Friday, May 25, 2012

A few things

I don't have TV, watch some Netflix over a Roku box (mostly British shows), and have never been a fan of the noise and glitz of American Idol.  Back when I did have TV, I sometimes watched the tryouts but I never had any interest for the actual competition segments, probably saw a half hour cumulative.  Not much.

Today I stumbled on some clips of the guy who won, who I instantly shrugged off as "Meh" and another guy we'll never hear from again, but also from the runner up, Jessica Sanchez.  First I watched her sing "I Will Always Love You" and then "(And I Am Telling You) I'm Not Going"--no, I'm not validating that title, but you know the song--and I had tears rolling down my cheeks.  From both songs.  And I'm too old to do that.  Holy crap.  She can sing too low and be kind of dull, but looking at more clips, she can take Adele to the mat and in a higher key she can rule the world if she wants to.  Man.


I want to read Stephen King's latest, the time traveling book to the JFK assassination, but I'm scared.  I used to have a friend who was a big reader and he always said, "I don't read Stephen King."  All in all, not a bad attitude.  But I used to want to understand Stephen King, not only because of his enormous success, but because every now and then he'd crack off a "'Salem's Lot" or "Misery."  Apparently he can't quite remember writing those, and perhaps that's his secret.

But what I figured kills him most for me is something he seems to be frequently praised for: his use of common expressions.  His fans say they add great realism to his characters, especially the young ones.  I find them jarring and manipulative.  For instance, when we were kids and one of us would use the phrase "pinch a loaf," we'd all laugh and think it funny in a really stupid kind of way.  King takes these "I'm rubber and you're glue" idioms and has his characters use them seriously.  No, they're jokes, dude.  Unless, I don't know, maybe you've never heard them before.

In the sublime movie version of "The Shawshank Redemption," the audience groaned when I saw the "pinch a loaf" scene in the theater not once but twice.  Those things were never intended to be said by real characters as though they actually spoke those way.  It's like no one ever filled King in on the joke.


On a curmudgeonly note, I just saw "Shutter Island" on Netflix.  Not a Dennis Lehane fan, read two of his books and they were flawed enough (meaning they had a few too many points that took me out of the stories) so that I wouldn't read him again, but I tried the movie because Charlie Stella makes fun of an island off the coast of New Hampshire called Star Island, a place he is entombed regularly as part of his MFA program.

Never been a DiCaprio fan, for many of the same reasons I'm not a Johnny Depp fan.  Unless you're playing Captain Jack Sparrow, stop with all the up and down facial twitches.  It's like "How to Overact Using Just Your Facial Muscles."  There's probably a joke in there about "scene chewing" but I'm not up to it.  In any case, in both actors I see flashes but many more of off-Broadway wait tables during the day obviousness in their performances.

Until this one, that is.  DiCaprio kicked butt and his twitchy face was more or less perfectly kept within character.  The movie was solid and entertaining but I was looking hard for the double twist at the end.  If you give me the twist in the last half hour, I want one more at the close to turn the denouement upside down.  Didn't happen, so it's a good but not more than that movie.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Timing question

Disney's "John Carter," which was an entertaining if not quite perfect movie made by some very talented people, can pretty be called a box office bomb.  Disney exec resigned over it, etc.  I'm sure it will make its money back over time, but it's not going to lose its reputation any time soon.

I've read that Disney's marketing campaign was pretty bad, but I don't have TV so I don't know what that was.  I didn't care for Taylor Kitsch's zero-charisma performance, but Lynn Collins' Dejah Thoris was a home run.  Bottom line, if I were a kid again and still went to movies at the same rate, I would have eaten this up multiple times.  Maybe not at a "Star Wars" pace, but I remember taking the bus to the old Southtown Cinema every Saturday for some weeks to see "Logan's Run."  It probably would have been like that.

I will say that I think the name of the film is a complete miss, a boring non-descriptive, non-exciting title that reflects nothing of the space opera/space romance title of "A Princess of Mars."  "John Carter," "Joe Smith," "Bill Jones"--none of these would make effective titles.

Anyway, here's my question:  with the runaway success of "The Avengers," how would "John Carter" do at the box office if it were released in a week or two, sort of in "The Avengers" afterglow?  See, I'm convinced it's a good movie:  exciting, entertaining, and fun to watch.  And really, Lynn Collins nailed Dejah Thoris.  Give it a title that gives it a shot and release it now, when an adventure movie is setting new records every week, and I'm thinking the piggyback effect would be huge.

The real shame of it is that the failure at the box office will taint the movie for a long time, if not forever.  "Blade Runner" was a bomb but turned into an entity with legs.  "John Carter" may do the same.  We'll have to see, but in the meantime, I'll be buying the DVD and I'll watch it any number of times in the future.  As will my kids.  But man, I don't think I should be holding my breath for a sequel.  I think that's disappointing.