Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Damn you, David Chase! :)

So is this what is to become of us from now on - or at least until the summer is over? Parody after parody of the already-iconic final scene of The Sopranos? If so, then maybe Paris Hilton can't get out of prison and go out partying without her underwear too soon.

Here Hillary Clinton gets into the act to decent effect (though your feelings of good will may go out the window when you find out which song she did end up choosing for her campaign tune. From Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow) to this?)

The Pittsburgh Pirates, in a desparate attempt to distract fan from how god-awful the team is (again), created this handsome comedy clip that played on the Jumbotron:

One method of parody seems to be taking other famous last scenes and giving them the "David Chase" treatment. This is an alternate take on The Godfather:

And see if you can guess what this movie is:

So will there be more? All I can see is that it probably won't be long before one of the networks uses the diner scene as a way to introduce one of their new shows to the public, which would be the equivalent of a hooker wearing Mother Teresa's habit - or David Chase writing a script for According to Jim. So settle back - it's going to be a long summer. And don't stop believing!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The ’suit over the suit, Day One ...

You may not realize this, but in a courtroom in Washington, D.C., the trial of the century finally has begun. More than $50 million is on the line, not to mention the sanity reputation of a public official and the future of a business - and, by relation, a family. And it's all for the want of ... a pair of pants.

Yes, the Great Pants Lawsuit is on. As previously reported all over the world, including this very blog, Roy L. Pearson Jr., an appointed judge in the District and a dumbass, is suing the Korean-born owners of a local dry cleaning establishment over what he says was the reckless disposition of his favorite pair of suit pants. His asking price for the loss of his precious garment (and the accompanying pain and suffering) was $67 million, but he has since lowered the amount to a more reasonable $54 million. Those astronomical amounts alone made the case an international sensation as people across the globe scratched their heads and wondered if Mr. Pearson has lost his ever-loving mind. It had become a joke to just about everyone except the family Pearson is suing, the Chungs, who had come from Seoul to build for themselves a piece of the American dream, only to see it threatened by what seemed to be the willful machinations of a vindictive madman. Even if they prevail, the court costs alone may force them in to bankruptcy, even their ability to stay in the U.S. Person may be a laughing stock, but the Chungs weren't laughing.

Well, after the first day of the trial, which is covered in great detail by Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher here, I'm still laughing and seething at the same time. It is incredible to me how Pearson, who is representing himself, claims to have spent 1,400 hours of his own time preparing for this case - and has asked to be reimbursed for attorney's fees at the rate more than $400 per hour. (Excuse me ... coughgreedybastardcough.) It boggles my mind how his opening statement including the sentence, "Never before in recorded history have a group of defendants engaged in such misleading and unfair business practices" - and apparently said it with a straight face. I'm flabbergasted that, during his testimony of the horror of his pants going missing, he actually broke down in tears and abruptly left the courtroom before the judge even granted him a recess. And then there's one of Pearson's witnesses, an 89-year-old former WAC who also had problems with the Chungs' service - and went on to compare them to the Nazis.

This seems set to be a two-day trial, which means the Chungs should be able to present their defense today. The presiding judge is Judith Bartnoff; remember that name so you know where to send your hate mail if this thing goes the wrong way. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Leave the gun, bring the Walnuts ...

Going through Sopranos withdrawal already? Don't worry, 'cause there's always ... the spinoff!

OK, it's an obvious parody. But it could happen, right? (And considering the massive ratings drop-off between the Sopranos finale and the show that immediately followed it, the debut of the Next Great Series from HBO™, John from Cincinnati, maybe it had better happen, but fast.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Why come you haven't seen this movie yet?

Or maybe the better question is: In a world where films such as Norbit, Epic Movie and Kickin' It Old Skool can get wide release patterns and large amounts of studio promotion, is there any room for a genuinely funny and smart movie? Apparently not, at least in the eyes of 20th Century Fox. For while the studio gave extensive support to one of the aforementioned duds, the lame spoof Epic Movie (Rotten Tomatoes rating: 2% - that's right, two), Fox let one of the most hilarious and most insightful comedies of the decade, Mike Judge's brilliant, brutal satire Idiocracy, fester on its shelves for nearly a year before finally releasing it, nearly sight unseen, to all of seven cities and 130 screens. (By contrast, Epic Movie was released to more than 2,800 screens in its opening weekend.)

Judge, the Texas-based creator of prized comedic material such as the animated series Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill, as well as the critically acclaimed cult favorite Office Space, directed, co-wrote and co-produced Idiocracy, which is done no justice by a simple written explanation. But here's one anyway: a thoroughly average Army librarian (Luke Wilson) and a hooker (Saturday Night Live's Maya Rudolph) are selected for a military experiment aimed at preserving the best soldiers for future wars. Each is put into a hibernation pod for what is supposed to be a year. But through a series of mishaps, the pair are forgotten about and remain in stasis for five centuries. By the time Wilson and Rudolph wake up in the year 2505, the world is full of - morons. The top-rated TV show is called Ow! My Balls!, and it's about exactly what you think it is. The number-one movie is entitled Ass - 90 minutes of a man's naked ass. (It wins eight Oscars, including best screenplay.) Corporations run everything: Costcos are as big as cities and sell everything from sexual favors to law degrees. Starbucks now specialize in handjobs. A fictional sports-drink company literally has bought the FDA and FCC, and its product is so common that water is now only used in toilets - which, by the way, are combined with Lay-Z-Boys to allow for the watching of Ow! My Balls! without interruption.

That's just a taste of the highlights out heroes find in their new reality, along with the fact that, pretty much by default, Wilson is now the smartest person on Earth. Not surprisingly, that news makes his life decidedly more complicated as he adjusts to life among the impossibly stupid, though some things are the same - for example, Fox News still exists and is as popular as ever, even if it is not anchored by muscle-bound (male) and buxom (female) nimrods. Meanwhile, the resulting discoveries and misadventures of Wilson and Rudolph lead to plenty of gut-busting scenes and some clever commentary by Judge on the state of affairs in today's society. But very few people got a chance to see what was up with this movie thanks to Fox's decision to bury it in a virtual lead coffin underneath the proverbial six feet of concrete. Dump jobs of movies deemed, for whatever reason, to be commercial or critical failures aren't that uncommon in Hollywood, but this one had some feeling to it. In addition to the puny screen count (including not being screened anywhere in New York City), Fox produced no trailers or press materials for the film. So despite Judge's strong reputation and Idiocracy's overall positive reviews - that is, by the few critics able to see the movie in the first place - the movie made less than $450,000 from its theatrical run.

So what exactly happened? The honchos at Fox aren't talking, and Judge has not taken advantage of opportunities to raise hell about the mistreatment of his movie. (Some think that Idiocracy may have never been released if another director had made it - that it saw the meager light of day to appease Judge, who has made the studio millions thanks to King of the Hill.) One of the more popular theories is that Idiocracy was simply too good for its own good, that it was too effective in its skewering of contemporary culture and the dumbing down of America. (To which I would say, er, didn't the Fox brass know what they were getting into in the first place? You don't throw a director $30 million or so if you didn't already read the script, right?)

At least Fox has given Idiocracy a fairly decent push as a DVD release - there are actual clips available on the studio's home entertainment site, if you can find them - and the home version has made more than $9 million, so it is being seen. But not enough. A movie this funny and this on-point deserves as large of an audience as possible, if only to shame Rupert Murdoch and his minions for acting out the movie's central premise 500 years early through their own stupidity. So the next time you're at the video store or working on your Netflix queue, make seeing Idiocracy a priority, please. And do remember to empty your bladder before starting it up.

For more information about Idiocracy, including the aforementioned clips and several articles about its non-support, go to the film's Wikipedia page here. And a shout-out to my friend Beth for reminding me about the existence of Idiocracy after I had first heard about it last fall. Her musings about the film can be found here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

My wheel in the sky ...

Full disclosure: Despite my bashing of the rock group Journey in my previous post on Petra Haden, I in fact own a Journey greatest-hits collection and have several of their songs on my iPod. In fact, "Don't Stop Believing" is in somewhat heavy rotation on my personal soundtrack. Steve Perry is still on my crap list for the whole White Sox thing, but he can belt out a tune. Hell, I even liked his solo work.

There, I said it.


On any given Monday, you can stumble upon something so completely brilliant, you can't help but smile so broadly that it looks like you swallowed an entire double fudge chocolate cake. That happened to me about 10 minutes ago.

Out here in Los Angeles there is a prominent indie-music show on one of the public radio stations each weekday morning called Morning Becomes Eclectic. I rarely listen to it mostly because the host, Nic Harcourt, can come across as a pretentious sod, but this morning the radio was still on the station because I had been listening to the NPR news. So I was only half paying attention when the first song of Harcourt's show came on. And for a second I was unclear of what I was hearing. What the heck, I thought, was Journey doing on a music program that highlighted unknown or offbeat acts? What's more, it was an old Journey song, "Don't Stop Believing," a song I had learned to hate when those damnable Chicago White Sox adopted it for their fight song during their World Series championship year in 2005. But yet - it wasn't Journey. Yeah, it was the song, but the voice singing definitely wasn't Steve Perry. And that's when I realized that what I was hearing was a cover, only it was a woman who was singing it - and, in fact, also performing every instrument, Bobby McFerrin style.

Luckily, the Morning Becomes Eclectic Web site includes an instant playlist feature, so I was quickly able to ascertain the identity of whom I was hearing. Her name is Petra Haden. She is a New York-born singer and violinist who has played with several indie bands and performed with famous acts such as Beck, Luscious Jackson, Foo Fighters and Green Day. She comes from a very musical family, including her two triplet sisters, one of whom is married to Jack Black. And she has carved herself a niche as a solo artist, but not a typical one. Haden's speciality is covering iconic songs with her whimsical and versatile voice as her sole instrument. For example, you have to hear her versions of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" (both available for free on her Web site) to believe them. And in 2005 she released a note-for-note remake of the classic album The Who Sell Out, a recording that prompted no less than Pete Townshend himself to gush out accolades about Haden's accomplishment. "I felt like I'd received something better than a Grammy," he said to the Boston Globe about Haden's homage of an album.
According to her Web site, Haden is working on another a cappella album (I suspect that's where her version of "Don't Stop Believing" may be found) and is doing some gigs in the L.A. area. I strongly advise you to keep track of her creative output in the coming weeks and months, and see if it doesn't put a smile on your face. It may even make you appreciate Journey all over again - or at all, actually.

P.S. Haden's version of "Don't Stop Believing" can be heard on this MySpace page as part of the "various artists" CD Guilt by Association.