Underdog vs. The Flash

Did anyone notice that in the recent Underdog movie, Underdog gets his powers in exactly the same way The Flash does in classic DC comics? OK, in The Flash, lightning strikes Barry Allen’s CSI laboratory, knocking a shelf-full of chemicals over on to him, resulting in him having super-speed.

In the movie, Shoeshine knocks over a shelf of Simon bar Sinister’s chemicals resulting in him becoming Underdog.

Of course, nobody saw the movie, and only a few people remember The Flash, so…

Hmmm, Googling “the Flash” and “Underdog” isn’t helpful at all. I’ll take credit for noting this bit of plagiarism.

Despite the presence of Jason Lee, Peter Dinklage and Patrick Warburton, Underdog falls short of captivating. And what’s with using Jim Belushi? Didn’t already do his time with K-9 back in the ‘80s?

Footnote: Wow, Jim Belushi was in two direct-to-video sequels to K-9 in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Guy’s a working actor.

Treadmill-desk

I wrote that last post on my new treadmill desk. Have you heard of it?

OK, mine doesn’t look anywhere near that slick. Mine is a plank of wood on top of a used Proform 770 I picked up on Craig’s list for $50. Also, I had to pick up an arm mount for a monitor.

The idea is to replace the time you spend sitting on your ass with time you instead spend walking at a slow pace. Regardless of weight, I tend to think the body needs to be active to function well.

I’ve got some ergonomic issues to work out, still: The desktop (i.e., my plank of wood) is too low, so that’s a ticket to RSI. It might need to be angled away from me, which sounds weird but actually means my hands will be in a normal resting position instead of bent back at the wrist.

So, does it affect my work (negatively)? Can’t tell yet. It’s not completely unworkable. I’ll have to try tackling some particularly challenging problem to see how it goes.

Say what?

Apparently, Time-Warner is planning to spend $25M on advertising the DVD for the moderately successful (and surpriginly good) Horton Hears A Who, with the idea that its target audience is, you know, addled (either from having children or being children). No, that’s not it. It’s that they have the book, so they’ll want the movie.

Well, okay. I like the movie, but I barely associate it with the book. No loud-ass blockbuster Jim Carrey flick is on the same plane as a book. Not saying better or worse, just not comparable. But, okay, that’s just me. Others doubtless go, “Ooh! A movie based on a book! That I’ve read!” and snap it right up.

OK, so with a $25M ad budget how much are pricing these at in order to move those puppies?

$29.99

Say what? My initial shock was ameliorated somewhat when I realized that that was the “retail price”, i.e., the price you pay at the convenience store for, you know, convenience, and that the real price will be somewhere in the $20, probably $15-25.

Still, I have to wonder if they’ve really worked out the curve on this.

My first “real” job was for Paramount Home Video. I was customer support. I don’t mean that I worked in customer support, I mean that I was customer support. And it was a part time job. (The other part of the job was accounting.)

At this time, it was commong for videos to cost $40-$50, or about 30 gallons of gas, if you want to scale for inflation. (What? What do you mean that doesn’t work?) Anyway, it amounted to over $100 in modern “fun-time bucks”, or whatever we’re calling greenbacks today. You could pay $100 for a copy of Gator Bait, or other movies that were “priced to rent”.

Not long before I got there, some genius at Paramount had figured out that if you sell a video for $20, instead of $40, you sold a whole lot more videos. In fact, they had launched a big promotion with Pepsi and (I think) Burger King, in conjunction with that modern classic Top Gun (dir. Tony Scott).

And they had, for the first time, sold over one billion copies of the Tom Cruise/Val Kilmer love story.

What? OK, one million copies. But they sold ‘em lightning fast. And they sold another million pretty damn fast as well.

Over the years, prices have dropped both on the tag and in real dollars. I don’t know about y’all, but that makes me very inclined to pick a movie up casually. $7 for the Bedazzled remake? Worth it just for Elizabeth Hurley’s 14 outfits. (And she’s the weakest part of that movie!)

I’ve noticed that the HD–well, not anymore, but the Blu-Ray movies are back up to $30 and $40. Whoa! Shock to the system! Since a big part of the high-def push is to find ways to lock content down, you might think they’d use marginally higher prices (on the newer stuff that actually benefits from high-def) while keeping older classics at the same prices (or even lower!). That would be a very compelling argument for getting a new player.

Then they could sneak in whatever dastardly content protection they wanted.

Unfortunately, they are the greediest of the greedy. They fought VCRs tooth and nail, and when they lost that battle, they made billions off the VCR. They really feel that not only do they deserve to charge you $40 for a movie that was made before any of them were born, but that the laws of the land should be changed to make it so that they can charge you whatever they want long after their bones are dust.

Of course, the bandwidth for truly high-high-high def stuff isn’t out there. You can’t get a computer to deliver it. But now that the cat is out of the bag that you’re not actually getting it when you pay for it, from your cable/sat/etc company, it’ll be intriguing to see how it all plays out.

Oh, and the $30 for Horton. Well, when I worked there, one of the most expensive movies we had that wasn’t rent-to-own was The Godfather. You needed two video tapes, and it cost about $70 bucks ($150 or so today). Cost to Paramount to make those tapes? $2.62.

DVDs are even cheaper, however you measure.

Baghead (Not A Story Of A Trooper York 3AM Date)

There’s some well-worn ground in the new little flick Baghead. Four actors who long for bigger and better careers are inspired after watching a (amusingly pretentious) low budget film to go into a cabin in the woods to make their own picture. The sexual dynamics between them are ambiguous on the one hand, and on the other, one of them dreams of a man with a bag over his head, and turns them down the road of making a horror movie.

Until Baghead starts making his presence known and they start disappearing one by one…or do they?

So we have a relationship movie about guys making a movie, that’s also a horror movie about guys making a horror movie.

It works pretty well. Someone on IMDB compared to the Coen Bros., but this is no Blood Simple. That said, it’s not bad.

Our characters are: the handsome one (Matt, played by Ross Partridge), the nebbishy one (Chad, played by Steve Zsiss), the older-and-wise blonde hottie (Catherine, played by Elise Muller), and the new blonde hottie (Michelle, played by Greta Gerwig). Matt and Catherine are “beyond labels” in their relationship, while Chad is crushing on Michelle. Michelle, of course, is crushing on Matt, which pisses Catherine off. Chad is resentful of Matt, who he thinks gets all the girls, but Matt isn’t doing too well, apparently, since he broke up with Catherine.

Somebody shoot me.

This stuff’s all right. There’s a lot of drinking. And scheming. But it’s a bit slow.

It’s also a bit familiar. I kept wondering if I knew these actors or I just knew a lot of people like them.

Baghead livens up the proceedings but the movie sort of plays with being a horror movie without ever actually being a horror movie. That’s not necessarily bad, except for me finding that, when they finally commit at the climax of the movie, I was curiously unimpressed. I didn’t buy it whole hog. The filmmakers didn’t convince me that they would actually allow the things to happen that I was seeing.

Part of this is the limit of low-budget-ness. The camera’s at a pretty removing distance most of the time. Part of it is the limit of the story, though, too. There’s a sleight-of-hand that’s not very convincing even when it’s all laid out at the end.

But, all-in-all, not bad. Short. Fairly thoughtful. They do manage a few good scares, though I would hasten to point out that that’s a relatively easy task compared to making an effective full-on horror movie.

Nonetheless, no point in critiquing it for not being what it’s not trying to be. It does what it tries to do fairly well. So, good work to the Duplass brothers who wrote and directed.

Pet Peeve of the Milennium

Know what I hate?

Really, really hate?

You know how when you’re watching a TV show and then the commercial comes on at double the volume? I have that licked: I stopped watching TV with commercials, for the most part.

But in recent years, movies and TV shows are mixed so that dialogue is very, very quiet, while the transitional music is super loud. And special effects.

Don’t these dunderheads know that you want a much smaller range of audio dynamics for home viewing than in the theater–and frankly, it’s overdone in the theater, too. If the only way you can get a reaction out of the audience is to turn the volume to 11, maybe it’s time to pack it in, mm-kay?

I was just trying to watch Secret Diary of a Call Girl with the lovely Billie Piper (Rose from “Dr. Who”) and it was done in this muttering dialogue style with loud transitional music.

It’s TV, fellas, mix it down!

Post Apocalpyse Now Redux

My post-apocalypse top 10 has gotten a few hits and I’ve been looking around at some other top 10 Internet lists. Here’s the Google search.

‘k.

Couple points:

Escape from New York isn’t really a post-apocalyptic film, or I would’ve included it. Or is it? I guess it meets the definition in some senses. I sort of don’t think of it as such, however, because (like the sequel) it depends on a civilization existing outside of it for its impetus. (Save the President!) Maybe, though. It has a lot in common with them. I’ll let this one pass.

12 Monkeys. No, I don’t think so. It’s mostly about the pre-apocalypse. If you include this, you may as well include Terminator movies.

The Quiet Earth. Never heard of it. But it’s New Zealand. How would you know if the world ended in New Zealand?

Death Race 2000. Think I mentioned it, but if I didn’t: Dystopic, not post-apocalyptic.

Cherry 2000. This unusual pic with pre-fame Melanie Griffith as a sex-droid is smarter than it sounds. But it’s still not very good.

Red Dawn. Apocalyptic, not post-apocalyptic, and frankly, not all that apocalyptic, any more than, say, Verhoeven’s Flesh + Blood (with Jennifer Jason-Leigh and Rutger Hauer). It’s a war movie movie. Include this and you have to include a whole bunch of WWII movies.

Tank Girl. I actually love this movie with Lori Petty and Malcolm McDowell, and Naomi Watts as Jet Girl has never been sexier. But it’s fairly camp, and hasn’t aged well.

They Live. Another Carpenter flick. In fairness, all of Carpenter’s films feel like they’re post-apocalyptic. Even Starman has a kind of end-of-the-world feel to it. It’s a directorial style thing. Even Halloween kind of feels like Mike Myers is going to murder the whole world. Nonetheless, They Live is more dystopic, and really more just anti-’80s materialism, than post-apocalyptic.

Reign of Fire. What a great idea! What a bad implementation!

Waterworld. I haven’t seen it. I do have my limits.

The Postman. Ibid.

Hell Comes To Frogtown. Dunno. This one has never done it for me.

Tooth and Nail. I wrote about it extensively here. Note that I incorrectly identify Children of Men as post-apocalypse when it’s more mid-apocalypse. (Since I’m talking about apocalyptic mechanics, it doesn’t reflect on the point being made, but still, the world hasn’t ended in Children, it’s just threatening to.)

Cooties

In the aforementioned “Hannah Montana” girl-fest, the subject of kissing boys came up. To wit, one of the girls has a crush on a boy and wants to kiss him. (The Flower is seven! The other girls no more than eight.) I was relieved to hear that the other girls looked at the…advanced…one like she was Martian.

That’s good. Some seven year old boy out there might have just had his life saved.

Surreal Panhandle

“Got any change?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t carry money any more these days. Plastic.”

“Buy me a Pepsi?”

“Sure.”

(I buy a soda and hand it to him.)

“Here ya go. Good luck.”

“I wrote this book.”

“Wow.”

[garbled] “…it’s how to live like a millionaire.”

(Hands me paper.)

“That’s my name. White King. There’s my website.”

“Buy my book? Help me feed my family?”

“I don’t have any cash, sorry.”

I think I misunderstood, but I was sure until I checked it out that Mr. King was panhandling, trying to get me to buy a book on being a millionaire. (But, I reasoned, being a millionaire is a different skill than becoming a millionaire. So, in a riches-to-rags possibility, he could have a product there.)

Well, here are the websites this guy points to, and it turns out that he claims to be a millionaire “celibrity” (heh), and he was trying to sell me Volume 1 of his three-volume autobiography “Cuban-American Millionaire Celebrity.”

He’s also written some suspense novels which, hey, have sold better than any of my books on Amazon (though, in fairness to myself, my books were all written and out-of-date before anyone had heard of Amazon.com).

The guy who stopped me may not have been the guy who wrote the book, though he did look a lot like the pictures on those sites. It was hard to tell, since this millionaire celebrity panhandler wasn’t wearing a suit like the guy in the picture. (He was barely wearing a shirt.)

So if a guy claims to run a half-billion dollar institute, how much change do you give him?

Just another day in the city.

Donny Osmond

On our way back from Pasadena last night, we passed a Miley Cyrus billboard. Then a Hannah Montana billboard. (And the Disney studios. And then Warner Bros., where Rope was filmed.)

Anyway, I got to thinking about Donny Osmond. Back in the ‘70s Donny and sister Marie were huge. They were huge in a way that’s almost hard to comprehend today. It’s not exactly the same, mind you: On the one hand, the PR machines today seem a lot broader in scope. There was no Donny & Marie movie, on the one hand, but there’s no Hannah Montana SatAM cartoon on the other.

Anyway, when the Donny & Marie show ended, Donny’s 15-year career came to a crashing halt. He was 21 and probably didn’t remember a time when he wasn’t constantly getting more popular.

I almost felt sorry for the guy. Being a 21 year old and washed up can’t be easy. Sort of like Britney or Lindsay or any of these modern train wrecks.

I almost felt sorry, except for two things. First, he always came off like a jerk. It was fairly well sublimated on the show (men were the butt of jokes on the male/female variety shows of the ’70s), but he made no bones about it in subsequent interviews. Only recently have I seen something like Second, at some point, shouldn’t you just be grateful you had that time in the sun? Fifteen years is pretty long in show-biz terms, and it’s not like anyone owes you attention.

At that point, you ought to have enough money to pursue whatever you want, right? You have a big family, lots of money, you have it all. Lots of guys slave away for decades and never achieve anything like a fraction of the fame you have. And–be honest–you know many of them are better musicians and performers. So why the hell not be grateful and keep working at it (if that’s what you want) . Yeah, you’ll probably never get lucky like that again (and that level of fame always depends on luck), but at least you won’t spend the next 10, 15, or 20 years hating your life.

(Of course, I’m just assuming that’s the case from the few snippets of interview. Maybe he just gets angry when he gets interviewed.)

So. Yeah.

Anyway, I hope Miley doesn’t get bitter when her current level of fame subsides.

In Which My Life Resembles A Benetton Ad

The Flower had a Hannah Montana party last night. (Said party drove me and The Boy out to see Baghead, so expect a review of that later.)

Her invitees were two next-door neighbors–the one on the left being black, the one on the right being hispanic–and a girl from her basketball team, whose mother is Muslim enough to wear a hijab. The flower, by contrast, is lily-white, though the black girl (who’s quite dark indeed) epitomizes beauty to her.

There’s actually nothing remarkable about that to anyone here.

And it all occurs without any sort of discussion about race whatsoever.