Friday, June 26, 2009

The best tribute to Michael Jackson ever!

My good friend Sagaeroo sent me this, which is simply the best possible tribute to the incredible influence of the King of Pop.

The youtube description is as follows:

1,500 plus CPDRC inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, Cebu, Philippines at practice! This is not the final routine, and definitely not a punishment! just a teaser.

Now, if these guys can get this organized, how have they not engineered a massive escape?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP - The King of Pop

A news story has been reported that will soon become the only thing pretty much everyone is talking about; Michael Jackson is dead at 50.

Jackson exploded onto the world stage in the late 1960s, as the front man for the Jackson 5. Although still a teen, he became a sensation with their hits ABC and I Want You Back. His solo career did not fair as well throughout the 1970s until he paired with producer Quincy Jones for the 1979 album Off the Wall, which yielded hits like Rock with You, Don't Stop till You Get Enough, and She's Out of My Life.

But it was with 1983's Thriller that Jackson became a superstar. It was a massively successful album, with an almost endless supply of classic songs like Thriller, Billie Jean, Beat It, and Wanna Be Startin' Something. Its success literally changed the music industry, with the New York times stating, "in the world of pop music, there is Michael Jackson and there is everybody else". He would appear on the Motown 25th anniversary TV special and unveil a new signature dance, the moonwalk, that stunned all those who saw it.

But just as he reached the pinnacle of success, tragedy and misfortune began to stalk him. While filming a commercial for Pepsi that tied in with a Jackson 5 reunion tour, the stage pyrotechnics set fire to his hair, burning the star. By this point, he had already undergone a few cosmetic surgical procedures, but following this, they began in earnest. By the time 1987's Bad was released, he was virtually unrecognizable. His nose had been reshaped, his cheekbones had been accentuated, his features more angular, his hair was straightened. His skin had lightened to a white complexion, which Jackson blamed on a pigment disorder called vitiligo.

And his behaviour became increasingly erratic and eccentric. There were (false) rumours he slept in a hyperbaric chamber, that he tried to buy the bones of the Elephant Man. In 1993, a 12 year old boy accused him of molestation, a charge that was eventually settled out of court for a reported $20 million. He married Lisa Marie Presley, but only briefly. A second marriage to dermatology nurse Debbie Rowe lasted 3 years and resulted in two children, Prince Michael and Paris. A third child, Prince Michael II was born by an unidentified woman, and Jackson found himself mired in controversy again when he dangled the newborn from a balcony in Germany. Jackson stated it was accidental and a case of poor judgement.

His final years seemed to be unrelentingly controversial and dark. A documentary revealed Jackson to be an obviously troubled man whose child-like behaviour was the result of a lack of a real childhood. He was shown to be purchasing many odd items with almost no self-control and filmed having conversations with children about sharing a bed with him during "sleepovers". In 2005, he was charged with several counts of child molestation, and though he was eventually acquitted, the charges merely confirmed what many already believed was true. Finally, he was in deep financial trouble; forced to sell his Neverland ranch and battling escalating court costs and debts.

Jackson was preparing for a series of concerts in London at the time of his death, and even with the scandal and tragedy and health problems that dogged him, the concerts sold out almost instantly. The King of Pop lost none of his power to draw us in.

RIP - Farrah Fawcett

After a courageous battle against cancer, Farrah Fawcett passed away today. She was 62 years old.

Fawcett's career began in the early 1970s as a model and occasional actress. She caught the eye of TV star Lee Majors, and they were married in 1973. A small role in 1976's Logan's Run brought her some acclaim, but she was still on the B-list as it were.

Fawcett became an icon of the 1970s when she landed a starring role on Charlie's Angles, the 1976 mega-hit that featured three gorgeous women fighting crime in various skimpy outfits. That same year, a sexy poster of Fawcett became a defining image of sexuality in the 1970s.

Even though Fawcett left the show after only one season, she was now a star. The roles she chose, however, didn't connect as well with audiences. She scored a cult hit with the 1980 film Saturn 3, co-starring Harvey Kietel and Kirk Douglas, which gained notoriety for the brief nude scenes she shared with Douglas.

In 1982, she and Majors divorced. But Fawcett had a major comeback around the corner. She received good notices for her performance in Extremities, an off-Broadway play, and she won an Emmy for her gritty and powerful portrayal of a battered wife who burns her rapist husband to death in The Burning Bed. That same year, 1985, she began a relationship with Ryan O'Neal that lasted until her death.

In later years, she became more famous for her erratic behaviour than her career, but she made several notable appearances on TV in Spin City and on the big screen in Robert Altman's Dr. T and the Women. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, and spent the remaining years of her life battling the disease, as depicted in the documentary Farrah's Story. In recent days, Fawcett had entered the hospital again, sparking speculation that the end was near, and her suffering would soon be over.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oscar widens the playing field

Big news is coming out of Hollywood today, with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announcing that this coming year they will be doubling the number of best picture nominees from 5 to 10.

The NY Times has a great article on the announcement, which brings up many salient points. Of course, one of the biggest factors, as Academy president Sid Ganis admits, was The Dark Knight. During a Q&A following the announcement, Gains said, “I would not be telling you the truth if I said the words ‘Dark Knight’ did not come up.” Not only was the Batman film the biggest hit of the year, but more tellingly it was one of the best reviewed, lauded for its complexity and thematic intelligence. Also, Wall-E was on many critic's lists as the best film of the year, and although it won a Best Animated Feature Oscar, many felt it should have been nominated for best film.

For the last few years, the Oscar Night telecast has been bleeding viewers at an alarming rate. Even a truly irreverent and enjoyable telecast last year failed to significantly turn the tide. Many have blamed the Academy itself. With its largely older membership, it has often been suggested that the members have lost touch with the films of "now" in favour of films evoking older styles. In short, they dismiss films like The Dark Knight in favour of films like The Reader, even though the latter film was little seen and received significantly less acclaim. This was even mocked by Oscar host Hugh Jackman during his opening number, with the star singing "I still haven't seen The Reader" and poking fun at the fact that The Dark Knight wasn't nominated.

In short, many believe that the Oscars were in serious danger of becoming irrelevant.

But would opening the field to 10 help? Certainly, The Dark Knight would have gotten the nomination, as would have Wall-E. That brings us up to seven. What would the other three have been, I wonder? Most likely, The Wrestler and Doubt would have brought it up to nine. and the final spot? I'm thinking that would become the wild card spot. The slot for a film that has no chance, but deserves a shout out. A little film. A film that deserves a bigger audience. Maybe it would have been Frozen River, or Happy-Go-Lucky or (my personal fave) In Bruges. maybe it would even have been a.....gasp.......comedy! It Happened One Night won best picture. A film like that, in past years, wouldn't even get considered. So maybe Tropic Thunder would have taken it.

I think this can only be a good thing. It'll depoliticize the awards a little. It'll make the truly repulsive campaigning less important and it'll open the field up to different kinds of films. That can only help the status of movies in America today.

The Nerd Report Gallery - Fake Criterion Covers

Hello, all,

For our second installment in our virtual gallery, I've turned to a project going on at different places on the interwebs. A lot of film forum sites have threads that showcase homemade covers for the Criterion Collection. It's pretty much agreed on that Criterion has long held the crown when it comes to consistently amazing package design (Mrs. Nerdlinger, a graphic designer, has heartily concurred on several occasions). The packages that follow are all from The Auteurs website (which, if you're a film buff, is a snooty but awesome site). Enjoy.

An underrated movie, IMO. Nice, moody work.

This cover is so appropriate, but only if you've seen the film. Still, it's great and I literally could see this being their actual release should they ever do it.

This one is not as polished as the previous ones, but there's something about it I really like.

A nice clean design, but it's a little too evocative of Criterion's recent Truffaut boxed set. Still, really well done.

Not a movie for everyone, definitely, and this isn't the best cover, but I'm so awed by Damian Lewis' performance in the flick; I think it's one of the best film performances of the last ten years.

Once again, this design is so perfect for the film, if you've seen it. To be honest, why hasn't Criterion released this?It's right up their alley.

It's weird how many people really love this film. It's a film that not only failed at the box office, but it was openly despised in a lot of reviews. Watching it now, it's just so damn good. The performances, the mood, the rampant paranoia, all of it is masterfully done. It's still a horror flick, but it's one of those horror flicks that has grown beyond the genre. And it's a really pretty cover for such an ugly, downbeat film.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

RIP - Ed McMahon

Some sad but not wholly unexpected news out of Hollywood today, as beloved second banana Ed McMahon has passed away at the age of 86.

McMahon had a long career in show biz, doing numerous gigs like hosting Star Search for a dozen years, co-hosting TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes with Dick Clark, and serving as the celebrity face of the Publisher's Sweepstakes. But it was as Johnny Carson's long-standing sidekick on The Tonight Show that McMahon earned TV immortality.

He was first paired with Carson in 1957, on the game show Who Do You Trust? When Carson took over the hosting duties for Tonight from Jack Paar in 1962, he brought McMahon with him, and he sat on the couch next to Johnny for the next 30 years, becoming a truly beloved face to millions of viewers.

Known for his enthusiastic laugh and catch phrases such as "Hey-yo!", McMahon also gave one of the most famous introduction in television history: "And now, heeeeeeeeeere's Johnny!" He was the straight man and comic foil to several of the legendary comic routines on The Tonight Show, most notably the always hilarious Carnac the Magnificent routine.

In later years, the man famous for his willingness to pitch almost anything would fall upon dire financial hardships, resulting in the near loss of his home to creditors. He would eventually work out a deal to save the house and keep him from ruin, mostly through the generosity of famous friends such as Donald Trump. The financial problems were most likely caused by numerous serious illnesses; he broke his neck in 2007 and was likely suffering from bone cancer, among other afflictions.

Here's a nice quote from an LA Times Obituary:

"My role was to make him look good while not looking too good myself," he (McMahon)wrote, and "to get Johnny to the punch line while seeming to do nothing at all." Carson, for his part, left the air saying, "This show would have been impossible to do without Ed."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Nerd Report Gallery - Awesome Insanity

Today I'm launching yet another new recurring feature I've dubbed the Nerd Report Gallery, a virtual collection of film posters throughout the history of film. We're opening with a selection of posters that are so bizarre, cheesy or otherwise insane that they reach the level of awesome.

begin with this:
The levels of awesome are literally radiating from this poster. How do you turn a culture-swiping, white-trash, kung-fu enthusiast and horse tranquilizer addict into a legendary figure? Well, first off, they become the fucking King of Rock n' Roll. Next off, they get a white jumpsuit. Then, they get this poster. Mission accomplished.

"So, yeah, baby, I live downtown, we can just hop in a cab and......oh, they're turning the ugly lights on, right? Ha-ha - SWEET JESUS, YOU'RE A FUCKING LIZARD!"

I can't read Russian, and therefore have no clue what this movie is about, but if the scene depicted here is in the movie, it may the greatest film ever made.

The title. That picture of John Wayne; is that lipstick? Too.......many........double.......entendres. And I don't know why the title would have been less funny if it had been "Ride 'Em Cowboy" but it would have. There's something so insistent about the "Ride Him Cowboy".

Seriously - look at that poster. Do you not want to see this movie right now? Space Vampires? The Millenium Falcon? Horny, probably naked teenagers? I don't even have a joke to make, this is just incredible.

What the fuck.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Comic Observations: Spoiler Alert for Captain America fans!

For those of you Captain America fans that want to keep upcoming story developments a surprise, I should say that you probably don't want to read the following post. 'Kay? you've been warned.

As reported in various places from Comic Book sites like Newsarama to CNN, Steve Rogers will be returning to life and presumably returning as Cap in the upcoming Captain America: Reborn miniseries.

Here's a little back story:

After a fame hungry super team called the New Warriors engage in a reckless battle that results in a 9/11-like event, the country goes bat shit regarding allowing masked people in stretchy costumes to beat the shit out of pretty much anyone they feel like.

Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) leads a group of heroes pushing for a registration act for all powered people in the US. Captain America naturally feels that forcing people who voluntarily put their lives on the line defending the planet from Fin Fang Foom and shit like that is a pretty douchey thing to do and goes rogue, along with a bunch of other heroes. Also the pro-reg guys do a lot of crazy-ass (and completely out of character) stuff like cloning their old buddy Thor and use the clone as a psychotic weapon, and building a prison in the Negative Zone where they start sticking people without trial. Basically Tony Stark becomes Dick Cheney and Captain America becomes......well, I guess the legion of people that really, really wanted to kick Cheney in the dick. Except Cap loses. Well, he kind of gives up, really (another out of character move). That's a quick summary of the Civil War miniseries, which was enjoyable, even if it did force characters to behave in ways they never have before or since in the name of making the author's point.

Cap's arrested, and while he's being transported up the courthouse steps to stand trial, he's seemingly assassinated by his mind-controlled lover, Sharon Carter, who's being manipulated by Cap's old enemy the Red Skull. Taking up the shield and the identity of Captain America is James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes. Bucky was Cap's special forces sidekick during WWII, and has long been thought dead in an explosion. It turns out he was captured by the Soviets and brainwashed into becoming a super-spy/hit man for them. Bucky was kept in suspended animation between missions, which explains how he's only aged a few years.

For the last 3 years or so, the architect behind
Captain America has been Ed Brubaker. While Civil War was largely a chaotic messy extravaganza written by Mark Millar, Bru's run on Captain America has been tight as a drum. He eschews bombast and theatrics for crafting lean, effective thrillers. Since taking over Cap, the series has consistently been among the best titles published by Marvel, and that is largely due to the creative team, particularly Brubaker. In fact, his choices on the title have been so good as that his new version of Captain America is engrossing enough for me to not really miss Steve Rogers all that much. So, while I'm excited at the prospect of his return, it's only because I'm excited to Bru's master plan come to fruition.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

100 "Greatest" Movie Lines in 200 Seconds

Okay, "greatest" is being applied pretty liberally here, because Rob Schneider shows up in the clip, which automatically makes your choices more than a little suspect. Schneider has never said, been a party to, or even been near someone when they uttered a "greatest" line.

Still, it's prettty fun.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

RIP - David Carradine

Some very sad news today, as it's being reported that actor David Carradine has been found dead in a hotel in Bangkok. The Thai police are reporting that Carradine may have committed suicide by hanging himself, which, if true, makes this news all the more tragic.

Carradine was born in 1936, the son of character actor John Carradine, and formed part of an American acting dynasty that included him, his father and his brothers Robert, Keith and Bruce. In the early 1970s he appeared in the early Scorsese films Boxcar Bertha and Mean Streets and had a small role in Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye.

But it was as Kwai Chang Caine in the 1970s series Kung Fu that made Carradine a star. He played a martial arts expert wandering the wild west in the series, which had been developed by Bruce Lee, dispensing wisdom in between kicking ass.

He left the series in 1975, eager for new challenges, and immediately found another cult success when he starred in Roger Corman's goofy satire Death Race 2000. He followed that with his acclaimed performance in the Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory and by starring in The Serpent's Egg, which was directed by Ingmar Bergman.

However, it soon became clear that he was also a little unconventional. There were instances where he was caught openly high on mind-altering drugs of all kinds, which wasn't that unusual for the time, but gave him the reputation of being a slightly "gonzo" figure. This, combined with some odd script choices, saw his status go from acclaimed A-list actor to schlocky B-movie star. Some of these, like Q or Roadside Prophets, became cult films, but the vast majority were quickly forgotten.

Over the year he returned to the Kung Fu franchise, but never to the height of the original series. His comeback happened when Quentin Tarantino cast him as the titular figure in his two-part opus Kill Bill, which brought Carradine a new legion of fans. Although he had a few more high profile roles, mostly in television, he returned to the B-movie industry, which had been his bread and butter for decades.

Goodnight, Grasshopper.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Comic Observations - Who's Your Batty?

Welcome, comic book fans, to the inaugural posting of a new feature here at The Nerd Report that I like to call Comic Observations. It's going to be a (hopefully) funny look at the goings on in the world of comics.

opening with a look at the current status quo for one of DC's flagship characters, namely Batman. Why open with the Caped Crusader? Well, today marks the publication of a new series called Batman and Robin. You may recall I first blogged about this comic back in March. The series marks a new era for the Batman franchise as original Robin Dick Grayson is taking over the role of Batman, and Bruce Wayne's illegitimate son Damian assumes the role of Robin. If this is making more than a few of you go, "Huh?", allow me to give you a brief backstory.

Bruce Wayne was the son of the Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne. The Waynes were rich. Like scary rich. They live in Gotham City, which makes Detroit look like Mayberry. One night, the Waynes go slumming and see a movie in a neighbourhood that more closely resembles a DMZ and, of course, wear all their expensive jewelery. Predictably, a mugger kills the parents while trying to mug them, but spares little Bruce, presumably because being named Bruce is punishment enough. Bruce, now crazy rich and left in the care of a middle-aged British butler named Alfred, resolves to dedicate his life to fighting crime. Obviously, Alfred beats out Fagin as "Worst Surrogate Father Figure Ever".

Bruce spends the next ten years or so "training his mind and body to the peak of human perfection", and then resolves to dress up in an elaborate costume and spend his nights beating the ever-loving shit out of purse-snatchers. How this will end crime more effectively than a multi-billionaire focusing all his resources on comprehensive social programs, poverty solutions and policing is beyond me, but all that's probably not as satisfying as kicking a rapist in the balls so hard that his scrotum pops out of his mouth.

One night, Bruce visits a circus where he witnesses the murder of the show's stars, an acrobat act called The Flying Graysons. The only survivor is young Dick Grayson, who somehow has been relentlessly training as an acrobat instead of, oh, going to school. And because Bruce is all different kinds of fucked up (and also because hanging out only with Alfred is presumably getting creepy) he sees in Dick a kindred spirit. Bruce makes Dick his ward, a term so rife with overtones of molestation that we don't even use it anymore. He also encourages this pre-pubescent to train with him and dress up in short-shorts and pixie boots and fight criminals with guns. Thus Batman and Robin are born.

This goes on for a while until Dick is in his late teens, at which point the college student decides fighting crime with bare, hairless legs has probably resulted in untold trauma and he should assert his own identity tout fuckin' suite. So, Dick becomes Nightwing, and instantly becomes much cooler. Bruce meanwhile apparently can't live without a teenage boy by his side, spouting one-liners, and he adopts juvenile deliquent named Jason Todd. Jason turns out to be a total asshole and refuses to listen to the advice of Batman, which has predictable results; namely Jason gets his brains beaten out by the Joker and then blown up. So, now Batman is responsible for the death of a teen aged boy, which you think would get him kicked out of the "sane people" club, but nah, not really.

A few years go by (by the way, during all this time Bruce Wayne has remained, like thirty years old - he's the Dick Clark of comic book heroes) and this nerdy kid named Tim Drake uncovers Batman's secret identity. Drake insists that Batman needs a Robin in his life, 'cause I guess banging supermodels, being a billionaire philanthropist, having awesome gadgets and beating the shit out of homicidal maniacs without fear of reprisal is an empty life. Drake becomes Robin, ditches the shorts, and now all's right with the world.

Things go on mostly like this for a good long time, until Grant Morrison comes along. Morrison takes over writing the Batman comics and also writes a big event miniseries for DC called Final Crisis. In his Batman: RIP story arc, he seems to kill off Batman in a helicopter crash while the Bat does battle with a bad guy that may be a mad scientist, Dr. Thomas Wayne, or the devil. Take your pick really, it's not AT ALL clear. Okay. Except that apparently, Batman survives that and goes back to the Batcave, exhausted. He then helps out some other heroes, but gets captured by the human manifestation of a race of alien gods. Batman escapes and confronts Darksied, the evil leader of these gods. Batman shoots the god with an anti-god bullet, but not before Darkseid shoots Batman with his Omega Sanction eye beams, which leave behind the charred corpse of Bruce Wayne for Superman to find. Except we see what appears to be Bruce Wayne drawing on a cave wall in what appears to be the prehistoric past.

If that above paragraph seemed at all reasonable or easy to follow for you, then you are probably high.

So, what now? Well, Dick Grayson is reluctantly taking over the mantle of Batman, after having defeated a resurrected Jason Todd, who had usurped the role and nearly killed Tim Drake. Grayson will obviously take the recently discovered son of Bruce Wayne Damian Wayne under his wing. Damian is the result of the love affair between Bruce and a the daughter of an international crime lord named Ra's Al Ghul (go watch Batman Begins, and you'll find out who he is) and has been raised by assassins and crazy people all his life.

Tim Drake was recently in an explosion that resulted in him receiving third degree burns over a lot of his body. He is giving up the role of Robin to become Red Robin, which means he'll be fighting crime and overseeing a shitty restaurant chain.

So that's where the Bat-universe is now, and I for one think it's a pretty good thing. It shakes things up for a little while until Bruce comes back. That is the central point that does deflate this "event" a little; no one who reads comics thinks Bruce will be gone for long. How long depends with how much fans connect with the new status quo.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stupid, stupid, stupid CBC

After months of everyone pretty much being certain anyways, SPACE has confirmed on its site that it now has the Canadian broadcast rights to Doctor Who. This also confirms to me that the CBC has given up programming anything besides Hockey that people will actually watch.

Back in 2005, when the revamped Doctor Who debuted, CBC was a co-production partner. As such, Canada was the first place in North America to see the new series when it debuted on CBC with much fanfare in only ten days after its UK debut. Even though it garnered critical acclaim and good ratings, each subsequent season seemed less and less important to the CBC. It never even aired Voyage of the Damned, one of the Christmas specials, and the previous special was aired in the middle of summer. It aired the first season of spinoff Torchwood, then abruptly dropped it, allowing SPACE to pick it up and have it become a popular show for them. The network would premept the show for anything, although usually they did so for hockey. Even with each season airing at different times of year and different time slots, the show still had a following.

Cut to 2008, and SPACE picks up the rights for The Next Doctor. They advertised the living hell out of the show, and they seemed genuinely excited and happy to air it. No doubt they'll have as great a success with it as they've had with Torchwood.

This whole story is indicative of what's wrong with the CBC. Their programming gets more and more bland with each passing year. I've watched Little Mosque on the Prairie, which is charming enough. They've got a ton of differing types of news shows and documentary-type shows. I've never enjoyed Just for Laughs Gags or This Hour has 22 Minutes or Rick Mercer, but even if I did do we really need three sketch comedy/news satire shows on one network? They used to have Intelligence, which was a well-done, risky show, but it is gone now. They still put out a Da Vinci TV-movie every so often, which is okay, I suppose. I just feel like the CBC is more interested in being Canadian than in being entertaining. They've aired Coronation Street forever. They just bought Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, which makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever, but they obviously have no problem with product from elsewhere.

It just seems like they are completely uninterested in airing anything outside their "box", which may be why I know so few people who watch the CBC. My parents watch hockey, but they don't watch any other show on the network (my dad watched Doctor Who, though, and he doesn't have cable, so he's irritated that he'll miss it). No one I know that is my age regularly watches anything on that network that doesn't involve a hockey stick. Occasionally they'll watch The Hour, but it's not a must-see.

So, those of you in charge of the CBC? Are you saying there's no room for sci-fi in Canada? No room for drama or adventure? Why don't we have a procedural cop show set on the streets of Vancouver? Why don't we have a Lost type show full of mystery? Why hasn't a CBC exec talked to Dick Wolf about a Law & Order show set in Toronto (they're doing it in London soon)? Why isn't there a CSI : Vancouver? You may laugh, but I'd rather watch that than Sophie, and so, I bet would a lot of other people.