Saturday, May 27, 2006

New Girlfight Movie Obsession

The trailer for the DOA (Dead or Alive) movie has been out since November. November! I only just discovered it.

It's the adaptation of the DOA fighting game series, renowned for its T&A comely female characters. What little plot the game has is nonsensical and incoherent anyway, but the game presents it with a relatively serious tone. Characters have varied fighting styles and vaguely portentous backstories and the only sources of humor are the incongruous voice casting and clunky translations.

The movie, on the other hand, just takes the Hot Chicks Fighting ball and runs the hell out of it. It's got a sense of humor, doesn't take itself seriously, and doesn't expect you to either. Not coincidentally, its director, Corey Yuen, worked on the last movie I described this way, Transporter 2. Not only is this a guy whose Hong Kong background gives him solid fight credentials, his film So Close is pretty much the greatest girlfighting movie I've ever seen. If he can restrain himself from indulging in the painful soap opera drama that results when he tries to go deeper, I think we may have a winner.

Some may say that blah blah blah hot chicks fighting we've seen it all before. So what? Just because you've had chocolate cake, does that mean you never want to eat it again? Besides, have you ever seen a chick put on her bra in the middle of a fight scene? If not, then shut the fuck up.

Well, okay, the bra gag is really just a variation on Yuen's handcuff bit from Transporter 2, but it still singlehandedly justifies watching the trailer.

"True" DOA fans, meanwhile, are frothing at the mouth, saying ridiculous things like:

...I thought Ayane hated Kasumi. Why the hell are the working together.

...So much for following on the DOA:U Intro

...And here I was hoping that the film would be orientated around, no wait, at least HINT a little at the somewhat dark storyline depicted in the DOA: Ultimate intro (the one to the tune of 'Dream On' by Aerosmith). Guess that went up sh*t creek!

...Dead or Alive is not about 5 girls looking hot and fighting random people. First off the dead or alive girls have different fighting styles and come from different parts of the world. This movie has them all fighting with each other with the exact same fighting styles and they all look completely fake. And where are the men of Dead or Alive in all this. Hayate, Hayabusa, Bass...where are they?

...WTF! what happened to the story and characters?

...I think its only got the girls in it becuase the people who created the film thought it would make the film 'hotter'. the should be the tension between the characters. What a crock of sh*t this film looks like.

...Oh yeah, i think i saw helena in the film but if it was why the hell is she american i thought she was french, there wasn't even a hint of french in her accent.

Now, while I think this movie looks fantastic, I can't endorse adaptations disrespecting their source material to the point where it alienates a property's core audience. I've been burned enough by Batman & Robin and Catwoman to know that you might as well stay true to the source. Mainstream audiences won't know better anyway and the dumbest thing you can do is throw out what the fans already love about it. Even on video game to movie adaptations, seldom has a story been made smarter when the movie changes things drastically.

Personally, I think that DOA the game had no story to speak of, that these people are being ridiculous, and that this movie is probably better than a serious adaptation of that nonsense would have been. Even so, pissing off fans of the game was a dumb move on the filmmakers' part that probably won't help the movie at the box office any.

That said, this movie will be awesome.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wiki Tikki Tembo

Simon created a Squelch wiki. It's part staffer bible, part history lesson, part uber-indulgent director's commentary.

Many of you know it's one of my life dreams to do a DVD commentary. Pretty much that is my main reason for wanting to make movies. So the chance to reflect on past Squelch issues and feel important while relating the most mundane of facts is more or less equivalent to injecting heroin into my bloodstream. And yes, that includes the part about desperately chasing the next high to the detriment of my personal and professional life.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Totally Grad

Oh, yeah, so I graduated. From the USC screenwriting program. Was I supposed to mention that? I didn't want to get into all the messy feelings of uncertainty and terror, but I guess I can tell you that I finished school again.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Down Will Come Baby

No wonder Britney is working on a new baby. The current one will be dead by the time the new one is born anyway. What with the no-car-seat/improperly-used-car-seat/defective-high-chair/he-fell-on-his-head-and-fractured-his-skull-two-weeks-ago-and-we're-just-bringing-him-to-the-hospital-now approach to parenting. To be fair, it's probably not worth putting too much effort into Sean Preston since by now his brain damage is severe and irreversible.

Note that the picture on the right probably came first, since you can still see the hat falling off the baby. I like how the bodyguard looks like he should be a character in an SNL sketch. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Conversion Conversation

I've been using Auto Gordian Knot to rip DVDs to avi form. But MySpace video won't take avi files. Now I'm looking for a free program that converts avi files to mpegs, or, failing that, one that rips DVDs straight to mpeg.

Any suggestions? Tila Tequila is waiting for her mpeg file.


Survivor naked guy Richard Hatch has been sentenced to 51 months in prison for not paying taxes on his winnings from the show... which he received during an episode that was watched by 51 million viewers. Coincidence? Or curse?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Malcolm At The Finish Line

Malcolm in the Middle aired its final episode last night. Despite being generally uneven and sometimes underwhelming, Malcolm’s last season has produced some worthwhile episodes, and the finale, despite some quibbles, made for a satisfying farewell.

Malcolm, sadly, is one of those shows that most people pretty much forgot was still on the air. Partially it’s due to Fox’s time-slot shuffling, which bumped Malcolm to an often-pre-empted 7:00 Sunday spot, then a death-knell Friday spot. The other factor was that once Frankie Muniz grew out of his cuteness and past his prime, people instinctively felt the show was past its prime too. While it's true that the first three years were the best, the show stayed great until about halfway through last season (its sixth) and since then has held steady at pretty good.

Malcolm in the Middle has really been two shows. The first was seasons 1 to 3, when the show was centered on Malcolm in middle school, dealing with being a genius in the ostracized Krelboyne class. In season 4, Malcolm entered high school, the Krelboynes effectively disappeared, and Frankie Muniz went from cute kid to gawky teenager. The show shifted to much more of an ensemble emphasis, and Malcolm as a character developed a chip on his shoulder and turned into an obliviously unpleasant person. I don’t think the show went on too long, though—once it crossed into season 4, it carried an implicit promise to last through Malcolm’s high school graduation, and now it has, even if much of the last season has felt a little like senioritis.

The last season of any show often starts to feel perfunctory, like going through the motions. When, as viewers, we’re aware a show is in its last season, we expect more. When Malcolm spends not one but two episodes lying in bed (one, because he catches mono from Lois, the other because he and Dewey bring home a comfortable new mattress after it literally falls out of the sky), the wasted opportunity feels more egregious because there are so few episodes left. I felt the same way during Seinfeld’s last season. In the last season, you start wanting to see growth, change, a build toward the finale. Certain shows, like Friends and Will & Grace, do this, but too much makes the show sappy. More often than not, shows continue producing the usual stand-alone episodes right up to the end, leaving one episode for everything to completely change.

Given the character growth that’s subtly developed over the course of the series, I would have like to see the last season finally chart Malcolm’s growth into a more well-adjusted person. That didn’t really happen. The episode “Stevie in the Hospital,” in which Malcolm was uncomfortable visiting Stevie after an operation, was a well-done examination of Malcolm’s friendship with Stevie and how they have an unspoken agreement to ignore Stevie’s handicaps and health issues. But it could have been so much more—a health crisis for Stevie could have been a major catalyst for Malcolm to re-examine his life and grow out of his self-absorption. The prom episode, “Morp,” finds Malcolm as his same old self—successfully organizing an anti-prom for the school’s freaks and geeks, but unable to enjoy it unless he can rub it in the popular kids’ faces.

So, the finale, “Graduation.” Spoilers follow.

Malcolm struggles to write his valedictorian speech, while Hal frets over how he will pay the remaining $8,000 in Malcolm’s Harvard tuition not covered by scholarships, grants or Malcolm’s part-time work. Hal even goes to a loan shark and tries to make a deal—he won’t pay back the money, but the loan shark can go straight to the leg-breaking. Hal backs out when the loan shark points out he could just break Hal’s legs without lending him the money.

Meanwhile, Reese, loving his new job as the high school’s assistant janitor, hopes to make the position permanent by creating a mess so big, they’ll have no choice but to keep him on. He fills a huge drum with the most disgusting substances possible and schemes with Grandma Ida to sneak it into the school, but of course, it explodes prematurely inside the family minivan.

A friend of Stevie’s father is a successful software mogul. He sees potential in Malcolm and Stevie's work and offers them both six-figure jobs straight out of high school. But before Malcolm can answer, Lois turns the offer down. Malcolm is furious, and Lois reveals her plans for Malcolm: He will go to Harvard, then go into public service and politics, and eventually become the first President of the United States to care about “people like us.” He has to do things the hard way, or he won’t grow up to be a good President.

Francis and Piama return for the graduation ceremony. Francis continues fighting with Lois over his future prospects, but Hal discovers that Francis secretly already has a job at a big corporation and loves it. Even so, Francis refuses to tell Lois because it would give her too much satisfaction.

As Malcolm delivers his valedictorian speech, he seems to have accepted Lois’ message—and his family.

Three months later, we find that Dewey has assumed his role as big brother to Jamie and lead household troublemaker. Francis is still working and still fighting with Lois. Reese has gotten the janitor job and moved in with Craig, who relishes the friendship and enjoys Reese’s cooking. Lois and Hal are celebrating that two more boys have left the nest—until they discover that Lois is pregnant again. Malcolm is mopping the floors between classes at Harvard, but is okay with it. It’s nice. The flash-forward makes for a very satisfying ending.

Questions remain, like, how did Francis manage to get a white-collar job when he’s essentially a high-school dropout? But most of all, how can Lois expect Malcolm to be President?

Putting aside the fact that Malcolm is too short to be elected, the show has never shown us that Malcolm would be a good president. Sure, he’s a genius—but mostly in math and science. He would probably find a way to do good for society in those fields. But President? Malcolm is selfish, petty, spiteful, impulsive, and shows poor judgment in practically every situation. Not only that, he’s unpopular—not just because he’s a geek, but because he’s terrible at relating to other people. That the opening lines of his valedictory speech are received well are the only hint that he could pull it off, but that’s not really enough. If we’d seen more growth this season, maybe we could buy that this Presidential ambition is a good idea, but at best, the finale suggests that most of Malcolm’s growth is yet to come.

Maybe one last address to the camera at the end would have helped. In any case, I was surprised Malcolm didn't talk to us one last time.

Perhaps it’s asking too much that the run of a series satisfy on the level of a unified work. Perhaps with a limited series like The Office or anime you can find it, but over seven years it’s tough. Still, Malcolm comes close.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Tequila Shots

So Tila Tequila is this self-made Internet celebrity. She is Asian and makes music and has her picture taken while wearing clothing that is not so much designed for warmth. People so much enjoy viewing images of her in said clothing that she has over a million MySpace friends. And she has parlayed that into a spot as a cover girl on Stuff magazine, appearances on MSNBC and The Showbiz Show with David Spade, and even a recording contract.

But don't take my word for it. See what Tila's bio has to say:

Tila Tequila has done it all on her own, and definitely on her own terms. She's an internationally known star who has built her network of fans literally, one friend at a time. What's more, she has the email addresses of all of her friends, who wouldn't want that sort of access to their fans and crew? It wasnt always so easy for Tila though, growing up in Houston, she actually lived in a Buddhist Temple with a gated community of few. By age 16, her tomboyish attitude got her kicked out of school and eventually landed in a boarding school. She had already been in a adult relationship for a few years, and was using her sister's ID to break into the club scene. Eventually tiring of Houston, she made her rounds to New York, where she experimented with drugs and a hardcore lifestyle. Tired of her all female mnage et trois relationship, she headed to Los Angeles where at 18, she was scouted by Playboy, and eventually became their first ever Asian Cyber Girl of the Month.

Never more than now has celebrity been celebrated so unbrokenly, no unabashedly, and so much without merit. Being famous now has become it's own reward. Consider American Idol, and ridiculous and addictive shows that somehow instantly translate stardom into celebrity. Tila Tequila has used simple, and some might agree Punk DIY ethics to create her stardom, one fan at a time. Not only is she the hottest property in MySpace, which means she's one of the hottest women in the world, but she's almost finished her debut album, and on the crest of an ever rising wave. She is featured on the new My Space compilation album alongside AFI, Fall Out Boy, Dashboard Confessional and Weezer amongst others. Surely this risings starlet is going to soon to take over the fan at a time.........

And hey look she's on The John Kerwin Show:

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Official Premiere

Okay, so it's been announced: American Shopper will screen on June 6, at 8 PM, at the Ramada Encore Hotel, Fabian Way, Swansea as part of the Swansea Film Festival. So if you happen to be 188 miles west of London this June, check it out!

UPDATE: We are also nominated for an award in the "Best Under 35 Minutes" category. However, we were not nominated in the "Best Under 20 Minutes" category, so there must have been a lot of strong films under twenty minutes and not so many strong films between twenty and thirty-five minutes. It is too bad we can't be there.

Perfect Fit

Have you seen the new commercials for the Honda Fit?

Tagline: The Fit is Go!

For example, one commercial shows a colorful, surreal area, where a Fit is lowered upside down from a hole in the ceiling. The Fit is dropped, and flips in midair to land on its wheels.

Then, on-screen text over a background of anime-esque speed lines: "Cat-Like Reflexes. The Fit is Go!"

The Fit is Go! I mean, really. It feels like readiness, motion, energy, but of course it doesn't really mean anything. I guess theoretically you can use "go" as an adjective, in the NASA sense of "We are go for launch." But what this is, I think, is Engrish by design. We have here a very compact car that flaunts its strongly Japanese styling, and it's sold via bright colors, an evocation of anime, and a slogan that sounds like a bad translation. This is a major, fascinating milestone in the American mainstreaming of Japanese pop cultural influences.

Marveling at this, I kept repeating, in my robot voice, "The Fit is Go," until Stephanie cut me off with: "The Kenny is Stop." I was thrilled. This construction has cachet. I urge you to incorporate variations into your daily life.

Friday, May 05, 2006

New KBweb Beta

I've been thinking about how maintaining KBweb is basically stupid. I like having web presence, but no one ever really looks at it, and I have this blog now which people do look at. More importantly, the Homestead account costs actual money, and has for a while, which is admittedly a complete and total waste. Recently I've been thinking that a MySpace profile might fulfill much of the same purpose, but that would mean creating an unironic MySpace presence, which is something I'm not quite ready to do.

But upon hearing that Google offers webspace now, I realized that this could be the ideal substitute for the Homestead version of KBweb. I don't know what happened to the Squelch site, but my Squelch links page hasn't worked for a while now, and I don't need to host the Squelch movie now that Google Video and YouTube exist. And it turns out Google actually gives me the space to upload my stand-up mp3. So that's pretty much it. It looks like KBweb has a new home.

Nice Rack

So LA Times newsracks were wired to play the Mission: Impossible theme in an obnoxious new publicity stunt, and LA bomb squads were called in to blow up the newsracks when people saw the wires and suspected bombs.

Hilarious, right? Well, is it still hilarious when it results in not only the waste of taxpayer dollars and the diversion of law enforcement personnel, but also the forced evacuation of a veteran's hospital?

Okay, I guess it is.

I hold Tom Cruise personally responsible for putting every one of those lives at risk. I know, it's not like he makes all the promotional decisions himself, but come on. It's so stupid and ridiculous, doesn't it totally seem like something he would do?

I've been seeing the M:i:iii newsracks for a while, but the other day I looked closely at one for the first time, and saw the exposed wires for myself. It does look fishy. Would it be too much to ask for them to add a sticker pointing to the wires, labeled "NOT A BOMB"? It wouldn't have to be too expensive. Someone could just go around and write it in Sharpie. I think that would set people's minds at ease.

Unrealisticness In Freaky Friday (2003)

- When Mark Harmon drops off Jamie Lee Curtis near her office on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, he is shown actually driving down Third Street, right past the spitting Triceratops statue. Yet later Jamie Lee Curtis is shown walking down the middle of the street, which has reverted to its actual status as a pedestrian walkway.

- There is no way Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan could get from their neighborhood (someplace near the beach and PCH, presumably Pacific Palisades or Malibu) to Old Chinatown and back, all within lunch hour, in LA traffic.

- That Mark Harmon would book fiancee Jamie Lee Curtis on a talk show and not tell her until they arrive on set is simply preposterous.

- Chinese people do not serve fortune cookies with the power to make people switch bodies. You're thinking of Jews.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Match Point

Match Point, it turns out, is the reason those of us who watch Woody Allen movies continue to do so: Because every now and then, he suddenly makes a movie worth watching. Which is not to say it's perfect. It's a bit on the long side, and the story does bear certain similarities to Crimes and Misdemeanors. Some of the plottier dialogue, near the end, sticks out as more forced than the rest. Also, while I can see why Jonathan Rhys-Meyers' character might hold some bad-boy mystique for the women, it's a mystery why everyone else seems to like him so much--he's always sleepy-eyed, laconic, and seems like a downer.

Still, the script is well plotted, with setups, payoffs, and all those other storytelling tricks it seemed like Woody Allen had forgotten about. There is genuine suspense and dramatic interest here. The movie actually feels thought out--as if Allen finally decided to work on the script rather than shooting a rushed first draft. And while it's long, the scenes are purposeful and brisk in a way you'd never expect from watching Melinda & Melinda.

Okay, so that sounds like the movie is great because it wasn't completely inept. I don't deny that the bar is low. But I think Match Point would still be good even if you hadn't had your expectations lowered by every movie Allen's made since Sweet and Lowdown.

One other thing, though: Early in the movie, Rhys-Meyers gets a job working in "business," and if you pay attention, it becomes hilariously obvious that Allen doesn't know, or doesn't care to know, the first thing about what that even means. Rhys-Meyers' position and the company's function are never specified, and his business dealings consist entirely of vague "businessman" jargon like "this will be a good venture," "we're expanding," "get in on the ground floor," and "I have to sign some papers."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Pod People

Is a podcast just a thirty-minute long mp3? Sort of. Well, yes. But the reason iTunes helps is with the "cast" part. It updates automatically whenever a new one comes out. So it's an easier, more fluid, more passiveish distribution experience. If you have to check a website every week and download something manually, then manually import it into your playlist, well, that is a poor excuse for a podcast. That is a thirty-minute mp3.

I think there are other kinds of feeds you can use instead of iTunes. On Penny Arcade they keep linking to some mysterious page of gibberish, but I don't know what to do with it.

Luckily Penny Arcade has also put their podcast on iTunes. At first I wasn't too excited about listening to them brainstorm a comic, but it's actually pretty entertaining. In the process of creating the comic, they end up discussing all the video game news of the day and riffing on it with the smartass chops of the comedy writer and the in-depth expertise of the hardcore geek.

Basically you're listening to a session in a writers room. You hear them honing in on an idea and shaping it. And you can enjoy the dramatic irony when you hear one of them nail the idea for the comic in a throwaway wisecrack in the first five minutes, then explore other ideas for half an hour before recognizing it. I don't know if they do any editing after the fact, but the podcast is impressively free of any dull stretches of thoughtful silence you might expect from listening to a brainstorming session.

One non-gaming-related highlight: Tycho reveals that when he and Gabe were roommates, he would get up early every day and purposely run out all the hot water, forcing Gabe to take nothing but cold showers for several years.

The Ricky Gervais Show is also a good podcast, although now that you have to pay for it, you're better off buying a full season as an audiobook rather than subscribing for $1.99 an episode. You can get all six hours of the first season for something like five or six bucks on iTunes (the second season, which I haven't heard, costs more and is only three hours). Oddly, it turns out the show is not really centered on Ricky Gervais, but radio producer Karl Pilkington, a low key, dimwitted fellow with bizarre perspectives on the world. Mostly the show consists of Gervais and Stephen Merchant prompting Karl with questions, letting him expound on his ideas, and then mocking him mercilessly for them.

Signature bits include Merchant reading from Karl's hilariously matter-of-fact diary, and "Monkey News," in which Karl tells supposedly true stories of times in which a monkey was made to stand in for a human and did such a good job that no one noticed until afterwards--at which point Gervais inevitably interjects, "That's bollocks. You're talking shit, mate." In the first episode, Karl proposes a population control idea in which people would live to seventy, then give birth to a baby as they die. Gervais describes this rambling as the sort of thing you might find scrawled in shit in the home of a serial killer. He and Merchant are so mean, it's hard to believe Karl isn't a made-up character. Their insults roll right off his back.

Anyway, maybe your life doesn't include large chunks of time where you would be entertained by listening to other people's conversations. But if, like me, if you regularly spend a couple of hours a day in your car, listening to podcasts may be for you!