Thursday, June 29, 2006

Snakes on a Slow News Day

Although I work on the Internet and have been known to occasionally, when time allows, read a blog or two in my spare time, I'm not one of those "OMG, Old Media Has Gone to the Dogs" or "Why do they even bother with newspapers anymore?" complainers.

Sometimes, though, there are stories that hurt even *my* head.

Case in point, this article from the LA Times written by Dawn C. Chmielewski and published today.

In the story, she breaks the news that there's a movie called "Snakes on a Plane." She reveals that the movie was temporarily retitled "Pacific Air 121," but that the title was changed back after filmmakers insisted upon keeping "Snakes on a Plane." She breathlessly uncovers the information that bloggers have help stir up a little buzz about the movie, including a site called Snakes on a Blog. She seems to have found out that producers went back and reshot parts of the movie to get an R-rating, by adding nudity and even one foul line of dialogue suggested by online people.

Because this is a finger-on-the-pulse piece of reporting, she even comes up with the shocking truth that the Internet is influencing film and television and breaks the news that sometimes people involved with television shows read message boards to see if plotlines are working and respond accordingly.

This is a trend piece in a major urban newspaper, one of the nation's most decorated and read papers. Heck, it's a newspaper located in Los Angeles, the center of the entertainment industry. And it's 1000-plus words and each and every single piece of information in it is around six months old and some parts -- TV producers getting online feedback -- haven't been newsworthy for five or six years at a minimum. The information about the "Snakes" reshoots broke back in March and has been endlessly recirculated, even in the most mainstream of sources, papers like USA Today, and yet it seems to have been the impetus for the story. Did it take her three months to get all of her sources straight? Geez. The only plausible solution I can think is that maybe she was holding out for a quote from the film's director and that New Line had promised an exclusive to another source and then the editor decided to hold onto the story in the hopes that people would just forget that they'd already read everything several times before.

Sorry. Every once in a while, things like this make me want to bang my head against a wall. Having had minimal sleep probably makes things worse.

Tomorrow, I look forward to the LA Times breaking the news that "Waterworld" went over budget and that nobody has found any Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

Since I (a bad journalist myself) and ranting today about bad journalism, I must point out FoxNews' Roger Friedman's moronic update on the first day box office for "Superman Returns." The figure is $21 million for late Tuesday showings and the full day on Wednesday. The numbers are probably neither great nor awful. They've pretty inconclusive, in fact. Well, they're inconclusive unless you're Friedman (and several dozen other online pundits) and you want to call them "anemic." But whatever.

What really amazes me is that after his box office stuff, Friedman adds this unrelated paragraph: "And just in case anyone who's reading this has any questions about it, there is no implication or any other idea that this Superman is any way a gay character. I don't know how that story started in the media. He is, like most superheroes, entirely sexless, even though it's quite apparent that he's had (heterosexual) sex."

The things Roger Friedman knows about superheroes could, like his non-gossip knowledge of movies and Hollywood, dance on the head of a pin.

Sigh. I need a nap.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Notas de Mexico City: Air Mexicana Edition

Some percentage of my readers know that I'm currently in Mexico City for a set visit for una pocita pelicula I like to call "Resident Evil: Extinction." Well, actually I like to call it "Resident Evil: Annihilation," but that's just because I hadn't bothered to learn its name. Other acceptable titles include "3 Resident 3 Evil" and "Resident Evil: Mexico City Drift."

I only just arrived at the hotel and I don't know where I am. All I can say is that it's the place where they shot part of "The Matador." I haven't seen "The Matador," but rest-assured, that sucker's goin' on my Netflix queue ASAP.

I only have quick musings on my flight from LA on Mexicana Aero, particularly if I don't mention that the old woman sitting next to me had breath like death and that she started sleeping immediately and that with sleep came snoring and that with snoring came accelerated Dead Breath. Blech. Still, it's better than sitting next to Ron Jeremy.

At the risk of being called an Ugly American-Canadian, I feel inclined to muse on several facets of my lunch, or rather breakfast. I was offered the choice between cheese enchiladas and a ham-and-cheese burrito, which was already peculiar enough given that it was 8:30 in the morning. I went with the burrito due to my oft-maligned belief that a meal isn't really a meal if it doesn't include meat. However, unless "jamon" has changed meaning since I took Spanish in high school and college, my burrito had none of it. It had queso and some mysterious filling that wasn't really egg and wasn't really potato and actually wasn't identifiable as any food product. Again, at 8:30 in the morning? Muy odd. The burrito came with a roll and I haven't decided if that form of carb-mixing is acceptable in a "garlic bread goes with pasta" sort of way or if it's wacky in a "Subway sandwich with a roll" kind of way. In addition, there was a packet of "assorted cookies." The front of the package indicated, indeed, that there were myriad possibilities for the enclosed galletas. Instead, I got two chocolate chip cookies. The corpse sitting next to me got two chocolate chip cookies. The man sitting next to her? Also two chocolate chip cookies. That is hardly an assortment.

Anyway, there's probably something to be written about the prepaid "authorized taxi" system, which is supposed to reduce your odds of getting kidnapped. Heck, it appears to have worked.

That's about all. It's time to wander outside of the hotel to figure out where we actually are.

First, though, I'm gonna take some Advil (out of the house at 4:30 this morning) and drink a big glass of tapwater. Who am I to begrudge Montezuma his well-deserved revenge?

Any quick recommendations for things I should try to see in Mexico City Proper during our down-time tomorrow afternoon? Gracias por todos!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

MovieWatch: "A Scanner Darkly"

"A Scanner Darkly"
Director: Richard Linklater
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 42
In a Nutshell: An interesting failure? Richard Linklater has taken a book that was supposedly Philip K. Dick's most autobiographical and given it a bizarre spin that could best be described as stylized banality. Although the movie is roto-scoped in the same way that characterized Linklater's "Waking Life," most of the movie requires and justifies no such aesthetic, which is almost the point. It's a borderline sci-fi story about an undercover narcotics officer (Keanu Reeves) and the deadbeat druggies he's infiltrated and become part of. When the movie shows the effects of the film's new designer drug Substance D, the animators get to have a field day, inserting bugs and aliens and other weirdness. For the majority of the movie, though, the film simulates a sort of junkie logic and as he's been doing since "Slacker," Linklater just enjoys sitting back and recording the patter, even if it isn't even particularly profound in its subtext. In those scenes -- scenes that make up most of the movie -- it's hard to shake the impression that Linklater has directed a stagnant movie of static close-ups and discordant performances and left it to the animators to cover up his failings in plot, character and imagery. At a certain point, the originality of the film's style wore off and it became nearly as monotonous as listening to a Keanu Reeves voice-over, which has to be as mind-numbing as an experience this side of Substance D. Yes, I can see how that might be Linklater's point and I can intellectually work myself into a place where I was interested by "A Scanner Darkly," but not into a place where I enjoyed it.

A note: Because I'm respectful I'm observing embargoes on "Monster House" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." As soon as reviews start popping up online for either, I'll write a blurb on my impressions of both films.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Take Me To The Pilots: Final ABC Disk

[How many times must I tell you?!?!? These capsules aren't meant as reviews. Most of these pilots will undergo at least minor -- and possibly major -- alterations, tweaks and recastings before they make it on air in the fall. These are, however, my first impressions:]

Show: "The Nine"
The Pitch: This one may actually be sui generis
Quick Response: While other people fell in love with the concept -- a 52-hour standoff in a bank brings nine strangers together -- I did not. I was skeptical, in fact, until I saw CHI MCBRIDE WITH HAIR. That was it. I was sold. Seriously, this goes up there with NBC's "Friday Night Lights" on my list of the best pilots of the year. I can't praise pilot director Alex Graves' work here enough. In 44 minutes, he has to introduce at least a dozen characters, provide hints into at least nine backstories, work in multiple time frames and skip from location to location, all while generating suspense in the present and leaving enough dangling threads to fuel future seasons. I'm not sure exactly how many questions are unanswered at the end of the pilot, but it may be nearly as many as were left hovering after the J.J. Abrams-directed pilot for "Lost." The lives of the characters going forward are intriguing enough, but there are many clues from the botched heist that will probably pay off for a long time to come. Of the cast members, my admiration for Chi McBride goes without saying. The respect I gained for Tim Daly during the all-too-short run of "Eyes" carries over here with the shocking revelation (a revelation I didn't have during "The Fugitive") that the star of "Diner" and "Wings" has become a man of some authority, mixed with wry wit. Kim Raver is pretty good. Scott Wolf ain't bad (in small doses, so they may want to keep an eye on his exposure). Camille Guaty is smoking. Yup. I'm into this one. I'm not a huge "Without a Trace" fan (I can go months without watching it and never miss it), but I've always respected it far more than CBS' other procedurals, so I have some faith in "The Nine" creator Hank Steinberg as well.
Desire To Watch Again: Strong
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Probably Balfour could play the Owain Yeoman part as the somewhat guilty criminal, but that's about it.

Show: "Six Degrees"
The Pitch: "We love you J.J. Oh yes we do. We love you J.J. And we'll be true. When you're not near us, we're blue. Oh J.J. we love you."
Quick Response: So, you put J.J. Abrams' name on a pilot call sheet and you can apparently get a pilot cast that includes Hope Davis, Erika Christensen, Bridget Moynahan, Jay Hernandez and Campbell Scott (the other "degree" is Dorian Missick, who I don't recognize, but who was really good in the pilot). And once you get those names in a pilot, plus J.J. Abrams' name attached to a pilot, it's almost impossible for a network to say no, particularly if ABC and Touchstone TV want to stay in business with J.J. and Bad Robot. The problem? "Six Degrees" isn't a very good pilot. In fact, certainly degrees -- anything involving the comely Christensen and Moynahan in particular -- are just awful. On the other hand, if you just put Scott and Davis together and made "The Secret Lives of Dentists: The Movie," that would make for worthwhile TV. And it isn't just the toplining cast that's phenomenal here. If memory serves me correctly, this pilot had guest-starring appearances by Jonathan Cake, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Sarah Vowell. That's not a bad way to round out your cast, particularly if your script is just a jumble of strung-out characters and contrived situations bound together by a banal voiceover. Oh, and I was interested to note that Missick's character, like Tim Daly's in "The Nine," has a gambling problem. Coming so soon after the anti-drunk driving public service announcement put out by the good people of "Lost," it's nice to see ABC going off into different public service announcement territory.
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate -- as bad as this pilot is, the case will bring me back at least one, particularly given the time slot.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Balfour certainly *could* play the Jay Hernandez part. However, in the interest of both diversity and quality, I'd prefer he not.

Show: "Help Me Help You"
The Pitch:
Quick Response: I'm not sure, but is this film's title mostly a seven-years-too-late "Jerry Maguire" reference? If this weren't a single-camera show, it would feel like a dull, old multi-camera ensemble sitcom from 1988, something a lot like, say, "Dear John," which I'm not just saying because both shows have Jere Burns. Heck, I laughed more at Jere Burns than at anything else in this not-entirely-unfunny, but not-entirely-engaging show. This one goes with the likes of "Til Death" and "20 Good Years" in the category of "Shows that made me chuckle because I like people in them, but not because anything the writers wrote was all that funny or original." So yes, like Brad Garrett or Jeffrey Tambor or John Lithgow, Ted Danson is a pro. But the gimmick of a doctor who's every bit as screwed up as his patients just isn't going to bring me back unless it's got an unexpected angle. Interestingly, the decision to employ Thomas "Biff" Wilson almost counts as an unexpected angle. The producers should offer to pay Jane Kaczmarek, only a guest star in the pilot, whatever it will take to make her a regular, even if that means that there's no money leftover to pay Jim Rash and Darlene Hunt. I have no problems with Rash and Hunt as actors, but their characters -- gay guy who denies he's gay and crazy woman who confuses sex with intimacy -- aren't going to be worth the trouble.
Desire To Watch Again: Low -- facing "House," it doesn't really stand a chance for me.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: You know, I may have tired of this game. If Eric Balfour's agents can't find him a pilot gig, they're just not trying hard enough.

And what are you looking forward to here?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Take Me To The Pilots: ABC Disc Two Edition

[Cut-and-Paste Disclaimer: These capsules aren't meant as reviews. Most of these pilots will undergo at least minor -- and possibly major -- alterations, tweaks and recastings before they make it on air in the fall. These are, however, my first impressions:]

Show: "Big Day" (ABC - Comedy)
The Pitch:
Quick Response: Yes. Wedding days are chaos. I get it. At least this one is better than FOX's "Wedding Album," which is in a state of major upheaval as we speak. "Big Day" has the advantage of being just loaded with actors I like, including Marla Sokoloff, one of my 10 or 15 favorite people on television (she's cute, funny and Jewish... What can I say?). Add in friendly faces like Kurt Fuller, Miriam Shor, Wendie Malick and even Josh Cooke (who I don't mind, despite not enjoying any of his shows) and there's very little pain in watching the cast. The "24"-style conceit of following the last 11 or 12 hours before a wedding is amusing until you imagine the fourth or fifth different episode in which either the bride or groom gets cold feet and suddenly it sounds REALLY exhausting. Yes, the pilot opens a number of doors for how the show can go from here, but is there really going to be an episode in which Marla Sokoloff steals the Caesar salads from the wedding one town over? If so, I think I may need to watch ANYTHING else instead. On the other hand, if the producers can find a way to weave a vast global conspiracy involving the president and the Bosnians in to the season, I'll have nothing but admiration. That's what these ultra-serialized shows need to maintain interest, not a panic about the supporting beams of the wedding tent. The "self-obsessed-20-something-hour" with "Notes From the Underbelly" doesn't really seem like a likely bet to steal viewers from NBC's 18-49-friendly comedies, does it? Nope.
Desire To Watch Again: Low-but-not-nil -- I'd check in again later, just to see how things are going.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Nothing obvious, but I'm sure there's something.

Show: "Men in Trees" (ABC - Drama)
The Pitch: "Looking for Love: Bachelorettes in Alaska: The Scripted Series"
Quick Response: In a world in which "Northern Exposure" had never existed, "Men in Trees" might come across as a fresh and original fish-out-of-water series. As it is, it's solidly written by "Sex in the City" alum Jenny Bicks and directed by feature helmer James Mangold, but there's little inspiration. The plot devices required to make us believe that a successful relationship expert (perfectly cast Anne Heche) would decide to drop everything and stay in an Alaskan factory town are clunky and the characters are all very very familiar, enough so that from the first second James Tupper's uber-manly biologist shows up on screen, you want to yell "Luke Danes with an advanced degree!" How long before he and Heche's character hook up? Well, "Northern Exposure" was able to prolong the sexual tension between Fleischman and Maggie for several seasons. Even though nearly every one of them can be directly compared to a "Northern Exposure" character (and, in every instance found lacking), I liked a lot of the supporting characters, including those played by Abraham Benrubi, Derek Richardson and particularly Suleka Mathew, who may become my favorite Alaskan prostitute EVER. Also... John Amos in Alaska? How can you not watch? Simply put, this is one of those examples of formula equaling comfort. Oh and can we start taking bets right now on which "Northern Exposure" veteran will be the first to make a cameo? Personally, I'd really like Cynthia Geary to get some work.
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate, though the "Northern Exposure Without the Brains" conceit will get tired quickly and that Friday night time slot will be a big problem as well.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Would Eric Balfour take a role on a show that required him to shoot some place cold and inconvenient? I'm not so sure. There's also not really a part for him in the pilot, but in subsequent episodes? Who knows.

Anybody actually looking forward to one of these two?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Take Me To The Pilots: ABC Disc One Edition

[You know the drill: These capsules aren't meant as reviews. Most of these pilots will undergo at least minor -- and possibly major -- alterations, tweaks and recastings before they make it on air in the fall. These are, however, my first impressions:]

Show: "Betty the Ugly" (ABC - Dramedy-type-thing)
The Pitch: "Not-So-Beautiful Girls"
Quick Response: Seriously, can we change the title of this show to "Ugly Betty"? I mean, I understand that the original telenovela is literally translated as "Betty the Ugly," but I feel like there's some level of idiomatic confusion at work here. There'll be some general audience confusion once this starts airing as well. It's not surprising that ABC has tried developing "Betty" in several different forms over the year and while they settled on an hour-long dramedy format rather than a half-hour coma (that's a mix between comedy and drama in a half-hour form), they didn't settle on much else. The pilot is a mixture of mugging not-so-funny comedy and vague and confusing seriousness. Actually, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's an accurate reproduction of the "Betty la Fea" telenovela's tone, but you're going to have to convince a lot of viewers and without much of a launching pad, given that ABC has been kind enough to place "Betty" on Friday nights. The only critical consensus you're likely to get on this one is that America Ferrera is excellent and it's a relief that they didn't cast, say, Sofia Vergara and put her in glasses and an ugly blouse. Sure, anybody who's seen "Real Women Have Curves" or "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" knows that Ferrera is an attractive woman, but... Hmmm... There may not be any way to say anything here without being insulting. She good. Really good. No matter where the show's tone goes from here, she'll be able to handle it.
Desire To Watch Again: Low-to-Moderate
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Given that Eric Mabius is playing an hotshot lothario who becomes an inept magazine editor, but still beds an endless string of models, there's no reason why Balfour couldn't have played the part. I'm sure he could fill other roles as well.

Show: "Let's Rob..." (ABC - Comedy)
The Pitch: "'Ocean's 11' Meets 'The Dream Team'"
Quick Response: I really wanted to like this one more than I did. I like the concept -- an ordinary schlub (Donal Logue) rounds up a crew of other ordinary schlubs (plus one hot Colombian woman) and they decide to rob Mick Jagger... Because how hard can it be? And I often liked Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman's "Ed," so I felt OK about the talent behind the scenes. Part of the show's hypothetical charm is in how loose it all is -- these people know nothing about crime beyond what they've seen on TV and in movies -- but the pilot came across (for me, at least) as less loose and more sloppy. The punchlines didn't hit exactly right. The visual gags weren't staged exactly right. The performances were a bit broader and more stereotype-driven than I'd have liked. I think the actors, particularly Logue, Maz Jobrani and Kevin Michael Richardson, are capable of selling this material well and Sofia Vergara is already being treated with more respect than she ever got on last season's awful "Hot Properties." I also liked the little inserted bits of Jagger, who seems to be approaching this show with exactly the right attitude. But I didn't really laugh as many times as I'd have liked to. I just smiled a lot. If Burnett and Beckerman are smart, they'll troll the writing ranks for whatever "Arrested Development" alums are floating around out there and see if future episodes can be tightened. ABC picked this one up on potential, though.
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate -- I'd like to see where they're going with this, but not enough to watch it instead of "House."
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: I don't think Balfour could play the nebbishy communications student who joins the crew as an intern thinking he's working as a PA on "Taxi 2," so he's probably out of luck. But maybe future episodes could introduce a hotshot young thief with experience but not common sense? Yeah. That'd work.

Show: "Notes from the Underbelly" (ABC - Comedy)
The Pitch: "She's Having a Baby Without the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Connections"
Quick Response: ABC seems fairly sure that the concerns of attractive white 20-and-30-somethings on the cusp of full-on adulthood are fascinating and that the vaguely self-obsessed Gen-Xers (and a few Gen-Yers) are the future of comedy. It's like the networks took a couple years off from looking for the next "Friends," but now ABC is back in the hunt with this and "Big Day," which are appropriately paired in a nice Thursday-at-8 hour designed just to show that "Grey's Anatomy" is powerful enough to work without a lead-in. Because here's the thing: I kinda enjoyed "Notes from the Underbelly." Certainly more than I'd have expected to. The two leads -- Jennifer Westfeldt and Peter Cambor -- are very natural and possess good comic timing, aided by a solid enough pilot script. And the supporting cast isn't bad, particularly Rachael Harris, who was always my favorite "Daily Show" correspondent and I've never understood why more writers and directors haven't tried to take advantage of the fact that she's very funny and surprisingly brainy-hot. The problem? I, um, don't really care about spending the first season watching a couple go through the hilarity of pregnancy, much less seasons about the hilarity of having an infant, or the hilarity of the terrible twos, or any of the other endless permutations that could allow this show to last forever... except that nobody else is likely to care either. It's a little bit sad.
Desire To Watch Again: Low. If I didn't watch "Survivor" and/or "The Office" at that time? Sure. Maybe.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Absolutely. I like Cambor, but most of the other male leads -- especially the couple's unmarried buddy -- could be filled by Eric Balfour. Sortta.

Isn't it cute that Blogger knew I turned a year older today? Exactly... Damned automated systems...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Take Me To The Pilots: NBC [Part Two] Edition

[Guess what? These capsules aren't meant as reviews. Most of these pilots will undergo at least minor -- and possibly major -- alterations, tweaks and recastings before they make it on air in the fall. These are, however, my first impressions:]

Show: "Kidnapped" (NBC - Drama)
The Pitch: "Well, see, there's this kidnapping..."
Quick Response: In the battle of kidnapping conspiracy shows, I prefer this one to FOX's "Vanished." It's a darker, moodier, more testosterone driven show that FOX's and it also doesn't seem to have come out of FOX's serialized drama factory line. That means that I can't necessarily predict all of the vast conspiratorial plotlines, which is both a positive and a negative -- i.e. while I know basically where "Vanished" is going forward, after watching the pilot, I'm a bit less sure how "Kidnapped" will string itself out over a full season. I'm also a bit iffy on Jason Smilovic's writing. Unlike "Vanished," "Kidnapped" has a very clear voice, which is the same muscular sub-Mamet blather than was cute for a while in "Lucky Number Slevin" but ran out of steam. Mostly, the biggest advantage "Kidnapped" has is its cast, which is phenomenal. Heck, I was able to accept Jeremy Sisto as a tough guy within seconds. And I have a policy wherein I endorse ANYTHING featuring Ricky Jay. Plus, it has James Urbaniak from "Henry Fool" as a badass assassin. Throw in Tim Hutton, Dana Delany, Mykelti Williamson, Delroy Lindo and Linus Roache and there's some crazy acting going on in this pilot, certainly enough to make me want to tune in a second time.
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: I'm not sure that there's an obvious part for Balfour, but in future episodes, he could probably play either a hotshot young FBI agent or a hotshot young kidnapper.

Show: "Twenty Good Years" (NBC - Drama)
The Pitch: "Shticky Old Men"
Quick Response: Yeah, yeah. John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor are television comic treasures. You don't need to convince me. And, apparently, you don't need to convince them. I don't recall the last pilot I saw that features this much mugging. There are several instances where Tambor's character actually seems to look out at the studio audience with a "That Crazy Lithgow!" shrug. Yes, these two pros produce chuckles where no other living actors possibly could, but there's so much schmaltz they might as well bring in John Larroquette and just let them all eat scenery for 22 minutes per episode. The pilot has exactly two characters and no hint at a viable or interesting ongoing plot. Also, despite the numerical similarities, this isn't going to make a good lead-in for "30 Rock," which is smarter, more innovative and just plain better.
Desire To Watch Again: Minimal
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Sure. Balfour could play Tambor's son, a goofy male model with no professional aspirations beyond just being pretty. The character isn't funny in the pilot, so Balfour couldn't hurt.

Show: "The Black Donnellys" (NBC - Drama)
The Pitch: "The O'Sopranos" (I'd have gone with "The O'Soprans," but that might have been confusing)
Quick Response: I've always liked Paul Haggis more as a TV guy than as a movie guy, even if my appreciation for him on TV is mostly due to the brilliance of "EZ Streets" and my antipathy for him in film is mostly due to the overblown melodrama of "Crash." And you'd know in an instant that this was a Haggis show, even if it didn't close with a five minute musical montage that sets up the rest of the series. There are interesting characters and near-literary depth, despite the brief running time. I like the New York settings (that's another thing I preferred about "Kidnapped" versus "Vanished," that I actually knew where it was taking place) and the cast is an interesting mixture of fresh young faces and really familiar older character actors. I was particularly impressed with how attractive Olivia Wilde is as a brunette. As my colleague Rick observes, though, "The Black Donnellys" really doesn't feel like it should be a contemporary show. It should be set in the '30s or in the '50s or in the '70s, but it seems a bit disconnected with anything pertaining to modern New York. But what do I know?
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate-to-Strong
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: As sad as it may be, Eric Balfour is probably too recognizable for this ensemble, despite the fact that he's aesthetically and demographically appropriate for any of the four main parts.

What're you lookin' forward to?

Monday, June 12, 2006

MovieWatch: "3 Fast 3 Furious"

"The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift"
Director: Justin Lin
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 50
In a Nutshell: As long as the films in this franchise stick to their titles and stay fast, furious and substance-free, they're capable of being entirely enjoyable B-movies. Unfortunately, despite the well-depicted new location, "Tokyo Drift" spends too much time slowing down and trying (without success) to develop characters, relying on a witless script that leaves almost no cliche unturned. For a director who once had solid indie film bona fides, Justin Lin (whose "Annapolis" is almost certain to make my list of the year's Ten Worst) can't seem to handle character and dialogue. While what happens in the middle frequently falls flat, the movie has two superior bookending sequences -- a regular drag race through an American housing development, and a drifting race down a mountain-side outside of Tokyo. Lin directs those scenes with the necessary intimacy and intensity and gooses the action with an unrelenting soundtrack of hip-hop tunes and Japanese pop songs. When he keeps his mouth closed and just flashes his smile, Lucas Black is a worthy successor to Paul Walker, though his thick Alabama accent is a liability whenever dialogue scenes come up because Lin can't work around it. I challenge anybody to tell me what Bow-Wow is doing in this movie, but "Tokyo Drift" gets cool points for the presence of Sonny Chiba as an old Yakuza. It's an odd movie, because it will deliver most of what fans expect, but in its awkward attempts to overreach, it loses momentum. It's a B-movie that thinks it's better than it is. The funny thing? That still makes it better than this weekend's other big new studio releases. Sigh.

Check Zap2it on Friday, June 16 for my full review.

Friday, June 09, 2006

MovieWatch: "The Omen" (2006)

"The Omen"
Director: John Moore
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 46
In a Nutshell: Here's a confession: I kinda liked Gus Van Sant's "Psycho" as a post-modern exercise. I loved that he told everybody that he was going to do a shot-for-shot remake and then he proceeded to make 10 or 20 little changes in camera angles or he inserted a picture of a cow or the sound effect of Vince Vaughn jerkin' the gerkin and waited patiently for each and every reviewer in the country to list those little changes as the reason why the movie stunk. It all felt like a mind-game from a smart-aleck art school student which -- let's get real -- it kinda was. Now I don't want to imply that Gus Van Sant is smarter than John Moore, but I have reason to suspect that Gus Van Sant is very probably smarter than John Moore and he's certainly a better filmmaker. Thus, I'm not quite willing to give his remake the same benefit of the intellectual doubt, particularly in the scenes where it's lifted shot-for-shot from Richard Donner's far superior film. Just as part of the criticism of the fake "Psycho" was that Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche couldn't measure up to Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh (though I kinda like both new performances, not in comparison to the originals, but just a bit in general), it's obvious that Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles aren't in any way equals to Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. That's true. No question. And it hurts the movie. As does the fact that Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick's Damien is more cute and funny than menacing. However, David Thewlis, as ill-fated photographer Keith Jennings, is better than David Warner, if you ask me. And while I recall Billie Whitelaw's Mrs. Baylock fondly, I prefer Mia Farrow in the new one, thanks in large part to the "Rosemary's Baby" ties. That being said, Moore and 20th Century Fox had no reason whatsoever to make this remake beyond just the 06/06/06 release date. The couple flickering 9/11 and Asian Tsunami images are exploitative rather than illuminating. So the movie just feel tedious and labored.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

MovieWatch: "Superman Returns"

"Superman Returns"
Director: Bryan Singer
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 68
In a Nutshell: While not quite the bracing franchise reinvigoration delivered by "Batman Begins" last summer, "Superman Returns" is a solidly entertaining film that should safely give the Man of Steel new theatrical life. I was surprised how much I liked Brandon Routh, whose resemblance to Christopher Reeve is almost shocking at times and he carries the film with his easy humor and confidence. He was a good find by director Bryan Singer. Kate Bosworth, never meant to be a brunette, is much less interesting as Lois Lane. While I liked Kevin Spacey's Lex Luthor just fine, the character is too often an afterthough due to some massive edits that still were unable to make the movie shorter than 150+ minutes. In the final cut, Singer seems wisely to have concentrated on the emotional difficulties of Superman's return to Metropolis, but the result is a lack of interest in Luthor's wacky and unwieldy real estate scheming. The cuts to Luthor's plot are evidence in the minimal screentime for moll Parker Posey and, even more notably, Kal Penn's high billing in the film despite the fact that his henchman has no more than one or two lines. The effects are often superior and this is one of the first times I've ever been able to watch a digitally shot feature without thinking how much better it would have looked shot on film. Extra points for the shivers produced by the careful use of John Williams' score. After the screening, they gave us a demonstration of the IMAX 3-D presentation and in addition to making my eyes and head ache, it was very impressive. [Oh and the Fien Print rating on this one may be a smidge low, but my ratings system is shot anyway.]

An actual full review won't be up on Zap2it until Wednesday, June 28 and I've intentionally cut this short to avoid incurring the wrath of Warner Bros.

Take Me To The Pilots: NBC [Part One] Edition

[As I may have mentioned, these capsules aren't meant as reviews. Most of these pilots will undergo at least minor -- and possibly major -- alterations, tweaks and recastings before they make it on air in the fall. These are, however, my first impressions:]

Show: "Heroes" (NBC - Drama)
The Pitch: "Superheroes Of Tomorrow... Today!"
Quick Response: I think if "Heroes" had been created by Jonathan Lethem as a sortta television series equivalent of his acclaimed novel "Fortress of Solitude," I might be even more intrigued. As it is, the pilot is interesting, but scattershot -- there are too many characters, too many situations, too many ideas to properly be introduced in an hour (though there's apparently a two-hour pilot -- featuring cast regular Greg Grunberg -- that NBC didn't feel like critics deserved), which is likely to frustrate casual viewers as much as it fascinates fans of genre mythology shows. In our opening episode, we have a lot of ordinary people discovering they have extraordinary abilities, but there are also plenty of hints as to dark directions the show either will go -- there's a horrible event they're all going to have to join together to stop, presumably -- or could go -- if you have possible superheroes, you're bound to get supervillains. The cast is full of familiar people -- Milo Ventimiglia, Adrian Pasdar, Hayden Panettiere, Ali Larter (proving, as she often does, that she's more than just a pretty face) -- but there are also some interesting twists on the pilot casting formula. There's an Indian character! There's a Japanese guy! I'll leave it to the more sensitive advocacy groups to decide if our Japanese hero (named Hiro) is wildly stereotypical, or if he actually undercuts many of our Japanese stereotypes. It's still interesting. If Lethem were working on the show, New York would be as much of a player as any of the lead actors. I'm skeptical if Tim Kring ("Crossing Jordan") has either the skills or aspirations to pull that off.
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate-to-Strong -- Sorry, "Runaway," but "Heroes" will have my attentions, at least for a few weeks.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: If a pilot already has Milo Ventimiglia, does it really need Eric Balfour? And is Eric Balfour a poor man's Milo Ventimiglia or is Milo Ventimiglia a poor man's Eric Balfour? I guess one is tall and lanky and the other is short-ish and skinny.

Show: "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (NBC - Drama)
The Pitch: "NBC 'SNL' Series: The Drama One"
Quick Response: In the "Simpsons" episode "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner," Homer's new job as a food cricket, leaves him unsatisfied even after a pork chop dinner and he turns to Marge and says, "Marge, I'm sorry, but your cooking's only got two moves, Shake and Bake." Marge replies in confusion, "You like Shake n' Bake. You used to put it in your coffee." And Homer says, "People change, Marge. My palate has grown more sophisticated." That's sortta the way I feel about Aaron Sorkin and Tommy Schlamme's return to prime time. Every second of the "Studio 60" sounds like Sorkin and looks like Schlamme and thus it's all familiar and reassuring and intelligent and nowhere near as smart-seeming as it was back when "The West Wing" premiered. The pilot has some typically catchy Sorkin dialogue along with many of his worst flaws, including an entirely unmotivated rant against the religious right in the final act. Schlamme's camerawork is a bit less exhausting than it sometimes seemed on "West Wing," but the lighting and framing are straight out of his highlight reel. My favorite part of the pilot was getting a reminder of what an impressively talented actor Matthew Perry really is. At some point, though, he and Bradley Whitford (not, in fact, Bradley Cooper) are going to have to come to an agreement on which of them is playing Josh Lyman, because they can't *both* do the same thing. I'm not sure if I'm going to necessarily care on a week-to-week basis about the ratings for a sketch comedy show and the behind-the-scenes shenanigans. But I'll keep watching.
Desire To Watch Again: Strong
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: It's a big ensemble. You could drop Balfour somewhere off to the side (the sketch show's newly added hot-headed lothario with bad facial hair?) and he wouldn't even drag the show down.

Show: "30 Rock" (NBC - Comedy)
The Pitch: "NBC 'SNL' Series: The Comedy One"
Quick Response: There's an attempt at a "Mary Tyler Moore" or "That Girl" retro vibe that I find interesting, but I only laughed at select parts of the pilot. I laughed at every word out of Alec Baldwin's mouth and I don't think he had a single line that was funny on the page. I laughed at a good portion of Tracy Morgan's madcap energy. I laughed at Judah Friedlander. I didn't laugh at Tina Fey and I usually find her funny. It would be disappointing if she opts to be entirely a straight woman. And I REALLY didn't laugh at Rachel Dratch. On "SNL" I've always found her hit-and-mostly-miss, but maybe she'll be funny in the second episode. As above, I'm not sure if I'm going to necessarily care on a week-to-week basis about the ratings for a sketch comedy show and the behind-the-scenes shenanigans. Also, between the two shows, aren't they going to run out of viable ideas for parodies of bad comedy show sketches?
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: He could play the new hotshot lothario in the writer's room? But probably not.

Show: "Friday Night Lights" (NBC - Drama)
The Pitch: "'Friday Night Lights: The Book' meets 'Friday Night Lights: The Movie' On The Small Screen"
Quick Response: This is the best pilot I've seen so far this summer. It's partially because I'm a soft-hearted man who loves himself some quality sports programming, but also because I think that with the pilot, Peter Berg has set the groundwork for what could be dramatic, exciting, provocative and powerful series about high school football. I love the show's look, a slightly less gritty and slightly less desaturated version of what Berg did in the movie. I loved the show's texture, which made it seem as if there were countless potential stories to be told. I liked the few supporting actors we were introduced to, the relative unknowns who play the football players and the cheerleaders. I appreciated Kyle Chandler stepping into Billy Bob Thornton's shoes and Connie Britton stepping into her own shoes. I liked the way the football was staged and I loved the sense of local color on all sides. And I fear that none of what I most enjoyed will be reproducible if Peter Berg isn't behind the camera and in the editing suite at all times. If they get things right, "Friday Night Lights" the series could be to "Friday Night Lights" the movie what "M*A*S*H*" was to "M*A*S*H*" -- an opportunity to take an already interesting universe and show its depth and heart. I'm really going to be sad if they botch this one. I'm also going to be sad if they don't eventually introduce us to somebody on the defensive side of the football.
Desire To Watch Again: Extremely strong -- Can't wait for the first new episode.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Keep on lookin', Eric.

Which of these are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

MovieWatch: "Nacho Libre"

"Nacho Libre"
Director: Jared Hess
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 31
In a Nutshell: There are people, and I don't necessarily begrudge them, who can't watch Wes Anderson's most recent films because his geek-chic formal rigidity leaves them feeling creatively stifled. The key to curing those people is to make them watch a Jared Hess movie. Like "Napoleon Dynamite," "Nacho Libre" wastes a tremendous amount of energy on feeling like sloppy, kitschy outsider art and very little energy on developing a plot beyond "Here's a guy with a funny name and some geeky affectations... Let's laugh at him!" Despite a running time of something less than 90 minutes, "Nacho Libre" feels much longer, because Hess' greatest interest as a filmmaker is finding dead-eyed non-actors and then pointing the camera at them with contempt. I fear this movie will do for Mexicans what "Moon Over Parador" did for Paradorians, with the only difference being that Parador was a fictionalized country from the beginning, while Hess has gone to some lengths to make Mexico seem an awful lot like Idaho. Making the movie vaguely amusing at times is Jack Black, prancing around in tights without an iota of self-consciousness, speaking with a fractured accent that's as much French as Spanish. His silent movie star expressions and mugging provide a spark of energy that's in contrast to "Napoleon Dynamite," where Jon Heder's brain-less gawking was just another part of the joke. Oh and I laughed at the perplexing Ewoks who wrestle Nacho in one scene. That wasn't really humorous, but it was bizarre. I can see "Nacho Libre" making a new crop of frat boys wander around with bad accents talking about how they believe in science, rather than God. That makes me sad.

My review for this one will go up on next Friday (June 16).

Monday, June 05, 2006

"Everwood" Finale: So Long and Thanks For The Warm Fuzzies

Just finished watching tonight's "Everwood" finale, the second straight week I've watched the show after missing most of the season thanks to The WB's endearing disregard for my television-viewing schedule.

Because I've somehow skipped reading articles on the subject, I have no idea if the show's producers knew they were dead in the water when they wrote the finale, or if they just guessed that things had run their course and wanted to cover all emotional bases. In any case, since the wise executives at The CW decided the network's identity would be better served with "One Tree Hill" and "7th Heaven: Zombie Edition" (NOTHING can kill the Camdens), Monday's "Everwood" was, indeed, the show's last. To their credit, the "Everwood" team turned around and gave fans a finale that was as manipulative and emotionally satisfying a finale as any devotee could ever hope for. Logic and context be darned, on one starry Colorado night, every surviving character got exactly what the fans were praying for and delivered on every promise.

The show's great near-genius (using the word genius in the context of "Everwood" is like using "brilliant" in the context of an "American Idol" contestant, though "near-genius" seems OK) is that it could mix pathos with warm fuzzies in a way that virtually no other show could touch. When Dr. Brown (Treat Williams, whose career will now return to its pre-"Everwood" levels, only with prestige and dignity) comes to the realization that Dr. Abbott (Tom Amandes, always the show's MVP) was just a big romantic idealist, he was late to the game. Even at his most crotchety, Dr. Abbott was also an idealist, craving a world of small town simplicity and small town life that may not have even existed in Norman Rockwell paintings. Over the show's run, Dr. Brown -- and all of the tragedies, upheavals and mood swings that seemed to accompany him -- taught Dr. Abbott to appreciate a different kind of romanticism, a WB kind of romanticism, where death, and break-ups and disease and misery could seem ready to engulf the world, but where a well-delivered line of dialogue, a beautifully composed shot featuring snow-capped mountains or just the right gesture or well-timed hug could make everything seem whole again.

The finale of "Everwood" was satisfying because it left every character stuck in some degree of tumult or misstep. There's a sense at the end of the episode that there's going to be a lot of messiness tomorrow, but for one glorious night, the across-the-board happiness feels genuine.

Tomorrow, will Nina wake up and remember that she accepted Dr. Brown's proposal just two days after Bailey (Scott Wolf deserves credit for carrying off one of the ass-iest things any TV character can do) ditched her at the airport?

Tomorrow, will Hannah realize that she gave up a free ride to Notre Dame to go to A&M on the off chance that Bright is forever redeemed?

Tomorrow, will Edna wake up in her little room in her son's house and remember that she's lost two husbands in four years and that getting to choose her own wallpaper isn't going to be enough to make her happy?

Tomorrow, will Ephram remember that as he walked out the door he told Stephanie he'd see her in five minutes and that Stephanie is kind of hot and feisty and isn't likely to be the kind of Drama Queen we know Amy to be?

Tomorrow, will Delia (Vivien Cardone) realize that as much as she wanted a horse when she was eight, she'd kinda rather have gotten a new Razr cell phone or something instead of an animal she's gonna have no way to ever get to see?

Those are all questions for tomorrow and it's probably better that "Everwood" didn't have to worry about answering any of them. For tonight, I suspect the show left an awful lot of fans with misty tears in their eyes, which is pretty close to closure.

I couldn't help but think that this would have been a good way for The WB to go off the air as well...

Did the "Everwood" finale work for you?

UPDATE: Should anybody care, a somewhat expanded and slightly prettied up version of this post is now up over at

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Take Me To The Pilots: FOX Dramas Edition

[As I feel the need to mention each time, these capsules aren't meant as reviews. Most of these pilots will undergo at least minor -- and possibly major -- alterations, tweaks and recastings before they make it on air in the fall. These are, however, my first impressions:]

Show: "Standoff" (FOX - Drama)
The Pitch: "'Bones' Only With Negotiators"
Quick Response: It's a fairly reproducible formula FOX is going for here: Fast talking leads fight their sexual chemistry while trying to do a life-or-death job. It's worked OK with "Bones," at least. As the lead negotiators, Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt have good chemistry, but for the pilot, at least, there isn't much substance. The main standoff isn't very interesting and its resolution is anti-climactic and yet it's handled with sufficient mock-gravity that it makes it hard to care about anything else. The opening scene, where we discover that our leads are ALREADY involved (eliminating, thankfully, the need for "will-they/won't they" dramatics), is much better. I like the supporting cast, led by Gina Torres. There's also the chance that Michael Cudlitz, who always seems to be playing soldiers, officers, guards and other generic folks in uniform, may have a real character to play here eventually. I endorse that.
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate -- enough to give it a second episode, probably not enough to give it a third.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Probably not in the pilot, but there can always be a hotshot new negotiator introduced in the second episode just for him.

Show: "Justice" (FOX - Drama)
The Pitch: "Generic Bruckheimer Procedural: Celebrity Attorney Division"
Quick Response:Just as I'm always pleased to see "Buffy" alums resurface in new television projects (Why hasn't Emma "Anya" Caulfield returned to primetime yet?), it's always good when "Dawson's Creek" vets get second chances. Michelle Williams is an Oscar nominee and Katie Holmes a celebrity mom, but James Van Der Beek and Joshua Jackson have had several pilots that failed to go forward and Meredith Monroe got recast from "Married to the Kellys" (don't worry if you don't remember it) before it went from pilot to series. So it is that I'm pleased to think of FOX's "Justice" as "The Adventures of Gay Jack: Super Lawyer" thanks to the presence of Kerr Smith, whose presence as a slick, unbeatable defense attorney is more than slightly distracting. Somehow it's easy to watch Victor Garber as a brash media-savvy lawyer without ever once thinking "Jack Bristow," but even with a bad haircut and some punchier dialogue, Smith is mostly just Jack McPhee in a suit. And yes, I understand that he's done other TV since "Dawson's," but I just haven't paid attention. Anywho... The pilot is pretty straight-forward legal stuff with a few minor twists -- there's a concentration on the behind-the-scenes ways that law firms with endless financial resources are able to try cases and then each episode will presumably end by flashing back to the actual crime to see if our heroes were telling the truth or not. This being a Bruckheimer drama, the production values are high, the actors are good-looking and the nuances are very limited, though filtering each week's case through a cable news legal affairs program is a bit different.
Desire To Watch Again: Not much.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Would Eric Balfour be more convincing than Kerr Smith? Based on "Convictions," probably not.

Show: "Vanished" (FOX - Drama)
The Pitch: "Intense Serialized FOX Drama #53a"
Quick Response: The missing character, a Senator's wife, hasn't really vanished, since there are several suspects involved in her disappearance, but FOX couldn't really call this one "Kidnapped" since NBC already has a drama of that title following an unfolding kidnapping investigation over the course of a season. You'll be able to recognize the NBC one, because it's the show with the actors you can identify by name. FOX's show is just littered with familiar faces. Look, it's that Evil Guy Who Hung Himself On "24" This Season! Look, It's The Noxzema Girl Whose Dad Killed Dylan's Dad on "90210"! Look, it's Ming-Na! Look, it's Chuy ("I'm Han Solo") from "Fools Rush In"! Although it's over-directed within an inch of its life by Mimi Leder, this isn't bad stuff, but what are the odds that I'm really going to decide to add another intensely serialized FOX drama to my viewing roster? Ummm... Low, though the closing twist (which somewhat explains the title) isn't bad. The problem is that five seasons of "24" and one season of "Prison Break" have made it easy to chart the progress of these shows. Episode 2 -- It looks like the disappearance is meant to force the Senator's hand on the upcoming Supreme Court nominee. Episode 5 -- The intrepid reporter discovers that the conspiracy goes all the way to the highest reaches of government. Episode 9 -- Might the Senator's son (from a different mother) somehow be involved? Episode 11 -- In a surprising cameo, Jack Bauer pops up, tortures somebody, mentions that he could really use a name and leaves. Episode 13 -- The plotline involving the wife is resolved, but a second kidnapping/disappearance threatens to spiral the show off in a whole new direction, assuming FOX picks up the Back Nine.
Desire To Watch Again: Low to Moderate.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Including scruffy boyfriends/suspects, lab techs, FBI agents, police officers and other random male parts, I'd estimate there were at least a dozen parts for Mr. Balfour. Get your agent on the phone now, dawg.

Show: "The Wedding Album"
The Pitch: "Mr. Match" (as opposed to the not-so-successful Alicia Silverstone comedy "Miss Match."
Quick Response: You see... He's a wedding photographer, so he's always going to nuptials, but he can't find the right woman to walk down the aisle with himself. That's the kind of irony that television writers love, but which viewers seem not to care for. In the hands of co-writer/director Andy Tennant, the pilot doesn't feel like a television show. It feels like a boring feature, a cheeseball romantic semi-comedy. But it hardly matters. The buzz is that leading man Bruno Campos is being replaced (I hear Craig Bierko, but who knows?), which makes one (well, "me") wonder both why FOX bothered to send out a pilot that will have to be entirely revamped and, heck, why FOX bothered to commit to picking up the series at all. The leading man? That's a pretty big thing to be up in the air. The funny thing is that while I'm not a Bruno Campos fan, he wasn't so bad here. Every second of the pilot's "weekly chaotic wedding" was uninvolving, and it contributed little to my interesting in the main characters. This one probably needs revamping beyond the lead actor. We'll see if it makes it to air. If it's revised, they really need to eliminate the final scene where our obligatory star-crossed lovers (she's British, he's Bruno Campos) articulate the show's theme for the people too stupid to have understood in the first place. What do they need to keep? Eva "Eva Diva" Pigford. I'm not sure why, but I'm just happy to see the "Top Model" winner transcending the UPN ghetto.
Desire To Watch Again: Low, But I'd watch again if there's a reshot pilot.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Wait. The lead character is a commitment-phobia lothario? And they're not thinking of Eric Balfour? That's a miss, kids.

Friday, June 02, 2006

MovieWatch: "Click"

Director: Frank Coraci
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 41
In a Nutshell: It's only four years since "Mr. Deeds," but Adam Sandler is back to robbing Frank Capra's vault with "Click," an uncredited but thematic heist of "It's a Wonderful Life" and several other facets of the Capra-esque canon. Then again, the movie rips off everything from "Groundhog Day" to "Multiplicity" to "Mom and Dad Save the World," so it's tough to keep track. Whatever it is, I sense that it'll really work for some people and not just because the gal sitting next to me at the screening was bawling by the end. This is Adam Sandler in funny mode (not the respect-seeking Sandler of "Spanglish" or the brilliant "Punch-Drunk Love"), but with the laughs turned way down in favor of the schmaltz. Our hero spends around 105 or 110 minutes learning that he's been making the wrong choices in his life and that he needs to slow down and love his family, a lesson he can only learn with the help of an effectively loopy Christopher Walken (his enunciation of "remote control" the first time he says it is a thing of beauty) a magical universal remote and lots and lots of makeup effects. Just like "Big Daddy" before it, this marks an evolution of the Sandler persona. However, while I mentioned the tears, I also got the feeling that the audience's mirth was somewhat lower than it should have been. The movie never entirely captures the promise of its premise, the elation of a man who's suddenly in complete control of his universe after being a punching bag for too long. For me, it never earned its attempted third act emotions, which is why my eyes were dry. But maybe I'm just heartless? [On a side note, Kate Beckinsale, a powerfully lovely woman, is just wasted here. I wish Sandler had gone back to her earlier films -- things like "Much Ado" and "Cold Comfort Farm" -- to discover that this is a woman who can be funny under the right circumstances.]

My review will be up on Zap2it on or around June 23.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

MovieWatch: "The Lake House"

"The Lake House"
Director: Alejandro Agresti
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 16
In a Nutshell: Yes, yes. I know I was supposed to be caught up in the romantic swell of Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves playing star-crossed lovers living two years apart, but joined by the same mystical and magical mailbox that never seems to get cluttered with ValPaks, political leaflets and copies of Entertainment Weekly like my mailbox does. I know I was supposed to be so captivated by Sandy and Keanu reuniting on the big screen for the first time since a little film called "Speed." I know that in a fantasy romance of this sort, applying any sort of logic is evil, is counter to the purpose. So I didn't get disturbed by the fact that the nature of the mailbox isn't explained. Whatever. That's not what the movie's about. I didn't get confused by the paper-thin supporting characters. They're not what the movie's about. I didn't dwell on the occasionally interesting things David Auburn did with his adaptation of the 2000 Korean film "Siworae" to make it into a new version of his acclaimed play "Proof," substituting architecture for mathematics. What DID bother me -- what got stuck in my craw just minutes in when I began to anticipate the climactic twist and be annoyed by it -- is that despite all of the feelings that these two strangers develop for each other, despite all of their yearning for information and truth, Sandy, living two years in the future, never thinks to Google her Love From The Past. If Sandy just uses Google (or, heck, an ol' fashioned archive search or a private eye), the entire plot can be resolved in five minutes. That's a hole too big for me to see past. There will be teenage girls who love this movie and there will certainly be worse films, but I can't imagine many cinematic experiences leaving me as frustrated. Oh and Chicago looks very nice and Christopher Plummer is, as always, an acting lion.

My review for this one will be up on Zap2it, oh, whenever it's ready to come out.

Take Me To The Pilots: FOX Comedies Edition

[As I've mentioned before, these capsules aren't meant as reviews. Most of these pilots will undergo at least minor -- and possibly major -- alterations, tweaks and recastings before they make it on air in the fall. These are, however, my first impressions:]

Show: "Happy Hour" (FOX - Comedy)
The Pitch: "That '50s Nostalgia Show"
Quick Response: "Happy Hour" was created by the Filgos of "That '70s Show" fame and the pilot has that familiar rhythm of competent punchlines, delivered by mostly unfamiliar actors with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the adoration of the whooping studio audience (and/or laughtrack). The premise -- modern day Dean Martin attempts to remake his new roommate, a lovelorn Midwesterner -- has a bit of promise, but it isn't anywhere close to ready for primetime. While I understand the network's desire to go with entirely fresh faces on this one, at least half of the castmembers seem miscast or overly predictably cast. My instinct -- and nobody cares about my opinion -- would be to keep leading man John Sloan and maybe Beth Lacke as the curvy, needy woman who hires him to work at a bank, and then start over from scratch, which wouldn't work well with FOX's plans to have this on air in the fall. It would also make a nice Chicago-area pairing with "The Loop," so naturally FOX has it scheduled elsewhere.
Desire To Watch Again: In its current format? None. If some changes were made? Low-to-Moderate.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour? Eric Balfour is too recognizable for this cast, plus he isn't actually funny. But I could almost seen him playing the wannabe Dean Martin. Almost.

Show: "'Til Death" (FOX - Comedy)
The Pitch:
Quick Response: This is why you don't necessarily wanna use only unknowns in your pilot. This pilot is wildly conventional (and probably belongs on CBS), but Brad Garrett (stepping just far enough away from his "Raymond" role) knows how to land a punchline. Joely Fisher knows how to land a punchline. Even Eddie Kaye Thomas can often hit his marks. Those pros (and Kat Foster, who I don't really know) help get smiles out of thin air and one or two of the sharper observations about relationships even get chuckles. My question: The younger couple's last name is Woodcock. Is that a joke that the writers are planning on never getting tired of? If so, please let me know, because I'm already sick of it. The laughtrack/studio audience may be amused, but it's pretty cheap. Actually, now I know why this one's on FOX and not CBS.
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate-to-Low -- This is a totally respectable pilot, but that doesn't mean that *I* want to watch it again. Unlike "The War At Home," though, I won't feel the desire to mock people who do choose to watch in the future.
Possible Role For Eric Balfour? Have I mentioned that Eric Balfour probably isn't funny?

Show: "The Winner" (FOX - Comedy)
The Pitch: "About a Boy-Man"
Quick Response: The first comedy pilot this season to make me laugh multiple times and that's even with the pointlessly easy '90s nostalgic mockery -- "Wings," O.J. Greg Kinnear, Herve Villechaize gags fly within the first four minutes. That sounds like a good sign, but the last three FOX comedy pilots to really make me laugh were "Arrested Development," "Life on a Stick" and "The Loop," which have probably averaged as many combined viewers as your typical episode of "Freddie." Written by Ricky Blitt, the pilot is occasionally perceptive, frequently rude and inappropriate (often in a good way) and sets the show up decently for the future -- grown men in a state of arrested development bonding with psychologically damaged children... always brilliant. Rob Corddry is ready to become the latest "Daily Show" alum to find mainstream success and leading lady Erinn Hayes, often appealing in small roles in the past, has real breakout potential as well. My only minor concern would be that Keir Gilchrist, Corddry's pint-sized foil, looks to be trying a little too hard. That's the kind of thing that can be fixed in subsequent episodes with ease.
Desire To Watch Again: Strong
Possible Role For Eric Balfour: Some shows, you just prefer not to ruin. Sorry, man. I'll keep looking.

Looking forward to any of these?