Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Movies with “vs.” in the title

The upcoming release of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” got me thinking about the many movies that have “vs.” or the like in the title.
While there have been some good movies with “vs.” in the title (legal dramas such as “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” for instance), most such movies are schlock.
Having “versus” or “vs.” or now “v.” in the title is shorthand for an epic showdown between two formidable competitors. Like a heavyweight prizefight, these matchups promise a lot of action between two well-known opponents.
I recently put together a list of “vs.” movies on the Internet Movie Database. IMDb lists no fewer than 114 such movies.
The first was “Wife vs. Secretary,” a 1936 comedy starring Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy.
The next was comic-book film “Atom Man vs. Superman” in 1950. It was followed by science-fiction films “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” (1956) and “Earth vs. the Spider” (1958).
It wasn’t until the fifth such “vs.” movie that the genre really took off. That flick was “King Kong vs. Godzilla” (1962). To date, lizard monster Godzilla has appeared in 13 such “vs.” movies, squaring off against foes like Mothra, Megalon and King Ghidorah.
The “vs.” category of movies really soared with low-budget direct-to-video and cable TV movies. Schlocky movie studio the Asylum has made its fortune off crummy flicks like “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus” and “Mega Python vs. Gatoroid.”
Last year, there were nine “vs.” movies released. This year, at least 13 have been released or are scheduled for release, including “MILFs vs. Zombies,” “Helen Keller vs. Nightwolves” and “Lake Placid vs. Anaconda.”

Photos: “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Bigfoot vs. D.B. Cooper.”

See also: Vs. TV series.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fall TV 2015: Taking a chance on ‘Blindspot,’ ‘The Muppets’

After reading plot synopses and critics’ reviews and watching online preview videos, I’ve selected the new shows I plan to sample this fall.
Some shows might not last more than one episode on my watch list. In previous years, I’ve dumped such shows as “Hawaii Five-0” and “The Blacklist” after watching just the first episode.
The broadcast network shows I’m interested in checking out are “Blindspot” (NBC) and “The Muppets” (ABC).
“Blindspot” looks like a derivative mashup of “The Bourne Identity,” “Prison Break” and “The Blacklist.” But I’ll give it a chance because Jaimie Alexander is hot and the show promises good action and mystery.
“The Muppets” puts Kermit, Miss Piggy and friends into an office comedy like “30 Rock” and “The Office.” The extended trailer was very funny.
I also plan to check out “Man in the High Castle” and “Red Oaks” on Amazon.com Instant Video.
As a comic book fan, I’ll watch “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” on Netflix. Of the many original series Netflix has put out so far, only “Marvel’s Daredevil” has captured my attention.
Among returning shows, “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” (ABC), “iZombie” (CW), “Supernatural” (CW), “The Walking Dead” (AMC) and “Gold Rush” (Discovery) are definitely on my watch list. At least to start the season. After that, who knows?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Post-apocalypse now: At the cinema and on TV

Fascination with apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic scenarios in filmed entertainment continues unabated.
In July, I wrote about the record 11 post-apocalyptic themed TV shows currently airing. Since then, we’ve had the premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead,” about the early days of the zombie apocalypse, and the season (perhaps series) finale of “Zoo” unleashed the animal apocalypse where all creatures great and small turned on their human masters.
I count at least nine more TV series in the works that are set during or after apocalyptic events.

At the movie theaters, this has been a busy year for post-apocalyptic fiction with films like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Insurgent.”
On Friday, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” opened and showed audiences a bleak, desert landscape swallowing the remains of a once-major city, now inhabited by dangerous zombies infected with the Flare virus.
This year is poised to beat the record nine post-apocalyptic movies released theatrically in 2013.
So far, nine post-apocalyptic movies have premiered this year.
Up next are “Attack on Titan: Part 1,” which will have a limited theatrical run on Sept. 30. “Attack on Titan: Part 2” will follow on Oct. 21.

Related reading:

List of post-apocalyptic TV shows.

Comprehensive list of post-apocalyptic movies.

Photos: “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” poster (top); “Fear the Walking Dead” promotional art; final scene from CBS drama “Zoo”; and “Attack on Titan” movie poster.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

8 movies changed after their original theatrical release

A lot of movies undergo big changes before their release. For instance, this summer the Syfy channel cut scandal-tainted Subway spokesman Jared Fogle out of “Sharknado 3” before it aired on cable.
But it’s a rare movie that’s changed after its theatrical release.
What follows is a list of movies that were changed after their initial release.

Star Wars (1977) 

In the first “Star Wars” film, rakish hero Han Solo shot and killed a thug named Greedo in a bar to avoid being captured.
In one of many changes director George Lucas made to his original “Star Wars” trilogy, Lucas in 1997 digitally altered the scene to make Solo shoot Greedo in self-defense after Greedo shot first. The change outraged fans everywhere.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) 

For the 20th anniversary of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” in 2002, director Steven Spielberg created an extended version of the film with altered special effects, including computer-generated imagery for some shots of the animatronic E.T.
He also replaced the guns held by police and FBI agents with walkie-talkies.
Spielberg later seemed to regret the changes and recommended people watch the 1982 original version of the film.

Blade Runner (1982) 

So many versions of the science-fiction classic “Blade Runner” have been released since the original debuted in theaters that it’s hard to keep them all straight.
The biggest changes to the original film made in later editions include the removal of the “happy ending” and explanatory voice-overs by star Harrison Ford and inclusion of a unicorn dream sequence.

The Program (1993) 

The original release of the college football movie “The Program,” starring James Caan, contained a scene where several players lay on the yellow dividing line of a busy local road as a test of courage. When two young men were killed, and several others injured, by imitating the stunt in real life, the studio cut the scene from the movie.

Serendipity (2001) 

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, images of the World Trade Center towers were digitally removed from all skyline shots of New York City in the romantic comedy “Serendipity.” The scenes with views of the World Trade Center were in a version of the movie screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. But they were excised before the movie’s wide release.
Many films in production were changed after the 9/11 attacks. Scenes were either cut or the twin towers were digitally deleted. (See articles by the Associated Press and Wikipedia.)

Titanic (1997) 

To commemorate the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic, director James Cameron produced a remastered version of his romantic disaster movie “Titanic” in 2012. He also converted the 2D movie into stereoscopic 3D format for a version called “Titanic in 3D.”
One scene changed for the re-release was Rose’s view of the night sky at sea, on the morning of April 15, 1912. The scene was replaced with an accurate view of the night-sky star pattern, including the Milky Way, adjusted for the location in the North Atlantic Ocean in April 1912.
The change was prompted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who had criticized the scene for showing an unrealistic star pattern, according to Discovery.

Aladdin (1992) 

When Disney’s “Aladdin” was released in November 1992, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee protested one of the verses in the opening song “Arabian Nights.”
The lyrics were changed in July 1993 from “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face,” in the original release to “Where it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense.”
The change first appeared on the 1993 video release.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) 

Director Stanley Kubrick was known for making changes to his films up to, and after, their theatrical release, No Film School reported.
After “2001: A Space Odyssey” tested poorly with audiences, Kubrick decided to tighten the film, cutting 19 minutes from its run time. The cuts were implemented several days after the film was released in April 1968.

Photos: Comparison of original and altered scene from “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (top); poster for “Star Wars.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Debate over song of summer 2015

Much has been written about the lack of a definitive song of summer for 2015.
Let me add a few more words on the topic.
Music critics and pop culture pundits have opined that this summer didn’t have a dominating song that everyone was humming. The nice thing about having such a song of summer is that it leads the soundtrack for that particular season. Years later, the song will spark memories of summer vacations, parties, road trips and other activities.
Billboard on Tuesday awarded the No. 1 song of the summer 2015 to OMI’s “Cheerleader.” It beat out the melancholy track “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth, which was leading for most of the summer, but landed in second place. Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” came in third.
Billboard awards the honor based on cumulative performance on its weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Personally I can’t stand “Cheerleader.” I switch radio stations whenever it’s on. It is a contender for most annoying song of summer this year, along with “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon and “Honey I’m Good” by Andy Grammer. Let’s call it a three-way tie.
Among the top 20 songs of summer 2015, I prefer “Lean On” by Major Lazer and DJ Snake, “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, and “Hey Mama” by David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj.
Other songs I liked this summer included “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt Like a Motherf---er” by Maroon 5, “Deja vu” by Giorgio Moroder featuring Sia, and “Cool for the Summer” by Demi Lovato.
Billboard isn’t the only entity crowning the song of summer.
“Worth It” by Fifth Harmony featuring Kid Ink won the award for “Choice Summer Song” at the Teen Choice Awards 2015, beating out “Cheerleader.”
At MTV’s 2015 Video Music Awards, “She’s Kinda Hot” by 5 Seconds of Summer took home the award for Song of the Summer.
Some critics taking a subjective approach to the song of summer said 2015 didn’t have a clear winner.
The Daily Beast posted an article headlined “There’s No Song of the Summer This Year. What Went Wrong?
Vulture said, “In the year 2015, there is no true Song of Summer.”

Related reading:

The surprising history of the “song of the summer” (Vox; June 17, 2015)

How Having the Song of the Summer Can Ruin Your Career (Bloomberg Businessweek; July 29, 2015)

The definitive song of summer ranking, from TLC to Iggy Azalea (Entertainment Weekly; May 29, 2015)

Wiz Khalifa, Fetty Wap And OMI Had The Internet’s Most-Streamed Songs Of The Summer (Huffington Post; Sept. 8, 2015)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

One area where Donald Trump is leading Hillary Clinton: porn parodies

Republican Donald Trump is trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton in polls for the 2016 presidential race. But he’s beating her in one area: porn parodies.
Trump is featured in two recent porn parodies: “Donald Tramp: The XXX Parody” and “Megyn Gets Trumped.” (See media reports by Maxim, AVN and Broadly.)
The billionaire real estate mogul was earlier parodied in porn movies based on his NBC reality TV show “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Those movies were “Celebrity Apprentass” (2009) and “This Ain’t Celebrity Apprentice XXX” (2010).
To date, Trump has been featured in four porn parodies vs. three for Hillary Clinton.
But the presidential race is still young.

Sept. 5, 2015, update:  Trump has now been parodied in five porn parodies with Hustler’s release of “Latinas Play Their Trump Cards.”

For an updated list of the top real-life targets for porn parodies and exploitation check out this article.

Photos: Promotional photos for 2015 porn parodies “Donald Tramp: The XXX Parody” (top), “Megyn Gets Trumped” and “Latinas Play Their Trump Cards.”

Monday, August 17, 2015

High school reunions and watching the obits

My high school classmates recently got together for a 35th anniversary reunion in Lake County, Illinois. I did not attend, but was struck by the conversation in the class group on Facebook about deceased schoolmates.
Now that we’re all over 50, the pace of deaths seems to be accelerating. Heart disease and cancer are more likely to take their toll as we age.
A memorial at the reunion included the senior year photos of 15 dead classmates. But some group members mentioned a couple more to add to the list.
So, about 6% of my class of 305 graduates are now deceased. The number could be higher because quite a few classmates (17, at one point) could not be located by the reunion organizers.
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