Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Adam Lambert - Buzz for Wrong Reason

As literally EVERYONE knows by now, Adam Lambert created quite a stir with his provocative, S&M-inspired, boy-kisses-boy performance at the American Music Awards. The clip has been repeated over and over online and on TV, discussed in every forum imaginable, and Good Morning America canceled his early-morning performance out of fear of causing the country to upchuck their Cheerios.

If he wanted to created PR buzz for his new album, I think he failed. Can you recall anything about the song he sang? Do you find yourself hoping for more? Is the Adam Lambert CD on your "must-have" list? No, I didn't think so.

So much was made of the shocking aftermath of the performance, that no one is talking about his music. Maybe that's what he wants, but I'm assuming he would rather be known as a terrific singer than a, what? gay version of the artist formerly known as Prince who is now once again known as Prince? All I can recall is the stupid way he stuck out his tongue when he did those screeching, screaming high notes that everyone thought would be his claim to fame on American Idol. I cannot recall ONE other thing about the song, and I certainly have no interest in hearing it again.

Unintended consequences? Maybe. Maybe not. Yeah, Adam Lambert is "the talk" right now, but is that enough to launch his career? I don't think so. I think he would have been much wiser to come onto that world stage and knocked our socks off with what a great singer he is. Not try and get away with how decadent he can be on live TV. I don't think we've heard the last of Adam Lambert, but I strongly suspect a year from now we won't remember who he is.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pharmaceutical Ads Suck - Plavix Edition

I thoroughly HATE pharmaceutical advertising. The fact that is has become so common just makes me hate it even more. There is just something wrong with drug companies telling everyone to "ask your doctor" if their particular pill is right for you. Of course doctors then overly prescribe the medicine because the patient insists upon it, because the commercial convinced them they need it. That's the sad thing about pharmaceutical advertising - it works!

The latest one to really bug me is for Plavix. I don't even know what Plavix is supposed to treat. I think it's something related to the heart. It's usually impossible to tell from the commercials and all the blabbering the announcer does. In this one, a woman is playing golf - alone - and a hospital gurney is mysteriously following her. I think the point they are trying to make is that she's somehow in danger, but it also comes across as if she's got the power of a hospital with her everywhere she goes. At any rate, the point isn't made very clearly.

She ends up leaving the golf course and heading directly to her doctor's office. Well, it's not really her doctor. The disclaimer is careful to point out that it is a "doctor dramatization." They wouldn't want anyone to think the guy int he white coat with the stethoscope around his neck is "really" a doctor. Got to disclaim it for some legal reason, right?

Anyway, it ends with her smiling and the announcer listing all the incredible things that can go wrong, but nevertheless tells you to ask you doctor is Plavix is right for you.

It's amazingly stupid, but obviously the people at Bristol-Myers Squibb are extremely proud of - and clueless about - their spot. The feature it on their website, but unfortunately the video players isn't working. (Video coming soon. Please check back) Nevertheless, the commercial is on YouTube, probably placed there by their PR people for all the world to enjoy. This is how they describe the commercial on the website:

Heart Attack (caused by a clot) Video: Golf Course

A woman is walking across a golf course, engaged in a game. She’s unaware that she is being closely followed by an ambulance gurney. “If you’ve had a heart attack caused by a completely blocked artery, another heart attack could be lurking....”

Yep, that's what it is all right. But....why? And how can you be unaware that you are being followed by an ambulance gurney while you are out playing golf alone?

Pretty bad.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Critics Are Wrong - Terminator Salvation is FANTASTIC

I've been looking forward to the new Terminator movie for months. I have loved every film in the series and was totally glued to the TV for every episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I was thoroughly disappointed when I read the first reviews of the movie and the rather lukewarm reception the film received among the major critics.

I am happy to report: THE CRITICS ARE WRONG!

It is simply fantastic! Everything about the movie works and the true test - I was totally riveted to the screen for over two hours. I completely immersed myself in the film and the time flew by in an instant - leaving me wanting more.

Unlike Sarah Connor, which took great liberties with the basic plot of the three previous films, Salvation is totally true to the established world of the Terminators and builds upon it beautifully. We got glimpses of the future world following Judgment Day in some of the earlier films, but only brief flashbacks (actually flashforwards, I guess) and the telling of the tale through character remembrances. This time we get the full power - and terror - of the story. Plus your mind doesn't come close to exploding as you try to figure out how the past and future mingle and how intimately what happens in one leads to important events in the other.

Even if you simply view this as an action film, you won't be disappointed. It is full of terrific battle scenes, great fights, scary "monsters" and some incredible explosions. Things continually jump out of nowhere to give you a start, and you get battles on land, sea and in the air. Since in many ways this is actually a film about a war in the future, it works perfectly on that level.

But the whole man vs. machine, good vs. evil plotline also works to perfection. After all, the machines are the creation of man, so once again, we are our own worst enemy. The moral sides are clear cut, but the subtleties are deep and stimulating. And this is perfectly conveyed through the new character to the series, Marcus Wright. Despite being Skynet's first cyborg, they can't remove his humanity. To be successful, Skynet ultimately needs to add skin to machines, not replace human parts with metal. It's a wonderfully subtle difference that plays a key role in this thought-provoking film.

I hope people love this movie as much as I do and it grows in popularity and success. I'm already hoping for a sequel. I most certainly am looking forward to seeing it again very soon!

And once again I need to remind myself to stop listening the the "experts."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Oddities of Airline Travel

I did some traveling over this past weekend and it is such a strange, odd activity - I thought I'd share some of my observations.

First of all, even though I vowed never again to fly on United Airlines after a string of horrible misadventures over the past year, I did it. Mainly because I had a bunch of "miles" to spend that were going to expire in a couple of months. It cost me 25,000 of them to travel 1600 miles round trip, so I've never quite understood the correlation between the two values placed upon this measure of distance. (Is this the currency used in the rest of the world? Do people in Germany collect kilometers in return for taking flights?)

The first leg of my journey was from Washington- Dulles to Chicago-O'Hare. Fairly uneventful. What stuck in my mind is the odd way the airlines have now divided up the aircraft. It used to be you had First Class and Coach. Now there's Business Class, Premier, Economy and something called Economy Plus. For $39 you can buy four extra inches of leg room. Four inches! It doesn't seem many people are willing to do this because the Economy Plus section on the airplane was completely empty. And there was no way they were going to let us sardines in Economy move up a row or two to spread out a bit. That would completely defeat their attempt at creating and maintaining a system of passenger worthiness based upon how much you're willing to pay for "upgrades."

One of the things that always has amazed me about people who fly on airplanes is the need of many of them to leap to their feet as soon as the plane stops and the fasten seat belt sign goes off. We all know it's going to be a few more minutes before they get the stairway or walkway hooked up and the door open, but there is a contingent of people who seem to insist on being the first to stand in the aisle. It reminds me of people in traffic who swerve in and out of lanes in order to get the next stoplight a few seconds sooner than anyone else. I simply stay in my seat - often to the great distress of people seated in my row who can't get out around me - until the line starts moving. I know I'll see the quick jumpers at the baggage claim. They'll simple have been standing there a couple of minutes before I get there.

Of course more and more people are now not checking baggage since the airlines have imposed a fee for doing so. This was supposed to offset the increase in fuel charges a while back. Of course as soon as the prices dropped back to their previous levels we all expected this charge to disappear. Nope. The thing is, it results in people lugging bags that are way too big to fit in the luggage compartment on the plane with them. It slows the whole boarding process down and makes the cabin even more crowded and uncomfortable that it normally is. But the airlines don't care. The cargo hold is now a money-maker, right? It's amazing to me to see a guy trying to cram his full-size suitcase into a space half the size it would need to be to fit. Usually he ends up checking it at the gate, but I guess he gets out of spending the $15 this way.

On my return flight from O'Hard to Dulles I took a huge, new 767. First Class looks like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Little bed-like pods with everything at your fingertips, a monitor, pillows, blanket. It's basically a bed. And there were lots of people sitting there. For a 90-minute flight?!?! I really don't get it. Maybe the are totally duped by the special attention they get at the gate. It's actually kind of comical.

United puts down two carpets side-by-side. One is blue, the other red. There's a rope connected to some stands to enclose the red-carpet area a bit. If you have the right kind of ticket, you get to walk on the red carpet. If not, you have to walk on the blue. They are side-by-side. One isn't a shorter distance or plusher or anything...just red. However, if you walk on the red one and stop at the rope, the gate agent immediately stops what he or she is doing to open up the rope and let you through. What service! You get to jump ahead of all the low class jerks who didn't over-pay for their flight. You must be important!

It makes me laugh. How easy we are able to be flattered for absolutely no reason!

After First Class there is another one with big, plushy seats and foot rests. I assume this is Business Class. You don't get to lay back completely, but your 90 minutes in the air is going to be a pampered treat. Not too many people seated there. I think the upgrade was around $159. That's $1.77 a minute, and a free drink doesn't justify this, I assume, to most people.

In the back the seats were seven across and the plane was packed. I likes the fact that there were individual TV monitors in front of every seat, but when the person in front of me decided to recline her seat, it sort of pointed my monitor toward my chest instead of my eyes. They had a pretty good selection of films available. I opted to watch Frost/Nixon - until I realized that it's impossible to watch a two-hour film in 90 minutes. Oh well, at least I now know I want to rent it.

Some people seem extremely nice and courteous when they travel, but there are always a bunch of jerks. The one that stood out most to me was in Chicago. There is a shuttle that United operates that takes people from Terminal One to Terminal Two and vice verse. I got in line and up stepped a shirmpy little Type "A" man who looked like he was about to come out of his skin. He was obviously in a hurry and very impatient about it. He kept looking around everyone to see what the hold up was, and I'm certain if he could have done it without anyone noticing, he would have snuck past the line to be first on the shuttle.

When it finally arrived, he dashed on board and refused to take a seat, probably because the only one available was in the rear. He tried to stand by the luggage rack, but the driver wouldn't leave until he sat down. Oh, did that make him mad! We travel for the two minutes from terminal to terminal, and as soon as it stops, he jumps up, grabs his bags and bolts out the door. Almost left a cloud of dust. Everyone else exited in a nice, polite orderly fashion.

A few minutes later, when I got to my gate, the first thing I noticed is Mr. In-a-Hurry standing as close as possible to the boarding door, still looking very inpatient and urgent. Of course they didn't start boarding for another 15 minutes, so he had plenty of time to stand there pushing out the arteries in his neck. Amazing.

United did OK this time. I was worried because they were about 0 for 4 leading up to this. I'm not in a great hurry to fly them again, but I see I still have some "miles" to spend before the end of October. We'll see.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Want My 88 (+ 20) Minutes Back

There was absolutely nothing worth watching on TV tonight, so I opted to spend $3.99 on a pay-per-view movie that looked interesting - 88 Minutes - starring a pretty good list of talented actors: Leelee Sobieski, Amy Brenneman, Neal McDonough and of course, Al Pacino.

What a horrid trainwreck of a movie pretending to be a major film release! One of the worst I have ever seen.

There are plenty of scathing reviews on IMDB about this film, so I'm not going to rehash the random plot and complete lack of coherent continuity. I just wonder what goes through the minds of supposedly talented people when they read the script (if there was one) and then actually try to put these scenes onto film. I guess a lot of the blame goes to the director, Jon Avnet. He's been around a while, mostly as a TV producer and director, but with a fairly decent list of credentials and credits. He must have forcefully avoided exhibiting any talent when directing this turkey. How could he have NOT seen what he was doing?

The totally goofy thing about this movie is how quickly it jumps from one dead-end plot device to the next. And someone's cell phone rings at least twice in every scene. It's almost as if they realized they had absolutely nothing going for them here, and decided to just try and divert the audience from following too closely. Everyone zips around from place to place with no particular reason, takes a few cell phone calls and then introduces a new suspect when it was obvious to me from almost the start who the bad guy really was. The scene in which Pacino almost gets run over by a firetruck is nothing but laughable.

Also laughable - but in a sad, sorry way - is what they do to Amy Brenneman's character. She is the ultra-efficient, absolutely perfect personal assistant to Pacino's character. Of course her fatal flaw - and the one that makes the whole plot fiasco possible - is that she is gay and allowed herself to be seduced by the psychopathic female killer. Of course! While they nap after wild sex in Pacino's office, the baddie is able to get everything necessary to torment Pacino. And when she comes clean to Pacino and admits what she's done, she begs for forgiveness. Pacino's response has got to go down as one of the worst lines ever in modern American cinema:

If I couldn't forgive you, I wouldn't deserve you.


Whenever I watch a movie I truly hope it's going to be outstanding, and I go into it hoping upon hope that it will be thoroughly entertaining. I don't approach films cynically or looking for flaws, which is why it makes me so angry when something like this gets released. It's insulting.

The film's running time is 108 minutes. I kind of expected them to do a High Noon and make the length the same at the title and do it in real time. If they had just cut out a few of the cell phone red herring calls, they probably could have gotten rid of 20 minutes and made it 88. Might even have improved it!

I hope you don't get suckered into paying money to watch this mess. Everyone involved should issue an apology and promise never again to waste our time - or theirs - with such trash.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

SNL Fails - Again

I've criticized Saturday Night Live for what NBC and Lorne Michaels have allowed it to become - safe and formulaic. Each week it's the exact same words, the same order, the same segments at the exact same time. The show broke ground 30 years ago with how new and different it was. It shattered stereotypes. People called it "iconoclastic." Now its a formula that the powers that be seem to be afraid to break. Lately they won't even experiment with something fresh.

This was completely evident in last night's show (11/15/2008) in which Justin Timberlake made an appearance during Weekend Update. He was there saying something about being scheduled to be both the host and musical guest next week, but he has to cancel. So he was going to recap the show that would have been. He nailed it! He did the intro, the monologue, the "we've got a great show" line and everything in between to the "I had a great time" closing. Obviously he and some of the writers are aware of what a formula they have become. In around three minutes, Timberlake did an entire episode of the stale show Saturday Night Live has become. He was very funny and it was the highlight of the show. The clip is available on Hulu. Click here to watch it.

But the main reason I tuned in last night was because of all the non-stop hype this week about the show hiring two new cast members. With Amy Poehler out on maternity leave, apparently Michaels decided he needed a fill-in. Since he must feel Poehler's part would be extremely hard to replace, SNL went with two actresses instead of just one. And the NBC PR people outdid themselves with getting this story placed everywhere.

The two new cast members, Abby Elliott and Michaela Watkins, are apparently God's gift to comedy. Incredible credentials and even a direct connection to Poehler - as if comedy skills somehow rub off from one actor to another. Abby Elliott got the greater share of the hype because she's the daughter of former cast member Chris Elliott and the granddaughter of Bob Elliott of the Bob and Ray comedy team. Apparently she's great with impressions and her flaming red hair invites comparisons to Lucy. According to the press reports, Abby Elliott was going to take SNL to new height of hilarity!

So I watched...and watched...and watched...

I think I saw Watkins as a background extra in a skit about two firefighters trying to talk a suicide jumper down from a building. Maybe.

And Elliott did appear. She was the slate girl in a pretty funny sketch where three male backup dancers mess up a Beyonce music video. She steps in front of the camera with a marker slate and says:

Beyonce Single Ladies music video - take one.

They dance...Beyonce stops the filming. They talk. Elliott comes on again:

Beyonce Single Ladies music video - take two.

They dance...Beyonce stops the filming. They talk. Elliott comes on again:

Beyonce Single Ladies music video - take three.
They dance...Beyonce stops the filming They talk. End.

Wow...they sure put the incredible comedic talents of Abby Elliott to good use. So funny!

Once again, the hype and expectations that Saturday Night Live built up were totally undelivered. I certainly don't blame Elliott or Watkins, but if I was either of them I would be seriously wondering just what the heck NBC and SNL are up to. With all of the publicity, this should have been their moment to shine - to show America what they can do - to make us laugh. Something SNL has seemingly really forgotten how to do. Hey, but at least they aren't breaking format.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Megyn Kelly Crosses the Line - Again

Josh Orton has an article on The Huffington Post today dealing with the ongoing effort by rational, intelligent people to finally expose the Fox News Network as the horribly biased mouthpiece for right-wing extremism that it has become. It focuses on an "interview" - if you could call it that - conducted by the poster child for conservative intolerance, Megyn Kelly with Obama spokesman Bill Burton.

I'm still at a loss as to what Kelly's job is with the network. I was under the impression she wants to be considered a journalist, but that would require an unbiased approach to the major issues of the day in an attempt to get to the truth. Kelly has no desire to find truth other than her own warped take on it. And her interview with Burton demonstrates that she is more interested in becoming the female Bill O'Reilly. It is so obvious that her purpose here is to blindly support the bias put forth by Fox and her "style" is to talk louder than the guest. Like most of the pompous morons given airtime on Fox (Sean Hannity foremost among them), her technique is to not let the subject of the interview get a word in edgewise. She is quick to jump all over Burton if he tries to respond to her next falsehood, but let him try to make a point and she interrupts him repeatedly in her screechy, horribly bitchy tone that tends to make one's ears bleed.

I'm still convinced this woman's career is based upon the sexual favors she must provide the degenerates who run Fox, because there is absolutely no reason for her annoying, ignorant opinions to be expressed in any public forum.

Here's the video of this one-sided interview in which she desperately tries to defend her employer, and fails miserably.