Saturday, March 31, 2007

Fletch Lives Again

I've always been a big fan of the Fletch movies, especially the original Fletch from 1985, since I grew up in Utah and can really appreciate the Utah jokes that are tossed around (seen below, 1:34). I've even driven past the Mountain View Motel where Fletch stays on his trip to Provo (Utah, not Spain).

A sequel has been in various stages of development since the mid 1990's, but it now appears that things might finally proceed. Much like how James Bond was reinvented by returning the character to his literary beginnings, Irwin "Fletch" Fletcher is set to do the same. Currently in the works is Fletch Won based on Gregory McDonald's novel, which chronologically is the first of Fletch's adventures as a journalist solving crimes. It's no surprise, therefore, that Chevy Chase won't be reprising his role as Fletch, which is too bad since he isn't doing a whole lot these days (although he did portray a drunken Mel Gibson in a recent episode of Law & Order). Instead, rumors are that Zach Braff, best known as Dr. John "J.D." Dorian on Scrubs, will step into the title role. It's not a surprising choice, since Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence is set to direct. Besides, given J.D.'s penchant for daydreaming, I guess I can see him as Fletch, as long as the movie isn't as slap-sticky as Scrubs.

The only question remaining involves the movie's potential heroine. Given Braff's track record, it will no doubt be someone completely out of his league. Seriously, he probably has it written into his contract that anyone cast as a love interest must be a pretty girl who he would not otherwise be able to date. He hooked up with Natalie Portman in Garden State and Rachel Bilson, one of the beautiful people of The O.C., in The Last Kiss.

It's even more extreme on Scrubs. Below is a sample of the women his character has dated at some point during the six seasons of Scrubs. I mean, look at him and then look at them!

Top Row: Sarah Chalke, Elizabeth Bogush, Sarah Lancaster (Gift Shop Girl), Amy Smart (Tasty Coma Wife), Tara Reid. Bottom Row: Heather Graham, Juliana Margulies, Mandy Moore, Maria Menounos, Elizabeth Banks.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

McQueen Cool

Today marks the 77th anniversary of the birth of the late Steve McQueen. The first thing I'd ever heard of McQueen was how cool he was. Nobody could elaborate further except to say that he was just cool. So I watched some of his movies: The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, The Getaway, Bullitt, Hell Is for Heroes, Nevada Smith (yea for righteous vengeance), The Towering Inferno and the original Thomas Crown Affair. The first two are great movies, the rest fall somewhere between mediocre and halfway decent and are quite dated. McQueen did not exactly wow me with his acting ability in any of them, but his coolness was undeniable. He seemed to exude all the adjectives associated with being cool: nonchalant, rebellious, brooding, unconcerned. He was a movie star because it was cool to be a movie star. He was the bad guy you rooted for. The end of The Great Escape sums it up: he's the loner trying to escape the Nazis by jumping a barbed-wire fence on a motor cycle. I came up with the closest actors we have to being McQueen Cool today. Below are the candidates and why each one fails.

Brad Pitt: He takes himself a little too seriously. His Long & Serious Trilogy (Legends of the Fall, Meet Joe Black, and Seven Years in Tibet) had good moments but would have been better if they weren't so... well, long and serious. Also, he takes too many roles where he makes himself look ugly so as to prove he has acting ability and not just good looks. If Pitt were as cool as McQueen, he wouldn't care what people thought of him.

George Clooney: The ladies like him and the guys would like to be him, but he's too polarizing because of his political stands. Hollywood types trying to use their celebrity to forward a political agenda just aren't cool.

Matt Damon: The Bourne Trilogy has grown on me. It stands out among the other serialized action franchises. However, what will forever keep Damon from the being McQueen Cool is his association with Ben Affleck. If ever there was a guy who wishes he were cool, it's Affleck.

Vin Diesel: While I didn't see The Pacifier, I felt it was too soon for someone of his action movie caliber to take on such a comedic role. Sure, Stallone did it with Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Schwarzenegger did it with Twins and then again with Kindergarten Cop and then again with Junior and then again with Jingle All the Way. On second thought, maybe Arnold really was a comedic actor after all. My point is that Vin Diesel was really building himself from an action hero into The Action Hero. I mean, did you see him in XXX? He was wearing a fur coat and not only getting away with it, but making it seem cool.

Daniel Craig: Casino Royale was cool. The idea of reinventing James Bond was a gamble, but it seems to have worked. It took a movie franchise that had once been cool but had more recently been kind of silly and gave it new life. It's too soon to tell if Craig can become as cool as Sean Connery, let alone Steve McQueen.

Jason Statham: He was Handsome Rob. He was the Transporter. He could kick your butt. Statham successfully works together the tough guy persona with the sensitive type. He's not quite main stream enough to be McQueen Cool, but over time he might be able to become such.

Johnny Depp: Over the past few years, his rebel status has faded some. And while I've liked him in his many collaborations with Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), if I had to use one word to characterize Tim Burton, that word would be "weird" (if I could use two words, however, they would be "dark" and "edgy"). Weird rarely translates to cool (unless you're one of those people whose favorite channel is Sci-Fi).

Will Smith: His rapper background lends him street cred, but his current wholesome family man image isn't cool. It's commendable and a refreshing change from Hollywood's normal family values, but it's not McQueen Cool. Plus, if you ever watch reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air it makes you wonder why 80's fashion gets such a bad rap compared the "hip" 90's clothes on display in that show.

John Cusack: Everyone still talks about his Say Anything's Lloyd Dobler and Better Off Dead is one of my all-time favorites. The problem with Cusack, however, is that he seems to have been unable to get past the high school movie genre, as least as far as mainstream is concerned. Sure, there are a few exceptions: Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity, Grosse Pointe Blank, but even that last one was set in the backdrop of a high school reunion. The rest of his recent movies have been forgettable chick flicks.

Tobey Maguire: Just kidding. This loser is anything but cool.

Colin Farrell: He was up and coming for a while there and the bad-boy image is certainly alive. However, Alexander set him back a little bit and Miami Vice turned what was the epitome of cool 80's television into a lame display of testosterone and violence.

Jamie Foxx: I just can't get past his scrunched up, sour, screw-ball face from In Living Color (the black Saturday Night Live. While SNL had their token black guy Chris Rock, ILC had their token white guy Jim Carey). Also, sometimes it seems that Foxx is trying a little too hard to be cool.

Kiefer Sutherland: His 24 persona Jack Bauer is cool, but in looking at Kiefer's body of work, I'd almost say Donald is the cooler Sutherland.

Denzel Washington: He's another one of those actors that takes himself too seriously, and he's getting up in age. Plus, is it just me or have every one of his movies lately been exactly the same? Another thing I've noticed about Denzel is his leading ladies are always unknowns. You get five bonus points if you have heard of even one of the following: Paula Patton, Radha Mitchell, Salli Richardson, Kimberly Elise, Nicole Ari Parker, Embeth Davidtz.

So tell me what you think. Do any of the above actors have what it takes to be McQueen Cool?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Quiet Plug for Andy Barker

Andy Richter has a new sitcom on NBC called Andy Barker P.I. After seeing the pilot episode I can say that it's funny in a dry humor sort of way. It's not in the same ball park as The Office, but it does provide some good laughs. Richter is one of those guys who is really funny but without the right vehicle it doesn't quite work. He has that perfect clueless stare that lets you know he's an everyman and if you pay close attention, you'll probably figure things out before he does. It's too early to tell if Barker P.I. is the right vehicle, but the show does have potential. The premise of the show is that Andy Barker is an accountant who rents an office previously occupied by a private investigator. Some residual business trickles in mistaking him for a PI and you can see where this is going. Barker's reluctant at first, but he finds the lure of adventure too strong to ignore. He tells his wife "You know that feeling that I get when I hit the equal sign on the calculator and the number on the calculator is the same number that's on the worksheet? It felt like that, honey." With the help of movie expert Simon, played by Tony Hale (Buster from Arrested Development), he solves the case and sets himself up for future misadventures.

Another great example of Richter's comedic talent is the episode of Arrested Development where he plays himself and his four identical quintuplet brothers (seen below, 4:08). Incidentally, his turn in the 2002 movie Big Trouble as two twin brothers, one a mall security guard, the other an airport security guard, was also pretty funny. Here's to hoping Andy Barker P.I. develops into a funny creative hit and lasts beyond its original 6 episodes. Knowing my track record of picking shows, it won't.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Revisiting the 1980's

Shortly after launching my web log, I added a site meter to keep track of the traffic I get. One of the features is that if someone found my site by way of Google or another search engine, I know exactly what words the person typed in for their search. Below are some of my favorite examples.
  • Life Lessons From The Simpsons
  • what Meat Loaf won't do
  • "Nestor the long-eared Christmas donkey"
  • racial tension in Maryland
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme on CSI: Miami
  • talking animals political agenda cartoons
  • James Earl Jones
  • an awkward pelvic thrust of a movie
  • Erik Estrada sexy Latin groove
  • "3 Fast 3 Furious: Tokyo Drift"
  • Willie Nelson fighting marijuana thing with anger
  • Rex Grossman won't admit he's a Jew
  • I am a Martin Lawrence look alike any casting calls
Aside from the kick I get from reading people's search words, the site meter also helps me see which topics are of particular interest to the web surfers out there. I must admit that by far, the most search engine directed traffic on my web log comes because of a simple post I did back in November, called A Tribute to Bad 80's Sitcoms. My site averages 16 visits a day, and I would estimate that at least three or four of those come from Google where the person typed in all or some of of the words "bad american television sitcoms of the 1980's."

So, in an attempt to give the people what they want, I have drafted a second post devoted to Bad Sitcoms of the 1980's. This one takes a where-are-they-now approach. So let's look at what has become of those beloved losers of yesteryear. We'll avoid the obviously degrading examples like those D-list celebrity reality shows and focus on those with the more impressive, or conversely, more comical careers.

Soleil Moon Frye: After Punky Brewster ended in 1988, our budding young actress followed the path of so many child stars before her: a few TV movies and then disappear into oblivion, unless of course, you count her role as Roxie on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Now 30, she does voice work for cartoons (my dream job) with some work behind the camera.

Scott Baio: After Charles in Charge, he went on to star in such classic television shows as Baby Talk (essentially the TV version of Look Who's Talking, featuring the voice talents of Tony Danza as the baby) and Diagnosis Murder. Beyond appearances on random TV shows and in bad TV movies, his only other noteworthy role was as Bob Loblaw in Arrested Development. I never had a chance to read it, but I'm sure the Bob Loblaw Law Blog was both fascinating and insightful.
Nicole Eggert and Josie Davis (Jamie & Sarah Powell): One was hot, the other was... well, not. Things have changed. Eggert cashed in on her beauty and starred in Baywatch. Since then, she has probably smoked one too many packs of cigerettes and looks older than her 35 years. Davis, meanwhile got a nose job and is now regularly cast as the hot girlfriend.
Alexander Polinsky (Adam Powell): He played the irritating younger brother on Charles in Charge. Like so many actors from the past, he now does mostly voice work these days, although it is worth noting he was one of the main characters in Saints & Soldiers.
Willie Aames (Buddy Lembeck): He has all of his fellow Charles in Charge cast members beat. After a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol, Aames got religion and starred as the title character in the Bible Man TV series (Note: This show probably warrants its own post, but we'll leave it for now): "Miles Peterson, a regular guy with the best the world had to offer, turned to God and the Bible in his most desperate hour and from then on pledged to fight evil with the word of God. Disguised in the full armor of God as Bible Man, Miles fights against enemies of darkness using scripture." From the photos, he also appears to have a light saber. The villains he has fought include The Gossip Queen, Dr. Fear and The Prince of Pride, who shoots people with his ego-stimulating, heat-radonic seismo-ray which creates an egoplasmic distortionary electro-field, causing people to focus on themselves instead of God.

Brice Beckham (Wesley Owens from Mr. Belvedere): Since returning to acting following an eight-year hiatus, Beckham has had only a few small parts. He was recently cast in the new VH1 "scripted half-hour ensemble series, I Hate My 30's, an irreverent comedy about struggling with the end of prolonged adolescence while facing the realities and responsibilities of what happens when your 20's end and your 30's begin." To get off topic for a minute, it would seem that MTV is all Reality TV and now VH1 appears to be going for scripted. Is there a channel out there that still plays music videos, and more importantly, would anybody care if the answer were "no"?

The Cast of Small Wonder: Emily Schulman, who played the annoying next door neighbor Harriet, was on the TV show Christy (the poor man's Anne of Green Gables) in 1995. Dick Christie, who played Ted Lawson, the father, has had bit parts as recently as 1999. Nobody else did any more acting work beyond 1991, which is real shame given the collective acting talent of the cast. Of course, by now you've probably heard that Jerry Supiran (Jamie Lawson, the chubby son with an overbite) later changed his name to Billy Corgan and formed the alternative rock group Smashing Pumpkins. Some say that is an urban legend, but when my friends and I first heard the rumor when we were in college, we decided then and there that we would do our part to spread it even if it wasn't true, nay especially if it wasn't true.

Alf: After the TV series ended, Alf continued to show up as a guest star on various TV shows. He was given a hit talk show (cleverly titled Alf's Hit Talk Show) in 2004 and even though it was canceled after only four episodes, something tells me we haven't seen the last of Alf. Personally, I would like to see him return in either a buddy cop sitcom or a gritty police procedural drama in which the cases unfold from the criminal's perspective. In either scenario, I can picture Alf arriving at a mansion where some millionaire's trophy wife has just been found floating in the pool with cocaine in her system, but Alf doesn't care about the small details just yet because he hasn't had his morning coffee. But somehow you know by the end of the episode he will piece it all together, but not before the chief calls him into his office and chews him out because he's tired of defending Alf's screwball antics to the commissioner.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sconefest 9: The Soundtrack

The Official Soundtrack for Sconefest 9: The Farewell Party was finally released this week, putting to rest months of speculation surrounding its contents. Like the previous Sconefest albums, the latest mixes classic rock with the more modern fair and even has a little foreign flavor. It also kicks things off with the mellow "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, as sort of a tribute to Sconefest 5's Opening "What a Wonderful World" by Louie Armstrong. Below is the track list.
  1. Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Iz
  2. American Pie - Don McLean
  3. I Am a Rock - Simon & Garfunkel
  4. I Would Do Anything for Love - Meat Loaf
  5. Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeplin
  6. Superman - The Kinks
  7. Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand
  8. Somebody Told Me - The Killers
  9. Cells - The Servant
  10. Pain - Jimmy Eat World
  11. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
  12. Extreme Ways - Moby
  13. Sera - Legiao Urbana
  14. Besame Mucho - The Beatles
  15. Golden Brown - The Stranglers
  16. Concrete and Clay - Unit 4 + 2
  17. Butterfly - Weezer
  18. Mbira - Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
  19. Free Love Freeway - Ricky Gervais

The reviews are mixed. Many critics are questioning the timing of the release. Sconefest 9 took place nearly two years ago, but the soundtrack is only now getting to market. Still, reviews of the album itself are mostly positive as the majority of critics would agree it fits along side the with the other six albums.