Thursday, November 30, 2006

Gotta Run Again

My Thandie Newton interview was delayed for an hour so now I have no more time to post. Off to see Irwin Winkler's "Home Of The Brave" (about returning Iraqi vets) followed by musician Richard Swift at Mercury Lounge.

"Friday Night Lights" Gets New Timeslot

Another excellent episode on Tuesday proved again "FNL" is the best new drama on TV. And now NBC has moved the show out of its Tuesday night timeslot where it was about to face off (and get crushed by) "American Idol." So now they're moving it to Wed. at 8 where "FNL" will have to face off against..."American Idol." Brilliant. They throw the show onto Monday at 10 p.m. for one week (the worst sort of test) and it did better than "Studio 60." Then back to Tuesday, where the time-switches have confused people and lowered the rock steady (albeit small) audience. Now they're moving it again to Wednesday where it is certain to get crushed by "Idol." That's called pretending to make an effort for a new show without not really bothering. How could they not see it belongs on Fridays at 8 p.m. in the spring when football is over and fans would love to watch it? Or Sundays at 8 p.m. in the spring where NBC is airing pro football and audiences are used to the quality family drama standard set by "American Dreams?" This show is too good to waste. Here's the NBC rejiggering, with no word on what's gonna happen to "Studio 60" when "The Black Donnelys" takes over its slot.

Sundance Entries

Here are the movies coming to Sundance. For no particular reason, I'm especially interested in Rocket Science, about a stuttering kid who joins a debate team; a Dublin-set musical called "Once"; and an untitled Dakota Fanning movie whose description implies the pint-sized actress will be singing the blues.

Off To Interview Thandie Newton

More popsurfing this afternoon.

Overnight TV Ratings -- Cloudy "Day Break"

Here are the Tuesday overnight ratings, per MediaWeek's Marc Berman. As for Wednesday, I knew that the confusing "Day Break" would be a disastrous replacement for "Lost" (no fault of the appealing Taye Diggs). But will that make fans all the more eager for "Lost's" return? We'll have to wait three months to find out. Go to MediaWeek's Marc Berman for the complete ratings breakdown.

8 p.m.
1. Jericho (CBS) -- 10/35 million viewers
2. Christmas in Rockefeller Center (NBC) -- 9.4 million
3. Bones (FOX) -- 8.87 million
4. Show Me The Money (ABC) -- 7.67 million
5. America's Next Top Model (CW) -- 5.76 million

9 p.m.
1. Criminal Minds (CBS) -- 17.95 million
2. The Biggest Loser (NBC) -- 9.19 million
3. Bones rerun (FOX) -- 6.06 million
4. Day Break (ABC) -- 4.75 million
5. One Tree Hill (CW) -- 4.21 million

10 p.m.
1. CSI: NY (CBS) -- 16.18 million
2. Medium (NBC) -- 7.99 million
3. 20/20 (ABC) -- 7.05 million

ESPN Still On Top Of All Cable Channels

Sports is still the king of cable programming, with ESPN on top for November among ad-supported cable channels. (Ie not counting HBO, etc.) Perhaps the most striking change is on the news channels. FOX News is still in first place, but its 1.36 million viewers average in primetime is down 18%. Meanwhile, CNN's primetime audience average of 828,000 is up 15%. A few more months like that and we'll have a real competition. The Top 10 ad-supported cable channels in primetime per MediaWeek

1. ESPN -- 3.14 million viewers average in primetime
2. USA -- 2.53 million
3. TNT -- 2.01 million
4. TBS -- 1.62 million
5. Nick-At-Nite -- 1.44 million
6. Cartoon Network -- 1.39 million
7. A&E - 1.36 million
8. Fox News -- 1.36 million
9. Lifetime -- 1.31 million
10. Hallmakr Channel -- 1.28 million

Billboard's Top CDs and Singles

The Beatles open relatively modestly at #4 with their "new" album "Love," while the not-very-retired Jay-Z barrels back at #1 with more than double the sales of the Fan Four. But perhaps the most impressive achievement is Tupac Shakur, who has released 14 albums since his death. On the singles chart, Akon remains #1. And don't believe the people who say the power of "American Idol" is fading. Chris Daughtry's new album debuted at #2, ahead of the Beatles and the popular Now compilation series, while carrie Underwood remains at #1 on the country singles chart.

Album Top 1O:

1. Jay-Z -- Kingdom Come
2. Chris Daughtry -- Chris Daughtry
3. Various -- NOW 23
4. The Beatles -- Love
5. Snopp Dogg -- The Blue Carpet Treatment
6. Beyonce -- B-Day
7. Various -- Hannah Montana soundtrack
8. Akon -- Convicted
9. Tupac Shakur -- Pac's Life
10. Keith Urban -- Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing

Singles Top 10:

1. Akon featuring Snoop Dogg - I Wanna Love You
2. Beyonce -- Irreplaceable
3. Alon featuring Eminem -- Smack That
4. Justin Timberlake -- My Life
5. The Fray -- How To Save A Life
6. Hinder -- Lips Of An Angel
7. Gwen Stefani -- Wind It Up
8. Ludacris -- Money Maker
9. Snow Patrol -- Chasing Cars
10. Fergie -- Fergalicious

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wow, What A Day

Will Smith's new movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" was shockingly good; it's certainly the best work he's ever done on film. The Korean monster movie "The Host" was terrific fun (it comes out next year). And the Broadway musical "Spring Awakening" was pretty sensational. Not a bad day's work.

Popsurfing Break

I'm off to see "The Pursuit Of Happyness" and then the Korean horror flick "The Host" (supposed to be great fun) and then the musical "Spring Awakening."

Barney Bullies Drop Lawsuit

This is a huge victory: a guy posted a clear parody of the purple dinosaur Barney that didn't harm a soul. But the people behind the multimillion dollar creation tried to push the guy into taking down his website, despite the fact that it was a clear example of fair use. Big money expected to triumph but the guy fought back with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the suit was just dropped. Just a short time ago, Americablog was sent a threatening letter for posting a clip from CNN in which Bill Maher mentioned that everyone in DC knew Ken Mehlman was gay. CNN cut the clip from its reairing of the Larry King talk show, edited the transcript and tried to force everyone online to stop airing the clip, even though it was clearly news and a 10 second clip of the actual soundbite is unquestionably a case of fair use. This is going to come up again and again and again over the next few years. The only way this story could be better was if it went to trial and a precedent was set. I hope the guy countersues for harrassment and damages -- the Barney people assumed they could just threaten to sue and force him to do end a practice they knew was perfectly legal. They should be punished for using lawsuits to circumvent the law.

The Next Big Thing... "The Next Big Thing," an "American Idol" type talent contest devised by the BBC that bring together bands from all over the world who write their own music and must 18 or under. The seven finalists tape performances soon and the show airs December 9 with the winner chosen by a panel of industry experts. You can check out their songs here. My two favorites are The Skagz and Stefan Abingdon.

"Preacher" Coming To HBO

Unfortunately, the cult comic book -- whose scathing look at religion, politics and pop culture is perfect for HBO -- is being shepherded by Mark Steven Johnson, who did the hapless "Daredevil" and (based on the trailer) the truly awful looking "Ghost Rider."

The Perfect Woman

No marriage, no kids, and -- if "There's Something About Mary" was true -- ready to watch SportsCenter. That would be Cameron Diaz.

Nielsen Gingerly Steps Closer To Measuring Ad Viewership

Everyone is freaked out about Nielsen's plans to give a rating for ads the same way they rate TV shows. They're now looking to launch it officially early in 2007. Instead of just giving an audience number for "Heroes," they'll tell advertisers exactly how many people watch a particular ad airing during a show, taking into account whether people surf channels during ads, tape the show on their DVR and fast-forward through them and so on. It's going to be a seismic change in TV ratings, since DVRs are becoming ubiquitous and so many people -- like me -- completely change their viewing habits and rarely watch "live" TV and even less rarely watch an ad. Expect live programming like sports and "American Idol" to become even more valuable. Nielsen will also try to capture the entire viewing experience, covering viewership on computers, cell phones, and so on. But will they be able to measure when a commercial is on but you've left the room to get a drink or brush your teeth?

Does EVERYONE Have To Become Tech Savvy?

The staid and useful Editor & Publisher -- which covers the newspaper industry with thoroughness and fairness -- just added a daily video segment. Today's video is Leonard Cohen and U2 performing a song from the new Cohen concert DVD. Why are they linking to this? Just because. As if journalists didn't already waste enough time surfing online. Talk about adding a feature just because you can -- this is the sort of unimaginative thing most newspapers do with their websites.

The Stupidest Idea. Ever.

I've always been suspicious of Tivo -- set-up was too difficult for my technophobic, incompetent self and I hated the idea of having to run a phone line to the TV -- not to mention the fact that Big Brother would be tracking every TV show I watch. However, Tivo pioneered a terrific device and I certainly understand the strong feelings of those who signed on early when Tivo was the only game in town and naturally love it. But since every cable company now offers a DVR to customers -- ending the need for Tivo completely -- Tivo has been desperately trying to find new ways to make itself appealing. Unfortunately, it's been focused on making itself appealing to ADVERTISERS rather than its customers with all sorts of idiotic moves. Here's the latest: The Hollywood Reporter just announced Tivo's new approach -- when you go to delete a program, Tivo will ask you if you want to watch an ad. Genius! Not just any ad, but an ad carefully chosen to appeal to the person who is deleting the show. So if you are deleting a holiday special, Tivo might ask if you want to see a holiday gift ad from Wal-Mart. Of course, the entire appeal of Tivo is time-shifting and skipping over the ads. But that doesn't seem to have occurred to them. But it gets better: the ads are going to be really, really long. "...most ads so far run about two minutes in length, but Kent expects that some future ones will run as long as 12 minutes." Genius again! Really long ads. Sell your Tivo stock. Trust me; this company is dead.

Re-Animator Of "X-Men" Dies

Dave Cockrum, who helped revive the X-Men franchise in the Seventies and turn it into one of Marvel's most enduring properties, is dead at 63. The sad details of this story: Cockrum (after enriching DC) switched to Marvel in the early Seventies. He stayed at Marvel for decades, but of course he was a "freelancer," so they never gave him any enduring rights to his creations or apparently any health care costs.
By 2004, he was in a Veterans Administration hospital in the Bronx, and in financial straits. Mr. Adams led a drive to persuade Marvel to share some of the riches it had generated from his characters.

Though the company contended it owed him nothing because he worked as freelancer, it paid him $200,000 and royalties for one character, Nightcrawler, his earliest, according to The Comics Journal. The terms were not officially revealed.

While not confirming or denying the $200,000 figure, Mr. Adams said Mr. Cockrum deserved more.

“They took his characters and made an industry out of them,” he said.

First Truthiness. Now Jewish-y?

Michael Richards created a ruckus with the "n" word and he certainly didn't try to claim he was black as a defense. But apparently he went on an anti-Semitic tirade during a standup act in April. And last week his publicist said no one should read anything into that because Richards is Jewish. Sort of. But not really. In fact, it turns out his mother isn't Jewish, his father isn't Jewish and he hasn't converted to Judaism and no one has said he goes to Temple. But apparently he considers himself Jewish. Maybe we cut him slack last week because he apologized (ineptly) and had no history of similar remarks. But apparently he does. So maybe the truthiness is that he's Jewish-y. Oy, enough already. We know one thing: he's an ass.

War On Christmas Update!

Bill O'Reilly will have a field day with this if it wasn't already on his program last night. Organizers of Chicago's German Christkindlmarket have rejected -- at the last minute -- New Line's sponsorship of the fest with a tie-in to "The Nativity Story" because they believe it will offend people of other faiths. While I don't believe there's a secular war on Christmas, this is of course idiotic. Who will be offended? Muslims? They accept Jesus as a great prophet? Jews? Jesus was a Jew. And if someone is that easily offended, surely they won't be going to the CHRISTkindlmarket in the first place.

Clamp -- The Coolest Women In Manga

See, the NYT doesn't have to be dowdy. This entertaining article about a female collective that creates best-selling mangas may not be news to serious fans but it was certainly news to me. My only nit to pick is the lede's insistence that the name of the group -- Clamp -- sounds odd and unfamiliar to Western ears. Uh, not particularly and certainly not as strange as Fluxus or a million other odd collectives.

The Red Violin? How About The Graphite Violin?

A fun, detailed look at the artistry of violin-making and how some bold new materials and scientific analysis are shaking up the classical music world. Since most practice/starter violins sound like crap and frustrate students, this is an important potential breakthrough. And check out the multimedia section on acoustic guitars. I bought an acoustic guitar and yearn to play it but I'm not an auto-didact and I can't afford lessons.

Holiday DVD Gift Guide

From Superman to "Saturday Night Live," my rundown of the latest DVD boxed sets for the NY Daily News.

"Half" "Sunshine" Get Spirit

Headline worded awkwardly enough for you? The nominees for this year's Spirit Awards are in, with "Half Nelson" and "Little Miss Sunshine" leading the pack. Also up for Best Picture is "Pan's Labyrinth." Both "Labyrinth" and "Half Nelson" will be on my best of the year list and I'm about to watch "Sunshine." (I know, I know. It's not like it played in theaters long enough for me to see it properly but I just got the DVD.) Ryan Gosling even offered up a quote, so maybe he realizes it's better for his future career if he promotes his movies, especially labors of love that come out so beautifully. And how wonderful his young costar Shareeka Epps garnered a Best Actress nod. She matched him scene for scene.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Concrete That Eats Smog?


Yankees Pay $26 Mil For Right To Sign Japan's Igawa

If at first you don't succeed.... By the way, I am accepting blind bids from all Japanese websites for the right to sign my blog to a five year deal. The offers must be received by midnight Sunday with the money held in trust at a Swiss bank account. Naturally, the winning bid will be returned if we can't come to an agreement. Good luck! Gokouun o inorimasu!

Eight Millionaires On Broadway

A stunning eight different shows grossed more than $1 million on Broadway over the Thanksgiving holiday, says Variety. It doesn't say that's a record, but it's sure darn close if it isn't. Leading the pack: "Wicked," which grossed $1.7 million, more than any Broadway show in history. "The Grinch" hit second with $1.5 mil, but it cheated by performing 12 times instead of the usual eight. (The cast must be exhausted. And I wonder what waivers they had to get from the unions to do it?) "Mary Poppins" hit $1.3 mil (it's first time above $1 mil) and looks like its namebrand awareness will keep it in solid business for a few years. And "Tarzan" hit $919,000 -- a personal best. So why does it still not feel like a hit? "Grey Gardens" dipped a tad, showing it may not appeal to tourists. And "Spring Awakening" was very weak at $200,000, but that will change as soon as the reviews come out on Dec 10.

Overnight TV Ratings -- "Heroes" Still Heroic

It's all good for "Heroes," which continues to excell on Monday nights. (How will it fare when "24" returns in January? I bet both shows will flourish.) But "Studio 60" remains a whopping disappointment, dropping by more than 50% in total viewers AND in the coveted 18-49 demo that should be its bread and butter. It was even beaten (handily) by "The Bachelor." Also doing poorly: CBS's "The Class" and Julia Louise-Dreyfuss's "The New Adventures of Old Christine." Maybe the Seinfeld curse isn't gone, it just takes longer to have an effect. Get the complete ratings from MediaWeek's Marc Berman.

8 p.m.
1. Deal Or No Deal (NBC) -- 17.56 million viewers
2. Prison Break (FOX) -- 9.57 mil
3. Wife Swap (ABC) -- 9.17 mil
4. How I Met Your Mother (CBS) -- 9/93 mil/The Class -- 8.71 mil
5. Everybody Hates Chris (CW) -- 3.59 mil/All Of Us (CW) -- 3.51 mil

9 p.m.
1. Heroes (NBC) -- 15.52 mil
2. Two and a Half Men (CBS) -- 15.59 mil/Old Christine (CBS) -- 12.16 mil
3. The Bachelor: Rome Season Finale (ABC) -- 10.29 mil
4. House rerun (FOX) -- 7.31 mil
5. Girlfriends (CW) -- 3.15 mil/The Game (CW) -- 2.83 mil

10 p.m.
1. CSI: Miami (CBS) -- 16.9 mil
2. The Bachelor: Rome Season Finale (ABC) -- 10.29 mil
3. Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip (NBC) -- 7.45 mil

Who Will Be The Next Pavarotti?

No one, of course. But USA Today discusses the possible successors to the King of the High Cs and the much lower profile of classical music in the media today compared to the Eighties. They must not be paying attention to New York City, where the Met's season opener was a lavish, star-studded affair that included thousands of people sitting in Times Square watching opening night on huge monitors. Classical music can keep crossing over if it emphasizes what is special about it and makes their performances an event, rather than trying to dumb it down and cater to people who would never go in the first place.

ABBA Museum Planned For Sweden

You mean there isn't one there already? I love this quote from ABBA, who gave their approval for the project: "It is nice that someone feels compelled to take on our musical history," the four members said in a joint statement. "We think this will be a fun and swinging museum to visit."

Jesse Jackson: No More "N" Word

Happily, Jesse Jackson isn't just mentioning Michael Richards -- he's also calling on all rappers, hip-hop artists and black comics to stop using the "n" word as well. Just as gay people feel free to call each other "fags," many black people in the entertainment world especially say "nigga" constantly. Indeed, no one uses the word more than black people, especially in the media. And if Richards hadn't been on an angry tirade, if he hadn't been mocking and attacking two black patrons, wouldn't the question of using that word in a standup act be much more complex? Of course, Eminem never uses the word; he knows there are certain lines you don't cross. But surely Jackson and Bill Cosby et al are right: any desire to defuse the word and claim it as their own (a la fag and queer and fairy for gays) has long outlived its usefulness and now it's just a case of filling up the world's image of black people with gangstas and thugs and gold-toothed caricatures of rappers and the "n" word. The one annoying postscript to this is that Jackson also called for a boycott of the just-out Season Seven of "Seinfeld." Why? Richards has apologized publicly and repeatedly (and somewhat convincingly albeit in a clueless manner). The show itself certainly isn't racist and Richards is only a small part of it creatively. What possible purpose could a boycott of the DVD set serve? And since it won't be a successful boycott, why would Jackson idiotically call for one? It's like that college student on "The Daily Show" last night staging a hunger strike over his meal plan. You just cheapen these protests by calling them willy-nilly for any old reason. The LA Times has a good rundown of the issue.

Who Is The Sean Connery of the Superman Franchise?

In his weekly DVD column, Dave Kehr of the NYTimes has a nice writeup on Louise Brooks in "Pandora's Box." Then he tackles the wave of Superman releases with this off-hand comment: "...the 1950s television series starring George Reeves (still the Sean Connery gold standard in the role)...." George Reeves the definitive Superman? Kehr must be showing his age. I'm assuming he was a kid when the TV show exploded into popularity; what other explanation can he give for touting Reeves over Christopher Reeve? The TV show was kiddie stuff and while Reeves acquitted himself well, his performance isn't a patch on the first two great Superman films of Reeve who managed to make Superman sexy and funny and real without undermining his essential Boy Scout nature. It's not easy to give up on an early definitive performance of an icon. But Basil Rathbone now takes a back seat to Jeremy Brett and George Reeves simply doesn't leap tall buildings with the same aplomb as Christopher Reeve.

Billy Joel Heads South

I haven't seen Billy Joel in concert in many years and I'd like to -- especially one of his double bills with Elton John that I somehow missed. Joel's just added a batch of dates in the South to his current tour. But here's what I don't understand: if he's bored with pop music and never wants to write another song, why isn't it even more boring to keep singing the same old songs night after night after night?

Is Ian McEwen A Plagiarist?

Ian McEwen's Atonement is one of the better books of recent years. And now McEwen joins the ranks of well-known authors accused of plagiarism. I finally caught up with the imbroglio yesterday in the British papers, but this New York Times recap of the issue is the best one-stop guide. In short, it seems McEwen used some technical descriptions of medical procedures from a biography of a romance novelist who specializes in "hospital romances" and worked as a nurse during WW II in the same area as McEwen's major character. The one passage quoted as an example of cribbing seems rather innocuous -- there's no thrilling turn of phrase or startling image here:
Mr. McEwan, for instance, wrote: “In the way of medical treatments, she had already dabbed gentian violet on ringworm, aquaflavine emulsion on a cut and painted lead lotion on a bruise.” Ms. Andrews’s book has the lines: “Our ‘nursing’ seldom involved more than dabbing gentian violent on ringworm, aquaflavine emulsion on cuts and scratches, lead lotion on bruises and sprains.”
And McEwan listed the memoir in his acknowledgements at the end of the book and has repeatedly mentioned Andrews in interviews and chats and praised her work for helping him. Clearly, when dealing with something technical, there are only so many ways to list medicines and treatments. I despise plagiarism and the free pass so many famous authors -- like Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose -- seem to get. But this brouhaha seems much ado. Andrews herself before she died was told of the questionable passages and wrote, "I don't give a damn." Agreed.

"The Coast Of Utopia" -- The Reviews

It looks like smooth sailing for "The Coast Of Utopia," Tom Stoppard's massive trilogy that just launched at Lincoln Center. Part One received rave reviews. The NY Daily News was the lone dissenter, decrying the "vast stretches that can be tedious and emotionally frigid." Not exactly suited for quoting in the ads, is it? The Hollywood Reporter was polite but emphasizes that Stoppard demands a lot of work from his audience to enjoy his plays. But what do they care? The New York Times -- still the only review that matters for a show of this sort -- contained a rave by Ben Brantley that called the show "exhilirating." The NY Post's Clive Barnes gave it four stars despite saying it had "more motion and less heat." And Variety has the highest praise of all in an appropriately intellectual review that says the play is "Chekhovian in feeling yet Shavian in its appetite for political argument." (Hard to imagine a sentence that would please a playwright more.) And at the end it says that if the other two parts are just as good, this will rank as a theatrical landmark alongside "Nicholas Nickleby" and "Angels In America." General praise all around for the actors, though I can't help wondering if Ethan Hawke has employed the same approach as his British counterpart. When I first saw the show in one day, I realized the actor playing Bakunin had pitched his performance to unfold over all three plays -- in other words, you had to see all three shows to appreciate the subtle revealing of who Bakunin was. See just part one and you might think the actor was competent and the character a tad one note. See all three parts and his emotional journey is all the more powerful for that initial reserve. If at all possible, see all three plays close together. Mind you, if you don't have tickets yet, you're practically out of luck already.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Happy Feet -- The Review

I'm glad George Miller's "Happy Feet" is a huge smash. As I've said before, he's one of my favorite directors working today. But having seen it over the holiday weekend, I have to admit I'm rather disappointed. This is Miller's first movie in many years that won't make my Best of the Year list. ("The Road Warrior," "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome," "Babe" -- which he produced but did not direct -- "Lorenzo's Oil" and "Babe: Pig In The City" all did and the original "Mad Max" probably would have too if I'd seen its original version instead of the dubbed US take on it.) In it, penguins are shown singing pop songs -- each one has a heart song that will attract one other penguin. So we get everything from Prince's "Kiss" to a Spanish language version of "My Way." Our misfit hero sticks out because he can't sing worth a lick but loves to dance, something penguins just don't do. Plus, the supply of fish is running out for some mysterious reason....

"Happy Feet" is technically dazzling: Miller used camera moves rarely seen in animated films, his motion-capturing of dancer Savion Glover to depict our hero's dance moves is top-notch and there are some fun action scenes. It's a fine film well worth taking the kids too. But what bothered me was the film's creative randomness. All the clever touches -- the pop songs, the idea that each penguin has their own particular tune, the characterizations of Happy Feet's mom and dad as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis sound-alikes -- were haphazard and not thought through.

Take the parents. For no particular reason, they use the voices of Fifties icons. It doesn't affect their characters in the least as far as how they behave. And why are they the only ones to mimic stars? If the movie wanted to be consistent, all the other adults could have been Fifties icons too, from Bogie to Bobby Darin to James Dean. And that could have solved the movie's other random problem -- the songs. If the adults consistently favored early rock n roll like Elvis and Bobby Darin and Little Richard and the Everly Brothers, then the kids could have embraced newer rock like Queen and "Boogie Wonderland" and that generational divide would have been starker and more convincing. (When the kids start boogieing with joy, the elderly parents are horrified.)

There's not even any logic to why certain songs bring two penguins together. Shouldn't it be because they have similar tastes? Or, even better, are singing different parts of the same song so when they come together the union makes them complete? Finally, I could have done without the UN debate over fishing that flashes by at the end. A simple shot of the massive fishing vessels dropping their latest catch back into the sea and steaming away empty-handed would have told us all we needed to know. I can't dismiss a movie that manages to work in a joke about the Tom Jones cover of Prince's "Kiss," but from Miller I at least expected something constructed a lot more tightly.

And this hilariously earnest comment from a customer review of the soundtrack at Amazon: "And for all the people who have forgotten the shear (sic) pleasure of losing yourself for a couple of hours to the child within, I feel sorry for you. Action, blood and gore are not always necessary to entertain. I hope you can find joy again somewhere in your dark existence."

This Week's CD Releases

If you're wondering what new CDs come out every Tuesday, there's no place to find out better than NYCD's weekly rundown of the top new CDs and the best of the reissues. Funny, smart-ass (in a good way), and genuinely passionate about all sorts of genres. And they have Mallomars if you're lucky enough to live in New York and make a pilgrammage to their offices. Besides, if you order CDs online, they actually answer their phone and deal with your questions. Actual people! It's true.

Anita O'Day Gone Away

People were dropping like flies over Thanksgiving, including jazz swinger Anita O'Day. Her life is gonna make a terrific movie some day. Meanwhile, check out the DVD "Jazz On A Summer's Day." It's probably my favorite concert film of all time and O'Day is a definite highlight. She performs early in the day during the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, when people are still streaming in and the seats are more than half empty. But O'Day wakes them up with a slippery, stunning "Sweet Georgia Brown" followed by a frenetic "Tea For Two" that turns that ditty into a real showstopper. And then there's that hat! It doesn't get any cooler than her right there, doing her thing for the sheer pleasure of it.

"Heroes" Back Tonight

Looking forward to another week of "Heroes." But are there stormclouds on the horizon? MediaWeek points out that "24" returns in January. Personally, I don't think it will hurt the growing "Heroes" much at all, not with DVRs working overtime. They'll both do great.

Jennifer Hudson FINALLY Gets A Record Deal

Almost three years after being booted off "American Idol," Jennifer Hudson becomes the 1000th contestant to receive a record deal, this one with Clive Davis (of Whitney Houston fame) and Arista Records. Long overdue and surely her Oscar-worthy performance in the upcoming movie "Dreamgirls" is the main catalyst for the record industry finally waking up. Actually, I'm sure she's turned down offers from some labels while waiting for the right deal and the right moment to sign.

Overnight TV Ratings -- The Sweeps That Never Was

Here are the Sunday overnight ratings from Marc Berman of MediaWeek. "Desperate Housewives" did great; it looks to be firmly back on track, at least commercially. Sunday was also the final big night of the November sweeps. (More people watch TV on Sunday nights than any other day.) Did anyone notice? February, May and November used to be the all-important sweeps months: the ratings of the networks on those three months set the ad rates for the rest of the year and they were always flooded with specials and miniseries and stunt programming. Happily, with constant rating measurements now available, sweeps are becoming a thing of the past. Networks need to program year-round, instead of saving their best goodies for 12 weeks and inevitably airing them opposite something you want to see on another network. By the way, "Day Break" was a flop on Wednesday, as was Madonna's concert sans crucifix. She only reached a miniscule 4.78 million viewers on the night before Thanksgiving. Tony Bennett didn't do much better on last Tuesday, when he reached only 6.4 million viewers. And "Gilmore Girls" -- which I now watch only to yell back at the TV and bitch about the writers -- hit 4.3 million viewers, almost TWO MILLION VIEWERS lower than the year before. That is DISASTROUS.

Kramer Keeps Apologizing

Did Jesse Jackson tell Michael Richards that using the phrase "Afro-American" is not the way to start the healing? And Richards should stop trying to insist he isn't racist and that he spoke out of anger, not prejudice. If he was just angry at them, he would have called the hecklers bastards or whatever. Instead, he used a racial slur and when you use that, you are being prejudiced. He should just apologize and shut up, rather than trying to claim the words didn't mean what they mean. Finally, saying "I'm shattered" rather than "I'm embarrassed and ashamed" is wrong. Richards seems to feel that he's the victim.

John Stamos In Blackface?

John Stamos can play a doc on "ER." He can play Dad on "Family Matters." He can even play gay on the upcoming TV movie "Wedding Wars." But should he really take a role in "A Raisin In The Sun?" Happily, it's as the white guy who tries to buy out the Younger family and get them to move. That's a rare casting change for an all-star revival coming to ABC with Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald reprising their performances from the Broadway run.

The Beatles Can't Reach #1 In UK

Some retailers were hoping the "new" Beatles album "Love" would sell like their greatest hits compilation "1" and be a world-wide smash. But in the UK, it couldn't even come close to the top spot in its first week. Boy band Take That (commercially, "the Beatles of the 90s") hit #1 on the singles chart with their reunion song. But on the album chart, the original Fan Four are at #3, beaten by "Westlife: The Love Album" (another boy band) at #1 and a greatest hits package by Oasis at #2. At least they beat U2. But my favorite music story of the week is the #13 debut of the Fron Male Voice Choir with "Voices Of The Valley." They're a Welsh choir hoping to set the world on fire a la the Nineties sensation Le Mystere De Voix Bulgares. This is the one album every Mum in the UK will want and if these men can afford to tour the world (they'd win scads of media attention and new fans), they might become a worldwide hit.

Hugh Jackman Becoming A TV Mogul

Hugh Jackman's latest TV project to take off is "Voyages," which is described as a Rashomon-like look at wealthy passengers on a cruise line. And if "Rashomon" was used to sell the pilot, then the network exec who greenlit this should be fired. (I love Rashomon, but that's really a dreadful way to conceptualize a show.) I'll never understand why TV is so enamored of stars that they'll let them make TV shows, even without starring in them. (Will Smith and his wife have just sold two new comedies.) I like Jackman more and more, but has he really shown good taste in material? His projects include the current flop "The Fountain," Woody Allen's dreadful "Scoop," the miserable would-be franchise "Van Helsing," "Kate & Leopold" and "Swordfish." Now that he's got more power thanks to "X-Men," hopefully Jackman will have access to better material. But has he really demonstrated the chops of a producer so far? Why would a TV network be interested in what he's doing?

Bond Is Going To Set New Records

I was wrong about the new Bond. I thought it was definitely a step in the right direction, but assumed that the low-key action and a draggy second half would keep it from being a world-beater. Instead, the great reviews and apparent audience satisfaction are pushing "Casino Royale" to record highs. It's already at $94 mil in the US and is almost certain to beat the $160 million US record of "Die Another Day." In the UK, it's at $53 million and will blast past the $57 million record of "DAD." Worldwide, it's already at $222 million, with the $431 million worldwide take of "DAD" also well within reach. Heck, it might even turn Japan into a nation of Bond lovers. (That country has always been blase about Bond.) Daniel Craig should be showered in champagne by the producers.

Network Reality Shows Going Union?

The free ride of cheapo reality shows is coming to an end. They'll always be cheaper than fiction programming, but the super-cheap beginnings of reality TV are ending, thanks to unionizing on numerous fronts. The NLRB has set a Dec 6 vote for people behind the scenes on "America's Next Top Model" and the WGA is suing and pushing to represent the writers of that show on several fronts. Previously, the writers on reality shows were kept secret to maintain the illusion of complete spontaneity, plus the networks were paying the writers below-market prices, expecting them and the producers and editors to turn mountains of footage into episodes in record time, all while paying them below-market prices and expecting the employees to be grateful they were getting their foot in the door of Hollywood. That's all going to end soon and "ANTM" is the first front on that war.

Rolling Stones Top U2 For Biggest Tour Of All Time

U2 topped the Stones and now the Stones have turned around and topped U2 to reclaim the title of the top-grossing tour of all-time. U2's current Vertigo tour is at $377 million from 121 shows. But now the Stones' A Bigger Bang tour is at $437 million from 110 shows, with 3.5 million paying customers. (That doesn't include the 1 million to 2 million people who attended their free concert in Rio this February.) With plans to keep the tour going in 2007, the Stones could easily top $500 million before all is said and done.

Tom Stoppard's International Triumph

It looks like a good few days for playwright Tom Stoppard. His new show "Rock N Roll" wins Best Play at the Evening Standard awards in the UK. And he's in New York for tonight's Broadway opening of part one of "The Coast Of Utopia," an epic scale work with such a massive cast it seemed doubtful the show would ever come here at all. "Caroline, Or Change" won Best Musical, though I was glad to see that at least "Sunday In The Park With George" won Best Design. And if someone can explain what an "Editor's Award" is for a theatrical production, I'd be obliged. Personally, I haven't a clue.

"Harold & Kumar" Live

Here's my brief chat with Kal Penn of "Harold & Kumar" for the NY Daily News. Yes, there will be a sequel and in case you were wondering, yes, there's a part for Neil Patrick Harris and they're hoping he'll agree to be in it.

Comden And Green Reunite

Betty Comden -- half of the legendary duo Comden and Green -- is dead at 89. Bizarrely, the New York Times obit only mentions "Singing In The Rain" in passing. I have two modest Comden and Green stories. I was making a phone call at the Public in the days before cell phones were common. The woman at the phone next to me looked very familiar and I thought maybe she was a journalist of some sort and kept glancing at her. Sne waved me over, introduced herself and asked me to help her friend Adolph find his way to the Public. (They were staging a terrific revival of "On The Town" and Adolph Green couldn't figure out how to tell a cabbie the way to get to the Public.) How could Comden and Green not know their way around Manhattan? ("New York, New York, a hellava town. The Bronx is up and the Battery's down. The people ride through a hole in the ground....") Nonetheless, I got to give him directions, tell her "On The Town" was my favorite movie musical and then she asked if I were an actor. "No, " I said immediately," but if I were I'd be comic relief." She laughed and I was happy for days. Years later, I saw Adolph Green crossing a tricky intersection at 71st and Broadway, looking a bit lost and confused, and I discretely walked alongside him to make sure he got to the corner safely without letting him know I was doing so. Soon after, he died.

"All My Children" Featuring a Character Transitioning From Male To Female

"All My Children's" newest resident wil be a "flamboyant" rock star who wants to be a girl. I'm shocked...shocked that no soap has done this before, when soaps LOVE "cutting-edge" issues of sexuality. Surely they've at least featured a character who turned out to have originally been another gender? "Tales Of The City" did that decades ago. Buried at the bottom of the article is a reference to the dreadful state of daytime soaps: "AMC" has dropped from 8.2 million viewers in the early 90s to 3.1 million last year. How much longer will all three networks keep churning them out?

Princess Di Charity Concert Organized By Princes

Next year, Princes William and Harry will commemorate the 10th anniversary of their mother's death with a benefit concert at Wembley. Expect Elton John, Goerge Michael (here's a rave review from his current tour), Beyonce and others. All well and good. The silly part: one reader felt obliged to tell the BBC they thought this was wonderful, "as long as all profits go to charity." As if William and Harry are hurting for money or would skim money off the top. And Sunday Times "Royal Watcher" Christpher Morgan managed to be wrong and obnoxious on this mild news item. He called the concert an "imaginative idea." Imaginative? Appropriate, yes. But since their dad runs an annual benefit concert called the Prince's Trust and since their mom loved pop music and was friends with many stars like John, imaginative is hardly the right word. Then Morgan said, "Many people think they've been a bit muted about sharing their thoughts of their mother." By "many people," Morgan presumably means himself. And how crass -- they've been "muted?" What exactly should teenage children be doing to promote the memory of their mother? Lots of TV interviews and newspaper columns penned every year?

"A Christmas Story" -- The Ad

A story on a wave of commercials -- including that Cingular ad -- inspired by the perennial holiday flick "A Christmas Story." I like the idea that advertisers have a fondness for the movie because it's filled with product placements, notably the offical Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle. Personally, I love the fact that the film was made by Bob Clark, the director of the Porky's movies. (Clark is clearly back to his old tricks -- IMDB claims his next project is a raucous teen comedy called "Spring Broke.") Sure, "A Christmas Story" is cheaply shot, a bit broad and slap-sticky and episodic. But it definitely has a charm that overrides all those faults. Still, just because it's shown in a marathon on TBS, don't start saying it has replaced "It's A Wonderful Life" as the classic Christmas movie. That's going too far.

Oh, To Be A Name Brand

The bestseller lists are clogged with name brands, authors who sell books with their name only -- names that often appear on the cover of the book in even larger type than the title itself. Charles Frazier -- the author of the phenomenal bestseller "Cold Mountain" -- hoped to become a literary name brand (someone who sells books and gets polite reviews, but looks like he'll fail on both counts with his followup "Thirteen Moons." Mitch Albom pulled the tricky feat of being known for the nonfiction memoir "Tuesdays With Morrie" and yet becoming a fiction bestseller of similarly sappy, inspirational tomes. You have to go to #16 and "The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield to find a newcomer to the charts. On the nonfiction list, Barack Obama continues to hold sway at Number One weeks after the election. He'd make the perfect VP candidate alongside Hillary. A white woman as President, a black man as her VP and Bill Clinton as First Lady? The ticket alone would make heads explode in the Deep South. The Top 15 fiction titles per the NYTImes.

1. Cross by James Patterson
2. For One More Day by Mitch Albom
3. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
4. Nature Girl by Cark Hiaasen
5. Wildfire by Nelson DeMille
6. Born In Death by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts)
7. Lisey's Story by Stephen King
8. Santa Cruise by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark
9. The Collectors by David Baldacci
10. First Impressions by Nora Roberts
11. H.R.H. by Danielle Steele
12. The Rising Tide by Jeff Shaara
13. Act Of Treason by Vince Flynn
14. Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier
15. Echo Park by Michael Connelly

Ryan Gosling Wins Acting Award

Ryan Gosling won Best Actor at the Stockholm International Film Festival for his brilliant work in "Half Nelson." Maggie Gyllenhaal won Best Actress for "Sherrybaby." Hopefully Gosling will get momentum on his way to a well-deserved Oscar nomination, though the guy is clearly so incapable of self-promotion that he'll never do the gladhanding necessary to score an upset Oscar win. Sometimes talent is enough but really he should have put himself out there more for his tiny, but well-reviewed movie.

Raul Esparza IS Bobby In "Company"

Bobby is the sexually conflicted heart of Stephn Sondheim's musical "Company," the character everyone in the show is drawn to sexually and/or emotionally but keeps himself off to the side until the climactic "Being Alive." Apparently the actor Raul Esparza ("Rocky Horror," Tick Tick Boom," and his Tony-nominated turn in "Taboo") can identify, being married to his best female friend but dating a man and genrally being sexually conflicted and staying off to the side observing his own life. The NYTimes has the story."Company" opens Wednesday.

Weekend Box Office -- How Did "Deja Vu" Do?

I just wanted to make use of that play on voodoo in the headline. But in fact, Denzel Washington shows yet again that he is an exceptionally dependable action thriller star, opening film after film in the $20+ million range. "Deja Vu," despite being a tad confusing sci-fi thriller of sorts that had sat around for a while, did $29 mil over the five day weekend and held very well on Saturday, showing that audiences might have liked this one more than critics and it might have decent legs. Meanwhile, "Happy Feet" and Bond tore it up, "Bobby" failed to expand well, "The Fountain" ran dry and "Volver" "The History Boys" and "The Queen" continued to shine in limited release. "Tenacious D" -- which is clearly NOT a Thanksgiving weekend type film -- was hurt by its idiotic release date and opened just behind "The Fountain." The Top 10 for the three day weekend (not including Thanksgiving) per Box Office Mojo.

1. Happy Feet -- $37.9 million ($100.1 million total)
2. Casino Royale -- $31 mil ($94.2 mil total)
3. Deja Vu -- $20.8 mil ($29 mil total)
4. Deck The Halls -- $12 mil ($16.9 mil total)
5. Borat -- $10.4 mil ($109.3 mil total)
6. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause -- $10 mil ($67.2 mil total)
7. Stranger Than Fiction -- $6 mil ($32.8 mil total)
8. Flushed Away -- $5.8 mil ($57.4 mil total)
9. Bobby -- $4.9 mil ($6.2 mil total)
10. The Fountain -- $3.7 mil ($5.4 mil total)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Popsurfing Is On The Road

I'm headed away for Thanksgiving, so my posting will be very sporadic until next Monday. Besides, you should be spending time with your family and friends, not surfing and blogging! I'll be driving some 15 hours, which to me is heaven: I get to listen to dozens of CDs while on the road and nothing makes me happier. There's simply no better way to listen to music than in a car. Where do you usually listen to music? On your iPod, in your car, via your computer? See you on Monday. (But look below for new postings; I'll keep this notice at the top to let folks know what's what.)

A Film To Be Passionate About

And just to counteract all the agnostic/atheistic leanings of the previous posts, here's a movie I haven't seen yet but want to: "The Nativity Story." Keisha Castle-Hughes plays Mary and I'm hopeful she'll make her a real character rather than a sainted icon. From the trailer alone, "The Nativity Story" seems much closer to the important message of the Gospels than a thousand bloody, violent, nihilistic viewings of "The Passion Of The Christ." Here's one you can take the kids to, and shouldn't you think twice before seeing a movie about Christ that you WOULDN'T take the kids to? Here's the official website and here's the trailer via Apple.

Richard Dawkins Is God!

A contradiction since we're talking about the author of the bestseller "The God Delusion?" Not according to these people. That recent South Park episode where warring factions of atheists battled each other over ideology seems more prescient every day.

Some People HATE Penguins

Hard to believe, but even though penguins are king of the box office this week, there are some people out there who don't like them -- especially the penguins that are "different." Publishers Weekly has the story on those who want to ban the children's picture book "And Tango Makes Three."

Overnight TV Ratings -- "Studio 60" Still Faltering

It seemed like "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip" had reached its bottom. But as "Heroes" continues to grow, it makes "Studio 60" look even weaker. Monday night, "Heroes" added almsot 1 million new viewers while "Studio 60" lost 400,000 viewers compared to the week before. There's no way to paint that in a good light. This show will move in January and without that massive "Heroes" lead-in it's in for some rough times. For teh complete overnight ratings, go to MediaWeek's Marc Berman. I wanna leave Altnan's death visible for a while so I'm keeping this post brief.

Robert Altman Is Dead

Robert Altman died today at 81. But as far as Hollywood was concerned, he was also dead back in 1980 after his ill-fated "Popeye" flopped. Suddenly, one of the most famous directors around simply couldn't get any of his films made. Altman retreated to a series of very low-budget films -- many of them adapted from plays -- that were decidedly un-Altmanesque. No overlapping dialogue, no huge cast of characters, no interlocking storylines. "Streamers" tackled gays in the military, "Come Back To The Five and Dime, Jimmy dean, Jimmy Dean" gave respect to Cher, "Secret Honor" was a riveting one-man show about Nixon that gave Philip Baker Hall the role of a lifetime, "Tanner '88" (a collaboration with "Doonesbury's" Garry Trudeau) was ground-breaking and all too prescient), and "Vincent & Theo" proved he could reach out again to a wider audience. Those films would be a nice career for most people; for Altman, they are practically a footnote. But they also hit theaters when I was in high school and college so they were my first introduction to him. It's sort of like coming through the sidedoor -- like falling for Springsteen via "Nebraska" -- but I wouldn't have it any other way. Obviously, you should watch "Nashville," "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" and many others. Personally, I didn't feel "Short Cuts" captured what I loved about writer Raymond Carver and "The Player" seemed a bit toothless. For me, Altman's late career masterpiece is "Gosford Park," a gem set on a British estate that gets better every time I see it. When he lost Best Director and Best Picture to Ron Howard and "A Beautiful Mind," I knew Hollywood was never going to give him an out-and-out win. "Gosford Park" was an Anglophile's dream, bursting with brilliant performances, a solid hit and very funny with a shattering finale. What more could he do? (I wouldn't have minded if he lost to Peter Jackson and "The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.") So thank goodness Hollywood gave him an honorary Oscar last year. It turned out to be just in time. R.I.P. and I hope there's pot in heaven or he's gonna be angry.

Glimmer Of Hope For Air America

The progressive talk radio network Air America filed for bankruptcy and had a looming deadline tomorrow. But the courts have granted them a week-long extension and sources say Air America is in serious talks with a few parties to rescue then fledgling business. No word on who or what or when, per Radio and Records, but more news should arrive after Thanksgiving.

Kit Carson -- Hero Or Villain

Just finished Hampton Sides' new book "Blood and Thunder: An Epic Of The American West." Originally intended to focus on The Long Walk of the Navajos -- a forced relocation of the tribe -- Sides' book expanded into a biography of trapper, soldier, explorer and national hero Kit Carson and his role in Manifest Destiny. Carson's personal journey is fascinating and pretty moving. Illiterate and devotedly faithful to anyone he saw as a "superior," Carson married an Indian woman and grew to know their ways. But he also fought bitterly with their warriors, was a brutal attacker when he felt wronged and took the lead role in some of the greatest defeats for various tribes. But Carson also respected each tribe, knew their differences, condemned massacres of them and -- while misguided -- championed various "remedies" in a sincere desire to see Indian tribes "protected" and very late in life realized most of their miseries were the result of white men. Carson was as pure a symbol of Manifest Destiny as there was -- he might have felt sorry about it, he might have even sort of tried to minimize the damage, but he knew that the white people were coming and it never occured to him they didn't have the right to do so. All of this makes this book sound a bit dry, but it's filled with exciting battles, thumbnail sketches of various tribes, colorful depictions of leaders on all sides who were stubborn and proud and wrong-headed and once in a great while actually enlightened. A model of popular history. *** 1/2 out of ****.

Overhyped "Heroes"

Oh, I'm enjoying the show -- it's the most unexpected treat of the fall and has maintained its high quality for weeks. But last night's episode was hyped as a major turning point. I got the impression that many of the characters were going to cross paths for the first time, that we'd discover what the heck was going on, that it would be a "biggie" in every way. In fact, the ad campaing for the entire week breathlessly told us to watch it Monday night because we wouldn't want to hear about it Tuesday morning. Nope. It was another fine episode but not a turning point; not even close. In fact, I don't think there's anything someone could have told me after they saw the show that would have spoiled it for me. Peter meets the cheerleader? We knew that was going to happen. She doesn't die? We knew that was gonna happen too. What a bait and switch.

And now they're telling us that NEXT week is REALLY going to be big and we've got lots of questions and next week we're gonna get lots of answers. Why do I think this is bull? Just give us glimpses of the storylines for next week without telling us that it's going to be THE BIGGEST SHOW EVER. The hype gets very annoying.

Michael Richards Apologizes On "Letterman" Tonight For Racial Slurs

Is it enough? Personally, I feel awkward about saying that slur even when singing along to rap music. At home. By myself.

UPDATE: The apology by Michael Richards on Letterman seemed sincere enough -- no attempt by him to pussyfoot around or apologize "if anyone was offended" or claim he was pushing barriers as a comedian. But my ear was tripped up by Richards' repeated use of the word "Afro-Americans." It's hard to sound more outdated or out-of-touch than to call black people "Afro-Americans." I supposed he could have called them "colored," which at one point was considered polite, just like "Afro-American", but is now dated, at the very least. You can't help feeling Richards is unintentionally revealing his clueless attitude towards blacks if he still thinks they should be referred to that way. Words matter and even in his apology Richards revealed he still has a long way to go before putting his obvious prejudice behind him. Oddly, this NY Daily News article changes "Afro-American" to "African-American" when quoting Richards, which is a significant change they should not have made.

The Ziegfeld Is Dead

By the way, I saw that Rocky trailer at the Ziegfeld, the last grand movie palace left in New York City. There's no other one-screen theater that comes close to its capacity, now that Astor Plaza and others have disappeared. And I'm afraid it's only a matter of time before the Ziegfeld closes too. Never luxurious, the Ziegfeld has for years been one of the choice locations for movie premieres. And if a film like "The Lord of the Rings" or "Superman Returns" was playing there, that was definitely the theater you wanted to see it in. No other movie house in NYC came close its sense of occasion. Heck, the very first movie I saw in New York was a revival of "Spartacus" at the Ziegfeld and I was thrilled and astonished to see the line stretching down the block, around the corner and down the next block as well. In the past few weeks, I've gone to see "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Casino Royale" on opening weekend at the Ziegfeld and it's been at least half empty both times. With the multiplexes all over town, people simply won't trudge out to the midtown, isolated location of the Ziegfeld. In recent months, it's also filled up down time with tired reruns of old movies. No one came. Soon, inevitably, the Ziegfeld will close.

Does "Rocky" Have Punch?

Or is it just a punchline? I saw the trailer for "Rocky Balboa" over the weekend and the audience I was with managed to applaud ironically -- not an easy thing to do when you're clutching popcorn and waiting for a Bond flick in which James is -- God help us -- vulnerable and in love. But when Stallone started to stumble through yet another comeback, the audience giggled and then laughed and then sort of applauded, but only in a knowing, "isn't this what we're supposed to do" manner. Happily, Stallone seems to have the right take on the film, according to the New York Times. He's portraying the 60 year old Rocky not as a boxer making another comeback but as an athelete trying to eke out every ounce of talent left in him, even if he knows he's doomed. Maybe there's hope for this one after all. Just don't ask me to see the next Rambo.

"Prison Break" Returns In January

The major networks continue to move away from repeats or lengthy breaks for their serialized shows. FOX already airs "24" with no reruns starting each January. Now, "Prison Break," disappeared from November to March last season, is coming back in January. A press release just confirmed the final fall episode will air on Monday, November 27. Then it takes a brief hiatus for seven weeks (two of which fall on Christmas and New Year's, so really it only misses five weeks) and returns January 22 for a two hour recap show. On January 29th it airs the first of nine final episodes, culminating in the season finale March 26. Which begs the question, what will they air from April 2 on? That long break for "Lost" is looking more and more dangerous all the time.

"Get Smart" With Steve Carell

It's such an obvious project for Carell I'm almost surprised it doesn't already exist. Filming begins in March, with Anne Hathaway as Agent 99.

Meanwhile, "The Three Investigators" -- a young adult mystery series I remember fondly -- has apparently been out of print for some 20 years but is hitting the big screen in an English language low budget film via the Germans, where the lads are apparently still popular.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Magic Numbers In Concert

A review of their London show. My favorite band of the moment and I can't wait for them to return to New York though I'm also worried because they could never equal the concert I saw a few months ago.

Four Score And Seven Years Ago....

I didn't come up with that headline. I cribbed it from a speech by one of our former Presidents. If I was researching this blog entry and wrote down that phrase cause it was catchy and even if I failed to note "A. Lincoln, Gettysburg Address") on it, when it came time to writing this item, I would see that phrase and just KNOW I didn't write it. It's distinctive, it's clear and it wasn't written by me. The latest case of plagiarism involved an editorial in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that cribbed from the New Yorker. Their ombusdman says no one will discuss the editorial, who wrote it, whether they were insisted but editors say it was "unintentional." The ombusdman says that's pretty hard to swallow. I agree, which is why the free pass for Doris Kearns Goodwin, Stephen Ambrose and so many others sticks in my craw.

Paid Programming -- My New Addiction

Like I don't watch enough TV, now I've got a new addiction: watching late night paid programming. My current favorite is for the EdenPure heating system -- the acting is so unbelievably bad, I'm sure that John Waters either directed or has taped it and watches the thing over and over again. (There's a saucy old lady who rolls her eyes in delirious delight over the "moist" pleasures of EdenPure, a coded gay message and a 'scientist" so stiff and awkward and lovably inept that even Ed Wood might hesitate before using him in a film. Catch it if you can.

The New York Times has a good piece on more late night filler, this time on interactive game shows were people all over the world are bilked into calling in to win cash prizes -- most people just get a recorded message and are billed a dime to $1 for the pleasure of trying to play. Did I mention the hosts are babes in lingerie?

Hollywood Never Lost Its Audience

The New York Times claims that this year Hollywood has reclaimed its audience? Why? Because movie attendance has risen nearly 5%. They're wrong of course. Hollywood, since the Fifties or at the very latest the Sixties has seen a slow and steady growth in its audience. Manic reporting on whether this weekend's box office is higher or lower than the box office one year ago ignores the simple fact that the movie business has been pretty predictable for years. Some years are up, some years are down. The US box office has hovered around $8 billion to $9 billion. And there are a lot of other factors: overseas, which used to be an afterthought, has risen dramatically in the last 25 years and now outgrosses the US, with more money to come once we get movie theaters in China. And of course DVD -- another afterthought -- has exploded. It rocked Hollywood's world when VHS grosses matched the US box office. Now the grosses from sales and rentals of DVDs is more than DOUBLE the US box office. And while DVD sales have plateaued (quite reasonably) the result is that movies are astronomically more profitable -- even after adjusting for inflation -- today than they were 30 years ago. It isn't even close. A $5 billion industry is now a $50 billion industry.

Finally, the NYT annoys me by repeating the lie that "Cars" didn't perform to expectations. Whose expectations? I'm certain Pixar realized a NASCAR-themed film probably wouldn't catch fire overseas the way it might here. In the US, "Cars" grossed $244 million, which fits right alongside "The Incredibles" ($261 million), "Monsters Inc." ($255 mil), "Toy Story 2" ($245 million) and well more than "A Bug's Life" and "Toy Story." The one movie that grossed significantly more is "Finding Nemo," which grossed $339 million and is their biggest hit of all time. Despite what was seen as a "soft" opening, it hit the remarkable sweet spot that Pixar has hit for years. And EXPECTING every Pixar release to hit $250 million (whatever the budget) is absurd. "Cars" grossed less overseas than their last few, hitting "only" $458 million worldwide, more than "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life," about the same as "Toy Story 2" (at $485 million) and less than the $525 million for "Monsters Inc.," the $631 million for "The Incredibles" and the record-setting $866 million for "Finding Nemo." But again, they surely knew this would happen and that's why "Cars" had a $70 million budget, a significantly lower budget than any of their films since 1998's "A Bug's Life." To sum up, Pixar made a movie for $70 million. It did a sensational $244 million in the US and $458 million worldwide. That doesn't even include DVDs or merchandising, which was reportedly exceptionally high for this movie. Should Pixar have not made this movie even though it's overseas appeal would be lower? And walk away from a $600 million goldmine? Only a fool would say this movie underperformed. No wonder James Cameron doesn't want to make another movie: even if it grosses $1 billion worldwide, people will it a complete disaster compared to "Titanic."

Ian Thorpe Retires From Swimming

I'm gutted. Who's gonna light a fire under Michael Phelps? I wonder if Ian called up Bjorn Borg (who quit at 26) to talk about retiring at the peak of his abilities and whether Borg regretted it or not. I can't imagine retiring when I could still win more championships, more Olympic golds. I suppose in some way it's better to drop out than fade away, but that wouldn't have happened to him for years, even without the proper motivation. I'm a big swimming fan (along with tennis, baseball, bull riding, NASCAR, and other Olympic sports like gymnastics, skating and wrestling), though of course I almost never get to watch it since TV screws with most of my favorite sports on a regular basis.

A Class War My Brother Can Identify With

The rich are beginning to be jealous of the super-rich. Now that's something Chris can understand. As for me, this is more the type of story that I can relate to.

New Line Dumps Peter Jackson From "The Hobbit"

Director Peter Jackson and New Line have been in deep discussions about filming two "Hobbit" movies as soon as 2008. But since Jackson has been suing New Line -- claiming they owe him tens of millions of dollars from the trilogy, New Line has decided to dump him from the project. The One Ring website broke the news with an email directly from Jackson himself saying New Line had called to tell him ta-ta for now. Some news reports have suggested Jackson believed he was cheated out of upwards of $100 million on the trilogy. But say Jackson could have been placated with $50 million and a clearer arrangement on the new movies. Why endanger two films that would gross easily $1.5 billion at the box office ALONE (and that's being conservative), not to mention massive DVD sales, etc for a total gross of, very roughly $3 billion? Why endanger all of that over $50 million you probably owed him anyway? If the two movies cost $700 million to make and market (that's $300 mil per movie -- both shot at once of course -- and a massive $400 mil in marketing, which is very aggressive), that's still $2.3 billion in profits to be divied up among the studios, Jackson, the actors and so on. Round it down to $2 billion. They've endangered $2 billion by worrying about $50 million. That's practically a minor accounting error when the figures get that large. Crazy.

The Show That Killed "Deadwood"

Oh how I hate "John From Cincinnati," the HBO surfing drama/sci-fi series that literally displaced "Deadwood" just as it was reaching dizzying heights of brilliance. Now David Milch, the creator of both of them, tries his darndest to make me hate it even more with his pronouncements.
“I am an instrument of purposes that I don’t fully understand,” [Milch] said, not caring how grand or silly it might sound. “Time will tell whether I am a wing nut or a megalomaniac,” he added. “The difference between a cult and faith is time. I believe that we are a single organism, and that something is at stake in this particular moment.”
Oy. But yeah, I'll watch it.

UK Music Charts -- George Michael On Top

George Michael is having a grand time. After repeated arrests for being slumped in his car high on pot or fiddling with strange men in wooded areas and the such, Michael is back to doing what he does best: performing. He claims to feel recording new music seems unlikely but that he'll keep doing concerts for the rest of his life. His UK tour is selling like hotcakes and his new greatest hits compilation is #1 on the album charts. That's even more impressive since his LAST greatest hits compilation -- "Ladies and Gentlemen: The Best Of George Michael" was a MASSIVE career-peak for him. Another hits package was the last thing the UK needed but Michael delivered anyway. On the singles chart, (mostly) reunited boy band Take That debut at #4 with their new single. It's a pity Robbie Williams won't join them for a show or two. He doesn't need them but it would have been a friendly gesture.

Is Tom Cruise A Loser? Is Bond A Winner? Do The Beatles Need "Love?"

I can never resist reading or commenting on the daily gossip column by Roger Friedman at Fox News. He wonders if Tom Cruise has jumped the shark in terms of his career. (If people can jump the shark just like a TV show, I'll bet I did it when I adopted that baby kangaroo in 2002.) I doubt it. He's a talented movie star and has good taste in roles for himself. His next project with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford sounds like a good move away from commercial fare. People sort of expect movie stars to be wacky, no?

Then Friedman gets a little confusing about the weekend box office. He paints the $40 mil opening as disappointing, even though it's the second biggest Bond opening of all time. Then he says the "over-hyped" movie "may prove to be less of a blockbuster" than hoped for. THEN he says "it may wind up being the biggest success in the series in years." Huh? Brosnan's final outing "Die Another Day" was by far the biggest grossing Bond film, hitting $456 million worldwide. How could "Casino" prove less of a blockbuster but also the biggest success "in years?" And in the unlikely scenario that it beats "Die Another Day" (is it coincidence that spells DAD?) then this Bond would be the #1 Bond of all time. That's hardly a reasonable expectation. And given the nature of this film, I wouldn't expect it to equal Brosnan's run.

Like many people, Friedman sees the battle for #1 as all-important and finds it disconcerting that "Happy Feet" could beat Bond. Who cares? This was the first weekend ALL YEAR that two movies topped $40 million so I'd say they're both winners. Remember, the only numbers that matter are the movie's budget and the movie's worldwide gross. (DVD can be a nice safety net of course but is usually reflective of the box office.) All that matters with "Casino Royale" is where it ends up -- if "Happy Feet" is a $300 million worldwide smash, that doesn't hurt Bond one way or the other. Despite the great reviews, I've assumed that the lengthy running time, draggy parts and vulnerable moments mean this Bond will hit about $300 million worldwide. There aren't enough whiz-bang moments to demand repeat viewings from teenagers who might like Daniel Craig's toughness but don't need to sit through more than two viewings to take in the stunts. That $300 mil would be a serious drop from the $456 million of "Die Another Day," but a fine first number to build on.

Finally, Friedman loves the new Beatles mash-up by George Martin and his son. I'll certainly listen to "Love" as well, but I'm a fuddy-duddy when it comes to masterpieces. The Beatles albums don't need to be presented in new ways to attract the kids -- "Revolver," "Rubber Soul," "Sgt. Pepper," "The White Album," "Abbey Road" and the rest sound just as fresh and exciting today as they did 40 years ago. But Friedman's mention of how great the CD sounds reminds me again of how frustrating it is that the Beatles haven't remastered their catalog since it first came out in the late 80s. They better get George Martin on this immediately. He ain't getting any younger.

Overnight TV Ratings -- The Usual Sunday Successes

Trying to play catchup so no full breakdown. Everyone performed true to fashion on Sunday. The one new addition was the return of "Reba" on the CW, which immediately helped "7th Heaven." As Marc Berman at MediaWeek suggests, the Camdens will probably be back for another season. The CW has so many holes to fill -- and so many struggling returning shows -- that they simply can't afford to let it go. Click on the Marc Berman link for the complete ratings.

Weekend Box Office -- The Final Numbers

Yes, I was wrong, very wrong. The penguins beat the spy. It was a nail-biter and since I didn't even really expect that, I was doubly wrong. In limited release, "The Queen" is still chugging along beautifully, grossing $2.3 mil ($17.9 mil total) on just over 600 screens. But "Fast Food Nation" was a flop -- it shoulda been a documentary. And "Babel" is fading fast; but frankly they probably squeezed out as much money from that unsatisfying movie as they could have so that quick expansion wasn't a bad call. "Volver" is also holding well, while "For Your Consideration" and "Bobby" both showed initial promise. Here's the Top 10, per Box Office Prophets.

1. Happy Feet -- $42.3 million total
2. Casino Royale -- $40.6 mil total
3. Borat -- $14.4 mil ($90.5 mil total)
4. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause -- $8.2 mil ($51.6 mil total)
5. Flushed Away -- $6.8 mil ($48.8 mil total)
6. Stranger Than Fiction -- $6.6 mil ($22.9 mil total)
7. Babel -- $2.9 mil ($12 mil total)
8. Saw III -- $2.8 mil ($74.9 mil total)
9. The Departed -- $2.6 mil ($113.9 mil total)
10. 8 Films To Die For (horror fest) -- $2.5 mil total

Sleazy OJ Simpson Book And TV Special Killed By FOX

Wow! A major media conglomerate can actually be shamed into action. facing universal disdain (and presumably a complete lack of advertisers), FOX has cancelled its vile OJ "If I Did It" book and TV special. Rupert Murdoch released a single line statement saying, “I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project. We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson.” Was there a kill fee, I wonder? Did OJ and the third party FOX contracted with get any money even though the project won't happen? Were there overseas deals? Is pay-per-view a possibility? We're not quite done with this yet. But this is good news.
UPDATE: Variety says most likely that OJ -- or rather, the third party he used to make the deal to shield the money from the families of the people he murdered -- will get the full $3.8 million advance.

Popsurfing Later

Off to a dreadfully early screening followed by a birthday brunch. Loads of popsurfing later this afternoon.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Penguins Beat Bond

Boy, was I wrong. "Happy Feet" beat "Casino Royale" at the box office, grossing $42 mil to Bond's $40 mil. I was convinced the flood of animated movies, the competition from two current family films ("The Santa Clause 3" and "Flushed Away") and the tidal wave of publicity and great reviews for Bond would give "Casino Royale" the edge. I was wrong. Haughtily wrong. If a blog can hang its head in shame, consider mine hanged. On the other hand, I'm delighted that director George Miller has scored another triumph. He is, to my mind, one of the most interesting and distinctive directors working today. The Mad Max movies, "Lorenzo's Oil," the Babe movies (one of which he shepherded and one he directed) and now "Happy Feet." And amidst all the talk of "Happy Feet," I keep stumbling over quick little bursts of praise for "Babe: Pig In The City," the much maligned sequel to "Babe" that I loved. This is the first weekend all year that two movies grossed more than $40 million. It's also the third best opening for an animated movie this year, after the $68 mil for "Ice Age: The Meltdown" and $60 mil for "Cars," which everyone derided as a stumble by Pixar until it cruised along to $457 mil worldwide. Here are the 14 animated movies of the year and their final US grosses. I believe we've seen more animated movies released in 2006 than in any year in cinematic history. And there's still one more to go: Luc Besson's dreadful looking, dead on arrival "Arthur and the Invisibles," due out Dec 15.

1. Cars -- $244 million US total box office
2. Ice Age: The Meltdown -- $195 million
3. Over The Hedge -- $155 million
4. Open Season -- $146 million
5. The Wild -- $137 million
6. Monster House -- $ 73 million
7. Barnyard -- $ 72 million
8. Curious George -- $ 58 million
9. Flushed Away -- $ 48 million (and counting)
10. Happy Feet -- $ 42 million (and counting)
11. The Ant Bully -- $ 28 million
12. Everyone's Hero -- $ 14 million
13. A Scanner Darkly -- $ 6 million
14. Arthur/Invisibles -- TK (due December 15)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Here's A Movie Comedy Waiting To Be Made

USA Today wrote a story on the massive theft problem mall stores face from organized thieves. (It's easier to steal from a Wal-Mart than burglarize a home and if you're caught the penalities are much lower.) But in the middle, they told this anecdote:
One night last August, Beall's [department store] cameras caught a gang of exotic dancers that stole about $170 worth of goods from the Bradenton store, police records show. Apparel from other retailers filled the women's rented SUV. Two of the three women, who worked for an exotic dancing and escort service called Black Xtasy, admitted that they were traveling the state to steal. The suspected ringleader had retail theft warrants against her in two other Florida counties.
A gang of exotic dancers running a shoplifting ring? They're working the poles at night and that's their COVER? If that's not a comedy waiting to be made, I don't know what is.

James Bond Vs. Penguins -- The Friday Box Office

James Bond won the box office battle Friday, with "Casino Royale" taking in $14.4 million versus $11.5 million for "Happy Feet." But family films pack them in during the day and do especially well on Sunday while adult films dominate Friday and Saturday night. So Box Office Prophets still predicts that the penguins will edge out Bond come Monday morning, with $43 mil versus Bond's $41 mil total. I'm still hopeful that Bond's excellent reviews, the overwhelming number of animated movies this year and the direct competition of "The Santa Clause 3" and "Flushed Away" will keep "Happy Feet" in second. But it's definitely going down to the wire and we may not know the final result till Tuesday.

"Ugly Betty" Is Beginning To Annoy Me

Not the show itself, which is quite charming when it ignores the more ludicrous plotlines that the show has introduced. What's annoying me is the show's depiction of Betty's 12 year old nephew Justin (played by Mark Indelicato). Justin is flamboyantly gay, but the producers keep insisting that we shouldn't read any sexual orientation into the character just because he's different. They've also suggested -- and others have agreed -- that we're being prejudiced and embracing stereotypes if we assume that every little boy that doesn't fit into a particular mold must be gay. Well, okay, I thought, maybe the kid is just different. There are straight kids who love theater and don't love sports. Maybe I am being stupidly narrow-minded. The only problem? Justin is CLEARLY and FLAMBOYANTLY and SUPREMELY GAY. No, gay people do not all fit into stereotypes, but people who do fit every darn stereotype under the sun are in fact almost invariably gay. Justin puts on "Thanksgiving: The Musical" for his family, he loves fashion and wants to sit next to Betty to discuss Stella McCartney's new fall line, when his mom says someone special is coming for Thanksgiving he thinks it's Martha Stewart because he entered a contest to win dinner with her, he prances about the apartment and when his dad gives him a jock strap he of course has no clue what it is but holds it up to his face like a mask and squeals with delight, "Look ma, I'm the Phantom of the Opera," while he floats about the room.

Hey, I really like Justin and the fact that even his estranged dad kind of, sort of accepts that he's "different." But I'm sorry, the kid is CLEARLY intended to be gay. He could be different or like fashion or be an odd duck in a million different ways but every single line this kid utters is coded behavior that inescapably indicates the boy is gay. So why have they created this adorable, positive gay role model of a kid (Justin is comfortable with himself, clearly) and then waste time denying what they've done?

One possibility is the young actor himself. He's only 12 and in the article linked to above he explicitly says we aren't supposed to assume his character is gay just because he acts super-gay every single moment he's onscreen. Now, when casting a gay kid, movie and TV people have a delicate tightrope to walk, even today. By and large, you cast kids who fit the roles they're going to play. So how do you tell parents their kid seems flamboyantly gay and that's perfect for a role, when the parents themselves may not have faced or dealt with this issue yet, even though their little child wants to be an actor? How do you tell a 10 or 11 or 12 year old kid they're playing a queer? What will their friends say? Apparently, casting agents use coded language to indicate what they want (they might say, "we're looking for 'artistic' preteens") without of course expecting they're gonna find some out 11 year old (not many of those, even among kids who want to act). So part of the Faustian deal becomes the fact that they've hired a kid to play gay but don't really say so. Or they don't admit it just to protect the kid and let them feel comfortable with what they're doing.

But at some point, the producers of Ugly Betty should have admitted that they were putting a gay character on screen and made sure they found a 12 year old boy who could handle that. Do they think the actor won't be teased by friends for playing a gay kid just because the network pretends that's not what is going on? This sense of protectiveness for the young actor is the only decent reason I can think of for their farce in insisting the boy in the show isn't gay. But it's getting offensive. If they wanted to leave it vague or just paint a kid who was different, they shouldn't have made Justin Super Gay in EVERY SINGLE MOMENT HE'S ONSCREEN.

It's a very difficult casting challenge: finding a Latino 12 year old kid who can act who is either gay or very comfortable playing a gay kid and has parents who are comfortable with this as well. Is the actor playing him just a brilliant actor? No, typically when casting kids you cast them close to their real-life behavior. In other words, the producers of the show think the actor playing this kid is in fact effeminate and probably gay. And that's something they can't say out loud because they didn't deal with it properly in the first place.

On "Roseanne," Roseanne Barr decided she wanted to want make her son on the show, DJ, gay. She had all sorts of gay characters on the show and the fact that DJ was probably gay had been hinted at for years. But the actor was six years old when hired and Barr had not planned from the get-go to make the kid gay -- how could she have known the show would last nine years? So when the actor begged her not to make his character gay (or rather, not have the character come out), she relented because he wasn't comfortable. On "I'll Fly Away," the very young son of our lawyer hero was quite "sensitive." I thought the kid might grow up to be gay and indeed in a two hour finale that jumped forward many years, they referenced the fact that the character had died of a disease, the implication being AIDS. On "My So-Called Life," of course, Wilson Cruz was gay in real life and more than ready to play a gay character from the get-go. And what we have on "Ugly Betty" is a young character who is gay from the get-go. The producers knew this but failed to do what needed to be done to protect the actor and the role.

"Ugly Betty" is about acceptance and tolerance of people who look and act and behave differently. When the producers try to pretend that WE'RE being narrowminded by insisting a character who behaves like this must be gay, they are being hypocrites. Lying to themselves and to him and to us turns what should be a positive character into one that is pretty disturbing in a way. If even the network and the producers and the actor playing Justin can't accept him for who he is, why should anyone else? And that's exactly the opposite of the message that "Ugly Betty" wants to promote.

Lloyd Cole In Concert

I can't really enjoy a rock concert in a club with a velvet rope (how ridiculous), but inside the Canal Room was fine, albeit with drinks way overpriced. Still, Lloyd Cole packed 'em in and was his usual literate self. Two amusing moments. First, onstage was a Mac laptop and a tiny keyboard. I joked to my guest TJ that Cole was gonna simply play the Mac all night and then darned if that didn't seem to be the case. Ultimately, it was Cole and one other guitarist with all other backing programmed into the computer or played by Cole on keyboard. But first he came out and just started a Brian Eno-like musical soundscape and then doodled on the keyboard for a few minutes. People politely applauded when it was over. Cole jokingly toweled off as if it had been exhausting, mumbled "thanks" rather drily and then played another. And then another. And then another. My God, was this going to be a night of instrumentals? Then Cole said we were the only audience to applaud the first tune of the night. "One man in Sweden said he thought I was doing a sound check," said Cole. I'll bet he makes that joke/compliment every night.

But another comment later was truly unique. I'm sure I've never heard this before. Cole looked out into the audience and said he saw a lot of couples. I'm paraphrasing, but Cole said, 'The level of desire to be here isn't always equal. For all of you who've come here tonight with your partners and endured far too much of my music over the years and yet still came here tonight, I thank you.' Thanking the dates of the hardcore fans who've been dragged to his shows and heard his albums again and again -- that was truly charming, I thought. Few artists would have the self-confidence to recognize that not everyone is a fan of his music -- much less recognize that some of the people at that very concert were probably dragged there by their dates. No wonder he's been able to survive for 22 years in the industry with his dignity intact.

Rhythm & Blues Is Dead

Or rather, singer Ruth Brown is dead and that's basically the same thing. One sign of the long, remarkable career she had is the number of nicknames associated with her: Brown was called Miss Rhythm and The Girl With The Tear In Her Voice, while R&B was said to stand for Ruth Brown and she was such a force for Atlantic Records in its early days that the label was dubbed "The House That Ruth Built."

A typically tumultuous life marked by setbacks and comebacks, Brown did it all: she married a trumpeter who failed to mention he was already married but kept his last name because she was starting to have success; Brosn signed with Atlantic Records but got in a horrible car crash while traveling to New York and was hospitalized for a year; her first song was recorded on crutches; she literally turned Atlantic into a powerhouse label (and helped invent rock n roll mroe than any other woman), but remained in debt into the 1980s thanks to onerous contracts; came back in the musical "Black and Blue" and the movie "Hairspray" and campaigned to eliminate debt for all the major blues artists in the world, as well as getting them some back royalties. Whew! Start with any recent Atlantic compilation or the cast album to "Black and Blue" and you'll become a fan too.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Overnight TV Ratings -- "30 Rock" Tumbles

No time to type it out. Go to MediaWeek's Marc Berman for the complete breakdown. But "My Name Is Earl" remains charming, "The Office" expanded to 45 minutes (w about 4 minutes of extra show and 11 minutes of extra commercials) and "30 Rock" proved it's Must-Flee TV by tumbling more than 50% from "The Office" and hurting "ER" so much that show fell to third at 10 p.m. Plus, I've got a bone to pick with "Ugly Betty" but that'll have to wait till later.

I'm off to see Anthony Minghella's "Breaking and Entering," a Lloyd Cole concert and then, I think, a late-night showing of "Happy Feet." See ya.

Weekend Movie Preview

Bond Vs. Penguins. That's the basic matchup this weekend. Box Office Prophets predicts Happy Feet (the dancing and singing animated penguin movie) will be #1 at the Box Office with about $45 million. They say Casino Royale will make about $39 million. I say they're crazy. The BBC reports that Bond is already breaking box office records in the UK. Happy Feet has to compete with the solid family film holdovers The Santa Clause 3 and Flushed Away. James Bond has no competition whatsoever. Not only is a Bond film a world unto itself, there hasn't been a good kiss-kiss-bang-bang action film in weeks or even months. Bond has also enjoyed a tidal wave of publicity while Happy Feet is relatively under the radar. I'm actually looking forward to Happy Feet, since I think director George Miller (Mad Max, Lorenzo's Oil, the Babe movies) is one of the most distinctive talents around. But Bond will be #1 or I'll have this blog commit hari-kari.

Is "Bobby" This Year's "Crash?"

The Hollywood Reporter compares the two, making the very useful point that "Bobby" will resonate strongly with the Academy voters (they're dominated by older people and Bobby Kennedy is someone they surely remember and admire). There's also a lengthy, nice chat with Emilio Estevex. Two highlight: he leaves LA and ends up at a tiny little beach town to work on the script and the lady who checks him in asks what he's working on and then says she was there the day Bobby died and later married two men so they could avoid Vietnam. Her story became one of the main threads of the film. And the Ambassador was being demolished literally as they filmed the movie. Good stuff.

All You Need Is "Love"

The new album "Love" -- a smooshing together of different Beatles tracks to accompany a Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas -- comes out next week. Sure, I'll buy it because it says "Beatles" on it and it's new. I've never been able to do that with a proper new Beatles album, just reissues, so buying "Anthology" or "1" or this is as close as I can get. Billboard says anticipation is high among the four remaining music stores in the world. I haven't been to Vegas to see the show but I was sort of intrigued...until I saw them perform on Leno. It was the most embarrassing, godawful thing I've seen in ages. The dancers cavorted around a Volkswagen Beetle (of course) dressed in Sixties finery. It looked like something from a very bad Seventies variety show or more exactly it looked like a PARODY of an early Seventies variety show. And the "mash-ups" of different tracks were mild at best. This ain't the Grey Album. It sounds much more like those Stars on 45 megamixes. Ugh.

BBC Hires SomeOne Who Posted Reviews On YouTube

So why can't I get a job with benefits?

"Mary Poppins" -- Practically Perfect Reviews

The NY Daily News throws shamelessness to the wind and calls the new musical "Marry Poppins" a jolly holiday. The NY Post follows suit in an even more gushing rave and says it's "supercalifragi..." oh, you know the rest. Variety does allow the show is a bit overstuffed, but overstuffed mostly with talent and charm. But, BUT the New York Times delivers a devastating review. Not cruel, but emphatically negative. Personally, I enjoyed the UK version but was hoping for real greatness. I knew the American version would be boldly fixing what I thought was wrong if they changed the treacly finale "Anything Can Happen," which undercut the (ever so slightly) darker tone of the show. Instead, the American version seems to have brightened up the rest of the show to fit the tone of the finale. The show has been a solid, but not spectacular hit in the UK. I'd expect the same here, despite the NYT review -- a run of a few years and that's about it.