The seat of lukewarmity

I’m watching the Bill Gates appearance on The Daily Show from earlier this week, and I’m thinking that it’s a particularly fluffy interview… not that The Daily Show doesn’t do that, but they tend to have at least an interesting book to talk about or humorous back-stage discussion of the new movie or whatever, and Bill Gates is a person of real power so the serious questions are reasonable (and besides, talking about how an operating system came to be is pretty boring for the general public.)
And suddenly it hits me… they’re not going to do the Seat of Heat, because I’ve not seen that recently. I can’t tell you for sure when it went away (I’m predicted it would be gone by Halloween, but I think I missed on that one), but I’m glad it’s gone… except in this case.
I’m a bit concerned about the Daily Show… in addition to its running on-screen talent drain problem (it’s just too good a showcase!), the loss of Ben Karlin, who is responsible for making the show much of what it is, is worrisome. But hey, even if we’re nearing the end times for the show, we’ve had at least half a dozen strong years, and at its peak it delivered amazing TV.

Published in: on January 31, 2007 at 11:22 pm  Comments (2)  

Mars in Retrograde

The last couple episodes have really hammered it home… the quality of Veronica Mars has slipped badly in its third season. Stories are pointless, people are acting out of character, doing stupid things to advance the plot, and it becomes really hard to invest one’s self in.
Last night’s episode was rife with examples of this. Let me focus on one (****SPOILER ALERT on details of last night’s Veronica Mars***)
The blackmailing of the judge was:

  • Stupid: if you’re going to go after someone for blackmail, your first choice should not be a judge, who is apt to know the ins and outs of such things; that’s apt to land you in a lot more trouble
  • Amateur: from the low amount Veronica blackmailed him for, to the use of her own cell phone as the source of the call, to the lack of even a claim that they had physical evidence of what they charged, and down to the very thing they were blackmailing him over, which was a matter of embarrassment at best rather than something that would endanger his career or freedom, this all made them look like blackmail pikers obviously shrugged off
  • Thoughtless: the repercussions that were faced were only one of several bad but obvious outcomes for the action
  • Illogical: the information that was used to blackmail with came from someone whose veracity was very much in dout at the time
  • Pointless: the money was not needed. Veronica’s client, as we could assume going in and as we had verified later, did not lack for money on that scale.

It was an all-around silly and out of character move. And as for keeping the story involving… dear lord, don’t get me started on the heart-rending nature of “oh no, the girl that my bad boy boyfriend had meaningless sex with when he was not my boyfriend is not the girl that I would have had my bad boy boyfriend to have slept with while he was not my boyfriend, if I had a say in who people who were not my boyfriend should sleep with. Oh my, is my boyfriend a bad boy? How did I not realize that his history of sleeping with girls who I would not choose my bad boy boyfriend to have slept with while he was not my boyfriend might suggest that this bad boy was capable of sleeping with girls whom I would not choose during periods when he is not my boyfriend?!” Sorry, but compared to season 1’s “I’ve been raped, cast out of society, and my mother has abandoned me so I’m keeping this hard shell to protect my fragile insides”, the emotional depth here is pure passing-notes-in-the-back-of-class stuff.

Published in: on January 31, 2007 at 10:20 am  Comments (1)  

stack error in the chips

The Super Bowl falls on a Sunday this year, so we’ve decided to have our annual gathering (if you think you should be invited, email me!) and I’ve been gathering excessive snack foods. I purchased a can of Pringles the other day, one of the new ones where they print stuff on the chips (excuse me, “crisps”), because they were all out of the normal ones. In this case, the stuff on the chips is movie trivia questions, and one that they picture on the can has the question “What was the subtitle to 1977’s Star Wars”, with the answer being “A New Hope”.
BAAAAP! Wrong. 1977’s Star Wars had no subtitle. Later year’s Star Wars may have had that subtitle, as it was a term added to refer to the film in rerelease (as well as being added to the opening crawl), but the 1977 release never used that, not in the promotion nor in the film itself. If you want me to trust your trivia questions, don’t show me a false one on the package.
(But hey, does anyone remember what the subtitle for the movie Rambo was?)

Published in: on January 29, 2007 at 4:23 pm  Comments (2)  

Math is hard around the holidays

I’m watching The Last Holiday (starring Queen Latifah) on DVD at the moment. Stop reading if you don’t want one scene in it to be ruined.

Queen’s character goes to do some gambling, playing roulette. And she places a pile of chips on one number. The other folks gathered with her (a rich crowd including a senator and a major retail magnate) tell her that that’s an awful lot of money she has on there, and a foolish bet. But the number hits… and she lets the pile of chips ride. And the number hits again. And she lets it ride again, and the number hits again. And she cashes out, and by goodness, she’s ended up with $100,000!
Except the payoffs on roulette are rather standard. If she ended up with $100,000, that scarily big bet she originally put down? Two dollars and fourteen cents.

Published in: on January 28, 2007 at 3:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Black Donnellys

I just watched the pilot of The Black Donnellys — no, don’t worry, you haven’t missed it. Their letting people rent the pilot through Netflix. This is a new drama series from Paul Haggis, who moviewatchers may best know from Million Dollar Baby and Crash, but we small-screen fiends will link his name to Due South.
The Donnellys in question are a family of fairly small-time New York hoods, brothers each with their own problems and pecadillos. The story is narrated by one of the brothers (who is established as an unreliable narrator, which may prove problematic at some point), looking back at the events that lead them to where they are now… in his case, in prison.
The flashbacks have that heightened sense of idealistic realism that you might find in a Barry Levinson film. There is some sense early on that this is supposed to be a goofy, hey-they’re-crooks-but-they’re-lovable tale, but the crimes get too dark for that. I suspect that the intention is to show a family in transition as they head off into more Sopranos territory (which I’m fairly sure is the motivator for this show), but the end result is to disappoint. I might want to watch a crooks-but-lovable show. But they’re not lovable, and they’re not that interesting. Perhaps if I watched more, I’d care more.
And oddly enough, I’m going to suggest that you give it a try. It’s a legitimate attempt. It’s not unlikely that others will like it.

Published in: on January 25, 2007 at 2:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Orville Wrong

I just watched an ad for Orville Redenbacher popcorn, starring Orville… well, not really. It starred a rather hideous imitation of Orville, who was a genuine person who passed away about a decade back. They made a point of having him show off his MP3 player, clearly to emphasize that this was not old footage of the man… not that it would have been much of a question to anyone who saw this creepy depiction that evinced none of the charm that the real Orville was capable of.
Look, if they want to sell Orville Redenbacher’s Zombie’s Popcorn, they should promote it as such. As it is, I don’t see where this ad will have any appeal to those who don’t remember Orville, and it seems apt to disgust those who do remember him.

Published in: on January 22, 2007 at 10:19 am  Comments (4)  

Buchwald keeps promise, dies

Associated Press reports that Art Buchwald is finally late, not merely tardy. He’d announced his impending doom almost a year ago, indicating that it was far more imminent than it appeared to be. He drew the sort of tributes that the respected dying do… and then managed to stick around for far longer than he’d lead us to believe. The cad!

Published in: on January 18, 2007 at 11:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Putting the dough in doughmain

…or arguably the “do’h!”

I just got an email from Namesecure prompting me to renew one of my domain names. Here is a screenshot of the deal they offered:
Network Solutions offer
Now for those of you unfamiliar with the cost of domain names… these prices are high. Not just a bit high, not just exorbitantly high, but humorously high. Either someone is trying to pull a scam on people who won’t notice what they’re being charged, or (more likely) someone left the decimal point out of the prices.
I just wonder how many hundreds of thousands of these offers will go out before someone at Network Solutions notices their error.

Published in: on January 17, 2007 at 11:53 am  Comments (2)  

The Last Dirt Scout

***Spoiler Warning: this unrelated review spoils the opening scene – and just the opening scene – of the 1991 film The Last Boy Scout, as well as various parts of the second episode of Dirt. Proceed at your own peril.***
The film The Last Boy Scout opens with a teary football player in the locker room, talking on the phone. He’s talking with someone who is a major fixer of football games, and this guy plans to do something heinous (I forget what… I think he had some member of the player’s family hostage, or somesuch) unless the player goes out and scores that extra goal and wins the game or covers the spread or whatever the fixer needs. So the player heads out on the field, the play starts… and he pulls out a handgun. In a visually impressive scene, he then runs down the field carrying the ball and shooting anyone who comes at him, until he lands in the end zone and shoots himself.
Quite a stunning scene, yes… but completely undercut by the idiocy of the set-up. For someone putting such work into his criminal enterprise, the crook needs to go back to school:

  • Sports 101: Sports players by default want to score and win.
  • Game-fixing 101: The way to fix a game is to make the players who are expected to win to want to lose. You don’t need to convince the folks who are expected to lose to want to win (see Sports 101).

I expect that the people who made this film actually knew this, but chose to ignore that because they needed the ridiculous set-up for the cool scene they had in mind. Wasn’t worth it. It’s not worth making your concept look ridiculous for the one moment you have in mind. I don’t adhere strictly to the “kill your darlings” school of writing, but you certainly can’t afford to let your darlings hold you back.
And thus we return to the Courntey Cox series Dirt. The pilot episode had a few “well, that seems rather unlikely” moments, such as finding out that Cox’s character had suddenly been named the editor of two different celebrity-focused magazines, or that the key (and seemingly only) papparazi photographer for the sleazier of the mags used a film-based camera (an unlikelihood given the need for speed of use of such photographs; time lost to processing pictures would seem a severe liabilty in the modern sleaze scene when digital photographers can have a picture not only shot but shipped off and received by a publication in minutes.)
But the reasons for both these awkward set-ups became apparent in the second episode. The photographer’s life was complicated by film developing problems. Cox made the radical suggestion of merging two magazines into one. These were the moments that appear to have driven the silly aspects of the set-up… and achieving them wasn’t worth making the series seem silly. I don’t think I’ll be returning to this show.
(And just to make it more galling – Cox didn’t need to be the editor of both magazines in order to suggest that they be merged. The politics inside the publishing company are supposed to be part of the series, and a certain heartlessness is key to Cox’s character. So wouldn’t it have been a more dramatic move for her to suggest merging someone else’s magazine into her, killing someone else’s mag to build up her own?)

Published in: on January 15, 2007 at 4:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Math is hard

Watching 30Rock off of the ReplayTV, and an ad for Sunday’s Deal or No Deal comes on. The voiceover says “There’s just four cases left, and one of them holds a quarter million dollars!” And the number $750,000 flashes on the screen…

Published in: on January 13, 2007 at 6:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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