Bill Watterson via mpetrus001/Flickr
Bill Watterson, the creator of the Calvin & Hobbes comic, recently held an interview with the Mental Floss website. This was news in of itself because he's a noted recluse who rarely ventures out into the public eye since he shuttered his creation in late 1995. The most notable thing he said was that he wouldn't allow the strip to be adapted to the big screen.
But still, I say, if Watterson really exercised extreme caution and prudence, he could pick something like, oh say...Pixar (a company that even he admitted he loved). Imagine a whole CGI Calvin & Hobbes movie instead of that half-CGI, half-live action dreck that was Garfield and The Smurfs. To quote from Breaking Bad: No half-measures. Imagine a really well-done movie that managed to capture the whimsy of the comic. Watterson would still have enough pull even with a comic that last ran two decades ago. If I were the one choosing, I could see a Brad Bird-helmed movie being REALLY good.
I've always wondered what Spaceman Spiff would sound like on the big screen. If the people doing this, and I could see Bird not stepping outside the lines, it would be a really interesting vision. This would be a movie that practically wrote itself.
I can understand that he wants to protect his own intellectual property - and kudos to him for that, since the movie industry does not really have a great track record when it comes to lifting from the funny pages. For this purpose, I'm separating these comics from the ones in the Marvel and DC universe - aka the superhero genre. There have been good adaptations from those, like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, a couple of Batman movies and The Avengers. I'm thinking of comics like Garfield and Asterix.
The problem with those movies is that the creators didn't seem to care about what happens to their property. What did Jim Davis care that the Garfield movies were the equivalent of cat litter (yes, I know I've been picking on this movie, but it's such a huge punching bag) ? He was already a billionaire before the movies were made. Once the contracts have been signed, it's like the quality.
But keep Joss Whedon away from it...the last thing we need is to have a twist ending where an important member of the cast dies.
The spy show Covert Affairs has begun the second part of its season with Piper Perabo's Annie Walker living undercover under the pretense of her death at the hands of Hill Harper's character Calder Michaels. The question is: has the show already reached a creative impasse by doing something like this?
Sure, Walker dyes her hair brown to do her operation, but she doesn't do anything else to radically alter her appearance. You know, like maybe cut her hair or wear it in a different style... maybe add some jewelry in different places like a nose ring. No, she just looks like Annie Walker...with brown hair. "Um. No. I am NOT Annie Walker. I'm her twin...um. Fannie Walker. That's right. Yes, my mother was under the influence of drugs when she named us. Why are you aiming that gun at me?"
It's going to be a difficult thing to pull off for the entirety of a half-season. It's better than her trying to do it for a full one, but it's going to require a LOT of suspension of disbelief. Yes, I know, even more so than is already being asked of us. In the first episode (spoiler if you have not watched it yet), Walker manages to stop and grab someone just as he is texting the big bad guy that she is after news that she is actually alive. I don't know if the show can keep up those 'close calls' before we finally just roll our eyes and change the channel.
It's the fourth season and the show has already done some annoying things like having Auggie and Annie break up so soon after they had spent several seasons teasing us about the two of them getting together. If they want to keep our interest, this storyline had better be VERY good. Otherwise, Annie Walker.. and the show, will be dead for good.
Burn Notice's Michael Westen would be shaking his head over this.
The episode opened with Neal Caffrey planning elaborate maneuvers to avoid video cameras - it involved choreographed steps to music. Mozzie was urging him on. Caffrey was making progress, but not enough to make Mozzie happy.
Next, Caffrey went into work and met his new handler, Agent David Siegel (Warren Kole). Siegel practically fell over himself praising the criminal who he was keeping an eye on, falling just short of his asking for an autograph. That made his boss, Peter Burke, who had relinquished handling duties so that he could run the department impartially, express doubts at first, but Seigel then him know he was just playing up to Caffrey's vanity. After seeing Kole on The Following, I half-expected him to then scream out, "FOR JOE CARROLL!!" and start shooting at people in the office.
It turned out the FBI was targeting the shell company Mozzie is running through online auctions and that led Caffrey and Siegel to go to a warehouse. Caffrey went in first, ostensibly to case the place, and warned Mozzie that Siegel is there to arrest him. An alarm went off and Siegel burst in and saw Mozzie, but the balding, bespectacled criminal got away. When Siegel gave the description, the office immediately knew it's Mozzie.
Agent Diana Berrigan, 8 months pregnant, seemed to be having crisis about losing her job after giving birth; she was pulling all-nighters in attempts to find to who was behind the shell company. Finally, a name came out: Teddy Winters.
After a ridiculous scene with Neal finding Mozzie in a park as The Statue of Liberty (that was two silly outfits for Mozzie in a row; Willie Garson must hate the wardrobe department now), Mozzie revealed that his core identity was Teddy Winters. He used it to see if parents came looking for him. The Feds would know who he really was. The two hatched a plan.
They let the feds think they found Mozzie by tracing his IP address at the warehouse, but Mozzie ran back and blew it up. Berrigan thought the death was faked and went investigating on her own despite being very pregnant and getting direct orders from Burke to go home and rest. She found a fake manhole cover and found Mozzie in a hiding spot. Of course, just as she was ready to turn him in, she went into premature labor from stress and Mozzie, first ready to run, gets an attack of conscience and came back to help.
Earlier, Peter had told Neal that the Curtis Hagen evidence was in lockup upstairs, due to his parole hearing coming up, and Caffrey goes upstairs to do some damage to it since Hagen had blackmailed him in the previous episode. This is where the choreography came into play. Neal successfully dodges the cameras (this was interspersed with Mozzie helping Berrigan give birth - not quite the end of The Godfather, but pretty good). At one point though, Burke saw Caffrey's hat still on his desk and being suspsicious, went upstairs, but found nothing amiss.
The show ended with Berrigan in the hospital with her new baby boy and conveniently forgetting that it was Mozzie (AKA Teddy Winters) who helped her. Mozzie was off scot-free with the certainty that Hagen was going to be back on the street and would still be holding Caffrey in his grip.
When a highly-anticipated and heavily advertised movie hits the theaters and bombs, it's got to create a truly unusual feeling for all involved. It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall for the reactions of Benedict Cumberbatch upon his learning that The Fifth Estate averaged $969 per theater over the opening weekend.
"Wow. That's marvelous. $969 thousand per theater? Excellent start!""... No, Benedict. That's dollars. Just dollars. $969. Nine-hundred sixty-nine." "I need to go for a walk. A very long walk."
Seeing that made me think of five other recent and historically bad openings:
Machete Kills (2013)
This was not a good year for openings. It's a bit of a surprise, since it's packed to the gills with stars and people seemed to love the first one. It pulled in $3.8 milllon, which was spread out over 2,500 theaters. This equals -- and please bear in mind, I was never good at math -- not a lot. I just hope Danny Trejo's Machete doesn't track down the people who didn't see this movie.
The subject matter was awesome: Steve Jobs! But people just couldn't get past the fact that it was Ashton Kutcher in the role. The other problem was that the movie only focused on a narrow slice of his life, and there was so much to his whole story. It opened to $6.8 million. That may have been lower than the amount Kutcher makes per episode on Two And A Half Men. Dude, you got Punk'd at the theater!
It's Pat (1994)
This movie, based around a person of ambigious sexuality played by Julia Sweeney on a series of Saturday Night Live skits, had a very limited theater run, and it's a good thing: It got terrible reviews and supposedly earned only around $60,000 TOTAL. It was unambiguously yanked out of the theaters very quickly.
Major League: Back To the Minors (1998)
Audience members sent this film back to the bush leagues, paying only a little over $2 million in its opening weekend. Of course, with no Charlie Sheen and Scott Bakula taking over the lead role, the lack of interest is understandable. Bakula probably said in his best Quantum Leap voice, "Ohhhh boy..." when he saw the numbers.
The Oogieloves in Big Balloon Adventures (2012)
This was supposed to be from a popular kids' series, but a movie that looked like the Teletubbies on acid only raked in $443,000 in its opening weekend. I'm sure that cast members like Cary Elwes and Christopher Lloyd called Cumberbatch to tell them that it could have been a LOT worse.
Nick Searcy, the veteran actor, is a busy, busy man when not on the set of Justified, where he plays Art Mullen. More often than not, you can find him on Twitter, and he is just brutal on there. He'll happily spend all day on there putting those who do not agree with his viewpoints in their place.
He's a big fan of Rush Limbaugh and he's also claimed the late Andrew Breitbart as an influence, 'allowing him to be himself.'
So now he sits at his pulpit on Twitter, where even his handle sounds exasperated (@YesNickSearcy), daring anyone to challenge his viewpoints on Obama. He'll deride anyone who won't use their real name on the site, instantly dismissing what they have to say. His reasoning there is that he puts his own name out in public, why shouldn't the people that would debate him.
Here's a sample:@YesNickSearcy: Ezra, your job is to protect Obama at all costs from hateful people like me. Sycophant @joanwalsh understands this. @ezraklein @instapundit
His language can often be salty and sometimes even not fit to print, but by God, he'll say what's on his mind, and he doesn't care if he hurts your feelings while saying it.
To show that it's not all bad, he'll send a good portion of those Tweeters to his site Acting School With Nick Searcy, which has a compilation of YouTube videos that supposedly highlight the aspects of Hollywood. In them, he plays a hyper-exaggerated version of himself. He does things like pretend to use his adopted children as props for goodwill and also argues with a fan who is in a wheelchair about a parking space.
Even if you don't agree with his viewpoints, it is pretty darn entertaining to watch his Tweet stream.
Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/Screen Gems
It was probably a shock to the producers of the new Carrie movie: raking in only $17 million in its first weekend. This under-performance could be seen as puzzling, since it's a horror movie and the timing of its release should have made for a prime debut, what with Halloween being very close. Then again, this result is not entirely a surprise either.
Probably the most glaring reason this movie didn't open so well is that there was no need for the film to be remade at all. Sissy Spacek's version was fantastic and it didn't require any update. The current filmmakers were likely hoping to catch a generation of people who hadn't seen the original. Very few remakes, especially in the horror movie genre do very well, generally, anyhow. There is something almost intangible that is captured in the original film that no amount of mimicking and usage of the same shots can replicate. This appears to be another textbook case here. Audiences certainly seemed to know that, so who wants to pay for the theater tickets when they can instead wait to see it on Netflix or Amazon?
Sure, Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore are both good actresses, but had they wanted to make a horror movie, they could have done something different instead of essentially attempting to breath life into something already living. The new movie did its best, however with the added technology and social media helping drive Carrie into even more angry isolation - a nice touch - but ultimately, this was not a movie that needed to be reimagined.
As Halloween gets even closer, the numbers may go up some, but it will still likely be seen as a big disappointment. Hopefully it can be a lesson to Hollywood producers in creating new ideas - not rehashing and reheating old ones, leaving them well enough alone.
NBC Universal Media
Right now, it looks like another Law & Order vehicle may be on the rocks. It's Law & Order: SVU, the last of the venerable show and its spinoffs. The show's been on the air since 1999 and while the viewership numbers are still there for the most part...it's been on for nearly 15 years. Can it stay strong or is it on its last legs?
There's been a lot of turnover, with Chris Meloni first leaving and then B.D. Wong also left (but returned). Richard Belzer recently decided to leave as well. I'll definitely miss the wise-cracking Munch, though the door was left open for cameos. So it's left up to Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T, both originals, to hold down the fort as the regulars. It also seems like the two district attorney's just tag-team each other when it comes to their time on the show. I never got a good feel for that new cop, the one with the gambling problem, and there's only so far that Hargitay and Ice-T can carry the show.
When it comes to shows like this, even ones that remain somewhat fresh and topical by grabbing their plots from the headlines, there has to be an end. Unfortunately, this might be that times where the show is slouching towards the exit. It's not necessarily a bad thing - though I do wish it would be able to go out on its own terms. What would that be? Ice-T's character reveals that he's really the real Ice-T deep undercover and he wants to resurrect Body Count and do a real-life 'Cop Killer'? (If you don't get that reference, Google it - I think I just aged myself by even mentioning it.)
These shows have all weathered plenty of cast turnover, and with Dick Wolf's streak of producing shows with remarkable longevity, it's never a good idea to count these shows out until the last light goes off on the set and the doors are locked. I tell you...when it happens, I'm going to miss hearing the "In the criminal justice system..." intro. Then an era will have truly ended. Then we wait and see what Wolf brings us next.
Recently, the TV show Archer posted a hilarious YouTube video teaser that is a parody of Kenny Loggins' Danger Zone video. It featured all the show's characters in a Top Gun commercial parody.
It's awesome because it brings back so many memories of the 1980s while simultaneously showing the usual Archer edge and humor, like having the characters do their own silly things, like spilling coffee all over themselves constantly. They even play up the supposed latent homo-eroticism from the movie. It's an entire decade flashback in a 1:37 clip. I know that H. Jon Benjamin is going to knock this out of the park with his voiceover - and so will Aisha Tyler (she's better at voiceover work than on-screen) and Chris Parnell.
This is why people love this show - it's got a sense of irreverence and whimsy that most others lack, and it's not afraid to parody other things. That one that poked fun at Justified was a classic. Since the teaser showed scenes from Top Gun, it's likely going to be a parody. I just hope that they don't skirt too far into Hot Shots territory, since that's another one that played up the Top Gun angle. Ironically, Charlie Sheen has a show on FX now as well. Now, if Archer could do Footloose. The Kevin Bacon one, not that ridiculous remake. Also, it would be interesting to see what Tom Cruise thought of all this.
It's making me long for January, when the show starts up again. Why do they have to start teasing these things SO EARLY?
Warning: The video has one very brief naughty moment with someone showing a Mister Digit finger puppet.
It has felt like a long trip in a hot desert, comedy-wise, for NBC. The only cool drink they have right now is Parks and Rec (which they just put on hiatus...sigh). Everything else over the years has been crumbling to dust. Community has been good too, but it's been too up-and-down. The days of the Frasier, Friends, Will & Grace, Seinfeld juggernauts are long gone.
NBC has tried trotting out its old heroes from the past. First Matthew Perry foundered on Go On. I'm rooting for Michael J. Fox to succeed and add another success to the the NBC ledger. They also brought back Sean Hayes, who we all remember from Will & Grace. Admirable casting efforts but I'm not sure they are winning ones. They also can't keep hoping that past actors will bring the same amount of success. Hayes was great on Will & Grace, but he might not catch lighting in a bottle. Perry has had two failed shows since his return. They don't have a shot with Courtney Cox, Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow. Jennifer Aniston might still be too big a movie star to do anything but the brief cameo appearance. I think David Schwimmer is still looking for work, though.
The Peacock has to be better about picking good comedy scripts and nurturing the ones that might struggle at first. They can't keep yanking them around like they did with Community. I know that's a very tough business and desperation can make people even more impatient than usual. But if they stick with a plan, they can get people watching weekday comedies and not just rely on Saturday Night Live for their consistent laughs.
There was a time when NBC was king of the comedy landscape. As long ago as it was, they may be able to scale those heights again. But at the rate that this is going, it's going to be a long climb.
Toad The Wet Sprocket, a fairly popular band in the '90s, just released their first studio album in 16 years, New Constellation. That's a long time. They've seen President Bill Clinton finish his second term, George W. Bush serve twice and Barack Obama in the middle of his second term. That's a lifetime in music -- kids that were born when their last album came out are today's main pop consumers. Will people wind up buying it or will they fade back into something from the past?
Sure, there was the occasional greatest hits or B-side album, but it wasn't the same as hearing brand new music. But here they are again. Maybe they missed the feeling of making new music together. Who knows? It is a big risk on their parts though, given this current circumstances. Like all of us, 16 years has chenged us - Glen Philips, Randy Guss, Todd Nichols and Dean Dinning aren't in their 20s anymore. The maturity should help their music even more.
It's got to be a whole new world for the band. The last time they released an album, Napster was a person who liked to sleep a lot. Now they not only have to vie for CD sales, they also have to deal with digital rights for sites like iTunes, Spotify and others. The worst thing they had to contend with was someone copying their CD and giving it to a friend of thers, not distributing it to millions through torrent seeding. They have also seen America go from a time of enormous prosperity (which sadly was built upon a house of cards) to several recessions that some wonder if it will ever recover from. So...it's a dicey situation, to say the least.
So far, it's garnered good reviews on Amazon and iTunes, but will that be enough to persuade the non-diehards to buy it? It'll be interesting to see how they weather this new world.
I hope they succeed again just because I think any band as cooly named as Toad The Wet Sprocket (a name derived from a sketch on one of Monty Python's 1970s LPs) deserves to succeed, no matter what.