Friday, September 23, 2011

Wondercon Heads South

San Francisco is usually Nerd Central every Spring, because it's Wondercon season. I loved going here because it's easier to get to than Comic-Con, and it's in my neck of the woods.

Well, in 2012, that will change. Wondercon is headed to Anaheim around St. Patrick's Day weekend. With the beer flowing, and NCAA March Madness about to emerge, it would be a heck of a time to have the event.

Now, I've been to the Anaheim Convention Center when I went to one of those Wizard World cons. It wasn't too bad, but it had less events compared to Wondercon. You also had to walk a mile and a half to get to a grocery store. You were surrounded by other hotels, chain restaurants and Disneyland. If only there was a Ralph's.

Hotel prices weren't too bad, if you stayed for a weekend. I'd need four days: three for the con and an extra day to get use from my Universal Studios Annual Pass. If I suddenly got a Disneyland pass, I'd reconsider. Also, there's only one multiplex at Downtown Disney. That's not a big problem, since Wondercon used one multiplex, too.

To afford this, I will have to make some sacrifices. I was thinking about going to the annual Doctor Who convention in February, but that is now out the window.
Of course, I could skip this con and save all my cash for Comic-Con, but that wouldn't be a wise idea. The con would be an ideal spot to start the buzz for The Avengers, especially since Joss Whedon is directing. The Cabin In The Woods, also a Joss production, would be a month off. There's The Hunger Games a week after the con, Dark Shadows, Men In Black 3, and Battleship. It would be wise to be there, especially if they throw in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I should be there, and I hope to add an extra day for my Universal Studios pass. If I can squeeze in a quick L-A trip in December, especially if Southwest Airlines has another cheap air sale, I can adjust.

I've also learned that Wondercon will go back to San Francisco in 2013. It's just that I've been used to going there every fall for this event, it will be quite different to be in the same con but about 425 miles south. I would skip this, but the new location will make it easier for the movie studios to start summer buzz with this event, especially since Joss will be involved, too. So, I gotta go!

Well, March is still two seasons away, but I should be thinking about it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Broken Stars On The Walk of Fame

This isn't exactly news but more of a tourist observing that one of Hollywood's most popular attractions isn't perfect.
It started when I looked for Neil Patrick Harris' new star on the Walk of Fame.

Dr. Horrible Is a Star

It's between the Frolic Room and the Pantages Theater.
While walking around, I noticed not all the stars are shining as bright as they should be. I know the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce knows about this, and it takes big bucks to make sure all of the stars are in good shape. Still, it's a sad sight to see broken stars, like Michael Landon...

That;s No Way To Treat Little Joe

I'm guessing construction work caused this problem, but what about this star of Rodney Dangerfield? No respect, after all these years? Not cool...

No respect...again

or the star of The Three Stooges...

Another Cracked Star

This is the star for Arthur Kennedy. You can barely see which category his star was from. This is probably due to millions of people walking over it over the years.

Worn Out Star

Still, there is hope: I saw this guy making sure the star of actress Hillary Brooke stays shiny. She may not have been as well-known as the others, but she's important enough for this guy...

A Fan of Hillary Brooke

In fact, she takes care of a lot of stars every day. I saw him the next monting hard at work near Hollywood and Vine.

There's also a piece of game show heaven: Allen Ludden and Betty White's stars, side by side.

Game Show Heaven

For the most part, the Walk of Fame is in good shape, honoring the best in entertainment properly. A little more maintenance would be great, but I am sure that is being planned. Meanwhile, there is the sign of a coming attraction, like this one at Hollywood and Highland

Coming Attractions

For the record, Melissa Etheridge will be on that spot. let's hoe a fan will keep her star shiny in the future.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Talk Show Double-Header

Usually, a person has to make a choice when heading to Warner Brothers: either attend a taping for Ellen DeGeneres at 4 PM or Conan at 4:30.
Tough choice. Not today, I got to see both. Thanks, Ellen.

For the first time in six years, she decided to do a live show at 11 AM to talk about the Emmys, and basically hang out with Harry Connick Jr. Makes sense. She was concerned about the temptation to swear...and fell into it a couple of times. So did Harry, basically because he objected to a couple of things she wrote about him in her new book coming next month. They had a guy with a delay button, but he may not have made it on time. Of course, if Ellen did this on cable, she wouldn't need a delay button. Just ask Conan.

Aside from that, it was a great show. They threw in a live interview with Emmy Prom Winner Melissa McCarthy, coming soon to SNL. Ellen liked doing a live show, and may do it again...and she should. Now that Oprah has retired, someone has to do a post-Oscar show at the Kodak or El Capitan. Why not Ellen? Do that for the Grammys and Golden Globes, too.

After that, I walked down Forest Lawn Drive to head to gate 8 to get my Conan ticket. I had so much time left I walked to get a Subway sandwich.The show was unusual. First, I got a FRONT ROW SEAT! I got a great view of Conan in the monologue, but got blocked by cameras once we got to the guests.

No matter. This was pretty unusual because it revealed a deep, dark secret: they tape guests out of sequence, just like other talk shows. That's why I had to see tonight's show to see how Ryan Gosling really did when they taped the interview a few days ago. I am ticked off I wasn't there, because he was a good way. Especially when he accused Disney of breeding a new species of cats. He also gave Conan a replica of the jacket he wore in Drive. It was too small for Conan. Gosling will get Oscar buzz by interviews alone, especially how he did with Conan.

So who did we see instead of Ryan? Taylor Lautner, who taped his interview for Abduction a week early. He was OK, but what really made the interview was a clip from a movie he made when he was 8. Imagine Tayor as a male version of Hanna, eight years old, taking down a nasty bald guy twice his size..and yet he smiles like an eight year old. Funny! It airs next Monday.
This was also the second time I saw him with Conan. The first time was at the Tonight Show two years ago.

Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls was actually pretty good, especially when she chided Conan for staring at her breasts, and delivered a killer Britney Spears impersonation.

So, after three days, I have seen celebrities, a very good movie and two talk shows. Not bad. Tuesday is Universal Studios, Kimmel with Simon Cowell, and a social media mixer. Wednesday is the last day when anything I want, including buying new Guild stuff, and maybe being at a red carpet.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Drive, he what you should see

Say, want to consider this movie?

It makes sense that a quarter mile away from the Regal L-A Live Theater, you'd see a really big billboard for what may be the hottest film around. In this case, the movie would have been more effective than the billboard.
Ryan Gosling has been many things from a romantic lead in The Notebook to a ladies' man in Crazy Stupid Love. He was even Young Hercules a long time ago.

That's why seeing him in Drive will blow your mind. He is a driver for hire. You have him for five minutes, no questions asked, whether it's being part of a robbery or even doing a movie stunt. He's a man of few words, bit he is focused and intense. Just look at the opening scene, where he tries to hide from the cops after a robbery. There's a good reason why he's paying close attention to the Clippers game on the radio. The camera also looks at the back of his jacket, a scorpion embroidered in gold. It is symbolic of what he is: cool and collective until it's time to act.

He crosses paths with Irene, a young mom played by Carey Mulligan. It seems her role isn't that much, but she is also conflicted about things. Her husband is about to leave prison, and she wonders if they can be a real family again. It's safe to say Ryan, known only as The Driver, is keeping an eye on them.

The Driver also has hopes for the future. He and a fellow mechanic named Shannon (Bryan Cranston) hope to get into NASCAR, and figure the Driver can do it for them. They get help from a local hood played by Albert Brooks. Now, forget Brooks' comedies. He ca play a real bad-ass guy you don't want to make angry.It's amazing he never got a chance at this before. It's quite a journey how he starts as a possible sponsor for the Driver's dreams, and winds up as his enemy. He's an easy Oscar nominee only because he does a great job here.

Anyway, the Driver decides to help Irene's husband with a robbery to get him away from the hoods that are threatening him. Everything goes wrong, and it happens so suddenly you'll wonder what happened. That's the thing about this movie: when people get killed, it's done very quickly and very suddenly.

Another unforgettable scene happens in an elevator where the Driver and Irene kiss while a suspicious looking guy is with them. You will not believe what happens after that, but it defines who the Driver is, in every way.

This is a fantastic crime movie that may seem slow, but once something happens, you won't forget it.

I had a chance to see Drive in the "Premiere Cinema" section, which I guess is the "big room" at the L-A Live Multiplex. Still, the #2 screen is also very big and comfortable. So, that's how I spent my first day in Los Angeles. I'll have a busy Sunday and Monday for different reasons, but I expect them to be enjoyable.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where Were You at 9/11?

It was ten years ago, and I was a former radio news announcer trying in vain to get back in the business. To stay above water, I was a temporary worker at a sawmill near Marysville. Didn't pay much.

I also had to get up early to get to work. When I turned on the news, I saw the two burning World Trade Center towers, and heard about another plane hitting the Pentagon. I couldn't stay long, because I had to go.
So, I turned on Howard Stern, when he was still on regular radio. I would never forget the shock he expressed when he saw the towers burn, and then collapse. He even admitted he wanted to get off the air, but he stuck around for a while.

In fact, YouTube has two videos of that broadcast...

Someone called RadioBlooie has an even more extensive recording of this event. That's the one I will always remember. I also have Don and Mike's broadcast, or much of it.

Anyway, the fact I had to cut wood or move tiles around kept my mind off the horror. I didn't have time to stay glued to my TV. I'd have enough time for that by the weekend.

Thinking back on that, I have to wonder how TV would have covered D-Day or even Pearl Harbor, since those events changed our nation. It would probably be much like what we had in 2001, even more so thanks to smartphones.

There will be some events in honor of the tenth anniversary Sunday. I'll be there, taking a lot of pictures.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Warrior: A Two-Fisted Sibling Rivalry

When I decided to check out the sneak preview of the MMA movie Warrior, I thought that the ads for the film told me everything I wanted to know: two brothers wind up facing off in an MMA tournament with five million bucks on the line. The "good" brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), is a teacher with financial problems with a wife and kids to support. The "bad" brother, Tommy (Tom Hardy), has returned from the Iraq war, and reunited with his alcoholic father (Nick Nolte) who trained him as a youth.

Notice I said "good" and "bad" with quotations because as you get to know these guys, you know they both made mistakes in life. They'd like to forgive, but the bitterness is so strong. Anyway, we see Tommy and Brendan on their road to the tournament, known as Sparta. Other rivals stand in their way, including a Russian who looks unbeatable...and he's played by pro wrestler Kurt Angle. Doesn't have any lines, but he sure looks intimidating.

What I like about the story is that they keep Tommy and Brendan apart as long as possible. The story's about their individual roads to the Sparta finals, and what motivates them. For Brendan. it's keeping a roof over his head. For Tommy, it's helping a widow of an Army buddy.
Then, we find out Tommy actually saved some lives in Iraq, but he doesn't want to talk about it. There's a tragic reason why.

I loved Tom Hardy as Tommy. the haunted brother. He's trying to pull his life together, and appreciates the help his dad provides. Still, he has secrets and bitterness that can ruin his progress. Joel Edgerton was also great as Branden, the family man who made mistakes with his own family.

There is the traditional training montage, but at least it's updated with split-screen action--but not with some cheesy Eddie Rabbitt song. It's also interesting how other people get caught up in Tommy and Brendan's stories, and we see those fans cheer their favorite warriors on. The ending is a bit cheesy, but it leaves you wanting just a bit more about how the final result will affect both brothers and the dad.
The producers of Warrior played it smart by having a sneak preview during the Labor Day weekend. This should get more people to the theaters just before the NFL starts its season, and even more may check it out after we see ads for this film in between touchdown drives.

As for the trailers, they're still showing those trailers for Abduction and (ugh) Breaking Dawn. However, I am interesting in Drive because it has ALBERT BROOKS as a gangster. Ryan Gosling and Christina (yowza!!) Hendricks are two good reasons, too.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Attack the Block: Inner City Youth vs. Aliens

While most people were really excited about seeing Cowboys battling Aliens, especially because Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig were part of the fight, another alien invasion movie was featured during Comic-Con. It came from England, and was a big hit at a couple of movie festivals. It's also better than Cowboys battling Aliens. In some ways, Attack the Block is similar to Cowboys and Aliens. Naturally, we've got aliens attacking the earth, and the whole battle is centered in a small area. We also have less-than-heroic guys being the only ones who can save us all. It's easier to root for Daniel Craig as a gunfighter than an unknown who starts the movie robbing a nurse, and winds up as the guy who can stop the invasion. Yet, John Boyega makes quite an impression as Moses, the leader of a gang who is anything but heroic. He starts off the movie robbing a nurse, then his gag makes short work of an alien who lands near their apartment block in south London. He even shows the body off to friends, and Hi-Hatz, a fellow gangster. They think nothing of this....until a few other aliens show up. They are much tougher: big black dogs with glowing and sharp blue teeth. These guys cause a lot more problems. Joe Cornish, who wrote and directed this movie, does a wise thing: he keep s the action centered to the apartment block and not much further, It's a little like Alien, where the crew of a spaceship has to deal with a monster of its own. Seeing a couple of Moses' crew lost in fog, wonder where the monster is, really amps up the suspense. Through circumstance, Sam, the nurse who gets robbed, winds up getting involved in the fight, especially after the aliens take out two cops who just arrested Moses for mugging her. He also has to deal with Hi-Hatz, who thinks Moses is at fault for all that has happened. What Attack the Block has over Cowboys and Aliens is that Moses and his crew use some very clever ways to fend off the aliens, usually machetes or fireworks. Better yet, we don't have anyone providing "unexpected help" to Moses (unlike Cowboys and Aliens, where that "help" nearly ruined the film). He does it his way, and take responsibility in the end. I could have seen this at Comic-Con, but I was called to a red carpet for Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, which is also a great movie. Waiting an extra six weeks for Attack the Block was worth it, and proves once again that the story is what counts, not CGI boogey-men.