Thursday, April 22, 2010

A few thoughts on Clash of the Titans 2010

-Dear Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson: So what is it we were thinking, gentlemen? Was the paycheck really worth the resultant loss of self-respect?

-Mr. Neeson rather looks like he is ready to lead a Greek god glam band.

-Is this the kraken we are releasing, or was he unavailable and forced to send Gamera as a replacement?

-Speaking of the kraken, if this scene is prominently advertised in the trailers while promoting the 3D experience, I want that thing roaring right in my face. This did not happen. This is actually a film that would benefit from being viewed in dazzling 2D. I have now wasted an extra $3 and I got a weird indentation on the bridge of my nose from these stylin’ glasses.

-I’m having difficulty with the fact that a production this expensive still feels campy.

-I suppose my expectations should have been lower considering the best tagline they could come up with was "Titans Will Clash".

-Really, Perseus, you should have taken the mechanical owl.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Making Crappy Movies Out of Household Materials...

Last week I posted the following Facebook status: "Kate Stabile wonders why movie producers continue to think that a 2 minute comedy sketch will still be funny when stretched to 2 hours." I felt that I had more to say on this topic than was allowed by the pithy Facebook status update, and, gee, I just happen to have a blog with which to expand on that thought!

The prompt for this status update occurred while I was visiting to solve some kind of movie mystery. Once on the page, I skimmed over the trailers available for view, and my eye fell on one title in particular: MacGruber. I stared dumbfounded for a moment until I realized that Saturday Night Live was going to once again take a popular sketch and stretch it until it looked nothing like what made us laugh in the first place. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series of sketches, here is a link to one that made me chuckle:

Time and time again, movie producers have capitalized on the success of a comedy sketch; however, the end result is almost unfailingly sub-par. SNL has been a frequent offender in this respect. I can think of only one instance in which decent entertainment has been created from the seed of an SNL skit, and that one exception is Wayne's World. While not a high art classic by any means, Wayne's World managed to expand on the antics of its characters in a plausible way. Not only was it amusing, but it brought Queen back into the public consciousness with a clever and most excellent use of "Bohemian Rhapsody".

Efforts such as A Night at the Roxbury and The Ladies' Man (neither of which have I seen) have not fared nearly so well. I propose that the main reason for this failure is the nature of the characters within the format of the sketch. The hapless club-goers of
A Night at the Roxbury and the titular lothario of The Ladies' Man are essentially one-dimensional. The one trait that they display or one activity in which they participate is both what makes the sketch funny and what makes it unsuitable for a long format. These characters do not have a back story or a hidden conflict. We don't need these elements to make us laugh, and frankly don't want them. The protagonists of Wayne's World were not quite so static in format and personality, and therefore had a better chance of being fleshed out. Considering that the bomb that MacGruber is perpetually trying to dismantle is set to go off after 20 seconds, and the humor in the situation lies with the distractions that cause him to fail in his attempt, I don't see what good can come out of removing him from this format. Sorry MacGruber, I hold out about as much hope for your movie as I do for you actually getting out of that bunker (or bank, or mafia hideout) unscathed.

What are your views on movies based on comedy sketches?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Comment (a really long one) to "Top 5 artists everyone likes but me"

So many thoughts and anecdotes came to mind related to today's post on theFiver, that instead of writing a blog-post-length comment, I figured I'd just write a blog post!
Therefore, you'll need to do some background reading:

Now that you've taken that in, here are my comments:

As to Billy Joel, I can't say I'm a fan, but I do enjoy some of his older songs from the 80s that I used to hear growing up. The video for "Pressure" used to scare the living crap out of me; it may have even given me nightmares.

I can no longer listen to "We Didn't Start the Fire," not only because it is fundamentally infuriating ("We didn't start the fire. It's somebody else's fault. We bear no responsibility for what has happened here."), but because my junior year English class in high school was forced to dissect the lyrics to the song and each report on the section we were assigned. I believe I drew the "Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline/Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan" bit. *shudder* I can't believe I remember that. The horror.

I have never liked "River of Dreams" either. The whiteness of this song reminds me of Dr. A's clapping of the rhythm to "The Storm is Passing Over" during a UMass Chorale concert. He claimed it was a "deep rhythm." No, I'm sorry, Dr. A, that was what you call a WHITE rhythm. (I have this captured on CD. Classic.)

Some of Billy Joel's hits have provided fodder for comedy. "Big Shot" was, of course, one of the Drunken Asses' Greatest Hits on SNL. I also particularly enjoy Dave Barry's take on "She's Always a Woman" from his Book of Bad Songs, in which he likens it to a really long Geritol commercial ("Ooooo, she takes care of herself...").

2.) John does make a valid point about Sting. During "Roxanne," Sting kind of sounds like something painful and inappropriate is being done to him. I've always wondered exactly how many times he repeats "sending out an SOS" during the course of "Message in a Bottle." Dude, you'll never be rescued if you don't shut up and send it already...
Basically, I just find it difficult to look at or listen to Sting, because we now all know far, far too much about his personal life.

3.) I'm definitely with John on the Steely Dan. My mom always had a violent hatred for the band, and instilled my own lifelong dislike. Every time one of their songs came on the radio, she would shout, "I hate Steely Dan!!" and lunge for the controls as if shot through by a jolt of electricity. I seem to have the same propensity for changing the channel immediately upon hearing those irritatingly mellow tones...

4.) I will admit, I find "25 Or 6 To 4" somewhat catchy. However, as Chicago progressed into the 80s, they apparently forgot how to drain the sap out. Then Peter Cetera saw fit to spread the sap further through solo efforts and by performing several duets.

5.) I also have to admit a certain soft spot for a couple of Journey tunes. "Don't Stop Believing" always makes me chuckle due to an interview a few years back on Hockey Night in Canada with Vinny LeCavalier and Marty St. Louis in which Marty referred to it as "their song." Vinny seemed somewhat unnerved by that phrasing. And come on, the video for "Separate Ways" is so terrifically bad... how can you not be entertained?

Thus (finally) endeth my thoughts on this topic. Thanks to John for giving me some great blog material! Anyone else out there have an artist whose popularity you just don't understand?

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Return to One Longfellow Square

It occurs to me that I've been neglecting to blog about One Longfellow Square lately. (Actually, I've been neglecting to blog about anything lately, so I better start making up for it!) I've seen four excellent shows in the past few weeks, and thought I'd share some links and see of I could expose some readers to talented artists they may not have heard before.

10/2/09 - Girlyman, with Po' Girl
The opening act, Po' Girl, had an exuberant, multi-instrumental take on roots music. Great fun to watch and to listen to.
Girlyman describe themselves on their website as "Leading Edge Three-Part Harmony Folk-Pop". Quite frankly, they blew me away. Their harmonies are incredible, and their performance is endlessly entertaining. They even create "tuning songs" on the spot while waiting for one of the band members to tune an instrument. Check out the song clips on the website; this is good stuff.

10/3/09 - An Evening with Jonatha Brooke
An accomplished singer-songwriter, Jonatha Brooke took inspiration from the music of Woody Guthrie for her latest album; she was invited by Guthrie's daughter Nora to search the archives for possible adaptations. Brooke is a wonderful storyteller and performer, introducing each song with an anecdote. She also apparently has control over the elements; just as she finished a line about rolling thunder, a great peal of it sounded from outside. What further endeared her to me was the fact that she performs the theme song for the Fox series Dollhouse... I was proud to have seen someone who was involved in a Joss Whedon production!
What You Don't Know (Dollhouse theme)

10/15/09 - The Wiyos
I arrived at the show exhausted, and wondering how I'd make it to the end to clean up the auditorium. Well, I needn't have worried. These guys have incredible energy, and a fabulously unique style. I find that the washboard is quite underutilized these days in music, and I don't believe I've ever seen a bullhorn used in a musical setting. The Wiyos have opened for John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, and Bob Dylan, and it's easy to see how they landed a spot with such illustrious names as these.

10/16/09 - Antje Duvekot w/Peter Bradley Adams
I didn't really get to see Peter Bradley Adams, since I was out in the lobby during his performance, but it sounded good from out there! Also, he played a few songs with Antje during her set. His latest album, "Traces", debuted at #1 on the iTunes singer-songwriter charts.
The rawness and honesty of Antje Duvekot's songwriting and performance are what really resonated with me. Originally from Germany and now based in the Boston area, she released her second studio album, "The Near Demise of the High Wire Dancer", earlier this year. Her songs were emotionally powerful enough for one them to cause tears to stream down my face during the performance... if it hadn't been dim in the auditorium, that would have been kind of embarrassing...
Lighthouse (the one that made me cry!)

In conclusion, I hope this post has introduced you to some great new music. I have never seen a bad show at One Longfellow Square (or even a mediocre one).
And one last link... keep up with what's going on at the venue here:

More OLS adventures will be forthcoming!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Horror of Remakes

Today while perusing my email, I came across the Videoport newsletter, and gave it my customary skim-through to see if anything interesting was happening at the awesomest of video rental establishments. As my eye traveled down the page, it fell upon the headline, "Teaser Trailer from 'Nightmare on Elm Street' delivers the goods". My immediate reaction was, "Nooooooo!" I clicked on the link and proceeded to play said trailer, which was released via MySpace. When I saw the words "from producer Michael Bay" appear on-screen, my immediate reaction was, "Nooooooo!"

Clearly, I'm quite skeptical about the new version of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Growing up, I was a fan of the series (except the second installment, which was truly bad, and not even in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way. I am still wary of lovebirds, lest one attack the other, chase after a bunch of humans, and then spontaneously combust). It's always difficult to see something one had an affection for in its original form undergo a "re-imagining". The primary issue I have with the idea of a remake is a Freddy Krueger other than Robert Englund. Whereas the monsters of Friday the 13th and Halloween were best remembered for their masks, Englund provided the face of his character through 8 films and a few TV series. After having watched the trailer, I am still extremely doubtful, yet intrigued despite myself. I suppose we'll have to wait until April of 2010 for the verdict.

Revisiting classic horror franchises has been somewhat of an epidemic in Hollywood in recent years. I can't say that the Friday the 13th retread caused me any distress, as I've never seen the original, and wasn't tempted enough to see the new version. The new version of Halloween did bother me, but because I have never seen the original of this film either (I'm prepared to be beaten for this admission), the reason it does is that Rob Zombie bothers me. The man believes in the greatness of his filmmaking, daring to take on a horror classic, even after creating the atrocity that was House of 1000 Corpses. (By the time the young female protagonist dressed in a bunny costume was being chased through a field by the psycho redneck family, I collected my wits long enough to wonder how I'd made it this far into the the film. And how did Rainn Wilson end up involved in this mess? John, this may actually be a good selection for Bed Time Movies.)

One film I have seen in both its original and remade incarnations is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I'll be blunt. The new version was awful. What made the original so effective, and so horrifying, was everything that was left to the viewer's imagination. The remake took the opportunity to show, in bloody, gory, grisly detail, everything that the original made you picture in your head. It just goes to show how far Hollywood has drifted from what makes a film truly frightening.

In summary, Hollywood's recent attempts to reimagine horror classics don't bode well for the updated A Nightmare on Elm Street. It remains to be seen whether, 9...10... Freddy really will be back again.

(For those who are curious, the new teaser trailer can be found here:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dogs... Gorillas... what?

Last night I was innocently watching some television and playing on the computer when I was assaulted by images from another surreal movie trailer (I'm sure we all remember the guinea pigs outfitted in spy gear... I'm still recovering from that one). I'm of the opinion that you need to see it for yourself before reading my reactions to it. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Now, since I was also using the computer at the time, my attention was somewhat diverted, so the thought process went something like this:
-Hey, slapstick! Kid getting hit in the face with a soccer ball. *giggle*
-Robin Williams.. hit or miss. Looks like it might be one of his over-the-top roles.
-Aw, John Travolta. I really try to just block out the memory of Battlefield Earth due to the soft spot I've had for him since childhood. Plus, he shot Marvin in the face.
-Yay! Seth Green!
-...did I just see... is that... is he...? Seth Green is singing All Out of Love in the arms of a gorilla. Let me repeat that. Seth Green is singing All Out of Love in the arms of a gorilla. I think I need to check and verify that there is only one empty beer bottle sitting on the counter right now.

First guinea pigs, now gorillas. I think the film production companies are trying to make me doubt my own sanity (such as it is). Please feel free to share your impressions of this cinematic curiosity... once the shock wears off...

In the interest of inter-blog cooperation...

From John Swinconeck, the creator of the awesomeness that is theFiver, comes another exercise in blogging entertainment. I'll let the description from the blog speak for itself:

"Bed Time Movies:
A case of insomnia, no cable TV, and a strange array of free titles with which to download. I began to Twitter whatever thoughts I was having about whichever film I was watching – generally the cheesier the better – and it became a game to see how far I could get into the movie and how much I could Tweet before falling asleep, and how much would make sense the following day. So if you like strange observational humor and movies featuring Kevin Costner/Kevin Sorbo, truck-driving orangutans, and the apocalypse, you're likely disturbed. If so, you've come to the right place."
Check it out here:

And don't forget to keep reading theFiver, not only because it's awesome, but also because you may occasionally be treated to a guest post by yours truly...
Pop culture blog overload! Hooray!