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TV and Movies

Posts related to television and/or movies.

24 on an extended hiatus

24In case you missed it, CNN is reporting that the seventh season of 24 will not return until 2009. In the story, CNN notes that 24 would end during the summer if it started its run late. (Traditionally, networks won't air their top-tier shows in the summer.) Here's how Fox summarized their decision making process, from the story:

A January 2009 start seemed the best way to comply with viewers' wishes that a season's episodes run without interruption to conclusion, Fox said on Thursday.

Ummm, no. The best way to comply with viewers' wishes would be to start production, begin airing the show whenever it's ready, and then air it in consecutive weeks until it's done. The best way to comply with the network's wishes, however, would be to make the decision they made. Idiots.

On our declining attention span

In my last post, I discussed a couple of issues with the cinematography in The Bourne Ultimatum. However, while writing that post last night, I reminded myself of another movie-related issue I wanted to talk about: trailers.

I find most of today's spy, thriller, and action movie trailers basically unwatchable: there is simply too much action packed into every two-minute trailer. I know they're trying to grab our attention, but to a large extent, they've simply gone too far. In a modern trailer for movies in these genres, you're simply not allowed to actually watch anything; instead, it appears the objective is to see how many different shots of your movie you can fit into a two-minute window. So the "scenes" are incredibly short, leading to tons of cuts from one scene to another.

Just how bad has it gotten? I thought it might be enlightening to compare the Bourne Ultimatum trailer with some similar movies from the 1970s, and then one completely different type of movie from 1980.
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Cinematography and The Bourne Ultimatum

Last night, my wife and I had a rare night out. With two kids, we've really only got one non-family babysitter we trust, and she happened to be available on a Tuesday, so we took advantage of the situation. After a nice dinner (it's amazing how roomy a restaurant table is without all the stuff that accompanies a couple of young kids!), we went to see The Bourne Ultimatum (Flash-enabled loud site, sigh).

We both enjoyed the first Bourne movie, though we found the second disappointing (too much like a two-hour MTV music video). But we'd heard good things about the third, so we were anticipating a couple hours of decent entertainment. And generally speaking, that's what we got: I'd rate the third movie as the best of the bunch; there are some amazingly well done scenes, including a tense seen in London's sprawling Waterloo Station. If you enjoy spy/action movies, this one is worth seeing, even in light of what I'm about to discuss.

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My favorite comedy movies [#5 to #1]

As promised, here's part three of three--the final installment of my personal favorite comedies. Note that there's a big difference between my favorite comedies and the best comedies ever made. I would never pretend that my list represents the best of the best in the art of comedic cinema. Instead, these are the movies that have made me laugh the most consistently over the years. Yes, it's true, I have a sick and twisted mind. Anyway, on with the list...
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My favorite comedy movies [#15 to #11]

My friend Kirk and I were chatting the other day, and we got to talking about our favorite comedy movies. Both of us struggled to come up with just one, given the wide variety of comedy out there, and one's taste for the various comedic styles (dark, slapstick, etc.) may change as the years go by. Then there's the matter of era—comedies have been in production for nearly 100 years, so there's a huge body of work. How can one compare a film from the 1920s or 1930s with something made in the last five years?

After our chat, I got to thinking about my favorite comedies, and I thought I'd put together a list of my 10 favorites. To make things a bit easier on myself, I picked the somewhat arbitrary year of 1980 as the starting point, even though there are lots of comedies that I would include from prior to that date—The Blues Brothers, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Blazing Saddles, anything by Charlie Chaplin, etc. But I didn't think I could do a credible job of choosing from movies in many different eras, so I used 1980 as the cutoff mainly because it was a nice round number.

As I started working on the list, I found that I couldn't trim it to just 10 without leaving off what I felt were some of my personal favorites, so I expanded it to 15 movies. Even at that, there are quite a few that fell just below the cut line—Airplane, Meet the Parents, LA Story, Austin Powers—that I still consider great comedies and are in my DVD collection. Still, the line had to be drawn somewhere.

So at the risk of losing the last few readers I still have (by revealing my poor taste in filmmaking), here are the 'bottom five' of my 15 favorite comedies, arranged from "just barely made the cut" (#15) to "absolute favorite" (#1). (I was going to run the list all at once, but the post was simply too long; look for parts two and three in the near future.)
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CSI, meet reality; reality, meet CSI…

Now you might think this post is going to discuss the unreality of the whole CSI franchise (CSI lab techs doing detective work? Getting results back in hours, not days or weeks? Finding unique ways of getting a DNA sample from a suspect?), but that's not the point. Well, that's not true. That last example there is actually the point of this post. From this article on Portland's KATU news station site:

Peter Jacob Inouye, 24, of Parkland, was arrested shortly before 7 p.m. as he returned to his parents' house a few blocks from the rape scene, Olympia police said in a news release.

Cmdr. Tor Bjornstad said detectives collected Inouye's DNA recently after Inouye spit on the street, and the sample was analyzed by a lab.

Bjornstad said an officer watched Inouye spit on the sidewalk, and then rushed to collect that saliva off the sidewalk.

So perhaps at least one Olympia detective has been watching CSI? Or perhaps they're just particularly diligent? Whichever; I'm just glad this menace is off the streets, thanks to the alert detective's actions. Though as they used say on TV, "all parties are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law."

How network television lost a ‘new series’ viewer

I'm old enough to remember the "good old days" of network television. Perhaps you are, too--you know, back when a new show was given a commitment for an entire season's production? Take, for instance, 1981's Hill Street Blues, a groundbreaking drama set in a New York police station. Ratings the first season were absolutely abysmal, and yet, NBC left it on the air for the entire season. At the end of the year, the drama picked up eight Emmys, was renewed for season two, and went on to run for seven full seasons.

Fast forward to 2006. I don't watch a ton of television, mainly 24 and CSI (Las Vegas, not New York or Miami). But when the fall 2006 season started, two new shows caught my eye: NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and ABC's Day Break. Studio 60 was a potentially intriguing "behind the scenes" look at a live weekend comedy show (i.e. Saturday Night Live), produced by Aaron Sorkin, whose work I've liked in the past. Day Break's premise was more unique and complicated--a police detective is framed for a murder, and he keeps waking up to the same day, over and over (ala Groundhog Day). He then spends the repetitive day slowly figuring out who framed him and why.
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Some notes on 24’s sixth season

24 logoOn Sunday, the sixth season (see note below) of 24 started. In typical fashion, things started very quickly, and there were the usual plot holes and logical inconsistencies (just how quickly can one shave one's own beard off, cut one's own hair (perfectly), shower, and dress? If you're Jack Bauer, in about 10 minutes, apparently!). Despite these issues, I'm already hooked on the new season, and eagerly anticipating each week's episode.

Note: Although this is the start of the sixth season of 24, Jack Bauer is now at least nine years older than he was at the start of season one--18 months passed after season one, 36 months after season two, and then 18 months after each of seasons three, four, and five. Add it all up, and that's 108 months, or exactly nine years.

Caution: There are spoilers below, both for the current season as well as past seasons. If you're not current with season six, or you're working your way through prior seasons, you may not wish to read on. No plot details are revealed, however if you keep reading, you will learn the fate of some of the characters on the show. You have been warned...
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How not to rename your TV network

Over the last week or so, I've been watching a fair bit of the Tour de France on OLN TV. When OLN launched a few years back, it was The Outdoor Life Network. As their programming expanded, they shortened that (thankfully) to OLN TV. But as of September, as they've seemingly been telling me every 10 minutes for several hours each morning, they're becoming Versus. Quoting from their press release:

Versus was the name that consistently rose to the top in focus group after focus group. Sports fans felt it was not only strong, but that it conveyed an idea and an energy that suggests a network experience centered on competition.

While I certainly don't disagree with the fact that the name suggests a network experience focused on competition, I'm not so sure that makes it a great name for a network. Personally, I think it just sounds silly, and it will make watercooler conversations more difficult. "Hey, did you catch that NHL game on Versus last night?"..."Is Versus going to show the Tour today?" Maybe it's just me, but Versus as a network name just seems wrong, somehow.

What's really sad is that they probably spent a fair bit of money on the research and focus groups to find their new identity. Add in the costs of rebranding all your merchandise, print ads, and online graphics, and we're talking about a huge investment of capital. And all of that for Versus? If we're going to use full English words, why not Compete or Battle or Strive or Match?

Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I prefer network names that aren't full-on words. Give me ABC, NBC, ESPN, TNT, etc. over Discovery (though as words go, that one's pretty good), Lifetime, or Biography. Why? I'm not sure, other than they're easier to work into conversation without worrying about context, and they're much quicker to type :).

I guess I'll have to adjust, but Versus will always probably always be OLN around our home. And speaking of OLN, I have to get back to the time trial now!