Friday, March 31, 2006
Friday (March 31st) STAR WARS....Pictures, and MORE!
AND NO...ARCANA IS NOT THE PLANET THAT ODDBOB IS FROM. THAT WOULD BE....SNIFFLE BOO HOO WHINE WHINE WHINE...ALDERAAN.
How do the AT-AT Walkers get to the surface of Hoth?
As revealed in the Star Wars: Complete Locations book published by DK Books, the AT-ATs arrive on Hoth via Incom Y-85 Titan dropships. The book even has an illustration of what the landing ship looks like. As described in the movie, the dropships had to land beyond the edge of the energy field and then march overland to destroy the shield generators.
In The Empire Strikes Back, when Darth Vader is informed that the Rebels are on Hoth, he says, "and I'm sure Skywalker is with them." How did he know Luke's name?
Vader had some opportunity to do some fact checking in the three years between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. According to the Marvel Comics series, he found out Skywalker's identity from a captive Rebel pilot undergoing interrogation. This scene is also retold in the Vader's Quest comics series from Dark Horse.
What Vader didn't know... or perhaps feigned ignorance about before his dark Master... was the connection between Luke Skywalker and Anakin Skywalker. EDITOR'S NOTE: SNARKY STUDENT RAISING HER HAND HERE.....IS SKYWALKER THE ANTILLES OF TATOOINE (WHICH IS THE SMITH OF CORELLIA)? I MEAN, DID NOT THE ALL-POWERFUL EMPEROR OR MR. MEANIE VADER MAKE ANY SORT OF CONNECTION ABOUT THIS?
In The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke is leaving Dagobah, Obi-Wan says to Yoda "That boy is our only hope." Yoda then states, "No there is another." Does this mean that Obi-Wan does not know about Leia? Did he not see her in Episode III?
As you find out in Episode III, Obi-Wan Kenobi is fully aware of Leia's existence. His gloomy statement has more to do with the faith he had put in Luke. Knowing Leia's strengths in the political arenas, he had profound doubts about her abilities to become a Jedi capable of ending the Sith rule.
Why in the opening crawl of Empire does it state that the Rebels ("Freedom Fighters") were led by Luke Skywalker? Clearly, Leia is still in charge!
If you want to split hairs, it's really General Rieekan in charge, but if you put his name in the title crawl, you'll have an audience full of people just wondering who that is. These title crawls favor brevity and dramatic emphasis over technical accuracy -- the Episode I crawl says two Jedi Knights have been dispatched, but one's actually a Master, and the other's a Padawan. In this case, though, it can be argued that it is correct... from a certain point of view. EDITOR'S NOTE: OBI-WAN AND YODA'S "CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW" IS WHAT MY MOMMY WOULD CALL LYING. (BUT SHE'S NOT A JEDI, SO WHAT DOES SHE KNOW!?)
"Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth."
Luke's rank as commander aside, he did lead the Rebels to Hoth, as described in the daily Star Wars newspaper strips by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson (reprinted by Dark Horse Comics as Classic Star Wars). He found the ice planet, and spearheaded the relocation effort that brought the Alliance to the chilly planet.
In The Empire Strikes Back, we see Han Solo strapped to a chair with Darth Vader and stormtroopers standing around him. We then see Han being lowered toward some kind of device with a red light and sparks. My question is what does the Empire do to torture Han? And if it's so bad, why isn't he bleeding or scarred? EDITOR'S NOTE: IT KINDA LOOKS LIKE A DENTIST'S CHAIR WITH FORWARD MOTION. (WHICH WOULD MAKE MANY PEOPLE TELL STATE SECRETS IN A HEARTBEAT!)
The presence of sparks reveals the true nature of the device: It's a form of electrical torture. Han is strapped to a scan grid, a device intended to analyze metals. The scan grid collects data on a substance's thermal and magnetic properties by zapping a series of electrical charges of varying power into the test subject. The machine then observes and records the effects of these surges. Scan grids are common in mining facilities as they are used to determine the exact nature of ores and containment materials. EDITOR'S NOTE: DO YOU EVER GET THE SENSE THAT THEY ARE JUST MAKING THIS STUFF UP? (NAWWWWW.....)
Vader had a scan grid on Cloud City specially modified into an interrogation array for the torture of Han Solo. While it is extremely painful, it does not leave any long-term physical damage. Vader was torturing Han in a bid to attract Luke to Cloud City through disturbances in the Force. Had he desired, the torture could have been much worse, but Vader did not want to risk killing the bait. EDITOR'S NOTE: PLUS, WHEN HE TIPPED THE CHAIR FORWARD, HE SAW WHAT CUTE BUTT HAN HAD.
In The Empire Strikes Back, why does Vader stop Boba Fett from shooting Chewbacca in the carbon-freezing chamber? Was it the fact that C-3PO, Vader's droid, was attached to Chewie's back?
Although a stirring short story that appeared in Star Wars Tales #6 suggests that Vader did indeed recognize C-3PO on Cloud City, there really was no connection between the Dark Lord and the golden droid back when Empire was made. Vader's restriction of Fett was primarily meant to show just who was in charge and that no one fires a shot without Vader's say-so.
Granted, it's hard to read expressions through immovable plasteel armor, but it looks more as if Vader is reminding Fett about his "no disintegrations" order than as if he's having gooey memories about a protocol droid he once built. EDITOR'S NOTE: NOT TO MENTION, FAMILIARITY WITH 3PO INSPIRES MURDEROUS NOTIONS EVEN IN THOSE NOT PRE-DISPOSED BY SITHDOM, YES?
In Episode V, when Han Solo is lowered into the carbon-freezing pit, he emerges as a fully formed carbonite block. Where do the rectangular frame and the control panels attached to the block come from?
The carbon-freezing process is meant for the transport of mined Tibanna gas. The valuable gas is sealed in blocks of durable carbonite for transport. These blocks are lined with monitoring sensors to gauge the stability and purity of the inner gases. When Vader planned to use carbonite to capture Luke Skywalker, he had the Ugnaughts modify the crude facility and prepare a modified storage block with medical sensors to keep an eye on his victim's life signs. The block is in the pit, and when Han is lowered into the chamber, he is pressed up against the block by the molten flow of carbonite.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke tells the Rogue pilots that the AT-AT's armor is too strong for blasters. Yet after they take one down using a tow cable, it takes only two shots to destroy the whole thing. Why is this?
In the National Public Radio dramatization of The Empire Strikes Back, Wedge identifies the cause of the explosion. "I think its power plant is about to rupture, Luke," says Wedge in the fourth episode, "Fire and Ice." That snowspeeder strafing run may speed up the explosion by a few seconds, but it is more for show.
Based on that precedent, a number of spin-off books have noted that the AT-AT walker's neck assembly is more vulnerable to cannon fire than the rest of its armor. While that is true, it doesn't mean that a shot to the neck will result in an explosion every time. (If that were the case, surely more than one intrepid snowspeeder pilot would have given it a go.)
To re-create the excitement of the Battle of Hoth, several LucasArts video games (such as Shadows of the Empire) allow players to rope AT-ATs and shoot' em while they're down, with satisfyingly explosive results. Those are game mechanics designed to make play more exciting, however, and shouldn't be construed as indicative of what would "really" happen if you went for the throat of an AT-AT. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHAT WOULD REALLY HAPPEN. SNICKER. OOOO....THINGS EXPLODING! GROOVY!
In The Essential Guide to Alien Species, it says that space slugs are usually only 10 meters long. Why is the one the Millennium Falcon flies down so big?
No one knows. The slug the Falcon encounters is supposed to be a wonder. Its inexplicable off-the-charts size was meant to evoke salty tales of unimaginably huge sharks, whales, or other fishes lurking off the edge of the map in seafaring days. Space slugs ordinarily split by mitosis when they reach their upper size. Occasionally, through freak mutation, they don't and just keep growing. The Expanded Universe has played up the rarity of truly colossal slugs. The one the Falcon encounters is estimated to be over 800 meters long.
In The Empire Strikes Back, what is that thing that swallows up R2-D2 on Dagobah?
That droid-gulping horror was a dragonsnake, a large omnivorous predator that lurks beneath the muddy waters of Dagobah. Because of its tendency to stay mostly submerged, it is often mistaken for a swamp slug. Only the oily, black hide of its knobby-spined back was visible in the film -- because that was the extent of the creature's fabrication. Without the rest of its impressive form built, the practical model used on set resembled a big bloated leech. It was controlled by underwater divers during the shoot, and was simply referred to as the "swamp creature."
How did Boba Fett and Darth Vader get to Cloud City before Han Solo and the others? Did they find short cuts or something?
Since the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon wasn't fully functional, Han had to coax his beloved freighter from the Anoat system to Bespin at a dreadfully slow speed.EDITOR'S NOTE: BESPIN IS IN THE ANOAT SYSTEM. THEY WERE ALREADY IN THE ANOAT SYSTEM AND WERE LOOKING FOR WHAT WAS THERE SINCE THEY COULDN'T GO TO HYPERSPACE. (IN CASE THERE'S A QUIZ, YOU'LL NEED TO HAVE THIS CORRECTED INFO). AHEM..... Boba Fett spotted them making their departure. The crafty bounty hunter figured that since the Falcon wasn't on the other side of the galaxy by now, its hyperdrive must have been faulty. Armed with that supposition, he was able to calculate their likely destination: Bespin.
Slave I had no engine problem, so Fett was able to make the short jump to Bespin, case the planet, inform Vader, await the Dark Lord's arrival, and plan his trap with time to spare.
EDITOR'S NOTE: OUR VERY OWN (TALENTED AND GIFTED) DWEEBPAL JOEL WROTE A STAR WARS SONG. BE FOREWARNED THAT IT IS INSIDIOUS. (YES...LIKE THAT IN-SIDEOUS). ONCE IT GETS IN YOUR HEAD, YOU WILL HAVE TO RESORT TO THE GILLIGAN THEME SONG TO PURGE IT.
JOEL'S NOTE: I start humming around this morning and came up with this little parody I thought you'd appreciate (forgive me if you get this stuck in your head for the rest of
to the tune of Good Morning Starshine (from Hair)
Good morning Star Wars,The force be with you
We cheer for the Jedi, The Empire we boo
Good morning Star Wars, The force makes you strong
join in with me
as we sing
our early morning Star Wars song
Yoda, Chewie, Lando, Qui Gon, R2D2
Palpatine, Darth Vader, Darth Maul, Boba Fett
Jar Jar, Jabba, Jango
Obi Wan Kanobi, Han and Luke and Leia
Early morning Star Wars song
EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS A VERY CLEVER SONG (IMHO). OF COURSE, WE NOW MUST GO TO JOEL'S HOUSE AND HIT HIM WITH STICKS TO STOP IT FROM PLAYING OVER AND OVER AND OVER IN OUR HEADS.
AND NOW...TIME FOR STAR WARS SHOPPING!
Go Fly a Star Wars Kite
Watch the battle between Jedi and Sith amongst the clouds with these highly-detailed Star Wars kites from The Kite Factory, to be released this spring.
Fans can take their pick from the new lineup of kites which include:
the 13" x 13" Yoda Micro Kite made from Rip-stop nylon and fiberglass with a flight handle, line and manual;
the 34" x 33" Darth Vader helmet Figure Kite made from Rip-stop polyester and fiberglass with a flight handle and line;
and the 24" x 24" x 19" 3-D TIE fighter kite made from nylon and fiberglass with a flight handle, line and helpful manual.
For a complete Star Wars kite collection, be sure to also look for the previously-released illustrated Darth Vader Diamond Kite, the triangular Delta Kite featuring Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader dueling and Starfighter Figure kite -- on store shelves now.
For first-time flyers, The Kite Factory President Frank Alonso offers these handy tips. "Pick a large open area," Alonso says. "A park or wide beach with appropriate wind condition is ideal. To launch it, hold the kite up with your back to the wind. Let it go as wind picks it up. Slowly give more line as it goes up. And don't forget to follow basic safety rules, for example, do not fly in storms or near power lines."
2006 Galactic Heroes Wave 3
"Aren't you a little cute for a stormtrooper?"
A New Hope is revisited in the third wave of Hasbro's 2006 Galactic Heroes. These four new 2-packs will be available in stores late this summer.
Greedo & Han Solo
TIE Pilot & Wedge
Luke Skywalker (Stormtrooper) & Han Solo (Stormtrooper)
Sandtrooper & Obi-Wan Kenobi
EDITOR'S NOTE: IF THE REAL STORMIES WERE THIS CUTE, THEY'D HAVE WON THE WAR!
AND NOW...THE WEEKLY PICS ----
A clone trooper pilot navigates his ARC-170 starfighter through the space battle over Coruscant.
TJ Frame experimented with this idea of a Separatist droid with a detachable floating head.
Obi-Wan and his varactyl Boga quickly plummet down the treacherous Utapau sinkhole after being hit with a blast from Commander Cody. EDITOR'S NOTE: BIG MEANIE CMMDR. CODY. POOR BOGA. SNIFFLE.
An early Mandalorian shock trooper design, illustrated by Ralph McQuarrie.
Deak Starkiller finds his droids C-3PO and R2-D2 hiding from Imperials in this early storyboard by Alex Tavoularis.
The duel between Jedi Master Yoda and Emperor Palpatine rages on in the Coruscant Senate room.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Dweebing: Philosphy, Discussion, and other Intellectual (?) stuff
By Cliff Edwards
Next-Gen DVDs' Blurry Picture
The battle between Blu-ray and HD-DVD was already tricky for consumers. But new content protection may mean buyers get even less than they might have hoped
After years of waiting, the new era of high-definition home theater has finally arrived.
In April, Toshiba plans to introduce HD-DVD, its high-definition successor to the DVD player, two months ahead of rival consumer-electronics companies who plan to sell a competing format called Blu-ray Disc.
Electronics makers hope the new gear will keep sales in the $120 billion industry humming, while Hollywood hopes the lure of interactive features and crystal-clear pictures five times the resolution of current DVDs will jump-start slumping home-video sales. EDITOR'S NOTE: IS FIVE TIMES THE RESOLUTION ENOUGH TO MAKE ME NEED THIS? (10 TIMES, AND I GET A DAY JOB?)
Here's the problem: Both camps are shooting themselves in the foot before they get to the starting line.
Consumers already were faced with the prospect of mass confusion, thanks to two next-generation DVD formats, whose disks do not work in each other's machines but look essentially the same. Remember Betamax versus VHS? At least then you could tell one tape from the other.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Turns out, most of the 20 million high-definition TVs sold over the past three years aren't capable of displaying the disks in their full resolution.
Worse, at least one major studio intends to downgrade the picture even more unless consumers hook their players up through a special, pricey cable aimed at preventing piracy.
"It's crazy," says chief analyst Richard Doherty of consumer-research firm Envisioneering. "The sticker on your new player promises the equivalent of a high-performance car, but the fine print says you may be buying an Edsel instead."
The new content-protection scheme would be the first time any consumer electronics purchaser -- not just those who try to break copyright laws -- could be penalized.
In this case, even if you have a perfectly equipped TV, content providers retain the right to automatically downgrade the picture quality because of piracy concerns. Current DVD releases like Batman Begins and Walk The Line include software to prevent unauthorized duplication, but still play normally. New software included on both Blu-ray and HD-DVD releases, however, will automatically slash the image, making it only marginally better than current DVDs, unless consumers have a relatively new connector and cable called HDMI to hook up players to their televisions.
Only one in 20 HD sets sold to early adopters over the past few years has the right version of the connector. Only 15% of new sets sold this year will include it, and deliver the full 1080 resolution capable of showing such detail.
Sony execs say a majority of Blu-ray content, at least initially, will play at the highest resolution possible on a consumer’s HDTV, regardless of how the player is hooked up.
Four major studios -- Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox , Disney , and Paramount say they initially will not use the new copy protection on their releases.
Universal execs told BusinessWeek on Mar. 21 that they, too, will forego the protection.
Execs at Warner Brothers declined to comment, but sources with knowledge of the studio's plans say "at least some" of the 20 HD-DVD releases planned through April will use the software.
"What do you have then? A very expensive DVD player," says Sony Senior Vice-President Tim Baxter.
To make matters more confusing, Sony and other consumer-electronics companies are adding features to the next-generation players that then may "upconvert" -- boost the image quality -- so the same disk may look vastly different, depending on which machine you purchase and the size of the TV.
Experts say both of the new formats shine on sets 50 inches or larger.
The confusion may be just enough for consumers to say good night, and good luck. EDITOR'S NOTE: I'M A HOME THEATER GLUTTON WITH THE BEST OF THEM. BUT YES, THIS ALL SOUNDS WAY TOO EXPENSIVE AND WAY TOO CONFUSING AND NOT NEARLY ENOUGH OF AN IMPROVEMENT TO DEAL WITH TILL ALL THE GREEDY, SHORT-SIGHTED TECH COMPANIES GET THEIR YOU-KNOW-WHAT TOGETHER.
Already, a growing number of so-called technology influencers and Web sites are recommending sitting out the first round of the new DVD wars.
Many believe the best bet for either format to gain acceptance now lies with next-generation game consoles. Sony plans a November worldwide release of its new PlayStation 3, which will include a Blu-ray player. Execs at Sony hope by then that enough new HD sets will be sold, with the right connectors, to make the player worthwhile. And Microsoft has said it may add an HD-DVD player to its Xbox 360 in coming months. Until then, the crystal ball for crystal-clear movies remains fuzzy. EDITOR'S NOTE: I DONT' THINK IT'S ALL THAT FUZZY. I THINK IT'S PRETTY CLEAR THAT THE TECH COMPANIES' AVARICE AND MUDDY THINKING IS GOING TO KEEP THIS ON THE BACK-BURNER FOR ALL BUT THE MOST COMPETITIVE FIRST-ADOPTERS.
EDITOR'S NOTE: IS TV BAD FOR KIDS? ARE KIDS BAD FOR TV VIEWING? STUFF LIKE THAT ----
the dismal science
The Benefits of BozoProof that TV doesn't harm kids.
By Austan Goolsbee
According to most experts, TV for kids is basically a no-no.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV at all for children under the age of 2, and for older children, one to two hours a day of educational programming at most. Various studies have linked greater amounts of television viewing to all sorts of problems, among them attention deficit disorder, violent behavior, obesity, and poor performance in school and on standardized tests. Given that kids watch an average of around four hours of TV a day, the risks would seem to be awfully high.
Most studies of the impact of television, however, are seriously flawed. They compare kids who watch TV and kids who don't, when kids in those two groups live in very different environments.
Kids who watch no TV, or only a small amount of educational programming, as a group are from much wealthier families than those who watch hours and hours. Because of their income advantage, the less-TV kids have all sorts of things going for them that have nothing to do with the impact of television. The problem with comparing them to kids who watch a lot of TV is like the problem with a study that compared, say, kids who ride to school in a Mercedes with kids who ride the bus. The data would no doubt show that Mercedes kids are more likely to score high on their SATs, go to college, and go on to high-paying jobs. None of that has anything to do with the car, but the comparison would make it look as if it did.
The only way to really know the long-term effect of TV on kids would be to run an experiment over time. But no one is going to barrage kids with TV for five years and then see if their test scores go down (though I know plenty of kids who would volunteer). EDITOR'S NOTE: AND SOME ADULTS. (PICK ME PICK ME!)
In a recent study, two economists at the University of Chicago, Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro, came up with a different way to test the long-run impact of television on kids—by reaching back to the distant past of the information age.
When Americans first started getting television in the 1940s, the availability of the medium spread across the country unevenly. Some cities, like New York, had television by 1940. Others, like Denver and Honolulu, didn't get their first broadcasts until the early 1950s. Whenever television appeared, kids became immediate junkies: Children in households with televisions watched their boob tubes for close to four hours a day by 1950. And these programs weren't educational—no Sesame Street or Dora the Explorer. Nor were there any real restrictions on commercials during kids' shows (those came in the 1960s and '70s). There wasn't the same level of violence on television, but in terms of kids-oriented programming, Howdy Doody was about as good as it got.
The key point for Gentzkow and Shapiro's study is that depending on where you lived and when you were born, the total amount of TV you watched in your childhood could differ vastly. A kid born in 1947 who grew up in Denver, where the first TV station didn't get under way until 1952, would probably not have watched much TV at all until the age of 5. But a kid born the same year in Seattle, where TV began broadcasting in 1948, could watch from the age of 1. If TV-watching during the early years damages kids' brains, then the test scores of Denver high-school seniors in 1965 (the kids born in 1947) should be better than those of 1965 high-school seniors in Seattle.
What if you're concerned about differences between the populations of the two cities that could affect the results? Then you compare test scores within the same city for kids born at different times. Denver kids who were in sixth grade in 1965 would have spent their whole lives with television; their 12th-grade counterparts wouldn't have. If TV matters, the test scores of these two groups should differ, too. Think analogously about lead poisoning. Lead has been scientifically proven to damage kids' brains. If, hypothetically, Seattle added lead to its water in 1948 and Denver did so in 1952, you would see a difference in the test-score data when the kids got to high school—the Seattle kids would score lower than the Denver kids, and the younger Denver kids would score lower than the older Denver ones, because they would have started ingesting lead at a younger age.
From the 1966 Coleman Report, the landmark study of educational opportunity commissioned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Gentzkow and Shapiro got 1965 test-score data for almost 300,000 kids. They looked for evidence that greater exposure to television lowered test scores.
They found none.
After controlling for socioeconomic status, there were no significant test-score differences between kids who lived in cities that got TV earlier as opposed to later, or between kids of pre- and post-TV-age cohorts. Nor did the kids differ significantly in the amount of homework they did, dropout rates, or the wages they eventually made. If anything, the data revealed a small positive uptick in test scores for kids who got to watch more television when they were young. For kids living in households in which English was a second language, or with a mother who had less than a high-school education, the study found that TV had a more sizable positive impact on test scores in reading and general knowledge. Evidently, Bozo the Clown was better than we remember.
So, sure, you may cringe when your kid knows every word of the Wiggles' tune "Fruit Salad, Yummy Yummy!" That's understandable. Watching TV has taught them many horrible songs, and for that you will suffer. But maybe you don't need to feel too guilty about it.
Austan Goolsbee is an economics professor at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and a senior research fellow at the American Bar Foundation. EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS A VERY INTERESTING ARTICLE. BUT I FEEL LIKE THERE ARE 'BUTS' MISSING THAT I'M NOT THINKING OF. READERS? WHAT DID THIS STUDY LEAVE OUT? WHAT LEAPS DID THE WRITER MAKE THAT AREN'T ENTIRELY VALID? (BECAUSE I HAVE A HARD TIME BELIEVING THAT TV IS BENIGN FOR THE VERY YOUNG).
EDITOR'S NOTE: MORE ON THE MOVIE THEATER ATTENDANCE DECLINE AND WHAT ONE SEMI-FAMOUS PERSON THINKS ABOUT ALL THAT ---
GOODBYE TO ALL THAT
Moving Away From the Movie Theater
Once, great movie houses drew us together. Now they're gone -- and the decline of the big screen diminishes us all.
By Peter Bogdanovich
Peter Bogdanovich directed "The Last Picture Show," "Paper Moon," and "Mask," among other movies. His most recent book, "Who the Hell's in It," is just out in paperback.March 26,
GOING TO THE MOVIES with my parents is one of the great memories of my childhood. I remember getting strong anticipatory butterflies in my stomach long before we'd even leave the apartment.
In the late 1940s, early '50s, we lived on Manhattan's West 67th Street, three blocks from two huge "neighborhood" picture palaces: the RKO Colonial and the Loew's Lincoln. Both were spacious, elaborately decorated, very comfortable stand-alone theaters with huge screens and giant, red velvet curtains that parted before the show. Each seated more than 1,000 (with smoking in the balcony).
A typical evening or afternoon at the "nabes" meant a double feature — two recent films, usually an A-budget movie paired with a B-picture. We never checked for starting times (no one did); we went when we could or when we felt like it.
Normally, therefore, we would enter in the middle of one of the two features. Part of the fun was trying to figure out what was going on. After it ended, there would be a newsreel, a travelogue, a live-action comedy short, a cartoon and coming attractions. Then the next feature, followed by the first half of the other film until that once-proverbial moment: "This is where we came in." (All this, by the way, for 25 or 50 cents a head, often less for kids.)
On Saturdays, there was the children's matinee, complete with a white-uniformed matron who chaperoned us and made sure kids didn't put their feet on the seats in front of them.Both of my old neighborhood theaters have long since been demolished.
But recently I've been thinking about them again as I've read about the decline in theater attendance — down from 90 million tickets sold per week in the late 1940s to about a quarter of that number today — as people rent movies and watch them at home on increasingly elaborate home entertainment systems.
Now, some of the big studios are talking about closing the months-long window that has traditionally separated a movie's theatrical debut from its availability on video or DVD — a change that some say could lead to the end of the movie-theater experience altogether.
When I was a growing up, there were no ratings — all pictures being suitable for the whole family. Parents could, if they chose, take the family to serious films such as "How Green Was My Valley," "Citizen Kane" or "From Here to Eternity" without worrying that it might not be "appropriate" for the children. If a couple on screen were going to bed together, vintage movie shorthand took over and the camera panned to the fireplace or to the waterfall, or, during a passionate kiss, there'd be a discreet fade to black. I would turn to my mother and ask what was happening, and she'd say something ambiguous, such as "they like each other" or "they're talking now," which completely satisfied my curiosity.
Movies, when you used to see them on the big screen, had a mystery that they no longer have.
For one thing, they were irretrievable: Once the first and second runs were past, most films were not easy to see again. They were much, much larger than life and therefore instantly mythic (screens and theaters were a lot bigger before the multiplex arrived).
And they were inexorable; once a film had started, there was no pausing it or in any way stopping its relentless forward motion.
Also, the communal experience of seeing a picture with a large crowd of strangers was a great and irreplaceable happening — all of us, young or old (if the picture worked) palpably sharing the same emotions of sorrow or happiness. The bigger the crowd around us, the greater the impact. EDITOR'S NOTE: I STILL FEEL THIS WAY. (GRANTED, SOMETIMES THE CROWD IS MADE UP OF PEOPLE WHOSE EMOTIONS ARE OF NO INTEREST TO ME...AND READILY AVAILABLE TO ANYONE WITHIN EARSHOT OF THESE RIFFRAFF AND THEIR CELL PHONES).
On special occasions, my parents took me to the greatest movie theater in the country, Radio City Music Hall, which, for $2, would show a first-rate new film exclusively (such as "An American in Paris" or "North by Northwest") plus a live, 40-minute stage show featuring the Rockettes. That's why it meant so much to me in 1972 when my first comedy, "What's Up, Doc?" was booked to open in New York at the Music Hall.
I was so excited I called to tell Cary Grant (a friend of 10 years). "That's nice," he said casually. "I've had 28 pictures play the Hall."I tell you what you must do," he went on. "When it's playing, you go down there and stand in the back — and you listen and you watch while 6,500 people laugh at something you did. It will do your heart good!"
I went, of course, and it remains the single most memorable showing of any of my pictures: The sheer size of the reaction in that enormous theater was like a mainliner of joy. The fact is, it takes at least 100 people to get a decent laugh in a movie — smaller audiences are just not given to letting go. EDITOR'S NOTE: UNLESS THEY ARE DWEEBPALS ANDREW OR JOEL. (TRY MAKING THEM NOT LAUGH!)
On the other hand, a Michigan university student told me recently that one of the few classic Hollywood movies he'd seen was John Ford's version of John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath." He said he'd been looking at a "video of it" and couldn't get his "eyelids to stop drooping."
Well, of course. Not only was he alone in his living room, but he was seeing on a small screen a work that had not been created ever to be reduced so radically in size. The especially dark photography (by the legendary Gregg Toland, who the following year shot Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane") needs the large screen to convey its effect, not to mention that darkness and TV have never produced easy-to-watch results.
What's more, Ford was very much the master of the long shot. Twenty years before that famous fly-speck-on-the-desert entrance in "Lawrence of Arabia," Ford had introduced Henry Fonda in "Grapes" as a tiny figure on the horizon coming toward us. But tiny on a giant screen is not the same as tiny on a TV set. The first makes a poetic impression, the second leaves you wondering what you're looking at and causes yet more eye strain. No wonder the student's eyelids drooped.
One of my favorite movies is Howard Hawks' "Bringing Up Baby" with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn — probably the fastest and at the same time most darkly photographed comedy of all time. When I watch it on TV, I find myself getting tired and running out of steam before the film ends.
Most young people have never even seen older films (before 1962, let's say — the end of the movies' golden age, when the original studio system finally collapsed) on the large screen for which they were solely created. So it's easy to understand why they're not interested in them. That they don't know what they're missing is a sad fact, increasingly more common, therefore sadder.
What is there to say about seeing movies of quality on an iPod? Chilling.
I was first taken at age 5 or 6 by my father to see silent movies on the big screen at the Museum of Modern Art, and it inculcated in me a lifelong interest and reverence for older films. Starting my daughters at a young age looking at classics from the '20s, '30s and '40s did the same thing for them. Wouldn't it be a great thing if all the studios pooled their resources and opened large-scale revival theaters in every major city as a way of promoting DVDs of older films, which remain difficult to move in the kind of bulk everyone would like? EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS ACTUALLY A GREAT IDEA!
It's hard for me to imagine that the movie-theater experience will ever completely disappear, no matter how reduced it may become. After all, the legitimate theater still exists in the age of TV and film, though of course there is nowhere near as much of it as there was even as late as the 1950s. (Remember summer stock?) In some places you can even still see opera, a very popular medium a couple of hundred years ago.
But Larry McMurtry's novel, "The Last Picture Show," and the movie version of it which I directed were both at least partly about the loss to a small Texas town of its single movie theater, a great diminishment in community and sharing. We all now live in a more insular, distanced society. And though our communication capability has never been faster or more inclusive, it does not have the ability to let us experience the silent interrelating that happens in a live theater, at church or at a movie house.
Over the years I've noticed that audiences, just before the show starts, radiate a kind of innocence. Considered person by person, that may not be the case, but as a group they share the ability to be taken wherever the film chooses to take them, either to the stars or the gutter, and their communal experience will alter them for better or worse. Let's not let all that possibility fade away further than it already has.
Better movies would help. EDITOR'S NOTE: I DISAGREE WITH THIS LAST BIT. LIKE SO MUCH OF POP CULTURE TODAY THE AUDIENCES ARE SPLINTERED. BUT THAT'S BECAUSE OF THE MICRO-TARGETING OF FILMS (AND RADIO AND TV, ETC). YES, THERE IS JUNK. BUT THERE ARE MORE GOOD FILMS THAN THERE EVER WERE. CLASSICS? THOSE WERE ALWAYS RARE. LET'S NOT GLOSS OVER ALL THE PABLUM SPEWED OUT OF HOLLYWOOD DURING THE 'GOLDEN YEARS'.
EDITOR'S NOTE: ANIMATION, THEN NEXT GENERATION ---
New York Daily News
Back to the drawing board
During a bus trip to the Alaskan set of a 1983 Disney live-action movie, I got into a conversation about the declining status of animated movies and boldly predicted to the Disney executive sitting next to me that the genre was about to become extinct.
For a while, I was a sage.
Not a single animated feature was released in the U.S. in 1984, and the five released in 1985 sold less than $50 million worth of tickets combined.
Then, in a blur of blockbusters that began with "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988), we saw Disney's resuscitated animation division churn out the instant classics "The Little Mermaid" (1989), "Beauty and the Beast" (1991), "Aladdin" (1992), and "The Lion King" (1994), followed by Pixar's first soldier in the computer-animation revolution, "Toy Story."
In 2001, 10 years after "Beauty and the Beast" became the one and only animated movie ever nominated for Best Picture, the Academy decided to give the animated feature its own category.
The first winner: "Shrek."
How healthy are animated movies today?
Well, in 2004, the top five animated films sold more than $1.1 billion worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada. The three films nominated for Best Animated Feature that year outgrossed the five live-action nominees, $858.6 million to $401.5 million.
And in 2006, 22 years after the shutout of '84, the major studios, along with the new Weinstein Co., plan the wide release of at least 14 new animated features. "Hoodwinked" and "Doogal" have already been released, and animation's first box-office sure thing - "Ice Age 2: The Meltdown" - opens Friday.
Where heads were down two decades ago, people in animation today are as cheery as investors in a bull market.
"I think people will look back at this period as the Golden Age of animation," says Yair Landau, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, whose animation division will release its first in-house computer-animated feature ("Open Season") in September. "There used to be one studio putting out animated product; now, there are multiple entities."
IDT Entertainment is one of several new independent companies dedicated to computer animation. Its first feature - "Everyone's Hero" - will be released by Fox in September.
"This is a very exciting time," says Janet Healy, IDT's president of animation. "I feel like we're at a moment where we're reinventing the medium again."
Healy has been at the forefront of every major technical breakthrough in the last 20 years. She worked for George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic,EDITOR'S NOTE: YAY, UNCLE GEORGE! then worked on computer animation at Disney, and followed its animation guru, Jeffrey Katzenberg, to DreamWorks.
She says the big change driving the current boom in animation is the breakdown in resistance of veteran animators to the new computer technology.
"Technology is not even a discussion anymore," she says. "We have enough qualified, off-the-shelf software and fast machines to tell whatever story we want. Whatever images we imagine, we know we can make." EDITOR'S NOTE: AND IT'S STILL ALL ABOUT THE SCRIPT, RIGHT?!
While computer animation dominates the field, it's not the only medium.
None of last year's Oscar nominees were computer-animated. The Oscar winner, "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," and Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride" were done with models and stop-motion. The third nominee, Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle," was traditional hand-drawn cell animation.
This year, we'll see two movies - "Monster House" and "A Scanner Darkly" - where the computer animation is done over live-action performances, creating images that are both cartoonish and photorealistic.
But, as virtually everyone interviewed for this story agrees, the medium is not the message - the message is. EDITOR'S NOTE: EXACTLY!
"Pixar's CG is fantastic, but their movies work because they know how to tell stories," says Spaz Williams, who directed the upcoming "The Wild." "Look at 'South Park.' It's the worst animation technique in the world, but the stories are great."
One reason animated movies have a higher ratio of successes to failures than live-action features is the way they're made.
"We have a longer window to get it right," says John Davis, whose first animated feature, "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius," was among the inaugural slate of Oscar nominees in 2001. "We sketch out scenes and can see how they work before we commit to them. And we can go back and fiddle with them." EDITOR'S NOTE: OF COURSE, THEY ALSO HAVE A LONGER WINDOW TO MISS...AND I HATE THIS WORD...THE ZEITGEIST. TO BE COMPLETELY OFF IN LEFT FIELD, TOPICALLY SPEAKING.
On a live-action film, you have actors for a certain number of days, and what you get is what you have to work with. With voice actors for animated movies, they can come back whenever they've got the time. If they can't come to you, you can go to them.
"I went to Taos [N.M.] to record Julia Roberts," says Davis of one of his voice cast for this year's "The Ant Bully."
As you scan the list of animated movies opening this year, you're struck by the star wattage of their casts.
"It's great fun for the actors," says Sandra Rabins, who heads Sony Pictures Animation. "It doesn't take a lot of time. They don't have to go through hair and makeup and sit around waiting for lighting."
And they can work in front of their kids if they want.
"Martin Lawrence has three or four kids,EDITOR'S NOTE: HE'S NOT SURE HOW MANY? and he brought them to the recording sessions for 'Open Season,'" says Rabins. "He loves playing up for his children and they love looking up to their dad as his character, this 900-pound grizzly bear named Boog."
"Debra Messing had just had a baby when we got her for 'Open Season,'" adds Sony's Landau. "She came to the studio with the baby and a nanny and didn't have to get dressed up or worry about what she looked like. That was fine for us. We wanted her for her comedic timing."
Charles Solomon, an author, journalist and animation expert, knows all the cycles of animation's history and says the only thing new today is the technology.
"I'm just old-fashioned enough to think that good stories are what makes good animation movies," he says. EDITOR'S NOTE: GOOD STORIES ARE WHAT MAKE GOOD MOVIES. PERIOD. ANIMATION OR LIVE-ACTION. "And good animated movies stay on the shelves forever."
As for Arlene Ludwig, the Disney exec to whom I foolishly predicted the end of animation all those years ago, she refuses to gloat.
"I knew you'd come around," she laughed when I called to offer a long overdue retraction.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
EDITOR'S NOTE: I'VE ALWAYS WANTED A PLASTIC RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON FOR MY VERY OWN. UMMM..... INSIDE VOICE? OUTSIDE VOICE?
In partnership with this spring's Free Comic Book Day event, comic store customers should be on the lookout for an exclusive Stargate action figure when they visit their local comic book stores on Sunday, May 6th. Available only during this promotion, a limited General Jack O'Neill action figure will help bring new customers to comic book stores across the country and raise awareness of Stargate action figures.
Part of Diamond Select Toys' upcoming Stargate SG-1 action figure line, the Free Comic Book Day exclusive General Jack O'Neill figure depicts the SGC leader wearing a black t-shirt as opposed to the uniformed version due to be released later this spring and will be handed out to customers visiting any participating comic book store!
"Free Comic Book Day helps introduce new customers to the world of comics and collectibles every year," stated Michael Leavey, Marketing and Sales Coordinator for Diamond Select Toys. "We're very excited to be a part of this year's event in addition to offering a great exclusive figure." EDITOR'S NOTE: SO WILL THIS BE FOR FREE? (RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON, AND WE DON'T EVEN HAVE TO PAY FOR HIM?) OR, MAYBE NOW THAT HE'S KINDA OLD, HE'S ON SALE AT LEAST?
TWC floats VOD plan for hit net shows
Time Warner Cable reportedly is in preliminary discussions with ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC to offer their hit primetime series in a subscription-based video-on-demand package, a spokesman for the cable operator confirmed Monday.
The New York Times first reported the development, which proposes making episodes of top-rated programs from competing networks available shortly after their original airdate for a monthly fee. EDITOR'S NOTE: HMMM....ELIMINATING MY ANNOYING VHS BACKLOG STASH? WONDER HOW LONG THEY WILL MAKE EACH EP AVAILABLE?
SAG agrees to new cable ani contract
SAG and industry negotiators have tentatively agreed to a new basic cable animation contract that will raise residual payments by 20%, the union said Tuesday.
The announcement came on the same day that bargaining resumed on a separate but similar contract for live-action basic cable series, where SAG is prepared to strike if they do not get an acceptable hike in residuals.
Those talks have become tense as SAG has objected to the industry's offer of an overall 14% raise in residuals.
Both contracts were last negotiated 16 years ago when cable television was a relatively new medium, and SAG negotiators were clearly proud of their gains in the animation contract.
"The performers who work under this contract have waited a long time for these well-deserved gains, particularly in the area of residuals," SAG president Alan Rosenberg said
NARNIA on DVD
Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media will release THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE on DVD and PSP™ on April 4th.
NARNIA is Walt Disney Pictures’ third highest grossing live-action film of all time. It will be available as a single disc DVD with outstanding bonus features, and as a Special 2-Disc Collector’s Edition DVD.
The Special Edition takes viewers on a deeper adventure into the world of Narnia with nearly ten hours of bonus features – including a behind-the-scenes tour with the film’s child stars, director’s diary, ‘cinematic storytellers’ film diaries, multiple audio commentaries, 3-D map, interactive timeline, featurettes on the creatures and much more. The “Narnia” DVD production team worked with the filmmakers from the very start of the film’s production, resulting in exclusive, never-before seen bonus features that deliver unprecedented access into this cinematic blockbuster. EDITOR'S NOTE: I DON'T KNOW THAT I NEED TO OWN THIS ONE. (CHARMING, BUT NOT SURE I REALLY CARE ALL THAT MUCH). BUT I LOVE FILMMAKERS THAT GO INTO THE FILMING PROCESS THINKING ABOUT THE DVD. BRAVO!
Simon ready to 'Surprise' with Eno
NEW YORK -- After several years of work, Paul Simon is finally ready to share his long-awaited collaboration with producer Brian Eno (U2, Talking Heads) with the listening public.
The 11-track project, dubbed "Surprise," will be released May 9 in North America via Warner Bros. and a day earlier internationally.
Among the songs set to appear on "Surprise" are "Sons and Daughters," "How Can You Live in the Northeast," "Outrageous" and "Father and Daughter," Simon's contribution to 2002's "The Wild Thornberrys Movie" which was nominated for the best original song Academy Award.
Guest appearances include guitarist Bill Frisell, drummer Steve Gadd and pianist Herbie Hancock, whose 2005 album, "Possibilities," featured a new recording with Simon of the latter's "I Do It for Your Love." "Surprise" is Simon's first studio album since 2000's "You're the One."EDITOR'S NOTE: I STILL HAVEN'T EVEN GOTTEN THE ONE FROM 2000, AND ALREADY HERE'S ANOTHER ONE. (OOO....DAD...WANT SOME PAUL SIMON FOR FATHER'S DAY? WANNNA LET ME LISTEN TO IT AFTER WE BUY IT FOR YOU?)
MEET THE MONSTERS
THE LATEST ATTRACTION AT DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE
The gang's all here at Monsters, Inc.
They scare because they care – that’s the motto from Disney's presentation of the Pixar film “Monsters, Inc.”
The film gave us a glimpse on the other side of the closet door, where monsters harvest scream power from the scariest creatures on the planet: human children.
For those who’ve always wanted to take a closer look, Disney’s California Adventure® park has opened a transit station that will whisk Guests straight to Monstropolis. It’s a unique chance to play tourist in the monster capitol – see the sights! Pick up handy tips for visitors! Catch a cab! And best of all, you’ll get a guided tour of the Monsters, Inc. plant itself. It’s all behind the colorful façade of Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue!, inspired by the film “Monsters, Inc.” – a new attraction that's more fun than a barrel of monsters.
The Insider recently made the trip, and returned with the inside secrets of Monstropolis.
Here’s the firsthand skinny on Disneyland® Resort’s newest attraction, and its groundbreaking technical effects. We found ourselves entering the Monstropolis Transit Authority, which is well-equipped to serve the visitor from out of town – check out the posted safety regulations
(they’re especially handy if you’re wondering whether you have to pay an extra fare for your second head), scan the headlines of the local papers (including “The Daily Glob”), and peruse a full menu for Monstropolis’ deluxe eatery, Harryhausen’s.
We don’t recommend that you try the snacks in the snack machine, however, unless you’re fond of Primordial Ooze.
In the twinkling of a (giant, oozing) eye, you’ll be ready to hop aboard your cab for a jaunt through town. Once aboard you’ll meet Mike, Sulley, Randall, Boo, and more – all voiced by the original film cast.
We won’t ruin any surprises, but many of the finest (and funniest) moments from the film await you as you twist and turn through town.
Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue! is in essence a classic Disney “dark ride” like Peter Pan’s Flight or Mr. Toad's Wild Ride – and it is a spectacularly sophisticated one, packed with innovations. Keep an eye out when you pass through the door vault – one of the doors looks different for each attraction vehicle. You’ll also get to see creepy Randall Boggs “disappear” before your eyes, and later he moves through an entire fabric store’s worth of colors and patterns, one after the other. EDITOR'S NOTE: PETER PAN'S FLIGHT AND MR. TOAD'S WILD RIDE ARE TWO OF MY ALL TIME FAVES! SO THIS RIDE MUST BE THE CAT'S MEOW!
One of the highlights of the attraction comes at the very end, as Roz the Dispatch Manager says a few words just for you – the Imagineers won’t tell us exactly how it works, but the effect is hilarious.
We have a few tips to make the most of your visit to Monstropolis:
• You’ll find the doorway to Monstropolis through the elephant-topped gateway to the Hollywood Backlot area. Look to your left as you go down the street – the new attraction is in the same courtyard as “MuppetVision: 3D.”
• In our experience, the wait time moved fairly quickly, but since this is a new attraction it does attract a crowd, and you’ll want to visit first thing in the morning, around noon when many visitors have stopped for lunch, or late in the evening.
• Pay close attention while waiting to board your cab – there are plenty of surprises tucked in here and there to make your experience extra-monstrous.
• Check out the signage at the grocer in Monstropolis as you drive by!
• You don’t need to have seen “Monsters, Inc.” to enjoy the attraction – but it certainly adds to the experience. If you haven’t seen the movie, or it’s been a while, a brush-up viewing before you go will make your visit all the more fun.
• If Roz’s parting remarks are your favorite part of the experience, after your ride, stroll over to the nearby Turtle Talk with Crush inspired by Disney's presentation of Pixar's "Finding Nemo" – Crush loves to chat up close and personal with his fans.
And while you’re at Disney’s California Adventure park don’t miss the when Disney presents the Pixar Film Pals in the Block Party Bash parade, where you’ll see lots more of Mike and Sulley.
• Finally – keep your tentacles inside the taxi, and watch out for human children! EDITOR'S NOTE: SO. MUST GO TO CALIFORNIA. MUST GO TO ORLANDO. MUST GO TO ASIA. ANYTHING ELSE ON OUR LIST, JOEL?
OH....MUST GET JOB TO PAY FOR ALL THAT!
AND TO CLOSE OUT THE DISNEY PORTION OF OUR DWEEBING...A LITTLE GOSSIPY SORT OF ITEM ---
'Gnomeo' a no-go at Dis Ani
The Elton John movie "Gnomeo & Juliet," an animated film based on William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," is no longer in production at Walt Disney Feature Animation, the studio said Monday.
John was producing the animated musical about small star-crossed lovers through his Rocket Pictures and was engaged to write the movie's songs. "Gnomeo" was Disney's second animation collaboration with John following 1994's "The Lion King," which featured John's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight. EDITOR'S NOTE: WONDER WHAT THE STORY IS HERE, HMMM?
Mid-Week watchin TV
Kelley to Explore LIFE ON MARS
ABC has signed on for a new David E. Kelley pilot called LIFE ON MARS.
The sci-fi drama is based on a 2006 BBC program of the same name, which centers on a 21st century detective who, following a car crash shortly after his girlfriend is kidnapped by a serial killer, mysteriously finds himself working as a cop in the 1970s.
The first case he tackles seems to have links to the serial killer who nabbed his girlfriend. It's unclear if the detective has gone crazy, traveled through time or is actually still in a coma and dreaming the whole thing. EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS SOUNDS FASCINATING. I'D BE MORE EXCITED IF IT WERE BEING HELMED BY SOMEONE OTHER THAN HIT-US-OVER-THE-HEAD-WITH-A-TWOBYFOUR DAVID KELLEY. BUT BEGGARS SHOULDN'T BE CHOOSY, I GUESS?
Fox tacking a year on its 'Prison' term
Two episodes into the spring portion of "Prison Break's" freshman season, Fox has given the suspense drama a full-season pickup for fall.
The first season of the show has chronicled the planning of a prison break by a group of inmates led by two brothers, Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) and Michael (Wentworth Miller).
Because the season culminates with a group of eight inmates escaping from prison, the second year of the series will have a brand new story line.
"Season 1 was the prison break, and Season 2 will be the manhunt," series creator-executive producer Paul Scheuring said in a phone interview from New Mexico where he is scouting locations for the show's second season. "It will be 'The Fugitive' times eight. We're going to be scattering our escapees to the four corners of the country, using various modes of transportation, planes, trains and automobiles. Basically it's going to be the second half of 'The Great Escape.' " EDITOR'S NOTE: BUSY HAVING SOMETHING I JOKINGLY REFER TO AS 'A LIFE', I GOT WEEKS AND WEEKS BEHIND ON THIS SHOW. I AM NOW GETTING CAUGHT UP AND I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. (IF YOU HAVEN'T BEEN WATCHING IT, GET IT WHEN IT COMES OUT ON DVD.) IT IS WONDERFUL. AND THEY OUGHT TO BOTTLE THOSE SMOKEY EYES OF WENTWORTH MILLER. (YUM).
Grammer to direct; Brady set to 'Flirt'
Kelsey Grammer has been tapped to direct the CBS comedy pilot "My Ex-Life."
Meanwhile, the CW has picked up the comedy pilot "Flirt," starring Wayne Brady.
In other casting news, Bo Derek has joined My Network TV's drama series "Secret Obsessions," Constance Zimmer has come on board ABC's comedy pilot "52 Fights," and Danielle Panabaker has been added to the cast of CBS' drama pilot "Shark."
"My Ex-Life" revolves around two divorced couples and the way they deal with their lives after divorce. The show, from 20th Century Fox TV, stars Tom Cavanagh and Gillian Vigman.
Gilpin set as other woman in ABC's 'Age'
Peri Gilpin has joined Heather Locklear in ABC's comedy pilot "Women of a Certain Age." EDITOR'S NOTE: THE SHOCKING THING IS THAT THEY ARE ACTUALLY AGE-APPROPRIATE FOR THAT TITLE. (OF COURSE, MOST OF US IN THE SAME DEMO DON'T LOOK QUITE LIKE EITHER OF THEM. GRRRRRR).
In other pilot castings, Christina Chang has been cast in Fox's comedy pilot "Union Jackass," Jane Lynch and Brad Raider have come on board ABC's untitled sisters comedy pilot, Connie Stevens has been tapped to co-star in Fox's comedy pilot "The Wedding Album," Chris Diamantopoulos has been added to the ABC comedy pilot "52 Fights," and Danielle Nicolet has joined the cast of CBS' comedy pilot "The Weekend."
"Women of a Certain Age," from Touchstone TV, stars Locklear as a widowed woman who embarks on a new life with her two best friends.
Mid-Week at the Movies, dweebing
Warner Bros. has announced Ellen Barkin has joined the cast of OCEAN'S THIRTEEN and filming will commence on July 21st. Barkin joins a cast which already includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Shaobo Qin, Carl Reiner and Elliott Gould.
Steven Soderbergh will once again direct. Brian Koppelman and David Levien wrote the script.
Filming will take place primarily in soundstages on the Warner Bros. lot, where a fully operational casino will be built. EDITOR'S NOTE: SURE HOPE IT'S AS MUCH FUN AS "OCEAN'S 12". (WHICH WAS A BIG LEAP UP FROM #11).
MUTANT Grabs Hold of Malkovich
Producer Edward J. Pressman has signed John Malkovich to star in THE MUTANT CHRONICLES. He will join Thomas Jane in the sci-fi action thriller.
Malkovic will play a 23rd century corporate overlord who heads a United Nations-style council of four corporation-run countries that have pillaged Earth's natural resources. When a marauding army of "NecroMutants" wages a battle against humans for the little that remains, he is tempted to destroy the planet and evacuate some of its people rather than allow it to be overtaken, all with the corporations' best interests in mind. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHY SET THIS SO FAR IN THE FUTURE? I MEAN, IT SOUNDS AN AWFUL LOT LIKE WHAT'S GOING NOW, HUH?
Simon Hunter will direct the film, which is based on the popular role-playing board game.
LaBeouf leading The Transformers?
If we learnt anything from “Project Greenlight” – besides that in order to make a movie, you have to sell your soul – it’s that young Shia LaBeouf is one in-demand actor. You’ll recall that LaBeouf was the likeable young chap that fronted the winning film of the second season, “The Battle of Shaker Heights”.
Well, seems he’s graduated from a small fries – thanks to some high-profile roles in films like “Constantine” and “I, Robot”- to a large serving of potato-ey goodness, with word that he’s in talks to star in the forthcoming live-action “Transformers” movie.
According to IGN FilmForce, the 19-year-old actor is up for the role of the film’s human protagonist "Sam" in the big-screen version of the 80’s toon fave. No doubt director Michael Bay will test a few other actors for the role, but from the sounds of it, LaBeouf might just have it in the bag.
“Transformers”, which will be executive produced by Steven Spielberg, and again follow the battles of robots that can turn conveniently into Taxi’s or Assault Vehicles at the click of a finger. EDITOR'S NOTE: IF I HAD THE POWER TO TRANSFORM INTO SOMETHING, I DON'T THINK I WOULD CHOOSE A TAXI. BUT MAYBE THAT'S JUST ME?
'Spider-Man' Secretary Dishes On Hero's Hookups, Black Suit
Elizabeth Banks' character gets close with Peter Parker, but who wears mysterious dark costume?
Elizabeth Banks knew it was coming, and the amiable, giggly "Slither" star was still willing to oblige. But she insisted that she has to maintain her limits.
"Honestly, you're killing me with these questions," Banks laughed. "I just don't want to be the one to give anything away 'cause Lord knows I don't want to anger anyone over at 'Spider-Man 3.' "
The 31-year-old actress, like series co-stars Topher Grace and Kirsten Dunst, has found herself caught up in a public tug-of-war with journalists and fans as they clamor for tiny tidbits on one of the most anticipated films in production. With more than a year remaining until fans see "Spider-Man 3," however, the Daily Bugle secretary was willing to break a little news.
"I do definitely sort of explore a little bit more of my relationship with Peter Parker," revealed Banks, who portrays J. Jonah Jameson employee Betty Brant in the movies.
"I learned my lesson a long time ago that you never comment on how big your part is going to be in movies because you can always be cut out."
Still, Banks admitted, the groundwork is being laid for a Peter-Betty relationship much like the office romance they shared in the comics. Banks discussed a list of Peter Parker paramours that will also include Mary Jane Watson (Dunst) and Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard).
"Peter Parker — he actually is Hugh Hefner. "I think everyone knows he does end up with Mary Jane Watson," EDITOR'S NOTE: HARUMPH. HE'D BETTER END UP WITH MARY JANE (AFTER ALL WE...I MEAN HE...WENT THRU IN SPIDEY DEUX)! Banks said. "You'll just have to wait and see in 2007."
Banks' excitement does get the better of her, however, when talk turns to the recently leaked image of a mysterious figure in a black Spider-Man costume).
"They're really exploring the dark side of power, the power a superhero has," Banks said. "Do you use it all for good? That's the question. That's the main theme of the movie."
Pressed for a bit more, Banks would only reveal that she did see the black-suited figure walking around the set. Asked if there was any kind of white logo or trimming (which could indicate the villainous Venom rather than a new suit for Spidey), Banks dropped the bombshell that the suit is all one color: "It's black."
Banks insisted that she doesn't mind being peppered with such questions and that she's appreciative of her role in one of the most high-profile series in movie history.
"It is very cool; I'm really excited for people to see it," she said. "I worked not much longer in this movie than I did on the previous two movies, so that will be an indication of how big my role is, and then we'll see what they end up with in the actual movie."EDITOR'S NOTE: DOES SHE MEAN ON HER PREVIOUS TWO MOVIES? OR WAS THIS CHARACTER IN THE FIRST TWO SPIDEY FLICKS? (SHE MUST MEAN ON HER LAST TWO MOVIES)?
Jackson Will Lend Voice to Penguins Parody
ThinkFilm will release FARCE OF THE PENGUINS in the late summer. Samuel L. Jackson will narrate the parody of the documentary MARCH OF THE PENGUINS.
The "story" centers penguin survival and mating rituals and one bird's search for love while on a 70-mile trek with hedonistic buddies obsessed with getting laid.
Bob Saget wrote the script for the film and is also producing with David Permut.
Saget voices the lovestruck penguin. Also in the voice cast are Lewis Black, Mo'Nique and Tracy Morgan. Jason Alexander, James Belushi, Jason Biggs, Dane Cook, Harvey Fierstein, EDITOR'S NOTE: HARVEY F SEEMS TO BE OUR RECURRING CHARACTER OF THE DAY? (SEE PREVIOUS DWEEB POSTING) Whoopi Goldberg, Gilbert Gottfried, Norm Macdonald, Carlos Mencia, Alyson Hannigan, Jamie Kennedy, Jon Lovitz, Adam Duritz and John Stamos and Dave Coulier, also will voice characters.
Hanks finds room for 'Starbucks' film
Tom Hanks sure likes his triple venti latte.
The actor is attached to star in "How Starbucks Saved My Life," a nonfiction book proposal by Michael Gates Gill that was sold to Universal. Gus Van Sant is in negotiations to direct. Hanks will produce with Playtone partner Gary Goetzman.
The story centers on an older ad exec who loses his job and family and has to go to work at Starbucks to pay the bills. He befriends the young manager and learns about life and love. EDITOR'S NOTE: I THINK IT IS A TESTAMENT TO TOM HANKS' TALENT AND EVERYMAN CHARM THAT WE CAN KNOW THAT HE IS A ULTRA-SUCCESSFUL, POWERFUL HOLLYWOOD GUY, AND YET COMPLETELY BELIEVE HIM IN THESE SORT OF REGULAR JOE KINDS OF ROLES.
CAA-repped Gill is a nonfiction writer and speaker who co-wrote "Fired Up! The Dramatic Truth of What It Really Takes to Move from Fearful Employee to Successful, Fired Up Entrepreneur
Van Sant, repped by WMA, is attached to direct "The Time Traveler's Wife" at New Line. His credits include 2005's "Last Days."Playtone is developing "Charlie Wilson's War" at Universal and is behind the new HBO series "Big Love." Hanks, repped by CAA, next stars in "The Da Vinci Code."
Kidman goes on a mission with Kinberg
Nicole Kidman and writer Simon Kinberg are teaming on a spy thriller that was pre-emptively picked up by Regency Enterprises and 20th Century Fox. Kinberg will write the untitled project, while Kidman will star and produce via Fox-based Blueprint Films. Laurence Mark also is on board to produce with Jonathan King.
Story line details are being kept under wraps, but the film is described as being in the vein of "The Bourne Identity" but with a female protagonist
The latest Magnum P.I movie rumours
Have seen this whisper whisk around the web for a few days now, but didn’t want to post it until I’d spoken to an insider on this project. Just did that, and seems – although it’s apparently quite a while off yet, and nowhere near a start date, I’m told – there is a small amount of truth to it. The two guys in topic are indeed fighting it out for a handlebar moustache.
It’s been long rumoured that George Clooney is the studio fave to don the undersized shorts and windy Hawaiian shirt in the “Magnum P.I” movie, but apparently the former TV doc has competition. Vince Vaughn’s name is on the short-list too.
Now originally, Tom Selleck was going to return to reprise his trademark role for the film. The film’s producers actually liked the idea, but it’s the studio that balked at the suggestion – they’re just not interested in spending a pound of cash on a Selleck vehicle. Sad, because I know many of us would be eager to Selleck – regardless of age – back behind the wheel of that red Ferrari.
Vaughn is definitely in with a chance, because the guy that’s writing the film is scriptwriter Rawson Marshall Thurber, who also wrote “Dodgeball”, which starred Vaughn. But on the other hand, Clooney does have the pull. EDITOR'S NOTE: I DON'T SEE VAUGHN HAVING THE CHARISMA THAT MADE MAGNUM SUCH A POPULAR CHARACTER. YES, THERE WERE HUMOROUS ASPECTS TO THE SHOW, BUT THERE WAS A LOT OF GRAVITAS TOO. AND I'VE NEVER SEEN VAUGHN NOT WINK AT THE CAMERA. I'D ALMOST LOVE TO SEE CLOONEY WITH SELLECK...BROTHERS OR SOMETHING? (AND MAYBE CLOONEY COULD TALK SELLECK OVER TO THE LIGHT SIDE OF THE POLITICAL FENCE DURING FILMING!)
Lost star has a Point
“Lost” is doing miraculous things for Matthew Fox’s career – seemingly so much more than anything the long running “Party of Five did, especially when it comes to work outside the tube.
(Which begs the question….just how long is Jack for the Island?) EDITOR'S NOTE: NO! DON'T SAY THAT!
Hot on the heels of his new football movie with Matthew McConaughey, “We are Marshall”, Fox has been offered a plum role in “Vantage Point”, a new thriller opposite Dennis Quaid.
“XXX” Producer Neal H.Moritz is producing the film, which tells of an attempted assassination of the president from five different points of view. Quaid and Fox will star as secret service agents.
The director is Pete Travis, director of the recent festival fave “Omagh”, about the aftermath of the 1998 Real IRA bombing that killed 29 people in Omagh, Northern Ireland. He’s also helmed episodes of TV’s “Cold Feet” and “Other People’s Children”.
The writer is a newbie named Barry Levy.
Ain't it Kevin Smith News?
Apparently a bad case of wind – as in Hawaiian storms, not the stinky kind – has prevented “Lost” star Jorge Garcia (Hurley) from playing Aint it Cool News’ webmaster Harry Knowles in the forthcoming film “Fanboys”.
Instead, the king of the geeks and the mac-daddy of the fart-film, Kevin Smith, will be donning the red wig and stuffy jumper to play Knowles.
Knowles, speaking on his site, says: “I'm now officially scared to death and giddy as hell. Word has it that the producers, writers and director have given Kevin complete free reign to create "Harry Knowles" - Can you imagine Kevin in the red hair and beard... the prosthetics... f*&^ casting THE BLOB, the fat character of the century has found its actor. I am dying to see this.”
This film is sounding crazier, and more exciting by the day. For those that haven’t heard about it, it’s about “four awesome guys who are 'Star Wars'-obsessed and they drive cross-country to break into [George] Lucas' ranch to steal the final episode”, according to the star of the thing, spunky Kristen Bell (“Veronica Mars”). EDITOR'S NOTE: I'D SAY BEING A DWEEB IS MORE FUN USUALLY THAN WATCHING THEM. BUT KRISTEN BELL ROCKS.
'Frank' toasts Shapiro as new helmer
Alan Shapiro has been tapped to direct the indie family comedy "Frank," with Darrell Hammond and Missi Pyle in negotiations to star. Bay Area-based production and financing company Bright Line Films will finance the film alongside Cabiria Prods. of Turin, Italy. Bright Line principal Robin Bradford penned the screenplay and is producing.
The story centers on an abandoned dog who ingratiates himself with a family vacationing on an idyllic island. Hammond and Pyle would play the husband and wife EDITOR'S NOTE: DOGGIE!
New Line, Coraci go 'Hawaiian'
Frank Coraci is attached to direct "Hawaiian Dick," a supernatural private eye thriller being produced by Practical Pictures' Craig Perry and Quattro Media's Jim Strader for New Line Cinema.
Set in 1953 Hawaii, "Hawaiian" tells the story of a down-on-his-luck big-city detective who gets involved in a kidnapping case of a local island girl who turns up dead but won't stay that way.
The script, by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift ("Freddy vs. Jason"), is based on the 2002 comic by B. Clay Moore and Steven Griffin. Johnny Knoxville was at one point pegged to star.
Dweebing & Thesping...together AGAIN
AND HERE'S A CASE IN POINT------
Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings,' Staged by Matthew Warchus in Toronto
By BEN BRANTLEY
Hobbits confront the Ents in Fangorn Forest in "The Lord of the Rings," a dramatization of the Tolkein work.
TORONTO — An hour or so into what feels like eons of stage time, one wise, scared little hobbit manages to express the feelings of multitudes. "This place is too dim and tree-ish for me," mutters a round-ish, twee-ish creature named Pippin, groping through a shadowy forest in the second act of the very expensive, largely incomprehensible musical version of "The Lord of the Rings," which opened Thursday at the Princess of Wales Theater here.
You speak not the half of it, O cherub-cheeked lad of Middle Earth. The production in which you exist so perilously is indeed a murky, labyrinthine wood from which no one emerges with head unmuddled, eyes unblurred or eardrums unrattled. Everyone and everything winds up lost in this $25 million adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's cult-inspiring trilogy of fantasy novels. That includes plot, character and the patience of most ordinary theatergoers.
Presumably, there is a contingent out there that will regard this curiously homespun-feeling behemoth as a sort of sacred ritual. Indeed, perhaps the sanest approach to this production, adapted from Tolkien's books by an international team of artists led by the British director Matthew Warchus, is to look upon it as an arcane religious pageant that can be fully appreciated only by the initiated. That would be those familiar enough with the source material (preferably to the point of being fluent in Elvish) EDITOR'S NOTE: I HAVE SUCH A HARD TIME WITH ELVISH. MY KLINGON SUBJUNCTIVE CASE KEEPS GETTING MISHMASHED WITH MY ELVISH PREDICATIVE CASE. to understand the totemic significance of the amorphous shapes that pass through an eternal, vision-taxing twilight, murmuring dialogue that, when intelligible, brings to mind vintage "Prince Valiant" comic strips.
Let me hasten to add that I was not a Tolkien virgin when I walked into the Princess of Wales Theater. I read the "Ring" trilogy (and its delightful predecessor, "The Hobbit") at least twice when I was a child. And I sat as happily as a little boy at a PlayStation through the more than nine hours of Peter Jackson's three-part movie version. Had I not, I would not have begun to have made sense of many of this production's aspiring edge-of-the-seat moments, including the final climax in which the pesky ring that causes so much trouble is destroyed. (Please don't write to say I've spoiled the show for you; believe me, I'm doing you a favor.) EDITOR'S NOTE: AND THE SHIP SINKS, AND BETH DIES, AND DARTH VADER IS LUKE'S FATHER.
AND ROSEBUD IS A SLED. (WE'LL LEAVE KAYSER SOZE OUT OF IT, THOUGH).
The woman who accompanied me to the show had no prior acquaintance with the world of Tolkien, and she gave up on trying to make sense of the story early in the first of the show's three acts. As a fashion editor, she was able to derive some pleasure from discovering parallels between the costumes and current style trends. If you lack such resources to draw upon, you may find this "Lord of the Rings" is less like a spectacular fashion show than a seriously long (more than three and a half hours) drill team competition for high schools devoted to the nurturing of geeks, goths and hippies manqué who are really annoyed that they were born too late for Woodstock.
In following the adventures of the hobbit Frodo Baggins (James Loye) in his quest to save the ancient world of Middle Earth from the forces of darkness, this "Lord of the Rings" makes extensive use of a 40-ton stage (featuring 17 elevators) that revolves and rises, more than 500 often cumbersome costumes (Rob Howell designed them and the sets) and vast projected images that bring to mind much-magnified biology class slides. The program credits give prominent place to moving-image direction (the Gray Circle), illusions and magic effects (Paul Kieve), special-effects design (Gregory Meeh) and a "Tolkien creative consultant" (Laurie Battle).
Yet for all the technology, the show's look is often reminiscent of an arts and crafts fair. Its dominant images include a giant, twiggish wreath that is occasionally lowered to frame exposition sequences (there are lots of those); some striking, if ambiguous, Julie Taymor-ish puppetlike assemblages; sky-scraping stilt walkers; levitating fairies;EDITOR'S NOTE: I HAVE WORKED WITH MANY LEVITATING FAIRIES OVER THE YEARS. (I FIND AS THEY GET OLDER, THEY GET LIGHTER AND LIGHTER, TILL THEY JUST WISP AWAY). and myriad long poles carried by cast members, meant to signify everything from trees (natch) to processional majesty.
The show's mantra could be, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." A lot of the book and lyrics (by Shaun McKenna and Mr. Warchus) are sacrificed to the distortions of electronic amplification and booming background music. The dialogue that can be heard often sounds as if it comes from a Hollywood medieval sword-banger of 50 or 60 years ago. ("How often we sang together before you left my father's house." Or: "You are wise to ask, Frodo son of Drogo." Or: "Then there is a lady in the golden wood, as old tales tell.") EDITOR'S NOTE: THAT SECOND ONE NEEDS TO BE OUR RESPONSE TO EVERYTHING, FROM NOW ON! (LOL). WHY? EVERYONE TOGETHER NOW ------ YOU ARE WISE TO ASK, FRODO SON OF DROGO.
As for the songs — well, do not be so foolish, mortals, as to think they are mere show tunes. Created by the polyglot team of A. R. Rahman (of "Bombay Dreams" and Bollywood), Varttina (a Finnish folk group) and Christopher Nightingale, the musical numbers are often solemn, incantatory affairs, suggesting Enya at an ashram. EDITOR'S NOTE: REDUNDANT? Many of them are performed at least partly in Elvish. (If you think that means a lisping Presley imitator, this is definitely not the show for you.) Others recall the folky parody tunes from the spoof documentary "A Mighty Wind." EDITOR'S NOTE: OOOOO. I'VE ALWAYS WANTED AN ELVISH AUDITION PIECE! WONDER IF ANY OF THEM ARE A GOOD ELVISH UP-TEMPO?!
The choreography is by Peter Darling, whose work for the London hit "Billy Elliot: The Musical" is breathtaking, but who here seems stymied by the sheer size of his ensemble. There is a protracted Morris dance-style sequence in a quaint tavern, in which the cast members refreshingly hoist benches instead of the usual poles, and much semaphoric gesturing and slow-motion writhing for the fight sequences. Since Paul Pyant's lighting tends to the crepuscular,EDITOR'S NOTE: OOOO...GREAT WORD! BRAVO BENJI! it is not always possible to tell who is fighting whom.
Nor is it easy for the cast members to register emotions legibly amid the gloaming. The show's best-known actor is Brent Carver (a Tony winner for "Kiss of the Spiderwoman"), whose hole-pitted line readings as the magisterial wizard Gandalf inappropriately suggest that the old sage is suffering from a Hamlet-like crisis of resolution. Evan Buliung is better cast as the action-figure hunk Strider (a k a Aragorn), and the audience clearly warms to the scenery chewing of Michael Therriault as the whiny, sneaky Gollum, who here looks like an unraveling mummy and sounds like Renfield, Dracula's old sidekick. Mr. Loye does what he can as Frodo, as does Peter Howe as his loyal companion, Sam, but they are no match for the shadows that swamp the stage.
You may be interested to know that, according to a news release, the dress worn by the beauteous Galadriel (Rebecca Jackson Mendoza, who sings of Elvish good will in the style of Celine Dion) has more than 1,800 hand-sewn beads. (The release does not stipulate whether nuns were the seamstresses or if they lost their vision to the work.)
But the show's must-have fashion items are clearly the springing shoes worn by some of the evil Orcs (at least I think that's what they were), who look like a squadron of vengeful houseplants trained in the martial arts. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND HERE WAS WHERE I HAD TO PAUSE, WALK AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD, AND LAUGH FOR SEVERAL MINUTES....JUST TO KEEP FROM PEE'ING MYSELF! The shoes allow their wearers to leap high into the air merely by flexing their knees. This action provides some of the scarce occasions when "The Lord of the Rings" feels other than Middle Earth-bound. EDITOR'S NOTE: TERRIBLY SNARKY AND PISSY...BUT TERRIBLY WELL-WRITTEN.
EDITOR'S NOTE: AND LEST YOU THINK READING THIS BLOG IS RISK-FREE....HERE'S A LITTLE POST FROM HARVEY FIERSTEIN (SHUDDER) ---
DIVA LAS VEGAS
By HARVEY FIERSTEIN
March 29, 2006 -- Michael Riedel is on vacation this week. Guest columnist Harvey Fierstein fills in.
GREETINGS from the miracle in the desert, the vaudeville of the sand dunes, the mother of all strip malls - Las Vegas.
I can hardly believe I'm here performing on the very same street as Ruth Brown, Robert Goulet and Barry Manilow as opposed to back on Broadway, where I performed on the same street as Ruth Brown, Robert Goulet and Barry Manilow. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER ADDING SNARK TO THESE EMAILS? I MEAN, THIS WHOLE POSTING IS AT A LEVEL OF SNARKOSITY RARELY SEEN IN THE HALLOWED HALLS OF UMM...SNARKDOM.
Are we having fun? Who wouldn't enjoy going to work in a tomb? "Hairspray" is housed at the Luxor Hotel, an Egyptian-esque pyramid featuring incubuses, sarcophaguses and all manner of old things that have me homesick for the Shuberts.
Other Vegas venues include a height-challenged Eiffel Tower; a pirate ship at sea in a green concrete lagoon, and the theater where our "Blue Man Group" pals play - a mini faux Venice providing the charms of canal life, sans smelly water. Still, theater is theater wherever it's played, and being back in Edna's bras and the arms of the ever-adorable Dick Latessa remains as divine as ever.
Not that "Hairspray" is exactly the same here in Casinoville. This edition has been meticulously trimmed to 90 minutes. 'Twas not to please the musicians union as rumored. The chairs here on the strip, unlike backward Broadway's, come with cup holders, and the lobby bars thoughtfully provide drink trays to facilitate carrying a half-dozen quart-sized cocktails to your seat for consumption during the performance.
By limiting imbibing time to 90 minutes, the management saves millions in wet-vac operators and ER visits.
Lest I lead you to believe that these audiences are lacking in theatrical grace, let me say that, unlike on the Great White Way, we hardly ever hear a cellphone ring during a performance. This could be due to the deafening decibel level of these sound systems - or simply because cellphones don't ring when you're talking on them.
Theater scheduling is another disparate area. "Hairspray" plays a pretty normal schedule of 7:30 curtains six days a week with 4 p.m. weekend matinees. "Mamma Mia!," on the other hand, plays only seven shows a week. And other shows can play twice daily five days a week, or only at midnight, or just when Celine's in the mood.
It seems magic shows do best playing afternoons, while Cirque shows thrive late at night, and, in a city that never sleeps but does pass out quite often, there's certainly no wrong time to bare bizarrely augmented breastacles onstage.
Whether drawn here by the sports betting or the endless avalanche of cheap red buffet meat, this is a town teeming with testosterone.
Which brings me to Carrot Top.
Yes, Carrot Top.
He plays another theater in the same pyramid we do. But while "Hairspray" is attached to the casino, his venue is conveniently located next to the food court and just around the corner from the Wedding Chapel. Think: You can be wed, fed and left scratching your head, all within a 50-foot radius.
But to answer the question that burns on lips across Broadway: Is there really a future for theater in Vegas?
Here are the facts as I see them: The average Vegas tourist arrives for a three-day stay. They pay airfare and hotel bills for the chance to become instant millionaires, anonymous sex gods or just to escape their everyday reality. They're in desperate need of entertainment.
Our "Hairspray" audience reaction is just as sing-along, dance-along and clap-along gleeful as any we've had on Broadway, proving that musical theater can fill that entertainment need handily.
But can we sell "The Music of the Night" - the Phantom's joining the Broadway gold rush in May - in numbers large enough to warrant the journey west? That's the question. And the answer is still TBD.
Well, I've got to get back to shaving my legs, chest and eyebrows. Edna's work is never done.
Take good care of the Rialto, and don't worry about me. The only gambling I've done thus far was on an iffy piece of sushi (I lost).
Wish you were here!