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Originally published at my site. You can comment here or there.

Ben: so far, i’m doing a pretty good job of not picturing the actors when i read the books [the Harry Potter books, which Ben has only recently begun reading]
Allen: That’s difficult. It’s commendable you’re holding out. :)

Ben: alan rickman is tough to displace

Ben: though if i try really hard to forget he’s involved, then in my head snape looks an awful lot like doc cochran :-)

Allen: Now THAT would’ve been some casting.

Allen: Damn them and their British bias!

Allen: So does Snape sound like Doc Cochran when you read? “Harry F*!%ing Potter, you co%&!*@&er, who the f&!k do you think you are?”

Ben: lol

Ben: great, now i have an image of him mixing up anti-crotchrot potions for all the school whores

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Originally published at my site. You can comment here or there.

Believe or not, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this year’s Emmy nominations, which were announced this morning. Unlike last year, I didn’t get to watch them live, and I hadn’t prepped a blog post full of questions I wanted answers, so this year’s “analysis” is a bit off the cuff. That said, I did have a few tibdits I wanted to mention:

  • I’m disappointed but utterly unsurprised to note that Lauren Graham managed to finish her exquisite tour of duty on Gilmore Girls 0-for-7 in Best Actress in a Comedy nominations. I’m going on record right now as predicting that she’ll get a nomination for her first season in whichever show she ends up anchoring in the 2008-09 season, assuming that show’s on one of the major networks. Please, Lauren, stay far, far away from The CW in the future, OK?
  • Almost making up for Graham-lessness of this morning’s announcements was the nomination of The Office’s Jenna Fischer as Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy. Since I’d already given up hope of Graham getting any Emmy recognition, Fischer had become my she damn well better be nominated cause for this year. Her work as Pam Beesly alternated between endearing and heartbreaking, and she makes Pam into The Most Normal Person on TV (and I completely mean that as a compliment she’s probably my favorite character on network TV right now).
  • Also happy-making was the nomination of Masi Oka for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama for playing Hiro Nakamura on Heroes. I’d have liked to have seen a couple of other nominations for the cast (especially for Jack Coleman), but I’ll take Oka’s nom Hiro was far and away the most entertaining character on the show and Oka the breakout star, so bully for him.
  • The Best Drama nod for Heroes excited me, too Heroes was the only show I watched every episode of last year. After a slow start, it had reached can’t-miss status by the end of the season, and I’m already salivating for next year. Before two years ago, I’d have said that Heroes had no chance to pick up the award and that the nomination would have to suffice, but then Lost won for its rookie season it and shattered that belief. I’d think it had a better chance to win, though, if this weren’t the last chance for voters to give The Sopranos the Best Drama award.
  • Can someone please tell me how Two and a Half Men could get four acting nominations (Charlie Sheen, Jon Cryer, Conchata Ferrell and Holland Taylor)? I know Ferrell and Taylor are both well-respected actresses, but I’m still having a hard time with this many acting nominations for this pedestrian a show. This fact more than any other from this year reinforces the notion that the nomination process rewards only the shows which are most-watched rather than those of highest quality.
  • At the other end of the popular-versus-good spectrum, I was shocked to see Friday Night Lights not pick up any major nominations. After all of the critical praise heaped on that show all year long, I’d thought it would have gotten something, probably at least a nomination for Connie Britton. I’m glad NBC wasn’t waiting to see how well the show performed at the Emmys before deciding whether to renew it.
  • I was not so shocked to see Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip shut out of the major categories, even if I thought a couple of the actors deserved some consideration, Matthew Perry especially. (Perry did pick up a nomination for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, at least.)
  • Last year, said I: “…including one for the always-excellent Alec Baldwin — I’m going to say right now I expect him to get a nod next year for his role on the upcoming comedy series 30 Rock.” And I was right, though last year I was expecting it for Supporting Actor rather than Lead Actor, but Lead Actor it was. Yay me.
  • Miscellaneous other acting nominations which filled me with minor or major glee: Ricky Gervais, Extras; Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother; Minnie Driver, The Riches; Jamie Pressly, My Name Is Earl; Terry O’Quinn, Lost; Rainn Wilson, The Office.

Wow, lookit that turns out I had a lot to say after all!

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Originally published at my site. You can comment here or there.

Those new episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip which are going to start airing on May 28? Enjoy ‘em if you can, because that’s the last you’ll see of NBC’s most hyped new drama of last year.Many of you might remember just how excited I was about Studio 60 in the months leading up to the 2006 television season. Hell, I was so geeked about it I created a new holiday in celebration. Aaron Sorkin has been one of my favorite writers for years, The West Wing remains one of my favorite TV series ever, and Studio 60 had a great cast lined up. NBC, behind even FOX in the network ratings, desperately needed a new hit and were prepared to give S60 a major push. No way this show could fail, right?

Yeah, well.

I gave Studio 60 a solid chance to wow me, both out of respect for the creators involved and out of sheer blind optimism. But it didn’t take long to see the magic Sorkin and company had brought to The West Wing hadn’t followed them to their new show. A few episodes managed to be really entertaining, but none hit more than a solid stand-up double as compared to the not infrequent home runs of Wing.

(Was it fair for me to so consistently compare these two series? Probably not, but I think it was also natural given the strong creative voice behind both shows. I’m wondering if many of us judged Studio 60 more harshly than we should have simply because it wasn’t The West Wing.)

(No, I’m pretty sure Studio 60 just wasn’t that good.)

I started writing my first “what’s wrong with Studio 60” post after the fourth episode had aired, though I never completed it because I figured it wouldn’t be necessary, that Sorkin would get the show on course. Silly me. Most of the problems I had with the show early on continued to be problems throughout, and even more weaknesses became clear as the show limped along. Here now, for your Five O’ Friday enjoyment, are five of the reasons I think Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip eventually didn’t quite work:

  1. Studio 60 boasted a strong cast full of likeable actors which it nearly completely wasted. Matthew Perry played Not Chandler Bing really well. Steven Weber, who normally does charming and personable with ease, proved to be equally adept at playing an insufferable asshole. Bradley Whitford (though he seemed miserable most of the time), Amanda Peet, Timothy Busfield, the adorable Lucy Davis — this show had plenty of actors I liked, and frequently didn’t give them anywhere near enough to do. Whitford in particular, who was so fantastic on The West Wing, spent much of the series looking like he was waiting for someone to bring him something interesting to say.
  2. Countering that last point about the great cast, though was the fact that Sorkin (or his designated casting flunkies) seriously miscast both of the show’s female leads. Never for a minute did I buy that Sarah Paulson’s Harriet Hayes was one of the most beloved comedic actresses in America — she wasn’t charming and she wasn’t all that funny. I also never believed Amanda Peet as a hotshot young television executive. Can I imagine that a smart, capable, talented woman shot up the corporate ladder to run a network by her mid-30s? Oh, sure I can… but the woman I’m imagining and Amanda Peet’s Jordan McDeere don’t have a whole lot in common.You know what I would have believed? Amanda Peet as one of the country’s most beloved comedic actresses. Peet is naturally charming and funny in exactly the way the stiff Paulson isn’t. I think Peet as Harriet would have worked much, much better (and probably made the Matt-Harriet relationship less grating) — and casting an actress somewhat older than the 34-year-old Peet would have made Jordan a more believable character, too. (Yes, there are plenty of actresses in their 40s and 50s who could have done determined, capable, accomplished and damn sexy — including Christine Lahti, who guested on several episodes of Studio 60 and just happens to be married to Thomas Schlamme, Sorkin’s creative partner.)
  3. I never felt like Sorkin had a firm grasp on his characters. Most of the characters felt more like placeholders than people: the black one we can use to discuss issues of race; the Christian one we can use to discuss issues of religion and explain why Midwestern conservatives are clearly so, so stupid; the druggie one we can use to explain why Sorkin’s cocaine binges really aren’t all that bad. To continue with the unfair comparisons, the character development on Studio 60 paled next to that on The West Wing or on SportsNight, Sorkin’s first series; based on that history alone, I’d expected that the character development and interaction would be one of this show’s strengths, and was quite disappointed to discover that not to be true.
  4. Sorkin just never seemed to really get what his audience wanted out of this show — honestly, I’m not sure he ever much considered his audience at all. The show felt like his way of explaining and excusing his own demons, which would have been absolutely fine had it been more consistently entertaining. When he made his course correction after the extended winter break, bringing the romance angle more to the front (and destroying most of Matt’s likability as a character in the process ,— yes, he “dumped” Harriet for good because, while single, she thought about sleeping with another guy) and the show became almost painful to watch.
  5. I’m not sure the setup inherently allowed for that many compelling stories to arise from it — and many of them that did he’d already done on his previous shows. The A-plot of the second episode of Studio 60 was lifted whole from a similarly-themed episode of The West Wing (both centered on the stressful anticipation of a bunch of poll results/ratings which would determine the future course of the government/show). Much of the show’s drama came from a Matt-Harriet “relationship” that was never believable between two stars without much chemistry together (Perry and Whitford had plenty of chemistry, but that coupling might have been pushing the boundaries a bit far for NBC’s taste) or from Sorkin-serving “creatives versus suits” plotlines. Neither ever really connected enough to serve as the dramatic lynchpin for the show.
  6. Bonus sixth reason: I know it’s been said to death by this point, but holy moley did those in-show skits suck major ass.

All of that said, I still liked the show and I’m quite sad to see it gone. I’m hoping that the experience hasn’t soured Sorkin on television for good, because when he’s at the top of his game, he’s one of the best TV writers around — if not the best. Unfortunately, Studio 60 was far from Sorkin at his best, and while that might still be better than most shows currently on the air, it wasn’t good enough. Expectations both creative and commercial were simply too large and the production buckled underneath the weight. I almost can’t believe I’m about to say this as it goes against so much of what I feel about the creative process, but: I hope Sorkin takes a few years away from TV and comes back with something a little less personal.

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Originally published at my site. Please leave any comments there.

When the first TV ads aired for the new science fiction/western hybrid Firefly in the late summer of ‘02, the “from the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer” hype FOX was laying on so thickly had zero effect on me.  At that point, the name “Joss Whedon” meant nothing to me — I’d never seen any Buffy (except the wretched movie). I wouldn’t become a disciple of The Way of Whedon for over another year.

No, what struck me was this:  “Hey, cool, Nathan Fillion’s on a new show!  Maybe I’ll have to check that out.”  (Though I didn’t, of course, until after Firefly had been canceled and released on DVD.) See, I’m now in my fourteenth year of Fillion Fandom™.  All you people who first discovered him as the roguish-yet-lovable Captain Mal Reynolds?  Pshaw.  Newbies, latecoming bandwagon jumpers, the lot of you.

Way back in the summer of 1994, I wasn’t taking any college classes and my 25-hour-a-week job at a record store mainly took up my nighttime hours, so during most days I was pretty free.  And with my afternoons unencumbered by anything resembling productive activity, what I did was watch soap operas — specifically, All My Children, One Life to Live and Days of Our Lives. [1]

Fillion as OLTL's Joey BuchanonOne of One Life To Live’s main good guys during that summer was Joey Buchanon, played by, you guessed it, Nathan Fillion.  Joey was more in the romantic hero soap character mold than action hero or anti-hero, but heroic he was nonetheless. Most of the appeal of the character — to me, anyway — was from Fillion himself, who had an undeniable air of goodness about him. His Joey was very earnest and likable, even if I never could understand why he was so hung up on skanky Kelly, who was so full of bad news she might as well have been wearing a “Chico’s Bail Bonds” jersey.

Fillion might not have been the highlight of my soap-watching stint that summer — my mild man-crush on him was far eclipsed by the gripping lust I felt for Maria and Julia, the Santos sisters, who spent the summer bludgeoning me with their exquisite hotness on All My Children. But he left enough of a positive vibe on me that I noted every time he appeared in my pop culture field of vision over the next few years. I took it as a sign that his career was going somewhere when he played Not The Ryan You’re Looking For in Saving Private Ryan; I thought his career must be taking a step back when he signed on to the occassionally-amusing-but-not-particularly-noteworthy sitcom Two Guys And A Girl And At One Time There Was A Pizza Place But We Dropped It After The Second Season.

Have you ever noticed how some actors seem to exhibit certain characteristics so naturally and so frequently that you just assume that person’s like that in real life? (Well, OK… I do, anyway.) That’s how Nathan Fillion’s always seemed to me in regards to that aforementioned fundamental goodness most of his characters exude. Much of what made Mal Reynolds such a compelling figure was the contrast Fillion’s natural (or natural-seeming) good-guy-ness brought to him: for all of Mal’s law-breaking and Fed-shooting and doctor-yelling, there’s never any doubt that he’s a good man who’s fallen on hard times, a hero in a less-than-heroic situation.

Yes, I’m aware that Fillion’s an actor and if he’s any good at his job at all — and I believe he is — then there doesn’t have to be any connection whatsoever between the parts he plays and the man himself. But there’s undeniably something of a strength, morality and dignity underneath most of the characters he plays [2], and whether that quality has any basis in the man behind the characters or not, it makes him an appealing presence on screen.

I’m still hoping that quality someday makes him a huge star.

(Funnily/sadly enough, between the time I started writing this post Monday night and the time I finished it Wednesday night, Fillion’s newest show, Drive, was canceled by FOX… after three episodes. Nathan, if you are going to be a Big Huge Star at some point soon, I don’t think it’s going to be any thanks to the bastards at FOX.)

[1] I’ll talk more about my history with soaps some other time, but I firmly believe that watching Days with my mom when I was little probably helped foster in me the love for serialized storytelling I’ve still got today.

[2] The most notable exception to this tendency was his arc as the evil preacher Caleb in Season 6 of Buffy; there was no underlying streak of good to be found in that character, and because of it I think having Fillion, who’d just been de-Firefly-ed, play the part struck something of a wrong chord.

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Originally published at my site. Please leave any comments there.

For most of this week, I’ve been afraid my iPod had died.  Afraid and terribly depressed — the thought of an iPod-free life was quite funk-making.

Everything was working fine up until a Tuesday or so, when I noticed that the battery was dead dead dead, which struck me as very strange as I’d just charged it the night before.  But dead dead dead it was, and I spent the next two days trying to charge it with no success.  After several attempts at charging it across two different computers, I bought a new charger/sync cable last night which charged the thing right up.  (The old cable apparently still works just fine for syncing, but won’t pull in enough power to charge the battery anymore.  Strange.)

Anyway, my iPod was so happy to have a fully-charged battery again, it blessed me with a blood-pumping collection of favorites on the drive into work this morning.  It would seem charging it up has also made its built-in moodometer function properly once again, as said blood-pumping songs meshed beautifully with the gorgeous, gorgeous spring morning we’re having here in N.C.  Here, have a look:

“Rabbit Run” - Eminem  I have an entire post brewing on this very song.  I kid you not.

“All These Things I’ve Done” - The Killers  I have not much to say about this song other than I loves it.  It’s one of those songs that goes straight from my headphones to my spinal cord.

“Behind the Wall of Sleep” - The Smithereens
  She was tall and cool and pretty and she dressed as black as coal.  No wonder I love this song, as I think that lyric described most every woman I crushed on in my early-to-mid 20s.

“The Waitress Song” - Blue Sky Salesmen
Very, very few of you reading this will have ever heard this song, and those that have will understand and know why it brightened my mood this morning.

“Holiday” - Green Day
   This song brought on a most impressive fit of air guitar-n-drums from me this morning.  My hands still hurt from enthusiastically pounding the steering wheel in time with Tre Cool.

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Originally published at my site. Please leave any comments there.

Edward Norton has been cast as Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, the quasi-sequel to 2003’s near-disastrous Hulk. (I say quasi-sequel in that I believe they’ll be skipping over all of the origin hoo-hah and such, acknowledging that we’ve already seen those bits without referencing the first movie at all.) Norton’s actually an excellent choice to play Banner — Banner’s supposed to be a world-class scientific intellect, and Norton, one of my favorite actors, is one of the best of his generation at playing smart. [1] Plus, scared and/or angry and/or conflicted Banner? Norton will be all over that.

The Incredible Hulk will be directed by Louis Leterrier, director of the Transporter movies, so we know we’ll be getting far more of Angry Action Hulk than Angsty Emo Hulk, which suits me just fine. As much as I respect Ang Lee and what he wanted to do with Hulk, it just didn’t work well. Knowing that the next movie will have Edward Norton and much more in the way of “Hulk smash?” Oh yeah, I’m there.

Unfortunately, this new configuration means I’m doubting we’ll get any Jennifer Connelly in the next movie, and that saddens me, but it’s a tradeoff I can live with.

[1] Jessica Alba as a genetic engineer in Fantastic Four? Not so much. Now if they’d cast Leelee Sobieski… her I could’ve bought as a big-brain scientist.

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Originally published at my site. Please leave any comments there.

  • I’m willing to grant everyone involved with the production of the kinda stinky Ocean’s 12 an Official Do-Over and pretend like Ocean’s 13 is the direct sequel to Ocean’s 11.  The trailer for O13 sure makes it look like it’s going to have all of the same qualities which made the first one so much fun — qualities which Soderbergh, et al. apparently left in their other pants when making O12.  This one’s now gone toward the top of my Most Anticipated Movies of Summer 2007.  (Hmm, what’s that smell?  *snf snf*  Oh, yeah, I think that’s the smell of another blog post coming up!)
  • Hey, fans of Firefly:  Yahoo! TV has a four-minute video preview of Drive, the new show from Nathan Fillion and Tim Minear.  (The video’s on the right-hand side of the page.)  I was planning on watching this anyway just because of the presence of Fillion and Minear, but after watching the preview I’m actually interested in seeing Drive on its own merits.  OK, yeah, what little bit we saw of the battered wife was pretty cliche, but the scene with Fillion was intriguing.  Time to TiVo up!
  • Lee Iacocca has had enough from the current administration.   Yes, legendary industrialist Lee Iacocca expresses his outrage at the Republican White House — kinda says something, doesn’t it?  Iacocca rightly points out that the guys in office right now might be in charge, but they’re not showing a damn bit of leadership.  Big difference there.
  • At long, long last, the final issue of The Ultimates 2 has gone to the printer, and Marvel was kind enough to celebrate by offering a preview of Bryan Hitch’s stunning eight-page foldout spread from that issue.  I’m not sure that any comic has ever needed an interior eight-page foldout spread in it before, but I’d imagine this one does, and that Hitch artwork is simply jaw-dropping.  Personally, I’m just glad this comic’s finally coming out since that gets us that much closer to a hardcover collection, which means I can get that to go with my hardcover of the first Ultimates series.
  • The Inbox of Nardo Pace, The Empire’s Worst Engineer.
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Originally published at my site. Please leave any comments there.

I still like action figures. I admit it. Yes, dammit, I’m a 36-year-old man who still digs action figures. My favorite present I got for Christmas last year was the two-pack of Superman and Batman figures based on the artwork of Ed McGuinness — of all the Superman figures I’ve ever owned, and that’s a decently high number, this one’s by far the coolest.

Also, and I think this fact has now been established beyond all doubt, I used to be into hair metal in the 80s and early 90s. But you know what? Everybody was into it back then. I feel no shame.

OK, well, only a little.

But even with my love for metal-lite and for small posable toys… I’m still somewhat disturbed by the concept of these Bon Jovi action figures.

Yes, you read that right. Bon. Jovi. Action. Figures.

There’s three scenarios I can envision that might have led to these action figures being produced, and none of the three of them will really help me sleep any better tonight. One: the people at McFarlane Toys did some market research and decided there was enough of a market for Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora dolls that it made financial sense to move forward with the project. Two: Todd McFarlane himself is enough of a Bon Jovi fan that he decided this was a project he wanted his company to put into action regardless of the potential profit involved. Three: Bon Jovi and Sambora really, really wanted to see themselves as action figures and paid McFarlane Toys to make it so.

However they came to be… I’m sorry, but these things are too lame even for me, and I’m usually not scared off by lame. Hell, I’ve been known to snuggle up in front of the fire on a cold night with a steaming hot mug of lame while wrapped in a warm blanket of goofy.

But this is where I draw the line of lame.

(You know, I’ve never really seriously considered getting a tattoo. Were I going to, the only symbol that’s ever meant enough to me to even consider getting emblazoned on my body forevermore is Superman’s S-shield. Well, I can’t do that, and you know why? Because Jon Bon Jovi has that same symbol on his right deltoid. Talk about lame — why would I possibly want to be ink brothers with this man, this handsome, internationally famous, multi-gazillionaire likely future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who’s gotten to simulate sex with Cindy Crawford? I’m sure I could find better role models than that.)

My questions about the toys’ origins aside, my other big question is this: who’s actually going to buy these things? I mean, of course, besides people named Bon Jovi or Sambora. There can’t be that many people still that rabidly passionate about these guys, right? I mean, of course, outside of New Jersey…?

And then I remembered that yes, there are still quite a number of Bon Jovi-philes out there, as is made obvious in this documentary video (now several years old, but still pertinent, I feel):

Her Humps

Apr. 2nd, 2007 11:09 pm
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Originally published at my site. Please leave any comments there.

There was a time when I really, really, really didn’t much like Alanis Morrisette. Couldn’t stand her, to be truthful. But that dislike, if I were being brutally honest with myself, wasn’t because of Morissette herself but rather because of her song “You Oughta Know” and the reaction from the media (and no small number of fans) to the song. Such a tremendous hullaballoo was made out of the fact that this woman (gasp! a woman!) was singing about these aggressively sexual acts in the song as if no female singer-songwriter had ever addressed issues of sex, jealousy, rage and revenge before. The frenzy surrounding that one song (and the near incessant radio and video play the song received for most of 1995) really turned me off of her music… even after I realized how catchy the rest of Jagged Little Pill was. [1] The more albums she sold and the more spins that record got and the more magazine covers she turned up on, the stronger my hatred for her grew.

(All of that distaste for her on my part was formed before I developed the Popular Does Not Automatically Equal Suck theory I operate under these days. Ah, the folly of youth.)

But over the last ten years or so, as she her name has become less synonymous with that one song (and, well, as I grew older), I’ve mellowed more than a bit and started to kind of dig on her. Some of her songs are actually pretty groovy, and her voice manages to be both fragile and biting at the same time, and very vulnerable — even when I have no idea what the hell her lyrics are talking about, I always feel like she feels whatever it is she’s singing.

Tonight, though… tonight my respect for Ms. Morissette increased a hundredfold:

(Click here if the video won’t show for you.)

Well done, Alanis. Well done.

(It occurred to me while listening to this song, though, that it seemed like a cover Tori Amos should have done.)

[1] Still, infernally catchy or not, please don’t get me started about the almost complete lack of irony in the song “Ironic.”

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Originally published at my site. Please leave any comments there.

I’m sure this post will be neither the first nor the last time you’ll see this info today, but I feel like I should be a good geek and pass it along, just in case:

The cover art for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has been released.

Warning:  the full-size image at that site is friggin’ enormous.

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Originally published at AllenHolt.com. Please leave any comments there.

Time now to play a fun little game I call “Going Through My Referrer Logs To See Which Search Engine Phrases Brought Users To My Site In The Last Week.”  Honestly, though?  I think I need to come up with a better name for the game than that.  I like to feel that I’m doing a public service here, providing answers to those questions that Google seems to think I’m uniquely capable of answering.  It’s a responsibility I take very seriously, and I’ll do my best to help soothe the mental anguish and sleepless nights these answerless questions must be causing to the questioners.

opening band for adrenalize tour

This one came to me in several different forms, all from former metalheads like myself desperately yearning to know which band or bands opened up for Def Leppard on their Adrenalize tour in 1992.  Well, Google led you people to the right place.  I’m gonna give you the answer right now.  You ready, my fellow headbangers?  Here goes:

No one.  That’s why you’re having such trouble finding the answer.  Def Leppard didn’t have an opening act that time out…they played a three-plus hour set without any supporting bands on the bill.  You shelled out all of that money hard-earned by busing tables and selling pot for a 100%-all-damn-Lep set, bay-bee.  Did you wanna get rocked, the Lep asked you?  Oh yes, you answered.  You wanted your asses rocked into near cataonia by a three-hour syringe full of pure grade-A Leppard.

(This was the case for the American portions of their tour, anyway; it’s possible the answer’s different in other parts of the world.)

A Love Song for Bobby Long spoiler

You want a spoiler for the mostly-wretched movie A Love Song for Bobby Long?  OK, here goes:  John Travolta sucked mightily in it.  How’s that do you?  OK, fine, here’s a bonus spoiler for you:  yes, it’s true — you do get a nice side-shot of Scarlett Johansson’s boob.

give me a warm enema daddy

Um.  Sorry, can’t help you there.

“inflated boy” superhero

My best guess here is that someone was trying to find out some more information about Chuck “Bouncing Boy” Taine, storied member of the Legion of Super-Heroes (and nowadays featured on the cartoon about said futuristic teens) and role model for fat kids the world over.  Well, unknown person, now that you know his actual name (though I honestly don’t think “Inflated Boy” is any less ridiculous than “Bouncing Boy”), you can read up on his heroic legacy at the Wikipedia.  Always remember:  Chuck might have been the fat kid in the Legion, but he still ended up with a smokin’ hot wife…two of ‘em, technically.

layer cake+what is his name

Another one which came to me in a number of permutations, all of which wanted to know the name of Daniel Craig’s character in the excellent film Layer Cake.  I don’t think this is a spoiler, so I’m going to give you the answer:  we don’t know.  And not only don’t we know, we’re not supposed to know.  The character himself said as much:  “If you knew my name, you’d be as clever as me.”  Whatever the character’s real name was (he’s referred to in the credits only as “XXXX”), it wasn’t revealed within the movie itself or the novel on which the movie was based.  Any site which tries to tell you his name, unless it comes directly from J.J. Connelly, the novel’s author, is lying to you.  This particular bit of information is one you’re going to have to get used to not knowing.

fuzzy storytelling guy

Yup, that’s me!  (Though I hope the “fuzzy” refers more to my propensity for hirsuteness than to my storytelling techniques, else I’ve got a problem.)

actress who did not wear panties to the oscar

Can’t help you there, either, though I must admit I’m more than a little curious to know the answer myself.

im into fuzzy rabbits.  kind of smart i have a big

Ladies and gentlemen, this week’s winner for the Search Keyword Which Causes Me The Most Mental Discomfort Award!

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Originally published at AllenHolt.com. Please leave any comments there.

I known I’ve been away for awhile — I’ve been drowning in work and too tired to write when I get home, so the poor site here has been suffering.  And it’s been killing me:  I totally missed writing about the Oscar nominations (I didn’t even know they were happening until after they’d happened, and that never happens), totally missed writing about the Grammys (hooray Dixie Chicks, though psst, Natalie:  a little humility never hurts), totally missed writing about whatever the hell is happening to Britney Spears (is there anyone who cares about this girl enough to help get her shit together?).  But the Oscars are Sunday night, and I couldn’t let them pass without offering My Official Predictions for this year’s awards.

My regular Oscar-predicting disclaimer applies:  what follows are not the movies or performances I think should win, but rather those I think will win.  As with every year since I became a parent, I’ve seen very few of the nominated films.  This year in particular it seems like there’s a lot of smaller independent films nominated for major awards, and those usually prove even harder for me to see.  Maybe I’ll write up my own awards soon based on the, what, 20 movies I saw from 2006, but for now, this is what you get.  (I’ll say this as a preview of my awards:  you’ll see a whole lot of The Prestige in there.)

Away we go:

Best PictureBabel.  I don’t want this movie to win it because I’ve heard it’s such a prime example of The Theatre of Look How Much Life Sucks, and I don’t have much desire to see that kind of thing rewarded, well done or not.  None of this year’s nominees scream Best Picture to me, honestly, but I suppose something’s gotta win.  My preference would be Little Miss Sunshine (the anti-Babel — life may suck, but you have to find the joy and beauty in it anyway), if only to see a comedy win Best Picture, which almost never happens; I really enjoyed The Departed, but I have trouble seeing what’s essentially a high-class crime thriller winning the top prize.  Babel’s the kind of Important Film which is constructed to win Oscars (ref. Crash, 2006), so I’d imagine it will, depressing a thought as it may be.

Best Actor:  Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland.  Every year, there’s a shocking upset! in one of the major categories, and this year Best Actor feels like it’s got the best shot at seeing a surprise winner.  For all of the talk about Whitaker’s performance as Idi Amin in Scotland, it seems like the movie itself wasn’t particularly well regarded; while I think he’s still clearly the front-runner, I want to say right here that I won’t be even a tiny bit shocked if Leonardo DiCaprio walks away with it.  While technically the award would be for Blood Diamond, DiCaprio’s work in The Departed was also Oscar-worthy, so I can see Academy voters going the two-for-the-price-of-one route and giving the nod to Leo.

Best Actress:  Helen Mirren, The Queen.  If this award goes to anyone else, it’d go down as one of the greatest upsets in Oscar history.

Best Supporting Actor:  Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children.  This one’s my actual upset pick.  I know Eddie Murphy is considered the favorite here, but Hollywood loves comeback stories even more than it does wait-but-I-didn’t-know-he-could-do-that stories.  Haley’s out-of-nowhere performance was, so I’ve heard, devastating.  Plus, A) I can see voters not wanting to give the same movie both supporting actor awards (see the next paragraph) and B) I can’t help but think all of those ads for Norbit can’t be helping Murphy’s Oscar caché (we’re going to give him an Oscar?  Oh, nuh uh).  Sorry, Eddie; maybe now it’ll be time to learn how to pick your roles better.

Best Supporting Actress:  Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls.  From all I’ve heard, the only crime if Hudson were to win this award would be that she didn’t win Best Actress, instead.  I’m not necessarily big on musicals, but I want to see this movie because of all I’ve heard about Hudson’s (and Murphy’s) performance.  Upset potential exists for Babel’s Rinko Kikuchi — never underestimate the awards-garnering power of portraying the handicapped.

Best Director:  Martin Scorcese, The Departed.  Ironically, Marty will finally win the award for the movie he probably least deserves it for.  That’s not a knock on The Departed, which is a fantastic movie — it’s just not Scorcese’s best directorial job, especially given some of the movies for which he hasn’t won.  This win will classify as much for a lifetime achievement award as a win for this particular movie — the Academy will finally be able to rectify the fact that they’ve given Clint Eastwood two of these and never even given Scorcese one.  (If, for some reason, Eastwood somehow pulls out a win here for Letters From Iwo Jima, I think Marty will be fully justified in jumping Clint on the way to the podium and pulling a Departed of his own on him.)

Best Original Screenplay:  Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine.  I believe this will be the only major award Sunshine gets; it seems like when the Academy falls in love with a little indie of this sort and lavishes it with bunches of nominations, they usually wind up giving it one award as a pat on the head, and frequently that award is for its screenplay.  (Lost In Translation, anyone?)  So this award will just have to do.  (I’d like to say here that I wish the Oscars would follow the pattern of the Screen Actors Guild awards and issue a Best Ensemble Acting award; I think it’s quite likely Little Miss Sunshine, a movie in which there really isn’t a lead actor, would have taken that one.)

Best Adapted Screenplay: William Monahan, The Departed.   Eh, just a gut feeling, really.  None of the nominees jumps out at me as an obvious winner; I’m thinking it comes down to this or Little Children by Todd Field and Tom Perrotta.  I’ll tell you this right now:  while you’re watching the awards telecast, if you see The Departed win this award and Scorcese wins for Best Director and you’ve got money riding on it winning Best Picture — go change your bets fast if you still can.  No way does it win all three.

Best Animated FeatureCars.  I’m really torn here.  I thought Happy Feet was a better picture overall than Cars, but I’d imagine Cars is going to win — it’s Pixar, and no Pixar movie released since they began this award has failed to win it. (OK, yes, that’s only two movies, but still).   [EDIT: Nope, I’m wrong here.  As my friend Tim P. pointed out, Monsters Inc. lost to Shrek the first year this award was given out.  Pixar’s not quite as infallible as I thought.  That’ll learn me to rely on my memory instead of doing research.]  Plus, Cars has Paul Newman, so.  Either way, I’m not going to complain — both movies are certainly deserving.

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Originally published at my site. Please leave any comments there.

During the late eighties and early nineties, I shelled out far too much money on watching far too many hair metal bands play live. [1] I saw concerts from most of the major players on the hair-metal scene between the time I was 15 and 22. Please note that what follows below aren’t necessarily my five favorite hair-metal bands — not even close, honestly — but the five shows that I enjoyed the most.

5. Mötley Crüe with Warrant, Mobile Civic Center, Mobile, Alabama, 1989.

I was never a huge Crüe fan — their campy faux-devil-worship early in their career really left a bad taste in my mouth — but this show was from the tour supporting their Dr. Feelgood album, by far my favorite of theirs (not coincidentally their most mainstream-pop album). And besides that, I wanted to go see a Crüe show for the sheer spectacle of it. Their concerts were supposed to be pyrotechnically-infused wonderlands of light and really, really loud sound. They didn’t disappoint, either, blowing my eardrums and burning my eyes with all of the many, many, many explosions. The show also featured the sight of Tommy Lee’s drum riser being hydraulically lifted fifty feet in the air and then floated out over the first few rows of the audience; a Speedo-clad Lee then descended a rope from the elevated riser down into the ecstatic crowd. Definitely an entertaining show.

This concert was also the first time I was conscious of a band using piped-in pre-recorded vocals to augment their sound — Warrant, then on their first major tour, sounded just a little bit too good, if you know what I’m saying.

4. Warrant, The Rock-It Club, Tampa, Florida, 1992.

The second time I saw Warrant, however, it was all them. (Yes, Warrant is on this list twice. Deal.) This show was a surprise show at the now-defunct Rock-It Club, which at the time was the rock club in Tampa. Warrant had been recording their third album, Dog Eat Dog, in Tampa (a couple of the guys actually shopped sometimes in the record store where I worked), and this show was to test out some of the new material they’d been working on. The guys sounded tight and seemed like they were really having a blast playing in front of people — I’d imagine that they didn’t get to play out much when recording — and seemed really happy with the new material. (The album absolutely tanked when it came out; between the time I saw this show and the album’s release date, grunge had made bands like Warrant culturally irrelevant.)

The best part of this show, though, had nothing to do with Warrant. Late in the show, my buddy Bill elbowed me and directed my attention to a chubby, mustachioed guy standing about twenty feet to his right.

“Dude, isn’t that Ron Jeremy?”

It damn sure was: The Hedgehog himself. Bill and I both tore our attention away from the rock onstage to go shake the man’s hand and tell him we were big fans of his work. He was very gracious about the whole thing; only later did it occur to me to wonder where his hand might have been before we shook it.

3. Def Leppard, Hampton, Virginia, 1992.

This show was the first date on the Lep’s Adrenalize tour; six friend of mine and I drove from Tampa to Virginia (about 16 hours of driving each way) just to be at the first show on the tour. Personally, I could’ve waited until they played somewhere closer, but my buddies were just tremendous Lepheads (yeah, I know) and it being at that particular show was really important to them. So we made the drive, and it certainly turned out to be a great concert: this was during their years of playing in the round and they didn’t even bother with an opening act, preferring instead to come out and rock our socks off for three full hours instead.

2. Queensrÿche with Suicidal Tendencies, State Palace Theater, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1992.

Completely disregard Suicidal Tendencies. I didn’t like them even a smidge before this show, and I hated having to sit through them. They were absolutely terrible (or perhaps just absolutely Not My Thing). But as much as I hated them, that’s how much I loved Queensrÿche.

The Empire tour, in addition to supporting one my favorite metal albums ever, was the tour during which Queensrÿche (always one of the most intelligent and literate of the metal bands) performed the entirety of their landmark concept album Operation: Mindcrime start to finish. So they came out, played a bunch of songs I really liked, then played the whole Mindcrime album (complete with conceptual video footage on the giant movie screens behind the stage) and then played some more songs I really liked after. And they sounded fantastic — Geoff Tate’s piercing vocals were every bit as impressive live as on record. Just a fantastic show. Fantastic enough to blot the memory of Suicidal Tendencies from my brain.

1. Guns ‘n’ Roses with Soundgarden, Thunderdome, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1992.

Oh, man. Just… oh, man. This show (part of the Use Your Illusion tour) was not just the best metal concert I’ve seen, but the best concert, period. Even better than Neil Diamond. (Seriously.)

We missed most of Soundgarden since my friend Bill, who was the only Tampa native in our group, promised he could easily get us to the Thunderdome (as Tropicana Field was then called) — but then got so shitfacedly drunk before we even left the house that he couldn’t remember how we were supposed to get there. (Bill missed most of the GnR show because of his repeated trips to the bathroom to hurl.)

And man, what a show he missed. The only way the set list could have been better would have been for Axl Rose to call me up the morning of the show and ask which songs I wanted them to play that night. They did every song I knew they’d play; they did every song that I thought they might play; and they played every song that I loved but assumed there was no way in hell they’d do. And even though they’d had an opening act, they still played for three-and-a-half straight hours — and they rocked every one of those 210 minutes. Axl’s vocal gymnastics, Slash’s blistering guitar (the most impressive guitar performance I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Eddie Van Halen)… oh, man. Just… oh, man.

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[1] Funny how even though the term “hair metal” was so derogatory to those bands who played mainstream pop-infused metal and looked pretty while doing it, it seems now to be the accepted term for that particular slice of the late-eighties musical pie. I suppose the hair-metal bands who still tour, now playing in front of small clubs rather than packed arenas, might still consider the term derogatory, but their protestations just aren’t heard by many people anymore.

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Originally published at Do Or Do Not.. You can comment here or there.

I’m a 35-year-old man. I have a family, a good career, a nice house in the suburbs. Regardless of how I may feel inside sometimes, I haven’t really been the fat, greasy, nerdy geek I was as a teenager for a long, long time. So I feel like I shouldn’t really still like anything by Weird Al Yankovic, should I? I mean, c’mon… shouldn’t I have outgrown him by now?

Apparently not. Every now and then he does something like “White and Nerdy,” a video that just friggin’ nails me on so many levels: it’s not just speaking to me but speaking about me as well. (But before you ask, no — though I might speak fluent Javascript, I can’t speak a lick of Klingon. (And how’s that for an image for you? “Lick” and “Klingon” so close together in that sentence? You see how I did that? That was cool, huh?))

You certainly can’t say that Weird Al doesn’t know who his target audience is and just how to play to them — while I have absolutely no data to back this theory up, I’d imagine that geeks in their thirties who’ve grown up with Al make up an even bigger part of his audience than the geeks in their teens who would seem to be the most natural fit for Al’s shtick. Weird Al happened to luck into a unique situation and has ridden it to a career far longer and more successful than I think anyone (including Al himself) ever could have imagined: a large segment of the nerdy crowd who latched on to him originally grew up to use the skills and interests which got them mocked as kids to become reasonably affluent adults. And many of those adults are still Weird Al fans, so he has a dedicated, well-off following who’ve been with him (even if, like me, it’s just occasionally and somewhat passively) for twenty years.

There’s something about the video I wanted to point out, because if I’m gonna be a big geek about it I might as well go all the way: I paused the clip to check out Al’s “top eight friends” on his MySpace page. Completely unsurprisingly, his top friends include Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Pee-Wee Herman, Screech from Saved By The Bell, Frodo Baggins, Napoleon Dynamite and one I can’t read. But then there’s also “Tom” — the creator of MySpace, the guy who every single user gets by default when they create their account… and even moreso than the nerd shoutouts listed above, a very, very nice visual way of indicating that this guy has no real friends. It’s that kind of subtle attention to detail (and this particular detail will only be visible on your screen for less than two seconds, if that) that I appreciate, and something Al’s always really done well — when someone puts the effort into crafting details you’re either going to have to work hard to catch or possibly never catch at all, that’s usually a damn good sign that the crafter really and truly loves what they’re doing.

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Originally published at Do Or Do Not.. You can comment here or there.

We only have a cassette player in our Jeep. We’ve always planned to install a CD player at some point, but never have had both the spare cash and the gumption to get it done at the same time. And for the last two-and-a-half years, we’ve only had one tape to go in that cassette player, a tape that Kelsey got in a gift bag at a friend’s birthday party: Wiggly Safari, by The Wiggles and Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin.

I’ve heard this tape, no lie, a thousand times over the last couple of years. I know every bit of it by heart. This isn’t to say that I like it, oh god no, but it’s become one not-so-small swatch of the fabric of my life — and it’s practically been the soundtrack to Laurel’s life, to the point where she doesn’t want to listen to anything else when we’re in the truck. (Heaven forbid we try to turn on the radio — she starts crying immediately, begging us to put in The Wiggles. The child doesn’t much like change.) Hell, the first song on the cassette is about Irwin himself (“Crocodile Hunter! Big Steve Irwin! Crocodile Hunter! Action MAAAAN!”).

So that’s why I’m a little bit surprised at how sad I feel about the news of Steve Irwin’s flukey death from a stingray barb to the heart while filming in Austraila (though, like many others, I’m not truly all that surprised that he went out in this manner). More days than not, I wind up listening to Irwin’s thick accent, his voice not quite able to contain his infectious enthusiasm for the animal kingdom — I’ve certainly never heard anyone else so fervently insist that camels have beautiful lips and eyelids.

Rest well, Steve Irwin. I’m sure you’ll live on in the speakers of my Jeep for some time to come.

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Originally published at Do Or Do Not.. You can comment here or there.

As I had hoped when the Disney-Pixar deal went down, Pixar’s John Lasseter is reintroducing traditional hand-drawn animated features in his new role as Chief Creative Officer at Disney. First up: The Frog Princess, to be directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the guys who directed The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Treasure Planet (well, two outta three ain’t bad). Alan Menken will be in charge of the music for the movie, which will be a return to the Broadway-esque Disney hits of the early 90’s (think, for example, Beauty and the Beast (which Menken worked on) and The Lion King). This announcement seems to me to be something worth celebrating — the driving talents behind The Little Mermaid making a new cartoon feature with John Lasseter in charge of the whole thing? Oh, yeah, man, good stuff.

But according to the news brief on the IMDb, the Hollywood Reporter doesn’t think Disney’s bringing 2D animation back is such a hot idea: the traditional animation “no longer draws the crowd,” the Reporter says. Um, hello, Hollywood Reporter? Yeah, the thing is that bad hand-drawn animated flicks, movies that seem excessively lame, insult the audience’s intelligence or seem to exist only as launching pads for Happy Meal toys… those are the movies that don’t bring audiences anymore.

Let’s go back to 2002, the year the death knell for cel animation was rung, for just a moment, shall we?

In November of ‘02, Treasure Planet, by most accounts a not-very-good movie, brings in a pitiful $38 million in the United States. Planet’s monumental failure pretty much single-handedly decimates Disney’s cel-drawn animation department, resulting in thousands of layoffs and the shutdown of Disney’s Florida animation facility. It was at this point that the “hand-drawn animation is dead” movement began in earnest.

Yet only five months earlier, Lilo and Stitch, a great movie with plenty of heart designed to appeal to both adults and children, pulled in $145 million domestic, plus launched a spinoff series and several direct-to-DVD sequels. Lilo and Stitch grossed almost as much in its opening weekend ($35 million) as Treasure Planet made during its entire theatrical run. By any metric used, Lilo and Stitch was a solid hit. (For some reason, every article I’ve read of the “no one wants to watch 2D animation” variety ignores this fact — doing so would dispute the foregone conclusion the writers were trying to assert, I suppose.)

Even 2003’s Brother Bear, which was released with relatively little promotion as a result of the huge stinking disaster which was Treasure Planet, managed to earn a healthy $85 million at the box office. (And 2004’s lame Home on the Range, also released with almost no promotion, still managed to out-gross Treasure Planet with a $50 million haul.)

So because of one massive stinkbomb, all of a sudden no one wants to watch hand-drawn animated features anymore?

Audiences do like hand-drawn animation when done well. (Have you noticed the huge surge in popularity of anime over the last decade?) Computer animation isn’t inherently superior, and doesn’t automatically ensure that people will show up. You’ll notice that in the glut of computer-animated movies that have come out over the last few years since 2D animation went into its coma, there have been some pretty big duds in that list, too (The Wild and it’s $36 million take, anyone?). Would The Iron Giant or The Lion King have been better movies if they had been done in 3D rather than 2D? No, I don’t believe it would have. What makes these movies work are the characters, the story, the songs (where applicable), the heart and soul that comes through — not whether the animation is flat or three-dimensional.

If John Lasseter’s going to be overseeing these new features, I have every expectation that the new breed of 2D movies will be more Lilo-like than Planet-esque. Lasseter might be most associated with computer animation, but the man knows storytelling and character and detail, and it’s those qualities which I hope will make these new hand-drawn features every bit as excellent as the Pixar films.

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Originally published at Do Or Do Not.. You can comment here or there.

While I’m sure all of you were on your couches at 8:40 this morning, glued to your TVs, bowl of Bran Flakes balanced precariously on your trembling hand as your heart slammed in your chest with anticipation, knowing you were now just minutes away from hearing this year’s Emmy nominations… oh, wait, that was just me? Geez, sorry.

Well, anyway, here’s the answers I promised you yesterday, with some extra commentary thrown in for good measure:

Read the rest of this entry » )
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Originally published at Do Or Do Not.. You can comment here or there.

Like most of us, I shall be sitting in front of my TV at 8:39 a.m. EST tomorrow morning, anxiously waiting for Brad Garrett and Julia Louis-Dreyfus to tell me who’s going to be up for this year’s Emmy awards. And, like most of us, I’ll be laying in my bed awake for hours tonight, twitching wildly under the covers while using all of my spare brain cycles on questions like:

  • Who will be this year’s Blythe Danner (Huff) or Patricia Arquette (Medium) — either a little-known actor or an off-the-mainstream-radar performance which will elicit cries of “wha’ fu’?!” with a surprise nomination?
  • Which of the 182 regular cast members of Lost will be singled out for praise? Will Lost find itself in the situation The West Wing did in its first few years where so many of its cast were deserving that they almost had to be rotated in and out of the process on a yearly basis?
  • Speaking of The West Wing, will it pick up any thanks-for-the-memories nominations? Will the late (and sorely missed) John Spencer get a posthumous nomination, much like John Ritter did three years ago?
  • Will any of the deserving shows on the soon-to-be-extiguished WB or UPN get any notice — will Gilmore Girl Lauren Graham be snubbed for the sixth straight year? Will all of the critical praise and devoted viewership earn Veronica Mars‘ Kristen Bell a nod?
  • Can Arrested Development emmbarrass Fox further by earning another Best Comedy Series nomination — and, hopefully, even pull off another win?
  • Whatever will Emmy voters possibly do without Everybody Loves Raymond around to lavish ridiculous numbers of nominations on? Spread them among quality shows like AD or Scrubs or find some other mediocre and inoffensive sitcom on which to heap their praise? (Oh, jeez — does that mean we’re in for a flood of noms for Joey?)
  • Can the bowing-out-five-years-too-late Will and Grace possibly best the five guest-actor nominations it got last year? Will all four of its principals get nods once again, even though they haven’t truly deserved them in years?
  • Will Deadwood be eligible this year? No, really — will it? I honestly don’t know.
  • Will Little Einsteins get a nomination for Best Children’s Program? Because it totally should.

I know how difficult it will be for you to wait until tomorrow, at which point I’ll be able to break down the nominations for you and answer all of these questions — and a bunch of other questions you didn’t even realize you were asking — in Questioning the Emmy Nominatons, Part Two!

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Originally published at Do Or Do Not.. You can comment here or there.

There’s a scene early on in Superman Returns which beautifully establishes director Bryan Singer’s priorities for his latest superhero epic: the Kryptonian rocket which Superman has apparently been using during his mysterious time off Earth crashes in a cornfield near his mother’s farm in Kansas. We don’t see the ship land, however, not directly; we see Martha Kent’s face and reaction as she watches the crash and explosion through the window in her kitchen. We see what she sees only as a reflection in a windowpane. From the outset of the movie, Singer tells us he’s more interested in the characters and the emotions of his story than he is in the special effects; he’s ultimately more concerned with the man than with the super.

Speaking of that man: as difficult as it was, I tried very hard not to hold the fact that he’s not Christopher Reeve against new Superman Brandon Routh. [1] I thought Routh was just fine, but clearly Routh was no Reeve, a man I’m firmly convinced was genetically engineered to play Superman. Routh mostly aped Reeve’s performances, especially his bumbling Clark Kent, and he made a decent go of it. And I certainly don’t blame Routh for mimicking Reeve here; I’m sure he was instructed to do so by Singer. Since this movie was lifting the aesthetic of the first two Superman movies whole-cloth, Routh’s performance actually would have been out of place had he not tried to copy Reeve. And while Routh might not have the screen presence that Reeve did, his Superman still captures the easy grace and charm of the character.

Even if I didn’t like Routh’s Superman as much as I did Reeve’s (and to be truthful, that’s not even a fair fight), I far preferred Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane to Margot Kidder’s. I never liked Kidder’s Lois as I didn’t find her at all attractive, appealing or charming — I couldn’t understand why Superman would fall so heavily in love with this woman who was more annoying than anything else. Bosworth, on the other hand, has plenty of the appeal and charm Kidder lacked. Her Lois, while still being younger than I might have liked, also had enough of the flinty edge underneath I expect from Lois Lane. Bosworth did a wonderful job of conveying the heartache and confusion Lois felt when Superman disappeared and the internal fight when he returns. (As much as I liked Bosworth, though, I will have to admit to a few quibbles with some of Lois’ parenting choices: the intrepid journalist endangering herself is one thing; putting her five-year-old son in harm’s way certainly wasn’t her brightest move.)

Kevin Spacey brought much more menace to the role of Lex Luthor than Gene Hackman did, and I appreciated this more evil Lex: to me, Lex Luthor’s not supposed to be the buffoon Hackman portrayed him to be. I was afraid from the previews that Spacey was going to camp up the part, but luckily all of the campiest bits were used in the trailers; past that, Luthor was the hyper-intellectual follicularly-challenged menace he’s supposed to be. Roger Ebert said he didn’t think Spacey was having any fun with his role, and I can see thinking that if one is using Hackman’s Luthor as the measuring stick — Hackman clearly looked like he was having a better time with his Luthor, but that doesn’t make his a better performance. I don’t believe Luthor is supposed to be a fun character. This is a man willing to kill billions of people; what should be fun about that?

You might be asking yourself at this point: “Hey, all of this stuff about the characters is cool and all, but what about the action, man?” Yes, the action sequences were every bit what I expected them to be. Every penny of that rumored $200 million budget was on that screen. Singer’s Superman does the sorts of things you expect Superman to be doing, and the special effects have advanced to the point where not only can he do the impossible, but he can look damn good doing it. The plane/shuttle rescue in particular was breathtaking to behold, exactly the kind of thing done regularly in the comic books but formerly impossible to pull off in the movies, and the Superman Saves Metropolis sequence made me wish Metropolis would be in such peril more often. My only problem with the action sequences was that there weren’t enough of them, but as noted above, Singer was emphasizing the man over the super, so the action took something of a backseat to the characters.

My one major complaint with Superman Returns — and it’s a complaint serious enough to knock my overall grade for the movie down a half a notch — was with the Beatdown of Superman sequence. (I don’t feel it’s a spoiler to mention that this scene occurs since it’s featured prominently in the most recent trailers, but you might want to skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know what happens.) A depowered Superman gets thoroughly whipped by Luthor’s goons. That much I can deal with, even if I don’t like it — the problem I had was with the fact that Superman doesn’t fight back at all, save for a feeble grab at Luthor’s legs. He didn’t as much as take a swing at his attackers, and that’s not true to the spirit of the character. Superman does not crawl away from a fight on his hands and knees, even if he’s in pain and has lost his powers — it’s not his powers that make him Superman, but rather his willingness to fight for, as Daily Planet editor Perry White says in this movie, “truth, justice, all that stuff.” Superman’s mission is traditionally called the “never-ending battle,” not the “as long as I have super-strength and invulnerability battle.” Seeing a battered Superman crawl through the mud in pain and humiliaton struck a very wrong chord with me; I don’t see why the scene would have lost any power or resonance had he fought back against his attackers yet still been overwhelmed by their greater numbers.

Still, Superman Returns was a glorious “welcome home” to a character who hasn’t graced the big screen in far too long. Superman is the iconic superhero, and it’s good to see him finally get the super treatment he deserves.

Grade: A-
________________________________________
[1] I normally don’t advocate writing reviews by comparing different movies or different intrepreations of a character, but Singer invited us to do exactly that by so closely following the vision Richard Donner put forth in 1978. Not comparing the two would both feel dishonest and like the review was incomplete. Singer took the exact opposite tack with Superman Returns from the one Christopher Nolan took with his masterful reimagination Batman Begins: while Begins completely repudiated the four previous films in the series, Returns is slavishly faithful to Superman and Superman II. Nearly every memorable moment from the first movie was either recycled, updated or knowingly echoed with a wink in the new movie. I certainly appreciate wanting to ground the audience who grew up with the originals to feel like this newest entry in the franchise was still part of the same universe, but it almost felt like too much on occasion.

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Originally published at Do Or Do Not.. You can comment here or there.

I might not have the love for Spider-Man that I do for Superman, but I’d be seriously remiss in my geeky duties if I didn’t let you people know that the first teaser trailer for Spider-Man 3 was released today. And while I’ve never been a fan of Venom, what they show of the alien symbiote does actually look pretty sweet… as does the black costume. And the Sandman.

It’s certainly not enough to distract much of my attention from the fact that I’ll be watching Superman Returns in <checks watch> 28 hours and seven minutes, but it’s nice to know that I’ve got what looks to be a kickin’ superhero epic to look forward to next summer.

Unlike, say, 2008’s Iron Man, which I have a feeling is going to suck hard enough to pull my stomach lining out through my mouth.

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Allison

March 2012

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