Neil DeGrasse Tyson Is Kind Of An Ass

I love astrophysics.  I understand very little of it, but I do indeed love it.  Neil DeGrasse Tyson seems to be the de facto celebrity on all matters that come to astrophysics — and it’s well deserved.

He has a BA from Harvard, an MA from Texas, and a PhD from Columbia.  I’ve seen him interviewed by Stephen Colbert and seen him debate a myriad of folks on Real Time with Bill Maher.  I’ve read his multiple Reddit AMAs (consistently voted “Best Of” by Redditors everywhere), and on occasion have listened to his podcast, aptly titled “StarTalk Radio.”  I’ve watched his The Most Astonishing Fact video about a billion times, and each time I get chills and have no choice but to contemplate the meaning of life.

Unfortunately, Neil is an active member on Twitter.  And with each and every tweet, I can only think one thing:

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is kind of an ass.

This was exemplified perfectly this past weekend with Neil’s critique of the new film Gravity.  Here are a select few tweets to give you the general picture: 

The film #Gravity should be renamed “Zero Gravity”

Mysteries of #Gravity: Why Bullock’s hair, in otherwise convincing zero-G scenes, did not float freely on her head.

Mysteries of #Gravity: How Hubble (350mi up) ISS (230mi up) & a Chinese Space Station are all in sight lines of one another.

Mysteries of #Gravity: Nearly all satellites orbit Earth west to east yet all satellite debris portrayed orbited east to west.

Mysteries of #Gravity: Why we enjoy a SciFi film set in make-believe space more than we enjoy actual people set in real space.

Now, minus the obvious opinion tweets, everything he said is true–at least, I assume it’s true (I generally conclude that anyone with Harvard, Texas, and Columbia on the resume knows what he’s talking about).  But that doesn’t hide the fact that those tweets are soaked in a bath of dickishness.

Remember when you were little kid, and you’d get in trouble for hitting your sister?  And your parents would say, “You’re not allowed to touch your sister.”  So you’d wave your hands about an inch from her face and repeat several times, “I’m not touching you.  I’m not touching you.  Nananananananananana,” and then she’d go crying to your parents?  Well, that’s what Neil was essentially doing there, and this is me crying to my parents.

Neil, we get it.  You’re a genius.  The knowledge of the cosmos that you have in the tip of your pinky is more than than I’ll ever know.  But please, just let us mere mortals enjoy our scientifically incorrect works of fiction.  I can’t help but think of what The Dude says in The Big Lebowski:  “Walter, you’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole.”

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Breaking News: Oscar Winners List Leaked!

Reaching a level of embarrassment usually reserved for post-1983 George Lucas, PricewaterhouseCoopers—the accounting firm in charge of the Academy Awards tabulation—has accidentally allowed the list of this years Oscar results to be leaked to the public. In a statement, PwC said, “We realize the emotional toll this will take on all those rich people in the Academy, and we apologize to all the winners—and the losers, I guess—for not allowing you to have your moment, even though by being nominated, you’ve really kind of had your moment already. But anyway, yeah, our bad.”

Here are the leaked winners that I was able to track down.

Best Achievement in “Well, That’s Quite a Change in Direction”

Liam Neeson

One of the most praised films of 2012 was Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which told the amazing tale of the iconic President’s struggle to abolish slavery. What you may not know is that, before Daniel Day-Lewis was cast in the title role, Liam Neeson was attached as the star. But for a long while, Lincoln was stuck in development hell, and Neeson eventually withdrew his name from the project.

Come 2012, and instead of starring in the award-magnet Lincoln, Neeson found himself in a much different climate: acting alongside Rihanna in the major-flop Battleship, reprising his role in the silly action-packed madhouse Taken 2, and another turn as Zeus in Wrath of the Titans. But hey, if you can’t get Abraham Lincoln, getting to play the god of all gods isn’t such a bad consolation prize.

Best Achievement in Hollywood Accounting

Men in Black 3

Will Smith came out of hiding to revive this ten-years dormant franchise. And when Mr. Smith gets involved, you know there is going to be a hefty price tag attached. A principal production budget estimated at $225 million, and double that to add in marketing costs, leads you to a total expenditure of $450 million or more. With a worldwide box office gross of about $625 million—of which the theaters keep about half—you’re looking at a profit of about … negative $137 million? Hmm, well, at least the Fresh Prince can still claim to be biggest movie star on the planet … sure?

Best “What Do You Mean No One Wanted To See That Movie?!”

Dredd

When I saw the billboards around town advertising Dredd, I was certain it was some elaborate hoax. Surely, this is a new take on viral marketing for a different product. But as it turned out, someone thought it would be a good idea to remake 1995’s Judge Dredd, a movie that is more known for its cheesy dialogue and bad acting than anything else. The film—produced for about $50 million—made about four bucks here in the States. Sad Fact: This film was written and produced by Alex Garland, who collaborated with director Danny Boyle on such great films as 28 Days Later and Sunshine. I hope at least he got a big check for this stinker.

Lifetime “Where Have You Gone?” Award

Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy is the breakup you just can’t seem to get over, because you just can’t seem to pinpoint why it fell apart. Murphy’s classics of Coming to America, Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop will always remain that: classics. Even the underappreciated, late 90’s hit Bowfinger is a favorite of mine.

But somewhere along the way, Eddie changed. He got rid of his signature laugh and, seemingly, the ability to choose good projects went with it. His 2012 effort entitled A Thousand Words** holds the unique distinction of receiving a 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. This follows up the anti-power houses of Imagine That, Meet Dave, and Norbit.

Eddie, it’s time to come back home. We know you’ve got it in you, so quit making us wait.

**Sad Fact: A Thousand Words was actually shot a few years prior, but was so bad it couldn’t get released upon completion. When Eddie was set to host the Oscars last year, the studio felt it could get some good publicity for movie due to Eddie’s gig. However, Eddie decided not to do the show, and thus a crummy movie turned into a crummy flop.

Nostradamus 2013: What To Expect That You’re Not Expecting

Worried about what 2013 may have in store? Here’s a heads-up on what to expect in the new year, good or bad.

1. Sylvester Stallone will make a movie called Fiscal Cliffhanger.

Stallone is an underrated actor, but for some reason he likes to rehash his older films and present them as new ideas. From Rocky V to Rambo IV (Side note: Can you still call it “First Blood” when it’s a sequel?) and now with the rumored production of The Expendables III, he clearly has his comfort zones.

But it’s time he goes back to the 1993 vertigo-inducing classic Cliffhanger. Sly knows that in order to keep pulling this off, he needs to find a topical subject to intertwine with his old flick. And the “fiscal cliff” debate is a perfect match. Why? Because absolutely no one knows what the hell a fiscal cliff is! Stallone’s creative mind can run rampant and come up with at-least-a-halfway decent action movie. I don’t know about you, but I’ve already pre-ordered my tickets through Fandango.

FiscalCliff

2. Doomsdayers will now predict the world to end on November 12, 2013.

The world decided to be a real jerk when it kept on spinning even though December 21 had passed, thus breaking the hearts of idiots worldwide. But have no fear, my dim-witted friends, because on the horizon is a new date that is sure to rattle your bones: 11/12/13. With a sequential order of that magnitude, surely something is bound to happen.

Also of note, 2013 is the first year since 1987 where every digit is different. And we all know what happened in 1987: the birth of Ke$ha.

3. On November 13, 2013, doomsdayers will predict the world to end on December 13, 2014.

Another year. Another heartbreak.

2014movie

4. Your cable/satellite will go out during the series finale of Breaking Bad.

There’s an age-old adage which states “Some things are worse than death.” Here is a prime example. It’s been a long journey with Walter White, we’ve experienced his ups and downs, we’ve hated him, we’ve loved him, and now right when it’s time to see how everything comes to an end … black out (or if you’re a TWC customer like me, you’ll get that ever-present message “This channel should be available shortly,”  which should really be followed by an “lol”).  In an ultimate twist, after thirty-seconds of nothing but blank screen, Jesse Pinkman will appear on screen and ask “How do you like technology now, bitch?”  You will then throw your DVR off your balcony.  Book it!

5.  Facebook will openly sell your information. 

After several years of fighting allegations, Facebook is going to admit that they don’t give a damn about your privacy and they’re done pretending otherwise.  The sad part is, everyone is going to complain, post meaningless disclaimers about their rights–as they have been since Facebook’s inception–but then they will continue to use the service.  I also predict posts to include, “You can’t tell others about my favorite movies!  Or share my photos of my dog!  That’s personal information I posted on a public website!  Outrage!”

6.  This will be the best year ever.

No joke, this is the year.  Happy 2013, y’all!

Stephen King: Literary Master, Cinematic Question Mark

Stephen King is one of the most prolific writers ever.  Maybe not regarded as the best, but he has put out something like 50 novels over the past 40 years, a majority of which have ended up on various bestseller lists.  His name is nearly synonymous with horror, but he’s achieved high praise in other genres as well, including non-fiction.  So for one of the most recognizable names in literature– for someone who has sold over 350 million copies of his work there is one question that has always bothered me:  Why have the film and television adaptations of his stories been so bad?

Yes, there have been exceptions.  Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of our greatest films (despite what Mr. King himself has to say about it), and Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption is one that, despite how many times you’ve seen it, you will always stop and watch a few scenes when you catch it playing on TNT.  Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her role in Misery, and Carrie is generally regarded as a classic of horror.

God bless you, Mr. Kubrick.

But the success of these films is so greatly offset by the complete duds.

Take a look at It, King’s tale of a shape-shifting being who primarily takes the form of a clown named Pennywise.  Written in 1986, the film was adapted for a television miniseries in 1990.  From a personal standpoint, I’ve never understood the fear of clowns, especially when they are presented on screen (perhaps the cult film Killer Klowns from Outer Space ruined it for me).  The terrifying thing about Pennywise isn’t that he is a clown – it’s that he eats children.  But seeing Tim Curry dance around in a puffy costume wearing makeup just doesn’t rile up any suspense.

I’m scared … maybe?

But the real issue with this film is the climax.  Yes, I’m ignoring the C-level acting and production value (how could they not see the shadow of the camera in so many shots?).  At the end, the “Losers’ Club” confronts It in its true form:  a gigantic spider-like creature.  I understand that this was made on a television budget, but this spider thing looks like it was constructed with Play-Doh by my 5-year-old cousin.  I saw scarier things in my elementary school cafeteria.  I’m amazed that people found this film frightening, and some even say it is the root of their coulrophobia.

The budget obviously couldn’t afford something like this.

I’ve never read the novel It, so my opinion of it is purely based on the mini-series.   But another poorly adapted King novel happens to be a favorite of mine:  The Stand.  Yes, I read all 1,152 pages of the complete and uncut version, and I read them twice.  Just an all-around fantastic novel.  Now, all those pages makes for a dense story, so I understand the complications that could arise from adapting a story of such epic proportions.  But the 1994 television adaptation didn’t even come close.

First of all, I’ll pay you $5 if you can find someone who, while reading the novel, pictured Molly Ringwald as Frannie Goldsmith.  Hell, I’ll pay you $5 if you can find someone who pictured Molly Ringwald as ANY character in the novel.  This has to be one of the all-time worst casting decisions.  And I’m not trying to attack Ringwald, but no one wants to be watching an apocalyptic story and think, “Hey, isn’t that the John Hughes’ girl?”

And they still don’t remember her birthday!

On top of that, bad directing, bad set design (the deserted Las Vegas looked more like a deserted Motel 8), and just an overall poor production.  It looks especially bad by today’s standards, but honestly it already looked dated when it was first released.

Others include The Langoliers—a low-budget miniseries with special effects created using Microsoft Paint – and Children of the Corn and it’s seven sequels, which reminds us to always be careful when casting children actors, advice the producers obviously paid no attention.

Hollywood generally looks at the horror genre has a sure bet.  But the bottom line is King’s work is much more than simply scary.  He describes characters in such depth that is hard to translate to the screen.  While he’s never been a master of wrapping up plot points, it’s his characters that we fall in love with and keep bringing us back to his writing – even though he does tend to kill them off without any remorse.

But this isn’t stopping anyone from trying.  It’s been announced that The Stand is being rebooted with possibly Ben Affleck at the helm.  I wish you the best of luck, Ben, because you’re going to need it.

 

 

Why I Like Mark Wahlberg

Long before I saw the trailer, I’d been seeing the posters, billboards, and other marketing pieces for the new film Ted, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame.  They started out in viral marketing mode, with teaser lines saying “Ted is Coming!” and not telling you who or what Ted actually is.  Eventually–as is the nature of Hollywood’s marketing campaigns–more details began to show up on their advertisements and, needless to say, I was interested in the film.  But one of the posters for the film caught my attention for a different reason.

In all honesty, this poster is one of my favorites that I’ve seen in recent years:

That is a genuine-stoner laugh that Wahlberg is exhibiting in this picture.  And with the look of glee on his fuzzy friend’s face while holding a beer, you can’t help but smile.  It’s a totally ridiculous scenario.  You can even picture the Adult-Swim cartoon they are watching through the marijuana-hazed air.  And that’s why we love this poster. But more importantly, this picture shows that Whalberg is giving 100% to this film, which at it’s core is a standard buddy-comedy flick–only it features a teddy bear as one of the companions.

No body looks at Wahlberg as a comedic actor.  He starred in The Other Guys in 2010, but he was paired with Will Ferrell, so the pressure of making the audience laugh was on “the other guy’s” (awful, terrible pun) shoulders.  And yes, he had a small role in the forgettable Date Night, but clearly no one associated with that film felt any desire to make the audience even chuckle  (I know a person who literally ran–yes, ran–out of the theater).

While he has branched out in other genres of film (including the depressing The Lovely Bones), Wahlberg has generally tried to prove to the audience that he is your atypical, A-list tough guy.  Look at these roles from recent years: ContrabandThe FighterMax PayneWe Own The NightShooterThe Departed.  Heck, his first two starring roles were as a drug-addicted, gun-toting jock in The Basketball Diaries, followed by a rage-aholic boyfriend in Fear.

Tough guy.

So to see him take a sole-leading role in a film involving a talking teddy bear, I have to say it makes me happy.  It shows that he can step back and not take himself too seriously.  He doesn’t need to share the screen with an established comedic actor who can carry the weight (yes, MacFarlane is established, but it’s still a great deal of difference from sharing with a living, breathing Will Ferrell).

I saw MacFarlane on The Daily Show recently, where he told Jon Stewart that Wahlberg was a little skeptical at first, but ultimately put his trust in Seth.  I’d assume that if it an unknown filmmaker had approached him he may have passed, and I wouldn’t have blamed him.  Can you imagine some kid walking into a meeting and saying, “Okay, Mark, you’re one of the biggest stars in the world, and we’re going to have you smoking weed with a teddy bear for 90 minutes.  Are you in?”  Fortunately, it was someone with a track record (albeit, not in film) and Wahlberg said “Let’s do it.”

This just adds to the reasons I like Mark Wahlberg.  Yes, he had a troubled past, but when I see him in interviews today, he comes across as sincerely remorseful for his past actions and is devoted to being a good husband and father.  Do I think he is a great actor?  Of course not, but I think he is a good actor.  He picks roles that suit him well, and he doesn’t make garbage films just to cash a $20 million pay check.  (Think about it:  Ted cost around $50 million to produce and it had a CGI-teddy bear throughout.  Compare that to last year’s Jack and Jill, which had an $80 million budget and featured Adam Sandler in a wig).  Add to it his producing credits and helping other artists get their projects going, he seems like an all-around swell guy.

Now, having said all thatTed was an incredibly lame film.  The story has been done countless times before–girl wants her boyfriend to stop hanging out with his best friend–it just casts a teddy bear this time.  Maybe 1 out of every 5 jokes hit, and the humor is set around either having a teddy bear act in a lewd manner or making fun of other famous people (We get it:  Justin Bieber sucks.  Even the Jack and Jill joke was flat).  They throw in some emotional, sappy drama towards the end, only to wrap it up with a cliched happy ending.  I will say it had a good heart and was very sweet at times, which is never a bad thing, even if it’s easy to accomplish with a buddy-comedy.

I went in with low expectations, and it was exactly as I thought it would be.  But people are generally enjoying the film, and if it’s bringing joy to the world, I’m not going to complain.

Ted:  C-
Wahlberg: A+