I found this latest Tryout on the BBC list of new music. The Neighbourhood kind of remind me a bit of Various Cruelties (whose album is finally coming out today in the UK; not sure when we Stateside can get it) and it isn't a band that critics are necessarily going to flock to because they aren't reinventing anything, they're just making catchy music. So far, they only have two songs but so far so good.
And if you still haven't jumped on the Various Cruelties bandwagon, I really think "Great Unknown" would have a shot at song of the summer and the band could be a Foster the People-like breakout if these songs got some love from US radio. (And their other single Chemicals and Neon Truth are just as catchy.)
"Headhunters" is the latest foreign movie that, in my opinion, gets a big critical boost for being a foreign film. The films is little more than a solid albeit over-the-top... well, I'm not sure what to call it. I was expecting a heist film but the movie quickly shifts gears and becomes more of a chase movie, almost like a more plot heavy The Hitcher or something. (Oh, and I should say right off the bat, don't watch the trailer. It gives away most of the film.)
Now, don't get me wrong, the movie is indeed solid and will make for a good rental (or Netflix Instant flick since I could see it ending up on there sooner than later) but it is most certainly not worthy of the high praise that some of the critics are giving it. After the film, I read the reviews and was surprised to see so many critics giving it a pass for being "improbable". I fully believe that if this was an American product, it'd lose points for being implausible. One review said people should check it out before the "American remake gets it wrong" but, honestly, there's really not all that much to get wrong. Although, I will add that most of the reviews also seem surprised at the quality of "Headhunters" which might make this a case of expectations - if you're expecting nothing, "Headhunters" is pretty good. If you're expecting a film that will end up on your "short list of the most enjoyable movies in recent memory" (Joe Morgenstern from The Wall Street Journal), then you'll be very disappointed.
All in all, it's good enough to check out when you have the time but it isn't anywhere close to being a must-see film. It's pretty forgettable. The guy who plays Jamie Lannister on Game of Thrones is in it but at no point did I ever stop thinking of him as being Jamie Lannister. None of the characters really grab you, nothing is really original, and if I was in charge of the remake, I'd probably give it to Guy Ritchie since it seems like it would fit will in his oeuvre, although it would be one of the blander entries on his filmography.
So, if you have a couple hours to kill and it happens to be playing near you (good luck on that part), you could to a lot worse than "Headhunters". If you can't make time for it, well, no worries, you won't really be missing anything.
Let's not forget about the lockout and all of the other shady shit that NBA owners do. This movie about how the Seattle Supersonics owners finagled their way out of town is even more relevant today with Sacramento struggling to keep the Kings and, in the NFL, St. Louis and Minnesota possibly flying the coup. Minnesota and Sacramento bum me out the most because those fans have shown that they'll support the team. The fact that the Vikings might come to fair weather Los Angeles is disappointing. Even if it means that I'll have an NFL team near me, I'd rather keep the tradition of the Minnesota Vikings alive.
Anyway, here's the documentary "Sonicsgate" about how Seattle lost their team.
(Oh, and while I hate that some teams are moving, I have no problem with the Charlotte Bobcats making their way to Seattle. If that franchise isn't just dropped altogether, it should be moved to Seattle.)
I'd have to expect that permission was granted or a lawsuit is about to happen over this Verizon ad...
...is exactly like Bad Idea Jeans, a sketch from 90's SNL.
Now I know that it's hard to ever come up with anything original since it's all been done before but this is a case of outright thievery (or theft in the form of homage) since both take place at a park with a pickup basketball game.
While the trailer latest Judd Apatow film has a few funny parts, I think it mainly solidifies the idea that getting older isn't a laughing matter. (And if this film is as long as Funny People was...)
At this point, I think someone really needs to make a spoof movie (or at least, a spoof trailer) called White People Problems. I know that most dramas and comedies ever made are basically little more than White People Problems but they seem to be getting less creative and more of just shared experiences or inside jokes. And while Apatow is a funny guy, I think he has to come to grips with the fact that he's not James L. Brooks and his movies are best when the premises are kind of out there. If you look at his short filmography, it's seems obvious that the films decline (40 Year Old Virgin to Knocked Up to Funny People) with the realer the premises are. Anyway, I'm obviously reading way too much into a short trailer but, right or not, I think it's the way most people will react to this trailer.
Before I start with my playoff predictions, I have to say that I liked this shorter season. I know owners won't like it because it means less money coming their way but I thought this many games with maybe a little longer schedule to prevent so many back-to-backs would be a nice plan moving forward. But, again, fewer games means less money so that isn't happening. So, onto the predictions.
Round 1 San Antonio over Utah: 4 - 2: I think Utah is going to put up a bigger fight than expected in the playoffs and I also think that San Antonio is a much better regular season team than playoffs contender. Still, the Jazz just don't have enough to pull of the upset. Oklahoma City over Dallas: 4 - 2: Dallas is going to play with pride and defend their title but the Thunder are just too good. I think this is the series in which James Harden makes the mainstream know him for more than being the guy that Metta World Peace elbows and earns himself a lot of money while doing it. LA Lakers over Denver: 4 - 1: Honestly, I just don't think Denver is all that good. I know that they match up pretty well with Afflalo checking Kobe, McGee could goad Bynum into a stupid-off, Pau is going to get frustrated by Kenneth Faried's motor, and Ty Lawson might give Ramon Sessions fits but I still don't see the Lakers giving up many games to them. Memphis over LA Clippers: 4 - 3: Z-Bo is going to get Blake Griffin to do something stupid, Tony Allen's going to piss off CP3 a few times, and I could see the scrappy Grizzlies being the team that makes America sit up and realize that Lob City is populated with some annoying players.
Round Two Memphis over San Antonio: 4 - 2: Again, I just don't see the Spurs getting it done in the playoffs. If San Antonio does win, it's because Kawhi Leonard outplays Rudy Gay, something which isn't as unlikely to happen as most people would think. I'll also admit that this prediction is as much based on talent as it is the likelihood of the Spurs getting banged up or injured. OK City over LA Lakers: 4 - 3: I think Bynum and Gasol show Perkins and Ibaka who is the best frontcourt in the West and I wouldn't be stunned to see Kobe guard Durant, Westbrook, and Harden at times (and Artest could frustrate Durant a bit) but I don't think the Lakers have enough defensive wings to shut down all three of those guys on a consistent enough basis. For this series, at least, people will get off the Westbrook needs to pass more bandwagon and admit that, true point guard or not, the kid is a pretty special talent.
OK City over Memphis: 4 - 1: It was a fun ride for the Grizzlies but it ends here. The Thunder are just too good for them.
Round 1 Chicago over Philadelphia: 4 - 1: The Sixers were a nice story to start the season but they've since been exposed and if it wasn't for Derrick Rose being banged up, I'd have predicted a clean sweep. Lou Williams will explode to get one game for the Sixers but that's it. Miami over New York: 4 - 1: I almost went with the sweep here but there's going to be one game where JR Smith and 'Melo and maybe even Baron Davis are hitting everything in sight but besides that, the Knicks are in for a beating. The key for the Knicks is to limit turnovers and I just don't see this squad being able to do that. Indiana over Orlando: 4 - 0: I know some people are hoping Orlando can pull this out and show Dwight Howard that he's not everything he thinks he is but, let's be honest, Dwight kind of is everything when it comes to the Magic. Top to bottom, Indiana is a better team. I'm going to go so far as to say that this is the moment when George Hill breaks out and Jameer Nelson finally gets exposed as overrated. Honestly, there isn't a guy on the Pacers who shouldn't break out this series. Boston over Atlanta: 4 - 1: I'm going with 4-1 but I wouldn't be completely stunned if the Celtics sleepwalked into this series and were sent packing. The one thing saving that from happening is that the Heat aren't awaiting in the second round. Also, the lack of Al Horford should make things easier and allow guys like Greg Stiemsma to stay on the court longer and for KG to play more help defense. The C's also have Avery Bradley and Mickeal Pietrus to throw at Joe Johnson so, if the C's are healthy-ish and focused, they should be able to power through.
Round 2 Chicago over Boston: 4 - 2: I want to have faith in my Celtics but with Ray Allen hobbled, Paul Pierce spraining his toe in the final game, and, most importantly, the Celtics inability to beat Chicago, I just don't think they're going to be able to hang an 18th banner. I really believe that the Celtics would have upset the Heat had they met but I can't see them getting by the Bulls.
Miami over Indiana: 4 - 1: Indiana's energy could get them two games in this series but I think the Heat are going to be dialed in to make up for last year's Finals flame out. With one more off-season upgrade and a year of playoff experience, the Pacers could become serious contenders but right now I think they're going to be taught a lesson about what real playoff basketball looks like (because Lord knows they won't be seeing it against Orlando.)
Miami over Chicago: 4 - 3: Sadly, this series could come down to one thing - whether Rose or Wade are still standing by the time this series rolls around. I have less faith in Rose being 100% by this point and, while CJ Watson has been great, I think he'll struggle vs. the Miami defense and make some inopportune turnovers. If Wade is able to play, I think he fully embraces the villain role that he's halfheartedly been playing and steps up in game 7 to break his hometown's heart and send Miami to the Finals.
THE NBA FINALS
I hate them, you hate them, most people who don't live in Miami or aren't bandwagon fans hate them but the fact of the matter is that the Miami Heat are just too talented, the Oklahoma City Thunder are too raw, and for all of the good feelings that Russell Westbrook might have earned in the conference finals, the Heat are a team that thrives off of opposing teams' turnovers and the Thunder make too many mistakes. At some point in the series, LeBron is going to check Westbrook and it might be a wrap from there. Honestly, I think the only real change the Thunder have of pulling this out is if Wade is hobbled (in which case, I think they win pretty handily) but if the Heat are all systems go, I think we see LeBron finally hoisting his first Larry O'Brien trophy in Oklahoma CIty. Heat win 4 - 2.
The tagline for "Inside Job" is "The film that cost $20,000,000,000,000 to make" and the IMDB synopsis is "The global economic crisis of 2008 cost tens of millions of people their savings, their jobs, and their homes. This is how it happened." I've heard a lot of good things about this film and definitely want to check it out.
(I also recommend "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" is kind of a jaw dropping film about how the government assisted or overlooked or, in the case of California's government, was powerless to stop, the greed of corporate America.)
Just when I was about to lose faith in television, a show comes a long that gives me some hope... and causes me to lose faith in television. I didn't bother watching "Bent" when it came out this year because of the way it was unceremoniously dumped by NBC. I mean, when a network that's struggling as badly as NBC dumps a show, it has to be pretty bad, right?
As it turns out, "Bent" is pretty good.
The strength of "Bent" is the rapid fire witty banter and the supporting cast. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for witty banter so the writing of this show is right up my alley but given the crap that's on TV right now, I'm not sure how this show wouldn't have been a welcome surprise for many (NBC, in particular). Also, the show had Jeffrey Tambor, JB Smoove, and a strong supporting cast to go along with Amanda Peet (who is an underrated comedic straight woman) and David Walton, who stole his scenes as the jerky boyfriend in one of my guilty pleasure films, "Fired Up".
The show's weakness, and probably the reason that some execs didn't like it and critics were lukewarm on it, is the dreaded likability factor. Walton is almost too good at playing the douche and he just lacks a certain sweetness that a show featuring a Will They or Won't They vibe requires. (Guys like Owen Wilson or Matthew Mccounahoweveryouspellit would have killed in a role like this.) The show gives the male lead character moments to show he's a nice guy but Walton doesn't nail them, the scenes aren't given enough time before he slams back into being a kind of jerk, and it doesn't get to the place where people are going to be rooting for the main characters to get together. (Also, the show might have been better not launching so quickly into the Will They or Won't They territory. By the second episode, it seemed more like When Will They? Not sure how they would have kept that dynamic up for a full season, let alone multiple seasons.)
Still the characters and dialogue are good enough to give this show a try. I've only seen two of the six episodes but they are both fun and face paced and a nice relief from both the workday and the other dreck that's on TV right about now.
Upon watching "LA Complex", my first thought was, "This got good reviews?! What the hell are critics thinking?" There is literally one funny scene (which was shockingly prescient in terms of the current TV landscape since it's about how white girls don't actually have black friends) and besides that, the show is basically on par with the average web show about people trying to make it in Hollywood. The craziest thing about this show, or maybe not since it was made in part by Canadians, is that it doesn't seem like it was written by someone who actually has lived in Hollywood. A couple of reviews claimed that the pilot had some insights but it's tough to really have anything insightful to say when the world is one built on misconceptions of Los Angeles.
In the end, "LA Complex" makes the same mistake that most every show based on Hollywood or the entertainment industry as a whole usually makes - the show is about the dream instead of the dreamers. The show is supposed to be based IN Hollywood, not ON Hollywood. The characters need to come off as more than people in arrested development, chasing after a dream that, odds are, will never come. At the end of LA Complex, the characters are little more than cliches. We know more about what they want to be than who they actually are.
The premiere of the show got the worst ratings for a network show since they started keeping ratings and if you watch it with that kind of expectations, you might think, "Oh, it's not THAT bad." But the characters don't fit together, they are barely drawn, the world they live in is what a 14 year old in Manitoba probably thinks Hollywood is like, and, well, man, it was really, really stupid.
Santigold's sophomore album is set to be released soon and and NPR has a first listen. I've only given a quick listen to the first songs but it's an interesting album. Disparate Youth has a familiar sound (Joy Formidable, maybe?) but none of the songs match the highlights of "You'll Find A Wat" and "L.E.S. Artistes". I could see "Freak Like Me" taking over the dance floors this summer though. The songs actually seem to get better, the deeper you get into the album (a rarity in sequencing) so it's definitely worth another listen; I'm just not sure if I'm going to immediately buy it when it comes out on the 23rd.
Santigold also covered "Proud Mary" which is getting some critical praise but it sounds to me like a Sesame Street version of the song. You can hear it yourself at at NJ Underground.
HBO's other new comedy debuted this weekend and, well, yeah. I was a big fan of "In the Loop" but I think one of the keys to the joy of that movie was that it showed how people in charge can be dunces and how they can bungle their way through something as important as whether or not there are WMDs in Iraq. The film showed people in over their heads, screwing themselves up and getting us all into a war.
On "Veep", we're seeing people who are striving to get in over their heads but don't have that access yet. Instead they are wasting their time on little things like what the cutlery is made of. There are some funny moments but the lack of stakes made the pilot feel somewhat aimless.
I also felt that the show hadn't quite figured out it's groove yet (not surprising for a pilot, of course.) Anna Chlumsky seemed like she was playing it more natural whereas Walsh and Hale were more obviously playing it for comedy. For instance, everything about how Hale would bend over to whisper people's names seemed forced. I felt like it needed to be better established as a natural albeit mostly annoying thing he did and then have it devolve into silliness. (I will also admit to having a Buster Bluth hangover so anything silly that Hale does reminds me of Buster's idiocy. The way he celebrated after Jule Louis Dreyfuss incorporated what he said into a conversation seemed too over-the-top for me.) While I do agree that there are dunces walking the halls of power in Washington, I think many of those guys are far more serious minded that what was on display in the pilot. Similarly, I thought Walsh's "What if Tom Hanks died?" line was great but the way he delivered the first line made it seem like less of a honest but nonsensical comment and more like a punchline that we were waiting to hear. (Although part of the issue might have been pacing because, having seen Walsh perform live at UCB in Hollywood, I know that he can be a perfect straight man. Hell, he did a good job of it in his small role in The Hangover.)
And while I usually give the caveat that most pilots are rough, this pilot felt like a mid-season episode and it didn't have most of the stumbling blocks that are to blame for most awkward openers (having to intro characters, their living situation, setting them into the premise of the show, etc.). I'm still going to give it a few more episodes but I could see this being one of those shows that isn't necessarily poorly done but just doesn't really have enough to keep me watching.
Is there any normal way to talk about Girls? - That was the question asked by James L. Brooks (via Twitter) today and I think that, obviously, there is but nobody really wants to do. People (and I've been guilty of this as well) are so set in their beliefs that most discussions become Point-CountertoapointIthinkyouweremakingbutI'mnotsuresinceIastoppedlisteningandhavebeenjust-waitingtomakemypoint. So, now that I've spent far too much time already debating the show (on message boards which, I know, I was supposed to quit wasting time on as a New Year's Resolution), here's my deep-breath-talk-normal take on "Girls" and the controversy.
The Show Itself
Episode 2 was much better than the pilot. I think one reason that more people found it agreeable was that Hannah (Lena Dunham's character) was obsessing on something most everyone has thought about at one point in their lives (STDs), as opposed to something that people WISH they could have worried about (their parents cutting them off after supporting them for two years after graduating college.)
The new attack on people who don't like the show is that citing "unlikeability" isn't a legit reason not to like a show. Shows like Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Eastbound & Down are often mentioned as examples of unlikable characters. What these critics miss is that those weren't unlikable characters, they were characters that did unlikeable things. People loved Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer or Larry David, and they couldn't wait to see what unlikeable thing they'd do next to see what kind of hijinks ensue.
The problem with "Girls" is that, so far, no hijinks ensue. Be it STDs or her parents checkbook, the first two episodes' main stories have been: Hannah obsessing about something, Hannah talking to about it with her friends, and Hannah then talking about it some more. Nothing really happened. This problem was even worse in the pilot because what Hannah was obsessing over was pretty annoying and then nothing really came of it besides her acting brattier than before. It's like the pilot focused completely on just making the characters unlikable and then they were stunned at how people didn't like them at all. Unfortunately, this is an even bigger issue for two of the remaining three main Girls.
While Jemima Kirk's Jessa's fuck all (literally and figuratively) attitude has made her an interesting maelstrom to watch (and an example of a character that viewers happily follow even if they probably shouldn't "like" her), Marnie, played by Allison Williams, has been nothing but a wet blanket and Shoshanna, Zosia Mamet's character, seems like someone who wandered in from a completely different show. Marnie, like Hannah, doesn't ever have much to do. Even when she had something to do, like hosting the Welcome Home party, we never saw her actually do it. The only time we really saw her was when she was complaining about having to do it. One of the most basic writing tenants is show, don't tell; I believe Girls needs to heed it because, while "Oh that's an interesting take on (fill in the blank)..." can carry you for a short HBO length season, if you don't make anything more out of your assessments, even the fans will quickly tire of the show.
On the whole, it's fitting that Hannah's memoir is really just a collection of essays because that's what this show feels like. While there are good scenes, some of them seem only barely connected to the overall half hour (the job interview being a great but random moment in episode 2) and you could imagine that the shows, as presently structured, would be far more enjoyable as individual scenes. If "Girls" had premiered online with three scenes - the opening scene, Hannah losing her job, and Hannah's job interview, I think people would have been far more open to the show and may have even seen Hannah, for all of her flaws, as more likable (or watchable, if you prefer that wording.) Also, if her complaints had stemmed from those issues, maybe the pilot's fish-not-out-of-but-rather-just-having-to-swim-alone-in-the-same-water conflict would have played better and Hannah's complaints come as insightful rather than simple complaining. Instead, those scenes are mixed into a day in the life structure that doesn't help the show in any way. It's even more jarring with the more "insightful" moments of the show since they often just hang there as they don't lead anywhere and are often followed by a fairly disconnected scene. Right now, the show's structure (aside from nice connections between the opening and closing scenes) doesn't elevate the viewpoint nor does it extend the discussion into an interesting situation.
The Diversity (or lack thereof) Issue
For me, the biggest problem with the lack of diversity is that Lena Dunham said it happened by accident. And the reason this is a problem to me was actually exhibited well in episode 2 of "Girls"
While Hannah eventually screwed up her job interview, there was a point where the man doing the interview was going to hire her. Mind you, the job wasn't one she was really prepared for, it's not one that she really wanted (besides the paycheck), but her qualifications were basically deemed an afterthought because... the interviewer bonded with her over their favorite neighborhood bars.
That is the face of modern discrimination.
Discrimination isn't so much about actively excluding people who are not like you (although, obviously, racism still exists) but it's usually about including people who are like you mainly because they are more like you. I don't doubt that Lena Dunham didn't mean to not cast any non-white actors as leads, it was that it never dawned at her to think about it. Many people see that the main actresses are all daughters of celebrities and scream nepotism; I disagree. It's not that their dads got them the gigs but it probably did help them, in one way or another, relate to Dunham. I don't doubt that if someone comes in and says, "Oh man, your dad is Brian Williams. That's gotta be cool.", the other girls bond over a knowing little eye-roll.
And, no, it's not Dunham's job to force non-white actors into her show but if you believe that TV needs more diversity, then you have to hold her to that standard. This isn't to say that she should change the content of the show (if she had said that the whiteness of the characters was key, none of this would have been an issue), but there are entitled black, Asian, Indian girls out there so similar looking actresses could have filled any of the characters shoes and not changed the show one bit. Just like Stacy Dash in Clueless, Gabrielle Union in Can't Hardly Wait, Meghan Goode and Devon Aoki in Debs, didn't change those films, I don't believe hiring a non-white actress necessarily makes a difference in the content and the belief that it does is the stereotype that needs to be broken the most.
One of the most concerning responses from supporters of Dunham is: it's probably a good thing that she doesn't have any black or Hispanic characters because she wouldn't know how to write for them. This, to me, is exactly why writers, producers, directors should be pushed to at least just bring non-white actors in for auditions for these roles. Because what Lena Dunham is writing is New York entitlement and, as someone who went to a prep school, I can tell you that that entitlement is able to cross racial boundaries. The concept of "writing black" is based entirely on tired stereotypes. Amy Heckerling didn't have to learn how to "write black" when she put Stacy Dash and Donald Faizon in "Clueless". The script for "Can't Hardly Wait" didn't net to be doctored to tweak the voice of Gabrielle Union's character. Entitled is entitled. Yes, if a show was going to go deeper, there would be some different struggles but since it's not like "Girls" seems to be going that deeply into those types of issues, it wouldn't necessarily come up.
(Although, I will say that Dunham has been a trooper, taking a brunt of the blame when you would have thought that HBO or executive producer Judd Apatow might have stepped up. After all, this being Dunham's first show, you'd think they would be the ones that would have been the ones keeping an eye on this. Granted, Apatow doesn't have the greatest track record for this. I mean, he couldn't find one project for Romany Malco or Kevin Hart all these years?)
So, in the end, did Lena Dunham do anything wrong? No. But too often, diversity is lost, not by the presence of wrongdoing but because nobody thinks about trying to do right. And while I don't think "Girls" should be judged more harshly as a show because of its lack of diversity, I also don't think that it should be given any sort of pass for following in the same lilywhite footprints as the countless other white only shows out there. (Also, while some people claim they don't want to get in the way of Dunham's vision or artistry, if we don't expect an attempt or even just mere cognition of the need for diversity from our artists, how can we ever demand it from our corporations?)
"Girls" isn't a bad show but it has some substantial flaws, which doesn't help since it's already aiming at a limited demographic. I get why some people like it; I don't get why critics somehow don't understand why most people don't.
(Oh, and as always, comments are down so just go to the SoulHonky facebook page or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to weigh in.)
Thanks to RopeofSilicon.com for bringing my attention to the new trailer for "Lawless", the latest from The Proposition/The Road director John Hillcoat. The film stars Shia Labeouf, Tom Hardy, and the ever-present Jessica Chastain. I have to say, the trailer isn't the greatest. I'm still interested in it but everything about the trailer makes it seem like a rather run-of-the-mill bootlegger flick. Granted. I tend to like those kind of films but I'm definitely lowering my expectations a bit. (Also, it now has to matchup with Justified and I'm not sure many films can do that.)
Thanks to Teddy and TheAwl.com for directing me to the first 12 minutes of "The Sound of My Voice." An interesting film about on a couple that tries to infiltrate a cult but ends up questioning their own beliefs. Or Something.
I'm going to try to figure out a new Tryout, probably tonight, but for the time being here's the latest from old friend Fiona Apple. An interesting song, especially for a first single. Not sure how I feel about it yet.
I know it seems a little early to start talking summer but in Hollywood, summer now starts in May. The Avengers will be opening on May 1st and ushering in the 2012 Summer Blockbuster season so it's time to put the prediction down and see how things shake out. (To skip to the predictions, just scroll down past the next few paragraphs.)
When 2011 started, all the hype was about how tough the summer was going to be. People were citing all of the big tentpole movies coming out but then, one by one, the movies disappointed. Of the top five grossing films of the summer, only the finale of Harry Potter landed with much fanfare from the fans. Not too many people are talking today about: The Hangover 2, Cars 2, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, and Transformers 3. Although the summer was even worse for new potential franchises as Green Lantern, and Cowboys & Aliens took it on the chin from critics and landed with a thud at the box office.
Looking ahead at this summer, it seems rather silly that people were hyping up 2011 at all. Yes, they had some big names but compared to the return of Batman, Spiderman, Men in Black and (unofficially) Alien alongside the assembling Avengers? Throw in a new Pixar film and new films in popular animated franchises Madagascar and Ice Age and you have a summer that is jam packed with potential blockbusters.
On the other hand, this could be the worst box office summer in recent memory for comedies. Bridesmaids was a surprise last year but it had been garnering praise and positive buzz for months. I know that comedies are like the 5/12 matchup in the NBA tournament and you have to pick at least one to shake things up but I'm just not seeing it this year.
Arguably the biggest comedy of the summer buzz-wise so far is "The Dictator" but the word of mouth hasn't been that good. Perhaps Dark Shadows, Ted, Neighborhood Watch, or the latest from Adam Sandler That's My Boy could bring in some money but will it be enough to break into the top 10? The one film that seems to be flying under the radar a bit that could sneak in, especially because of its later release date that will avoid much of the mid-summer box office battles, is the Jay Roach-helmed "The Campaign" starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. Will it push past the 150 million mark? I'm not gonna bet on it.
Also, "The Help" managed to sneak into the top 10 last year but I'm not seeing any Oscar bait coming from this summer crop.
So, without further ado, here are my prediction for the top ten movies (and how much I think they'll gross.) If you want to play along, post up your top 10 highest grossing films over at the www.soulhonky.com facebook page or e-mail me at email@example.com . (And to get the current release schedule, head over to Box Office Mojo.
1. The Dark Knight Rises: 440 million
This is the movie that everyone's waiting for. I have no doubt that it will do gangbusters but I don't think it's going to be able to match The Dark Knight. You can already tell that Tom Hardy's Bane and Anne Hathaway's Catwoman will not fill the huge shoes left by Heath Ledger's Joker (and yes, let's be real, Ledger's death also helped make the film bigger than expected.) 2. The Avengers: 365 million
Most reviews have been calling this the best Marvel movie yet so I gave it a 50 million dollar bump from the biggest of the individual Avenger movies (Iron Man). It could crack 400 (usually the first big movie of the summer gets a decent box office bump) but I'm betting against it because I don't think it'll have the same out-of-demo draw that The Dark Knight does.
3. Spider-Man 3: 265 million
This is a tough one. No Spidey movie dipped below 300 million with even the lousy Spider-Man 3 drawing 330 million. But the Spidey franchise made less money every time out and I don't know if anyone out there is all that excited to see a new, darker take on the ol' webhead's origin story. Also, this redux seems like an afterthought buzzwise (being drowned out by The Avengers, Batman, and even Prometheus) and it has just two weeks to make money before The Dark Knight Rises takes over the box office. On the bright side, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield look pretty good and the new trailer is a MAJOR step forward from the first trailer.
4. Brave: 230 million I'm probably low on this one. I mean, a Pixar fairy tale that has action for boys and a female lead for the girls? There's just something about it, the more serious tone that makes it seem like the least kid-focused Pixar film since Up that gives me pause. Also, it's released just two weeks after Madagascar 3 and two weeks before Ice Age 3 so Pixar won't own the kiddie demo like it has in the past. 4. Prometheus: 198 million
If Prometheus gets tagged with an R rating, I'm going to drop it down on the list. Already, I'm just not sure if this film is going to capture the masses and losing easy access to teenagers will be a big blow. The fans are excited but the fans were also excited for (and pleased by) X-Men: First Class and that film couldn't crack 150 million. Still, I'm not going to bet against Ridley Scott and his aliens. 6. MIB3: 190 million
It's been a full decade since Men in Black 2 (shocking, I know) and four years since Will Smith's last film. While I'm not going to doubt Will's drawing power, I am concerned about the legs of the MIB franchise. The second film had a significant drop from the first from (250 to 190 million) and I don't think people are really itching for this one more than they were the second one. Plus, it doesn't have a lot of time to make money with some heavy hitters opening up on its heels. I'll say it'll repeat the business of #2 but I think there's a definite risk of this one disappointing.
7. Ice Age: Continental Drift: 175 million I'm a little nervous about Ice Age 3 because it's the third animated film of the summer (fourth, if you count "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" that opens this month). Also, I was burned last year by Kung Fu Panda 2 which landed at #11 and saw a 50 million dollar drop from the original's take. 8. Snow White and the Huntsman: 168 million
I wanted to go higher with this one but if there's a potential X-Men: First Class of this summer, it's Snow White and The Huntsman. Yes, the trailer was impressive, it has Kristen Stewart coming off of Twilight and Chris Hemsworth coming off of The Avengers. It has something for boys and girls alike and it's a story that everyone knows (and safe from the "For Fanboys/Geeks" label of X-Men.) But Prometheus opens up the following weekend so the competition is going to be tough. Also, this is another one that has yet to be rated and an R would be a disaster.
9. GI Joe 2: 160 million
I swore off this franchise after the first film which was just stupid but then I watched the trailer for this one and was stunned that they killed off (apparently) the Joes from the first movie. And then there were ninjas fighting on a mountain. Add in The Rock, Bruce Willis, and the always amazing Adrian Palicki and I have to think that it will do pretty well for itself, despite being released in the middle of a bunch of box office contenders. 10. Madagascar 3: 150 million
I wasn't sold on this one but then my friend's daughter looked at the billboard for this film and exclaimed, "The animals are wearing rainbow wigs. On their HEADS!" I'm not sure where else they would wear the wigs but her unadulterated excitement convinced me to keep this in the top ten.
My bet for bomb of the summer is going to be "Battleship". (NOTE: For the record, a "bomb" in this case is defined by how much a movie makes back domestically of its production budget. I'm not including foreign box office in the Box Office Challenge.) I'm not as sold on this tanking as I was with Green Lantern last summer but the opening buzz isn't good and it's got a lot to contend with with Avengers opening a couple of weeks earlier and Dark Shadows and The Dictator opening up afterwards. While I have to admit that it looks simple and inoffensive enough to pull in a decent chunk of change and the early summer release date should help, the gaudy 200 million dollar budget is what made me choose Battleship over other potential flops. I think it'll probably top off at around the 116 million that Green Lantern made which is enough to make it a bomb (in terms of domestic gross.)
The misplaced movie of the summer is "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter". As you could tell, I'm not confident in a lot of my predictions but this is one that I feel good about. The bottom line on the film's bottom line, to me, is that, if it is going to make a lot of money, it needs room to breathe and the summer is not that time. Not many people go to the movies every weekend and in this jam packed summer, if there was ever a movie people might say, "Eh, we can wait on that" about, it's ol' Honest Abe. The premise for this film is so far out there that after I showed some co-workers the trailer, they still asked me, "Wait, so this is a real movie or not?" And to make matter worse, it's opening up against Pixar's The Brave. I'd probably have said that this is the bomb of the summer but since it only reportedly cost 67 million dollars to make, I think it'll manage not to completely drown in the red.
Personally, I think the studio needs to realize what kind of movie (and moreso, what kind of marketing nightmare) they have on their hands and move this from the summer slate. Halloween seems like a more natural fit but October and November are also pretty packed so I'd look to September 7th, a weekend with no real major wide release as a nice landing spot for this. Just move the film there and avoid the mad rush that'll likely trample all over this movies box office dreams. Give it a chance to build some word of mouth. There's no shame in retreating if it means a bigger box office victory in the end.
And for reference, I was 7/10 last summer, missing out on "The Help", "Bridesmaids", and "Rise of the Planets of the Apes." (I had Super 8, X-Men: First Class, and Kung Fu Panda 2 in the top 10.) Money-wise, I was way off on The Hangover 2 (I had it making about half what it did and landing in the 10th spot instead of #3.) It wasn't terrible but it was my worst summer since I started doing this.
I've moved my long, aimless, jumbled, late night rant to the "Continue Reading" portion of this post but I just want to finally clear up my thoughts on critics and "Girls".
1. The people who like and dislike "Girls" are both saying the same thing - it's about the struggles of oblivious, entitled girls who think they are smarter than they are. Fans think the lack of self-awareness about their lack of self-awareness is what makes the show great. People who dislike the show thinks that is what makes it grating.
2. The idea that the recent harsh reviews are a backlash is arrogance on the part of critics. "Girls" built its buzz off of a small group of people liking it. Mostly hipsters at SXSW and TV critics who were interested enough to seek out the show. That seal of approval is about as valuable as a fanboy thumbs up. Yes, it's nice that it successfully preached to the choir but it doesn't mean diddlysquat when it comes to recruiting new believers. What fans call a backlash, statisticians would call a correction.
3. Neither 1 nor 2 means that Girls is a bad show; it's just not a show that anyone should expect to gain wide appeal. And instead of pushing back against the criticism, critics should just embrace the fact that the show is not for everyone.
4. The complaint that the show is about White Girl Problems isn't sexist or racist as some critics have argued, it's what the show is about (as other, and sometimes the same, critics have argued.) What is particularly annoying to most people who don't like the show is the lack of any real attempt to solve the problem in the pilot. Hannah made one attempt to get a paying job and when that completely backfired, she: had sex, went to dinner, dismissed the idea of getting a menial job, drank opium tea, and ran back to mommy and daddy.
Most people are not going to find that an intriguing story or the actions of a character that they're going to want to keep investing 30 minutes of their life on. In fact, many people probably think they've spent too much of their time on someone similar to that in the real world.
Again, this might be a function of the first show needing to introduce all of the characters and what not and it might get better but in terms of the pilot, it was less "hijinks ensue" and more along the lines of "the same ol' entitled bullshit ensues." Or if I may coin a phrase, "whinejinks ensue". (And, yes, I know for some people that is where the humor comes from but please realize that while you may be in the majority in the TV blogosphere, you're in the minority when it comes to the audience as a whole.) Right now, the show isn't a comedy of errors, it's a tragedy of routine, and, sorry for sounding like a broken record here, that's an approach that's got a limited demographic.
5. If the show was going to reach a wider audience, Marnie would be a more central character. Marnie is the Liz Lemon or E (from Entourage) character. She has her flaws but she's the rock amongst her friends and the sanest one around. She comes off as uptight because she's driven batty by her closest friends.
As it stands now, the show is focused on a more grounded version of Jenna or Frank from 30 Rock or Johnny Drama from Entourage. It's very hard to center a show around a person who is so oblivious to what is going on and not make it a kind of over-the-top type of comedy. It's like trying to make a more realistic Inspector Gadget; the realer it gets, his bumbling would get less amusing and more annoying. Yes, making Marnie the lead (and maybe giving her Hannah's parental support problem) would probably make the show too much like "Adventureland" but I think it'd at least give the show a wider appeal. More people want to relate and empathize with someone trying to make sense of their lives than they want to watch someone who doesn't know what a sensible life even is.
So that's where I'm at now. If you want to read the longer rant that includes stuff that I don't agree with anymore (I'd cut out any reference to voice of a generation), continue reading.
Before I start with my rant on the pilot of "Girls" (actually it's more of a rant inspired by the show than on the show itself), I should note that pilots are often the worst episodes of a series. They have to introduce all of the characters and key scenarios and the impetus of conflicts aren't always as good as watching the struggle. I'm sincerely hoping this is the case with "Girls" because the first episode definitely had a "First World Problems: The TV Show" feel to it. Still, I think the show could improve as it goes on and I'm interested in seeing what kind of turn it takes once Hannah (writer/director Lena Dunham's character) is on her own.
"Girls" also suffers from a critical tongue-bathing that is as predictable as the show is fresh. At one point in the pilot, Dunham starts to awkwardly strip down so she can have awkward sex with her up-until-then absentee-and-also-awkward boyfriend. Needless to say, critics ate it up. For any female writer/director out there, there's no quicker way to a critic's heart than an awkward, unflattering sex scene. But like most sex scenes, it was fairly gratuitous, both in skin and awkwardness. We didn't really need yet another example of how life is awkward for Hannah and the scene basically just served as a way to introduce the skeevy boyfriend. (And, for me, Hannah finding any comfort with the boyfriend just made her seem more unsympathetic. Maybe I just have known too many people who stick in bad relationships for the wrong reasons but at that point, "Girls" became less of a voice of a generation and more of a voice that I just shake my head at. And while some critics would argue that I'm supposed to shake my head at it and that's what makes it great, the obvious counter-argument is that I'm shaking my head in annoyance and that's what makes it grating.)
And, again, it's too early to really judge "Girls" but the reception its getting from critics is further evidence of how the critical masses is really just one mass. Yes, there is always some variety in terms of what people like and what they don't but more often than not, critics look at films the same way and I don't think there really should be an agreed upon vantage point when dealing with art. Seal once wrote that he didn't include lyrics in his CD liner notes because he knew that people would sometimes hear what they wanted and twist the lyrics for themselves and he didn't want to tell anyone that their interpretation was wrong. Yes, he had a reason for writing the songs the way he did but that was no more important than the way how the listeners internalize the album. Too often, critics try to boil down a show to what it REALLY means or what the voice is actually saying and I think that is the last thing a critic should really do. In fact, the critics who dislike the show might be the biggest culprits of this because they hear a voice of a generation that they don't like and then want to dismiss it outright. But whether it's lionizing the voice or hoping to block it out, the fact is... well... honestly I'm not sure what the fact is anymore. But that's kind of the point of all this - a voice is a voice; it's not an answer. We can't be looking for universal truths in one person's point of view.
And in that way, I think "Girls" does succeed. It might not be a voice I want to hear (or a voice whose jokes I find particularly funny) but it's a voice that should get a chance to be heard. The characters might not be likable but, guess what, there are a lot of unlikable people out there and why can't they get a shot at a show that they can relate to. Hell, I liked the first few seasons of "Entourage" and I'm not about to act like there isn't more than a few reasons to dislike those guys. But, in the end, this show just feels to me like Clueless with a less likable, charitable Cher or 30 Rock if Jenna was the less attractive one and the show revolved around her.
So while I'll give "Girls" a couple more episodes and might end up weighing in on it again, I'll say something that I wish more critics would admit: all I can say is that the pilot wasn't for me. It wasn't my cup of tea but, then again, it was probably never intended to be anyway.
Post-rock does suffer from the fact that most of the bands sound exactly alike but if you like the genre, then that isn't really a problem. It's kind of like saying most classical music sounds exactly the same. I tend to find one band and latch onto them for a while (Explosions in the Sky and Mono being my faves) but one that fell through the cracks and I recently rediscovered via my ITunes shuffling to a couple of their songs is This Will Destroy You. The band was brought to my attention by Reader #3, who was wowed by their song "The Mighty Rio Grande" that appeared at the end of the movie Moneyball. And since it looks like I never made these guys a tryout, well, here they are.
One more thought on "Girls" - has a show ever had a more incongruous lead-in? If you loved Game of Thrones and Eastbound and Down then... well... Girls is on afterwards. I also think HBO blew it. This seems to be a show that needs a couple of episodes released online to get more people into it. Not only because it seems like an acquired taste but also Sunday nights are now the most competitive night on TV and I'm not sure how a new show from an indie darling that most people outside of the Sundance set have ever heard of is going to be able to find more than the nichiest of audiences. (And I will now try to copyright the term nichiest. Although I kind of like nicheeest.)'
Also, I want to say again that for season 3 of Game of Thrones, HBO should really team with a theater chain and offer special Sunday night screenings of episodes. I'd be there every Sunday to watch the show on a big screen. On that same note, I am surprised that someone hasn't tried to bring back the old serialized films. With movie theaters crying poverty more and more, I'm not sure why they don't look for more ways to find content. Maybe weekly screenings of local shorts or something. Much like other big chains, movie theaters need to realize that they can't just survive by being the biggest; they also need to tap into what they're community wants and try to be a bigger part of their surrounding area.
There's been a lot of discussion about what "The Cabin in the Woods", a film Joss Whedon said was his "loving hate letter to horror" films is really about? And after giving it some thought, I think I've come up with my final take on it. (SPOILERS from here on in)
To start, I think that every theory on what is about (at least the ones I've heard/read) kind of falls apart when it comes to the very end of the film. When the giant hand of the elders crushes the world, well, it's either off point or vastly overstating whatever argument was being made.
Take for instance the argument that the elders are the fanboys that watch horror movies. Personally, I think this view of the film is troubling in the way that it misreads the desires of the horror fans. To say that all they want is formula is just dead wrong. When all a film delivers is formula, it's almost always slammed as being derivative. A horror film that breaks free from this formula wouldn't be crushed by the hand of the elders, it would be celebrated.
To argue that formula is what people demand seems to be an argument that defends the thinking of studio execs. To me, anyone who argues that "Cabin in the Woods" rightfully argued that fans want formula can't turn around and bemoan the lack of original films out there. Studio execs are just operating in the same manner as the underground workers pulling the strings in "Cabin". You can't say that the fans are the elders and will crush films that don't fit their formula and then blame studios for not producing those movies that will be crushed. And, of all people, I can't imagine Joss Whedon is making that argument (unless he's really bitter about Firefly and Dollhouse not doing well.)
Now I know that many people will cite the old H.L. Mencken quip, "No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people." but I still believe that reading "Cabin" as a critique of fans or average viewers is still far too harsh and, in the end, defends many positions that the people making the argument would never want to support. Nobodu's lost money underestimating the masses but that doesn't mean that the masses will revolt if you give them something better than the lowest common denominator.
The other argument that I found to be interesting was that the film was really about the limitations of the horror genre. Yes, everyone would love to pretend that they're writing a film that is realistic and lets the character be true and have free will but the fact of the matter is that so many stupid decisions have to be made for horror movies to work, that it is impossible to truly give people free will unless the characters are all shaped as the usual archetypes. The reasonable, intelligent leader can't tell everyone to stay together; he has to inexplicably decide that they should split up. People have to go for walks alone for no reason. Sex in the middle of the woods has to seem like a rationale action for the characters. When someone figures out a way to escape, they have to be thwarted by acts of a sort of God (the cave-in) or something coming out of nowhere (the electric wall that halted Chris Hemsworth's motorbike jump.)
This reading, however, kind of falls apart because of why the big hand comes out to end the world - the fool lived. Maybe I just have "Scream" in my head but, to me, the comic relief surviving the carnage happens all the time and isn't something that would make the entire horror formula fall apart. In fact, the exact same thing that happens in "Cabin" happens - you think he died but he survived has almost become the new horror cliche. To make a film about the limits of the genre and then end because of something that's not a limit at all is wholly problematic. The Elders wouldn't have ended the world because the stoner lived; they would have just demanded that he be dragged into the next sacrifice surviving the virgin and likely be killed there (aka the sequel. Which is another thing, how can you have a film about horror cliches/archetypes/limits what have you and not address the existence of the sequel.)
Then I started to think that, maybe the idea was to make two third of the film about how horror cliches work and then have the third act be an example of that (Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins staying in their room and not trying to escape, the cause of the carnage being a rather ridiculous "Purge" button that doesn't have much of any reason to exist.) Or maybe it was about how horror movies have devolved, from rational characters being tormented to cliched archetypes getting offed to little more than creative carnage for the sake of carnage.)
So what is it really all about? Extending the thought from my "Girls" rant, it's really about whatever you want it to be. Yeah, I'm sure Joss Whedon had a focus but, as someone pointed out to me, the satire is half-baked. And because the film is more committed to being a movie than to being a metaphor, it doesn't land its point. It opens itself for many types of interpretation and I don't think there's going to be any one explanation that is flawless. Joss Whedon can have his point, bloggers can have another, and (probably the best way to watch the film) most people can just sit back, take the film on its face, and have a fun time with it and not think about it having to mean anything more than a way to spend 90 minutes.
Hopefully, people will stop arguing about what the movie REALLY means and take each of their own arguments and move them past just the film and look at them on a higher level. If it is about fanboys or the desire of the masses, what can be done? If the film is about archetypes that the genre can live without, what are ways around it? How can horror evolve from isolated people getting terrorized to something fresh and innovative? I think, no matter what Joss Whedon intended, he'd be happiest if someone was inspired by his movie to do something innovative rather than just arguing about what his intentions really were.
This will be a quick review because the less you know about this film, the more you'll like it. I'd recommend checking it out (if you're a horror fan, you HAVE to see this) but don't watch trailer or read reviews, just go in blind and I think you're better for it. Some people have compared it to Scream but it takes the Scream meta angle and heightens it to the nth degree. I will say that, at just 90 minutes, the film still lagged at times and the final act, which is arguably the most balls-to-the-wall finale of any horror film I've ever seen, is bogged down by some unironic cliches and expository dialogue but even if you aren't completely sold on the film like I was, it's still fun to watch. Again, it's a must see for horror fans and I think everyone will enjoy how clever it is. I didn't love it but I'm definitely glad I saw it and recommend it to everyone.
EDIT: One thing I forgot to add is that the film is not a scary horror film. It's more of a comedy and closer to Shaun of the Dead than even Scream or Drag Me To Hell. If you're looking for Insidious or a straight scary movie, this might not be for you. It definitely focuses more on being meta than being frightening but it's still a fun time.
I'm pretty sure Funny or Die has done this before but this one is pretty great. They give an actor their IMDB page and have them remember all of their films an random stories from them. It's like Inside the Actor's Studio sans James Lipton's pompousness and index cards. For me, the best part in this one is the discussion of Harvey Keitel in some film called "Beeper". It's amazing how some great actors behave yet also still maintains their high standards/expectations.
Well, it looks like Ashley Judd has kicked off the latest round of "Why are female (and occasionally male) actors judged so harshly on their looks?" and this latest rendition is no different than the past ones. This isn't to say that Judd doesn't have some talent but let's be real here, Ashley Judd complaining about the focus on beauty is kind of like her bemoaning the influence of nepotism on the industry. Judd has made a career out of being beautiful and be it sickness, laziness, or maybe just bad makeup, her face looked oddly different in many scenes in her new show "Missing". And certain point, her face looked bloated which isn't what one would expect from a supposed ass-kicking ex-agent.
But really the point here is that this focus is nothing new. Rita Hayworth's most famous look in Gilda was made possible by an impossibly uncomfortable dress. Cary Grant was faulted for being bloated and even James Bond himself was bashed when an older Sean Connery tried to make a return in
"Never Say Never Again". The one thing that has changed is that the internet has opened up the lines of communication and, as usual, pure democracy allows for a lot of ugliness to surface.. And it's not just the commenters; more and more, writers for major sites/publications are taking the low road and posting articles that are, quite honestly, simply rude because they are trying to get attention. Ironically, being ugly about beauty seems to be a great way to get more hits.
In the end, actors and actresses combine everything we love most: beauty, talent, glamour, and, inevitably for most, car crash-like falls from grace. And the fact is that if you're going to get into the Hollywood game, you're going to have to deal with this. I know a lot of bigger actors are just stunned when they feel the sting of the once-adoring public but the problem really isn't that the people are being mean, it's that the actors forgot that they were targets. But they always are. The bigger star, the bigger the fall, and I'm sorry but if you make millions pimping out makeup that pretty much sells itself on women's feelings of inadequacies and desire to look like a movie star, you have absolutely no right to complain when people start pointing out that you're not quite looking like a movie star yourself right now. You can't pull the "What about the image we're sending to our little girls" when you spent the last years profiting off of the same image.
The issue isn't that we should be nicer to actors and actresses. The issue is that we should never hold them so highly in the first place. In her defense, Ashley Judd has done a lot of humanitarian work and helped out charities but that doesn't change the fact that there are a lot better people that we should be listening to about these things than Ashley Judd. (or Ben Affleck or George Clooney or whoever.)
I'm sorry but when someone has been living the dream, making millions for smiling, and having people wait on her every beck and call, having to put up with some idiots saying your face looks bloated is a small price to pay. I absolutely loved Kevin Bacon's story on an NPR broadcast (can't remember the name of the show) in which he described putting out a disguise and going to a mall and not being recognized. When the host asked him if he liked it, Bacon quickly shot it down and said it was awful. Nobody was giving him extra attention, he had to wait like everyone else. He had a great grasp on the fact that, despite all of the problems of celebrity, the perks of pretty fucking fantastic.
MTV making an odd move of releasing the entire Florence and the Machine Unlugged on their website before it ever airs. Granted, they don't make it easy on you, not supplying a full show and making your click a new video for each individual song but still, I'm happy to have this sooner than later.
ABC's new buzzed about comedy "Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 has debuted on Hulu and I hate to say it but it feels like the kind of show that will get a lot of shine in the beginning but quickly fade away. The show is definitely crazier than most network fare and it has a couple of great tweaks to the usual sitcom archetypes (the best friend is James Van Der Beek as James Van Der Beek; the nosy yet helpful next door neighbor is actually a pervert) but I feel like the show isn't going to truly commit to the edge. For instance, we learn in episode 1 that June, the titular bitch, sells drugs to support herself. To me, this would be an amazing angle to follow through on (Breaking Bad, the sit-com) but there's almost no way ABC goes for that. It was probably a throwaway joke for one episode that people will forget ever happened later in the season.
On the bright side, the show is funny and the second episode seemed to find a better balance than the pilot although the whole thing still seemed amateurish. The way the show was shot, the pacing, and the acting still are pretty rough around the edges. Also, while I'm happy that one of my favorite supporting actresses Liza Lapira is in this, I feel like this was a role made for Vivian Bang from "Better Off Ted". Then again, Bang plays off-kilter very naturally so maybe it wouldn't fit in this show in which everything is pretty much over-the-top.
In the end, Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23 will probably fall into the same category as "Once Upon a Time", a show that had a decent kick-off and that I thought I would follow but eventually didn't because I didn't really have THAT much interest in it.
The pilot premieres on Wednesday but I suggest skipping that episode and jumping in with the second show.
For some reason, I just never got into 21 Jump Street. The film is never set in any sense of reality so it feels like a spoof movie but then much of the comedy is played on the level. For lack of a better way to describe it, the film starts off by saying, "You don't need to believe any of this would really happen" but then it expects you to laugh at moments of "Can you believe that happened?!" It opens in a world in which anything can happen and then seems to expect laughs when anything does indeed happen.
But, honestly, while that might seem like a big issue, it isn't. The film is still one of the more consistently funny films I've seen in a long time and it deserves high marks for keeping the jokes coming throughout the third act. In fact, the film mocks the problem with many comedies - they play it for laughs but then try to wrap up some sort of drama or emotional arc in the third act (Wedding Crashers being one of the best examples of this mistake.)
However, while it's consistently funny, I didn't find it to have many standout scenes or lines. It's not a film that will be quoted for years to come and, honestly, by the end of the year, there might only be one or two scenes that people will remember as being big laughs. Still, with so many comedies today seeming to sell out for two or three funny scenes and then an hour and a half of lackluster gags, it was a bit of a relief to see a film that hit the mark on so many occasions.
21 Jump Street is a film that I would generally recommend everyone check out at some point. I think it has something for everyone. I liked "The Raid" and "Chronicle" better but I could definitely see people disliking, if not outright hating, both of those film. For the most part, I think 21 Jump Street is a safe bet to be an enjoyable time at the movies. It's good but not great. A B or probably B+ grade.
Screen Rant posted the opening five minutes of the upcoming Lockout which is actually pretty cool albeit insanely derivative (A guy getting interrogated making mom jokes, a chase scene that involves laughable overkill in terms of weaponry, etc.) Early word on the film was pretty bad but this looks like some dumb fun. I doubt I'll end up seeing it (unless the reviews come in a lot better than the first twitter takes on the film), since I still need to check out "The Deep Blue Sea" and "Hunger Games" and want to see what all of the hype around "Cabin in the Woods" is about.
Another week with no new music to share so I've decided to celebrate the return of MTV Unplugged by posting up one of my favorite episodes, Pearl Jam Unplugged. Alice in Chains is also up there and, honestly, I kind of liked Dashboard Confessionals, with the fans singing along to pretty much every song and acting almost like a member of the band.
Even if you aren't a basketball fan, I think you can enjoy the ridiculously awkward moment in this impromptu press conference in which Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy spills the beans that his star center Dwight Howard has tried to get him fired... and then who should walk over (click to the 2:45 in the interview to get to the awkward arrival of Dwight/exit of Stan), all smiles, but Dwight Howard himself.
Now ever since this went down, people have been choosing sides. Dwight got set up! Stan liberated himself and spoke the truth! Preach, Stan! Team Howard! But the fact of the matter is that the sides that they should be choosing between are the side of right vs. wrong or being a professional or ushering in amateur hour. And when it comes to those choices, both Stan and Dwight find themselves on the wrong side of the ledger.
I can't say that I don't feel for Stan Van Gundy. He's trying to coach a lackluster team built around an indecisive star who can't decide if he wants to stay or go. While LeBron's The Decision was obnoxious and the Melo-Drama surrounding Carmelo Anthony's trade demands was annoying, neither Lebron nor 'Melo took their impending free agency to the level of stupidity that Howard's Dwightmare. He was all but out the door until he inexplicably decided to opt in to the last year of his contract... and then pretty much immediately started talking like he wanted out again. He didn't as much sign up for one more year of the Magic, he just prolonged the nonsense about where he would be traded to.
(On a side note, New Jersey's not making things much easier on Orlando. Opting in could possibly have been a polite move by Dwight to help his former team get as much as they could in a trade. Opt in now and New Jersey would then be able to add their lotto pick in the deal for Dwight, which would sweeten the deal to being somewhat even. However the Nets botched this by dealing their pick - just top 3 protected - in the Gerald Wallace deal. If the pick isn't top 3, they'll have no better offers to make for Dwight and if the pick is #1, I wouldn't be surprised if a number of fans wondered if just rebuilding around Brook and Anthony Davis might be the best route for the team.)
To me, Dwight didn't do anything wrong by going privately to management and talking about changing the coach. Hell, he's 100% right when it comes to ousting general manager Otis Smith; I'm not sure there's a basketball pundit out there who thinks Smith should keep his job. But the way he's handled his trade demands and upcoming free agency, and the way he's acted of late (e.g, laughing on the bench during embarrassing losses) has been embarrassing.
On the other hand, the first rule of the inner sanctum of the NBA is to keep things in house. The first rule of the NBA locker room club is that you don't talk about the NBA locker room club. Stan spilling the beans might have been liberating but it's not how professional NBA coaches and players are supposed to act. And then what Stan Van Gundy did during that interview, bolts as soon as Dwight comes and almost seems to smile since he knows what coming, reeks of, for lack of a better term, bitch madeness. Stan Van Gundy can't stand the "bullshit"... but then sets his star player up, since Dwight thought they were still towing the party line. Stan Van Gundy wants to be honest to the press but can't take the time to be honest with his player and say, "I know what you said. This is how I feel. And this is what I'm going to say about it publicly." Of course, the reason he probably didn't say that is because once anyone heard he was speaking out or once his conscience caught up with him for a second, the whole going public option would have been shut down.
So, in the end, let's stop trying to act like either of these guys are the victim here. Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard have both acted selfishly throughout. The Orlando Magic have overachieved this year and are stumbling into the final run to the playoffs but Dwight is supposedly faking an injury while Stan is creating a sideshow by speaking out about Dwight's talks with management. Also, it's not like this is the first time these guys have gone through this: Dwight reportedly pushed for Van Gundy's predecessor Brian Hill fired and Van Gundy was pushed out by Shaq when they were in Miami. Both of these guys have been to the rodeo before but instead of grabbing the bull by the horns, they opted to be clowns.
To choose sides between Dwight and Stan is pointless. These men are two sides of the same wood nickel. To waste any more time thinking about them seems like a waste since it's clear that they've already spent more than enough time thinking about themselves. The NBA is heading towards a potentially great postseason and it might have been nice to see if Dwight and Stan could carry their team to a surprising run. But now, I think anyone who truly loves the NBA just hopes the Magic flame out as quickly as possible so the fans can focus on the games and spare themselves any more of this circus.
Because lord knows that we're going to be hearing about it ad nauseum once the offseason kicks in.
Mental Floss's twitter is one of the better twitterers that I follow. (Twitterers? What's the correct term for that?) And today they've posted up a great one. Below is the original pitch for The Muppet Show when they were trying to sell it to CBS.
Mental Floss's site adds that a little bit was cut out from what we have here. "After Leo’s powerful speech, Kermit appears from off-screen against a CBS logo and shrugs, 'What the hell was that all about?'" I don't get Mental Floss the magazine but I've been thinking about it as it would seem to be great toilet reading (which is what 70% of magazines are for nowadays).
So my big plan to get a draft of my new old idea hit a snag. Well, it hit two snags, actually. The first issue was that I was writing the pilot for a show and I didn't really know where the show was going (always a problem) and I didn't have any b-story. I then kind of realized that a b-story in most episodes would be hard so I pushed that project to the side and started working on my main project again and, happily, overcame a hurdle that had bogged me down for some time.
Was that paragraph vague enough for you?
Anyway, the new old project that became old again was "Best Apocalypse Ever", a kind of zombie apocalypse sit-com/web show that I came up with last year. I decided to give it another shot and while I think I made a number of improvements, the show still seems to be lacking something. The biggest issue is that, kind of like The Walking Dead, there's no real end game. The world is over and even if it isn't, the random people that I have as characters aren't smart enough to make a difference or fix it. But that got me thinking about a show that I don't really want to write but could work on a network - what if someone remade Gilligan's Island but instead of everyone being trapped on an island, they were stuck in the middle of a zombie apocalypse? That was kind of the premise of my project but it wasn't as stupid as Gilligan. I did toy with the idea of having a laugh track amidst the chaos but I thought that gimmick would grow tired after a while.
I'm not sure if they'd be able to make it work as a full-on sit-com but I think something like this could work as a web show or an Adult Swim 15 minute show. Anyway, I might start playing around with it later but I really think that a zombie comedy should find its way to TV sooner than later.
Oliver Stone apparently has some bills to pay, favors to pay back, or good will to earn because his latest film "Savages" looks like the kind of studio fare that we expect more from Tony Scott. Even "U-Turn" was a smaller, more bizarre story than this one, which goes from "Been there, done that" small time crooks ruffles the feathers of big time criminals but then once Salma Hayek comes in, it seems to devolve into a telenovela of sorts.
After John Carter and the unimpressive looking Battleship, this is the kind of film that could put a bullet in the head of Taylor Kitsch's shot at the big time. On the other hand, Aaron Johnson aka Kick-Ass looks all growed up so if he can handle this supporting role, it might be a boost for him since people might see him in older roles. As for Blake Lively, she keeps finding herself as the love interest in pretty forgettable movies (that, of course, doesn't include The Town, in which she was an anti-love interest, of sorts.) She needs to harness what little power she has left at this point and find a smaller project that will give her a boost even if it is to just an indie crowd. Either that or she should just take five years off and plan on coming back as a cop in some TNT show. (That sounds meaner than it should I like Blake but with so many talented actresses out there, she needs to start landing some plum roles to set her apart. And odds are that the best of those roles are going to probably be in smaller films that she may need to shepherd into production.)
Thanks to JoBlo.com for pointing out that Soundgarden's first song in 15 years is now available on Soundcloud. The song is kind of "Down on the Upside" era Soundgarden but, sadly, with the Chris Cornell/Timbaland project levels of over-production. The song is still solid and will probably be great in concert but this version, which can be found on the Avengers soundtrack, just doesn't have much edge to it. Instead of Chris Cornell belting out from his heart, it sounds like a song that was put together just for a soundtrack. That makes it kind of the polar opposite of Cornell's James Bond theme song which had better, rawer production values but wasn't as good of a song.
In the end, the return of the Soundgarden is reason to rejoice but if the rest of the songs are like this, I'll probably just end up listening to the old stuff anyway.
Well, the year is a quarter over and I can't say that I've made much in the way of progress. Still working on the same scripts, still wasting time on online message boards, still haven't switched to WordPress so I could have comments back on (although, again, you can always comment over at the SoulHonky.com Facebook page.)
On the bright side, this was a good weekend for writing and a good week so far of figuring out the new shows and old scripts that I've been kicking around so hopefully I'll have something to show for myself at the halfway point. In fact, I'm hoping that this week's Friday could be a pilot script for an idea I kicked around a while ago (and that I believe I posted up on here a while back.)
Don't let 2012 slip away from you. It's a quarter done and time's not moving any slower. And next year is the year of Bad Luck 2013, so there's no time to waste if you're looking for good fortune in your near future.
Still haven't found any new music that's caught my ear so here's a song from the upcoming return of MTV Unplugged featuring Florence + the Machine with special guest Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age.
Total Recall picked a bad day to release its trailer. While the Colin Farrell-led remake isn't too bad, the trailer is nowhere as good as the one for "Ted" (well, at least for the target demo of both films) and now we have the first look at "The Newsroom", Aaron Sorkin's return to TV (or, well, not TV, it's HBO.) Some of the interoffice stuff makes me think of "Sportsnight" although this won't have the one failing of that show, which tried to make covering sports seem like something to get amped up about. Obviously for the people at the station, getting the coverage right is key but I don't think it translated to the major network audience.
Anyway, this trailer opens with a great Sorkinian monologue and builds from there. Can't wait.
Oh, and since I referenced it, here's the "Total Recall" trailer. Once people get past the fact that it's a remake, it isn't too bad. I do find it odd that the film, which this trailer makes look like Bourne Identity in the future, is opening up against The Bourne Legacy. I think one of those films should blink and move from their current date. The following week is fairly open; probably better to not open against another action film.
Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane has made the jump to the big screen and it looks like his brand of humor is just as suited for the film as it is TV. This is one of the funnier trailers I've seen in a long time. Even better, it seems to just show a couple of jokes; I'm sure there's a lot more where these came from.