How to Lose Fans and Alienate Audiences

There is probably an audience for “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”. I’m just not sure what it is. Perhaps it’s the same as the Dane Cook audience: People who enjoy watching jerks be jerks, have a small moral revelation, get the girl they want, reject her and then get the other girl. Though Cook’s last couple of movies with this premise didn’t fare so well at the box office so I don’t have high hopes for the success of How to Lose Friends. Not that I necessarily WANT it to succeed. The Simon Pegg fan in me does, I suppose. I love all his work with Edgar Wright such as “Spaced”, “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”. But apart from a couple of Star Wars references and Gillian Anderson, there is none of that Simon Pegg here. Yes, I realize he’s ACTING. But he’s acting like a total douche.

how to lose friends and alienate people posterBased on the memoirs of Toby Young, “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” tells the story of SIDNEY Young, an obnoxious, usually bumbling, self-centered “journalist” with dreams of making it big in the celebrity profile circuit.

But it’s not just the character that’s the problem. Without any prior knowledge of the book or the story, I had no idea what the hell Sidney’s deal was. Was he a party crasher? A paparazzo? A star effer? A LOOKYLOO?! (By the way, is lookyloo a magazine industry term? Because EVERYONE says it. A LOT). It wasn’t until Sidney was offered a job at a “Vanity Fair”-type magazine (for being really good at sneaking into places, I think) that I realized he was supposed to be a journalist.

This movie is all over the map. At times it’s a silly slapstick comedy with Pegg in a latter-day Steve Martinesque role. There is a even a pig gag. Apparently, pigs are the new monkeys. At other times it’s (an attempt at) a biting commentary of pop journalism and Hollywood ass kissing. At still other times, it’s a romantic comedy in which the leads are (HELLO!) obviously with the wrong people and true true love is right in front of them.

OK, so Sidney’s serious, lesson-learning montages show potential but the mess that is the rest of the film is just too, well, messy. And stuck in the middle of this big pile of pig slop is poor Kirstin Dunst. Let’s talk about her character, shall we?

Kirsten Dunst plays Alison, Sidney’s other love interest. The ones he’s really supposed to be with once he realizes that Megan Fox, the Hollywood starlet his loins yearn for, is actually a vapid windbag. Alison also works at the magazine and has a mysterious boyfriend for whom she waits in bars having ordered him a White Russian, while she hand writes her novel into a journal. Of course, her mystery man never shows and Sidney always seems to be there to help her feel really bad about it. If she’s waiting for Lebowski, he’s probably out looking for his missing rug. It really tied the room together.

I really like Kirsten Dunst. She’s fantastic in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I just like her snaggletoothed ways in general. So it pains me to see her play a character like this. Somehow she manages to do it with grace, but she’s still a lonely, pathetic girl with awful, awful taste in men. OK, so I guess it’s the same character she played in Spotless Mind. But a good script apparently makes that character seem more relatable.

SPOILER ALERT!! But who cares. If you’ve ever seen a movie, you know what’s going to happen.

dunst and peggSo for the first half of the movie, Alison hates Sidney. And rightly so. He’s an ass and he says horrible things to her. She calls him “loathsome” and she’s right. So for some reason, I had hopes that she wouldn’t end up inexplicably falling in love with him. Maybe he with her. But she would reject him and live happily ever after with Lebowski or even just become a single, successful novelist. Anything but falling in love with the loathsome Sidney Young. But nay. The obvious and inevitable does happen. Without explanation. It just switches suddenly because it’s the third act and it’s time for Sidney to stop being a dick and realize he loves Alison. And since things don’t really work out with Lebowski after all, she’s single and therefore available to date someone she previously hated. That’s just the way women are, you know.

Were there any saving graces to this movie? Well, Jeff Bridges is kind of entertaining (Yes, Lebowski actually IS in this thing. But it turns out he’s not the mystery man). Megan Fox is pretty good as Sophie Maes, the aforementioned vapid Hollywood Starlet who loves to be the center of attention and can’t resist the opportunity to make her nipples hard in front of an entire party. But I’m pretty sure Megan Fox isn’t acting. What else? Um…The lady behind me who was shocked by everything was pretty funny. A cry of “OOOOH JESUS!!” erupted every few minutes. I think those were the only times I laughed. And I guess the pig was kinda cute.

Lookyloos!!!

ANTM: The Eleventh Time’s a Charm

As per usual, I sat down with a group of friends to watch the new cycle of America’s Next Top Model. I expected Tyra take the crazy up another notch. I expected a bunch of dumb little strips of bacon to embarrass themselves in front of a panel of judges. I even expected the tranny (thanks to a media tip-off). But there were two things I didn’t see coming…

antm 111) The special effects. Apparently Tyra is a really big “Who Wants To Be A Superhero?” fan because she totally stole their state-of-the-art lightening and beaming effects. She also clearly worked with a cyborg dialect coach. Excelsior!

2) I actually LIKE some of these girls. That hasn’t happened in forever. I was pretty convinced that every aspiring model in the world was a small-minded, selfish, vapid, evil backstabbing bitch.

But while Isis (the tranny) comes off as a little slow, she also seems like a really good person. She works at a non-profit and she is actually a trained model. She even impressed Noted Fashion Photographer Nigel Barker with her lighting knowledge (though not so much with her booty which the camera caught him checking out. That was a yuck face if I’ve ever seen one.)

I was really impressed by McKey (Mmmkaaaay) who stood up for Isis when the clear villain of the cycle, Clark (with no E), was picking on her. I predict that the Alaskan Moose Girl is going to be brainwashed and become Clark(e)’s minion. I hope I’m wrong, but right now I’m a little down on unworldly Alaskans.

Additionally, I’m pulling for Marjorie to stop slouching, speak up and show everybody what her lanky Fronch arse can do. What she needs is a lesson from Benny Ninja. But really, don’t we all?

I also dig Sheena. She’s loud (in a Rosie Perez kinda way) but earnest, confident (real confidence, not fakey model confidence that comes from extreme insecurity) and positive about herself and her fellow contestants.

I’m glad they kept our home-town girl, Elina, but I see many facets of her personality (vegan, pants-only lesbian) becoming stumbling blocks in future challenges. She is screwed the day they do the “cock skirt” photo shoot. But at the very least, there will be some interesting hot tub scenes before she goes.

The rest of the girls’ personas, if they exist, have yet to emerge. But I can’t wait to see what happens. My early prediction, barring any unforeseen disaster, is that Isis will take it. She really knows her stuff and looks great on camera. Tyra wants to give it to the tranny SO BAD. If Isis wins, she will be able to afford the full operation and we know how Tyra likes to take credit for everything she possibly can.

First Impressions of 90210 TNG

More like 9021-Oh my god what did I just watch?

Yes, I watched the original and I know it wasn’t exactly high drama, but damn was it entertaining. The clothes! The hair! David Silver’s white rapping and b-boy dancing! Very special episodes! It earnestly campy and that’s why it worked.

But the two hour pilot of the 2.0 version was kind of a disaster.


I’m embarrassed for all of you.

There is no standout talent. No new Shannen Doherty. (But at least we have the original Brenda.) Just a bunch of pretty (I guess) “kids” who are stiffer than Julia Stiles in a high school production of MacBeth.

The actress with the most potential is AnnaLynne McCord who plays the resident bitch with potential to have more than one dimension. Unfortunately for AnnaLynne, her physical resemblance to Elizabeth Berkley is so overpowering, that even when she’s doing a perfectly acceptable job reading her lines, I still expect her to slam her french fry basket down on the table and scream “Different places!!” at any given moment. Her character’s name is even Naomi.

They made a huge mistake rushing into the back story on the first two episodes. The dialog was painfully expository. The first 20 minutes all the characters explained their relationships to each other.

Annie (the new Brenda): “Well, you’re my adopted brother and that’s why I love you. And I’m glad we moved here from Kansas City so that our dad can be the new principal of West Beverly High.”

Mom (the new mom): “And there are still weddings in California, right? So I can photograph them. Because that’s what I do for a living!”

Dixon (the new Brandon): “And look, there’s Ethan, the guy you met 2 summers ago and kissed!”

And I know these are high school kids whose emotions are generally all over the map but how can Annie disapprove of Ethan’s skanky ways one minute and then forgive him immediately and usher in the sexual tension? You don’t have to wrap everything up in the pilot. It’s supposed to be a SERIES. Frankly, I expected more from Rob Thomas. But it seems Veronica Mars was more an exception than the rule.

And what’s with the look of this show? Is it always going to be so over color-corrected? It’s so dark and orange at times that it feels like it was shot on VHS.

Of course, I’m still gonna watch. At least as long as Brenda is in the cast. (I don’t give a rat dog’s golden poo about Kelly Taylor. She’s as boring as ever.) There were one or two moments that didn’t make me cringe and/or wretch so maybe it will get better now that we know absolutely everything about all the characters.

On a related note, have you seen Jason Priestly lately? I guess he and Zach Galifianakis totally bonded on the set of Tru Calling because Brandon is looking quite fetching these days in his big grizzly beard. I didn’t know he had it in him.

bearded brandon
Rrrrrrroooooowr!

About That “Retard” Thing in Tropic Thunder

simple jackI finally got around to seeing Tropic Thunder. I didn’t laugh as much as I was hoping to. Perhaps I read way too much about it beforehand. That’s one of the downsides to living in the information age. It’s difficult to be surprised. There is also the small problem of me being incapable of liking anything that Tom Cruise does. I don’t find him funny or charming. I find that his every performance and appearance seethes smugness and I just want to punch him square in his smug jaw (after kicking him in the smugnuts).

But one thing I knew I would LOVE was the “retard” bit. Not because I think making fun of the mentally challenged is funny, but because I think actors playing mentally challenged characters for Oscar bait is horrible and someone needs to call it out. Mr. Show did a good job of it with their Dewey Awards/Bob Lamonta sketch but it wasn’t mainstream enough to make an impact. Ben Stiller, on the other hand, brought people to the theaters in droves to expose this disturbing Hollywood truth. Of course, there were a lot of people who still didn’t get it.

the other sisterBen Stiller and co. aren’t “making fun of retards”. They are making fun of the Hollywood construct of the “retard”. Characters like Sam, Radio, the sister that rode the bus and The Other Sister. There is actually no such thing as a “retard”. They are as real as the Unicorn, invented by Hollywood to teach us “valuable life lessons” and “the true meaning of love”. They are caricatures of real mentally challenged people with real problems. They don’t say the darnedest things. They aren’t God’s Little Angels. They attempt to live normal lives. They have jobs and relationships. They get angry and depressed and yes, they also have laugh and have fun, but not ALL THE TIME. Why? Because they are human beings. You know which film actor’s portrayal of a mentally challenged character was the most realistic? Billy Bob Thornton’s in Sling Blade. That is pretty pathetic.

radioI’m not saying someone NEEDS to make a reasonable movie about a mentally challenged character to rectify this. I’m just saying that the ones we have warrant dissection and ridicule. Even the “half-retard” movies like Forest Gump (a film with several offensive characters besides the protagonist) and Rain Man.

I’d also really like it if audiences would maybe think about the context of a scene, especially one in a satirical movie, and not just get all reactionary about a single word. People can be so retarded sometimes.

Purple Veined Russell Crowe Joke

Am I in favor of a Bill Hicks biopic? Of course. Despite being the most intelligent, thoughtful, dark, hilarious stand-up comedian in the history of guys telling jokes to an audience, Bill Hicks is still relatively unknown. At least in the states. In Britain, he is worshiped for the comedy profit he is and it was in Britain that I first learned about him. Still, you can see his influence in the more popular “indie” comedians of today: Janeane Garofalo, Patton Oswalt and especially David Cross.

Bill Hicks died from cancer at age 32. This was, as they say, too young; not just because of his age, but because we desperately need Hicks around today. Hicks was angry. Anger was a huge part of his act. Of course, it wasn’t an act. When he was on stage, he utterly exposed his soul. You could see it and hear it. Probably touch it if you got close enough. He had a lot to be angry about. We were a nation involved in a futile war, having been driven there by a poor “Commander-in-Chief”. Mental junkfood filled our television networks and air waves. The American public had become a reactionary mob. Sound familiar?

bill hicksHicks saw through all of it and had the balls to talk about it plainly. He did this because it troubled him and he wanted to bring these problems to light so that we wouldn’t destroy ourselves. He also threw some jokes in there. He was a furious fireball surrounding a big white light of hope. I get misty just typing these words. I hate to sound all “Candle in the Wind” about it but I miss him terribly and I never even met him. He died when I was 16. I didn’t even learn about him until 2 years later. But at least I learned about him. And I want everyone to know about him. I want his message spread to the young people who still think comedy is Dane Cook and to the older folks who he somehow eluded. But not this way. Not with a two-dimensional, middle-aged goon filling his shoes.

I’m referring to Russell Crowe, the “actor” who is rumored to be donning black urban cowboy threads and learning to bellow into a microphone for an upcoming Bill Hicks biopic.

Well, I’m with those South Park boys. Russell Crowe is an awful person. That is why it literally pains me to hear there’s a good chance he will be the one bringing Bill Hicks into the collective consciousness. Since Hicks is still relatively obscure and Crowe is a big overrated movie star, his portrayal will become Bill Hicks’ shorthand. The worst part is that Bill Hicks would have hated Russell Crowe too. He would have loathed his vapid pseudodrama roles in A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man. And he would have been especially appalled by Crowe: the man whatwithwith his awful vanity band and hooligan tendencies.

So before this happens, I’m going to fire on all cylinders to spread the gospel of Hicks…the REAL Hicks. First, drop whatever you’re doing and spend the afternoon watching the man in action. Language is NSFW so wear headphones or sneak out of the office.

Next buy this book: “American Scream” is a fantastic biography. I knew the ending and I still bawled like a baby.

Finally, do yourself a favor and buy the entire audio catalog. Load up your ipod and jump into the River Hicks to, as the man himself would say, squeegee your third eye. That way you’ll know the truth on the day that Russell Crowe drops a metaphorical turd onto the memory of this great American poet.

Those Sexy Panhandlers

Pineapple Express star James Franco says that to prepare for his upcoming role as a homeless man in City by the Sea, he lived on the street for a whole weekend! With a sign! No, that sign didn’t say “I’m not Dreamboat James Franco.” It said “Homeless, Please Help” and apparently garnered him $20 in half an hour.

Listen, I don’t know how he “disguised” himself, but unless he was wearing hobo prosthetics, he still LOOKED like Dreamboat James Franco. I’ve seen him dressed as a deadbeat greaseball before. He’s still cute. Possibly CUTER. James Franco could probably make a better living milking the sympathies of passersby with his puppy dog browns than with a decade of Apatow projects. Speaking of, let’s see how much spare change an unshowered Judd Apatow is his Sunday chores outfit can pull in after 30 minutes.

Tired of Tarentino

I am so over Quentin Tarentino. Granted, he wrote (but thankfully did not direct) the pitch-perfect “True Romance”. (Though there is a theory that his jilted writing partner, Roger Avary, actually did the bulk of the work on the script.) Sure he helped change the face of independent cinema with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. But Quentin Tarentino has run out of original ideas. And with all the talk of his next two projects, I think it’s possible he never had any to begin with.

fat tarentinoTarentino is a professional fan boy who has made a career out of copying all the stuff he likes. Fortunately for him, he likes kind of obscure movies so it is a rare bird who will recognize what he has borrowed from. That is probably why he decided to go from plagiarism to straight up remakes.

First up is “Inglorious Bastards”, based on the 1978 Italian film about a group of insolent WWII soldiers whose only chance to save themselves from punishment for their misdeeds is by sneaking into a heavily guarded Nazi compound and stealing a secret weapon. So far there are a lot of casting rumors (Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio), but only one confirmed cast member: Quentin’s protege and BFF, Eli Roth.

eli rothRoth is the man who, in conjunction with the “SAW” franchise, helped popularize torture fetish films (Who needs character development or dialog when you can just bleed people slowly for an hour and a half?). Roth is as much of an actor as Tarentino himself. That is to say that he smirks his way through his lines while his more talented cast mates play around his high-school-drama caliber performance. I’m also sure there will be plenty of rambling monologues for everybody. Needless to say, I’m not so much looking forward to this one.

Then we have a remake of Russ Meyer’s “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”. Early casting rumors name Britney Spears for a starring role. Why? I HAVE NO IDEA. Russ Meyer was known for casting ladies not as much for their acting ability as for…other…assets. And Quentin certainly has experience exploiting the ladies. But does Britney have any sex appeal left? She is a professional Jerry Springer tragedy, not a busty sex kitten. Is anyone still attracted to that? I bet she smells like Chicken McNuggets. I hate to say it but if Tarentino really can’t be creative about finding lesser known Russ-worthy ladies, he should just re-borrow the cast of “Sin City” and be done with it.

Why are we still celebrating the work of this middle-aged fan boy geek? Why are we still entrusting the Comic Book Guy with big budgets and A-list names? His early films were either a fluke or a scam. I got a baaaad feeling about this.

Obvious Casting of the Day

tim burtonAccording to a tip on AICN, Johnny Depp has been attached to the role of the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie (coming in 2010).

Well, DUH. Could it have ever been anyone else? Tim Burton doesn’t audition. He just watches his old movies to cast his next one.

That means that the Queen of Hearts will DEFINITELY be played by Lisa Marie.

Oh wait…I forgot…He’s boning Helena Bonham Carter now. Scratch that. Helena Bonham Carter will get the job.

Sorry Lisa! If you’re looking for work, I just heard they’re opening a new Sonic location in the Puget Sound area!

The Dark Knight: Yeah, It’s Good

It’s possible that I was influenced by the majesty of IMAX. The six story screen certainly brings you right smack dab into the middle of the Gotham. But even without the enveloping surround sound and the large-as-life cityscapes, The Dark Knight is really damned good. That’s what everyone is going to tell you. Because it’s an irrefutable truth. If you liked Tim Burton’s Batman, Batman Begins, or pretty much any aspect of the Batman oeuvre, you will not be disappointed by The Dark Knight

With Batman Begins Christopher Nolan was just getting warmed up. We all knew the man had an ace up his sleeve by the name of Heath Ledger. But he didn’t stop there. He traded in his crappy Katie Holmes card for a Maggie Gyllenhaal, to create a winning hand which already included Christian Bale and the glorious Gary Oldman (playing soon-to-be Commissioner Gordon with all the heart and internal conflict that role requires). Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox is fleshed out, tag-teaming with Michael Caine’s Alfred as Bruce Wayne’s moral touchstone.

The replacement of Katie Holmes was completely necessary. She was the big honking blemish of Batman Begins, walking through scenes like a necromanced cardboard cutout. “Step Aside. I am a District Attorney,” she said flatly and we couldn’t help but recall Keanu Reeves’ delivery of a similar line in Point Break. She had no chemistry with Christian Bale (because only Andrew McCarthy can have chemistry with a mannequin). But Nolan had the wherewithal to cast Gyllenhaal. And suddenly, Rachel Dawes was a real girl. She had emotions and witty things to say. And most of all, chemistry with not one – but two male leads. What a breath of fresh air she is.

dark knight jokerAnd then there’s Heath. Once the trailers hit, I don’t think anybody doubted that he was going to nail the Joker role. The over-hyped talk of Oscar noms gave me pause. How could it not? It would be so cheap to give him a posthumous Oscar when a comic book film would never be considered for such things under ordinary circumstances. But he was a mean Joker in every sense of the word. He was simultaneously scary and hilarious. He embodied the character full stop. He made someone like the Joker a real-world possibility. He certainly gave Jack Nicholson a run for his money (not that such things are difficult, these days).

But lets not forget the other villain of The Dark Knight: Two Face. Gone are the days when multiple Batman villains gather together in each others’ lairs and cackle and scheme. Two Face doesn’t revel in his evil. He hates it. It reminds him of everything he lost. But he is no longer in control of his own destiny. Like Anton Chigurh, he obeys the outcome of a coin toss. This makes him more frightening than a room full of Batman villains. Save the Joker, of course.

Thank you, Christopher Nolan, for breathing life into Batman once again. Fantastic actors are playing comic book characters straight and for realism. I really like this trend. Let’s hope it sticks.

The Dark Knight is in theaters now. You pretty much have to see it. Spring for the IMAX if you can.

Hellboy II: Creature Overload

I feel the need to refute every other review out there for this film. The majority of reviews are raving about Hellboy II: The Golden Army. But the reasons they love it are the same reasons I think it fell flat. Guillermo Del Toro is a fan-boy director. He is a 13-year-old boy trapped in the body of an arrested adult. Sometimes that works. But in this case, it did not.

The plot is completely nonsensical. One of the last of the albino elves wants to re-raise an army of gold transformers in order to destroy all humans and Hellboy must stop him. Fair enough, but I have questions. Why did the Albino Prince wait so long to attempt this? Was he just working out one day in his lair next to the Subway and decided he was done with humanity? His plan seems to have several steps involving unleashing various monsters upon the Earth. He must also find his twin sister who has the last piece of the crown with which to control the Golden Army. But according to her they have a psychic connection so he can just find her whenever he wants. So why does all of this take so damned long? Just so Abe the fish man can fall doomedly in love with the Albino Princess? So Hellboy and Liz Sherman can have that cliche movie argument where she is pregnant but instead of just telling him like a normal person would, she gets all pissy and throws fire balls?

hellboy II drunkNo. It’s so little Guillermo can make more creatures. CREATURES! OMG! CREATURES! Look at them all! Goblins apparently come in all shapes and sizes. There are some flat-faced dudes too. And some small leachy things. And tumor babies. And this guy with big teeth and no eyes. And a big-assed Treebeard/Godzilla hybrid…and…and…Where was I? Oh yeah. In the middle of a movie. I guess we can have the bad guy battle Hellboy now. He’ll do all those flippy moves we saw him do earlier. But this time it will be against HELLBOY so it will feel fresh and new.

Also, why did the Albino Prince sacrifice the LAST of the Elementals when he knew that Hellboy would have to fight it? So he could get even madder at the humans? Did he think he could win Hellboy over by telling him, after the thing had destroyed half the city, that it was the last of its kind? Albino Prince should take those odds to the roulette table and stop messing with endangered species.

Still more questions: Why the hell do the Dream Team give Jeffrey Tambor such a hard time? As far as I can tell, the man is just trying to do his job directing the B.P.R.D. He has some pretty valid points about Hellboy being insolent. I guess no one likes their boss. But really. Give the guy a break. What are they going to do instead? Open a bakery? Work on their doctorates?

tecate lightOK, so it wasn’t ALL bad. There were a few shining moments. Ron Perlman is at the top of his game any time Hellboy acts like Hellboy, accepting cigars as motivation and drinking beer. One scene involving drunk Hellboy and Abe talking about women and singing Barry Manilow was a highlight. Though it definitely felt like product placement for Hellboy to have a locker filled with Tecate LIGHT. That’s right. Those silver cans sheath the low calorie version of the classic Mexican beer. I love a cool, refreshing Tecate myself, but I greatly doubt a candy enthusiast like Hellboy would bother with light beer.

Product placement aside, those moments felt like a callback to the comics. But a Hellboy movie should be ALL callback. Del Toro is too easily distracted by his creature-making abilities to bother with a script. And America is too dazzled by his world to pay attention to why we are there in the first place. Why am I the only one who sees this?

Man. I need a Tecate.