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Judge Michael Rankins's Blog

Judge Michael Rankins • Location: Rohnert Park, CA
• Member since: April 2002
• 152 full reviews
• 3 small claims

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I wish that I had Jesse's girl
July 18th, 2005 7:32PM

Does it seem right to you that Sandra Bullock just married the creepy, tattoo-laden motorcycle mechanic from Monster Garage?

Me either. As Elton John once sang, "I feel like a bullet in the gun of Robert Ford."

I'm not exactly sure what the charming and attractive Ms. Bullock sees in Jesse James, aside from the fact that he's named after a famous bank robber (to whom the latter-day Jesse claims to be distantly related). Yet, there they are, husband and wife.

But then, I never understood Heather Locklear and Tommy Lee. Or Valerie Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen. Or Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton. (No, wait, I understand that one they're both mad as hatters.)

The original Jesse James, incidentally, had this to say upon the occasion of his April 1874 marriage to his cousin Zerelda Amanda Mimms:

We had been engaged for nine years, and not withstanding the lies told upon me and the crimes laid at my door, her devotion to me has never wavered for a moment. You can say that both of us married for love, and there cannot be any sort of doubt about our marriage being a happy one.

May it ever be so for Jesse II and his Miss Congeniality.

I've got a little list...
May 23rd, 2005 9:40PM

Everybody loves a list.

Now Time Magazine has compiled its list of the 100 greatest films of all time.

Usually these lists make great cannon fodder for what they do not include, because everyone always has a favorite film or three they feel is neglected by the pundits. Time's list, though, leaves me baffled by some of the choices that actually made their cut:

* Drunken Master II? Hey, I'm all for martial arts films getting some love, but if you had to pick one, you'd choose this instead of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or Hero, or even Enter the Dragon?

* The Purple Rose of Cairo? That's not even Woody Allen's best film (Manhattan is, though one could make a credible argument for either Annie Hall or Hannah and Her Sisters). In fact, clever premise aside, it's not even a particularly good Woody Allen film.

* Finding Nemo? Please. It's not even Pixar's best film (that honor goes to Toy Story 2), though it is a pretty good Pixar film. But if the purpose is to represent animation (the only other such film on the list is Pinocchio), Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away would make stronger choices.

* David Cronenberg's grotesque, nausea-inducing remake of The Fly? Get serious.

* Star Wars? Yes, I know it's produced five sequels/prequels only one of which (The Empire Strikes Back) works even somewhat, but it's still badly written, dreadfully acted, derivative claptrap. You shouldn't give extra credit just for spawning a franchise, or else Francis the Talking Mule should be on the list.

* Kubrick's Barry Lyndon? Did someone actually stay awake long enough to find out whether that was any good? It's the cinematic equivalent of reading Moby Dick.

At any rate, any "best films" list that doesn't include The Princess Bride and Picnic at Hanging Rock is soulless anyway.

Fox says, "Let's go crazy"
May 19th, 2005 11:58PM

The Fox Network, whose programming selections veer wildly between outhouse (American Idol, Cops, The Simple Life) and castle (24, the surprisingly fine House), ends Fall Preview Week with a slate of new shows that appear to, well, veer wildly between outhouse and castle.

Here's a sampling of what Rupert Murdoch and company have in store for next season:

* The Gate: Inside the "deviant crime unit" of the San Francisco Police Department. There's a punch line just waiting to happen "isn't 'deviant crime in San Francisco' redundant? but as a longtime Bay Area resident who loves me some Babylon by the Bay, you won't hear it from me.

* Bones: Forensic anthropologists solve crimes by studying skeletons. Anyone here remember Gideon Oliver?

* Prison Break: The life and times of a Death Row inmate. Now that sounds fun and exciting. Kind of like Charles in Charge, only the "Charles" isn't Scott Baio it's Charles Manson.

* Reunion: This has the potential to be a novel concept each episode will check in on the lives of six high school friends in a different year of their adult lives. But what do they do if the series gets renewed for another season? Seems as though this would be a difficult premise to sustain for very long. But then, I said that about 24 too.

* Head Cases: Chris O'Donnell stars as an attorney with mental health issues. Maybe that's why he signed that contract for Batman and Robin.

* The War at Home: A kids-against-parents generation-gap sitcom of the kind that's been done to death in a thousand variations (Family Ties, Boy Meets World, Malcolm in the Middle, et al.).

* Kitchen Confidential: Another sitcom, this one about a former superstar chef reduced to hurling hash in a franchise restaurant because he's a self-destructive alcoholic. (Obviously, someone didn't learn a lesson from Emeril Lagasse's ghastly sitcom of a few seasons back.)

What is it with Fox and crazy / deviant / whacked-out people this season?

Oh, I forgot...Rupert Murdoch. Never mind.

CBS: Those aren't initials, they're self-critique
May 18th, 2005 1:13PM

Now it's the Eyeball's turn.

CBS, this TV season's top-rated network, followed its competitors in unleashing a preview of its new programming offerings for this fall. Frankly, we're underwhelmed. Creativity is apparently a dead issue in television studios and boardrooms these days. It's as though they aren't even trying to come up with original ideas anymore.

Launching on the Orb Web later this year will be these morsels of questionable entertainment value, all of which sound depressingly familiar:

* Ghost Whisperer: Jennifer Love Hewitt is a woman who talks to dead things. (Perhaps at some point during the season she'll have a chat with her film career.) This offering is peculiar for two reasons: (1) NBC already has a show on the air exactly like this (Medium, starring Patricia Arquette); and (2) CBS just canceled another program, Joan of Arcadia, with a remarkably similar premise (yes, that was about a girl who talked to God, not ghosts, but you see my point).

* Criminal Minds: Tracking down deranged evildoers with the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. Didn't this used to be called Profiler?

* Close to Home: A attractive young woman attorney juggles work and family life. Didn't this used to be called Judging Amy?

* Threshold: Undersea scientists discover aliens living in our oceans. Didn't this used to be called seaQuest DSV, and before that, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea? And didn't NBC already announce a new show called Fathom with a you're way ahead of me remarkably similar premise?

* Out of Practice: Henry Winkler, decades beyond his leather jacket and motorcycle days as The Fonz, stars in this sitcom about a crotchety aging physician. Didn't this used to be called...well, it's been called many things, including The Practice, which starred Danny Thomas as a crotchety aging physician, and Doc, which starred Barnard Hughes as a crotchety aging physician, and Frasier, which starred Kelsey Grammer as a crotchety aging psychiatrist.

All together now: Ho hum.

Like I said, it's as though they aren't even trying.

ABC: Already Been Canceled
May 17th, 2005 5:29PM

Continuing the parade of fall network schedule announcements, ABC and the WB ran their new slates up the flagpole in search of salutes.

ABC's bundle of warmed-over retreads I mean, brand spanking new series includes:

* Commander-in-Chief: Geena Davis as POTUS. Nothing against Ms. Davis, whose work I happen to enjoy, but don't we already have The West Wing? How many shows set in the White House can America possibly need? If this is a diversionary tactic, it's not working -- we know old Captain Clueless is really still the President.

* Freddie: A sitcom starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. Pretty much tells you everything you needed to know right there, doesn't it?

* Hot Properties: Four women working in a tony real estate office. You hated this before when the characters were interior decorators, and the title was Designing Women. If this show's supporting cast includes an ambiguously gay black man played by Meshach Taylor, be afraid. Be very afraid.

* Speaking of afraid, ABC's resurrecting (ha! I made a funny!) Kolchak: The Night Stalker. This was wicked cool and innovative back in the early '70s, when Darrin McGavin played the title role. Today, after seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Elvis has left the graveyard.

* And still more fear: Invasion is a sci-fi epic about aliens from outer space trying to take over the world. Previously, this series was known as The Invaders ('60s version), V ('80s version) and The X-Files ('90s version). Oh, and Tom Cruise, you're wanted on line two.

For its autumn menu, The WB will be offering up...who cares, really? When's the last time you watched something on the WB? Here's how desperate these folks are: They're renewing 7th Heaven for a tenth season.

Did you even know that show was still on the air?

Another season, another tired NBC schedule
May 16th, 2005 7:08PM

Ah, sweeps.

Not only do we traditionally some of the broadcast networks' biggest programming blockbusters in May, but we also get the new fall schedules from those selfsame webs.

NBC, which ran in fourth place most of this season, became the first of the networks to release its new lineup. From the perspective of this viewer, it looks as though the Peacock Channel is settling in for another year of bringing up the rear.

Here are some of the new offerings NBC plans for the fall:

* Fathom: Oceanographers chase sea monsters. Jacques Cousteau on steroids yeah, that'll be exciting. This certain loser stars Lake Bell, late of Boston Legal, perhaps the least appealing actress on television. NBC, you're gonna need a bigger boat.

* Three Wishes: Amy Grant travels the country doing nice things for people. (Hopefully not including stealing their husbands, which is the nice thing Amy did for Vince Gill's previous wife.) Think of this as Extreme Makeover: Cloying Country Singer Edition.

* E-Ring: Jerry Bruckheimer sends Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper to work at the Pentagon. Could be interesting, but that title sounds eerily like the gizmo that made Space Shuttle Challenger blow up.

* My Name is Earl: A slacker wins the lottery. I laughed when I heard about this one because the legendary a cappella group The Bobs once recorded a song called "She Made Me Name You Earl," about a guy whose girlfriend hangs a new affectionate nickname on his (according to the lyrics) "precious family jewel." I'm guessing the people behind this series have never heard that song. At least, I hope that isn't what they have in mind.

* Inconceivable: Ming-Na headlines this medical drama as a doctor working in a fertility clinic. I don't think this show means what you think it means.

* The Apprentice: Martha Stewart: Exactly what it sounds like. As if The Donald weren't obnoxious enough.

Two big surprises on the Peacock sked, at least to me.

First, NBC canned the newest Law & Order iteration, Trial By Jury. Too bad TBJ (not to be confused with the similarly initialed sandwich) is an intriguing show crippled by the oversaturation of its corporate brand (had it not been tagged as an L&O spinoff, lowered expectation might have given it a better chance of survival) and the ghost of Jerry Orbach. Bebe Neuwirth deserved better.

Second, NBC reupped the new Stateside version of the British sitcom The Office, despite abysmal ratings. Good for them for taking a shot at keeping alive a quality show that, due to its quirky nature, needs extra time to find its own level and audience. Most TV critics had written this one off as a goner.

Pam 2, Chimp 0
May 11th, 2005 4:01PM

Pamela Anderson refused to appear in an episode of her new TV series, Stacked (they wanted to call it Hooters, but apparently that name was already in use), because the PETA-affiliated star didn't want to play opposite a live chimpanzee.

At least, that's how Polythene Pam is spinning the story.

Maybe the chimp told his agent, "Pamela Anderson? Are you kidding me? I'm a professional actor, man. I'm not going to ruin my industry cred by sharing the screen with that bimbo."

Order was restored when the producers of Stacked (and wouldn't you just love to have that credit on your curriculum vitae?) retooled the script, replacing the chimp with a robot.

Too bad they couldn't do the same with Pamela Anderson. Then again, who could tell?

And another thing: Is Christopher Lloyd, a near-legendary comedic actor, so desperate for employment that he'd agree to costar in a Pamela Anderson sitcom? How far you've fallen, Reverend Jim.

My favorite Ignatowski zinger:

Jim: I was arrested once, back in the '60s.
Tony: Did they get you on drugs, Jim?
Jim: Naw, I was already on drugs.

There once was a man named Oedipus Farrell
May 4th, 2005 10:44PM

Colin Farrell tried to seduce his 70-year-old costar?

Dame Eileen Atkins says the Irish rake, with whom she shares the screen in the upcoming Ask the Dust, recently spent more than two hours putting the moves on her in a hotel room. The grame dame alleges that she respectfully declined Mr. Farrell's persistent invitations to carnal bliss.

But think of the story if she hadn't.

Then again, as Benjamin Franklin the Colin Farrell of his day once put it, "In the dark, all cats are grey."

Tom and Katie sittin' in a tree
April 28th, 2005 3:44PM

Well, this is icky...

Tom Cruise is dating Katie Holmes.

Not that either Katie -- whom I think is very cute -- or Tom -- whom I would think was very cute if I swung that way -- is icky. But what's with the whole dating-someone-who-could-be-your-parent/child business? (Just barely in this instance -- Tom's 42, Katie's 26. But still within the realm of biological possibility.)

What would you talk about? What would you find in common culturally? And wouldn't you just live in abject terror of the day the other decided s/he needed someone younger/more mature?

Not that I'm in the market, mind you, but it seems to me that if I were, I'd seek out someone with a similar frame of reference -- who grew up listening to the same songs, seeing the same movies, watching the same TV shows, experiencing the same events playing out on the world stage.

You know, someone who wouldn't look at me cross-eyed when I mentioned something that happened before the Clinton administration.

New Line discovers why action star's last name is Snipes
April 21st, 2005 11:43PM

Wesley Snipes is suing New Line Pictures because his last film, Blade: Trinity, sucked swamp water.

The Wes-Man apparently didn't like the script, didn't like the director, and didn't like sharing the screen with pretty young faces like Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds. I also understand that he was disappointed that, despite the film's title, neither Carrie-Anne Moss nor Terence Hill appeared in it.

No one is a bigger backer of Big Wes's film career than this Judge, but...

Dude, get a grip.

Nobody shoved bamboo slivers under your fingernails and made you sign on for another Blade movie. (I haven't seen Trinity, but the first two films in the series were solid.) Nobody held a Glock to your skull until you agreed to collect $13 million (though Snipes is claiming he never received all of his pay from New Line). Nobody made you appear in direct-to-video dreck like Futuresport and Unstoppable.

But I digress.

This isn't even the first film Snipes made with writer-director David S. Goyer, the ex-comic book scribe who plotted all three Blade flicks, as well as one of my favorite films of the past decade, Dark City. Two years earlier, Snipes starred in ZigZag, also directed by Goyer. If he thought the guy was imcompetent, why agree to do another movie with him at the helm?

Personally, I'd like to see the Wes-Man make a sequel to my favorite of his films, Passenger 57. (Or, as it's sometimes known, Die Hard on an Airplane.)

Always bet on black.

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