog, or even lower. His so-called betters, gangsters, cops or the pompous game show host (especially the host...keep an eye on how he deals with Jamal), push him around. Jamal learns to survive, even with help from Salim after he hooks up with a gangster who's in the middle of India's redevelopment.

A few things: Dev Patel was great as the adult Jamal, but the younger versions of Jamal, Salim and Latika are also very compelling. In fact, Latika was more interesting as a kid rather than an adult. While a tough life helped Jamal get strong, it may have worn down Latika too much. Also, the questions Jamal has to answer for the higher awards are a bit tricky, but even I could have answered the last one. The big climax is also a bit contrived, but it still worked. This is Bollywood made for American movie fans, right down to the traditional dance number.

But could it be Best Picture material come Oscar time? I think it could make the final cut, and would be a strong candidate for Adapted Screenplay or Best Director. It just depends on what's coming next, and there are a lot of good candidates. I am looking forward to seeing Doubt next week in San Francisco, followed by Frost/Nixon, Benjamin Button and The Wrestler. It will be a good time to go to the big screen.

Friday, December 12, 2008

ABC to Pushing Daisies: Bah Humbug!

This week, I spent a lot of time looking for Christmas bargains, sure-fire eBay entries including that Joker action figure from Batman: The Dark Knight that was so hard to find last summer, and items for another holiday dinner.

I also caught up with Pushing Daisies, which ABC cancelled by forgetting it was part of the Wednesday night line-up. They won't let you forget Lost, but they want to convince us a show about a baker who solves crimes by reviving the dead victims by touching them is too dumb to exist.

OK, how will they explain this....

What's giving the show more bite is Chuck's regrettable decision to let her dead dad, Charles, live after Ned revived him. This stemmed from the arrival of Dwight Dixon, who was a suspicious sort with eyes for Aunt Vivian. "Aunt" Lily (who is Charlotte's mom but that wasn't revealed until a year ago) wanted to to eliminate Dwight, but that was taken care Ned. See, he can only revive people for 60 seconds. At 61, someone else has to die. Dwight apparently was about to shoot Ned and Chuck at her dad's grave...until the dead dad lived beyond 60 seconds. Thus, no more Dwight. That's bad news for Vivian, who's lonely again, but were his affections real? We'll never know, thanks to some jerk TV network!

Charles is now the zombie dad Chuck always wanted...except for the zombie part. He's also as much of a jerk as an ABC executive. He's not too happy Ned is with Chuck, since Ned accidentally killed him because he wasn't clear on how the magic touch really worked. Zombie Charles may have a point, but in his condition, is it really worth it? Also, what was his relationship with Lily before, well, it produced Chuck? Was he cheating on his wife, and if so, does this mean the first death was payback? If he wasn't married at the time....well, that would be trickier.

Well, Zombie Charles doesn't see it that way. Now that he's undead, he's not going to be cooped up like his daughter became after the first death. If she won't join him in adventures, he'll do so alone....taking off in the night in Ned's car.

Now, this could mean he'll blab about how he's the walking dead...and why...and who's responsible. That is bad news for Ned, and really bizarre to those who aren't aware of it, like the aunts and Olive Snook, Ned's waitress who apparently hasn't gotten over him after all.

What started as a cheerful fairly tale has veered into a Grimm Fairy Tale, and I mean the uncut version told to kids nearly 200 years ago before 20th century parents edited the scary parts out. It's what would happen if Hans Christain Anderson wrote a Tale from the Crypt.

How in the world will the show wrap thing up in four weeks, and will we see the "conclusion" before or after Lost? Or at all?

In honor of ABC Scrooging an interesting show, I paraphrase a classic Christmas song about a green guy who doesn't like Christmas...

You're a mean one, ABC
Pies and Daisies, you should need
Your attitude is so Mickey Mouse
Treating the show like one big weed, ABC-eee
You're just Fox TV--with extra Simon Cowell

I like that pie man, ABC.
His undead gal pal, no longer gone
The gruff P-I, those loopy aunts,
And that pocket-sized blonde, ABC--eee
You're going to dump them for ....According to Jim???

Don't blame the show, ABC
You say the ratings just weren't there.
Maybe you have helped it out
By telling people it's on the air, ABC--eee
You cancelled Pushing Daisies...through selective amnesia

Scrooge is charge of ABC
All it has are Dance and Lost.
And assorted Desperate Housewives.
Is it really worth the cost, ABC--eee?
Or will things get so bad, you'll be wishing for...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's a Merry Schwartzenegger Christmas

I thought I would share some of the pictures I took at the Christmas Tree lighting at the State Capitol in Sacramento. The first ones are a little girl named Michaela Tritch who was the lucky girl who turned on the lights, followed by the full effect...

If you'd like to see the other pictures, along with some others in my Blogger Album, just visit here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tis The Oscar season, too

December is considered part of the holiday season, but not just for Christmas or New Year's Day.

It's also the season for finding the best movies and acting from 2008. It's never too early to predict the winners of the 2009 Academy Awards, and some possible winners are being chosen.

One of them will be Milk, a great bio-pic honoring the life of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. As I was seeing this, I remembered where I was 30 years ago when Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated. I was a sophomore at Santa Clara University seeing Dianne Feinstein tell the stunned press what had just happened. Let's just say the toughest part of seeing that movie is seeing that tragic day all over again.

Otherwise, it's an excellent movie that shows how a guy from New York went west for a new start, and wound up making history as a pioneer for gay rights. The movie is framed around Milk recounting his life on cassette, making an audio last will in case he is assassinated. Sean Penn does a great job portraying Milk as a guy who wanted to be respected at a time when homosexuality was considered a disease and worse. What surprised me is how he had very tender romantic scenes with James Franco, who plays his lover, Scott Smith. It may be tow men kissing, but it still love. I also liked Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones, who becomes one of Milk's top advisers. Josh Brolin is also good as Dan White, a fellow supervisor who will cross paths with Milk many times.

Much of the movie also looks at how gay rights were being threatened nationwide. It culminates with the 1978 election where voters considered Proposition 6, which would have banned gay people from being teachers. With the recent controversy over anti-gay marriage ordinances, especially Proposition 8, this is bound to strike a chord with movie goers.

Milk is in limited release, but should be added to hundreds of screens next week. I'm also looking forward to Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, The Wrestler and Doubt. Since I have four movie passes, it's only right I use them to see them. At least for now, the Best Actor race could be between a wrestler, a street teen, two historic figures and a suspected priest. That will be one interesting choice to make. Once the Golden Globe and SAG Awards are done, the choice may be easier...or it won't be. We'll soon find out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Captain Hammer becomes Jessica Fletcher..or maybe David Addison

It doesn't make up for its blasphemous treatment of Pushing Daisies, but at least ABC is getting that guy with the tight pants, Nathan Fillion, back on the air.

The Futon Critic announced ABC will put Castle in the old Boston Legal time slot of Mondays at 10 PM next March. If nothing else, it's one way to get people away from CSI: Miami...but might have tough competition from Medium if NBC gets that show back to replace My Own Worst Enemy.

Practically everyone is not aware of this, but I have reviewed the three-minute trailer/summary of the pilot for Whedonopolis. The article includes a link to the three-minute trailer/summary of the pilot. I still say the best change the producers can make for the show is improve the relationship between Castle and the cop who doesn't like it when he helps her...yet everyone else likes the idea. Add some more details about Castle, like maybe a connection with law enforcement in his family or something, and you have something. It's got to be more than a retread of Murder, She Wrote and Moonlighting...especially since it's both.

You know, WonderCon takes place a week before this show begins, and there's that fanatical Browncoat audience who'd like to see Nathan hammer those bad guys. Maybe the organizers should get him back for a third visit.

Access Dollhouse, part three

The conclusion of the interview with Joss and Eliza

Access Dollhouse, part 2

more with Joss and Eliza

Access Dollhouse, part one

Intervew with Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku

This is RIFFING!!

I finally tried out one of the Rifftrax commentaries targeting a popular movie, rather than a bad one. I watched the DVD to 300 while the Rifftrax crew, led by Mike Nelson, give their two cents worth. At the 2007 Comic-Con, I met Mike at the Rifftrax booth just after I learned the movie was going to be shown next door at Petco Park. I jokingly asked Mike if was going to be there to try out his riffs. He didn't answer me, but it would have been a great way to sell more tracks.

The way it works is that you're advised by Mike and his minions, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, when to start the mp3. Their mascot, Disembodio, will sometime repeat a line from the movie to help the listener resynch. This is really helpful when you have to stop the move and iPod for something. The site also offers a special player that lets you see the DVD and hear the commentary in synch to the movie if you're seeing it on your computer. I prefer the TV and iPod combo myself.

Anyway, here's some of the choice riffs that one can expect from the 300 Rifftrax...

Rosie O'Donnell is visiting Sparta?

Leonidas: THIS IS SPARTA!: Woops. I didn't know you were that close to our killing pit.

Xerxes' emissary comes to warn the Spartans: Fabio Jr. is going to set him straight

Gorgo's last words to Leonidas: Spartan, come back with your shield (it makes a great fruit bowl) or on it.

When Leonidas sees Xerxes for the first time: It's like Mr. Clean is on his way to the Mardi Gras.

For a longer example, try this from YouTube:

Imagine what they'll do to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I'll try that next week.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Second Riffing of Santa and the Martians

When Cinematic Titanic revived the traditional style of insulting movies hat are themselves insults to cinema, some have wondered if the brave crew would dare revisit one of its past traumas, I mean, movies. Could they dare riff on Manos again? Monster-a-Go-Go? Pod People?

No....they had to take the ultimate risk: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!

Joel Hodgson had thought about taking a second look at one of the movies he and the bots riffed on in the MST days. Just in time for the holidays, this looked like the ideal choice. The crew tried it out in St. Louis before a live audience, although the DVD was probably made before then. Considering the fact that half the jokes in the original would be lost on the younger fans, a new version would be needed.

We know the story: Martians come down to Earth to kidnap Santa so he can bring his Yuletide cheer to Mars. This inspires some Martian named Dropo to become Santa himself. This movie makes Four Christmases, or even Home Alone, look like It's a Wonderful Life.

Now, how do SCCTM 2.0 translate on screen? Well, when the crew is told, Trace tries to run away, while TV's Frank says "Stop calling it a film. We know better."

I'll start with comparing riffs from certain moments in the film.

When Santa is asked if he'll trade his sled for a rocket, he says "we're going out the good ol' fashioned way...."

MST: Guns a' blazing
CT: hammered.

Chochem explains Martians need Santa because "We have no children on Mars. They have children's bodies with adult minds..."

MST: like Drew Barrymore
CT: like Dennis Kucinich

Kimar meets Billy and Betty on Earth: "We're from Mars. Don't be afraid. We have children just like you."

MST: only they're worse actors
CT: We eat them

There is one example where I think the MST riff is much better. This is when Billy told the Martians they'll never kidnap Santa: "You won't get away with this, you....Martian."

Josh from CT: "I can't believe he dropped the M-bomb like that".
MST: "Santa's gonna cut you, man. Santa's a blade man, man."

But that's just me.

Other riffs in the second version have their charm. When the Martians use an air blaster to freeze Mrs. Claus: "Now why can't they do that to Ann Coulter?"

When Dropo starts dressing like Santa: "Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, I wish I had a gun."

The Martian kids are told to go to bed: "Being a Martian is a bigger drag than being a Mormon"

Oh, and the final scene where Volmar is defeated by a toy attack...the MST version compared it to several scenes, such as the pie-throwing scene in The Great Race and the orgy scene in Caligula. All Mary Jo said about it is "OK, it's official. They made me hate fun", while Joel said it was as if "Barbarella and Jane Fonda had a big stupid mustache."

My suggestion: see both versions. That will drive you to egg nog, as long as it's 5% egg and 95% nog, but it would be worth it.

Also, I got the Rifftrax DVD featuring some of its most popular shorts. It's also a great diversion from the typical cheesy holiday specials that are not Rudolph, Frosty or Jimmy Stewart. It also includes a new way to riff: the crew takes on a safety film called Shake Hands With Danger, but you see Mike Nelson, Kevin Nelson and Bill Corbett as CGI avatars. Mike is still human while Kevin's a living popcorn box and Bill's a parrot. It's quite a different experience than seeing them in silhouette mocking bad cinema. Check it out!

Have A Dr. Horrible Christmas

Amazon has announced the DVD will be avilable for pre-order, and will be sent to millions of fans, no matter what Bad Horse or Fake Thomas Jefferson may try to pull, on December 19th. Just visit for more info. DVD's are 15 bucks each, but add another ten dollars to your order for free shipping.

UPDATE!! Joss posted just before nine p-m Pacific on 11/28 on Whedonesque...

Well, my turkey (or, in some cases, tofurkey) stuffed friends, we literally just put the finishing touches on the disc. Is it worth fifteen hard-earned dollars? Absolutely. In fact, I can say without reservation that the Dr. Horrible DVD is worth $15.23 EASILY. More, if your dollars weren't the hard-earned kind, just the kind you have lying around in your mom's purse. God knows WE'VE worked hard to earn 'em. "Commentary! The Musical" is the most painstaking and exhausting piece of whimsey I have ever mistaken for a good idea. It has nearly twice as much music as Dr. Horrible itself -- since you can't really talk that much during a commentary musical or it sounds like a regular commentary. (Which we also have, with the stars and writers, plus making-of's, ELE applications, and a few items left lying around by a notorious Bunny...) I can say without hesitation that I hesitate to say it's great. And by great I mean ridiculous. It's sophmoric, solopsistic, silly and the most fun I've had being exhausted since the fabled Mushortio itself. And everyone sings beautifullly. Which enrages me. I a little bit hate my friends now.

The listed street date is, by the way, a little later than we'd expected -- I'm hoping Amazon is just playing it safe and we can beat that date. More on that as we learn it. Expect a twittering sensation.

Finally, I just want to say "thank you" to everybody who has supported this venture. We've been able to pay our crew and all our bills, which means a lot. What means more is proving that completely independent ventures can muscle their way through the blizzard of big-budget behemoths. (A blizzard of behemoths? Back to writing school, alliteration-junkie!) All that rhetoric about the future of entertainment that flew about during the Strike is still entirely true. We need to find our own way of producing entertainment. A lot of people are watching Dr. Horrible to see if it's any kind of model -- way more people than I expected -- and it means everything to me to help pave the way for artists to start working and making a living from the ground up. There are a couple of real pioneers in this that I know personally: Felicia Day, I'm thrilled to say, and choreographer Chris Elam are both looking far ahead in terms of monetization and interactivity. Me, I'm more like Jimmy Stewart in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", but at least I'm out there. Thanks, he finally summed up, to you.

My story has become tiresome! But wait till you hear the songs.

Did we cover "silly"...?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My turkey may be small, but my dreams are big

Well, it was a short weekend in Los Angeles. I didn't have enough time to do some of the things I wanted. It was mainly due to being a little sidetracked, but it was still worth it. I got to see some Big Damn Heroes, although I wished I would have seen more Gina Torres. Damn Sunday fog! It delayed my flight by 90 minutes. If I was only an hour late, I would have been OK. Still, my Flanvention memory book is now complete. I also didn't take as many pictures as I usually do. That's due to being in L-A a lot over two years. Well, once the Paley Festival comes around in March, I'll see if I want to spend four days, depending on what shows will be honored, and whether any big-time stars will attend, actor's strike or no actor's strike. With so many shows sinking quickly, I wouldn't be surprised if Dollhouse wound up on next year's list only because Joss will be there.

If there is a serious shortage of traditional shows, how about honoring some web series? Like maybbbbeeeeee...The Guild? Felicia Day is becoming the unlikely pioneer in this new form of TV, and snagging a couple of sponsors are making a big difference. Just look at the first episode of season two. It looks so much cleaner. Even the theme song gets a boost. Not only that, we get new episodes on a regular basis. The Emmys should consider adding a category for web series. Of course, this may mean Felicia will be challenged by Dr. Horrible, which she's also in. Well, you have to start somewhere.

My second visit to the Bonnie Hunt Show was also entertaining, and longer than usual. I did get a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes, like dealing with sound problems and other things. Besides, we got a bonus song from Trace Atkins that won't be shown until next month. He's a big guy with a nice new CD. They also planned out what might happen on Wednesday's show where Bonnie will either interview Kim, the "singer" in the Real Housewives of Atlanta, or herself as Kim. Let's hope for the real one because that might be scarier. Shane Mercado, who mimicked Beyonce's Single Ladies video will be back, too. I will definitely try to snag another visit in March, and not just because they serve lunch.

That is the best thing about visiting L-A: if you can't meet a star in the open road or around Rodeo Drive, you can see them in talk shows. I am still hoping someday to meet a big-time star just out of the blue. I did see Brooke Shields film a scene from a TV-movie three years ago in Sacramento, but from a respectable distance.

I did get one surprising bargain: a copy of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull for four dollars at a Hollywood Video. Add the Rifftrax "response", and you have a very entertaining evening. Add a Rifftraxed Iron Man, and you have something to do if you're not in the mood for cheesy Christmas movies that are usually ripoffs of A Christmas Carol.

I also got some riffed shorts, too. If you need something to watch on your iPod, get "Why Vandalism", "Drugs are like that", and "Coffeehouse Rendezvous" (basically a short on the worst way to stop protesting against anything in 1968).

All that's left is copying a ton of game shows for my Canadian collection, even if I won't get anything until Canadian postal workers end their strike. At least they timed their strike well, just in time for the holidays.

Now, I had a ball at the Serenity Salute in Burbank last week. Here's some of the pictures I took of Gina Torres, Summer Glau and Adam Baldwin.

Sadly I missed most of Gina's time because of weather problems. The worst news you could have on a morning flight is that you can't leave because your destination is too foggy. I still got her autograph, finally competing the set. Summer was as she usually is. You get the feeling that being a fan favorite is new to her, even after nearly seven years, but must be great. In fact, I am going to unearth a piece of the Flanvention for a one-time entry on this blog. This will happen Friday. Adam was cool as ever, talking about his current role on Chuck as well as "Becoming Jayne" (take that, Anne Hathaway). He even had some trivia questions for the audience.

They'll have another Serenity Salute next year. I may go depending on the economy, although I prefer that Creation Entertainment offer these events in Northern California. The good news is they will next Spring, a couple of weeks after WonderCon. However, it's going to be a convention for Twilight fans. As someone who believes nothing compares to Buffy and Angel, I should remember that Twilight should be examined on its own merits, Just like True Blood is different in many ways.
Still, Buffy and Angel...the real thing! Sorry, Edward and Bella. But maybe we'll see you at WonderCon, too.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's a Browncoat Thanksgiving

This holiday season will be different for me. It's the first time I won't be in any Firefly fan event in December. The past three years have been the Flanvention, the Backup Browncoat Bash and the Firefly Cruise to Cabo. All three have been unforgettable moments as a Whedonista.

However, December 2008 will not include trips to Southern California, or face-to-face meetings with any important cast members. I won't even be able to sneak into an early screening of a possible Oscar contender. If I'm lucky, I may go spend some pre-Christmas time in San Francisco.

Still, it's not a total loss. This weekend, I will be in L-A, completing my Firefly fan experience by finally meeting Gina Torres. Aside from being the distinguished wife of the new head of Las Vegas CSI (on TV, that is), she will soon be on Pushing Daisies if ABC remembers it still has to show the episodes it ordered. (Yes, I'm bitter. What of it, and you feel that way, too...right?). It's the main reason I am going. I would hope that despite the fact it's just before Thanksgiving, and this bad economy, they'll attract a lot of people to this event. Having Summer Glau and Adam Baldwin on the same day should help. If I could, I can ask her if it's OK if the photo op I had with her and Sean Maher can be on MySpace....for starters.

After that, I may squeeze in a few other things, like watching Repo! at the Sunset 5, hunting movie swag, and hoping to get an unadvertised screening of a future big movie. If nothing else, I still have a few movie passes I plan to put to good use. I expect to be seeing Milk, Frost/Nixon and maybe The Reader through the holidays.

As for my Thanksgiving, I will actually have the entire four-day weekend for the first time in years. Usually, I work through Turkey Day. After collecting way too many replacement holidays for six years, they are giving me a break. This also means I could try going to Target or something to take advantage of a Black Friday sale. The last time that worked out for me was last year, when I got good DVD's at Suncoast at embarrassingly cheap prices. It's not every day you can get a fairly recent movie for less than the ticket price, such as 300 or Children of Men.

I also got curious about how Canada celebrates Thanksgiving, since it takes place around the time of Columbus Day. Thanks to Wikipedia (what else?), I learned that people could have their holiday dinner at any time during the holiday, not just Monday. That's like having Thanksgiving on Friday or even Sunday instead of Thursday. I wonder if that idea could be popular in the states. Naaaah.

There is one issue I have with Thanksgiving, aside from department stores trying to jump-start Christmas just after Veteran's Day. Safeway has the nerve to offer turkeys for six to eight dollars, depending on the size IF you buy another 25 bucks worth of other items. Now, this is no big deal for a mom who has to cook for a family of four, but what about us single guys who have already picked up bargains at other stores, and live too far away from another store chain? This would have been resolved if not for the fact I am going to L-A this weekend, and all the turkeys will probably be gone before I get back. Oh, well, Cornish game hens should work just as well.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ode to a closed pie shop

I am paraphrasing the first verse to the Firefly theme song, but this is how I feel...

Wednesday nights won't be so much
Without the baker with the magic touch
Thanks for nothing, ABC
You just took the pie from me

The Pie Hole, I wish I'd be
With a slice of Serenity
But they took the pie from me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pushing what? We're ABC, and we don't remember having that show

...and that's how you cancel a show without removing it from the schedule. You just forget about it.
Pushing Daisies had its lowest audience ever after being off the air for two weeks. This is just a wild guess, but maybe it would have done better if ABC bothered to promote the show. They had ads for Dirty Sexy Money, which is also nearly out the door, but nothing about a magic pie maker and his not-dead-anymore girlfriend. Meanwhile, Knight Rider is still out on the road, making fans of the original show sick.

OK, so why is still happening? Maybe we can blame the economy. Last year, when the Dow was at 12 thousand, we were in the mood about a show where this pie making guy named Ned could revive the dead by touching them, then solving their deaths with a cynical P.I., a not-dead-anymore girlfriend, and a pocket-sized waitress. Now, the Dow is at 7500 (which is somehow Barack Obama's fault according to so-called experts on the radio), banks are failing, and auto bigwigs are begging Congress for a bailout while refusing to fly coach. With life suddenly not so bright, people scowl at anything cute and cheery, and that includes that pie maker. After all, Ned, could you save the economy if you hugged the New York Stock Exchange, General Motors and Washington Mutual? Come to think of it, if he did, NASDAQ, Chrysler and Citibank would cease to exist 61 seconds later.

So, maybe it's the economy that cut the audience in half. Maybe it was the writer's strike that ended the first season after nine shows, or ABC playing lots of promos for season two but neglecting to show the first season again. The Mobile Pie Hole tour may have been a good idea, but reminding people how good the first season was would have been more effective. At least Fox did that with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles by repeating that against the Olympics...considering the gold medal events didn't start until after 10 PM.

It's just a shame a cheery, yet slightly dark, show like Pushing Daisies is being allowed to fade away by just forgetting it exists. This is worse than how Fox screwed up Firefly by rejecting the pilot, and showing it last. At least it's a mistake they will never be allowed to forget, thanks to DVD sales. Short of tossing a 200-foot pie at the ABC complex in Burbank, let's do what we can to show ABC that what it's doing to Pushing Daisies will also be an unforgettable mistake.

Can a super-dog challenge vampires this weekend?

What if your life and your world was all a lie?

Sounds like a sci-fi movie or a political thriller...or maybe a dog with super-powers who discovers he's not so super, but still very special.

That's the story of Bolt, Walt Disney's latest animated movie. There was a preview recently at the UA Market Square in Sacramento. Parents and kids filled the theater to check out what could be Twilight's strongest rival right through the Thanksgiving holidays. While some theaters are showing it in 3-D, we got the 2-D version.

The movie centers on Bolt (John Travolta), a dog with powers that would give Krypto and half the cast of Heroes a run for their money. Actually, he's been raised to think his TV show is the real world. As far as Bolt thinks, he and his person, Penny (Miley Cyrus), are always battling the evil Dr. Calico. The pompous director, who reminded me of Christof from The Truman Show, explains that's how Bolt is good at his job. Never mind the fact the show is a cross between Lassie and Alias.

He's also the butt of jokes on the set, as he's teased by two "evil" cats who exploit the fact that Bolt is really clueless. That winds up backfiring on the cats as Bolt gets loose, then falls into a box that winds up getting shipped to New York. Now Bolt tries to figure out how to get home and "save" Penny, who he thinks is under Calico's clutches.

On the way, he's puzzled as to why his super-powers have failed him. He crosses paths with an alley cat named Mittens, who acts tough except for the fact she has no claws. They also meet Rhino, a hamster who travels in a plastic ball and is Bolt's number one fan. Mittens is amused that Bolt is surprised he can be injured, or that his "bolt" on his side isn't a birthmark. It isn't long, however, before they rely on each other to get to California.

When I first heard about this, I though this was basically Buzz Lightyear as a dog. Actually, it turned out to be more. The story is straight-forward, and with a typical message that you don't need super-powers to be a hero. It's how they get there that makes this a good film. It also talks about illusion and identity, as the studios try to solve the problem of a missing Bolt with, well, another illusion. It also deals with Penny and how the pressures of her job, and keeping Bolt fooled, affect her relationship with her dog. I also liked how Bolt and Mittens learned to get along as they travel west. You'll just have to see what they wind up doing. Rhino was also a riot, as he though watching Bolt on TV would make him a super-hero. Actually, it makes him Jack Black as a hamster, but it still paid off.

Since not everyone is under the spell of Twilight, Bolt should do well over the next two weeks. I still have a soft spot for Wall-E, the obvious choice for Best Animated Film in next year's Oscars. I strongly suggest getting this on DVD, too. I got the single-disc version because I didn't need as many extras as the 3-disc version. Besides, it bothers me the digital file version of the movie will expire after one year, instead of keeping it as long as you'd like.

Friday, November 14, 2008

ABC won't shut its Pie Hole...for now

Bad news, Pie Hole fans.....the Futon Critic has revealed the mid-season schedule for ABC, which will include dates soon. The thing is....Pushing Daisies is nowhere to be found on Wednesday nights or any night. It will be replaced by two sitcoms, Scrubs (picked up on waivers from NBC) and The Goode Family, either in late February or March. Thus, the back nine order is no more. It's the same story for Dirty Sexy Money, but that show has never given away pie.
Yet, According to Jim takes up a whole hour on Tuesdays against Fringe. Well, my choice is clear.

Of course, some may decide that Ned should grab his Pie Hole with his two hands, hoping his Magic Touch will save the show. Well, it won't work that way. Neither will throwing pies at the ABC building in Burbank with the worst pie fillings ever.

On the other hand..............well, seriously...

This means that getting more people to watch Pushing Daisies will be important right through February. It's clear we won't get a full 22 episode season, but it means the show will last an entire full season over two years. If it matches up against strong competition, including American Idol, through February sweeps, we'll get a third season. It's our only hope.

Still, if ABC went through all the trouble to set up a Mobile Pie Hole Tour, it should have given the show a full order of 22 shows. Maybe a clip show would help to get people caught up. It will certainly do that for Lost before it comes back in January.

The point's up to us regular Pie Hole customers. We get people to watch, and we get a third season. Otherwise, we get a cliffhanger that is never resolved.

Wait a minute...where's Nathan Fillon's show, Castle? Well, maybe next fall.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Things aren't always what they seem (we hope), says Fox

First off, I got the DVD screener for the 24 movie, Redemption. Jack is back indeed, as he tries to save some kids who are in the middle of a civil war in the fictional country of Sengala. Naturally, this is only part of the story. It happens just as a new president, played by Cherry Jones, is about to be sworn in. Throw in a possible conspiracy that involves people close to her, and an evil Jon Voight, and the new day will dawn.

Oh, and Jack is trying to avoid a subpoena to testify before Congress about how he did his old job. Trust me...this will definitely give 24 new life after being out of action for more than a year thanks to the writer's strike. If this new style works, maybe they can stick to it as long as their contract with Keifer Sutherland lasts.

Also, TV Week spoke to Preston Beckman, the head of Fox programming and, according to every single Whedonista in the world, the man who will cancel Dollhouse five minutes after it starts on February 13th. Why else would he put it on Fridays, where no TV show has ever succeeded since The X-Files?

Well, he has an explanation that actually sounds like he wants to make things better...

"If we put it (Dollhouse) on Monday and it didn't do well, we might have to yank it," he said. But because Fox's winter lineup should be solid on Saturday through Thursday nights, "We can afford to let these shows run their course. We can give them 12 or 13 weeks to find an audience."

To be fair, that's how long they gave Firefly, although they didn't like the pilot, and showed it last. If Beckman sticks to his word, then we'll gladly thank him. This idea wouldn't only benefit Dollhouse, but also Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles and its role in reviving it as a movie franchise. Even the Whedonesque posters are calmed least for now.

He hopes this will lead to Fox having four nights with popular shows by next fall. If, unlike previous years, Fox puts some faith, along with promotion, into new shows. we can all feel better.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's all a matter of priorities

Well, we got some Whedon-releated news today. One of which sounds really bad, and the other less so.
First, the Hollywood reporter has announced that Fox will start Dollhouse just in time for February sweeps. One problem...the premiere date is Friday the 13th. It's safe to say the Whedonistas are NOT happy about this. I had expected Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles to stay on Monday as a lead-in to 24, since it's seen as part of the strategy to revive the Terminator movie franchise. Now, it will be a lead-in to Dollhouse on Fridays. Maybe Fox is hoping the Sci-Fi Channel crowd will head towards Fox with this line-up. Most, though, think this is Fox burying two shows alive, then saying "hey, we thought people would be so excited they'd even watch TV on Fridays." The other way this works is that people tape both shows on TiVo, then watch it on the weekend. This would boost the number of real viewers. If Fox is hoping technology will make both shows more attractive and popular, then it looks like a genius, and finally Joss Whedon's best friend. Otherwise, the only network Joss will trust is his own...and iTunes.

The other bit of news is that ABC has reduced he number of episodes for Nathan Fillion's show Castle from 13 to ten, but that is because it's got a lot of mid-season shows it wants to release. I just hope they improve from the pilot, especially the female detective who's supposed to find him attractive because everyone else does. They just better not put the show on Pushing Daisies' time slot.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Why February 13th, or so, will be a good day

Well, we know Dollhouse will start in February 13th, which most people think is an unlucky day. When you see this preview, thanks to YouTube, you'll hope it will be a lucky day after all...

So, what now?

We've spent much of this year gettng ready for what happened yesterday..the selction of a new President, and all that it means.

So, what do we do now?

We look forward to this with optimism and hope. Whether Barack Obama was your choice or not, just remember that things can change, and for the better. Also, we have to do the best we can to achieve that. We all want things to be better, even a little bit. With the Holidays coming up, we can start there, with an extra toy or two or an extra can of food, to provide to those less fortunate. I will do my part, and I hope we all do.

Now, abut how TV covered this election....

some may accuse Keith Olbermann of being a bit too eager to see the Bush era gone, when he pointed out just before 7 PM Pacific, or something like that, that Obama was just about elected if you counted the West Coast states. That may be true, but the minute they announced Obama won Ohio, the writing was on the wall.

What bugged me was the fact that we saw ads for the initiatives up until the last minute. I can remember that no one aired campaign ads on election day, but I guess that's gone. CNN's coverage also seemed to border on virtual reality. They spared no expense using special effects to show which party's winning in Congress or specific races. What tok the cake was an interview with will. of the Blackeye hologram!! While he sounded OK, his image wasn't as realistic as they'd like. He looked like someone was broadcasting his image with a cellphone the size of Lebron James. Star Trek effects have no place in covering elections. Besides, why interview someone by hologram? That's way too gimmicky, and doesn't add anything to the interview. If you start with news channels, what's shows? Sports? Do we just stay in our homes while our virtual selves go to work?

OK, I'm over-reacting a little, but if you have new technology that you just can't wait to show off, make it something that actually makes something better. A hologram of will. didn't make CNN's election coverage better. It was a parlor trick, and I'd rather have flesh-and-blood blowhards that long-winded holograms in my news coverage.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What if the Browncoat Party took over?

Thanks to Whedonesque, I found something at Buffyfest which projected what would our country be like if the Slayer Party defeated Obama and McCain tomorrow. Could you cheer for a President Giles, Vice President Wyndham-Pryce, or support Buffy for Secretary of Defense, and Angel as National Intelligence Director? Some of the other choices are interesting, and more likely if there were still alive.

But this reminded me of something I found in io9 which gave ten alternative presidential tickets to the ones we're facing. One of them is Reynolds/Washburn, better known as Mal and Zoe. They're the "damn prettier" version of McCain/Palin, and more interesting, too. Actually, the ticket was Mal and Wash, but Zoe works better. Also, a more interesting ticket would be Jayne Cobb/Vera, but that's only if his gun could talk. Even though the election is done a Reynolds/Washburn campaign t-shirt is still a nice thing to wear, and it benefits Equality Now. Just click here to learn more.

Of course, this would all work if the Alliance had a democratic government that included everyone, even the border planets and people who kind of like the Browncoat way. Nah, I don't think such a government exists either, not in the Firefly-verse anyway. BUT...if it did, I guess they'd have an Electoral College or parliamentary system. If the Browncoat Party did have a signal that couldn't be stopped, aside from the other one from the movie, what roles would the Serenity crew have in government?

Simon is a cinch as Health Secretary, Jayne and Vera as Secretary of Defense, Inara as Secretary of State, Kaylee as Secretary of Transportation, and a much healthier River Tam as Secretary of Education, who would crack down of the Academy that she attended to make sure the "gifted" get a good and safe education.

How about those who aren't exactly Mal's best friends? The Operative, who becomes a bit more enlightened about the world, could be a good Chief of Staff. Badger may come up with interesting trade deals, and Saffron/Yolanda/Bridget sounds like a CIA head to me.

As someone once said, what do you think, sirs?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Feeling pretty soggy

As October is ready to exit with the traditional appearance of candy-hungry demons, Sacramento is also experiencing its first wet weekend in some time. We got a fair amount overnight, and will get more tomorrow.

I am feeling soggy, too, because of what I've heard about Pushing Daisies. It got hit twice by the final innings of the World Series and the Obamamercial.

There's already rumors that ABC has mowed the show down, mainly because we have to wait nearly three weeks for the next new episode. We may be told whether it's over after 13 episodes even before it comes back for its only sweeps broadcast. I think ABC, to avoid the blatant stupidity Fox TV was so proud to express six years ago, should give the show nine more episodes to give it a better finish.

Even so, that's a disappointment to a great show that offsets the gloominess that we're all feeling lately. When it opened last year, people embraced the kooky yet entertaining show. It could have been a bigger hit if not for the writer's strike. So, how could we have changed in one year? Have we become more cynical, sour, and contemptuous towards the show because we have been worn down by the election, or Wall Street going down the drain? Is it because ABC didn't think to repeat the series over the summer? At least Fox was smart enough to do that with Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles, even if it was up against the Olympics. It knows, now, that not everyone will think to go to the webiste to see episodes, or even get the DVD set. ABC relied a steady string of ads for the show, plus the Mobile Pie Hole tour, but that's no substitute for summer reruns that can attract new fans. That may have been the Kiss of Death that Ned's Magic Touch could not overcome. Also, I refuse to believe Knight Rider is a better show. So, if ABC has decided that Pushing Daisies is a weed, rather that one of its best-looking flowers, it knows nothing about TV gardening...but I hope it gives the show enough time to give it a good ending while we plan to throw yucky pies at the ABC building.

Also, at the Downtown Plaza, Macy's has opened a new holiday store...two days before Halloween. I understand the traditional holiday season is only four weeks this year, but I don't know if this is going to convince parents to buy their ornaments just after they throw away the last of the candy wrappers. I won't go that far. My website won't go into Thanksgiving mode until 12:01 AM on November first. Period.

On the plus side, I'm getting a good rep from the people who are part of the Bonnie Hunt Show forum when they forget to tape a certain episode. I've helped out three people so far. I really think this show ought to provide longer clips for those people who miss the show, or can't watch it because their affiliate...PHILADELPHIA...airs the show in the middle of the night. Really. It's the only city that does that, and should consider fixing that problem by the new year.

I also got the MST3K 20th anniversary special edition set with the Crow figurine and the metal box. I will see that when Thanksgiving rolls around. Even though I already have those movies in my collection, it's the extras that I wanted, from the "oral history" that may rival the Scrapbook that was issued only on VHS about 12 years ago (you can get this on DVD through certain channels, or me), and the big reunion panel at Comic-Con. It's real value, especially for this holiday season.

So, I will spend the weekend to send off the latest batch of GSN shows to Canada, and hopefully get to see the latest Simpsons Halloween show before everyone else (thanks to a screener DVD). It will probably be minutes earlier. That depends on how far along I am to taping all the shows, along with the latest big winner on Deal or No Deal and Cloris Leachman recovering from losing her spot on Dancing With the Stars (Bonnie Hunt, you may have been luckier than you think).

Oh, and don't forget Joss Whedon's interview with Mother Jones. Click the "Mother Jones" to download.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Joss is keeping us posted

It's been great that Joss Whedon has been keeping us posted on Dollhouse, and several other things, in Whedonesque. I copied his post from last Saturday, and put it in my web page where future reviews of Dollhouse will exist. He submitted another one early Wednesday morning, talking about some of his favorite things, including Patton Oswalt. It's great news Patton may soon be seen at a Dollhouse near us. I suggest he could be someone who almost finds out what's going on while hooking up with an Active (not Eliza Dushku, but someone else). That would be something to look forward to.

There was also an article about someone asking Joss about True Blood and Twilight, which feature vampires in love with human girls as opposed to Slayers. He had the right attitude with this comment: "If people want stories about girls who love vampires, they should have them...It's not like I came up with it. It's always deeply romantic or deeply interesting or deeply scary, or all of the above, and that's going to be mined long after I'm gone."

Also, True Blood and Twilight are both based on best-selling books. Their fans will support these shows, as well as Whedonistas will support their type of vampire romance. We're just paying attention to True Blood and Twilight because people will compare them to Buffy or Anita Blake or whoever else.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine at work asked me if I watched Pushing Daisies. Of course, I do. I was at the Mobile Pie Hole Tour, and I have season one on DVD. Anyway, she was worried about how few people are coming back to the show, and are leaning towards Knight Rider or Old Christine. Apparently in these sour times, with an intense election and Wall Street going down the drain despite lower gas prices, people don't like matter if it's well-done.

Well, I sure do, because I know for all its charm and bright colors, there is a dark side. We had to deal with Ned, the guy with the Magic Touch, deal with telling not-dead-anymore-unless-he-touches-her-again Chuck he accidentally killed her dad. If you saw all of season one, you know it really was an accident. Not only that, we find out a big dark secret from one of the aunts (Lily is Chuck's mom, not her aunt), which Chuck now knows but can't go to the said aunt to discuss it at length. Thing is, this season will deal with family. We had a peak at Emerson Cod's family, and it looks like we look at Ned's past as well. Not only that, we find out Gina Torres will be dropping by, too. She's the reason why I am going to a CreationCon in Burbank in a little more than three weeks. This will finally complete the Serenity Cast Experience for me.

Well, November will be an interesting month. After the election, which seemed to have started just after Bush's second inauguration, we can look to the future. With any luck, it will include Pushing Daisies. I can understand if it loses to the final chapter of the fifth game of the World Series, but if it also loses to the Obamamercial, too, ABC get a lawn mower and use it on Daisies. If it's going to be that dumb, though, it should allow extra time to wrap up the story. Whimsy must be respected, even if it's decided that it's too expensive..which I suspect will be the excuse ABC uses to yank the show. We shall see, as we send "What the...have you got bad Chocolate Pudding for Brains" pies to ABC if they dare do such a thing.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Heirs to the Satellite of Love

Four weeks from now, it will be the 20th anniversary of the first episode ever of Mystery Science Theater 3000...and I will be celebrating it hopefully in Culver City and in a movie house on Sunset Boulevard. I will pause to toast the Satellite of Love, and its efforts to avenge movie goers who had to endure bad movies.
Before that, I will have the 20th anniversary DVD set, complete with Crow figurine, from Amazon. Although the four movies featured are already in my library, the extras are worth the price, especially the Comic-Con event featuring everyone from the show. It marks the first time, and maybe the last time, the living history of MST3K is in one room. The crew has since split into two groups, Cinematic Titanic (featuring the cast from KTMA and season one, plus TV's Frank and Mary Jo "Pearl Forrester" Pehl) and Rifftrax/Film Crew (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett).

I thought it would be interesting to compare how these two groups approach the traditional method of ripping bad movies apart.

Mike Nelson was first with Rifftrax, when he discovered if you recorded a "commentary" for any movie, new or old, and put it in your iPod, the variety of targets, I mean movies, grows dramatically. That's why we will all skin Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull alive just in time for Christmas--or should. Before that, he, Kevin and Bill came up with the Film Crew series, which was supposed to be released by Rhino in 2005 until Jim Mallon stopped that plan. They went to Shout! Factory instead in 2007. Only four movies were riffed, and they were of the sort of stuff you'd see skewered on MST3K: bad seedy drama (Hollywood After Dark), cheesy sci-fi (Killers from Space), sword and sandal (Giant of Marathon) and just plain oddball (Wild Women of Wongo). They also went towards things that were familiar to them, such as Peter Graves and Steve Reeves. They didn't have skits like MST3K, but they did have interesting lunch breaks. The DVD extras did have comedy bits related to the movie.

After that, they concentrated on Rifftrax, which now has a wide variety of targets, even Heroes (which has been asking for it lately) and Lost (which hasn't any more). They've also added some pre-riffed shorts, just like the MST days.

To spread the word about Rifftrax, they did live shows. I was at a couple of them in San Francisco and San Diego, and both were hits. The need for Man to strike back against bad media is eternal, and these guys know that in spades. What's more, even good movies that are cheesy enough to be riffed are not safe, not even 300 or Iron Man. I bought the Rifftrax for both, and have every intention to checking them out. I should get the Lost pilot, too. That will be for later.

Anyway, it was almost a year ago that Joel Hodgson started a blog announcing that he would revive the tradition of MST3K with Cinematic Titanic. He says it was due to the fact that people were buying the DVD's, either released by Rhino or circulated through other means, and that fans were keeping it alive. Of course, that would include Film Crew, which had just released its last disc, and Rifftrax. Anyway, after a tryout at Lucasfilms Studios, they released their first movie, The Oozing Skull. They riffed in silhouette, just like the old days, although the arrangement was different. On one side was Josh (J. Elvis) Weinstein), Joel and Mary Jo, and TV's Frank Coniff and Trace Beaulieu (Clayton Forrester) and the other. Aside from that, it was like old times.

The premise, however, is different: apparently they are chosen by some group or other to protect the "digital scaffold" or all digital media will be destroyed. Lately, the crew is getting a bit skeptical about this explanation, especially since someone has put a tank in front of the main exit. Aside from that, it's riffing on bad movies, just like the old days, whether it's cheap sci-fi (Doomsday Machine), even cheaper horror (Legacy of Blood) or Roger Corman (Wasp Woman). They also have skits in the middle of the movies. Sometimes they feature dead musicians, or an over-reacting security force who hates gum.

The business model is also a little different. Cinematic Titanic is family owned-and-operated from the start. You can download the DVD, or get the fancy version if you don't trust your computer to burn the movie to a blank DVD. Besides that, you get a nice note from the crew with the DVD, complete with autograph. They fulfilled their plan to release four movies this year, and plan to do so again in 2009. Like Rifftrax, they also got their act together and put it on the road. They recently appeared in Minneapolis, slamming something called "Blood of the Vampires". They will be visiting St. Louis next week and Chicago a month later. Who knows that movie they'll bring? I just hope San Francisco, where it more or less began, will be on the itinerary soon.

For now, it looks like CT and Rifftrax can exist in good-enough harmony. CT can maintain the traditional method of slamming bad movies, while Rifftrax can be the "home game", where people rent or buy the DVD, then download the commentary for their iPod or similar device. Everybody wins.

But is there room for those who think they can riff with the best of them? The best example is Incognito Cinema Warriors XP out of Missouri. A guy named Rikk Wolf is trapped in a movie theater surrounded by zombies, and has to endure bad movies with two robots...only this time one looks like Twiki's grandson while the other is a popcorn machine. They had four movies planned out, but have released two of them. One was Bride of the Gorilla, which is about as close to an MST copy as you can get, except for the laugh track (which is only on the original copies), and Lady Frankenstein, which is racier than MST could ever dare to be. I found these guys in YouTube, which is already loaded with MST wanna-bes. One of them, Josh Way, has been recruited in the ICWXP army. They've had problems with equipment and severe storms, but hope to release more movies soon, and much quicker. It already has the support of Mike Nelson, who has featured ICWXP in his iRiffs section.

Rest assured that if there's a movie out there that's so bad, it's awful, someone out there will avenge those movie goers who were unlucky enough to spend 12 bucks on it, or a little less. Maybe when November 24th rolls around, someone will mention the fact that it's the 20th anniversary of MST3K. If not, we should remember them, the crew and the mad scientists who delivered the bad movies to us. Seeing Manos, Bride of the Monster, Laserblast, Hobgoblins, or even a Rifftraxed Iron Man while nibbling on that turkey drumstick will be the best way to honor the Satellite of Love, and all that it stands for.

Monday, October 20, 2008

TV Time

World Series: Phillies in five games

After I got a little behind in my TV watching, I caught up on both Mad Men and Pushing Daisies. Both are taking very interesting paths as one is just getting started, while another is about to wrap things up.

First, Mad Men: who would have guessed a man fearing for his job would set off a series of events where his company, Sterling Cooper, now merges with another ad agency. That's what Duck did, exploiting Roger Sterling's future alimony and health problems to help himself. Meanwhile, the fall of Joan Holloway continues as we see her get date raped by her fiance, Dr. Greg Harris, and she can't fight back. What she does to endure it is heart-breaking, and yet she claims she'll marry him by Christmas. Peggy, meanwhile, pulls off a great presentation for Popsicle by borrowing a bit of religion, and gets rewarded wit her own office. I wonder if, after the merger, she keeps that position. As we will see, a lot of people at Sterling Cooper will be worried about their jobs...except for Duck.

What about Don? He has apparently tuned of and dropped out even before Timothy Leary. Tempted by a bunch of Bohemians into running away to Palm Springs, he decides to go to San Pedro to look up Anna Draper, the wife of them man whose identity he "stole". They get along now. In fact, he acts happier being Dick than he does being Don. Too bad that means forgetting about his family back home. Betty is doing the best she can, especially when she catches her daughter nearly smoking. It also means forgetting Sterling Cooper, which is nearly no more. It should be interesting where things will stand when we see the finale next week. Will Don come back? Will the staff be cut and/or reshuffled at Sterling Cooper? Will Peggy be damned by Father Tom Hanks Jr. because she won't admit she's a sinner and a single mom? Come to think of it, where is her kid? Will Joan get dumped by "Dr. Rape?" Better yet, will Betty dump Don? That is really going to change things. I mean, consider who she is, and what Don is throwing away in favor for the wife of a comic and a careless heiress.

Second: the Whedonistas are happy that Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles will get a full season, mainly because it's part of the re-launch of the Terminator movie franchise with Christian Bale. On the other hand, they are wondering if Dollhouse will premiere in January as the show before 24. Some are hoping it will happen, and TSCC will be shown on another night. Considering American Idol will practically dominate the week, as it always does, the options are limited...and no one wants to be shown on Fridays.

Finally...Pushing Daisies is as bright and cheery as it always is, but with a bit of the dark side, too. Chuck understands how Ned accidentally killed her dad with his Magic Touch, but he still feels bad about it. The cases have been out there, from fatal bee stings, death in a convent, and dead clowns in a circus. The main issue is Lily's big secret that Chuck is her daughter, not her niece, in an explanation that actually sounds like Soapdish. What's more surprising is that Chuck is told, and she's all right with this. Still, I am sure she's thinking about how she can pretend to be a zombie and have a nice long talk with "Aunt" Lily. Olive, of course, was told first last December, and had a real tough time trying not to reveal it. Lily "helped" her by sending her to a convent, and actually it did. She even got a new friend...named Pigby. I'm guessing both will move in with Chuck, or have.

If issues with family are going to be discussed further, they will involve Ned and Emerson more likely than Chuck. Emerson is hoping his daughter will find him through a "Li'l Gumshoe" pop-up book, while there is some suggestion Ned's dad may be alive. Does this mean dad's other family will run into Ned? There's a lot of abandonment issues that will be coming to the surface faster than daisies.

One more thing...I wrote this in TV Without Pity. I was noticing Apple's new TV ads are basically attack ads against Microsoft...

They've released the latest Apple vs. PC ads Sunday. For the first time, they're essentially negative ads against Windows. In one, PC has a buzzer so that people won't say the word "Vista" and get mad because it reminds them Vista's terrible. The other had PC with a pile of money used to advertise "I'm a PC" and a smaller amount to fix Vista. When Mac asks if the smaller pile is enough to fix Vista, PC decides to use all the money for advertising.

It's come to this: the new Apple ads don't promote their own features, but rather tell you Microsoft, Vista and Bill Gates are bad. It's almost as bad as the presidential campaign. The new Apple ads should end with "I'm Steve Jobs, and I approved this message."

Response from that I said has been mixed. I just think Apple should make ads that show how great they are, such as new notebooks that are less than a thousand dollars. Thirty seconds of "Microsoft sucks" doesn't equal "we're a better computer."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Saw V? That's nothing compared to this....

"Legacy of tough, tough stain"

That from Mary Jo Pehl, a member, or maybe a prisoner (?) of the Cinematic Titantic Project, still trying to preserve the electronic scaffold that preserves all digital media. Never mind that tank that's blocking the exit.

The latest volume tackles a movie that's clearly in the same league as Hobgoblins, Ring of Terror or maybe Manos. It's painful for everyone in the CT crew, but still hilarious for the rest of us. Legacy of Blood, from the Elvira's Movie Macabre series along with Doomsday Machine, is about a hateful family who's glad the patriarch, played by John Carradine, is finally dead. They can't wait to get his money, but they have to stay in his house for a week. Whoever is not dead gets the money.

One look at this family, and you root for none of them: They all drink to excess, only to forget they are related. There's Greg, the older brother, sister Veronica, younger siblings Johnny and Leslie, who may be too close because there are hints of incest between them, followed by loud admittance. Leslie, by the way, is married or something to Carl, her shrink. She spends much of the movie in bed, in her slip, and demented. The help features Igor ("Body by Charles Atlas, head by Mel Brooks"), Helga (who was Frau Blucher before Cloris Leachman was), and Frank (who looks very familiar to longtime MST fans).

Anyway, we see lots of awkward conversations, near-pool playing and some of the ugliest deaths, and even uglier seduction scenes, from an 1970's horror movie. The only scenes that make sense are Johnny's nightmares about his hate for his dad and lust for Leslie...especially the one where Igor gets caned by Carradine whle wearing a bellhop's hat.

I'm not kidding.

The CT crew hold their own aganist this type of horror. I'll just describe some of the choice riffs...

The house, first of all: "This house is listed by the Remax Amityville office"

The funeral, such as it is: "This isn't a graveyard. They're doing a dump and dash" and "You know, I think hate is finally going to bring this family together" (which is actually true).

The law is brought in, but as usual is of no help: "Looks like a vigilante Maytag repairman". Even his patrol car is cheaper than generic: "This is the official logo of Peel and Stick County". Of course, his luck runs out very quickly.

Veronica tries to seduce the two poor replacements for father figures, both Carl and later Frank, who looks like Russ Tropp, the heavy in Untamed Youth. That's because it is the same guy, John Russell. He didn't age well since then. The best way to describe Veronica is "She's oozing something. I just don't think it's sexuality." Meanwhile, he's got plenty of Nazi souvenirs, including a lamp that used to a guy he killed in the war. Between that and her nightgown that would "make Hannah Montana look old", sparks won't fly between them, but disappointment would.

When she raids the icebox, she finds a severed head instead: "Let's go put this in a horse's bed."

As for those creepy flashbacks: "Salavdor Dali just called. He says he doesn't get it."

As for how the family deals with the bodies that soon multiply: "In this house, you never know if they're grieving or hung over".

One other lovely scene was Leslie describing a dream where she's in a cave, and Johnny tries to get inside. Her lack of clothing and acting skill makes Frank yell "Future Mrs. Frank Coniff." That feeling passes in the not-seduction scene where Johnny tries to have his way with sis, and winds up drowning in his sins...or something. Leslie then runs in terror, leading Frank to do a callback on one of his previous riffs as a tribute to himself.

This comes before one of Johnny's flashbacks showing his forbidden love for Leslie, which horrified Mary Jo to say what brothers should really do: "They're supposed to sit on your head and fart."

I'll just say the climax occurs inside "David Hasslehoff's pantry", with the real killer revealed too quickly because of too much lighting. It also leads to the strangest riff anyone has said in this series: "I think I'll have a TV dinner. We do have fresh transvestite, don't we?"

Jigsaw, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger have nothing on this movie. It was trying to be arty more than bloody and shocking, and wound up being neither. All this inspired was a "group throw-up", whcih means mission accomplished once again for Cinematic Titanic.

Of course, there are skits: Frank learns about the PTB's no gum policy, and we get a weird game show where Josh risks his life to find out what won't kill him.

This movie is usually what the guys at Incognito Cinema Warriors XP would tackle, and have with Lady Frankenstein. I'm surprised CT would go this far, and I commend them. I understand we're supposed to get a "holiday" movie soon, but what kind will we get that will measure up to Santa Claus and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians?

We may soon find out.