I saw Kit Kittredge: An American Girl at 10 a.m. the day it opened, so I got to check out a bunch of trailers for upcoming kid-oriented films. The shocking thing was seeing the previews for two computer-animated talking-animal comedies, Space Chimps and Fly Me to the Moon. They're the same movie!
OK, they have cosmetic differences. Space Chimps, as the title suggests, depicts a trio of chimpanzees on an outer space rescue mission (complete with aliens) and opens July 18. Opening August 8, Fly Me to the Moon depicts three young houseflies who secretly stow away on the Apollo 11 mission and thus share in the first moon landing experience with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. I shudder to think of the puns based on his name.
Now, I can get how the arm's race-style competition between Hollywood studios yields to suspiciously similar movies like Antz and A Bug's Life, or Deep Impact and Armageddon, or Dante's Peak and Volcano (I could go on and on), but does either of these look like a good enough idea to be made let alone twice? I dare you to watch them:
This year's installment of The Animation Show (reviewed here), opening July 4 at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, features a charming little cartoon called "Western Spaghetti," the latest cartoon confection from the animator PES (Adam Pesapane). "Western Spaghetti" is another of the animator's stop-motion, doodle-like shorts that involves candy or other foodstuffs substituting for familiar objects: in the 11-second "The Fireplace," PES renders a Yule log in candy corn and pretzels. A previous Animation Show featured "Game Over," PES' tribute to old-school arcade video games, with familiar sound effects:
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PES's fun food-related shorts are completely work safe and kid-friendly which is more than you can say for his hilarious "Roof Sex," which features furniture instead of food, as well as a killer punchline.
In my interview with Salman Rushdie this week, I talk about how the Satanic Verses author and Emory professor has not just a rock star level of fame, but comes close to being an actual rock star. He's not a musician (that I know of), but his novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet concerns a fictional Indian rock band that becomes as big as The Beatles. U2 took inspiration from the book to pen a song titled "The Ground Beneath Her Feet," using the words from Rushdie's own lyrics in the book, and giving him a "writer" credit. Here's the video for "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" (from the soundtrack of Wim Wenders' film The Million Dollar Hotel):
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But that's not all...
Last night I attended Valhalla, the kick-off production of Essential Theatre's 10th anniversary season of local and world premiere plays. Valhalla was kind of an odd duck, juxtaposing the life of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria (Topher Payne) with an impulsive, gay Texan (Matt Felten) in the 1930s and 1940s. Playwright Paul Rudnick tends to be something of a one-liner machine, so the play's relentless quippiness at times concealed its more complex ideas. It reminds me of the joke in Raising Arizona that was called a "way-homer," "because you only get it on the way home." I'll have more to say about Valhalla later.
For such a small theater company, Essential is particularly proactive about using the viral video powers of the Internet. Just like last year, Essential Theatre's web site presents video previews (mostly interview-based) for its three shows running in repertory: the time-shifting comedy Valhalla; the crime-and-celebrity drama After Ashley by Gina Gionfriddo (opening July 2); and West of Eden, a comedy about Adam and Eve at middle age by Letitia Sweitzer (opening July 8). Here's the clip for Valhalla; for the others, just click on the titles.
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One detail I left out of my interview with Andrew Stanton, director of Pixar Studio's new classics WALL-E and Finding Nemo, was a tidbit about his early days. Before joining Pixar (where he was the second animator and ninth employee), one of Stanton's first Hollywood jobs was on Ralph Bakshi's short-lived animated sitcom "Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures." "Mighty Mouse" offered a clever parody of cartoons, superheroes and pop culture and was a delightful anomaly amid the Saturday morning kiddie fare of the late 1980s. Culturally satirical cartoons are ubiquitous today thanks to "The Simpsons," Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, etc. that it's easy to forget how strange and groundbreaking "Mighty Mouse" was for its time. This sample, "Don't Touch That Dial," directly takes on other cartoons:
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On Sat., June 28, The Silver Scream Spook Show at The Plaza Theatre presents 1958's classic technicolor space opera, Forbidden Planet. It looks pretty kitschy these days, especially because The Naked Gun's Leslie Nielsen (referred to as "talented Leslie Nielsen" in the trailer) plays the heroic starship captain, a clear role model for William Shatner's James T. Kirk. Forbidden Planet gets extra points, though, for a thoughtful premise and for being an extremely loose remake of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, with Robby the Robot substituting for the play's fairy-servant Ariel. Showtimes are at 1 and 10 p.m. Here's the vintage trailer: "Sir, we're being radar-scanned."
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I stayed up past my bedtime last night getting caught up on Battlestar Galactica episodes on Hulu. BSG isnt as easy to watch on-line as, say Lost, which has the full library of its episodes available on demand on the ABC website, with the new ones going up the day after broadcast. Hulu posts the new BSGs eight days after air date, and takes them down about three weeks later, so if you snooze, you lose.
Battlestar Galactica recently aired its mid-season finale for its fourth and final season. The terminologys a little confusing, but what happened was, the show produced 10 fourth season episodes before the writers strike, and just finished broadcasting them. The remaining 10 episodes have apparently been filmed, but Sci Fi may not complete the shows run until 2009.
The last episode ended with the kind of jaw-dropping, how-will-they-deal-with-THAT twist thats the shows speciality, but overall the fourth season has been a head-scratcher. The most critically respected of any space opera TV series, the reboot of the 1970s Star Wars knock-off won over skeptics with its fusion of sci-fi conventions (space ships, killer robots) and sociopolitical themes drawn right from the post-9/11 zeitgeist (abuse of authority, torture, terrorism, paranoia, etc.) A certain amount of spirituality also informed the show, driving the human characters quixotic search for the mythic planet Earth." The fourth season's promotional cast photo, shown above, even riffs on "The Last Supper," and this year the mystical mumbo-jumbo has superceded the political allegories.
Famously filthy-mouthed stand-up comedian George Carlin has died of heart failure at the age of 71. An icon of counterculture comedy and free speech rights, Carlin was most notorious for his "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television," a routine from his album Occupation Foole that eventually led to the Supreme Court:
A listener hearing New York's WBAI-FM play Carlin's "Filthy Words" routine on Oct. 30, 1973, in its unaltered entirety lodged a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC, in turn, threatened to pull WBAI's license. WBAI appealed the FCC's bark all the way to the Supreme Court, where in 1978, the justices ruled in favor of the FCC, agreeing that the seven words "you can't say on television," shouldn't be said on the radio, eithernot during hours that children might hear them.
Carlin's comedy encompassed more than just taboo-breaking profanity, however. He frequently examined life's amusing minutia ("Urinals are 50 percent universal") in a way that anticipated the observational humor of Jerry Seinfeld. He also delighted in wordplay and simple absurdity, like the headlines in his faux-news report: "A man attempting to walk around the world ... drowned today."
If you've been online at all on Monday morning, you've probably either seen the clip of "Seven Words" or a link to it. Here's something a little different: an expanded, exhaustive version of the list from Carlin's 1982 concert at Carnegie Hall. It features the familiar seven, as well as some terms that you may have never heard before ("donaker," "sugarbowl pie," "boy in the boat," "71") :
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Updated: In case the Carnegie Hall footage gets pulled, here's a similar routine, with Carlin's audio synchronized to some extremely odd video.
In the world according to Jay Louis, there's no such thing as too many douchebags. No, not the countless politicos that Jon Stewart likes to skewer on "The Daily Show," but the tatted-up, hair-spiked, shiny-foreheaded, six-pack-packed, hand-symbol-thrusting, shades-sporting, wife-beater-wearing, tongue-thrusting, hand-gesturing and pec-bearing American men who somehow wind up with really attractive women in living color.
In this book, we will identify every type of bag within the douche spectrum, from the youthful stage-1 Fratbags to the polluted, noxious stage-4 DJ Club Douche. We will tap directly into the core of not only how douchebaggery manifests, but also how it corrupts the hottie within its wily, greased-up charms. These unnatural cohabitations must be exposed to the disinfecting light of detailed scrutiny if we have any hope of societal redress.
From June 20-26, The Plaza Theatre will present Spike & Mikes Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation, billed as a 25th anniversary compilation of the perennial collection of raunchy cartoons. Originated by Craig "Spike" Decker and the late Mike Gribble, the touring show presents short animated films that range from embarrassingly sophomoric to ingeniously creative.
The current collection includes favorites from previous shows, including Don Hertzfeldts Rejected, which may be one of the best short films Ive ever seen of any kind. Other items on the line-up are Save Virgil, starring The Man Shows Adam Carolla providing the voice of a animated guy born in a live-action world, plus some new adventures of Happy Tree Friends, cute forest creatures who suffer grisly, unfortunate mishaps. The evening reportedly concludes with director Breehn Burns Roybertitos, the latest appearance from the amusing Dr. Tran, American's #1 action star or is he?
The character originally appeared in Here Comes Dr. Tran, an extremely funny (if overly drawn out) short from 2003 with an online cult following. If you like "South Park," you'll love it.
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I'm especially intrigued by Dr. Tran Doles Out the Harshness.
Spike & Mike's Sick and Twisted Animation Festival plays at 7:45 and 9:45 p.m.
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