Your Poconos Weekend Fun Guide Returns

Sorry I’ve missed this for a couple weeks, though I doubt anyone lost sleep over it. Anyway, here’s your first weekend of March Weekend Fun Guide. I get to be really happy and not very sarcastic in this one, which is a welcome change of pace:

what a shock! flyin' blind is playing in the poconos this weekend! all that means is we're lucky.

A couple months ago, we got pretty worried ’round here about what was looking like the beginning of the end for live music in the Poconos, especially in the ‘Burgs. Since then, things are picking up rather nicely, thanks very much. In fact, two of the places that decided to drop live music are bringing it back, at least temporarily, this weekend. The Jim Roberti Band is at Siamsa in Stroudsburg tonight after it decided to scrap its upstairs live music idea, and then FOPR band Flyin’ Blind is at Whispers on West Main Street in Stroudsburg on Saturday. Best part about the Siamsa event? No cover. Perfect way to get people interested in bringing live music back.

Wait, that’s not all! The new ownership/management (not sure which) at Big Daddy’s in Bartonsville is trying its hand at live music too, and the cool thing is that these seem like new bands they’re getting. New bands! That’s always fun. Perhaps the demise of live music in the Stroudsburg area has been greatly exaggerated. Friday night the bar has Big Things, and OK, they’re not new, but some of the bands they’ve been getting are new.

And let’s not forget Panda Pub in Marshalls Creek, the new sports bar in the Four Seasons on Route 209, which looks like it’s committed to having at least one live band a week. Its band this on Saturday is a newcomer to the scene too, Gina Giordano and her band. The show goes on Saturday from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., and they’ve also got a DJ tonight and a free happy hour buffet after work today.

New venue, new live music. Newberry’s Yard of Ale at the old Mollie’s on Main Street in Stroudsburg just opened last week, so why not add its name to a list of places where you can find live music. Kris Sherer is up tonight with an acoustic set.

And another live music destination, FOPR Joe O’Malley is playing at Peppe’s Bistro in the Eagle Valley Mall from 7:30 to 10:30 tonight.  It’s official, I’ll keep my big yapper shut the next time I get worried about live music on the bar scene around here.

So thanks bar owners, for keeping live music going around here and not subjecting us to every bar crowd breaking out into spontaneous Harlem Shake renditions, which, after this, I’m soooooo over. Who’da thunk I’d be longing for the days of Gangnam Style already?

Something else I’ve been clamoring for — better acts at Mount Airy. The casino’s been coming through lately, and have another good show on tap for Saturday with west coast 90s alt-rock from Everclear. Mount Airy certainly seems to be cementing themselves as a the place to go to find mediocre 90s alt-rock bands. That’s not a dig, I swear, it’s actually a compliment because I love mediocre 90s alt-rock bands. How far away is Toad the Wet Sprocket from signing on for a gig there? Can’t be too far away, right? I would define Everclear as the ultimate “like, don’t love” band for me. I wouldn’t pay $55 for the ticket, but if I was at a bar and a cover band played Santa Monica, I’d be up dancing and singing every word.

my eyes! my EYES!!!

Madd Anthony’s in kinda Blakeslee is doing another stop light party at 9 p.m. Saturday, which I doubt anyone remembers, but I completely endorse. I think the whole thing is hysterical. I’ve never done one, but holy hell it would be funny to people watch that whole thing. Especially the people wearing yellow, those poor b@stards will have about as much fun as listening to a 24-hour Morrissey music marathon. You know what the best conversation piece would be? Wear black. Or blue. You’ll have drunk people crawling all over you all night bewildered out of their gords asking, “Wait, so what exactly does it mean that you’re wearing purple?” And you can come up with some clever comeback like, “You’ve never seen the traffic lights in Albrightsville, have you?” Then you share a laugh and away you go. I just helped anywhere between 10 and 15 people hook up tomorrow. In a related note, I think I just had a seizure when I did a Google image search for “traffic light party.” Seriously, someone might want to call 9-1-1 for me.

The Living Room at the Sherman Theater just keeps coming up with cool ideas for their shows, they’re doing a great job. On Saturday it’s all about pop culture, with any kind of artwork under that theme accepted to be displayed for the show from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday. There are also two singers performing, locals Jesse Morales and Theomar Chakey Francois performing at 6:30. After that it’s the first karaoke night for the Living Room, because why not? Now here’s the fun part — they’re asking people to dress up as your favorite pop culture icon. Whoooooaaaaa Nelly, now you’re speakin’ my language. In a heartbeat, I’d go Zack Morris dressing exactly like this picture. Find one of those crazy 80s cell phones, and you’re golden. You’re welcome. That’s another person I just helped hook up on Saturday, because trust me, you’ll be beating them off with a stick.

still looks pretty angry to me.

Comedian Jim Norton is coming back to Poconuts today and tomorrow with two shows each day from 8 to 10 p.m. at comedy club in Pocono Brewing Company on Route 611 in Swiftwater. Pretty sure this is his third time there, off the top of my head. The first time he was there I interviewed him for some publicity, and he seemed like a pretty cool guy, up for anything. I don’t think I’ve heard anything differently about him, and have heard he puts on a good, fun show. As long as you don’t bring your kids, that is. Tickets are $20, which seems pretty reasonable for a comic talent like Norton at a comedy club in the Poconos. On a separate note, this is Week Three of my self-imposed exile from happy hour at PBC, because I just don’t trust myself around free wings on a Lenten Friday.Then the first post-Lent week I’ll be heading to Philly for Opening Day, so that’s an extra week without wings. I might lose 20 pounds by the time this whole thing is over.

Wow, are you in luck if you like chili this weekend. Saturday is the 25th annual chili cook-off at Daniels Top-O-the-Poconos Family Resort from 1 to 5 p.m. in Canadensis, and then Sunday is yet another chili cook-off from noon to 4 p.m. at Ehrhardt’s Waterfront Resort on Route 507 on Lake Wallenpaupack. Oh, and the Ehrardt’s one is throwing in wings too. Holy geez, what are they trying to do, smoke the tourists out of the Poconos? Daniels and Ehrhardt’s aren’t necessarily that far away from each other, maybe about 20 miles by way of Route 390. The poor people who live half way, like around Promised Land State Park, could be in for quiet a Sunday night. Close those windows up tight if you live around there!

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Is It Oscar Time Again Already???

(This is a preview of the PopRox column in the Sunday Pocono Record. You should read it again there on Sunday because … well, I can’t come up with a good answer. But you should anyway.)

Last week’s Oscars are just that — last week.

And even though we probably won’t see anything Oscar-related hitting theaters for a couple of months, there’s no reason we can’t take a look at the 2013 movie slate and see what’s promising for the 2014 Oscars:

he may have won the oscar a week ago if gatsby had come out in december as originally planned

BEST ACTOR
Leonardo DiCaprio, for something
DiCaprio is primed for a huge 2013, as the title characters in two of the most anticipated movies of the year: The incredible-looking The Great Gatsby (releasing May 10) and Martin Scorsese-directed The Wolf of Wall Street (releasing fourth quarter). One of those roles has to land a best actor nomination, right? Plus, people are going to notice that he’s only gotten one nomination for his four previous Scorsese collaborations, and they’ll know that’s not enough.

BEST DIRECTOR
Jason Reitman, Labor Day (TBD release)
He’s directed four movies, he’s received two Oscar nominations, and it certainly looks as if this one has a shot for a third nomination with a cast of Kate Winslet (Oscar winner), Josh Brolin and Jacki Weaver (Oscar nominees) and Tobey Maguire. It’s a story about giving a drifter a ride and he turns out to be an escaped convict. Seriously, though, it’s probably not going to look like a bad Twilight Zone episode with Reitman behind the camera.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Cormac McCarthy, The Counselor (October release)
McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist career has already led to critically acclaimed movies like No Country for Old Men and All the Pretty Horses. It also led to The Road, but whatever. Thanks to those adaptations he’s already on the inside of the Hollywood circle — and that’s half the battle in this category. The Counselor is his first written-for-the-screen work, a story of the drug trade in the Southwest and in Mexico and has some heavyweight talent (Ridley Scott directing, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt starring) so McCarthy has the inside track to a nomination while some of the name writers — Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Mike Leigh — are sitting this year out.

carey mulligan, this is the world. world, carey mulligan.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Carey Mulligan, Inside Llewyn Davis or The Great Gatsby
DiCaprio’s female lead in Gatsby is primed for, finally, her American breakthrough year. Gatsby is going to be big, and that’s where she’ll get the publicity. But her potential performance in the latest Coen Brothers experiment, Inside Llewyn Davis, coming to theaters during December’s award season, is what could be grabbing the headlines by the end of the year. From the little we see of her in the trailer, there’s no reason to think she can’t be Oscar-worthy.

BEST SONG
Justin Timberlake and Marcus Mumford for whatever song they sing in Inside Llewyn Davis
This is the slam-dunk of the predictions. If you can find someone to take this bet on the chance they won’t know what you’re talking about and they think it sounds like a ridiculous wager, by all means, TAKE IT! The two are collaborating on some music for the movie — in which Timberlake has a supporting role — and with the lack of star power in the category in recent years (other than Adele this year), these guys could sing about how they thoroughly enjoy eating their own poop and it would win the Oscar.

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Smart Move, Seth

Some quick links for your Wednesday:

he might be looking at boobs right there.

Good for Seth MacFarlane to pretty much give the world the middle finger by saying he doesn’t want to host the Oscars again. What the frigg did anyone expect? The opening number basically looked and felt like a live-action Family Guy episode. The Lincoln assassination joke sounds exactly like a joke Family Guy did about Franklin Roosevelt’s legs 10 years ago. He was most assuredly brought in to grab younger viewers (which he did) and shake things up a bit (which he definitely did). And for that he gets ripped? He needs that like he needs to be hit over the head repeatedly with an aluminum baseball bat. And forget about Tina Fey too, said all the people who claimed to be clamoring for her but were secretly hoping she’d turn tail after they watched the last two seasons of 30 Rock.

When Dancing with the Stars started, seeing the cast was pretty funny because it was washed up stars we had an affinity for at one time or another. They were no longer Hollywood “stars” but they at least made us curious. And the random sports celebrity was always a top-flight star, someone that made men say, “I’m going to gladly watch a show that highlights ballroom dancing because I really, really wanna see Emmitt Smith dance.” With this season’s cast, I don’t know how anyone could justify watching it, and certainly no men over the age of 30 should even consider admitting they’ll be watching this season. Jacoby Jones? Victor Ortiz? Those are your sports stars? And when Andy Dick is the one grabbing all the headlines, you’re hard up. My mom is a DWTS addict, and I’m pretty sure the only one she can even recognize in the new cast is Dorothy Hamill.

Someone needs to stop me. Seriously. Someone right now needs to take my computer, keyboard, mouse, headphones and everything else away from me RIGHT NOW so that I can no longer bother all of you with the latest, littlest, silliest Arrested Development news. Like that Ben Stiller will reprise his role and be a guest star, which was a given anyway. Or that there likely is only going to be one season on Netflix, at least until we wait another five years and basically bully some new streaming service into reuniting the old gang.

how could anyone have seen this coming?

From the “No Really, We Mean It This Time!” file, Stone Temple Pilots once again fired Scott Weiland. You know, I thought those crazy kids would be able to make it. Why would they even bring him back anyway? There are dozens of bands that are able to tour and make gobs of money with new or subbing lead singers. And they acrimony that broke the bands up in the first place wasn’t nearly as bad as, “Our lead singer is an unreliable,  self-destructive smack addict.” Anyway, you can probably look forward to a new Weiland-led STP album and tour in 2018.

Wait, another horror show on FX? It’s really, really taxing enduring a whole season of American Horror Story. If FX plants these two shows somehow together — one on Tuesdays, one on Wednesdays, something like that — I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle it. Especially if Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange are going to be sparring next year, that sounds just insanely good. And, taxing.

I’m calling BS on this “Best Sitcom of the Last 30 Years” thing over at Vulture. I love Community. But if I had only 16 choices to pick the best sitcoms of the past three decades … I seriously doubt Community is making the list. Maybe it might make my favorites, but I don’t know if when you take everything into account — ratings should at least play some part — that Community can be one of the 16 best sitcoms of the last 30 years, beating out Frasier, Big Bang Theory, Everybody Loves Raymond, Modern Family, Married with Children, That 70s Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm. OK, off the top of my head here are my top 16: Simpsons, South Park, Seinfeld, Saved by the Bell (The Four S’s), Family Ties, Cheers, The Office, Arrested Development, Friends, 30 Rock, Married with Children, NewsRadio, Beavis and Butthead, Reno 911!, Night Court, Wings … I’m pretty sure that’s 16. Yeah, that’s 16. And I haven’t really researched it that much, but I know if I was buying sets of shows on DVD, I’d buy all of those before Community (and have). And it’s not counting Kids in the Hall, because that’s not really a sitcom. And as questionable as Community’s inclusion is, it doesn’t even come close to the travesty that is including Louie in this joke of a contest. Vulture, fail. I’m already more interested in its comedy undercard, which I think would be much more interesting and not as douchy. And because I could use a laugh now …

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It’s True. We Saw All Those Boobs.

Leftover Oscar thoughts:

What’s worse, the chauvinistic We Saw Your Boobs song Seth MacFarlane belted out, or the fact that I knew all those movies for those specific nudity-related reasons and thought the list was incomplete and flawed? Why did he go with Monster’s Ball for Halle Berry instead of Swordfish? And Brokeback Mountain for Anne Hathaway when Havoc is sitting out there for the taking? He probably had to go Brokeback because about five people have seen Havoc, and those five people all saw it to see Hathaway get nekked for the first time. I know I did. And holy moley picking Monster for Charlize Theron over Devil’s Advocate in her long list of nude scenes is like picking Michael Jordan’s rookie year as the best year of his career. Either way, the song was awesome. It’s so nice that it’s not as creepy as it used to be to be a nudity savant.

Keeping up with Twitter during something like the Oscars is dang near impossible, but bless your heart for trying, CNN. While the rest of the world was trying to pick out who was wearing the best dress, I spent most of the night who had the best Twitter messages. I’m going with Joel McHale, who was cracking me up most of the night.

please note harry potter's "get me out of here" look

What the hell was up with Kristen Stewart? I know she had a broken leg or something, but I’ve had broken legs before, and I was never very doped up on painkillers. So whatever it was that made her look more dead than anyone in the In Memoriam piece, she needs to lay off it, pronto. Apparently, she stepped on glass, and ended up on crutches. I guess she was trying to take down some baddies at Nakatomi Tower and had to run across a glass-filled room just to escape their perilous clutches. Kristen Stewart, John McClane laughs at you.

We should seriously start a pool next year to predict who the Oscars will miss in the In Memoriam thing. This year would have been hard, but when you miss Rosalita, the maid from The Goonies, why are you even bothering running the thing?

Jennifer Lawrence is rocketing up the list of coolest people in Hollywood. It’s pretty easy to tell she doesn’t give a good rat’s behind what you think of her. She says whatever she wants, it seems like she does whatever she wants, and now that she’s got an Oscar, she’s probably going to ratchet it up to a whole new level. Kinda like Big Ern in Kingpin. “Finally … Jennifer Lawrence is above the law!” We should all be very excited for the next 10 years of Jennifer Lawrence, or at least until some PR flunky gets a hold of her and teaches how to keep her yapper shut.

Quentin Tarantino is my cinematic God and there was thunderous applause from my couch when he won his second screenplay Oscar. But why are you even bothering wearing a tie if you’re just going to loosen it down to your belly button? At least he looks like he’s back to his fighting weight after packing on about 50 pounds in Django.

is ... is that hair gel?

While everyone was falling all over themselves saying how great Halle Berry looked, I thought her hair was designed using Ted Stroehmann’s hair gel from Something About Mary.

I’ve always known Kristin Chenoweth is short — she’s 4-foot-11 — but I don’t think I really knew it until ABC trotted her out for the pre-show red carpet interviews. It looks like Jennifer Garner — all 5-foot-8 of her — could have stepped on poor Chenoweth. The camera magic on Pushing Daisies and Glee to keep me from ever fully realizing it before is impressive.

You may or may not have heard this, but the show ran long. And apparently that was because the presenters were so long, to say nothing of how painfully unentertaining they were. The Jack Nicholson-Michelle Obama thing was excruciating, there wasn’t a person on the planet clamoring for a reunion of the Chicago cast and I can’t even remember one standout moment or joke from any of them.

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Top 20 Movies of 2012

My favorite blog post of the year, my top 20 movies of 2012.

Yeah, it’s late. But since I don’t actually review movies, I don’t get them sent to me by the studio. I gotta schlep around and wait for them to come to a local theater. That also means I haven’t seen everything that I probably should have seen, but I think I ended up seeing about 50 to 60 movies this year.

If you’ve seen post before, you might know the drill. My college friends and I have been doing yearly movie rankings since 1997, we call it the Orange Street Oscars. You call it awesome.

Anyway, here’s my list of top 20 movies of 2012. And remember, I’ll be live Tweeting the Oscars on Sunday, you can follow along @poprox1:

fully prepared for it to win no oscars, at which time i'll only be slightly disappointed.

1. Silver Linings Playbook: There were a couple movies this year that really hit me on a personal level, a level that went past just how well I thought the words and pictures went together. That’s how I usually judge — words and pictures together. I’ll leave it at this: Silver Linings Playbook is very funny, frustrating, exhilarating, uplifting, scary and beautiful to watch all at the same time. I know too many of the characters in that movie on a very personal and intimate level. The fact that it’s filmed in a place I’ve spent time living makes it all the more personal. It’s up there with Good Will Hunting and Beautiful Girls for me when it comes to the most personally touching movies of the last 15 years.

2. Zero Dark Thirty: While I’d like to see Kathryn Bigelow move out from the whole Middle East motif thing she’s got going, she certainly knows how to make war movies about that area. As good as The Hurt Locker was, Zero Dark Thirty is more polished with a better script and a more mature hand behind the camera. In the final “going after bin Laden” scene that I of course knew was coming, was prepared for it to come and was waiting for it to come, I still got sweaty palms watching it.

3. Avengers: There is no way, none, I could have predicted I would like this movie as much as I did. In fact, I had been predicting I wouldn’t like it nearly as much as the Disney XD cartoon that I liked a ton. Dark Knight and Spider Man 2, for me, remain the gold standards of comic book movies. But Avengers came pretty close to breaking into that exclusive club. After another couple viewings, it might be there.

4. Django Unchained: Lost in all the n-word debate concerning this movie was how freakin’ fat Quentin Tarantino got. He looks like he ate himself. Maybe that was his plan? He wanted to throw in so many n-words so that by the time he showed up at the end of the movie carrying an extra 60 pounds and sporting the worst Australian accent since Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, that no one would notice. Quentin, you remarkable genius, you’ve done it again.

5. Oslo, August 31: When you watch a foreign movie, you’re playing with fire. When you watch a foreign movie on Netflix streaming, you’re putting your hand directly into an open flame and holding it there for about 30 seconds. 999 times out of a 1000, you’re getting third degree burns. But maybe, just maybe, you get a truly engaging experience that’s one of the most realistic looks at the physical, social and emotional looks at drug recovery that you can cram into a 90-minute movie. That’s what this movie is.

6. Take This Waltz: One of the two instant entrants from 2012 into my Movie Music Hall of Fame, songs that I can’t hear without thinking of the movie or TV show that popularly used them. Take This Waltz offers Video Killed the Radio Star, with Michelle Williams enjoying the Scrambler until it abruptly stops, the music stops and she’s forced to go back into living her boring, meager life. It’s a beautiful, poignant set-up to the rest of the movie and a haunting metaphor for the road less traveled. And the movie is great too. (The other Movie Music Hall of Fame entry from 2012 is My Cherie Amour from Silver Linings Playbook.)

7. Goon: Best sports movie of the year, easily. Was there even another sports movie this year? Who cares, if there was, it wouldn’t have been nearly as good as Goon. That’s three straight Netflix streaming picks, by the way. Netflix really stepped it up this year.

8. The Master: I’ve reviewed and debated this at length already here. I liked it. A lot. And I’d understand if you didn’t. We should probably just leave it at that.

9. Argo: One of my biggest pet peeves in a movie is leaving not enough time at the end of a movie to build any suspense. So you look at your watch, or you see the counter on your Blu-ray in the middle of the climax and realize, “Well, crap, of course they’re gonna get out of dodge, there are only five minutes left!” That was my favorite part of Argo (eff yourself). During the climax, there are still 20 minutes left of the movie so you really don’t know what’s going to happen.

the highlight of my movie year, moderating two Q&A's with paul dano

10. Ruby Sparks: It’s hard not to like a movie more when you get to sit around and ask the star of the movie questions after you watch it. That doesn’t mean it can’t be good otherwise.

11. Beasts of the Southern Wild: The first thing I did after I watched this movie is Google, “is the bathtub real.” When a movie is convincing enough to make you question your extensive knowledge of American geography, it’s good.

12. Moonrise Kingdom: I’m not sure if it’s the loss of Owen Wilson as a writing partner and collaborator, but Wes Anderson just hasn’t been as good as his opening triple shot of Bottle Rocket (great), Rushmore (better) and Royal Tenenbaums (best). Moonrise Kingdom is very good, but it’s slow at times and Ed Norton is the only one that seems to have a heartbeat.

13. Jeff Who Lives at Home: Quiet, easy-going, funny and compassionate. If Ed Helms is going to bookend his Hangover appearances with movies like this and Cedar Rapids, then I’m all in on his post-Office career.

best on-screen drunk since nic cage

14. Flight: The other deeply personal movie of 2012 to me. I’ve teetered on what likely was the border of sobriety and full-fledged alcoholism in the past, but gave up the full-blown side when I had my kids. Watching Denzel refuse to make that choice was sobering in itself.

15. Queen of Versailles: As a journalist, you usually have an idea what the story will be when you’re heading to cover it. It’s just instinct. But you have to keep an open mind to change that story if the situation dictates it. So when the people who made this movie went to Florida to document a story of construction of a $75 million mansion, they changed mid-filming to a story about the new state of “rich poor.” It turned into one of the best stories of the economy since the market crashed.

16. Dark Knight Rises: Watched it again since I saw the opening midnight show, and my opinion hasn’t really changed. Very good, not great.

17. Lincoln: I think what irks me about this movie is that I feel like it was specifically made with the Academy Awards in mind. Movies like that irk me.

18. Sleepwalk with Me: I know it’s supposed to be a movie about how much it sucks being a comedian having to make crappy trips all over the place while getting paid nothing, but here’s what I came away with: If this socially awkward douche is able to dangle like three chicks at a time on the hook without even trying, then sign me the hell up.

19. Being Flynn: See #9.

20. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Just the right amount of cute.

JUST MISSED

Looper: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, together at last.

Loneliest Planet: For a movie to make my top 20, there has to be some kind of “recommendability.” I have to be able to feel like I can recommend the movie to someone I know. I liked Loneliest Planet a good deal, but I would not feel comfortable recommending it to even the most ardent of indie movie fans, like those of the Orange Street ilk.

The Dictator: The funniest straight comedy of the year, but the movie itself was a little disjointed.

Safety Not Guaranteed: A little hokey, yeah, but I’d like to buy stock in the indie film career of Aubrey Plaza.

WORST

sorry. i was not distracted frmo battleship's poop factor by brooklyn decker.

Battleship: I just don’t understand how this movie even got made. Horrible premise, horrible script, horrible casting, horrible movie. When a movie peaks at the 5-minute mark and never even comes close again to matching that moment, then that movie sucks.

MOST DISAPPOINTING

Amazing Spider-Man: My annual winner for Movie I Like Less the More I Think About It, taking over the mantle from last year’s winner, Tree of Life. This movie was made for financial reasons, pure and simple. Sony didn’t want to spend what it would have taken to keep Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and Sam Raimi together and then turn Raimi’s vision for Spider-Man 4 into a movie. So they scrapped it and made what amounts to a frustratingly boring carbon copy of the original Spider-Man. I seriously don’t understand why or how reviewers liked this movie.

Ted: I like Seth MacFarlane. I like Family Guy. I like raunchy, adolescent humor. I like comedies with original ideas. So dammit, why didn’t I like this movie? Wait, I know why! Because Mark Wahlberg could have been replaced by a mostly sturdy piece of cardboard and no one would have known the effing difference.

Hunger Games: I actually got myself psyched for this, but when my wife had to fill in the blanks every five minutes as to what the latest important thing the movie was leaving out from the book, I tuned out. Then realized I would have kicked freakin’ @ss in the games because I WOULDN’T HAVE MADE ONE FRIEND. And if I did, it certainly wouldn’t be one that would slow me down and possibly cause my death.

Friends With Kids: Is this supposed to be The Big Chill for the present day? Or is it supposed to be a social commentary on the current family structure? Who knows! This movie sure doesn’t. Worse yet, it’s boring. I didn’t think there was a chance Adam Scott and Jon Hamm could be in a movie together and it would be boring, but now we’ve got proof.

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Your Oscar Winners, or “Can Ben Affleck Win Without Being Nominated?”

(This is a preview of the PopRox column in Sunday’s Pocono Record. One quick programming note: It looks like there won’t be a Weekend Fun Guide for the second straight week. Sorry. Friday is the only time I have that I can post my top 20 movies for 2012 before Sunday’s Oscars. I’ll try to get back to it for March 1. Also, I’ll try to live Tweet the Oscars, so make sure you’re following along Sunday @poprox1. Why? I’m funny, that’s why.)

You can look at the recent Academy Awards one of three ways:

pretty sure this makes like four years in a row i've used this picture for oscar time.

1. Academy Awards voters are much happier spreading around the wealth when it comes to handing out statues lately.

2. There is a much greater depth of good movies, scripts and performances to choose from.

3. There hasn’t been one dominating movie when it comes to the eight big Academy Awards since Silence of the Lambs won five of the eight in 1991.

One way or another, gone are the days when one movie just comes in and kicks butt in the top eight Oscar categories.

More movies get included in the process — inadvertently or not — giving more people a chance to put “Oscar winner” in front of their name to help promote a direct-to-DVD movie (looking at you, Adrian Brody and Forest Whitaker).

It also makes picking Oscar winners harder than it used to be:

you know it's coming: BEN WHOFLECK?

BEST PICTURE
The favorite for this category has ebbed and flowed more than a rowboat lost at sea in a hurricane. First it was Argo, but we said it was too early to decide back in October. Then it was Lincoln because we just figured it would be. Then it was Zero Dark Thirty when it dominated the early December awards scene. Soon it was Les Miserables, because, well, we hadn’t had a good musical in a while. We went back to Lincoln when the nominations came out, because we always anoint the movie with the most nominations as the best picture winner. Now? We’ve kinda settled on Argo. Which kind of makes the last four months feel like a waste.
Should win: Silver Linings Playbook
Will win: Argo

BEST ACTOR
It was tough enough deciding between Bradley Cooper and Daniel Day-Lewis before I saw Flight, now I have no choice but to include Denzel Washington in the discussion. Thanks a bunch, Denzel.
Should win: Day-Lewis, Lincoln, but it feels like a coin flip.
Will win: Day-Lewis

 

admit it. you wanted to take a shot at fixing her too.

BEST ACTRESS
The tradition at the Academy Awards is for the best actor winner from last year to present the best actress award for this year. That means Jean Dujardin, who won best actor for The Artist last year and speaks very limited English, should be presenting this year’s best actress award. That also means that there’s an outside chance, on live TV, that he’ll have to pronounce Quvenzhané Wallis. Guess who I’m pulling for?
Should win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook but very close over Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty.
Will win: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Whoa! Do you realize that of the 10 nominees for the two supporting actor categories, EIGHT of them already have won at least one Oscar? Has that ever happened before? It reeks a little bit of the Old Boy Network, but I’m not sure who you cut in the supporting actor category to infuse new blood.
Should win: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Will win: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln, at which point I will likely throw my shoe at the TV because that’s the one nominee that doesn’t compare with the other four. Maybe Bobby DeNiro can sneak in there.

i had nowhere to put this shot of angelina jolie at the oscars a couple years ago, so i just put it here. deal.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
To whom it may concern in charge of the Oscars broadcast:
While I’m a huge fan of the Academy Awards telecast, it seems like there is one major category every year that bores me to tears. This year, it’s best supporting actress. As a coincidence, I’ll be watching Walking Dead from 9 to 10 p.m. Can you see your way clear to give out this award during that hour? Please and thank you.
Should win: Amy Adams, The Master, I guess.
Will win: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

BEST DIRECTOR
What a bummer. The Academy had a chance to make this the most heavyweight directing category maybe ever, and blew it by excluding some combination of Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino and Kathryn Bigelow. Now we’re headed for a stroll down Awkward Lane when Argo becomes the first best picture winner in forever whose director, Affleck, wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar.
Should win: Affleck, which would be an incredible upset seeing as he wasn’t even nominated.
Will win: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The screenplay categories are often used to give some recognition to the indie movies that couldn’t crack the best picture category. But of the 10 writing nominees, eight of them are repeats from best picture. And don’t think for a second that either Flight or Moonrise Kingdom stands a chance at winning for their original scripts.
Should win: Zero Dark Thirty
Will win: Zero Dark Thirty

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
If Beasts of the Southern Wild is the sentimental favorite to win some kind of hardware, then this is probably the only realistic shot it has at get something. Not happening.
Should win: Silver Linings Playbook
Will win: Argo

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Not the Best Day to Die Hard

Links, and a spoiler-heavy review for A Good Day to Die Hard down at the bottom if that interests you:

laser brain.

When you do a sequel, you want to have certain nods to the former movie without making it a total copy off the first one (*cough* Hangover 2 *cough cough*). It’s a tough line to toe. That ability to find the correct delicate balance starts in the planning stages. Which is now, for Star Wars 7-9. JJ Abrams and those in charge have to decide once and for all what kind of allusions to the past it wants to include, and which ones to dump. So the decision to include Han Solo, and, in effect, Harrison Ford, is a big, big, big one. Abrams really needs to tread lightly for what couldn’t be more than a cameo for Solo to introduce his newly Jedi’d son (guessing), make some nerf herder joke and disappear into the scenery. Is that really the best use of the movie’s time? It’s not like it would be hard to explain that Solo died in some battle a couple years after Jedi. I guess it could be OK, but I’m worried there would be too much focus on Han Solo, not enough on a new plot and characters.

It’s getting to the point where I just have to stop reading about the movie version of X-Men: Days of Future Past because I just don’t get how they can make it happen and it’s making my brain hurt. Maybe if I go back and read it again I’d understand how it could work in a movie with all of these characters … but I doubt it. I think I just have to sequester myself from the whole thing and watch the movie in 18 months.

get out while you still can, will

This whole Up All Night thing is insane. If NBC was trying to keep a show alive that was getting through-the-roof ratings, that’s one thing. But Up All Night was a questionable renewal this year, and has been a complete failure this year. On Dec. 13, NBC ran back-to-back new episodes of the show on a Thursday night when it had The Office, Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock on the bench. That already gives of the stench of “burn-off,” but its ratings were abysmal. The kind of ratings that get a show canceled almost immediately. So why is anyone at NBC trying to save this show? There can’t be anyone left at the network that believes for one second this sinking ship can be salvaged, are there? It’s lost its star, it’s been gone for two months and hasn’t been promoted at all for those two months even though you can’t watch NBC for more than five seconds without seeing a Revolution commercial, it’s changing its format … what else do you need to see before you pull the plug? When Maya Rudolph has her baby on the set, can we drop it then? Sheesh.

(A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD SPOILERS COMING, NOT THAT IT MATTERS, BECAUSE YOU PROBABLY ALREADY KNOW EXACTLY WHAT’S HAPPENING.)

why are you smiling? you just made a crappy movie.

I don’t know how much a top-flight blockbuster franchise movie pays for a decent writer. Let’s just say it’s $2.5 million, which is a pretty fair estimate for a $50 million movie, apparently. Let’s also say your particular action franchise is completely dependent on the script because your star isn’t just a character, he’s a brand who has been established a certain way through the last 25 years. If the script was that paramount to the movie’s success, wouldn’t you want to invest just a little bit more into the writing process? Can you insert clauses in the script agreement that says, “If it gets good reviews, you get an $X bonus,” or something like that? Wouldn’t it make sense to do that? Of course it would! Unless you’re the people behind the Die Hard series, then you apparently don’t give a flaming eff, you’re more than comfortable just packing as many guns and explosions as you can into an hour-and-a-half and using the actors as set pieces there to either shoot the guns or escape from the explosions. You’re comfortable doing your best to neuter one of the great action movie characters of our generation. A Good Day to Die Hard sucks. I knew that going in since the reviews were piss-poor, but I expected at least something moderately enjoyable. It never happened, not even close. Nothing makes sense, nothing. Movie studios have become pretty good at giving you a ton of information in the trailers, but holding back one major, major secret piece of the plot that becomes a surprise in the third act of an action movie. I don’t give a shat, I’m giving away AGDTDH’s little secret because it’s so dumb. The third act is set in the Chernobyl nuclear plant that melted down, not that it matters. Because it doesn’t. It’s such a blah way of going for “recognizable,” similar to how Wolverine cheaply exploited the TMI meltdown. There are so many opportunities missed, so many generic characters and so few payoffs that it amounts to 90 minutes of stock footage from BuildAnActionMovie.com or something. Two examples of opportunities missed: McClane makes a joke about an police officer friend of his who went on vacation with his son to Florida, while when he goes on vacation, it’s to Chernobyl. Ba ha ha, funny funny. But it’s some officer we’ve never heard of or met in five Die Hards, so the reference is lost on us. Why couldn’t he have said it’s was Al Powell’s kid? Or Zeus’ nephew? Then, the movie ends with a 20-second scene of Papa McClane with his son and daughter as one big happy family. Lucy was waiting for the McClane boys at an airport as they got off their chartered private plane. Wait … no Holly? How do you explain that to an audience? “Your son and presumably ex-husband just took down a Russian splinter group that was ready to make nuclear bombs to sell to terrorist groups, and almost died 530 times in the process. You didn’t want to go meet them at the airport, did you? Didn’t think so.” I know Bonnie Bedelia hasn’t been seen in the last two Die Hards, but geez, couldn’t you just drag her off the Parenthood set for a couple hours, pay her scale and have done with it? I don’t trust that thought ever went through the heads of the people involved with this movie. It’s like those people — including Bruce Willis — never even saw a Die Hard movie. And I’m sure we’re now to the point where that’s what Die Hard 9 will look like too. GRADE: D-

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No Fun Guide Friday

Sorry guys, I’m off and won’t have time to post, so there won’t be a Poconos Weekend Fun Guide this week. That doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff going on, it just means you gotta fund it yourself!

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The Transformation of Disney, For Better or Worse

(This is a preview of Sunday’s PopRox column in the Pocono Record.)

One of my favorite random Simpsons gags came in the season six episode, The PTA Disbands.

Principal Skinner takes the Springfield Elementary kids to a historic Civil War battlefield site, which offered free admission the previous year. When he’s told this year’s cost is $5 per kid, he complains to the ticket-taker.

“Eh, new management,” he’s told as she motions to a sign behind her.

ignore the japanese writing. you don't know how hard it was just to find this one.

The camera pans back to the sign that reads: “Diz-Nee Historical Park. Sorry, but there’s profit to be had.”

It stuck with me for years. Whenever I read a story about Disney taking over this or buying that and promising how its latest purchase is the best thing for all involved, I skeptically keep that line in the back of my head.

“Sorry, but there’s profit to be had.”

Now that Disney knows we know what they know, all bets are off. It officially has become the biggest-budget, most-franchise-driven movie studio in Hollywood, and it has no problem pounding its chest and copping to it.

That’s a big shift from the Disney most of us grew up with. Through the early 90s, it was perfectly comfortable masking its blatant consumerism behind the traditional, family-friendly Disney scope.

We wised up and stopped buying every VHS tape, seeing every movie, hoarding every toy. But as we got smarter, Disney got even smarter. The company decided to branch out from its family-friendly brand that had existed for about six decades, and it started buying up everything in the name of synergy.

TV networks. Sports franchises (remember when the Anaheim Ducks were called The Mighty Ducks?). Sports movies. Adult dramatic movies.

But of all the megadeals Disney has pulled off, three recent movie deals stand out to let us know the company’s future:

• In 2006, Disney bought animated movie company Pixar for $7 billion. Since then, it has released sequels Cars 2 and Toy Story 3. COMING SEQUELS: Monsters University (2013) and Finding Nemo 2 (2016).

money maker for the next decade, at least

• In 2009, Disney bought comic book company Marvel and all of its properties. While the deal doesn’t include the movie rights to some of Marvel’s biggest stars — Spider-Man, X-Men, Daredevil and the Fantastic Four — they’ve got just about everyone else. That includes the franchise surrounding The Avengers, which just might be the most profitable franchise going in Hollywood right now. COMING SEQUELS/FRANCHISE PIECES: Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World (2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), and Avengers 2 and Ant-Man (2015). Then the “third phase” of the Avengers universe will begin, reportedly with a standalone movie for The Hulk that will set up Avengers 3.

• Wait, there is one franchise even more profitable, one that Disney bought in October — Star Wars. When Disney bought Lucasfilm, it acquired all the future prospects of the “Star Wars” franchise. Oh, and just in case it ever wants to do a little rebooting? (And you know it does.) That deal also includes the Indiana Jones franchise. COMING SEQUELS/FRANCHISE PIECES: Star Wars 7 (2015???), plus 8 and 9 in the future; Boba Fett and Han Solo movies (reportedly, no release dates).

oh right. him.

Those are 15 sequels/franchise pieces we know almost FOR SURE are coming over the next decade or so that are slam-dunk hits. In the next four years, nine of those movies presumably are coming, and six of those nine are likely megahits, destined to bank at least $400 million worldwide. Some of them have $1 billion box-office aspirations.

We haven’t even talked about the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which will be launching another movie in 2015. Disney’s also launching a possible franchise based on one of its other theme park rides, Tomorrowland, and has the sequel, The Muppets … Again! both on the 2014 slate.

Maybe, when we were growing up, Disney sneaked up on us as a greedy, profit-driven corporation. No more.

For better or worse, Disney is in it for the money, and it doesn’t care who knows anymore.

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Random Links to Get You Through Your Day (If You’re Not at the Die Hard Marathon)

Nope, I’m not at the Die Hard marathon over at Cinemark today. Thanks so much for bringing it up!

Links:

uh oh.

Is anyone else starting to get the feeling the Justice League movie is freaking doomed? The starts and stops have been going on since the 80s, then the writers strike, and now? When it should have the most momentum possible, and at the same time, the most opportune time to get something going, we hear the script might be getting thrown out? I mean, have you seen the shat people have been putting on screen lately, and a movie that’s guaranteed to make $400 gazillion dollars is getting scrapped? Yeesh. On the bright side, maybe Warner Bros. has learned its lesson. Instead of just chucking through another crappy Green Lantern, Batman and Robin or even Superman Returns, it has decided to take its time with Justice League and protect the future of the franchise. If Avengers had sucked the way Green Lantern did, there’s no way we’d all be wetting our pants waiting for Avengers 2 — or for that matter, Iron Man 3, Thor 2 or Captain America 2. Warners knows that just as much as Marvel knows that. So it’s not the bad idea to protect the franchise from a possible franchise killer, stopping it before it even starts. Wait a minute, this is what we’re so worried about?

Maybe it’s been a couple years since Friday Night Lights has been on the air. But I’m the guy who sat through two hours of the mind-numbing torture of Battleship last year on the lone promise that it was the reunion of Riggins and Landry. I’m the guy who keeps a running count on how many FNL stars show up on Parenthood (pretty sure we’re at four now). I’m the guy who can’t believe we didn’t get Osama earlier with Coach in charge over there, the guy who committed himself to getting through at least one episode of Nashville just so he could hear Tammi Taylor say, “Hey, y’all,” one more time. I ran screaming as soon as she did, but whatever. So yes, I’m interested in the careers of those involved with the show, and I’m glad other people are too. (Vulture forgot at least one, FYI: Derek Phillips, who played Billy Riggins on FNL, was the fourth member of the FNL family to show up on Parenthood as Crosby’s best man.) More than any other show I can remember, me and every other person who watched that show feel like we have some kind of weird connection to the actors and everyone involved with it. We watch Parenthood for no other reason than it’s FNL showrunner Jason Katim’s post-FNL effort. We watch (500) Days of Summer the whole way through only because we know we get the payoff of Minka Kelly for 30 seconds at the end. WE SAT THROUGH BATTLESHIP, FOR CRISSAKES!!! We feel like we were all in the foxhole with those actors and writers, fighting to keep one of three or four best shows of the last decade on the air as long as we could. We did everything we could, and people like Katims, Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton rewarded us every week for our loyalty. It’s not like we’re stalking them or anything. At least I’m not. Well, I’m not stalking anyone other than Minka Kelly. And maybe Taylor Kitsch. But that’s all, I swear. Wait, is that all? OK, yeah, that’s all.

no movie.

Hey, did someone say something about an under-appreciated show that no one watched??? Yeah? Then this seems like a good time to mention the Party Down cast reunion in San Francisco last weekend. I was one of the ones who go on the Party Down bandwagon too late to help save it, I caught it on Netflix when it was two years off the air. Hey, gimme a break, I didn’t have Starz! But if you were one of the 16,000 people that watched the series finale, then you’ll probably be interested to know the cast has no idea about the rumored movie. You know what that means? It’s never happening. That cast has taken every opportunity over the last couple years to say, “The script is being written, it’s being shopped around, someone is interested,” blah blah blah. So to just to just come out now and say that they have no idea means that thing is as dead as disco. Fun to dream though.

Then there are the show you always hope will find their audience and be successful, and somehow, they do. That’s what TNT’s Southland is. It spent a year on NBC, was renewed for a second season then screwed canceled before it ever got on the air for that second season, got miraculously picked up by TNT, and now it’s in its fifth season and doing what apparently is acceptably well for TNT. I lost this show when it started going against Justified on Tuesday nights in the winter, but with its Wednesday time slot going against so-so The Americans and and being able to watch Workaholics at just about any other time, I may be able to get back in. You’re welcome, Mike Rubinkam, a devoted fan of the show.

umm, who are you people?

Over here the fifth season of (the real) Being Human hasn’t started airing on BBC America yet, but across the pond, it’s currently airing on the actual BBC. Just not for long. This fifth season of the show will be the last, as BBC has canceled it. I loved, loved, loved this show for the first two seasons, but fell distinctly out of love with it in the third season, which corresponds with the same time Comcast took BBC America off OnDemand and DVR space didn’t allow for it to be recorded. My wife and I got the third season on DVD right after it aired, in July 2011, with the intention of blowing through it while she was in the hospital having our second daughter and/or while she was on maternity leave. But every time we tried, we fell asleep. Both of us. It was pretty sad. We turned our attention to catching up on Breaking Bad, and let’s just say we never fell asleep for one of those. So it was pretty weird for me to see the new cast with the announcement that the show was gonzo. I knew they had a new cast and all, but it was still jarring.

best new show on tv.

Bad news for those vampires, but good news for the vampires over here, as Vampire Diaries was one of the three shows recently renewed for the 2013-14 season by the CW. Supernatural is another, and most deserving, Arrow is the other. Arrow is the only new show of the current season that’s horned its way into my weekly rotation — although The Following is damn close, if it’s not already there. I can already see I’m going to be dropping The Americans, and I can’t think of one other new show this year that’s appealing to me in any way. With Arrow firmly in there, something had to get squeezed out, and so far, it’s Vampire Diaries. I made it through about early December, perked my ears when I realized Damon and Elena were finally sleeping together, but quickly got bored as frigg again. I’m not kidding — I just yawned typing that sentence, I must have been thinking about the show too much. Maybe someday I’ll catch up, but do I really even want to? Why do I have the feeling I can watch, say, four episodes spaced out through the season and not pick everything right up? Plus, it will be an interesting first 15 minutes of viewing because I’ll be all surprised when I find out those little nuggets of, “Cool, Damon and Elena are sleeping together,” or, “Hey, Elena doesn’t completely look like she’s 14 anymore” or “Under what circumstances could Bonnie actually be interesting?” It tails off after that.

Has there ever been a show so reviled and unwatched that gets such publicity other than The Killing? There’s a new story about that craptastic show every day. This one is somewhat legit, that the show has booked Peter Sarsgaard for its third season. But still, every day? Mind you, I have no evidence of this. But I feel like every time I open up one of my favorite websites, I’m greeted with a new disclosure about The Killing. The same show no one watched last year, the same show people went out of their way to rip on after its first season finale. Is it really drawing that many page views just by tagging “the killing amc” on the site? By who? Usually a show is reviled but highly watched (2.5 Men) or critically praised but ignored by the public (Community). But when does it happen that it’s ignored by both critics and audiences and yet it still gets this much publicity? Go away, Killing, go away!

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