Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2009 Preview

Courtesy of USA Today, here is a list of interesting/promising movies to look forward to in 2009:

January-February
Bride Wars (Jan. 9). Hoping to tap into the growing power of female moviegoers, Fox begins the year with this Anne Hathaway/Kate Hudson comedy about two friends who become rivals when they schedule their weddings on the same date.

Coraline (Feb. 6). The 3-D animated parade gets into full swing with this cartoon about a young girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) who walks through a secret door to discover an alternate version of her life.

Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (Feb. 27). It worked for Hannah Montana, so why not for the crooning teen idols?

March-April
Watchmen (March 6). No comic-book movie has more expectations on its shoulders than this dark Zack Snyder adaptation about a band of dysfunctional superheroes. (This movie may be delayed due to a recent legal battle between Warner Bros. and Fox...)

Race to Witch Mountain (March 13). Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson continues his transition to family film leading man with this remake of the Disney classic about two kids with paranormal powers on the run from aliens and shady government agencies.

Duplicity (March 20). Julia Roberts and Clive Owen team up as a pair of corporate spies plotting a con job on their respective bosses.

Fast and Furious (April 3). Vin Diesel and Paul Walker return to the franchise about men who just can't drive 55.

May
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (May 1). Summer kicks into high gear with the latest installment of the mutant franchise, this time anchored by Hugh Jackman's hairy hero with long nails and a short fuse.

Star Trek (May 8). J.J. Abrams revisits the Enterprise with an origins story.

Angels & Demons (May 15). Da Vinci Code star Tom Hanks returns (with better hair) as inquisitive symbologist Robert Langdon.

Night at the Museum II: Battle of the Smithsonian (May 22). Ben Stiller just can't get enough of exhibits that come to life, and this time infiltrates the Smithsonian.

June
Land of the Lost (June 5). Hollywood loves dead TV shows, and Will Ferrell stars in this adaptation about a group that stumbles into a land of dinosaurs and Sleestaks.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (June 12). Denzel Washington and John Travolta star in this remake of the Walter Matthau caper about robbers who target a subway train.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (June 26). The shape-shifting robots are back and bigger than ever in this bombastic sequel.

July-August
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (July 1). Our favorite prehistoric ani- mals return for a third installment of a $1.2 billion franchise, this time with a film produced completely in 3-D.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (July 17). The book series may be finished, but the film series has a few installments still to go.

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (Aug. 7). Brendan Fraser stars in this story about the heroic squadron in constant battle with the arms-dealing Cobra organization.

September-October
Fame (Sept. 25). A remake of the 1980 musical about aspiring students at the New York Academy of Performing Arts.

Shutter Island (Oct. 2). Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed) reunite for this story about a U.S. marshal investigating a murderess who escaped from a mental hospital.

November
The Wolfman (Nov. 6). Benicio del Toro dons the furry costume in this action film about the monster with full-moon anger-management issues.

Sherlock Holmes (Nov. 20). Robert Downey Jr. becomes the plucky British detective whose sidekick Watson (Jude Law) remains by his side.

December
The Lovely Bones (Dec. 11). Peter Jackson leaves the Shire to direct this drama about a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family and her killer from the great beyond.

Avatar (Dec. 18). In his first feature film since Titanic, James Cameron returns with a sci-fi epic about a band of scientists and astronauts who discover a planet populated by diverse life and deadly ammonia-breathing life forms.

Which of these movies gets you excited for 2009?

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 wrap-up

2008 was a different year for me in terms of my movie-going habits. I saw a fair number of movies, especially considering the cramp that a newborn puts in your style, but can only remember a couple that I felt like were truly great. Since I'm not sure I actually saw 10 new movies in the theaters, I'll resist the temptation to do a top 10 list, but I will list a few of my favorites for the year:
  • The Dark Knight: The most challenging, frightening, and rewarding movie I saw this year. I'd be really upset if it didn't at least get some acknowledgement at the Oscars in January, especially for Heath Ledger's amazing performance.
  • Wall-E: A truly unique experience, but it has held up very well upon further viewings. It's beautiful and simple, but as lyrical and sweet as anything else in 2008.
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles: I never read the books, but this adaptation was a lot of fun, with just the right amount of magic and heart to qualify for a decent family popcorn film.
  • Indiana Jones 4: I know it was corny at times and hardly anything revolutionary, but it was also a lot of fun, and made the little boy in me smile more than anything else I saw this year.
I also enjoyed Iron Man, The Visitor, Hellboy II, and Eagle Eye. There's a lot scheduled to open here in 2009, including the next Harry Potter film...I wonder what movie will catch my imagination like these movies did this year.

What were your favorites this year?

Monday, December 22, 2008

J-Dawg's new look

Ta da! After much pestering by my loyal reader, I have finally decided on a new look for the blog. It took me forever to find a new look, since most of the templates out there are just so girly. And to be honest, I'm not even completely sold on this look either. So we'll give it a trial run, and if it doesn't grow on me, then it's back to the navy blue & polka dots.

Oh yeah, and MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Brand-new Season 5 "Lost" scene

I'm crazy about Lost. Yes, the show can make me crazy sometimes, but usually it's in a good way. Here's a fascinatingly ambiguous (does Lost do it any other way?) scene from the new season (premiering on Jan. 21) between Jack and Ben.



You realize we've only got 34 episodes left of this show, don't you?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"World's Coastlines from Above"

I've already praised the random joys of HDNet's programming, which includes such varied programming as Trailerama, Arrested Development, and Dan Rather Reports, all in glorious HD. My latest obsession is World's Coastlines from Above, which is exactly what it sounds like: helicopter tours of the world's shorelines. In addition to the amazing HD shots of some of the world's most remote and beautiful places (Spain is next on my travel "bucket list" thanks to this show), it includes info-packed narration that makes me feel like I'm learning while I appease my wander-lust. It kind of feels like someone has poured cheese sauce all over my broccoli so that I won't notice that I'm eating something that's good for me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Happy anniversary

Just days before the current edition of The Amazing Race airs its finale (we're still mourning the unceremonious departure of Toni & Dallas), CBS announced that it would air a 14th edition of the suddenly popular show. The latest edition is set to premiere on February 15 (my 6th wedding anniversary) in the same timeslot it has occupied for the past year or so (Sundays at 7:00 p.m.). The network also announced the 18th edition of Survivor, which will premiere on February 12.

Survivor has always been a winner in the ratings, though its numbers have never matched the Survivor: Australia highs of several years ago. The Amazing Race, however, has teetered on the edge of cancellation several times, so it comes as a relief that a renewed interest in its lead-in, 60 Minutes, has brought more viewers to our beloved race. As more information about the new edition arises, I'll make sure to post it here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One tiny "Star Trek" bonus

OK, this is for the die-hard Star Trek fans, but I just found a slightly different version of the Star Trek trailer that I posted a few days ago. It's really the very same trailer, with one tiny addition that will give Trek fans the goosebumps. If you're strapped for time and just want to cut to the money shot, it comes at the very end of the trailer. The links are found here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Pushing Daisies" will be pushing up daisies

Well, we've been anticipating this for a while, but it appears that our beloved Pushing Daisies is being axed officially by ABC. There are still 6-7 unaired episodes yet to air, but whether or not ABC will air them at all (or simply release them on DVD) is yet to be seen.

The one bright spot in this rotten news is that creator Bryan Fuller hopes to bring Pushing Daisies to the big screen. I have my doubts, but at least it's something to hope for.

TV just got a lot less interesting!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Monday, Jon

I'm not much of a Star Trek fan. I never watched a complete episode of the original series, only occasionally watched The Next Generation with Jon, and never even saw the last movie (Nemesis). And part of me is tired of studios constantly reviving old ideas over and over, rather than just telling a unique story with unique characters. But I do like what I've heard about this new Star Trek movie, from director J.J. Abrams (Lost, Mission: Impossible III), and this trailer at least makes the reboot look slick and fast-paced. The embedded trailer is pretty low quality; if you want to see a really nice version, click here.



What do you think of the trailer? Will Trekkies renew their love for Cap'n Kirk? And will Abrams be able to bring Trek to a new generation of fans?

Friday, November 14, 2008

One more "HP6" trailer

Here's another fun trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is quite different from the previous two I have posted here. Since this is one of my favorite HP books, I really hope they get it right. Watch the trailer here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fair weather report

Tonight's "The Office" was a big, stinky letdown. This season has had some real highs (the weight-loss episode, last week's Jim/Dwight showdown, almost anything with Holly), but tonight's episode was slow, dirty, tired (Kelly & Ryan again...really writers?), and almost completely devoid of any charm. If it hadn't been for the long-overdue reunion of Jim and Pam, I would have been mad that I wasted 30 minutes of my night on the show. I hate to be such a fickle fan, but seriously...that was the best the writers could come up with?

In other news, I've been totally hooked on Survivor this season. I was drawn to it this time because it was filmed (for the first time) in glorious HD, but I've stuck with it because of the addicting drama from week to week. In my mind, Survivor is at its twisty best when it is unpredictable, as it as been the past few weeks. And this season has had a great mix of likable heroes (Matty, Bob, Sugar), villains (Ace, Randy), and everything in between. If The Amazing Race weren't always so dependably innocent and fun, I'd say Survivor could give it a run for its money as my favorite reality show.

"The Office" news

Ain't It Cool News reports that B.J. Novak ("Ryan") will be leaving The Office cast indefinitely while he pursues his film career. Since he has always been the least-funny character on the show, I say good riddance. Novak will, however, continue to write occasional episodes.

Additionally, I read yesterday on EW.com that guest star Amy Ryan ("Holly") is not currently scheduled to appear in any future episodes of the show, leaving a bitter-sweet ending to what looked to be a promising match for Michael Scott.

In happier news, here's a funny deleted scene from last week's episode, which revealed that Dwight was correct in his accusations of Kelly's unethical customer survey reporting.

Friday, October 31, 2008

"Angels & Demons" trailer

Dan Brown's Angels & Demons was always a superior novel to The Da Vinci Code, if you asked me. Which I hope will give Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, & company better source material with which to craft an exciting cinematic mystery. Based on the first trailer, which premiered online today, they've got the look down...the tone is appropriately dark, and even Tom Hanks' hair has improved. Watch it for yourself here.

I liked The Da Vinci Code, especially since I had the chance to visit some of the sites included in that Paris-based mystery. But Angels & Demons was a creepier, twistier thriller of a book, and was a fun one to read for our dearly-departed book club several summers ago. (I still remember Jon asking everyone to create their own anagram...). This looks to be a movie to look forward to next May. What do you think?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sign the "Pushing Daisies" petition!

ABC hasn't publicly threatened to cancel Pushing Daisies, although its absence from next week's schedule (the first Wednesday of November sweeps) indicates the network's limited confidence in the show. Consequently, I found an online petition to help save the show from cancellation, which you may find and sign here.

I don't frequent the E! channel nor its website, but I did Google Pushing Daisies today and found this interesting commentary about the show's unlikely future. Read about it here.

The show may just be a little too inventive or unconventional for its own good. Maybe a new timeslot would help...perhaps following another ABC show that could lend it a few of its viewers? Either way, I'd love to see something from ABC indicating their faith in the show. After all, if the network can give Jim Belushi several seasons of his strangely unfunny sitcom, why can't they just show a little more faith in something they can be proud of, like Pushing Daisies?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jack's back: new "24" trailer

This is an exciting trailer for the upcoming seventh season of 24. If you want to be completely surprised come January, don't watch it. Otherwise, enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

New "Harry Potter" trailer

Here's a new, semi-long, and very nifty little trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It gave me the chills, and also made me giggle...I guess you could say it made me chiggle.



The bad news is that we still have to wait until July 17, 2009 for the movie...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lessons learned from "Arrested Development"

This post might sound a little broken-recordish, but I'll tell you why I feel a responsibility to bark up this tree again. Thanks to the glories of HDNet (one of the most bizarrely-programmed channels I've found), I've recently become a fan of the late, great Arrested Development. You might remember this show as one in a long list of critically-beloved, viewer-challenged shows that failed to find an audience. By some miracle (and an Emmy or two), Fox allowed the decidedly untraditional (and occasionally irreverent) sitcom to last for three abbreviated seasons. I don't know how I missed the show the first time around, but it's the silliest, wittiest 30 minutes of my day, and I'm devastated to learn that I've only got about four days to go before I'm all out of fresh episodes. That Arrested Development never found a large audience is truly a television tragedy.

While I can't say that I'd put Pushing Daisies on the same comedic pedestal as Arrested Development, it does share a few things in common with AD: it is just as unique, just as witty, and just as viewer-challenged. And in my mind, in just as much danger of an early retirement.

So for all of you who ever got attached to a show that was cancelled due to low viewership (Jericho, Moonlight, etc.) let's rally around Pushing Daisies, shall we? The good karma you'll engender will be worth the hour on a Wednesday night (especially if you're a Nielsen household).

And Katie, Bones isn't on tonight, so you have no excuse...

Monday, October 20, 2008

The new "Office" romance

Is it just me, or is Holly the sweetest thing to happen to The Office since Pam? And yet, something tells me that Michael's going to screw this one up. Partly because the actress who plays Holly is only scheduled to appear for a few more episodes, but also because she just seems a little too, well, normal to end up with someone like Michael Scott.

Am I the only one who is cynical about this new romance on The Office? And am I the only one who thinks it's time for a happily-ever-after ending for some of these characters?

Friday, October 17, 2008

"Bourne 4" looking good


Maybe this is old news by now, since I reported earlier that Universal was keen on extending the Bourne franchise. But I hadn't heard much since February, so it's nice to see Variety report today that a screenwriter has formally been hired for the as-yet-untitled fourth Bourne installment, again starring Matt Damon and directed by Paul Greengrass. A release date has not been announced, but I'd guess we can probably expect this to hit theaters by summer 2010. Read more about it here.

This sends a chill up my spine. The good kind of chill.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Deleted scene from last week's "The Office"

Last week's episode was weird but funny. It kills me how spot-on the satire is of corporate hypocrisy. As for this deleted scene, I just think Phyllis is hilarious.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Leftovers

It's been nearly two weeks since I've updated the blog (sorry), so here are a few random things that I feel are worth sharing:
  • We saw Eagle Eye last week, and overall enjoyed it. Shia Labeouf is becoming very dependable for these types of roller-coaster rides (Transformers, Disturbia, Indiana Jones 4), and Eagle Eye continues that trend. The film is fast-paced and slick enough to momentarily forget the severely hole-ridden plot, which is a mishmash of The Fugitive/Wall-E/Flightplan and other paranoia-driven thrillers. It's not classic cinema, but felt worth the price of a ticket + a babysitter. If you haven't seen it yet, you could probably wait for the DVD. (*** out of four)
  • Johnny Depp has apparently become very fond of Disney. In a recent announcement by the studio, it was revealed that he has signed on for no less than three future projects with Disney, including a continuation of the lucrative Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (in what could be another two movies). Additionally, he has agreed to play Tonto in a Disney live-action version of The Lone Ranger, though the Ranger himself has yet to be cast. Finally, in maybe the most interesting news, Depp has agreed to play the Mad Hatter in a live-action Alice in Wonderland by director Tim Burton. I'm not a huge fan of the animated Alice in Wonderland, but the material seems perfect for the quirky combination of Burton and Depp. I can't wait.
  • The Dark Knight has officially been slated for a Dec. 9 DVD/Blu-ray release. This officially puts to bed the speculation that WB was interested in beating Titanic's box office record, which was a silly theory of mine anyway. Having said that, I still think the studio is putting a lot of money behind an Oscar campaign for the film. We'll find out in late January if it works.
  • I'm loving Survivor in HD this season. I haven't always been a die-hard for this show; I usually catch one out of every three seasons. But for the first time, CBS filmed the reality show in HD, and it looks fantastic. Now let's hope that CBS will offer the same shiny package to the next edition of The Amazing Race, which remains my favorite reality show on TV.
  • Speaking of TV, Pushing Daisies needs your help. Since its return to TV two weeks ago, it has lost more than half of the audience it pulled in last year. Yes, it's got tougher competition than it did last year, but it's losing, and badly. How badly? Last week it lost to NBC's dreadful reincarnation of Knight Rider. If it doesn't find an audience soon, not even Ned will be able to revive it. Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m!
  • Finally, I wrote a while ago about a possible revival of the 80s miniseries, V. Now, ABC has made it official: the creepy alien lizards are coming back to TV. The original miniseries and its sequel were the type of stuff that we loved as kids (and then paid for with nightmares at night), so it will be interesting to see how a new version turns out. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

"Pushing Daisies" returns tonight

Last season's best new show (and perhaps one of the best, most unique shows currently on TV) returns tonight after an extra-long strike-induced hiatus. That's right, it's time for the return of Pushing Daisies, tonight at 7:00 (Utah time) on ABC.

For those who missed the nine episodes that aired last year, here's the most important thing to know about the show: Ned (a piemaker) somehow has gained the ability to reawaken the dead simply by touching them. Unfortunately, this power also means that if he touches the person again, they die again...this time forever. Further complicating the issue, Ned's childhood sweetheart, Chuck (short for Charlotte), is one of the beneficiaries of his powers, and yet the two can't touch each other for fear that Chuck will die again permanently. This romantic dilemma, where the two leads are in a physically-unfulfilled relationship, is the central story here, complimented by weekly comical mysteries and quirky subplots with the show's talented supporting cast.

The admittedly far-fetched (and slightly morbid) premise may be off-putting to some, especially those who normally shy away from fantasy. But those who think this is only a show for Harry Potter fans will quickly realize that the show has more in common with Tim Burton's Big Fish than anything you'd see at a comic-book convention. I'd even compare it to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books, only it's got a lot more intelligence (and cleavage) than the treacly vampire books. Aside from being whimsical and witty, it's also the most visually-inventive show on TV, and probably the most romantic story to hit the air since Jim & Pam. Don't just take my word for it: read what USA Today and Deseret News have to say about tonight's episode here and here.

Though the show was mildly successful in its limited run last year, I would think that it needs to establish a broader audience for ABC to continue to justify its costly budget. So if you haven't already watched it, give it one episode tonight and see if you're not hooked. Then tell all your friends. After all, wasn't I right about 24, Lost, and The Amazing Race?

Monday, September 29, 2008

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" trailer

I can't say I'm a huge Brad Pitt fan, but I do like Cate Blanchett, and this movie looks just different enough to be interesting to me. Sort of a cross between Forrest Gump and, well, just click on this trailer and let me know what you think. It's not nearly so cryptic or artful as the first trailer, but you can view both trailers here.

The movie comes out at Christmastime...will you shell out $8 of your precious holiday money to see Brad Pitt age backwards?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

We all knew that this was coming, and it doesn't disappoint. (Disclaimer: As with most SNL skits, this parody is mildly edgy.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tobey Maguire signs up for "Spidey 4 & 5"?

A recent article from Times Online indicates that Tobey Maguire has agreed to film back-to-back sequels to Spider-man in a deal that could equate to nearly $50 million dollars for the actor. One of the key negotiations, reportedly, is that Maguire be given early mornings and evenings to spend with his daughter, Ruby. Though Sony has not officially commented on this deal, you can read more about it here.

I have a few thoughts about this deal, assuming it is true:
  1. Though $50 million seems like a killing, you have to consider that it's for the lead role in two more editions of one of Hollywood's most successful film franchises. It's not unheard of for big stars like Tom Cruise or Adam Sandler to earn upwards of $25 million per movie, so I don't really think the amount itself is that newsworthy (except that any actor making that much money is absurd...).
  2. Having said that, to have Tobey Maguire return as Peter Parker/Spider-man without director Sam Raimi would be a mistake. Let's hope that a deal for Raimi is forthcoming. Hopefully $50 million will inspire them back to their stellar work in Spider-man 2.
  3. This business about "family time" seems to be controversial, but being a family man myself, I actually think it's pretty great. Not only that Maguire would insist on it, but that the studio would allow it. Good for them. Now please make a good movie.
  4. No word on whether Kirsten Dunst or any of the other actors from the first three movies will return, although it seems like it would be hard to maintain the Tobey Maguire universe without his Mary Jane. Kirsten Dunst isn't my favorite actress, but I really like movies that reward their viewers with continuity. Do you hear me, Mummy movies?
I haven't heard an official release date for either of the Spider-man sequels, but stay tuned. In the meantime, let's all go try to negotiate more family time with our employers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

WB announces "The Dark Knight" re-release

Well, I'm nothing if not a Hollywood psychic. A few weeks ago I speculated that one of the reasons for Harry Potter 6's move from November to July might have had something to do with the awards-season consideration for The Dark Knight. Now Warner Bros. has announced that they will re-release The Dark Knight into select theaters in January "as a reminder for people." Of course by "people," they mean "academy voters." Read about it here.

My theory wasn't all correct though: sources are saying that WB intends to release the Bat-sequel on DVD and Blu-ray sometime in December, meaning that the studio doesn't have any intentions of trying to top the box office heights of Titanic. Still, they'll make a killing off the DVDs during the holiday season, and the die-hards and industry insiders can still re-enjoy the movie on the big screen come 2009. Sounds like a pretty neat plan.

As for the film's Oscar odds, only time will tell. We're about to enter the season when studios release all their Oscar-bait prestige pictures, meaning that The Dark Knight will need to do something to stay fresh in potential voters' minds. Heath Ledger is a lock for a nomination (if not a win), but I'd be pleased to see the film considered for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay as well. As psychic as I am, we'll still have to wait until January like the rest of the world to find out.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

"Ghostbusters III" announced?

This shouldn't come as a huge surprise, since nostalgia seems to be the order of the day in Hollywood (Transformers, Indiana Jones, 90210, etc.). But after years and years of stops and starts, it appears that Sony is finally serious about the development of a third Ghostbusters film, which would potentially reunite at least the original four Ghostbusters (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson). The studio has hired a couple of scribes from NBC's The Office to write a screenplay, at which point deals will be made with the stars to return to the successful franchise. Read all about it here.

I love the first two movies. The first in particular was classic--silly, scary, funny, and original. Although it sounds like it's still a long way out, this is a positive sign that Sony is serious about this movie. I can't wait.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Harry Potter 6" moved to summer 2009

Some of you may have heard the surprise announcement last week that Warner Bros. was moving the upcoming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince from its November 21 release date. The new release date is July 17, 2009, almost eight months later. There are several reasons why the studio may have moved one of their biggest upcoming releases from a prime holiday release date all the way out to a late summer date, but most of them don't make much sense to me.

Sometimes, a move like this might indicate problems with the production of the movie itself (an actor drops out of the film, preview audiences didn't like the early cut of the film, the budget was escalating out of control, etc.). I would be surprised for that to be the case here, as the cast and crew are all well-seasoned, and early word-of-mouth is excellent.

Other times, a studio might be trying to avoid poor timing around an unrelated event. For example, immediately following September 11, 2001, several movies (Zoolander) were re-cut and/or postponed to avoid showing images of the World Trade Center or other potentially disturbing imagery. One particularly gossipy columnist from FoxNews.com asserts that the Warner Bros. decision to move HP6 was to avoid ugly press from Daniel Radcliffe's upcoming stint on Broadway in the controversial play, Equus, in which the actor appears nude. Unappealing as the actor's decision is, the play itself is old news--he performed it to rave reviews in London over a year ago--and unlikely to affect the performance of one of the series' most popular installments.

Still another ridiculous rumor is that Warner Bros. moved Half-Blood Prince out of the holiday season so as to avoid competition with Twilight. My own ambivalence for the vampire book notwithstanding, I'm quite sure there was room this winter for both movies, especially where they were scheduled to open three weeks apart. In this battle, I'm fairly certain that Harry would have kicked the crap out of Edward Cullen, so I don't believe this theory at all. (In an interesting side-note, Summit Entertainment has now moved the release of Twilight up three weeks to take the spot previously occupied by HP6.)

According to the studio itself: “...we are still feeling the repercussions of the writers’ strike, which impacted the readiness of scripts for other films—changing the competitive landscape for 2009 and offering new windows of opportunity that we wanted to take advantage of. We agreed the best strategy was to move Half-Blood Prince to July, where it perfectly fills the gap for a major tent pole release for mid-summer." Translation: the studio didn't have much else going on for next summer, and needed something big to help fill in the late summer gap. I can buy that...to an extent.

A quick glimpse at the studio's release calendar for the 2009 summer season reveals only one major release: the Christian Bale Terminator Salvation on Memorial Day weekend. Typically the major studios will have at least one major "tentpole" (i.e. costly potential blockbuster) for each month of the summer season (starting in May), sometimes more. So it does make some financial sense to push a sure-thing like Half-Blood Prince into 2009, where the studio can spread out some of the potential earnings for an upcoming year that looks a little bleak.

Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised if the studio's decision had more to do with the recent mega-success of The Dark Knight, which has outperformed every financial expectation, and is currently headed toward an almost unprecedented $500 million domestically. That gives the studio a little breathing room for the rest of the year, and allows them to spread the wealth of franchises into a new fiscal year.

One final (and admittedly unlikely) theory about The Dark Knight: the critically-adored comic book adaptation is likely the WB's best shot at Oscar attention when the awards season begins at year-end. Pulling Harry Potter out of the way during the holiday season could give the studio the chance to re-release The Dark Knight into theaters for the holidays (assuming they choose to hold off on a DVD release). The theatrical re-release would not only keep the Caped Crusader (and more importantly, Heath Ledger's Joker) fresh in Academy voters' minds, but could also provide an extra boost of revenue for the film, which will likely finish its current theatrical run about $80 million shy of the current domestic record-holder, Titanic. Who cares about Harry vs. Edward...the real battle here may be between Batman and The King of the World.

Update: WB President and C.O.O. has responded to fans' disappointment over the delay of HP6. Read it here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

CBS announces teams for "The Amazing Race"

CBS finally released the profiles for the 11 teams competing in the upcoming season of The Amazing Race. The teams include the southern belles (in pink), comic book aficionados (in hats), and married hippies (guess which ones they are). Meet all the teams by clicking here. USA Today has also posted an Associated Press article about the upcoming season, which you can read here.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The Amazing Race is the best of reality TV, and quite possibly the most entertaining show on TV (depending on what kind of a year Lost or 24 are having). It's funny, occasionally touching, and always thrilling. Plus, it's the cheapest way to see the world during these tough economic times. I hope you'll all make a weekly appointment to watch The Amazing Race, starting on Sunday, September 28.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Whatever happened to John Hughes?

Tonight Wendy and I watched the John Candy/Steve Martin road-trip comedy, Planes, Trains & Automobiles. I'm sure we are probably the last people in the world to see this movie, so I won't really take much time to speak to its merits, other than to say that it was a classic awkward comedy-of-errors. And I can't remember the last time Steve Martin made a good movie (Father of the Bride?)... But the larger question that lingers is whatever happened to the once-prolific writer-director John Hughes?

The man was once a Hollywood heavyweight, who wrote, produced, and/or directed some of the most memorable comedies of the 80s and early 90s. These included the early Chevy Chase Vacation movies, Molly Ringwald's greatest (Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles), some veritable teenage-angst classics (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful, The Breakfast Club), and several other box office hits (Home Alone, Uncle Buck, 101 Dalmatians, etc.). You could hardly see a comedy in the late 80s without Hughes' involvement; he was the Judd Apatow of the feathered bangs era.

So whatever happened to him? And why the sudden disappearance from Hollywood in the late 90s? He's still alive and well, and only in his late 50s, according to IMDB.com (always a legitimate source, of course). It's a genuine mystery as to why someone whose reign was as successful and wide-reaching would suddenly choose to sever ties with the industry that buttered his bread for so long (makes you wonder if some Hollywood big-wig unceremoniously kicked his Ferrari through the back windows of a high-story garage...).

Either way, I'd love to see a comeback. Though several of his movies were pretty bad (Weird Science, Flubber), when he was good, he was really good. I'd say Ferris Bueller is still my favorite of the bunch, and the one I quote more often than the others. Which of John Hughes' movies is your favorite?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

J-Dawg vs. DISH

A few weeks ago I remember hearing on the radio that we consumers should try to haggle with some unlikely companies (include big box retailers, phone companies, etc.) about prices we disagree with. The thinking is that consumer-minded companies will bargain with us in order to keep (or obtain) our business.

With that in mind, I put this theory to the test today. Since I've been on an insatiable quest to obtain any and all things HD for my home (researching TVs, Blu-rays, and programming), I decided to call DISH Network and ask them what it would cost to upgrade my current equipment to HD equipment. The first time I called, the sales rep told me in no uncertain terms that the upgrade cost would be a flat $150 with an additional $10/month HD charge. Unsatisfied with his offer, I called back today and this time mentioned that I was a loyal DISH customer who was looking at some competitive offers. I said that I didn't want to leave DISH, but that I was unwilling to pay $150 to upgrade to an HD receiver. "Is there any way around that $150?" I asked. The polite sales rep paused and said, "There's nothing I can do, but I can transfer you to someone who can..." And just like that, I was on the phone with a friendly gentleman who, with very little hassle, agreed to waive the $150 upgrade charge.

Still thrilled with my consumer victory, I gamely asked the man (Jerry) if there was anything else he could do to lower our monthly cost. Once again, with very little hesitation, Jerry knocked off an additional $8.98 off our monthly bill, in essence making our complete HD upgrade cost us only about $1.02/month more than what we were already paying (now I just need the TV...).

Now that I've had some success with this bargaining business, I wonder if it's time to start calling everyone else who sends me a bill each month (watch out Springville City Utilities!) At the end of the day, I've got nothing to lose in asking for a better price.

Are there any other consumer secrets/successes that I should know about?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

New "Pushing Daisies" trailer

This is for you Pushing Daisies fans, who only have to wait until October 1 for brand-new episodes of the romantic-comedy-fantasy. This "trailer" was created from the first three episodes of the new season, and was screened at Comic Con in San Diego last week.



I realize it's not the most conventional of TV shows, but it's certainly one of the most unabashedly romantic, and it's funny to boot. And that Emmy nominee Kristin Chenoweth is a riot. I can't wait for it to start up again.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

First look at "Half-Blood Prince"

After a week of little to no movie news of interest to me, today we get the first trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, one of my favorite books from the series. The look of the movie is sufficiently creepy, and just enough of a tease to make me eager for November 21. The trailer is embedded below, but you can see a prettier version here.



I love that the trailer uses some of John Williams' classic Harry Potter score, which we haven't heard officially since Prisoner of Azkaban. I'm not sure why he isn't still scoring these movies, but his absence has been felt over the past couple of movies. Wouldn't it be a great bookend to this series if he returned to do the music for The Deathly Hallows? If this great saga has taught us nothing, it's that we can always dream...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Because I couldn't find anything else to blog about...

Here's a classic clip from one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons featuring the late, great Phil Hartman.



Whether you're a fan of the show or not, you've got to admit that they can do a pretty great parody from time to time...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"The Dark Knight" review

I'm having a hard time putting into words exactly how I feel about The Dark Knight. So for a change, I'm going to try and describe it in Q&A format. I'll do my very best to avoid spoiling any plot points:

Question: Have you seen The Dark Knight yet?
Answer: Yes, Wendy and I saw it on the IMAX in Sandy last Saturday.

Q: How was the IMAX? Worth the extra money?
A: The IMAX experience was great...almost all the action scenes were filmed with the special IMAX cameras, making them more immersive and intense. When Batman jumps off the top of a skyscraper, you almost feel like you're flying with him. Definitely worth an extra buck or two.

Q: What about the movie? Was it better than Batman Begins?
A: Uncategorically, YES. Everything was a notch or two above the last big-screen Batman, including the acting, suspense, story, and action scenes. And just wait until you see the introduction of the Batpod...very fun stuff.

Q: I'm hearing that it's very dark. Is it too dark?
A: It's a dark movie, for sure, but I wouldn't say that it is unbearably dark. It's not a movie for young kids (despite the deplorable marketing), but I think most adults will find it to be thrilling, moving, and even a little thought-provoking. It's not a movie for everyone--while largely bloodless, there is quite a lot of violence--but I would say that it ends in a place that helps make up for some of the preceding darkness.

Q: What about Heath Ledger? Will the actor's death take me out of the movie?
A: All the Oscar talk is completely warranted; Ledger's Joker is one of the most memorable performances of the past several years. The only thing I can compare the uniqueness of his performance to is Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow when we first saw him back in 2003. The Joker here is so individual, so convincing, and so unnerving that you will be thinking about him long after you have left the theater. There is probably no greater compliment we could pay Ledger than to say that his last complete performance successfully terrified every person in that theater; it reconfirms that he was a great talent that will be missed.

Q: Who else stands out from The Dark Knight?
A: The acting all around is superb, with special mention to BYU-grad Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, whose performance was almost perfect for a very challenging storyline. Christian Bale is always terrific, and his team of supporters (played by Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhal, and Morgan Freeman) are all fantastic.

Q: Why are people calling it the "best comic book movie ever"?
A: Calling this a "comic book movie" is probably doing the film an injustice. The Dark Knight is as layered, rich, and challenging (on every level) as any of the great films in any genre. When was the last time you saw a popcorn movie tackle such a diverse and complex group of issues, from the threat of anarchy to the ethics of illegal wire-tapping? (In one of the most chilling sequences, the film forces us to think about the darkness of human nature in ways that Spider-man 3 only dreamed of.) While your stomach will be in knots for most of the movie, your brain will be working for the rest of the night. Director Christopher Nolan has created a stunning and hypnotic film that deserves attention when the awards season ramps up again.

Q: How many stars would you give this movie?
A: The Dark Knight gets four stars out of four from me (the first time this year I have given four stars). It's a nearly perfect piece of art, and one that both Wendy and I are eager to go see again. Judging from the applause at the screening I attended (and the box office records the movie is breaking), I'm pretty sure we weren't alone.

Let me know what you thought of The Dark Knight!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pop culture potpourri

It's Thursday, a potentially slow day for me at work, and there's a lot on my non-software centered mind, so here are a few things to consider today:
  1. Emmy nominations were announced today, honoring the "best" TV out there. I was disappointed to see that Pushing Daisies was not included in the list of Best Comedies, although actor Lee Pace (Ned) and Kristin Chenoweth (Olive) were. Still, I was glad to see Lost back on the list of Best Drama nominees (for the first time since it won the category in its first season). And though I'm happy to see The Office, Steve Carell, and Rainn Wilson (Dwight) recognized, I'm wondering what it's going to take to get Emmy voters to recognize the heart & soul of the show: Jim & Pam (neither was nominated this year). Read the whole list of nominees here.
  2. I finally finished reading Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, and I enjoyed it. It wasn't as fascinating to me as his Into Thin Air (that we read in the book club years ago on Devry's suggestion), but it still raised some interesting existential questions that had me considering my own life search for truth and happiness. The story of Chris McCandless is ultimately a sad one, but I wonder if he would be happy to know that Krakauer's book has caused millions of people to think more deeply about how they live their own lives.
  3. The Dark Knight is getting crazy good reviews. Rotten Tomatoes currently reports that 91% of the nation's critics are recommending this movie. Of course there is nothing but praise for Heath Ledger's performance, which I can't wait to see. Critics are, however, noting that this is a very dark and complex tale, and not one that is necessarily appropriate for the little ones. Some have even gone as far to say that the tone and themes push the PG-13 rating to the very limits, so be warned. Wendy and I go to see it on Saturday; I'll let you know what I think of the movie after that.
Anything else I need to be thinking about today?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Trailer for new "Terminator"

I know, I know...I was thinking the same thing. Another Terminator??? Let's consider what we know about this "franchise reboot" (a very popular term these days): the Governator is nowhere to be found, the studio is aiming for a more family-friendly PG-13 rating, and have conceived this as--what else?--a trilogy. This on top of a bleak franchise that should have died after the disappointing Terminator 3, and is already currently represented on TV with Fox's The Sarah Connor Chronicles. But here's one thing that makes me the tiniest bit interested in next summer's Terminator Salvation: actor Christian Bale.

The very selective Bale apparently saw something of interest in the film, as he doesn't seem to be the type that just cashes in on any role he can find. Besides, with the Batman franchise, he doesn't seem to be hurting for money. He is currently one of my favorite actors. Though there are a lot of his artsier movies I haven't seen, there are several he's been in lately that rank among some of my favorites (Batman Begins, The Prestige, 3:10 to Yuma). Right now, he is the only reason I am interested in this movie.

Watch the teaser trailer here, and let me know what you think of Bale in a new Terminator movie.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"SYTYCD" injury sends Jessica home early

As you may have heard, the much maligned (by judges, at least) redhead, Jessica King from So You Think You Can Dance, was injured during rehearsals, and has been asked by her doctor to leave the competition. Producers apparently asked the recently-eliminated Comfort to take Jessica's place both on the show, and on the upcoming multi-city Top 10 tour. Read the whole story here.

I haven't been the most loyal follower of SYTYCD this year, as none of the dancers has particularly caught my interest, but I have found it interesting that judges have been as hard on Jessica as they have been. I'm no dancer, but she looked pretty good to me. Sorta makes you wonder if there is some controversy behind the whole thing...similar to Jessie's strange and sudden departure a few seasons back.

I don't care either way, and can't imagine that this transition will make me watch the show any more or less. But I know there are a few Jessica fans out there...what do you think?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Something scandalous this way comes...

EW apparently has a feature on Twilight in this week's issue (I haven't gotten mine yet), but I thought I'd post their cover photo below and then just watch the angry feedback roar. Take that, Edward the Vampire!

Please note: this picture is from a photo shoot done by Entertainment Weekly, and doesn't necessarily feature the actors as they appear in the movie. Regardless, the funniest reaction to the photo that I have read so far is that the actor playing Edward "looks like a hairy powdered donut." Hilarious.

A little Kevin for your Friday

Here's a new webisode from "The Office" to make you smile on a Friday. Not as brilliant as the "Kevin is retarded" storyline from the season finale, but still funny...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

As if we needed one more reason to love Pixar...

Today I read this bizarre but touching story about the good folks at Pixar on USA Today:

WalleBack in October, a grown-up Pixar fan named Courtney saw the WALL·E trailer and burst into tears. She then recorded her emotional reaction and posted it on her blog.

Weirdly enough, the video caught on, and folks at Pixar heard about it. They contacted Courtney and said they were glad she was excited about the movie. Pretty soon, she received the invitation of a lifetime: to attend WALL·E's official wrap party.

Go here to read all about Courtney's "Pixar adventure," and check out her photos of Flickr.

Now granted, Courtney's emotional response to the movie's trailer is a little strange, but how great was it for Pixar to recognize and celebrate a kindred spirit like they did here?

Why can't we all work for Pixar?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Box office update 2008

Although it's something that I check almost as religiously as my email, I haven't formally given a box office update for the year so far. And since Will Smith's Hancock recently had a subjectively successful holiday weekend, I thought it would be a good time to mention some of the winners and losers of the year so far. As of today, the top-grossing movies for 2008 domestically are as follows (courtesy of Box Office Mojo):
  1. Iron Man ($312 million)
  2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($306 million)
  3. Kung Fu Panda ($193 million)
  4. Dr. Suess' Horton Hears a Who! ($154 million)
  5. Sex and the City: The Movie ($145 million)
  6. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ($139 million)
  7. Wall-E ($127 million)
  8. The Incredible Hulk ($125 million)
  9. Hancock ($104 million)
  10. Get Smart ($98 million)
We're over halfway through the big summer movie season, and it looks like Indiana Jones is poised to be the big winner for the summer (as expected), if not the year. Still, we've got The Dark Knight coming up in a couple of weeks, plus a new Mummy movie in early August, both of which will likely shake up this list a bit.

The surprise winners of the year so far are Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda, and Sex and the City, all of which have exceeded expectations. Disappointments so far have included Disney's Prince Caspian, which is poised to make less than half of its predecessor (though costing far more), and Speed Racer, which was a huge bomb for the creators of The Matrix. Will Ferrell's Semi-Pro was a big bust, and Mike Myers' The Love Guru got no love from moviegoers.

The jury is still out on some of the others. While Hancock made a bunch of money over the weekend, its take was less than expected, and word of mouth has not been very complimentary, likely indicating a huge drop-off in coming weeks. Wall-E will likely out-gross last year's Ratatouille, but will probably fall short of the gross of other recent Pixar movies like Cars and The Incredibles (good thing Oscar-talk is already generating for the little guy...). And The Incredible Hulk will likely end up earning just about as much as its disappointing predecessor (2003's Hulk), which would seem to be a stake through the cinematic heart of the angry green giant.

Ron Weasley finally gets his shot at quidditch in November's HP6

Some of the upcoming releases for the year that are expected to do well are High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Oct. 24), James Bond in Quantum of Solace (Nov. 7), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Nov. 21), and Twilight (Dec. 12). Is there anything out there that isn't a sequel, remake, or literary adaptation?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

New Bond trailer; poster for "The Dark Knight"

I hate to take attention away from my review of Wall-E (below) because I'm really interested to know what you think, but I couldn't help but post the following two items:
  1. Warner Bros. has released what will likely be one of the final posters for the upcoming The Dark Knight. The more I see of this movie, the darker it looks like it's going to be. Wendy and I got our tickets to see it on the IMAX on July 19, which I can't wait for. Click here for a bigger, creepier version.
  2. Yesterday the first trailer for the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, was released. When I watched the trailer for the first time, it gave me the chills. Although time will tell how the movie itself turns out, the trailer itself is a perfect mix of the revenge-centric plot, the ongoing evolution of Bond's personna, and the Bourne-inspired action. Casino Royale was the best thing to happen to the Bond franchise since Sean Connery; Solace looks like it will continue the franchise's reinvention. November 7 can't come soon enough.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Wall-E" another winner from Pixar

Continuing an enviable creative and commercial trend, Pixar has made it nine-for-nine with their latest, Wall-E. I already told you how critics nationwide were heaping praise on the post-apocalyptic robot romance as if it were the Second Coming. But sometimes a movie will connect with critics differently than with audiences, so last night Wendy and I put Wall-E to the "average moviegoer" test.

Let me start by saying that critics are right to say that you've never seen a movie like this. Yes, it has elements reminiscent of other sci-fi epics (like Star Wars or Aliens), yet it feels completely fresh and unique. As you have learned from the trailers, Wall-E is the last functioning robot left on Earth, and throughout the first 25 minutes or so of the movie, we learn about his lonely life compacting trash on a planet that has become overrun by it. While this section is certainly the least conventional, it is also the most engaging. Director Andrew Stanton's vision of a futuristic Earth equal parts magnificent and haunting, and Wall-E's survival in this world is fascinating.

To say that the rest of the movie is less-effective is probably unfair, since it contains loads more charm and imagination than almost anything else out there. Let's just say that as Wall-E's subsequent adventures become slightly less focused on him and his "directive" (which may or may not involve holding hands with a sleek and curvy visiting robot named EVE), the movie loses a bit of the warmth and simplicity that so successfully fills the first half.

I wouldn't say that this film is necessarily a "message movie" because it never feels preachy or agenda-driven. Having said that, the themes of environmental neglect and lazy human consumption are the critical backdrop of Wall-E's journey, and the indirect antagonist as well. Pretty heavy for a kid's film, right? The screening we attended was a late show and completely child-free, so I was unable to tell how children were reacting to the adventure. I suspect that they would have been a little antsy during some of the slower moments, but that they would have ultimately been won-over by Wall-E and his good-natured spirit to the point that they wouldn't think too hard about the darker underlying themes.

While the film predictably ends in a happy place, I couldn't help but feel slightly unsettled by the world that I had just seen. Though it is filled with cheery characters and amazingly inventive visuals, it's probably the most unnerving feel-good film I can remember seeing; I wanted to drive straight to the forest and take a deep breath of fresh mountain air.

The creative minds behind Wall-E have succeeded in telling a story that I won't soon forget. That it is a slightly less-satisfying film than some of Pixar's other efforts shouldn't take away from the fact that it is visually and emotionally arresting in ways that you wouldn't expect. I'm dying to hear what you think. (***1/2 out of four)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Knick-knacks

Here are a few things I'm thinking about while being a girl's camp-induced single father:
  • CBS announced today that my favorite reality show, The Amazing Race, will return for its 13th edition on September 28. Though loved by the Emmys (it's the only show to win in the Outstanding Reality Competition category since it was introduced in 2003), it has never been as popular as other reality staples like Survivor or American Idol. Sunday is my least-favorite day on which it has aired (harder to turn into a social event), but at least it's coming back.
  • The reviews for Pixar's latest, Wall-E, have been nothing short of stellar. I already couldn't wait to see it, but some of these snippets have gotten me even more excited:
    • "Dangerously close to the sublime..."
    • "2008's first perfect film and one of the best Pixar projects of all time."
    • "A jewel of a film in conception, execution and message."
    • "Some day, there will be college courses devoted to this movie."
  • Wendy and I rented a few movies recently, none of which I have made time to formally review:
    • Fool's Gold is trashy and not nearly fun enough to justify its sleaziness.
    • Jumper is mildly exciting, with an interesting concept that could lead to a good sequel, but gets bogged down by wooden acting and too-little back story.
    • Cloverfield is the dizziest, dumbest disappointment I've seen in a looong time.
    • Lars and the Real Girl is probably the most unexpected delight we've stumbled upon in recent years; it's warm, quirky, and ultimately redeeming. (Don't worry about its kinky premise, it's not really what you think.)
  • Finally, I saw Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in theaters over the past couple of weeks. Iron Man, as you have probably heard, is energetic, witty, and a lot of fun. (Robert Downey, Jr. is perfect as Tony Stark.) Hulk, on the other hand, is perhaps even more disappointing than the 2003 art house version. It's louder, yes, but mayhem and explosions do not always a good movie make. It's really a joyless affair; sort of like a less heartfelt version of King Kong. That's twice that Universal/Marvel have gotten money from me to see the big green fellow destroy things and twice I've felt cheated. If this movie makes its money back and the studio makes another (which at this point is unlikely), it's going to take some supernatural powers to get me to give it a third try.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pregnancy pact?

TIME magazine is reporting that a group of Massachusetts teenage girls--some as young as 15 years old--have entered into a "pregnancy pact" to get pregnant and raise their children together. Read the whole article, originally reported last week, here.

I find the whole debacle to be horribly disturbing. It would be easy to blame the teen-pregnancy epidemic on the teens' parents, who should be playing a larger role in the sex education and moral foundation of these children. I suppose part of the blame could be on schools, many of which refuse to teach about abstinence. And of course the girls should bear the largest burden of guilt--they do, after all, have at least some education and intelligence.

Now I hate to be a prude--I love a good movie or an addictive TV show as much as anyone. But isn't there also a measure of blame that should be directed toward Hollywood? Though movies like Knocked Up and Juno have tried to show the issue in a humorous and semi-truthful light, I can't help but wonder if they are partially responsible for glorifying premarital sex (particularly unprotected sex). More disturbing is the list of shows that pass for teen entertainment like Gossip Girl or pretty much anything on MTV or VH1. Why isn't there more of a desire from producers to address these issues in a more responsible way?

Hollywood defends itself by saying that they aren't evangelizing sexuality; they are simply reflecting the society in which we live. I suppose there is a measure of truth to that, but it's a chicken & egg type of scenario that really absolves everyone of any responsibility.

Obviously I'm not saying that we should boycott Hollywood, or even blame them for the world's evils. But I do hate to think of a world in which Lily won't be able to enjoy any mainstream entertainment simply because it glorifies behaviors that disagree with our values. So what's the solution?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Special effects legend Stan Winston remembered

I was saddened to hear that Stan Winston, special effects wizard and multiple Oscar-winner, passed away on Sunday. Winston created some of film's most memorable and innovative effects, and was as skilled with unique make-up effects as he was in creating incredibly realistic animatronic creatures. Though you probably didn't know his name, you'll undoubtedly recognize some of his impressive body of work:
  • The giant alien mother that battles Sigourney Weaver in Aliens
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger's robotic alter-ego in the Terminator films
  • The creepy/ugly title monster in Predator
  • Johnny Depp's intricate claws in Edward Scissorhands
  • The groundbreaking dinosaurs in 1993's Jurassic Park
  • The Goblin Valley creatures from Galaxy Quest
  • Some of the fairy tale images from Big Fish
  • Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man suit
His effects have peppered some of my all time favorite movies, and who knows how many other cinematic visions we'll miss out on because of his passing. It's people like Stan Winston that can make movie-going a magical experience...he will be missed.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Vatican bans "Angels & Demons" production

From the Associated Press: "Rome's diocese said Monday it has barred the producers of "Angels & Demons" from filming in two churches for the prequel to the "The Da Vinci Code," the popular book and film that angered many Catholic leaders." Read the full story here.

This news doesn't surprise me at all. While the book of Angels & Demons doesn't necessarily paint as poor a picture of the Catholic Church that The Da Vinci Code does, it does address several of the themes that made Da Vinci so controversial, such as the Church's ultra-secretive ways. Without spoiling the story to those of you who haven't read Angels & Demons, the plot does surround some mysterious murders that may or may not have been orchestrated by people high up in the Church's leadership.

This sentiment by the Catholic Church isn't new to this franchise. When filming 2006's The Da Vinci Code, producers were denied access to the interior of the Church of Saint Sulpice in Paris (the church that supposedly contains the fabled "Rose Line"). As an alternative, producers filmed those scenes in a computer-generated virtual set. Producers of Angels & Demons have made no formal comments about the current ban, but will undoubtedly move forward with filming at another location, virtual or otherwise.

Dan Brown's novels have been a double-edged sword to the Church and to several other famous European destinations, such as the Louvre. While Brown's theories have been widely discredited, swarms of fans, anxious to walk in Robert Langdon's fictional footsteps, continue to visit these locations each year. Case in point: when in Paris with friends in 2006, Wendy and I visited Saint Sulpice (as seen above) with no other intention than to view the fabled "Rose Line." If it hadn't been for the book/movie, we would have never seen this magnificent church.

And how does Saint Sulpice greet its Da Vinci Code guests? With a prominently-placed flyer, disputing many of the book's blasphemous claims.