Monday, April 30, 2007

Blog about this movie or die hard.

According to a recent Hollywood Reporter news item, "As the summer movie schedule kicks off Friday with 'Spider-Man 3,' the sleeper hit of the season could be the latest Bruce Willis 'Die Hard' movie [Live Free or Die Hard] if buzz in the blogosphere is any measure of success."

Well, it's not (see: opening weekend of Snakes on a Plane, August 2006), but it never hurts to dream!

Still, it has been 12 years since the last Die Hard film, and there are lots of thirtysomethings like myself who were teenagers when the first three Die Hards came out and who now have these public diaries known as blogs. Never underestimate the power of nostalgia, but thirtysomething males aren't in the demographic that drives ticket sales; if Live Free or Die Hard (biggest opening weekend ever in New Hampshire!) is going to succeed this summer, the marketing had better be targeted at teenage boys. Since News Corporation, the parent company of 20th Century Fox, which is distributing Die Hard #4, owns MySpace, that shouldn't be too difficult.

"Pam Levine, co-president of domestic theatrical marketing at Fox, said the film is unlike many of the other big summer movies, which feature fantastical elements, a fact that might have struck a chord with the blogosphere. 'It confirms that there's a real hunger in the marketplace for a straightforward action movie without the gimmicks and CGI,' Levine said."

Puh-leeeez, Pam Levine! Anyone who's seen the two trailers for Live Free or Die Hard is familiar with the shot of Bruce Willis and Justin Long ducking to avoid being hit by a car flying toward the camera. (When was that CGI effect first used? 2003's Bad Boys II? That's the first time I remember seeing it. Since then it seems to have replaced the early aughts' "180-degree rotating-camera Matrix trick shot" as the wow effect favored most by action directors.) It should also be noted that any movie in which a 50-year-old cop single-handedly saves America from terrorists does in fact contain "fantastical elements."

The original Die Hard (1988) is still a great action movie, and its basic premise inspired tons of other action movies in the early and mid-'90s: 1992's Under Siege was "Die Hard on a navy destroyer," and the same year's Passenger 57 was "Die Hard on a plane"; 1994's Speed was "Die Hard on a bus," and 1997's Speed 2: Cruise Control was "Die Hard (no, not Speed) on a cruise ship" (back in '92 or so, Die Hard 3's original script was rumored to have the same ocean-liner setting); and 1996's Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Sudden Death was "Die Hard in a hockey arena."

The Ben Stiller Show did a memorable parody in '92 called "Die Hard 12," in which Willis's John McClane character was battling terrorists in a grocery store on Christmas Eve. Len Wiseman, the director of Live Free or Die Hard, said last August in USA Today that "it got to the point where, 10 years later, Bruce was talking to some writers and it came back to him full circle. They said, 'What we've got is Die Hard in a building. A really tall building.' He said, Umm ... OK."

Die Hard 2 ("Die Hard in an airport") still has its moments, like the bird's-eye view of McClane escaping from an exploding plane in an ejector seat, but the absence of a great villain like the first film's Hans Gruber, memorably played by Alan Rickman, hurt it in many ways. (Die Hard 2 did, however, have the best box-office take of the series in the U.S., grossing $117 million.) I didn't like 1995's Die Hard: With a Vengeance that much, but it was a good move by the filmmakers to not limit the action to one general location—and the night of Christmas Evelike in the first two films. It was also a good move to hire Jeremy Irons to play the villain, Simon Gruber, Hans's older brother, but Irons's performance never really took off like Rickman's did. Nice biceps, though, Mr. Irons.

(Tangent time: I disliked the title of Die Hard: With a Vengeance much more than I disliked the movie. Any title that includes the words "With a Vengeance" reeks of straight-to-video Brian Bosworth or Lorenzo Lamas franchises. And for the record, 1990's Die Hard 2 was only subtitled "Die Harder" in the TV and print ads, not in the opening credits of the movie. You could argue that Die Hard itself is a stupid title to begin with, but I've always liked it. I sure don't like Live Free or Die Hard as a title, though. It isn't fair that America gets stuck with this silly, knee-jerk patriotic title while the rest of the world gets the more run-of-the-mill but superior title of Die Hard 4.0, as seen on the poster above. Whine whine whine ... alright, tangent over.)

Die Hard: With a Vengeance squeaked past the $100 million mark at the North American box office—$100,012,500, to be exact—but it made $254 million elsewhere in the world. That's mighty impressive. And since I'm already looking up box-office numbers, here's what the original Die Hard made in '88: $81 million domestic, $56 million abroad. (Die Hard 2 made $120 million abroad.)

Part of me thinks Live Free or Die Hard won't make $100 million in this country, but I also don't think it'll crash and burn like Snakes on a Plane ("Die Hard on a plane ... with snakes instead of terrorists") did last year thanks to pre-release Internet fans not showing up on opening weekend. Live Free has a built-in audience thanks to its prequels, and who knows how many kids who were in diapers when the last one came out a dozen years ago have since discovered the series on DVD. We'll see at the end of June when Live Free or Die Hard makes its way into theaters.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

songs that will still blow me away years from now, vol. 3

Positive K scored his biggest hit in early '93 with "I Got a Man," a battle-of-the-sexes rap duet/battle along the same lines as Otis Redding and Carla Thomas's cover of Lowell Fulson's "Tramp." This may be my favorite rap song of all time; I love the way the samples (Junior's "Mama Used to Say," Take 6's "Spread Love," A Taste of Honey's "Rescue Me," etc.) come together, as well as the back-and-forth energy of the lyrics. I now present you with some of those lyrics ...

MALE: I don't know, tell me is it so / Do you get a kick out of tellin' brothers no?
FEMALE: No, it's not that / See, you don't understand / How should I put it? I got a man
MALE: What's your man got to do with me?
FEMALE: I told ya
MALE: I'm not tryin' to hear that, see

MALE: Well, look, I'll treat you good
FEMALE: My man treats me better
MALE: I'll talk sweet on the phone
FEMALE: My man writes love letters
MALE: I'll tell you that I want you and tell you that I care
FEMALE: My man says the same except he's sincere

MALE: You want lovin', you don't have to ask when / Your man's a headache, I'll be your aspirin / All confusion, you know I'll solve 'em
FEMALE: I got a man
MALE: You got a what? How long you had that problem? What's your man got to do with me?
FEMALE: I got a man
MALE: I'm not trying to hear that, see

Now, if you've never heard "I Got a Man," the lyrics I just quoted may seem a tad aggressive on the male end, but I promise the song doesn't end with Positive K's arrest and charges of sexual assault.

I haven't named Positive K's duet partner yet because—spoiler alert!—there isn't one. A couple years ago some friends told me that the female MC in "I Got a Man" is really just Positive K's own voice processed through a synthesizer or some other piece of studio equipment. At first I was disappointed to learn this. Then I realized that my favorite rap song just got even better. See, the woman in the song really does already have a man—herself! She's the man! I mean, he's the woman. Or ... well, whatever the case may be, Positive K is a postmodern meta master of the masturbatory! Pure genius. There's nothing wrong with being a one-hit wonder if your one hit can stand the test of time and reveal something new with each listen.

The video for "I Got a Man" has an actress lip-synching the female half of the lyrics, just like that model who stood in for Martha Wash in C+C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" video in '91. YouTube also has the video for Positive K's "Carhoppers," from the same album as "I Got a Man," and it too features gender-manipulated vocals, this time lip-synched by no fewer than three different actresses. "Carhoppers" is a lot like "I Got a Man," which may explain Positive K's one-hit wonder status a little bit better than before.

Monday, April 23, 2007

three men and a secret

I saw the beginning of Three Men and a Baby on TV a few weeks ago for the first time in a long time. Talk about overcompensationthe opening-credits montage takes great pains to show that these three grown men who live together in a penthouse apartment love the pussy. Got it, audience? THEY'RE NOT GAY, so stop looking at them that way. It's best that we clear it up now in the first five minutes with this charming series of scenes set to Miami Sound Machine's "Bad Boy," in which we see various women entering and leaving the apartment, Tom Selleck's character jogging past a pretty lady, then turning around to pursue her and ... wait, didn't the video for "Bad Boy" feature lots of costumed characters from the Broadway musical Cats? And aren't Broadway musicals generally populated with, produced by, and enjoyed by ... you know ... gay dudes? That's right, Disney—you blew it! You should've used "Freedom" by Wham! instead.

At least Selleck's character is the only one of the three leads who looks like he could afford an apartment that big and expensive; if Danson and Guttenberg were also successful lawyers or doctors the way Selleck's a successful architect, you'd really have to wonder why they still needed to have roommates in their late 30s (actually, Guttenberg was 28 when he filmed Three Men, but Danson was 39 and Selleck was 42). Maybe Guttenberg's character is a delinquent-little-brother type to the other two and they all found a huge bag full of money, a la The Treasure of the Sierra Madre or A Simple Plan, but to make sure Guttenberg doesn't run off with Selleck and Danson's share, they decide to live with him. But they don't want to live in some standard-issue three-bedroom apartment with thin walls, loud neighbors, and tiny rooms, so they take some of the cash they found and buy a huge condo with a private elevator. Then a baby shows up.

That sounds like a plausible backstory, right? You bet it does! And what a great movie it would be! Hey, somebody write this remake of that remake of that French movie! I'd do it myself, but I'm busy blogging right now.


I also realized while watching the beginning of Three Men that the sitcom Full House, which followed it by about nine months, pretty much ripped it off. I never made the connection before. (Guttenberg, who plays a cartoonist, even makes lots of stupid Uncle Joey-type jokes in the movie.) And here's why I shouldn't have made the connection: Full House debuted on ABC before, not after, Disney released Three Men. For some reason I originally thought Three Men was released in November of '86, not '87. So was Full House based on the original French film, 1985's Trois Hommes et un Couffin (a.k.a. Three Men and a Cradle)? I don't know. As for the Full House leading men's sexual orientation, from what I could tell they were too dumb to be gay.

Listen to me. I am smartt.

Bums in Chicago now want to shake your hand before they ask you for money. I'm not a misophobe—one who is afraid of germs (you bet I had to look that one up)—but I still see no need for physical contact. The bum who asked for money today claimed to be deaf. He probably was; I've never seen that trick pulled before. (I sort of appreciated the guy who came up to me on a bus in February and asked me to donate money for a charity event. He was asking people to add their name to a looseleaf sheet of paper with "AIDS walk" written in pen at the top, and he wanted five dollars per mile. When I gave him a dollar, he said, "No, it's five dollars per mile.")

Or maybe this bum with the handwritten note who kept pointing at his ear is an innovator whose hot idea is about to spread like wildfire throughout the bum community. Come to think of it, wildfires destroy homes, thereby making people homeless.


Hmm ... okay, scratch that cliche. Wait a secondI've got it! Bums should scratch our backs! You literally scratch my back, Mr. Bum, and I'll metaphorically scratch yours with a dollar or two! Don't shake my hand anymore—head directly for my back.

One day I'll be telling my grandkids about my exciting accomplishments. But they'd better wash their filthy little hands and faces before they sit on my lap.

the authority to be lazy

The Sports Authority store I visited a few hours ago had something like seven floors. A staircase on the first floor took me up to the second, but it ended there. At that point your only option if you wanted to go higher was the elevator. Thank goodness! I'd hate to move my legs too much while shopping for a good pair of walking shoes. (The elevator seemed to be on its last legs, and it very slowly made its way from the third floor to the first in the time it could've taken me to walk down those two flights three or four times.)

I didn't end up buying any shoes. Sports Authority didn't have the type of Adisas sneakers I was looking for, but I did get to see a salesperson dance in a robotlike fashion to a Dave Matthews Band song. Twice.

No one believes me either when I tell them I'm Bill Withers.

From Lee Bailey's 2006 interview with Bill Withers, at EURweb.com:

"I'm not really famous. I can go out right now and you and me could walk around all over town and probably more people will know who you are than me. I get a lot of calls to find out if I died or not. I got a call earlier this month from Jesse Jacksonhe wanted to know whether I died or not. He said his wife was walking around the house upset because she heard that I had died.... I'm used to it by now.

"I was at Roscoe's Chicken and Wafflesthis is a true storythis was maybe within two years ago. There were some sisters sitting at the next table and they were talking about some 'Bill Withers song,' you know. So I thought I'd have some funI leaned over and said, 'You won't believe this, but I'm Bill Withers.' And this lady said, 'No you're not. Bill Withers is dark-skinned, darker than I am.' And she was a dark-skinned sister. So even if I'm standing there, people argue. So I just let it go."

the curse of those amazing 'Mats

Those nutty perfectionists in Guns n' Roses recently canceled upcoming performances in Japan and South Africa due to bassist Tommy Stinson (second from left), formerly of the Replacements, spraining his hand after falling down a flight of stairs. Back in December former Replacements leader Paul Westerberg (far right) "put a screwdriver through his left hand trying to get some wax out of a candle and cut some nerves and ripped some cartilage and hurt himself pretty bad," according to Jim Walsh on his citypages.com blog.

Westerberg's doctors told him he wouldn't be able to play guitar for a year. Stinson's doctors told him he has a better chance of dying from his sprained hand than Guns n' Roses has of releasing
Chinese Democracy before the end of this decade. Chris Mars (left) and Bob "Slim" Dunlap (not pictured), if I were you I'd keep my fingers out of any and all garbage disposals for the time being.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Take back your apology.

I was disappointed when I read this recently on Wheat's new MySpace page:

WHEAT looked all set for mainstream but unusually uncompromised success [after their second album, 1999's Hope and Adams]. As so often happens, however, fate (or perhaps poor management) conspired against them: the band was advised to leave their European label in favour of another that, unbeknownst to them, was about to fold. Mere days after the deal was signed news reached them that their album was now an asset of a company that had gone out of business. Dense legal battles followed, and though the band emerged intact over a year later to sign with Aware/Sony, the record—the typically cryptically titled PER SECOND, PER SECOND, PER SECOND … EVERY SECOND—had not emerged so unscathed. Instead it had been remixed and in places re-recorded, largely at the label’s behest, and was consequently rendered comparatively lifeless (although it still went on to sell 30,000 copies in the US).

In the end—fortunately, some might argue—it was never released outside of North America.... 'We couldn't do the monkey suits and the handshakes well at all,' [drummer Brendan] Harney explains.... 'It didn't work out 'cause it was a completely fucked-up fit. Scott and I started WHEAT as an art project, and the second we let other people's opinions slip in is when it started to come apart. We needed to walk away from the whole thing. The things we loved, the art of what we did, the control of what we were about seemed to be slipping, so we had to jump.'

I read an interview with Martin Short in Premiere in 2005 in which he was pretty much prompted by the interviewer, Brantley Bardin, to make fun of movies he's done that are generally considered to be bad, like 1992's Captain Ron. Short wouldn't do it. Bardin called Captain Ron the Patch Adams of Short's career, but the actor responded, "Can I tell you that both Kurt Russell and I have talked about how passionately people come up and say how much they love Captain Ron? ... That's why it's very important for people in show business to never, ever comment on what they've done—it diminishes people's take on it. You must always sit back and just say, 'Fantastic. Thank you.'"

Damn right, Martin! Because when I see Wheat dismissing and apologizing for an album that I absolutely love, it pisses me off a bit. It's like when you think you've made a strong connection with some girl who stops talking to you a few weeks later. Wheat might as well include a cover of "What a Fool Believes" on their next album. They don't feature any songs from Per Second, Per Second, Per Second ... Every Second on their MySpace page, which confirms to me how much they want to distance themselves from it.

Oh well, your loss, Wheat. You may be proud of your origins as an "art project," but radio-friendly, heavens-parting pop songs that can stand the test of time are art too (as you said yourselves on "These Are Things," one of my favorites from Per Second, "Sometimes I could use a little shove").

I bet a lot of people in the audience on your next tour became fans because of
Per Second; you may be surprised how much that album's reputation has grown since its release three and a half years ago. (I'll admit I have nothing to back up that claim, but I'm not the only person in this world who appreciates romantic pop music that won't leave your head for months on end.) So be a pal and play some songs from Per Second on the tour to support your upcoming LP. Rearrange them if you want, but play them. Your days of apologizing for one of my favorite albums of the past ten years should end now.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

why I love celebrity gossip

Because it ruins surprises! This one comes from IMDB's gossip page:

Actress Selma Blair is set for an extra special 35th birthday surprise this summer—her new boyfriend is secretly planning to propose.

Except it's not a secret anymore. Sorry, Selma! Your boyfriend must have a big mouth.

Monday, April 9, 2007

famous people talking

I've been flipping through old magazines recently. Here are some memorable quotes and anecdotes that I found:

1. "I spent about a week at Joshua Tree. You go to the desert, and it's dead. It's just a severe landscape. It's like, okay, this is going to be here a lot longer than I am, and I'm a blink. Am I thrilled about X-Men? Absolutely. Can I take it too seriously? No, 'cause I’m outta here.”

—actor Ben Foster on how he spent his vacation after he finished filming 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand, in which he had only a few scenes as Angel, and 2007's long-delayed Alpha Dog, which had a brief theatrical run, thereby increasing Foster's status as "a blink" (but unlike one-hit wonder Charlene, that trip to the desert does make it sound like Foster's "been to me")

2. "John wasn't really a dater at that time [1976]. I'd gone over to his house three times to study for the screen test with him, and I was there until one in the morning, and he never made any moves. I thought, 'This is the first guy I've met who's so cute and so nonsexual.' He was just very childlike. He liked to skip around the back of the set holding hands."

—actress P.J. Soles (Halloween, Stripes), on the 25th anniversary of Brian De Palma’s Carrie, not insinuating at all that her costar, John Travolta, has been in the closet for a quarter-century, so stop reading between the lines, you gossip mongers!

3. "Schwartzman ... tells me ... about a spill he took that morning, falling butt-first down a staircase at a Ramada Inn. (He jokes that maybe he was being punished—he took the tumble just after gleefully displaying to the members of his band, Phantom Planet, a laminated sign from their room. It warned of the strict penalties for stealing linens and was illustrated by a cartoon robber making off with a basket of whites. Schwartzman, amused, stole the sign intead.)”

—from a 2002 Premiere article about actor-musician Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore, I Heart Huckabees), the son of Rocky's Talia Shire and the nephew of Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola and, in general, a guy who's most likely never had to struggle to make ends meet, unlike the hotel maid or maintenance person who had to replace that sign after Schwartzman stole it

4. "If someone came in with a great chord change for a song or a great rhythm or a great groove, by the time it was finished, everybody had jizzed all over it, and it had become a real community piece of property."

—Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis describing the recording of their most recent album, 2006's Stadium Arcadium

And here's a picture I recently found that amuses me since it looks like Beverly Hills, 90210's Brian Austin Green is going to be doing some unloading (or, as Anthony Kiedis might say, "creating community property") if his lunch companion continues stroking his crotch in broad daylight:

Speaking of Schwartzman and I Heart Huckabees (an awful segue, I know, but let's keep moving), I don't know why those clips of director David O. Russell calling Lily Tomlin the C word and Tomlin proving herself worthy of lots of other expletives surfaced two and a half years after Huckabees came out, but I'll take any behind-the-scenes Hollywood screaming matches I can get! Tomlin telling everyone in the world to fuck off and Russell acting like a baby while telling Tomlin to stop acting like a baby are more entertaining than Huckabees itself, according to some people. I still haven't seen it.

George Clooney said in 1999 that he'd never again work with Russell, who directed Clooney in Three Kings, after watching him scream at crew members, kick and shove extras, and even grab Clooney by the throat during an argument. Those clips from Huckabees seem to back up Clooney's accusations that Russell's temper is out of control. When Huckabees came out in 2004, I read part of an article about Russell in which Clooney's stories were mentioned to him; his response was a very diplomatic "Fuck that guy!" What I love is that both Russell and Clooney are still friends with Mark Wahlberg, Clooney's costar in Three Kings and The Perfect Storm and part of the ensemble cast of Huckabees. I like imagining this recent Oscar nominee as the frustrated go-between ...

(GEORGE CLOONEY calls MARK WAHLBERG. Wahlberg picks up the phone.)

WAHLBERG: Hello?

CLOONEY: Hey, Mark, it's George.

WAHLBERG: Hey, man. What's up?

CLOONEY: Not much. Just calling to see if you wanna come over and watch the game tonight.

WAHLBERG: Yeah, that sounds ... actually, I can't.

CLOONEY: Why not?

WAHLBERG: I'm doing something with a friend.

CLOONEY: Well, bring him along. (smirking) Or is it a her?

WAHLBERG: No ... it's a him.

(There's an awkward pause.)

CLOONEY: Oh.

WAHLBERG: Yeah.

CLOONEY: I see.

WAHLBERG: You know, he's not all that bad.

CLOONEY: (raising his voice) Yeah, right!

WAHLBERG: It's true.

CLOONEY: Whatever. I'll talk to you later.

(Clooney hangs up. Wahlberg puts down the phone on his end. The camera dollies back to reveal DAVID O. RUSSELL sitting on Wahlberg's couch, reading the latest issue of People.)

RUSSELL: Was that him?

WAHLBERG: Yeah.

RUSSELL: Fuck that guy!

(Wahlberg sighs. Fade to black.)

Bloggers for a Cure

Listen up, 1.7 readers! Jeff of Jefitoblog, the best music blog around, has something to say:

I’m excited and very pleased to announce the debut of Bloggers for a Cure, which is what it sounds like, a collaborative effort between a bunch of us bloggers to raise money for medical research. Our first target is cystic fibrosis, a disease that has personally affected the life of our friend and fellow writer Malchus. He and his son Jacob were the inspiration for our little project. Please click on the image below to get all the details. We really are offering some cool stuff, and it really will make a difference.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Happy birthday, Fox!

The Fox network turns 20 today. Yep, on April 5, 1987, "the fourth network" shot out of the womb of Lady Free TV with its first lineup of prime-time Sunday-night shows, which included 21 Jump Street, Married ... With Children, The Tracey Ullman Show (which featured animated shorts starring a family called the Simpsons), Duet, and Mr. President. I don't think I ever saw Mr. President, but thanks to my grandparents having Fox on their cable system in Douglas, Ga., by 1988, I got to see all of the others. In Macon we didn't get to see Fox until January 1991. I seem to recall some sort of war that started in a Middle Eastern country that month, but the biggest thing on my mind at the time was that I was finally going to get to see The Simpsons.

Fox has taken lots of criticism over the years for horrible sitcoms and horrible "event programming" like
When Animals Attack and Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? But Fox has also aired some of my all-time favorite shows, like the aforementioned Simpsons, King of the Hill, Chris Elliott's meta-sitcom Get a Life, The Ben Stiller Show, The Critic (second season only), Arrested Development, and 24. I know several people who bitched and moaned and bitched some more when Arrested Development was canceled: "Man, Fox sucks for canceling a show like that!" Oh, so you watched it regularly? "No. I've only seen it on DVD." Well, that's why it was canceled, smart guy. You had two and a half years to catch an episode while it was actually on the air; it's not like Fox moved it around the schedule so many times that you could never find it. They did give the show a fair shot.

But that's another gripe for another day. Happy 20th, Fox. I hope American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken gives you the bestest serenade and lap dance you could ever hope for.

Turn the lights down. It's time to get romatic.

An ad for 30 Rock during tonight's episode of The Office flashed these phrases across the screen to describe the show's main character, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey):

PROFESSIONALLY GIFTED

ROMATICALLY CHALLENGED

"Romatically"?!?! Is no one looking at these promos before they're broadcast across the nation? Just pick up the phone and call me, NBC! I only charge $1,000 an hour!

On an episode of 30 Rock a few weeks ago, there was a quick scene featuring the French owner of Cristal saying how much he hated hip-hop music. His dialogue was subtitled, and the word "appreciate" was spelled as "appreicate."

Like I said, NBC, call me. You've got some problems. You've also got lots of cash. Let's help each other. (By the way, don't think I don't notice that John Krasinski is wearing a wig on The Office these days. Now I want to know why he's wearing that wig.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

quote of the day

"Josh Rouse's version [of Bread's 'It Don't Matter to Me'] is amazing," says Xavier Boyer, lead singer of Tahiti 80, on the band's MySpace page. "Let me put it this way—Big Star's a tougher version of Bread."

Boyer's right—Rouse's version of that Bread chestnut is great. The same goes for Tahiti 80, whose cover of the Chi-Lites' "Give It Away" gives me chills. I should write about them sometime, and not just because they endorse pandas who wear neckties. They're a terrific pop group who deserve attention.

Monday, April 2, 2007

a movie poster that could use fewer generalities

Similar to those posters for 2005's Waiting... and Just Friends that said, "From a producer of American Pie," the poster for Are We Done Yet? says, "From the studio that brought you Are We There Yet?" Okay, so the director of the first film in this franchise didn't come back, and neither did the writers, but Ice Cube, the star of both films, and Matt Alvarez are back as producers, so it wouldn't be out of the question for the poster to say "From the producers of Are We There Yet?"

The problem I have here is that studios make and/or distribute dozens of movies a year, so there isn't any kind of pedigree for a potential moviegoer to admire or trust in this situation. ("You mean the random executives who green-lighted Are We There Yet? also green-lighted Are We Done Yet? to plug a hole in their spring schedule? Quel genius!") Of course, it's hard to tell if the studio in question on the poster is the distributor, Columbia Pictures, or the production company, Revolution Studios, which is pretty cocky calling itself a studio and even cockier for pluralizing the word, but it does put up most of the production money for its movies. Still, it ain't a studio.

I would actually respect the poster for Are We Done Yet? if, instead of mentioning Are We There Yet?, it said, "From the studio that brought you Lawrence of Arabia." Make that leap! I dare ya! It wouldn't be a lie, after all. But if the (mini) studio in question is Revolution, then how about "From the studio that brought you White Chicks"? Yep, that's more like it. (Revolution also financed Gigli, but it's not as bad as you've heard. Sure, it's bad, but not criminally so.)

I realize I'm the only one who cares about this sort of thing. I doubt anyone who's trying to decide whether or not to see this movie on opening weekend
really cares if the brain trust behind 2005's Are We There Yet? is back for the next adventure. Eight-year-olds generally don't make statements like "Yeah, I skipped X-Men 3. I mean, Brett Ratner taking over for Bryan Singer? Are you kidding? F**k you, Hollywood."

But does Are We There Yet? even need to be mentioned on the poster? Even if sequels don't put a number after the title these days to let you know which installment you're going to see, the titles of sequels are usually close enough to the original's title to let you know what's being sequelized. We've come a long way (or not) since the days of Magnum Force, Sudden Impact, etc. being the names of Dirty Harry's sequels. Even the recent Star Wars trilogy put the episode numbers and the Star Wars brand name in the title of each prequel.

Are We Done Yet? is both a sequel and a remake. No, not a sequel to a remake, like Ocean's Twelve and Thirteen. Are We Done Yet? is based on the 1948 Cary Grant vehicle Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. Will the eight-year-olds in the audience care? No. But will they be upset if Ice Cube makes it through the entire movie without once being hit in the nuts with some sort of projectile? Absolutely. Since Columbia Pictures included at least two crotch-thwacking sequences in Lawrence of Arabia (Sir Alec Guinness suffered with such elegance), then they owe at least one to Mr. Cube. Maintain the legacy, Columbia.