Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Nobody Cares About the Tuna

I’m listening to my readers, and they want more entertainment articles.  You have spoken, and here we go.  We’ve passed the time of the summer blockbuster, and it’s now time to get to the fall mini-busters.  Some new movies that weren’t quite big enough for summer, but just big enough for folks looking for a way to stay indoors on a cool weekend.  Let’s take a quick look at what’s new for this weekend (9/23/11).

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in "Moneyball"

1)     “Moneyball”, starring Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jonah Hill.  This is not the classic baseball movie.  Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics General Manager in 2001 who turned Oakland baseball around through unorthodox maneuvers.  This is the guy who traded bulbous, steroid-infused Jeremy Giambi for the underrated, more versatile John Mabry (an ex-Cardinal).  Put it this way, he traded a guy who did commercials for hair products for a guy who got his hair cut at Great Clips.  Aaron Sorkin, the writer from “The West Wing” and “The Social Network” co-wrote the movie, so you know the dialogue should be good.  Sorkin is the guy who recently hurt himself reciting his own dialogue in front of the mirror – is that the first sign of insanity, or the first sign of a guy who can write great dialogue?  Overall, guys, it is about baseball, and it has Brad Pitt; so you might be able to talk your girlfriend/wife into giving it a chance.  That is, if you’re able to talk her into anything at all…

 

 

Jason Statham kicks more than Jean-Claude Van Damme these days

2)     “Killer Elite”, starring Robert De Niro, Clive Owen, and Jason Statham.  After Statham’s mentor gets abducted, he comes out of self-imposed exile to find him.  Statham reassembles his old team of British SAS commandos, but has to go through Owen’s own team of assassins to save his mentor.  Based on a true story, this might be the guy movie of the fall.  Put it this way, lots of guns and explosions; and with Jason Statham in it, which do you think there will be more of – crying or lots of kicking?

 

 

 

 

Taylor Lautner and Lily Collins in "Abduction"

3)     “Abduction”, starring Taylor Lautner, Alfred Molina, and Lily Collins.  “Twilight” star Lautner tries to piece his true life back together after seeing his face as a child on a website for missing persons.  A former martial arts champion as a youth, Lautner takes a swing at action.  I promise there are no vampires or werewolves in this one.  Directed by John Singleton, an underrated director who gave us “Boyz n the Hood” and “Higher Learning” (but we’re still trying to forget what he did to “Shaft”).

 

 

 

 

Ryan Gosling and Bryan Cranston in "Drive"

4)     “Drive”, starring Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston, and Albert Brooks.  I don’t get the fascination with Gosling, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2007.  To me, he’s as average as any Jennifer Aniston or Adam Sandler movie is – OK, probably not that bad.  But Bryan Cranston (“Malcolm in the Middle” and “Breaking Bad”) is always good.  Albert Brooks plays the villain, an interesting turn for the guy who usually plays the neurotic weenie (“Taxi Driver” and “Broadcast News”).  I admit I am intrigued by that.  Also, Ron Perlman (“Hellboy” and “Sons of Anarchy”) is in it, who is one of the best character actors in the business – if not the best.

 

 

 

Kate Bosworth in "Straw Dogs"

5)     “Straw Dogs”, starring James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, and James Woods.  Yet another remake in a Hollywood that’s shamefully too timid to go with original ideas.  Marsden (“Cyclops” in the first two “X-Men” movies) plays a Hollywood writer who takes his wife, Bosworth (“Superman Returns”) back home to visit the Deep South.  Nordic actor Alexander Skarsgård (“True Blood” and “Generation Kill”) might makes things a bit cooler, but it is probably just another bad horror flick that scares people from visiting the South.  What is Hollywood more scared of – the Deep South or coming up with an original idea?

 

 

 

Ashley Judd and Harry Connick, Jr. in "Dolphin Tale"

6)     “Dolphin Tale”, starring Harry Connick, Jr., Morgan Freeman, and Ashley Judd.  Personally, I wish Harry would get back on the piano.  “Dolphin Tale” is a story about a dolphin that gets caught in a net and is in danger of losing its tail, hence the sickening pun in the title.  Geared specifically for kids, this one is shown in 3D.  But it’s laden with subplots that really don’t have too much to do with the heartwarming main story – a boy and a dolphin.  And, still, nobody cares about the tuna that also gets caught in those nets…

 

 

 

 

All in all, aside from a couple of action flicks, and what looks like a surprisingly good baseball movie, you might be better off hanging with friends on the back porch around the fire pit.  The best bet has got to be the reshowing of “The Lion King” in 3D.  And thus ends the circle of life for this bad article, Simba.

Thanks for taking the time to read this; and stay tuned for more!

You’re Right; I’m Wrong – 2011 Emmys

OK, I can hear you – those of you who are saying, “Joe, your page description says ‘Sports, history, politics, entertainment, and more.  Why do you continue to bombard us with sports articles?”

You know what?  You’re right.  Aside from my last post, which honored Constitution Day (covering history and politics), I haven’t written about entertainment since the Voltron article.  Speaking of which, I’ll be visiting with Supervising Producer Jeremy Corray of “Voltron Force” very soon.  But with the Emmys being awarded tonight, let’s take a look some of the major awards.  I was upset to see that my friends at Koplar Enterprises (which “Voltron Force” is a part of) aren’t up for anything, considering how well they have rebooted an icon.  You’ll find, as you read on, that I have quite a few problems with some choices for nominees.

First off, let’s look at the comedy awards.  This is something I take seriously – probably because I’m not funny…

  • Best Comedy Series, the nominees are: “Modern Family”; “30 Rock” (again…); “The Office” (again???); “The Big Bang Theory”; and “Parks and Recreation”.  Who will win?  “Modern Family”, but I cannot explain it.  Ed O’Neill is still funny, so maybe that’s why.  But I merely chuckle a bit when (if) I watch it.  Who should win?  “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, even though it’s not even nominated.

Explanation: Now, I know I’m going to show how lowbrow my humor is (if you didn’t already know), but the shows nominated really aren’t that funny.  They have their moments.  Being a major nerd, myself (if you didn’t already know), I get the jokes on “Big Bang”; but they’re just not that funny.  It’s kind of the same joke over and over – inserting one geek reference after another, and then “I can’t believe he’s got a girlfriend since he’s such a geek”, and a laugh track ensues.  I admit that I’ll laugh at it more than the others, though.  Sorry, “Office” fans.  It’s as boring as working in an office.  “Always Sunny” is the funniest show on TV.  It’s not up for awards because of the lowbrow humor, I understand that.  It’s raunchy, it doesn’t have any family messages in it, and it doesn’t care what critics say.  And that’s why it is the best comedy series.  It’s “Seinfeld” from hell – a show about nothing, but with characters who are the worst people ever.  If critics want to have these comedy awards taken seriously, then choose the funniest show, not the drama with the most laugh tracks.  And where is HBO’s “Bored to Death”?  Runner-up: “Louie”, which mysteriously isn’t nominated, either.  It has heart, is clever, and it’s hilarious.

  • Best Actor in a Comedy, the nominees are: Steve Carell, “Office”; Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”; Jim Parson, “Big Bang”; Matt LeBlanc, “Episodes”…(wait a minute, Matt LeBlanc???); Louis C.K., “Louie”; Johnny Galecki, “Big Bang”.  Who will win?  It’s Carell’s swan song, so they love to give away awards at times like this.  Who should win?  Louis C.K.  He’s playing himself, but nobody plays the lovable loser better than him.  He’s so funny, but exudes a pathetic charm that is true catharsis for losers like me who watch him to not only laugh but to feel better about our own lack of social skills.  Louis C.K. accomplishes more with just his face than any of the other nominees can with dialogue – his helpless, but hilarious, countenances can emote even more than his original and biting jokes and comedic situations.  Perhaps the best standup comedian alive, C.K. deserves this for making such a quality comedy.  Runner-up: Elijah Wood for “Wilfred”.  He’s great as a lunatic who thinks his neighbor’s dog is a real person.  And I’m putting this in hoping I can get work as his stunt-double…

 

  • Actress in a Comedy, the nominees: Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”; Tina Fey, “30 Rock”; Laura Linney, “The Big C”; Melissa McCarthy, “Mike & Molly”; Martha Plimpton, “Raising Hope”; Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”.  Who will win?  Laura Linney is a great actress, and will probably win.  I still think Amy Poehler could pull of an upset, though.  If “Parks” is funny at all, it’s because of her.  Who should win?  Tina Fey.  She’s very funny and clever.  Her reactions to the weirdos surrounding her on “30 Rock”, alone, are the heart of the show, making all of them funnier.  Runner-up: Kaitlin Olson, from “Always Sunny”.  She is hilarious both with physical humor and dialogue.  But she’s not even considered, for whatever reason.

Now on to the drama categories, where I’m a little less argumentative…

  • Actress in a Drama, the nominees are: Kathy Bates, “Harry’s Law”; Connie Britton, “Friday Night Lights”; Mireille Enos, “The Killing”; Mariska Hargitay, “Law & Order: SVU”, Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”; Elisabeth Moss, “Mad Men”.  Who will win?  Bates has to be the favorite, who’s great in everything she does.  Who should win?  Bates, who’s great in everything she does.  Margulies, however, also is great in everything she does.  And she’ll look better at the podium… (OK: Sorry!)

 

  • Actor in a Drama, the nominees: Steve Buscemi, “Boardwalk Empire”; Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”; Kyle Chandler, “Friday Night Lights”; Timothy Olyphant, “Justified”; Michael C. Hall, “Dexter”, Hugh Laurie, “House”.  Who should and will win?  I’m going to be a homer, here.  Hometown boy Jon Hamm should win, and will win.  Buscemi is good, but just isn’t all that believable when he tries to act tough in “Boardwalk” – his supporting cast carries him in this show.  Runner-up: Hall creeps me out even more than those ETrade baby commercials, and I think that is the idea for his character.  Only Michael Shannon (“Boardwalk”) creeps me out more.

 

  • Drama Series, the nominees: “Boardwalk Empire”, “Dexter”, “Game of Thrones”, “Friday Night Lights”, “Mad Men”, “The Good Wife”.  This is a tough one.  Who will win?  “Boardwalk Empire” is an excellent timepiece, bringing the roaring ‘20s to life in stylistic fashion.  It’s better than a very good “Mad Men” show.  Who should win?  It will be a shame for “Game of Thrones” not to win.  It is such an original show, and has such an incredible cast.  But it’s fantasy, and with the exception of “The Return of the King” getting Best Picture at the Oscars a couple years back, major awards tend to shy away from fantasy.  “Thrones” is so much more than a fantasy, though.  What it does best is challenge the viewer to guess what happens next – and then does the opposite of what viewers should expect.  It has viewers invest into a character, and then kills that character off.  But it somehow continues to bring in enthralling character after enthralling character.  “Thrones” defies convention and reality, making for the best drama on television.  Fantasy gets a bad rap because it has people “escape from reality”; but “Thrones” doesn’t just help you escape reality, it helps you escape the monotony of modern television – remakes, reboots, and reality shows.  It should be in its own category, it’s so good.  And if acting giant, Peter Dinklage, doesn’t win Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, the Emmys will be a joke.  His character, alone, makes the show a must-watch.

All in all, I’m disappointed enough in the nominations to only pay minimal attention to the Emmys tonight.  I’m not a TV critic, so maybe “Always Sunny” and “Bored to Death” (Ted Danson makes this show hilarious) weren’t included because of the time period the Emmys are covering.  So maybe I’m whining for no reason.  But as you see by having my picks for many awards not even nominated, I’m apparently looking for something else when I’m watching TV.  Put it this way, I’ll probably be watching a Tony Bourdain “No Reservations” rerun while the Emmys are on.  No wonder I relate to “Louie” so much…I am pretty pathetic.  Come to think of it, I’ll be watching football so that I can get back to bombarding you with sports articles…

 

As St. Louis as the Arch – Voltron is the Star of Comic-Con

 

Voltron Returns in "Voltron Force" (image courtesy of World Events Productions)

So, you’re probably like a lot of people out there.  You’re a child of the ‘80s, a decade of monumental animated shows, such “G.I. Joe”, “Transformers”, and my favorite, “Voltron: Defender of the Universe”.  Now you have children of your own.  You try to sit down and watch some of today’s cartoons with them, and you wonder, “What happened?”  It makes you hear the famous words of Peter Cullen (voice of “Optimus Prime” in Transformers and narrator of the original “Voltron” series) that began every episode in your head, “…And then came a time when Voltron was needed once more.”

Well, fret no more, because Voltron lives again!  “Voltron Force” airs on NickToons every Thursday night at 7:30, and it’s a welcome respite from the junk that most stations call children’s programming.  (You can catch up on back episodes by going to the Nicktoons website, or purchasing HD episodes on iTunes.)  The beauty is that it’s a children’s show that moms and dads who grew up with the show won’t have to be embarrassed at what they’re watching, or have to have their kids explain what the heck is going on.  It’s great to see that the same characters you couldn’t wait to see before or after school are the same that your kids can’t wait to see.  Keith, Hunk, Lance, Pidge, Princess Allura (I admit, my first crush when I was too young to know what a crush was), and even the polarizing Space Mice (to me, the Greek Chorus of “Voltron”) return to the show.  And the characters are excellently portrayed by some great voice actors, such as famous Canadian singer (“Hey Ocean!” is the band), Ashleigh Ball, as Princess Allura.  

Princess Allura, The Blue Lion Pilot (image courtesy of World Events Productions)

The other returning factor is that it’s all done right here in St. Louis.  In 1984, World Event Productions (a Ted Koplar company) bought a little show from a Japanese company named Toei.  Toei sent Koplar what they thought he ordered (a bit was lost in translation), which Koplar thought was even better.  Koplar noticed a great thing when he saw it.  As supervising producer, Jeremy Corray, said in an interview with me on LUTV’s “Mixed Media”, Koplar knew fans would understand the characters and plotlines.  Koplar said “you can watch this, not even know any Japanese – not even have the sound on – and get the characters.”  Can I send Mr. Koplar a “thank you” note?

They re-edited it for American kids (apparently, Japanese kids are allowed a bit more violence), re-voiced it, called it “Voltron”, and a legend was born.  You could say it was adopted and raised in St. Louis.  The new series, “Voltron Force”, is born and raised in St. Louis – a real hometown hero.  As Jeremy said, “It’s a local boy done good.”  To clarify, he mentioned most of the production of the series, such as voice acting and re-editing, was done out in L.A., “But Voltron headquarters was right here in St. Louis.  (Voltron is) a Midwest boy at heart – he’s as St. Louis as the Arch.”

Jeremy, also a native of St. Louis, couldn’t be happier to reboot an icon.  He put it best in his enthusiastic style, “As a die-hard genre fan and proud geekbot myself, being a part of all this is a dream come awesome!”

Just like me, Jeremy grew up with the show.  He knows what the fans love, and it shows on the screen.  In fact, he loves Voltron so much that I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the guy in the Voltron suit in this exclusive picture.

Voltron at San Diego Comic-Con


Callbacks to the classic series abound, but it’s a show of its own.  It’s the perfect show to watch with your kids, or if you’re just a nerd like me who never grew up.  Jeremy said, “We knew we had guys like us, what I call ‘Generation Voltron’, guys who grew up on it – and it defines an era for them…What we did with ‘Voltron Force’ was specifically design the show to be – if you’ll excuse the marketing buzzword – a co-viewing experience.  We went after guys like me who now have their own kids, and have found that Voltron has become this inherited entertainment.”  So they wanted to entice the new viewers (specifically viewers 6 years old and up) to watch, but still treat fans of the original series with enough fan-service, as he put it, to “geek out about.”  And they absolutely have succeeded.  When you’re watching it with your kids, and “the first time Voltron forms ‘Blazing Sword’, you’re going to be six years old all over again,” Jeremy said.  But you don’t need kids to enjoy it.  It has already had the highest-rated premiere in Nicktoons history.

OK, you don’t have to still have Voltron on your bed sheets to miss something you grew up with – or appreciate quality animated programming.  Jeremy told me about running into recording artist, an icon himself, will.i.am of “The Black Eyed Peas”, at an airport.  While will.i.am was signing some autographs, one of Jeremy’s coworkers just stood beside him, and whispered, “Voltron.”   The recording star immediately turned around, and the conversation went from there.  Jeremy said, “It was like he wanted our autographs.”  Even the jocks love it, though; Kobe Bryant mentioned how the “Miami Heat have formed like Voltron”.  I guess the Heat’s version of Voltron suffered a bit of a malfunction, though…

You can see the excitement over Voltron’s return by checking out San Diego’s Comic-Con, the famous convention of comic book/cartoon companies that is every nerd’s fantasy to attend (including me).  Jeremy sent me this exclusive photo as proof of the elation of longtime fans.

Fans assemble at the Voltron Panel at Comic-Con

More Voltron fans at Comic-Con

With all the retelling of our favorite shows, I can’t say that I’m entirely satisfied with the remakes out there.  For instance, did anyone else feel betrayed by the G.I. Joe movie?  I might have had better plots playing with “Duke” and “Snake Eyes” on my couch when I was seven – certainly better dialogue.  Hopefully, the second installment will be much better.

Jeremy and the “Voltron Force” staff, however, have hit the mark.  The dialogue and plotlines are fascinatingly entertaining.  And it’s not just a collection of anime action sequences.  There is deep character development, smart techy stuff, and, of course, fantastic animation.  And the Voltron Universe hasn’t been overexposed like other icons of our childhood such as Transformers.  “There’s so much room to play with Voltron, so many origin things that we can have fun with.”  I’m seriously getting nerd-chills, Jeremy.

Your favorites are back, as mentioned, but there is a new twist to the reboot.  Things have changed since we were holding our breath until the next episode.  Though our favorite characters return, some younger characters have joined the team, and the original characters seem to be passing off the baton.  Relax, though; your characters aren’t going anywhere.  Jeremy says this transition is relative to the parents that watch the show, “It’s kind of like where I am as a parent – how do you deal with change?”  He mentioned how writer Todd Garfield did so well to create that mystique of “who are these characters, what are they going to do?  You’ll see how it all unfolds in some very clever and unexpected ways.”

Jeremy continued, “I can tell you just from the experience of watching it with my son – when my three year old is jumping off the couch and yelling, ‘I’ll form the head!’, it’s amazing; and it makes you appreciate” what your parents were going through when you were doing the same.  “What we did was take the things that really worked for the original series and just evolved them” for a more modern audience.  And it works.

Comic-Con has also become a bastion of comic/cartoon movie announcements, and Voltron stole the show.  The rights to make a movie about the original defender of the universe series have been bought by Relativity Media, who has had their hands in movies such as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Social Network, and the upcoming Cowboys & Aliens – which Jon Favreau directed (Iron Man and Iron Man 2).  No word on whether Favreau will take the reins on the Voltron movie, but there is a rumor that I’m the favorite to play the little guy, Pidge…after all, no makeup will be needed – just the green tint in my glasses.

Pidge, the Green Lion Pilot (courtesy of World Events Productions)

Certainly, one good thing about the proposed movie is that Ted Koplar will be an executive producer.  This is the guy who’s behind bringing the series to St. Louis, and that should ensure the quality of the film.  And according to Voltron’s website, “The production will be led by producers Charles Roven and Richard Suckle of Atlas Entertainment (The Dark Knight, Man of Steel) and producer Jason Netter (Wanted).”  I’m getting those nerd-chills again.

Also, video games are available.  “Voltron Force: Ultimate Victory” is available to play for free on Nicktoons.com.  And a game-console title will be released this fall.  Stay tuned.

All in all, it’s great to see an icon return – and Voltron Headquarters is still in St. Louis.  Again, Jeremy said it best from Comic-Con, “From the THQ 5 Lions scavenger hunt, to the giant Voltron statue at Mattel, to the HUGE announcements coming at the first ever Voltron panel this year’s San Diego Comic-Con sends a signal to the universe that the Defender is BACK! We’ll keep you posted!”  And we’ll be watching.

For more info on the Voltron universe, go to www.voltron.com.

Special thanks to Jeremy Corray, Supervising Producer of “Voltron Force”, for the exclusive Comic-Con pictures!

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