Friday, May 29, 2009

Get Smart 2008

Get Smart ~ It is really really difficult to screw up a “Get Smart” movie. Looking at the past attempts - The Nude Bomb in 1980 and Get Smart Again for TV in 1989 – two of the worst movies ever made, you would really have to try diligently to make something worse. Despite the shadow hanging over this film, the 2008 remake of “Get Smart” isn’t bad, it’s not bad at all.

The cast is fun. Steve Carel is a comedy genius, and has yet to fall into any of the traps Jim Carrey (who incidentally was originally cast) did when he was on top. Anne Hathaway is always a delight on screen, and her chemistry with Carel is delicious, inspiring positive comparison to the originals, Barbara Feldon and Don Adams. Always good to see Alan Arkin, and The Rock, Dwayne Johnson rules every scene he’s in. Bill Murray makes an embarrassing cameo while James Caan shows a real flair for comedy as the President. Terrence Stamp does an interesting impression as the typical Malcolm McDowell villain. Even Masi Oka of “Heroes” and Nate Torrence are fun. I wish however that Patrick Warburton as Hymie had been throughout the film rather than half a minute at the end. There is even a quick but great cameo by Bernie Kopell, who played the original Siegfried. But it’s not the cast I take issue with.

Why does this have to be a “Get Smart” movie to begin with? Name recognition? Surely not. No one who was alive when the program first aired or even when it was in syndication is among the major movie-going demographic these days. Is it to make more money for poor Buck Henry, the creator of the series? Maybe. That’s really the only reason I can see. And let’s face it, unless we count “Quark,” Buck does deserve it.

The reason I question this is because really the only weak parts of this film are the “Get Smart” gimmicks and where Carel does his bad Don Adams impression. That’s where it falters, when it tries too hard to be “Get Smart.” If you removed all of those references this would be a fairly strong but simple spy comedy. Really, if you needed name recognition that didn’t make sense to the demographic anyway, why not make it a sequel or remake of Spies Like Us? It works just as well. Worth watching, but I don’t know if I would feel good about paying for it.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bat-Mite Strikes Again

Cartoon Network’s hit series “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” will be taking a ride on the crazy train soon. The program, which features an old school Batman teaming up with various other superheroes to fight crime and defeat costumed baddies, welcomes a few familiar names back onto the small screen on May 29th.

Paul Dini, who was instrumental in the ongoing creation of Fox’s award-winning “Batman: The Animated Series” during the 1990s, comes on board to write a special episode featuring another name from the past, Bat-Mite!

In the episode titled “Legends of the Dark-Mite!” Bat-Mite (voiced by Paul Reubens AKA Pee-Wee Herman) kidnaps Batman and takes him to the Fifth Dimension where hilarity literally ensues. Lots of old school versions of Batman’s enemies show up to the party as well, with more than one nod to the Looney Tunes cartoons of yesteryear. Don’t miss it!


Sunday, May 24, 2009

V Returns

The re-imagining of the 1980s scifi TV series "V" - coming to ABC in the fall.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Night at the Museum 2

While an entertaining sequel, and a better movie than any film starring both Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson has any right to be, I'm still not sure what to make of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

The one thing that makes this sequel different from others of its kind is that it infers, nay, it requires the viewer to have seen the original. Night at the Museum 2 makes no synopsis, or even excuses, regarding the first film. If you haven't seen the first one, you're not only out of luck, you'll never even understand the concept of the sequel. Many of the plot twists and even the running jokes are based on information not provided here. I seriously wonder how this little matter will affect the box office. Word of mouth regarding a hard-to-understand movie could be lethal.

For those not in the know, the original film revolved around a museum where all the exhibits come to life at night. In the sequel, all of the exhibits, including the MacGuffin that causes the phenomenon, have been shipped to the National Archives beneath the Smithsonian in Washington DC. When night hits, everything in the vicinity of a museum-like nature comes to life. Hilarity ensues.

Among the things that come to life are Amelia Earhart wonderfully played by Amy Adams - one of the highlights of the film, and Hank Azaria doing his scarily accurate Boris Karloff impression as spoiled brat pharaoh out to rule the world with an army of the dead. Yeah, a whole lot to swallow for a family comedy, isn't it?

One interesting bit that is certainly worth seeing, and maybe seeing this flick a second time, is the art that 'comes to life.' Once the Smithsonian is affected, all of the beautiful paintings, scultures and works of art becomes 'real' and animated. The folks doing the special effects certainly had a love of the work and it shows. Fun stuff and a delight for art fans.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Human Target - Sneak Peek

"Human Target" will be opening for "Dollhouse" Fridays nights next season on Fox. It's loosely based on the DC Comics character Christopher Chance, the Human Target. This isn't the first TV shot for the character, Rick Springfield tried it for seven episodes back in 1992. And yes, that is Chi McBride from "Pushing Daisies" and Jackie Earle Haley from Watchmen.


Only News When They Wanna Be

While I have personally berated folks who only seem to get their news from “The Daily Show,” broadcast on Comedy Central, in recent years that program has proved to actually have some journalistic merit. In their election coverage and more recently when host Jon Stewart clashed with Jim Cramer regarding some misleading financial advice, it appeared that “The Daily Show” was much more serious than its comedy roots would suggest. But apparently they are only news when they wanna be.

Watching Jon Stewart softball interview Larry King last night I was struck by how Stewart seemed to at least have perused the new book King was pushing, he surely had not heard (or possibly was just ignoring) the big entertainment news regarding King and his book yesterday. When a man is your guest, how can you not know the biggest story of the day regarding that person? Unless your job is simply to push the book?

Yesterday, it was revealed that Larry in fact had a son, Larry King Jr., one he didn’t know about until years later. It’s in the book, it’s on Larry’s CNN show, it’s all over the morning news. How do you miss it, and worse yet, how does a ‘journalist’ not even mention it?

Well, maybe I was mistaken and “The Daily Show” is only a comedy show. Make the Bush and Obama jokes. Push the book. Don’t make waves. Unless of course maybe someone lost money through bad financial advice? Maybe... but then maybe Jim Kramer just didn’t have a book to push at that time...


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Chuck Found

Sorry for the scare, folks. For those who read my last entry and were as upset as I was regarding the status of NBC's "Chuck," no worries.

"Chuck" will be back. We'll just have to wait until January for it. NBC will be using the Winter Olympics to relaunch the series for a thirteen episode run. I would have rather had twenty-two, but I'm just happy we have "Chuck" back.

Check out the extremely cool Alan Sepinwall's interview with "Chuck" co-creator Chuck Fedak here.


NBC's Short List

NBC announced today their surprising new schedule for the fall, one that includes not only the new nightly primetime Jay Leno show but also their Sunday Night Football. Here it is:


8 p.m. — "Heroes"
9 p.m. — "Trauma"
10 p.m. — "The Jay Leno Show"


8 p.m. — "The Biggest Loser"
10 p.m. — "The Jay Leno Show"


8 p.m. — "Parenthood"
9 p.m. — "Law & Order: SVU"
10 p.m. — "The Jay Leno Show"


8 p.m. — "SNL Weekend Update Thursday"
8:30 p.m. — "Parks & Recreation"
9 p.m. — "The Office"
9:30 p.m. — "Community"
10 p.m. — "The Jay Leno Show"


8 p.m. — "Law & Order"
9 p.m. — "Southland"
10 p.m. — "The Jay Leno Show"


8 p.m. — "Dateline NBC"
9 p.m. — "Trauma" rerun
10 p.m. — "Law & Order: SVU" rerun


7 p.m. — "Football Night in America"
8:20 p.m. — "NBC Sunday Night Football"

This rather sparse schedule, pared down by one night of football and a hour every weeknight ruled over by Leno, also includes a half-hour of "Saturday Night Live" on primetime Thursday and only one version of "Law and Order." Noticeably missing from the schedule are shows like "Medium," "30 Rock" and "Chuck." I know Twitter was able to save "Heroes," but I thought we were also able to save "Chuck" as well...

Where's Chuck???


Monday, May 18, 2009

Quickies 5-18-2009

The Explosive Generation ~ It’s interesting to watch and review a William Shatner flick from 1961 in the midst of the current Star Trek buzz, and doubly interesting that he turned down a role in the new Trek yet he’s in this. I guess he couldn’t be picky back then. How times have changed. In this cautionary tale about coming of age, sex education and pre-protest student protests, Bill plays the ‘cool teacher.’ You know, the one who usually gets fired for teaching the wrong thing or ends up having an affair with a student – yeah, he’s that guy, only without the affair. Look for a slightly grown up Patty McCormack from The Bad Seed, a babyfaced Beau Bridges and Stafford Repp, Chief O’Hara from “Batman” playing a cop sans Irish accent. And engaging if predictable hour and a half.

Tropic Thunder ~ Wow, was this flick 90% hype or what? Except for the hilarious fake movie previews at the beginning and a few moments of just over-the-top wrong humor, I found this to be tedious and downright boring for the most parts. Yes, I said boring – a damned hard thing to be with gunfire and explosions every couple of minutes, but they pulled it off somehow. Horrendous.

Gamers ~ This one’s very narrowcast, but hilarious if you get the references. It’s a mockumentary about a roleplaying group who’s about to break the world’s record for most hours played, and has videotaped every gaming session. William Katt, Kelly LeBrock and Beverly D’Angelo make hilarious cameos. This is Spinal Tap for gamers, but might go right over the heads of anyone who’s never played. You’ll never look at clown porn, paintball or horse breeding the same way again. Highly recommended for those who indulge.

Special ~ Not only is this 2006 Michael Rapaport vehicle just an embarrassment in general but it’s also the same insult for the superhero and independent film genres as well. It might have flown well as a five-minute “SNL” skit but otherwise this is crap. Avoid.

Chariots of the Gods ~ In the 1970s this was something special or at least something to talk about with your friends. In the decades since, Erich von Daniken has been revealed to be a charlatan and it leaves this ‘documentary’ based on his books as a ridiculous leftover. An amusing relic that still runs as slow as it did when it was relevant.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Quantum of Solace

This is the second of the rebooted James Bond series starring Daniel Craig as the classic Ian Fleming character. I have always had trouble with the concept of having to tell the origin of the hero. Think of the old movie serials, no origins, we were just dropped into a good exciting story, given a one or two line synopsis of our hero, and rolling with it. In many ways, it’s what we have been doing with James Bond for decades.

Here in Quantum of Solace, which takes place just minutes after the closing of Casino Royale (2006), we are still dealing with a assumedly green Bond, whose first mission ended in death and defeat. Not what I want at all. Sure, there may be such a beginning for Bond, but I want my confident, capable and virtually indestructible super-spy, not his wet-behind-the-ears baptism-by-fire wannabe starter. Furthermore, the Bond we get here is a vengeful killer, not the man of honor and action or the gentleman assassin we’re used to. He didn’t even get this bad when his wife was murdered years ago. Surely this Vesper chick wasn’t more special than Diana Rigg?

The cinematography is equally inappropriate. Bond is not Bourne, nor should it be. I don’t think the fast cut, moving camera effects are suitable for Bond. Just my opinion, but when one goes to see a Bond film, after more than twenty in the can, there are certain things one should expect. Shaky cam isn’t one of them. I’m not liking the stylized title cards for places at the start of scene changes either. Too… comic booky, especially in a franchise trying to remove itself from a camp perspective. And why the need to riff on the opening of Goldfinger in oil? More tacky than homage, and it barely makes sense in the story anyway.

Killer song this time out, “Another Way to Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys, and it’s probably the best thing about this movie. And that’s sad. I found the music video included on the DVD to be more entertaining than the film’s title sequence, and that’s even sadder. When you can’t even get a Bond title sequence right, that’s bad.

Finally, the last thing I should feel while watching a James Bond movie is bored, and I felt it here. It had action, it even had a couple trademark outlandish Bond chases scenes but for the most part I found myself bored and distracted by this latest entry in the series. I’m unsure if I’m looking forward to the next one. Daniel Craig impressed me in Casino Royale, but not here. Any chance of Pierce Brosnan coming back? Hell, I’d take Roger Moore at this point.

This isn’t just a bad James Bond movie. It’s a bad movie, period.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

And the Winner Is…

The winner of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest is... Norway!

"Fairytale" by Alexander Rybak. Like I said, never underestimate the power of a cute boy and a catchy song.

Congratulations, Norway!


Eurovision 2009: The Final

Tonight is the Finals of the 54th Eurovision Song Contest, live from Moscow's Olympiyski Indoor Arena and hosted by Alsou and Ivan Urgant. In London, it will also be the first year without favorite host Terry Wogan, newly replaced by Graham Norton – who the Eurovision website inexplicably calls Norton Graham. Just part of the Eurovision wackiness, I suppose.

In this Final, the twenty entries from the two Semi-Finals are joined by the four original Eurovision nations: United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Germany as well as last year’s winner and this year’s host country, Russia who all automatically qualify for the contest. Some of the entries will remain the same as what was seen in the Semi-Finals, and some will pull out the stops and the surprises for this final appearance. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Another surrealist fairytale opens the Finals, of the sort that only occurs at Eurovision, and then spins into a bit of amateur Cirque Du Soleil – that actually turns out to be the real thing. I like the music and the participants are frantic and non-stop, and there seems to be too much going on. Last year’s winner, Dima Bilan, appears from the sky on a wire, and with lots of special effects (and one of two glitches) and reenacts his barefoot stage rolling performance that won last year.

None of it makes sense, but that’s okay, this is Eurovision.

The participants, in order of appearance on the stage:

01 Lithuania - Sasha Son’s “Love”
This is just the first of what I assume will be many sharper and more refined performances that simply repeat what was done in the Semi-Finals. Nice start.

02 Israel - Noa & Mira Awad’s “There Must Be Another Way”
The music is a bit more upbeat and the singers a bit more charismatic. The Finals are A game time. Lots of support for Israel in the audience.

03 France - Patricia Kaas’ “Et S'il Fallait Le Faire”
Very simple and understated, and to the point, reminiscent of the old cabarets. One has to wonder how much France really wants to win when they make such a big deal about having the song in their native language. It’s almost like saying, “We don’t care about your silly contest as long as our culture remains intact.” Hope the voters in the rest of Europe feel the same way, as no country can vote for their own entry. A shame as the song is quite pretty and might stand a decent chance if everyone could understand it.

04 Sweden - Malena Ernman’s “La Voix”
Still not thrilled with the song, but Malena seems both more confident and happy to be on the stage.

05 Croatia - Igor Cukrov featuring Andrea’s “Lijepa Tena”
Does Igor know something we don’t know? He’s not trying as hard as he was the other night, as a matter of fact I think that night’s performance was better than tonight’s.

06 Portugal - Flor-de-lis’ “Todas As Ruas Do Amor”
Like many others, a more practiced and competent repeat of the Semi-Final. The backgrounds still look like a 1970s “Brady Kids” cartoon threw up. Quiet and colorful, upbeat and traditional, Portugal is a serious contender.

07 Iceland - Yohanna’s “Is It True?”
Not as boring as the first time. Strong ballad, but I still can’t place who she sounds like. I like the subdued blues in the stage, lights and costumes. At least it didn’t put me to sleep this time.

08 Greece - Sakis Rouvas’ “This Is Our Night”
Sakis is more in step with his back-up dancers tonight, and seems obsessed with showing the world his toned tummy. An outstanding performance, yet, he doesn’t look as happy or confident as he did in the Semi-Final.

09 Armenia - Inga & Anush’s “Jan Jan”
Theatrics abound in this entry that surprisingly impressed last time. A prime example of how visuals can propel a so-so song to the top. I like this one the more I hear it. Pavlov in the MTV age.

10 Russia - Anastasia Prikhodko’s “Mama”
Highlighted by gigantic Big Brother-esque TV screens that don’t highlight her looks, my first thought is would this entry have gotten to the Finals had Russia not won last year? The aging effects on the screen are interesting but not attractive. The Russian audience loves it, but I don’t.

11 Azerbaijan - AySel & Arash’s “Always”
For me this one seems to be the opposite of Armenia. The more I hear the less I like it. The two singers’ overtheatrical expressions don’t help the situation either.

12 Bosnia & Herzegovina - Regina’s “Bistra Voda”
Zzzzzz… I don’t know. I know folks who think this could win, but it does nothing for me. But what do I know, I still don’t believe barefoot boy won last year. And I hope they can get the bleach out of those costumes before they return them to My Chemical Romance.

13 Moldova - Nelly Ciobanu’s “Hora Din Moldova”
The performance seems weaker and shakier than the other night, and the stage much bigger. It picks up later but still… What happened?

14 Malta - Chiara’s “What If We”
Did Chiara catch something from Nelly Ciobanu? Is her mike broken? Nowhere near the power or talent Chiara has had in the past on the Eurovision stage.

15 Estonia - Urban Symphony’s “Rändajad”
This is growing on me. There are others I want to win more, but I’m still pulling for Estonia. Watching it I have to wonder if some flash and color could push this one over the top to the winner’s circle?

16 Denmark - Brinck’s “Believe Again”
Lionel should have done “Brick House” instead. Although, jokes aside, he sounds more like an American country singer tonight. Weird.

17 Germany - Alex Swings Oscar Sings!’s “Miss Kiss Kiss Bang”
This one was one of my favorites early on. After seeing the stage performance I’m not so sure. A sexy guy and girl (even if it is Dita Von Teese, and only for a few seconds) just isn’t enough. I still think it might be just quirky, retro and catchy enough to capture all of Europe’s imagination. But not enough to win.

18 Turkey - Hadise’s “Düm Tek Tek”
The audience cheering before and as the music begins says a lot. An early and steadfast favorite, this is still a strong contender, and has an excellent chance of winning.

19 Albania - Kejsi Tola’s “Carry Me In Your Dreams”
Vote no on Disco Gumby.

20 Norway - Alexander Rybak’s “Fairytale”
Like Turkey, the audience roared before and as the music started for this one. Catchy tune and cute guy are sometimes all you need. Still love the dancers. Another strong contender.

The male host of the show just better stop shouting at me. This is TV and internet, he doesn’t have to yell loud enough for me to hear. The nation hats in the inserts and intros border on the interesting to the boring. Good concept though.

21 Ukraine - Svetlana Loboda’s “Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl)”
I love this entry, and although I doubt it will win, I’m still pulling for Svetlana. I suspect there might be too much going on on the stage, but based on the pre-show, it would appear folks in the Russian states like that sort of thing. Oh well.

22 Romania - Elena’s “The Balkan Girls”
The dancers certainly don’t appear to have practiced much since the other night. Very tame and I’m not sure about the pseudo-fairy costumes. Elena should have borrowed some of Svetlana’s stage dressing. In this case, the audio version of the song is much better.

23 United Kingdom - Jade Ewen’s “It's My Time”
Also much cheering before this entry. The UK would like very badly to win another Eurovision. There was talk a couple years back of Morrissey entering in the nation’s name but that fell through. This year, at least one big gun has been pulled out in this entry written by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber himself. Sadly, it’s not one of his better efforts. And Jade doesn’t help that much either.

24 Finland - Waldo's People’s “Lose Control”
This is a much stronger performance than the other night’s, so much so it’s surprising. High energy and enthusiasm. Could this be another win for Finland?

25 Spain - Soraya’s “La Noche Es Para Mí (The Night Is For Me)”
Spain opens with a bang and much theatrics, beautiful people and of course Soraya’s incredible outfit. She might win alone for that dress from her admirers throughout Europe. The song however is just standard dance music, but that dress… And they also take a cue from Belarus a few years back and add some stage magic, always fun. Great showstopper, but not a winner I don’t think.


Dollhouse Saved

After a couple tense weeks, the news is out that Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" has been renewed for a second season on Fox.

Now there are folks who live and die by the word of Whedon, while a fan, I'm not one of them. I will be the first to say that "Dollhouse" is not one of his best productions. It's no "Firefly," (another Fox show by Whedon that was killed by the Friday night scifi death slot) and it certainly isn't "Buffy," but it did have its moments. Unfortunately those moments were few and far between. And I'm not just talking about Eliza Dushku.

We've seen twelve episodes so far, excluding the unaired pilot and the episode featuring Dr. Horrible star Felicia Day, and not many of them could keep my attention. I liked the one that riffed on "The Most Dangerous Game" and the ones that concerned Alpha, but that's about it.

And I think the problem is that all the episodes should have been about Alpha and the workings of the Dollhouse specifically. I found the episodes about the actives' missions to be boring standard TV fare but I was spellbound by the Alpha subplot, and the episodes that focused on that. Give us the good stuff, Joss, not the fluff we can get anywhere. Congrats and here's to better second season.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Broadway's Green Goblin?

The rumor mills are churning, saying that Alan Cumming may be cast as the Green Goblin in Julie Taymor's "Spider-Man: Turn Out the Dark."

Alan Cumming is an inspired choice, visually at least. Now while I can see it, I'm not sure that Cumming can pull off the evil necessary for the character. I don't want to say it, but maybe Alan might not be 'butch' enough for the Goblin. That said, who knows what kind of production this will be. Julie Taymor has described her $40 million "Turn Out the Dark" as both a 'rock and roll musical' and a 'circus spectacle,' and frankly that scares me.

Perhaps Taymor will do to Spider-Man what Joel Schumacher did to Batman - only with singing and dancing. Let's hope not. Brrr...


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Eurovision 2009 Semi-Finals 2 – The Results

Coming through the Second Semi-Finals to compete in Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest Finals are: Azerbaijan, Croatia, Ukraine (go, Svetlana!), Lithuania, Albania, Moldova, Denmark, Estonia, Norway and Greece.


Eurovision 2009 Semi-Finals 2

The Second Semi-Finals of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest began with a weird sort of hip hop Mummers thing without the feathers, past hits of the Contest on accordion and banjo, if you can believe it, or at least that’s what it felt like to me. And the polar bears were scary.

The same hosts, Natalya Vodyanova and Andrey Malakhov, were back, annoying as ever. Where’s Terry Wogan when you need him? And the same corny inserts and intros as Tuesday as well, I guess they come with the hosts. Either way, we’re off to find who are ten (nine plus a wildcard) finalists are for this round.

01 Croatia - Igor Cukrov featuring Andrea’s “Lijepa Tena”
Igor is sexy, but someone ought to tell him there’s such a thing as trying too hard. The charm is on overload, and the wind machine wasn’t helping. The wind made the women look like they were witches cavorting on a “Dark Shadows” cliff top. It’s a beautiful song, as is his companion Andrea, but I have to wonder why she didn’t sing the whole song. I liked her voice more.

02 Ireland - Sinéad Mulvey & Black Daisy’s “Et Cetera”
I like this one, always have. Very frenetic, very 1980s, very rockergirl – but it just might be too mainstream for Eurovision. I hope not. As much as I want it to go through, it probably won’t.

03 Latvia - Intars Busulis’ “Probka”
This guy looks scared. Maybe that’s his natural expression? Or an affectation like Fred Schneider or Danny Elfman? The vocals are stronger than the original recording, and their energy is apparent. Strong finish, I just wish I knew what he was so scared of.

04 Serbia - Marko Kon & Milaan’s “Cipela”
The ‘shoe’ song, or at least what it’s translated as. Wow, that’s some ‘fro, dude. But on second look, it appears that everyone on stage spent the afternoon with a demented hairstylist. Nice computer image effects, I gotta admit it’s different. It’s catchy, and could very well make it through.

05 Poland - Lidia Kopania’s “I Don't Wanna Leave”
Not my cup of tea, but this is the kind of song that always gets through, and sometimes wins. I’ll be honest though, I would rather have taken a nap. She’s no Celine Dion – you can take that any way you want to.

The crowd certainly seems more energetic tonight. Maybe the soldiers with guns aren’t marching through the audience as often as they did on Tuesday. And the flag and banner wavers don’t seem to be restricted to only one section either. Or maybe someone explained to the audience that this was Eurovision…

06 Norway - Alexander Rybak’s “Fairytale”
This was an early favorite, and this performance did not disappoint. Alexander’s got talent and charisma, and his dancers were a hoot. Final-bound.

07 Cyprus - Christina Metaxas’ “Firefly”
Unlike Ireland or Norway, this was not one of my favorites before this, but I have to say that the unique presentation kept my attention, or at least more than Poland. It’s amazing what giant glowing icecubes can do. But then again, on a Eurovision bizarreness scale, giant glowing icecubes are amateur hour.

08 Slovakia - Kamil Mikulčík & Nela Pocisková’s “Leť Tmou”
Zzzzzzz…. Sorry, dozed off. Just watch, now this one will win.

09 Denmark – Brinck’s “Believe Again”
This Lionel Ritchie soundalike was an early frontrunner, and while he’s almost as good looking as Ritchie (again, take that any way you want to), the stage presentation of this song is much better than the audio version suggests. Better than expected, good chance to get through.

10 Slovenia - Quartissimo featuring Martina’s “Love Symphony”
I’ve always liked this entry but wondered how audiences would react to a mostly instrumental performance. I guess I had nothing to worry about. Except that they would hide the woman behind the only vocals in the song – she’s behind that curtain much too long. It’s not like she’s Martha Washington or anything, let us see her! I think this will hurt their chances.

11 Hungary - Zoli Ádok’s “Dance With Me”
Another frontrunner that conjures the ghosts of disco. I thought it interesting that he started the song lying on the floor, a stunt that helped Russia win last year. Perhaps he should have also taken off his shoes. Despite all that, Zoli is very hot and moves with confidence and sex that should have girls, and boys, all over Europe voting for Hungary.

12 Azerbaijan - AySel & Arash’s “Always”
This one is another entry that is a favorite of friends that does nothing for me. The stage show is better than the song despite the weird torn costumes of the back-up dancers. The charisma of the singers more than made up for what I think is a weak entry.

13 Greece - Sakis Rouvas’ “This Is Our Night”
Greece is always a strong competitor in Eurovision, and 2009 is no exception. The song is great dynamic dance music, but I have to wonder if Sakis attended the same dance rehearsals as his back-up dancers. He seems out of sync more often than not. Still a hot performance.

14 Lithuania - Sasha Son’s “Love”
Powerful song with a very simple performance. I would have rather had Sasha Son stay behind the piano, he’s not a dancer, not even a subtle one. I also thought the “Hope” sign and the flame in the hand was a bit much. It’s like he’s playing the Serbia card. Still this just might win.

15 Moldova - Nelly Ciobanu’s “Hora Din Moldova”
As much as this song and stage performance begs to be in a Dumpsta Players production, I don’t think it has the stuff to make it to the Finals, despite all the jumping around and the guy yelling with the big stick.

16 Albania - Kejsi Tola’s “Carry Me In Your Dreams”
Albania’s teen idol pop princess, her teenybopper back-up singers, mimes and … is that Disco Gumby? Wow. Did someone slip something into my drink?

Um, a toaster? Yeah, I’ve definitely been dosed…

17 Ukraine - Svetlana Loboda’s “Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl)”
I love this song and Svetlana, so much that I bought the album (not an easy task for an American), and I guess there’s no hiding this is my pick to win it – whether that will actually happen is a whole ‘nother thing. A lot of money was certainly spent on the sets and costumes. She is certainly a stage visionary on the scale of Kate Bush or Madonna, but I don’t know how this will affect Eurovision audiences. And I don’t know about her playing drums or the half-naked gladiators, but I have my fingers crossed.

18 Estonia - Urban Symphony’s “Rändajad”
Beautiful woman and a beautiful song, and a sobering moment after Svetlana Loboda. I think this has a good chance.

19 The Netherlands - The Toppers’ “Shine”
Their wardrobe people are mad at them, aren’t they? Catchy uplifting song that in my opinion was stronger in the studio. If they were wilder than just the costumes they might have had a shot.

Wow, this is a hard one. Tough competition tonight. My picks to go through to the Finals: Estonia, Ukraine, Serbia, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Slovakia, Hungary, Greece and Lithuania. We’ll see, shortly.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eurovision 2009: Semi-Final 1 - Results

The voting is over and the results are in. While waiting we got to see a mad Russian stage extravaganza featuring a military band and a bad lipsync performance from T.A.T.U. – well, I suppose it could have been worse.

Here are the results:

Turkey, Sweden, Israel, Portugal, Malta, Finland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Romania, Armenia and Iceland.

I got a few right...


Eurovision 2009: Semi-Final 1

The first of two Semi-Finals for the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest took place tonight at Olimpiysky Arena in Moscow. Hosted by Natalya Vodyanova and Andrey Malakhov (very loud and annoying, and surprisingly sexistbut sooo Eurovision), this Semi-Final of eighteen competitors will decide what ten countries move forward to the Final on May 16th.

The program opened with planets, dragons and other magical and celestial objects hovering over the audience and the telling of an odd fairy tale. Kinda like Cirque de Soleil on acid, but pretty, exciting and sooo Eurovision.

01 Montenegro - Andrea Demirovic’s “Just Get Out of My Life”
Her male dancing companion tried very hard to conjure John Travolta’s ghost from “Saturday Night Fever,” perhaps too much. For me, he distracted from Andrea’s performance.

02 Czech Republic -’s “Aven Romale”
This was one of my faves. Very colorful and energetic, but a disco superhero costume? And a bad one at that, should have had more sparkles. This was a bit scary, even for me.

03 Belgium – Copycat’s “Copycat”
Peter Ouchene and company do a more than adequate Stray Cats imitation, giving this entry more of a boost than I thought it initially had. The bright lights of varying color were an interesting effect.

04 Belarus - Petr Elfimov’s “Eyes That Never Lie”
Pseudo 1980s metal accompanied by a woman in shimmering spandex and draped in a long and gigantic see-through scarf. Other than that, it’s just typical metal posturing and effects. Petr’s pretty boy blonde looks might push this over though.

05 Sweden - Malena Ernman’s “La Voix”
Her black clad backup singers and dancers strike an interesting contrast to Malena’s white gown. Little else than that and her heavenly voice separate this from any random Ultravox song from the 1980s.

Not sure what to think of host nation Russia’s introduction and interlude segments so far. Other than a few vocabulary lessons and some pretty girls, there are really not much to them. They look like cheap reality show opening sequences.

06 Armenia - Inga & Anush’s “Jan Jan”
Much more impressive visually on stage than just listening to the tune. Memorable with excellent choreography.

07 Andorra - Susanne Georgi’s “La Teva Decisió (Get A Life)”
Weird retro Bangles/ABBA vibe from Susanne and company with this performance, and I like it. The all-white outfits and limited choreography really seems to work for this song. Certainly more charisma here than previous acts.

08 Switzerland – The Lovebugs’ “The Highest Heights”
I got a new wave vibe, sorta Psychedelic Furs feel from these guys when I first heard them, but seeing them here onstage, they are solidly in the 21st century, but possibly too mainstream for Eurovision. I’m still rooting for them.

09 Turkey – Hadise’s “Düm Tek Tek”
The first I heard this year and still a favorite. Love the dancing and the red outfits, although the guy in brown throws it off. Energetic, sexy and talented. They are Final-bound.

10 Israel - Noa & Mira Awad’s “There Must Be Another Way”
Beautiful striking women, but the song is a snoozer.

11 Bulgaria - Krassimir Avramov’s “Illusion”
Very colorful, but the costumes look like throwaways from a 1970s Sinbad movie. The folks on stilts are a bit creepy, but keeping with the bizarreness of Eurovision. Fire is never a good effect when viewers’ first reaction is that the stage is on fire. And what was up with that one woman’s caveman hair?

12 Iceland – Yohanna’s “Is It True?”
Again, Yohanna is a very pretty woman, but zzzzzzzzzz…

13 F.Y.R. Macedonia - Next Time’s “Neshto Shto Ke Ostane”
Rockers Next Time tried very hard to be Bon Jovi, but that’s not really Eurovision’s style. Lest we forget Lordi’s win a few years back, that doesn’t count them out. I think they have a shot, although lying on the stage was probably a bad move. But then again, it worked last year.

I’m noticing that shots of the audience look rather sedate. Are people afraid to get really excited? This is Russia, after all… The backstage audience of dozens has more energy than the stadium audience of thousands.

14 Romania – Elena’s “The Balkan Girls”
I thought this tune was a frontrunner but the version of the song used is almost as tame as the Moscow audience. All beautiful women, a few of the dancers appeared to be out of step, and probably might have been more at home with the more aggressive version of the tune. Elena doesn’t seem phased by any of it however.

15 Finland - Waldo's People’s “Lose Control”
These guys are fun, lots of energy (maybe they stole Romania’s energy?) and lots of fire. The fire juggling makes up for the bad Fred Durst impression. Final-bound.

16 Portugal - Flor-de-lis’ “Todas As Ruas Do Amor”
Quiet and colorful, and far more charismatic live than just hearing the song. This could have a serious chance after this performance.

17 Malta - Chiara’s “What If We”
Eurovision veteran Chiara always owns the stage when she’s on it, and this was no exception. Although I’m not sure this was her best performance. At least there was no dry ice screw-up like in the rehersals.

18 Bosnia & Herzegovina – Regina’s “Bistra Voda”
At first glance, this seems like a scrubbed clean version of a My Chemical Romance music video – sounding nothing like it however. What it does sound like is a few other songs, but apparently that’s been cleared up. No chance for this one in my opinion.

My ten choices to move on? Armenia, Belarus, Andorra, Switzerland, Finland, Turkey, Portugal, Malta, Romania and Bulgaria. The next Semi-Final will have a decidedly more difficult time with voting I think. We’ll see.


Planet of the Dead

Doctor Who returned to television this Easter in high definition, and he brought along little Zoe, the new (if brief) Bionic Woman.

"Doctor Who" is much more a big thing in 2009 because a) David Tennant will be leaving at the end of the year and b) it's not a regular TV series but a quartet of specials this year - the final one featuring Tennant's regeneration into Kid Who, Matt Smith. "Planet of the Dead" is the second of these 2009 specials.

Other than the scifi elements, "Planet of the Dead" at first bears a scary resemblance to that 1970s O.J. Simpson telemovie Detour to Terror. I'm sorry, a bus in the desert just puts me there, no choice. This special is another one of Russell T. Davies' drawing-room-mystery episodes. As much as I love Davies for bringing The Doctor back, rejuvenating the franchise and bringing the whole package into the 21st century, I am annoyed by his penchant for having a certain type of story every year. We have seen this before in each of the last seasons, like the obligatory Dalek story and the scary one and the different point of view one. It gets old when it's expected.

That said, "Planet of the Dead" is pretty cool and has a lot stuffed into it. Michelle Ryan plays Lady Christina, a Tomb Raider template thief who would make a great companion, and her chemistry with The Doctor rocks. A companion who leads him around is a great change of pace - however that may be needed once Kid Who shows up. We also get to see the return of UNIT as well as a few interesting new UNIT characters that we'll hopefully get to see more of.

The end has surprises of its own, including possibilities for a Lady Christina spin-off and a prophecy for what is to come for the end of David Tennant's run. Do I smell a return appearance for The Master coming up? Time will tell. Next up is "Waters of Mars" in September. Can't wait.


Monday, May 11, 2009

The Spirit on TV

The Spirit ~ No, this is not the 2009 film where Frank Miller killed Will Eisner a second time, this is the 1987 ABC telemovie and pilot featuring Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon) in the title role. Word is that Eisner himself nixed the series because he hated this version so much, and only allowed it to be aired once due to contract restrictions.

It is however available on YouTube, which is where I recently saw it. I’m ashamed to admit it, but when this originally aired, I didn’t know who the Spirit was. I know, for shame.

The TV movie isn’t really that bad when viewed in comparison to Miller’s travesty. It is camp in a way that fans of the 1966 “Batman” series could appreciate, only less humor and more bad sets and acting. It is still an enjoyable watch, and eons better than what Miller did. At least Jones dresses like the Spirit. Shame there wasn’t a series, had I been aware, I would have watched.


Eurovision 2009: The Rest

Here are the remaining competitors in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest:

Albania - "Më Merr Në Endërr (Take Me Into Your Dreams)" by Kejsi Tola

Andorra - "La Teva Decisió (It's Your Decision)" by Susane Georgi

Armenia - "No Par" by Inga and Anush Arshakyans

Belarus - "Eyes That Never Lie" by Petr Elfimov

Belgium - "Copycat" by Copycat (Peter Ouchene)

Bulgaria - "My Illusion" by Krassimir Avromov

Croatia - "Lipeja Tena" by Igor Cukrov and Andrea Susnjara

Cyprus - "Firefly" by Christine Metaxas

Israel - "There Must Be a Better Way" by Noa and Mira Awad

Latvia - "Probka" by Intars Busulis

Malta - "What If We" by Chiara

Montenegro - "Just Get Out of My Life" by Andrea Demirovic

The Netherlands - "Shine" by Die Toppers

Poland - "I Don't Wanna Leave" by Lidia Kopania

Portugal - "Todas As Ruas Do Amor (All The Streets Of Love)" by Flor De Lis

Russia - "Mama" by Anastasiya Prihodko

Serbia - "Cipala (Shoe)" by Marko Kon and Nela Pociskova

Slovakia - "Let Tmou (Night Flight)" - Kamil Mikulcik & Nela Pociskova

Slovenia - "Love Symphony" by Quartissimo

Switzerland - "The Highest Heights" by The Lovebugs

And San Marino has opted out of the contest this year due to financial reasons. The Semi-Finals begin tomorrow!


The All Things Fun! Podcast, Season 2, Episode 2

The All Things Fun! Podcast is back! Episode Two of Season Two is entitled "2009 Gama Trade Show in Review (Vegas Baby!)"

Join Ed Evans and Wes Hitchins as they bring you news and highlights from the 2009 Gama Trade Show (GTS.) Recorded live at All Things Fun! New Jersey's Premiere Game and Comic Store!

Please send us feedback online at or via our feedback voicemail box: (206) 888-6097.


Friday, May 08, 2009

Eurovision 2009: The Best of the Rest

Hungary - "Dance with Me" by Zoli Adok

Romania - "The Balkan Girls" by Elena Gheorghe

Czech Republic - "Aven Romale" by

Lithuania - "Love" by Sasha Son

Estonia - "Randajad" by Urban Symphony


Quark: The Complete Series

When I heard this was going to be available on DVD I immediately put it to the top of my Netflix queue. I had fond memories of this scifi sitcom from my childhood, unfortunately my memory must be hazy – cuz the years have not been kind to “Quark.”

Richard Benjamin played the title role as a garbage man in outer space and the adventures he has with his crew that included twin clone bimbos, a man who was sometimes a woman (embarrassingly Tim Thomerson) and a blocky robot that made Tweeky seem perfectly lovable. How I could have ever found this amusing baffles me. Unbelievably it was created and written by Buck Henry. Wow, what was he smoking?

This one is to be avoided. I don’t even think the kids will find it funny. No wonder NBC axed it after eight episodes.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Star Trek - The New Frontier

Star Trek ~ There are numerous reasons why a major entertainment franchise would be rebooted. Perhaps it’s been forgotten a generation ago. Maybe the last film in the series did comparatively horrible at the box office to previous entries. Perhaps the last television attempt was on a flailing network and was badly promoted – and in some cases dissed by supposed fans of the franchise. For Star Trek, coming up on its 43rd anniversary, can count all of those reasons and more for its current reboot in theatres in just a week or so.

The powers that be have brought in J.J. Abrams, of “Alias,” “Lost” and Cloverfield to helm this eleven Trek film, with an all-new cast in a prequel/sequel/reimagining/reboot (yes, it is all of those things) to the original TV series. Trailers have brought nothing but controversy for Trek fans and interest in viewers with no Trek in their past. Surely, this flick will be a rite of passage.

Before I go any further, be warned that this is a spoiler-rich review. I saw the film nearly two weeks ago and have been trying to write a spoilerless review. It’s just not possible to do, and address the things I want to address – so if you continue reading, consider yourself warned.

The flick begins with a bang, and the rollercoaster hardly stops from there on, which is a marked difference from Trek. The Treks before this have seemed pretentiously talky, so much so that is considered to be the way it should be - a point made by Trekkies when they haven't liked films with 'too much action,' like Nemesis, the last movie in the series that may have helped kill the franchise. And that's a point I'd like to bring up to the hardcore 'fans' out there - Paramount did not nearly kill the franchise - you did by not supporting it. I think this is the main reason this new film was made for the mainstream younger audience -and not those hardcore fans- to save the franchise.

And that's not to say that this new film is not for the fans. The writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, have taken great care to keep continuity and canon high on their priority list - despite the time travel alternate divergence mindgames that go on. They not only play by the rules, but they also get to play by theirs as well. There are moments, little nods, like the red shirt phenomenon, Admiral Archer's beagle, Kirk eating an apple during the Kobayashi Maru, Sulu's fencing, McCoy's signature catchphrases, and the timelost old Spock doing to young Scotty what the timelost old Scotty himself does to a young 20th century engineer in The Voyage Home, that are just brilliant. And although they are brief, I love the scenes of Kirk and Spock as boys. Beautiful, just beautiful.

The cast is near perfect. Yes, as hard as it is to believe, but twenty minutes into the flick I had forgotten about the original cast and was seeing the new faces as the characters. Chris Pine plays William Shatner as Kirk (rather than just William Shatner, which probably would have been disastrous) just as Zachary Quinto does Nimoy as Spock. Each though brings their own flavor to the part - a bit of James Dean for young Kirk and an alien outsider vibe to young Spock. Karl Urban is the perfect McCoy. That particular bit of inspired casting is a gift from God. I may have to wonder if DeForrest Kelley is his father, it's so close.

The rest of the cast is rounded out well with the always entertaining Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho doing a wonderful intimidating impression of George Takei doing Sulu in the original series, as opposed to Takei's more satiric take of recent years thanks to his coming out and participation with the Howard Stern programs, and the highlight of the cast has got to be Zoe Saldana as Uhura - finally claiming the spotlight the character should have had decades ago. Zoe is an actress to watch for the future.

Conversely, Anton Yelchin who plays Chekov, is quite annoying, and one of the lowlights of the film. I have to wonder however if this is on purpose. If memory serves when the Beatle-esque character first appeared in the second season of the original series many fans hated him just as they did that other ratings bump Seven-of-Nine decades later in "Voyager." Maybe we're supposed to hate him?

It should be noted that it's not all wine and roses though. Along with Chekov there were other elements that didn't win me over. Star Wars is alive an well in the film. Things like the great Tatooine-ish bar scene and fight in which Uhura is introduced and Kirk looking at the Academy training center shaped like a starship work well, but it goes too far in the Hoth scene with Cloverfield's cousin - thankfully it's a brief departure. I also didn't care much for Kirk's allergy, but again, very brief. I'm torn by the slug scene. is it a rip-off or an homage to the similar scene in Wrath of Khan?

The special effects are great. I like the new warp effect but no so keen on the new transporter effect. The music is amazing. Much like the powerful score of Tyler Bates in Watchmen, the music of Michael Giacchino more than makes this movie as great as it is. He dabbles in Philip Glass, brings on the Akira Ifukube, and even retunes a bit of the original Alexander Courage. I can't say enough about this score, other than I bought it, and for a soundtrack for me, that's saying a lot.

All that said, I think this new Star Trek will not only reignite the franchise, but will be the first summer blockbuster of the year, if not the summer blockbuster of the year. It's fresh, it's accessible, and it's exciting. And Trekkies will hate it.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Eurovision UK 2009

The UK brings out its big gun for Eurovision as Andrew Lloyd Webber pens this year's entry, "My Time" as sung by Jade Ewen.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Dom DeLuise 1933-2009

Comedian, actor and chef Dom Deluise has passed away in his sleep. He was suffering from kidney failure and respiratory problems as a result of his battle with cancer. He was 75.

His film debut was in Sidney Lumet's classic Fail-Safe, and amused television audiences first on "The Dean Martin Show." Active in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, DeLuise was known mainly for his films with director Mel Brooks and also for frequently playing sidekick to Burt Reynolds. Reynolds himself told the press, "I was dreading this moment. Dom always made everyone feel better when he was around. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. I will miss him very much."

Dom was also the author of many cookbooks of his favorite Italian recipes, including "Eat This" and Eat This Too," as well as a handful of children's books. He'll be missed. Applaud now, this is the end.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wolverine (and Gambit)

I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine last night and I'm still not sure if I liked it or not. I saw it with two women, neither of whom had a deep comics background, and they both really liked it - so I'm thinking I might be rating the flick a bit harshly. Or maybe, as a heterosexual guy I just don't find Hugh Jackman all that attractive.

I hate to be sexist here, but really, and the women out there know this is true - but we all know that any box office this movie gets has as much to do with Hugh Jackman with his shirt off as it does with comic book fanboys. I'd honestly judge the audience as half and half. As we waited in line to get into the theatre, two elderly women were leaving The Soloist and I overheard their debate about Wolverine... they were turned off by the superhero and action aspects but agreed to see it because of Hugh Jackman. Case closed.

As far as the story goes, it's close to the comics but not quite. It's sort of like if the movie version of "Gone with the Wind" had the South win the Civil War and Rhett and Scarlet live happily ever after. It's still good, but that's not how it happened, ya know? The effects are good, and the action is terrific. Things I had serious problems with are where Wolverine's claws come out of his hands (on top, not from the knuckles) and the bizarre interpretation of Emma Frost. Soooo wrong. Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool (a role he's been wanting to play for a looong time) is fun, as is Will I. Am as John Wraith and Kevin Durand as The Blob. On the other hand, Liev Schreiber's Sabre Tooth is just over the top, way too much.
Speaking of sex appeal, Jackman's spotlight is stolen whenever fan-favorite Gambit, played by Taylor Kitsch, is on the screen. The character had been scheduled to appear in both of the last two X-Men films but kept getting pushed out. That's a good thing too. It gave him a better spotlight here. And I think Hugh Jackman should be watching his back. It was his sex appeal that got the ladies in the theater, but it was Taylor Kitsch they were all talking about on their way out.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Ric Estrada 1928-2009

Comic book artist and inker Ric Estrada passed away yesterday after a long battle with prostate cancer.

Primarily known for war comics like G.I. Combat and the unique Blitzkrieg, he also had a hand in many superhero comics over the years including Karate Kid, Legion of Super-Heroes, Wonder Woman, Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter and in the 1970s revival of All-Star Comics, he co-created Power Girl with Joe Orlando. He'll be greatly missed.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Dita Does Germany

Burlesque star Dita Von Teese will be appearing on stage with Alex Swings Oscar Sings in this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

She'll be dancing to the German swingin' entry, "Miss Kiss Kiss Bang," one of my favorites from this year's competition. If this doesn't get the continent-wide audience's attention, I'm not sure what will.