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(Caught a matinee of Transformers today, and I'm a little worried what some so-called "Qualified Film Critics" might say about this mechanical-man masterpeice. So ... Paramount Pictures? Dreamworks? I hope you're listening, because I've got a blog full of blurbs that you can use on future Transformers posters and DVD covers without worrying about misquoting me or taking my words out of context!)
"Images, Sounds ... It Has Everything!"
"Shia LaBeouf is IN THIS MOVIE."
"The Best Transformers Film This Summer!"
"There was a trailer for an awesome J.J. Abrams movie that played RIGHT BEFORE THIS MOVIE."
"Michael Bay, you've 'Transformed' My Heart!"
(Apologies to Clint)
"I had a beer and a basket of buffalo wings and I could still follow the plot! The wings were REALLY SPICY!"
"There is a 2008 Pontiac Solstice IN THIS MOVIE!"
"They used the same voice actor for Optimus Prime that they did for the 80's cartoon! That's great probably!"
"I heard the Transformers 'beep-boop-bop-boop-boup-boop-beep' noise like, like ... like a LOT!"
"Midnight Cowboy's a classic of American cinema, right? Well Academy-Award winner Jon Voight is TOTALLY ALL UP IN THIS MOVIE!"
"It's like Jurassic Park with Space Robots!"
"It's like NASCAR with lazers!"
"I thought after 'Pearl Harbor' Michael Bay vowed to never work with robots again. WELL SHUT MY MOUTH!"
"I needed to sit down for two and a half hours and not fall asleep. I DID NOT FALL ASLEEP!"
"When I was a kid I would sometimes pretend that I was A ROBOT!"
"Imagine Starscream doing the robot dance! It's not in the movie, but CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE?!?!"
And finally ...
"Are you an eleven year old boy who has a subscription to Lowrider magazine? YOU WILL GO COMPLETELY APESH** OVER THIS MOVIE!"
- 1 Carp
- 1 Tortilla, made
1. Take carp out of river.
2. Gently murder carp.
3. Place in tortilla.
Serves: 1-2 comically small children.
- 30 Acres Virgin Rain Forest
- 1 Land Rover (shelled)
- 125lbs. Surly Zoa Shaman
- 1 Large Bucket
1. Pick rainforest.
2. Learn heathen tongue (usually an earthy patois of "jungalese" and "voodoo mumbles-jumbles").
3. Earn trust of tribe. If you arrive during eclipse, promise to return Magic Fire Ball to Big Blue Spirit Blanket.
4. Touch not the idol of Chicomecoatl. Doing so will unleash the Curse of the Seven Snakes.
5. When Blood-Moon waxes nigh, place self into bucket. Heat 400 degrees for 6-8 hours, or until dead.
Serves: whim of council elders.
- 1 oz. Dirt
1. Heat and enjoy.
2. Or, more likely, don't.
Word on the street is that Aaron Sorkin, creator of such film and TV hits as The West Wing and A Few Good Men, has agreed to adapt The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots into a broadway musical.
If this makes a ton of money, what can we expect from the inevitable TV version?
Here's what I'd like to see:
(Drama, 1 hr., TV-MA)
Yoshimi, a lieutenant in the Karate Army, is accused of murdering a fellow soldier, codenamed "Pink Robot", and we follow her travails through a controversial Court-Martial. Was she just following orders and in fact "workin' for the city"? Or is something much more sinister at play?
Mondays at 9pm / 8pm Central, right after an all-new episode of That's My Evidence!
Or how about this:
(Comedy, 30 min., TV-14)
Yoshimi Matthews is an executive producer on "Pink Robots", a popular bay area talk show that focuses on gay and lesbian issues facing the Japanese American community. There's only one problem -- her family thinks she's still in medical school! How will she reconcile her parents' traditional values with her new career? And can she work up the courage to ask out the show's new band leader, a man known only as "The Hypnotist"?
Tuesdays, 8pm / 7pm Central. Afterward, stay tuned as Bill Pullman guest stars on the season premiere of Throw Me The Idol!
This weekend I had the opportunity to check out the number one movie at the box office, Frank Miller and Zach Snyder's 300. Here's why you shouldn't make the same mistake:
1.) You hate poorly written and overused voice-over narration.
When filmmakers employ this, it says to me that either they don't know how to visually communicate the ideas of the film or (as I suspect is the case in 300) they don't trust the audience to pick up on what they're shown in the moving picture they are currently watching.
2.) You're expecting anything close to a historical epic.
I know next to squat about Ancient Greece, but even I could tell that 300 has more in common with Mortal Kombat II than the Mediterranean circa 480 B.C.
This movie is a clumsy, unintelligent fantasy that pilfers names and iconography from history in a misguided attempt to lend a sense of grandeur to its proceedings. But when the filmmakers choose to throw in the Lobster-Clawed Executioner, Mutant Lizard Ninjas, Twelve Foot Tall Brazilian Xerxes, and an Unexplained Anthropomorphic Goat (I wish I was kidding), they show their hand, and it turns out to be full of Frank Miller's old Conan the Barbarian comic books. By the third reel I half expected Kull the Conqueror and Swamp Thing to be duking it out on the Fifth Plane (which, as we all know, is the Plane of Sorrows).
3.) You need more than a demo of the latest in Chroma-Keying Technology to hold your interest for two hours.
Yes, computers have come a long way since the days of wowing local tv weather junkies by Removing The Background Behind A Person and Replacing It With Something Else. But haven't blockbuster genre films been doing this for years? Remember Phantom Menace? That movie made extensive use of green screen backgrounds and computer-generated extras way back in 1999, and it sucked too.
For my money, Frank Miller authored a decent "What If Batman Was Old?" story about twenty years ago and has spent his time since proving he's just as capable of writing awful fiction. He can be a great illustrator, but angular drawings of boobs and blood does not a compelling story make. Thirteen year old Xbox Live fanatics can rejoice, however, knowing that 300 is full of both, and won't attempt to dilute its gore-slathered buffet with pacing, suspense, or sympathetic characters.
If like me you shudder at these 3.00 reasons, save yourself 9.00 bucks and either watch an episode of HBO's Rome (just as explicit as 300, but better written and with a semblance of historical accuracy) or play ten minutes of Sub Zero vs. Baraka (like watching 300, but actually kind of fun, and with better fatalities).
As my girlfriend and I prepare to move in together, one of the things that continues to come up is the question of cable: should we spring for more TV? Neither of us has cable right now, and the ability to split the cost of the service seems oh-so-tempting. On the weekends when we’re using her apartment complex’s gym we have free reign over the single tv, and the possibilities that cable channel surfing seems to offer serve as the loudest of cable’s sultry sirens.
But above all these dvr-delights looms one growing concern: network television seems determined to make us unhappy.
Like most of our friends, we keep up with our two or three network shows. For us, that means making time to catch Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, and until it was yanked off the air, Studio 60. But even those staples are beginning to suffer. As I mentioned, Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 hangs in scheduling limbo. Grey’s Anatomy, a show that until this season I had ignored, has ended its surprising and involving third season sweeps with an episode that came close to jumping the shark. Even Lost, which by itself could have made a case for not giving up on network tv entirely, has started to falter.
I think Lost’s current third season struggles best illustrate why successful, well-written series television as it is now produced is doomed to fail: the audience asks too much.
But isn’t it the networks’ fault? Yes, in part. TV ratings need to catch up with the way more and more people have been watching their shows for the past twenty years -- on their own time. First VCRs, then recordable DVDs, and now digital hard drives have enabled people to watch TV when they want and how they want. But TV ratings are still based on how Neilsen families respond to different shows as they’re aired live. The good news is that this is something that’s not impossible to fix. Current Nielsen ratings could be combined with information from set-top digital recorders like the newer TiVo boxes, delivering a more complete ratings picture to the networks.
This, however, is only half the problem, and fixing the other half requires a big change in how episodic drama is made. I said before that the audience asks too much. What I mean by that is the audience expects a single show (let’s say, a popular hour-long drama like Lost) to entertain them with original stories for several months out of the year (again, using Lost as an example, about twenty to twenty six weeks, or roughly five to six months of the year).
Putting these kinds of demands on the structure of a show, it’s amazing that a series like Lost maintained the level of quality it did for even one season. But I also think that the first season of Lost will forever be its best, and here’s why: I think Lost already used up most of its best story and potential. I think the show is now just spinning its wheels until either the creators get tired of working on the show or the network decides Lost costs too much to produce. At either point, depending on how much advance notice its creators have that the show is ending, I believe fans will see a huge spike in the pace of the show as it races to the series finale. But between now and then, Lost fans will continue to get more vague and tangential episodes that both lead nowhere and fail to progress the story in significant ways because that’s what everybody thinks series television should be.
Under the current system, audiences expect a show to go on in perpetuity, and networks expect to milk a concept until dust coughs out its udders. This is why most series television will get worse the longer it goes on. Consider a long standing show like E.R. Do you know anyone who still watches E.R. on a regular basis? Maybe you do. But do the startling events of last night’s E.R. ever come up as the topic of conversation around whatever stands in for your office water cooler? Again, maybe your experience is different than mine. Maybe you also live in 1995 -- I can’t say. But I know why no one I know watches or cares about E.R.: the show has long since explored its territory.
I don’t think most or in truth any scripted tv drama has the real staying power conceptually to engage audience interest at a high level for more than a couple of seasons. If you leave out the best TV has to offer, the few complex shows with interesting ensembles and suspenseful ongoing plots, the rest don’t have the depth of concept to generate even one season’s worth of good stories.
But what if instead of six month behemoths, our episodic dramas were six part miniseries? Think about grouping all the best moments of Lost -- the best mysteries of the island and the most engaging flashbacks -- into a Six Hour Television Event. Could it be done? I think so. And I think that if all series dramas were cut back to mini runs of three to six episodes we’d see two things: tighter, more interesting stories and more variety. I think if a network were to look at a risky high-concept show and realize they’d only have to produce six episodes instead of twenty-six, they’d be more willing to make a show that broke with convention. Maybe they’d spend some money on something that wasn’t another C.S.I. or Law & Order or E.R. clone. I’m sure there are other interesting professions out there. What about a show that explores the lives of astronauts (such as HBO’s From Here to the Moon), or a show that tells the story of a group of World War II soldiers (HBO’s Band of Brothers), or even a show that examines the interweaving actions of several generations and the death of their small town (HBO’s Empire Falls -- I think you see where I’m going with this).
Changing the length of a typical series' run would not only increase the opportunities for new kinds of shows, it would cut a lot of the repetitive fat that chokes the bloated season of all shows, even the lesser detective/lawyer/doctor fare. Imagine Michael Crichton writing a six episode run of E.R.. Imagine if Law & Order had been just a two part mini-series. I think this new format could even make something like C.S.I. watchable (although if you’ve watched an episode, you know I’m asking you to stretch your powers of imagination to their utmost limits).
Reducing our TV seasons from long, drawn-out and redundant runs to short, tightly scripted series of greater variety would, I believe, make network TV audiences (and network TV execs) realize what the British have known for a long time and what cable is starting to figure out: longer isn’t better. It’s just longer.
So will my girlfriend and I join the other 85% of American homes that subscribe to cable? As long as networks and network audiences persist in thinking that we’ve got to supersize our seasons, the automatic debit’s in the mail.