Entertainment

Like, I think, most people, I first heard Junip’s mesmerizing song “Line of Fire” in the promo for the final episode of Breaking Bad:

Sometime afterward, I decided to check YouTube to see if there was an official video for the song. I found it here, but along the way I also found something far more entertaining in this fan mash-up from someone who realized that the song is a good fit for Batman’s story:

It’s a gray, rainy day in Chicago and somehow that’s fitting my mood right now. Elisabeth Sladen (aka Sarah Jane Smith) died after a battle with cancer today.

As a kid I had a crush on Sarah Jane. Heck, I had a crush on her as an adult when I saw her again in the new Doctor Who series just a few years back. I understand an actress is not the character she plays, yet I can’t help feeling a loss even though I know little about Elisabeth Sladen. The character she portrayed was an intelligent, energetic and outgoing woman who could hold her own with various incarnations of The Doctor. It was hard not to admire her.

Hey, does everybody remember those viral dance videos from OK Go? They did them for songs like “A Million Ways” (the one in the back yard) and “Here It Goes Again” (the one with the treadmills). If not, you might want to follow those links to take a look (they won’t let me embed them).

Those are great fun, and I have a lot of respect for the amount of work OK Go puts into entertaining their fans…

But now take a look at the Nicholas Brothers in this scene from Stormy Weather:

Fred Astaire once called this “the greatest dance number ever filmed.”

I think if you wanted to do something like this today, you’d probably have to use CGI…

This new summer series stars Mary McCormack (West Wing, Murder One) as a U.S. Federal Marshall for the witness protection program. Her personal life is almost non-existent because her job requires that she keep a low profile. Or at least that’s what she tells herself. As she slowly realizes the need for more in her life, she has to deal with her ditzy alcoholic mother and a cokehead slacker sister who are “temporarily” staying with her.

The show was a little slow to find its footing, but after a few episodes it (along with Mary McCormack) has really hit its stride. Lesley Ann Warren and Nichole Hiltz make likable, sympathetic characters out of people you really wouldn’t want staying at your house.

Her partner, Marshall Mann—yes, a Federal Marshall named Marshall. To this point, none of the characters in the show has pointed this out. The writers have just left it for the viewer to realize and chuckle at. I appreciate not being hit over the head with a gag. Anyway, Marshall has a wry sarcasm and sounds uncannily like Randal from the movie Clerks. It took me most of the first episode to place that voice. But it is Fred Weller playing this role, not Jeff Anderson.

I give In Plain Sight a grade of B. It airs Sunday nights on the USA Network Sundays at 10:00 pm / 9:00 pm Central.

I can’t decide if this is kind of cool or kind of sad. Check out Hollywood Is Calling:

Now for the first time ever you can have a real celebrity make a live phone call to someone you know for just $19.95. You can also purchase an email video greeting card with a message from your favorite star for just $5. Whether it’s for a special occasion or just for the fun of it, there’s no better way to impress a client, sweetheart or a friend.

THESE ARE NOT PRE-RECORDED MESSAGES OR VOICE IMPERSONATORS. ALL CALLS ARE MADE LIVE BY THE ACTUAL CELEBRITY.

The emailed videos are pre-recorded, so that’s no big deal, but apparently the phone calls are the real thing from the real celebrity.

As you might guess, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are not on the list. It’s really a collection of people whose celebrity has faded or whose celebrity never shined brightly to begin with.

The FAQ puts it a little differently:

The vast majority of our celebrities are not motivated by financial reasons when it comes to this project. Their extraordinary achievements have made them tremendously popular all across the globe and they believe that our patented new service is a great way for them to stay in touch with their growing fan base. It’s also a lot of fun.

Uh, yeah, because Mary Badham (who played “Scout” in To Kill a Mockingbird) is such a rising star these days. Why, just last year she was in Our Very Own, her first movie credit since 1966. I don’t want to be mean to Ms. Badham, but who are they trying to kid?

(Before someone else brings it up, yes, I know that every one of these people is more famous than I am, and yes, if people would pay $19.95 for a 30-second phone call from me, I’d sign up too.)

The service makes clear in the FAQ that each call is automatically terminated after 30 seconds. I assume this is to protect the celebrity in question from being accused of being impolite. It’s not that Paige Brooks from Baywatch isn’t willing to wait 10 minutes for your brother to get out of the shower so she can wish him Happy Birthday. She’s love to spend her time that way for her share of the $19.95, but the evil computer is going to cut her off in 30 seconds, so she’s sorry it didn’t work out.

On the other hand, this company has broken new ground with this sort of retail-grade appearance management. For $300 you can get a 20-minute “telephone personal appearance” from Dwayne Hickman. That’s Dobie Gillis for God’s sake! You can also get calls from Butch Patrick (Eddie friggin’ Munster) and Lou Ferrigno (the one true Hulk).

Here’s a few of the other celebrities who are available:

  • Alex Michel (The Bachelor)
  • David Keith
  • Larry Holmes (World Heavyweight Boxing Champion)
  • Dennis Haskins (Mr. Belding on Saved By The Bell)
  • Joseph Gannascoli (Vito Spatafore on The Sopranos)
  • Dean Haglund (Langly, one of the Loan Gunmen, on X-Files)
  • Leon Spinks (World Heavyweight Boxing Champion)
  • Gary Jones (SGT Walter Harriman on Stargate SG-1)
  • The Barbi Twins
  • Russell Johnson (The Professor on Gilligan’s Island)
  • Richard Hatch (The original Apollo on the original Battlestar Gallactica)
  • Ron Palillo (Arnold Horshack on Welcome Back Kotter)
  • Jon Provost (Timmy on Lassie)
  • Tony Todd (Candyman)
  • Brandon Cruz (Eddie on The Courtship of Eddies Father)
  • Rick Searfoss (Space Shuttle Pilot and Commander)
  • John De Lancie (Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation)
  • Marta Kristen (Judy Robinson on Lost In Space)
  • David Naughton (the American Werewolf in London)
  • Mitch Ryder (Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels)
  • Doug Fieger (from The Knack)
  • Linnea Quigley (queen of the B movies)
  • Leonard A. Lies (the Machete Zombie from Dawn of the Dead)
  • Lorenzo Lamas
  • Dr Elmo (“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”)
  • Martha Reeves (Martha Reeves And The Vandellas)
  • Lauren Chapin (from Father Knows Best)
  • Sybil Danning
  • Trina Parks (Thumper from Diamonds Are Forever)
  • Virginia Hey (Zhaan from Farscape, also the warrior woman from Road Warrior)
  • Olivier Gruner (actor and World Kickboxing Champion)
  • Erin Murphy (Tabitha from Bewitched)
  • Kato Kaelin [but of course!]
  • Todd Bridges
  • Andrea Thompson
  • Erin Gray
  • Sonny Landham (Billy in Predator)
  • Stu Charno (The serial killer from “Clyde Bruckmans Final Repose” on X-Files)
  • Gigi Edgley (Chiana from Farscape)
  • Kathy Garver (Cissy on Family Affair)
  • Larry Thomas (Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi)

None of those people are huge stars these days, but some of them are still getting work, and shouldn’t they have some money coming in from their old stuff?

I can’t help but think that there’s some kind of trick to this. I just can’t decide if we’re being tricked into buying this, or if these celebrities were tricked into signing up.

(Leave a comment if you’ve ever tried this and let me know if it’s real.)

Ultimately, I don’t get it.

It might be fun to have a huge star call me up—just to hear them say my name—but none of these people are that famous. I’m sure it would be fascinating to talk to some of these people about their work and their lives, but that would have to be a real conversation, perhaps over a nice dinner. A 30-second call does nothing for me.

Still, if Andrea Thompson is reading this, and you’re ever in town and willing to pose for a few photos, dinner is on me. The same goes for Virginia Hey, Rick Searfoss, and Linnea Quigley. I hope you like pizza.

While I was surfing for info on my last post on the TV show Rules of Engagement, I came across someone else’s review of the show. They referred to David Spade as a “comic genius”. Really?? David Spade?

Some might argue that the phrase comic genius is an oxymoron, but it got me to thinking about who I would consider a comic genius or as I prefer to call them – comic giants.

What constitutes a comic giant? Above all, laugh out loud, side-splittingly funny. That along with longevity, intelligence, ingenuity and versatility are some of the criteria. Longevity, however, is not enough in itself. There has to be a body of work that stands the test of time.

Most of my giants/geniuses wrote for a fifties comedy program called “Your Show of Shows”. Included in that bunch are Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein), Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show), Neil Simon (The Odd Couple), Woody Allen (Annie Hall), and Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H*).

Steve Allen pioneered the late night talk show and was the funniest to ever do it. David Letterman patterned much of his show after Steve Allen’s Tonight Show.

Would I include any comics that got their start more recently than five decades ago? There’s only one modern genius that immediately springs to mind and it is NOT David Spade. Steve Martin has proven time and again that he belongs in this group. From stand-up to movies, books, and columns in The New Yorker he has remained consistently funny through a long career.

I suppose I would also have to include Billy Crystal. Yeah, he disappointed me with City Slickers 2 and Forget Paris, but who hasn’t had their clunkers? Easily the best Oscar host of all time. That and When Harry Met Sally put him firmly in the giant category.

I’m sure you have your own list. Feel free to comment, but don’t waste your time trying to convince me to change mine.

COMING SOON: A guide to some of the works that made me include these people in my list and that I highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen them.

Madonna has created a clothing line to be sold through H&M stores starting on March 22.

What I find most surprising—given her infamous costumes over the years—is that she didn’t already have a line of clothing.

I’ve decided to take this as a sign that it’s time for my own line of clothing. Even more exclusive than Madonna’s rags (trust me, nobody will be wearing this stuff), at a much more reasonable price.

Andrew Tobias has a friend who appears in a scene in the movie. Basically, the location scouts lied to him and pretended to be making a documentary about something else. Then Borat walked in and behaved rudely:

I’m in “Borat”…much to my embarrassment. Borat tried to check into The Adolphus, and I had security throw him out. He was making racial slurs, spouting profanity, and generally making a spectacle of himself. They “cast” me in the role of the sophisticated hotelier. The location scouts lied to me; they told me they were filming a piece on The Adolphus’s art collection, history, and so on.

From what I understand, he comes off rather well in the movie. But that’s not my point.

I haven’t seen the movie, but this scene sounds like maybe a minute of screen time. Borat is 84 minutes long. So, from this and other stories, it sounds like the Borat production team lied to a lot of people and took advantage of their good will. Even after the comic bit was over, the film crew kept up the lie.

At least when Michael Moore or one of The Daily Show‘s crack team shows up they’re pretty straight about who they are. Also, most of the people they tape are politicians, business leaders, and minor celebrities. These are people in the public eye, people who desire and seek attention, or people who hold the public trust and thus deserve close examination.

The movie is probably very funny, but I think my enjoyment of it would be hampered by knowing that it was made by being very rude to a lot of people, not all of whom deserved it. Some of them, in fact, were in the process of being quite generous and helpful.

I wasn’t keen on doing it myself, since my dad had died recently and my family was experiencing those horrible firsts: the first Father’s Day without him, his birthday, etc. In short, I wasn’t my usual perky self. After interviewing everyone, the location scout came back to me and said, “You’re the one that we want.” I turned them down, and, then, they came back, again – and I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing my job. I agreed to do it on a Sunday night.

I pulled myself together to help them, only to find myself the subject of a practical joke from which I could not extricate myself. The producers of the film didn’t know me or my background, other than I fit the profile of someone they could picture looking ridiculous on screen. It wasn’t that they were unpleasant or unkind. It was that I wasn’t even a person to them.

Read the whole story.

I missed this when it happened, but I guess Natalie Portman was trying to break out of her Star-Wars/princess/Sesame Street/kiddie-movie image, and picked an SNL bit to do it:

Natalie Tells It Like It Is

I never used to pay much attention to her, but after seeing this video, I think I’m getting a bit of a crush. I think you will too.

[link repaired 12/31/2006]

Got this bit about Mel Gibson’s recent DUI bust from TMZ.com:

Once inside the car, a source directly connected with the case says Gibson began banging himself against the seat. The report says Gibson told the deputy, “You mother f****r. I’m going to f*** you.” The report also says “Gibson almost continually [sic] threatened me saying he ‘owns Malibu’ and will spend all of his money to ‘get even’ with me.”

The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: “F*****g Jews… The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” Gibson then asked the deputy, “Are you a Jew?”

The deputy became alarmed as Gibson’s tirade escalated, and called ahead for a sergeant to meet them when they arrived at the station. When they arrived, a sergeant began videotaping Gibson, who noticed the camera and then said, “What the f*** do you think you’re doing?”

A law enforcement source says Gibson then noticed another female sergeant and yelled, “What do you think you’re looking at, sugar tits?”

We’re told Gibson took two blood alcohol tests, which were videotaped, and continued saying how “f****d” he was and how he was going to “f***” Deputy Mee.

[Censored words in the original.]

I don’t want to make too much of the stupid things people say when they’re drunk, but…wow. Well, he had a nice career.

In Sunday night’s Oscar show, George Clooney used his speech to congratulate Hollywood for taking on controversial progressive issues. He also mentioned with pride that the Academy gave an award to a black woman, Hattie McDaniel, in 1939.

That’s admirable, and the Academy deserves credit for its colorblind recognition of outstanding acting.

However, before Clooney wears out his arm patting people on the back, let me point out that not a single black person won an Oscar in any category for the next 24 years until Sidney Poitier earned his Best Actor award for Lillies of the Field in 1963.

After that, it was another 19 years until the next acting award went to Louis Gossett Jr. for his supporting role in An Officer and A Gentleman.

To be fair, James Baskett received an honorary award in 1948 for his work in Song of the South, and various black musicians won Best Music awards throughout the 70s and 80s.

Lately, black actors and actresses have started picking up awards every few years, which sounds about right to me, given the demographics of the United States and the frequency of significant black roles in movies.

(Source: The Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University.)

When I saw the above title on a Yahoo story, I assumed that some producer or director of the James Bond series was busted for soliciting a prostitute, and the headline writer was in a hurry and got the grammar wrong. But it turns out the headline is accurate:

Lee Tamahori, the New Zealand filmmaker best known taking the directing reins on the last 007 adventure, Die Another Day, is facing prostitution charges after dressing as a woman and allegedly approaching an undercover police and offering to perform a sex act for cash.

Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney, says Tamahori was cruising Santa Monica Boulevard on Jan. 8, wearing a black wig and an off-the-shoulder dress, when he was caught up in an LAPD prostitution sting operation.

Now that’s going to be a lot harder to explain to the guys around the office than what I was thinking…

Kong!

Saw it. Loved it.

Nothing that happens in this movie happens just a little. Director Peter Jackson lets us spend a lot of time with every beautiful scene in the film. It’s a long film, but like all the Lord of the Rings movies, it never feels long.