Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It's a small empire after all

By some Internet law, all bloggers must make a comment about the Disney/Lucasfilm merger. So it's my turn.

If it were done during the Eisner era it would have been disastrous because Eisner wouldn't have spent any money on new Star Wars films. He always took the cheap way out, while turning people against each other. This is one of the reasons the Muppet merger never went through until he was gone. (Read  James Stewart's "Disney War," about the Eisner years at Disney).

Now, looking at how they've handled the Marvel properties, the Muppets and Pixar, it's obvious they're willing to spend all kinds of money to make something good. (Even "John Carter," you can call it many things, but at no point did they skimp.)

And after looking at the last three Star Wars movies it's apparent they really can't do worse than Lucas himself.

Here's an idea they will never do: Instead of proceeding with episodes VII, VIII and IX, remake I, II and III.

They were terrible! ( I know it's spitting in the wind to point out shortcomings of films that made a skillion dollars, but, see my first paragraph, it's some Internet law I must obey)

I was in the theaters for the trailers of Episode I, it ended with Darth Vader's breathing. The audience went crazy, a new Darth Vader movie, this would be amazing.

Here's what we get instead
Episode I: A cousin Oliver.
Episode II: Whiny teenager, still no Darth Vader
Episode III: Whiny teenager, Darth Vader shows up for the last 5 minutes, doesn't destroy anything, audience is horribly disappointed, except for rabid fanboys who didn't know they were cheated by subpar writing.

What they should have done was... make the last 15 minutes of Episode III the last 15 minutes of Episode II, then make Episode III two hours of Darth Vader kicking ass and taking names and blowing up planets and being the biggest badass in the galaxy.

We didn't get that. Not even close.

So it's probably a good thing.

There's an interview out there of Gary Kurtz, Lucas' producer for Star Wars and Empire. They parted ways for Return of the Jedi because Kurtz saw it for what it was, a cynical ploy to sell toys by making a best of the first two films.

Now, if Disney hired that guy to produce the sequels, we might get something good.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

When pop star interviews go horribly awry, part 2

I heard a radio interview with Peter Gabriel and he was asked about his song "Call Me," and he explained it was written for his daughter who at the time was having a bad time in her life and he was reaching out to her, letting her know that he would always be there for her. In fact, he thought it was such a personal song he didn't want to put it on an album, but his daughter assured him she wouldn't mind and told him it would be OK to release the song.

Such a sweet story.

A couple years later I hear the song on an AT&T commercial, and I'm yelling at the TV, "Peter Gabriel you big fat phoney!!"

When pop star interviews go horribly awry, part 1

When Paul McCartney was promoting "Give My Regards to Broad Street," he mentioned in an interview that he had asked "Hard Day's Night," and "Help" director Richard Lester to direct. This would have been a wonderful idea, but Lester read the script and told Paul not to do it, it wouldn't work.  Paul told the interviewer he wouldn't be deterred, and he found another director and made the film anyway.

The film became a big flop for 20th Century Fox, and several years later in another interview he was asked about the overall disappointing result of the film, and Paul took blame for its commercial failure, but then as a defense, he said, "When you're Paul McCartney, people have a hard time saying 'no' to you."

In effect he was saying he wished someone had told him it was a bad idea.

At this point I'm listening to this interview and yelling at the radio, "Richard Lester told you no and you wouldn't listen!"

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gary Collins, RIP

Gary Collins was one of those  actors like Monty Markham and Laurence Luckinbill, who were handsome leading-men types, but despite starring in several series, never had a hit. This would doom him to guest-star parts in "The Love Boat," or "Murder She Wrote."

I remember him from "The Sixth Sense" TV series. In the early 70s a big ESP fad was sweeping the country. I can imagine an ABC executive seeing an ESP story on the cover of Time, and getting a producer on the phone, "Get me a ESP detective show!"

So Collins played a psychic university professor who used his psychic abilities to solve psychic crimes. The character is a wonderful necessity of paranormal and science fiction movies. There's always a pipe-smoking professor who has some scientific explanation for the fantastic plot, and though the explanation would never stand up to any scrutiny, it's a way of giving the viewer permission to go along for the ride.

Tokyo newspaper reporter: 

Doctor Suzuki, a 90-foot sea monster just rose from the sea.

Dr. Suzuki (stroking his beard):

 Yes, recent nuclear testing in that area could have released a 90-foot sea monster lying dormant for 65 million years.

Good enough for me! Let's see the monster stomp through Tokyo!

This time though, instead of being an extraneous character, the professor was the star.

A typical episode would be Collins being called to some Gothic mansion in a small town, where a damsel has been having horrible, violent visions. Collins would show up, and he too would suffer from these visions. And, as it turns out, the damsel is first in line for a big inheritance, and her uncle, who was next in line for the money was using his psychic powers to drive his niece mad by projecting these visions.

And by typical episode, I mean every episode.

This show was a victim of the early 70s Universal television practice of super padding. Collins and the damsel would have a psychic episode and that would include the camera zooming in on Collins' eyes, the camera zooming in on the damsel's eyes, psychedelic scenes of fire, the camera spinning round and round, negative images of everything I just said, all repeated again and again, interminably.

The series would be chopped up and repackaged into "Night Gallery" syndicated reruns. And the psychic segments were still too long.

To its credit, it was the first paranormal investigation show. "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" would come along a little later and though not a hit either, it was a much better show. It had a more interesting leading character, a different monster every week, a lot of cynicism, and...a sense of humor.

This would lead to "The X-Files," which was "Kolchak" with money and time to develop the characters and its own mythology.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: Hotel Transylvania

Adam Sandler spends the whole movie playing Dracula with an Eastern European accent which is unfortunate because it's this constant reminder of Steve Carell's accent in the much better, much funnier "Despicable Me."

You sit there and start analyzing. Why was "Despicable Me" so much better? Better jokes, better characters, better plot, better pacing? Pretty much all of the above. It's distracting, you stop paying attention to the film and keep recalling better-done scenes in "Despicable Me."

I saw it with my 5-year-old son and we both sat there for 90 minutes waiting for the movie to start getting funny, and with the exception of a few chortles, it never takes off. Granted it was a Wednesday night, the theater was empty. But the jokes and pacing were leaden.

The film is a mash-up of Rankin-Bass' "Mad Monster Party," and those '60s movies about uptight dads who can't stand the thought of their daughters growing up ("The Impossible Years," with David Niven, "Take Her She's Mine," with Jimmy Stewart. Also the 70s "Super Dad," with Bob Crane and Tony Danza's "She's Out of Control" from the 80s.).

(These movies are funny because the dad doesn't want his daughter dating hippies, and the guys she's hanging out with are squeaky clean Kurt Russell, Bruno Kirby types).

And I kept thinking about the monster jokes from "Mad Monster Party." They're pretty much the same jokes.

And if you can sum up all the many cliches in this movie in one line it would be: "He's in love and he must get to the airport!"