Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mafia Matchup

Since today is Al Pacino's birthday, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at his career thus far. He is certainly one of Hollywood's most charismatic actors and looking at his early films compared to his more recent ones, it's easy to see his evolution as an actor. In fact, one need not look beyond a single character: Michael Corleone. Compare The Godfather: Part I with The Godfather: Part III. The first shows how Pacino lead with silence, while the latter shows how over the top he can be.

Another actor whose career has followed a similar path as Pacino's is Robert De Niro. Of course my wife thinks that the two (along with Dustin Hoffman) are the same person anyway. No one denies the acting ability of either actor, but once considered on top of the world, both regularly have their ability to choose a decent film project called into question. But if all else fails the two could always do another mafia movie together. I don't know what it is with Italians and mobster movies, but that stereotype is alive and well and Pacino and De Niro are the kings. In breaking it down further, De Niro edges out Pacino by three. He has appeared in 14 mafia, mobster, gangster or other form of organized crime movies compared to Pacino's 11. The two haven't always played the mobster, but their Italian blood must mean the mafia is involved somehow, right? Below is the breakdown. You'll notice that both actors have The Godfather: Part II and Heat on their lists.
Robert De NiroAl Pacino
The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971)
Mean Streets (1973)
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
The Untouchables (1987)
Midnight Run (1988)
Goodfellas (1990)
Mad Dog and Glory (1993)
A Bronx Tale (1993)
Casino (1995)
Heat (1995)
Cop Land (1997)
Analyze This (1999)
Analyze That (2002)
The Godfather (1972)
Serpico (1973)
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Scarface (1983)
Dick Tracy (1990)
The Godfather: Part III (1990)
Carlito's Way (1993)
Heat (1995)
City Hall (1996)
Donnie Brasco (1997)
Gigli (2003)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Incredible Shrulk

Back in 2003, the movie The Hulk earned $132 million at the US box office. Its performance was deemed a disappointment considering the built-in popularity of the source material. I've previously shared my thoughts on the movie noting that while I was a fan of both the live-action Incredible Hulk television series and Incredible Hulk cartoon, combining the two into one movie (with a CGI Hulk instead of a hand-drawn one) came off as kind of dumb. However, the folks at Marvel Comics and Universal Studios feel the Hulk still has earning potential so they have announced plans for a sequel/reboot for next summer. Eric Bana is out as Bruce Banner and super weenie Edward Norton is in. I see where they're coming from and I don't like it. They're adopting a copy cat strategy. Look at Spider-Man. It has Tobey Maguire, the biggest weenie of them all, as its star. My fear is that other classic super hero roles will begin to be filled by weenies and losers too. What if they decide to reboot Superman (again) with Jake Gyllenhaal or what if Richard Gere gets cast as a super hero? No, I don't like this trend. If Marvel wanted to make some green on the Hulk they should have cast Mike Myers as Bruce Banner so that when he gets angry he could turn into a giant green monster that would look something like the image below.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tired of Keith Olbermann

It was recently announced that Keith Olbermann would be joining Bob Costas, Tiki Barber and The Bus on Football Night in America, the studio show that accompanies NBC's Sunday night NFL coverage. Let me be the first to say this sucks. Olbermann is a jackass. It doesn't matter on what side of the political aisle you sit, pundits are bad for America and Olbermann is right there with Rush Limbaugh among the worst. Those of you who have your SportsCenter blinders on and love everything ESPN, need to wake up and see Olbermann for what he is, a hypocrite. Case in point: A while back Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech equating Iraq War opponents to pre-World War II appeasers. Olbermann shot back saying "As a critic of the administration, I will be damned if you can get away with calling me the equivalent of a Nazi appeaser. No one has the right to say that about any free-speaking American in this country." I don't necessarily agree with Rumsfeld, but lets think about Olbermann's comment for a minute. What is free speech if not the right to say something about those who oppose you? Olbermann wouldn't bother me so much if he would pick a job and stick to it. As a pundit on MSNBC he's easy to avoid. Nobody really watches that channel anyway. It's when he ventures back into the sports world and airs his opinions that he comes off as unprofessional. Partisan punditry has no place in sports broadcasting. As a fan of the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio, I have to change the station during the hour every day that Olbermann joins Dan. He's a poor broadcaster. He uses way too many words to get his point across and, politics aside, his opinions are usually way off. The fact that he's an admitted New York Yankee apologist doesn't help him either. As he joins Football Night in America, he will be in front of his largest audience ever. I would love to see him make a fool of himself and get yanked amid controversy. ESPN sure wasn't afraid to pull the trigger on firing Limbaugh from its Sunday morning NFL show after he said something stupid.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Projectionists: One Pant Leg at a Time

In New York last week, families expecting to see PG-rated The Last Mimzy starring Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office) instead got the opening for The Hills Have Eyes II which apparently includes a rather graphic opening sequence where a woman gives birth to a deformed baby. The children in the audience were traumatized, especially the 3-year-old whose mother is pregnant. How could this have happened? Easy. The projectionist screwed up. This news story takes me back to my days as a movie theater projectionist. For two years while I was in high school I worked at the Cineplex Odeon at South Towne Mall in Sandy, Utah. You know, the building in the corner of the parking lot that is now an REI. To this day that remains the best job I've ever had, maybe not in terms of pay, but it was the most fun I've ever had at work and the benefits were awesome: free movies and fountain drinks, access to garbage bags filled with popcorn and second dibs on movie posters (first dibs went to the management, but I still managed to get my hands on some pretty cool posters for my collection). I've also got a bunch of movie trailers on 35 mm film. Of course I have no way of watching them. Included among my collection is the music video to Tom Petty's "Into the Great Wide Open" starring Johnny Depp (seen below, 6:32). It's probably worth something now, and will go up in value once theaters are entirely digital.

That brings us back to the mishap in New York. I will explain how film projectors work these days. A film arrives at a movie theater a day or two before it opens in big canisters. Most movies are five or six reels long. The projectionist will then take the reels of film and splice them together into one giant reel that is maybe four feet in diameter and put it on a giant platter. Typically, the projector will have next to it a stand that holds three platters. In the case of the mix up in New York, one platter had Mimzy, another had Hills 2 and the third one was empty. During the early screenings, Mimzy runs from its platter, through the projector and onto the empty platter where it is collected. The film is pulled from the center as the platter turns so the film doesn't get twisted. There is no need for rewinding because the film just runs from platter to empty platter. In the evening, it's Hills 2's turn. You can see how the mix up happened. All projectionists screw up. The question is how badly. Luckily, my worst problems consisted of starting a movie 15 minutes late and mixing up the sprocket count so when the movie transitioned from Reel 2 to Reel 3 it jumped out of frame (each frame has four sprocket holes on either side. You can't splice a full frame to 3/4 of a frame or the film won't stay in frame). In my time working at the Odeon, I was able to witness the far worse projectionist errors of others, like putting reels together out of order or worse, putting a reel on upside down and backwards. Good times. Anyway, the whole experience made movie going less fun for me. It bothers me when conditions in a theater aren't perfect, probably more so than average movie goers, although they bother me too, but that's the topic for another post.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Sunglasses & Snarky Dialogue

I hereby present to you irrefutable evidence that David Caruso is the worst actor of our time. However, I will say this: nobody—and I mean nobody—is better at putting on sunglasses. Unintentional comedy is a wonderful thing.

Clips are from CSI: Miami (2:14)

Monday, April 02, 2007

2007 NCAA Tournament

This year's NCAA Tournament was, to put it mildly, a little disappointing. The fact that the only first round upsets were two 11 seeds over 6 seeds (a 9 seed over an 8 seed doesn't count no matter how badly you wanted BYU to win), takes away from the fun. The subsequent rounds weren't much better as the lowest seed in the Sweet 16 was 7-seeded UNLV, who once they, along with Butler and Southern Illinois, were knocked out, left no one to cheer for. Ohio State's disgusting comeback over Xavier pretty much summed it up. To give some perspective, last year in the NCAA Tournament Challenge a total of four people out of 3 million participants correctly predicted the Final Four which consisted of UCLA, Florida, LSU and George Mason (seeds 2, 3, 4 and 11). This year's Final Four (two 1 seeds and two 2 seeds) was picked by 161,000 people. Sure, Kansas fans were happy to finally see their team get out of the first round after losing to 13 seed Bradley last year and 14 seed Bucknell the year before. But what about the rest of us? Give us our upsets!

I don't mean to sound too bitter. The tournament wasn't all bad. There were some close games with exciting finishes, and a rematch of the College Football BCS Championship Game was kind of interesting particularly now that Florida owns Ohio State. It could have been worse. Duke or North Carolina could have won. It's hard to hate Florida. I think it's admirable that their starters stuck around for another year. Although, I can't get past how much Joakim Noah looks like a girl, specifically Lisa Bonet (Denise Huxtable from The Cosby Show).

One positive about the tournament turned out to be the NBA's new rule barring players from entering the draft straight from high school. One year and done isn't a whole lot better, but don't doubt for a minute that Ohio State would rather have had one year's services from Greg Oden than none. The same goes for Kevin Durant and Texas. Plus, in looking ahead to the NBA Draft, I can actually say that I know who the top players are.

As for CBS's coverage of the tournament, I guess I would say it was the same as always. I got tired of Greg Gumbel. Clark Kellogg is OK. Seth Davis should stay away from television and stick to writing. Jim Nantz was as solid as ever and while I don't much care for Billy Packer, I'll take him over Bill Raftery any day. Seriously, how in the world does CBS put up with that guy and they way he calls basketball games? He's been described as "a border collie with Tourette Syndrome." I've decided he's worse than Bill Walton, but I'm not sure if he's worse than Dick Vitale. That's a toss up. I think I'd give the annoyance edge to Vitale because while he and Raftery are both morons with frequent spurts of mind-numbing garble spewing from their mouths, Vitale's voice is grating even when he's not saying something stupid, as rare as that may be. Fear the day if ESPN (Vitale's employer) ever gets broadcast rights to the tournament.