4.30.2008

Big Mechanical Buzz

Quite a few reviews are out, and as of this posting, Rotten Tomatoes has Iron Man securely in the "fresh" -- and not just fresh; 89% is hardly a lukewarm recommendation. Read some of them, read all of them, read NONE of them... you'll probably not get a better opening gush than the review from Cinematical:
    Forget about all the fantastic action. Dismiss the disarmingly smart, wry screenplay, and ignore the phenomenal supporting cast. Feel free to overlook the dozen components that make Jon Favreau's Iron Man the most uniquely entertaining superhero movie in a long time ... I've got the one main reason that this flick is worthy of your two hours and ten bucks right here, and that reason is named Robert Downey Jr.
I don't know... did he like it? Read more to find out! My only trepidation is when the reviewer gets my expectations up by comparing it to super-hero classics:
    I'll put it in terms that the superhero movie geeks will understand: It's almost as good as Spider-Man 2, X-Men 2 and Batman Begins. Yeah, it's that kind of quality. Only Iron Man is a pretty unique entry in its own right. It's got some violence, some edge, and some seriously snarky attitude. But then it also has a little something to say about the nature of a society that allows itself to be governed by its own high-tech weaponry -- which means that not only is Iron Man a very fun, very slick, and very consistently clever movie; it also has some sort of a social conscience.
I'm glad there is some separations there where it forges its own identity. As I mentioned in my Lifes Rich Pageant post, comparing something to the past sometimes can ruin the first reveal of the product.That all said, I am excited to see the film, because if I never read a review, any of the trailers and TV spots have conveyed enough of Robert Downey's charm to get me into a theater. I will say this about the review, a comment about Downey that also rings true for me:
    Like many movie fans of my generation, I consider Downey to be sort of an old friend. We all wept when Jami Gertz noticed his odd demise in Less Than Zero, we loved watching his evolution in films like True Believer and Chaplin, and we all felt pretty great when the guy finally kicked his well-publicized drug addiction.

    Downey is a survivor, no doubt, and he's also a refreshingly engaging actor to watch -- and boy was I thrilled when Marvel announced that this would be the guy to portray Tony Stark. To those who don't know the Stark character from the comic books, let me just make it clear: Downey is the perfect guy to play a smug yet charming, sarcastic yet likable, and perpetually womanizing multi-billionaire mega-genius with a bum ticker. We all know the guy can play sly, snarky, smart characters, so much of Iron Man's early stuff is light lifting for the actor -- but when he starts getting angry? Noble? Heroic? The guy is aces across the board. Bottom Line: Downey has paid his dues, he's been through a lot of hell, and now he's a freakin' superhero who delivers the best popcorn flick performance since Johnny Depp first played pirate. Sometimes Hollywood actually works.
I've agreed about the casting, and I'm thrilled to see him in the role. I'm so secure in the casting and Downey's potential that I find it hard to picture anyone else doing it, or capable of pulling of the multi-dimensional role that is Tony Stark. Jerk, playboy, hero, villain, egomaniacal charmer, and no-doubt first blockbuster of the year, you can count on my ten bucks contributing to the cause.

4.28.2008

Ritual de lo Habitual

Last week, Jane's Addiction reunited to perform at the NME Awards USA show. On the URL, there is an interview and a two great You Tube clips of classic songs. The one that brought back a lot of memories is the opener for their landmark third album Ritual de lo Habitual, "Stop":

Here's some text describing why they were there:
    For last night's performance, bassist Eric Avery unearthed the guitar he used for the original JANE'S ADDICTION performances, which hadn't seen the light of day in nearly two decades.

    Check out pictures of JANE'S ADDICTION's performance from Wire Image, Getty Images.

    JANE'S ADDICTION was presented with the Godlike Genius Award at the inaugural U.S. NME Awards "in recognition of the fact that the band has done more than any other to introduce American alternative music to the mainstream," according to a press release.

    Past recipients of the Godlike Genius Award, usually a highlight of the U.K. NME Awards, include U2, PAUL MCCARTNEY, THE CLASH, NEW ORDER, PRIMAL SCREAM and others.

    Avery did not participate in the band's 1997 and 2001 reunions, with RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS bassist Flea, Chris Chaney and Martyn LeNoble all taking turns in the lineup.

    Regarding his reasons for agreeing to take part in the JANE'S ADDICTION reunion at the NME Awards, Avery said in a statement, "I've chosen to reject the prospects of reuniting in the past for personal and philosophical reasons. I have always considered reunions to be a way to make a quick buck, and it sells short my own experience of it the first time around. The reason I started to even consider this is because it's honoring the past instead of trying to recreate it."
Of all the reasons to quit a band, or not get back together, Avery has the best reasons. Why should I be shocked? Jane's Addiction has always been an answer to the question, "Who do you listen to?" that prevents the questioner from making any kind of derisive statement about your tastes. In short, in college, they were cool, and even if you didn't like them, you knew that saying "they suck" means that you risked being judged yourself. They were the alternative's alternative, the bad asses, the guys who rocked and really were different, back before Nirvana and Pearl Jam found the scene.Probably one of the more recognizable album intro's ever, the Spanish-speaking female prefacing the band's powerful first song still gives me the tingles. The song feels weird without it, and I'm glad they kept it as originally designed for the show.

Fresh off the success of "Jane Says" from Nothings Shocking, the album features at once its most notable and popular song, "Been Caught Stealing", and its greatest flaw. Stuck right in the middle of the playlist, it is do different as to stick out. I don't dislike the song, per se, but I think including something that flows with the rest of the album would have elevated the album to even greater heights. Okay, I DO have a beef with the song, because Perry Farrell famously said prior to the album's release that he would break up the band if they hit #1 (and he did), and that fucking song absolutely is to blame for that.

Maybe it was the right thing to do, maybe they peaked and they wanted to go out on top, or before corporate America started loving them (note to Perry: appearing on "Are you ready for some football?" sing-alongs destroys the memories of my youth). I don't know if it was the first album to have the two covers because of the new fad of "Parent Advisory" stamps, but I can't think of another predating the censors. In any event, their arrival/swan song of 1990 is responsible for a lot of great college memories, and still rocks today.Great tracks:"Stop", "No One's Leaving", "Ain't No Right", "Classic Girl"
"The Masterpiece":"Three Days"
Unsung personal favorite:"Then She Did..."
Delete from iPod:"Of course"

PS: Speaking of Nothing's Shocking, I personally think that album is tighter, and probably the best alt rock album of the 80's. But I'll save that discussion for another time.

4.25.2008

Hyperion

I have to admit, I never heard of the Hugo-award winning book, Hyperion, until Cinematical posted a story about how the series was going to be made into film. Mostly, this observation about the main 'anti-hero' of the book intrigued me:
    If you click through to Variety, be warned that their plot description is woefully inadequate. In particular, their deadpan reference to "a monster called the Shrike, which impales people on metal trees" is the rough equivalent of describing HAL 9000 as "a computer that locks people out of spaceships" -- accurate, but pointlessly so. The nature of the Shrike is a whole lot more interesting than that.
I found empathy with the comparison, mostly because I know far too many simpletons who think that "There Will Be Blood" is about blood, and "No Country for Old Men" is about... well who knows.My interest was already spiked, but often I'll just wait for the movie, except that one of the comm enters observed:
    Since Simmons novels are among my favorite works of literature (and I teach literature for a living), I am certainly apprehensive about any potential adaptation, particularly one that will reduce two enormous novels into a 2-3 hour movie. I'm guessing the project's screwed from the get-go.
Both increasing my interest and my dread, I decided I better get the book. Needless to say, I was more than impressed.

Hyperion is set in the distant (~700 years) future, where humans are spread out in the "Hegemony of Man" amongst many connected worlds in the "Web". "Old Earth" (meaning our Earth) no longer exists, thanks to the "Big Mistake". Yeah, oops. Anyway, seven pilgrims are set on a voyage to see The Shrike, the aforementioned killing machine. What follows are the backstories of the seven pilgrims, told by each, as they set about their journey. Think a giant episode of "Lost", only most of the action happens in the flashbacks.

As the flashbacks all are compelling in different ways. I was impressed and moved the way Simmons managed to take the tales, all dealing in one way or another with the Shrike, and come at it from such disparate and interesting angles. Religion, paternalism, lust, love, technology, and the supernatural are all represented, all dealt with style, wit, and often moving sequences. The science-fiction world he has created is both just a backdrop to the characters and yet wonderfully interwoven and important to the fabric of the story. I'm really quite astounded by the breadth of emotion and topic covered in this setup story.

And it is a setup. Hyperion is about the journey, about how they got there, not about what happens next. (That's Fall of Hyperion, the conclusion.) If you haven't figured out this is already one of my top-ten favorite books ever, then I'll just confirm that now.

That all said, you should go and read it rather than wait for the film. Films? Nope, just one:
    Today we got word that Warner Bros. has greenlit a single-film adaptation of the first two books (Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion). It's to be written by Trevor Sands, about whom we know very little except that he is apparently working on a number of different sci-fi projects in various stages of development. Making the two novels into one movie makes sense in a way, since they really comprise one story and the ending of Hyperion is an enormous cliffhanger. On the other hand, the books are so huge in scope and contain so many different perspectives (Simmons claims to have been inspired by The Canterbury Tales) that they seem better suited for a season of a TV show with each episode focusing on a different character. According to the Variety piece, Sands plans to take "a selective approach to the two novels' multiple points of view in a way that manage[s] to coherently and unconfusingly tell the story." Uh, I guess we'll see about that.
Skeptical would be the key word for me. I can easily see how this (just Hyperion) could be made very well in a six-part mini-series. Heck you could get real clever and do a half-season. But one single movie to cover both books? Madness. Madness.

Slaughterhouse-Five

I like to take a little variety in my reading. Admittedly, that variety often comes in the form of different types of vampire books, but this applies more to genres. I try to change up the genre of book every now and then. Graphic novel, sci-fi, supernatural (vampires!), non-fiction, and classics.As my favorite author cites Kurt Vonnegut as one of his recommended authors, and knowing that Slaughterhouse-Five is considered to be a 20th Century classic, I decided to give it a go. And I was not disappointed by the ride.

Excuse Deterrence Checklist:
  • Not enough time. S-F clocks in at a whopping 224 pages, which is pretty short compared to even your shortest Harry Potter tome.
  • Not enough money. The book has been in mass-market paperback for years, meaning over at Amazon you can get the book for about a buck plus shipping if you wanted.
  • Not interested in an anti-war book. It's not what you think it is. Here's the first line: "Listen, Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time."
Slaughterhouse-Five struck me as funny, moving, thought-provoking, and entertaining. I have said that Capote used foreshadowing the best (in In Cold Blood), but now I can say that Vonnegut used it the funniest. I can say that I've never read a book like it, and I'm sad for not having read it years ago. But even sadder still if you don't accept my recommendation. Then you would be a fool!

4.23.2008

Hockeytown, DC

The other day I freely admitted that I'm a playoff hockey fan, not a regular season fan. I take no shame in this; I find an 80-game regular season to be ridiculously long and needless, and I know I'm not alone on this.

For someone who freely admits to not having interest in watching hockey during the regular season, the amount of knowledge I have amassed in watching each game in the wonderful Flyers-Capitals series alone has demonstrated last night to far exceed most casual fans. And by casual fans I mean the ones who were openly rooting for the Capitals, but didn't understand some of the 'complexities' of the game, or were sporting brand-spanking-new Capitals "red" jerseys. You know who you are. (Aside: At least they went away from that black-and-gold crap color scheme. Can the Wizards be far behind?)

Note to Super-Caps-Fan #1: Every time you yell "that's a takedown!!", as if that term has some hockey meaning, to signal outrage that a hold or a hook or a trip was not called, you are embarrassing yourself, your fan-base, and your nation's capital. This is nothing new, but just FYI. I don't want you to stop, mind you, because it makes me giggle.

Note to Super-Caps-Fan #2: If you don't understand the game, don't get outraged when a perfectly legal, obvious, and correct call is made that hurts you. This applies to quite a few folks who protested the goal when the Caps defenseman got checked into Huet (the goalie) and knocked out of the crease, thereby making an each shot for the Flyers. See image below, or the video recap here. He had the puck come back to him and the wrong time, thereby making any check legal; if he didn't have it, it would have been cross-checking. He was caught in a wrong place. What are they going to do -- call their own guy for goalie interference? That has happened already twice in this series and no call was made then, either. Here's a minute-long video recap here; the goal is when the Flyers go up 2-1.
Note to Super-Caps-Fan #3: Do not blame the referee when your team commits an obvious overtime penalty that ends up costing you the game. I don't care if you are in overtime, when you sweep your stick across a guy's legs so obviously that you force the hand of the referee, don't blame me. In the words of Barry Melrose (video above):
    The referees just let them have one about twenty seconds before then -- they had to call the second tripping penalty. Good call by the referees.
Thanks, Barry. You would have had a good time out last night.

4.21.2008

Twilight Preview

Cinematical links to a few preview videos concerning the very popular "Twilight" young adult vampire book series. From what they show, it looks like they are following the book pretty closely, which is always a good sign.
I've read the first book in the series, and enjoyed it. It couldn't be more different than another vampire series I raved about -- this one basically makes vampires extremely pretty, powerful, and magical, and there really isn't much of a downside to being one. Unless you fall for a human teenager. The book feels like one long high-school crush, which is not to say it's a bad thing (I'm a sucker -- no pun intended -- for vampires), but don't go looking for some meaty complex tale here.That said, I'll probably still see it in the theater. Now when are they going to make Already Dead? That would be killer. According to a really vague Wikipedia entry, it's "in the works". I won't hold my breath.

Nothing's Shocking

Seedings lie. Playoffs seeding lie like rugs. And you get what you deserve if you don't pay attention to recent history. The hottest team in a series doesn't necessarily have to be the "favorite", and in the case of last night's Game 1 of the Sixers-Pistons series, the favorite Pistons couldn't get the job done.And there was shock and awe by analysts everywhere. But don't buy the hype that the Pistons lost, they were simply beaten. I actually watched the entire game (I honestly cannot recall when I have ever watched a whole NBA game), and both teams had bouts of turnovers and missed "easy" shots. (The box score says it all: each team had the same number of turnovers, and Philly shot 43% to the Pistons' 39.) No excuses -- the better team won.

Better, you sputter? Really? Yes, really. The Sixers, the #7 seed with a 40-42 season record, are a better team than Detroit, the #2 seed, with a 59-23 record. The two teams split their season series 2-2, so that seems a wash, but a different story emerges when you look at the records since the All-Star break.
  • Sixers record since All-Star break: 22-12. Pistons record: 17-14.
  • Number of games played between the Sixers and Pistons since the All-Star break: 2. Number the Pistons won: ZERO.
  • Instant update: make that 3-0 as of last night.
I asked one of my Detroit friends what he thought of the series, and he said: "I think we will be playing four practice games the first round." Yes, he and many others today are shocked by the opening home game loss, not so much because it was a big upset but because of their own ignorance.

That all said, this is only one game, so nobody is crowning the victor just yet.

4.16.2008

Team Allegiances: A Reference Guide

Brace yourself, because this is one long and blustery blog about my allegiances to sports teams. (It started out small, but I found that I had a helluva-lot to rant about when it comes to this.) If there's anything that I tend to take flack from "true" fans of sports teams is that I root for more than one team from just about every sport I follow. For people that have only followed one team in a particular sport, the idea that you can pull for more than one professional sports team feels, well, wrong.

College Sports
And the way that I can tell you that I can testify what these fans feel is that I agree with that sensation for college sports. When it comes to college, I am a die-hard Penn State fan. There is something about attending a school that really gives you a sense of ownership and pride, and a lovely bloodlust for crushing certain teams and screaming "fucking kill him!!!" and meaning it, at least for the four seconds their quarterback is scrambling around. I'm looking at you, Nebraska and Ohio State. And any team from Florida but I digress; that's just general displeasure with teams from that state. So, college football is the one sport where I really have only one team.

In college basketball, to the annual chagrin of local ACC fans, I also root for, wait for it, Duke. OH MY GOD, NOOOOOOOO!!! But, yes.If your head has not exploded in righteous indignation, allow me to explain why. Before I ever went to Penn State, I was a fan of college basketball. In the days way before on-demand sports and ESPN8: The Ocho, you didn't have a lot of options as to who you wanted to watch. As it happens, Duke was starting to become a perennial powerhouse in the early-to-mid 80's, so they were getting a lot of exposure on TV. Plus, right around the time I was a junior in high school, they recruited a kid named Bobby Hurley to run the point. At the time, I was a short, white point/shooting guard, so there was instant emulation. Anyway, that's when I started watching Duke games as a fan.

Does the fact that I have been a Duke basketball fan for over 20 years get me any street cred down here? Of course not. Granted, I am in Maryland Terp country, and they love to hate Duke, so what do I expect. It makes for more fun watching, frankly. Now, that all said, if Duke and Penn State played, I like Duke, but I bleed PSU. No contest. I watched just about every PSU game they played this season that was televised (don't get me started about the Big Ten Network) and though we finished 15-16, was satisfied with a season where we lost our best two players to injury. PSU basketball has a long tradition of 'suck', but I love my team. Hey if you only have one tournament highlight in the last ten years (2001), that says something. But we beat Carolina and that is worth arms-raised-in-victory cred for years. In looking up the results for that tourney, I forgot that Duke was the eventual champion. Puts my priorities in clear relief, but man, that was a good tourney.

Now before we get into the rest of the discussion, here are the general guidelines for figuring out allegiances:

  1. I grew up south of BUFFALO, and my mother's side of the family is mostly up there.
  2. I migrated to PHILADELPHIA to finish high school, and my father's side of the family is mostly up there. My best friend lives up there.
  3. I lived with many PITTSBURGH natives in college (PSU is 40% Pittsburgh, 30% Philly, 30% miscellaneous), so I grew to appreciate their teams.
  4. I have lived in the WASHINGTON, DC area for the last 10 years (has it really been that long?).
These four notes will help you to understand most of my choices. But there are quirks in every system, most of these driven by sweet, sweet bitterness.

NHL
Now, moving on to professional sports (and I am only talking about the big four), that's when we get a little murky. Let's start with the murkiest and the one currently on the brain as we are hip-deep intro round one of their playoffs: the National Hockey League.I fully admit, I'm a playoff hockey fan only. I have a hard time finding interest in any sport where the regular season is more than 30 games; for me it has to do with the import of each game. (I cannot understand how baseball fans can bother to care about each game, especially in April. I have seen fans get so upset over something that matters 1/162 of their season. NOOOOOOO!!!) That all said, my favorite team is the Flyers, (Reference Guideline #2 above) followed closely behind by the Sabres (Reference Guideline #1). This is as close to a wash as I get in sports; it seems that just about every year they play each other in the playoffs, and I just kind of shrug and wait for the outcome.At least that's what I tell my family. I figured out that Philly trumps Buffalo because Philly fans are mean. I like that. So put that as unofficial guideline #5: when in doubt, go with the mean fans.

Now, because of Reference Guidelines #3 and #4, I root for the Penguins and the Caps when neither the Flyers nor the Sabres are involved, but it's not even close to as strong a feeling. So they get no logo post. It just doesn't feel right. Honorable mention: Detroit Red Wings. This is my girlfriend's team. She loves to watch playoff hockey, too (she actually smiles when she sees blood on a player's face -- I'm not joking). I don't root against them, but I like to see her happy. But am I going to root for them if they come up against any of the above four teams? Not really.

MLB
Moving on to the longest season ever and one that certainly doesn't start for me (although I always check scores) until August, baseball. Another very tight race for me, but ultimately, I take the Phillies over the Cubs.Using the Reference Guidelines, the first choice should be easy to figure out, but the Cubs? Well, western New York obviously has no baseball team, so how do you get the Cubs? Cable TV, that's how. In the early 80's you had two choices (other than the friggin' Yankees: blech) for daily baseball coverage: TBS and WGN. Braves and Cubs. My brother is a Cubs fan, and they always (used to) play their home games in the daytime, which means I came home from school early enough to catch the fourth inning on and Harry Caray.However, in terms of allegiances, although I have to admit I'd love to see the Cubs win the WS for the first time in 100 years, I think I'd be pulling against them if the Phillies played them in the playoffs. Because neither team has won in at least 25 years, I don't think I'd be too upset either way. Still, slight edge to the Phillies.

As for my current "home town" Washington Nationals... well what can you say about a team that's been around for three years? Not much, is my conclusion, and no logo for you.

NBA
Continuing our tour of the major sports, we hit professional basketball and arrive with a more solid thwacking. Again, without a major team in the Buffalo (or Pittsburgh (discounting the Fish That Saved...), for that matter), the choice is easy: the 76ers. Watching the early 80's Sixers with Dr. J, Bobby Jones, Mo Cheeks, Andrew Toney, and Moses Malone (effortlessly recalling the starting lineup of the 1983 Championship team for your approval) was indeed the golden age of this team. Since then, I've watched many an Alan Iverson game in my time, and even though he's kind of a thug, I'm sad to have seen him go. Probably the highlight of his era was lighting up the Lakers for 48 to steal Game 1 of the 2002 Championship series. Certainly the Sportscenter highlight was his infamous "We talking about practice" press conference, which still gets a lot of airtime.

Iverson's point of view was comically made by his repeated (and by repeated, I mean like 25 times) mention of "practice" versus "the game". It's too bad that he ended the rant with the question, "How the hell can I make my teammates better by practicing?" Up until that point I was laughing with him. Anyway.

I certainly have watched my share of Washington Wizards games around here, but are they logo-worthy? I think you know the answer. The team really took a down-turn once they changed their name from "Bullets" to "Wizards", which is about as limp a change as I can imagine. I guess it's not as bad as a nickname like "Heat" or "Magic", but it certainly sucks. And sucky nicknames. But I will put a Boston Celtics logo on here as a distant second team, surprising even the most prophetic prophesiser! This is the negative-postive inversion support (or NPIS) case, where I pretty much can't stand any other team (excluding the Sixers) in the East, and I also grew up watching the Lakers-Celtics battles of the 80's. Guess which Western Conference team I hate?

NFL
Finally on to the main course, pro football. This one is tough because you again have two football teams that I have followed for a long time: Buffalo and Philly.Again, Philly gets the nod by the slimmest of margins, but only in recent years. I grew up a Bills fan and slowly evolved my preferences to the Eagles by being immersed in the NFC East environment that is Washington, DC. Obviously, there are plenty of Redskins fans around here, but you'd be surprised there are a great many Dallas, Eagles, and Giants fans around, too. It makes for great rivalrys, and great games. But it's the fans that bring it out in me, specifically the Redskins fans. You'd think that being down here this long would have swayed me towards their camp, but in fact where I used to support them (for my friends who liked them as long as we weren't playing each other), their incredibly delusional fans have driven me to embrace fully my hatred of the Redskins fans. Over the last couple years, this classic video of the fantasy football guy continually butchering "T.J. Houshmandezadah" and, finally getting it correct, intones "Championship" had come amongst my friends to represent your typical Redskins fan: cluelessly confident.

So, you see that it is a combination of Reference #2 and pure irritation that puts Philly over the top in my heart. It's like milk chocolate and caramel coming together, and it is oh, so sweet.
Worth mentioning: I put the logo of Green Bay up there because I once made the mistake of not supporting Danielle's team in the fullest amount. All my guidelines and irritations cannot stand up to an intense frowning and/or withholding of affections.

Urban Star Wars

Cinematical has a beautiful layout of Star Wars characters in urban settings, photographed by French photographer C├ędric Delsaux. They are all pretty cool, but I found the one below the most spine-tingling.

4.15.2008

Alysson Hannigan nudity is fine

I am an avowed Buffy fan, and I share an enduring crush on her Willow character, despite her latent gayness. (Still the best foreshadowing line ever, when Willow meets her evil doppleganger and comments, "And... I think I'm a little gay.") Alysson herself is quite the cutie, and playing an intelligent, geeky, witty sidekick who happens to become an extremely powerful witch fits the profile for fanboy worship. Even if her character is gay, can't we at least hang out... and watch you make out with some chicks?

Okay, I segued there, but not as badly or as comically as the below faux-interview on the Onion, where a straight-laced FCC representative declares that some nudity on TV would be acceptable... just as long as it is from Alysson Hannigan.

FCC Okays Nudity On TV If It's Alyson Hannigan
Here's a notable excerpt:
    FCC: Well, what Miss Jackson did was a tacky publicity stunt, whereas I’m sure any person can see the inherent artistic value in Alysson Hannigan slowly peeling away layer after layer of clothing until her milky-white bosom is in full view… obscured only by a few wisps of her auburn hair.
    Interviewer: That would be acceptable?
    FCC: It would be beautiful.

Mmm... genius.

4.14.2008

New Avengers: Illuminati

Normally, I leave the expert comics reviewing to people like Rachelle, but I so thoroughly enjoyed New Avengers: Illuminati #4's hilarious sidebar of Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Professor X, Namor, and Black Bolt discussing how to deal with women in relationships. And they are not any more 'super' than your average joe. I love how on the first page (below), Mr. Fantastic is reminded that he's met Dr. Strange's paramour 32 times when he wonders if they have met.Click on the pages to get a larger view. I love how the writer blends in comic-relief, insight and some embarrassing moments.While discussing the dating dilemmas of the super-powerful, we discover that not all things are known to the most powerful telepath and the most powerful sorcerer:
    Dr. Strange: And you've dated outside the species.
    Prof X: How did you know that?
    Dr. Strange: I read it online.
    Prof X: You're online?
    Dr. Strange: Everyone's online!
    Prof X: (It's online?) But you can go to the astral plane... why are you online?
    Dr. Strange: You can't get hockey scores in the astral plane.
Things get a little heated between Richards and Namor when discussing Sue, so leave it to old suave Tony Stark to lighten up the conversation:
    Iron Man: Hey, I can top all of you. I slept with Madame Masque. So...
    Dr. Strange: I don't know who that is.
    Iron Man: Metal face. Kind of looks like Doctor Doom.
    Namor: Why would you sleep with a woman who looks like Doctor Doom?
    Iron Man: ... Okay, moving on.
The five-part series is beautifully illustrated and collected in hard-cover here. Well worth your measly fourteen dollars.

Masters TV pretty, not good

I mentioned that ESPN's Masters coverage had stepped it up a notch, which apparently contributed to the highest cable rating ever for the event.

Unfortunately for champion Trevor Immelman, it will most likely be remembered as one of the most boring Masters ever. Certainly, I was uninspired. Aptly symbolised by Immelman's weak "yay" pose at the end, the weather conditions beat down the competition, removing any hope of late charges typical of Sunday at Augusta.What we were left with was a leader who shot 3over par, which was enough to retain a 3-shot lead over a field whose best golfer (Tiger) managed only an Even round. (He missed a remarkable number of short birdie putts, which he must be flogging himself for today. However, I will say a windy course affects both your shot-making and putting; if you've ever putted on a windy day, you know what I mean.)In fact, the most riveting moment was when we got to see Immelman's son Jacob, who is clearly in that "my head is grotesquely too big for my body phase". And he kind of scares me. I dare you not to be scared if you look into his alien-baby eyes.

BSG and New Foods: Yuck!

Reader comments can provide a lot of entertainment and insight for me. Take the following viewer comment from Jason, regarding this BSG post a while back:
    Not to be pedantic or anything, but in the original BG, nobody had last names. So while the Zac portrayed by Rick Springfield was indeed Adama's son and Apollo and Athena's brother (the new BG did some drastic retooling on the Athena character, from what I understand -- I don't watch the new BG because I'm one of the handful of clueless old grumps who does not, in fact, think it's the greatest TV series ever, no offense), his name was not "Zac Adama." It was simply Zac.

    Just to be clear, you understand. For the record. :)
I haven't seen any of the original series episodes since they were first broadcast, which means it not only has been almost thirty years since I've seen them, but that I was only a little tyke at the time, so my memory of the show is a little sketchy. I didn't realize they didn't use last names in the original series, which is kind of interesting.

On the other hand, I needed to pick my jaw up off the floor upon reading the parenthesis-separated portion of Jason's comment. Two huge glaring points here. First, he has heard the 'Athena' character has undergone some 'drastic retooling' in the new series -- something of an understatement if you mean the character does not exist, per se. Certain elements of her character have been 'spread around' to other females on the show, but no one thinks that calling the Boomer cylon "Athena" means she's Adama's daughter.Jason admits that he doesn't watch the show (and apparently gets really bad information about it, to boot) and then says he doesn't think it's the best TV show ever. I could rant about this kind of inane opinion-proffering, but instead I'll just provide an embarrassing example of my own from a conversation with the girlfriend:
    Danielle: Try some hummus. It's yummy.
    Me: Yuck! I don't like hummus!
    Danielle: Really?
    Me: Yeah.
    Danielle looks at me suspiciously.
    Danielle: You've never tried hummus, have you?
    Me: (sheepishly) No.
Just for the record, I have watch the first episode of season four and it is money in the bank. And that is not only an informed opinion but incontrovertible fact! Sorta.

4.11.2008

Masters coverage

It's not secret that I'm an avid golfer (when I can find the time these days) and an avid fan. (Been hitting it around since I was six, and I'm no slouch.) One of the few televised sports where I go against the 'popular' grain: I love to watch the majors. The Masters itself is still my favorite to watch. It probably has something to do with it being the first real sports event of spring, but more so because it is played on the same course every year. There's something to be gained by a familiarity with a course, where you remember the holes and a little nostalgia creeps in when you remember where you were when Jack went on his run in 1986. For me, it is exciting and relaxing at the same time.Anyway, now they (ESPN) has taken advantage of its new rights to Thursday and Friday coverage with its stunning streaming videos of Amen Corner (11-13) and 15 and 16. See the screen capture below: scores, stats, hole details, alerts, and oh yeah streaming HD. I can't imagine doing anything better while in the office on a Friday afternoon.

Slight warning: I just jumped in my seat. I have headphones on listening to the golf while I type and work and someone just crushed a drive sounding like a gunshot and I flinched. And now I'm laughing in my cubicle.

4.10.2008

Lifes Rich Pageant

I have to admit I bought the hype. And when I say the hype, I mean R.E.M.'s fourteenth studio album, Accelerate, hailed by many critics as a return to 80's form.And by 80's, I mean the specific classic album that gets referenced by Spin...
    ...haven't redlined so engagingly since 1986's Lifes Rich Pageant, whose terrific "These Days" lives on in spirit here.
...Rolling Stone...
    ...charged the musical exploration and internal debate on those records with the dirty-silver jangle and get-in-the-van surge of R.E.M.'s quartet-era classics, such as 1986's Lifes Rich Pageant...
...and Q magazine (via Wikipedia)...
    Q reviewer Keith Cameron wrote that unlike Around the Sun, "Accelerate is the sound of a band having enjoyed a good word with themselves - and us." Cameron described the album's first three songs as "powerful as the first half of 1986's Lifes Rich Pageant," but commented that the album suffers through a "midway dip that afflicts even the best R.E.M. album."
...to name but a few. And by evoking the hallowed sounds of the past did they so doom it to disappointment. Perhaps that's too strong to say for a solid album; let's just say it suffered from an initial letdown. Comparisons like this rarely do anything but set expectations to unreachable levels. The most recent example (before this) for me was when The Departed came out and everyone was comparing it to Goodfellas. So naturally, I went into the film expecting the greatest thing since sliced bread, since Goodfellas is the sliced bread of gangster fims. The Departed by itself is an excellent picture, but it ain't no Goodfella, and my initial theater experience was a little soured by my expectations.Like my film experience, Accelerate I have found to be a very good album, even great, but it ain't no Lifes, and my initial listen to the new album was filled with skepticism. I wish I could listen to it with fresh ears again. But this all did serve me some good times, ultimately; I popped in Lifes for a complete play to see if my memory had elevated the album to unrealistic heights, or it was that good. Let me just say that was one blissful listen.

There Will Be Blood

Arresting as its opening discordant notes from Jonny Greenwood's score imply, There Will Be Blood is an stunning film whose acting centerpiece, Daniel Day-Lewis, absolutely earned every bit of that Oscar.If I had to pick one overall characteristic that ultimately leads to Daniel Plainview's (Day-Lewis) undoing as a human, it would be his slowly-revealed obsession with winning, whether it is real or imaginary. And he is a 'bad winner'.

A scene that really encapsulates the picture for me is towards the end, as Plainview and his estranged deaf son are about to share a meal in a restaurant when they by chance run into a rival oil prospector who tried to buy Plainview's land years back. Plainview, frustrated by his inability to communicate with his son, and ultimately by their lack of blood-relations (his is adopted), and desperate to convince everyone else they are a tight family, and of course his need to win, openly chastises and taunts the oil prospector, who is befuddled as to why Plainview even cares anymore. The movies has many scenes like this, where there are so many different motivations going on that makes the film fascinating to watch, and enjoyable, in as much as a dark film can be revelled in. There is little question as to why the film was nominated for an Oscar.

Well, that makes three out of the five Best Picture flicks I have seen for 2007 thus far. Both Michael Clayton and No Country for Old Men were excellent; I'm suspicious that Juno and Atonement will have the chutzpah to stand with them. But, I'll let you know when I've decided the real winner. Because you need to know what I think, let's just admit that much.

4.09.2008

No Dominion

I'm a vampire book kind of guy. Book. For whatever reason, Hollywood has yet to really capture any of the really interesting vampire books out there to my satisfaction. Mostly you get a lot of caricatures or hissing or stereotypes, but the interesting ones are few (Lost Boys) and far between (Underworld).The latest book to get the Hollywood nod is the young adult book, Twilight. It was very good, but also very pretty, if you catch my drift. It would take some balls to make No Dominion, though. The second book in the Joe Pitt vampire (or 'Vampyre' as it is in the book) took off from where the excellent Already Dead started and upped the ante.

Written first-person, Huston's Pitt is a rogue vampire enforcer, who is about as cool as he is tough. He's got an HIV-positive girlfriend (whom he doesn't sleep with because he's not sure if he will infect HER with the "Vyrus" -- the blood-born virus that is this series' non-magical and gritty reality basis for vamps) and trouble from all the different clans of vampires in Manhattan. No Dominion is written with great style and urgency, and I found myself not only smiling and laughing out loud (Pitt is a wise-guy, but he's not so much funny as consistently outrageous in that he'll say whatever he wants to say, despite the situation), but riveted to the action and mystery. No Dominion is flat-out fun, scary, horrifying, and I ordered the third installment way before I was done. Thumbs up.

Shall I be offended?

This is just too amusing to let pass. Via WWTDD:
    Last week, supermodel Naomi Campbell was arrested after a violent outburst while boarding a flight from London to new York. Today the Sun has more details, including that allegation that she called the arresting officers racist names and blamed her treatment on the fact that she is black.

      Now cops claim she called a WPC a "white ****" and a "white s**g" as she was dragged off the LA-bound jet in handcuffs. The police source said Naomi continued, screaming: "f***ing white honkeys" at the officer and her colleagues.
      Campbell went berserk when she discovered one of her bags was missing at Terminal 5 last Thursday, allegedly spitting at officers who approached.
      Senior Scotland Yard staff were furious when Naomi later claimed police only arrested her because of her colour.
      She told a pal: "It just goes to show I have to fight for who I am. It’s because I’m black."

    A what? A "white ****"? "S**g"? Song? Slag? It's probably "slag" but I have no idea what the other one is. They wrote "fucking" as "f***ing", so its probably not "a white fuck". Cunt? Duck? Boat? Is that it? Did she just call me a boat? Or is she telling me to be a boat. Because i'm pretty sure I cant be a boat, even if I tired really really hard.
The funniest part of the whole thing is her use of "honkey". I mean, I know what a "honkey" is (I think), but isn't it a little redundant to call someone a "white honkey"? I think I would just burst into laughter if I was called that.

No sooner did I say that than Melis pointed me to this "definition" in the Urban Dictionary", #4:
    A term used by any other person who is not white to offend the white race, even though it doesn't offend one single white person. A way of getting back at the white man for using the word nigger.

    Black man: What up!?
    White man: Not much nigger, you?
    Black man: Hey don't call me a nigger you stupid honkey, before I beat your ass!
    White man: (bursts out laughing his ass off) Ha ha I don't give a shit if you call me honkey you nigger.
I am tearing up at work.

4.07.2008

Pregnancy is scary

There are three reasons that I go to What Would Tyler Durden Do? on a regular basis. One is that it has Tyler Durden in the title, and that is just plain cool. (Yes that is the most important reason, but allow me to continue.) Two is that it has pics of cute chics every now and then, but more often disparaging things to say about ridiculous celebrities, which is always enjoyable. Third is the writer(s) often have a coffee-spitting sense of humor, such as the case for their 'coverage' of Jessica Alba's baby shower:
    Jessica Alba had her baby shower this weekend, and it served as a nice reminder that pregnancy slowly turns even the hottest chicks into monsters.
Now, Jessica Alba (as you see) is far from monstrous, but I'm thinking of adopting the sentence as a kind of off-handed truth that one says in public, like, "The stoplight is red" or "Boondock Saints is terrible". This sounds like either the most fun idea ever or an ingenius way to alienate every woman I know. Whatever.

Cherry Blossums

The official cherry blossum season is in full bloom (heh) down here in the DC region, mostly marked by the appearance of sleepy children with their tourist parents on the morning Metro commute.The above picture of the front of my building is taken with a 'sepia' exposure, mostly by accident, but it captures the overcast gloom that has been overhead for the last few days. Or it forshadows an eerie prophecy, whichever.

4.04.2008

Hellboy II: Meet Pan

This is turning into a trailer-park Friday, but it's much more entertaining than work. The new one in question is the sleek-looking trailer for Hellboy II.Fresh off his triumph from Pan's Labyrinth, you can see that director Guillermo del Toro has greatly increased the pallette of characters from his worthy original.It's amazing what street cred (read: financial backing) you can get once you win an Oscar.Of course, I'm not as interested in the effects as the continuing relationship between Hellboy and Liz, which always serves to ignite Hellboy's most noble and childish features.Anyway, one of my five must-sees so far this year. (For those of you keeping score, that would be The Dark Knight, Quantum of Solace, Iron Man, Hellboy II, and Indiana Jones.)

Dark Knight Trailer

Speaking of trailers, I have been remiss in posting or even mentioning the absolutely titillating, creepy, chilling trailer for the upcoming summer blockbuster, The Dark Knight.Watching the trailer itself only highlights what a tragedy it was to lose Heath Ledger, who might just have left an indelible mark on the series and created an icon worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as with Nicholson's portrayal.

The forthcoming new trailer is rumored to be focused on Harvey Dent rather than the Joker, mostly because the film is NOT Joker-centered as it may appear in the first trailer, but also because the film's producers do not want to remind folks more than they have to that their star is dead. (I remember reading this somewhere, but I may be mistaken. I hope that is the case.) Regardless, this is a film that was going to be a blockbuster no matter what, but now I believe it will be even more of a cult film and an unofficial cinematic wake for Ledger. You couldn't drag me away.

Bonus: Here's a crappy video of a six-minute bank heist from the film. I've seen it a few times; it's a wonderful Joker intro.

Ironhead and Leatherheads

It takes a lot for me to motivate to get out to see a movie these days. I supposed that I should take advantage of having copious amounts of free time as a (technically, though not practically) single man, at least compared to someone who has a wife and kids. At that point, too, I have learned that IF you are so lucky as to get to go to a movie, or rent one, it's likely it is animated. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but just between you and me, I'm going to ween any future progeny I might have on live-action early. Okay, that sounds like a plan that is destined to take an about-face once reality sets in, but for April 4, 2008, it will do just fine.

Before I miss my point in a siege of irrelevant segue, most films these days don't have what it takes to get me to pay ten bucks to get 'the experience' (as Hollywood execs would propagandize). You need an interesting concept and a good trailer to get on my list. I don't care if you have a crap movie, if you can't produce an interesting trailer, you are behind the eight-ball.

Take the upcoming Iron Man movie. Initially, although it has interesting casting (Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is perfect), I was never all that into Iron Man as a comic. However, I was into comics in general, so I was maybe 50-50 on going to see it in the theater (most films never even get to this stage with me).Of course, that all changed with the release of their teaser and first major trailer (available here. Downey was disarmingly funny. The effects were cool. The action intense. I was excited for the film.

On the other hand, you have a film like Leatherheads. The concept is pretty okay, but the trailer is mediocre at best.Of course, it certainly doesn't help that Walter Chaw made me laugh in a I-thought-so way about the supporting cast around Clooney:
    Zellweger further perfects her walking-on-a-rail-whilst-sucking-on-a-lemon shtick (she moves and acts like a puckering hat rack), leaving Clooney--a gifted physical comedian, as his work with the Coens would attest--to carry the load. No help that the Ralph Bellamy in the standard triangle is the American "The Office"'s Jon Krasinski, who'd better get Lloyd's of London on the horn about that fourth-wall smirk. Without it, he's wallpaper.
I'll wait for the DVD. Rental-only.

4.02.2008

The "Luke" Arm

Science-fiction, or in this case, science-fantasy, often inspires real inventions. I find it pretty fascinating to watch this video of a new prosthetic the creators call the "Luke arm".

It probably doesn't come with a feature that allows for the hand to pop off, seeing how it might be irritating for the amputee to have someone (e.g., me) keep asking them to lose a limb for my own personal entertainment while I chop it off with my plastic lightsaber. Sometimes, no matter how geeky-cool an idea is, it's just plain wrong. Sigh.

4.01.2008

BSG Preview and Star Trek talk

Mania's website scored some pretty interesting stuff today. At least if you are a sci-fi fan. Which, as it happens, I am.
First, it has a neat interview with Simon Pegg, who, aside from talking about Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, talks about getting the upcoming roll as a young Scotty in the reboot of Star Trek:
    I had just stepped off a plane and I got an email from J.J. Abrams. It was just one sentence: “Do you want to play Scotty?” I showed it to my wife and she laughed, and we carried on laughing all the way home. Then I called J.J. and said, “Are you serious?” And he said, “Yes.” I said, “Of course I’d like to play Scotty, but is it the right thing to do? Am I tying myself to something which could run and run?” J.J. just said, “Well if the worst thing that happens is that we get to spend three months together every three years and have a great time, what’s the problem?” I thought that was a good argument, so I said yes.
Mania also posts the a review of the Season 4 premiere episode of Battlestar Galactica. The preview is SPOILER-FREE and gives the episode a solid "A" rating, but I'll just quote from the opening paragraph, which does a great job of encapsulating why the series rocks:
    The return of Battlestar Galactica is easily one of the most anticipated events this year, and for those that aren’t anticipating, you’re missing out. This series, up to now, is easily the deepest and most complex science fiction series on television in the last 20 years, maybe of all time. The series takes the social and political commentary from the original Star Trek era and does it in even more intelligent ways. This series isn’t simply a morality play tied to current situations and current culture as was common with Star Trek, it deals in shades of gray and examines the struggle to get to an end that’s right without doing wrong to get there. No individual in this series is the hero in the classic Superman sense and no species really has the moral high ground. BSG portrays all of this without beating you over the head. You could literally make this series as thought provoking as you’d want. You can get into the commentary and rethink your beliefs on everything from what it means to be a family to what it means to be a suicide bomber or you can just watch the series for a well acted and directed science fiction drama. That’s what’s made this a near perfect series. There are other top notch series out there such as the good Star Treks and Firefly, but I don’t believe they ever tried so hard to be both fun sci-fi and relevant in the world in which they have been created as Battlestar Galactica has.
Ok, I'll give you one other tantalizing bit from the actual review:
    The writing is solid and the final moments ask questions that will make waiting for the next episode physically painful. It just doesn’t get much better than this series and this episode starts the final season off phenomenally. Seven models of Cylon are out there, four more are in hiding, and one will be revealed. This episode is a don’t miss.
I won't. And this time, with my new HD Sci-Fi channel, it will be spectacular.

Please pack your Bionic knives and go

I watched every episode of the short-lived series Bionic Woman. Now that it has been officially cancelled, I can mourn the loss of a show that had a lot of potential, but never really got its act together. True, the writers' strike couldn't have helped speed up the demise or the show, but the real problem with the show is it never figured out what it wanted to be.

Or, in the words of frequent guest-star Katee Sackhoff:
    "The main problem with Bionic Woman is that if you get too many hands in the pot, no one can agree with what they're trying to make so you get a stew that's made of s--t."
Anytime I sense diorganization in a entertainment product, I find my "safe place" is to think about the brilliant Simpsons scene from Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie episode where the Executives try to get every single idea into one character:
    At Itchy & Scratchy, Intl., Meyers has called a meeting of the writers (who look strikingly similar to the real Simpsons writers) along with Krusty and a female network executive.

    MEYERS
    I have figured out how to rejuvenate the show. It's so simple, you egghead writers would've never thought of it! What we need is... a new character! One that today's kids can relate to!

    The writers look at each other, uncertain.

    OAKLEY
    Are you absolutely sure that's wise, sir? I mean, I don't want to sound pretentious here, but Itchy and Scratchy comprise a dramaturgical dyad.

    KRUSTY
    Hey, this ain't art, it's business! (to Meyers) Whaddya got in mind? Sexy broad? Gangster octopus?

    MEYERS
    No, no. The animal chain of command goes mouse, cat, dog. (to the writers) D-O-G.

    WEINSTEIN
    Uh, a dog? Isn't that a tad predictable?

    EXECUTIVE
    In your dreams. We're talking the original dog from hell.

    OAKLEY
    You mean Cerberus?

    EXECUTIVE
    (pause) We at the network want a dog with attitude. He's edgy, he's "in your face." You've heard the expression "let's get busy"? Well, this is a dog who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.

    KRUSTY
    So he's proactive, huh?

    EXECUTIVE
    Oh, God, yes. We're talking about a totally outrageous paradigm.

    WRITER
    Excuse me, but "proactive" and "paradigm"? Aren't these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important? Not that I'm accusing you of anything like that. I'm fired, aren't I?

    MEYERS
    Oh, yes. The rest of you writers start thinking up a name for this funky dog; I dunno, something along the line of say... Poochie, only more proactive.

    Meyers, Krusty and the network executive leave.

    OAKLEY
    So, Poochie okay with everybody?

    WRITERS
    Yeah...

    Later, an animator, draws a sketch of a dog for Meyers, the Executives, and Krusty...

    MEYERS
    No, no, no! He was supposed to have attitude.

    ANIMATOR
    Um... wh-what do you mean, exactly?

    MEYERS
    Oh, you know, attitude, attitude! Uh... sunglasses!

    EXECUTIVE
    Can we put him in more of a "hip-hop" context?

    KRUSTY
    Forget context, he's gotta be a surfer. Give me a nice shmear of surfer.

    EXECUTIVE
    I feel we should rastafy him by ... ten percent or so.

    Silverman redraws Poochie. They're still not totally satisfied.

    MEYERS
    Hmm... I think he needs a little more attitude.

    Silverman blackens in Poochie's sunglasses.

    EXECUTIVE
    Oh yeah, bingo. There it is, right there!