Friday, March 31, 2006

Weekend Movie Preview

Basic Instinct 2 is receiving some of the most enjoyably nasty reviews in memory. Nothing gets up a critic's gander like forcing them to sit through a sequel made LONG after anyone would care, a movie they know will bomb and that it's a film even the people who made it wouldn't want to sit through. Here's hoping Sharon Stone made them pay big time. Slither has a very funny ad campaign -- it says "Remember the last movie she dragged you to?" and then shows clips from a seemingly sappy romance. Then it cuts to Slither as the guy's perfect revenge. The reviews are not bad, with the unpredictable Manohla Dargis giving it serious props and USA Today and others agree. Ice Age 2 is also getting "better than the original" reviews. The original was okay, but rode a hilarious trailer to a massive box office. If you're in NYC, the movie to see is Brick, a witty noir set in a high school that is one of the most enjoyable movies of the year and establishes Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a genuine talent.

Prayer HURTS The Sick

Don't blame me, blame the godless scientists who conducted the largest study ever on the effects of prayer on healing. Per the Times of London:
Praying for the health of strangers who have undergone heart surgery has no effect, according to the largest scientific study ever commissioned to calculate the healing power of prayer.

In fact, patients who know they are being prayed for suffer a noticeably higher rate of complications, according to the study, which monitored the recovery of 1,800 patients after heart bypass surgery in the US.

The findings of the decade-long study were due to be published in the American Heart Journal next week, but the journal published the report on its website yesterday as anticipation grew.
Maybe that study is solid, but what really has me steamed is the report: "Elective percutaneous coronary intervention immediately impairs resting microvascular perfusion assessed by cardiac magnetic resonance imaging." Read more at their website.

Weekend TV Preview

I saw bits and pieces of the Dr. Who revival when I was in the UK. Now that I can see Christopher Eccleston's performance in the proper order, I'm enjoying it wholeheartedly. And it makes me all the sadder he didn't stick around for at least a second series. (There's already a new Doctor in the UK; with season two beginning this month and season three already approved.) This weekend, Showtime is available for free, so you can watch Crash and realize what a mistake the Academy Awards made (not for the last time), check out the season premiere of Emmy-winning Huff, or you can watch the Liza With A 'Z' special directed by Bob Fosse. It knocked my socks off when I saw it recently at Radio City Music Hall. On Sunday, we'll see if Tony coming out of his coma can wake The Sopranos out of its stupor. And I won't miss Real Time With Bill Maher. When it's good, it's very fun. When it's bad, I just bemoan the fact that I'm not one of the guests.

Shins Delayed; Simon On The Way; Replacements Say Okay

The Shins -- who expected to release their followup to the breakthrough Chutes Too Narrow this summer, now say they'll have it out in October. Blame it on the road: Billboard quotes frontman James Mercer as saying he just can't write songs in hotel rooms or on a bus. Alternately, the first Paul Simon album in six years is coming out in May. Called Surprise, it's produced by Brian Eno, which is great news indeed. Eno is one of the major figures in rock and roll and has a gift for bringing out the best in artists. As a performer, he was a key figure in earlyn Roxy Music. Eno also virtually invented the genres of ambient, New Age and certainly electronica and trance owe him a debt. But it's his work collaborating with major artists that makes Eno and Simon so promising. Eno helped David Bowie, Talking Heads and U2 among others produce some of the best work of their careers. More good news: the Replacements reunited to record two new tracks for a 20 track best-of out in June from Rhino. Paul Westerberg wrote the songs, called "Message to the Boys" and "Pool and Dive." Meanwhile, the OutKast album and movie remain missing in action.

Bahamas Bans "Brokeback"

Why? Because the movie features "extreme homosexcuality, nudity and profanity."By nudity, I assume they're referring to the brief but delightful topless shot of Anne Hathaway's breasts. Profanity? Well, I guess they won't be showing The Aristocrats there anytime soon. But extreme homosexuality? I'm not sure what that is, but it does sound like something to shoot for.

"Idol" Has Another Good Day On Music Charts

When will American Idol's dominance of the music charts end? Not any time soon. Barry Manilow got a boost on the album charts by performing on the show, putting his collection of 50s standards back in the Top 5. And Kelly Clarkson hits #15 with her new single "Walk Away." But even just being heard and not seen on the show is a boost. Every week, when a contestant is eliminated, they play Daniel Powter's "Bad Day." And the new Number one song in the country? "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter.

Meanwhile, Top 12 finalist Kevin Covais sets a poor example for his fans by lying to the media. Said Covais: "It's just great being back home." Yeah right.

"Superman Returns" In 3-D

James Cameron has been talking up new 3-D techonology as the biggest change to hit movies since sound and color. Bryan Singer is using the best 3-D that's available now to pump up 20 minutes of Superman Returns. It will be released simultaneously with the 2-D version. And so fans at IMAX theaters don't have to spend the entire movie with those bulky glasses on, Singer is reportedly going to drop in visual cues to let people know when to don the special lenses.

Shania Twain's Evil Musical Influence

The Globe & Mail reports on two truly bizarre court cases in which the music of Shania Twain and her well-known telepathic powers figure prominently. In the first, a woman is accused of shooting her husband dead while dancing provocatively to the "Man, I Feel Like A Woman." (It was an accident, she insists.) In the other, a mentally ill man was ruled not criminally responsible for allegedly driving drunk. The man's defense? He believed that Shania Twain was telepathically helping him to drive. (Don't worry. The court is now determining whether he poses a threat and should be detained in a mental hospital.)

Overnight TV Ratings -- "American Inventor" Has Legs

CBS is done with basketball and came roaring back with its trio of big hits: Survivor, CSI and Without A Trace. NBC has fallen so much, no one blinks an eye when ER scores 13 million viewers and Trace more than 18. Will & Grace got a little boost from the guest appearance of Britney Spears but I imagine they're all relieved this is the final season. And I love the sweet-naturedMy Name Is Earl (and to a lesser degree The Office) but people who trumpeted them as being part of a resurgence on Thursday for Must-See TV jumped the gun. They are modestly performing, though Earl could flourish with a better lead-in. And I'm not the only one to stop watching The OC -- everyone else has as well. The big surprise? American Inventor took a hit from the return of CSI (naturally), but still managed to improve on its lead-in and prove a winner. This one will be back; though the transistion from product auditions to development and marketing is gonna be a tricky one. If you're a ratings nut like me, sign up for the free daily email from Mediaweek.

Sufjan Stevens Wins First New Pantheon Award

Sufjan Stevens is the first artist to win the New Pantheon award. He garnered the win for his acclaimed album Illinois, one of my favorites of 2005. The New Pantheon is the hopeful replacement for the Shortlist award. Both try to emulate the UK success of the Mercury Prize. All of them feature a list of acclaimed albums that haven't broken through commercially. Nominated by a rotating panel of artists, the list is announced and then a month or two later a winner is named. In the UK, winning the Mercury can be a real career boost, just like winning the Booker Prize can help a novel sell hundreds of thousands of copies. If the New Pantheon hopes to gain that stature, picking an album like Illinois is certainly the right way to start. Go the New Pantheon website to check out the award and the other albums nominated, most of which are very good too.

"The Amazing Race" Moves To Wed. at 8 P.M.

CBS deals with two problems at once by putting sitcoms Out of Practice and Courting Alex on hiatus and moving family friendly reality show The Amazing Race from Tuesday at 10 p.m. to Wednesday at 8 p.m. Of course, the damage is already done to Amazing. It's hard to get fans to join into a well-known reality show like Race in the middle of the season. (They've also damaged the show by running it constantly -- a little time off would let people miss the show and give it the aura of an event.) No word yet on whether NBC is gonna undo their boneheaded move of switching Law & Order to 9 p.m. fro its longtime slot at 10 p.m.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Merchant-Ivory -- Just Good Friends?

A BBC story on the release of the last film made by the legendary team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. They'd been discretely out as a couple in the media during their career, though the pair had split up personally in the last years of Merchant's life. So how sad that it refers to Ivory talking about his "late colleague." Is that how you refer to your ex-wife or ex-husband? They were together for decades and remained close professionally after that. Making it sound as if they were nothing more than business partners is depressing.

Yep, Michael Eisner's Talk Show Was A Flop

We said it first: even if Michael Eisner's talk show was okay, no one would be able to find it since it was airing every other week on CNBC, home of flop talk shows by non-talk show talent like Tina Brown and John McEnroe. But no one is going to have trouble finding the show because no one is going to be looking: Eisner's debut drew a miserable 95,000 viewers per Mediaweek. (Is that higher than C-SPAN?) Gee, hard to imagine someone who's never hosted a talk show and proven himself a prickly talk show guest, and someone who substitute-hosted a show and demonstrated he would do more talking than his guests didn't fly. I don't know who's stupider: the folks at CNBC for signing him onto a biweekly talk show (which is better than Brown's monthly series, I suppose) or Eisner for taking it. And Mediaweek is crazy to suggest he did an okay job interviewing Howard Stringer of Sony. Eisner barely let the guy get a word in edgewise.

Quaid's "Brokeback" Lawsuit A Sign Of Trouble?

Every major studio has a specialty division that develops smaller movies. And the New York Times suggests Randy Quaid's lawsuit over Brokeback Mountain is a sign of trouble for them. Why should actors take cut-rate pay to make a movie when the studio has every intention of putting its full marketing muscle behind the film and could reap big rewards? (Brokeback will easily earn $300 million worldwide via box office, DVD, TV sales, etc.) The NYT is juggling several different issues and none of them seem to really apply or make sense.
1. These movies are labors of love, not studio profit centers -- movies like Brokeback Mountain don't get made because of studios. They get made because actors and directors and writers have pet projects, labors of love they yearn to film. Brokeback languished for years, even with major talent willing to work for cut-rate pay. So the idea that Universal saw Brokeback as a potentially huge money earner but wanted to squeeze every penny out of the actors to make it even more profitable is silly.
2. Net profits -- Randy Quaid apparently was given some "net points" on the movie. As every single person in Hollywood knows, "net points" are virtually meaningless trinkets, handed out as symbolic gimmes to make people feel good. (Screenwriters and minor actors like Quaid are the sort of people who get net points.) Everyone knows virtually no film EVER delivers a net profit, no matter how much money it makes. Stars with real power get gross points and even "first dollar gross points" and huge upfront salaries. An actor like Randy Quaid would never expect to participate in a movie's profits on any level. The salary he receives is the only money he will ever make and he knows it, his lawyers know it and the studio knows it, even if they placate his ego with some "net points." Quaid never has and never will get a piece of the back end. The idea that he should do so for a movie in which he appears onscreen for maybe five minutes is ludicrous. A really big star making a small movie might have called for a bonus if say it grossed $50 million at the box office. Thus, no problem. They make the film and if it clicks, they make more money.
3. Ira Deutchman, a longtime industry player, says "If, in fact, the smaller movies don't pay off for talent even when they hit, the studio arthouse divisions will stop being able to make the movies. They'll fall into the same trap as the parent companies: if no one believes there's a back end, then actors will want higher and higher salaries to be in those movies." I disagree. The entire budget for the cast was $500,000, a very tiny amount. But whatever the actors were paid, I'm certain that's all they ever expected to make. They made the movie for the chance to work with a world class director and tell a story they were passionate about. Anne Hathaway got to break out of her Disney princess mold. Michelle Williams became an Oscar nominee and confirmed her great taste and burgeoning profile. Jake Gyllenhaal (who needed the film the least, I'd argue)garnered his first positive reviews since The Good Girl in 2002, helping people forget the popcorn trash of The Day After Tomorrow, the flop art film Proof and the dead on arrival war film Jarhead. Heath Ledger -- whose entire film career has been marked by flops with the minor exception of Monster's Ball in which he had a supporting role -- became an Oscar nominee and a leading man with exceptional reviews and the world as his oyster. And Quaid? His recent credits include Treasure Island Kids: The Battle of Treasure Island, Christmas Vacation 2, Kart Racers, Grind, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Not Another Teen Movie and on and on. His only respectable role in years was on Robert Altman's flop TV series Gun. In 2005, he turned his back on all that crap, starring as Col. Tom Parker in the Emmy-nominated but so-so rated TV movie Elvis, the flop movie Ice Harvest (which at least had fine talent, including John Cusack) and Brokeback. His next two projects? Movies directed by Richard Linklater and Milos Forman.

Surfing Through "American Idol"

Bye-bye Lisa. Hardly a surprise and thank goodness Ace was in the bottom three again -- that's definitely a sign his support is weak. Frankly, anyone could have been eliminated last night and it wouldn't have surprised me (except for Taylor). And credit Simon for listening back to the show and realizing McPhee's performance ws much weaker than he'd realized. And was Shakira lip-synching? I know Wyclef had a live mike but couldn't tell about her.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

TokyoPop Makes Deal With HarperCollins

TokyoPop is a manga publisher that just made a last minute switch in its distributor to HarperCollins. I think HC made the classic mistake of buying into a company at their peak. (Their just lucky to be distributing rather than buying TokyoPop.) This publisher has been churning out titles at an obscene rate. Yeah, they've been successful but they've diluted the market so much with such a ton of product, that long-term I think they're hurting the business and themselves. How cool can a manga company be when they're turning out mangas based on books by Meg Cabot (the author of The Princess Diaries). And yes I know a lot of girls read mangas, but that's still just a tie-in, not a cool original. TokyoPop has peaked and this deal is the clearest sign yet.

More Proof Mandisa Is Anti-Gay

The Advocate agrees with me that Mandisa's comments on the show struck viewers as suspiciously bigoted. Further proof? Mandisa's Idol web page touts far right author beth Moore as her own American idol. Moore peddles the absurd suggestion that people just choose to be gay and can change. The Advocate quotes this passage:
"A young Christian girl has a harsh abusive father. She grows up with a fear and distaste for men. Satan supplies a slightly older woman who seems tender and caring. The comforting relationship turns into a physical relationship, so the young woman assumes she must be homosexual. In her heart she knows what she is doing is wrong, but she feels helpless without her new comforter. Soon she starts socializing with other women who are practicing homosexuality, because they will support her new habit with the lies she needs to continue. She avoids the Bible and chooses books that advocate homosexuality. She drops all relationships except those that support the fraudulent attachment with lies.... Scary, isn't it?"
So THAT'S where lesbians came from. Honestly, black churches are among the most virulently anti-gay, so it's no surprise Mandisa might be too. But when she holds up a bigoted,idiotic author peddling snake oil about how women and men get tricked into the gay lifestyle and other such nonsense, Mandisa loses my vote for good.

Primetime Preview

A new Lost, a new Bones, the debut of the awful WB series Bedford Diaries (don't waste your time -- it's not even enjoyably bad), the maybe awful/maybe amusing Una1mous and of course the Idol results show. Lisa? Kellie? Ace? So many to choose from. It's the first week in a while where I'm rooting more for someone to leave than I am for someone to make it to next week. How could they have all done so poorly on a night when they got their pick of any hit from the last 6 years?

"Idol" Message Boards

{More computer problems, if you can imagine.] You can check out what the hardcore fans thought about the show on Idol on Most of Mandisa's fans were proud she testified and furious about Paula's comments about people joining the Church of Mandisa. I thought Mandisa's polite head-shaking "no" was all the rebuke Paula's clearly well-intentioned comment needed. I understood why it was offensive in a mild way to her and thought she handled it well in the moment provided. Fans on the website are calling it blasphemous, which seems a bit much. How about inappropriate? Only a few suggested her preaching at the beginning of the song could hurt her. And no one seemed to pick up on the reference to "lifestyle" the way I did. As for those who say she hurt her chances by singing a gospel tune, I say no way. One big reason the show has flourished is because it hasn't stuck to bland pop/r&b. Now we get blue-eyed soul, country, gospel, hip-hop, rock, standards and more. It makes for a much more varied, enjoyable show. I can respect musical and racial and and religious and orientation diversity -- just not people who want me to respect their belief that I am burning in hell. Sorry, Mandissa, you still don't get my vote.

Paula With "Idol" For Three More Years

Fox just sent out a press release stating that "fan-favorite" judge Paula Abdul has reupped for three more years, ending the rumors about her being fired.
“Paula is an integral member of the AMERICAN IDOL family, and we are excited to have her continue as the show’s beloved judge,” said Liguori. He added: “As someone who rose to the top of the charts as a solo artist, she has unique insights into the contestants’ hopes, dreams and fears.”

“Paula’s warm and nurturing nature is vital to the balance of the show. We are thrilled to have her alongside – or actually in between – Randy and Simon,” added Mike Darnell, Executive Vice President of Special Programming.

“It is truly an honor to be a part of the AMERICAN IDOL phenomenon,” Adbul said. “As an artist myself, it is a pleasure to have a connection with each of the contestants and be able to fully support their dreams and aspirations. They truly inspire and amaze me each week. Of course, I also look forward to putting Simon in his place for years to come.”
Obviously, this is a great way to try and end the constant "Paula is out of it," "Is Paula drunk?" comments and kiobosh the rumor they almost fired her and wanted to replace Paula with Jessica Simpson or someone else. And yes, it was a highlight of last night's show when Paula said Ace would have to tell her the story of how he got that scar sometime and Simon chimed in with a warning, "Paula!"

Overnight TV Ratings -- "Idol" A Monster Again

31.48 million viewers watched American Idol last night. They saw Mandisa testify, while heathen Kellie sang about drinking alcohol (is he even of age?) and trampy Paris combined pole-dancing moves with lyrics about doin' it on the floor. Lordy! Behave yourselves, girls. House did great as a lead-out, almost matching Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy with its 20+ million viewers. The Unit on CBS is definitely another keeper -- it improved on its lead-in, reaching 15.9 million. People are clearly seeking it out. Kudos for flourishing next to House, too. No one cared about Sons & Daughters or Teachers (which at least held on to the modest audience watching Scrubs). And CBS is killing The Amazing Race with its terrible 10 p.m. timeslot. This is a FAMILY show. If you're a ratings geek like me, sign up for the daily email where I get all my info at Mediaweek.

Prince Debuts At Number One

Almost 30 years into his career, Prince enjoys his first album debut at Number One with 3121, despite not even having a hit single to promote it in the Top 50 of the Hot 100. And Barry Manilow can thank American Idol for his leap back up from #24 to #4. High School Musical grew in sales but dropped to #2. And Ben Harper, rapper BG and John Mayer-wannabe Teddy Geiger all debut in the Top 10.

"King Kong" DVD -- Buyer Beware

USA Today spoke with director Peter Jackson, who happily confessed he's saving all sorts of goodies for the deluxe DVD edition of King Kong. Very annoying. Everyone cut Jackson slack with The Lord of the Rings DVDs. He was making all three movies at once so we all understood why the deluxe DVDs had to wait. Besides, they made it clear that a more elaborate version would be coming out later. But in general, it is a rip-off for studios to release a DVD, wait a few months and then release a deluxe edition. If you want two versions, release them simultaneously and let fans decide which they want. Don't force fans to buy a DVD and then feel they have to buy it again six months later to get some new features. Jackson describes himself as a geek who loves the extras on DVD. Clearly he can't remember what it's like to actually have to pay for them.

UK Box Office

Here's the UK top ten.

1. Inside Man
2. Hostel
3. The Pink Panther
4. V For Vendetta
5. The Ringer
6. The Hills Have Eyes
7. Syriana
8. Walk The Line
9. Date Movie
10. Chicken Little

"Idol" -- Mandisa's Anti-Gay Song Intro

Mandisa performed a song by Mary, Mary -- an urban gospel duo that proves (as one fan put it) "you can believe and still be fly." I'm not a huge fan but I do have two of their albums. Good for Mandisa to work a song of worship in, though frankly I thought it was her weakest performance in weeks and a bit "shout-y." But what really caught me by surprise was her introduction to it. Mandisa said, "This song goes out to everyone who wants to be free! Your addiction, your lifestyle, your situation may be big. But God is bigger." Lifestyle can't mean anything but "gay lifestyle." She would have been smarter to keep her anti-gay prejudice to herself until AFTER winning the competition. Gays don't need to break free, Mandisa. Bigots do. Mandisa is of course allowed to believe whatever she wants, just as I'm allowed to vote for anyone up against her. I also don't buy gospel albums by some of the bigoted Winans, new CDs by Donna Summer and any other artist who uses Christianity to attack others. Unless she apologizes or explicitly makes some pro-gay statement, Mandisa is over. (And does this mean we can expect a panicked Clay Aiken to do a duet with her down the road?)

Surfing Through "American Idol"

Look for my Mandisa post later. It was refreshing to see the judges agreeing again and again last night, since so many of the performances were AWFUL. Actually, this happens every season: so many auditions are bad that a number of performers stand out from the pack. But then you get to the final ten and watch people like Bucky and Lisa clamber around the stage and think, "How in God's name did they ever make it this far?"

Lisa -- at moments, her best, most "idol-ish" performance. And still awful. I can't believe none of the judges mentioned that screechy, final note. I don't know if three years of maturing will make a difference, but maybe.

Kellie -- also terrible. "Suds in a Bucket" is a lame song, but she also sang it terribly. Weak, indistinct vocals from beginning to end. Guys, sorry. She's bad. Watch her performance again and you can see the stiff look of panic on her face during the entire song -- she does NOT look comfortable or happy. That attempt to "wink" casually was about as robotic as it gets.

Ace -- yet another terrible performance by Ace, who has the bad habit of seeming in love with himself. He is REALLY gonna be shocked when he's eliminated. I'm just shocked he hasn't been already. He CANNOT sing. At all. The most pathetic moment tonight was when he awkwardly "revealed" his scar while singing the line about having a scar. Look! I've really got a scar! And his trembling hand gesture on the last note? Pathetic.

Taylor -- almost no annoying body tilting from Taylor was a blessed relief. His performance was also a good contrast for him -- still in the soulful vein he should stick to, but much more controlled and reserved. My favorite from him so far, and I think he can get better. Simon was right about the clothing; Taylor looked like he was trying to dress like a high school student. His entire appeal is that he's an adult.

Mandisa -- glad she picked a song of worship; sorry it was such a contemporary/r&b-ish one. Her weakest vocal in weeks, I thought, and a bit shout-y. This is the first time I haven't walked away thinking she could win it all. More on Mandisa's comments in my next post.

Daughtry -- another very strong performance, but Simon is right again -- the song was way too hard for "idol." He's proven for weeks he can be true to his rock/hard-rock genre without alienating the audience. Thanks to the moody lighting placing him in shadows, I think some kids were probably darn near frightened by him this week. What's he gonna do next time? Metallica's "One?" We don't want pop, but he should never go that hard again.

McPhee -- I don't know what the judges were thinking. I thought McPhee had been getting better and better but this week she seemed out of her league. I don't think she even did a good imitation of Aguilera. She looked uncomfortable during the entire song and her vocals were unsteady.

Bucky -- his best performance maybe yet, and still bad. I worry about this good ole boy once he's off the show and back to reality. He can barely speak, much less enunciate lyrics. I see lots of dive bars and proud claims that he was too redneck for "Idol" in Bucky's future.

Paris -- it's not a Beyonce song I like very much, but I thought Paris was a lot of fun and I was struck again by how terrifically unique her voice is. Can't wait to see her in four or five years.

Elliott -- I'm always astonished by the judges liking Elliott. At his best, he's unremarkable and unmemorable. He was typically dorky and undistinguished tonight.

Ripping Into -- Wrong On Julia Roberts, Wrong On "The Sopranos"

What's more fun than pointing out the faults of your fellow bloggers? Tom O'Neil of the LA Times awards site The Gold Derby offers up two whoppers. First, he says that Julia Roberts' decision to appear on Broadway is "the biggest gamble" of her career. Actually, it's not a gamble at all. As he says, Roberts made a good choice in the ensemble drama Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg. Also, the show's limited run is already sold out, so she's proven her starpower bonafides. And any critical praise she gets will just be icing on the cake. Roebrts gets to stretch herself, try something new in front of her adoring fans (who will invariably applaud her whatever the success of the show) and none of it will have the slightest effect on her movie career. O'Neil mentions other stars who crashed and burned on Broadway recently, such as Kelsey Grammer, Jessica Lange and Denzel Washington. Yeah, and so? Denzel just had the biggest opening weekend of his career with Inside Man. So how is this a gamble for Roberts? And referring to multiple Tony winner Cherry Jones as "obscure, but beloved" is just silly, especially when you're discussing who won the Tony. In the context of the Tonys, Jones is a bigger star right now and than all the other nominees she beat with Doubt.

Right below this piece is a look at Edie Falco on The Sopranos, where O'Neil makes the bizarre admission that he believed Carmela was somehow sucked into the Mob life. He was so desirious of thinking well of her that he tried to pretend Carmela had hooked up with Tony and that his involvement with the Mafia grew incrementally. Talk about denial. We've seen Carmela get bribed by Tony with lavish gifts again and again and again over the years. She knew EXACTLY what she was getting into and we've never had the slightest hint otherwise. That's exactly why she doesn't deserve her sympathy. Her hands are covered in blood just as much as his.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"Arrested Development" Is Dead

Variety reports that the show's creator Mitch Hurwitz has put the kibosh on bringing the series back via Showtime. The main reason? Money, apparently. Hurwitz says he'd be glad to make a feature film, so maybe we haven't seen the last of the Bluths. Frankly, with the vast majority of good shows continuing long after their sell-by date, any show that maintains its quality for three years and then calls it a day is nothing to be mourned, especially for a sitcom. Three years for I'll Fly Away or Arrested Development or Once & Again? Wonderful. One year for Freaks & Geeks? Now that's a crime.

Primetime Preview

American Idol. American Idol. Even when I complain about stories in Rolling Stone about American Idol, it's really because I'm not covering it regularly anymore. But what is there to say anymore? The LA Times has unremarkable facts about the ten contestants you didn't know. The only thing that grabs your attention is the blandness until you find out that Mandisa sucked her thumb until she was 24. 24? Now that's creepy. In a sign of how uncool he is, the overrated Wyclef Jean performs "Hips Don't Lie" with Shakira on tonight's show. Also tonight, a new House and new sitcom Teachers. Letterman has Willie Nelson, Conan has Queen Latifah and Richard Ashcroft (his solo CD is indeed very good) and Ferguson wil have Tom Fontana bitching about network TV.

Entertainment Weekly Has Lost Its Mind

The cover story of this week's EW is "TV is King!" They say we're in a golden age of television. Fair enough. With so many more channels and outlets, we're almost guaranteed there will always be something worthwhile on to watch -- you're simply more likely to have a good show when there are 1000 shows to choose from at any moment as opposed to the 70 the three networks used to offer in primetime. EW promises to list the 84 Best Shows. Well, okay. That's not being very discriminating, but certainly you can list 84 shows from all of TV history, especially when you include every part of the day and not just primetime. The Honeymooners, Your Show of Shows, Seinfeld, Sesame Street, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, The Mary Tyler Moore Show -- they start to come pretty quickly, right? But my assumption was wrong. EW is listing 84 shows on RIGHT NOW. They also immediately apologize for not including shows like The Wire and Deadwood because EW decided that technically they're not on right now. In short, EW lists damn near every TV show of any sort that you can think of that's on the air. How wimpy can you get? "We;ve picked and sorted our favorite series," they say. No they haven't. They've listed EVERYTHING. Everything from Bones to Invasion to imports like Kath & Kim to HGTV Designed to Sell to Dog Whisperer to Cheerleader Nation and on and on. Why not just print the primetime TV grid and tell people: these are the shows currently on the air. It would have saved them a lot of time.

"Variety" -- Scared Of The Web

Every other week, trade publications like Variety and Billboard don't seem to know what to do about their online content. Should they provide all their stories free of charge? Should they limit only to subscribers? Should they reach out to people who will NEVER by a massively expensive subscription to Variety? Should reviews be available but not news stories? Should the box office charts be sacred ground? All reasonable questions -- all of them with answers that seem to change daily. For a while, Variety made news stories available completely if you watched a brief ad. Stupidly, instead of selling that ad space, they kept showing the same ad...for a subscription to Variety. Uh, since I'm watching the ad specifically to AVOID buying a subscription to Variety, doesn't that seem kind of dumb? They've switched again today. Now, reviews are available, but stories can only be read if you subscribe. I don't know what the right choice is (though my guess is people with subscriptions from their companies don't care if schmucks like me can read stories after sitting through an ad). But it is fun to watch them dither.

Michael Eisner's Talk Show: DOA

I don't care if Michael Eisner's talk show on CNBC is getting some polite reviews that make it seem oddly compelling. And yes, I'll watch it. But it's DOA, just like Tina Brown's talk show. Conversations With Michael Eisner is going to air "bimonthly" ie. once ever two weeks for a month and a half and then stop? What better recipe for disaster could you imagine? Even someone who LIKES the show (which begins tonight at 6 p.m on CNBC) will find it nigh on impossible to remember when the damn thing is on. Ridiculous.

Willie Nelson Murder Plot?

How suspicious that just weeks after Willie Nelson releases an album devoted to the songs of Cindy Walker that she should die unexpectedly. I'm sure Nelson's desire to boost album sales had nothing to do with it, but where exactly was this acknowledged drug user on the night of her demise? The NYT has a nice obituary, with some great details. Apparently her mom Oree worked on the melodies of Walker's songs, which may explain why she's produced so little since Oree's death in 1991. Walker had a brief recording career herself, even having a hit song with "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again," ironically not a tune she wrote herself. But the big surprise for me is that it was fellow legendary songwriter Harlan Howard who once said country music was "three chords and the truth." And I thought Bono had made that up!

"Rolling Stone" On "American Idol"

Rolling Stone has a cover story promising "The secrets of the unstoppable starmaking machine" that is American Idol. As if anyone could reveal new secrets about a series so thoroughly dissected by now. They picture Simon, Paula and Randy in bed together. Inside, what we get doesn't even pretend to do that: it's simply a profile of Simon, with tiny boxes devoted to Paula, Randy, Ryan, Simon Fuller and predictions on this season's contestants. But it's filled with foolish exaggeration and mistakes. (Shouldn't Rolling Stone be the one magazine to take a more sober look at AI?) They say the show "usually" hits 35 million viewers per episode. Try "almost never." The last month or so, the audience has been 33 million, 32 million, 28 million, 30 million, 31 million and so on. That's of course for the performance shows. The results shows are invariably lower rated. 33 million is a ton of viewers, but it isn't 35 million. You have to go back to January, when it scored 34.96 million viewers for one show to back that stat up. You could say "sometimes as high as 35 million viewers," but not "usually." Does it matter? Yes. The show is a phenomenon, so why exaggerate its ratings? They also say "the show has drawn more viewers than ever before, a historic anomaly that television's statisticians are still struggling to comprehend." Also not true. It's certainly very noteworthy, but other shows have grown in viewership even further into their runs than Idol, most notably Law & Order. Again, the fact of growth is impressive; why pretend it's never happened before? Then RS says this: "Has any British import in recent history rooted any deeper into the national psyche than Cowell? His words and manners have been debated constantly for the past five years." I watch the show faithfully, but this seems pretty overblown even to me. And how about Princess Di, for one small example? Finally, they talk about his early success marketing pop album tie-ins to non-music properties like Teletubbies, Power Rangers and WWF wrestlers, insisting that "this kind of tie-in approach had never been attempted." I'm not sure how narrowly they want to define this, but pop music is littered with tie-in albums to kiddie TV shows, comic book characters, movies and other ancillary products that technically had nothing to do with music, from Little Orphan Annie and half the products of Disney to the Smurfs and on. Again, I don't expect much from RS but they should at least know the history of pop music and novelty tie-ins.

The LA March: Radio DJs Made It Happen

The Los Angeles Times has a really interesting piece that shows the crucial role radio DJs made in getting their audience to take part in the Great March of March 25. Half a million people showed up when organizers initially expected maybe 20,000 and Latino djs who urged and urged their audience to go are a major reason. They also pushed people to bring their children, bring American flags to show they love their country, avoid violence and clean up after themselves. The next big demonstration? The Great American Boycott on May 1, when people are called to boycott work, school and all consumer activities.

Students organized a pro-immigrant rally on Monday, with some 40,000 kids skipping school and protesting (mostly peacefully). I'm still shocked at how the NYT downplayed the march on Saturday in its coverage. (It was buried deep inside the front section, maybe page 31.) And now this student protest -- also amazing for its size and the modern way it was organzied (lots of texting, obviously) seems equally newsworthy.

Overnight TV Ratings -- Trump Still Down

Almost everyone on Monday night did okay. CBS's sitcom lineup -- despite being mostly repeats -- was sold, with The New Adventures of Old Christine slowing down a bit. Everwood returned to modest ratings, hurting its chances of getting picked up by CW. I've enjoyed the show, but have to think it's had its day. Howie Mandel's empty-headed game show Deal Or No Deal inexplicably continues to draw an audience. But Donald Trump squanders that crowd with The Apprentice, which is looking in serious trouble. The Donald dropped 22% in adults 18-49, which should be his show's sweet spot. (Maybe Donald can console himself by saying the Deal Or No Deal audience is low-rent and not smart enough for him.) And of course Prison Break did fine and 24 even better on Fox.

DVD Reviews: King Kong and More

Check out my latest NY Post DVD column to see reviews of DVDs coming out today. Among the titles covered: a crazily complete Planet of the Apes boxed set, The New York Mets 1986 World Series and a Criterion collection of three Louis Malle gems. And here's the review that was cut: Peter Jackson's King Kong.

King Kong Special Edition
** ½
(Universal; $30.98)
Unnecessary. That’s the final verdict on director Peter Jackson’s elaborate remake. The prologue is drawn out, the thrills on Skull Island are overblown and would any sensible gal wear high heels on the top of the Empire State Building? Still, Naomi Watts and Andy Serkis as Kong have a real rapport, which saves this from disaster. The extra half a star is for voluminous extras, including a video diary and much, much more. ADD: If I'd had more room, I would have also pointed out the irony that the natives on Skull Island are presented in a far more racist manner in the 2005 version than in the 1933 original. Sure, the original has a shot or two of bug-eyed natives, not to mention women wearing coconut bras over their breasts. But the natives are sober and have a certain dignity. When the film crew shows up on their island in the middle of a ceremony, they simply ask them to leave. Their sacrifice to Kong doesn't seem to give them any pleasure. In the Peter Jackson version, the natives are savage and living in feral misery, viciously attacking the camera crew when they show up and taking orgiastic glee in sacrificing the blond girl to their god. I'd say it was a definite step backwards.

Surfing Through "24" and "Prison Break"

I know the shows are doing well together commercially, but clearly 24 and Prison Break should be broken up. Prison Break should be the fall cliffhangar show. (It'll be interrupted by post-season baseball before the finale in November of course.) And 24 should be the spring entry. (There's no doubt that Lost needs to switch to the no-repeats format itself to stop audience erosion.) 24 has definitely turned some sort of corner for me. It's very entertaining and I wouldn't miss it, but the plot twists are making me giggle instead of gasp. I also can't help thinking I'd make a great interrogator: all you have to do is shout a lot. Two supremely silly moments this week. In one scene, we find out Edgar's replacement was sexually harassed by Stephen Spinella. Then -- in what has to be the most ludicrous moment in a show BUILT on ludicrous moments -- we see a boss compliment her work when he walks away with a thoroughly minor and professional pat on the shoulder. She gets a strange look in her eye and says in a monotone to Chloe, 'Did you see what he did? That wasn't right.' (I'm paraphrasing.) So a perfectly reasonable backstory -- bad blood between her and Spinella -- becomes this absurd case of literally a crazy woman seeing sexual harassment everywhere. It was truly a godawful, laugh out loud moment. The other absurd moment? In a typical Perils of Pauline moment, it looks like Jack is blown up at the end of the episode. Then, in scenes from next week, we don't see a glimpse of Jack, only other people wondering if he's okay. Are we really supposed to be in suspense as to whether Jack is dead? Prison Break was its usual silly fun. But I just noticed Dominic Purcell -- who looks like a professional wrestler or Sgt. Rock -- has top billing over the clear lead, Wentworth Miller. Did they really think Purcell was going to be the heart of the show when Miller is better looking than all the other men on the series COMBINED?

Top 10 TV Shows In Argentina

According to the industry newsletter Cynopsis, these are the Top 10 shows in Argentina last week:

1. La Tormenta
2. The Simpsons
3. Ripley's Believe It Or Not
4. Zorro (1957 version)
5. Smallville
6. La Venganza
7. Las Vegas
8. Get Smart
9. Monk
10. It's A Knockout

Okay, presumably Zorro is being aired because of author Isabel Allende's current bestseller Zorro: A Novel. But Get Smart? Scary.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Primetime Preview

I'd like to check out Julia Louise-Dreyfuss's new sitcom (I always like to wait for the second or third episode since that's much more indicative of how a show will be than the pilot), but I'm conflicted since Everwood is returning tonight with two new episodes. Of course the most fun comes from Prison Break and 24. Again, I think this is too much cliffhangaring for one night, but I can hardly hold off on watching one of them since the plot twists get widely reported the next day. And surely 24 has turned some sort of corner when seeing Jack Bauer is going to be choking his ex-girlfriend doesn't evoke gasps of shock but giggles of delight. They're treading dangerously close to camp on this one. And the more I think about it, the more disastrous it would be of them to churn out a feature film in the off-season. Either end the show, give it a rest and then deliver a movie 16 months later in the fall or just stick to the series and avoid the feature film altogether. You can't do both. Late night, it will be interesting to see if Letterman mentions the death of a driver on his racing tam (Letterman hadn't met him apparently). Craig Ferguson (who is growing on me) has the New Cars, one of the goofiest group revivals I'ver ever seen. Check out under "You Might Think It's Foolish" for an amusing defense of the band.

"Mansfield Park" by Jane Austen -- The Popsurfing Review

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen ** 1/2 (out of 4)
I've been working my way through the collected works of Jane Austen. If you're in NYC, a small bookstore just two blocks uptown of Film Forum has a great little boxed set containing all her works in tiny little volumes with good-sized type. (Most novels are offered in two books, ie. Pride & Prejudice Vol. 1 and 2.) At $15 for the whole set, it's much cheaper than buying paperbacks and the little volumes are so pleasing and so perfect for carrying on the subway, if I were filthy rich I would have every new book I wanted to read custom-published this very same way. Pride & Prejudice was nigh on perfect and Sense and Sensibility was only slightly less so. Both were a delight to read. So I'm all the sorrier to report MP is a bit of a let-down. In her first two books, Austen created spirited, wittily charming heroines. The center of this book, Fanny Price, is a bit of a pill. She's timid in thought and deed, so her musings are far less satisfying. Fanny is so self-less that when relatives take her in and then treat her poorly, she's ashamed to let such ignoble thoughts cross her mind. If she's shivering in her dayroom because a fire is forbidden to her even in winter, Fanny immediately denounces herself for wishing for one instead of realizing how lucky she is. The "bad" girl of the book is Mary Crawford, who perks things up whenever she's around. Mary and her brother Henry wreak havoc on Fanny's relatives. Mary sets her sights on Fanny's secret beloved Edmund (also quite a prig) and Henry toys with two other young ladies, getting them both to fall in love with him before moving blithely on. The decision of the young people to mount an amateur theatrical --such scandalous behavior shocks Fanny, of course -- is the subject of endless discussion and reverberates tiresomely throughout the book. By the finale, Austen's usual canny insights into human behavior are reduced to moralistic scolding. I imagine Austen didn't want to repeat herself with another vivacious heroine. Too bad. Mary would have been much more fun to spend time with. At one point, I had the delicious hope my expectations would be undermined. It seemed quite possible that Mary and Henry, by being determined to get Edmund and Fanny to love them, would in fact become reformed and thus genuinely worthy of their love. It would have been a most welcome development, but unfortunately Austen let all her characters stick to their stereotype. Emma, I trust, will be a return to form.

Sunday Times UK Bestseller List

I love the British bestseller lists. They show exactly how many copies each book on the list sold that week and how many in total. It gives me hope that I could hit the bestseller list if I ever published in the UK at the right time of the year. Check out the nonfiction hardcover list. At #10 is Wall & Piece by Banksy, a graffiti artist. It sold 890 copies last week and 51, 485 overall. Now surely I could convince 900 people to head to the stories in all of England and pick up a book of mine the weekend it hit the stores. (And forever after I could be described as "best-selling author" or "UK best-selling author" or "Times of London best-selling author," etc. Those low figures are precisely why US booksellers resist giving such detailed info to the public. They think people would be disillusioned to see how little copies some bestsellers actually move. (Certainly when you get into the mystery or children's or poetry lists, probably 100 copies at the right time could get you on the charts.) I say the more accurate the better. Stephen King tops the fiction list with Cell, moving 8,085 copies. And the description of Alexander McCall's Smith new mystery Blue Shoes and Happiness captures the appeal of his series quite deftly: "Precious Ramotswe solves more cases and ponders whether to diet."

Networks Decide To Offer TV Shows As Video On Demand

I love it when big corporations try jump on a bandwagon and do it stupidly. Case in point: Apple proved people will pay good money to own downloads of TV shows they missed or don't otherwise have access to: The Office, Battlestar: Galactica and many others can be bought on iTunes from 12-18 hours after they originally air, minus commercials and ready to play on your computer or iPod as often as you like. HBO offers free HBO On Demand to its premium customers who want to access their library of programs whenever they want -- my brother and his wife just steamrolled through the first two seasons of Deadwood. So what do the major networks do? They are talking with Time Warner cable about finally making their top 20 shows available as video-on-demand. They had the technology to do this five years ago, of course, but couldn't be bothered. Now, with DVRs (and Tivo) an increasing number of people won't need this service. But still they screw it up by offering the shows with commercials that can't be fast-forwarded through. It also costs an extra $10 a month to your already wildly expensive cable bill. Since that makes it immediately inferior (and more expensive) than DVRs, why would anyone use it?

The Face Of Immigration

The recent massive protests around the country and pending legislation to further criminalize illegal immigration (changing it from a misdemeanor to a felony) made me see this NYT's article about high school scholarship winners in a new light. Just check out the names of the 19 kids who've been honored: Angelika Garcia, Daphne Lundi, Erika Sue, Hao Nguyen, Justin Jimenez, Nikola Kyuchukov, Irma Encarnacion, Sandra Appiah and Sandy Wong; kneeling from left, Stefani Gjoni, Vanessa Salazar, Anna Umanskaya, Ashley Houston, Chan Juan Zhou, Daniela Cassorla, Sayeeda Ahsanuddin, Jane Yee and Suvam Paul. Not pictured is Keyla Espinal. That's America, whether you call it a melting pot or a quilt or whatever other comparison you want to make.

Book Roundup

The latest bestseller lists are out and after exactly three years on the charts, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code is right where you'd expect: lodged at Number One. Jaqmes Frey's A Million Little Pieces is still high on the paperback list, though at least the completely fradulent book My Friend Leonard has dropped down to #28. The NYT has an interesting piece on a nonfiction book about the leprosy colony in Hawaii. It's called The Colony: The harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai by John Tayman. The author is finding himself estranged from the subjects of the book, whose complaints range from the book cover art (it depicts a cliff in italy instead of the cliffs in Hawaii where they were exiled) to his use of the word "leper." They find it offensive (even in a direct quote); he says he uses it only to be historically accurate in places. The fracas reminds me of the marvelous epic poem The Folding Cliffs by WS Merwin, one of my favorite poets. It tells of one family's resistance to being exiled by the white rulers of Hawaii. Gripping and romantic, it would make a terrific miniseries, sort of the Hawaiian Roots.

Surfing Through "The Sopranos"

Confession: I've never been a big fan of The Sopranos. (I'll take The Wire and Deadwood any day.) Yes, it's well-acted. But after the first season -- which started off slowly but built to a satisfying finale -- I've never been emotionally involved in the stories. I watched three years without fail and then started just dipping in now and then. Since they're on the last 18 episodes, I got caught up again in watching. Nothing much has changed -- nasty unpleasant people doing nasty unpleasant things. That's not a problem for me -- they're just not interestingly nasty. Putting Tony into a coma was as dumb as Swearengen being incapacitated at the beginning of season two of Deadwood. And the dream sequence was bizarrely ineffective. Tony plays a salesman who gets another guy's briefcase, is "trapped" out of town, meets with some Buddhist monks, sees a beacon off in the distance and then prepares to enter a family reunion. I was certain there would be some emotional payoff for all of this rigmarole. But no. Can't help admiring the work of Gandolfini and Falco but the show itself leaves me cold.

British Pop Charts -- The Old Fogeys

I love the British -- put an old song in a commercial and they'll rush out to buy a greatest hits CD of that artist. Indeed, a look at the album charts make it look like mumns are elbowing their children out of the way at the record stores -- even as young talent like Arctic Monkeys and Corinne Bailey Rae promise a new British invasion here. Currently on the charts: Russell Watson, Andrea Bocelli, Barry Manilow, Johnny Mathis, Carpenters, Neil Sedaka, Righteous Brothers, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Il Divo, Rod Stewart and Leo Sayer. Topping the charts are two album from Simon Cowell's The X Factor (the UK equivalent to American Idol), with Journey South (two pin-up handsome brothers) and Andy Abraham offering up covers-heavy CDs rushed into stores. Both of them are also perfect for Mother's Day gifts, if your mother has bad taste in music.

"Inside Man" Pulls It Off At Box Office

Spike Lee's Inside Man was the big winner at the box office. An even bigger surprise -- to me -- is the continued strength of Thank You For Smoking in limited release. It went from 5 screens to 54 screens, grossing almost $20,000 per screen and $1.1 million total. I assume that won't hold up when it goes truly wide, but who knows? Larry The Cable Guy many have only grossed $7 million, but since that's almost all gravy for what amounts to a glorified direct-to-DVD release suddenly dropped into theaters, that's a great number.

1. Inside Man -- $29 million
2. V for Vendetta -- $12.3 ($46.2 million)
3. Stay Alive -- $11.2 million
4. Failure To Launch -- $10.8 ($63.9 million)
5. The Shaggy Dog -- $9.1 ($47.9 million)
6. She's The Man -- $7.4 ($20.5 million)
7. Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector -- $7.2 million
8. The Hills Have Eyes -- $4.3 ($35.6 million)
9. Eight Below -- $2.7 ($77.2 million)
10. 16 Blocks -- $2.2 ($43.1 million)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

You're On Your Own

A quiet Popsurfing weekend. This one-man band has a few stories to finish for the beginning of the week and I've GOT to get some more boxes unpacked from my move. Off this afternoon to see Summer Storm again.

"Body Snatchers" -- The Popsurfing Review

I went to see Invasion of the Body Snatchers last night at Film Forum, which is in the midst of a Don Siegel festival. (It's not exactly packing them in, but it is fun.) I'd seen Philip Kaufman's remake and found it pretty dull, unlike many friends who think it's terrific. I was sure the original would be fun, but it was GREAT. The few amusingly archaic moments -- like how our doctor-hero pops pills into patients faster than you can say "pod people" -- bring smiles but don't distract. The two leads -- Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter -- are both modestly talented but have serious chemistry, enjoy the relatively sophisticated banter (jokes about both of these divorcees having just come back from Reno) and surely never did better work. The concept is creepy, the execution so tight and streamlined that you never question it and the possible takes on what it all means (the Communist threat, suburban conformity, simple paranoia) are endless and fun. Loved it. Film Forum says the prologue and epilogue were tacked on by the studio against Siegal's wishes and some DVD company should present both versions since it would be so easy to show the bleaker finale with McCarthy running down the highway screaming that they're already here. Catch it if you can.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Open Thread

I'm off to see the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers at Film Forum. Talk amongst yourselves. If you're thinking of a movie, The Child is avery good, intense drama, Spike Lee's Inside Man is by all accounts a solid B movie for most of the way with an A movie cast and if you're in New York, Summer Storm is a sweet and sexy gay coming of age film at the Village East. It's very predictable but it looks like an Abercrombie & Fitch ad come to life. So that's a thumbs up.

FCC Fines: The Lunacy Continues

The WB has a new midseason show called The Bedford Diaries. It's from Tom Fontana, who worked on Oz and Homicide and stars Matthew Modine as a professor who teaches about sex, along with Milo Ventimiglia and other actors as sex-crazed college students. The pilot includes a finale where students stage a nude-in as their attempt to recreate the wacky days of the Sixties and comment on the Iraqi War. (Though the show has been on te shelf for a while -- I saw this pilot about six months ago - it's still sadly timely.) Fontana is a real talent, but the show is quite awful, I'm afraid. What's interesting is that the WB now claims they are so panicked and confused by FCC rulings (which truly make no sense) that they took the pilot away from Fontana and recut some scenes. Everyone is playing nice and blaming it on the FCC, though the cynic in me would like to think they're just getting some extra press for a dud. But what I love is their artistic solution to this problem. Instead of airing the episode on TV and marking it with a disclaimer (not suitable for the kiddies -- as if parents need to be told that a show about college students studying about and obsessed with sex isn't right for Junior), they've gone and posted the entire uncut episode online so anyone can watch it for free anytime day or night. And of course such a venue is out of the FCC realm. What clearer example of the current absurdities, where 100 cranks from Focus on the Family can get stations fined millions of dollars? The web makes this sort of fine system horribly passe.

On Alfred Pond -- Mailbag

Alfredboy aka redstateboy aka priv8pete lives in upstate New York, working for a university, going to the local bar for trivia nights and wondering why he moved so far away from Yankee Stadium. (Priv8pete and I met because our season tickets are next to each other in the bleacher section.) He kicks it old school online -- sending out an occasional email newsletter about his life in a tiny college town that Lake Wobegon could beat the crap out of in a war. Here's his latest missive:

I ordered Chinese last night for the first time in a while. It's always the same; every couple of weeks I get the desire for Chinese and then immediately afterward it destroys my stomach. I might as well just drink a cup of grease and give myself an enema.

Have you ever noticed that every Chinese restaurant has the same calendar? It's the one with a different girl for every two months that claims it was printed at 120 Madison St, NY NY. Typically, the calendar is kept near the front and flipped every two months so that it can be used as a calendar. But not the Giant Panda restaurant in Alfred. They decided to hang them all as art work and I noticed that the pictures really run the gamut from the really hot chick in a tight, schoolgirl outfit revealing her belly (and the not so exotic in the 21st century belly button jewelry) looking like she took time away from her job as a dominatrix for the shoot to a pretty, happy girl with a Christmas present for you.

But May/June was the one that caught my attention last night. There was an average
looking girl who was holding about 6 puppies and superimposed next to her was a big pile of gold bullion. Needless to say, I was perplexed. Hot, barely clothed chick and sweet, pretty girl with a present transcend cultures, but the puppies and gold just make zero sense to me. Is this a popular male fantasy in the Far East? Is she suggesting that she's fertile, loving and loaded? Does she want to sell puppies for money? I'm not sure I'll ever know the answer to this, but it wasn't even the most disturbing development of the evening.

While watching Duke choke in the regional semifinals last night, an add came on for Papa John's Pizza. Now Papa John's is like the Fiat to Domino's and Pizza Hut's BMW and Mercedes and Papa John himself makes all his own painful commercials. Well, in the Rochester area he has rolled out a new website for ordering -- Seriously.

Now, there are so many things wrong with that -- from its sexual overtones to its incest-related connotations. I can't see how a properly adjusted grown man can smilingly say "Eat Papa" on a television commercial for his own franchise. It's mind boggling. Perhaps he's some genius and is orchestrating a short squeeze on his
stock, but I think the man has completely lost his mind which means that the ads only stand to get better with time!

And now, onto the mailbag. I did receive one question, so I will answer it and save my spam expose for the future.

"Is Doubleplay-Rod [aka Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees] actually a dirtbag? Most evidence points to that he is, but he did give up playing short for maybe he's just a dirtbag with a crush on Jeter? Oh, and I want this answered without using the letter 'R'." - Bruce in Jersey

Good question. Much has been made of Alex and his mauve lips. With his choice to play in the WBC on the side of the US as opposed to the Dominicans, many people have questioned his motives. It is widely held in Section 39 that Alex is much like Jason Giambi in that they both excel at compiling statistics, but suck in the clutch. Any animosity Alex holds against DJ is mostly due to this phenomenon and Alex no doubt fantasizes about having the attention that DJ gets. I think that Alex is just one of these people who is constantly hoping to be in the spotlight and will do/say anything that will help make him lots of loot in the public domain, to see his photo in a magazine and on television. To this end he has succeeded but it has made him look disingenuous which is what I think the question you posed is alluding to.

Casting Call For Travel Show Host With Fists of Fury

Seriously, this is a casting call for a proposed TV show that was posted on the Cynopsis newsletter:
NorthSouth Prods is looking for a guy, between the ages of 25-35, who is not only intelligent, attractive and athletic, but also has martial arts skills and some on-camera experience. The gig is to host a documentary travel series. They need you to send a tape, and if you don't have one, then get your camcorder out and tell/show them your hosting skills and talk about your martial arts skills. Then send it asap (must get there before March 29), along with a headshot and resume, to: NorthSouth Productions, Attn: Casting, 134 West 26th Street, Ste 710, New York, NY 10001. Questions?
A travel show where the host has martial arts skills? What's the concept? You go to exotic locations and beat the crap out of the locals? Oddly, I may be the ideal candidate for this, thanks to my patented Five Fingers of Death and oodles of flier miles.

The Child -- The Popsurfing Review

Here's what I wrote after seeing the new drama The Child when it debuted at Cannes. The movie opens in NYC today:

L’enfant/The Child *** ½ -- I just love the aesthetic of the Belgian Dardenne brothers (“Rosetta,” “The Son,” etc.) and so more of the same is just fine by me. An on the skids young thief named Bruno (the handsome and bruised looking Jeremie Renier) gets by with petty crimes till his girlfriend shows up with their newborn son. The two have a great if juvenile relationship, always tripping each other up, spraying each other with a soda, giggling, laughing and so on. Clearly, they’re in love as much as these two immature kids can be. (They’re around 18 or so.) She’s waiting in line for something and he takes the newborn for his first walk with papa and blithely starts using the kid to beg for money. (He has no job, doesn’t even register when she suggests getting one and knows where all the free flophouse shelters are.) Then he just decides to sell the kid and within an hour has given it up and garnered a handful of cash to split with her. She, naturally, freaks out, attacking him and collapsing. She’s taken to the hospital, he somehow strives to get the kid back and all sorts of miserable complications ensue. As always with the Dardennes, the camera is right on top of the actors, creating a sense of intensity and immediacy far greater than you achieve by simply shoving a handheld into someone’s face. (It must be their framing and long tracking shots that create an inherent tension whenever you’re following someone around.) Yes, familiar in every way for them, but I ate it up. Some day I’ll write a book about their work: “The Back of the Head: The Films of the Dardennes Brothers.”

Overnight TV Ratings -- "American Inventor" Holds Steady

Simon Cowell's latest TV project is a pale shadow of American Idol -- American Inventor looks cheap and has annoying judges, including a woman that tears up during every sob story (no one bought a product because the inventor's mom had cancer, I'd point out). Still, this early stage is fun since you get to see the crazy ideas people have devoted endless amounts of time and money on. I can't imagine what they're going to do once the inventors are narrowed down and have to improve their product. Is test marketing really good TV? The show still hasn't faced CBS's regular powerhouse lineup but against the NCAA it drew almost 13 million viewers compared to basketball's 12.5 million for the night. Speaking of shadows, NBC doesn't even have a top ten show on Thursday anymore and ER barely makes it into the top 20. I watched Will & Grace for the first time in ages and it was sad: Will and Grace still live together, Jack is still man-crazy and they still think going to a gay bar and seeing guys in cowboy outfits (in New York City?) is the height of funny. Very tired. It felt like a rerun from three years ago (without the laughs) instead of a new episode.Everybody Hates Chris had one of its best episodes yet, with the death of grandpa affecting mom in unexpected ways. (Here's hoping her mother comes back again soon; very good sparring partner for the usually steamrolling mother). And My Name Is Earl remains a delight. It also drew 11.3 million viewers, an improvement on W&G and an Earl rerun. But Thursdays ain't the same anymore.

"The Lord of the Rings" -- The Reviews

I've read about a dozen reviews -- in part or in whole -- of the Canadian premiere of The Lord of the Rings. The verdict is mixed, but positive. It's not an overwhelming triumph, but spectacle-wise, the show is clearly innovative and stunning and gets compared again and again to The Lion King. (The Lion King, if you haven't seen it, is a marvelous stage production using every imaginable form of puppetry to bring that story to life. It's the best production of the worst musical I've ever seen and well worth catching once, with or without kiddies in tow.) LOTR is not a standard musical, it turns out. The characters in the show -- like the characters in the book, sometimes sing while marching along or at a party or just to keep their spirits up. So there's no dreadful Frodo moment where he sings "The ring! Is a beautiful thing! It makes me want to sing!" Like an opera, the story is chock full of incident and you're clearly better of if you know the story (or at least read the synopsis). It's very mood-setting, with hobbits gamboling about for 15 minutes before the curtain rises. The battle scenes are spectacular, Gollum steals the show and they even include the Scouring of the Shire, a wise cut in the movies that they probably should have cut here too. In short, I won't be happy till I've seen it but I imagine it's a bit short of the movies and the brilliant BBC radio play. Oh, and the NYT is scathing, but this is one pre-sold show that doesn't need their seal of approval.

NOTE: My bad: well-chosen early quotes by the PR people and another off-target review from Time magazine (which named the dreadful Chicken Little animated movie as a sheer delight) led me astray. (So did my desire to hear good things.) After some more trawling and reading strongly negative reviews from the NYT and Guardian and the LA Times and the Globe and Mail, I have to say the reviews are NOT mixed -- they're pretty strongly negative, with only a few kind words for the spectacle aspect and -- at most -- one or two of the supporting actors. I imagine the creators feel shell-shocked. Can they pull it together to recast and rethink it before London?

Randy Quaid Suing Over "Brokeback Mountain"

Sometimes Popsurfing oversleeps. But at least we haven't lost our minds, like Randy Quaid. According to Variety, Quaid is suing Focus Features, saying they "tricked" him into believing Brokeback Mountain was a no-budget art film with no chance of making money when in fact it was going to have full studio backing and a big push. The suit says he wants $10 million and implies that is what he would have received if they'd been upfront about the film's backing and commercial prospects. Where to begin? First, Quaid has never come close to being paid $10 million for any movie he's appeared in -- not Independence Day (a movie with the biggest expectations imaginable) nor the Vacation comedies nor anything. Certainly, no one would be paid $10 million for the tiny role he had in this film -- Quaid had two scenes at the trailer and one scene on horseback spotting the lads playfully wrestling from afar. It probably took two weeks, I imagine. And it was hardly a secret that Focus Features is a division of Universal and that Brokeback was a prestige item, whatever its commercial prospects. Quaid certainly knows that ANY movie that catches fire is going to get the full backing of the studio. But sometimes you make Brokeback and sometimes you make Casanova, another "art" film that on paper was much more commercially viable. That one also starred Heath Ledger but sank like a stone. Sometimes you make a tiny British film with male strippers and it's The Full Monty. Sometimes you make a tiny British film with female strippers and it's the extremely modest grossing Mrs. Henderson Presents. Sometimes a roll of the dice gives you Brokeback and sometimes you get The New World. Now, did the people behind Brokeback lie to Quaid about the budget of the film? Did they lie about the money other actors were being paid? Did they lie about the money the producers were being paid? That's certainly a basis for a lawsuit. And of course lawyers always ask for more money than they expect to get. But $10 million? That's absurd.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Primetime Preview

Simon Cowell's new reality show American Inventor gets another chance to establish an audience, since CBS is still covering March Madness. (Frankly, it mostly demonstrates how hard these shows really are to do well.) There's a new Earl (but a repeat of The Office), a new Everybody Hates Chris and a new The OC, not that anyone is watching anymore. If you're wondering what all the fuss is about over Disney TV's High School Musical, it's being rerun tonight at 8 p.m.

Watch Out Angelika! Sundance Is On The March

New York's defining indie movie theater -- the Angelika - probably missed the boat on extending its franchise around the country sometime back in...oh, I don't know, the early '90s. (God knows I used to buy the Sunday New York Times growing up in South Florida -- back when independent films took eight months or a year or never to get to Ft. Lauderdale and just read the names of the movies playing at the Angelika and dream of being able to go there.)

Now I think the very idea of an indie movie chain is outdated, thanks to 20 screen pultiplexes that can show Superman Returns on eight screens and still have plenty of room left over for Soderbergh's Bubble or The Libertine or whatever. But that isn't stopping Robert Redford. He's building a Sundance multiplex in Madison, Wisconsin from the ground up and now he's just bought San Francisco's venerable Kabuki 8 from AMC. The Madison is scheduled to open in November. The Sundance Kabuki will change hands in the summer or early fall.

"Sopranos" Peek -- No Spoilers

Why should I be the only one with insider info? Here are the titles of the next five Sopranos episodes. They don't give anything away, though the plot descriptions I saw certainly do.

"The Fleshy Part of the Thigh" -- April 2 (love that one)
"Mr. and Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request..." -- April 9
"Live Free Or Die" -- April 16
"Luxury Lounge" -- April 23
"Johnny Cakes" -- April 30

Steve Buscemi -- who directed one of the best episodes in the show's run -- is behind the camera on April 9. Timothy Van Patten handles two more.

Grandpa Is Gonna Have To Learn The Internet

Yep, 60 Minutes is going online this fall in a partnership with Yahoo. They'll provide exclusive content, glimpses of upcoming shows and more. That means the shows viewers -- average age 72, not counting loyal fan richboy -- are gonna have to figure out this darn Web thing once and for all. Expect lots of confused phone calls from Gramps.

Damn! My Chance At Reality Show Stardom Is Lost

One of my many claims to fame is winning the Rolling Stone College Journalist of the Year award for Entertainment, thanks to a profile of Philip Glass. (I also was a finalist in the criticism category for a piece on the sudden explosion of hit singles on the album charts, an 80s phenomenon now taken to a new level by High School Musical.) Now Rolling Stone is turning that annual contest into a reality series. Suffice to say, if they were casting that show, I probably wouldn't have made the cut (actually, a gay conservative might have had some appeal to them). I can't help thinking my one chance at TV stardom was blown over bad timing. If only I were still in college....

Corinne Bailey Rae -- The Popsurfing Review

I mentioned yesterday that the debut album of Corinne Bailey Rae was at Number One in the UK. I'd been eager to get the CD after hearing a clip online that sounded really promising and my friends at quickly obliged. But of course, in moving apartments I dropped the ball and failed to check it out. Now it's explosive success in the UK prompted me to give it a few whirls in the last two days and it's a sheer delight. A very mellow, Seventies vibe -- earthy and cool. Think of Rickie Lee Jones with soul, maybe. The singles "Put Your Records On" and "Like A Star" are winning but don't standout -- the entire album feels of a piece. She wrote or cowrote every track and sings and plays throughout. What I love is the casual air of it all -- unlike so many engineered pop albums, this doesn't sound like it's trying to conquer the world. Instead of bursting out at you, Rae invites you in. They have nothing in common, but Norah Jones and David Gray have a similar appeal to me. This is definitely going to be one of the year's winners. It comes out in the US in June. Don't hesitate.

"Ssssssnakes On A Plane" -- The Movie

Talk about the tail wagging the dog. New Line had a silly B movie named Snakes on a Plane that got a lot more fun when Samuel L. Jackson signed on for the lead. He said quite rightly that when you read that title, you either want to see the movie or you don't. Me, I want to see it. The movie was shunted around and they even probably decided to change to B movie title to something more generic. But online fans went crazy for the concept, going so far as to compose songs, fiction and even a mock ad where a Samuel L. Jackson sound-alike shouted the immortal line: "I want these motherf***ing snakes off this motherf***ing plane!" Then fans demanded the line appear in the movie. Remarkably, the studio went back for reshoots to amp up the intensity (since the movie was borderline R, they decided to go all the way) and Jackson did indeed record that line. The entire story is in the Hollywood Reporter. But of course you'll also be tempted to go to the fan website Snakes on a blog and adopt SoaP -- a spin on "stuff happens" -- as your new online catch-phrase of the day.

Overnight TV Ratings -- "Law & Order" is "Lost"

The riskiest programming move in ages -- pulling Law & Order from it's traditional Wednesday at 10 p.m. slot that made it one of the most successful dramas of all time -- has proven a big flop. At 9 p.m., Law & Order ranked in FOURTH place, behind the night's #1 show American Idol (with 27 million viewers saying goodbye to Kevin Covais), Lost (with 16 million viewers) and even losing to Criminal Minds, which had a very weak lead-in from the dead-on-arrival sitcom Courting Alex. If they don't move Law & Order soon, Dick Wolf can say goodbye to his dream of beating the 20 season record of Gunsmoke.

In new series news, Evidence was a flop and Heist held onto virtually all of its L&O lead-in. So okay, they launched Heist decently by giving it that 10 p.m. slot, but at what cost? Critical darling Veronica Mars also did poorly and moves to Tuesday at 9 p.m. starting April 11. It no longer seems so likely to make it to a third season on the revamped CW lineup. And reality show Unan1mous -- which is eerily similar to a pitch of monkeyboy's I heard ages ago -- got off to a truly whacky start. Nine people have to unanimously pick one person to get $1.5 million. Or no one gets it. I loved watching the minister and the gay guy go at each other. (How stupid can they be to antagonize each other and everyone else five minutes after the game begins?) But my favorite telling detail was when they were informed what the game would be. Are people so desperate for TV face time that they'll agree to appear on a reality show without the slightest clue of what it would entail? Amazing. If you love TV ratings like me, sign up for Mediaweek's daily email newsletter. It's free.

Top DVDs

Here's the latest DVD chart, with A History of Violence unable to dethrone Harry Potter in its first week.

1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
2. A History of Violence
3. Jarhead
4. Walk The Line
5. Good Night and Good Luck
6. Barbie -- Fairytopia -- Mermaidia (I feel gay just typing that in)
7. Lady and the Tramp
8. Pride and Prejudice
9. Crash
10. Just Friends

Chef Wants To Make Sweet Love To Boys?

South Park paid a typically loving tribute to Chef in its new season premiere. They joked Chef was brainwashed into being a paedophile by the "Super Adventure Club" and the kids took Chef to a strip club to "cure" him. It didn't quite take and ultimately Chef was stabbed, burned and mauled by wild animals. That reminds us that the main reason South Park remains so fresh is its super-cheap animation: they do the show on computers in about a week, letting Trey and Matt riff on whatever's in the news. Most animated shows take six months or longer to be made. Interestingly, reporter Roger Friendman suggests the ill Isaac Hayes -- who left the show after it mocked his religion Scientology -- may have had nothing to do with his break from the show. Until we hear from Hayes directly, we won't know. And of course, South Park has a history of killing off and then reviving characters, so there's no reason a little thing like paedophilia should stop a reconciliation.

Billboard's Latest Music Charts

Here's the full Billboard Top 100 albums, with High School Musical back at Number One. If you're wondering what it's like, the TV movie reruns on the Disney Channel tonight and Friday. Donald Fagen debuts at #26 with his latest solo album. His first -- The Nightfly -- was a gem that seemed to indicate Becker was redundant. The rest since then? A shadow of his former greatness. Barry Manilow is at #24. It will be interesting to see how much he jumps up next week after his showcase on American Idol. Manilow's "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing" was certainly more enjoyable than his flogging of "Unchained Melody" (the song he sang when first promoting the album) and it was pretty menschy of Manilow to fly out to check on the arrangements one more time before the kids' performance. On the singles chart, Pearl Jam debuts at #41 with their political diatribe "World Wide Suicide" and Kelly Clarkson has two tunes in the Top 30. Longtime hit "Because of You" (which peaked at #7) actually rises four slots to #22 and latest hit "Walk Away" is at #16 and rising. They go along nicely with her 5 times platinum album Breakaway. Fellow Idol Carrie Underwood peaked at #20 with "Jesus Takes The Wheel," very impressive since it's essentially a country song.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Primetime Preview

The Idol results show, a new episode of Lost (focusing on the Korean couple), the new season of South Park (with a Chef-centric episode) and a couple of premieres. Will Bones continue to do well in its new slot? Can Veronica Mars gain a LITTLE steam before CW makes its picks for the fall? But the biggest event of the night is the stupidest programming move of the year. Viewers hate to have their habits changed and one habit for a long, long time has been Law & Order at 10 p.m. But NBC is moving it 9 p.m. tonight -- placing it opposite Lost (which, granted, has dropped considerably its second season) and the Idol results show. All to give a bigger boost to the unprepossessing new series Heist. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Made In China

Someone promoting a DVD sent me an electronic keyboard -- the YongMei Electronic Keyboard, to be exact. It was made in China, just like 90% of the items in your home. (Go check the labels if you don't believe me. I'll wait.) Unfortunately, every single note sounds like an annoying door buzzer rather than a melodious tune and darned if I can get the karaoke function to work. But what I'll never understand is why these companies don't pay some freelancer who is actually fluent in English to check their packaging before sending it out. Here are some delightful excerpts from the instructions and description:

"Set FUNCTION to PLAY position if you want to performance."

"Seesaw two buttons of voices and you will have 4 kinds of satisfactory voices."

"Insert microphone into the karaoke socket and you can enjoying self-playing and self-singing." [I do quite enjoy self-playing, I must admit.]

"Wish the electronic organ to bring your family much happiness!"

Apple Doesn't Know What's Good For It

The French legislators are passing a law that would force Apple and other online digitial music services to make them compatible with all players, not just their own brands. Apple of course is furious and may pull out of the market in retaliation. But they're being foolish. iTunes is far and away the best music store and it would be even more dominant than it is now if everyone could use it and not just people who bought iPods. Same goes for their players. Apple doesn't know it, but this would be the best thing possible for them -- especially if they adopted it worldwide.

HBO's "Big Love" Proves Limp

Maybe polygamy isn't the exciting prospect HBO thought it would be. The Sopranos held steady in week two (despite facing a Desperate Housewives repeat instead of an original), drawing 9.2 million viewers, down a tad from 9.5 million. But Big Love had a huge drop, falling from 4.6 million to 3.4 million, a big 30% drop. Another week of falling numbers and it won't even make it to Season Two, something almost all HBO series accomplish, no matter how mucht ehy falter. (See Carnivale and Rome.) By the way, with Entourage its biggest comedy and The Sopranos on its way out and Six Feet Under and Sex and the City gone, HBO must be starting to get a little antsy. They don't need a "hit," as in a blockbuster like The Sopranos. But they do need good reviews and cachet and Big Love and Rome ain't it. Thank God they've got Deadwood, which is their best shot at a signature show.

UK Box Office

Here's the Top 10 in the UK. Most notable: Tsotsi breaks into the Top Ten on only a modest number of screens. And The Double Life Of Veronique has been reissued, hopefully in a nice new print. Isn't it about time for a Kieslowski retrospective?

1. The Pink Panther
2. V For Vendetta
3. The Hills Have Eyes
4. Chicken Little
5. Syriana
6. Date Movie
7. Walk The Line
8. Lucky Number Slevin
9. Big Momma's House 2
10. Tsotsi

"High School Musical" Back To Number One

The Disney Channel TV movie High School Musical has gone way beyond a hit into a genuine phenomenon. Disney keeps rebroadcasting the show, hitting the Top Five of cable shows week after week and garnering millions of viewers. The soundtrack had EIGHT songs on the Top 100 at the same time, a feat no one else has ever even attempted, much less accomplished. (Thank you, digital single sales.) And now the soundtrack is back on top of Billboard's Top 200 with another 140,000 in sales. Amazing. Billboard's Top Ten:

1. Various Artists -- High School Musical
2. James Blunt -- Back To Bedlam
3. E-40 -- My Ghetto report Card
4. Ne-Yo -- In My Own Words
5. Juvenile -- Reality Check
6. Carrie Underwood -- Some Hearts
7. Matisyahu -- Youth
8. Johnny Cash -- The Legend of Johnny Cash
9. Fall Out Boy -- From Under The Cork Tree
10.Jack Johnson -- Curious George Soundtrack

Hollywood Freaked Out, Excited By YouTube

Hollywood has no idea what to do about YouTube, the website that has exploded in popularity by offering up illegal snippets of video, like that hilarious SNL rap video "Lazy Sunday." YouTube says they literally get threatened with lawsuits by one division of a studio while another is trying to partner with them on new releases. It's easy to say Hollywood should just sit back and enjoy the free publicity. (In truth, SNL only benefits when a skit is popular enough for people to seek it out and watch it.) But if you don't aggressively protect your copyright every time, ther law says you may be giving people a green flag to steal anything they want. One solution? Partner with YouTube to make the video clips available free for a short windown as a promotional stunt, then pull them. Smart studios will also offer them for free on their websites and ultimately offer them -- very, very cheaply -- for sale down the road. People would pay 50 cents to buy "Lazy Sunday" two weeks after it aired, even if it had been available to watch for free before that. As iTunes proves, make something dependable and cheap and people will happily buy it legally.

Overnight TV Ratings -- "Idol" A Monster

American Idol was watched by 33 million people last night. That's more than all the five competing networks...combined. It is a monster. Which makes the success of The Unit at 9 p.m. all the more impressive. It built on a weak lead-in and did just fine, which is more than can be said for Scrubs and Sons and Daughters and most of the other shows. Boston Legal and Law & Order: SVU did fine at 10 and must be thanking the gods they're not on earlier in the evening.

Great Heist Movies

Monkeyboy saw Spike Lee's new film Inside Man and had more fun than he was expecting. espite a slightly deflating finale, he thought it was a solid genre flick. To get in the mood for this bank job, check out my NY Post article highlighting some classic heist films from the past. (I wouldn't call them the best ones of all time, just five fun flicks.) Amongn the titles: Bonnie and Clyde, Ocean's Eleven, Dog Day Afternoon, Goldfinger and Heat. What movies are missing? Rififi and Charley Varrick to name two. What would you have included if there were more room?