Wednesday, July 31, 2013

'America's Next Top Model' pits the boys against the girls starting Friday

‘America’s Next Top Model’ is one of the few reality shows I will admit watching.

Now, keep in mind, I’m not pretending that ‘America’s Next Top Model’ is great television. In fact, ANTM is more of a guilty pleasure for when I’m feeling mean.

What am I talking about? I find a perverse pleasure in watching a grown woman fall apart because she has to get her hair cut – or because the makeup artist is purposely trying to make her look bad out of jealousy.

Yeah, I’m immature that way. Sue me.

The truth is, ANTM actually had a decent heart at one time. Sure, it was early in the show’s run, but it was there.

Somewhere along the way, though, ANTM lost its way.

A lot of fans will tell you that ANTM lost its way when it cut longtime judges and model talent help Jay Manuel, Jay Alexander and Nigel Barker.

The show was created by Tyra Banks, and she was the central figure in the show from the beginning, but it was her backup that was most endearing.

When the three individuals were let go for monetary reasons, Tyra brought in Kelly Cutrone and Rob Evans as judges. Neither Cutrone and Evans have any personality at all, though, and the chemistry that used to exist on the judging panel evaporated.

In addition, Banks decided to let fans have some input and vote on their favorites -- something fans
had been clamoring for since the show began.

I’m not sure how others feel about it, but I think the most recent season was the worst in the show’s history. I miss both Jays and Nigel a great deal – and what used to work on the show has completely disappeared.

Up next is ANTM’s first ever showdown between guys and girls – which starts Friday on the CW.

In an interesting twist, I will watch reruns of ANTM on Oxygen with more gusto than I do new episodes of the show over the past two years.

This could be the show just getting long in the tooth – or it could be an actual decline. I tend to believe it’s a mixture of both.

Still, I’m willing to give it one more shot. I’m actually kind of interested in Tyra trying to make everything about herself when there are male models in the room. She does it with everything else. Why should this be any different?

Either way, I have a suspicious feeling that this will be the final cycle of ANTM I watch live. The CW was smart to premiere it when it did.

A lot of the summer shows are ending their runs and the fall shows won’t start for another six weeks or show. This gives ANTM a clear shot at a bored audience – which might actually help ratings.

What do you think? Is ANTM past its prime?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What are the best summer movies of all time?

When most people think about summer they think about beaches and barbecues.

Summer does manage to muster up a certain level of nostalgia for just about everyone. For many, that nostalgia is wrapped around summer blockbusters and movies that stole their imagination for an entire afternoon (or a lifetime, in some cases).

It’s hard to define a summer movie – and picking a “best of” list is always subjective.

Still, what better do I have to do while I enjoy my air-conditioning and iced tea?

The best summer movies are?

10. Jurassic Park: As far as summer blockbusters with fantastic special effects go, this really is the cream of the crop. I can still remember seeing the dinosaurs walk onto the big screen for the first time – and the gasp of surprise from my absolutely overflowing theater audience. Those special effects still hold up today. The original ‘Jurrassic Park’ is clearly the best – but it didn’t succeed because of an outstanding story or the cast (both are just middling, if you ask me). The movie became a worldwide phenomenon on the strength of the dinosaurs alone – and there’s still a little magic in the dinosaur discovery even today.

9. Major League: This is one of those oddball comedies that had no business becoming a pop culture phenomenon – and yet it did. Tom Berenger centers a screwball cast that includes a pre-winning Charlie Sheen, a pre-prison Wesley Snipes, a pre-bald Corbin Bernsen and a pre-All-State Commercial Dennis Haysbert. The entire film is hilarious – and I can’t help but laugh every time I watch it. I also can’t help singing along to ‘Wild Thing’ every time I hear it.

8. Caddyshack: This is a great soundtrack and a laugh-out-loud movie that is effortlessly quotable – and forever funny. Bill Murray is not only hilarious (and steals every scene he’s in) but he’s also charismatic. Chevy Chase continues his funny tradition of the 1980s – which unfortunately fell apart given the actor’s antics of late. Still, I don’t know anyone that doesn’t watch the “shark in the pool” scene and laugh like a maniacal 12-year-old. Yeah, it’s low-brow but hilarious. I debated giving Chase’s ‘Vacation’ this spot – but ultimately tipped my hat to ‘Caddyshack.’

7. E.T.: Hands down, this is one of my all-time favorite movies. I remember being a kid and my mom
making me go to this movie – and then falling in love with it. The friendship between Elliott and E.T. is one for the ages. I don’t know anyone that wasn’t brought to tears at the end of the movie – and I’m just enough of a geek to admit that I can recite the entire goodbye scene between E.T. and the children from memory (tears included). To this day, the scene where E.T. and the boys are making their getaway on the bikes and E.T. flies them all over the cops is one of my all-time favorite movies scenes. “I’ll be right here.”

6. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Any one of the ‘Indiana Jones’ movies could have made the list – but I opted for my favorite. Harrison Ford is always appealing – even if the movies he chooses are duds – but his chemistry with Sean Connery is nothing short of magical. While I like most of the ‘Indiana Jones’ movies – this one is by far my favorite.

5. Top Gun: Kenny Loggins is a soundtrack God – and he’s half the reason that this summer flick
still stands up today. Long before he became famous for telling everyone else how to live, jumping on couches and being blindsided with divorce papers – Tom Cruise was just a hot guy in a really hot volleyball scene in a little movie that made everyone want to be a fighter pilot. The truth is, ‘Top Gun’ is still enthralling – and rousing -- and everyone needs to be reminded when they've lost that "loving feeling."

4. Ghostbusters: “What did you do Ray?” The 1980s flick could have went horribly wrong. Instead, everything went delightfully right. Between the casting – Bill Murray and Dan Ackeroyd have one of the best bromances ever – and the hilarious script, ‘Ghostbusters’ hit at the perfect time in cinematic history. The movie is a great mix of one-liners and emotional beats that still make fans laugh while worrying about the fate of their heroes.

3. The Goonies: I don’t know any kid that hasn’t sat at home on a rainy day and dreamed about
going on an adventure and finding buried treasure. That’s just what these kids did – and they did it with a lot of camaraderie and fun that can’t be matched in cinema. An argument can be made that ‘Stand By Me’ is the definitive kid adventure movie – and it is a great movie – but the ‘Goonies’ is the one film that can always brighten my day – no matter what. While I showed my geekdom by admitting that I can recite the entire goodbye scene of 'E.T.' above -- the truth is, I can recite this entire movie from beginning to end. Go ahead, start laughing.

2. Empire Strikes Back: Technically, ‘Star Wars’ was the first “summer” film of the franchise. ‘Empire’ was my favorite (and arguably the best). Sure, it’s weird to think about the ice planet Hoth being the location for a great summer movie – but it is. While ‘A New Hope’ introduced fans to the franchise, ‘Empire’ spawned one of the greatest love stories of all time – and one of the greatest revelations in movie history. “No, I am your father.” Anyone else really excited for the new ‘Star Wars’ in a couple years?

1. Jaws: Get out of the water! Never before has there been a film that simultaneously terrified me and engaged me more than ‘Jaws.’ The story, about a sleepy Cape Cod town that is terrorized by a Great White shark is timeless – even though two of the three main stars have since passed away. The film is beautifully shot by Steven Spielberg and the special effects – though dated – mostly still hold up today. The magic of ‘Jaws’ is not only the acting and the story but the score, as well. Movie legend has it that viewers were supposed to see more of the mechanical shark throughout the film – but since it was never working Spielberg had to do more suggestion than anything else. What a happy accident.

Honorable mentions go to:

Back to the Future: Michael J. Fox is so endearing as the central character – and the story is so fun – that this franchise continued to entertain decades later.

National Lampoon's Vacation: Hilariously tasteless and poignant at the same time. What's not to love?

Avengers: This movie just debuted last year but it’s still endlessly rewatchable (and full of fun beefcake).

Now and Then: This is a coming of age story for girls that has a delightful younger cast (and a fairly annoying older cast). Still, the fight scene at the ballpark will always be a winner for me (mostly because it's something I would have done at that age).

Stand By Me: This is a better movie than the ‘Goonies’ – but it’s more serious, as well. Sometimes you just want a few laughs in your summer movies.

Terminator 2: The first ‘Terminator’ could have also made the list but I went with the strongest entry in the franchise. Trust me.

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley is one of my favorite big screen cops. I waffle back and forth between the first and second movies trying to decide which one is my favorite. The original gets the win here.

Indian Summer: If ‘Now and Then’ is a coming of age story for girls and ‘Stand By Me’ is a coming of age story for boys then this is a coming of age story for adults who are still struggling to find their “grown up” identity. "Uncle Lou, we're adults, you can't make adults take a swim test."

Grease: I’m not a big musical fan but this movie just screams summer.

What do you think? What are the best summer movies of all time?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Get out of the water! Shark Week is about to strike

I am simultaneously infatuated with – and terrified of – sharks.
I have been for as long as I can remember.

I consider ‘Jaws’ one of the best movies ever made – and I also watch two of the sequels on a regular basis (even I can’t make excuses for ‘Jaws: The Revenge’). I love ‘Bait’ – and I even enjoyed ‘Sharknado’ a couple weeks ago.

I have a sterling silver shark necklace, shark teeth earrings and several T-shirts. I just ordered Great White shark slippers off of the Discovery Channel’s website when I was researching this week’s Shark Week offerings.

Yeah, I’m a geek.

I’m also terrified of sharks.

I refuse to go too far into the ocean. Heck, when I was in Hawaii when I was a teenager I
refused to go snorkeling because it was at a place called Shark Cove and I was convinced they named it that for a reason.

So, as you can guess, Shark Week really is right up my alley.

This is the 26th year of the ratings bonanza event. As per usual, Discovery is unveiling a bevy of new shows.

Here’s what fans have to look forward to this year:

Shark After Dark: This is Discovery’s first ever late-night talk show featuring each days events. The show show begins at 11 p.m. on Aug. 4 and is hosted by comedian Josh Wolf (Chelsea Lately). The show will feature celebrity guests and a sneak peek at the next day’s events.

Air Jaws: Beyond the Breach: This debuts at 8 p.m. Aug. 4 and continues the quality ‘Air Jaws’ experience. In this installment, a documentary crew goes behind the scenes to see how ‘Air Jaws’ has changed what we know about sharks.

Megalodon: Monster Shark Lives: Premiering at 9 p.m. on Aug. 4, the show brings viewers on a
search for the Great White shark responsible for a rash of fatalities off the coast of South Africa. One controversial scientist believes that the shark responsible could be Megalodon, a 60-foot relative of the Great White that is one of the largest and most powerful predators in history.

Return of Jaws: Premiering at 9 p.m. Monday,  this program features the Shark Cam, a robot submarine that is used to track sharks in a new and exciting ways. This special includes footage of Shark Cam following Great White sharks living and hunting off the shores of Cape Cod, the setting for the first two ‘Jaws’ films.

Voodoo Shark: Premiering at 10 p.m. Monday, the program investigates Bull Shark populations that have moved beyond oceans and U.S. coasts to the bayous of Louisiana. Nicknamed ‘Voodoo Sharks’ by local shrimp fishermen, these Bull Sharks have the extraordinary ability to live in both salt and fresh water environments and they show up by the hundreds in the bayous of Louisiana.

I Escaped Jaws: Premiering at 9 p.m. Aug. 6, the show has real shark attack footage captured by eye-witnesses to examine harrowing first-hand accounts from everyday people who stared into the jaws of a shark and survived. These survivors used their wits and experience and all lived to share their chilling stories. Shannon Ainslie faced three Great White sharks throughout his lifetime, and Nicole Moore, a nurse, lost her arm in an attack while vacationing in Mexico and saved her own life by instructing those on the beach on how to treat her wounds. Australian Navy Diver Paul de Gelder relied on his experience as a diver to survive after a shark bit off both his arm and leg.

Spawn of Jaws: Premiering at 10 p.m. Aug. 6, this special follows a team of scientists on the brink
of a revolutionary breakthrough that for the first time will allow us to understand the mysterious life cycle of the Great White shark. Using state of the art tracking technology, they will search for the elusive Great White breeding grounds, in hopes to protect the area and re-populate their numbers.

Top 10 Sharkdown: Premiering Aug. 7 at 9 p.m., this special updates the international shark attack files for the 21st century and takes a close look at the sharks you don't want to meet this summer -- and the ones you're most likely to encounter. From the weird - the feisty cookie cutter, which bites cookie-shaped circles out of its prey; to the macabre, like the Sand Tiger, whose cannibalistic young devour each other in the womb, to the infamous – Great Whites, Tiger Sharks and Bull Sharks.

Great White Serial Killer: Premiering at 10 p.m. Aug. 7, natural history producer Jeff Kurr returns to Shark Week after 2011’s Emmy®-nominated ‘Ultimate Air Jaws’ and 2012’s ‘Air Jaws Apocalypse.’ Kurr sets out to examine two fatal shark attacks near Vandenberg Air Force base in California and uses evidence found at both sites to try to determine if one shark was responsible for both attacks.

Sharkpocalypse: Premiering at 9 p.m. Aug. 8, this show follows one of the most fatal years of shark encounters closely followed by the media and examines the alarming trend of sharks moving in closer to shorelines and debates whether there is a connection between declining shark populations and the increase in shark attacks.

Alien Sharks of the Deep: Premiering at 10 p.m. Aug. 8, this special follows American and Japanese
scientists as they descend into the deepest and darkest unexplored oceans on earth in search of some of the more incredible and bizarre sharks on the planet, from the Goblin shark to the elusive, giant Megamouth shark.

Great White Gauntlet: Premiering at 8 p.m. Aug. 9, the coast of South Australia is a place like no other. It is home to a Great White feeding ground that is one of the most dangerous places in the world. Known in local legend as the Great White Gauntlet, this deadly stretch of waters holds a prize bounty for divers: a rare sea snail called the abalone which is worth thousands on the international market. Abalone diving can be both lucrative and dangerous because it happens in one of the most deadly shark feeding grounds in the world where the Great White sharks prowl. This special takes a closer look at the real-life dangers these divers encounter every day.

What do you think? Are you excited for this year’s Shark Week offerings?

Bombs Away! Summer movie season fizzles

The summer movie season is when most studios unleash a torrent of special effects and lazy storytelling and expect fans to swoon – whether the final product is entertaining or not.

That’s how movies like ‘Transformers’ and ‘G.I. Joe’ become box office hits. At least that was true in the past.

This year, though, things have been a little different.

After a solid start to the summer thanks to ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ and the ageless ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise – things toppled pretty quickly.

‘The Hangover Part III’ will actually make a profit, but it was critically panned and fans turned on it pretty quickly. Still, it can’t be considered a total waste because it’s made $300 million worldwide on a $103 million budget.

The first big bomb of the summer was ‘After Earth’ with Will Smith and his kid. The truth is, this movie never had a chance of succeeding. It was directed by M. Night Shyamalan – a man that peaked with his first movie and just continues to sink.

‘After Earth had a $130 million budget (Note: These numbers do not reflect marketing budgets unless otherwise indicated) and only got $27.5 million in its opening weekend. The hard and fast rule is that movies are supposed to make half their budget back in their opening weekend. ‘After Earth’ is doing okay internationally, though, although it’s still doubtful if the movie will recoup all of its marketing and production costs.

Then you had ‘White House Down’ – a movie that’s biggest claim to fame is that some reviewers called it “refreshingly dumb.’ Even Channing Tatum couldn’t save this film, which had a $150 million budget and only a $25 million opening weekend. The flick has made about $69 million domestically to date.

‘The Lone Ranger’ is currently being considered one of the biggest bombs of the summer (right along with ‘RIPD’ – but more on that later). Disney appeared to be banking on the fact that Johnny Depp can bring in crowds – but the script and trailer were terrible and fans were pretty much disinterested.

‘The Lone Ranger’ had a huge budget of $215 million – a large marketing budget of $100 million – and it only made $29 million in its opening weekend (which was a holiday weekend, to boot). ‘The Lone Ranger’ has only made $82 million domestically.

Summer comedy ‘The Internship’ – with a budget of $58 million – should make a profit but it proved
that the buckets of money Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson made from ‘The Wedding Crashers’ was obviously a fluke.

Science fiction flick ‘Pacific Rim’ offered an interesting concept and an interesting cast, but the film has only made back $72 million domestically on a $190 million budget – and ‘Pacific Rim’ had one of the most extensive marketing efforts of the summer.

This past weekend, ‘R.I.P.D.’ threatened ‘The Lone Ranger’s’ spot on the top of the movie bomb heap. The $130 million movie only made $20 million in its opening weekend and is trending at a dismal 10 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. I can’t see another movie managing to top that feat. I blame Ryan Reynolds. What? I do.

If there is a movie that has a chance to match the terrible 'R.I.P.D.,', ‘The Wolverine’ might be it. Maybe I’m just televising my feelings about the dismal trailer (and that terrible previous movie) and expecting this movie to suck metal claws, but I have no doubt it’s going to be another bomb.

Even movies that aren’t considered bombs – like ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘World War Z’ – didn’t live up to box office predictions this year. Warner Bros, for example, expected ‘Man of Steel’ to hit $800 million worldwide and was actually hoping for $1 billion worldwide. So far the flick has amassed a respectable $635 million on a $225 million budget – but the numbers were so disappointing it caused Warner Bros to announce that the sequel to the movie would not be a straight Superman flick. Instead, it would pair Batman and Superman in an effort to give the franchise a little lift.

Ironically, the biggest hit of the summer is the animated ‘Despicable Me’ – although the surprise
$41.5 million opening of ‘The Conjuring’ (on a $19.5 million budget) this past weekend proves that you don’t need a big budget to have a hit summer movie.

Ironically, second runner-up on the summer “winners” list is ‘Fast and the Furious 6’ – which has seen more than $712 million on $160 million budget, opening early in the summer season.

Personally, I think Hollywood would be better off limiting the number of big budget movies they release in the summer. I think part of the problem is that there’s too much competition each week.
Of course, the other part of the problem is that a lot of these movies were just stinkers.

Hollywood still has a chance at a profitable year, though. New installments in the ‘Thor,’ ‘Hobbit’ and ‘Hunger Games’ franchises should all prove profitable – and one or two surprises always sneak in.

Here’s hoping Hollywood has learned a lesson, though. Fans may love special effects in the summer – but they also want a quality script.

What do you think? What was the worst Hollywood movie this summer?