Thursday, January 29, 2009

AFOS: "The Wonderful World of Covers" playlist

Airing this week on the Fistful of Soundtracks channel is the 2007 Fistful of Soundtracks: The Series episode "The Wonderful World of Covers" (WEB91), which contains film and TV theme covers from all over the world, including a slammin' cover of Beyonce's Goldmember track "Work It Out" by the U.K. soul band Speedometer. jim.aquino.com is no longer online, as are all the pre-WEB97 playlists I posted on that site, so I'm reposting each playlist as each pre-WEB97 ep reairs.

I'd rather see Good Charlotte drown during this scene.
1. Speedometer, "Work It Out," This Is Speedometer Vol. II, Blow It Hard
2. Los Straitjackets, "My Heart Will Go On," The Velvet Touch of Los Straitjackets, Yep Roc
3. The Lovejoys, "Streets of San Francisco," And You Don't Stop, Langusta Entertainment
4. Barry Adamson, "The Man with the Golden Arm," The Murky World of Barry Adamson, Mute
5. The Civil Tones, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Theme)," Vodka and Peroxide, Pravda
6. Euroboys, "Enter the Dragon," Jet Age, Sympathy for the Record Industry
7. Laika & the Cosmonauts, "Get Carter," Laika Sex Machine, Yep Roc
8. Green Day, "The Simpsons Theme" (from The Simpsons Movie), Reprise
9. Jimmy Smith, "Walk on the Wild Side," Walk on the Wild Side: Best of the Verve Years, Verve
10. Pressure Cooker, "Space: 1999," I Want to Tell You, Pressure Cooker
11. Triology, "For Love One Can Die," Triology Plays Ennio Morricone, Reverso/BMG Classics/RCA Victor
12. Laika & the Cosmonauts, "Psyko," Laika Sex Machine, Yep Roc
13. The Lovejoys, "Streets of Sao Paulo," And You Don't Stop, Langusta Entertainment
14. Renee Geyer, "Do Your Thing," It's a Man's Man's World, RCA
15. Speedometer, "Work It Out (Beatfanatic remix)," Freestyle Remixed, Freestyle

Repeats of A Fistful of Soundtracks: The Series air Monday night at midnight, Tuesday and Thursday at 4am, 10am, 3pm, 7pm and 11pm, Wednesday night at midnight, and Saturday and Sunday at 7am, 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm.

The Palace: Photographed in Single-Panelvision 70, Chapter 4

The Palace: Photographed in Single-Panelvision 70, Chapter 4

Friday, January 23, 2009

Now in the works: A new arc of The Palace

A sneak peek of The Palace: Photographed in Single-Panelvision 70
My black-and-white webcomic The Palace riffs on pop culture or whatever topic is on young Asian Americans' minds these days. It's about the staff of the Palace, a struggling old-fashioned movie palace in the fictional Northern California university town of Luminesa. The staff consists mostly of Luminesa State University students like freshman Daryl Ruiz, a Pinoy usher who's worked at the Palace since his senior year in high school and comes up with creative ways to handle everyday annoyances like noisy moviegoers and rival businesses. The Palace screens both repertory theater favorites (Vanishing Point, The Warriors) and annoyingly middlebrow "art-house" movies (the Asian male-bashing chick flick Egg Foo Young, the Oscar-bait bodice-ripper Coming of Sage).

In the next seven-part arc of The Palace, which I hope to begin posting here on Monday, every strip will be single-panel. I felt like experimenting with single-panel gags this time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gerry Anderson's Star Trek

If Gerry Anderson--the man behind creepy-looking marionette action heroes like Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet--produced Star Trek, this is what Spock, Kirk and Uhura would look like:

Zoe Saldana must be thrilled to finally have her own doll that will be stripped naked by Barbie collectors' little brothers.
Actually, these are Mattel's upcoming Star Trek Barbie dolls, modeled after the likenesses of new Trek stars Zachary Quinto, Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana.

Below TrekMovie's snapshots of the dolls, someone in the TrekMovie comments section said: "no offense to gay trekkies or trekkers. But, Kirk and Spock look gay." They sure do. Mattel is apparently catering to the "middle-aged housewife fangirls who like to reenact their Kirk/Spock slash fanfic fantasies with dolls" market.

'I want to shout 'I love you, Spock' on the Enterprise/It's guy love between two guys.'
"Spock, at 0600, I'll need you in my quarters to help me put on my athletic cup for tomorrow morning's game of Venusian jai alai."

"Captain, why would you need an athletic cup? You don't have any genitalia."

Speaking of Gerry Anderson/Trek mash-ups...

AFOS: "Around the World in 60 Minutes" playlist

Airing this week on the Fistful of Soundtracks channel is the 2007 Fistful of Soundtracks: The Series episode "Around the World in 60 Minutes" (WEB90), which contains selections from scores to movies that were filmed all over the globe (Raiders of the Lost Ark, On Her Majesty's Secret Service). Because it runs 64 minutes, I should have called the ep "Around the World in 64 Minutes." If I hadn't yammered so much, it would have been 60 instead of 64.

Now this is how you do an Indiana Jones chase sequence. No lousy CGI at all.
1. Earle Hagen, "The Defector/Main Title," I Spy, Film Score Monthly
2. Earle Hagen, "Stop That Plane," I Spy, Film Score Monthly
3. Ennio Morricone, "Ad Ogni Costo" (from Grand Slam), The Ennio Morricone Anthology: A Fistful of Film Music, Rhino
4. John Barry, "Ski Chase," On Her Majesty's Secret Service, EMI/Capitol
5. John Powell, "Tangiers," The Bourne Ultimatum, Decca
6. Jerry Goldsmith, "Night Boarders," The Mummy, Decca
7. Johnny Pate, "Shaft in Africa (Addis)" (from Shaft in Africa), The Best of Shaft, Hip-O
8. Sunidhi Chauhan, "Crazy Kiya Re," Dhoom 2, Yash Raj Music
9. John Williams, "Desert Chase," Raiders of the Lost Ark, DCC Compact Classics
10. David Arnold, "Dinner Jackets," Casino Royale, Sony Classical
11. John Powell, "Waterloo," The Bourne Ultimatum, Decca

Repeats of A Fistful of Soundtracks: The Series air Monday night at midnight, Tuesday and Thursday at 4am, 10am, 3pm, 7pm and 11pm, Wednesday night at midnight, and Saturday and Sunday at 7am, 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's inauguration: America reboots itself

So Obama flubbed the oath. So what, bitches? Chief Justice Roberts messed him up.For readers who aren't my Facebook friends, I've compiled and reposted the status updates that I wrote on the Facebook/CNN Inauguration Day coverage site on this uplifting day of history and balls.

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Jimmy just booed the arrival of Mr. Potter from It's a Wonderful Life.
via CNN.com Live - 8:39am

Wow, the surviving Tuskegee Airmen are at the inauguration.
via CNN.com Live - 9:24am

Amen!
via CNN.com Live - 9:37am

Jimmy is wondering how the other cable channels are covering the inauguration. I hear the Sci Fi Channel sent Mansquito to interview the crowd.
via CNN.com Live - 9:47am

Favorite part of Obama's inaugural speech: "The world is changing and we have to change with it."
via CNN.com Live - 9:51am

Jimmy enjoyed that recent Slate.com article that basically said, "What's Bush gonna do now? No one will hire his ass."
via CNN.com Live - 9:59am

The President and the First Lady's parade walk was badass. South Side, walk it out!
via CNN.com Live - 1:19pm

TV One is doing the best coverage right now: Anchor #1: "Joe the Plumber is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame." Anchor #2: "And it's 14 minutes too long."
via CNN.com Live - 2:35pm

Jimmy is trying to figure out what the Howard U. Marching Band has been playing. Whatever it is, it's slammin'. Sounded like "I Need a Freak" by Sexual Harassment.
via CNN.com Live - 3:29pm

Monday, January 19, 2009

More Obamicon fun

Here are more Obamicons I've created. The first two refer to something I watch on every Martin Luther King Day ever since it first aired in 2006: The Boondocks' awesome "Return of the King" episode, in which Dr. King (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, a.k.a. Rockefeller Butts) awakes from what was actually a coma and is dismayed by what he's returned to ("Black Entertainment Television is the worst thing I've ever seen in my life!").

Boondocks Martin Luther King Obamicon #1

Boondocks Martin Luther King Obamicon #2

Harold & Kumar Obamicon

Rove and Cheney Obamicon

Walter Matthau/The Taking of Pelham One Two Three Obamicon

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Great Moments in Presidential Speeches" (2006-2009)

'Great Moments in Presidential Speeches' (2006-2009)
There's one downside to the eagerly awaited end of the Bush Administration: the retirement of David Letterman's nightly Bush-bashing segment. Called "the gift that kept on giving" by Letterman staff writer Eric Stangel, the segment is receiving a grand sendoff from the Late Show host, shortly before Obama's inauguration. "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches," you will be missed.

I'll also miss the running gag of Late Show staffers getting inserted into the clip of JFK's inaugural address:
The staffers include announcer Alan Kalter, "cue card boy" Tony "Inky" Mendez (who shows cue cards to President Kennedy), costume designer Susan Hum (whose actions include taking his picture with a disposable camera, removing lint from his shoulder, stealing his wallet, and eating a jumbo pretzel), associate producer Nancy Agostini, and stage manager Biff Henderson. All "cameos" end with the staffers clapping along in real-time response to Kennedy's speech.

Watch The Rockford Files and call to see if Paul can score some weed

'This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message. I'll get back to you...'
Your friends do it and you've probably done it too: catch up on a show your lazy ass has put off watching by setting aside an entire weekend to view the DVD box set in one marathon sitting. Back when 24 first hit the DVD market, various writers who missed the first season chose to catch up with the show on DVD and recapped in real time what it was like to watch the first-season discs in one sitting, while a writer I used to work with picked the '80s version of The Twilight Zone for his weekend DVD marathon. A couple of years ago, those writers inspired me to do a similar marathon thing with the box sets of another cult show: The Rockford Files, Stephen J. Cannell's clever reinvention of the private eye genre, which starred James Garner in his signature role as rugged everyman gumshoe Jim Rockford.

Alright, so it's not quite a marathon. I haven't even viewed all 123 episodes yet, but my goal is to eventually see them all on DVD or via Netflix's media player for PC users. As of this writing, I haven't reached season five yet. On Inauguration Day Tuesday, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will release Rockford's sixth and final season.

I picked Rockford because I was a fan of Veronica Mars (which starred one of the world's hottest-looking Star Wars geeks, Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Kristen Bell, who should have Jedi mind-tricked the CW assclowns into bringing back her show). Before I started renting the Rockford DVDs from Netflix, I had only caught Veronica's spiritual granddaddy once or twice on cable, so I wanted to better acquaint myself with Rockford on DVD, where it's uncut and commercial-free (on Hulu, it's not commercial-free). The older the series, the more it gets chopped up by syndicators to accommodate commercial breaks, which grow annoyingly longer with each passing year. So that must mean Adventures of Superman reruns will eventually be edited down to 10 minutes, and George Reeves' flying sequences will be sped up so badly it'll look like the Metropolis underworld slipped some crank into the Daily Planet watercooler.

Rockford still draws a cult that's pretty rabid, though not quite as huge as Veronica's online fanbase. Slackers like the main character's pal in Ben Folds Five's "Battle of Who Could Care Less" (the source of the title of this post) dig Rockford reruns because Jim is one of them. They identify with a hero who'd rather go fishing with his father Rocky (Noah Beery) than do his job. The fans who still visit the alt.tv.rockford-files newsgroup continue to exchange favorite Garner wisecracks, and a couple of fan sites list every wacky message Jim received on his answering machine during the opening credits.

On disc, Rockford has aged better than most '70s shows, thanks to quirky, sharp and timeless scripts penned by staff writers like Cannell, future Sopranos creator David Chase and Juanita Bartlett. Seventies TV comes in three modes: schlocky (the Krofft variety shows, anything with Glen A. Larson's name on it), sanctimonious (M*A*S*H, Norman Lear's shrill shoutcoms) or a hideous mash-up of both (Hawaii Five-0, the "Fonzie gets a library card" era of Happy Days). Rockford is one of the few '70s shows I've seen that's neither of the above, and whenever the series did address a serious issue--like the flaws of the grand jury system in its most celebrated ep, the Bartlett-scripted "So Help Me God"--it did it with class and zero preachiness.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ricardo Montalban (1920-2009) and Patrick McGoohan (1928-2009)

Mr. Roarke and Steve Martin made the white suit look really pimp in 1978.
As I found out about Montalban's death, TCM happened to be airing the MGM: When the Lion Roars documentary, which features the former MGM contract player and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan star as an interviewee. The lengthy doc traces the rise and fall of "the Tiffany studio," and Montalban, in his smooth Latin playa voice, laments how "the lion stopped roaring."

Montalban was one of the few remaining survivors of the era of the studio system--a system that both helped and hurt his career. In an interesting 2002 Palm Beach Post article that unfortunately is no longer online, Montalban, who at the time was promoting TCM's Hispanic Heritage Month tribute to Hispanics in cinema, recalled his days as one of Hollywood's few Latino movie stars:
Montalban, a star in his native Mexico -- his parents were Castilian Spanish, but his physician father moved the family to Mexico before he was born -- had his troubles in Hollywood. When he was signed by MGM in 1946, there was a movement afoot to change his name to -- wait for it -- Ricky Martin.

"They couldn't pronounce my name," he says today. "Joe Pasternak, the producer, would introduce me to people as Richard Mandelbaum. Eight times out of 10, I was Richard Mandelbaum, but a couple of times I was Richard Mountbatten, and at least once he said Richard Musclebound. He had a hell of a time with it.

"So they thought my name was impossible, and they were going to change it, but then they consulted with the man who was in charge of the Latin America market, and he said, 'He has a following here, you can't change his name.' And that's the only reason I managed to retain my dignity."

The studios' strengths were in stereotyping -- the blond bombshell, the ultra-masculine leading man, etc. -- so the Hispanics they had under contract were no exception.

"I approached directors, producers, executives and tried to convince them to create other characters besides the Mexican bandit and the hot senorita. Call it ignorance, but they would tell me, 'We're trying to put as many colorful characters in the movies as we can.' They called these stereotypes 'colorful.' "

Not only that, but Montalban was aware of an even subtler prejudice. Montalban played Cubans, played Argentinians, played Brazilians, but it took years before he could play a Mexican.

"Mexico didn't sound quite right, even though we have the best muralists in the world, some of the best painters, the best heart specialists. Where were they on the screen, people of dignity, wealth and culture? Or even the very honorable middle-class man who struggles to give his kids a better education. 'An architect is not colorful,' they would tell me."

MGM didn't stint on Montalban; he worked opposite the studio's top leading ladies, from Lana Turner to Jane Powell, and was given several films in the early '50s as a stand-alone lead, though he points out that they were B films.

Even when Montalban resented the roles he was assigned, his options were limited. "When I would say, I don't want to do it, it's vapid, they would say, 'All right, you don't have to do it. But we'll put you on suspension for six months.' So that vapid role became a great role. I had a wife and four children; I never went on suspension because I couldn't afford it."

There was no cohesion within the Hispanic community in Hollywood -- everybody worked at different studios, and went home to their different houses. That would eventually lead Montalban to found Nosotros, an organization to promote Hispanic talent so that, as he puts it, "we could be judged on our ability or lack of ability, not by our names."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Five favorite DVD extras

And here's why I hate the Oscars: They've rarely recognized kickass comedic performances like Downey Jr.'s in Tropic Thunder, and they probably won't do so again this year.
On Tuesday, November 25, my special copy of the long-out-of-print Freaks and Geeks Yearbook Edition box set stopped being so special. That was the day Shout! Factory reissued the limited edition set--which was available only to fans like me who signed an online petition to get Freaks and Geeks released on DVD--and made the collectible available to everybody.

But I'm glad more viewers can now get the chance to enjoy the Yearbook Edition because hands down, it's the most impressive TV show box set ever put together. The packaging was designed to resemble a hardbound yearbook from Freaks and Geeks' 1980 high school setting, complete with an embossed McKinley High Norseman logo on the cover and pages of photos of the McKinley kids (actually behind-the-scenes snapshots of the cast) surrounded by the same corny typewritten text that's always found in yearbooks, plus ballpoint-pen scrawlings by the show's characters. In 2004, Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig recalled to Entertainment Weekly how the packaging designers reacted to his suggestions for the fake yearbook. He said, "The design guys were like, 'Everything you're trying to get us to do is stuff we spent years trying to stop doing.' It's like, 'I know, but it's gotta look kinda s---ty.'"

The Yearbook Edition is worth the extra ducats, thanks to Shout! Factory's willingness to pay expensive music-clearance fees so that each of the Freaks and Geeks music supervisors' '70s and '80s rock song picks remained in the show (that's one reason why the Freaks and Geeks DVDs cost so much), as well as the buttload of fascinating and sometimes strange bonus features (the standard edition contains less bonuses). My favorite extra gives us glimpses of an alternate-universe Freaks and Geeks. It's the audition footage of cast members as characters they didn't wind up playing on the show (Busy Philipps as Lindsay!).

The box set made me ponder which other DVD extras are equally enjoyable and which ones make viewers uncomfortable and are difficult to sit through, like some of the offbeat Freaks and Geeks commentary tracks that even the show's most die-hard fans will admit they find to be cringe-inducing and not worth their time (Portland film critic D.K. Holm said he was creeped out by the Freaks and Geeks stage parents' commentrak).

1. Robert Downey Jr. doing the Tropic Thunder actors' commentary in the accent of whatever character Kirk Lazarus is playing onscreen at the moment
In the movie, Kirk the insane and overcommitted Method actor says, "Man, I don't drop character 'til I done the DVD commentary." So Downey Jr. never drops character until the commentary is over. A commentrak in which the stars "get into character" is not a new concept, but Downey Jr. the comic genius takes it to another level.

2. "30 Rock Live!"
This 30 Rock: Season 2 extra is a home video of a 2007 UCB Theater appearance by the cast, who gave a staged reading of a script for an episode that hadn't aired yet at the time (one of my favorites, "Secrets and Lies," the ep in which Tracy wins a "Pacific Rim Emmy" and then gives Jenna a "sharking"). In an awesome gesture, the cast staged the UCB Theater show to raise money for the 30 Rock production assistants during the writers' strike. Though the footage quality isn't the best, this live version is a fun alternate take on "Secrets and Lies," and it even includes some amusing dialogue that was trimmed from the final cut. The highlights of the live performance are Alec Baldwin's sex faces during his love scenes with SNL staff writer Paula Pell, who subbed for absent "Secrets and Lies" guest star Edie Falco, and the improvised fake commercials with Jack McBrayer and Scott Adsit.

3. Jack Black pleading with the notoriously stingy surviving members of Led Zeppelin to license "Immigrant Song" for School of Rock (with the help of an audience full of a thousand screaming Zep fans)
Black says Richard Linklater came up with the idea to film the plea to Zep from the Staten Island theater where the movie's Battle of the Bands climax was shot. Linklater, you're a genius. (And yes, the filmed message ultimately won over Zep and they granted Linklater permission to use "Immigrant Song.")

4. The Peter Ustinov interview on the Spartacus Criterion Collection two-disc
Originally videotaped for the 1992 Criterion laserdisc, this special feature is easily the most entertaining laserdisc/DVD interview with a raconteur I've seen, thanks to Ustinov's gift for mimicry--he busted out dead-on impressions of his Spartacus co-stars Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton--and his jabs at Laughton, "an extremely sensitive man who went through life just waiting to be offended."

5. The "Mayonnaise Thing" extra on the Comedians of Comedy DVD
Brian Posehn and Zach Galifianakis must have been baked out of their minds while goofing around with the cameras and shooting this uproarious fake gay porno video, which appears in a much shorter and less explicit form in the documentary. Grossness alert: Posehn takes off his shirt.

Extras that make viewers uncomfortable:
- Claudia Christian arguing with Tom Wilson and then storming off halfway through the Freaks and Geeks "Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers" commentrak
- Linda Doucett shedding tears during an awkward but reconcilatory reunion with her ex-boyfriend Garry Shandling on a Larry Sanders featurette
- Cybill Shepherd weeping during the Moonlighting commentraks
- The 2006 Repo Man reissue's strange 21-minute interview with a short-tempered, rambling Harry Dean Stanton (I'd love to see how Stanton and the equally weird James Lipton would react to each other if Stanton ever winds up on Inside the Actors Studio)
- The dizzyingly shot Being John Malkovich mockumentary about Spike Jonze that ends with him puking on the side of the road

Friday, January 9, 2009

Vanity Fair profiles John Barry

Shirley Bassey, put your pipes on! The John Barry Orchestra backs up Bassey, by Mirrorpix/the Everett Collection.
No other mainstream magazine gives as much coverage to film music as Vanity Fair does. In 1997, VF united Silver Age composers (Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein) and present-day Hollywood favorites (Danny Elfman, James Newton Howard) for a memorable photo spread--the film music equivalent of the 1958 "A Great Day in Harlem" photo shoot. Then last month, VF's Oscar blog provided readers with an impressive overview of this year's Best Original Score contenders (Slumdog Millionaire, the controversial Dark Knight).

This week, the online edition of VF has posted a lengthy profile of John Barry, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday. The article is a terrific read for those of us who are fans of Barry's classic music from the 007 movies. It goes into detail about the dispute between Barry and Monty Norman over who should be credited for "The James Bond Theme;" the creation of the game-changing Goldfinger theme sung by Shirley Bassey, who's in the above 1964 photo with Barry in the center ("'From Russia with Love' didn't wallop an audience. It didn't scream sex and danger and chic amorality. It wasn't silly. It wasn't 'Goldfinger'..."); and the melancholia that suffuses Barry's work, from the You Only Live Twice theme to scores for chick flicks like Somewhere in Time and Out of Africa.

Bruce Handy's Barry profile is also filled with great gossip (I didn't know he was once married to Blow-Up hottie and "Je t'aime... moi non plus" singer Jane Birkin). My favorite bits of gossip include the tidbit about Fellini's love for the Goldfinger score and an anecdote about Barry's contentious relationship with famously abrasive '60s and '70s Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman, who hated the Goldfinger theme and was disgusted by the raunchy lyrics in the Diamonds Are Forever theme.

Saltzman sure would have loved the pun that concludes The World Is Not Enough ("I thought Christmas only comes once a year").

My snarky movie summaries (Part 4)

Previously: Parts 1, 2 and 3.

Red Road
This is an Advance Party Concept film, which means the crew had to abide by a bunch of strict filmmaking rules, much like the Dogme 95 collective: 1) Keep the director away from light. 2) Don't get the director wet. And 3) Whatever you do, never ever feed the director after midnight.

Reign Over Me
Adam Sandler wears a wig that's supposed to evoke Bob Dylan. He looks more like Doctor Who #3 (ask your nerd friend).

Rocky Balboa
The next sequel should pit Rocky against Rambo a la Freddy vs. Jason. Two times the action! Two times the mumbling! It would end up being the first Rocky flick done entirely with subtitles.

Saw IV
Saw IV, patience 0.

A Scanner Darkly
Keanu Reeves hasn't looked this animated since the last Bill & Ted movie.

Scary Movie 4
Leslie Nielsen's naked ass may be the first genuinely scary moment in the history of the Scary Movie franchise.

Scoop
A ghost tips Scarlett Johansson to clues about a serial killer. Why didn't that ghost warn Johansson about the suckitude of The Island?

Joan Severance, who has nothing to do with the movie Severance, steams up the Profitt arc of Wiseguy.
Severance
It's a movie about that hot chick who played Susan Profitt on Wiseguy.

Shooter
Starring Dick Cheney.

Snakes on a Plane
The eagerly awaited horror flick that pits Samuel L. Jackson against a plane full of William Morris agents.

Starting Out in the Evening
An already disturbing May-December romance between Frank Langella and Lauren Ambrose gets even more disturbing when Ambrose smears honey all over Langella's face. It's like the worst Ohio Players album cover ever.

Three Times
Taiwanese art-house favorite Hou Hsiao-hsien follows three different couples, each in a different time period. In America, we call that an episode of Blind Date.

Transformers
The '80s franchise that allowed Orson Welles to conclude his career with dignity by casting him as a planet-eating lard-ass is back.

Vacancy
A look inside the mind of Jessica Simpson.

Vitus
A six-year-old piano prodigy gets no love. Not even from the ladies. They'd rather get cooties from Zack and Cody.

Volver
The title is Spanish for "to drive a boxy Swedish car."

War Dance
This documentary looks at troubled Ugandan kids who have discovered the power of dance. It's like Footloose, but with music that doesn't suck.

What Would Jesus Buy?
The Christian Broadcasting Network. So that He could take it over like Ted Nugent wanted to do with Muzak and tell Pat Robertson to shut up.

Youth Without Youth
Tim Roth ages backwards after getting struck by lightning. Maybe more Hollywood celebs ought to try standing under lightning if they want to preserve their youth or in the case of Carrot Top, look more like a Gansevoort Street tranny hooker.

Zodiac
Decades before San Francisco was terrorized by one of Jan Wahl's giant hats, there was the Zodiac killer.

My snarky movie summaries (Part 3)

Previously: Parts 1 and 2.

The Mist
Thomas Jane, Andre Braugher and Marcia Gay Harden star in Stephen King's tale of the invasion of an addictive lemon-lime soft drink.

Monster House
All the characters in this motion-capture movie were designed with a large head/tiny body look. Apparently the animators were inspired by Nicole Richie.

Nacho Libre
The most hilarious white guy playing a Mexican since Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil.

Next
If Nicolas Cage's character is supposed to be able to predict the future, then why couldn't he stop his barber from giving him a ridonkulous Da Vinci Code Tom Hanks?

Norbit
Not since Tammy Faye Bakker has someone been buried under so much makeup.

The Number 23
The most disturbing episode of Sesame Street ever.

Ocean's Thirteen
The 13th movie in the Ocean's franchise. Damn, this series has been around for awhile.

The Omen (2006)
Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles star as the dumbest parents since Britney and K-Fed.

Once
The guy's worn-out guitar in this movie has seen more fingers than Paris Hilton's hoo-ha.

One Night With the King
This is a religious film? The title makes it sound like a movie about Cybill Shepherd's one-night stand with Elvis, which she hasn't told enough times. Please, Cybill, continue recounting it again while we vomit in our mouths.

Paprika
Paprika isn't the first shrink-turned-superhero. Prince of Tides had Barbra Streisand and her adamantium nails.

Paris, je t'aime
The Coen brothers, Alfonso Cuarón and Alexander Payne are among the 18 beloved directors who filmed segments for this cinematic ode to Paris. According to the Bizarro Internet Movie Database, this film is directed by the likes of Uwe Boll, Brett Ratner and William Shatner. And it's an ode to Branson, Missouri.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
What the hell is Keith Richards doing in a Disney movie? Was he expecting Goofy to hook him up with some smack?

The Proposition
Once again, Guy Pearce edges out Ethan Hawke in the race to see who could play the most characters in need of a bath.

Potatogate The Pursuit of Happyness
Columbia should really reconsider having Dan Quayle come up with the titles for their movies.

Quinceañera
Jack Klugman wants to do a remake that'll be set in "da world of forensic medicine." It'll be called Quincyañera.

The Queen
Dame Helen Mirren received a five-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival for her performance in this film. Meanwhile, Screech from Saved by the Bell received a free five-minute lapdance for his performance in the Screech sex video.

Next: Part 4.

My snarky movie summaries (Part 2)

Previously: Part 1.

The Hills Have Eyes II
Somebody should feed Larry the Cable Guy to these redneck mutants.

The Host monster is ready for his close-up.The Host
This popular monster movie from South Korea has a deleted scene in which the mutated sea creature snacks on that Korean-bashing douchebag Rex Reed. Then the monster pukes up his remains because it can't stand the taste of washed-up movie critic.

The Illusionist
Edward Norton stars as a magician who comes to Jessica Biel's rescue. He makes her memories of Stealth disappear.

The Invisible
¿Quien es mas emo? ¿Justin Chatwin de The Invisible o Milo Ventimiglia de Heroes?

Killer of Sheep
You know African American cinema is in trouble when Soul Plane gets better treatment than this long-buried Charles Burnett cult favorite.

Lady in the Water
The much-maligned M. Night Shyamalan based his latest film on a bedtime story he told to his kids. It could have been worse, like Uwe Boll grabbing a pile of his own feces and calling it a movie. Oh wait--that was BloodRayne.

The Lake House
The MPAA has rated it PG for "some language and a disturbing image." A disturbing image of what? Keanu Reeves attempting to emote?

The Last Mimzy
Aliens befriend a couple of kids by giving them toys. Isn't that how Michael Jackson preys on little boys?

Lemming
Another one of those movies where you're left wondering which part of it is a hallucination and which part is real. Unfortunately, those lame car commercials before the feature presentation are not a hallucination.

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man
The acclaimed Canadian singer/songwriter is the subject of a new doc. Once upon a time, Cohen's "Hallelujah" wasn't a bad song. Now thanks to repetitive airplay on prime-time drama shows, "Hallelujah" has turned into the depressed white person's "Macarena."

Letters From Iwo Jima
Clint Eastwood depicts Iwo Jima from the Japanese POV in the second of two Iwo Jima movies. A third Iwo Jima movie will be produced by the people behind the Look Who's Talking movies. This time, it'll be told from the POV of babies whose thoughts are voiced by Bruce Willis ("Do tanks tank? Do rifles rifle?").

License to Wed
We always cry at wedding movies that suck.

Lions for Lambs
Meryl Streep, you don't know the history of U.S. military strategy in the Middle East. Tom Cruise does. You're being glib.

Little Miss Sunshine
The Ryan Seacrest story.

Live Free or Die Hard
John McClane has been described more than once as "an analog man in a digital world." Nah, he's more like "an R man neutered by a PG-13 movie."

The Lookout
The title character is a man who suffers from brain damage and amnesia after a traumatic accident. You would want to also if you saw that horrifying White House Correspondents Dinner clip of Karl Rove trying to rap and dance.

Manda Bala
Errol Morris called this documentary about corruption and frog farming in Brazil "powerful," while Vomiting Kermit from Late Night with Conan O'Brien gave it two out of four oatmeal raisiny heaves.

Meet the Robinsons
That dinosaur in the movie complains about having a big head and little arms. Yeah, he does look a little tyrannorexic, like those other creatures with big heads and little arms, the Olsen twins.

Miami Vice
Where the hell is Elvis the alligator? Did he want too much money?

Miss Potter
Renee Zellweger is so squinty-eyed she makes Clint Eastwood look like Astro Boy.

Next: Parts 3 and 4.

My snarky movie summaries (Part 1)

Throughout this year, I'm going to post older material--like unpublished writing I've kept buried in my computer or transcripts of interviews from my days on terrestrial radio.

Earlier this week, Lionsgate, the studio that's most famous for the Saw franchise, spent $255 million to acquire the TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com--the first things that come to mind when I think of torture porn. So the first oldie-but-goodie that I've dug up from my own archives comes from my years as an HTML coder for a local newspaper's Web site, when I would try to stay awake during my boring then-job by spoofing the movie summaries in TV Guide and sneaking snarky or jokey descriptions of upcoming releases into the site's movie listings section.

I always wondered how the anonymous writers who typed up all those little movie summaries in TV Guide really felt about some of those flicks.

One of those writers would say the following about Titanic:

A socialite (Kate Winslet) falls for an impoverished artist (Leonardo DiCaprio) on the ill-fated 1912 Titanic voyage.

But he was probably thinking the following:

Kate Winslet gets naked. Otherwise, I can't believe I let my then-girlfriend drag me to this. L.A. Confidential was robbed at the Oscars.

From 2006 to 2008, I got the chance to fulfill my lifelong dream of being like an anonymous TV Guide movie synopsis writer, but I did it my way, which was to be silly and snarky:

More like American Dankster, judging from the shitty weather in this scene.

American Gangster
Russell Crowe takes on mobster Denzel Washington in his own unique way. He throws a phone at him.

Arthur and the Invisibles
This CGI-animated feature semi-reunites Robert De Niro with his Mean Streets co-star Harvey Keitel. If you watch carefully, the reunion takes place during the scene when Maltazard calls Arthur a "mook" and Arthur beats him with a bat.

Atonement
Keira Knightley gets wet in a movie again. Meanwhile, Mr. Skin reads this on his laptop, yawns and wonders if Santa's gonna get him that DVD of Jackie Bisset in The Deep that he always wanted.

Babel
Another upbeat crowdpleaser from director Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Black Sheep (2006)
Features some of the nastiest sheep in movie history since that one that slept with Gene Wilder.

Blood Diamond
Why does Djimon Hounsou always play oppressed or abused characters? He's like a black Meredith Baxter Birney.

The Break-Up
Vince Vaughn breaks up with Jon Favreau. The most wrenching depiction of a split between buddies since the breakup between Siskel and Ebert during that episode of The Critic.

Cars
Pixar reportedly asked Speed Buggy to do a cameo, but he's fallen on hard times and was last seen living in a homeless shelter in L.A. while trying to kick an addiction to propane.

Charlotte's Web
It's cool that the filmmakers stuck with the original sad ending: Wilbur finds Gwyneth Paltrow's head in a box.

Conversations With Other Women
Director Hans Canosa uses a split screen for the entire movie. Somewhere, Brian De Palma is creaming his pants.

The Descent
You know what would make that awful reality show Starting Over more watchable? If the show's producers sent the shrill and whiny women off on a spelunking trip. In a monster-infested cave.

Down in the Valley
Edward Norton romances the much younger Evan Rachel Wood. Rated R for R. Kelly-style urges.

Employee of the Month
Jessica Simpson as a superstore cashier? Does she even know how to add?

Factotum
Matt Dillon plays a drunkard who can't hold down a job. The guy's half Mel Gibson, half Star Jones.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Better Luck Tomorrow director Justin Lin joins the franchise and brings a mostly Asian cast with him, because making these street racing movies without a predominantly Asian cast is like whenever Woody Allen does a movie set in New York and all the black people have mysteriously vanished.

Fast Food Nation
Richard Linklater and Eric Schlosser expose the sordid side of the fast food industry, from the harsh treatment of illegal immigrant workers to Mayor McCheese's fondness for crack cocaine.

Flags of Our Fathers
This is Clint Eastwood's first of two Iwo Jima movies. It's a miracle how he managed to see what he was filming during those combat scenes because the guy won't stop squinting. Clint, you keep squinting your eyes like that, they're gonna stay that way.

Georgia Rule
Lindsay Lohan got spanked by the producers for her unprofessional behavior during the shooting of this movie. They should have also spanked the singing career out of her. You haven't lived until you've heard Lohan mangle "Edge of Seventeen."

Ghost Rider
Nicolas Cage's latest film is about the phenomenon of dancing on top of your car while it's in neutral.

Next: Parts 2, 3 and 4.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Fistful of Soundtracks is now an iTunes Staff Favorite

This is like the first effing thing A Fistful of Soundtracks has ever won.

I always thought it'd be cool if AFOS got a Staff Favorite nod from iTunes Radio for one whole month. I never thought it would happen, but it finally did. The staff has declared AFOS one of their favorite stations for January 2009. Betta recognize.

Thanks, iTunes!