Archive for May, 2011

Thor, Pirates, and Bridesmaids

May 29, 2011

Thor, Pirates, and Bridesmaids

We see movies all year round.  However, I have to admit that the summer has a certain special feeling for movie going.  That goes back to Jaws, of course, when the summer changed from being low budget monster movies to…um…big budget monster movies.  😉

Here are three of the big summer movies my Significant Other (SO) and I have seen this year.

The three movies are might be presumed to be aimed at three different demographics: Thor for fanboys; Bridesmaids for women; and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides for children.

Children?

Yes, that’s an odd evolution for Pirates.  The first movie was surprisingly not aimed at kids mostly, although based on what can be described as an amusement park ride.  Over time, though, Jack Sparrow…boozy, moral reprobate Jack Sparrow has become a popular children’s character.

Despite two lines that are not so subtle sexual innuendo, this movie is squarely in the sweet spot for nine year olds.  Kids don’t need logic…why refer to Blackbeard by his real name of Edward Teach and then give him some bizarre supernatural power over…ropes?  On the one hand you are making him a real person, and on the other, you are making him a super villain with a power more appropriate for the Legion of Substitute Heroes than the Avengers.

That’s not to say the movie isn’t fun, it is.  You’ve got pirates, zombies (not the brain-eating kind), and mermaids.  I thought the mermaids were handled particularly well, and will undoubtedly shape how kids think about them.  They might be confused about the whole suddenly having legs thing, but it was nice to see them not wearing seashell bras or keeping their hair decorously over their breasts (instead, the breasts are scale-covered…not traditional, really, but a good solution).

Captain Jack has become too capable.  In the first movie, his bragging was much more bravado.  He laid claim to a reputation he didn’t really have, and we weren’t convinced he could actually accomplish what he set out to do.  Now, he’s like Zorro or Batman…his enemies fear him (with good reason) and people want to serve with him as Captain.

Without the welcome presence of Gibbs (Kevin McNally), played by the gravelly-voiced Kevin McNally, we’d lose all touch with his humble beginnings.

Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine), Pirate of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a musical.  Instead of songs, though, we get action sequences.  We have the young lovers (a mermaid and a missionary, but young lovers nonetheless) who get touching scenes…and dance-like sword fights.  That pacing works.  Overall, they haven’t damaged Pirates with this movies, and it’s worth seeing…even though it is as familiar as a tenth-year sitcom episode.

If Tides is a musical, Thor is an opera.  That’s not just because of the horned helmets (reminiscent of What’s Opera, Doc? for some I’m sure), but the grand scope of everything.  No one walks across the screen…they stride.  Everything means something…every action has a consequence as broad as “for the want of a nail”.

Part of the appeal of the comics was the contrast between Asgard and Earth…this movie does everything it can to make them same (even explaining the “rainbow bridge” as an Einstein-Rosen bridge…see?  Physics and magic use the same words, so they must be the same thing).  😉

Chris Hemsworth (who played Captain Kirk’s father in the 2009 Star Trek movie) is fine (in both ways the word might be applied here) as Thor.  He has swagger with a heart: like a high school captain of the football team or maybe Colby Donaldson from Survivor.

He’s the big man on campus…with a group of buds who listen to whatever he says (even when his principles may overwhelm good judgement).

Kat Dennings brings some needed humor as Darcy Lewis…although that seems to go by the wayside pretty quickly as events become EPIC.  I’m sure that will help her upcoming CBS series, Two Broke Girls…although it will take more than that for it to survive.

It’s also too bad that Alan Cumming already had a role in the Marvel universe (as Nightcrawler in X2)…he has always seemed like the perfect Loki, God of Mischief, to me.

That Marvel Universe crosses over here a bit too much…this movie can’t just serve itself, but has to serve The Avengers next year.  So, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye gets a cameo…which I just found intrusive.  Some might see that as clever, but for me, I was thinking, “Renner’s a lead actor…why is he for five minutes?  Oh yeah, to set up another movie.”  That just took me out of this one.  It felt like checking a box…ad that’s how a lot of the movie felt to me.

Bridesmaids, on the other hand, wasn’t a checklister.  I was surprised when my SO suggested it…it’s perhaps more a movie I would have chosen, although that’s harder to say.  We’d seen some related interviews, and that probably helped.

The buzz about the movie shouldn’t all be about gender issues, but I did check out the audience.  The house was about a third full…with three men in the audience.  It was also interesting to me that I would say most of the audience was over fifty.  It has advertised in part as a raunchy comedy…and it was.  Maybe it’s because the over fifty crowd has changed that much since, say, Porky’s.

The movie wasn’t exactly Pride & Prejudice.  😉  There was one particularly scene where I was literally looking away, hiding my eyes behind my hand…as though shielding myself from a super-bright light.  Let’s say that most of it involved things moving from somewhere dark into the light, and leave it there.

What made it work, though, was the relationships between the characters.  It was well-written and well-acted, and worth seeing.  It wasn’t a great movie, but a good afternoon, and that’s definitely worth something.

While the core of the movie is the BFF relationship of Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig, this is a true ensemble piece.  Melissa McCarthy is a stand-out as Megan, but I don’t think you’ll see her and Ricky Gervais in the same room at th same time.  🙂  They both have a crinkly-nosed way of saying something is fun and disgusting at once.

Rose Byrne will likely be one of our Most Valuable Players for 2011…if either Bridesmaids or X-Men: First Class breaks $100m dogro (domestic gross).  Bridesmaids probably won’t, although it should climb for some time.  She’s good here, as Wiig’s too perfect rival for the friendship of Rudolph.

It’s worth noting, without getting too spoilery, that this isn’t a case of someone being made out to be a loser…Wiig’s character is objectively slipping off the Hot Wheel track.

That’s part of what makes it work…not that the movie is believable, but that it isn’t cliché .   The characters are improbable, but not impossible, and the situations are hyperbolic: they combine the outrageous moments in a life into an impossibly short time.  It exaggerates, but doesn’t invent out of whole cloth.

We can see ourselves in the funhouse mirror, even if we know the image can’t really be us.

Overall, I wouldn’t avoid any of these movies.  The one that you would probably be happiest you saw is Bridesmaids (given the warning about the crudeness), you’ll want to see Pirates at some point, and Thor is watchable.

Have an opinion about any of these movies?  Do you think I’ve undersold Kennet Branagh’s direction of Thor?  Have  I oversold Bridesmaids, when you think it is just another Apatow comedy?  Do you think Pirates is the best of the series?  Feel free to let me know.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Jeff Conaway reported dead

May 27, 2011

Jeff Conaway reported dead

In recent years, Jeff Conaway may have gotten more publicity for elements of his life not connected to performing.

You’ll hear about his roles on Taxi and in Grease…and it’s possible you’ll hear ironic references to him working on projects involving Dante’s Inferno in the last couple of years.

Geeks, though, welcome misfits and the excluded.

Jeff Conaway’s past years with a guest role here and a guest role there didn’t matter when he became Security Chief Zack Allen on Babylon 5.

Those guest roles included Tales from the Darkside, Monsters, and Freddy’s Nightmares.

We’ll remember him in Pete’s Dragon and on Wizards and Warriors.

No matter how troubled you are, or how much everyone else rejects you, geeks will give you a chance to show what you can do.

Good-bye, Jeff Conaway…thanks for hanging out with us.

AFP Article

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Movies before Memorial Day 2011

May 27, 2011

Movies before Memorial Day 2011

June 21st may be the first official day of summer this year, Memorial Day weekend is the start of the summer movie season.

Before the two twos (Kung Fu Panda and The Hangover) opening Friday change the landscape, I wanted to take a look back at the year so far.

First, let’s congratulate the four actors who have already made it to this year’s list of The Measured Circle’s Box Office MVPs:

  • Ludacris: No Strings Attached, Fast Five
  • Natalie Portman: No Strings Attached, Thor
  • Johnny Depp: Rango, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  • Timothy Olyphant: Rango, I Am Number Four

Natalie Portman and Johny Depp probably aren’t surprises, but would you have guessed Ludacris and Timothy Olyphant?  Olyphant has a couple of hundred million movies in his past (Live Free or Die Hard, Gone in Sixty Seconds), but this should really be a record (pun intended) year for Ludacris.  In addition to the two movies above (movies in bold have dogroed…domestic grossed…more than $100 million), he also has Garry Marshall’s star-studded follow-up to last year’s $110m dogroing Valentine’s Day (this year’s New Year’s Eve).

I wrote previously about how well animation was doing this year (half the movies that have made over $100m are animated movies…counting Hop, which also has live actors), there’s also a nice trend of movies that aren’t built around special effects or are cartoons doing well.  Fast Five is forty million dollars ahead of its closest competitor (and might make it to $200m), but Just Go With It is over $100m, and Bridesmaids is exceeding expectations.

Some movies underperformed.  Those include:

  • The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (while this is a documentary, half a million isn’t much for the director of Super Size Me)
  • Hoodwinked Too! at about $10m shows us that not every animated movie is gold
  • Mars Needs Moms was further proof at $21m
  • Your Highness shows you can be an MVP…and still have a movie that doesn’t get to $40m
  • Priest, Season of  the Witch, Beastly, The Rite, The Roommate, Paul, Red Riding Hood, Scream r…genre movies also have their sub-forties
  • Sucker Punch was one I thought might do really well…I guess I was in my own fantasy world 😉
  • Big Mommas didn’t play to full houses
  • Even though it made about $55m, I Am Number Four was a disappointment at the box office

Insidious is one of the great success stories of the year.  It cost about 1.5 million to make…and has grossed over $50 million.  For Thor to be that profitable, it would have to dogro about 500 billion dollars.  🙂

For more information on this year’s box office, check our 2011 Movie Box Office: 40, 80, 1, 2, 3.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

CDC gives zombie apocalypse survival advice…really

May 20, 2011

CDC gives zombie apocalypse survival advice…really

When you think zombies, you may not think of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Those are the folks that fight the flu every year, right?

Actually, I think this is quite clever.

You see, if people follow the advice in this CDC

blog post

you’ll be prepared for other more likely emergencies.

In AMC’s The Walking Dead last season, the CDC did play a role…but I think this puts them in a better light.  😉

By the way, there was actually a firefighters’ manual that had a chapter that included dealing with UFOs…as I recall, it was published by FEMA some years back.


This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Flash! Seth McFarlane to make the Flintstones

May 17, 2011

Flash! Seth MacFarlane to make the Flintstones

Seth MacFarlane…the guy can do everything!  Actor, screenwriter, producer, editor, singer…and now he’s going to make vitamins!  I mean, that’s just crazy!  Who would have known he knew nutrition, and manufacturing, and…oh, wait…not the vitamins.  He’s making the cartoon! Yeah, that makes more sense.  😉

That was the most interesting announcement out of the NBC and Fox network upfronts today. 

Hollywood Reporter article

 Oddly, this show is for 2013…and the upfronts are for the 2011-2012 season.  Still, it take so long to start a series like that, it would have leaked out.

While it will be updated, it sounds like it will be respectful.  MacFarlane says the first thing he ever drew was Fred Flintstone. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

New feature: current events calendar

May 16, 2011

New feature: current events calendar

I’ve just added a new feature to The Measured Circle:

The Measured Circle current events calendar

It’s a complement to the

The Measured Circle Pop Culture Timeline

What’s the difference?

Well, the current events calendar uses Google calendar.  It’s much easier for me to enter events on that calendar (especially recurring events, like a TV series that runs on the same day every week).  It’s also a snap for you to add a given event to your own Google calendar.

Editing the Timeline is like editing a Word document…there are no special tools for events.  That’s meant that dates I’ve projected on the Timeline are hard to correct (it’s much clunkier than Word for editing) if the date changes.  Changes are also much simpler with the Google Calendar.

However, the Google calendar isn’t really a good place to track the history.  When I only have a few events for a year a hundred years ago, a calendar isn’t a good way to go.

Is this double entry?  There is certainly some overlap.

Whether I continue it or not will depend on any response I may get…so feel free to let me know what you think.  🙂

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

2011 Network upfronts: geek good-byes

May 15, 2011

2011 Network upfronts: geek good-byes

This week, we are going to get the network upfronts.

That’s where they tell advertisers what is coming for the Fall season (2011-2012 in this case), so they can buy advertising in advance.

You might run a different type of ad on NCIS than on Dancing with the Stars, so you need some advance time to plan development and budgets.

When I worked in a store that sold (nice) Halloween masks, we’d have people come into the store in March to tell us what would be hot in October.  There is a lot of lead time in the manufacturer of those latex masks.  That’s why stores always ran out of popular things…they just can’t crank out more masks in a week.

They weren’t always right…I remember we were happy that Howard the Duck masks could pretty much be any old duck, because that was not the hit they predicted (but who wouldn’t have thought it would be big?).  There were years we were out of Darth Vader, Miss Piggy, and the Coneheads.

So, networks give advertisers lead time.

Here’s the schedule:

  • Monday, May 16: NBC and Fox
  • Tuesday, May 17: ABC
  • Wednesday, May 18: CBS
  • Thursday, May 19: the CW

It’s not really a geek friendly Fall.  We’ve been coasting on the success of Lost for a few years, but that momentum has petered out.

What can we expect?

NBC

They’ve already dropped The Cape and The Event. 

They have Awake, which has a detective living in alternate realities.  Grimm jumps on the recent movie fairy tale bandwagon…it’s Men in Black with the cast of Shrek.  😉

Fox

Network executives do what the (other?) 😉 bad guys couldn’t, and put an end to the Human Target.  Breaking In, which had a prominent geek character, and a Comic Con/Goonies 2 episode, wasn’t the break out Fox wanted.

They also have the high-profile Terra Nova series…powered by Steven Spielberg, and featuring time travel and dinosaurs. 

J.J. Abrams and Jorge Garcia from Lost are involved with Alcatraz…this one seems like it’s not easy to sum up, but that could be a good thing.

Allan Gregory brings us Jonah Hill in a cartoon…and no, that’s not redundant.  🙂  Speaking of cartoons, Fox brings back The Simpsons, American Dad, Family Guy, and more.  

They also renewed Fringe.

ABC

The visit is over, as ABC ends V.  Superhero show No Ordinary Family didn’t have the power(s) for a renewal.

Good morning, Angels…Charlie’s Angels are back in a new version. 

What would you expect from a show the press release describes as “…a fitting follow up to Lost from two master storytellers.”  Would you believe Rumplestiltskin?  Do you think the TV networks were out there rooting for Beastly, since they’d decided that fairy tales were going to be hot?  “Mirror, mirror on the wall…who’s first canceled in the Fall?”  😉  Just kidding…fantasy/sci fi shows are expensive, so canceling them right away isn’t always the right move…there is a lot invested. 

CBS

We already knew Medium had crossed over (and not to the Fall season). 

Person of Interest appears to be a sort of a non-super superhero series (like Batman).  This is another one from J.J. Abrams, and has another Lost veteran, Michael Emerson.

They are bringing back The Big Bang Theory, one of the geek-friendliest shows on TV…but let’s just say that Sheldon might not be watching any shows on CBS this season.

The CW

They kept Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries, and Smallville arguably ran its course and left at a good time.  The CW seems to respect science fiction and fantasy.

It’s unknown at this point if Nikita will be renewed.

We’ll know about these networks by the end of the week.

Once you get off these four, there are a lot more possibilities, and there will be summer and midseason shows.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Jackie Cooper reported dead

May 5, 2011

Jackie Cooper reported dead

Nominated for an Oscar at the age of nine, Jackie Cooper‘s on-screen career began in 1929 and continued through 1990.

He was one of “Our Gang” (The Little Rascals), and viewers of those early shorts (who may have seen them on TV, decades after they appeared in movie theatres) may remember his character’s crush on the teacher, Miss Crabtree.

When he appeared in The Champ with Wallace Beery, his career moved to a new level.  He got that Oscar nomination, and went on to work with Beery in a number of movies, including 1934’s Treasure Island.

I remember when his autobiography came out: “Please Don’t Shoot My Dog”.  That was a bit of a shocking title for me…a director had threatened to shoot his dog to get an emotional performance out of him.

He appeared in geek-friendly TV shows (Tales of Tomorrow and the Twilight Zone). 

It was in 1978 that his fame was renewed as iconic comic book character Perry White, the editor of The Daily Planet, and boss to Clark Kent (Superman), Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen.  He would go on to play the role in all four Christopher Reeve movies.

He wasn’t just in front of the camera.  In the 1970s he directed a number of TV episodes, notably M*A*S*H.  He was nominated for four directing Emmys, and directed episodes of Sledge Hammer! and Superboy.

Even as a child actor, there was something sad about Jackie Cooper…something in his eyes.  Unlike many kids, he didn’t appear to be carefree.  He brought genuine emotion to the screen: often not anger, which is easy to fake, or happiness (which people want to recognize in others, whether it is really there or not).  Few child actors can cry believably on screen…Jackie Cooper could.  What did it cost him to be able to do that?

Still, I think he did what he loved as an adult, and it was great to see him as Perry White.

Good-bye, Jackie…you’ll always be part of Our Gang.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Yvette Vickers reported dead

May 3, 2011

Yvette Vickers reported dead

Will Yvette Vickers be included in this year’s Oscar montage?

Is it enough to have appeared in (but not as) The Attack of the 50-foot Woman? 

How about the second female lead in Roger Corman’s The Giant Leeches?

An uncredited performance as “Blonde Yoga Girl” in the first of the Beach Party movies? 

Does having been a Playboy centerfold disqualify you?

Geeks are the most inclusive group of sometimes excluded people you’ll find.  If we ran the Oscars, you would definitely see her. 

The Academy may not, though. 

The sad thing is that the circumstances of her death (or rather, the discovery of her body in her house after possibly having been dead for a year) is what most people will read about in the mainstream coverage they might see.

She was a drama major at UCLA…how many mainstream movie stars can claim similar credentials?

Good-bye, Yvette…giant leeches, or giant woman…we’ll continue to watch your movies.

Brian’s Drive-In Theater page

L.A. Times article

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

May (2011) I geek out now?

May 1, 2011

May (2011) I geek out now?

May is an important mainstream month for a lot of reasons: May Day, Mothers’ Day, and Memorial Day, to name a few.

It’s also a hot month for geeks.

There are two main reasons for that.

May is a “Sweeps Month” for American television.  It’s one of the months that the Nielsen ratings determine how much TV shows can charge for commercials.  It’s also the end of the regular season (which began in September), so the big networks will have season (and show) finales…sometimes leaving us with cliffhangers that take us to the next season.

Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) is also considered the start of the summer movie blockbuster season.

That’s not all…there are books, cons, comics…even though summer doesn’t start officially until June, people begin ramping up in Marvelous May.

Here are some of the geeky highlights for May 2011:

  • May 3 (TV): Scooby Doo: Mystery Inc returns
  • May 3 (TV): Looney Tunes Show (series debut)
  • May 4 (events): Something is up with Star Wars, according to the official site (http://www.starwars.com )
  • May 4 (TV): Animal Fugitives (series debut)
  • May 4 (TV): Justified (season finale)
  • May 5 (TV): Known Universe (series debut)
  • May 6-8 (cons): Gaslight Gathering in San Diego
  • May 6 (cons): http://www.leprecon.org/ Leprecon 37 in Tempe
  • May 6 (TV): Fringe (season finale)
  • May 6 (movies): The Beaver (Jodie Foster directs Mel Gibson as a man who only communicates through a beaver puppet)
  • May 6 (movies): Thor (Marvel superhero movie with Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman…and directed by Kenneth Branagh)
  • May 6 (movies): Passion Play (Mickey Rourke, Bill Murray…and Megan Fox as an angel?)
  • May 7 (events): Free Comic Book Day
  • May 7 (TV): Almighty Thor Syfy movie…not the Marvel character
  • May 7 (TV): Lady Gaga concert special on HBO
  • May 7 (TV): My Cat from Hell (series debut)
  • May 8 (TV): The Amazing Race (season finale)
  • May 8 (TV): Aqua Teen Hunger Force (season debut)
  • May 9 (TV): Stargate Universe (series finale)
  • May 10 (videogames): Brink
  • May 10 (videogames) Lego Pirates of the Caribbean
  • May 12 (TV): The Vampire Diaries (season finale)
  • May 12 (TV): Nikita (season finale)
  • May 13 (TV): Smallville (series finale)
  • May 13 (TV): The Haunted (season finale)
  • May 13 (cons): http://www.outlantacon.org/ Outlantacon (hosting Gaylaxicon) in Atlanta
  • May 13 (movies): Priest (based on a graphic novel, Paul Bettany and Maggie Q are warrior priests who take on vampires)
  • May 15 (TV): Survivor (season finale)
  • May 16 (TV): Chuck (season finale)
  • May 16 (TV): Castle (season finale)
  • May 17 (TV): Tosh.0 is back
  • May 19 (cons):  http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-weekend/  Nebula Awards weekend in Washington, D.C.
  • May 19 (TV): The Big Bang Theory (season finale)
  • May 19 (TV): Bones (season finale)
  • May 19 (TV): The Mentalist (season finale)
  • May 20-22 (cons): http://www.acen.org/ Anime Central in Rosemont, IL
  • May 20 (TV): Supernatural (season finale)
  • May 20 (movies): Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Johnny Depp returns for his fourth movie as Captain Jack Sparrow)
  • May 21 (TV): Sinbad and the Minotaur TV movie on Syfy
  • May 22 (TV): American Dad (season finale)
  • May 22 (TV): The Simpsons (season finale)
  • May 22 (TV): Family Guy (season finale…parody of Return of the Jedi)
  • May 23 (TV): House (season finale)
  • May 23 (TV): The Event (season finale)
  • May 24 (TV): Soul Quest Overdrive (series debut)
  • May 24 (TV): Glee (season finale)
  • May 24 -26 (events): Book Expo America (major event)
  • May 25 (TV): American Idol (season finale)
  • May 26 (TV): The Secret Diary of a Call Girl (series finale)
  • May 27 (movies): Kung Fu Panda 2 (Jack Black is back)
  • May 27 (movies): The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick directs Brad Pitt, Sean Penn…and dinosaurs)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.


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