WATCHFRIENDS

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I'm Not 100% Sure, But I Think I Hate Blu-Ray

How can this be? The highest (thus far) of the high-definition formats available to home consumers is something I don't like?

It's true.

My local Best Buy and Circuit City have had the full Blu-Ray/1080 HDTV setup on display for a few months now, and every time I go, I make a point of checking it out, especially when they have a new DVD release. And EVERY time, I get freaked out, in a bad way, at the image quality I see.

It's just TOO good. Films look like it's high definition VIDEO. It almost looks like live-action. It's too crisp. Too clean. Too grain-free.

From many many experiences watching TV and movies with non-media people, I know that 99% of the viewing public usually doesn't notice, or can't tell the difference between a video look and a film look, and even when I point it out to them, they don't care. So I know that when I gripe about the look of Blu-ray, I'm going to be in the extreme minority.

I know I sound like those nutjob audio purists that turn their nose up at CD's and mp3's, saying that only analog playback (like albums or audiotape) can truly present music in it's full glory. But my complaint is the exact opposite.

Film, or the 'film look' is NOT a pristine image. It's a purposefully grainy and/or degraded image. It's how film has always been, and how I WANT it to always be. Even films shot on HD video in recent years retain that 'film look' when projected from a film projector, because it's still film as an end product.

But now, we have Blu-Ray, which bypasses the film projection step, so the image that appears on your HDTV is perfect. What's worse, is that the studios have actually gone back and REMOVED grain from films because people with new HDTV's were complaining about it. Gah!

I don't want total clarity with the FILMS that I watch. I don't want it to seem like it's happening NOW, or right in front of me. The 'film look' allows for that layer of separation, that filter of being at least one step removed from the events unfolding on screen. It's still a story being told with some perspective, rather than something happening like a news broadcast or reality show.

I know that it's all over for me. There isn't going to be some "Let's Save the Grain!" movement that's going to pop up. This is what the masses want, even though the don't know it's not what they really want. But it's what they're going to get.

So don't feel sorry for me when in a few years when you see me scouring the plain old DVD releases as opposed to the Blu-Ray shelf. I'm there on purpose. I'm stubbornly and (correctly) holding on to the BEST movie experience available to me.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Chinese Astronauts

It's been a while since I deliberately posted something (thanks, Ike!).  My "Survivor" post from the other day was actually something I had created a draft for several months ago and post-dated it "way in the future", and apparently that post-date was this week.  Oh well.

Anyway, enjoy this brilliant news item from The Onion. 


China Launches First Willing Manned Mission Into Space

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SURVIVOR Around the World - 1 - Bulgaria

Welcome to a new series! This is inspired by this article I came across this morning, talking about how huge a hit the Israeli version of "Survivor" is in Israel. I started watching the opening segments of various international versions of the show and found it fascinating to see the similarities and differences between our culture and other cultures. Most of them were merely interesting until I got to this one, and this guy in particular.



It's Rasputin! He's on Survivor Bulgaria!


Here's the rest of the intro segment. I'll post a new one each day this week.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

I Am Home Alone Legend

Excellent trailer mashup.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

For those of you not getting enough Olympics coverage.

I especially love the cycling.  They don't have a 'degree of difficulty' component of Olympic cycling, but I'd certainly vote for this to become a part of it.


http://view.break.com/157415 - Watch more free videos

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Top Ten Summer Movies - It's All Over But the Crying

So I saw Tropic Thunder today, bringing to a close the summer movie season for 2008.  On the whole, it was a'ight.  I'll finish filling in the remaining mini-reviews for the films I've seen and then at the end, I'll rank them in the order I felt they finished. Here's a refresher on what I was hoping for going into the summer.
 
1) The Dark Knight - 10/10.  Nothing more really needs be said.  By the time I finish typing this, it will have moved past Star Wars into second place on the all-time domestic box office chart, trailing only Titanic, which isn't in any danger of being overtaken, even by this juggernaut.  Dark Knight was built up with an almost unprecedented amount of hype, half of which was brought on by Heath Ledger's unfortunate demise.  But it managed to not only live up to that hype, but surpass it.  Adding to it's awesomeness, it was the only place (for a while) where you could see the equally amazing Watchmen trailer.

2) Iron Man - 9/10 This movie was lots of fun. Perfect sort of superhero movie. He's not as well-established as most other superheroes that have had movies made of them, so it was easier for them to play around with the history and not have it come across as false. For 99% of the world, this will be THE Iron Man. Sequels galore are already in the works.

3) Narnia: Prince Caspian - 6.5/10 This movie left me a bit whelmed. It was good, but nothing really memorable. However, that said, I wish the first film had had this look and tone to it. Narnia is more like a real place this go-round, whereas the first movie was more like a fairy land.

4) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - 4/10 I was RIGHT to dread this film. What a mess. What a miscalculation. It reeks of George Lucas's myopic vision. For a really good list of what's wrong with this film, check this out.

5) Speed Racer - 0/10 Well, that's not a totally fair rating, because I didn't see it. But the closer it got, the less interested I was in seeing it. However, while waiting for Indy IV to restart (glitch in framing of the film), I wandered over to Speed Racer to catch a couple of minutes of it, just to see. The five minutes I watched were excruciating. I don't know who this film was made for. What a wreck...

6) The Happening - n/a This also looked more and more like a disaster the closer it got, and reviews have been universally bad. As I was only kinda interested in seeing it, this made my decision easier. I'll catch it on cable one day... maybe.

7) The Incredible Hulk - 7.5/10 The closer this one came to release, the more optimistic the reviews became. While the Hulk's CGI never got any better over the course of the previews, the reports were that the story and presentation were right in line with the precedent that Iron Man set earlier in the summer. And those reports were right. This was a mostly fun film, firmly set in the Iron Man version of the Marvel universe. I look forward to the next Marvel Studios film.

8) Hellboy II: The Golden Army - 6.5/10  This one had a chance to be really special, but somehow, Guellermo Del Toro opted to pull back and create a film that was ultimately pretty lazy.  The visuals of this film were second to none this summer, I'll grant it that.  I'm looking forward to watching this on DVD and freeze-framing some of the screens that were jam-packed with eye-candy.  But the story left a lot to be desired.  It just seemd to be more interested in trying to be a fun film rather than a logical one.  It missed the chance to be something really amazing. 

9) Wall*E - I still haven't seen this one.  I might try to check it out before school starts back up.  While everything about it sounds magical, I just haven't been inspired enough yet to drive down to the theater. 

10) Tropic Thunder - 5/10   Sigh...  I was really expecting this to be a minor masterpiece.  But... it really ended up missing the mark for me.  All of the best stuff was in the trailer.  Actually, if the film had been based on the trailer, it would have been an amazing film.  One thing the trailer seemed to imply was that there'd be a lot more amusing conflict surrounding Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of a black man.  But it seemed to just gloss over that for the most part.  Downey indeed plays the role of the black man for 99% of the film, and never goes out of character, but most of his lines are just regular things someone would say.  Likewise, the rest of the film was just too mainstream and by-the-numbers when it could have been really savage and insightful about Hollywood.  By the end of the film, it was just hitting all the same typical movie beats that any film that is either an action film or a comedy film is required by law to hit.     Could have been a classic...

And that's it.  For a brief period, it seemed like The Clone Wars might creep up into contention, but the reviews have been brutal.  And the ones I most respect, like Alexandra Dupont on Aint-it-Cool-News, sadly sum up for me my worst fears for the Star Wars franchise.  I'll likely see this at some point, but it pains me to not be seeing a Star Wars film on opening night... by choice. 

So, here's my final ranking of the Summer of 2008.

1) Dark Knight
2) Iron Man
3) Watchmen trailer
4) Incredible Hulk
5) Prince Caspian
6) Hellboy II
7) Wall•E (still unseen)
8) Everyting else

This fall looks to be interesting.  I'll post my preview sometime in the next few weeks.

Until then...

Watchmen movie - Commercial contest



 A couple of months ago, Zach Snyder (director of Watchmen) posted a contest on YouTube inviting everyone to create a fake commercial for one of the fake products that exists in the Watchmen universe.  These focused primarily on the products put out by Adrian Veidt, one of the main characters of Watchmen.  Veidt was a costumed adventurer named Ozymandias who got out of the hero game right before the government passed an act outlawing vigilante heroes.  Veidt proceeded to cash in on his hero fame and by the time the movie starts (about a decade after this anti-vigilante act), he's a billionaire many times over.  (this moment in Watchmen history brought to you by Irony Coast Films)

Anyway, Veidt product logos, animations and product shots were provided to everyone to facilitate creation of commercials for these products.  The winners would be put on display on a giant bank of TVs that Ozymandias watches from his secret base.  There will be dozens of TV's all flashing tons of images, so the chances of anyone actually being able to pinpoint any of these fake commercials would be remote, but that's not the point.  WE'D know we had something we created in the Watchmen, and that was all the mattered.

So I thought about what I'd produce that I didn't think everyone else would already be doing and I settled in on Veidt Sport (his line of atheletic shoes).  And since Ozymandias/Veidt's personal theme is Egyptian, and Ramses II in particular, I went along that route.

I wasn't chosen as one of the finalists, but I still had lots of fun doing it.  Congrats to the winners.  They were all very deserving. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

WATCHFRIENDS - Observations about The Dark Knight

More specifically, observations about Heath Ledger. I loved The Dark Knight and think it's an automatic nominee for Best Picture. I think one of the reasons this film has attained such lofty aspirations is the amazing performance of Heath Ledger. His amazing portrayal of the Joker has been well-documented far more eloquently than I could ever hope to match. If he doesn't got the posthumous Best Supporting Actor statue next year, it will be a crime.

THAT SAID...

I no longer buy the argument that he can't be replaced in any future Batman film.

Over the past week, I've seen a multitude of Dark Knight parody videos, all of them featuring the Joker. And what has stood out to me more than anything is that just about everyone is doing a pretty good Heath Ledger Joker. The nasally mumbling and lip-licking is apparently pretty easy to do. I like this one in particular. And I'd say more than half of them could even pass for the Ledger Joker (well... if you squint a bit, maybe).

With a bit of sloppy-applied white makeup, and smeared red lips, just about anyone can pull off a good Joker. I think it would be child's play for Hollywood, and for the production team behind what is soon to be the number two grossing film of all time (unadjusted) , to successfully install another actor into the role.

Out of respect for Ledger, no one else should ever play the role. But out of respect for the truckloads of money that a second Batman/Joker film could bring in, I think it's only a matter of time before a new Joker is cast. In fact, the controversy over such a casting would likely generate something of a similar buzz/curiosity that led to some of Dark Knight's record-setting haul.

For my money, I think there's one actor that is primed for the role, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He's a fantastic up-and-coming actor, known for taking serious roles. He's about the same age as Ledger, and most importantly, he already looks a lot like Ledger.

Take a look.


I rest my case.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

WATCHFRIENDS - I'm amazed at how many really great parody videos are out there

So one of the byproducts of creating a parody video is that you start looking to see what "the other guys" are doing. Over the past week, I've seen dozens going on hundreds of parody/inspired-by videos centering around just the Watchmen and Dark Knight. In the old days (five years ago), I'd expect about 90% of them to be crap. But I have to say that only a few of them were a waste of my time.

People are REALLY creative, and the video production tools that were once totally cost-prohibitive are now readily available to anyone with a couple of hundred bucks (and they only have to pay that if they don't want to use the crappy, but functional software that was bundled with your computer).

I'm a video producer by trade, so I look at these videos with a slightly more critical eye. But more and more, I'm seeing homemade videos that look really good, with creative angles, good lighting, cool effects and tight editing. Even the videos that maybe don't have the highest production values are still impressive with the competent-to-excellent storytelling skills displayed.

It's like with the barrier to creating these things removed from their path, people are no longer telling themselves "That's too hard to do." (Professional video producer confession: It's not)

If you're someone that's always wanted to do a video of some kind, just get out there and do it. I have every reason to believe that you inherently know how to put a story together. That after a lifetime of watching movies and TV that you've absorbed by osmosis how to tell a story on a screen. Do it! And when you do, come back here and show it to me and tell me how you did it.

WATCHFRIENDS - The Side by Side Comparison

So just for the fun of it, I placed both the original trailer and the WATCHFRIENDS trailer one on top of the other.  For me, this version of the video is the preferred version.  I find WATCHFRIENDS far more absurd (my original intent) when you can contrast it with the utter seriousness of Watchmen.  To see Gleek onscreen at the same moment as Rorschach, or Zan's ice cube disentregration synced up with Dr. Manhattan, it just makes me smile. Hopefully you'll have the same reaction.

Next time, for those of you into that sort of thing, I plan on breaking down the video, explaining what I had initially wanted to do and why I ultimately chose each of the final shots.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

WATCHFRIENDS - Observations in my quest to make a video someone hadn't already done

Over the last year or two, I've lost count of the number of times my friend Corey and I have come across a brilliant little video on YouTube and smacked our heads at the obviousness of it. "Why didn't we think of that?" is a commonly heard utterance.

A few years ago, a friend of mine and I thought it would be funny if there was zombie porn, and speculated on how ridiculous that might be. A Google search later than night brought no fewer than 115,000 hits for "zombie porn".

A few months back, my brother came up with what I thought was a hilarious idea for a video spoof. "Jihad Joe!" Brilliant! Al Queda toys! Later that night, I googled "Jihad Joe" and found dozens, if not hundreds of references to it. There were at least five really well done toy commercial parodies for Jihad Joe. My spirit was crushed.


Were there NO good ideas that haven't been done yet?

So last week the idea for WATCHFRIENDS struck me, and I still don't remember what the inspiration was. Maybe it was having seen the official Watchmen trailer for the hundredth time. Maybe I'd seen a reference to Hanna-Barbera earlier in the day. Who knows? But somehow the vision of the Watchmen trailer replaced with Super-Friends footage bloomed fully-formed in my brain.

And for the first time, a Google search turned up ZERO hits. I knew I had to act quickly.

The video I actually ended up creating turned out better than the one I was amusing myself with in my brain.

So, for at least this one time, I managed to be the first one with whatever stupid idea I came up with. I can rest easy... well, at least until I finish creating the first-ever WATCHSMURFS* trailer!






* There's no way I'm subjecting myself to dozens of ours of sifting through Smurfs episodes... If anyone reading this wants to attempt to do a WATCHSMURFS video, I give you my blessing... and my sympathy.

Monday, August 11, 2008

WATCHFRIENDS

So I finally did one of those "Someone needs to make that" videos. About a week ago, I was blinded with the flash of an idea for what I thought would make a great parody video. Mashing together the Watchmen movie trailer and the Super-Friends. I could instantly see it in my mind's eye and for the next five days, it became a bit of an obsession for me.

I've always loved the Super-Friends videos that have popped up since the birth of the internet, the WASSUP?!? spot being an all-time classic, with the Office Space one coming in a close second. The first thing I did when I came up with my idea, I did a quick check to make sure no one else had already done it. Woo hoo! No matches anywhere for "Watchfriends".

I scoured dozens of hours of old Super-Friends videos and DVDs looking for imagery that could be used to recreate the amazing Watchmen trailer. It was a lot tougher than I imagined, because the Super-Friends was produced back in the dark ages of animation. There were very few shots that ventured beyond the typical sideways flying and walking. The Super-Friends sure did do a lot of walking and riding in vehicles! And it shouldn't have surprised me, but there were next to no shots of anyone punching someone else, which is a common image from the Watchmen trailer.

It took the better part of a full day to edit the video. I have to I put the finishing touches on it at 4:30AM this morning.
Be sure to check back, as I'll be posting a side-by-side comparison video that has both WATCHFRIENDS and the original Watchmen trailer lined up so you can see how closely (or not) the shots line up. In some cases, it's scary. I'll also post an annotated video that points out exactly what episodes each clip came from.

And now, I present to you my magnum opus parody trailer video. The WATCHFRIENDS.

Enjoy.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

It Was 20 Years Ago Today...

...that the greatest hockey player of all time was traded from the greatest team of all time to the middle of the hockey wasteland, Los Angeles.



It's ironic that this anniversary is almost on the same day as another monumental trade, Brett Favre being shipped to the New York Jets after weeks of his un-retirement dominating the sports headlines.

But I remember the Gretzky trade like it was yesterday. My personal sports hero, Wayne Gretzky, fresh off of a fourth championship in five years with the Edmonton Oilers, was traded without any warning (this was back in the pre-internet days) to the Los Angeles Kings.

I was crushed!

And what made things worse was Gretzky would be donning the most hideous hockey jerseys in the league. The purple and gold of the Kings.




However, my horror turned to joy about ten hours later when I saw this image from the news conference:



That silver and black Kings jersey was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. I was converted in an instant. In fact, the new Kings colors would go on to inspire the color scheme for my fantasy football team, the Dark Piranhas, who were also born in the month of August, 1988... but that's a story for another day.


A few months later, I'd buy my own Kings jersey, and a little over two years later, I'd actually met Wayne Gretzky in an amazing set of circumstances, also a story for another day.

In any event, August 9, 1988 was a monumental day in hockey history. Gretzky's presence in Los Angeles opened the doors for hockey teams to spring up all over the South, in places as diverse as Dallas, Miami, and Nashville.

So here's part of both press conferences (Edmonton and Los Angeles) from that day, followed by some twenty year later retrospectives I've found.













http://watch.tsn.ca/nhl/clip72747#clip72747

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Venture Bros. - The Lepidopterists

Now we're talking!

After a season that has so far been very very strange (not bad, but strange), we finally get a Venture Bros. that nails it. Not the least of what kept a constant smile on my face was this:













My friends, behold Ventronic! And yes, that's an ice cream cone he has for an arm (don't ask...watch the episode).

This episode focused entirely on Jonas Venture Jr., Rusty's vestigal twin brother.  In fact, we didn't see Rusty or Hank or Dean at any point in this episode.  Jonas Jr. is starting to spread his Protagonist wings more and more, leading to an epic showdown between him and The Monarch. 

Too many hilarious things to mention from this episode, but the two OSI agents, Henchman #1, and Scarantula's laser cannon discussion have all moved into the Venture Bros. hall of fame.

While a lot of this season has been somewhat uneventful, they all paid off marvelously in this episode.

Watch this week's episode right here.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Have Yourself a Perry Little Christmas

More Black20.com fun stuff.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Lion Cop

More amusing stuff from Black20.com

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth

(by way of Black20.com)

Battle of the Batmans

I hadn't checked out Black20.com in a while, but they've got a few new brilliant videos.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Conspiracy's Worst Nightmare Has Come to Pass

Ex-Astronaut: Aliens Are Real and Government Knows It

It took me about a dozen times seeing some variation of this headline over the last few days before I finally clicked on it. While the claim Mitchell makes is amazing and possibly historic (if it can be remotely authenticated as more than the rantings of a 77 year-old man who once went to the moon), I was more fascinated by the implications it posed for a specific segment of the public - the Conspiracy Theorists.

Bear with me, here.

For 60-something years, a passionate group of individuals has insisted that the government has been covering up alien visitations. We've all seen them on Larry King or heard them on late-night radio talk shows. For those 60-something years, there hasn't really been a credible person to step up to verify ANY of these claims.

Until now.

A respected astronaut. One of the few men who ever walked on the moon. Someone who was part of NASA from way back. Doesn't get much more credible than that. This must be a glorious day for all the Conspiracists. Their messiah has arrived.

But.... maybe not...

According to most accepted conspiracy theories, the Moon Landing Never Happened!

So... what is a Conspiracist to do? What an amazing Catch-22! The greatest advocate for their Alien Visitation Cover-up conspiracy is a man renowned for something they don't acknowledge ever happened. Can they say that this astronaut was lying about one thing, but is now telling the truth about something else?

The mind swims with the contradictions this implies. One would almost think that THIS is a deliberate conspiracy by NASA to short-circuit the brains of as many Conspiracists as possible.

It's the greatest conundrum since "The Buttered Cat Paradox"

I can't wait to see how this plays out.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight - This Changes Everything


Dark Knight might be the comic book film that changes everything and allows comic books and comic book ideas to be taken seriously. Since the dawn of superhero movies, we've been given a steady diet of the same thing, time after time. Some sort of origin story (either the hero, or the villain if it's sequels) coupled with some sort of plot to destroy/conquer the city/world. For the origin movie, it's almost always where the villain and hero are created from the same source, or are otherwise tied together somehow. Insert incredible action sequences and give the hero some sort of dramatic crisis for the climax. Wash, rinse, repeat.

That's not to say that past comic book movies have been bad. Spider-man 2 was my favorite film of 2004, while Iron Man was easily one of the best films this year so far, superhero or otherwise. Batman Begins, while really good, left me a bit flat because it still followed all the required superhero beats (ultimately). But at least it was trying to do something different. Iron Man also injected a bit more effort into the story to make it 'about' something.

But all that was setup for The Dark Knight. I think we needed all of those adaptations to where we got to the point where the superhero movie is ingrained in the national (or even worldwide) psyche in a way where it isn't just viewed as a geeky genre, but just as a type of film every bit as valid and encoded into our DNA as westerns or war films or detective thrillers. Watchmen director Zach Snyder has been talking about this very thing as now being the exact right time to finally release a Watchmen film. Watchmen deconstructed comics for those that were familiar with its rhythms. Now the public is at a point where they are so familiar with superhero tropes that a similar film deconstruction of comic book movies can be accomplished.

However, while Snyder was expecting that cultural shift to occur with the relase of his film, I reallly think it's happened this weekend, with The Dark Knight.

Dark Knight wasn't telling a superhero story. It was telling a complex crime story, but completely grounded within the Batman universe, pulling the best elements of both, and ramping up the drama, the stakes, the themes to levels you can only achieve with something like a comic book story. This was a crime drama overlaid with a brilliant examination of the extremes of good vs evil, black and white, with every shade in between.

Hopefully, this will signal a sea-change in the types of stories that movie studios feel can be told within the framework of a superhero story. I fear that because of the budgets and the need to make these types of films EVENT films that we'll not be able to get the nuance and subtlety that you can get from a great comic book story told over the course of a dozen or more issues. How many times can characters be put through the wringer at these escalating stakes and it not become even more repetitive and dull?

The Watchmen film is telling a specific story that has been proven to be effective and multi-layered. Dark Knight, while not based on any paticular piece of comic literature, definitely was born from an IDEA, not simply the desire to make a sequel and feature the next villain out of Batman's Rogue's Gallery. But I don't know if other comic properties will be able to be about something more than being a sequel.

Iron Man has a good head start in that there is an established comic story arc where Tony Stark battles alcoholism. That, when layered into the next Iron Man sequel, will make for a compelling, 'on purpose' sort of story.

Spider-Man 4, on the other hand, is going to be just the next sequel. Some themes and ideas might be able to be tacked onto it, but we're already beyond that with this franchise. Incredible Hulk tried to sort of be about something, but I felt it ended up a bit flat. I can't imagine how a sequel will be any more compelling. However, with all of these Marvel films, they're all leading up to an eventual Avengers film, which could be something really amazing if done right.

A future comic book film that could definitely be 'about' something is Captain America. I think there's never been a better time to do a film that allows this country to reflect on what it once stood for, and contrast that to what it does now. How America interfaced with the world 60 years ago, and how much it's changed today. If they just make Captain America a fun, superhero film, I think they'll have missed a chance to do something special. They can and should reach for a cross between Dark Knight and Saving Private Ryan.

In any event, superhero films now have a chance to reach for epic concepts and themes, not just epic special effects. Let's see who chooses to take up that challenge.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Official WATCHMEN Trailer is Here

After more than twenty years, we finally have some real live moving images of The Watchmen, the pinnacle (thus far) of the comic book/graphic novel form. I've lost count of the number of false starts this project has teased us with over the years, with Terry Gilliam and Darren Aronofsky the two biggest name directors attached. But it wasn't until the massive success of "300", directed by Zach Snyder, that movie studios finally decided to pull the trigger on this one and give Snyder a chance.

Over the past few months, we've been teased with character images and set visits, but nothing showing any of the action on the screen... until today. It's set to premiere before "The Dark Knight" (which I will be attending tonight at midnight), but Empire Magazine was given the early exclusive. Click here to see it in beautiful full resolution, but here it is (until it gets yanked) in a reasonable YouTube version




First thoughts? Unexpected. Epic. Taking no prisoners.

It doesn't look like a superhero film, and yet, it has all the elements you'd typically expect from such a film.

I'm most curious as to how those unfamiliar with Watchmen will react. The trailer doesn't give ANY inkling as to what the story is about. If anything, they'll think it's about Dr. Manhattan (the big blue guy, for you Watchmen neophytes), as the trailer does kind of show his origin, and he's easily the most prominent figure in the trailer. All the images are amazing. But what will it mean to newbies?

Moreso than any other comic adaptation (except for maybe "300"), the images from the trailer are all immediately recognizable directly from the comic. 200-ft tall Dr. Manhattan blasting the Viet Cong soldier, Ozymandias smacking the assassin with the ashtray, Rorschach's hairspray blowtorch, the Owlship rising out of the water, Dr. Manhattan creating the crystal palace on Mars, and of course, the Comedian being launched through a plate glass window. All these images are totally familiar and yet completely unlike what I was expecting.

This trailer was a crucial step in winning over me (and all the other diehard Watchmen loyalists). We've been holding our breaths for months awaiting this. And now that it's here, I'm more eager than ever to see if they can bring this thing all the way home.

If you're a Watchmen rookie, what do YOU think of this trailer? What does it make you think the film is going to be about? How similar or different than other comic book adaptations does it seem?

If you want to follow this film more closely as it develops, or just want more Watchmen info than you can cram into your brain, I highly recommend WatchmenComicMovie.com

Groverfield

I know the whole Cloverfield craze has come and gone already and this is way late in arriving on my radar, but it's too funny and well-made to pass up. 


(mildly Not Safe For Work, as it uses one profanity from the original film)



See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Greatest First Dance Ever

Back in the early days of my previous company, MediaPost, we supplemented our income by doing wedding videos.  Lots of them.  I still do the occasional wedding for family and friends, but it's thankfully only once or twice a year now.  The highlight of how we do the wedding videos is making a "music video" out of the couple's first dance.  Check out here and here for some examples of wedding highlight videos I've done.  (Writing this blog post reminds me I have to get around to finally editing my brother's wedding from 2007...)

But unless these weddings are done for family or friends, they are excruciating to attend and edit.  They're all the same.  Mind-numbing after the first half-dozen or so.  Everyone chooses the same five songs as their First Dance song.

That's why this video shows what would have been the greatest First Dance EVER.  Oh, to have had something like THIS to break the monotony of the same wedding over and over.    Enjoy.

Friday, July 04, 2008

I never thought I'd see it in my lifetime...

...but I did. 

Just a few moments ago, I got to see a dog-off.

In an epic battle, Joey Chestnut defeated Kobayashi for the title of Hot Dog Eating Champion.  In OVERTIME! 

It was amazing.  After ten minutes of ramming hot dogs down their throats, Chestnut and Kobayashi were tied at 59 dogs apiece.  The tiny chunks of dog and bun plastered over all over their faces were a testament to their dedication to eating more hot dogs in ten minutes than most of us will eat this year. 

But it went to a dog-off.  Two men.  Five dogs.  First one to shove all of them in their mouth and swallow them, without gagging, would be the 2008 champ.

And amazingly, Joey Chestnut retained the championship he wrested from Kobayashi last year.  Kobayashi had won the previous six years and had taken the sport of competitive eating from little known 4th of July event to a year round industry where people compete to shove all sorts of things down their throats in short spans of time.  Clams, ice cream, hamburgers, entire breakfasts, mini-burgers, you name it.  There's apparently nothing we're unwilling to eat dozens of in less than five minutes. 

Now I have to go throw up.

Have a happy 4th.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Blindsided by a Song

Looks like this week's theme is going to be music.  I kept on thinking about how I was 'blindsided" by Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" song and became immediately obsessed with it.  It made me try to recall those songs from my musical history that also came out of nowhere.  There have been plenth of songs that I connected with on first listen, but I guess for the purposes of this classification, I'm trying to remember songs that upon hearing for the first time made me stop in my tracks and say "What the heck was THAT??"  Also, I had to not know who it was upon first hearing.

So far, the list is made up of only one other song:  "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince.  I remember clearly the first time I heard this song.  I had no idea it was Prince and I remember spending the next hour or so trying to get through to the radio station to find out who it was.  I was stunned to discover it was Prince.  At that point, I was not a Prince fan at all.  His most recent song at the time was "When Doves Cry", and I kinda hated that song.  So I was almost disappointed to discover it was Prince.  But if it was Prince that sang that amazing song, then so be it.  I had my parents take me to a record store (the old Bookworm's Apple) and in short order, that tape was the only thing I listened to for the next few weeks.  Ah, memories...

I'm sure there are others that came out of nowhere, but I can't think of them right now. 

Are there any songs that absolutely blindsided you and went from unknown to your all-time top ten from the very first time you heard it?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Viva La Vida!

Being that I'm now old, and a musical fuddy-duddy that complains about today's crappy music and longs for the wonderful old days of the 80's, it's a rare occurrence when some actual NEW music comes along and catches my fancy. It's rarer still when I get a little bit of that wonderful teenage ability to obsess over new music.

So a couple of weeks ago, I catch this commercial for the first time.



I'm not a big Coldplay fan (I can NAME two of their songs, and that's it). But something about it connected with me right away and not ten seconds later I was logging into iTunes to see if the song was available. It was, and (I love modern technology), within three minutes of seeing the commercial and hearing that sample for the first time, I was listening to the full version of the song.

The CD came out about a week later and I made a special trip to Wal-mart to get it. It was early enough that they didn't even have it out on the floor yet and had to go dig it out of the warehouse in the back.

And then I eagerly listened to the CD... and kind of shrugged. None of the other songs were as immediately fantastic as "Viva La Vida". But I gave it a couple of more listens in the background while I was doing other things and a couple of songs started planting roots in my brain.

But it wasn't until my son, who also was entranced by the Ipod commercial, started listening to the CD over and over and kind of listening to it through his ears and hearing which ones were his favorites helped me to listen in a different light.

So flash-forward to this past week when we went to Louisiana for work, and we listened to the CD all the way to and from Houston, and now, this is easily my favorite CD of the 2000's. And that first song that caught my attention, "Viva La Vida", has now been running on almost a constant loop today while I work, and I'm not only not tired of it, I can't get enough of it.

It's neat when you discover that something special like connecting with a song can still happen to you, years after you thought you were done with that sort of thing.

And watching that iPod commercial again after not having seen it since that first time, I marvel at how much the look and feel of that commercial totally captures and expresses the way the song feels. Excellent job. It has nothing to do with the song itself (the POV of the singer is that of a deposed king, likely Louis XVI or Charles X), but that commercial is the song. When they release this song as a single, they need to do the whole music video like this.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Gas Crisis Hits Home

So I'm driving home from my mother's house last night and suddenly my car starts sputtering. I'm out of gas. I haven't run out of gas in twenty years. My excuse is that I'm currently driving a rental car (thanks to a fun rear-ending accident I caused a couple of weeks ago), and while the gauge says I have a partial notch of gas left in the tank, apparently there's not actually any gas left in the tank.

However, this is one of those stories that has a fun ending. So my car starts sputtering, and I realize I'm out of gas. The power steering loses its power. It's 11:30pm. A recipe for disaster, usually, or at least a recipe for extreme inconvenience. But not tonight!

I was only a couple of blocks from my house, so I just let the car coast. Thankfully there was no traffic on the road. I coasted and slowly lost steam. Right at the corner of my street, it was really struggling. I had to really force the steering wheel to make the turn, but I managed it. I finally lost all momentum right in front of my house. The car came to a dead stop and I just got out and went in my house.

In spite of the stupidity of running out of gas, I'm actually quite amused how this turned out.

That's all. Nothing more interesting than I ran out of gas and coasted home. Move along, everyone... move along.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Top Ten Summer Movies - Summer Solstice Progress Report

Here we are, close to midway through the summer movie season. Time to check in on how the movies are doing.

It's just about time for the Summer Blockbuster Season to roll around, so I'm starting to plan what I actually want to see. Usually I INTEND to see most of them, but wind up only seeing half or less. Unlike many recent summers, I'm actually really looking forward to quite a few films.

So without further ado, here's the list (and not necessarily in order of looking-forward-to-ness)

1) The Dark Knight - Doesn't come out for another month or so. Getting more excited about it, though.

2) Iron Man - 9/10 This movie was lots of fun. Perfect sort of superhero movie. He's not as well-established as most other superheroes that have had movies made of them, so it was easier for them to play around with the history and not have it come across as false. For 99% of the world, this will be THE Iron Man. Sequels galore are already in the works.

3) Narnia: Prince Caspian - 6.5/10 This movie left me a bit whelmed. It was good, but nothing really memorable. However, that said, I wish the first film had had this look and tone to it. Narnia is more like a real place this go-round, whereas the first movie was more like a fairy land.

4) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - 4/10 I was RIGHT to dread this film. What a mess. What a miscalculation. It reeks of George Lucas's myopic vision. For a really good list of what's wrong with this film, check this out.



5) Speed Racer - 0/10 Well, that's not a totally fair rating, because I didn't see it. But the closer it got, the less interested I was in seeing it. However, while waiting for Indy IV to restart (glitch in framing of the film), I wandered over to Speed Racer to catch a couple of minutes of it, just to see. The five minutes I watched were excruciating. I don't know who this film was made for. What a wreck...

6) The Happening - n/a This also looked more and more like a disaster the closer it got, and reviews have been universally bad. As I was only kinda interested in seeing it, this made my decision easier. I'll catch it on cable one day... maybe.

7) The Incredible Hulk - 7.5/10 The closer this one came to release, the more optimistic the reviews became. While the Hulk's CGI never got any better over the course of the previews, the reports were that the story and presentation were right in line with the precedent that Iron Man set earlier in the summer. And those reports were right. This was a mostly fun film, firmly set in the Iron Man version of the Marvel universe. I look forward to the next Marvel Studios film.

8) Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Still waiting for this one to come out. Recent previews make this look really epic.

9) Wall*E - This comes out next week. Latest previews are even stronger. Hard to imagine this not being a great Pixar film.

10) Tropic Thunder - Still the film I have the highest hopes for. Should be fun.



Update!

10.5) Hancock - I'm still on the fence about this one...

11) Honorable mentions - The rest of these films I'm going to keep my eye on, but they all seem like DVD rentals at best.

Get Smart - It opened this weekend, but I'm less than interested in seeing it...
Love Guru - It also opened this weekend, and it looks like total dreck.
Wanted - Growing more meh about this by the day.
Kung Fu Panda - This got great reviews and is a huge hit, but I just can't bring myself to see it yet. Looks like a DVD rental for sure.
Meet Dave - Whatever interest I had in seeing this has evaporated.


And as always, there's going to be at least one film that comes out of nowhere to become a surprise hit. What will be this year's Knocked Up?

Time will tell.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

48 Hour Film Project 2008 - Final Thoughts

Okay... it's been a week since we turned in our film nine minutes late. I wish I could say I feel better about the whole experience, but I don't. And it doesn't have anything to do with turning the film in nine minutes late. I think if we'd have gotten it in on time I'd actually feel worse.

While our film is 'okay', by no means is it a good film. We did the best we could with the time we had. The fact that we even wound up with something that had a semi-coherent narrative was a miracle in itself. On THAT level, this year was a resounding success.

Here's a slightly altered version of the film (I'll post the official version that we turned into the festival in the next day or so.)



I'm still intending on doing the Director's Cut, and it will be a massively different take. I played around with it a bit last Friday and there are some entire scenes I've already removed. I think it might be able to be turned into a film I feel better about...eventually.

There were a variety of reasons why we didn't get the film in on time, notably audio problems and lack of a dedicated editor, but neither of those were reasons why the film didn't live up to my expectations.

For starters, unless all elements line up perfectly, producing a GOOD 48 Hour Film is a losing proposition. The weekend is filled with nothing but compromises and cutting corners and having to settle for whatever you happen to have at that moment. Not one of the decisions we made this year were good, outside of the selection of our acting talent. We were blessed with that this year, and if not for them, our film would have been much less successful.

While I feel like I'm done with this contest (and other time-limited filmmaking contests), there's still a hint of a groundswell among other team members that we give this one more try. While I'm not going to push for it, if someone else steps up and takes on most of the back end stuff, I'm not opposed to participating again, with some major changes in how we operate.

For one, the need for a dedicated editor is a top priority. We need someone capturing footage and piecing together scenes BEFORE Sunday morning rolls around. Not just for getting the film in on time, but for really putting together the best film we can, with the least amount of scrambling as possible. We had a dedicated editor this year, but he bailed out at the last moment, leaving us in a bind that we never really recovered from. If we can't get a dedicated editor next year, and if we can't get a real commitment from him/her, then I won't even consider participating.

Secondly, the creative team/writing team has to be limited to two, maybe three people, including me. For three years now, we've had a writing team of five or six or more, and while everyone on that team is very creative and had great ideas, they all ultimately didn't mesh. Too many disparate ideas and visions that had no chance of coming together in one whole. The first two years we managed to work through it, mostly because the initial idea we came up with had fewer directions it could go, but this year, the idea we had was so cerebral and so open-ended that all the various ideas we had pulled this film in too many directions. At the first call, we didn't even have a full script, just a couple of scenes that kind of could be turned into something later (we were assuming we'd come up with a script for the rest of the film throughout the day, which we kind of did... kind of).

It's a testament to everyone there that we actually managed to salvage it this year, as we had almost nothing as late as noon on Saturday.

But back to the scripting- For good or ill, the writing team has to be no more than three people. The problem is, there are way more than three people that want to be on the creative team. How do you pick? Who do you tell, "Thanks, but we won't need your help on the writing team this year" ? I have to be on it, because one, for a project like this, I trust my own instincts, and two, I know what I can shoot and edit in a two day span.

Something else that probably won't sill well with some people is that I have no interest in attempting a 'serious' film again, or one with a 'message'. Not for this contest, anyway. It just doesn't work. People want to laugh. People want the film to be straightforward and to make clear sense every step of the way. Message films are great, and I'm totally in favor of making them, but to do them right, they need to be really massaged and refined every step of the way. Slamming together a message film just creates a mess.

In all honesty, the person I feel would be most helpful in the writing room on Friday night would be my brother, Guy. He's not a filmmaker or a writer, but he and I bounce ideas off of each other better than anyone else I know. Collaboration is such a delicate, fragile thing, especially when time is of the essence. With some people, on commercials and other projects, I work fantastically with them, but when it comes to something like a film, it's a total clash of sensibilities. I can't put a value on collaborating with someone that shares your mindset. I've been fortunate enough to work with many people over the years who fit that description, but only a couple where the collaboration turns into something magical or inspired.

It's not an easy thing to balance.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've joked with some people that the 48 Hour Film needs to be run like a benevolent dictatorship, not a democracy. These things need one singular vision to work right. That singular vision can come from one or two or three people, but it has to be rock solid. We didn't have that this year by ANY stretch of the imagination. Everyone, myself included, had a different vision of what this film was going to be.

This becomes more pronounced when I compare our films (this year's, and the previous two) to the one I think is the best this year. In fact, I think it's the most successful 48 Hour Film I've seen, period, any city, any year. It's called "Rushin'" and I thought it was absolutely fantastic. Take a gander here.



This film had a very clear vision, and everything in the film contributed to that vision. As far as I'm concerned, this film didn't make one false step.

What's interesting (to me) is the conversations I had with them after the film, and the answers they gave during the post-screening Q&A. They talked a lot about problems they faced previous years, such as too many cooks/writers, attempting to do something serious, attempting to deliver a message, attempting too many locations, etc. In fact, based on their previous films, I wouldn't have thought they had this film in them. Having spoken with them, I see that their previous films had failed for the same reasons I think our films have failed. But this year, they went into it with a totally different plan. Everything they talked about is exactly what I wanted to do this year, but let it get away from me again, and their success only underscores how the 'Reduce and Simplify' plan is the best one.

And while my ideas may very well turn out to be crap, at least the failure will be one that I can own. It really just doesn't sit well with me that this film I directed has no connection to something I would have wanted to do if I had done this entirely on my own. I know it sounds arrogant, but I know that if I had done it all by myself (writing and directing, that is), the film would have had a beginning, middle and ending, and would have had a cohesive and filmable story.

I guess we'll see if I'm right when I attempt to produce "Zombie Wrangler" later this summer. That will be a script I write and direct entirely on my own. If I have any idea what I'm doing, I guess we'll find out then.


So I apologize if you're still reading all the way to here. I know I've drifted over into ranting, but I kind of have to in order to put this experience to bed. It's just been a very frustrating and enlightening experience. Creative democracies just don't work on films. One vision, and everyone else can help round out that vision as much as the visioneer allows them. But in the end, it has to be one person's vision. That's how it has to work.

Okay... I'm still a bit burned out, but I think I'm about ready to get back to full creative steam.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Zeroes - The Auditions

Turns out this was all part of an NBC promo guy's marketing plan. One that he came up with on his own. Check out this interview.




Anyway, great job. We close out the week with an audition video for Zeroes. It's not as funny as the other videos, but it allows you to have gotten the FULL Zeroes experience.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Zeroes - The Trailer

They put together a little trailer for the first four episodes of Zeroes. Some funny stuff still to be mined from this concept. Especially the guy that can do the stomach thing.

12 Hours away from 48 Hour (Film Project)


I should be sleeping right now. In fact, I was. I got to bed at about 2:30, after finally arriving home after a long long long day marked by TV commercial production, 48 Hour Film preparation, trips to Louisiana and back, and a session with a friend on how to use the Firestore with the HVX 200 (that's 100% video geekspeak...don't attempt to figure out what that means unless you KNOW what it means.) Oh yeah, I even managed to squeeze a funeral in.

But today's going to be a long day, too. So why am I not sleeping???

Because I woke up about thirty minutes ago with something I ate last night not setting well with me. I'm not nauseous. It's more like a stomach cramp. I took some Pepto, and while I wait for it to work its magic, I'm sitting here typing.


This year is shaping up to be both more organized and prepared AND more chaotic. I think we have our best team yet, both in front of and behind the camera. For once, I won't be the only editing option, as we have a skilled, dedicated editor assigned. He should be able to start editing while we are still shooting. That should make Sunday's final edit session a thousand times easier. Plus, there will be at least two others of us (me and Chris) who will be able to either spell him, or work on segments or special effects on separate computers. We also have a dedicated composer for our film's music (but we still have Digital Juice on hand as backup).

The more chaotic part comes in the form that we aren't nearly as set on good locations as we were in previous years. We've got my office secured, a few outdoor areas, and I've got paperwork in for using our office building's interior (which has some cool elevators and a wide open atrium). Also this year, we don't have ONE perfect staging area. We'll be meeting at one location for the giant group gathering, a different location for the script-writing session, and a third location for editing. If not for the fact that my office building turns off the A/C on weekends, we could do everything there. As it is, we can probably meet for SOME of the time on Saturday (especially if we are doing any shooting there). But for Sunday, if we want to use my edit systems, we'll have to suffer through horrible stuffy heat (or else bring a couple of dozen fans. Our other option is to set up the edit system at someone's house. We WERE going to set up at the dedicated editor's house, but within the past week or so, he has moved, so all of his stuff is in boxes. We still haven't got this one figured out yet.

But I'm most excited about our cast. We have a rather large pool of talent this year, just about all of which have prior acting experience (either in REAL films, or else have been on our team in years past). My only concern is our coming up with a concept and a script that manages to give everyone a solid part. Because of the talent level this year, I'm more confident about our writing a looser script and allowing the actors to improvise more. This will make it easier at the script stage, but a bit tougher during the edit. We'll see.


As we do every year, we try to anticipate potential story ideas based on the potential genres we might pull. If our film ends up with a zoo murder in it, or a jury deliberation room, or a kidnapped newscaster, or extensive funny subtitles, then you'll know we managed to use one of those ideas. However, as also happens every year, we will almost certainly come up with something brand new that really integrates the required elements. I'm confident in our ability to come up with something really good, either way.

It's always an incredibly fun weekend, but amazingly exhausting. The last two years, our goal was to WIN this event, which we didn't do (although we did win bunches of individual awards/smiley face stickers). THIS year, our goal isn't to win, but to produce an amazing short film. Winning would be a nice byproduct obviously, but at the end of the day, we're more concerned with ending up with something we're very proud of.

Irony Coast Productions should be up to the task.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Zeroes - Episode 4

It's too bad this one just sort of ends. Except for an audition video (coming Saturday!) it doesn't appear they've produced any more videos in this series, which is a shame. I've laughed out loud consistently at these videos.

Good job!




Coming tomorrow, the Trailer for this show that has some additional Zeroes in it that haven't been featured in the show yet.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Zeroes - Episode 3

The guy with the art powers has become my favorite character. His drawings are brilliant and the way it parodies the real Heroes is fantastic.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Zeroes - Episode 2

I wish I could claim credit for these videos. They're everything a good viral video series should be. Short, concise, witty, and very well-made. I love the small touches.

Penguins 4 - Red Wings 3 (Red Wings lead series 3-2)


Wow. If ever there was a game the Penguins didn't deserve to win, that was it. I missed the first two periods (fortunately, there were another four still to come), so I can't vouch for how they played then, but over the third period and almost the entire overtime, they were terrified, tentative, and sloppy. No one seemed to want the puck. Any time the puck was on a Penguins stick, they couldn't wait to get rid of it to let someone else have the dread responsibility of somehow salvaging this game. I lost count of the number of weak passes they made and the number of times they found themselves horribly out of position. It seemed like there were seven Red Wings on the ice at all times.

But... the Hockey gods were with them tonight. They live to fight another day. Perhaps it's their...destiny...to win this thing after all.

Actually, the only reason the Penguins are playing Wednesday night is because Marc-Andre Fleury played the most amazing game of his career. There was at least a dozen times the series should have been over, but Fleury's heroic goaltending kept the Penguins in the game. 55 saves. And most of them during that stretch when the rest of the Pens weren't providing any help at all.

Game six is Wednesday night, and I'll be plopped in front of the TV for that entire game, adorned with my Penguins jersey. If they can pull THAT off, then I'll have a dilemma. Gave seven will be Saturday evening. This year's 48 Hour Film Project will be in full swing on Saturday and if it's anything like it was the last two years, I'll still be deep in the shooting of it when the game starts... grrr... Now, in addition to all the other required elements of the contest, I have an additional required element of getting done in time to see at least some of the game.

Anyway, thanks Pens, for extending this amazing season at least ONE more game.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Venture Bros.- Season 3 - Episode 1 - "Shadowman 9: In the Cradle of Destiny"

Yay! Venture Bros. is/are back! It kind of sneaked up on me. Actually, I knew it was going to be returning near the beginning of June, it's just that the whole month of June kind of sneaked up on me. In any event, its return comes not a moment too soon, what with the season finale of Lost and the series derailment of Battlestar Galactica.

This episode had nary a glimpse of Hank or Dean, and only a couple of moments of Dr. Venture and Brock. But that's okay. The Venture Bros isn't a show about the characters themselves, it's about the whole Venture-Bros-iverse. As long as they bring the funny, and this week, they did.

Basically what we had was a sort of origin story for the Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend as they apply for membership into the League of Calamitous Intent. Lots of fun moments, too many to recount. Nothing gut-busting, but all of it good. What I'm sure will become a fun quest is figuring out who the shadowy members of the Council of Thirteen are. I haven't done any Googling to see if any of them have been identified, but the only one I think I've figured out is that the main one that was speaking is Wile E. Coyote. (okay... now I'm going to go Googling... nope... so far only Wile E. Coyote).

One of my favorite things about this show is the codifying of Supervillainry that they've done. My favorite of these is the term "arching", which is what you do when you have an arch-enemy (which I have!)

Anyway, Venture Bros. is always more about the sum of the whole, rather than the individual parts. This was another solid episode in what looks to be a great season. Can't wait to see more of Manotaur and his Malevolent Murder Maze. And I want to see more of Truckules.

Because it's going to be such a long long time before anything good returns to the airwaves, it might be a good time to revisit The Venture Bros. from the beginning.

Zeroes - Episode 1

Stumbled upon this a few days ago and was highly impressed. Nice production values, decent acting, funny ideas, all extremely well executed.



I laugh every time the black guy uses his power. Great stuff.

Join me here every day this week for a new episode, and an amusing trailer at the end of the week.

Are you a fan of Heroes (or a former fan, like myself)?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Battlestar Galactica - "Sine Qua Non"

There was a time not that long ago where I had the whole Battlestar Galactica storyline down cold. I could name ships and characters and knew what all the mystical stuff meant.

But not anymore.

BSG has completely lost me. It hit me a couple of episodes ago when in the midst of the shows latest string of visions and prophecies and dreams, I suddenly realized I didn't have a clue what was going on anymore. I had no clue how any of it tied together.

And the worst part? I didn't care anymore.

BSG is at the point where I know enough about the behind-the-scenes development of this show that I know they're really making this all up as they go along. I know that any ideas or plot threads that they might have had in season one or two have been completely rebuilt from the ground up and ret-conned into submission. And for me, that totally ruins the experience. Unlike the Cylons, the creative team does NOT have a plan.

And that in itself is a joke. I defy ANYone to tell me in less than a thousand words what the Cylon's plan is. Better yet, tell me what it was at each stage of this show. Wipe out all the humans? Wipe out all of them except for a few? Find Earth? Not find Earth? Have there been prophecies all along? Where do they get their spiritual info from? Where's the Cylon Bible?

It's all so convoluted and contradictory that I doubt the writing staff of this show could explain it to you.

In spite of the ret-con plot integrity betrayal last season with the reveal of four of the Final Five Cylons, I was giving this season a chance to tie it all together and hit a home run. But that hasn't happened.

"Sine Qua Non" was easily one of the weakest episodes of the entire season. Battlestar Galactica works best when it's just telling its story in a straightforward way. The first few episodes of each season, this one included, usually start out that way. Just the presentation of the events in a serialized, connected way. It's only when the show hits the middle parts of the season when we start to get the stand-alone episodes. These eps usually have some sort of stupid 'theme' or style or homage they are paying. This week on BSG, we had the crazy/damaged consultant that sees dead cats. It was as silly as that sentence made it sound.

Which is sad, because there were several momentous events that took place that were completely diluted by the 'main' story. Adama declares his love for Roslin, Lee becomes President, and Tigh & Six conceive the first Cylon-Cylon baby (inconceivable!). While its true the President Lee Adama storyline was actually the main plot, it felt like a side element to the 'search for the candidate' that dominated much of the episode (and gave us the silly, showy, Romo Lampkin mental breakdown plot. My favorite comment on Romo Lampkin comes from Alan Sepinwall's blog,

"The entire story with Lee and Romo Lampkin was particularly annoying. I think the "Galactica" writers like Romo a lot more than the guy deserves, as he's less a character than a collection of colorful tics."

Sepinwall has a great, far more thorough, review on his blog as well, check it out.

And the contradictions continue to mount. It's bad enough that the show contradicts itself from episode to episode, but when it does it within the same episode, it makes me wonder who's in charge of this show. Case in point, in the middle of the episode, it's revealed to Admiral Adama that Tigh has been canoodling with prisoner Six, so much so that she's pregnant. Adama is suitably infuriated by this which leads to a knock-down fight between the two. That was okay. But not five minutes later, Adama decides to leave on a quest to find the missing Laura Roslin, and leaves "the only person he can trust," Tigh, in command of the entire fleet. WHAT? This guy just proved he can't be trusted and that he's consorting with the enemy. And a second example comes at the end of the ep when recently off-her-rocker Starbuck is now apparently the unquestioned CAG. First off, she was crazy just a couple of episodes ago, and she also her miraculous resurrection still hasn't been adequately explained. To me, that's someone that shouldn't be allowed near a command. And finally, there's the continuing trust of Athena. She's a CYLON. Regardless of how much she may want to fight her programming, she's still a Cylon, and ultimately can't and shouldn't be trusted. Adama's giving daughter Hera back to Athena after his justified berating of her simply smacked of "Let's just get this episode over and make sure we have all our pieces in place for the next episode."

In fact, the whole series feels that way. Regardless of how much sense it might or might not make, they make sure everything is set up for the next episode.


But right now... I just don't care. I imagine I'll keep watching just to see what happens, but I'm no longer invested in this show, and that's just sad. After the One Year Later jump, and the first five episodes of the next season, I was ready to declare BSG one of the all-time great shows. And then the wheels totally fell of the wagon. It's been a mess ever since.


And I'm sure I'll make this declaration way too many times in the coming weeks and months and years, but "The Wire" has totally ruined regular TV for me. After seeing what TV can look like when someone REALLY puts their effort into it and reaches for something special...now when I see half-hearted, "good enough" TV, it just infuriates me. I'm so tired of lazy TV. I just pray that "The Wire" isn't the last of its kind that we'll see...

Oh well.

If it's any consolation, at least it looks like next week's BSG actually has stuff that happens in it.

What's you're take? Do you still care? Do you have a clue what's going on?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Long Lost Video - Kermit the Frog helps write "Yankee Doodle"

Wow. I thought I'd never see this video again. I remember watching it when I was a wee lad. It was hilarious when I saw it 30-odd years ago, and all these years later, it's still pretty good. It's fun watching old Sesame Street things and seeing the adult touches that Jim Henson and Frank Oz and the rest managed to slip in. Nothing bad, but just stuff that would go over the head of a kid.

What's most interesting is that the majority of this skit isn't at all like I remember. But the ending and final version of the song is almost word for word as it is in my memory. Weird. Anyway, here it is, Kermit the Frog, deconstructing "Yankee Doodle" and helping the songwriter rewrite it to make it make sense.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Wire - The More Things Change... Season Three Review



Any fears I had about The Wire turning into standard TV vanished within an episode or two of Season Three. Having seen Season Four as of this writing (but not Season Five), I think Season Three is the strongest of the series so far.

At risk of spoiling the show for the five to ten people that might ever read this review, I have to share some specific details.

Like previous seasons, The Wire continued the threads of the previous seasons while adding an assortment of new ones. The main plot of S3 is the continuing investigation of the Barksdale drug organization. Despite kingpin Avon Barksdale's incarceration, he still runs the show, with partner Stringer Bell running things on the outside. The beauty of this show, and the epic, tragic scale of this show comes from these two characters interaction and season-long dance.

Avon is an old-school banger, and despite the massive amounts of money their organization has accumulated, he can't move past that thug mentality. Stringer, on the other hand, wants to take that wealth and move into more legitimate business, having taken business courses at college and buying up real estate. Increasingly, he has to do this without Avon's knowledge or approval.

It all is working okay until Avon works a way to get himself out of prison early. He returns to the neighborhood to get everything back in order, and that's when he and Stringer start to butt heads. Compounding everything is Det. Jimmy McNulty's personal investigation into the prison 'suicide' of Avon's nephew (and Season One main character) D'Angelo Barksdale. D'Angelo's death was ordered by Stringer (without Avon's knowledge) because D'Angelo was planning on flipping and turning all of them in.

So the amazingly tense conflict for this season ramps ever higher episode by episode. Our sympathies as the audience shifts from scene to scene, as we admire Stringer for attempting to move out of the drug trade. But we sympathize with Avon because of Stringer's betrayal and ordering the murder of D'Angelo. But we side against Avon because he can't pull himself out of the lowest-common-denominator lifestyle. But we like Stringer because he's the only person on the street with a plan. But we side against him because of how D'Angelo's mother was lied to about his death. But we side against HER because she is the one that convinced D'Angelo not to flip on the organization. And on and on and on.

I marveled constantly at the airtight plotting that allowed these shifts to occur and to be so powerful. And much of the conflict has its roots all the way back in the first episodes of Season One.

For anyone remotely interested in writing TV (or anything for that matter), this show is a masterclass on plotting and dialogue. It doesn't cut corners or go for the easy story at ANY time.

All the while, the good guys' story is compelling as well, but not nearly to the extent of Avon vs Stringer. These two kingpin's ultimate fates is pure Greek tragedy with a healthy dose of Shakespeare. Brilliant.

I could go on for days exalting this show. It just never makes a wrong step.

The ultimate compliment I can pay it is that I have to steal from it now. The Wire has the exact tone I was seeing and hearing and feeling in my head as I worked on "Going Nova". I want that kind of uncompromising honesty in my story, regardless of how unpleasant it might be or how bleak (for some characters) it might prove. Because if nothing else, The Wire has me thinking about drugs, crime, education, politics (and the News industry, I'm sure, after I watch Season Five) in a completely different light.

It's going to be hard watching regular TV ever again after experiencing this show.

Terry Tate - Office Linebacker - Part 7 - "Greatest Hits"

Fortunately, someone went and did a compilation of all the great Tate hits.

Enjoy

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Terry Tate - Office Linebacker - Part 5 - "Sensitivity Training"

They were starting to run out of steam a bit with this one, but it still brings the funny.

(warning: Mildly Not Safe For Work)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Terry Tate - Office Linebacker - Part 4 - "Office Athelete of the Century"

As always, it's the little details that put these videos over the top for me.

"Like many children, Terry was born."


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Terry Tate - Office Linebacker - Part 3 - "Vacation"

This has some good moments in it. My favorite is the guy photocopying his butt on the copy machine. He's just enraptured.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Terry Tate - Office Linebacker - Part 2 - "Draft Day"

The first Terry Tate video was perfect.

"The restroom's a privilege, not a right, PUNK!"

And the re-enactment of the classic NFL "helicopter hit" was a brilliant touch.

Well done, gentlemen....

Monday, May 19, 2008

Terry Tate - Office Linebacker - Part 1 - "Terry's World"

Ah... Terry Tate... For me, this was the first true "Viral Video", in that it was easy to find, and easy to send to other people. And it was hilarious. And looking back on it now, I can even see some of the tone that would ultimately turn into "The Office" (disclaimer: I'm not sure which one came first).

The number of brilliant touches to this video can't be counted. But "You kill the joe, you make some mo'" became a fun catchphrase for a while.

Enjoy...

(warning: Mildly Not Safe For Work)