Archive for entertainment

2002: A TIME ODYSSEY

Posted in The Popular with tags , , on November 17, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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I LOVE how movies can take you back to another time and place, I bygone era you might have lived through — or only ever posterheard about.

I just watched one such film and was transported all the way back in time — to the early 2000s. It was “Spider-Man,” a movie that has aged worse than guacamole at a summer picnic.

How can it be? The thing is only six years old — they’re still making sequels — yet it already feels like a relic from another time.

Where do I begin? How ’bout the wrestling scene, Peter Parker’s coming-out party as Spider-Man. It’s the first time we really get to see him in action, and he’s wrestling? With Randy “Macho Man” Savage?? Somewhere offscreen, did Superman spin the world back to the 1980s?

macyThen there’s the scene in Times Square, where folks are celebrating “World Unity Day” or something. Who’s entertaining the crowd? None other than recording artist Macy Gray! No, she’s not singing that one song you kinda remember by her from when she was popular for a few months. It’s some tuneless crap called “My Nutmeg Phantasy” (worst song title ever?). Don’t worry if you forgot that she was in the movie — even she doesn’t remember being in it.

It doesn’t help matters that during the drawn-out Times Square scene, cingular2we see a ginormous, conspicuously product-placed billboard for some old-timey company called Cingular (kids, ask your parents), or that the Green Goblin shows up and wreaks havoc on New Yorkers. (Crime in Times Square? How retro!)

And what’s with all this newspaper stuff throughout this flick. Like, Peter is a photographer for the school paper. Do schools even have school papers anymore? And he’s using a film camera! Dork. Later, he goes to work for the Daily Bugle, a newspaper that’s actually hiring people! Talk about bygone days …

paperAnd I swear, this has to be the last movie to use the spinning-front-page newspaper montage for exposition. Seriously? Newspapers aren’t even how moviegoers get their news anymore.

Another way this superhero flick shows its age? There’s only one villain! You can’t get away with that today: “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” have roughly 35 villains between them. Even last year’s “Spider-Man 3” upped the enemy count. A superhero movie with only one bad guy won’t fly with today’s ADHD audiences.

Right to the end, “Spider-Man” dates itself. The crappy closing credit songs sound even worse than they did in 2002, which is saying something. Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger “sings” “Hero” in that croaking, ’90s Pearl Jammy way, and Sum 41 (that’s the number of minutes they were popular) sound like warmed-over Beastie Boys. Great stuff if you want to clear a theater quickly but don’t want to yell “Fire.”

What about the oft-repeated mantra of the movie, its theme, if you will? “With great power comes great responsibility.” After two terms of George W. Bush, we now know that’s bullshit.

It’s funny — an early trailer for the film prominently (and unfortunately) featured the World Trade Center. Supposedly, the WTC scene was never intended for the final film. But it might as well have been included. “Spider-Man” feels so last century already.

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CALL ME UNPRONOUNCEABLE

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , , , on November 13, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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AS someone who has heard his relatively simple six-letter last name pronounced about 47 different ways, I always try to make sure I get other people’s names right. But there are a bunch of celebrities whose names I’ve mangled over the years (I thought it was Charlize “thur-RONE,” for example.)

It’s still somewhat common for actors and singers to take easier-to-pronounce (and often less-Jewy) stage names. (Would Jon Stewart be as popular if he were still Jonathan Leibowitz? Probably, actually — he makes it no secret he’s Jewish, and a lot of people think his last name is Daily anyway. But you get my point.)

So I give these folks below a lot of credit for sticking with these names (most of which I’ve mispronounced — or just completely avoided saying out loud):

ACTORS

rice-cubMary Lynn Rajskub: Surly “Chloe” on “24.” You know, the only person at CTU with a personality. It’s “rice-cub,” by the way (which is a lot easier than saying “surly Chloe” ten times fast.)

Chiwetel Ejiofor: Great actor who played a terrific bad guy in “Serenity.” HEAR his name pronounced here

Ryan Phillippe: I thought it was “fill-EEP.” Doesn’t that sound classier anyway?

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: “Mr. Eko” on “Lost.” The hyphen is actually a rest stop.

Saoirse Ronan: Some say it’s “SEER-shuh,” others say it’s “SER-shuh.” Pick one and stick with it, or I’ll just keep calling you “sow-eerse.”

Don Cheadle: Am I the only one who wants to say “CHEE-ad-ull?”

Shia LeBeouf: I wouldn’t have even bothered learning this one, but it looks like this guy isn’t going away any time soon.

MUSICIANS

John Mayer: As in McCheese, not Oscar. (Geez, am I hungry or what?)

Sufjan Stevens: That’s “SOOF-yahn” to you.

Ciara: It’s “Sierra.” Her last name is pronounced ”  .”sade

Sade:  I remember everyone pronouncing her name “shar-day” back in the shar-day. Apparently, even her record company printed “pronounced shar-day” after her name on the labels of her first releases in the ’80s. But it’s “sha-day,” as in “Sha” Na Na. Hey — now there’s a great idea for a collaboration!

(BONUS: As long as I’m embarrassing myself, I used to think grunge band Mudhoney‘s name was pronounced “mud-hoe-knee.” Sad, huh?)

SICK AND (RE)TIRED

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , , , on November 10, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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I’M announcing to you all right now that I’m retiring from blogging so I can concentrate on keeping track of young celebrities who announce their retirements.

Take Joaquin Phoenix. Please. phoenixTo rehab, preferably. Late last month, the 34-year-old Oscar-nominated actor formerly known as Leaf announced (well, mumbled and slurred, actually) that he was leaving acting to focus on his music. I don’t think Phoenix even had the reporter in focus when he announced his decision. (There’s a “Walk The Line” joke in there somewhere.)

A week ago, on a red carpet, he made sure dyslexics got his message too, with “Bye! Good” written on his fists.

Don’t worry, Joaquin fans — this Phoenix will rise again. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that young celebrities who announce their retirements are usually back to work before we can even start missing them.

Like superstar rapper Jay-Z. He made huge news in 2003 when he announced he was retiring from recording at the age of 33. Wonder whatever happened to that guy.

Daniel Day Lewis announced he was leaving acting in the late ’90s (he did qualify his retirement with a “semi-“) to focus on woodworking and shoemaking in Italy. Midlife crisis much?

How ’bout M.I.A.? The Sri Lankan rapper announced at this year’s Bonnaroo that she was pulling the plug on her career of being splooged over by music critics and making albums that no one else heard. Turned out she was just pregnant, and then a song of hers got popular because of the “Pineapple Express” trailer and voila — she was back on the job! M.I.A., my ass.

Four years ago, Hugh Grant said in a charmingly befuddled way that he was retiring because, for him, film acting is a “miserable experience.” Try it from our end, Hugh.

Eminem announced in 2005 that he would be taking a break from performing to focus on producing, and that his “Encore” disc was “certainly the cap on this part of his career,” as his manager put it. But would he retire? Slim chance, Slim Shady. Look for his new CD, “Relapse,” under your Christmas tree.

Sean Penn announced his retirement from acting in the early ’90s and was never seen again — except for “Carlito’s Way,”  “Dead Man Walking” and the 20 or so other movies he’s been in since. And who retires from acting and then does a couple episodes of “Friends”?

Everyone should take a cue from Clint Eastwood. The guy cut back on acting years ago to focus on directing, and he hasn’t acted for any other director in more than 15 years. But did he ever feel the need to tell the world? No. There were no announcements, no photo ops, no messages scrawled on his hands. He just kinda slid over into directing without calling much attention to himself — he did it so quietly and confidently that few people even noticed he wasn’t acting that much anymore.

So, Joaquin: Act, don’t act. Work, don’t work. Stay, go away. But show us, don’t tell us. Let your work speak for itself. And if it’s good, we’ll pay attention.

THE OVER/UNDER

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , on October 14, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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Overrated: J.J. Abrams Underrated: Jimmie “JJ” Walker

Overrated: the Dow Underrated: the now

Overrated: “Tropic Thunder” Underrated: the Lightning Seeds

Overrated: gravitas Underrated: gravy fries

Overrated: “House” Underrated: “Hoss”

Overrated: “unrated extended” Underrated: 90-minute runtime

Overrated: “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” Underrated: the devil you don’t know

Overrated: Robert Downey Jr. Underrated: Junior Brown

IRON MAN, MARBLE MOUTH

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , , , , , on October 1, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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HE WAS the biggest movie star of the summer, the one who had everybody talking. So how come I couldn’t understand a word Robert Downey Jr. said?

First, I saw “Tropic Thunder,” in which Downey plays an Australian actor portraying a black American character in a war movie. His performance won rave reviews, but I found at least half of what he said unintelligible. Maybe it was the theater’s sound system or the accents he used, but I really had trouble making out his lines throughout the film.

So I finally got to see “Iron Man” yesterday, and wouldn’t you know it, Downey kinda mumbles his way through this one too. I swear to God, about half of his lines are delivered as whispers or as tossed-off, smart-alecky asides. I was so distracted by his low-key yet rushed line readings that they were all I could focus on. It doesn’t help that director Jon Favreau decided to go a little Altmanesque and have his actors talk simultaneously in several scenes, to mirror natural dialogue. That would be fine in a lot of movies. But c’mon, Downey, you’re playing a superhero, for chrissakes … E-nun-ci-ate.

In other “entertainment” news:

Natalie Cole has basically made a career out of being her father’s daughter and singing the old man’s tunes — one of “her” biggest hits was “Unforgettable,” a “duet” with the dead guy, for crying out loud. Seventeen years later, she’s grave-robbin’ again — with a new album and another duet with the crooning cadaver. The name of the album? “Still Unforgettable.” Umm, Natalie, if you have to remind us you’re unforgettable…

So I was reading an article in Entertainment Weekly about Disney’s hottest new product, Demi Lovato, and how she’s poised to take over Miley’s teen-pop throne (no, I don’t know why I was reading it) and the story quoted “an equities analyst at Schaeffer’s Investment Research who follows the teen-entertainment market.” For real? Maybe we should just let our economy collapse and start over…

READY FOR THEIR CLOSE-UP (AND REALITY SHOW AND SEX SCANDAL)

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , , , , on August 6, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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ASK any 10 kids today what they want to be when they grow up and at least half of them will tell you they want to be famous. That’s not the upsetting part. The really disturbing thing is that they easily can become famous.

Fame used to be a pipe dream that required attendance at a funky New York arts school where you had to pay in sweat and dance on the roofs of taxicabs. These days, fame doesn’t take much. We already have a bunch of young celebrities who don’t really do anything other than be famous (which currently entails going to parties sans panties, making sex tapes, sharing nude cellphone pix, and driving into utility poles — all of which apparently “exhausts” them every six months or so.)

They’ve set a shitty example for today’s fame-seeking kids, who don’t necessarily want to sing or dance or entertain — they just want to be watched. To them, the untelevised life isn’t worth living.

It’s been almost two decades since MTV first aimed its cameras at a carefully chosen cast of “ordinary” youngsters for “The Real World.” Back then, the show was a novelty. Today, there are hundreds of programs and channels and websites that hold the key to no-talent-required celebrity.

“American Idol,” “Laguna Beach,” “The Hills,” “Big Brother,” “Kid Nation” and YouTube have shown that millions of people will watch adolescents do fairly unremarkable things. What has Heidi Montag done to become so famous other than be a bitch, jump in front of cameras, and renovate her boobs?

We’re in desperate need of a fame gatekeeper, someone who can parcel out attention to those who deserve it. Someone who would make sure we never have to hear about, say, Eliot Spitzer’s call girl again. It’s bad enough we were subjected to snippets of her crappy songs when the sex scandal made news, but now this attention whore/whore (I refuse to use her name) is pitching a reality dating show that would document her search for love. Who on earth could she possibly love more than her obsession with being famous?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Fame should be left to the pros (and not that kind). As always, I think the Pussycat Dolls sum it up best — here are some words of wisdom from their new single: “When I grow up I wanna be famous, I wanna be a star, I wanna be in movies. When I grow up I wanna see the world, drive nice cars, I wanna have groupies. When I grow up, be on TV, people know me, be on magazines. When I grow up, fresh and clean, number one chick when I step out on the scene. Be careful what you wish for ’cause you just might get it. You just might get it. You just might get it.

Yeah, kids. Take a lesson on the pitfalls of fame from a suggestively named gaggle of interchangeable dancers with little vocal talent who discovered Auto-Tune and dressed up like hookers only to wind up international music superstars with hit albums, millions of fans, a reality show and their own clothing lines.

What kid would wish for that?

THE LATEST THING IN OLD THINGS

Posted in The Popular with tags , , , , on July 18, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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A FOOTNOTE (or a bonus track, perhaps?) to this week’s post on the re-emergence of vinyl:

Seeing an ancient format touted as the hot new thing just cracks me up. Check out this art from newburycomics.com (and click on it to see their top sellers):

Love the exclamation point. Newbury Comics is a pretty big New England chain of music stores (remember those?) that has somehow survived as Tower and other chains have vanished. Wouldn’t it be funny if the vinyl record brought back the record store?