Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The DUP : Year End Edition

Here’s 2008’s twelve highest grossing films:

12. Mamma Mia : $143,762,955. Many, many, many people had no idea that a movie musical with a story based around ABBA songs would be this successful. But for me the story goes a little farther back. I first heard of the show when it chose to tour the States before it came to Broadway. And it was selling out all across the country! That had never happened before – but it worked. It has been a huge hit for Broadway, and now is a hit movie. Hell, it’s the highest grossing film ever to be released in the United Kingdom! It even beats Titanic there! I always say bet on Meryl Streep, she knows what she’s doing. More importantly, [and why this movie works at all] is Meryl. Yes she's the preemininent actor of her generation - we know that. But what really sets her apart from her peers is that she never gives the wrong performance for the movie she's in. Her performance in this movie is different than one she would give in a heavy drama [have you seen "Doubt?"], yet it is still a perfect example of world-class acting. And that is why we love Meryl.

11. Sex and the City : $152,647,258. We all knew it would not fail – even if only the die-hard female fans of the show showed up at the theater. But we never knew it would do this well, and it really does deserve it. This movie was brave enough to tell a real story. Who cares if it took 2.5 hours, not one second was wasted time. It deftly handled a real relationship story and stayed true to the characters – even staying true to their growth since the series ended. Smart and brave – all involved should feel proud to have done such a swell job.

10. Horton Hear a Who : $154,529,439. This one got away from me, but it tells you that even the bitty kids movie market is underserved. Most kids/family movies are meant to entertain the 9-13 age group and everyone younger is left behind. Make a movie for six year olds and you can have box-office gold! I will see animated features meant for tweens - but I don’t have kids, so I just can’t bring myself to see stuff for the itty bitty tykes.

9. Quantum of Solace : $164,302,659. The highest Bond opening ever. ‘Nuff Said.

8. Twilight : $169,925,169. Call me stupid – but I had not heard of this until three weeks before the movie came out and it was suddenly the only thing people were talking about. I am also not a teenage girl, so… It’s undeniably doing well, and secured a sequel before the end of its opening weekend! They also fired the director, Catherine Hardwicke and will be going with a new director for the next feature. I guess it’s time to put in a call to Chris Weitz and beg for a role in the next one. Too tacky...? Not tacky enough...?

7. Madagasgar 2 : $175,433,314. Well. What’s there to say? A bad sequel to a mediocre movie is the seventh highest grossing movie of the year? It’s not the first time it’s happened. I haven’t seen it, but I can still judge it.

6. Kung Fu Panda : $215,434,591. This did not get the kind of reviews that would lead people to think that it would do this well. But people love, love, love this movie so there you go...

5. WALL•E : $223,783,432. Now this I understand! I went and saw this movie on the first Saturday morning that it was open at CityWalk out in the Valley. There weren’t many empty seats and the house was full of kids. What surprised me the most was the way this movie kept their attention the whole time even though it’s 75% silent! Well done, Pixar. Well done.

4. Hancock : $227,946,274. Okay. I guess.

3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull : $317,023,851. This movie was very entertaining - and just what I needed on a super hot Saturday afternoon. I think many people disliked this movie because they needed it to be more than this genre actually is. We’re not 12 anymore, so the genre is not going to feel transcendent in the same way it does for the little’uns. And it shouldn’t – but it sure as hell was fun.

2. Iron Man : $318,313,199. Call me cynical – but haven’t we all known that Robert Downey, Jr. is an amazingly gifted actor for like, 20 years? I certainly did. And if critics are saying that it’s the first time they knew that – then they’re giving everyone a reason not to trust them. Downey definitely deserves to be in a certified hit – and he had two of those within twelve weeks of each other this year! [He was the single best part of Tropic Thunder, if you ask me.] Way to go, RDJ!

1. The Dark Knight : $530,917,814. It’s no secret how I feel about this movie. This picture was in the second ever edition of The Round Up and was our ninth feature. This is the best comic book adaptation ever, easily stealing that title from Spider Man 2. Every single actor puts up some great work in this picture and Heath Ledger just kills it. He went from being the sentimental favorite for the Supporting Actor Oscar to the plain old favorite. He would deserve it – this performance in any other movie would win him two Oscars! As an actor, I sat in the theater and actually cried about what we will never be able to see from him. In this movie he became a great actor - posthumously.

So those were the top twelve movies of 2008! It was a good year for movies! This list, as you can tell, is not the decider for quality this year – many great pictures did not make the list, but will be around at Netflix for sure and maybe even your local video store. So check them out! And keep going to movies – it may be the last form of cheap entertainment! Happy New Year from everyone at MD TOTAL! Stay safe, and watch out for the amateurs!

[© MMVIII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Everyone Is Stupid : Holiday Spectacular!

Hello All from a cold and snowy Southern California! Here in Hollywood, it's about 44 degrees and there's snow 20 miles from here! Basically, if you get higher than 2000 feet above sea level, you're about a foot deep in snow. SNOW! Luckily - there's the fourth episode of Everybody's Stupid to keep you warm while you sip your cocoa or your adult eggnog! And it's a super-sized version, nearly twice as long as usual! We'd also like to give a special thanks to the folks at the youtube for finally getting a widescreen video player! Now that's progress!

Everyone here at MD TOTAL is extremely proud to present the Everybody's Stupid Holiday Spectacular! So sit back relax,and enjoy - there's a payoff to those who stay through the credits!

Happy Holidays!

[© MMVIII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Everyone Is Stupid : Episode Three

Open the champagne, Episode Three of Everybody's Stupid is here! They said we couldn't do it! They tried to to get us to stop! BUT WE DON"T STOP! Uh-Oh, uh-oh WE DON"T STOP!

I want to say thank you for the phenomenal response to the series, it really does mean a lot. I've gotten many emails, phone calls and messages that mean more to me than you'll ever know. The positive energy is... UNBELIEVABLE. There have been haters too, but that's okay - we don't let it get us down, and they definitely won't make us stop. It just means we're doing our job on the series!

And as always, thanks for watching! So - sit back, relax, micro some popcorn [but for the love of all that's holy, if you're at the office: DON'T BURN IT!] pour yourself a beverage and enjoy EPISODE THREE of Everybody's Stupid!

Haters Are Jealous.

[© MMVIII MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

The DUP : December 4, 2008

Here’s last weekend’s box-office totals:

1.` Four Christmases $31.1 million
2. Bolt $26.6 million
3. Twilight $26.3 million
4. Quantum of Solace $18.8 million
5 Australia $14.8 million

The Holiday season has officially begun! I figured that Four Christmases would win the weekend, but I will admit to being happily surprised that it did as well as it did! It did not get great reviews, nor was it tracking that well. But that goes to show you what can happen when you put a female star who women adore and a male star that men find to be hilarious in a holiday picture together that opens on a holiday weekend.

Many people will say that Australia did not do as well as some may have expected, but I say hold on. This picture will be around through the holidays and will quietly rack up money each week. And to be fair it did better than the opening weekend for Moulin Rouge! In fact, it’s Baz Luhrmann’s highest opening of his career! I say raise a glass to quality movies! They just don’t make them like this anymore. Luckily, some directors still understand how great the form can be. Not only should Fox be happy with this weekend’s grosses, they should be rejoicing that the movie about the magical little boy moved it’s release date from now until June!

One final thought - with the current economic realities people are turning to movies (thank all that’s holy!) as affordable entertainment. And you know what? That’s the whole point of the storytelling arts – to give people a break from the drama of their own lives and have them laugh, or cry or laugh and cry as a release. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – that is exactly the reason that I do what I do.

And that’s the weekend! This is our 90th feature, btw. Who would have thought? It just shows what you can do...

[© MMVIII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's Turkey Lurkey Time!

It’s officially that time of year again! This year Thanksgiving is as late in the calendar as it can possibly be yet it still seems to have snuck up on me. As I began my vacation yesterday, I still didn’t feel it, even though I’m about to drive 400 miles northward. Maybe it's because the weather has not begun to really feel like fall? I don't know. But something happened on the way home between the happy hour margaritas and Trader Joe’s – it began to rain. All of a sudden it felt like Holiday. Even the red cups at Starbucks didn’t seem annoying. Having grown up on the east coast, I have had many a gray and/or wet Turkey Day. A few of them even had snow. I know I won’t get snow here in California, even when I’m in San Francisco – but I am thankful to hear some thunder, see some lightning and get wet like the old days. It makes me feel like a little kid.

To start off the Holiday season properly I’m embedding a video from the 1968 Tony Awards from the musical Promises Promises. It takes place at an office holiday party and hilarity ensues. It features fantastic choreography by the amazing Michael Bennett. Nothing else in the world is as amazing and ridiculous at the same time. It’s the way I start off the Holidays! Enjoy it with a Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha – you won’t be disappointed. [watch for the signature head popping – only try it at home after a real warmup.]

UPDATE : Everybody's Stupid is off this week for the holiday. Wpisode three will premiere next Thursday, December Fourth.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving from everyone at Soccerboy in LA and MD TOTAL! Though these times may be tough, there is still a lot to be thankful for.

[© MMVIII MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Round Up : November 23, 2008

Here’s this weekend’s Box-Office Estimates:

1. Twilight $70.6 million
2. Quantum of Solace $27.4 million
3. Bolt $27.0 million
4. Madagascar 2 $16 million
5. Role models $7.2 million

As everyone imagined, Twilight ruled the box office this weekend doing so well it’s already made back it’s budget. Twice. Now that’s a business model! It also shows the weird phenomenon of genre movies and their box-office totals. Late Friday night when we knew what the movie was doing, traditional box-office math would have put this movie in the $90 million plus range for the weekend. But the audience for a movie like Twilight is interested in seeing it on the first day, which changes things. Not that anyone over at Summit Entertainment is complaining. Twilight’s first weekend gross is already double the total gross of their next highest grossing movie. Way to go!

Not to be outdone, Quantum of Solace held it’s own in it’s second weekend of release. Yes, it’s gross fell almost 60% from the previous weekend, but damn - when you make $70 million in three days there’s nowhere to go but down. Bolt also held it’s own against the hugely popular Madagascar 2. This movie was a smart move for Miley Cyrus – she gets to be in a hit movie and she can give her image a break.

Role Models is still hanging in there on the strength of its two stars, who are out doing everything they can to stay visible. You might be able to get Paul Rudd to give a speech at your son’s Bar Mitzvah right now and Seann William Scott would perform a dance number at the party – just keep the kids away from the bar. Laugh all you want, but press like that would get people into the theaters.

This would be a good time to mention Fireproof, the Christian movie starring Kirk Cameron. Now this movie was produced by Kirk’s church group. Really. They’ve done a few movies before that were in tune with his spiritual beliefs and the group distributed the pictures themselves. They had a good model – make a movie for cheap, know your target audience and you’ll make your money back. This time, they paid for the production and used Samuel Goldwyn for distribution. It cost them $500,000 and they’ve made almost $32 million so far! Best yet, this is Samuel Goldwyn’s highest grossing picture ever – even beating the Care Bears Movie! Now that’s a business model!

And that’s the weekend!

[© MMVIII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Round Up Weekend!

As you could tell, I’ve been out of town for a few days, and the weirdest part was that I was away from the internet. I actually had to get my news from the USA Today! Yikes! Though I will admit that it sure has some pretty pictures…

So, I am doing a miniature version of the Dup from last weekend to keep from doing a double edition. I will say one thing – Twilight’s receipts are already looking pretty good and it’s still dinnertime on the East Coast.

And here’s LAST weekend’s box office totals:

1. Quantum of Solace $67.5 million
2. Madagascar 2 $35 million
3. Role Models $11.1 million
4. HSM III $5.7 million
5. Changeling $4.3 million

We all knew that Quantum would blow everything out of the water, especially with the way it’s been tearing up Europe. I do have to congratulate Madagascar 2 for bringing in $35 mil of business on its second weekend! It’s nice to see the top two movies’ combined receipts break $100 million. HSM III is still hanging in there, but is admittedly not moving towards the $100 million mark as fast as people expected. I think it’ll make it, barely. Not that it’s hurting for profits AT ALL – even with inflated salaries, this picture was deceptively inexpensive to make.

Though I was forced to read USA Today while I was out of town, I did get a chance to see Changeling. In my opinion, it is nothing short of amazing. Angelina Jolie is probably Meryl Streep’s biggest competition for the Oscar. You heard it here. I loved this movie immediately and thought about it for the few days after I saw it. The more I thought about it, the more I was blown away. Movies like this make me excited to make movies!

And that was the weekend!


Sunday, November 16, 2008

This Crazy City

And this week's sermon is:

[© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Everyone is Stupid

Irreverence is back by popular demand! The first episode of Everybody's Stupid was such a hit that we could hardly deny you any more! We've decided that we'll be premiering a new episode just about every two weeks for the next twenty weeks! That's a lot of irreverence!

Anyway, pour yourself a drink, microwave some popcorn (just don't burn it if you're in the office) and rejoice because Episode Two of Everybody's Stupid is here!

Gotta Dance!

[© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bachelor’s Paradise : After the Club

You know when you’ve had a real night out, the kind that includes going to da club? You know those nights: Let have dinner together! Then as you leave the restaurant, your group stops into a bar for a drink. Drinks lead to dancing, which leads to someone suggesting that you go dancing for real at the club around the corner. Did you know tonight was 80s night? You get there, have a couple of the $1 jello shots, and the next thing you know you’re sweaty as hell dancing in a cage with some go-go dancer who’s dressed as an indeterminable jungle animal. Then you get back home and are hungry as hell because the last thing you ate was that salad at dinner seven hours ago, and you just got some serious exercise on the dancefloor. This sandwich is perfect for a late night snack. It is satisfying, and light enough that it won’t cause you any problems if you pass out on the couch as soon as you finish it. It pairs perfectly with a decaf earl grey tea or the final beer of the night. Put on a DVD and by the time you get past the trailers and to the main menu, this tasty little sando will be done! It also works just as well if you brought someone home with you from the club are both hungry after some exercise of your own…

What? I’m just keeping it real!

Grilled Cheese with Strawberries

• 2 slices of whole wheat bread [I use Milton’s Whole Wheat]
• two cold strawberries, sliced thick
• a good white cheddar [I happen to prefer English White Cheddars]
• a pat of butter
• one cold beer

Heat a pan on top of the stove on low. On a slice of bread make a layer of grated white cheddar cheese. On top of that, make a layer of strawberries then another layer of white cheddar. Top with second slice of bread.

Put the pat of butter in the pan and let melt. As soon as it’s melted put sandwich in the pan, being careful to keep it all together. Cook on low until crispy, then flip with a spatula and repeat. As soon as cheese is melted [sando should be pretty golden brown and crispy] take off heat and cool on a paper towel. A wire rack would be best. HINT: let this sandwich cool considerably, it will be extremely hot. Trust me on this, the juice from the berries mixes with the cheese, and somehow becomes the hottest part of the sandwich.

I know that this may sound like a crazy combination, and truthfully it is. But there is something about the buttery crispiness of wheat bread that balances with the sharpness of the white cheddar and the sweetness of the strawberries. Late at night when you’re thinking of making a run for the border, try this instead, your stomach will be much happier with this clean, healthy choice.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The DUP : November 9, 2008

Here are this weekend’s box-office estimates:

1. Madasgascar 2 $63.5 million
2. Role Models $19.3 million
3. HSM 3: Senior Year $9.3 million
4. Changeling $7.3 million
5. Zack and Miri $6.5 million

Well, the big surprise of the weekend turned out not to be Madagascar coming in at number one with $63 million, but Role Models coming in with $19 million! It’s an understatement to say that that this surpassed everyone’s expectations – even Universal expected that picture to come in somewhere between $10 and $12 million. Well done, boys! I always thought that Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott would make a great team, they’re both such specific characters actors and they both have impeccable timing. This is well deserved. It also deserves to be said that Madagascar 2 has the highest grossing opening weekend for an animated movie this year, beating out Wall•E and Kung Fu Panda. That is a surprise to me.

High School Musical Three: Senior Year is still hanging on in the top three. Kids are seeing this movie over and over again, to no one’s surprise. Changeling’s gross was down about 5% from the previous weekend even though it added five more screens. Zack and Miri hung on at number five, bringing their total gross close to $21 million.

Finally, Soul Men, which stars Samuel L. Jackson and a posthumous Bernie Mac came in at number six with $5.6 million. This “African-American Comedy” [as Daily Variety called it. How much progress have we actually made during this historic week, I ask] pulled in less than Dimension/MGM were expecting for some reason. I only started to see print ads for this picture a couple of weeks ago, and it felt like they threw this onto the marketplace.

I will leave you with one thing I will admit to loving in the Madagascar 2 trailer. The male Rhino is flirting with the female Rhinos and singing a song about it. You'll have to imagine the sparse pop influenced hip-hop beat yourself. The Lyrics:

Male Rhino: “I like ‘em BIG. I like ‘em JUNKY!”
Female Rhino: “Is that your friend, or is that your butt?”

And that’s the weekend!

[© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

James Mormile: Interscope Records A&R

You know you’re in an A&R office at a major record label when there’s not even a desk in the room. Mormile’s office is surprisingly relaxing to be in; there is no desk, there are leather couches, and his computer sits on his coffee table. Then there’s the killer audio system that features JBL Studio Monitor 4412s! There’s also the 50 Cent platinum record that Fitty signed “James, tell the DJ to blow me up or I’ll kill you!” Even I gotta admit, that’s pretty rad.

James Mormile works in A&R at Interscope Records here in Los Angeles. He grew up in South Orange, New Jersey and graduated from Seton Hall University. At Seton Hall, he was a radio DJ back when DJ’s had more control over what they played. He then interned at Universal Music Group [UMG] NY in video promo, which means he took music videos every Monday morning from 57th and Broadway and ran them down to MTV at 42nd and Broadway to make sure they got there by 10AM. In the summer it was so awful he’d have to bring a change of clothes with him to work! He was the person making sure videos were getting played and he’s been with UMG ever since, almost ten years!

I asked James what an A&R person does:

To an artist on a label, I’m the record label. Aside from signing talent, which is a major duty, I’m the liason between the artist and the company. Anything they have to do with the label goes through me. I’m the only person my artists really need to know. There are so many different departments, with hundreds of employees. So for an artist, that’s not their job. It’s their job go make records and go play gigs and do that the best that they can. I make sure that everything happens on time, that everyone gets paid. And it’s my job to champion the project through development. These are my passion projects, so I make sure that the higher ups in the building knows what’s going on - that Jimmy Iovine knows who this new artist is. It’s my job to make it important to him. After artists have made a few records, they’ll get to know a few more people at the label, they’ll know who their marketing director is, the head of sales. But at the beginning, it can be confusing.

James signs his own projects, but because Interscope has an abundance of projects he also gets projects assigned. Most of his are projects that he has found and has shepherded from the very beginning. He doesn’t have to go to clubs all the time anymore, and he doesn’t get that many demos in the mail. Three years ago he would have had a stack of demos, but now he gets emails from artists asking to look at their myspace page. They’ll have four or five songs up, maybe a video from a gig and a bunch of photos. And with comments, you can see what people are reacting to. It’s more interactive than only getting a piece of paper. Plus, it makes things much more informal when he can just email an artist back.

James is still excited about making career artists, but sees a real problem because there’s no place to go buy CDs anymore. I definitely agree with this, I miss Tower Records. No one gets excited to go to Best Buy to buy music. You go to Best Buy to buy a washing machine and you happen to see a 50 Cent CD. And that does not excite James in the least. He feels that iTunes is great, and also feels that it is not the end-all. People cherry pick songs off the album, but most don’t comprehend the amount of work and effort that goes into making an album.

Jimmy Iovine wakes up every day thinking about distribution - how are they going to change distribution? Because right now, creating and printing CDs is dying and iTunes is creating a singles market where they don’t make enough money to keep going in the way their artists deserve. It’s difficult to break an act, to make something big enough that millions and millions of people will want to buy it. Record companies serve a purpose.

To get to that arena level, t just takes time cultivating your audience and to keep giving them something new and giving them a reason to come back. There’s nothing like seeing all that energy in an arena, people really care. Everyone should go to a U2 show at some point in their life and understand that’s what music should do to people and that it’s a sort of a religious experience. There’s nothing more poignant than seeing someone who can command and audience like that. That was the point of their Elevation tour, that all you needed was U2, a stage, some lights, and a couple of video screens so the folks in the back can see too. Just them and an audience.

For a band, in the old sense of being a band, when you want to live on a major label a lot of the groundwork has to be laid by the band already. Like if they’re from Tulsa, Oklahoma; before you get to Interscope you have to be the biggest band in Tulsa. There has to be no question, everyone in Tulsa has to be jumping up and down about your band. If we go to Tulsa to see you play, there better be 1000 people there - there'd better be a line around the block. And if not, there’s nothing wrong with that, you’re just not ready for what it is that Interscope does. I don’t have the time or the staff to make sure that you can play your guitar or make sure your drummer can play in time. A lot of artists have hit records and they’re not ready. You can’t put them out on the road because it’s just that hard. Wherever you’re from, whatever city or state that is, you need to be the Rockstar of your hometown so Interscope can go there and be excited. Don’t just come to LA immediately because you’re gonna play the Roxy and four people are going to show up and two are gonna be your parents. A band needs to be able to get on a local tour. If you’re from New York you need to get on a tour that takes you to NY, NJ, Connecticut, Philly, you know, go up and down the Northeast and have people show up. If you can do that and have people show up then you’ve now taken a step towards being ready for what Interscope can do for you. Otherwise, there’s no real benefit to being here if you don’t already have a fan base.

James is someone who clearly loves his job, and is very excited about music. Which is good because he travels all the time. If one of his projects are recording a record, he spends as little time in the office as possible, he likes to be as hands on as his artist wants him to be. Some artists feel like the label guy is breathing down their neck and some are excited that he’s interested.

You know the kind of people who don’t want you there and if they don’t want you there, it’s not because they don’t like you it’s because they want to work. They don’t want to feel like I'm there to keep them in check.

James is there for support. He might have an idea every once in a while, but he’s not a producer or musician – he’s not someone who toils in what goes on. Most of his day consists of marketing meetings, meeting with artists, producers and managers. He likes to be with his artists doing what they’re doing, whether they’re in the studio or if they’re on promo. Whatever would make them feel excited that the label is there, that the label is excited about them, that’s his job to help them feel that love. So if they go do Good Morning America, he goes for the artist but also to meet the music show’s music supervisor to ask if there’s anything he can do for them and let that person know that he’s this artist’s guy.

He also spends a lot of his day walking the building. He goes to his marketing guy, or the new media people. He wants to know what they're doing for his band. At the end of the day the project is his, out of all the people in the company his name is on it somewhere. Making sure his projects' records sell ultimately comes down to him.

And that’s a good thing, no? Many people pretend that they don’t want to sell records. But if that were true, then they wouldn’t even try to sell their records! If that were true, they really could just write in a journal and play their music in their garage and they would be satisfied. Besides, how else would we ever be able to go see a concert with 40,000 other fans and have that experience without a label laying the groundwork for that possibility?!

I will leave you with his words:

I can only speak for myself, I think I'm someone who is excited about what I do. My artists are my friends and I have to believe in all of them. I want to see every one of them succeed, and not just for the money. I love to be able to put my name on a great body of work and know that I helped make it great. We are all working towards the same goal, we are building this thing together.

[©MMVIII MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Monday, November 3, 2008

Never. Give. Up.

I promised myself that Soccerboy in LA would not be about politics, and let me tell you that in 2008 that has been difficult. Today, I am breaking that promise because it feels irresponsible not to.

Tomorrow in California, we get to vote for or against a ban on gay marriage. Since gay couples have the right to marry in California, this proposition is not about gay marriage as much as it is about constitutional rights and discrimination. It doesn’t matter what one thinks about gay marriage, it only matters what we think about taking away people’s rights.

This is a time when we have to call upon the best in ourselves to help others, whether their choices affect us or not. You may think that since you aren’t gay, this proposition doesn’t affect you. But what will you say when someone tries to take your rights away? The sad fact is, most people in this country were only “awarded” the right to vote less than 100 years ago! Will people try to take that away? What will be our argument if this dangerous precedent is set?

Most people understandably forget that it’s not only people of color who have been discriminated against in this country. If it has slipped your mind, just go to Boston and ask the Irish what they went through or go to New York City and ask the Italians what they went through just to get off the street, get decent jobs and get their children into good schools.

If we begin to take away people’s rights now, how will we stop it in the future?

You’re probably asking yourself why I waited until the night before the election to try to change people’s minds. I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind about gay marriage, I’m appealing to what people already know to be true. America has fantastic ideals and the potential to be a great country. Our founding fathers came together and decided that this country should above all else be about equality, that every person here should be treated equally. Yes, it takes a long time to get to that idea, but it is up to us in the present to keep marching towards that goal. We owe it to them, we owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our children.

Always vote against discrimination. Equality for EVERYONE.

[© 2008 MD TOTAL. All rights reserved.]
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Sunday, November 2, 2008

This Crazy City

And this week's sermon is:

[© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

The Round Up : November 2, 2008

Here’s this weekend’s Box-Office Estimates:

1. HSM III : Senior Year $15 million
2. Zack and Miri $10.7 million
3. Saw V $10.1 million
4. Changeling $9.4 million
5. Haunting/Molly Hartley $5.2 million

The box-office suffered a big drop this weekend, thanks to Halloween being on Friday. In fact, whenever Halloween is on a weekend, the box-office receipts aren’t so swell. On Friday, Saw V was in the lead because all the kids were trick-or-treating, but they came back with a vengeance on Saturday to cast their vote for Zac Efron and the rest of the Wildcat gang, putting High School Musical III back in the lead spot for the second weekend in a row. In fact, HSM III did 400% more business Saturday than it did on Friday. Dang.

Kevin Smith’s movie, Zack and Miri Make a Porno actually outdid Saw V as well, placing at number two. It got some free press because the same theater chain in Utah that wouldn’t show Brokeback Mountain won’t show this either. I wonder if they know that issuing a press release about not showing the movie helps said movie get more money. Something to chew on.

Changeling opened nationwide after a week in a limited run. Its gross may not look like much, but it has the highest per screen average of any movie in the top ten! I also am feeling refreshed and relieved that this movie is playing well across all demographics. Things like that make me think that this movie may have legs. It’s doing the same business that Mystic River did when it went nationwide five years ago which is good news for Universal.

Across the pond, the new Bond movie Quantum Of Solace broke box office records in the UK, France and Sweden! When it opens in the States on November 14th, look for it to do phenomenal business. Its first choice tracking is almost double what it was for Casino Royale, so we’ll see what happens in 12 days.

And that’s the weekend!

[© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]
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The Round Up : November 2, 2008

Here’s this weekend’s Box-Office Estimates:

1. HSM III : Senior Year $15 million
2. Zack and Miri $10.7 million
3. Saw V $10.1 million
4. Changeling $9.4 million
5. Haunting/Molly Hartley $5.2 million

The box-office suffered a big drop this weekend, thanks to Halloween being on Friday. In fact, whenever Halloween is on a weekend, the box-office receipts aren’t so swell. On Friday, Saw V was in the lead because all the kids were trick-or-treating, but they came back with a vengeance on Saturday to cast their vote for Zac Efron and the rest of the Wildcat gang, putting High School Musical III back in the lead spot for the second weekend in a row. In fact, HSM III did 400% more business Saturday than it did on Friday. Dang.

Kevin Smith’s movie, Zack and Miri Make a Porno actually outdid Saw V as well, placing at number two. It got some free press because the same theater chain in Utah that wouldn’t show Brokeback Mountain won’t show this either. I wonder if they know that issuing a press release about not showing the movie helps said movie get more money. Something to chew on.

Changeling opened nationwide after a week in a limited run. Its gross may not look like much, but it has the highest per screen average of any movie in the top ten! I also am feeling refreshed and relieved that this movie is playing well across all demographics. Things like that make me think that this movie may have legs. It’s doing the same business that Mystic River did when it went nationwide five years ago which is good news for Universal.

Across the pond, the new Bond movie Quantum Of Solace broke box office records in the UK, France and Sweden! When it opens in the States on November 14th, look for it to do phenomenal business. Its first choice tracking is almost double what it was for Casino Royale, so we’ll see what happens in 12 days.

And that’s the weekend!

[© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Everyone Is Stupid.

Premiere week continues! Tonight is the premiere episode of MD TOTAL’s first series, Everybody’s Stupid! This show is irreverence in the most basic sense. Honestly, there really isn’t much more to say than that. So, pour yourself a drink, sit back, relax and enjoy the show!

[© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved]
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Old Whore Is Back!

No, I’m not talking about the newly re-single Madonna, Soccerboy in LA is back for cycle three!!! I know I said it would arrive yesterday, but it’s always good to be fashionably late, no? Here in LA at the end of October, things are a little bit weird. Not only do Gavin Rossdale, The Verve and Oasis each have hit singles out, but it’s been over 90 degrees almost every day for the past month. Global warming? I’d have to say so. But, as you have seen here, we will definitely bring up interesting information about living in the current times in the 21st Century Life feature. In fact, we’ve got a couple of new features that we’re debuting in this cycle, some of which had their soft debut already. There’ll be a short series of interviews/discussions/articles with other working professionals in the entertainment industry, the first of which was on the brilliant Ryan Raftery. Tomorrow will feature the world premiere of Everybody’s Stupid, MD TOTAL’s first web series! Its best described as fun and silliness in three short minutes. With Halloween weekend upon us, I thought it’d be nice to suggest things to do for the end of Shocktober.

The biggest party hands down is in West Hollywood. Hundreds of thousands of people attend each year – it’s so big that Santa Monica Blvd is closed between La Cienega and Doheny!!! It’s fun like nothing else, and generally gets crazy. Since Halloween is on a Friday this year, expect the naughtiness to be a little bit more extra ridiculous than usual. And that’s a great thing, let me tell you. You might find out fantastic things you never knew about yourself, just because your costume granted you freedom.

Knott's Scary Farm invites you to Walk In and Freak Out! They boast that they’ve got the World’s largest Halloween Party that features seven electrifying shows and thirteen mazes, including the famous “Corn Stalkers,” a corn maze. I will testify that corn mazes can be absoluting fucking terrifying when done right, and I am told that Knott’s knows what they’re doing. All this plus the attractions and rides you expect and you’ve got a seriously spooky evening.

Universal Studios Hollywood has their Halloween Horror Nights! The best thing about being at Universal is that all of their Halloween attractions are based on popular horror movies – so you’ll be dealing with Freddy, Jason and that Chainsaw dude from Texas. And those are just the mazes! Get Ready to Live Your Worst Nightmare! Plus, on the Terror Tram, all three of them will be loose on the backlot! Between that, the Bates Motel and Crystal Lake, no place is safe!

Down in Long Beach, the colossal cruise ship, The Queen Mary is having Shipwrecked. They’re not really spilling any details, but they admit that they will have a huge party on Halloween itself featuring DMX and a racy costume show hosted by Penthouse Pet Teanna Kai! We all know that Halloween is really about women dressed up as sluts.

“What are you?”
“I’m a hooker dressed up as a mouse! What are you?”
“I’m a hooker dressed up as a nurse!” And so on.

Six Flags Magic Mountain is hosting their annual Fright Fest, and be warned, the fun ends on Halloween Night. They feature family thrills by day, chills by night! You can even ride Colossus backwards! Plus five mazes and all the rides you’ve come to love. Don’t forget, Magic Mountain has fourteen roller coasters! FOURTEEN! The only place in the world that has more is Cedar Point and I ain’t gonna make it to Ohio in the next 36 hours, so I’d have to say that all told, this is the best choice for a theme park.

Honorable Mention goes to the Spooky House Haunted Theme Park in Chatsworth, the Old Town Haunt in Pasadena and the Seaside Haunted Theme Park in Ventura. You got to give it up to these guys because they don’t have the corporate dollars behind them like all the others and they have managed to stay Indie for 19 years! That alone is reason to celebrate!

And before I forget, I even have something to do on November 1st! The Dearly Departed Tour is billed as the Tragical History Tour. This tour takes you to the sites of many famous Los Angeles Crimes and deaths. Sure to please the dark soul in your group!

There we are! That’s just a smattering of what’s going on in LA for All Hallow’s Eve 2008! Hope you all have a great Halloween Weekend. Remember to stay safe! I will leave you with a silly video from the kids at Ashton Kutcher’s production company.

[© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved]
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Sunday, October 26, 2008

This Crazy City

And this week's sermon is:

[© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]
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The DUP : October 26, 2008

Here’s this weekend’s box-office estimates:

1. High School Musical 3 $42 million
2. Saw V $30.5 million
3. Max Payne $7.6 million
4. BH Chihuahua $6.9 million
5. Pride and Glory $6.3 million

I know, I know. I said that Soccerboy in LA is on hiatus and it really is, but I decided to go ahead and do a Round Up for this weekend. Tells you what kind of personality I have… The rest of you workaholics certainly understand.

Coming as no surprise to me, High School Musical 3 came in at number one this weekend with $44 million! Say what you will about the franchise, but this picture deserves to be this big of a hit. It’s perfect for it’s audience, and it gets kids interested in theatre, which is always a good thing if you ask me. This franchise is good clean fun, and not sarcastic either. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything bad about mixing kids with sarcasm, hell they don’t need anybody’s help discovering it. There are already so many movies and television shows out there that speak to that aspect of their personality and I think they also need to be exposed to things that are a little bit earnest. The greatest thing about this franchise to me is the way adults can connect with it. There are many adults who understand its humor because they themselves did musicals or plays at their high school and it still speaks to them. Yes, it is silly but when did silly become something we’re not? [Insert name of any Judd Apatow movie here.] Maybe you don’t have to go to the theatre to see it, but some Saturday afternnon in the future when it comes on cable and you’re less than thrilled about getting off the couch, watch it and let the 15 year old inside you bust a gut. Me, I’m going to see it on the big screen, the way musicals are intended.

Saw V opened on par with what its previous sequels did, even though teenage women should pretty much boycott this franchise completely. Can I just mention that this movie has had four sequels that have all made a boatload of money and the original was released just four years ago?! Technically it wasn’t even four years ago! Can the church say WTF?

Max Payne comes in at number three as expected even though it suffered a huge 62% dropoff from last week. Pride and Glory opened this weekend at number four to everyone’s surprise because nobody knew that this movie even existed. Dubya fell 58% compared to last weekend, and that’s not good news to Lionsgate. When you factor in the $30 mil for the budget plus another $25 mil for prints and advertising, this movie will not make its money back in it’s theatrical release, and maybe not even on DVD. Yikes.

And that’s the weekend!

[© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Little Break

Hey readers, Soccerboy here. I'm just letting y'all know that everyone here at MD Total is on hiatus, and therefore, so is soccerboy in LA. When we come back for cycle three, there will be some fun new features for the magazine. We haven't decided if there will be a Round Up this weekend, but will definitely be back in full force on Tuesday, October 28th.

If you're in LA, try to stay cool because 100 degrees at the end of October is no joke! Oh and before I forget - I will leave with one thought: I predict that High School Musical III will own the box-office this weekend. I happen to think that it will break $40 million in it's first three days, what do you think? Let's see what happens...

[© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Round Up : October 19, 2008

Here’s this weekend’s box-office estimates:

1. Max Payne $18 million
2. Beverly Hills Chihuahua $11.2 million
3. The Secret Life of Bees $11.1 million
4. Dubya. $10.6 million
5. Eagle Eye $7.3 million

9. Sex Drive $3.6 million

It looks like Mark Wahlberg can still open a movie, whether or not he can talk to dogs or take a joke. I haven’t done the research, but isn’t this a good opening for a movie based on a video game? When you add that to the gross for The Secret Life of Bess, Fox Filmed Entertainment had a pretty damn good weekend! It was difficult to discern how Dubya was tracking, and there’s not much help from history – generally movies about presidents are made well after they’ve left office.

The sole disappointment this weekend was Sex Drive, which opened with a per screen average of just under $1500. That’s actually saying that less than 200 people came to each movie theater over the weekend to see that movie. Ouch. Overall, this weekend’s receipts are up about 10% from the same weekend last year. And in an economic downturn, that’s pretty good.

And that’s the weekend!

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.
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Saturday, October 18, 2008

This Crazy City

And this week's sermon is:

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

21st Century Life

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how the entertainment industry is changing. The fact that it is thought of as an actual industry in addition to being called showbusiness is one insight into how much has changed. Not only can just about everybody watch movies in crystal clear picture and sound definition at home, we can watch on our cell phone. Ten years ago, most people didn’t even have cell phones! The fact that while we’re watching High School Musical 2 on our cell we can also hear a song from that movie as the ringtone for a phone call simultaneously, lets us know that the game has changed dramatically.

It used to be frowned upon to be caught selling or endorsing a product. It was okay to release a perfume or have a show in Vegas if your career had stalled, but now people have so many images being placed in minds that many artists are almost expected to sell something more than what gave them a career in the first place.

Because of the internet, people are more willing to expand what they will be entertained by. Actors can release a pop album, or an album of cover songs. Or shoot comedy shorts with their video cameras (the same ones we have, by the way) at home and put it on web for the world to see. Or they can design a clothing line. No matter where you turn, everyone is crossing over. Even Steven Soderbergh just cast an actual factual 20 year old porn star as a lead role in the film he’s currently shooting. Really. It gets even better than that! Upon being cast, Sasha Grey [the aforementioned porn star] released a statement that said:

To have the opportunity to work for an Academy Award-winning auteur is truly a great honor. I've been an admirer of Soderbergh's films for years, and I am elated that I have been given a leading role in a character-driven film.

What just happened? Sasha Grey just became my new best friend.

At the end of the day, I don’t have a high-definition answer for what’s going on, but I can feel that there’s major change underfoot in this fantastic industry. And I’m okay with that. In fact I’m pretty excited.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lady Madonna

I hate to delve into celebrity gossip, and pledged that this magazine is not about it but today I may just have to. It’s being said everywhere that Madonna and Guy Ritchie’s spokesperson has confirmed that they are filing for divorce. Yikes. I can’t even imagine what this is going to be like, I only know that they will keep the gloves on for the sake of the kids. What is she going to do? Will she stay in London for the kids? She moved there to be with Guy, but now that it's over will she still be feeling it? Most people never have to think about what country to live in when you're getting divorced. Hell, some people hate having to change neighborhoods because they've grown attached to the restaurants, butchers, dry cleaners in their old one.

Guy's absence was the big question last night as Madonna attended the premiere in New York of the movie she directed, Filth and Wisdom all alone. We all know Guy is shooting his Sherlock Holmes movie in London with Robert Downey Jr, but shouldn’t he have been there? I mean, it’s your wife’s directorial debut and your wife’s name is Madonna. Well, now we know.

I must say that the way they handled this announcement's timing was pretty smart. I knew that they were separating [check out the very first Soccerboy in LA post if you'd like to remember] back in July, but they waited until now to disclose the info. Most people are similar when they break up, they want to wait until the worst is over before they begin to announce it. Once it's public knowledge, you're able to feel much more confident and are closer to being able to project that when it comes up. Plus - when you both have movie's opening, you will at least have something concrete to answers about. In a word, brilliant.

The reason I am writing about it today is because I am beginning to think that the big M may have read that book her brother Christopher wrote about her. (if so, good for you Madge. I say it’s always better to know what they’re saying…) In that book, Guy does not come out well at all and Chris does not hold back about it either. He even went as far as saying that Guy as a brother-in-law makes him pine for the days of Sean Penn.


Everyone in her circle has said that Chris has always been the absolute closest person to Madonna and that title was shamelessly and purposefully stolen away from him by Guy. Chris was the one who got her back on her feet emotionally after she finally left Penn and the big question is whether she will lean on him again. They’ve just got this one little problem… That pesky little book. Right now she’s flying high professionally with the movie and the phenomenally successful world tour for her latest hit record, and I’d expect her to do exactly what I’ve done in breakup situations: Dive into work. And when work chills out, create more work and then dive into that. Then one morning you find yourself having breakfast while you’re watching Notting Hill and crying into the jam on your sourdough toast. Or… maybe that’s just me. Who else would be watching Notting Hill on a perfectly good weekday morning? Either way hang in there, Madonna. Everybody at MD TOTAL is rooting for you. If you ever need a weekday breakfast/romantic comedy moment you know where to find it.

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ryan Raftery is HILARIOUS!

Ryan Raftery is not your ordinary solo performer, he is an actor/singer with something to say. Instead of watching a singer put a song over and then stumble through perfunctory patter in between, with Ryan you get someone who can tell stories well - sometimes it’s a song and sometimes it’s between songs. He got his training from one of the best drama programs on the planet, and uses it to hook his audiences and sustain their attention. And he’s funny as hell. And he’s bringing his show to LA!

Let me be the first to tell you that Ryan is the classic class clown. This is the guy who will do whatever it takes to get a laugh, much to the chagrin of his teachers. He remembers the rabbi at his Hebrew school telling him that “he never wanted to hit someone in his entire life they way he wanted to hit me.” WHAT??!! Ryan, of course, took this as a compliment.

Ryan grew up in Brooklyn and went to college at NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, but came out to LA a few years ago to do a small role on What I Like About You on the WB. Things were going so well for him here that he stayed in LA far longer than he thinks he should have. Ryan always felt that he belonged back in New York. Many of the roles he was cast in seemed very theatrical – remember him as “Dick-the-way-too-serious-dancer” on Malcolm in the Middle? After doing a well-received revue at the Hudson Theatre, Ryan was cast in the workshop of the Catch Me if You Can musical (with Nathan Lane and Christine Ebersole, natch!), directed by Jack O’Brien. After getting a note in rehearsal from the famed director/multi-hyphenate, Ryan excitedly told his friends the story and they asked him who Jack O’Brien was! He knew he needed to move back to New York immediately.

When he got back to New York, he was at one of those quintessential New York parties in an apartment overlooking Central Park where he was asked to sing and he did. (when you’re at a party in an apartment overlooking Central Park and somebody asks you to sing, you sing. PERIOD.) One of the investors in the West Village restaurant Paris Commune was there and asked Ryan if he’s be interested in performing regularly at his restaurant! After doing his first show in the classic cabaret format he quickly realized that he wanted to do more, he wanted to give his audience a SHOW! He threw out the majority of his setlist and started from scratch with songs he could craft stories around. During that time, he kept seeing advertisements for cabarets with titles like : "John Smith & Friends" or "Jane Doe with Special Guest Mary McBoring" and decided to goof on those and call his show “Ryan Raftery & Friends: A SOLO ACT.”

See? I told you he was funny.

After throwing out the setlist, Ryan decided to write his show from the context of an audience member, constantly gauging the flow of the songs and considering their placement, lengths and genre. He cites Bette Midler’s Divine Madness as his biggest inspiration for this show, having been amazed at how she balanced being a comic and a singer. Lucky for us Angelenos, he just added a second show on Friday October 24th! Ryan’s show is playing at Upright Cabaret at Mark’s Restaurant on La Cienega. (For more information, go to Best of all, Ryan in adding a full band for us! I strongly suggest checking out Ryan’s show, you’ll be able to say “you were there then!”

Oh, before I forget: If you happen to be a New Yorker, he’s extended his stay at Paris Commune through the end of the year!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

[title of show]

Tonight, after playing 13 previews and 102 regular performances, [title of show] closes on Broadway. It is no secret how I feel about this show, I was even fortunate enough to be able to run an ad of their's on my site for the several weeks. Though it is closing, this is no sad occasion. Today we celebrate how amazing it is that this show got to Broadway in the first place, and that it was able to run as long as it did. While you may think that three months is not long, the history books are filled with stories of shows that played less than two weeks and even with shows that opened and closed on the same day. So when a little musical that began at the New York Musical Festival, then moved Off-Broadway, then had a short semi-scripted series on the internet moves to Broadway we celebrate! We celebrate the fact that these fantastically talented people got a completely original and authentic show up and running just because they decided that they would. We celebrate that these people and their show serve as a reminder that Broadway does have open doors and the community will be welcoming. But most of all, we celebrate the fact that these people’s dreams came true.

I hope that this show lives on in regional theatre, community theatre and high school theatre because at the end of the day, it deserves to. Kids growing up and already grown-up adults need to know that they can accomplish what they put their mind to, even if they feel that they are “Two Nobodies in New York.”

Most of all, this show deserves to be celebrated because at it’s core, it’s about having the courage to express yourself without judging yourself and not caring what other people think. And that’s nutrition for everyone.

My hat is off to Hunter, Jeff, Susan and Heidi. You did it!

And for old time's sake:

Ourboros, Motherfuckers!

The snake's all: Yo, my butt tastes like chicken!

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

The DUP : October 12, 2008

Here’s this weekend’s box-office estimates!

1. Beverly Hills Chihuahua $17.5 million
2. Quarantine $14.2 million
3. Body of Lies $13.1 million
4. Eagle Eye $11 million
5. Nick and Nora $6.5 million

Beverly Hills Chihuahua wins the weekend again! After Friday night’s grosses, Quarantine was on top and everyone but me thought it would stay that way. There’s a secret to horror flicks that a few of us know. Over a weekend for most movies, Saturday night will be their highest grossing night, with Friday night next. But most horror movies’ highest grossing night is Friday. I guess people who go see those genre pics are ready to go on the first night of the weekend? When you combine that with the secret I told you about kids movies last weekend, you get this week’s result. I guess the real lesson is to never underestimate the Saturday power of a kid’s movie.

Body of Lies opens about seven million dollars less than expected, which would not have been a bad thing if it had a gross of $42 million dollars. When that $7 mil is more than half of your total gross, you’ve got problems. Even the teaming of Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe couldn't get people in, which is very telling. Russell Crowe even gained fifty pounds “for the role” to “prove how committed he was to his character.” [I guess his old habit of going on the watermelon diet before for the last three weeks before he starts shooting anything are far from over!] Either way, people just didn’t care. The first time I saw the trailer I had no desire to go see it. Then I forgot about it and saw it at the gym on mute while I was jamming to Daft Punk on the treadmill. Surprisingly, it looked awesome and I was excited to see it! I went home and watched it online where I could hear it properly and it looked awful, even worse than before. Why is that? It was based on a bestselling book and got these two huge stars attached to do it. I guess everyone can be wrong once in a while, even Leonardo DiCaprio. Anyone remember the movie of The Beach? Nuff Said.

Eagle Eye is still holding its own and has a total gross of about $52 million so far. Way to go! DreamWorks is very happy with this sort of good press as they strike out on their own. Again.

Unfortunately, City of Ember did not fare well at all. I’m wondering how many people have even heard of this movie. It’s based on a successful children’s book and is of course produced by Walden Media. [Do they do anything else? But seriously, do they...?] It stars Bill Murray of all people, and every person involved was hoping this could become a family film franchise. Oh well, better luck next time.

All in all, this weekend is up just over ten percent from the same weekend last year, even with the current economic state. Is the box-office recession proof? Only time will tell.

And that’s the weekend!

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

This Crazy City

And this week's sermon is:

© 2008 MD TOTAL all rights reserved.

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As Thousands Cheer

There is a restaurant in downtown Los Angeles called Philippe’s – The Original. As of last week it has been around for one hundred years. Yes, you read that right, in a town where some restaurants can’t seem to stay open longer past their first six months this joint just celebrated it’s 100th anniversary! Now that’s an accomplishment. What’s even better is that Philippe’s is the birthplace of the French Dip. The French Dip! This sandwich was of course created by accident when the chef/owner Philippe Mathieu was making an order for a fireman who accused him of serving stale bread. The Chef dropped the bread in the meat drippings, gave it back to the fireman and said “You happy now?” The fireman ate it, and brought back ten of his co-workers and as they say, the rest is history..

The name comes from Mathieu being from France, and people would ask for Frenchy’s Sandwich, which became The French Dip. Now 100 years later, Phillipe’s is still going strong and is a perennial favorite in the city. The best seller is the beef dip, but they also have lamb, pork, turkey and ham versions as well. Many of the employees have worked there for more than twenty years, and the owner still has to check the gravy and the dressing when a chef is on vacation or is sick. He is still teaching some of the secrets to the head chef whom he calls “the new guy,” who has been the head chef since 1981. It is refreshingly old school – it serves pickled hard boiled eggs, pickled radishes and pickled pigs feet. Apparently they sell more than three-hundred pounds of the pickled stuff every week. Last week for the anniversary, they decided to go back to the original prices. The sandwiches that are normally priced at $5.35 we ten cents from 4pm to 8pm that day! Needless to say, thousands of people showed up and the line to get served not only went around the building but went down the street as well. That is serious love.

Other restaurants have claimed that they invented the French Dip, but not one of them is still open for business. A celebrity chef is reopening and re-imagining Philippe’s competition’s version of the French Dip and they want it to be as good as the original. For the record, Phillipe’s has never had to “re-imagine” the French Dip. They got it right the first time and have never had to change it in 100 years. My hat is off to Philippe’s – The Original, congratulations on a fantastic achievement! And here’s to another Hundred Years!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

On With Autumn!

I’m sure you’ve heard about the horror that is Los Angeles traffic. I won’t wax poetic about the loneliness of being stuck in traffic alone, but I will affirm that the traffic in LA is just as bad as you’ve heard. The old chestnut that it takes twenty minutes to get anywhere in LA is still true, but a little different than it used to be. While you used to be able to get from Beverly Hills to Hollywood in twenty minutes, now it takes twenty minutes to get to and from the ATM at your bank around the corner and that’s on a Saturday afternoon! Forgot milk at the store? Do you really need it that bad? Don’t even ask about how long it takes to get to the beach! That’s what it’s like in many areas in the city. The most congested street traffic has always been in Hollywood and West Hollywood, as these are very desirable places to live and live it up. Recently, Hollywood has undergone a major transformation. Normally, we’d call it gentrification, but it’s much more than that. There are many brand new condominium towers being built, and that’s on top of the many that were built in the past six or seven years. There is even a brand spanking new W hotel going up at Hollywood & Vine that also features a separate condo tower of its own! [can you imagine living at a W?! you can count on finding me at their pool, by the way.] These buildings often take the place of what used to be vacant lots or old abandoned buildings, so each one raises the total population of Hollywood and West Hollywood. All that boils down to more cars on the street. Sounds exciting, right?

Sometimes, LA traffic is even worse than what you’ve heard. What makes things more complicated six months out of the year is a little secret called The Hollywood Bowl. The Bowl really is an amazing place to see a concert, and is right smack in the middle of a major traffic area in Hollywood. Pretty cool, right? It’s nestled in the hills so while you’re in this amphitheatre you’re surrounded by a beautiful canyon which is surprisingly cozy. If you’re not going to an event at the Bowl you will know one is happening because it affects the traffic in all of Hollywood and West Hollywood. This place has 17,000 seats and let me tell you that all those cars make a difference. I used to think I was going crazy until somebody told me that it took them an hour to get home from work when it usually took him fifteen minutes. And that’s when there’s accidents to deal with. Dag! There have been many after dinner drinks planned simply because we knew traffic would be awful. Last week was the end of the Bowl’s season and I knew about it because I live so close to the Bowl that I need to have their calendar at the ready: The final two nights were Neil Diamond. Most people did not believe that Neil could sell out two nights at the Bowl, which admittedly is a little surprising. I just hunkered down to wait for the season to end like I always do. I will say that the traffic was just awful, definitely the worst I’ve seen all year. How bad was it? So bad that many a facebook status was devoted to Neil those two nights, and an acquaintance even vented to me about it two nights later! It almost began to seem as if people did not think Neil Diamond was worth that much traffic… That sentiment was a definite subtext to much of what I was hearing. It’s not that people were being insensitive, you just can’t mess with folks’ traffic without getting a visceral reaction. Oh, Neil. Congratulations on selling out the Bowl two days in a row, you still got it!

And thank god it’s the end of the season so we can properly get on with Autumn! Octoberfest, anyone?

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Round Up : October 5, 2008

Here’s this weekend’s box-office estimates!

1. Beverly Hills Chihuahua $29 million
2. Eagle Eye $17.7 million
3. Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist $12 million
4. Nights in Rodanthe $7.4 million
5. Appaloosa $5.0 million

If you had told me back in July that Beverly Hills Chihuahua would win the weekend I would have called you crazy. I took one look at the trailer and could barely get through it and couldn’t imagine sitting through the entire feature. Kids movie’s are interesting regarding box-office math. When the Friday estimates come in, you generally have a good idea of where grosses are going to land. But theaters have an advantage that can make a kids movie earn more than you expect. Since those movies tend to play to full houses in the morning and matinees, theaters can put them on more screens in those hours than in the evenings. It works out well, not many people are going rushing to see a heavy drama at that time of day, so they’re not losing many customers by giving up those screens to movies like this. Either way, congratulations to Disney!

Eagle Eye comes in at number two, and holding it’s own. This picture is outpacing Shia LaBeouf and director D.J. Caruso’s previous outing Disturbia, by a whopping 32%! Way to go DreamWorks.

The most interesting thing about this weekend is what happened further down the chart with the rest of the new movies. Religulus, the Bill Maher doc may have only earned $3.5 mil, but it was from 500 screens. I’d say that’s looking pretty good for a documentary. Blindness came in at number twelve, making $2 mil on 1700 screens. We’ll see what happens, but the reviews have not been stellar for this high concept drama. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People opened way down at number 19, which is not the best news for MGM considering it was on 1750 screens. Yikes! But we all know that it’ll be a movie that will be on cable forever.

Rachel Getting Married, starring Anne Hathaway opened at number 27, on nine screens. With a per screen average of $34,000, Sony Pictures Classics is surely celebrating. All they have to do is build on the buzz this picture is getting, and the buzz around Hathaway’s performance. I’d expect this to grow over the coming weeks. It opened at the perfect time to have it continue throughout the fall and make it’s mark in time for awards season. We shall see.

And that’s the weekend!

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

See? This town IS Crazy.

Out in the Valley [more on that place some other day] there’s a church that has the kind of sign where they’d announce Spaghetti Dinners, Bible Study or Pancake Breakfasts. Women’s Lunch. Or Bingo. You get the idea. But the pastor of this church has decided to forgo the traditional announcement for an attention grabbing thoughtful phrase. Is it thought-provoking or shameless self-promotion? Both ideas are very Los Angeles. You decide.

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Because We Can.

Declare Youself.

Courteney Cox-Arquette saying "I did have five friends" is brilliant.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ridiculous Ridiculousness

Matt Damon may have said it best – The way that Sarah Palin is being presented by the Republican Party is very much like a Hollywood Movie that the whole family can enjoy. He basically compared the Party’s treatment of her like she was some hockey mom whose charming no-nonsense attitude will allow her to save the world using her wits and that same no-nonsense attitude. Did I mention that it’s part of her charm?

Contrary to popular belief, Hollywood is not only Democrats, even though it seems that way at times. Democrats definitely feel that Palin is getting this sort of story treatment and are sickened by it, but many thinking Republicans think so and are disgusted as well. And they should be. Everyone can agree that this is not the way to treat a vice presidential nominee, no matter which side of the political fence one falls on. Aren’t we smarter than that? Why do we accept being treated as if we’re too stupid to figure out what they’re trying to accomplish?

While you chew on that, watch this funny video that takes Matt Damon’s words as a launching point and nails it to the wall. [disclaimer: this has been around since September 25th, but was just made available to folks like me today]


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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

21st Century Life

Apparently, the future is much more futuristic than we previously imagined! If only because of gas prices this year, we are all aware of how important it is to find alternative sources of fuel and other types of renewable energy. And there is no better place than Los Angeles to see the future of fuel technology actually on the street. Truthfully, San Francisco is just as prescient as we are, but SF is much more a pedestrian city that LA. It’s one thing to say that you have an awesome new hybrid that you only use once a week to go to the grocery store (and that is phenomenal, let’s remember) but it’s another thing to see these cars as a major mode of transportation in the 36,000 miles in three years kind of way. Those so-called Smart cars are everywhere, though to be honest with you I’m not sure why they’re so popular – because they’re so easy to park? I know they’re super small, but the numbers indicate that they burn just as much gas as a Honda Accord. Not even the Accord hybrid! We see those electric cars that were “discontinued,” and of course the Toyota Prius is everywhere. And as annoying as it is to see the same car all over the place, I am thankful that I do.

Speaking of Toyota, they should be freaking out because Honda (brilliantly) just released specs for their new fuel cell vehicle, and it is an obvious rip of the traditional Prius’ body style! Many people may not know what a fuel cell vehicle is, and that’s understandable. Fuel Cells mean Hydrogen Fuel Cells. Yep, that’s right, Hydrogen! In LA, these vehicles can fill up at many gas stations that also carry hydrogen. The best part is that these cars have emissions that are only water. WATER! If you pay close attention, you notice that you’re hearing this stuff on new car commercials, even Chevrolet (the OG gas burner) has fuel cell vehicles on the market and so do other car companies. I’m only pointing out Honda because they are clearly after a market that has adopted the Prius as a way of life, and made a better car! The best part about competition like this is that when they compete, we win!

A few years ago I was told of a car that was meant to run on compressed air for fuel. P’shaw, I said! Compressed air, does it also make popcorn? Luckily, and much to my chagrin there will be a car that will run on compressed air debuting sometime in the next two years. Motor Development International is the company that’s bringing us this technology and they’re based in Nice, France (as if we need another reason to think that southeastern France is cool) and is partnering with Tata motors in India. What’s cool about the updated model from MDI is that it also carries an onboard heater that kicks in at 35 mph, and will burn ethanol, vegetable oil or other fuel to heat the compressed air so that it has a longer driving range on one “tank.” Pretty Fucking cool, if you ask me.

On paper, this all sounds super cool, but for this to be helpful people have to buy these vehicles. And not just in California, it has to be all over the world and especially in every state in the US. Signs are pointing to the fact that the general populus in America might actually be ready for this kind of change, and that’s saying something. In a few short years, we’ve come a long, long way. And I for one, am thankful for that.

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