Archive for January, 2010


Lost Spinoffs

January 26, 2010

I have some ideas for new series to take over for Lost when it ends this year. The sets are there, right? The production team? Let’s face it: some of these people will never find this kind of work again. So despite assurances by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof that there are no plans for future returns to the Island, I suspect we may see:

Lost: The Movie: This 2018 big-budget 3D blockbuster retells the first season in true Hollywood reboot style. Starring Zach Efron as Jack, Dylan Sprouse as Sawyer, that iCarly girl as Kate and Wes Bentley as John Locke.

Dharma Days: The CW presents a wacky look back at those super 70s with a half-hour comedy about a gang of out of this world scientists living on a tropical island paradise. This week: Chang (Tony Shalhoub) and Horace (George Wendt) accidentally trigger the Orchid, and a caveman arrives at the island … and falls hard for Amy (Pamela Anderson).

24: The Island: Jack Bauer has 24 hours to stop renegade industrialist Charles Widmore from taking over the world via secret island technology. His first crisis? Cellphones don’t work on the island. Starring Jack Bauer as Jack Bauer.

Life with Vincent: The entire Lost series is retold as a half-hour children’s show, recut and reshot to be seen through the eyes of a goofy dog named Vincent, who will be voiced by Jorge Garcia.

Rosie and Bernie: (Made for Dutch cable) After the Incident, after the Purge, the island lies mostly vacant … except for two fun-loving retirees. Join the fun as the Nadlers open a swingin’ all-inclusive resort and welcome a different Dutch cruise ship every week.

Fantasy Island: Michael Emerson IS Mr. Roarke.


The Lovely Bones: Not All That Lovely

January 18, 2010

Maybe Peter Jackson’s next project will be a tell-all memoir that explores just how a director can utterly destroy a book while adapting it for film.

This is how such a book might open:

Hello, fans! I’m Peter Jackson, and I’m the Oscar-winning director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a King Kong remake, some weird little horror movies and, of course, The Lovely Bones. I’m here to share with you my technique for ensuring that writers shudder with fear when they hear Hollywood is making a movie out of their book. I’ve broken it down into five simple steps for you:

  1. Hear about a “hot property” in the literary world. You know, one of those smarty books everyone’s talking about. (“Oprah says The Lovely Bones is hot, so it must be true.”)
  2. Stop off at an airport gift shop, find the book, and read the description on the flyleaf. (“Wow, this is expensive for a book. I won’t bother buying it.”)
  3. Later, jot notes on the back of the script for The Hobbit while flying over the Pacific. (“Wasn’t it something about a dead girl coming back to life to seek revenge?”)
  4. Hire somebody to bang out a script based on those notes, leaving big blank spots with “Add some CGI dreamscapes here.” written on them. (“Maybe when the dead girl gets to heaven, she can go tobogganing.”
  5. Hire Mark Wahlberg.

And there you have it. Thanks for buying my book. Remember, I am really, really rich and successful, and also awesome. Good night.

…. okay, now that Peter’s gone, let me weigh in. We saw The Lovely Bones on Saturday, right after I finished the book. I liked the book. I didn’t love it, but I liked it. I hated the movie. For whatever reason, Jackson took the simplest elements of what Alice Sebold wrote and turned it into a self-absorbed crapfest of a movie, loaded with special effects 10 years out of date, and completely ignoring the sweet narration that drives the book.

The book is the story of what a dead girl sees as she watches life go on without her. It’s about her people and how they move on. She tells us this story, and the movie opens with some of that narration … but then drops it in favour of endless heavenly frolics. Characters are changed for no reason. Everything is different. And the sad, soft story of Susie Salmon becomes, instead, a weak attempt to blend The Sixth Sense with an episode of CSI, with the Teletubbies thrown in for good measure. Jackson tosses us a little “it’s all about the people” remark at the end, but as he ignored that fact for the previous two hours, it’s pointless. I almost laughed out loud.

The child actors in this film are very good. The grownup actors are horrible. Much has been made of Stanley Tucci’s performance as killer George Harvey, but really, he’s just aping Robin Williams in One Hour Photo. And don’t get me started on Mark Wahlberg, who I guess was told to act “sensitive,” so he trotted out his old Dirk Diggler whisper and let his hair get floppy. Wahlberg jumped into filming this fresh from The Happening — he was brought in to replace Ryan Gosling, who quit just as filming was about to start, because he knew —¬† so I guess some of that movie’s stupidity was still clinging to him.

I’m done. Don’t see this. Go read the book instead.



January 15, 2010

So I bought a netbook. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a year or so, and the recent changes in my circumstances meant I could indulge myself. As I usually do, I dwelled on this for weeks, trying out different models, experimenting, researching … my mothers have a Dell Mini 10, which I’ve used and liked. When the Dells went on sale after Christmas I thought I’d made my choice.

But the Dells were sold out, so I went shopping, and ended up with a Compaq Mini 110, only because the store I went to had really fantastic customer service and the sales guy figured out that I was willing to trade some features for a larger keyboard. That turned out to be crucial. I am large, and my hands are big and clumsy; a tiny keyboard would not work for me. Had he not noted that, I might not be so happy. Thank you, Mike at Staples Business Depot.

This is why my previous experimentation with subnotebooks failed. About 10 years ago, I bought a Toshiba Libretto from a pawn shop. It seemed like a good idea at the time: a paperback-sized minicomputer, running Windows CE, that I could use in my work as a reporter and writer. But it was useless. I couldn’t type on it. It couldn’t transfer files easily (this is pre-USB key, folks … pre-CD burner, too, for that matter). Its operating system was a joke. It couldn’t go online. After a few weeks, I put it down somewhere. I couldn’t tell you where it is now.

Years later, I would buy a Compaq EVO laptop, second-hand, a weird little machine with a docking station. Undocked, it’s an inch thick, a truly compact laptop running Windows 2000. It still runs. It was my primary computer for a couple of years, and got me through some times when I really needed to be portable.

As I write this on my Compaq Presario desktop, my new Compaq netbook is sitting on top of my closed Compaq laptop. We’re a three-Compaq family now, with Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby bear. Years of use, years of good performance. I can’t argue with that. Yeah, my Mac is here to the left, and I’ll be going back over there once I’m done this. And I’m still dead set on buying that 27-inch iMac in 2010, or, at the very least, a MacBook Pro.

The Compaq netbook:

  • Pros: Fast, light and simple. Starts up quickly. Has a 160-gig hard drive, a 1.6-ghz Atom processor with a gig of RAM (I plan to upgrade that to 2 gigs this week) and a matte monitor (more important for me than for you). Keyboard is close to regular size. Holds a charge for about three hours of heavy use, including watching the digital edition of Star Trek included on the DVD release. Crystal-clear video display. Finds other networks effortlessly, and connects on its own. Charges really quickly when plugged in.
  • Cons: Half-sized shift key on the left, which is where I shift, and a weird placement of the backslash near the return key, meaning a lot of typos. The casing feels cheap and brittle, and the shiny finish holds every single fingerprint. The touchpad doesn’t always do what you want it to, and the placement of the buttons on the side is strange and awkward. There’s a single audio port for both headphones and a microphone. Overall audio quality is poor.

A note: There’s no Bluetooth on this thing. At first I was a bit ticked, but then I remembered that I have Bluetooth on my two desktop computers and I’ve never actually used it. You know what I miss? IR ports. My old phone and my old laptop used to swap photos via infrared. A great system.

For now, I’m loving the netbook. I’m a journalist; I need that quick, easy access to the web, to word processing, to photos. I used it to take notes at a meeting the other night, and just finished editing a short video on it — with its built-in card reader, no less — and it’s firing on all cylinders. The next step is to test audio recording and editing. I’m still downloading software (VLC, Audacity, iTunes, Ad-Aware, Chrome, OpenOffice) to it in stages.

It’s a real wonder tool. It may not last; I have concerns about the build quality. But really, it’s a $260 computer; worst-case scenario, I give it to one of the kids, and it’s used to visit Littlest Pet Shop Online.

Wait, that’s what happened to the Libretto. I remember now. It became someone’s Tetris machine, kind of an early Nintendo DS, but with a keyboard, and probably covered in Doritos dust. It disappointed a whole new generation. And then it was donated to the Dharma Initiative.


MJD’s Big Break

January 14, 2010

Michael J. Dowswell is a filmmaker and animator who lives in a tiny village, in a house made of thatch. I think. I’m not really sure, because the man is an enigma, a brilliant machine who has chosen to do things his way for years. One time, he told me his computer was made of haggis.

Anyway … He has submitted his latest work to some kind of American Idol project in New Zealand (New Zealand Animation Idol?), and it’s a wicked good look at what this guy can do. He’s brilliant and magic and I like his sand dunes.

I will never see Your Big Break, because I live in Canada, which is the New Zealand of North America, and sadly, there’s no way to watch TV shows from other countries, honest, really. If it’s even a TV show. I can’t tell, and nobody’s saying so on the website. It might just be a podcast or something. But I can guarantee you that MJD’s entry is better than the rest. So go, sign up, and vote.

Some other MJDness.


The A-Team

January 11, 2010

The first time we heard rumblings of an A-Team remake, the names being murmured were Mel Gibson, George Clooney, Ving Rhames and Jim Carrey. “That could work,” I remember thinking. But two of those guys have turned into raging lunatics, and one has pretty much vanished, and one did too many movies with Renee Zellwegger.

Then, last year, we heard new rumblings: Liam Neeson. Bradley Cooper. Shawaha Whoeva. A wrestler or something. “That sounds horrible,” I remember thinking.

And then we saw the first promo image, that one up top.

“Hey,” I said. “That looks all right.” By now, of course, we knew to pronounce it Sharlto Copely, because we’d seen District 9, and we’d learned the difference between wrestling and MMA (it comes down to whether they have a hockey cup in their spandex shorty shorts).

And then we saw the first promo trailer.

I loved it the first time I saw it. Then I watched it again. Then I showed it to my 11-year-old son, who said “as if a parachute could hold up a tank.” And that opened the floodgates.

  • … How do those parachutes hold up a tank?
  • … Why is B.A. Baracus suddenly saying “homey” in a high-pitched voice?
  • … Why are two of these Americans played by foreigners with really flexible ideas of how to do an American accent? (I’m talking to you, Sharlto.)
  • … Why does Bradley Cooper always have to take off his shirt? It makes me feel funny.
  • … Who keeps thinking Jessica Biel is convincing as a military officer?
  • … Why does all of this look cheesy and stupid and cartoony?

I know the answer to that last question:¬†Because it’s supposed to.

Look, I know you probably have fond memories of the original TV series. I know I do. It debuted when I was 14 and looking for something with a little more testosterone than the Dukes of Hazzard. But after a year or so of watching hundreds of bullets fly through formulaic plots, past screeching car chases and flip-overs, bounce off the same weekly one-liners and land harmlessly in a barroom dartboard — all while nobody ever got hurt — I turned back to Magnum P.I. I see here now that The A-Team lasted three years or something, but I know I never saw those later years.

It was a dumb show. And it was supposed to be. It was a post-Vietnam right-wing cartoon libertarian take on macho military action, featuring broadly drawn, simple characters played by actors who could jot their entire weekly script on the palm of one hand, show up, watch stuntmen explode things, and go home.

They were there to help Mr. T sell whatever was on the next commercial, and they knew it.

Not that it was a bad show. I’ve seen it since and I get a kick out of it, as long as I don’t have to watch more than one in a sitting. That’s why I’ll go see this movie. I could use a two-hour dose of silly, stupid faux-80s TV action. I know I won’t like it a whole lot once I leave. But I’ll probably enjoy it as long as there’s popcorn in the bucket.

Sometimes you have to take things for what they are, and you have to ask yourself “Did it accomplish what it set out to do?” Not all movies should be treated as cinema. Some should just be enjoyed. We know from the trailer that Hannibal says “I love it when a plan comes together.” Now we just need to hear Rampage say “I pity the fool” and we’re good.

Anyway, this is funny:


The Single of the Decade: Seven Nation Army

January 7, 2010

I’ve been trying to write this for more than a week. I wanted to pick one song, one radio single, that epitomized the aughts or the naughts or whatever the last decade was called. It was tougher than I thought.

I have chosen Seven Nation Army, by the White Stripes.

There are many songs I liked more than this one. There are songs you liked more, too. Your favourite single of the last decade might be something from Outkast, or Beyonce, or Nickelback, or Lil’ Wayne. My favourite radio-played song of that decade is Rise, by The Cult, but you know me — I like big bad hair.

What I was after here is a song — a single released for radio — that sums up that 10-year span the way Smells Like Teen Spirit nailed the 90s. So I prowled iTunes and listened and thought and finally picked Seven Nation Army.

Perhaps this is because I first heard it on the radio in the summer of 2003, while driving with my family into an isolated hamlet called Willisville, near Manitoulin Island. We wanted to climb the white LaCloche mountains, and as we pulled our minivan into a spot, this song came on the radio. No announcement, no preamble, just this strange, freaky tune, the likes of which was rarely played on Northern Ontario radio. It was the right song for a magical moment in a mystical place.

The next day, I learned it was the White Stripes; I had two of their previous albums, so when Elephant came out I grabbed it right away.

Seven Nation Army is a strange, strange song, and it had no business on Canadian radio in 2003. Guitar, drums, vocals, with a classic Jack White vocal performance, a weird cadence, a rhythm from the bottom of a Louisiana steamer trunk and a twist of pain, this is exactly where music was that year, and exactly where it wasn’t. It’s like the Whites took all the parts nobody liked from modern music, put them together, and made them work, while wearing matching outfits. On paper, it’s a terrible idea. On the air, it was brilliant.

  • Odd coincidences: Seven Nation Army was named for singer/guitarist Jack White’s mis-hearing of “Salvation Army” as a child. When I was a kid, I mis-heard Manitoulin Island as “Man Go To An Island.” Also, the supposed bassline of the single is actually a distorted acoustic guitar; this is how we did bass in our blues-rap band in the 1980s. I plan to talk to Jack about this when we get together for coffee.

When I stumbled upon Seven Nation Army last night on my iTunes, I realized I hadn’t heard it in a couple of years. I don’t listen to it anymore. But when I did, I loved it … for a while. Twenty years from now, when I hear it played on an oldies station, I will remember that summer, and I’ll smile.

That’s the nature of a good single.


Keanu Reeves Says You Are Getting Very Sleepy

January 7, 2010

Does Keanu Reeves cloud the mind of others? Does he use his nefarious powers to force himself onto unsuspecting women? Does he use his shape-shifting ability to assume the form of a guy named Marty from Ontario?

No. That’s stupid.

This is what an Ontario judge decided today, but it’s strange that it took a judge to make that call. It’s the ruling in a strange, strange case in court in Barrie, Ontario right now, in which a woman claims she had several children with Reeves, the “whoah” actor famous for the major hit films Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Speed, The Matrix and Feeling Minnesota (well, that one, not so much).

She told the judge she and Reeves (a Canadian) have known each other since they were children, had a long-term relationship and he was present for the birth of their children. She asked for $3 million a month in spousal support (retroactive to November 2006) and $150,000 a month in child support (retroactive to June 1988) for her children, now 25, 23, 22 and 21. Take a wild guess at the results of that DNA test: “Keanu Reeves …. you are NOT the father!”

Ah, but there’s a reason for that, she told the court: Reeves is a master hypnotist who can change his appearance and assume other identities, including the woman’s ex and someone called Marty Spencer. He can use those powers to change DNA results. Sometimes, she told the court, he comes and finds her at McDonald’s and uses his powers there. And she can prove it, she told the judge (she represented herself).

  • Judge: “Okay, prove it.”
  • Woman: “I have the proof. I just can’t show it to you.”
  • Judge: “It’s time for you to leave now.”*

This whole thing is ludicrous. Really, if someone like Keanu had the ability to change his appearance and control other people’s minds, he wouldn’t be going to Barrie to make babies. He’d be at home shining all the Oscars he collected for the Matrix sequels.

* Conversation imagined