Archive | January, 2013

10 Great Mega-Mashups for Movies

31 Jan

Harry Potter vs. X-men!

You may have missed this, but last summer’s The Avengers raked in a HUGE pile of money. The deal was, they assembled an odd assortment of superheroes and villains from different regions, eras, and even different planes of existence, tied them all together with some loose comic-book logic, and then let them loose to battle through the Big Apple. (I don’t know about you, but I’d expect New York by now to have developed some worthwhile defense against these ever-increasing extraterrestrial assaults.)

Anyway, I was scrolling down the list of the top moneymaking movies of all time and thought that if a mash-up of Marvel-only characters could be that successful, imagine what would happen if Hollywood tried out some cross-genre character sharing! Well, when it comes to creative endeavors, I’m certainly not above giving my two cents in exchange for a hefty consulting fee. So if you’re a forward-thinking entertainment exec seeking some preposterously plausible movie mash-up plot lines, check out these sure-fire winners. Then have your people call my people.

  1. Hermione finally tires of Ron’s stupidity and lack of manners and hooks up with Aragorn to hunt down and study the unique strain of muggles known as “mutants.”
  2. James Bond is brought in to the IMF as a consultant to investigate whether Jack Ryan has actually been on the take from communist-backed IRA holdovers his entire career. Unfortunately, Ethan Hunt loses the secret files (again) in Shanghai so 007 teams up with Po and the Furious Five to make things right.
  3. A hypothermic Jack Dawson is rescued moments before death by galactic hitchhiker Ford Prefect, who convinces his old drinking buddy, Scotty, to provide the duo temporary passage in the hold of the passing USS Enterprise. After escaping a vicious assault by the Cylons, Ford and Jack manage to finagle plum jobs at Fhloston Paradise.
  4. Edward Cullen reveals his REAL secret to Bella: He’s actually Gandalf on a secret mission from the Wizengamot to battle the Hulk and recover the lost seer stones of Rakaragnath… or something that sounds like that.
  5. Robin Hood, Hawkeye, Legolas, Katniss, and Princess Merida all attend a celebrity archery event. During the fundraising dinner, an unexpected visitor appears at their tableside with an ominous warning. The archers soon discover they all share a dark secret from their past, and must race against time to pay off the tax bill on the boarding school before the Adjustment Bureau completes foreclosure proceedings.
  6. When Andy Dufresne is reimprisoned at Shawshank on trumped up charges by a vengeful Mr. Tibbs, Hiller and Levinson race to upload a computer virus to crack the prison’s encrypted security codes so that Han Solo and the GI Joe team can rescue him.
  7. After inadvertently reintroducing genetically modified dinosaurs into the Indian subcontinent, Borat runs screaming to Endhiron to salvage the disaster, only to discover that Boba Fett has kidnapped the fifth element on a dare from Darth Maul. Then it’s up to Dr. Spock, Black Widow, and a semi-coherent Jason Bourne to save Private Ryan and the other evacuees from getting heartlessly disemboweled by velociraptors.
  8. Released from service at Downton for setting fire to the east wing to cover up his theft of the family silver, Thomas joins forces with a disgraced Loki to open a London nightclub-casino as a cover for their opium smuggling operation. But when they’re robbed by Ocean’s 14 just after taking possession of £4 billion of recently laundered Quantum funds, they find themselves on the run from a strung-out Nikita and her adopted apprentice, Princess Amidala.
  9. Sherlock Holmes challenges Captain Picard to a game of chess. A lifetime of restrained emotions from both of them boil over during the tense contest, exhibited as severe frowns, brooding facial expressions, and the occasional snappy remark.
  10. Having missed the collapse of modern civilization because they were both drunk in the Bahamas, Captain Jack and Ferris Bueller sail off to discover the last remaining bit of dry land, which is reportedly a jungle isle guarded by small, furry, bear-like creatures that worship alien androids. Along the way, they pick up a wild Bengal tiger with a map of the world embedded in its striping to form an unlikely trio of adventurers committed to assuring the future of mankind—assuming they can find some women along the way.

Song of the Week: “Revelation” – 4 Strings

28 Jan

Trance pop is a weakness of mine, and one of my favorite products of its early 2000’s heyday was the Believe album by the Dutch band 4 Strings, comprising Carlos Resoort and Jan De Vos, with Vanessa van Hemert on vocals. The album featured a few hits—the most popular being “Take Me Away (Into the Night)”—but the non-charting “Revelation” has spent the longest in my favor. Great production, great energy.

Lance Armstrong’s Ride to Repentance

22 Jan

Lance Armstrong's career options

Artificial cycling phenom Lance Armstrong has created for himself an unenviable public relations disaster. After decades of publicly and insistently lying about his use of PEDs, after decades of screaming “witch hunt!” at the sport’s governing bodies—taunting them for their long-running failure to nail him—and after decades of sincere deceit to fans around the world (no doubt jeering at them as he rolled in their money and admiration), he’s suddenly assuming the “contrition pose” and seeking easy forgiveness.

But we’re not talking about some impromptu misstatement or temporary career diversion. We’re talking seven consecutive wins of the world’s premier cycling event. He didn’t cheat just to get an edge in a tight race, or make a bad decision in a moment of great pressure. This was premeditated, coordinated, devoted dishonesty over several years so he could dominate over and over and over.

Understandably, even a mea culpa chat with Oprah did him little good.

So where does he go from here? Here’s some sincere advice from Maximum Know-How.

Five tactics that will NOT improve Lance Armstrong’s public image.

  1. Hook up with Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds to open a Wall Street investment firm dealing in subprime mortgages and debt-related derivatives.
  2. Travel the country speaking to school children about how cheating and lying isn’t worth it because it will only bring you decades of fame, wealth, and popularity. And if you get caught you still get to be on television regularly with famous people, and then travel the country without ever getting a real job. Also, charging the children for autographs.
  3. Run for public office on a law-and-order ticket, including a pre-campaign stint as a conservative talk-show host.
  4. End his retirement from cycling (again) and participate in amateur events on what he calls the “Tour de Redemption.”
  5. Sue USADA for discrimination against immoral people. Sue the International Cycling Union and United States Postal Service for aiding and abetting a felony. Sue Jan Ullrich for emotional distress caused by his unfair athletic excellence (or for having a competitively efficient doping program, whichever).

Five ways Lance Armstrong can improve his public image.

  1. Disappear from public life. Work the graveyard shift at Kmart stocking shelves, cleaning floors, and polishing the blue light. During smoke breaks he could entertain coworkers Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis by singing Sheryl Crow songs.
  2. Devote lancearmstrong.com to telling the story of a genuine American cycling legend, Greg Lemond, including the spectacular 1989 tour win.
  3. Join ABC Sports as a color commentator for unrelated athletic events, like Olympic diving. Or curling. This would involve a toupe.
  4. Change his name to Donald Rumsfeld and move to Iraq.
  5. Get a job plugging embarrassing personal products on late-night television. “I’m not a champion cyclist, but I used to play one on TV. Let’s talk about diarrhea control….”

Song of the Week: “How I Spent My Summer” – Cat Mother

21 Jan

This week’s tune comes from Cat Mother and the All-Night Newsboys, on their 1969 debut album The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away. The band had some commercial, top-40 success with the album’s lead-off, “Good Old Rock and Roll,” which is a fun track but doesn’t reflect the style of the rest of the record. Some highlights for me include “Charlie’s Waltz,” “Marie,” “Boston Burglar,” and the nearly 10-minute instrumental tune they close the album with, called “Track in ‘A’ (Nebraska Nights).” “How I Spent My Summer” is my favorite, though.

One notable trivia fact is that the album was coproduced by Jimi Hendrix, who used Cat Mother as his opening act for a time. The album often retails for ridiculous amounts online, but I see on Amazon it’s being rereleased in February 2013, and can be preordered for $13.

Plots for Game-Based Movies

17 Jan

(Board Games, That Is)

Australia in the crosshairs

While perusing the Rotten Tomatoes list of 100 movies to see in 2013 (which includes several titles on my boldly prophetic lists of the best and worst movies of the year), I noticed a glaring omission: No films based on board games! Just last year, Universal Pictures and Hasbro spent $220 million to convince us that playing Battleship could be a viscerally entertaining experience, so why the cold shoulder suddenly?

Well, somebody ring up Michael Bay because here are Maximum Know-How’s no-fail, guaranteed-blockbuster plot concepts for game-based films.

Candy Land: In this cool-but-creepy adaptation from Tim Burton (no doubt featuring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and the music of Danny Elfman), the Candy Land Kids must travel across endless, glossy CGI landscapes in search of the missing King Kandy (played by an inappropriately bawdy Robin Williams) while encountering an endless stream of distressingly bizarre characters. And that’s about all the plot we need for that one.

UNO: This sort of has a “Devil Went Down to Georgia” feel, wherein a fleet of intergalactic raiders assault the earth only to be battled to a standoff thanks to a rugged team of sweaty, steroid-fueled action stars. Then the aliens challenge our handsome lead tough-guy to an extraterrestrial card-game, in which every play releases some disastrous global phenomena that our heroes have to counteract (yes, it sounds like Pokemon—stay with me). As the cowardly U.S. president is on the verge of surrender, a perky Stanford grad student (who wears nerdy glasses and keeps her luxurious hair in a bun) announces that the indecipherable figures on the alien cards are ancient Mayan-esque runes that she’s been researching for her thesis! What drama! I wonder if the hunky lead and the grad student are going to get together in the end?!

RISK: Epic ensemble drama follows the world’s military powerhouses as they race to conquer the planet. (This might work better as a cable-channel miniseries.) Actual dialog: “Commander, I want you to mass a diversionary force in Yakutsk, capture the outpost in Madagascar, and send a spoiler raid due east to disrupt the enemy’s hold on Europe. I’m going for Oceana!”

Mousetrap: Relentlessly sophomoric slapstick comedy a la Home Alone about idiot exterminators getting their heads hammered, crotches crunched, and feet smashed by an intelligently superior mouse. I know what you’re thinking: They already did that! True, but there was no brand crossover. And since Hollywood has never fretted over redundancy, I say we try it again.

Chutes and Ladders: Psychological thriller about four multi-ethnic twenty-somethings trapped in some emotionally twisted vertical maze where every step could bring dramatic, unexpected forward progress or sudden, soul-crushing regression. Overwhelmed by the frustrating futility of it all, the characters will beg for any easy way out—even death. But no, in this world, the game never ends.

Random Song of the Week: “Cayman” – Mira

15 Jan

Every Monday,* I’m planning to post a link to a random song that I really like. I’m not getting any kickbacks from it (yet); just trying to earn my Junior Muso pin from the Society of Obsessed Music Fans.

This premier posting features “Cayman” from the self-titled debut album by Mira, released in 2000. Unfortunately, Mira is no longer together, but they left us a few great albums, all of which are still available through their label, Projekt.

Mira’s official page actually offers a free download of “Cayman,” along with several other songs. Just click mp3 in the left menu.

*I meant to start this weekly tradition yesterday, but got distracted with paid work. Alas. 

Health Care Reform: Good News, Bad News

15 Jan

Obamacare according to insurance industry

As the new year turned over, I went for a visit with my health insurance broker to discuss upcoming changes in the insurance industry. After I talked him down from the ledge, he filled me in on how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will affect me and you in the coming years. Now, since it came from an insurance professional, the info may be slightly less-than-balanced; but here’s my understanding of what’s good and bad about Obamacare:

1. GOOD NEWS: If you are already insured—particularly with an established health insurance provider—your costs will only rise about 5%.
BAD NEWS: That only applies to 2013. Next year your monthly costs will octuple and you’ll have to either sell your healthiest child to the salt mines or take that job as CEO of Time-Warner.

2. GOOD NEWS: As of 2014, insurance companies must provide coverage for any adult who requests it (regardless of their health status), as well as for all their children up to age 26. Also, they must spend at least 80% of premiums on medical services for their customers.
BAD NEWS: As of 2015, insurance companies will be bankrupt. Sell those stocks now, baby.

3. GOOD NEWS: After years of complaints about how supremely good Congressional insurance is compared to everyone else’s, legislators have made it a rule that every citizen have access to the quality care our elected officials enjoy for their entire lives.
BAD NEWS: You’ll need to sell three children, your house, your pet, the CEOs of Time-Warner and Microsoft, and your mint collection of original Beatles vinyl to afford it—and that’s just for the monthly premiums. The deductible is equivalent to the GNP of France.

4. GOOD NEWS: Everyone—including the unemployed, people with chronic illness, and the homeless—will be required to purchase health insurance, which will encourage them to go to the doctor instead of waiting for their health issues to become expensive emergencies.
BAD NEWS: The unemployed, people with chronic illness, and the homeless—as well as prostitutes, meth dealers, bohemian street mimes, and singer-songwriters—still won’t be able to afford the high premiums (not being personally acquainted with any CEOs to trade in), so the government will pay for it instead. To get the funding, the feds will mug state governments or the wealthy, or simply ask insurers to cover the cost by raising your premiums.

5. GOOD NEWS: Confident that the federal government has everything in hand, medical providers will stop overcharging insurance companies to cover the cost of deadbeat patients.
BAD NEWS: Ha ha ha. Riiiight.

6. GOOD NEWS: Companies with 50 or more employees will be required to provide health insurance. Small businesses will get tax credits if they offer insurance, also.
BAD NEWS: Unless these small companies are drug cartels, they likely won’t be able to afford the insurance. To help out, the government will fine them $2,000 per employee per day until they go out of business, freeing them from this financial obligation.

7. GOOD NEWS: With the “healthcare crisis” averted, medical professionals will be able to focus more on healing the sick and injured than on their exhausting, resource-and-paperwork-intensive efforts to recover unpaid fees from clients, insurance companies, and state and federal governments.
BAD NEWS: By 2017, any doctors still making over minimum wage will discover heretofore unimagined levels of paperwork and red tape, prompting them either to flee to a desert island with no government, or take up meth or songwriting so they can get insurance.