Gone Fishin'

Well, not really, but it seemed like the kinda thing you're supposed to say. But I will be far from the world of high-speed wireless internet and not just being lazy about updating. So have a happy Canada Day, Fourth of July or just a good weekend wherever you are.

And if you can't get out to see Superman, you can alway watch Superman: The Movie! In 30 seconds (And Renacted by Bunnies)

One Critic to Ruin Them All

It was the critics' fault. The Canadian dollar is too high. U.S. tourists are too afraid to travel. Gas costs too much. People don’t understand British theatre. It was SARS. Our audiences were all drunken idiots. Ok, I made up the last one, but it was the only thing theatre producer Kevin Wallace didn’t blame the failure of the Toronto production of The Lord of the Rings on.

But it was the Gollum-like theatre critics that took the brunt of the blame for dooming the $28-million adaptation of Tolkien’s trilogy.
"I would not discount the role of the critics," Wallace said. "We were given a rough ride here in North America, and we struggled with a mixed message. In the Toronto press, the vote was three to one (against the show). That became an issue… If the critics don’t think they have power, believe me they do."
At the same news conference where Wallace heaped criticism on the critics for being critical, he barely acknowledged their complaints: it was too long, had no heart, didn’t have enough music, it was confusing and didn’t connect with audiences, who subsequently didn’t shell out $125 bucks for a ticket.

Clearly, Wallace doesn’t understand the role of critics – they are not community boosters, despite what he may believe. And if any show should have been critic proof, Rings was it. Millions have read the books and seen the movies, so it’s not like people didn’t know what the show was about. But perhaps it was the over familiarity that put off fans, who didn’t feel the need to see Frodo again so soon.

I haven’t seen the show myself, but I did (and still do) plan to, despite the critical attention, because I’m interested. I’ve had friends who went and enjoyed it, and that’s more important to me. It was the same way when we saw Avenue Q in New York – on the advice of a friend. We went to see Wicked last year and I never read a single review, we were interested in the story.

Critics don’t sink shows – if they had that power, Mamma Mia would never have lasted. They can help inform opinion, but a show will sink or swim on its own merits.

Hollywood Economics

Skin commands a lot of money, more so if you are famous. I know, I’m hardly breaking news here, but there have been a couple of stories recently that shows what a pound of flesh is worth.

A few weeks ago, People magazine shelled out $4.1 million for pictures of the chosen one, Shiloh Nouvel Pitt-Jolie, setting the bar for Baby’s First Invasion of Privacy.

It appears $4 million is the going rate to see Ashlee Simpson as naked as the day she was born. In Touch Weekly says Playboy has offered the lip-syncher seven figures, under the assumption more people would prefer to look at her breasts than hear her sing.

"Ashlee figures she's never looked better, so this may be the perfect time to do it,” an insider told the magazine. "She feels confident and sexy and thinks this is one way for her to separate her image from (sister) Jessica's."

Yeah, getting everyone to stare at her body would really help define her differently than Jessica. Sadly, Ashlee has decided her body is not for sale, at least at that price anyway.

Which is, essentially, why we haven’t seen any pictures of Suri Cruise gracing the newsstand. The gossip magazine were only willing to pony up a measly $3 mill for Scientology’s latest poster child, and Tom and Katie (ok, Tom and his handlers) balked, refusing to sell out their kid for less than Brad and Angie got.

Which means Britney should expect a month’s supply of Cheeetos when she pops out her second born.

Just Sue It

Nic Cage, not to be confused with a student actorOliver Stone, 9/11, a conspiracy theory? Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The twist this time has nothing to do with who attacked the World Trade Center, but a legal scuffle over two similarly titled films.

Paramount Pictures is suing Chris Moukarbel over his 12-minute version of director Oliver Stone’s upcoming tale of two cops rescued from the rubble of the twin towers. The short film is based on a bootleg copy of the original script, featuring student actors and shot by Moukarbel himself. The studio believes people will confuse this online short with the full-length, $60 million version starring Nicolas Cage.

"Large numbers of people will see the Moukarbel film first for free and determine, based on this poor-quality copy, that they do not want to pay to see the remainder of the WTC Film at a theater when it is released," Paramount's lawsuit said.

"He's free to make any World Trade Center movie he wants to make, but not our movie with our script," said Nancy Kirkpatrick, a Paramount spokeswoman.

While there appears to be no dispute that Moukarbel used the World Trade Center script, it seems extremely unlikely anyone would mistake a student short for the work of Oliver Stone. C’mon, Alexander wasn’t that bad. Moukarbel, who had been hosting the film on his website has removed it and other sites have pulled their links as well.

With $60 million invested and another $40 million earmarked for marketing, there is a lot of money tied up in this film which will take a lot of tickets to make back. So what’s the cost of a lawsuit against a student when it garners hundreds of stories about your upcoming release and countless blog posts (myself included)? Ask the producers of The Da Vinci Code how much negative publicity hurt them…

Welcome (Back) to the World of Tomorrow!!

After three years in the cryogenic chamber, Comedy Central is unthawing Futurama and putting it back on air. Similar to the resurrection of The Family Guy, DVD sales and endless reruns have given the show a new 13-episode lease on life.
"We are thrilled that Matt Groening and 20th Century Fox Television have decided to produce new episodes of Futurama and that Comedy Central will be the first to air them," said David Bernath, the cable net's senior VP.

"There is a deep and passionate fan base for this intelligent and very funny show that matches perfectly with our audience, and it is great that we can offer them not just the existing library but something they've never seen as well," Bernath told the Hollywood Reporter, via eonline.
It’s great to see networks recognizing (if belatedly) quality shows and making the effort to revive them. It’s likely that the animated nature of these two examples makes it easier to recreate – the characters haven’t aged, the voice talent isn’t tied up in another series – than a live action show. Could reruns and DVDs save Arrested Development? Probably not.

Of course much like Zombie Jesus, Family Guy looked right during its Second Coming but soon proved to be a shadow of its former self. Funny at first, it soon devolved into slapstick, mean-spiritedness and shock for it’s own sake. And I say this as a fan from the original broadcast: It just isn’t funny any more.

On the other hand I’ve been watching and re-watching reruns of Futurama (and I own the DVDs) and have recently found myself wishing there were more episodes. It’s a great mix of pop culture parody and sci-fi references and, dare I say, better than The Simpsons. At least better than the late season episodes.

The new shows aren’t due out until 2008 (damn those long animation lag times) and voice actors Billy West (Fry, Zoidberg, the Professor), Katey Sagal (Leela) and John DiMaggio (Bender) have all singed on to reprise their roles. I really hope they get this one right. If they don’t they can bite my shiny metal ass.

The Talented Captain Kirk

Shater. Stewart. Bakula. Damon? If rumors are to be believed the next captain of the USS Enterprise will be Matt Damon (excuse my photoshopping). It appears that Star Trek XI: So Very Tired is actually moving forward and director/producer J.J. Abrams wants to promote Private Ryan to the helm. He’s even gone so far as to ask William Shatner’s approval.

"Shatner gave his blessing," reports The Insider. "J.J. got his approval. J.J. wants Damon as Capt. Kirk. He really loves the idea." I don’t think they should be bothering with a new film – it could do with a bit of a time out – if they are insisting on revisiting our future past than Damon doesn’t seem such a bad choice. He’ll have to work on that Kirk bravado though and, uh, be a few years younger.

The film is supposed to follow the early days of Kirk and Mr. Spock at Starfleet Academy and first outer-space mission, making the 35-year-old Damon older than Shatner was when he chased short-skirted blue women though the galaxy. They’ll also need to be looking for a new Vulcan. Does this mean we will see an on-screen reunion with Ben Affleck? Call it Good Will Trekking.

Choose Wisely

It’s time to make a choice. Do you want to buy a copy of Terminator 2 on the shiny new Blu-Ray format or do you think it will look better on HD-DVD? Better yet, which competing format do you think will be the victor (there can be only one.) Can’t you just feel the lines of resolution?

Of course you could wait until it is licensed to iTunes and download it on your iPod. Or maybe the PSP. Why not buy them all and add them to your DVD, VHS and laser disc versions and then wait until Hollywood devises a new way to sell you what you already own. Ask a Star Wars fan.

I realize some people are just collectors and want every version of their favourite film, no matter what the format. But this just reminds me of when cassettes replaced vinyl, which fell before the might of the CD and is now withering away in the shade of the digital download. I have some of the same music in all four formats, not because I’m obsessive (at least not about that) but because I no longer have a record player or tape deck. They broke and/or became inconvenient and I moved on to the latest tech while vowing ‘Never again!’

Over the last couple of years I have been picking up DVD box sets of my favourite TV shows, and in the case of the long-running Simpsons, that is no cheap prospect. So what happens when a new format takes over the entertainment landscape and DVDs begin to disappear? Sure, they are cheap and plentiful now, but it will happen as new films are no longer released on DVD and the new tech becomes cheaper and cheaper. Blu-Ray insists that players will be backwards compatible, but also notes that will be up to the manufacturer.

Isn’t it time that consumers stop getting suckered into replacing perfectly good versions of movies and music? You don’t see readers racing to the bookstore to pick up the paperback version of their hardcover novels, just because they are new. I’d like to see a content license so that when you buy a movie (or album), you are paying for the content and not the format it comes in. When you pay, you get something that allows you to get it again in whatever new format appears. Tony Gentile of buzzhit! suggests something similar, called Amorphous (Perpetual) Content Licensing.

Of course the studios will never agree, but a lowly consumer can dream can’t he? It’s enough to drive one to file sharing…

No Time For Losers

I’m not a big hockey fan, which means I’m not a very good Canadian. But there I was watching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. I watched it at a downtown bar named C’est What and drank Hemp Ale microbrew, but I watched it nonetheless.

Anyway, the Edmonton Oilers went down to the Carolina Hurricanes (who?) and I spent my time wondering how Queen became such a sports fixture. As all the Carolina Canadians were laying their lips upon the Holy Grail, the sounds of “We Are the Champions” filled the arena. No time for losers, indeed. I can’t be sure, but I think I may have heard “We Will Rock You” as well. Don’t get me wrong, I like listening to Queen every once in awhile (and hollering Bohemian Rhapsody at karaoke if truth be told), but isn’t it time for a new sports anthem? And that Smashmouth song doesn’t count.

Maybe it’s the fact that only 20-second snippets get played during games, but there are some generally terrible songs being played at sports events:

“Who Let The Dogs Out” - Baha Men
“Get Ready For This” - 2 Unlimited
“Whoomp! There It Is” - Tag Team
“Na Na Na Na (Kiss Him Goodbye)” – Steam
“Final Countdown” - J. Tempset
“Rock and Roll Part 2” - Gary Glitter

The only song adopted by sportos that I still enjoy listening is Blur’s “Song 2,” which appears to have been rescued from pogoing frat boys. As for the rest, I protect myself by not watching sports.

The Movies Made Me Do It

Careful, this could be youBe careful out on the streets this weekend, lest someone dressed like Strong Bad jumps you from behind and pulls a tope or a guillotina on you.

With the release of Jack Black’s Nacho Libre, hordes of teenagers will be donning costumes and performing Mexican wrestling moves on unsuspecting passers-by. Expect cracked heads and maybe some broken limbs, all caused by kids who personify “monkey-see, monkey-do.”

Seems unlikely, but that’s exactly the kind of thing being expected from The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Police just outside of Toronto are placing officers around theatres playing the film to watch for “erratic driving coming out of these type of theatres… People come out — if I can use the expression — revved up after these types of movies,” Chief La Barge told globeandmail.com. “We have a perennial problem with street racing in our community and these types of glorification movies don't help the cause at all.”

It’s true that there has been a lot of deadly street racing in and around Toronto and I don’t want to make light of that, but I don’t think any entertainment drives anyone to do anything, let alone commit crimes. Last January a Toronto cabbie was killed by two idiot kids who slammed into his cab while racing. On one of their seats was a copy of Need for Speed, a racing game. The two were quickly connected.

Does anyone remember when heavy metal was causing kids to commit suicide? How about when Dungeons and Dragons was leading people to Devil worship and murder? After the Columbine shootings, some said the shooters were emulating scenes from The Matrix. There will always be people, especially teenagers, willing to do stupid things and there will always be some pop culture phenom to blame it on. But saying they are connected doesn’t make it so, no matter how much easier it makes things appear.

Love to Link You Baby

Time to spread the link love. I spent my day reading other people's blogs instead of writing my own today, so I thought I would share the joy:

• I’m already dreading The Simpsons movie and it’s not coming out for another year. Reports Culture Kills… NewsCorp is going to leave no stone uncovered making sure everyone knows it’s coming. They’ll make Krusty look subtle with their advertising campaign. Sigh.

• Funnier than wikipedia (of course) and more entertaining than IMDB, check out A History of Angelina Jolie over at Film Experience. You may think that you’ve read enough about the chosen one, but you’d be wrong.

• Over at Cheaper Than Therapy there is a surprising amount of conversation about poutine, a lovely concoction of gravy, cheese curds and fries. Seems Attila the Mom is not convinced, but we can help her see the error of her ways.

Come on Pilgrim says what I was thinking about the cancellation of Mr. Dressup but just didn’t get around to writing about. I’m glad other people are less lazy than I.

Now go visit.

Farewell to the Chief

If a female TV president falls, does anybody hear? Commander in Chief, one of the breakout new dramas at the beginning of the year, is airing its last episode tonight, with viewership dropping faster than George W. Bush’s approval rating.

In today’s Globe and Mail, TV columnist Andrew Ryan suggests that America (and I suppose Canada) “was simply not ready for Commander in Chief – and it may never be ready for a lady president.” It’s a rather harsh assessment for a show that was killed off for far more mundane reasons.

I watched President Geena Davis when she made her debut in the White House and followed along quite happily until one day it wasn’t on anymore. Months passed before its return and by then I was watching other shows and had lost track of the various storylines.

Much like Invasion, the programmers at ABC took a promising show, let it build an audience, and then took it off the air to run a mid-season replacement. When it came back on air it was on a different night, where it has languished on its way to cancellation. Ryan says the show’s fate was sealed by the schedule changes, but blames it on viewers not being able to accept a woman in the White House. If that were the case, would millions have tuned in at the beginning of the season, or Davis been rewarded with a Golden Globe. It’s much more likely that her re-election was doomed by network bungling.

It’s been a particularly bad year for scheduling decisions, and it’s what killed off Invasion as well. I thought that Prison Break was doomed by the lengthy hiatus that Fox put it on, but thankfully viewers returned to the show and the boys made it over the wall. While two worthy shows have fallen under the wheels, I hope that the programmers have learnt that they can’t take viewers for granted.

Baby You Can Drive My Car

I’ve never cared that much about cars. I don’t have a dream car that I lust after and have always seen vehicles as a means of transportation rather than a status symbol. Add to that to my basic automotive knowledge (I know where the key, gas and oil go) and I wasn’t revving to head out and see Pixar’s latest.

Not that Cars needed my help to race to the top of the box office, mind you. But lest I appear to be chanting “Two legs good, four wheels bad,” there are a few vehicles that have caught my eye over the years.

My first gas-fueled affair was on Herbie, the Love Bug. I likely hadn’t even seen the movie yet when my aunt taught me the joy of slugging someone in the shoulder and yelling “Love Bug!” when a VW Bug passes. Once I was introduced to Herbie, I was taken by the self-confident, smart aleck car that knew better than it’s drivers.

The next car to catch my eye was the coolest set of wheels on the big screen and driven by Burt Reynolds. Smokey and The Bandit convinced me that I wanted a black Trans-Am, which seemed cool at the time. Of course if I owned one now it would be more appropriate for hanging about at night in the grocery store parking lot of my hometown, comparing neon light installations with the locals.

I got over that ill-conceived obsession by dreaming of jumping into the open windows of the General Lee and leaving the law in my dust. In a Dukes of Hazard moment, inspired by the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” my university roommate climbed out the window of my very un-Bo-and-Luke-Duke Subaru and found out the hard way that you need to watch out for door locks.

The last car in my pop-culture parking lot was the most sophisticated of the lot, despite being piloted by David Hasselhoff. Knight Rider's KITT was cool, despite the snooty British voice. He was the General Lee of mid-80’s California. I got my picture taken with KITT at Universal Studios when we went to Los Angeles. I was also wearing a red jacket that I thought looked like Michael Jackson’s, so I’m kinda glad I can’t find the photo.

For the Love of Money

TomRat Family PortraitRemember Tom Cruise and Kate Holmes? They were the Hollywood couple that had a baby before Shiloh Jolie-Pitt became the next stage in human evolution.

Anyway, it turns out that they are still around and spreading the love cash around. Anyone who somehow still believes that they have been pin cushioned by Cupid’s arrows need only look at the mega-buck prenuptial agreement they have signed.

Cruise is reportedly offering Holmes $3 million for each year she maintains the façade of marriage, for up to $33 million. If she makes it through eleven years of Scientology brainwashing she will be eligible to take Maverick for half his fortune, estimated to be around more money than you’ll ever see in your lifetime.

Now isn’t that what love is all about, getting everything that you can and than hitting the road? She might as well, her film career wasn’t going anywhere. I can’t see what Cruise is getting out of it though, everybody already thinks he’s crazy.

May their love last until death, or $33 million, do they part.

(TomRat Family Portrait from Gallery of the Absurd. Seriously, she's really that good.)


The gossip wars have taken an interesting turn with the arrival of Brangelina’s baby Shiloh. Anyone who doesn’t think there’s serious money (and ego) at stake need only look at the battle raging over the first photos that hit the web. Reported Page Six yesterday:
BRAD Pitt and Angelina Jolie got top dollar for the first pictures of baby Shiloh - but they made the weekly celeb glossies work for it. All the weekly magazine editors were summoned to the offices of the Getty photo agency at Canal and Varick late Saturday night. "We were sequestered into separate and un-air-conditioned offices," said one. "The photos were shown to us around 10 p.m. to midnight, and then we had to submit bids by 6 a.m. Sunday morning. No one got any sleep at all, as it was a manic game of phone-tag to top each other's bids. I'm convinced it was Brangie's revenge on the weekly magazines." The pictures went to People for $4.1 million.
But then the cover photo from Hello! was leaked and showed up all over the place. Everyone jumped on and it appears the celeb mags have freaked. Cease and desist letters have landed on the big gossip blogs Perez Hilton and Pink Is the New Blog and likely others, who have pulled the pic from their sites, at least temporarily. I even saw Perez’s version on Toronto’s CTV local newscast last night, complete with his scrawl on the picture. Those lawyers are going to be busy as you can easily find the photo even on the first page of Google images.

What this really shows is that these magazines are worried about their online gossip competitors. They should be – the sites are updated throughout the day and there are no publishing delays. Expect this fight to get nasty

As for me, I’m just illustrating the battle, not cashing in on the photos. Lawyers can send their complaints to the above email.

It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

If you’re reading this, the world has not come to an end… yet. It could still happen a bit later, or perhaps The Rapture has occurred and, I hate to tell you, if you’re still here it’s not looking good.

My hell is pointless Hollywood remakes, so June 6, 2006 will truly be a devilish day for me. Witness a remake of The Omen being released to coincide with the, um, ominous date. The original is fantastically creepy piece of horror and suspense. It has entered the pop culture lexicon, with Family Guy’s Stewie Griffen attempting to kill his mother Lois by knocking her off the stairs with his tricycle in a scene straight out of the film. Damien, the son of Satan himself, joins the South Park boys' class.

Is watching a 30-year-old movie really that hard? Or is it just a cynical piece of marketing based around the 6/6/06 date? Silly question, of course. Jokes on them – The Book of Revelation, which started this whole mark of the devil foolishness ("This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six.") – was written when the Julian calendar was in use, not the modern day Gregorian calendar, so who knows what day 6/6/06 would really fall on. Take that marketing department!

I'm No Celebrity

File these under Ways In Which My Life is Unlike a Celebrity:

•Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s lawyers have registered ShilohJoliePitt.com as a gift to the happy couple, commemorating the birth of their little one. I could be wrong, but I don’t think my lawyers will do the same for me this October. Oh right, I don’t have lawyers or my own domain either. Celeb kids, is there anything they don’t have? (Pic from Gallery of the Absurd)

• Is releasing a video of you floating about a pool the best way to confirm your pregnancy? If you are Anna Nicole, then answer is yes. Whatever happened to keeping things to yourself and retaining some privacy and dignity? Oh right, silly question.

• I don’t go to the hypnotist to cure my $100,000 in a day shopping addiction, like Lindsay Lohan does. I’m more worried about why I keep clucking like a chicken, which started somewhere around the time when I first saw a hypnotist. Maybe they can convince me yo replace the shirts I bought in university.