Monday, July 31, 2006

Weekend Box Office -- "John Tucker" Lives!

Just dropping off my mail and heading out to a Meatloaf press conference (I just wanna hear what he says about his feud with Jim Steinman). But I couldn't resist patting myself on the back for picking "John Tucker Must Die" to do much better than everyone else predicted. I thought the title was great, the cast strong and the publicity machine working full-blast (I must have seen a million promos) and so I said it would do about $15 mil when everyone else thought it would make about half that. "The biggest surprise" of the weekend box office says the NY Daily News? Not if you read Popsurfing. Woody Allen opened to about $3 mil and will make much less than $10 mil, I'd imagine, given what should be poor word of mouth. "Lady in the Water" collapsed, of course, but "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" is almost equally expensive and an even bigger flop. Finally, "Superman Returns" is at about $185 mil and probably won't make $200 mil unless Imax 3-D screenings chug along for a while. Per Box Office Prophets, the Top 12

1. Miami Vice -- $25.2 mil
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest -- $20.5 mil ($358.4 mil total)
3. John Tucker Must Die -- $14.1 mil
4. Monster House -- $11.5 mil
5. Ant Bully -- $8.1 mil
6. You, Me and Dupree -- $7 mil ($59 mil total)
7. Lady In The Water -- $7 mil ($32.1 mil total)
8. Little Man -- $5.1 mil ($50.2 mil total)
9. The Devil Wears Prada -- $4.8 mil ($106.7 mil total)
10. Clerks II -- $3.9 mil ($18.5 mil)
11. My Super Ex-Girlfriend -- $3.8 mil ($16.4 mil total)
12. Superman Returns -- $3.8 mil ($185.8 mil total)

No Waves Today

(Actually, running around doing interviews, attending a Meatloaf press conference and an auction preview for vintage posters.) Popsurfing will resume tomorrow.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Owen Wilson Finally Responds To Steely Dan

Steely Dan jokingly blamed Owen Wilson for a screenwriter "stealing" from their song "Cousin Dupree" when writing Owen's new movie "You, Me and Dupree." They might have been genuinely mad at the screenwriter but they were clearly joking and having fun with Wilson, posting a letter to his brother Luke and asking Owen to come to a concert and apologize to their fans. Naturally, the media treated it seriously instead of as the joke it mostly (or completely) was. Owen released this statement through his publicist:
"I have never heard the song 'Cousin Dupree' and I don't even know who this gentleman, Mr. Steely Dan, is. I hope this helps to clear things up and I can get back to concentrating on my new movie, 'HEY 19."'
Now, THAT'S funny.

Weekend Movie Sneak Peek

Box Office Prophets says "Pirates" will step down from #1 thanks to "Miami Vice." I'm sure they're right, though given the reviews and general indifference I think "Vice" will fall fast. I also think BOP underestimates "John Tucker Must Die" -- which they say will only make $8 mil. I bet it makes substantially more, say $15 mil. It's such a great title, I think that's got to be worth $4 or $5 mil alone and the trailer is good and has been promoted heavily.

"Aquaman: The Movie?"

The LA Times acts like this is some stunning development that would only happen because Aquaman became a running joke on the HBO show "Entourage." Meanwhile, virtually every comic book character ever created is being turned into a feature film -- about half a dozen new projects were announced at ComicCon this week. Why the heck would Aquaman not be turned into a movie just like Doom and Wonder Woman and everyone else? What I do find interesting is that major newspapers aren't reviewing the "Aquaman" TV pilot available on iTunes. It's the #1 seller there and an interesting twist for TV. I'l watch it and review over the weekend.

Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock To Get Married Four Times

They'll tie the knot in ceremonies in France, California, Michigan and Tennessee. But will they get DIVORCED four times or just the traditional once?

"Idol" Tried To Force Fantasia Out

"Idol" producers wanted Fantasia to quit the show when she made the finals (ie top ten or twelve). Why? Because she was a single mom? (They already knew that.) Because she was illiterate? (Get her a tutor and publicize the hell out of it; don't kick her off the show.) It makes no sense -- they had the same overreaction to Frenchie Davis.

Dylan and Cat Stevens: Spiritual Guides

British music star Cerys Matthews was sinking into despair over her heroin addiction when two world famous musicians called her out of the blue.
"I had a telephone call from Bob Dylan and from Yusuf Islam [the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens] in a two-week period and it gave me the confidence to follow what my heart was telling me, which was just to get out. I don't know why they rang, it happened out of the blue.

"I'd like to keep the conversations private but it was a strange time because I'd almost given up hope on everything and started to lose the plot a bit, and that's a pretty sorry place to be. [Then] these spiritual guides called and it helped me gather strength to change things and move and start again. I just did it by leaving the country and living in the middle of nowhere for a year."
Do you think Dylan will call me with encouraging word about my crippling debt? Or does he just specialize in smack?

Harry Potter Gets Naked!

Actor Daniel Radcliffe will play the lead role in a revival of Equus next March in London, a very demanding role that includes nudity. Radcliffe will play a stable boy who seems to have an 'erotic relationship" with some horses. His costar is Richard Griffiths, who appears in the Potter films and just won a Tony for "The History Boys." This is a bold switch for Radcliffe and perhaps ill-advised: he's the weak link in the movies, often simply not up to the complex emotions that the role of Harry Potter COULD draw out of a better actor. In the last movie, when Harry ahd to cry, Radcliffe was kept under an invisibility cloak for the scene -- other key emotional moments have been brief or focused on others. He has the right appeal and isn't a huge detriment to the films, but Radcliffe hasn't been nearly as good as he might have been -- and Equus might very well reveal his deficiencies once and for all.

Bush To Meet With Latest "American Idol" Winners

Bush is going to meet Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee on Friday -- the same day he meets with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to talk about the wars and violence ravaging the Middle East. I shudder to think about which meeting will be more important to him.

Woody Allen Back In Form With "Scoop"

Jack Mathews of the NY Daily News gets it just right in reviewing the forgettable (but not hatefully bad) new Woody Allen comedy "Scoop." Mathews says while everyone else thought "Match Point" was a return to form, he thinks "Scoop" is - not because it's good, but because it's bad and far more typical of the movies Woody has made for the past 15 years. Sad but true. (Mathews also seems to dismiss many of Woody's comedies throughout his career as weightless. That's going too far -- I think Hannah and Her Sisters, Purple Rose of Cairo, Annie Hall, Love & Death, Broadway Danny Rose, Radio Days and Zelig are sensational, while Manhattan, Crimes & Misdemeanors and Husbands and Wives are brilliant dramas. It's just getting harder and harder to remember how good Woody was with the bad films piling up.

George Michael Suing Ugly Guy

George Michael is planning to sue the guy who claimed he had anonymous sex with the pop star at a cruising area in Hampstead Heath. Michael adamantly defends his right to have sex and says he's gone to Hampstead Heath, which he calls the best cruising spot in England and which happens by coincidence to be half a mile from his home. However, he insists he's never seen the guy who sold his tawdry story to the tabloids, much less ever wanted to have sex with the fella. Obviously, Michael will NOT be suing for defamation of character.

"Rescue Me" Garners Big Ratings

"Rsecue Me's" ratings are up a tick to about 3 million for last week's episode, proving there is no better way to get a show an audience than to denounce it for being so outrageous and offensive. Also on FX was the debut of the documentary series "30 Days," which garnered a more modest 1.5 mil viewers -- on par with last season. The show -- from Morgan Spurlock, the guy behind "Super Size Me" -- showed an anti-illegal immigrant activist who volunteers to patrol the border spending a few weeks living with a family of illegal immigrants who share a tiny apartment while holding down several jobs, paying taxes and raising good kids. This sort of attempt to bridge gaps between groups is apparently offensive to T-Mobile, which of course pulled its ads from ALL of FX. Why does T-Mobile hate Mexicans? Finally, ESPN's boxing show The Contender is building an audience.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Kids Are Alright -- They're Just Fighting

Apparently, Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey are bickering while on the road. What else is new? Pete had arranged for live webcasts of their show in Europe, with proceeds going to various charities. But he never bothered to tell Roger about it -- they were too busy recording, he insists. Pete had paid to arrange the whole thing and his girlfriend was running the website. Roger objected -- perhaps because it was a total surprise but Pete insists it's because Roger doesn't "get" the Internet. My favorite part of this bickering is the fact that Pete set up a Hotmail account so fans could complain to Roger about the cancelled webcasts. I'm sure that helped settle things down immensely.

Billboard's Top Ten Singles

Here are the latest singles in the Top Ten. But the saddest cluth of songs appears in the top 40 -- at #28 is Ashlee Simpson, at #29 is Paris Hilton (!) and at #30 is a rebounding (both singles-wise and romance-wise) Jessica Simpson. What a group of gals.

1. Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland -- Promiscuous
2. Gnarls Barkley -- Crazy
3. Cassie -- Me & U
4. The Pussycat Dolls Featuring Snoop Dogg -- Buttons
5. Young Joc -- It's Going Down
6. Shakira Featuring Wyclef Jean -- Hips Don't Lie
7. Rihanna -- Unfaithful
8. Christina Aguilera -- Ain't No Other Man
9. The Fray -- Over My Head (Cable Car)
10. Lil Jon Featuring E-40 and Sean Paul of The YoungBloodZ -- Snap Yo Fingers

T-Mobile Update

Lots of people sent emails and posted comments like the following: "I bet you'd be unhappy if T-Mobile advertised on "The 700 Club."" (No, I wouldn't.) "We should boycott Bill O'Reilly." (No, we shouldn't.) "I'm gld they're boycotting "Rescue Me." I hate that show." (So don't watch it.)

First, T-Mobile didn't just pull ads from "Rescue Me." They pulled ads from the entire FX cable channel. That's an extreme, ridiculous response. And if T-Mobile wants to reach out to far right loonies who like Pat Robertson, frankly I have no problem with that. And if they DIDN'T run ads on Bill O'Reilly -- who has the top-rated cable news program -- they'd have some pretty mad stockholders and rightly so.

Sure there are lots of shows I don't like and people that say things I find offensive, people like Pat Robertson, Sean Hannity and so on. But would I call for boycotts of any advertiser that runs on their shows? No. By and large, I think all types of shows will naturally run on the hundreds of channels out there. Some I like. Some I don't. If I don't like a show, I don't watch it. I certainly don't try and ban a show I don't like so no one else can watch it either. That's a fundamental difference between the far right and most Americans. You don't want your kid to read Harry Potter? Fine, what do I care? But don't try and ban it from my local public library. You don't like "Rescue Me?" Don't watch it. Calling an Emmy nominated that's been hailed by critics and achieved popular success as a racist piece of junk is pretty silly.

Boycotts are a last response to an extreme situation, not the way we should do business in America where the free exchange of ideas is paramount. When someone like Dr. Laura (who misled people about her credentials and became increasingly erratic and vicious) appears, they can reach a tipping point where action is called for. And in her case, all you had to do was read to advertisers the things that she has said on the air and they realized they wanted nothing to do with her. Ann Coulter recently crossed that line into wacko territory. If she had a talk show, her truly fringe behavior would call for concerted action. But those situations are few and far between. Frankly, I don't expect every show on every channel to please or not offend me and it would be a pretty boring world if that were the case.

Music Downloads Worth $1 Billion

In a story about the illegal service Kazaa losing a court battle, this little tidbit was buried. Last year, the LEGAL download music business was worth $1.1 billion worldwide. This baby is just getting started and it's already producing more than $1 billion in sales? And much of that I'd argue is $1 billion in sales they would NOT have had otherwise. It's not just people migrating from CDs to downloads. It's mostly a market in singles that wasn't possible before. I know I've bought the odd song or two that I wanted for a oompilation or just wanted to hear when I would never have bought the entire album. (And no one should buy an entire album on iTunes -- you're much safer if you buy the CD and rip it for use on your iPod. If your computer crashes or you get a new music device, you're screwed if you only owned a digital download.) As always, music downloads are free money that the record labels resisted as long as possible until they were FORCED into servicing a massive demand from their customers. It's survival of the dumbest.

Floyd Landis Tests Positive For Illegal Drugs

Good lord. "Days of Our Lives" has nothing on this year's Tour De France. Now Floyd Landis has tested positive for a sample given after Stage 17, the stage where he made perhaps the most remarkable comeback in Tour history. A second sample has to be tested to make sure the first one wasn't a false positive. And of course Landis is on all sorts of drugs for his hip. His people say they're surprised and certain further testing will exonerate him. It's truly getting to the point where you can't enjoy ANY professional sports -- they're all tainted by the scourge of steroids and other cheating methods that remove the spirit of fair competition.

Far Right Falls In Love With Oliver Stone

They've seen "World Trade Center" and they love it. Well, bully for them. Does Stone mind his studio courting the far right? Nope. Does it bother him the company doing the reach-out to fringe groups like Family Research Council is the same company that oversaw the vile Swift Boat ads? Nobody's perfect, Stone says. Some like it hot and some like it col -- as in cold hard cash. Conspiracy theories anyone?

Classic Animation Makes Comeback At Disney

When Pixar's computer animated movies took over the world, Disney panicked and shut down much of its storied hand-drawn animation. No one wants to see 2-D anymore they insisted. Balderdash. Now that Pixar has taken over Disney (and don't believe anyone who tells you it was the other way around), John Lasseter -- the guy behind "Toy Story" and who oversees all Pixar movies -- has wasted no time refocusing Disney on what it does best: telling great stories. He's getting the guys behind "Aladdin" and "The Little Mermaid" to work on "Frog Princess" in 2-D. Why? Because the world is clamoring for hand-drawn animation (not that there's technically any such thing anymore)? Nope. Because that's the style that suits this particular story best. If it were best told via computer animation or stop-motion or paper cuts, THAT'S the way they'd do it. Disney is in good hands.

Howard Stern Really IS The King Of All Media

Stern has proven a real game changer in the world of satellite radio. Since he's joined Sirius, they've been on fire -- finally adding more subscribers in the last quarter than XM did. And that rival -- XM -- has hit a wall. First XM said they'd hit 9 million subscribers by the end of the year, now they're saying somewhere between 7.7 mil and 8.2 mil. First they said they'd reach a positive cash flow in the fourth quarter and throughout 2007. Now, uh, maybe not. If only they'd merge with Sirius, you could get ALL sports (including XM's baseball and Sirius's most everything else), Bob Dylan (on XM) and Stern (on Sirius) and I might just buy the darn thing.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Culture Club WITHOUT Boy George?

Okay, ths is just bizarre. The other three original members of Culture Club have teamed up with some new singer dubbed "Sam" and plan to go out on tour. Phil Pickett, Mikey Craig, and George's one-time lover Jon Moss are all onboard for a world tour and -- apparently -- a reality TV series of some sort. Meanwhile, Boy George is doing community service in NYC and sweeping up leaves in the park. Surely the fellows don't have the right to the band's name without George in it? And who are they kidding? Culture Club without its main songwriter and singer simply isn't Culture Club. I've always felt very defensive and proud of Culture Club because it took me literally a year not to be too embarrassed to pick up their cassette and bring it to the counter at Tower Records. (Eww, wouldn't the clerk think I was gay? was the unspoken fear.) Plus, they ahve some great singles. Finally, I had a decade-long bet with my sister Leslie who insisted in 1983 that Culture Club were a flash in the pan and would be forgotten in a week. I bet her Culture Club -- and more specifically Boy George -- would in fact still be active and well known in one way or another in 1993. (That was the year Boy George hit #15 with his theme song from "The Crying Game.") Obviously, I was right in 1993, I was right in 2003 when George had a West End musical and I'll probably be right in 2013 as well.

"Peter Pan" To Fly Onto ABC

A new TV movie version of the stage musical "Peter Pan" will come to ABC, probably around Christmas of 2007. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron -- the talents behind terrific TV musicals like "Gypsy" and "Annie" and currently working on "Hairspray" -- will oversee the project. The Mary Martin TV special was one of the landmarks of live tv. I always hated the Disney animated movie (TERRIBLE songs) and I've never seen Cathy Rigby or even heard the Jules Styne numbers from the show. But I love the book (it's quite adult and heartbreaking in the end) and am looking forward to finally hearing it done right. But will they cast a woman as Pan? And can Ian McKellen sing? He's already done Hook in London.

Radio Legend Norman Corwin

Every year for the past decade, I've tried to convince someone to let me profile radi legend Norman Corwin -- one obvious tie-in is VE-Day, when he and an all-star cast delivered one of the most stirring, thoughtful and prescient broadcasts in history (though the war was still raging and Nazi Germany barely subdued, Corwin struck just the right note with words that haven't dated a smidgen). He worked with virtually every major star and wrote absolutely terrific pieces. I've failed every time in getting to do that story, even after a documentary short about Corwin won the Oscar. He's a brilliant talent in a long-fading genre of radio. I've got a number of CDs of his broadcasts, a few books with transcripts of his work and whatever else I can find. But sadly I've never spoken to him. Some lucky bastard at the LA Times did.

James Bond Has A New Theme Song

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave will record the newest James Bond theme. (I guess the grungester ties in with the movie's tougher outlook.) Often, the song usses the title of the film, but in this case it will be called "You Know My Name." The first (and only) Bond song to hit #1? Duran Duran's "A View To A Kill." My favorite is of course "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey. You should hear my mellow, lounge act version.

Get A Jump On The New Fall Shows

One of the fun parts of covering TV is getting advance discs on the new fall shows. (And knowing how much most of them suck long before anyone else.) With failed pilots popping up om iTunes,I predicted that soon the networks would post their favorite pilots and use fan feedback to make their decision about what would get on the air. We're one step closer today: the LA Times links to clips from five upcoming shows and asks what you think of them. You're not short circuiting the executives, but you are doing an end-run around the critics.

Is Steely Dan REALLY Mad At Owen Wilson?

This bit of silliness is getting way out of hand. Steely Dan posted a mock-outraged letter on their website claiming the comedy "You, Me & Dupree" rips off their song "Cousin Dupree." Maybe it did and maybe they're annoyed. But obviously they're not really mad at Owen. He didn't write the movie and there's no reason to think he knew or suspected it might lay claim to an idea of someone else. They address their letter to his little brother Luke (thinking wrongly that he was the older one) and ask him to get Owen to come to a show of theirs and apologize. He can even bring his bongos and sit in. It's an amusing little nothing, but it's been repeated as "Steely Dan Accuse Owen Wilson of Plagiarism" (which they don't) and a million other spins. That Globe & Mail article is about the most sober one out there. It's amazing what putting up an item on a webpage can make happen when news outlets are desperate for news. Whoops, I just did it too.

Canada's CBC Calls Cops On "Idol"

This is pretty amusing. In Canada, the CBC has a huge fiasco on its hands after investing heavily in ABC's now-legendary flop reality show "The One: Making A Music Star," its ripoff of "American Idol." Now, a CBC staffer has been caught out for calling the cops with a complaint that a live taping of "Canadian Idol" across the street from the CBC was proving too noisy and boisterous. Their show can't get arrested, but they must have hoped "Idol" would be.

Billboard's Top Ten Albums

Here's the latest Top 10 from Billboard during another super-slow week. I know it's hot, but album sales for the entire chart of less than 9 million copies is the lowest since January of '94.

1. Various Artists -- Now 22
2.Los Lonely Boys -- Sacred
3. Rodney Atkins -- If Yuo're Going Through Hell
4. Gnarls Barkley -- St. Elsewhere
5. Soundtrack -- High School Musical
6. Rascal Flatts -- Me and My Gang
7. Nelly Furtado -- Loose
8. Rihanna
9. The Dixie Chicks -- Taking The Long Way
10. The Pussycat Dolls

And apparently the New York Times doesn't have much pull with country music fans. Out of nowhere, they decided to do a big profile on newcomer Eric Church's album "Sinners Like Me." But the extra attention didn't goose sales much: he sold 24,000 copies and debuted at #29.

Fox News Predicts The Future

Roger Friedman -- a far more plugged in and important writer than myself -- has a daily column of entertainment items at the Fox News website. But today he takes a step into the future by calling "Little Miss Sunshine" the "monster comedy hit." Yes, it did well at Sundance and was bought for a hefty sum. But surely we should wait until a movie has actually opened before calling it a monster hit. On the other hand, we can both agree that Toni Collette is terrific in just about everything. I'll bet even her upcoming rock album doesn't suck -- and for a rock album by an established movie star, that's saying something.

George Michael's Marriage Is Strong

And Lance Bass is gay and at peace with himself. What is this world coming to?Someone ask Elton John. Michael says his upcoming wedding has been delayed because the media would turn it into a circus -- not because he was reported cruising a stranger and that his partner was upset. Michael has often defended his casual sex and did so again, quite heartily, on national TV. So what does he object to? Having cruising referred to as a "depravity" and a "shame." Said Michael: "I think it's deeply and ethically wrong that young people can be exposed to that kind of language."

Hugh Grant Learns His ABC"s

My friend Gene Page was the still photographer on the new Hugh Grant comedy "Music and Lyrics By." So I'm especially interested in how the movie turns out -- the better it is, the better for Gene. Grant plays a pop star and Martin Fry of ABC was his vocal stand-in and coach. That's a good fit: Fry's smooth, sophisticated slightly wry vocals will work perfectly with Grant. With songs written by the pop geniuses behind Fountains of Wayne, this movie is sounding better by the minute. Finally, ABC reminds me of my friend Chris from college -- he was a huge fan of their masterpiece "Lexicon of Love" and basically turned me onto the band. He's in Canada now and doing a fun podcast so he doesn't feel too corporate in his life. Check it out. Hey, I almost set a record for number of links in one posting!

The Unsung Crime Writer George Pelecanos

Apparently, I'm not the only person who hasn't picked up on the acclaim for writer George Pelecanos, who is consistently one of the best reviewed writers in the crime genre -- or any genre for that matter. The NY Times looks at the dismal sales for his books and the all-out effort his publisher is making for "The Night Gardener." Frankly, I had the impression he was a modestly best-selling author, though clearly he hasn't broken out like Dennis Lehane (of "Mystic River") who I HAVE read and even written about. So what has kept me from diving in? I don't quite know, other than the fact that I haven't been able to score an assignment to interview him. As I did with Lehane, I often pitch writers I know I want to read -- when I get the go-ahead, I use that as an excuse to read as much of their work as I can before the interview. With Pelecanos, I think I'm done waiting for an excuse.

First Aquaman, and now Metallica!

Just one day after iTunes staked out new territory (the previously unknown audience for failed TV pilots like Aquaman), Metallica finally makes some of their music available for digital download. Dudes, if you don't people to steal it, doesn't it behoove you to let them buy it legally? Final holdouts in the digital universe include The Beatles (because they hate that the sound quality sucks) and Led Zeppelin. Metallica also appear in the season premiere of "The Simpsons," which is even cooler than putting their music online.

Zach Braff As An Edgier Fletch?

Zach Braff is quietly taking over the world. First, by appearing in a Woody Allen movie (sure it was "Manhattan Murder Mystery," but it's still every comic's dream -- or at elast was), then he plays gay in "The Broken Hearts Club" to get the smart people on his side. That's all capped by the clever but sentimental sitcom "Scrubs." As if that weren't enough, Braff did the voice in the animated hit "Chicken Little," directed and starred in the critically acclaimed "Garden State," won a Grammy for his soundtrack while heping give a boost to indie faves The Shins, influenced Paul Simon, starred in another movie "The Last Kiss" about to come out and even has a cool website. Up next? A (slightly) edgier "Fletch." Can nothing stop this man?

Dennis Leary Blasts T-Mobile

Good. He, too, points out their objecting to the content of "Resuce Me" while using Snopp Dogg as a spokesperson.

Lance Bass of N Sync Finally Comes Out

We've been waiting for ages for him to make it official, but hey the guy is only 27 years old. Is it embarrassing or nice that he's dating the winner of "The Amazing Race?"

T-Mobile Update

I called T-Mobile's headquarters to complain and got shunted to an automated message system after asking to go to the CEO's office. Then I called customer service to complain, the guy listened to me and then offered me 100 extra minutes for one month. I said I didn't want 100 extra minutes -- I wanted an apology and for T-Mobile to stop linking itself to a far right extremist group like the American Family Association, which has been labeled "extremist" by the respected Southern Poverty Law center, the group that has kept an eye on wingnuts like the KKK and the AFA and neo-Nazis for generations.

And some people seem to be confused into thinking this is a referendum on "Rescue Me" -- which for the record, I have literally never watched (and there are very few shows I can say that about; I have the DVDs but haven't given it a shot yet).

This is not about whether you like Rescue Me or Seventh Heaven or Jay versus Dave or whatever. T-Mobile did not pull its ads because they decided that Rescue Me was a danger to society or something they didn't want to be associated with. They pulled their ads from AN ENTIRE CABLE CHANNEL -- not just one show -- simply because a fringe far right religious group told them to. Period. If you don't like Rescue Me, don't watch it. If no one watches it, the show will be cancelled. If its ratings drop, advertisers won't pay for ads on it or at least all you'll be seeing are cheapo ads for the Pocket Fisherman and Girls Gone Wild DVDs.

I don't want T-Mobile execs deciding what they think is appropriate for me to watch and I certainly don't want them kow-towing to far right extremist groups. There was no public outcry about T-Mobile advertising on FX. There was a fake controversy engineered by the AFA and a few thousand emails by their faithful (the same people who've been ignored by Disney and Ford and most every other major advertiser for years) and the multi-billion dollar technology company T-Mobile not only caved to their demands, they parroted their beliefs. That is not good. It gives a fringe, extremist group power way beyond its membership and reinforces their narrow, bigoted agenda. No company should be willing to associate themselves with the AFA anymore than they should be willing to associate themselves with David Duke or the hate-mongering Bob Jones University or neo-Nazis. That's what this is about.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"Aquaman" Is At iTunes

In yet another example of how the Internet is changing everything,the failed fall pilot "Aquaman" is available for sale on iTunes. Failed TV pilots have foudn an afterlife and been screened in LA and NYC in clubs before. (One starring Jack Black is legendary.) But now it's taken a twist -- a rejected pilot called "Nobdoy's Watching" was mysteriously posted on YouTube and got tons of reaction. Now the creators are writing some webisodes and will probably get picked up by NBC. Since "Aquaman" is a presold commodity, why NOT sell the pilot on iTunes? It cost them a couple million, so maybe they can make some of that lost money back. One day, we'll be able to second guess the decisions of TV network executives by seeing all the pilots they rejected -- or they'll simply post the pilots before making their picks and let us do the work for them.

T-Mobile Caves To Far Right Extremist Group

T-Mobile's CEO announced they are yanking all ads from the FX cable channel for the foreseeable future because of shows like the Emmy nominated "Rescue Me." Why? Because the American Family Association created a fake controversy by deluging T-Mobile with their members' emails complaining about these shows. In other words, the AFA doesn't want to watch "Rescue Me" so no one else should be able to watch it either. (And believe me, if every advertiser yanked their ads, the show would certainly be cancelled.) The head of T-Mobile is either a bigot himself or an idiot. Doesn't he know the AFA has been labeled as "extremist" by the Southern Poverty Law Center? Doesn't he know their "boycotts" are a joke and have never worked when a company has told them to take a hike with their bigotry and prejudice? Doesn't he know "Rescue Me" airs at 10 p.m. and is well-known for its raw nature -- if someone watches it, they know what to expect. T-Mobile should advertise on all types of shows, from "Rescue Me" to "Seventh Heaven." Their customers certainly watch both. And finally, isn't the moral superiority the head of T-Mobile tried to claim pretty absurd since he's used rapper Snoop Dogg (who praises the gangsta life and sexy "bitches") and Paris Hilton (famous for her sleazy sex tape and bimbo billionaire lifestyle) in his advertisements? Let T-Mobile's Robert Dotson know what you think about him aligning his company with an extremist far right hate group. Leave a complaint -- especially if you're a customer -- at 800-937-8997 (customer service) or call Dotson at corporate headquarters at 425-378-4000. You can email T-Mobile from their website here.

Brian Eno Is A God

This multi-talented artist is a major touchstone for me. He's been involved in some of the best albums by some of the best artists ever -- including Roxy Music, David Bowie, Talking Heads, U2 and many, many more. He's invented entire GENRES of music, for heaven's sake, not to mention exploring the possibilities of the net long before anyone else. The Independent has a nice piece on his latest art project. Can't wait to check it out. If you don't know about Eno, you should.

Bad Karma For "Miami Vice"

The reviews of the new movie are mixed (though some have been very enthusiastic and director Michael Mann rarely makes a boring film). But Roger Friedman of Fox News argues the movie will also suffer bad mojo for willfully running away from its TV past. They ignored the classic theme music by Jan Hammer and even when the movie included Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight," it's via an anonymous cover version. Hammer thought at the very least Mann would have someone do an updated remake of his iconic tune, a la "Mission: Impossible." "I was completely surprised they didn’t have a remake of it. I think it’s a matter of being too cool for school," he said. Friedman mentions it was the first and only TV instrumental theme song to hit #1. True that, but I can't help mentioning a fact that immediately springs to mind: Henry Mancini hit #1 with the album "Music From Peter Gunn," the wildly influential finger-snapping noir jazz he composed for the "Miami Vice" of its day. The album stayed at #1 for ten weeks, rode the charts for more than two years, spawned a sequel and even won the Grammy for Album of the Year. To me, that's a bigger accomplishment all around. It's also stood the test of time very well indeed. Pick it up.

R.E.M. Rarities Due Out Later This Year

Billboard has the rundown on a CD/DVD compilation from R.E.M.'s classic years on IRS. If only the band had stuck to their promise and disbanded when Bill Berry walked away in 1997, they wouldn't be tarnishing their image with one increasingly indifferent album after another. Just yesterday I was talking with my friends at NYCD about how R.E.M. would always irritatingly indulge in the rock star habit of trashing their last album when a new one was about to come out. ("That wasn't what we wanted to accomplish at all; THIS album is the REAL deal.") Didn't matter if the last album was a classic like "Murmur" or "Life's Rich Pageant," they would always downplay it in favor of whatever was new. Now of course they do almost the opposite, always praising their most recent (and ignored) album by arguing that if "Up" or "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" had been released by an unknown band instead of R.E.M., it would have been praised to high heaven. Uh, no guys. It would have been ignored. Now at least with this compilation they seem to be embracing their glory days. Here's hoping they've still got some gems left in them for the future.


That's the great headline from the LA Times about the box office bomb "Lady in the Water" and the not-so-secret pleausure people are taking in the temporary fall of director M. Night. Of course, the biggest bomb of the weekend was "My Super Ex-Girlfriend," starring Uma Thurman. I can't find any budget online but Uma Thurman is getting pricey and director Ivan Reitman painted on a big canvas. I'd be shocked if this movie didn't cost $70 million as well (the budget of "LITW") and it certainly will end up making a LOT less. But Night is a more fun story, so don't think there's a conspiracy here. And risible details like this from a book about him do make Night a certain figure of fun:
Early in the book, Night (everyone calls him by his second name) is at a meeting in his agent's office here when the conversation turns to basketball. "I believe if I had unlimited time to practice," he says, "after two years, I'd be able to shoot with any NBA player."
Good lord.

Scotty: Beam ME Up

The late actor James Doohan -- who played Scotty on "Star Trek" -- will have his ashes blasted into space in October, along with about a hundred other people, including Gordo Cooper of "The Right Stuff" fame. Doohan surely would have preferred going into space (a longtime wish of his) while he was still alive, but better late than never.

They Did It For The Kids

The host of a PBS kids' show was fired because of an obscure parody video she'd done previously. The fake PSAs were about abstinence and called "Technical Virgin." They were made before actress Melanie Martinez became the host of a daily bedtime story show called "The Good Night Show" on the rather obscure PBS Kids Sprout Channel. Yes, of course, you don't want Mr. Rogers sleeping with women on a daytime soap or the host of "Blue's Clues" appearing regularly in a primetime series playing a serial killer. But isn't this a bit ridiculous? The show is geared towards 2 to 5 year olds. Exactly what is the chance any of them will stumble across footage from this parody? Are they surfing YouTube? It's not like it's airing on TV in a daypart where they might see it and get upset. Heck, even these kids' parents would be hard-pressed to find something as obscure as that. Stupid.

Carol Burnett Begs For Work

Almost every actor I've ever interviewed describes themselves as wondering where their next job is going to come from (if ever). Doesn't matter how big they are, they always think they're one missed opportunity away from disappearing from view forever. So it's no surprise to me that Carol Burnett took the opportunity of an honorary award at the TCA convention to audition herself for a spot on "The Office." She's already done good work on "Desperate Housewives" and Burnett was also approached by the people on "Grey's Anatomy." So what's wrong with "My Name Is Earl?" Burnett would be terrific white trash.

Daniel Powter Having A Bad Day

A fine article in the Daily News(my new home, of sorts) about how Daniel Powter (who wrote the song "Bad Day" featured on "American Idol") has sold buckets of the single but can't seem to sell any copies of his album. The only problem is that they are blaming "digital downloads" as some sort of new nemesis to artist development. Hey, a few years ago, they didn't sell any singles at all or they'd cut them off as soon as they hit the Top 10. Did that develop artists? No, it just pissed off fans and kept younger kids who could maybe only afford a $2 single rather than an $18 album from being purchasers of music. The problem with Powter certainly isn't digital (as opposed to regular) single sales. The problem is that he feels like a one-hit wonder and people know it. If he turns out two or three more catchy singles, believe me, people will start buying his CD.

More Raves For Author George Pelecanos

How many rave reviews am I gonna have to read before I finally dive into one of his books? It's gettting to the tipping point. As much as I read, there is always a pile of books waiting for me, not to mention a list of authors like Pelecanos I know are worth my time, I just don't have any yet. Anybody out there read him? And if so, where should I start?

"Crash" Talent Still Waiting For Their Profits

Only a movie like "Crash" -- which cost $7.5 million to make and grossed $180 mil worldwide via movies and DVD -- could ever be expected to turn a net profit in Hollywood. And even still, the actors who deferred their salaries or took a much lower base just to make it happen are kept waiting. My favorite quote: “You’d think that for a movie that won best picture, what you would do is write the actors a check against their profits, or you give them a car, or something,” said a representative for one of the leading actors. Oh if only someone would toss me a car (or an apartment or whatever) until the REAL money started rolling in.

Harry Potter #6 Paperback Out Today

But who was so cheap they could make themselves wait this long, not to mention knowing they'd heard spoilers everywhere they turn? Nonetheless, the publisher has printed some two million copies for the folks who can't be bother lugging around that brick of a hardcover. And no, there is no release date for the final volume. Don't even ask.

Monday, July 24, 2006

DVD Special Editions Out Of Control

Sony announced today that "Bugsy: Extended Cut" will come out on October 3rd. Wonderful, but for one thing: whose extended cut? They don't mention Warren Beatty or director Barry Levinson or even screenwriter James Toback. Surely with Beatty backing him, Levinson had control over the final cut for this Oscar-winning film. Studios are churning out 'special edition" cuts of movies left and right, assuming people will just buy anything. The great thing about DVD is they don't HAVE to make us choose. It's very easy to include a theatrical release AND a director's cut (if there is such a thing) on one DVD or in a set. Odds and ends -- deleted scenes that the director didn't use and never intended to use -- shouldn't be slapped into the movie wily-nily. Include them in the extras as deleted scenes, for heaven's sake. I'll bet when they release this, the original theatrical version goes out of print and that's a travesty. The theatrical versions should ALWAYS be the primary version available on DVD except in a very few rare instances any film buff can name. (And the original version should still be available anyway.) Nowadays, finding the theatrical version is becoming harder and harder.

Radio Abandons Madonna

I've been having this story bounce around in the back of my mind for a while but never blogged about it. In short, I've been very surprised that the terrific pop singles from Madonna's current album haven't been doing well on the charts. Billboard blames the hip-hop-centric attitude of Top 40 right now. Certainly her tour is going gangbusters. And worldwide Madonna has sold some 8 million copies so far. But "Confessions on a Dance Floor" should go double or triple platinum here and it has barely gone platinum. But as long as she can end up with sales of 10 million worldwide, it won't matter. Has Madonna become one of those artists who do much better in Europe than here?

"Pirates" Steal More Box Office Booty

"Pirates" is the headline-producing hit that keeps on giving. If you can't come up with an easy headline ("Pirates" Box Office Foes Walk The Plank" or "Johnny Depp Swish and Swashbuckles His Way Through Hit" or simply "Aaaarrrrrggggghhhhhh!" then you shouldn't be writing headlines. Sorry reel fanatic, your prediction "Monster House" would unseat "Pirates" didn't pan out. Maybe you should have seen "Monster" instead of "Clerks II." But Depp's reign will surely end this weekend via "Miami Vice" and even perhaps the lame looking "Ant Bully." Here's the Top 10 per Box Office Prophets:

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest -- $35 mil ($321.7 mil total)
2. Monster House -- $23 mil
3. Lady In The Water -- $18.2 mil
4. You, Me and Dupree -- $12.8 mil ($45.3 mil total)
5. Little Man -- $11 mil ($40.6 mil total)
6. Clerks II -- $9.6 mil
7. My Super Ex-Girlfriend -- $8.7 mil
8. Superman Returns -- $7.5 mil ($178.4 mil total)
9. The Devil Wears Prada -- $7.4 mil ($97.6 mil total)
10. Cars -- $4.9 mil ($229.4 mil total)

The British Pop Charts

On the singles chart, boy band McFly (an homage to Back to the Future?) debuts at #1 with their fifth straight chart-topper, "Don't Stop Me Now"/"Please, Please" (a double-sided charity hit, I believe). But I've got my eye (okay, my other eye) on soulster James Morrison, whose debut single "You Give Me Something" leaps from #27 to #5. Could he be another breakout act like Corinne Bailey Rae? Could he possibly be as good? As soon as I get ther CD on import, I'll let you know. On the album charts, Razorlight, Lily Allen and Paolo Nutini debut in the top three.

Colin Farrell Gets Restraining Order On Stalker

Thank goodness. I couldn't figure out why Colin Farrell didn't let NBC arrest that disturbed woman who walked onto the set of "The Tonight Show" during an interview. At least I thought he should get a restraining order. Now he has.

"Survivor" Richard Hatch Hopes He Can Survive Prison

Richard Hatch won a million dollars on national TV and thought he could get away with not paying his taxes? I thought he was supposed to be the smart one.

Second Chances

When I was about 14 years, "Nicholas Nickleby" was going to open on Broadway in 1980 in a production that was universally acclaimed as one for the ages. I wanted to see it desperately. I had to see it. I needed to see it. And I had the money, since I'd been working at Publix grocery stores for several years. No, I'd never been to New York City (my family lived in Florida at the time) but a good friend of the family (a nun) did. I tried to convince my mom it was perfectly reasonable for me to fly to NYC, stay with the nun and buy her and me $100 tickets to see the show (which took one long marathon day or two days to see). For some reason, it didn't happen. That and missing Simon & Garfunkel in Central Park in 1982 are two big regrets that have colored the rest of my life. If I really want to do something, I do it, even if it makes no financial sense or would set me back years in college. This hasn't helped my debt load but it has helped me to live my life without regrets. If you're REALLY going to be sorry you missed something...don't. Now a revival of "Nicholas Nickleby" has opened in the UK. If it transfers to London, you know where to find me.

Mac Boy Is Breaking Out

The slacker dude from "Ed" -- whom I confess I liked but didn't expect to hear any more from -- is having a breakout year. Justin Long stars in those clever Apple Computer ads, co-starred in "The Break-up," and soon his college comedy "Accepted" opens up. Favorite detail: who knew those Mac ads were directed by Phil Morrison of "Junebug?"

Summer Books: Brains On Vacation Too

The summer is rarely the time for smart, intelligent books -- at least in the fiction section. The one breakout literary book -- "Suite Francaise" -- is out of the Top 15. The main list is crowded with "trash" or -- as my Yankee friend Rentboy (named so because his apartment is a bargain, not because he's for sale) calls them -- literary fibre that cleans out your brain when you've been dipping into Proust once too often. My favorite example is "Cover of Night" by Linda Howard, which is described thusly: "A young widow fights back when armed intruders storm her bed-and-breakfast in rural Idaho." Awesome! Can't wait for the movie.

Thank God! Venom Featured In "Spidey 3"

A little perspective, please. At Comic Con, one store owner had this to say about director Sam Raimi: "He made the entire world happy by putting Venom in it," the manager of Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim added.

Hugh Jackman's Jeans Fetch $22,000 At Auction

And he wasn't even in them! Meanwhile, my old "Mr. Bubble" t-shirt (signed!) languishes on Ebay.

Goodbye New York Post; Hello Daily News

Sunday marked the last day I am writing for the NY Post and the first day I'm writing for the NY Daily News. I'm sure people have been published in the NY Times and one of the tabloids on the same day before. But being published in both tabloids on the same day is probably very unusual if not unique. Here's my final NY Post DVD column (I'll still be covering DVDs for other outlets) and a story about "Ren & Stimpy" on DVD. My first article for The Daily News was on the adorable actress Brittany Snow and the new teen flick "John Tucker Must Die" (great title). Sadly, it wasn't posted online, so no link. Why the switch? The NY Post has been great to me over the years, but they simply don't do many feature articles on artists. Trend pieces, gossip items, buzz items -- sure. But actually interviewing an actor in a new movie or TV show or (God forbid, play) was becoming a rare event. The NY Daily News offers a lot more opportunities for the sort of article I want to do. And now I can listen to Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" without feeling bitter that he name-checks the New York Times and the Daily News without mentioning the Post!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Smokey Sings The Standards

My friends at NYCD urged me to give a listen to "Timeless Love," a new album of standards by Smokey Robinson. After the Rod Stewart nightmare, it's hard to approach any aging pop star who unexpectedly tackles the Great American Songbook. But this one is good, they insisted. So I listened. I always try just to watch a movie or read a book or listen to a CD or watch a show as simply as possible. I don't spend my time listening for lines to quote, I never take notes -- I'm not a critic. Just a fan who hopes what I'm experiencing is good. On the other hand, I'm not an automaton, and music more than most art let's you make song-by-song snap judgments. I had an insight, I thought, during the first tune, "You Go To My Head." Smokey sang a phrase or two -- "You go to my head/ My head/ My head" -- in a way that sounded to me like a pop song. He wasn't going for jazz phrasing, I imagined, but just treating these tunes as great pop songs, which they obviously were before being enshrined as standards. And of course, Smokey is attentive to the lyrics (like most great singers) so it wasn't a dumbing down of the songs, just an approach that fitted his style. That thought faded from my mind as the album went along. The arrangements were tasteful, acoustic and jazz-y with some strings. The songs were well sung, though in the middle I grew a tad impatient with one too many ballads. Things picked up again with (ironically) a very slowed down take on Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" that helped me hear the lyrics again, followed by a finger-snapping "I Can't Give You Anything But Love (Baby)." So just as I accepted the album for a pleasing, jazz-y take on the standards with happily unembellished vocals, Smokey began "I've Got You Under My Skin" with a wicked bassline. Then came some nifty keyboards that created a distinctive early 70s soul vibe. Here was a jazz standard recast as a soul tune so effectively I was thrilled. Now it wasn't just the vocal approach of that first tune, it was the arrangement, the instrumentation, EVERYTHING combining to turn this standard into a classic soul number. That was followed by the finale -- a Slow Jam take on "Tea For Two" that was similarly daring in its musical approach. It's got to be the most radical approach to that tune since Anita O'Day swung it at the Newport Jazz Festival. So we have a fine, mellow album of standards that finishes off with a flourish -- and those final two numbers are frustrating, because they point in the direction Smokey might have gone. He might have done a truly original, refreshing spin on the classics that respected their lyrics but provided ideal settings for his voice. Many singers can provide tasteful versions of "Fly Me To The Moon." But not many can do what he did with those last two songs. Here's hoping he goes "All The Way" the next time. (Hmm, and surely that song could be done with Marvin Gaye-like fervor....)

Goodbye, Hornblower

Yes, Horatio Hornblower is a silly name. But it's one of the endearing traits of the 11 books by C.S. Forester that Hornblower hates it more than we ever could. I was about to tackle the naval books of Patrick O'Brian (which were the basis for the very good film "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World") when I realized all the reviews said they were the best of their kind since the "Hornblower" books. Well then, I ought to read Hornblower first, right? Mind you, I had to read 13 O'Brian books to prepare for that movie (since it was based on a combination of the first and 12th or 13th one in the Aubrey-Maturin series) and now I was suggesting tackling a chunk of the 11 Hornblower books but I did it anyway. This is why I'm VERY prepared for most interviews and desperately behind on rent. (I spend countless hours and hundreds of dollars preparing for ONE interview, when I can.) But it paid off, of course. The Hornblower books are a great intro to nautical ideas that O'Brian also explains but far less simply. And of course Hornblower has become the basis for an Emmy winning series of TV movies starring the absurdly handsome Ioan Gruffudd. Since Hornblower ages decades over the course of the books, I can only hope making them into worthy TV movies will be a career-long goal of Gruffudd. What makes Hornblower so fascinating is his self-lacerating opinion. He's a terrific leader, of course. But Hornblower knows deep down he is scared to death in battle (and rebels against those feelings by forcing himself into derring-do almost anyone else would blanche at). He knows only stupid luck has preserved him on numerous occasions. And the love and respect of his men is a torture and curse to him because Hornblower KNOWS how unworthy of it he truly is. A more conflicted character is hard to imagine -- especially since his somewhat easily wounded pride and inability to give himself a break somehow endears him to us. All of which is a roundabout way of saying I have just finished the last tale in the Hornblower series, "Hornblower in the West Indies," and must say goodbye to him once and for all. It's always bittersweet when you've fallen for a character that appears in a series of books. Especially when the author is dead, you know the tales can only go on so long and the finish line keeps coming closer no matter how you try to parcel the books out and hold off on the next installment as long as possible. Sometimes you can wait a day or two, sometimes a year or two, but eventually they have to end.

Lee Miller -- What A Gal!

And the current issue of the London Review of Books (now officially a must-have for me, alongside Atlantic Monthly) is a review of "Lee Miller" by Carolyn Burke. This biography tells the life of one heckuva gal. Raped at 7, she contracted gonorrhoea and was doused by her mother with harsh chemicals and "uterine probes to drain secretions," all in the effort to keep her from going blind and/or dying. Oddly, her father immediately began taking nude photos of Lee, teaching her the mechanics of photography along the way. Nothing kinky here -- they had a great bond and he seemed to be reinforcing the idea that she was beautiful and worthy of admiration, despite what had happened. And then she grew up and things took off in the Roaring Twenties. At 18 she was in New York City and about to step into oncoming traffic when she was rescued by Conde Nast, who naturally made her a fashion model on the spot. Then she jaunted off to Paris (just at the right time), bumped into Man Ray at a cafe (she'd tried to get into his studio but was turned away) and HE immediately made Lee his assistant and mistress. Lots of nude weekends and landmark surrealist photos ensued, with Lee soon becoming a photographer herself (snapping Charlie Chaplin when she wasn't appearing in films by Jean Cocteau), working for Brogue (British Vogue) and so on. She slept with lots of men, ran off with an Egyptian prince, got bored, ran off with another man (financed by the Egyptian prince, who loved her so), buddied up to Dali and De Mille and then welcomed World War II with open arms. Finally! A REAL adventure! She developed a series of black humored photos of London that helped urge America to feel solidarity with the plucky British. That wasn't enough. She got permission to be a real combat photographer, tagged along with troops, cared nought for her appearance and even became pleasingly plump, was one of the first in Auschwitz (sending back photos with a telegram that begged her editors to believe the horror of what they saw), rode into Berlin, took a bath in Hitler's tub (in one of the most famous shots of the war) and then settled in America, gave birth to a child she promptly ignored and then died in the late 70s. What a life! If I was half a man, I'd option this book, develop a screenplay showing her development from a fashion model and Surrealist innovater into a war photographer who realized looks were the last thing in the world that mattered. It's a great role for a tomboyish young actress.

HL Mencken On Bush

Of course, he died long ago and wasn't really talking about Bush. And of course he's a bigot and a racist and a misogynist (oh, let's be done with it and call him a misanthrope -- I don't think Mencken was too fond of his fellow white people, either). But he did say some awfully biting, clever things and don't they sadly apply to this very day? (From a London Review of Books review of "Mencken: The American Iconoclast" by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers):

"We deafen the world with our whoops for liberty – and submit to laws that destroy our most sacred rights . . . We play policeman and Sunday-school superintendent to half of Christendom – and lynch a darky every two days in our own backyard." -- HL Mencken

And this:

"Any argument against the war itself, and any criticism of the persons appointed to carry it on, will become aid and comfort to the enemy. The war will not only become moral over all, it will become the touchstone and standard of morality . . . It is not long afterward that anyone ventures to inquire into the matter more particularly, and it is then too late to do anything about it. The dead are still dead, the fellows who lost legs still lack them, war widows go on suffering the orneriness of their second husbands, and taxpayers continue to pay, pay, pay. In the schools children are taught that the war was fought for freedom, the home and God." -- HL Mencken

Sound familiar?

The Peaceful Warrior

I felt an overwhelming urge to see the new movie "The Peaceful Warrior." Sure, the reviews were almost universally bad. But its director is Victor Salva, a man who was a convicted sex offender (he videotaped a 12 year old boy in "sexual situations") and THEN went on to forge a successful directorial career beginning with...Disney, of all places. That Disney film was "Powder," and it's hard to imagine an odder, more confused movie. It stars Sean Patrick Flanery of "Young Indiana Jones" as an outcast with almost mystical powers. I don't know how to describe the movie other than to say something about it is tortured and closeted -- and that was my feeling BEFORE finding out Salva's past. He also made a schlocky horror film "Jeepers Creepers" which SPOILER ALERT concludes with the monster triumphing over the good guys END OF SPOILER ALERT that became a solid box office hit. The guy has issues. So when I saw his new project was "The Peaceful Warrior," I went to Barnes & Noble to check out the book it's based on -- it's a poorly written New Age saga about a college gymnast (okay, promising) who is befriended and tutored in philosophy by a garage station attendant named Socrates with vaguely mystical powers. Laughingly based on the author's real life, it's one of those books that is meant to inspire and instruct as much as tell a story. God help me, it's the sort of thing I have no patience for so I put it back. The movie is in fact fairly bearable, thanks to a relatively low-key Nick Nolte as Socrates and a cast of exceptionally handsome young men on the gymnastics team. The camera is still a guilty voyeur when Salva is in charge, but this movie wasn't quite as twisted as Powder. I'm only sorry Ashton Holmes (of A History of Violence) wasn't the lead. He was such a wimpy kid in that movie, I have no idea how he got so buff for this one. To my shock, the theater was pretty full, even though the movie had been out for a week and surely wasn't getting good word of mouth. That should end soon and we can look forward to the DVD and Salva's commentary track -- not to mention the pause button.

The Real Bomb This Weekend? "My Super Ex-Girlfriend"

Everyone piled onto M. Night Shyamalan and certainly the word of mouth on "Lady in the Water" is bad. Richboy says the movie isn't scary (like the ads pretended), it isn't fantastical, or fairy tale-like, it's just CONFUSING. About eight different ideas -- none of them connected to each other -- compete for your attention and it would all be hopelessly muddled if there wasn't a stereotypical Asian lady from the old country to keep trying and explain what was going on. It opened poorly -- but for a movie starring non-stars Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard -- not insanely bad. The real bomb this weekend is Uma Thurman's "My Super Ex-Girlfriend,' which barely opened. Meanwhile, "POTC: DMC" will hit $300 mil by today. Here are the current estimates per Box Office Prophets:

1. POTC: DMC -- $34.3 mil
2. Monster House -- $25.1 mil
3. Lady in the Water -- $18.8 mil
4. You, Me and Dupree -- $11.3 mil
5. Clerks II -- $10.2 mil
6. Little Man -- $9.3 mil
7. My Super Ex-Girlfriend -- $8.8 mil
8. Superman Returns -- $7.7 mil
9. The Devil Wears Prada -- $7.3 mil
10. Cars -- $4.3 mil

Friday, July 21, 2006

No More "Spidey" But We Get Another "Superman?" Bummer.

Hours after the people behind "Spiderman" tried to claim their massively successful franchise was going to call it a day after #3 next summer, director Bryan Singer tries to tell Comic Con fans he'd be glad to do another "Superman" movie and get all "Wrath of Khan" on the franchise, if Warner Bros. gives him the chance. It's gonna take some serious overseas box office to make that happen -- or at least a 50% cut in the massive budget.

"America's Got Talent"...In January: "Lost" Will Be Lost After Drawn Out Season

Some stupid moves by the major networks. NBC is trying to pretend that "America's Got Talent" is a breakout summer hit. It IS a hit, with emphasis placed on "summer.' Bringing it back in January around "American Idol" time will reveal it for the lame-ass imitation that it is and ruin what could have been okay summer filler. Meanwhile, ABC announced it days ago but it was so stupid and the feedback was so negative, I thought they'd change their minds. But nope. One of the worst things about "Lost" this season was the break in new episodes and trying to figure out exactly what had been going on. The fix was obvious: switch to a "24"-like schedule, where the show begins airing in January and there is a mostly unbroken string of new episodes. Instead, ABC is airing six or seven episodes in the fall, inserting a new drama for 13 weeks and then switching back to "Lost" long after everyone has forgotten what was going on. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Weekend Movie Sneak Peek

Box Office Prophets predicts another victory for "Pirates," $30 mil for Shyamalan's "Lady in the Water," $24 mil for the animated "Monster House" and a weak $13 mil for "My Super Ex-Girlfriend." And Clerks II -- they predict $12.6 mil, which would be a massive triumph for Kevin Smith if it happens. (Thank Joel Siegel for the press!) You know what to expect from it, but I did love the one minute summation of "Lord of the Rings" by a "Star wars" fan.

Thomas Pynchon Appears...Sort Of

At least, he's got a new book coming out in December called "Against The Day." Info on it was posted on, hastily removed, vehemently denied and then finally confirmed by his publisher. It's the first book by Pynchon since "Mason & Dixon" in 1997. Because he doesn't do the TV talk show circuit or pose for photographs or run a blog or deliver weekly podcasts, Pynchon is invariably referred to as "reclusive," as if he's a hermit or freak, a la JD Salinger. (Hey, at least Pynchon keeps publishing.)I say, anyone who does a guest appearance on "The Simpsons" (albeit, sketched with a paper bag over his head) is fine by me. His publisher says Pynchon won't be doing a book tour. Uh, that kind of goes without saying.

Is "Spidey 3" The Last Installment?

Don't believe it. Producers tell Comic Con that they always saw "Spidey" as a trilogy. (Why? Because of "The Lord of the Rings" -- which made trilogies the de facto standard for fantasy tales, the "Star wars" movies and everything else you can think of. Even though LOTR ISN'T a trilogy -- it's one long book broken up into three parts.) But anyway, Tobey Maguire and everyone else is saying these three films have been great and they want to stop while they're ahead and how often can they keep coming up with better storylines? This smartly makes "Spidey 3" even more of an event. (What if they don't make any more?????) But the comic books go on and on and there's no emotional or natural "conclusion" to his storyline. So there's no reason more movies can't be made. (Though by all means they should take their time and do them right.) But no franchise that gets tremendous reviews and will gross some $800 million worldwide on ticket sales alone is going to pack it in. Not gonna happen. By the way, if you haven't seen the "Spiderman 3" teaser trailer, it's a doozy.

Kylie Minogue: The Biggest Pop Star In The World

Kylie Minogue makes Beyonce look like a slacker -- at least in the rest of the world. Barely known here, she's a superstar everywhere else. Her world tour was interrupted by a diagnosis of breast cancer, which happily was caught early. Minogue is now finishing the tour in what has to be one of the most emotional, fan-crazed mania to see and support and love Kylie imaginable. It's going to be a madhouse, so it's no surprise that Kylie has sold out Wembley Arena in about six minutes. Mind you, that's SIX NIGHTS at Wembley.

You Don't Like That Superman? How About This Superman?

Originally, an elaborate boxed set of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies was supposed to come out timed to the theatrical debut of "Superman Returns." They probably realized there was no good to be had out of the endless comparisons that would prompt, whatever they thought of the movie. Now, those DVDs are being released individually on November 28. "Superman I" -- the best comic movie adaptation of all time, per monkeyboy and I'm inclined to agree -- is in a four disc set with the original version and a 2001 revised version. "Superman II: The Director's Cut" is a much longer take on the movie with Richard Donner's original lengthy cut mostly restored: 15 minutes more of Brando, lots of traps by Lois to uncover Supe's secret identity and more. This is the most exciting release -- though it's a shame they didn't include the actual theatrical version, which got tremendous reviews. It's available separately. Plus they also include III and IV, but who cares. Bizarrely, the boxed set includes the theatrical version of Superman II but NOT the Richard Donner director's cut.

Colin Farrell Stalker Appears On "Tonight Show"

The segment won't air, but an audience member walked up to Colin Farrell in the middle of the taping of "The Tonight Show." She said something to him audience members couldn't hear and then he led her off stage and to security. He returned to the set, joked about it and then stayed for the rest of the show. The woman was not arrested, "per the request of NBC." That presumably means Farrell didn't want her arrested. But why the hell not? Scary -- you look at the security at talk show tapings or the Tour de France (where people are literally within arms reach of the competitors) and you can't help but be amazed that a lot more terrible things don't happen every day.

UPDATE: Now IMDB is reporting the woman is the person who claimed Farrell was stalking HER last year. Uh, kind of pokes holes in your argument when you seek him out in public and interrupt the taping of a tv show in front of hundreds to make a scene. Perhaps NBC chose not to prosecute her after speaking to his lawyers. At the very least he should now get a restraining order.

Rolling Stones Rolling In Dough

Here are the top-grossing tours of 2006, so far.

1. Rolling Stones -- $147.3 million
2. U2 -- $73 million
3. Bon Jovi -- $65 million
4. Billy Joel -- $47.4 million
5. Cirque du Soleil's Delirium -- $38.7 million
6. Aerosmith -- $35 million
7. Coldplay -- $29 million
8. Luis Miguel -- $25 million
9. Trans Siberian Orchestra -- $24 million
10. Paul McCartney -- $17.6 million

The Next James Bond...Is Still Daniel Craig

Even before the premiere of "Casino Royale," the proeucers have announced that Daniel Craig will play Bond again in the next installment of 007's adventures (Bond #22, I believe). Obviously, Craig would have had to commit to several sequels before he could make the first one. So the only reason they're saying this is to shore up fan feelings and get people to accept the fact that Craig is Bond for the forseeable future. Mind you, if the movie is a disastrous flop, he could go the way of George Lazenby. But that's almost certain not to happen. Still, given the fact that the book "Casino Royale" is pretty low-key (and to a tiny degree grim) as opposed to the last few Pierce Brosnan outings, I'd be shocked if this Bond did NEARLY as well as the last few. It won't reflect on Craig, just on the tonal shift in the series.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"The Shining" Spoof On YouTube

Priv8Pete sent me to this amusing fake movie trailer. It turns frightfest "The Shining" into a feel-good heart-warming tale of a failed writer who adopts a little boy and finds his inner child, etc., etc. The perfect final touch: using Peter Gabriel's "Solisbury Hill."

Hollywood Announces EVERY Comic Book Character That Has Ever Existed Will Get Their Own Movie

Not really. But it sure seems like that, what with Warner Bros. announcing they'll be making Doom into a movie. (Of course, the flurry of announcements comes because they're holding Comic Con in San Diego.) Still, I can't help imagining that Space Ghost is at home wondering why he jumped at the talk show and didn't hold out for more. And Captain Marvel (of Shazam! fame) and Isis sit by the phone and wait...and wait...and wait...and wait.

Tom Hanks On A Road Trip To Ballparks

Tom Hanks once told me in an interview that one of the few bummers about being famous was that he couldn't go to baseball games regularly unless he sat in a skybox, which is no fun at all. If he was down near the field, people would line up from the beginning of the game until the end to get a ticket and mde it impossible for him (and the people around him) to enjoy the game. He quickly added it was a small price to pay for fabulous wealth and an amazing life, etc., etc., but a bummer nonetheless. This was at the height of his Oscar glory. He's still a huge star, of course, but somehow Hank's wangled out a way to take a mini-tour of five or six ballparks, sometimes with Dennis Miller and Ron Howard in tow. Maybe he has to stay in the skybox eventually, but it would be nice to think people would let this one-time hot dog seller enjoy a game without bugging him.

"Spring Awakening" Will Move To Broadway

The acclaimed Off Broadway musical "Spring Awakening" -- with music by Duncan Sheik (the rock star with the porn star name) -- will be moving to Broadway sometime in the future. The show closes Aug 5 so get to it if you can. You'll just be paying more money to see the same great musical in a much larger house.

Actor Haley Joel Osment In Car Crash

Insert your cruel "I see dead people" joke here. (Osment is hospitalized but was reportedly conscious and speaking at the scene of the accident so hopefully isn't badly hurt.)

ABC's "The One" Is Actually The Eighth

Last night I taped ABC's debut of the "American Idol" wannabe reality show "The One: In Search Of A Pop Star" on my DVR. Then for some reason when I got home, I looked at the list of shows and just erased that one out of hand. I couldn't be bothered. Apparently I wasn't the only person. "The One" set all sorts of unwanted records: it ranked eighth in its timeslot, it was the lowest rated debut for a reality show in ANY major network's history and it was the lowest rated show of any kind in ABC's history. (Only Nathan Lane's dismal sitcom "Charlie Lawrence" had a lower rating in the key 18-49 category.)

Cape Playhouse Has A Winning "Guys And Dolls"

My friend Evans Haile is the artistic director of Cape Playhouse, a venerable institution that stages summer shows with big-name Broadway and mvie stars. His new production "Guys and Dolls" just got a positive review from Variety, which should pay more attention to the shrinking chain of regional theaters that stage therse revivals and let actors stretch their taletnts. Up next at Cape Playhouse: the terrific, terribly funny play "The Beard of Avon" which should ahve transferred to Broadway and had a much longer life than it did.

The Billboard Charts

The Hot 100 is fairly quiet this week. Nelly Furtado is still at #1. John Mayer debuts at #25 with his new single -- I have to admit, I've gorwn to like the guy since his bluesy power trio album. And Nick Lachey's break-up song "What's Left Of Me" has failed to crack the top 20, peaking at #21. On the other hand, Jessica Simpson's break-up song "A Public Affair" has peaked at #38, so I'd call that one win for the guys. I would LOVE it if they got back together (via an MTV reality show of course, complete with courting and a season finale re-marriage) and we suddenly realized it was all a publicity stunt.

And here are the Top 10 CDs:

1. Various Artists -- Now 22
2. Thom Yorke -- Eraser
3. Pimp C -- Pimpalation (His momma must be so proud)
4. Nelly Furtado -- Loose
5. Gnarls Barkley -- St. Elsewhere
6. Johnny Cash: American V -- A Hundred Highways
7. Soundtrack -- High School Musical
8. Rascal Flatts -- Me and My Gang
9. Muse -- Black Holes and Revelations
10. Rihanna -- A Girl Like Me

Transamerica Thinks A Broadway Flop Is A Good Investment

Seriously, Transamerica executives say they don't mind the fact that their $8 million Broadway musical "Hot Feet" closed after three months of half-empty houses. Hey, it's branding, they say. Do you really want to work with an investment company that thinks Broadway flops are a good idea? The company also sunk money into the already running "Brooklyn: The Musical" (and if you'd seen "Brooklyn: The Musical" you'd know what an insanely idiotic investment THAT was). And the last time Transamerica was involved in entertainment, it made the historic flop movie "Heaven's Gate" and then decided maybe they should sell United Artists. But what am I doing? Hey, Transamerica, how'd you like to get some great branding and jump into the exciting world of online blogging? I don't curse and all I'm taking a stance on are movies and TV and music so no one could get offended. For $100,000 a year, you can be the sole advertiser on Popsurfing and reap the rewards of the Internet. Call me. We'll do lunch.

Disney Makes Employees Walk The Plank

Don't think this has anything to do with Hollywood being in a slump. Every studio gets top-heavy and could use a good purge once in a while. So Disney firing 650 staffers is simply a good idea, regardless of how many movies they release or this year's box office in-take. Originally, I misread the number of movies Disney would be releasing under their new plans. They'll be shrinking from 18 to about 12 (as Priv8Pete gently pointed out to me). That's certainly not as dramatic as the anemic 8 I'd thought they were shooting for. But cutting your at-bats by 50% is not a terribly smart idea. And even if they've lowered their behind-the-scenes cost by cutting all those employees, the back office is already paid for whether you release 12 movies or 18. And 18 is by no means an exorbitant number of films to release. Finally, downgrading the movies put out under the Touchstone banner is meaningless since movies that would fall under the Touchstone purview (ie movies for grownups) are exactly the sort of movies that would gain nothing by being branded as "Disney." So all they're really doing is planning to make only family movies, which is an awfully limiting attitude to take. Wait till they have three bombs in a row -- suddenly 12 movies will seem a paltry number. And wait till they see how every other studio releases animated movies and family pictures as well -- thus diluting their brand.

"Hulk" and "Deadman" Live On Silver Screen

"The Hulk" is getting resurrected for the big screen, despite the disappointment of the Ang Lee version -- which unexpectedly got the special effects right but fell short on the human drama. Even relatively obscure superhero Deadman -- given his powers by a Hindu god -- is on his way to Hollywood. Meanwhile, the Wonder Twins sit at home by the phone and wait...and wait...and wait...and wait.

National Enquirer Lies! Stop The Presses!

Is the tide turning against gossip rags? Why don't celebrities always sue when they know it's all utter lies? They can certainly afford it and soon the Enquirer and its ilk couldn't afford to print the lies.Kate Hudson just won a libel suit against the National Enquirer in the UK for claiming she was anorexic and her mom had done an intervention. (It didn't help that the Enquirer had run glossy photos of Hudson around the same time saying she looked terrific.) More importantly, Hudson is suing other publications that jumped on the story and reprinted the lies -- it would be great if the media realized just because one rag printed a story didn't mean it was fair game to go crazy with -- especially when that outlet is a gossip rag. The Enquirer UK also had to apologize to Britney Spears for claiming her marriage was over. Obviously, that's her job.

US Senate Attacks Fake Sex Scenes In Movies

The US Senate brilliantly attacked the non-existent problem of fake sex scenes in Hollywood movies via an anti-kiddie porn bill. What do Hollywood movies and kiddie porn have in common? Nothing. The adult film industry has a long-standing legal obligation to get documentation that all their participants in sex scenes (which, of course, are real)are at least 18 years of age. The porn film companies must also keep those records on file and state on every DVD who has the files and and at what address. All well and good, since obviously porn movies feature people having actual sex and the adult film industry has been rocked by scandals in which under-age actors performed.

But in the midst of the bill, suddenly the Senate is now demanding that Hollywood keep records of every actor's age who appears in a fake sex scene on movies or TV. Why? No reason. Is there a problem of Hollywood using under-age actors to simulate sex in an attempt to appeal to kiddie porn users? No. Has there been at least a symbolic problem of one infamous case of an underage actor faking sex when the studios assumed they were 18? No. In fact, what is the number of complaints by the public or criminal indictments or perhaps threat of indictments or even accusations of being taken advantage of by an underage actor in a simulated fake not-actually-real sex scene? None. Zero. Zip. So now the US Senate hopes to add massive, wasteful and cumbersome paperwork to an industry (entertainment) that is our second biggest export after the arms industry and that has had zero problems with kiddie porn. Hollywood got the bil massively watered down but is still afraid to oppose it because then of course they would be supporting kiddie porn. Ridiculous.

Jellyfish Attack Japanese Nuclear Power Plant

If a new "Godzilla" movie were coming out, I'd swear it was a publicity stunt. What's next? Mothra causing delays at the airport?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Movie Sequels: "Crouching Tiger," "Aging 'Tracy'"

Sony and the Weinsteins are battling over who has the rights to prequels and sequels to the brilliant "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The family of the late author is siding with the Weinsteins and claiming they were duped by Sony when making the original deal. Since Sony Pictures Classics actually made and released the film, I tend to think they're the ones who have the rights to it -- nobody in Hollywood makes a movie like this without SOME reference to sequel rights. Director Ang Lee once spoke about making two prequels back to back with CTHD becoming the finale in a trilogy. He needs to jump on that fast if he wants to make it a reality since Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat ain't getting any younger. Half of me is dying to see it; half of me doesn't want them to mess with one of my favorite movies of all time. Meanwhile, the Weinsteins think they have the rights to make a stage version of the show!

Then there's Warren Beatty, who surely WAS smart enough to make certain he had sequel rights to "Dick Tracy." Go Warren, as long as you don't try to play Tracy yourself. It's been 15 years since the last one, fella. Now who should play the detective in a new version?

Internet Buzz Comes To New TV Shows

Everyone knows how the Internet and websites like Ain't It Cool News changed movie coverage. No longer could studios hold out-of-town screenings and hope to keep the news to themselves. As soon as a movie is shown almost anywhere in the country, word leaks out onto the net about the plot, the special effects, what the audience thought, etc. And now that same early warning system has locked onto the fall TV shows, with Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60" being praised and villified based on early script drafts, a few dodgy minutes shown to advertisers and rough cuts of the show. All of it happening months before the show is actually put on the air. Whether for good or ill, it's the new reality.

The Scissor Sisters Want You

Are you a fan of the Scissor Sisters? Their new album comes out in September and on Halloween they'll be holding a special concert somewhere in the world. Go here to win free tickets, airline travel and accomodations to the show which might take place in...Paris or Transylvania or Ibiza or who knows?

PLEASE Watch Our TV Shows

The major networks have woken up to the fact that they need to do anything and everything to get people to watch their new TV shows. Suddenly, YouTube is their best friend. And now NBC is smartly making certain fall TV pilots available in advance via Netflix. Clever.

Movie Downloads Starting To Make Sense

Movie studios are finally starting to realize that if they want people to buy their movies, they need to make it as easy as possible. With movie downloads, they're FINALLY agreeing people can burn the movie onto a disc that will play on any DVD player they want. (In the past, studios expected people to only watch downloaded movies on their computer.) Also, the talks with iTunes are proceeding apace and should mean movies become a big part of their menu soon.

Predicting The Future For "Gilmore Girls" and "Veronica Mars"

The NY Daily News wonders what the future will be for these two acclaimed shows. Uh, that's an easy one: "Veronica Mars" will be lucky to get a full season order but definitely will be cancelled one way or the other. "Gilmore Girls" will have a creative resurgence (not to hard given how stupid the plot lines had become) and convince the two lead gals to hang around for another year. That and the fact that it's practically the CW's top-rated show and they'll throw a lot of money at the lucky ladies.

Producers Are Shocked, Shocked That Jerry Springer Is Rude

The UK distributor of the "Jerry Springer Show" since 1998 insists that it became too controversial and its very nature changed by the time they dumped it in 2002. A judge is now going to sit down and watch batches of episodes to see if the show's character has essentially changed in those years. I love the idea of a judge watching the show and taking notes about thrown chairs, fistsights and number of bleeped curse words. I'd bet good money the distributors lose. Who are they kidding?

"The Spirit" Comes To The Big Screen

A loooooooooong overdue adaptation brings the seminal comic strip "The Spirit" to the big screen. It's the landmark work by the landmark artist Will Eisner and it will be directed by comix legend Frank Miller. That's like having John Updike editing John Irving or Bruce Springsteen producing Bob Dylan -- a real meeting of legends. Meanwhile, with virtually every other comic book already turned into a film, Shazam and Isis sit by the phone waiting...and waiting...and waiting...and waiting.

Zach Braff Is The Music Man

I'm impressed -- not to mention a little surprised - at how much mojo actor-director Zach Braff got out of "Garden State." Paul Simon announced in concert a few days ago that seeing his song "The Only Living Boy In New York" showcased in that movie made him fall in love with the song again and start including it in his set list for the first time in years. Of course, that movie's soundtrack also helped to turn The Shins into a potential breakout act. And now Billboard runs a feature story as soon as Braff announces the track listing for the soundtrack to his new movie "The Last Kiss." Ray Lamontagne and Amos Lee could certainly use the boost and people will probably fall in love with Rufus Wainwright's "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk." The tracks:

"Chocolate," Snow Patrol
"Star Mile," Joshua Radin
"Pain Killer," Turin Brakes
"Warning Sign," Coldplay
"Ride," Cary Brothers
"El Salvador," Athlete
"Hide and Seek," Imogen Heap
"Reason Why," Rachael Yamagata
"Hold You in My Arms," Ray Lamontagne
"Prophecy," Remy Zero
"Paper Bag," Fiona Apple
"Today's the Day," Aimee Mann
"Arms of a Woman," Amos Lee
"Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk (Reprise)," Rufus Wainwright
"Paperweight," Schuyler Fisk and Joshua Radin

Shyamalan Facing Career-Ending Weekend!

Not really. More soul-searching from director M. Night Shyamalan, this time in USA Today. Am I a jerk? Have my tastes become too refined? Should I just make movies for the Denny's crowd? Even when he's trying to be humble he comes across as obnoxious. But who cares? Yet nothing -- as far as his long-term career -- is riding on this movie's opening. "Lady in the Water" will be a flop -- and Shyamalan will make more movies. Guaranteed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Woody Allen Changes Title Card Sequence In New Movie; End Of The World Expected By Cineastes and The French

No matter how bad a Woody Allen movie gets ("Curse of the Jade Scorpion" anyone?), film buffs can take sweet comfort in one element -- every Woody Allen movie begins simply and beautifully with a title card (in the same font he's always used) followed by the briefest of brief listing on one screen of the entire cast and their characters in alphabetical order. Then the movie begins. It is in many ways bliss and just the sort of touchstone that would warm the heart of the coldest critics. And now it's gone. For no discernible reason whatsoever, the new Woody Allen movie "Scoop" does NOT include the cast listed in alphabetical order at the beginning of the movie. It is mixed in with the credits at the END of the movie. This is Allen's fifth decade of making movies. What in heaven's name would prompt him to switch such a simple, pleasing and reassuring tradition? The movie, by the way, is a step back down after the unexpected pretty darn good status of "Match Point." It's a flimsy comedy and while not unbearable, it is by no means good. But who cares? Why oh why did Woody change the way his movies begin? P.S. Maybe things will change before it hits theaters. Maybe I missed the usual routine at the beginning (but I highly doubt it) and they just included the names in the end credits as well. But it sure seemed like a seismic shift to me.

Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs In Concert

Had a delightful time last night at the Bowery Ballroom. Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles were promoting their super-fun duets album "Under The Covers," which has them performing classic and obscure Sixties pop songs. A decent crowd but not too full, a relaxed show (Hoffs apologized for forgetting the lyrics to one song, saying they'd only had one day to rehearse this first show) and a GREAT lead guitarist. High point: in the sweltering heat, I turned to my friend and said, "I wish they'd play some songs with water in them" and the band immediately launched into the Beatles' "Rain." Low Point: when two guys in the audience were wondering who that song was by, someone told them the Beatles. But was it written by George Harrison? "Yes!" I said definitively and with great assurance. They just KNEW I was right. I was wrong. Despite its Middle eastern drone sound, it's credited to Lennon/McCartney and I assume is mostly Lennon given its structure. One schmuck in the audience kept shouting out "BBC!" "BBC!" I had no idea why. (It's certainly not a song on the album.) Then out of nowhere Mike Myers of SNL comes on stage, drink in hand and duets with them on some obscure pop-punk nugget with a chorus that goes "BBC 1! BBC 2! BBC 3! BBC 4! BBC 5! BBC 6! BBC 7! BBC Heaven!" Who knew?

Critics And Moviegoers Don't Always Agree! Stop The Presses!

Even more shocking is that the New York Times' AO Scott writes a lengthy column about this tired age-old debate (why do critics sometimes trash movies that people flock to see?) and manages to say ABSOLUTELY NOTHING NEW. He also manages to say nothing old with the same indifference. His ridiculous conclusion:
But the deeper answer is that our love of movies is sometimes expressed as a mistrust of the people who make and sell them, and even of the people who see them. We take entertainment very seriously, which is to say that we don’t go to the movies for fun. Or for money. We do it for you.
Huh? Who ndoes he mistrust? And why? If he doesn't go to the movies to have fun, he should stop reviewing them. Now. Sometimes people flock to see crap. Sometimes critics champion a film that no one goes to see. So what? And trust me, if any Joe Schmoe moviegoer had to sit through the three or four major studio releases that came out EVERY WEEK for months on end, trust me, in six month's time they would be just as hard-nosed as the most bitter movie critic.

Mercury Prize Short List Announced

The UK Mercury Prize is a really good spin on the Grammys. A panel of musicians and experts get together, cull a short list of albums they love and then pick a winner. It brings attention to all sorts of acts, sells records and is generally an all-around good thing. (US labels have taken a stab at doing the same thing, but it hasn't caught on yet as well as the UK version.) Here are this year's nominees:

Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Ballad Of The Broken Seas
Editors - The Back Room
Guillemots - Through The Windowpane
Richard Hawley - Coles Corner
Hot Chip - The Warning
Muse - Black Holes And Revelations
Zoe Rahman - Melting Pot
Lou Rhodes - Beloved One
Scritti Politti - White Bread, Black Beer
Sway - This Is My Demo
Thom Yorke - The Eraser

Descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene Speaks Out

Naturally, given her august lineage, she writes thrillers. I don't know what's sillier: this author's claim that she is a descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene being used as a marketing hook for her thrillers, her publisher's willingness to use it or publications like USA Today repeating them despite the fact that the woman doesn't even TRY to back up her claim. Of course it would be impossible for her to PROVE what she says, but I would at least expect the woman to produce some tattered family document or maybe a family Bible with a geneology tree in it or SOMETHING. At least her statements are more entertaining (I assume) than her book could possible be: 1. "Everyone's going to think I'm on The Da Vinci Code bandwagon, but I'm not," says McGowan. 2. 'Trish Todd, editor in chief at Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster says she has no problem believing McGowan's claim that she descends from a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. "Yes, I believe her. Her passion and her mission are so strong, how can she not be?"' Oh well, then. 3. Though McGowan says she is descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene, she won't say whether she, like the fictional Maureen, is "The Expected One." "I'm not grandiose about this, and it concerns me a lot that I could be portrayed that way," McGowan says. "I don't want it to appear that I'm standing up and saying I'm the expected one. That's a dangerous, ego-driven kind of thing." Thank goodness for that.

"Idol" Winners Face Off In Record Stores

When "Pop Idol" -- the original "American Idol" in the UK -- let the runner-up release his single a week or two after the winner, everyone complained it was a rude slap in the face to the guy who actually won the competition, Will Young. But with more and more Idol runners-up putting out albums, trying to space out their releases became impossible. (The one absolute is that no one can put out an album before the winner.) Besides, when runner-up Clay Aiken trounced Ruben in record sales, the lable realized fans would keep voting -- this time with their credit cards. So it's no surprise that November 14 will be the release date for Idol winner Taylor Hicks AND runner-up Katharine McPhee AND dumb blonde Kellie Pickler. (The one album that might actually be good -- Chris Daughtry's -- will come out at the end of the year, but no release date has been set yet. Meanwhile, Mario Vasquez saw his first single flop and his album has been pushed back to September 12 instead of the summer. Elliot is still waiting for a record deal and Paris Bennett surely will get one but nothing has been announced yet.