Friday, June 29, 2007

Dinosaur Comics
So my friend Crissy has gotten me totally hooked on these Dinosaur Comics. Every single one (since February 2003!) has featured exactly the same 6 frames, with different dialogue. Usually T-Rex is outwitted by the Utahraptor, sometimes they espouse philosophies, sometimes they're just rude. But I have yet to see one that isn't HILARIOUS. For example, the following Lost-appropriate one:

I love these. You can click here for today's comic, or go here for the archive and begin at the beginning. Warning: It's addictive.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


How could Veronica Mars be cancelled, and this be resurrected?? Where are the television gods? What sort of sacrifice do we have to leave for them to make this... go away?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hell's Kitchen: When Satan Is Your Boss
I love Gordon Ramsay. If you haven't had a chance to see the excellent BBC show, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, try to find it and watch it (it airs on BBC Canada and America, and the Food Network). It's a reality show where Chef Gordon Ramsay goes to restaurants (or res-trints, as he pronounces it) that are bleeding money and quickly going bankrupt, and he has 7 days to try to figure out what the problem is, and solve it. He then comes back 6 weeks later and sees if the restrint has closed or is still open and booming.

The basic gist of the show is, yeah, this guy can be a total jerk, but he cares. He wants to see these businesses succeed, and not fail. In one recent episode the chef was so fed up with Ramsay not being positive that he locked him out of the restaurant, and Ramsay sat on the step all day until the guy would let him in. Of course, chef got an earful when he finally did open the door, but he was also apologetic because he realized Ramsay's here to help, not hurt.

On Hell's Kitchen, it's not quite the same thing. Sure, Ramsay wants someone to win the game and go run an exclusive restaurant (I'm sure by "run" it's mostly show, but we'll let that pass) but he's not exactly wanting anyone to succeed on this show. And... it seems to be pretty staged.

In this season, on the second episode Rock nominated Josh and Eddie, after Aaron — the overweight, overly emotional chef who was SO incompetent there's no way he would have passed the initial audition, and therefore must have been an actor, I think — had screwed up, passed out, slept through competitions, and was the weakest link on the team. Why didn't Rock choose him? Because the producers needed to keep him around for another week, so they probably whispered something in his ear. The following week Aaron collapsed, was "rushed to the hospital" (my husband immediately noted he was picked up in a red van, but nowhere on it did it say hospital or ambulance or emergency or ANYTHING. Could have been the key grip's SUV for all we know), and then Gordon calls him in a completely scripted phone call where Aaron acts all eager to come back and Gordon tells him he just isn't coming back. Aaron, as per his contract, is crestfallen.

The following week the women totally killed in the breakfast competition (one woman had to come and actually deal with the guy's service after they were done), but had some misunderstandings in the kitchen during dinner so he declared them the losers. Why? Because week 1 was women, week 2 was men, week 3 was women. That's why. We've got to change it up, folks. Need to keep it even.

Last season the one thing that stuck out as more staged than anything was when a female customer got up and walked over to the kitchen to complain about her food to Gordon. On Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, he insists that the customer is king, and that if they complain, they're right. Doesn't matter if you think the spaghetti is perfectly cooked and the chicken is magnifico, if they don't like it, it's shite. So this woman gets up, walks over, and Gordon, unable to even look up because he was so mortified that Fox was forcing him to deliver this line, said, "Get your tits off my hot plate and go back to your seat." The actress customer looked suitably offended, and left.

I was shocked to see the exact same scene played out this week. A woman said she would go straight to the chef to complain. This time he looked at her and she said she'd been waiting 2 hours for appetizers, he asked what table she was at, and she told him, and he said OK, then looked down (I thought, oh no...) and mumbled, "Jean-Phillippe, take the giraffe back to her table." Because she was tall with a long neck. Her jaw dropped. The director said, "No, no, open WIDER" so her jaw dropped further. She looked suitably mortified, and left.

Fox sucks. This is a reality show that I started watching because of the dynamic Gordon Ramsay, and it's not enough to have a foul-mouthed, abusive man who could just LOOK at Jeff Probst and make him wither; no, they have to make him SO much larger, and... unbelievable. Because that's what he is on this.

Fox is working on a Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares show for the fall, due to the enormous success of this show. But the show is already in trouble. One of the chefs of a kitchen Ramsay was supposed to be helping is suing him, claiming that the show is entirely staged. He's alleging that Fox crew members put rancid food in the fridges for Ramsay to pull out, that they replaced his furniture in the place with some shoddy chairs so they'd break when someone sat on them, and then, for the return, hired actors to come and fill the restaurant to show what an amazing thing Ramsay had done.

Are Ramsay and Fox guilty of fraud? Probably. Does that mean the BBC version is also staged? Maybe, but for some reason, while Fox goes for the over-the-top insanity, BBC keeps their show suitably believable. There's a chance Fox staged theirs, but the BBC's was an honest reality show based on bad restaurants they'd scoped out ahead of time. But now Fox's version will not only put a damper on their show, but everything else Ramsay touches.

Gordon, you've broken through to America. But maybe it's time to turn around and go back before America breaks you.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

All Apologies...
I wanted to continue the Nirvana In Utero started by the Lost finale here... ;) I just wanted to apologize for being so sporadic in updating the blog. I'm in the final two weeks before my deadline to hand in the Lost Season Three guide, and while my head is FULL of blog posts, I just haven't had the chance to make any of them happen. I promise to talk about a lot of new things very soon, including Hell's Kitchen (watch if you're not), Canada's Next Top Model (don't bother), The Prisoner, and some news on a Heroes book.

But in the meantime, I was mentioned in a cool article on music on Lost (she contacted me the day after I'd started working on a chapter on the very same subject, so it was very easy). It's going to be an onrunning series, so I'll post the updates as they happen.

Hope to be back soon! Please keep checking in! Tune in to the Pop Culture Supreme Court next week where our next verdict will be up... on shock jocks.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Wait a Minute . . . I'm Knocked Up, Too!!!
I blogged a couple of weeks ago on the hysterically funny news story that the brain trust that is Rebecca Eckler had launched a lawsuit against Judd Apatow and the movie Knocked Up because it ripped off her book. Her contentions were:

A) she'd made a joke in her book about worrying about the baby's head being hit during sex
B) she'd commented on not jumping on a trampoline while pregnant, something repeated in the film
C) Her book was called Knocked Up, same as the film, and she apparently coined the phrase
D) she got pregnant while drunk at a party, as did the character in the film (well, Heigl's character got drunk in a bar, and slept with a guy she didn't know, while Becks got drunk at HER ENGAGEMENT party... the mind boggles)
E) she took several pregnancy tests to make sure she was pregnant
F) she talked about a friend with kids she turned to for advice, while Heigl turns to her sister with kids
G) the cover of her book had a binky hooked on a martini glass, which was the cover of the original script (and several other ads and illustrations, but who's counting?)
H) she was the first woman in the history of women to actually get pregnant and carry the baby for 9 months, and she was mad as hell that the movie would talk about EXACTLY the same experience of pregnancy that her book was about. Or something.

But when I blogged, I admitted I hadn't yet seen the film. Well, I've seen the film. And I'm pregnant. And I've been pregnant before and have been through everything, and dude? I'm PISSED. I will be launching my lawsuit next week against both Apatow AND Eckler.*

My contentions:
A) I got pregnant by having sex. I know, I know, very personal information, and it's not the typical way women get pregnant (isn't it crossing their fingers and hoping REALLY HARD?) but that's how I did it, and that's how both Alison (Heigl's character) and Eckler did it.
B) I talked to women who had kids when they were pregnant. They were friends of mine, and I wasn't actually asking questions about pregnancy, I was just TALKING to them, but hey, despite what Eckler said, in the movie Alison happens to live with her sister and doesn't actually ask her advice about giving birth or having a kid, it's more advice about men and marriage. So I figure if I talked to friends with kids while I was pregnant about the latest book they'd read or asked them for a recipe, I have grounds for a case.
C) I was pregnant during the 2004 Summer Olympics (I laboured during the men's high dive... seriously) and I saw women jumping on a trampoline. And it might have occurred to me that in my condition, I couldn't do that. Now, in the movie, Seth Rogen's character is reading a line from What to Expect When You're Expecting about how pregnant women couldn't jump on trampolines, and since that book predates Eckler's by about 15 years, and since she STILL thinks she has grounds for a lawsuit, then... so do I.
D) My belly got very round and big during my pregnancy (and it's big again... my arms are straight out in front of me typing this while I'm sitting further away from the desk) and so did both Eckler and Alison!! But that's not normal, right??
E) My pregnancy lasted 40 weeks. That seems like a REALLY long time, and so far, this one is doing the same. Both Alison and Rebecca went full-term.
F) I knew I'd gone into labour when I felt a lot of pain. Eckler felt pain. So did Alison. But labour should be painless, right? It's why so many women have kids.
G) I had an epidural when I'd been in labour for 20 hours and couldn't take the pain anymore. Now, I know that Alison ends up going the drug-free route with no pain meds at all, but see, Rebecca Eckler made a big stink about how there was NO WAY she was going to push one of those things out of her vagina, because IMAGINE what it would DO to that part of her body, and she actually flew out to Calgary to have an elective C-section because she said she was a busy gal who didn't have time for god-knows-how-long labour, and didn't want to go through the pain. In other words, she was willing to raise the kid, but not divulge the time and energy to actually HAVE it. So if SHE can say this movie resembled her experience when Alison is on the opposite end of the spectrum than Rebecca, then *I* can say the same thing for being even closer to Alison on that spectrum.
H) Alison takes the baby home from the hospital. *I* took the baby home from the hospital. Rebecca had her sister take the baby home from the hospital so she could go eat sushi, something she hadn't eaten for 9 months. My experience is more like Alison's.
I) Alison is an anchor woman on the E! channel. I watch entertainment shows. SERIOUSLY. Can you believe this??
J) Alison interviews Matthew Fox. I wrote a book where Matthew Fox features very heavily. The similarities are startling. (Okay, and in this scene is the best line in the film. Rogen says, "Oh no way, you're going to interview Matthew Fox? You wanna know the interesting thing about Matthew Fox? NOTHING." hahahahahahahaha)

The end of the movie is baffling, as there are several picture of Alison holding a happy baby and being a glowing mother. Rebecca, on the other hand, started a blog called "Nine-Pound Dictator" and never talks about the kid in any terms other than "GOD... motherhood is so HARD..." So I guess Becky is only suing on the pregnancy part? Or the early pregnancy part?

Seriously, Eckler, just quit. No one who has read your book (utter, useless tripe) and seen the movie (actually very funny, with the highlight being a run-in Alison's sister has with a bouncer that had me unable to breathe I was laughing so hard) will see the similarities.

I highly recommend this site if you want a laugh. They called for people to send in any pics they could find of a martini glass and a binky to show that Eckler's book is NOT the only cover in the universe to come up with a connection. They've also found other pop culture references riffing on the same jokes Eckler had in her book. Apatow's attorneys don't need to do a lot of extra work; bloggers are doing it for them. :)

*Nikki Stafford will not necessarily be launching a lawsuit next week.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lost: Will It End Like The Sopranos?
Fastforward to May 2010. For six years Lost fans have been following the misadventures of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, and it's all come down to one final hour of the show. It looks like they're going to be rescued, but the remaining Others are closing in fast, and maybe they won't get on the helicopter after all. The music begins drumming louder and louder, and suddenly the helicopter pilot puts loudspeakers in the windows of the heli, a la Apocalypse Now, only, instead of the Ride of the Valkyries, the speakers are blasting Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." Just as Sawyer, panting and out of breath from running, spits out, "SON of a BITCH, I HATE this song!" the screen suddenly goes black. Fans everywhere think their satellite has gone out, there are five seconds of blank screen, and the credits begin silently rolling. That sound you then hear is 16 million viewers screaming, "NOOOOOOOOOO!"

Don't worry. It ain't gonna happen. According to an article in the NYT yesterday, while Damon and Carlton loved the ending of The Sopranos, with its ambiguity and stadium rock (seriously, I can NOT get that song out of my head), they won't be doing the same thing. Damon told the NYT, “I’ve seen every episode of the series. I thought the ending was letter-perfect.” He explains that he went upstairs to bed following the show, but just laid there for 2 hours thinking how great it was, and how it was the perfect ending. Carlton wasn't so quick to like it, though, admitting that he was initially frustrated, but after pondering it, realized “In that blank screen, there was a certain kind of purity in the choice Chase made to make it the fulcrum of the ending.” (His reaction was more like mine, taking about a day to sink in and actually like it.)

Tim Kring, creator of Heroes, wasn't as enthusiastic. He hadn't been watching the show lately, and came back to it this season to see how it would end. He found “the storytelling in the finale a bit disjointed, so that you lost the cause and effect of some scenes.” While my immediate reaction after reading this was, "Well, it was a HELL of a lot better than YOUR finale, and you just had to wrap up one season," it also gives me a lot of hope that he's aiming for something much bigger for the ending of his show.

If the enthusiasm of Darlton makes you worried about a similar blackout on Lost, however, don't fear. A Reuters story appeared today where they qualified their statements, and assured that they wouldn't do that.

More excitingly, however, they announced that this fall they will be introducing "mobisodes" to help fill the gap between the May finale and the February startup. While these eps will be tied in to Verizon Wireless (blech), the eps will be about 90 seconds each and will eventually air on (they hope).

Cuse said the mobisodes, about 90 seconds each, will give hardcore "Lost" viewers more information that they probably weren't going to get through the show itself. What it won't be, they said, was a mini version of "Lost."

"It needs to be interesting enough and well produced enough that people feel they're
getting enough bang for their buck, even if it's free, the bang for their time," Lindelof said.

Lindelof said the negotiations for the talent took a long time, but they wanted to make sure that all of them were involved in the mobisodes. "Nobody wanted to see two people sitting on a beach that we've never heard of talking and saying, 'Hey, did you hear what Jack and Kate did today?' You want to see Jack and Kate. It's taken us three years to get those deals in place," Lindelof said.

Now, whether or not Canadian fans will be able to access them is a different story. So to the American fans, please find a way to download them and put them on YouTube for us Canucks. ;)

Read the rest of the story for a funny mention of Nikki and Paulo. :)

In other Sopranos news, and for my reader (why isn't there more than one?) who hated the Sopranos finale, check out the Salon review, which referred to the ending as sparking riots of ziti hurling in New Jersey.

The Globe and Mail reviewer (who typically I don't give a lot of weight to, but whatever) liked it.

The National Post reviewer (ditto) did not. (But since their search engine is complete crap, I can't find it to link to it. Read the Salon review; it's better.)

And totally unrelated, here's a funny pic I found on a MySpace site. Anything to get another pic of Desmond on here. :)

In tomorrow's blog: I've seen Knocked Up, and I'm mad as hell. They TOTALLY ripped off my first pregnancy!!!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bada-Boom, Bada-Bing . . . It's Over
The Sopranos is over, and it sort of ended with a whimper, not a bang. Not that that was necessarily a bad thing, though some fans might think Chase took a bit of a copout in his ending. For weeks, fans have speculated on whether Tony would bite it, if Paulie would be a turncoat, if Phil would triumph, would Janice kill herself, would AJ kill himself, would Meadow or Carmela be killed in the crossfire and lead Tony on a fiery rampage, etc. But in the end, Chase refused to answer any of these questions. He's decided to leave the ending open, and let us figure out what WE think the future of these characters will be. The most similar ending I can think of is that of Angel, where the series ended with everyone running into battle. However, the writers managed to tie up all of the loose ends before that battle scene, and rather than it coming off as a copout, fans will forever remember them running into battle, swords raised and ready for the big fight, and that's all that matters.

So was the ending of The Sopranos really a weak ending, or did Chase insert enough clues in there to make it pretty obvious where things are going?

Tony is talking to the FBI, so there's a chance he might eventually go into the witness protection program. I don't see that as likely, since we saw way back in season 1 what he thinks of THOSE people, and he's someone who longs for a time when mobsters were mobsters, and not looking for the easy way out. He tries using the FBI — I give you info about "terrorists," you give me info about where Phil Leotardo is — but when they don't give him the goods, he turns his back on them. (Eventually, the agent DOES talk, which is a surprising turn of events, but we see he seems to have been rooting for Jersey all along.)

Sil is in the hospital, and looks like death. I don't think he's waking up.

Meadow will find her calling as a lawyer, and it was hilarious to see Carm's face light up with genuine pride, rather than the, "Sigh... why can't MY daughter be in med school like that loser drop-out friend of hers?" that we always get. AJ has taken a crap job in the film industry, financed by his dad, and it will end badly, and he'll go back to being the morose little useless prick he's always been.

Tony and Carmela go to see AJ's therapist, and Tony begins unleashing all his family secrets, the ones that Melfi took SO long to get out of him, in less than a minute. His mother never loved him, there was no love in that family period, he never felt love growing up, he's had a very difficult childhood. The look on Carmela's face is brilliant. We know that even if Melfi has said goodbye, Tony's getting a new psychiatrist any day now.

Janice is her mother. Plain and simple. The scene where she insists to Tony that she's nothing like her mother and has tried so hard to put that evil fiend behind her, then says, "But does anyone thank me for it? NOOOO!" was hilarious. She undermines the first part of her argument by being EXACTLY like Livia in the second.

Uncle June is gone. Tony realizes once and for all that where Junior is concerned, he's got nothing to fear. Will he keep him in the state institution, or will he pay for a better place for him?

NY and NJ have come to terms with things, and have gotten rid of Phil in yet another over-the-top grisly killing that Sopranos fans love to cringe at. I mean, his twin grandkids are sitting in the back of the SUV when it crushes his head like a melon. It doesn't get any sicker than that.

The episode ended with Tony sitting in a diner, waiting to have dinner with his family. He waits, finds a song by Journey, and pops it on. Carmela comes in, sits, they make small talk, and then AJ shows up, sullen as usual, but hopeful. When AJ enters the restaurant, there's another guy with him who sits at the counter, and keeps looking at Tony over his shoulder. Is he there to kill him or is he just realizing that's THE Tony Soprano sitting over there, the guy he no doubt had seen on the television earlier that week when Phil Leotardo's death made headlines? The guy gets up to go to the bathroom, Meadow arrives outside but parallel parks worse than I do (which is saying a LOT) and has to try 3 times to get that expensive car into the spot. She gets out of the car, runs to the door, the scene cuts to Tony and... dark. I, like I'm sure every other Soprano fan watching, thought, "Oh COME ON, the cable company chooses this very moment to cut the power??" There's about five solid seconds of blackness and silence, and then the credits begin to roll.

Tony will forever be looking over his shoulder, Carmela will always be trying to maintain some sense of normalcy with her family. AJ will forever be lecturing everyone on their lives while ruining his own, and Meadow will always be showing up late to fulfill the family obligations and maintain that same sense her mother wants. The loyalties in the family will ebb and flow, and Tony will be nostalgic for a time when it wasn't like this. He's said goodbye to the old guard with his farewell to Uncle June, and he's looking around him to see what still remains. There's very little young blood in his group, so this could be the last generation of the Mob, before the new generation — no doubt containing AJ — steps forward.

The key to the ending of the episode was the song that Tony puts on the jukebox. "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey seemed to be a strange choice, since the soundtrack of this show is usually old blues or jazz numbers, or Frank and Dino, or anything from a Scorsese sountrack. But if you look at the lyrics, it tells us everything Chase was trying to get across.

Working hard to get my fill,
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin anything to roll the dice,
Just one more time
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on

Tony and his posse and his family will go on and on and on, in some form or another, for a very long time. The NY section of Little Italy might be nothing more than a tiny strip, but these Italians will find their way into new areas, will adjust to the way society has changed, and will move on. I wasn't sure what I thought of the end of this series when it happened, but after thinking about it, it was probably the best way Chase could have ended it. If he can stay away from the movies (which will then make this ending look contrived), I'll be happy.

My all-time fave series finale is Six Feet Under (tears well up just thinking about it) followed by Angel. I'm hoping to add Lost to that list some day. What are your favourite series finales?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Forget Judge Wapner...

Who needs stuffy old judges when you can check out... THE POP CULTURE SUPREME COURT. More exciting than People's Court. More relevant than Law & Order. It's nine pop culture bloggers making decisions on major pop culture topics. No more will people have to scratch their heads and wonder, "Hm... I wonder if reality television really should supercede scripted television?" For we will finally answer those questions, and stand as the ultimate decision-makers.

Okay, not really, but hey, we figured it was a fun way to bring the blogosphere together to hash out topics, start conversations, and discuss our ways to decisions on things that we find interesting. This is the court people go to when the Entertainment section of the paper is far more interesting to them than the Business pages.

I am one of the nine justices, I'm extremely proud to say. The blog was the brainchild of Matthew Caverhill, who runs the blog, "Culture Kills... Wait, I Mean Cutlery." He sought out the best, brightest, and funniest bloggers he could find, and then added me, because he only had eight. ;) The other bloggers featured run the following awesome blogs, and I urge everyone to check them out. Daily.

Apropos of Something

Electronic Cerebrectomy



No Smoking in the Skull Cave

Popped Culture (run by one of my fave people)

Semaj's Blog Your Blog

For our first ruling, we were each given the question: Should there be a moratorium on movie remakes? I went into the question thinking I would answer 'yes.' The idea of a remake of a film coming out about 15 years after the original makes my blood boil, but after looking at the evidence, I realized that time doesn't make remakes any better or worse, and my ruling was no. I wasn't alone; 5 other justices ruled no, and 3 ruled yes. I was very flattered that my ruling was chosen as the one to represent the majority, but when I read the yes ruling, written by Becca, it almost made me want to change my ruling, it was so good. :)

Check out the Pop Culture Supreme Court site here, and I'll reprint my ruling below. Feel free to agree or disagree, and I'd love to see what y'all think about Matt's baby. It's been fun, and hey, it's fun to think my parents have always been excited about my brother being the lawyer of the family... well check out Big Sis being a supreme court justice. Woohoo! ;)

To propose there should be a moratorium on movie remakes would suggest that the problem with movie remakes is not leaving enough time between the original and the remake. But timing is not the issue — a movie remake can be successful, depending on the remake director’s respect of the original film, understanding of the concepts and themes behind it, willingness to put his or her own spin on it, and a possible involvement with the people who made the original. I’ve considered four categories of film and chosen a good remake and a bad one (in my opinion) to show that timing really has nothing to do with how good or bad a remake is going to be.

I should preface this by saying that generally I hate remakes, and therefore I’ve never seen many of these movies, but I’m going by critical reaction as opposed to mine. I believe most movie remakes are unnecessary, though there have been a few excellent exceptions. (And the same goes for television; while most American versions of British shows are terrible, The Office remains one shining example of one that worked. And Battlestar Galactica, a remake of a 1978 short-lived series, is one of the best things on television.) But for the most part, choosing film remakes that I hated was easy; choosing good ones was a lot more difficult.

The idea behind most sci-fi film remakes is usually that the special effects are now better than they were before, so it will necessarily make the movie better. (See George Lucas’s original Star Wars and his updated versions in the 90s to see how that idea can be total crap.)

Didn’t work:
Planet of the Apes (1968), with its bad costumes, campy premise, and overacting, is nonetheless a sci-fi classic. Its impact on popular culture is immeasurable, and that twist ending is one of the greatest climaxes in cinema. (It’s no surprise that Rod Serling played such a big role in it.) So why do a second version of it? For his 2001 version, Tim Burton knew that fans would know the twist, so it’s not like he could shock us with it. He knew how revered it was, spawning sequels, action figures, and a cult following rivaling that of Star Trek, so he couldn’t be looking to shed light on a previously overlooked movie. Burton simply had the ego to think he could do it again, and do it better. And he was wrong. The twist at the end was completely different, yet very much the same, and I still remember the moans of “oh COME ON” that came from the audience when that ending happened.

War of the Worlds (1953 & 2005), on the other hand, took a movie that was similarly revered, but rather archaic, and made it new. The special effects were spectacular, the psychological horror and suspense were thrilling, and the story was engaging. Of course, it had a typical Spielberg ending, but hey, the guy can NOT do endings (see A.I. for the perfect example of an atrocious ending that killed a brilliant movie). While I have not actually seen the original, most of the reviews at the time said Spielberg’s version trumped it by a long shot.

Foreign remakes are common, and are a special category because they’re usually different interpretations of the same film, and can often be quite successful. Plus, for most of the mainstream audiences going to films, they don’t want to make that effort to read subtitles, so a Hollywood actor will translate it for them.

City of Angels (1998), starring Nicholas Cage, was a remake of Wim Wenders’ genius Wings of Desire (1987), a gorgeous film with the idea of everyone having angels (albeit morose and depressing ones) on our shoulders. Cage, as usual, overacted his way through it, it watered down the premise, and of course, it lacked that long scene in the bar at the end of the Wenders film where the angel has a very long monologue about life and death and everything in between.

That’s why:
The Ring (2002) was one of the most successful horror films of all time. Based on the similarly successful Japanese film Ringu (1998), The Ring was terrifying for its suspense and psychological mindfraks. Little easter eggs were stuck throughout the film, such as a single frame of film of a ring that flashed during an otherwise boring scene, and the imagery was enough to give nightmares to even the most diehard horror fan. This is another film where I haven’t seen the original, but many friends of mine did and said it wasn’t nearly as frightening as the U.S. remake.

Comedy remakes are usually done to showcase the talents of a single actor. Someone who has made their name in comedy — often physical comedy — thinks they can take on some of the great films, and they’re usually doomed to a lot of finger-pointing and derision.

This is a comedy?:
The Pink Panther (2006) was just baffling. A remake of the Peter Sellers gem A Shot in the Dark (1964), which is one of the funniest films of all time (disagree with me on that... I dare you), it was one of those trailers that when you first saw it in the theatre, your jaw dropped in shock and horror. Steve Martin… what has happened to you?! You used to be awesome, and you haven’t lost it — Bowfinger is one of my favourite films EVER — but then you have the balls to go and think you can top Sellers’ performance? Are you kidding me?! I’m THRILLED to say I didn’t see this one.

The Nutty Professor (1996 & 1962) was originally a Jerry Lewis film (barf) and while it was immensely popular, Eddie Murphy’s remake was funnier. I know this is one several people might disagree with me on, but I thought it was funny, and Murphy made it his own by coming up with the idea of playing most of the roles. Of course, he should have stopped there, but the guy has no filter in his brain, so now we’re subjected to disasters like Norbit. But I like to think of him as the OTHER guy in Bowfinger… The movie was not only funny, but it had Jerry Lewis on board collaborating, so the remake showed respect to the original while still making it seem like its own.

Classics are remade just because producers believe “kids nowadays” won’t watch a black and white film. They could be right, but it’s the classic remakes that tend to get people’s undershorts in a tight bunch. There are very few exceptions to the awfulness and unnecessary nature of these films, but one is a standout.

Psycho (1998 & 1960). I don’t really need to say much here. Gus Van Sant — the ego to end all egos — filmed this movie shot for shot, right down to the second. Scenes were timed and reshot if they went a millisecond over Hitchcock’s original. In other words, it was remade only as an exercise in technical proficiency, and comes off that way. I’ve only seen part of it, and had to shut it off in disgust. Shame on Vince Vaughn for agreeing to this garbage.

Cape Fear (1991 & 1962), on the other hand, is a lesson in brilliant filmmaking. The movie stands on its own, is riveting, and Robert De Niro turns in one of the performances of his career. It’s very much like the original, and many scenes are almost exactly the same, but Scorsese had an immense love of the original, and wanted to pay homage while making it his own. He rarely wavers from what the original movie did. Where Psycho comes off as a lesson in futility, Cape Fear — which used even the same music as the original film — somehow made audiences just want to see the original to compare it. Was Max Cady as creepy and perverted in the original as he was here? Was the tension the same, or has it been modernized? It took a special kind of director to pull that one off, and Scorsese managed it.

What does all of this show? Cape Fear had 29 years between films; Psycho had 38 — Van Sant waited longer, and the wait did him no good.

The Nutty Professor took 34 years to get to a remake; The Pink Panther took 42. Again, Murphy’s version came out sooner, but was better.

City of Angels had only 11 years between the original and the remake, where The Ring had a mere 4.

Only in the first instance does the idea of a moratorium hold weight: it took Spielberg 52 years to improve on the classic, where Burton waited only 33. Perhaps when it comes to sci-fi, waiting slightly longer really does make the movie better, since the goal simply seems to be improving on the technology of the first one. That said, if someone remade The Matrix 50 years from now, there’s no way they could improve on it, new technology or no.

Therefore, in the end, I believe a moratorium would have no impact on improving remakes. Bad remakes usually come down to large egos involved, whereas good remakes are ones where the new movies respect and refer back to the originals. A ban on egos would be a hard one to pull off, because if I were a bettin’ woman, I would have said Murphy’s movie would have been terrible based on what we know about him, but it wasn’t. But the timing between the original and the remake would have no impact.

My ruling is no.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


It looks good enough to drink. Oh yeah... there's some cologne in the picture, too.
You Want Funny?: Knocked Up
I got you there for a second... you thought I was going to give you a movie review of the new Judd Apatow flick, talking about how it was the most hilarious thing I've ever seen. But I haven't actually seen it. Since Apatow worked on The Critic (I loved), Freaks and Geeks (I adored), and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, I'm sure when I DO I will be doubled over laughing.

But no, what is even funnier than I'm sure the movie is this: Rebecca Eckler, Canadian columnist extraordinaire, is claiming the movie has COMPLETELY ripped off her book, which is called — wait for it — Knocked Up. Because, as we all know, Eckler coined that phrase. Ahem.

Now, as longtime readers of my blog will know, I'm not a fan of Becky Ecky. I find her writing self-absorbed, irritating, arrogant, and often infuriating. And since she writes all about herself, then I guess I find her that way, too. But now she's taken a movie that is original, funny, unique, and hilarious (all things she's aspired to be for 10 years, still with no success) and claimed that it is that way because, well, they stole EVERYTHING from her book.

You can read Ecky's claim here, in a piece she wrote for Maclean's magazine, a Canadian rag that is the sort of place you'll find rantings from an egotistical being. I opened my Globe and Mail this morning to see her mug staring back at me from the entertainment section, and almost spit out my orange juice laughing. It was brilliant in a way I could have never made up.

Eckler's charges: First, the movie is called Knocked Up. And so (oh my god!) is her book. In other words, neither one is original.

Secondly, Eckler got pregnant while drunk at a party. And so (AH!) does Katherine Heigl's character in the movie. Eckler mentions that her "one night of passion" led to 9 months of pregnancy in the article. But let's take a serious look at this, shall we? First of all, Eckler was ENGAGED to the guy who knocked her up. It was NOT one night of passion. (Or... maybe it was and you wonder just how desperate Ms. Eckler really was.) Heigl's character has a drunken one-night-stand with a guy she doesn't know and doesn't want to know, and is stuck having to get to know him while being pregnant with his child.

Thirdly, Eckler took several pregnancy tests. And (oh, I am REELING) so does Katherine Heigl's character!! But then again, I know that I and every other woman out there only had to take one. That's why they tend to sell the packages in twos or THREES. Cripes. (This is a perfect example of Rebecca Eckler's self-centredness... she's the sort of person to burn her mouth on coffee and think she's the only person on earth to have done it. But only after she's run outside to tell everyone she's discovered a new substance called coffee.)

Fourth, Eckler's book contains a joke about a couple having sex and hitting the baby in the head while she was pregnant. In the movie (oh no they didn't!), a character says he's worried about having sex with his partner because he could poke the baby in the eye. Um... maybe the writers of What to Expect When You're Expecting should be sending a cease and desist order to Eckler, because I remember my husband and I laughing reading it during my first pregnancy, and seeing the question about, "Can I hit the baby in the head if we have sex?" It's SUCH a common question, ask any midwife or doctor. But of course, only a common question because the entire universe read Eckler's book, apparently.

Fifth, Eckler says she never jumped on a trampoline when she was pregnant. She was aghast (AGHAST!) when she saw in the movie there was a joke about a trampoline. Uh... I checked with my resident 'pal who's seen the movie' (thanks, Crissy!) and she told me that the joke involved Seth Rogen's character being too heavy to jump on the trampoline that the little kids were on. Um... right.

So I figured I'd offer my services to Rebecca, not having read her book OR seen the movie, but hey, I bet I can come up with as legitimate a claim as she has so far. Hey Becky, they use the word "pregnant" in the movie a lot... I bet that's ALL THROUGH your book! And, oh, in the movie, the pregnancy lasts NINE MONTHS! Gasp... isn't that how long yours was??? At the end, she gives birth to... not a cat, not a ferret, not a bird, but... A BABY! Holy maternity clothes, wasn't YOUR kid a baby?? The movie was filmed in Hollywood, the land of women with eating disorders, and... oh no... I bet they got that from you as well, didn't they?? Shame on those plagiarist anorexics!!!

I think I'll stop now. This is just TOO easy.

But if you want more funny, check out this article about the made-up raves for Eckler's book. It's AWESOME. Even funnier, the Quill & Quire review of Ecky's newest book, Wiped (look for a surfing movie to be sued by Eckler next). Man, I could go on for days...

UPDATE: I just found this, as I was curious when Eck mentioned it in her Maclean's article. She said that Apatow had stolen an idea from Mark Brazill on That 70s Show, and it's true because she read it in Harpers. Read the actual article to see what an angry, freaky little man Brazill really is.
Lost Season 3 Box Art
This cover art was just posted on TV Shows on DVD, and you can go read more about it there (thanks for the link, fb!). They've gotten it from an unnamed source, so it could still change for all they know. Damn, my season 1/2 book was green with the jungle on it, I should have saved that for my season 3. ;)

The press release says the bonus materials will include flashbacks we haven't seen (!), a behind-the-scenes look at 24 hours on the show, hints on the show's literary references (nah, just read my books for those, nyar nyar), bloopers, and a visit to the set of 10 different episodes. Sounds the extras will be awesome.

The best part about the cover is, if you can see it on this capture, the "Jacob Loves You" scrawled on the palm leaf just under the T in LOST. Awesome. :)

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Sopranos: How Will It End?
Wow... the good just keeps getting better. Last night's penultimate episode of The Sopranos was full of blood, lies, and nostalgia. In other words, all the things we love the most about this show.

The last two seasons have been building to a major showdown between New York and New Jersey, but the series has been about many other things. Carmela's willingness to pretend everything's okay, just so she can continue to get the diamond bracelets, live in the big house, and have a nice life. Tony's longing for the way the Mob used to be, and wondering why he's stuck in the era of it all changing. The Soprano kids being pretty useless. Tony's soldiers having wavering loyalties, rather than an undying fidelity to their captain. Tony's sister requiring a good smack upside the head. Dr. Melfi's struggle with helping a criminal, and wondering if she's helping him at all.

In last night's episode, Melfi finally brings Tony's sessions to an end. It's an unfair moment for Tony. Yes, he's a criminal. But he's also suffering from a mental condition, and despite Melfi's arrogant shrink Elliott filling her head with the latest crack psychobabble from the journals, Tony is in need of therapy. Elliott is such a hypocrite, and always comes off as such. On the one hand, he makes Melfi feel guilty for being a doctor to a Mob boss. On the other hand, his eyes light up whenever she begins to talk about "Leadbelly," as Elliott referred to him, in her sessions with him. Her cutting the ties with Tony had less to do with what that journal said than her own psychiatrist filling her head with more craziness than was there to begin with. I'm assuming that's the last we see of Jen.

It's also the last we'll probably see of Charmaine and Artie, as Tony and Carmela dine in their establishment while Carmela keeps up the lies of her family. Tony's also been right alongside her with the lying, but even he raises an eyebrow when she begins going on about how AJ is doing great, Meadow is taking constitutional law, everything's going well for them, blah blah blah. Carmela's blindness to the truth could only be leading to something horrific happening to her -- or worse, her family -- in the finale.

Meanwhile, Tony orders his guys to make the first move on New Jersey, and take down Phil Leotardo once and for all. But that's not how it pans out. He brings in "cousins from Italy" (I was hoping to see Furio and was disappointed when we didn't. But then again, Tony's been looking for him... and not in a good way. So it was unlikely we were going to see him. The goobers that Tony DOES bring in, however, can't seem to tell one white-haired guy from another, and they kill the wrong guy, then send out a call saying the deed was done, but mention their curiosity about the fact Phil spoke Ukrainian. Duh. Only when the paper comes out the next day with a guy who looks remarkably like Phil, but isn't, splashed on the front cover, do Tony's guys know they've f-ed up in a seriously HUGE way.

Tony tells his guys to lay low, sending out a call to everyone. But Bobby doesn't get the call. As he's standing in a model train store, talking to the owner about how it would be great if something as classic as the Blue Comet still existed, which would have brought a better crop of people to NJ and NY, two NY guys come in and shoot him. And shoot him again... and again and again and again... In fact, one of the onrunning themes of this episode is how not only is the Mob losing its respect for the institution and hierarchies within it, but they're just lousy at what they do. In season 1, we saw Tony take a guy outside and kill him with piano wire. At the beginning of this ep, Sil walks into a guy's house, puts the wire around his throat and takes FOREVER to actually get the job done, smashing cabinets and slicing his own hand in the process. In the train shop, they shoot enough bullets to take out an army, not just Bobby.

They then head over to the Bada Bing to take care of Silvio, and they shoot him through the windows in the car, even though Patsy somehow gets away. Again they don't finish the job properly (the NY guys are no better then the Jersey ones), and leave Sil comatose with little chance of recovery, with Patsy running through a back alley. Every single person in the Bada Bing comes out and watches them drive around the parking lot, and they make a mad dash to get back out on the highway, driving right over a motorcyclist in their haste. (Of all Tony's soldiers, Sil's always been my favourite, and I was so sad to see him go.)

The episode ends with Carmela and her kids holed up with Janice and Bobby's kids in Christopher's house (if only his wife knew how he'd died) and Tony, Paulie, and a couple of extra guys hiding out in what appeared to be Uncle Junior's house. Tony walks up to Uncle June's room, closes the door, and sits on the bed, in the very house where he was last shot and almost died. He pulls out the AK-47 that Bobby had given him for his birthday, and sits. And waits.

And now... so do we. Will Tony die? Will AJ die? Phil said no one was off-limits, and that includes the Sopranos. Phil knows where Christopher lived, because he had flowers sent to her house when he died (and then commented on how she didn't immediately call to thank him). Will something happen to Carm? Will Carm kill Janice (now THAT I'd like to see)? Will Paulie survive? He's such a turncoat he'd go over to NY in an instant, but I don't think they'd allow that.

Is this the end of the Mob as we know it?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Negative Review of Lost's Season Finale
I've been keeping my eyes peeled for a critical one, and here's the closest I've found. Salon has posted reviews of American Idol and a bunch of other yawny shows, but had yet to do a full-scale review of Lost (that said, they did Veronica Mars the day after, so I still love them). And while this reviewer starts off right, quoting a Pixies song (does it GET any cooler than that?) she then quickly goes downhill. She doesn't dislike the finale or the concept or the show, but suggests that the new concept could blow up in their faces, that this season's flashbacks have been less-than-stellar, and that people proclaiming it the best show on television probably aren't watching enough of it. (Ha! I say. Ha.) But it's the closest to a negative review I've found, so I'll post it.

What do you think? Did this season's flashbacks lack something? I certainly didn't like Jack's in "Stranger in a Strange Land," and Kate's and Sawyer's didn't add much layering to the characters. But she criticizes the Juliet one, which is surprising, for being too plot-driven. If she thinks the flashbacks lacked a certain something, then a flashforward would be welcome, I say, because as I've been saying all along, it's time to switch gears.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Finally...The Stanley Nickel!
I promised earlier that I'd find one of these, and not only have I done that — I've found two of them! So you can take your pick.

Here's the first one, with happy Stanley, downloadable here:

And here is the second, more regal, typical picture of Stanley, which you can find here:

Remember, the ratio of Stanley nickels to Schrute bucks is the same as that of unicorns to leprechauns, so use your nickels wisely.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Random Friday Ramblings
I'm at home today working on the episode guide for the Lost season finale, and I had to take a break. To blog about Lost. (I seriously need a life.) Michael Ausiello at TV Guide had some interesting stuff in his column today about the finale. The first part contain two very minor spoilers for season 4 (it mentions two things we've seen in the past that will take on greater significance in season 4... that said, the first one is one they promised would be bigger in season 3, so who knows). I'll put the questions in bold and the answers in regular type so you can skip past the first question if you'd like. The second two talk about the leak that happened that put the flashforward spoiler out there for fans to see:

Question: Curse you, Michael Ausiello! I had to wait a whole week to get my AA fix regarding the pants-crapping greatness of the season finale of Lost. Please, please reveal what you know about Season 4!— Antonio Lopez
Ausiello: As anyone with an Ausiello Report bookmark can tell you, I had a smorgasbord of Lost goodies just waiting for you the moment the end credits started to roll on last Wednesday's pants-crapping finale. (Truth be told, I had the story up a few seconds before the end credits, but that's our little secret, K?) Of course, being the multiplatform slut that I am, I saved a few tasty morsels from my exclusive interview with Carlton Cuse for this week's AA — including a bit of scoop about the return of two major characters in '08. "The four-toed statue is something we will get to next season," Cuse revealed. "Sometimes we're surprised by the things people get fixated on. We tried to answer a fair number of questions this year, but that's one we just didn't get to." Benry's barely visible boss man will also be back, he confirms. "There will definitely be a lot more of Jacob in Season 4."

Question: You are my hero for not spoiling Lost's "rattlesnake in the mailbox."— Kenny
Ausiello: Yeah, well, some would say the damage had already been done. As many of you know, a very detailed synopsis of Lost's season finale — rattlesnake included — was leaked onto a certain spoilery website about two weeks ago. And like some kind of evil cyber-terrorist plot, the link quickly found its way onto Lost message boards far and wide. Luckily, many of you headed my warning to steer clear of all rattlesnake-related spoilers. I only wish I had had such restraint. As awesome as the finale was, it would've been that much cooler had I not known that Jack was flashing forward. (Unlike many of you, I never would've picked up on the Razr phone. I'm just not that bright.)

Question: Does ABC know how the rattlesnake leaked?— Justin
Ausiello: Not yet, but it sounds like an investigation is under way. "Disney security is trying to establish a full and complete list of all of the people through whose hands the show passed," said Cuse, who admits "it's incredibly frustrating" that the secret got out, even if the number of people who had the twist spoiled is miniscule when compared to Lost's overall viewership. "We did everything we felt we could do. There were only four copies of the rattlesnake that were distributed. Damon had a copy, I had a copy, Jack Bender the director had a copy, and Jean Higgins the producer had a copy. We even sent someone to [ABC president] Steve McPhersen's office with the pages. He read them and then they were taken away and returned to our office. I think it got out during the post-[production] process, because that's when it broke [on the Web]. The finale is like a feature film, but as opposed to having six or eight months to do the post on it, we do it in about three weeks. As a result, multiple copies of the show are circulating to various people who do everything from sound design to color timing to visual effects. So it's kind of out there, and it's hard to say where it got spoiled from. Unfortunately, it might not even be somebody who works on the show. It could be somebody who plucked it off the desk of somebody who was somehow involved in the show." Cuse said he was heartened by the "backlash among the loyal fans of the show against these spoiler posters. I think once people realized what was being spoiled, they were very upset. That's why we work really hard to try to keep the show from getting spoiled, because I think it really does diminish your ability to enjoy having the revelations land on you while you're watching it. It's analogous to going to see Sixth Sense and having somebody tell you what the twist is at the end of the movie."

In other news, Dania Ramirez — whom Buffy fans may remember as Caridad, one of the Potentials in season 7; Sopranos fans know her this season as Blanca, AJ's ex-fiance; X-Men fans know her as Callisto in Last Stand — has joined the cast of Heroes for season 2. Her character will be named Maya, but they won't reveal what her power will be. Other characters previously announced include a surrogate mom for Micah, a boyfriend for Claire, and an Irish mobster. Maya will be the only regular, however.

Although most people already assumed so when Edward James Olmos said as much at the Saturn Awards early in May, the producers of Battlestar Galactica have confirmed that season 4 will be the show's last. I'm glad they know it's the end going into it, because it means David Eick and Ron Moore can put together a stunning final season for us that will wrap everything up, instead of leaving us hanging. Like a certain young detective show on CW did. I know I don't talk about BSG a lot on here, but that's because I only discovered it this past season and caught up on all three seasons. I'll try to post regularly on it next year.

Rob Thomas, the creator of Veronica Mars, is being courted by ABC to take the helm of Miss/Guided, their new comedy starring Judy Greer, who was Kitty, George Bluth's secretary on Arrested Development. I think Greer is hilarious, and have high hopes for this show; putting Rob Thomas at the reins only makes me more excited.

And a tiny bit of happy news in the whole Veronica Mars sadness... that FBI version of the show that Rob Thomas filmed for CW to ask them to consider a season 4 — which put the show a few years into the future with her working for the FBI — will be seeing the light of day. He's going to include the six-minute teaser on the season 3 DVDs. But maybe watching it would only make me sadder, knowing what we're missing. :::sniff:::

And finally, Harry Potter is going to become a theme park. Universal Studios will be opening "Wizarding World" in 2009, and they'll try to recreate some of the areas in the book. I'm just hoping we can walk down Diagon Alley. (By the way, expect this blog to go silent for a few days after July 21... I'll have some important reading to do!) Hmm... sounds like the park will be pretty big. I wonder if there will be a Guide to the Wizarding World? I bet it would be awesome. But I'm sure JKR wouldn't allow it. (Yes, that's an inside joke to someone out there.)