30 March 2009

Heart failure takes the life of former Angel cast member Andy Hallett

Andy Hallett, who played the Host (AKA Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan, or Lorne), the anagogic demon who reads people as they sang in his karaoke bar on the TV series Angel, passed away on March 29 after a 5 year battle with heart disease. He was 33.

Never conceived as an on going character, the Host debuted in the second season opener of Angel. But Hallett's performance, and his talent as a singer, made the role grow from a one-shot guest spot to a recurring role. Hallet played the Host through seasons 2 and 3 and most of season 4 before being added as a full-time cast member for the final 9 episodes of that season and all of season 5.

His post Angel years were spent performing as a singer.

Sadly, Hallet is the second Angel star to die since it was spun-off of Buffy The Vampire Slayer back in 1999. Irish actor Glenn Quinn, who played Doyle during the shows first season, died of a drug overdose in 2002 at the age of 32.

25 March 2009

Day One. Again

Not much going on. Work is work, but I feel I'm nearing getting fired for opening my mouth. This week and next, most of the kids are off for spring break. This means a lot of parents are out with their kids, trashing our stores (though some are buying).

See, its about respect. They want it from me, but don't give it to me. Seems unfair. I don't go to their house and leave my empty drink cups, magazines and books thrown around like a discarded toy. I don't rearrange the furniture in their house, why do we let them in "ours?"

Retail is crap when dealing with soul crunching customers and your managers.

Anywho, this past weekend, I rebooted my computer back to 2004 (though bought in April 2005, apparently the computer was "made" sometime in '04), after I acquired a nasty virus that even my own virus detector could not get rid of. A friend of mine called it a virus with a "bootstrap." Essentially, every time it looked like I caught it, and re-booted my computer, it just replicated itself.


Still, it's nice to have a clean computer, though. Still, despite me backing up my files and what not, I forgot to back-up my bookmarks from Firefox (I did on MS Internet Explorer), thus I lost a whole bunch of porn and blogs I go to. Ironically, it was probably one of those blogs where the virus came from.

So, right now, everything is working fine.

That is about as exciting as it gets in my world.

23 March 2009

Sci Fi Channel to be re-branded SyFy -WTF?

The recent announcement that 16 year-old cable network The Sci Fi Channel is re-branding itself into The SyFy Channel appears to have given sci fi fans a chance to openly criticize the network for its lack of quality science fiction in favor of more reality shows and wrestling.

Part of the reason, claims Sci Fi Channel President Dave Howe was how to copyright the channel. Sci Fi is short for science fiction, and a generic word that cannot be copyrighted. SyFy, on the other hand, can and it’s Howe’s impression that from re-branding the network as The SyFy Channel, they can get over (what their marketing people claim to be) an issue about reaching a broader audience.

“The challenge,” Howe explained on networks forums, “ for our brand is that many non-SCI FI Channel viewers think "sci-fi" is only about space, aliens and the future. (Those are the actual words many people use in focus groups.) They still only expect to see reruns of Star Trek on something called the SCI FI Channel. So we believe that by evolving our branding, we'll be able to encourage more viewers to check us out and watch the broad range of shows on our air. And that includes our hit reality shows—such as Ghost Hunters and Destination Truth—which are rooted in the supernatural: ghosts, myths and legends. And because our new brand is less literal than the letters "sci-fi," it's actually catching up with our current range of programming and makes more sense to new viewers. And by expanding our audience, this will help us grow as a business.”

What many viewers have complained about is not that Sci Fi airs supernatural shows, but that its getting farther and farther away from what many thought (including me) the network was conceived to be: a network designed to highlight the genre being ignored on the broadcast networks for decades.

But while I always assumed the network would air reruns of old science fiction shows, movies and what not, I also thought they would eventually broaden into original fare.

Of course, they have. And like any network, its been a mixed bag. Still, while The Invisible Man, The Dresden Files and Pain Killer Jane where worthy shows, their production values (i.e. no budget) and questionable writing made them vanish really quick. And while picking up Sliders from FOX was a good idea, once on Sci Fi, the show became what-classic-monster/science- fiction-movie will we rip off this week. And even picking up Stargate from Showtime was a pretty thoughtful move, only as the series aged its histrionics became more convoluted than Star Trek’s.

Still, over the last 10 years, the network has produced two wonderful series, Farscape and the re-imaged Battlestar Galactica. Both shows raised the bar in story telling and production values. Yet, according to Sci Fi, despite critical praise from both fans and mainstream press, both series were faced with problems due to their high budgets (and please, let’s not be surprised that science fiction shows are cheap to produce, everyone knows the genre is inherently expensive) Thus, from many points of view, ended earlier than they should have.

And recently, they’ve picked up the new version of the BBC’s Doctor Who and spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures, which showed they really understood that seeing them on Youtube and a bittorrent was possibly letting money go down the drain. But (somewhat surprisingly) they did not pick up the other spin-off, Torchwood, and I’ve often wondered why.

Is this possibility that Torchwood is lead by an openly, very unapologetic gay actor scare them? It was okay, they might think in the marketing department, that Captain Jack was safe when he was a companion on Doctor Who, but leading a series that has him flirting with male cast members might shock some science fiction fan in Arkansas?

But I digress. Howe (and former FOX network head Bonnie Hammer) also note that the new SyFy Channel is trying to appeal to women. Apparently, women do not like science fiction, which I think is a misnomer. I know plenty of women who like this genre, and enjoy the same quality shows that I do. And I’m sure there are more than a few women who would insulted by the idea that reality shows are the way to get them to watch. But as Howe said “overall, our channel and the sci-fi genre in general tend to skew more male than female, and we want to ensure we remain gender-balanced and continue to bring in new female viewers, who often say they don't like traditional sci-fi.”

Because right now, reality shows outweigh any original science fiction shows on the network. We’ve got Estate of Panic, Wrestling, Ghosthunters, Ghosthunters International, Ghosthunters college edition (really?), The Cha$e, Scare Tactics and Destination Truth.

With Battlestar Galactica gone, and what appears to be Star Trek: Voyager inspired version of the Stargate franchise called Universe sometime off in the future, along with BG prequel movie Caprica what is left that can be called an original series. Sure there’s Eureka, which no where near the quality of either version of Knight Rider. But while the show attempts to be quirky (and should this show really be on the sister NBC/U network USA?), it none the less proves that dumbing a show down to appeal to 12 year-olds is no way to find an audience.

If the network truly believes that science fiction can co-habituate with fantasy shows (which I think it can) it should really start looking at producing better programs. There is plenty of great science fiction out there, such as the works of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert (there is enough of the Dune books to turn it to a weekly series, and not just miniseiries), the works of Eric Flint, Harry Turtledove, Neil Gaiman and even the homophobic author Orson Scott Card not to mention many, many more. Then there’s the fantasy works of such novelist as Piers Anthony, David Eddings, and Scott Sanderson.

But I forget, buying other people’s properties cost money. So instead of that, we get more reality programs and really dumb monster of the week Saturday night movies (which is fine, as long as your producing better shows that let us go, okay, college dudes like this stuff, so let them watch while the rest of us watch real science fiction).

Finally, what’s with all the James Bondish issues with the name SyFy anyways. Howe never seems to answer where the name came from, despite the fact Michael Hineman, who operates his own science fiction based web site, owned the name SyFy (Portal) for 10 years. Hineman has gone on the defense recently, explaining to the people who traffic his site (which has changed its name), that until the deal was nearly finished, he did not know that it was Universal/NBC who wanted the name (but they began to suspect that it was, because the lawyer they were dealing with works on intellectual properties for NBC/U, and was offering him a crap load of money for the name). Howe should note that SyFy was no way original to them, and stop (in a roundabout sort of way) they came up with it.

In the end, though, the marketing people took a small percentage of people who had no issue with the name change or the content change on the network and is trying to ram it down the throats of the people who once thought the Sci Fi Channel would do justice to science fiction that none of the major networks want to do anymore. They’ve just gone one on the same idea that reality programming and the further dumbing down of scripted programming is the way to go.

And the more the true science fiction fans complain, the more Dave Howe and Barbara Hammer will ignore them. After all, marketing people (along with the people who ran AIG) never manipulate numbers to show the world the opposite of truth.

15 March 2009

We're the buttfuckers of rock-and-roll, We want to sock it to your hole!

Can't wait to read this!

Books: Fool by Christopher Moore

What do you get when you cross Shakespeare’s most tragic tragedy and Christopher Moore?

You get King Lear as a comedy.

And using Lear’s fool (called Pocket), Moore re-tells the story of King Lear, who is old, and wants to retire. He decides to divide his realm among his three daughters, and offers the largest share to the one who loves him best. Goneril and Regan both proclaim in fulsome terms that they love him more than anything in the world, which pleases him. Cordelia speaks temperately and honestly, which annoys him. In his anger he disinherits her, and divides the kingdom between the other two. Kent objects to this unfair treatment, but Lear is further enraged by such contradiction, and banishes him from the country.

From there the tale begins a jam-packed ride of bawdy humor, extremely creative curse words and whole crap-load of intrigue that out shines the original tale.

As a huge fan of Moore’s, I was surprised to see him take on such a task. Not known for historical novels (with the exception of Lamb, which fictionalized the unknown years of Jesus), taking on Shakespeare -arguably one of the great playwrights in English language history - must’ve been daunting. Having never read or seen King Lear will not distract anyone from the story -after all, what movie or TV series has not stole ideas from Shakespeare’s work?

Still, at the end of the day, most of Moore’s stuff remains, as in previous books. There’s the always problematic relationship between men and women (and how men usually screw them up), his pointed humor, sharp as a serpent’s tooth here, and tons of sexual jokes.

But as I finished it, I’m hoping he returns to San Francisco in his next book. I’m wondering what The Emperor and Jody (along with Tommy) are up to.

13 March 2009

Monday Morning Watchman

After last weeks great, but (lets admit) less than expected haul for Watchman, a sort of post-mortem has begun. But was it doomed from the start? Could a film adaptation of one the most popular graphic novels of all time crossover from fanboy adulation to mainstream audience? And while Watchman hauled in a pretty $55 million, it’s take was reduced by the fact that the last R rated film to open big was Synder’s 300, which captured $70 million two years ago, and on less screens. 300, perhaps, was unique. But its success made Synder a household name with the fanboys, and may have doomed him in the end.

His near faithful take, the 2 hour 42 minute run time and the fact it was rated R could also be factored in, but I think the real reason here that Race to Witch Mountain might over take it this weekend, is because despite all the marketing Warners did with the film -and they supported it - they failed to take in the fact that mainstream audiences had no idea what the story was about.

And they don’t go to web sites that these fanboys and girls go to. They still will rely on mainstream reviewers, no matter what. So, even though Roger Ebert gave it a good review, along with Rolling Stones guru Peter Travers, there were many more who thought it was absurd masturbation fantasy. Even Entertainment Weekly rated it a B, but it still noted that the film had many flaws, mostly pacing, long periods of exposition, unnecessary graphic violence and cardboard acting -which seemed to a thread woven through many of critics reviews I’ve read.

Go to other sites, like Sci Fi Wire, and you get “This was the best graphic novel adaptation ever, and a pretty well-done R-rated action movie on its own, source material aside.” Then there’s this: “I just saw the movie and I thought it rocked! they did a superb job at interpreting the graphic novel.”

So, as penguin said in Batman Returns, what one person throws in his toilet another puts on his mantle. Try taking half these guys to Slumdog Millionaire, and I’m sure they say its just Forrest Gump. And it is, but its one helleva good film.

Is it apples and oranges, or is this further proof that these type of films, and adaptations are still, essentially cult followed products? That the reason studios get wary of throwing tons of money into this genre, is that its main audience is still a small group of comic book lovers who bristle at being called comic book lovers? I mean, one reason the TV networks fail to produce sci fi on regular basis is that they do consider this type of genre to have a limited audience appeal, plus the inescapable fact that these types shows tend to have higher budgets, thus must have higher ratings to justify them. Even the Sci Fi Channel has found that producing high quality genre shows like Battlestar Galactica and Farscape have not made the network more noticeable to mainstream viewers. Battlestar Galactica can get all the rave reviews it wants, but it would’ve never survived on ABC, NBC, CBS or even the mini-networks like FOX and the CW.

To me, its no surprise the fanboys are embracing this film, but I’m also not surprised the film did not, and will not, cross over to mainstream audiences. In the end, Zack Synder has broken no new ground here. The film is essentially an Agatha Christie murder mystery with super heroes. It leaves behind Alan Moore’s satirical skewering of American superheroes, in favor of graphic violence, pseudo-psychological babel and style over substance.

Call me a cynic, but Snyder’s resume - a remake Dawn of the Dead and that silly, homoerotic 300 - don't exactly qualify you as the man to adapt what is arguably (or so I’ve heard from my friends) the greatest work in the history of the graphic novels. He wants to be the next Christopher Nolan or Peter Jackson, yet he is no where near there being them.

But maybe its biggest flaw in crossing over from the fan geeks is its lack of familiarity for everyone else. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the X-Men have been around for decades while Watchmen’s characters are known only to its fan base. And while the graphic novel has sold well since the first trailer popped up on The Dark Knight last year - along with Time Magazine’s choice of the graphic novel for its list of the “100 Greatest American Novels”- it has shown that fickle moviegoers still know more who Bruce Wayne’s alter ego is than know -or care, apparently - who are the Watchman.

Dylan Rice - The Lie

11 March 2009

Signing dumb things

At the end of the day, Borders continues to do dumb things in dumb ways. Such as forcing us employee's into signing yet another form stating something about not releasing anything on the up coming DVD of Twilight. Now, first off, why are we concerned about this stuff? We have a company in desperate straights, one doomed to failure by the time 2010 comes around. What are we doing? Hmmm, trying to get product into the store and onto the floor so customers can buy it? No, we're worried about some person leaking stuff about the Borders exclusive DVD of the most craptacular film since Watchman.

No one cares. Period, end of story.

Borders stuff on their special DVD was stuff they filmed at last years Comic Con in San Diego, plus other stuff. Still, I can't see anyone really wanting the stuff earlier than March 21. It's not like there's anything important.

Anyhoo, what makes this different than any other laydown? Should we not then, in theory, sign a paper every week for every Tuesday laydown? Why not sign one for Nora Roberts, Stephen King, W.E.B. Griffen or even the latest U2 CD, or the DVD release of The Dark Knight last year?

It's pointless, really. Besides, when I joined Borders, I signed a form saying I would never do what they're asking me again to sign for anyways. What is this need to keep going back again to it?

I know it keeps some paper pusher in Ann Arbor with a job, but you think they would be really worried about why we can't handle new sales trends as quickly as Barnes & Nobles does, or getting rid of DM's with delusions of grandeur or trying to convince our customers we’re not closing.

10 March 2009

Day Trip Believer

Over the weekend, a fan of our online Star Trek series came to from St. Louis to LA to visit the set and meet some of people who act, produce and direct Star Trek: Odyssey and Star Trek: The Helena Chronicles.

Matt is a fan's fan, 4 months shy of his 21st birthday and just stepping out into a new world of LA and the closet. Yep, we've corrupted him -and I think I a get a toaster oven.

We got him in Klingon makeup, put him in the front of the green screen, gave him a few lines (one in Klingon) and let him run through the space lanes of film production.

On Monday, JT and I took him on a magical tour of LA. After picking him up in Woodland Hills, we went to Hollywood and did some touristy things like the Walk of Fame, took him around Hollywood & Highland and the Kodak Theater where the Oscars were held three weeks ago.

We then ventured out to Santa Monica (passing through WeHo and Beverly Hills) and the grand Pier. We walked around, looked at the ocean, watching giant pelicans diving in to the Pacific Ocean and eventually headed north on PCH towards Malibu (which sorted made me hark back to the two years I lived in the Bay Area, and would drive south on PCH towards Monterey). After driving for a bit, we pulled over (just a few miles past Pepperdine University) and walked on a small beach and spent time sitting on the beach, looking at ocean (which was out for low tide, so we had some tide pools to look at as well.

After that, we headed back to Westwood (driving through Brentwood and hoping OJ was not around) and met up with Sharon and her husband Rupert at a hooka cafe called Habibi. Intereesting, if not more expensive than I thought. After that, we finally ended up in WeHo and stopped by a porno store for Matt's first experience in one.

As noted, he is just 20, so no bars. Drove back to Woodland Hills and dropped him off, took JT back to Silver Lake and then home.

Matt is, and was, a delightful kid. Shy, yet totally crazy. A fan who knows more about all the characters with in our little Star Trek series than even the actors. He has energy to spare, and can charm youy to the bones. I defy anyone NOT to like him.

07 March 2009

NBC renews Heroes, ends the life of Knight Rider 2.0

Despite eroding ratings and critical panning from the press and its fans, NBC announced they've picked up Heroes for a fourth season. Part of the reason may be that the show does fairly well overseas, but it also shows some faith in Bryan Fuller, who returned to the show as a consulting producer for the shows final 6 episodes. It's been reported that the show will return to its more character based roots from season one, and that out of six episodes he oversaw, he wrote the upcoming March 16th episode. Fuller will stay on for the shows fourth season.

Still, while ratings are down 24% overall, in the all important 18-49 advertiser demographic, the show is in a virtual tie with The Office as the highest ranked NBC show.

The Peacock network will probably follow ABC's Lost model by setting a long-term series end-date for the show, even though it appears the network wants Heroes to continue beyond season 4 -most likely wanting the magic 100 episodes to sell into syndication and the lucrative oversea market. However, while the pick-up was good, the new NBC entertainment president Angela Bromstad noted they expect to shoot 18 -20 episodes for season four, down from season one's 23 and season three's 25.

On a side note, for the few fans who were still watching the clunky re-do of Knight Rider, NBC has decided to kill the show.

But then, who's surprised at that?