Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Soderbergh making Not One, Not Two, But THREE Che Films

Director Steven Soderbergh is following his WW II drama "The Good German" with three different films about Che Guevara, says Variety. Benicio Del Toro stars as Che (he's no Gael Garcia Bernal, I'll tell ya) in the Cuba-dominated "The Argentine" and the follow-up "Guerrilla" which takes Che from New York to the jungles of South America. Shot in Spanish, it'll be interesting to see if this is Saint Che or a more realistic depiction. At the same time, Soderbergh has been filming a documentary about Che, filming interviews with anyone he can find who knew the man. The budget for all three is about $70 million.

Oscar Race Update

USA Today has an Oscar race update, with everyone thinking "The Departed" looks like Martin Scorsese's next chance to hit the jackpot with a Best Director statue. The movie's continued success (huge, by his standards) and across the board positive reviews bodes well. But I still don't think this will be the final winner. Maybe they'll say the movie peaked too early or whatever. But it doesn't have the emotional wallop at the end that Oscar films should have and it doesn't feel "important." Plus, DiCaprio and Damon both have major Oscar type movies coming out that will overshadow their performances here. And while it won't upset me if Scorsese gets the Oscar for this, I'd rather it were for an unqualified success. No movie with the amateurish final shot of this film -- a rat crawling across a banister that is so symbolic you're embarrassed -- should get an Oscar for direction.

"The Golden Compass" Begins Filming

The first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy has begun filming. One of the best works of fantasy in my lifetime, the three books have sold some 9 million copies worldwide, a great start for a substantive, thought-provoking spin on Milton's "Paradise Lost" wrapped up in a highly entertaining tale of witches and talking bears. It may someday rank with "The Lord of the Rings," "Alice In Wonderland" and "The Chronicles Of Narnia" (not a favorite of mine) as classic fantasy works and I don't say that lightly. One indication of how unusual this tale is: the filmmakers had to deny that anti-religious elements of the story had been taken out. (Usually, of course, you deny that any anti-religious elements have been put in.)

Overnight TV Ratings -- America Sees The (Friday Night) Light(s)

As I hoped, NBC's lazy experiment of tossing "Friday Night Lights" onto Monday at 10 p.m. -- opposite the record-setting popularity of Monday Night Football on ESPN -- was a very modest success. You can't just throw a serialized drama onto another night and hope it sticks. Nonetheless, "Friday Night Lights" did slightly better than "Studio 60" last week (even adjusting for slightly higher ratings from "Heroes"). Of course, it faced repeats on CBS, but still: better is better. NBC needs to immediately pull the show, hold it for spring and then do the obvious: relaunch "Friday Night Lights" as a spring-only drama (a la "24") on FRIDAY NIGHT after high school football season is over. Then, the fans of football who would normally be at a game can watch the show. How hard is that to see? Anyone watch it for the first time. Here are the rest of the ratings, per MediaWeek's Marc Berman:

8 p.m.
1. Deal Or No Deal (NBC) -- 16.84 million viewers
2. Prison Break (FOX) -- 8.96 mil
3. How I Met Your Mother repeat (CBS) -- 8.46 mil/The Class re (CBS) -- 7.16 mil
4. Wife Swap rerun(ABC) -- 6.49 mil
5. Everybody Hates Chris (CW) -- 3.56 mil/All Of Us (CW) -- 3.08 mil

9 p.m.
1. Heroes (NBC) -- 14.74 million
2. Two and a Half Men rerun(CBS) -- 13.77 mil/Old Christine re (CBS) -- 10.77
3. The Bachelor: Rome (ABC) -- 8.23 mil
4. Justice (FOX) -- 6.5 mil
5. Girlfriends (CW) -- 3.12 mil/The Game (CW) -- 2.84 mil

10 p.m.
1. CSI: Miami rerun (CBS) -- 14.2 mil
2. Friday Night Lights (NBC) -- 8.29 million
3. What About Brian (ABC) -- 6.44 mil

"Today" Trounces "Good Morning America"

The unstoppable dominance of "Today" remains unstoppable, per MediaWeek. While Katie Couric has a long, hard slog to move CBS out of third place in the evening news (as was to be expected), her replacement Meredith Viera benefits from the very same desire of viewers to stick with the tried and true. Today is averaging 5.69 million viewers season to date (up 1%), Good Morning America is averaging 4.85 million (down 8%) and CBS's The Early Show is at 2.64 million (down 6%). Viera has moved smoothly into the co-anchor slot but this has as much to do with settled viewer patterns as anything else. That hard-to-budge audience changes slowly and it's hurting Couric and helping Viera. A switch in anchors is the rare time when those patterns can get adjusted and it could still happen in the morning race, but the seamlessness of Viera's entry doesn't bode well for Diane Sawyer.

Who Belongs In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?

FoxNews' Roger Friedman -- a serious soul historian and the producer of soul documentary "Only The Strong Survive" -- backs up one of my reader's comments below. Friedman writes about the Hall of Fame shortlist:
Five of the following nine acts will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year: Chic, The Dave Clark Five, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, R.E.M., The Ronettes, Patti Smith, The Stooges, Joe Tex or Van Halen.

I love Chic, but they ain’t rock and roll. Neither is Grandmaster Flash. (Chic, on the other hand, might get in because everyone loves Nile Rodgers....) Joe Tex is dead, and sadly, the Rock Hall doesn’t care for R&B anymore, let alone dead R&B, although I will vote for him. Still absent, shamefully: Billy Preston, Mary Wells, Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Chubby Checker, The Moody Blues, Todd Rundgren, Yes and so on....
I'm sure if Friedman thinks Joe Tex is worthy that he is. And just like my reader, Friedman thinks Chic and Grandmaster Flash don't belong. (Check my comments on the link to see my defense of them.) As for the people who are missing, Linda Ronstadt is the most egregious error in my book: her ability to excel in so many different genres is truly remarkable. (Todd Rundgren is a close second among the names he mentions.) And personally, the Hall will remain a popularity contest (based a lot on record sales) until Richard and Linda Thompson are included. He's a musician's musician, one of the greatest guitarists of all time, a brilliant songwriter and mastermind behind numerous masterpieces with Fairport Convention, his duo work with Linda and his solo albums of the last 20+ years.

On another note, Friedman quotes a GE head who says "Studio 60" shouldn't be cancelled because they have "too much invested in it." Actually, the fact that the show is expensive is a very good reason for cancelling it sooner rather than later, frankly. Friedman also says last night was the start of November sweeps but according to MediaWeek's Marc Berman (who knows better than me), they begin in "two days" -- meaning either Wed. or Thur.

London Music Community Backs Paul (Of Course)

The Paul McCartney/Heather Mills divorce is getting truly ugly and obviously the London music community is placing its sympathies behind the cute Beatle. Talk show host Jonathon Ross delivered these nasty comments at the recent Q Awards:
The outspoken BBC presenter described Sir Paul McCartney's estranged wife as a 'f***ing liar'. And he went on: 'I wouldn't be surprised if we found out she's actually got two legs.'
Like Rush Limbaugh's comments on Michael J. Fox, this seems beyond tasteless to me, whichever side you're on. It's not being PC I'm talking about, it's being polite.

"Wicked" Catching Fire In UK

I still haven't seen "Wicked" in NYC but I sent my sister in London to see it when it opened there and the show is doing gangbusters. They're claiming a weekly box office record in London with 761,000 pounds. (Roughly $1,451,000 at the current rate of $1.91 to the pound.) A bit of sloppiness at the end from the BBC: they say that "Wicked" became the highest grossing show in New York musical history. What they surely mean to claim is that it had the highest grossing single week in New York musical history. (It certainly hasn't run long enough to challenge "The Phantom Of The Opera" et al.) And frankly, I question whether it has the single week record either: "The Producers" charged extraordinary amounts of money for their New Year's Eve show and had a top ticket price of $450 or more at one point. (The current "Jersey Boys" has premium seating for $350.)

NY Daily News #1...In New York

The NY Daily News is surely unhappy that the NY Post can claim a higher circulation, whatever the extenuating circumstances (such as the Post being only 25 cents, Murdoch losing millions to support it, etc.) But they make a good argument: the NY Daily News is still the #1 newspaper in the NY metro area. (The NY Post gets distributed in other states like Florida etc. There's no reason a paper should look down on readers anywhere, but hey, #1 in NYC is still #1.) And the Sunday paper -- which I write for -- is far and away the champ. The NY Daily News sells 780,196 copies on Sunday and the NY Post sells 427,264. (No word on the trends for either.) Incidentally, just to prove how much I'm loved, I emailed my Daily News editor about the headlines that the NY Post was beating the Daily News and joked, "Is it my fault?" He said, "It sure ain't a f---ing coincidence." Then I emailed my former editor at the Post and asked, "You don't think it's because I left, do you?" and HE replied, "Frankly, I do." They're joking, right?

New David Lynch Opening In NYC Dec 6

His new oddity (that's a compliment) is "Inland Empire," an almost three hour DV extravaganza with Lynch favorites like Laura Dern (still vastly underappreciated and underused), Diane Ladd and Harry Dean Stanton joined by Jeremy Irons and more. It mines Hollywood, perhaps in a similar way to "Mulholland Drive." Given its scattershot shooting history -- done on and off for the last few years -- "Inland Empire" can't help but seem like an indulgent mess. It's not a good sign when the director says the possibilities are endless while he's still filming and getting more excited about technology than the script. Lynch ended up distributing the film himself, either because no one wanted it or no one understood it. Still, the freedom of DV (especially with a talented cast ready to work cheap) must be intoxicating for an artist, so who knows? I certainly want to see it. Opens at IFC.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Odds & Ends

I called a friend who mentioned a week ago that he couldn't understand why Reese Withersppon was married to Ryan Phillipe and didn't think they'd last. I told him to sit down rather dramatically so he knew the news was silly but "significant." Then I told him and he laughed. A few hours later, he called back to say when I told him to sit down, he thought for a moment I was going to say the Yankees had traded A-Rod. Yankee fans will understand what terrific news that would be.

The Little Dog Laughed -- at the Sunday preview, my friends say the director came out at about 2:10 and said that one of the leads (Julie White, who got raves for playing a rapacious agent when the play debuted Off Broadway) simply wasn't there and they couldn't reach her. Most Broadway shows play at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sundays (if there are two shows) and this one was playing rather unusually at 2 p.m. They thought she just didn't realize and hoped she'd show up at about 2:30 and they'd rush her on stage. There was an understudy but the show had just begun previews and her costume wasn't available yet. Naturally, someone called out that that wasn't a problem. (The show has a bit of male nudity in it, actually.) Everyone laughed and was sent to the lobby to relax for a hoped-for 2:45 p.m. start. And that's what happened. Where was White? Wandering the aisles of Bed, Bath & Beyond picking out sheets. She was mortified that she'd delayed the start of the show and almost inevitably one of her first lines said something like, "It was a very difficult beginning" or some such thing and got a huge laugh.

The Rolling Stones -- they played a concert at the Beacon for Bill Clinton's birthday. They raised money and also filmed the event with Martin Scorsese capturing the action. Bill Clinton got even more applause almost than the Stones, receiving a thunderous standing ovation when he arrived with Hillary. But Mick Jagger reportedly one upped him by saying it was great to see the President of the United States. "And I see you brought your husband."

"Friday" Is Monday

That's right, "Friday Night Lights" is airing tonight at 10 p.m. on NBC instead of "Studio 60." If you already watch "Heroes" at 9 p.m., give it a shot. I think it's the best new show of the season. You cancatch last week's episode online for free at www.nbc.com (with some commercials). And you can buy previous episodes at iTunes. So no excuses.

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Shortlist

The next batch of inductees will come from the following nine acts. Which five would you choose? (Listed alphabetically). My thoughts below.

1. Chic
2. Dave Clark Five
3. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
4. Joe Tex
5. R.E.M.
6. The Ronettes
7. Patti Smith
8. The Stooges
9. Van Halen


1. *Chic -- indispensable dance act. Put 'em in.
2. Dave Clark Five -- nope.
3. *Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five -- Absolutely essential rap act. Must.
4. Joe Tex -- don't think so.
5. *R.E.M. -- another first round lock.
6. The Ronettes -- Phil Spector is already in. Do they need to be too?
7. Patti Smith -- basically for one album. I wouldn't but they will.
8. *The Stooges -- definitely.
9. *Van Halen -- definitely. Though needn't be first year of eligibility

"Superman" Returns

Despite a so-so showing at the box office ($390 mil worldwide with DVD sales to come), Warner Bros. is moving ahead seriously with another new "Superman" film headed by Bryan Singer and starring Brandon Routh. Singer promises more action in the second film. It's not greenlit -- after all, there's no script or budget yet. (One part of the budget is clear: it MUST be under $200 mil; that's Hollywood's idea of belt-tightening.)

Overnight TV Ratings

Here are the Friday and Saturday results per MediaWeek's Marc Berman. It won the night with 13.64 mil viewers. Still no word on where this year's World Series ranks among all-time. Saturday is a dead zone of course. And here are the results for Sunday night (# of viewers for CBS not available so I give rating, which is diff:

7 p.m.
1. 60 Minutes (CBS) -- 13.2 rating*
2. America's Funniest Home Videos (ABC) -- 11.98 mil viewers
3. NBC's Football Pregame (NBC) -- 5.8 rating*
4. The Simpsons (FOX) -- 3.86 mil/Til Death (FOX) -- 3.93 mil
5. Supernatural (CW) -- 1.67 mil

8 p.m.
1. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC) -- 15.83 mil viewers
2. Sunday Night Football (NBC) -- 14.91 mil viewers
3. The Amazing Race (CBS) -- 8.7 rating
4. The Simpsons (FOX) -- 5.38 mil/American Dad (FOX) -- 5.13 mil
5. 7th Heaven (CW) -- 3.14 mil

9 p.m.
1. Desperate Housewives (ABC) -- 21.14 mil viewers
2. Sunday Night Football (NBC) -- 14.91 mil viewers
3. Cold case (CBS) -- 10.0 rating
4. Family Guy (FOX) -- 5.13 mil/The War At Home (FOX) -- 3.63 mil
5. America's Next Top Model (CW) -- 1.61 mil

10. p.m.
1. Sunday Night Football (NBC) -- 14.91 mil viewers
2. Without A Trace (CBS) -- 9.9 rating
3. Brothers & Sisters (ABC) -- 12.67 mil viewers

"Dilbert" Cartoonist Was Speechless...Literally

"Dilbert" Scott Adams was suffering from spasmodic dysphonia. Oddly, Botox injections can sometimes work but didn't in his case. One of my favorite singers -- Linda Thompson -- suffered from this malady, thinking for years it was stage fright, told by countless doctors it was all in her head, until she finally got a proper diagnosis. There's no end to the strange diseases out there. I interviewed actress Vera Farmiga of "The Departed" and she said she was playing a character suffering from a disease that makes a person feel like a quadraplegic trapped in an able-bodied person's body. Now if THAT isn't one of the oddest, most disturbing illnesses, I don't know what is.

"Studio 60" About To Be Cancelled?

That's what the usually dependable Roger Friedman of FoxNews says. However, he doesn't quote any reliable sources or offer up any evidence other than the obvious: the ratings are poor (which we all knew). The one new piece of evidence he digs up is that stars on the show are tellking friends they know the end is near. Well, so do we. On the negative side, Friedman gets his facts wrong by saying NBC ordered three more episodes. They didn't; what they ordered were three more SCRIPTS, which is far less of a financial risk and far more telling actually. If a network isn't willing to order up a full season of episodes, a show is in trouble. So Friedman misconstrued a signal of NBC's lack of faith as being something positive (which an order of more episodes would in fact be). He also described "Heroes" as a "cult" hit. Yes, it's a comic book superhero sort of show, but it's still not a cult hit -- it's ranked in the Top 30 every week. Finally, he failed to mention the most telling fact of all: NBC is kicking "Studio 60" out of its plum timeslot and trying out "Friday Night Lights" instead. If "Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip" were doing well, NBC would never mess with it like this. So Friedman is right; "Studio 60" will be cancelled. But he doesn't back up that obvious claim with any new info and he gets his facts wrong. A rare chance to say gotcha about Friedman.

Barack Obama Hits #2 On Book Charts

Is that a sign he should be the Vice President with Hillary Clinton? Just wondering. I'm also very happy to see the goofily funny Amy Sedaris hit #10 with her faux hospitality book. (One amusing section suggests you have the kids play "Beauty Parlor" -- they do each other's hair and makeup and gossip about everyone else.) On the children's charts, the big hero of the day is Peter Pan. The first authorized sequel is doing well and the second unauthorized spin-off co-written by Dave Barry is stil flying high.

UK Music Charts -- The Magic Numbers Are Back

British music fans love their disposable pop, so the new singles chart is filled with stuff like McFly at #1 with "Star Girl," Fedee Le Grand at #2 with "Put Your Hands Up For Detroit" and Girls Aloud with "Something Kinda Ooooh" at #3. I'm interested in Amy Winehouse, who got great reviews and sees her new song jump to #9. And I'm excited about critical faves The Magic Numbers, who debut at #16 with "Take A Chance." And here's the album Top 10, all per the BBC. Despite terrible reviews, Robbie Williams still hits the top:

1. Robbie Williams -- Rudebox
2. My Chemical Romance -- The Black Parade
3. Meat Loaf -- Bat Out Of Hell 3: The Monster Is Loose
4. Rod Stewart -- Still The Same...Great Rock Hits Of The Sixties
5. Killers -- Sam's Town
6. Scissor Sisters -- Ta-Dah
7. Razorlight -- Razorlight
8. James Morrison -- Undiscovered
9. Snow Patrol -- Eyes Open
10. John Legend -- Once Again

"Borat" Followup Sold To Universal For $42.5 Million

How smart is this? Even as Fox scales back the opening weekend screen total for "Borat" from 2000 to 800 (which is a sign of panic but will I think be better for the movie long-term), comic Sacha Baron Cohen has sold his next reality film to Universal for $42.5 mil. That one will star the outrageously gay fashionista Bruno. I think its appeal is less than Borat -- you certainly don't get the automatic frat/Jackass audience with Brune -- but the price for worldwide rights is still low enough that it makes sense. That money includes the $20+ mil budget, a good $15 mil to $20 mil guaranteed for Cohen and then 15% of the backend. Well deserved, but what is Cohen going to do after he's done feature films for his three main characters? Can he make a sequel once Borat becomes world-famous? Yes, if Cohen gives up on the "prank" aspect of the films that is increasingly unnecessary and yet still very funny.

UK's "Idol" Show Ruining Christmas #1 Single Gambling

OK, in the UK there's a long tradition of celebrating whatever song happens to be #1 during the week of Christmas. It used to be happenstance, of course, but now a lot of artists release "Christmas" singles (not songs with Christmas themes, per se, but holiday appropriate fare or just a huge, star-studded event) in hopes of being the winner of this year's Christmas slot. Naturally, since they're British, this also involves gambling. People wager lots of money on what song will make it.

Now that's all being spoiled by "The X Factor," Simon Cowell's reality show that supplanted "Pop Idol" as the UK equivalent to "American Idol." The first single from the winner of the show is always a massive seller and now they're timing them to come out just in tiime to dominate the pop charts come the holiday. It's ruining it for everyone, since the gambling this year says that the reunion single of super boy band Take That, hit group All Angels and even the UK's beloved Cliff Richard are all pegged to fall short to "The X Factor" winner. That's right, we don't even know who is gonna win but they're sure to beat any and all superstars. Now THAT'S a hit TV show.

"South Park" Fracas

UPDATE: Now IMDB.com is claiming Steve Irwin's widow is devastated over the "South Park" reference to Irwin's death and scared that their two children might accidentally see it. Then an Irwin compatriot suggests people place poisonous animals in the homes of the show's creators. Way to keep the spirit of Steve Irwin alive: use animals to frighten and kill people! An Australian TV network says they MIGHT air the episode next year or in 2008, which the friend insists is still "too soon." As for fears that her kids might see it: the daughter is now 8 and the son will turn 3 in December. Assuming the episode is shown in Australia two years from now, they'll be 10 and 5. What the hell would any decent parent be doing let a ten year old and a five year old watch an adult TV show like South Park which typically doesn't even air until late at night (10 p.m. in the US) and is filled with expletives? It's not a kiddie show, for heaven's sake.

Last week I wrote about the last episode of "South Park" and how consistently amusing I've found the show recently. In it, Satan is throwing himself a Super Sweet 16 Birthday Party (a la the spoiled girls on that MTV reality show) and it takes place at Halloween so everyone wears a costume. Now some people are upset that the show included a joke about Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin. Yes, I'm sure his family wouldn't be ready to see such a joke, but you don't make TV shows geared towards a handful of privileged people. And in fact the idea that it would be tacky for someone to dress as Steve Irwin this Halloween was the very point of the joke: Satan spots the guy and asks him to leave, saying it's "just too soon" to come as Steve Irwin. Then Irwin says no, it's really him and Satan makes him leave anyway because he's not wearing a costume. Yes, it was a joke about Irwin but it also sent out the message that "doing" Irwin this Halloween would be crass. Mind you, I doubt the Irwin family would be pleased to see anyone dressing as him ever -- especially if they had a stingray sticking out of their chest as he did on the show. But really, complaining about this seems silly -- if you're easily offended, surely you shouldn't be watching "South Park" in the first place.

Corinne Bailey Rae Wins Best New Act At Q Awards

Good for her.Now why haven't you bought her debut album yet?

Nobel Prize Winner Nadine Gordimer Defies Robbers

Author Nadine Gordimer was attacked and robbed in her own home in South Africa. She was assaulted by three gunmen who locked Gordimer and a maid in a small room and demanded all their jewelry. Gordimer refused to part with her wedding ring and they apparently relented. Good for her, but really, even a wedding ring isn't worth your life. I had a friend who resisted in Haiti when he was being robbed, trying to hold onto his wallet. They killed him. And what was he fighting for? $20 bucks and a driver's license? It can be replaced but your life can't.

E! Entertainment Fires Crew For Invading Brad Pitt's Home

The camera crew entered Pitt's estate, presumably not realizing he was away on location. E! fired them because you're not supposed to actually invade a celebrity's home. Invading Pitt's privacy and harassing him from the second he walks out his front door and fighting to get pictures of his children and chasing after him in cars and filming him again as he gets out of his car and goes into another building and then waiting outside for him and filming him again as he gets out and yelling out taunts and insults to get a rise out of him (as tabloid photographers do) and then chasing after him and then filming him as he picks up his kids at school and then chasing after him and filming him as he rushes back into his home? That's fine as far as E! and the rest of the tabloid press are concerned.

Weekend Box Office -- "Saw" Bloody Good

No surprises here. I didn't see anything on how "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas" did. But with "Flags Of Our Fathers" already doing less business than Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" (which has been out for weeks) AND "The Prestige," the news is not good for Clint Eastwood. The Top 10 per Box Office Prophets:

1. Saw III -- $34.3 mil total
2. The Departed -- $9.8 mil ($91.1 mil total)
3. The Prestige -- $9.6 mil ($28.8 mil total)
4. Flags Of Our Fathers -- $6.4 mil ($19.9 mil total)
5. Open Season -- $6.1 mil ($77.4 mil total)
6. Flicka -- $5.0 mil ($14.1 mil total)
7. Man Of The Year -- $4.7 mil ($28.9 mil total)
8. The Grudge 2 -- $3.3 mil ($36 mil total)
9. Marie Antoinette -- $2.9 mil ($9.8 mil total)
10. The Guardian -- $2.4 mil ($50 mil total)

Lost and Found In Translation

Nothing wakes up a dusty old tome like a good translation -- suddenly an ancient book that seemed creaky and obtuse wakes up and becomes lively and witty and fun. Certainly one of the most successful translators working today is Robert Fagles. His versions of The Iliad and The Odyssey were huge bestsellers and would surprise anyone bored by poor translations they might have slogged through in high school. Now he's tackled Virgil's Aeneid and the NYT has a profile. My personal favorite translator -- and I never imagined I would have one -- is Stephen Mitchell, who usually focuses on religious texts. His The Gospel According To Jesus, Tao Te Ching and The Book Of Job are three of my favorites.

"Everybody Hates Chris" NYT Piece

I think "Everybody Hates Chris" is a sweet, enjoyable show. It won't rock your world or make you a fanatic to see it every week -- but whenever I do watch it, I'm amused and entertained and especially enjoy it's good-natured tone. (That seems to be a theme for me lately, whether it's "Earl" or "Chris.") The New York Times has a good look at the actors who play the mom and dad visiting Chris Rock's real neighborhood.

Blogger Quite Slow; My Stories

Here are two of the three stories I did for the Sunday NY Daily News.

A profile of Christine Ebersole pegged to her new musical Grey Gardens.

A short quickie on "Borat."

Still missing is my medium-sized piece on the Dixie Chicks and their new documentary film "Shut Up & Sing."

And of course the big news of the day is that the NY Post has finally passed the NY Daily News in weekday circulation. I would point out that the NY Daily News is the only other newspaper in the Top 25 to actually increase in circulation. Also, while figures aren't available here, the NY Daily News is way ahead of the NY Post in Sunday circulation -- which is the day I write for -- so you can't blame it all on me.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Buy Today's NY Daily News

I've got three articles: a small one on "Borat" and another small one on The Dixie Chicks" and a feature on "Grey Gardens," a new musical. Unfortunately, none of them are online yet so you'll have to buy the paper if you can to savor my words.

Weekend Box Office -- "Flags" Drooping

Here are the estimates for the weekend box office based on Friday figures, per Box Office Prophets. "Saw 3" looks set for $36 mil, "The Prestige" and "The Departed" might hit $10 mil, "Running With Scissors" is expanding well while "Marie Antoinette" is fading and "Flags of OUr Fathers" is down more than 40% from its opening weekend. Maybe weekday and matinee numbers will be better for this older skewing film, but I don't think it looks good. No word yet on "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D" which was sold out in prime screenings yesterday here in New York. And Variety mentions that "The Devil Wears Prada" will gross more overseas than the $100+ mil it madere here -- great news for Streep. Final figures tomorrow.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Network TV Has Lost Its Mind

"Dancing With The Stars" is a big hit. So is the game show "Deal Or No Deal." Hence "Show Me The Money," a new game show on ABC premiering November 22. William Shatner is the host, contestants have to answer trivia questions and the one who gets it right has to choose one of the show's glitzy dancers to reveal how much (or how little) money they've won. Shatner boogies with the dancers and then they reveal the contestant's fate. You can't just stop after winning some money, you've got to go on till the end of the game. William Shatner, trivia, secret envelopes and lots of dancing: it makes perfect sense...if you're a network executive.

New Battlestar: Galactica Tonight; NYT Sort Of On Board

There's a new "Battlestar: Galactica" tonight. The New York Times tries to get on board but they blow it in eight different ways, unintentionally proving they haven't been watching the show at all. First they blather on about how the show can be seen as an allegory for Iraq and why critics hate this. Then they make the bizarre claim that OTHER critics discriminate against genre shows like sci-fi:
"Ultimately, genre discrimination is not good for anyone. And it has been particularly hard on science fiction like the newest “Battlestar,” which has been snubbed by some critics who fear its didacticism and (scarier still) the ardor of its fans."
Actually, I'd hardly call "BG" snubbed by critics: it's regularly hailed by most everyone as a terrific series. Only "The Wire" on HBO has received more praise in the last few months and even that is a close call. As for "genre discrimination," maybe the NYT doth protest too much because they were late to the game on "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "The X Files" and "Gilmore Girls" (a chick show) and many others that didn't have the gravitas of "drama." Then they refer to the new season premiere setting ratings records for SciFi, which is misleading since the new season premiered at slightly lower numbers than before. (I'm sure it set some "record" because networks can always slice and dice numbers, but the new season of "BG" has not unfortunately continued to grow its audience. It's doing fine, however, so don't worry-- after all, they're facing new episodes of other shows in the midst of the fall tv season instead of airing in January and the summer during reruns. But that's a distinction too fine for the NYT.)

Finally, just to prove they haven't a clue what's been going with the show, they write this:
A recent exchange between Laura and Gaius Baltar (James Callis), an oily human recruited by the Cylons to be their puppet dictator, was like a punch in the stomach. Audience sympathies are generally with Laura, a middle-aged woman and a seeming softie who may be a stand-in for the new sci-fi viewers, who are increasingly women; she’s human, for one, and she’s generally liberal, sympathetic to underdogs, a former teacher. But talking to Gaius, who is furious at the insurgents for their attack on the Cylon-collaborating human police, she becomes an extremist in defense of suicide bombing by humans. “Desperate people use desperate measures,” she says.

Gaius then challenges Laura to say she supports suicide bombing in public places and, thus, the murder of civilians by naïve soldiers strapped with explosives. She cannot in good faith defend the practice, and she folds.
Laura a softie? Obviously the NYT hasn't been watching the show at all, [SPOILER ALERT FOR DETAILS FROM PAST SEASONS] since Laura quickly became a badass when it comes to Cylons, brutally and repeatedly having any captured Cylons tossed out of an airlock into space and only keeping one around when it/she could prove useful. She also urged Adama to assassinate a higher-ranking member of the military and has made other ruthless decisions belying her schoolteacher origins. Half the fun of the show has been watching her confound our expectations and sometimes out-badassing even the military. The point of the scene they describe is not to show Laura possibly wavering in her softness and then pulling back but to show her wavering in her TOUGHNESS.

It also shows Gauis in a positive light (for a change). And saying the Cylons recruited him to be their lackey is also wrong: he was the President of the Colonies when they invaded and therefore the logical leader for them to deal with. If the NYT actually WATCHED the show (and I mean all of it, not just a few episodes), maybe they could discuss it intelligently.

Weekend Move Preview -- Will Clint Hold Steady?

I can't heartily recommend any of the new movies, including "Babel," which I'm sure will do well in limited release and with critics probably falling for its twisty plot as being faux significant. But I did enjoy "The Prestige" since I'm a sucker for magic. "The Illusionist" insists on magic but adds a dash of reality while "The Prestige" insists on reality but adds a touch of magic. They make interesting bookends, I think. And I'll be interested to see if Clint Eastwood's "Flags Of Our Fathers" shows the usual durability of his films by having a solid second weekend. I'm not so sure, since I really found it quite a disappointment and missing some emotional oomph that would help word of mouth. And what I REALLY want to see before the holiday is over is Tim Burton's Nightmare before Christmas in 3-D. Box Office Prophets has the rundown.

"Lap Pillows" Are All The Rage

My friend monkeyboy says simply, "I love Japan."

Daytime Soaps Are Dead

By the way, it's a little acknowledged fact that daytime soaps have fallen on seriously hard times. Viewing levels are WAY down from the heyday in the Eighties. I'm surprised all three networks still support them. The ENTIRE viewing audience for all eight daytime soaps per MediaWeek is 9.47 million viewers. Total. Lump them all together -- all seven and a half hours of programming -- add up all their viewers and they'd barely rank in the Top 40 for primetime shows. Why they keep getting made is beyond me.

Newsflash! Studios Release Oscar Hopefuls In Fall

In a stunningly unoriginal piece, the LA Times asks us why it is so many adult, thoughtful films appear at the same time in the fall; then they give us the not-so startling answer that it's because movies hope to piggyback on the Oscars. They link it to the Weinsteins but in fact releasing serious movies towards the end of the year with summer fare being typically lighter has been a trend for the past 30 years, at least.

But is it true that serious movies only come out in the fall? The real trend in the last ten years has been a major increase in year-round programming, with some studios putitng out major films like "Saving Private Ryan" in the summer as counter-programming to fluff.

Let's look at this year. Now, there's a difference between Oscar HOPEFULS and Oscar nominees. But what "serious" movies were released this year? In March, they released Johnny Depp's The Libertine, Sam Shepard's Don't Come Knocking, Robert Towne's Ask The Dust, Aaron Eckhart's Thank You For Smoking (which could still get attention come awards time), Spike Lee's Inside Man (a popcorn movie, but still adult), and the terrific noir movie Brick. Now I'm including some indie films but ignoring most foreign films (like Joyeux Noel which also came out in March). I'm just saying, here are some serious films that came out. In April, they released Friends With Money, The Notorious Bettie Page, Akeelah and the Bee and United 93. In May, they released Art School Confidential, Ed Norton's Down In The Valley, and An Inconvenient Truth. In June, they released A Prairie Home Companion, Wordplay, Who Killed The Electric Car and The Devil Wears Prada. In July, the heart of summer, they released Woody Allen's Scoop, Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly and Little Miss Sunshine. In August, they released World Trade Center, Robin Williams' The Night Listener, Ryan Gosling (who is brilliant) in Half Nelson, and The Illusionist. In September, they released Hollywoodland, Sherrybaby, The Black Dahlia, The Last Kiss, All The King's Men, The Last King of Scotland, The Queen and of course Jackass Number Two.

Do more movies come out in the fall that are serious and substantial? Yes, of course. Is it the only time of the year serious movies with well-known stars get released? Not at all. What's even more bizarre is this claim:

Last year, for example, a host of movies tanked at the box office despite being touted — either by the studios or some breathless Oscar prognosticator — as having Academy Award potential. A partial sample includes "Jarhead," "Memoirs of a Geisha," "The New World," "North Country," "Casanova," "The Producers," "Elizabethtown" and "In Her Shoes."

Some of these movies would undoubtedly have failed no matter when they were released. But I'd argue that many of them would've had a better chance for survival if they'd had a chance to find an audience in a less competitive environment.
Where to begin? Just because a movie was "touted" by the studio as a potential Oscar movie doesn't mean it's shocking when they tank. Movies released in the summer are touted as potential blockbusters but many of them flop. Does that mean it's a surprise when every movie isn't a blockbuster? Nope.

And his examples of movies that might have done better away from the fall are crazy. NONE of them outside "The New World" had any critical support and virtually ALL of them would have flopped whenever they were released. It's hard to imagine anyone arguing "Geisha" would have done better in another slot. "The Producers?" A terrible flop in every way. "Casanova?" Actually, they were platforming it to open the movie wider in the slow time of January and February -- it just did so poorly in limited release that those plans fell through. "Elizabethtown?" I can't remember the last movie so thoroughly roasted and that would have happened any time it was released. I loved "The New World" but that's a hard sell at any time. "North Country?" "Jarhead" "In Her Shoes?" Maybe,MAYBE one of them would have done a little better launched at a different time of year. But they got their fair shot at an audience and didn't work. It's not that they were lost in the shuffle; they were rejected by critics and audiences. If any of them -- other than "New World" -- had critical support, the argument that they might have done better at another time might have more creedence. But a flop's a flop. And to discuss the fact that serious movies come out in the fall to tie in with Oscars as if its news to anyone is just bizarre.

Overnight TV Ratings -- World Series Pretty Lame

Well, my prediction that the well-played World Series would start to get a lift in the ratings hasn't proven true. If the Cards win in five, FOX will be very unhappy. And wth the rain delays, a game six will be on the lowest-rated night of the week (Saturday) so they're really hurting. No one has mentioned this becoming the lowest rated World Series of all time for a few days, but it's certainly down significantly from last year. Most of the shows from 9 p.m. on were repeats. Given the ratings for baseball, that was a mistake. Not only would new episodes have done well, they might have depressed FOX's ratings even more. The overnights per MediaWeek's Marc Berman:

8 p.m.
1. Baseball (starts at 8:30) (FOX) -- 14.52 million
2. Ugly Betty (ABC) -- 13.15 million
3. Survivor clip show (CBS) -- 12.61 million
4. My Name Is Earl (NBC) -- 7.56 million/The Office (NBC) -- 6.38 million
5. Smallville (CW) -- 4.79 million

9 p.m.
1. CSI rerun (CBS) -- 16.63 million
2. Baseball (FOX) -- 14.52 million
3. Grey's Anatomy rerun(ABC) -- 12.21 million
4. Deal Or No Deal (NBC) -- 11.03 million
5. Supernatural (CW) -- 3.67 million

10 p.m.
1. Baseball (FOX) -- 14.52 million
2. Shark rerun (CBS) -- 10.37 million
3. Grey's Anatomy rerun (ABC) -- 9.92 million
4. ER (NBC) -- 7.2 million

Signs Of Life For "Studio 60"?

NBC has ordered some more scripts for "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip." Hurrah! ABC has ordered more scripts for Ted Danson's "Help Me Help You," "The Nine"and "Men In Trees." Hurrah! What does it mean? Nothing. Ordering more scripts is the latest tactic for networks that want to either appease a show's creators or try and drum up some free, positive publicity for a struggling show. It's virtually meaningless -- more a sign of a network trying to insist "We haven't cancelled it...yet" than a sign of something fans should take heart from. The truth is that "Studio 60" is being benched on Monday for "Friday Night Lights," Ted Danson's sitcom is a disaster barely holding on to half of its lead-in, the same is true for "The Nine" and "Men In Trees" is a modest performer that might get a shot in another timeslot (say, after "Grey's Anatomy" on Thursday or after "Lost" if that audience is female-heavy enough; wouldn't it be nice to relax with a no-brainer after the twists of "Lost?" Personally, I think putting two heavily serialized shows back to back is a mistake.)

There's only one indicator of a new show's future: getting picked up for a full season. And that's happened for Ugly Betty, Shark, Jericho, Heroes, CW's The Game and (inexplicably) Brothers & Sisters. Script orders are meaningless.

The NYT Analyzes Madonna (and Bush)

The New York Times publishes an essay on the TV appearances of Bush and Madonna, which I found annoying on several levels. First, we're in the midst of a war and a midterm election, so lumping Bush with Madonna is very clever and post-modern and witty and all that but undermines the seriousness of these times. The link between them is obviously facile -- it's as if they're saying 'What's the difference between a President that most Americans believe lied to them about why we invaded another country, a President who has by his own admission broken the law (and then had the law changed) a President who says he must reserve the right to torture people when signing into law a bill that specifically forbids him to do so and a pop star who adopted a baby?' They're both celebrities, right?

But I save most of my ire for the stuff on Madonna. It said, "Madonna went on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to assure a skeptical public that she didn’t snatch an African baby on a fashionably philanthropic whim." A skeptical public? I don't think so. This whole thing is just a media-created event. I don't think the public has an opinion about Madonna's adoption and if the Oprah audience is any guide (and Oprah rules the world, you know), they're supportive of someone with limitless wealth and kids of her own who is willing to adopt a little boy.

Then it said with her adoption that "Madonna came off as a Lady Bountiful-come-lately, trying to compete with Bono in the world of philanthropy in Africa and with Angelina Jolie in the arena of celebrity mothers without borders." Maybe to the media. The more celebrities who use their fame to promote charitable works the better, I say. Would you rather have stars gabbing about the designer they're wearing or talking about helping to feed starving children or ending the genocide in Darfur?

Most misleading of all, the NYT said "It was interesting to see the entertainer who made her name by courting and provoking the press now blaming reporters for her publicity woes." Madonna is always portrayed as a master of media manipulation, but the truth is that for many, many years she has consistently (and probably accurately) bemoaned the media and its fascination with silly stuff, not to mention its peddling of distortions and lies. When your assistants and your friends get offered six figures to sell their story, a celeb can be forgiven for feeling besieged. Madonna hasn't seen the media as her friend for many years and has never suggested otherwise. To suggest that her criticism of the media was a new tack is absurd.

All "Borat" All The Time

The drumbeat of publicity is growing for "Borat," even as Fox cuts by more than half the number of theaters it's playing in. (I think that's good; imagine if a movie actually sold out and people had to wait a week to see it -- that hasn't happened in a long time thanks to 3000+ openings and it will be good for the movie's cachet.) Here's a positive review in the Guardian that gives away too much detail for my taste. (Do what I do with reviews before I've seen a movie -- just read the first and last graph to get the gist of what they think.) And here's an earlier Hollywood Reporter review if you missed it. USA Today has a long feature on the film that tackles the same angle I do on Sunday in a much smaller piece for the NY Daily News - emphasizing what a terrific actor Sacha Baron Cohen is and what he's accomplished (as opposed to focusing on the stunts). And finally -- despite Fox's fears that no one is waiting to see "Borat" -- studios are in a bidding war over Cohen's next movie, which will feature his gay Austrian character Bruno. Universal is said to be offering $42 million for worldwide rights. If it includes DVD, I'd say it's a bargain.

O'Reilly and Letterman Spar Again Tonight

Bill O'Reilly appears on David Letterman for the first time since they got into a nasty argument over politics. When that happened, I thought Dave was being reasonable and tried to downplay things while O'Reilly pushed him on. This time, according to the NY Post, it sounds like O'Reilly was ready to make nice but Dave would have none of it. I'll certainly be watching.

For Fans Of "The Office"

The original "Office" was made for British TV, where its creators are now major stars. Here's an amusing chat with co-creator Stephen Merchant about their new show "Extras," trying to get chicks and having young people accost him on the street with "Oi! Office!"

South Park/Friday Night Lights

What do they have in common? They're both good. I've never watched "South Park" regularly -- in the early years, I'd dip into the show and there was always some hilarious moment or two but it felt scattershot. With the release of their picks for the 10 best episodes, I read that Parker and Stone don't think they hit their stride creatively until season seven. That intrigued meand I've been watching the collection and the new season: they are probably right. While it's certainly not for everyone, the show is indeed much more satisfying now than before. Wednesday night's episode, for example, had Satan throwing himself a Super Sweet 16 Party and throwing hissy fits over the details a la the MTV series. (Parker and Stone definitely have a bone to pick with spoiled rich kids.) At the same time, the kids on the show were trying that trick of saying a dead person's name three times in a mirror -- thus raising Biggie Smalls from the grave. (The kid Butters(?) is especially adorable while Cartman remains wonderfully vile.) And in a third, truly outrageous plot, three serial killers (Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer and Gacy) are sent by Satan to pick up his cake. I have no idea why, but they constantly behaved like The Three Stooges when they weren't slaughtering everyone in sight. It was nonsensical, meaningless and very funny.

Meanwhile, I just caught the latest episode of "Friday Night Lights" and it remains top-notch. Why more critics aren't writing about it is beyond me. Every season, we're lucky if one new show is worth devoting time to -- this year, that show is "Friday Night Lights." Every storyline is involving, from the coach overwhelmed with his job to the stuttering, nervous quarterback trying to deal with his grandmother fighting dementia while his dad is in Iraq, to the alcoholic player guilty over the star quarterback's paralysis and on and on. Really good stuff. Make sure you watch Monday at 10 p.m. and catch up on previous episodes via iTunes or nbc.com If you don't like it, I won't refund your $2 per episode, but I will feel bad.

Stoppard Play Opening Delayed For Actor

The opening of the first part of Tom Stoppard's trilogy "The Coast of Utopia" has been delayed from November 5 to November 27 to accomodate the actor Richard Easton. He collapsed on stage during previews and I had linked to an article for the rather farcical detail that when they asked if there was a doctor in the house (at the posh Lincoln Center) some 20 people swarmed the stage. I saw the entire trilogy in London and if you want to tackle it, I strongly recommend seeing them at the end of the run as close together as possible. The daylong marathon might be too much for some, but it definitely benefits from being seen as a whole.

Media Ouotlets Avoid Dixie Chicks?

Yesterday, I linked to an article saying NPR and others had refused to even carry an ad for the new movie "Death Of A President." Turning down movie ads for anything but porn is all but unheard of -- and as the reviews show, this not very good movie isn't some frightening diatribe but simply a banal look at law enforcement in a post-9-11 world of paranoia and fewer restrictions on the cops. This movie is too mild to be a hot potato.

Now the Weinstein Co. is claiming that NBC and CW are refusing to carry ads for the new Dixie Chicks documentary "Shut Up & Sing" because it features Bush in an unflattering light. (At one point in the movie, singer Natalie Maines turns to the camera addressing Bush and says, "You are a dumb f---.") The CW says the Weinstein Co. is wrong and NBC refuses comment. Again, refusing to run an ad for a documentary film is a very slippery slope. Does that mean the networks approve and endorse all the movies they DO run ads for? I don't think so. As long as the ad itself is appropriate for the timeslot, turning down money seems pretty unAmerican to me.

Silly Article On "Idol" Album Sales

USA Today does an article on CD sales of "Idol" alumni. They're "slowing." Example number one: the THIRD album by Ruebn Studdard. Think about that for a moment: winning or even appearing on "American Idol" can hardly be expected to give you a never-ending career. It's remarkable how MANY people from "Idol" have actually been able to launch their debut solo albums. Is it really a sign of failure that not every artist will have a lengthy career? Of course not. Kelly Clarkson has proved you CAN have a meaningful career launching from "Idol." And Studdard may too: his third album has received better reviews than his first two. Carrie Underwood is a smash in country with her debut. Josh Gracin has enjoyed a string of country hits. Clay Aiken had a smash debut and a solid Christmas album -- his third album is doing poorly and Aiken has complained he wanted to do originals but was forced to do an album of covers. Fantasia had a string of R&B hits. Jennifer Hudson is starring in the potential smash musical "Dreamgirls," widely picked to be an Oscar favorite. I could go on and on. To suggest that "Idol" is losing steam because everyone associated with it isn't having a long-term career is silly. More to the point, a remarkable number of them ARE building careers. And the same week Ruben's new album premiered, Diddy's new album hit #1 -- but at least 300,000 copies lower than his last album. CD sales are down in general right now. But you can't blame Diddy on "Idol."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

NBC Tries To Recreate Thursday Glory Days

They're moving "30 Rock" to Thursday to build a two hour sitcom schedule with "My Name Is Earl," "The Office," the returning "Scrubs" and "30 Rock." Nice try, but with "Ugly Betty," "Grey's Anatomy," "Survivor" and "CSI," the night now belongs to ABC and CBS.

Patricia Heaton, Others Counter Michael J. Fox Ad

Patricia Heaton and other celebrities are countering Michael J. Fox's pro-science ad irunning in Missouri with their own ad arguing against stem-cell research. Certainly Fox wins on artistic points: the Michael J. Fox ad is moving and direct; the Patricia Heaton ad looks like it was filmed by high school students, with bad audio. And as Andrew Sullivan says, is Jim Caviziel speaking in tongues at the beginning of the ad? (I assume it's Aramaic or Latin or some such language to appeal to Christian conservatives, but isn't it awfully off-putting to everyone else since you spend half the ad wondering what he said? On the other hand, Fox News' Roger Friedman suggests it's a surprise Patricia Heaton is a conservative. But she's been open about her views for many years, speaking out while she was on "Everybody Loves Raymond" in favor of pro-life/anti-choice legislation and still won Emmys. The suggestion that her political views will hurt her career is out of date: it would have happened a long time ago and the industry wouldn't have given her its hiughest award if they wanted to ostracize her. Has she had other hits since "Raymond?" not so much, but most TV stars rarely have more than one hit.

Most Newspaper Websites Are Lame

So says The Washington Post's James Brady, who says even newspapers without 80 people devoted to its website (!) like the Post can make their site stand out and be more effective with just a little effort. He mentions audio clips, podcasts and databases of everything from a certain enws topic to restuarant reviews. I'd mention one obvious step he doesn't: providing complete transcripts of interviews so readers can see what quotes were pulled and from what context. Besides, transcripts are usually a lot more fun to read than the articles themselves. Let us see the raw data you used to make the story.

Angelina About To Adopt An Indian Baby

How dare she! Why can't she just party and do drugs like other Hollywood stars? Still, it's good of her to take the heat off Madonna like that, don't you think?

CNN, NPR and Presumably Everyone Else Refuse Ads For "Death Of A President"

The media is so afraid of being pegged liberal they won't even take ADS for movies that come from the left. Both CNN and NPR have formally refused to carry ads for the feature film "Death Of A President" because it deals with the assassination of Bush. I ahven't seen the film and the reviews are all over the place, but one thing is clear: this is not a film that dwells on the killing of Bush but looks at the aftermath of a Presidential assassination in a post-9-11 world where we've abandoned basic principles of democracy and everyone is eager to rush to judgment that the killer must be a Muslim. NPR's ludicrous assertion was that the movie's topic was controversial and therefore they'd be obliged to do a news story on it and therefore taking an ad might compromise them. I guess that rules out 90% of all film ads and most anything else that might be advertised on their network. Will they refuse ads from Apple because they might want to cover the latest launch of an iPod? It's just absurd. If they were genuinely offended by the movie, I might have more respect for them. But this is just cowardice over what the right might say. And taking an ad for a feature film opening across the country is hardly an endorsement of that film, any more than taking an ad for ANYTHING constitutes an endorsement of that product. They're ADS, for heaven's sake.

"Borat" Opening Weekend Scaled Back

Fox has cut the number of screens "Borat" is opening on November 3 from about 2000 way down to 800. They're petrified over the tracking numbers because those indicate most filmgoers haven't a clue what the movie is or even that it's coming out. It's the opposite of "Snakes On A Plane" -- that movie wasn't good but had a tidal wave of publicity. So imagine what happens to "Borat" -- it opens, get good reviews, generates great word of mouth (it really is hilarious) and then people actually discover it, rather than feeling it's been hyped to death and that they're sick of it even before the movie opens. It's called having legs. It doesn't help that the trailer for "Borat" is weak -- it meanders and tries to fit in snippets of four or five jokes when they'd be better off setting up one scene properly and letting it play to give the flavor of the movie. Besides, I don't believe the tracking numbers are catching the number of young people eager to see this film. It's gonna be a hit. And the cut in screens will work in its favor.

Bllboard Charts: Diddy On Top

Diddy hits #1 with his new album Press Play. But I was more intrigued by the action outside the top 10. Vince Gill hit #17 with his acclaimed 4 CD set. And Sting ROSE onm the charts to #25 in his second week. That's rather odd since he obviously doesn't have a hit single; this album is surely the highest charting collection of lute music in pop history. Take that, Zamfir! Justin Timberlake has two songs in the Top 5 on the singles chart. Very impressive. And Tenacious D make what I assume if their Hot 100 debut with the single "Pick Of Destiny."

The CD Top 10:

1. Diddy -- Press Play
2. Evanescence -- The Open Door
3. JoJo -- The High Road
4. Justin Timberlake -- FutureSexy/Love Sound
5. Dierks Bentley -- Long Trip Alone
6. Rod Stewart -- Still The Same...Great Rock Classics Of Our Time
7. Hinder -- Extreme Behavior
8. Ruben Studdard -- The Return
9. Tony Bennett -- Duets: An American Classic
10. The Killers -- Sam's Town

The Singles Top 10:

1. Ludacris -- Money Maker
2. Akon featuring Eminem -- Smack That
3. Hinder -- Lips Of An Angel
4. Justin Timberlake -- SexyBack
5. Justin Timberlake - My Love
6. The Fray -- How To Save A Life
7. JoJo -- Too Little, Too Late
8. Snow Patrol -- Chasing Cars
9. Diddy -- Come To Me
10. Nickelback -- Far Away

Overnight TV Ratings -- "Lost" Stabilizes

I think it's going to be interesting to see what happens to the audience for "Lost" when that show goes on an annoying hiatus to make way for the awful lookikng replacement "Day Break." (Another serialized drama with a crazy, government conspiracy plot mixed in with time travel.) But for the moment, "Lost" has stabilized a bit. It's got a huge lead-in with "Dancing With The Stars" but can barely fight off CBS's "Criminal Minds," which has the more modest lead-in hit "Jericho." "Criminal Minds" increass its lead-in by about 60% while "Lost" drops by about 30%. If "Lost" starts losing regularly -- and that could happen after it takes a vacation -- look for panic to set in. But it still clearly has a faithful audience and they're probably smart and well-educated and wealthy so the show isn't in danger. But still, it's a huge fall from ratings champ and Emmy winner to also-ran to "Criminal Minds." And any fans of "One Tree Hill" should enjoy it while they can; the show is on its last legs.The overnights per MediaWeek's Marc Berman.

8 p.m.
1. Dancing With The Stars (ABC) -- 19.86 million viewers
2. Jericho (CBS) -- 10.54 million
3. 30 Rock (NBC) -- 6.01/20 Good Years (NBC) -- 5.4 million
4. America's Next Top Model (CW) -- 5.48 million
5. Baseball rainout/repeats of The war At Home (FOX) -- 5.52 million

9 p.m.
1. Lost (ABC) -- 16.8 million
2. Criminal Minds (CBS) -- 16.59 million
3. The Biggest Loser (NBC) -- 7.86 million
4. One Tree Hill (CW) -- 3.57 million

10 p.m.
1. CSI: NY (CBS) -- 17.06 million
2. Dateline (NBC) -- 8.66 million
3. The Nine (ABC) -- 8.02 million


Just finished my final article (a profile of Christine Ebersole in the musical "Grey Gardens") and now I have to see Christian Bale's "The Prestige" at 2:30 so I can see his next movie "Harsh Times" at 5:30 so I can interview him tomorrow. Oh for the day when I can switch to a host site that let's you automate your postings so I don't have to be by my computer to actually put up new content throughout the day.

Duran Duran Member Leaves

Guitarist Andy Taylor quits...again. No surprise, but who could have imagined that Duran Duran would still be around to break up 25 years after "Planet Earth" first charted in the UK? Meanwhile, blogger Andrew Sullivan is holding a contest to determine the Best (and Worst) Music Video Of The Eighties. The most important is probably Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" but if I were to pick the most iconic, it might be Duran Duran's "Rio" -- nothing says the Eighties and the rise of MTV quite like those lads on that yacht.

Madonna On Oprah

I've always liked Madonna because she's a great songwriter, delivering one clasisc pop tune after another for more than 20 years. All the other stuff -- the attention, the controversy -- is just noise. And of course she's always portrayed as one tough cookie. So why aren't I surprised that she came across as so confused and hurt by the attention brought to her adoption of a little boy from Africa. Despite her clear emotional feelings on the topic, Madonna was typically thoughtful and intelligent in discussing her actions. Yes, she could have adopted a little black baby right here. But since her participation in Live 8 led Madonna to set up charitable works in Malawi, she had paid several visits to the country and was obviously familiar with the many sick and dying kids there. So she adopted one. Makes sense to me. If she'd done charitable work in China, maybe it would have been a Chinese baby. If she'd done charitable work in New Orleans, it might have been a child from there. Shouldn't we be happy any wealthy person who has had kids on their own would choose to adopt a child from anywhere in the world? Abandoned and neglected children will never run out, unfortunately. If it becomes "trendy" to adopt a kid from Africa, why then there will be a few less children in that country without a home. Where's the harm? And for someone so savvy, Madonna sure was surprised her actions caused a worldwide sensation. I could have told her that would happen -- maybe she knew that and just wasn't expecting the attention to be so negative. Whether she produces a book of erotica or adopts a baby, Madonna can't help stirring the media into a frenzy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Overnight TV Ratings

Here are the overnight ratings for those who care. "Dancing With The Stars" is a huge hit, the World Series is doing okay and "Friday Night Lights" is holding steady but needs more viewers. And "Veronica Mars" is picking up a little steam.

Very busy today trying to file the three stories I was doing interviews for all day yesterday.

"Friday Night Lights" Vs. "Studio 60"

My friend Sam wondered why I insisted "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" was a disaster and likely to be canceled by the end of the season. Why wouldn't they show some patience with it? As I've said before, networks have always killed some shows immediately and shown tremendous patience with others -- it's been that way since the beginning of TV. That patience doesn't always pay off, of course. But why do some shows get a second chance? Usually there's SOMETHING they can point to as encouraging in the ratings. "Studio 60" has dropped every week since its premiere. It's squandering a terrific lead-in: "Heroes," a growing hit at 9 p.m. that should attract the same literate, young demographic "Studio 60" wants. Even worse, "S60OTSS" loses more viewers in the second half hour. (In other words, even the people that tune in are getting bored before the show is over.) In comparison, look at "Friday Night Lights," the show that is going to take over "Studio 60" in a (probably pointless) one night stunt next Monday night at 10 p.m. It airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. and has to be a self-starter opposite ABC's smash hit "Dancing With The Stars," (the #2 rated show last week) the older skewing CBS drama "NCIS" (ranked #14 last week among all shows), the CW's female hit "Gilmore Girls" and in the spring "American Idol."


Week #1 -- 7.18 million viewers
Week #2 -- 6.28 million viewers
Week #3 -- 6.61 million viewers
Week #4 -- 6.33 million viewers

Now compare that to Studio 60, which debuted earlier.


Week #1 -- 13.41 million viewers
Week #2 -- 11.21 million viewers
Week #3 -- 9.05 million viewers
Week #4 -- 8.76 million viewers
Week #5 -- 7.76 million viewers
Week #6 -- 7.70 million viewers

So "Studio 60" has a huge lead-in from Heroes (14.27 million last week) and loses about half the audience. It lost viewers for four weeks after debuting, when a show that keeps losing viewers two weeks after its debut is a concern. Finally, it's sort of stabilized. Only 600,000 viewers separate "Studio 60" and "FNL." But clearly everyone who samples "Friday Night Lights" has liked it. Huge advertising for a premiere means a show will typically drop a bit after its debut (the less it drops, the better, of course). But from its second week on, the viewers who watch "FNL" love it. It's remained rock steady. Therefore, the slightly lower-rated "FNL" shows a lot more promise than "Studio 60." But don't expect it to work right away or at all on Mondays at 10 p.m. The one-time switch will confuse faithful viewers while newcomers have to play catch up on a show they've barely heard about. NBC would do better to hold the show and relaunch it in the spring on Friday nights as a spring only series.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Overnight TV Ratings -- "Studio 60" Finally Bottoms Out

After weeks of falling ratings, "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip" finally managed to hold relatively steady in viewership last night: the only problem is that its holding steady at a measley 7.7 million viewers, almost HALF of what "Heroes" pulled at 9 p.m. (14.27 million). That's just not acceptable. Everyone else held steady and it looks like "Friday Night Lights" will air NEXT Monday in place of "Studio 60." Go to MediaWeek's Marc Berman for the complete overnights.

Very Busy Day

Interviewing a Dixie Chick this afternoon, trying to write my profile of Christine Ebersole for "Grey Gardens" right now and in between doing interviews for a quickie on "Borat." Oh and I'm seeing Ridley Scott's new movie at 6 p.m. Hope to post the TV overnights when available but that's about it.

NYC Mayor Going After Video Piracy...Sort Of

Mayor Bloomberg says he's going to go after video pirates by trying to sue landlords who have tenants that are conterfeiters. Huh? This legal tactic has been used before but is a bit spotty in its effectiveness and legality. While local elected officials also want to go after the street vendors, top city officials say their approach is best. That's a joke. Every day I walk through Times Square and Grand Central -- cluttering up the crowded tunnels are vendors with piles of counterfeit DVDs laid out on blankets. I've only seen the cops go after them once. They're in the same spots every day. Everyone knows where they are and no one does anything about them. As Guiliani proved, you have to go after the quality of life crimes and tackle the petty crooks AS WELL AS the big crooks. Letting Times Square be used as a bazaar for pirate DVDs makes a mockery of Bloomberg's claim that he's gonna crack down on counterfeits.

"Borat" Tracking Lower Than "Babel" and "Catch A Fire?"

I cover movies and I BARELY know what "Catch A Fire" is. But studio tracking says that movie and the art house film "Babel" (starring Brad Pitt) have more "awareness" than "Borat." That just proves how out of whack tracking figures have become. Some wonder whether "Borat" is this season's "Snakes On A Plane." But the comparison is wrong: "Borat" is still a movie most people are going to discover on opening weekend when they see the reviews and hear the raves of their friends. "SOAP" was held out of theaters so long that even my MOTHER knew about the film and got tired of the noise around it. And of course "Snakes" got terrible reviews and "Borat" is getting raves. It will indeed be one of the hits of the fall and -- thanks to an $18 million budget -- very profitable. I can't link to the Variety story about this, because you need a subscription. Creator Sacha Baron Cohen is already working on a similar film with another character to film next year. But how long can he stay under the radar and get away with his pranks? "Borat" is going to make him more famous than ever.

"High School Musical" Keeps Getting Bigger

Okay, here's an update on the phenomenal success of Disney's TV movie "High School Musical." You could call it this generation's "Grease" but in some ways its bigger since this came out of nowhere (and on cable TV) while that movie was based on a big Broadway hit. "High School Musical" continues to play on TV in countries around the world and is a hit seemingly everywhere. The soundtrack is one of the best-selling albums of the year -- and the best-selling soundtrack. It holds the record for most songs in the Top 10 and Top 40 and Top 100 at the same time. The show has been licensed for stage productions and is being performed in high schools and community theaters around the country. They're filming two sequels to form the "High School Musical" trilogy. And now most of the cast is going on a 40 city concert tour. (Zac Efron can't make it because he's filming the movie version of "Hairspray.") When will it end? Not for years, apparently.

NYT TV Coverage: Same Old Song Becomes A "Trend"

I've been reading it for 30 years: network executives just don't have the patience they used to have and shows are getting pulled quicker and quicker. Now the New York Times has spotted this "trend" and example number one is the CBS drama "Smith." They get it wrong both ways. First, anyone could give lists of shows nurtured (like "The Office" and "Seinfeld") and shows canceled quickly from the beginning of TV to today. If anything, the trend in the last ten years -- thanks to cable TV and the explosion of available shows and the lowered ratings for all of primetime -- has been INCREASED patience by the networks for select shows. The key word there is "select" -- some shows stay on the air simply because the head of the network really likes them. Others get pulled completely. Some series show signs of life and hang on for two or three seasons; others become hits. Others don't make it to season two. There is no trend here and the cancellation of "Smith" -- which dropped precipitously from week to week, with even the people who tuned in turning off the set after the first half hour -- is no sign of anything but a flop.

But then the NYT tries to give examples of networks sometimes showing patience this season and they get THAT wrong.
Still, those results were not so different from the experience of several other new shows this fall — most of which are still on the air. “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” has seen its ratings and viewers fall each week, from 13.4 million viewers for its first episode to 8.6 million for its fourth. “Vanished,” on Fox, “Kidnapped,” on NBC, “Brothers & Sisters,” on ABC, and “Jericho,” on CBS have all seen their audiences fall from week to week.
Actually, ALL of those shows are still on the air (something they clarified in the next sentence. But they're hardly examples of patience. "Kidnapped" has been canceled, with the network saying that the storyline will be wrapped up in 13 episodes instead of 22. The show has been moved to the graveyard of Saturday night. "Vanished" was moved to Friday and is canceled in all but name only.

And "Jericho" -- far from being a show that the network needs to show patience on -- has been a self-starter and maintained its weekly audience from the very beginning. CBS isn't showing patience with the "struggling" "Jericho" -- it's a modest hit.

Well, That Was Strange

NBC said they were gonna air "Friday Night Lights" in place of "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip" last night. But didn't. Still looking for an explanation -- it may simply be that they didn't want to piss off Aaron Sorkin. There's nothing more difficult than dealing with a big name like Sorkin or David Kelley when their new show is a flop. You want to stay in business with them but you can't screw over your primetime schedule to keep them happy.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Watch "Friday Night Lights" Tonight At 10 p.m. On NBC

Hey, you're probably watching "Heroes" at 9 p.m. anyway. You can catch last week's episode for free right here at NBC.com(w commercials). Or you can catch up completely by buying the first few at iTunes. It's well-acted, well-done, compelling TV. Do it for me. Do it for the Gipper.

"Studio 60" Gets A Critical Basting

The same complaints I and everyone else has made about the show from USA Today's Robert Bianco, including the dig that they're putting on a sketch comedy show but act as if they're curing cancer.

"Doctor Who" Spinoff Gets Huge Ratings

"Torchwood," the "Doctor Who" spinoff starring John Barrowman, got huge ratings on BBCThree last night. Can't wait to see it. Also doing well was Part Two of Helen Mirren's final "Prime Suspect," (it's been a hell of a few weeks for Mirren, what with the Emmy win and "The Queen" a burgeoining hit in the cinemas) and UK's "Idol" style show "The X Factor." Simon Cowell is a very rich man indeed.

Hejsa, Dolly!

That's Danish for "Hello, Dolly." And Dolly Parton will be starting her first European tour since the '70s in Denmark. How I've failed to see her in concert all these years is a mystery to me.

Well, At Least She Avoided Hyperbole

Producer Linda Perry is working on Courtney Love's comeback album and she had this to say about Love's talent: "Courtney is the queen of rock'n'roll to me," Perry tells Billboard. "Damn it all to hell. She is the last one." and "Courtney Love's name should be right next to Bob Dylan when they say best lyricist of all time."

"Man Of The Year" Poised For Comeback?

The Robin Williams comedy about a talk show host becoming President because of faulty electronic voting machines is dying at the box office. But if they can stay in theaters for another two weeks, the movie might get a huge boost from the looming nightmare on Election Day. Lots of scattered stories prove we're in for a rerun of the epic problems and valid questions of voter fraud over that very same issue. Editor & Publisher wonders if the press has done enough on this issue. Not even close. Why doesn't every major newspaper in every state have one reporter covering this beat full-time? Their readers are going to be frustrated or cheated out of their right to vote and the papers don't think that's a story worth covering? Only Rolling Stone has done a consistent job on this issue. But rest assured: if massive problems crop up, every news channel will be using clips from "Man Of The Year" to illustrate the story.

Mr. Loaf Hits UK Music Charts

Meat Loaf is storming onto the British music charts with the first single from his latest "Bat" album: his duet with Raven (who might have -- but didn't -- name herself Raven just for this moment) debuts at #6. "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" is of course a Jim Steinman tune even though Steinman didn't have anything to do with the album. On the album chart, I was surprised to see P Diddy couldn't even break the Top 10 with his new CD. Guess he's never been as big over there as he has been here.

Travel Writer Eric Newby Is Dead

The British absolutely love travel writing and they do it better than anyone. I don't mean travel guides like Lonely Planet. I mean nonfiction memoirs that detail a person's experience in some exotic locale. Author Eric Newby just died and he was one of the most acclaimed travel writers of all -- for the British, that's saying something. I tried to find an excuse to interview him for years, but now it's too late. Newby escaped from a prisoner of war camp during World War II, met his wife in Italy while doing so and never stopped having grand adventures. A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush is one of his classics -- you'll especially like it if you've seen the terrific adventure film "The Man Who Would Be King" starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery. The book is set in the same isolated territory they venture to. And it has a heck of a kicker typical of Newby -- humorous, deflating, and very human. His The Last Grain Race is another gem, this one about sailing on one of the last commercial runs of a sailing ship -- Newby was 18 at the time, which means he didn't need the war to get him going. Those are two of my favorites but anything with his name on it is a safe bet.

Overnight TV Ratings -- "Men In Trees" Needs Help; Baseball Doesn't

It seems obvious ABC should try pairing its drama "Men In Trees" with the potent "Ugly Betty" and "Grey's Anatomy" combo on Thursdays. Despite a very weak lead in with "Trading Spouses" and stiff competition from out of the box game show hit "1 Vs. 100" and "Close To Home," "Men In Trees" managed to increase the audience from its lead-in by almost 30% and even a modest uptick in the 18-49 demo. Saturday and Sunday, baseball looks fine, despite the worries just mentioned earlier today. Saturday drew 11.73 million viewers and Sunday drew 16.47 million viewers. Those overnight ratings can change but that's a big jump from game one to game two and given the quality of the games and the fact that we're going to see a real dogfight, I think they'll keep growing. (Any World Series that goes six or seven games tends to get big ratings.) Yep, they're way down from the heyday of the WS, but a four game sweep would have meant diastrous ratings. These should avoid the cellar and that's something. "Desperate Housewives" has stabilized on Sunday, but its lead-out of "Brothers & Sisters" (which ABC inexplicably renewed for an entire season) is a disaster at 10 p.m., barely holding on to 60% of its lead-in. Check MediaWeek's Marc Berman for a full rundown of the weekend ratings.

Lowest Rated World Series Ever?

That's the concern at FOX, where post-season baseball has been down double digits in the ratings and FOX has reportedly already had to offer "make goods" to advertisters. (Make goods are extra commercial time to make up for commercials that advertisers bought that failed to deliver. Every network promises a base rating for the ads they sell and if the shows fail to garner that rating, the network has to offer more time, or a "Make good" to the advertiser.) It doesn't help that the World Series features two pretty small market teams: Detroit and St. Louis. But Fox may be saved: everyone predicted Detroit would walk all over St. Louis. Instead, they split the first two games, both of which were exciting, well-played and finished in under three hours. Believe me, not having to sit up till one in the morning to see the end of a dull game is very good news for FOX. Kenny Rogers purportedly using pine tar to gain a cheating advantage can't hurt either. So know it looks like they'll go at least six games and the more games, the higher the ratings. So FOX may not suffer a humiliating loss in the ratings as long as St. Louis doesn't suffer a humiliating loss on the field.

As for the entertainment side of things, my friend Sam Dolson -- who came to NYC to see a World Series game, only to watch both the Mets AND the Yankees drop out -- wondered why John Mellencamp would put his new single on a car ad. Well, he hasn't had a Top 40 hit in a decade ("Key West Intermezzo" hit #14 in 96) and a Top 10 hit in 12 years ("Wild Night" hit #3 in '94; the last Top 10 hit before that was back in 1987, almost TWENTY years). In short, he doesn't get played on the radio and he has to do whatever he can to get his music in front of his fans. Hence a car ad, though I'm sure Mellencamp took some comfort in the ad, which includes images of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr AND the devastation of Katrina, hardly typical car ad fare. (Here's Mellencamp on his new album.) I thought Jennifer Hudson did a good job with "God Bless America" until she screeched trying to hit that final note (that's okay, she can take comfort with an Oscar nomination for "Dreamgirls") while Josh Gracin (also an American Idol) stunned me by doing a decent job last night. Maybe he's been taking voice lessons? And Eminem -- who I really like -- looked like he was a kid performing in front of a mirror by constantly draping his jacket off his shoulders and looking "street." I rarely think he's forced, but that's how he looked to me.

Eastwood's Latest Falters At The Box Office

I was pretty stunned when I went to see "Flags Of OUr Fathers" at the Ziegfeld on Saturday afternoon. That's primetime for an epic war film and the Ziegfeld -- a huge, old-time mvie palace -- would be the first theater in Manhattan you'd want to see it in. But the place was about three-quarters empty. Now, the Ziegfeld has been struggling, going weeks or longer without any new movies, so I wasn't sure if this had to do with the movie itself or Ziegfeld's faltering audience. It was the movie. Box Office Prophets shows "Flags" doing pretty weakly, especially given Clint Eastwood's recent run. The reviews were terrific -- but I was a bit disappointed in the movie and I don't think it has anywhere near the emotional impact of Million Dollar Baby or Mystic River. So don't expect long legs for this one and while it was pegged as an Oscar front runner, I don't know. Certainly a performance or two could be singled out, notably the flashy work of Adam Beach as Ira Hayes. And it's certainly an Oscar-ish movie and Eastwood does tend to play well over the long haul. But not this time, I think. "Little Children," "The Queen" and "Running Withn Scissors" all did well in limited release. And the best news of all is the 3-D reissue of "Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. I love the film and it did terrific business -- grossing almost $20,000 per screen and taking in $3.3 million on just 168 venues. The Top 10 per BOP:

1. The Prestige - $14.8 million
2. The Departed -- $13.7 million ($77.1 million total)
3. Flags Of Our Fathers -- $10.2 million
4. Open Season -- $8 million ($69.6 million total)
5. Flicka -- $7.7 million
6. The Grudge 2 -- $7.7 million ($31.4 million total)
7. Man Of The Year -- $7.0 million ($22.5 million total)
8. Marie Antoinette -- $5.3 million
9. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning -- $3.9 million ($36 million total)
10. The Marine -- $3.7 million ($12.5 million total)

Fall Movie Checklist

Here's a rundown of the fall movies, combining info from having actually seen the movies, the reviews they've received overseas or at film festivals, buzz from friends who've seen them and the nebulous "buzz" -- of course my opinion on any of them could change once I've actually seen the movie, but these are what I'm eager to see or avoid as of this moment.


Borat -- extremely funny, in a Jackass/Candid Camera sort of way; crude and blisteringly on target about casual prejudice. Can't wait to see it again.

Dreamgirls -- seen 20m and it looks very glossy and a lot of fun. Can't wait to see.

Flushed Away -- the umpteenth animated movie of the year and I can't get beyond the fact that they're trying to make a 2-D animated film look like the stop-motion delights of Wallace & Gromit.

Volver -- very commercial, very satisfying Almodovar -- and the most FUN movie he's made in years. Penelope Cruz should get an Oscar nomination.

A Good Year -- looks a tad iffy and soft for Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott, but I'm seeing it Monday.

Copying Beethoven -- stiff costume piece. Maybe Ed Harris will be worth a look.

F*ck -- uh, they already made The Aristocrats. Don't try the same thing again.

Fur -- an oddball, but Nicole Kidman keeps it just worth a look

Stranger Than Fiction -- looks labored to me, but I love Emma Thompson and everyone else loves Will Farrell

Bobby -- Altmanesque look at the people at the hotel on the day Bobby Kennedy was shot. Directed by Emilio Estevez and maybe it's not the classic I'm hoping for but it's gotten good to great reviews and sounds like a lot of fun.

Casino Royale -- I'll see any James Bond movie, but the longer the trailers and the more often I see them, the more I'm looking forward to this one. They DEFINTELY went for and captured the Bourne aura of real world danger and menace.

Fast Food Nation -- not the gut-wrenching film you'd hope for -- maybe a documentary WOULD have been better -- but not bad.

For Your Consideration -- another Waiting for Guffman type film and while diminishing returns have set in a tad, they started so high that these are still fun to see for fans of Best In Show, et al. I just love the Entertainment Tonight spoofs.

The History Boys -- you should have seen the play.

Happy Feet -- penguins dance. I don't care. NOTE: Wait, I take that back. I didn't realize this was directed by George Miller, one of my favorite and most idiosyncratic directors. He helmed the Mad Max trilogy, Lorenzo's Oil, oversaw Babe, and directed the unfairly overlooked Babe: Pig in the City. Knowing he's in charge, I'm definitely interested.

Tenacious D in the Pick Of Destiny -- if it's half as funny as I hope it is, it'll be funny. But Borat is the comedy of the fall.

The Fountain -- devastating reviews from film festivals. Ranks with Southland Tales as the bellyflop of the year.

3 Needles -- feels noble. I can't bring myself to get to a screening.

Rescue Dawn -- it's Christian Bale. I go see everything by Christian Bale. Twice. And Werner Herzog is delightfully odd and on a good roll and this is practically his biggest budget movie ever. I'm definitely intrigued.

Turistas -- cheapo horror flick. Audiences at a screening of Borat giggled over the trailer. Not a good sign for them.

Apocalyto -- I'll go. It's such an offbeat project and if I start rejecting movies simply because I think the artists behind it aren't decent people, why I'd end up watching almost nothing. On the other hand, I don't think Gibson is a very good director (he came closest on Braveheart). But I have to see it just to take part in the discussion, know what I mean? I'l see it so you don't have to.

The Good German -- Clooney in post-war Berlin trying to find his mistress. Soderbergh back on track? Definitely interested.

Blood Diamond -- DiCaprio in Africa dealing with diamonds and political overtones a la Graham Greene. Looks noble but fun, maybe, if the message doesn't take over.

Eragon -- this year's fantasy flick a la Narnia. The kids' book it comes from isn't that deep, but simple books often are easier to turn into good movies. I'm a sucker for fantasy but I'll be surprised if this is more than mindless fun.

Home Of The Brave -- Irwin Winkler tries to direct the Iraq war equivalent of The Best Years Of Our Lives. Just saw the trailer and that alone makes me think he didn't come within a mile.

The Pursuit of Happyness -- Will Smith in a heart-tugger. No thanks.

Venus -- strictly for Peter O'Toole's hammy, career-capper of a performance as an aging man fallen (again) for a pretty young thing. If he'd fallen for a boy, this would be a dark tragedy. But it's a girl, so we can all smile.

Charlotte';s Web -- I don't know why, but I've got a good vibe about this and hope it will be a worthy, Babe-like movie.

Night At The Museum -- Ben Stiller at Natural History Museum where all the creatures come to life. Looks noisy and obvious.

Rocky Balboa -- I can't imagine, but I'm giving Milo Ventimiglia and Stallone the benefit of the doubt.

The Good Shepherd -- De Niro directs the early days of the CIA with Matt Damon in full, tightly wound mode. Just saw the trailer and looks terrific. Damon in this and DiCaprio in Blood Diamond are two reasons why The Departed will be lost in the shuffle come Oscar time.

We Are Marshall -- more stirring football drama. Looks obvious.

Children of Men -- scifi thriller w Clive Owen. Mixed reviews.

Miss Potter -- Renee Zellwegger as Beatrix Potter. I've never actually cared for Peter Rabbit -- its appeal escapes me. But this is certainly top-drawer so who knows.

In The Name Of The King -- low-rent sword and sorcery

Untitled Noah Bambauch -- hopefully, this will prove The Squid and the Whale wasn't a fluke.

Pan's Labyrinth -- not a big fan of Guillermo Del Toro, but then I'm not a big horror person. Certainly didn't think much of Hellboy or Mimic or Blade II or Cronos. But I love fairy tales and this dark story about fascist Spain crossed with a very Grimm fairy tale (not for kiddies this one) won me over completely at Cannes. Really unique and mature and subtle and utterly compelling as only a folk tale can be.


The Departed -- solid popcorn fun, but not great. The cast is very good, though I think it will be overshadowed come Oscars since it doesn't have an aura of importance the way , say even GoodFellas did. Still, cinephiles will have to check it out. And if you want to be cool, rent the very fun original Infernal Affairs first.

The Queen -- The terrific Helen Mirren will get an Oscar nomination for what is basically a very good TV movie.

The Prestige/The Illusionist --dueling Magician movies. Neither great, but both well-acted.

Infamous -- the second Capote movie. Skip.

The Last King Of Scotland -- just for Forest Whitaker's peformance as Idi Amin.

Little Children -- worthwhile, with good acting

Death Of A President -- not nearly as interesting as you'd think

Flags of Our Fathers -- a bit of a disappointment for me, actually. But it's not a bad movie and there are a lot of good actors in it. Just not that special and quickly fades from memory. I think despite the terrific reviews that the quick fade at the box office will kill it for the Oscars. But not a waste of time.

Shut Up and Sing/Jesus Camp/Absolute Wilson/The US Vs John Lennon -- good documentaries, all.

Babel -- from the folks behind Amores Perros and 21 Grams -- the same shtick, w convoluted screenplay bringing together seemingly disparate storylines. For me, they've pulled the same rabbit out of the hat three times in a row and I've grown increasingly disinterested. Well-acted by Brad Pitt, etc., but not emotionally satisfying for me. I'd be surprised if it did very well at the box office, and wonder if Oscar voters will get bored. But certainly feels Oscar-ish so you may have to see it just to discuss it.

Running With Scissors -- just for Annette Bening's performance.

Shortbus -- sweet but very hippie-ish. Lots of nudity but not erotic -- it's not trying to be.

Marie Antoinette -- boring, the sort of costume film where you barely learn any of the characters' names by the end and don't care. (But then I wasn't a big fan of Lost in Translation or Virgin Suicides, so keep that in mind.)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Queen/Grey Gardens

I missed the beginning of "Sansho The Bailiff" this afternoon by just a few minutes. But since it's supposed to be great, I didn't want to walk in late. I went to see "The Queen" instead. The story of the Queen and Tony Blair going back and forth during the week after Princess Diana died, it's basically a glorified TV movie. But Helen Mirren is exceptional, of course, and I was surprised by how moving I found the news footage of people mourning Diana's death. As for the musical "Grey Gardens," it's still in rehearsals but I will say that Christine Ebersole will certainly be nominated for the Tony Award. She's terrific. And if you haven't seen the oddly compelling documentary film "Grey Gardens," about the uber-eccentric relatives of Jackie O who live in a crumbling mansion, you should rent it. Super odd, but you'll find yourself quoting lines of dialogue weeks later.

ANOTHER Censorship Rant

Tell me this isn't insane: a parent objected to their child's school providing access to free local newspapers to any student that wanted one. That's right: to the list of items parents object to -- Harry Potter, The Wizard Of Oz, The Chocolate Wars and countless more -- you can now add newspapers. A parent complained, saying that the stories of "sex, death and general mayhem" (general mayhem?) in newspapers were inappropriate for their 7 year old child. The school quite reaonably offered to restrict the newspapers and not allow their kid to pick one up. Nope, said the parent. Not only did they not want their kid to read a newspaper, they didn't want anyone else's kid to read a newspaper either. "It's like leaving a loaded gun on the table," said the parent. That's right, a newspaper is like a loaded gun. Personally, I'd give CANDY to any 7 year old kid who showed an interest in reading a newspaper. But instead of telling the parent to take a hike, the school pulled the newspaper completely.