Friday, August 5, 2011

Rantings: Movie Ads and America's Got Talent

            This is a rant that is largely unrelated to itself.  I’ve helpfully split it up into two parts: terrible pre-movie ads, and America’s Got Talent.
Part the First: Stupid Ads Before Movies
            I rather like the First Look that shows up before the movies.  It’s terrible.  I can make fun of it like nobody’s business and I don’t care because it’s not like anybody else does.  As far as I can tell, they could put a blank screen up before the movie starts and it would be the same.  It seems to be the official time for everybody to get the last look at Facebook and Twitter before the movie starts, and I am fine with that.  Today in particular, before Rise of the Planet of the Apes (review forthcoming, hopefully before the weekend’s over), I saw 2 ads that have always been stupid and 2 that were new and were just as stupid.  To be fair, I’ll also take some time at the end to praise a good ad.
            We’ll start with the least offensive and least interesting of the bunch, and ad for some sort of Regal Premiere Experience which is apparently really special for some reason.  All it says is that it exists and that it’s over in the Regal Hollywood 20.  It doesn’t tell me where that is.  A Google search says Greenville, and hell no I am not going to Greenville for whatever it is.  There’s nothing too special to rant about here, it’s just a pointless ad.
            Next is an ad for Lenovo, a software that apparently starts your laptop up really fast.  You’d think they’d have a realistic situation for this.  Hell, you have people at the movies, why not show somebody having to buy movie tickets from his computer seconds before he leaves?  He boots up his laptop so fast that he’s right out to the car.  No, they don’t do this.  Instead, they show the laptop having to boot up in mid-air to open a parachute.  What.  I mean, I guess it’s impressive, but why would I ever need to do this?  The ad fails to say why I really need my laptop to boot up so fast in everyday life.  Oh, and we have to have a MAKING OF THE AD afterwards, which shows that the attempt failed several times, leading the people to awkwardly try to place the blame on the parachute instead of the software.  Yes, laptops were harmed in the making of this ad.  There’s also some fine print at the bottom which I wish I could’ve read had it not flashed by for about 2 seconds.  Shame.
            Next we have one of the things First Look does really well, promoting TV shows nobody wants to watch.  In this case, we had ABC’s Charlie’s Angels on ABC, an ABC production.  I’m pretty sure I saw that the critics already tore apart the pilot for this show.  Two things in particular stood out.  First, there was one of the angels saying, “This time we’re not cops or spies.  We’re detectives.”  As both my parents (and a quick search on IMDB to double-check) pointed out, they were always detectives, both in the original series and the movies.  So your actress just said she doesn’t know a thing about the original version of the show she’s remaking.  The other big “Waitwhat?” moment was when Bosley’s actor was talking about how great Bosley is and made sure to mention that he loves women.  I…I don’t even understand the point of this.  I know what they’re trying to say, that he’s a ladies man (or wants to be), but why not just say that?  Why specifically say that he loves women?  Are you trying to make sure that everybody knows that he’s heterosexual?  ABC: No homo.
            Finally, and I saved the best for last, it’s an ad by Regal saying how you should go to Regal.  No really.  It shows big action movies, as the screen slowly shrinks until it becomes a TV, shows “No movie should be reduced to this”, and then the TV explodes and then the tagline “GO BIG OR GO HOME” shows up.  Which opens so many questions.  For one, who the hell are you advertising to?  Movie-goers?  WE’RE AT THE THEATER.  Sell us popcorn or candy or the bathroom, sure.  Sell us the movie theater concept?  We bought a ticket, we’re in the seat!  You don’t have to sell to us anymore!  It’d be like showing a trailer for the movie you’re about to see.  The next question here is, well, what if I want to see a movie that’s not in theaters?  You’re not a second-run or even vaguely cult theater, you just show the hot movies.  What if I want to see, I don’t know, let’s say Star Wars.  Hell, Star Wars had an effective ad for one of their theater re-showings that did the same concept, but the point worked there.  It was saying “You can see it on TV, or you can come to the theaters and see it!”  It was a valid choice.  There’s no valid choice here.  I can’t go to Regal and say “Give me a ticket for King Kong”.  King Kong was really big and awesome in theaters, but I can’t see it that way again.  Until mainstream theaters start regularly showing second runs of movies, this ad is bad.  Finally, why don’t I just go home?  It’s cheaper, I have a better selection of movies, I don’t have to deal with the people talking in front of me.  What if I’m watching a movie that doesn’t need to go big?  What if I want to watch The Social Network or The King’s Speech?  Does this give me permission to pirate these movies instead of seeing them at the theater?  This is bad.  I can’t even get the words to describe how bad it is.  Just take this ad out of theaters now.
            Finally, praise where praise is due.  As much as I hate advertising in general, there was one ad I honestly liked.  It had a guy on a cellphone with Google Plus and Facebook icons around him, Angry Birds and the Nyan Cat flying around, all these various internet memes and game characters.  He walks up to a movie theater attendant, who stops him and tells him to leave it outside.  Sprint says turn off your cell phone as their “All together now” theme plays.  It’s effective.  It tells me all I can do if I get a Sprint phone, but also says “This stuff is really neat, but don’t let it ruin the movie”.  I’ll mark it down a point for having a guy play DDR by standing still, but overall, it was a decent ad that was actually rather nice, at least when compared to some of the other junk.
Part the Second: America’s Got Terrible TV
            Reality shows are definitely a guilty pleasure for me.  It’s brainless TV that I can easily consume and be entertained by.  It was tonight that I realized that America’s Got Talent has taken the pleasure out of guilty pleasure.  I just gave up on the show.  Now, admittedly, this was right before there were two REALLY COOL ACTS.  These two acts didn’t save the show, of course.  Instead, I have compiled a list of problems with the show, along with some suggestions on how to fix them.
1. Howie Mandel.  Oh good lord, let’s start with the biggest problem, because so many other problems I’m going to list can be traced back to him.  He’s unfunny.  He tries so hard to be wacky and weird that it hurts.  He constantly puts through terrible acts for the lulz and has an antagonistic relationship with Piers for no real reason.  David Hasselhoff was out of his mind and completely useless as a judge, and he was better than Howie.  Get him off the show or just bring the whole ship down.
2. Nick Cannon.  If we’re going to go after individuals, let’s go ahead and hit them first off.  I really don’t know why they got rid of Jerry Springer.  He was earnest and funny and had that natural weirdness to him.  Nick Cannon is loud and annoying.  Most of his annoyances pertain to the audition round, where the camera constantly cuts to him as he’s either just staring at the act or making fun of them.  It doesn’t matter whether they’re good or bad, he’ll make fun of them and take away screen-time from them.  It gets worse after the bad acts, where the act will get rejected, about to walk off-stage…BUT HERE COMES NICK CANNON.  Oh, that dancing was terrible?  IT’S TIME FOR NICK CANNON TO DANCE NEXT TO THEM!  That’s so wacky, Nick!  You’re so silly!  Yeah, this got old real fast, and serves little but to pad out the show.  There’s surely some C-list celebrity you can drag in to replace him.
3. Putting through terrible acts.  For those who don’t watch the show, the show goes through an audition phase, then a Vegas phase, and after Vegas the acts have to be pared down to 48 before the audience can start voting.  48’s a pretty small number when you think of the thousands of acts that have to audition, and even the hundreds that make it to Vegas.  So why is it padded out with acts that are quite clearly there for no reason but for Howie to laugh at them?  It’s sad to think that a spot in the top 48 to what could’ve been a honestly good acrobat or magician or dance group was lost so that Howie could laugh at a 30-year-old guy who can’t dance very well.  And yes, I say laugh at.  Howie wants you to think he’s the fun judge.  Instead, he’s the one who will laugh right in the face of somebody who honestly thinks they’re a good dancer, and NBC wants you to laugh at him, too.  Go ahead, laugh, America.  Now imagine you were on stage in front of a live audience of, I dunno, let’s say millions, for no other reason than because one judge decided he wanted people to laugh at you.  It’s not funny.  It’s cruel.  Howie isn’t the fun judge, he’s the cruel one who will destroy somebody’s dream just so that he can make fun of somebody else.  Also there were Those Funny Little People, which were a bunch of people in gnome/elf (they claimed elf in a later appearance, which blew my mind) costumes who lip-synced and kinda danced (their costumes really stopped that) to Ice Ice Baby in their first appearance.  Howie and Sharon thought they were hilarious.  Howie and Sharon apparently have the sense of humor of a 5-year-old.
4. Steamrolling over Piers.  Yes, Piers is supposed to be the mean British judge who’s mean to everybody.  But really, he just gives out his own honest opinion and doesn’t sugarcoat it.  Which is nice.  But any time he says the slightest negative thing, the audience suddenly starts booing, the other judges yell at him, and Nick Cannon talks about how mean he is.  He’s still one of your three judges.  I guess there’s no way you can control the audience, but you can still control the judges.  Which brings us to…
5. The judges are 12-year-olds on an internet forum.  I actually heard them telling Piers that his opinion was wrong.  Not “I disagree”, but “you’re wrong”.  How mature.  Next are you going to tell Piers how gay he is?  Grow up.
6. Putting through non-Vegas acts.  Professor Splash is interesting.  He high-dives into a pool.  And I can applaud him for that.  However, you’re looking for an act that can fill a 90-minute Vegas show.  Can you really imagine watching 90 minutes of some guy high-diving?  Take ten seconds and think before you put acts like this through.  It is entirely possible to applaud an act for being great, but say “It’s not really Vegas”.
7. Singers and kids.  Hoo boy.  Next to Howie Mandel, this may be the number one problem on the show.  It’s been running for 5 years, and every year a singer has won.  Now, Season 2 had Terry Fator, who was at least a singer/comedian, and sung through his ventriloquism.  He still falls under the category of singer.  It’s getting ridiculous.  Now, I know the point of the show is that you can audition with any act at any age (I’ll get to that latter part when I get to the kids).  But it’s time to cut out singers.  I’ll even be nice with this.  You can still have singing groups!  You can still have bands with singers!  And hell, maybe in very special cases, you can still have a singer.  Just one or two, though, and they better do something really damn extraordinary.  I am talking “Singing while being set on fire and doing acrobatics” extraordinary.  And then there’s the kids.  There’s been some decent kids, kids who have done something really awesome.  They had a kid DJing!  He may be the only DJ, period, that they’ve shown.  The problem is that kids seem to get a free pass.  They can be so sweet diabetics aren’t allowed to watch, but clearly not have the singing ability that will develop, and the judges will freely let them through.  I don’t expect you to X them out and be mean to them.  You can, in fact, politely let them do their act, applaud it, and then say that it was really nice and they should continue singing, but they’re not there yet. 
            I still believe in America’s Got Talent, someday, becoming watchable again.  I believe in it being a pure showcase for incredible acts that can’t be seen on any other show.  Right now, it’s not a show so much as some decent material you can probably Youtube the day after.  Maybe that’s all it wants to be, and if so, you can just stop it now.

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