Tales of the Spineless

I try to stay to a schedule of Monday-Wednesday-Friday, but there are times like last Friday when I get held up in court all day. It just happens that way sometimes. So sorry I missed the blog on Friday. Time to catch up on a ton of stuff:

don't worry guys, we don't blame you

don't worry guys, we don't blame you

If you’re like me, you were watching the end of South Park on Wednesday night wondering if the bleeped speeched by Kyle and Santa Claus was some kind of Sopranos-like joke or whether Comedy Central lost its cajones and decided to censor it. This followed about 18 trillion bleep-outs of the word “Muhammad” even though it had been allowed in the previous week in part one of the two-part 200th episode special. It had been bleeped so much, I originally thought it was a joke to make it sound so ridiculous it was funny. Which it wasn’t, so that should have been the first clue. But we know now it wasn’t a joke — it was just a spineless way of appeasing a terrorist organization. If it was Comedy Central that censored it, what were they scared of? It’s not like these Muslim extremists have any clue who runs the company. If there would have been any retribution, it would have been to Matt Stone and Trey Parker, and they seem like they wanted to keep the end-of-the-episode speeches and the Muhammads in the show. So whatever. The episode wasn’t as funny as the first part, and that’s the biggest problem. I saw the Scott Tenorman thing coming a mile away, so it lacked originality.

What isn’t lacking originality is Community, the under-appreciated Thursday night NBC comedy which came through with its best episode to date last Thursday, a three-laugh-a-minute, riotous send-up of gangster movies. It easily gets the award for most improved show of the year, it’s been consistently funny since about Christmas and at time, is the funniest show of the NBC comedy lineup. I always thought Family Guy had some kind of advantage over every other show because it was animated and therefore had a much easier time shoehorning in pop culture references. South Park accused Family Guy of taking the lazy way out when it came to spoofing pop culture, but I just didn’t think you could make so many relevant pop culture references in a live-action show. Community is proving me wrong. It’s the only show other than Family Guy that I have to tell my wife, “That’s Good Fellas. Now they’re doing Casino.” But she’s still laughing anyway even if she doesn’t fully get the joke, which means its funny on new levels too, it’s not just a copy off of a movie. Anyone not watching Community yet who is a fan of other shows like The Office, Flight of the Conchords or Modern Family, I’d highly suggest getting into Community. When NBC canceled My Name is Earl last year, I was OK with it because the show had gone precipitously downhill. But it was still funny, so if they were canceling it, I was worried whatever replaced it wouldn’t be as funny. Remember Kath and Kim last year? But Community has more than exceeded my expectations, and hopefully it will start getting more of an audience because of all the NBC Thursday comedies, it seems to be the most vulnerable to the whims of a network suit who would pull the plug after two weeks of mediocre ratings. I rarely embed a whole episode of anything, but if you haven’t seen it and you 20 minutes to kill, it’s worth it.

My favorite Internet feature is Random Roles over at AV Club. Listening to actors talk about their past roles in a non-BS forum to me is just gold. It’s like Inside the Actors Studio without its three worst attributes — the pretentiousness, the @ss-kissing and James Lipton. Why can’t he just stick to making cameos on Conan and live off his Arrested Development royalties? Random Roles is the Inside the Actors Studio for the movie geeks like me. We don’t care that much about hearing about Johnny Depp’s career, we’ve heard about it a trillion times and the interview likely would be peppered with self-indulgent political nonsense. Pass. But Dave Foley? Sign me up! It’s been on a downswing for a while, but blasted through with two great ones in the past week — Adam Scott and William Atherton, who I mentioned a couple weeks ago as being on the short list of best villains of all time. Atherton is the foil to some of my favorite 80s characters — Peter Venkman, Chris Knight and John McClane — so it’s really interesting to me to hear about why he thinks Real Genius has become such a cult classic even thought it didn’t do anything at the box office. And I just think Adam Scott is a cool guy. Maybe it’s because the first time I saw him was as the cool guy on Boy Meets World, but I haven’t seen him do anything bad yet. I’m catching up a little on Party Down now OnDemand and will be renting the season one DVDs in the summer when the TV season calms down a little bit.

Someone please get us to Memorial Day before I die of boredom at the box office. There is nothing inherently impressive at all about how successful How to Train Your Dragon has performed, even though it got the top spot back this weekend after being out of it for four weeks. Actually, you could say that with how completely crappy the other April movies have been, it should be doing better and never have given up the top spot. Or at least have made $20 million last weekend instead of $15. The gravy train ends this weekend when Nightmare on Elm Street comes out.

this is a slippery slope, cameron

this is a slippery slope, cameron

Sometimes it’s not a bad thing when you hear a movie you thought was being made won’t be made. Like a fifth Indiana Jones or another Star Wars. George Lucas already ruined those two franchises — why would we want him to take it a step further and actually dig their shallow graves? But other times, it’s a bummer. Maybe this guy’s assessment of an Arrested Development movie is what I always knew but didn’t want to admit — it’s probably not happening. You’ve got to coordinate schedules for a slew of in-demand actors (Jason Bateman and Michael Cera), have to work around the schedules of the TV shows of some others (Jessica Walter on 90210, Will Arnett in his new pilot) and worst off, there’s no script yet and the target shooting date was this fall. That’s the scariest part. This thing has been sitting around for years — and there’s no script yet? You would think the ideas would have been rolling around for a while now and once they finally got their movie check, they could sit down at the computer and bang it out in a weekend. The fact that there is no script yet is probably pretty telling.

This shouldn’t be any kind of signal that the DVD market is coming back. Just because Avatar broke all kinds of first-week DVD records doesn’t mean squat other than it’s the new Star Wars. Normally with a DVD release, no one tells you that in a couple years, months, weeks, there will be another, more complete DVD release. But with Avatar, we know that by November, there would be one that improves on the bare-bones first release. And in a couple years when 3-D TVs become more common, there will be another release, I’d imagine. So Avatar fans will be sucking these things up like crazy for the next five years while James Cameron buys a house next to Skywalker Ranch, grows a beard and makes a prequel to Titanic.

But let’s not single out Cameron for money-grubbing. A two-part Alien prequel? What could be so important in the life of Ripley that it needs four hours instead of two? You’re going to be selling tickets of a generation of 20 and 30-somethings who think Alien is the guy who fought Predator. Making a two-part backstory that really doesn’t even have anything to do with the actual alien is pretty risky.

where's alfonso, i want a fresh prince movie too!

where's alfonso, i want a fresh prince movie too!

For a couple years there, you could say Will Smith was up there with George Clooney when it came to making career decisions. He made great ones, a mix of Oscar bait and interesting, original characters in big-budget popcorn movies so that he didn’t alienate his fans. It seemed like it was all going according to plan — then came the critical and commercial disaster of Seven Pounds. Either the cool offers dried up, he decided he hated the interesting movies or Smith’s home is being foreclosed on, because since then, there have been rumors/announcements of Men in Black 3, Independence Day 2, Bad Boys 3 and an I Am Legend prequel.  What, no sequel coming for Parents Just Don’t Understand? He’s one of the few people who has credibility with critics and audiences, but he’s dangerously close to p!ssing off every critic on the planet if all of these movies end up to be for reals.

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