Monday, February 25, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"The world is insane. This is the definition of sanity."

Jaime Weinman responds to my Knight Rider post with agreement, analysis and counter-argument.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Knight Rider

As we meet Mike Traceur, the heir to Michael Knight and nominal "hero" of NBC's Knight Rider remake/sequel, he is asleep in bed, wrapped around some anonymous naked girl. As his roommate tries to awaken him, yet another hot girl, this one in her underwear, climbs into the bed and wraps herself around Mike. What are we to make of this introduction? Perhaps we are meant to think, Wow, what a cool guy! Not only does he have threesomes with hot chicks, but they are so frequent that it doesn't even seem to be a big deal, and they are so satisfying that both girls want to stay and cuddle until morning! This is my kind of dude! Probably we are not meant to think what I thought: What a colossal douche; I hate this guy and the people who thought this would make me like him. Is this any kind of example for a hero to set? Think of the children. Won't somebody please think of the children?!

Seriously, though, think of the children. Granted, this scene isn't exactly explicit, but it is inappropriate and unnecessary. This is Knight Rider after all, a stupid show about a talking car full of crime-fighting gadgets, and if you don't think that sounds like a kids' show, then I have a serious adult drama about a boy talking to cartoons that I'd like to sell you. Don't get me wrong, I love Knight Rider's premise; at its best, it's a lot of fun. But it undeniably appeals to kids (as it did to me in the '80s), so is it too much to ask that a show this dumb be family-friendly enough for parents not to squirm while watching it with a seven-year-old (or for teens and twentysomethings not to squirm while watching it with their parents)? It's not like there are serious themes that will be undercut by a less-than-realistic treatment of Mike Traceur's promiscuity as a coping mechanism for grief. This isn't The Sopranos, or Dexter, or even Sex and the City. It's Knight Rider, and kids should be able to watch Knight Rider, and fuck you, whoever decided to make Knight Rider not kid-friendly. Have some damn consideration for others.

The next scene introduces a hot girl FBI agent showering on the beach in her bikini, then going to her bedroom to get rid of a hot blonde girl from the night before. Wow, a lesbian cop who has one-night-stands with hot chicks! I can almost hear the fratty high-fives in the writers' room. It's as if they forgot that they already wore out the "this character is cool because they get laid" introduction in the previous scene. Even if you've already taught your kid about lesbians, surely the gratuitousness of another character who likes to sleep around would be a bit annoying if you were a parent. Mike's anti-monogamy stance, unnecessary as it is, is at least explored later, while this FBI agent scene is pure titillation. I like hot slutty lesbians as much as anyone, but there's a time and a place, fellas.

Fortunately, all of this is a moot point because the movie is no fun at all. It consists mainly of people having dull conversations while sitting in a car, intercut with random shots of a car driving through the desert that are straight out of a car commercial, only less exciting. Kids are likely to get bored and give up before the end of the first excitement-free hour, leaving only adults with incredible patience to enjoy the revelation that a fictional version of Blackwater is behind the plot to steal KITT's creator's technology and use it to start wars for profit. As a comic book fan, I realize that you can sneak serious ideas into light entertainment and make it work, but never has it felt clumsier and more unnecessary than it does here.

To add to the mess, the cast, particularly the leads, are so bland that you can barely bring yourself to pay attention to what they are saying. Did Ford demand that no one be cast who had more presence than the car? Granted, the dialogue consists mostly of swaths of exposition exchanged with a close-up of KITT's voice box, so it's hard to blame the cast for everything. The only actor to make an impression is the nerdy bad guy who plays Andy on Quarterlife, maybe because I recognized him already, or maybe because he has a knack for at least delivering bad lines with a trace of humor.

The car chases are abysmal, some of the worst I've ever seen. I hated the quick-cut car chase in The Bourne Supremacy because you couldn't actually see anything that happened, but at least that movie managed to imply that exciting things were going on, even if it stubbornly refused to show them to you. Knight Rider neither shows you anything cool nor bothers to imply it. Much of the high-speed driving just looks like sped-up footage. The editing is too fast to show the action and not fast enough to obscure the fact that no interesting stunts are being performed.

If any of the following terrible car action scenes sound exciting, then this may be the show for you:

- KITT drives through a college campus at sorta-high speed as students jump out of the way. As the car weaves through campus it makes lots of turns on wet pavement.

- KITT is followed up a mountain road (near Stanford!?) by the bad guys, who are keeping up with the supercharged sports car just fine thanks to their shiny new Ford Edge. KITT leads the bad guys into an oncoming truck, which he estimates will kill them, but (when we return from the commercial break) they stop just in time to prevent damaging the Ford Edge and upsetting the show's sponsor. Thank goodness for those top-notch Ford brakes!

- As the two bland leads talk, KITT drives through a parking garage a little bit faster than one might normally go.

- KITT morphs into other Mustangs of various colors and price points, in order to throw the bad guys off their trail and better display the full range of Mustangs available at your local Ford dealer.

- KITT's nanotechnology (every screenwriter's go-to buzzword to explain magical, impossible things) absorbs and repairs bullet hits T-1000-style, ensuring that Ford need not worry that a less-than-pristine Mustang might ever appear onscreen.

- In the movie's climactic action scene, the one scene that actually somewhat approximates a car chase, Mike uses KITT to ram the bad guy's SUV. (Don't worry, the bad guys have switched to an unbadged GMC, so it's okay for it to take damage!) KITT's computer has been deactivated, allowing bullets to shatter a window in what have been a major coup for producers after days of negotiating with Ford. Mike activates KITT's computer, turning the car invincible again just in time to cut off the SUV. The SUV collides with KITT at full speed like it's running into a wall--KITT not only is unscathed, but doesn't even move. Apparently invincible nanotechnology also lends a car unlimited mass when necessary. Luckily the captured good guy in the SUV is the one guy who's fine after the horrible crash.

There is not even one Turbo Boost jump in the entire movie. That is like a Dukes of Hazzard movie without a jump; why even bother? Even the awful direct-to-DVD Dukes prequel attempted one lame CGI-aided jump. If Knight Rider can't make room in the budget for a jump in its big expensive pilot movie, what are the odds that the show will be able afford it in the lower-budget weekly episodes? The original Dukes and Knight Rider shows used to wreck a car in a jump every week, and now we can't even get one decent jump in a heavily-hyped TV movie? How is it that all the advances in technology and film production in the past twenty years have only made car chases worse?

Why the hell isn't this movie any fun? Even the Ford commercials featuring Knight Rider that run in the breaks (assuming you can tell the difference) are more fun than the movie itself, where everyone is talking and talking about their tortured past and parent issues and relationship troubles and Iraq and... Who cares? Never have attempts at character development been so unwelcome. I don't remember learning anything about Hasselhoff's Michael Knight besides that he was a good guy with a cool car who actually went out and did things.

You don't need to lay this kind of groundwork for Knight Rider, especially not at the expense of everything that makes the idea enjoyable. Just give the dude and his car a crime to solve and let them get on with it. Instead half an hour goes by and Mike still hasn't met the car. Nothing happens in this pointless movie. If the last scene--in which Mike and KITT, now in the employ of the FBI, are dropped off a plane for their first mission--had been the first scene, there might have been a movie here. Instead it's two hours of complete bullshit that no one will enjoy--not bored kids, not uncomfortable parents, and probably not even the people at Ford.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Meet Mike and Kenny

Hey, remember those guys who made that hilarious Quarterlife parody? The Quarterlife website now has an interview with them on their qLife page! How cool! Who knows how long it will stay up there, so you should watch it as many times as you can! Those Mike and Kenny guys seem really funny and smart.

Update: Here is a direct link to the video, which you will be able to enjoy even when its prominent placement on the qLife page is no more.


Ford Presents Knight Rider Presents Ford

It's hard to decide just how to feel about the Knight Rider remake/sequel. On one hand, this interview is heartening, as I'm in agreement that TV could use more light one-hour shows about cool guys with cool cars. On the other hand, it would be nice if we got a new show with a new idea for a cool guy with a cool car. And while I'd love for a show about a cool car to succeed, I don't know if we want to contribute to a Ben Silverman world where every show is a remake of another show.

The choice of KITT is also difficult to reconcile. I already like Mustangs, and Shelby Cobra Mustangs, and the more I get used to the idea, the more it seems fine for KITT. But I hate clumsy, obvious product tie-ins, and the fact is that despite what the above-linked interview says, it seems to be the case that the real reason a Mustang was chosen is that Ford paid a shitload of money to make it happen. Maybe the producers actually did look at other cars, and maybe the Shelby was even the best one, but as far as NBC was concerned, it's hard to imagine that the producers could have chosen a different car if Ford was offering the biggest money.

The result is that we have a KITT based on a cool car, but unlike the old KITT, whose Trans-Am badging was all removed, we have a Kitt whose prominently displayed Ford and Shelby Cobra logos are the subject of numerous glamorous close-ups. This is unnecessary. In the old series, it made sense (to the extent that anything about the concept makes sense) that if you were to modify a car so as to fully outfit it with crazy gadgets, you might as well leave off the insignias so it stands alone as a unique car. That didn't stop viewers from recognizing KITT as a Trans-Am, or young fans from lusting after Trans-Ams of their own. Similarly, if the new Knight Rider is a hit, that will be enough to make people want a cool car like KITT, but Ford doesn't trust us to get it and has to bombard us with the fact that that is their car. Trouble is, it's all so obvious and we're all so hyper-aware of it, that it actually makes us want it less. If you are constantly being reminded that the only reason this car was selected was because someone badly wants you to want it, your mind rebels. The manipulation is too obvious. You feel like you'd be a sucker to want it now.

Even worse, it leads to bullshit like this. Besides nostalgia and car love, Will Arnett voicing KITT was probably the coolest thing about this remake, and now he's being forced to pull out because he's spent years as the voice of GM car commercials. It makes sense that GM wouldn't want their main voice guy voicing a Ford commercial, but how sad is it that this remake is so thoroughly whored out that it is a Ford commercial?! Silly Will Arnett probably thought that it would be okay, that he was simply being cast in a TV show that wouldn't conflict with his duties as a pitchman. Sorry, no, this is an ad. Didn't you know?

I'm not asking for much. Just that product placement isn't so painfully overwhelming that actors literally find themselves removed from projects due to conflicts of advertising interest.

Also, when the show itself is literally a car commercial, is it still clever to make the promo sound like a car commercial? Or does it show your hand just a little too much?


Monday, February 04, 2008

Guac Bowl 2008

Yesterday was Adam Pava's annual Guac Bowl. Also, some people watched a football game on TV or something. My photos are here. Our entry (above) was Stephanie's idea, designed to spread awareness... of creamy, no-frills, avocado-centered guacamole.