Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Odds & Ends

Aint It Cool News provided the first two bits.

1. The trailer for the film version of Rent is online. I saw the trailer this weekend in front of Must Love Dogs and I think that it was well done. The cast stands on a dark stage, each member in his or her own spotlight. While the cast is singing what is arguably the musical's best know song, "Seasons of Love," we see scenes from the film but no dialogue. I think it is a well-done trailer; it may be the first in a long time that doesn't explicitly give away key moments of the story. On the other hand it might, but because I've never seen Rent, I couldn't point to any of the silent moments and say, "Well, now I've no reason to see this." I think it sells the movie: From what we see and hear, we know it is a musical, that guy from Law & Order (Jesse L. Martin) is in it, and it is about relationships. It makes the movie appealing to the core audience that would be attracted to Must Love Dogs, without bringing up the "dreaded" AIDS anacronym that could kill the box office.

There has been some grumbling that Chris Columbus is directing the film version Rent, which, by the way, is still running on Broadway. Of course, people are also complaining that Columbus brought in most of the opening night cast to reprise their roles because they are too old. Personally, I think Columbus should be congratulated because the original cast of a play of musical are a part of why a work is popular enough to be made into a film in the first place; I don't think that Chicago, for instance, would have been any less of a movie had Bebe Neuwirth and James Naughton performed the roles they originated in the revival, for which they won Tony Awards, rather than Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.

I can't say for better or worse how Columbus's direction will be one way or the other. He has always been a serviceable director of movies like Adventures in Babysitting, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the first two Harry Potter movies. I am of the mind that directors, maybe even more than actors, should not be pigeonholed. That is the sort of thinking that would lead to Speilberg directing only popcorn movies and Scorsese only gritty movies set in New York. Sometimes a less obtrusive director helps a project; because Columbus isn't a showy director, his "vision" won't supersede the story. The Phantom of the Opera should have done great last Christmas, but I think the exclusion of Michael Crawford, the original Phantom, and the use of Joel Schumacher as director was a one-two punch from which the film couldn't survive.

2. A very brief snippet of the new video game, From Russia with Love, based on the movie of the same name, is up on IGN. There's some excitement about this game because it has Sean Connery reprising his most famous role, albeit in voice only. A similar game featuring Pierce Brosnan, Everything or Nothing, was released a year ago. If Russia is anything like the Brosnan game, it should be great.

Everything or Nothing was a James Bond movie literally brought to the video game. There was a teaser, a Bond-esque title sequence featuring a new song by Mya, and lots of "Bond moments." In addition to Brosnan, Heidi Klum and Shannon Elizabeth provided voice and model as Bond girls, Willem Dafoe was the villain, John Cleese voiced Q, and upholding the British actor philosophy that any job is work, Dame Judi Densch returned to voice, and admonish Bond when screwed up, M. I am more of a first-person shooter player myself, I have problems with perspective with third-person/behind the back games, but I have enjoyed what I have played of the game so. Besides, as I think any guy since the release of Dr. No in 1962, there are few better matches of moment with music than when Bond does something amazing and the "Bond Theme" swells up. There are a thousand moments like that in Everything or Nothing; hopefully the people working on From Russia with Love will be able to include more than a few similar moments for gamers to be Bond through Connery.

3. According to this post, the number of blogs has doubled, from 7.8 million in March 2005 to 14.2 million in July 2005. I apologize for playing a part in that.

4. Last week, TV Guide announced it was basically getting out of the weekly schedule business, moving from its fifty-some-year-old digest format to a magazine that would feature twenty-five percent schedules, seventy-five percent stories. May I join the vast people shrugging their shoulders and saying, "So?"

The article quotes a media analyst who states that the traditional TV Guide
[H]as no relevance. It's an antiquated brand that resonates primarily with an audience of people 50-plus who grew up with the publication. It has virtually no relevance to the general population mainly comprised of adults 18 to 49.

Speaking for myself, I have to admit that I didn't leave TV Guide, it left me. I was one of those kids, rare as we were they still existed, who would get the Fall Preview issue and be excited about the television season to come (though I never has a pennant like the one Homer Simpson was holding when he was celebrating mid-season replacement time). As I got older and free time became scarcer, I actually used TV Guide to plan out my viewing; I've never been a person to sit and watch television, as I always do something else, but television was my entry to old movies and TV Guide used to actually "guide" me, informing me if Them! or Our Man Flint was going to be playing on the channel 18, eight o'clock movie.

As an aside, TV Guide is responsible for my love of movies. It was a Friday night when I was in somewhere between eight and ten years old. My parents and the rest of my family had gone to bed, but I was allowed to stay up to watch a movie on the 10:30 movie about the Blue Angel airplanes that I'd seen in TV Guide. The movie I was actually going to be watching was The Blue Angel (and not even the original version, but the remake). For those who don't know, the movie I watched that night was as far removed from blue jets as humanly possible: A college professor in Germany is brought to destruction by a prostitute. It didn't take me long, short attention span and all, to figure out that it wasn't about airplaines, but I didn't want to turn the television off because that would mean I'd have to go to bed and I was also playing with Captain Action.

My hand to God, I know I didn't understand some of the movie, but I knew I liked it. There was something about the story that made me care, even at that young age. It was at that age, before VCRs, DVRs, and rental, that I vowed to always watch a movie all the way through; if I had just turned it off, I would not have seen how movies could make the most boring story, to a kid at least, interesting to a kid and I have TV Guide to thank.

I had subscribed to TV Guide for years, but last year I just had my fill of its direction. There was a time when a show on the cover of TV Guide was an important statment about the popularity of that show, but for the last few years, current movies usurped the cover or a single issue would have five "collector" covers. The articles were becoming less informative and more outright P.R. pieces. The final straw for me was when the decision was made to eliminate complete day-by-day schedule listing except for prime time. As I said, I used TV Guide to find out what movies would be on the week to come. When TV Guide removed that much of the schedules, there was no reason for me to even bother anymore. Little did I know that I was the vanguard for a mass exodus. Well, we do what we can, so so long to a badly changed periodical that bears as much semblance to the digest known as "TV Guide" as a compost to the original food product.