Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Weekend Box Office

Thanks to Variety.com.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Weekend Box Office

Thanks this week to variety.com AND ace choreographer Becky Castells, for hosting this on her YouTube channel by accident.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Weekend Box Office

Shot using an iPhone! And as always, thanks to Variety.com for the data and set design.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Walden: now on X-Box and PS3

A TPN:BOW Repost, showing that I was getting my curmudgeon on 4 whole years ago! --s
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

–Henry David Thoreau, from his book Walden, 1854
Quite honestly, I believed the line “quiet desperation” came from this source below. I still think most average English-speaking people of a certain age do as well:

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

Hanging on in quiet desperation in the English way

The time is gone, the song is over

Thought I’d something more to say

–Roger Waters, from “Time,” by Pink Floyd, 1973
Either way, the aphorism doesn’t apply anymore. Here’s why:

[Quite a while ago, apparently], as my bandmates and I tried like hell to load out of a rehearsal space to make room for the next booked band, the conversation took a philosophical turn. Not the best way to turn a conversation when you’re in a hurry, but that’s the way things go.

We were all being somewhat affected by the changes and vicissitudes of the middle years. We were tallying up various minor maladies we were suffering, recounting the ill fortunes that have befallen the friends and family of all the members of late.

Glen, the quiet, reserved rhythm guitarist, asked, perhaps not all that rhetorically, if this is what the future held for all of us—a series of increasingly unhappy tidings, the eventual closing of life’s doors of opportunity until only one remains.

David, the talented lead singer, brought up the “Quiet Desperation” quote. We all agreed.

Then I thought about it for a bit. We had all just finished damaging our hearing for three solid hours with rock.

What do people in America do to inject some distraction and excitement into their empty lives? They do something cacophanous. This is becoming the Age of Noisy.

• Movies are LOUDER than ever. Almost all multiplexes are equipped with three-thousand-watt, DTS-SDDS-Dolby Digital compatible auditoriums. The average IMAX theater is equipped with 10,000 watts of audio power.

• TV is LOUDER than ever. The HDTV broadcast standard includes 5.1 surround sound.

• Video Games are LOUDER than ever. The gentle “beep-boop” of Colecovision has long yielded to game fare like HALO in its fully 5.1 surround sound capable, subwoofer-shredding glory.

• The Internet is LOUDER than ever. Try to enjoy surfing the web sans computer speakers sometime. [actually, the advent of phone apps may have quieted things down in this area a little-- but not much.]

• The friggin’ WORLD is louder than ever. In my neighborhood, there is a 1:1 correlation between people who rent their dwellings and people who own LOUD gas-powered things. (Noticed I said “people who rent:” People in my area who OWN their dwellings are either too busy working to pay mortgages or too old to be into new-fangled whiz-bangs.) Big shiny motorcycles, just like "American Chopper:" They run them up and down the streets most weekends, not really having anywhere useful to go. They also own those little gas-powered razor scooters, hot-rodded cars, gas-powered RC cars, etc. etc. The outstanding neighborhood annoyance is a guy with a LOUD Harley-compatible bike equipped with a fairing—into which he installed a stereo. So the entire block gets to hear him rev his bike, turn up his now drowned-out stereo, rev his bike again, re-adjust his stereo, and so on and so on. It’s the most foolish thing on two wheels I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to the circus.

How are we, the citizens of consumer-culture Western society, personally reacting when faced with a quiet moment? Do we take stock, accept the silence as an introspective moment of Eternity visited to our hectic existences? Or do we drown that mother out?

Admittedly, some people do accept and even seek out quiet and solitude, and use this stillness to enrich their soul and accept their place in the Universe. But not enough, not nearly enough– and our own technology has made it far too easy to turn to entertainment to fill the void. Could Walden have been written if Thoreau had DirectTV?
The mass of men lead lives of noisy desperation.

–Skot C.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Trek-O-Meter is back!

Hey-- I found a bunch of Podcast episodes backed up on the Internet Archive! Now I can repost some of the better articles-- like this one! --Skot

Jack B. Sowards died on July 8th 2007. His obit mentions he is most notable for having written Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, still considered the finest ST movie made. This brought something back into full recollection, something in need of a fitting send-off as well.

About a dozen years ago, some friends and I cobbled together a handy system for measuring the intensity of a person’s Star Trek fandom with a simple-to-use linear meter. This system of measurement served us very well (”Eddie– Check out the eight in line over there!”) during the incredible glut of franchise content available from the early 90s to just a few years ago. Here it is– and please, feel free to grade yourself:

10.0 - The perfect score was defined in a TV Guide Star Trek Commemorative magazine in 1995. In an article about serious fandom (Klingon language camp, costumed convention-goers, etc.) was a piece about a young man who built a replica of the Enterprise bridge set in his mother’s basement– and would act out his own Star Trek adventures in it. Think about that for a moment. Ponder the sheer force of will behind doing such a thing. Consider the circumstances. This pegs the meter: It cannot be surpassed. Even the people who designed and built the ACTUAL sets for Star Trek cannot meet this score– They were PAID to do their work.

9.0 - People who owned Trek costumes and attended conventions regularly. Fluent in Klingon. Have met Walter Koenig. Bjo Trimble was a 9.

8.0 - People who have seriously followed the shows, did not have any strong criticisms of “Star Trek: Enterprise” and first-nighted the movies. People who knew who Bjo Trimble was.

7.0 - Attended a few conventions, saw all the movies, but could not cite chapter and verse from any series but their favorite. Would not like being called a “Trekkie,” preferring “Trekfan.”

6.0 -Wouldn’t be particularly put out to be called a “Trekkie.”

5.0 - The great median. Knew and appreciated the franchise as a whole, but generally followed the herd.

4.0 - Thought Seven of Nine was hot, but found “Voyager” boring; Thought T’Pol was hot, but found “Enterprise” boring. Liked the effects in the movies. Thought “Live Long and Prosper” was the slogan of a medical group.

3.0 - Thought a “Gorn” was a sort of melon. Often confused “Babylon 5″ with “Deep Space 9.”

2.0 - Watched “Next Generation” as a kid. Saw First Contact on cable a few years back, liked it.

1.0 - Liked Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but that’s just about it.

0.0 -
The bottom peg of the meter was defined by my dear departed dad, who was vaguely aware there was a show on TV called “Star Track” and it had something to do with Dr. Spock.

A few notes: Most normal people would not stick to one point on the meter for any length of time: Some 3s would shoot up into 7 or 8 territory during a ST movie premiere or series season finale. And most significantly, this is a linear scale– it measures x, intensity of fandom. The unmeasured y dimension is sanity. The scale assumes full sanity: Nutcases (Shatner-stalkers and that juror who wore a Starfleet uniform to the Whitewater grand jury in ‘96) can theoretically exceed 10, but they tend to take right turns and fall off the chart entirely. (Special props: Chris, for helping with the chart definitions)

The Star Trek franchise has run its course: the props and costumes are being auctioned off, and there are no serious plans for new content. It still feels a bit strange to live in a world without it. It’s been around in one form or another since 1966, about as long as I have: It was not difficult to assume the portal to the Star Trek universe would remain open forever.

Even the kid with the bridge set in his mom’s basement has probably dismantled it long ago and moved on. I wouldn’t put money on it, mind you, but probably.

And then there's THIS article from 2008! --s

The ol’ Trek-o-Meter, that linear scale used to track the intensity of one’s Star Trek fandom essayed in these pages last July, apparently isn’t quite ready to be retired yet. For one thing, there is finally a new original-series-characters Star Trek movie in production, with Chris Pine (Smokin’ Aces) as Kirk and Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) as Scotty. this film was set to be released in December 2008: the WGA strike bumped it to early Summer 2009.

I’m bringing this up because there are a few new distinctions to add to the Trek-o-Meter, based on some recent real-life encounters that have been reported indirectly to, and later confirmed by, Box Office Weekly.

1. A fellow of tertiary acquaintance was found to have not one, but several Star Trek tattoos on his body. Fandom-based body modification needs to be quantified for the Meter (and remember: zero is ‘completely unaware’ and 10 is ‘Enterprise set in mom’s basement’):

Anyone with one Star Trek tattoo: automatic 7.5.

Anyone with several Star Trek tattoos: automatic 8.5.

Anyone with tattooed inscriptions in Klingon script which needs to be translated for curious witnesses: automatic 9.5.

Subtraction: I once met a drummer with a punk band who had the Star Trek emblem tattooed on his chest. His nickname was “Trek,” and he performed shirtless. He gets a point taken off for the irony and coolness factors.

2. A good friend of mine (who is fairly indifferent to Star Trek: I’d call her a 3.0) once had a date (a real date, a dinner-and-a-movie type date) with a young man who wore a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” uniform shirt for the occasion. Complete with communicator badge. And he would, once in awhile, talk into the communicator badge.

That’s right: he wore a Starfleet uniform on a first date. Needless to say, there wasn’t a second date. (My friend said he “had a lot of other issues… Weird issues.”)

This is a good example of someone hitting that hard-to-attain perfect 10.0, but the “other issues” mentioned are telling. He was obviously right in the middle of making that hard right turn, departing from the quantifiable plain of intrinsic reality.

Live Long and Prosper.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Weekend Box Office

I recall seeing Total Recall, totally

Colin Farrell, getting his
vacation on.
Got a chance to see the new Total Recall at a late screening. Positive I was the only paying attendee: the few other patrons wandered in after start time, a sure indicator they crept in from other auditoriums.

The reboot of Total Recall made $26M opening weekend, less than the third weekend of The Dark Knight Rises. Considering the film's $125M budget, that's bad news. Many interesting theories as to why this happened, the best being the idea that few moviegoers can be convinced to pay for a film they have already seen. Personally, I see the dark, tentacled hand of The Martian Curse at play. The original is one of the few films set on the Red Planet to see huge success: The remake, scrupulous to avoid this pitfall, is entirely set on earth. Now it seems obvious the Martian Curse was not avoided in 1990: It was merely delayed 22 years.

A wonderfully badass John Cho (Harold and Kumar)
is the Rekall operator in the remake. His part was played by
Ray Baker (one of my favorite character actors)
in the original.
What struck me watching this new version was how absolutely strange both these films are from a moral and political level. The premise (and I'm ••• spoiling ••• here for the 45 people out there who have never seen the original) is this: in a vaguely totalitarian future a man, dissatisfied with his mundane life, purchases a virtual vacation that is indistinguishable from reality. In this fantasy, his loving wife becomes a deadly enemy: his goal, the destruction of the government. Imagine taking a Sandals-style immersion vacation where the big draw is shooting your spouse and killing the President of the United States.

I thought it would be fun to compare the original and the remake point-to-point:

1990 – Paul Verhoeven had skills which made TR 1990 memorable: clean, obvious (maybe too obvious) storytelling skills; a delight in weird, gory effects; strong colors and and a sense of ironic fun. Verhoeven played with ideas of what was true and what was fictional in all his previous American films (especially Starship Troopers, a propaganda film from a fascist future, an ironic twist which flew over the heads of most).

2012 – Fremont's own Len Wiseman must have been Columbia's perfect choice for this property: He knows how to work with effects, has a dark, fast-action, dynamic style, and showed he can helm a tentpole picture with Live Free or Die Hard (2007). But the underwhelming box office for this film indicates Mr. Wiseman was probably not the sole author of that film's success: Live Free had a tight story (it took nearly a decade to write) and a star (Bruce Willis) with three to four times the charisma than Colin Farrell.

(I am going to ding Mr. Wiseman for a very annoying tic he uses in Total Recall, one he blatantly stole from J. J. Abrams: At every opportunity he shines light into the lens, smearing lens flares like 4th of July fireworks. Making audiences squint until teary-eyed is not good cinematography, Len.)

1990 – Verhoeven had a superior script by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett (Alien) to work with. Action and exposition were well-balanced throughout.

2012 – It's mostly indicative of how films are scripted these days: at about midpoint the action and effects-filled chase goes nonstop. It gets a bit deadening after a while.

Sharon Stone in the 1990 version, offering to help
her husband forget his Rekall-induced delusion
with some light bondage.
1990 – Arnold Schwarzenegger was a marvelous fit for a Paul Verhoeven film: he was big, obvious, faintly silly, and had a knack for delivering great punchlines (“Consider this a divorce!”). Hell, he WAS a punchline: He played a normal schmoe who dreamed of a life of an action hero. The audience was definitely in on that joke.

2012 – Colin Farrell does a much better job than Arnold was capable of in conveying the subtleties of Doug Quade: the confusion and lost and recovered memories, the terror of being hunted. But there's that low charisma thing: He starred in Fright Night, another 80s revival film last year that failed to capture big audiences. Let's just call Colin Farrell the Irish Matthew McConaughey, another actor they keep shoving into lead roles, hoping he'll spark.

1990 – Rachel Tocotin was Melina, Quade's object of desire. Nice idea, but she never ignited. Sharon Stone, however, was amazing as Lori, Quade's wife/minder assassin: she slinked and hissed and gave the world a preview of what she was capable of in Basic Instinct (1992).
Jessica Biel, in a typical pose, showing a large expanse
of bare wrist and a hint of forearm.

2012 – Len Wiseman's wife Kate Beckinsale is Lori, switching from nice wife to dead-eyed murder machine. In other words, she's Selena from the Underworld series minus the kinky wardrobe. Jessica Biel (and her killer cheekbones) is Melina. What's odd is the two are indistinct at a distance: two willowy brunettes. When they fight it almost looks like a special effect. Also (and this is a guy-film complaint) the 2012 version is about a hundredth as sexy as the 1990 version, despite the extremely attractive leads. Jessica Biel in particular is buttoned up to the chin in bulky clothing the entire film, which is almost a crime.

(Paul Verhoeven, in contrast, had no problem bringing on the sexy-- which was ultimately his downfall (Showgirls).)

Cohaagen, the villain of both films, was well-realized in both film: Ronny Cox played him in the original, oozing contempt and corporate privilege. Bryan Cranston plays him in the new film: It's perhaps another indication of how TV is surpassing film in depth these days to say that Walter White, Cranston's character from AMC's “Breaking Bad,” is a hundred times scarier.