Sunday, March 19, 2006

Remember, Remember - the ... 18th of March? V for Vendetta Review


At the LOST writers' panel earlier that day, there was a very interesting discussion concerning why it's so damn hard to translate material from comic books to the big screen. And it's a valid question - there's lots of reasons why the transition is tough, but at least with some concepts like Spiderman or even Sin City, you have a core visual that lends itself to the big screen. Batman and Superman are a bit trickier, but the iconography of the heroes makes audiences able to forgive most of the implausibilities of their origins. The fact is that the comic book fan's expectations don't necessarily jibe with that of a mass audience. And part of that is due to writers like Alan Moore. In the 1980's, writers like Moore and Miller took these concepts that were essentially kids' stories and turned them on their heads. Characters who had been written simply and for all ages were suddenly fair game for mature, challenging, and dark stories that jumped off the page with all the literary flair of the great novels and films. And while comic fans have long come to expect a certain amount of maturity and sophistication from seemingly juvenile premises, the general public is only now beginning to catch up. Only now is the mainstream realizing the potential for dark and sophisticated tales with characters like Batman, The X-Men, etc.

But Alan Moore - this is what he's been doing his whole career. In his work on mainstream comics characters, Moore has created the definitive modern-age tales for the likes of Batman and Superman. Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tommorow takes all the fun, silly concepts of the Silver Age and turns them on their heads, for a story that is both dark and whimsical. Batman: The Killing Joke is a twisted, disturbing look at the insanity of the Joker. Moore took a character with a B-movie name, Swamp Thing, and spent years crafting a darkly literate, philisophical horror epic that is just amazing - and it's a saga that introduced a fan-favorite hard-living British magician by the name of John Constantine. Of course, there's Watchmen - which EVERYONE should read, right now, if you haven't already - it's one of the greatest things ever written, period - pretty much the last word on heroes and power and the myths and legends we create for ourselves. Moore has just done so much A + level work, it's no wonder that he's unanimously considered THE comic writer - the gold standard.

But Moore is so hard to translate to movies. He's worked with a number of artists, so there's not one visual style that is associated with him, ala Frank Miller who has often drawn his own work ala Sin City. And really, it's Moore's way with words that is what defines him. His narratives are beautifully written, multi-tiered, littered with layers of meaning and depth. He is a master of graphic storytelling. Even though he's not an artist, he uses the comic book page like no other - interweaving overlapping images, startling juxtapositions of words with pictures that work on multiple levels. His dialogue is both naturalistic and full of emotion and resonnance. And with all that said - nobdy does the big moment - the shocking revelation, the holy $%&, jaw on the floor moment quite like Moore.

And this brings me to V for Vendetta.

Hollywood has screwed with Alan Moore to no end. They made a Joel Schumacher-worthy adaptation of League of Extraordinary Gentleman. They cast Keanu Reeves of all people to play the quintisential British bastard Constantine, for pete's sake. But here, you know what? They pretty much got it right.

No, I haven't read V for Vendetta. I've been meaning to, but haven't gotten around to it. So I'm sure that there's a lot that has been cut, altered, and generally screwed with in the movie. But as a movie, it works. And it's one of the better sci-fi high concept movies to come out in a LONG while.

Sure, it lacks the complexity of Moore. It lack the intricacy, the literacy, the complexity. This movie was touted as uncompromising, but it clearly is compromising something.

And yet, compared to most Hollywood action movies, it is surprisingly uncompromising. And it makes you think. It makes you listen to the rythm and detail of the dialogue. It makes you read the actors body language for any telling gestures. It presents its politics in shades of grey - not dumbing itself down enough to either be wholly apolitical or to be a clear commentary on current events. No, V for Vendetta avoids being too heavy handed, and that is one of its greatest strengths. You're not quite sure what to think of V, or of his modus operandi. Sure, you get caught up in the whole coolness of the look and the action, but you also question the man's sanity - is he hero or villain? And that is the poignancy of this story - is V a terrorist or freedom fighter? Is Guy Fawlkes? Is Nelson Mandella, George Bush, or Osama Bin Laden? Now therein lies the danger of this movie. It is simple to the point that some 15 year old could watch it and take away the message that governments are evil and that anarchy is cool and that there's no difference between our president and the Taliban. Like other reviews have pointed out, there is a kind of overly simplistic corporate approved Rage Against the Machine vibe to this movie - it is never quite as uncompromising as it wants to be, yet subversive enough so that those looking for a commentary on current politics will find one.

But I could go on and on here, what I really want to get to is that this is Hugo Weaving's movie. Weaving own the part of V and thoroughly kicks seven degrees of ass. His line delivery, his expressiveness as V despite being FULLY HIDDEN under mask and cloak the entire movie - simply AWESOME. This is just great work - Oscar worthy work - and it's Weaving as V that lights up the screen and makes this movie as enjoyable as it is.

Natalie Portman is also excellent as V's reluctant disciple Evy. Portman really lays it on the line here. And you know what? Between her and Weaving- their back and forth, their sharp exchanges - for many moments this does really feel like Alan Moore's work. The wordplay, the sheer Britishness of it all, the bombastic imagery - you've gotta love it and appreciate what the filmmakers and actors are accomplishing.

The rest of the cast is great. John Hurt as the resident Big Brother is awesome, as are the collective members of his slimy inner-circle in his totalitarian regime. And the members of the investigative crew on the hunt for the elusive V are great as well - world weary and beginning to question the delicate thread on which their conception of truth hangs.

The look of the movie is great as well. Dark, bleak, stylized. Sure, its overedited in parts, but you can feel the Wachowski's flaie for extreme stylization at work - with a number of images tha mya not serve much of a narrative purpose, but look damn cool anyways (think V toppling a huge V-shaped pattern of dominoes in his lair). V himself looks awesome. The streets of London look appropriately old-world dystopian, and the chilling government chambers evoke the Obsolete Man episode of the Twilight Zone with the jumbo screens and ominous face of the High Chancellor barking commands like a hopped up Hitler.

What keeps this movie from being a classic? It feels rushed. The relationship between V and Evey is too rushed - she goes back and forth between resenting him and devoting herself to him too quickly and frequently. Simialrly, the Inspector's turn from pawn of his government to rebel truth-seeker is too abrupt - there's never that one big aha! moment that forces him to turn away from everything he believes in. Natalie Portman's final description of V - as a brother, a mother, a father, a friend, etc. - hints at plot points that were never quite extrapolated. We're clearly missing SOMETHING here - and once again, it all comes back to the challenge of condensing the free-flowing and complex work of Moore into a 2 hour movie. Likewise, we know that V is a complex man, but the true extent of this complexity is only hinted at. We know we are meant to wonder if he is hero or villain, bt we are never quite given the reasoning behind both sides of the argument.

Still, this movie is so much more than a typical actioner. It is only frustrating in that it could have been legendary but just misses the mark. But as it is, it is merely extremely good, highly enjoyable, and yes, very thought-provoking for what it is. Amazing acting by Weaving and his supporting players, some great action, a great look, a great new world is created and brought to life here. So far, this is probably my favorite new movie of 2006, and it is just reassuring to see one more comic movie that doesn't suck. Not only does it not suck, but it is a fully realized translation of the dark sensibilities of the 1980's modern comic book. In the last few years we've gotten a take on Batman: Year One, Hellboy, Sin City - the mature takes on comic book fantasy of Miller, Mignola, O'Neal. So after numerous screw-jobs, it's about damn time that Hollywood began to catch up with the legendary sensibilities of the best comic book writer ever, Alan Moore.

My grade: A -

Monday, March 13, 2006

24: Vengeance - Thy Name Be Soul Patch!

If this is it, if this is truly it ...

... then let me just lower my eyes, droop down the corner of my mouth to one side, and say one, final, and always, always monotone:


Here's to you, Tony Almeda. You went from being a barely-there side character in the 24-niverse to everyone's favorite soul-patch wielding CTU-bred ass-kicking machine. We were there for you as you slowly courted the lovely Michelle in a fairytale interoffice romance. We were there for you when you were shot in the neck and yet still lived to fight another day and kick even more terrorist ass. We were there when you had to put your wife's interests ahead of those of your country. We were there for you when you fell off the wagon, got ditched by Michelle, and started taking up with underage waifs. We rooted for you upon your glorious return to the field, where you saved Jack's life and made him forever in your debt. We were there when you reunited with Michelle and seemed to walk off into the sunset, mission accomplished. And then this season tragedy struck la casa del Almeda once more, as Michelle fell victim to a terrorist car bombing, and Tony barely survived, slipping into a debilitating coma. We waited and waited for Tony to emerge to wreak unholy havoc on those who would ruin him. And finally he awoke, but as deadly toxins leaked into CTU, the revenge spree was put on hold.

Finally, tonight - Tony vs. the mastermind - Henderson - the man who was behind Michelle's death. Tony goes in for the kill, defying orders as usual. But damn that Robocop - he was playing possum! And the weapon that would be his undoing instead became the possible death-dealer for a true hero, a true warrior, a true wielder of the Soul Patch of Mystical Fury. For in that soul patch is the Spirit of America itself, and as Tony fell, a Nation mourned as its hopes and dreams came crashing to a sudden and terrifying end.

If this is truly the end of Tony Almeda, then this truly is a sad day indeed. But wait! The final 24 countdown did not go silent as is the custom when a a main character passes on, as it did last week when our old pal Edgar met his untimely fate. Could Mr. Almeda once again have defied the odds and cheated death? Could fate have stayed her cruel hand, granting Tony life to fight another day, so that vengeance might yet be his? We can only hope. But if not, if this is the end, then surely, surely - we shall never forget - we shall never forget the day a Soul Patch died.

But yeah ...


- Intensity from start to finish! Literally, people were holding their breath. Man, if I had been in Jack's shoes I'd be a goner for sure.

- "Jack, are you okay?" ... ... ... "No." = Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn!

- Hmm, Vice President is named Hal Gardner. President is Charles Logan. Any other comic geeks out there who see the connection?

- Martial Law, baby! Do it!

- And let us not forget another who passed. Sean Astin, aka Samwise Gamgee, aka Lynn McGill, is no more. While his memory will live on, we bid a fond farewell to Lynn McGill, who though he was abrasive at first with his OCD, controlling ways, soon grew on us all as a man who simply wanted to do right by his country. Though he survived the fiery pits of Mordor, our portly hero could not survive the deadly nerve toxin unleashed upon CTU, and tonight - tonight he made the ultimate sacrifice. While he was only on 24 for a short while, McGill shall not go quietly into that great CTU in the sky. He will go out not as he came in, but as an honorary lietentant in the army of Jack Bauer. And I ask you, loyal reader, in the world of 24, what greater honor is there than that?

- It looks like Kim Bauer is out of the picture for the time being as well. Her return was brief, and mostly uneventful. Needs more cougar traps, says I.

- The Bad: "How did they infiltrate CTU?" Duh! "I'm a clinical psychologist." = LAME.

- But overall, this was great. Epic battles. Some lived, some died, and the mighty JAck was reduced to a quivering, eye-twitching lump of pent-up RAGE. One season 5 stalwart is definitely dead meat, Buckaroo Banzai is still on the loose awaiting a date with the cold hand of desitiny (aka a PISSED OFF Jack), and a Soul Patch's life hangs on the brink of oblivion. To be continued? I'm there. Next week, Prison Break is back, and that's cool, but dammit all, make mine 24. My grade: A

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Pirates Ho! Hear, O ye landlubbers: heed their dev'lish cry: SURRENDER THE BOOTY! Pirates! Sickness! Random Thoughts and More!

Well, this weekend was the big day - the long awaited voyage to the one and only (okay, true, there's another one in Orlando), the dinner-theater phenomena known only as Pirate's Dinner Adventure! Well, a good time was had by all, but it was a miracle I even made it there in the first place. Because Thursday, I got sick. Really bad.

I think it started on Wednesday night, where of all things, it was my laundry that killed me. I should have simply called it a night, as things at work had been taking a toll on me, but no, I insisted that I must have clean clothes for the week ahead. So I did my laundry, but then I had one of those annoying episodes where I lie down for a quick breather, next thing I know I'm fast asleep in my jeans. So I wake up at like 1 am, realizing that my clothes were still lying wet in the laundry room. So I force myself up, put 'em in the dryer, wait for them to be done, and then of course I'm overtired and can't fall back asleep. So I can't really be sure, as I think this is when the fever began to take hold, but I may have gone to work the next day with as little as four or so hours of sleep in me. And oddly, I felt fine in the early morning, and never considered not going to work. But as soon as I got there, oh man, I was fried. I had chills shooting up and down, headache from hell, and thought I might lose my lunch (um, yesterday's lunch), at any moment. Pleasent, I know. So I really tried to tough it out, but by about 1 pm I literally thought I was about to pass out. I drove home and got into bed, and was DONE. I mean, for the next 24 hours, I felt worse than I had in years. I just felt so weak and feverish, I could barely even process rational thought. I was slipping in and out of these weird dreams involving geometrical shapes and some vague notion of being stuck in a multi-dimensional game of Tetris (analyze that one, folks). I mean, wow, I was just done. This purgatory-like state of fever-dreaming and immobility continued until late Friday, when I willed myself out to pick up some essential supplies, including Chicken Soup - my own personal mana from heaven. All the while, I was just hoping and praying that I'd feel better for Saturday and Pirate's.

I basically just did a lot of reading, watched some comfort TV (Step by Step, episode where Dana has to psychoanalyze Cody for school), caught up on a little Resident Evil 4 ... but otherwise I was just out of it, in and out of sleep, confined to my bed. By Saturday morning I looked like a refugee from LOST, unshowered, unshaven, and dazed, like I had just woken up from a two day nightmare. Luckily, my fever had begun to break, and by Saturday evening I was more or less ready to go, thank the heathen Pirate gods. And I guess that the combo of having been confined to bed for two days and being so isolated from all civilization at work lately made me ready and raring to go to set sail for some plundering, pillaging and Pirates. But for those who were with me, don't let whatever energy I had Sat. night fool you - from Thursday morning to Saturday morning ... well, let's just say it was not a very fun time.

But anyways, enough about that unpleasant episode, what about ...


So after much last minute preparation, I downed some chicken soup, some advil, and some Pepsi, and set off with Scott "Sometimes-BlackBeard" Carter, Liz "Wench-In-Training" Liggett, and Brian "Yo (what up?) Ho' " Grabow to CA's own version of Orlando, Florida, where clustered together one finds all manner of over-the-top attractions, from Disneyland to Knott's Berry Farm to Medieval Times, and of course, Pirate's Dinner Adventure. In short, a little, very cheesy, slice of heaven, for those of us who are so inclined. We drove up to the faux Spanish stronghold that was our destination, donned our souvenier bandanas, and then, souvenier goblets in hand, we headed into the galleon for a night of pirates, wenches, buccaneers, a feast worthy of a a Captain, and, and ...


... off-broadway musical-style song and dance numbers? Yep, Pirate's Dinner Adventure has it's share of duels, fistfights, and feats of skill, but the bulk of it is guys in unbuttoned shirts singing kid-friendly songs, the most memorable of which was the not-quite-original campfire classic : "What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?" -- yep, this was "Camelot" with pirates, as produced by Cinemax, music composed by Raffi. Basically, as we enjoyed our Pirate's Feast, our gang of scurvy sea-dogs laughed and rooted for our section's own Pirate of choice, the Blue Pirate Benjamin, who was quite prominent whenever there was singing or music-making to be had, but clung to the shadows whenever there was violence afoot. Of course, our section got the wussiest pirate ever, with about the worst pirate name ever -- Benjamin ... yeah, that one's gonna inspire fear in the locals when the ship comes a-pillagin'. "Oh my god everyone, run away, BENJAMIN is here! And he's brought his dastardly friends, ROBERT and MILTON!" Actually, it turned out that our section's own Benjamin was like the hero of the whole big Pirate musical-shindig (not that any of had any real clue what was going on), and by the end of the thing I'll admit that he kicked his share of ass, fake stage-fightin' style. Still, he looked like some guy who was like an extra in Cats and then did this when that show eneded it's run, or something.

Still, we had an excellent time, and even if we had no friggin' idea what was going in in the "story" most of the time, we still yelled and cheered and made merry (whatever that means). My impression is that this was a lot more fruity than Medieval Times, and also more kid-friendly (mostly just because kids were included in many of the "interactive" portions of the show). I mean, at Medieval Times you can tell that it's actually pretty hardcore in terms of being all about reflecting actual medieval times. Here, they kinda played fast and loose with the whole pirate thing (ie, Pirates making reference to Mr. Roboto, playing, of all things, YMCA to end the show ... weird, I know). While Medieval featured authentic medieval weapons, jousting, lack of eating utensils, etc, Pirates didn't quite have the same commitment to authenticity (and yet, both venues inexplicably become makeshift all-ages dance clubs after the main show is done ...).

Anyways, I came away convinced that not only is the opportunity ripe to tune up Pirates to make it an even more (pirate) booty-licious experience, but there is nearly unlimited potential to open up other themed dining adventures. Picture it: Homer's Greek Dinner Odyssey - a truly epic experience. The Haunted Mansion Mystery Dinner - where the ghouls are dying to serve you. Super-Awesome-Shoryuken Ninja Dinner X-Perience. Outer Space Outpost. Samurai Sizzler. Rainforest Cafe, dammit all. Oh, wait ...

Oh, one more thing, as I mentally prepared myself in the morning for the Pirate experience, I listened to such classic songs of the sea as "A Pirate's Life For Me," And "Friggin' In The Riggin," (on second thought, not quite sure WHAT that one's about ...). But anyways, I was dying to walk into Pirate's and hear some classic, epic pirate music that would put me in the mood for plunderin' and privateering. But no, the music of choice sounded like a wannabe version of Rent, sung by Pirates. Highly questionable.

In any case, like I said - great time was had by all. I was definitely happy that I was there for a much-needed escape. From the crazy, quasi-interactive "challenges", to the hearty meal - we came, we saw, we walked the plank - and a true pirate adventure was had by wench and buccaneer alike. Yo ho!


On another note, I really enjoyed the Lakers vs. Sonics game today on ABC, but it reminded me of so many things that are wrong with the NBA today. Unfortunately, these aren't things that can be easily fixed. But there is just such a marked difference between today, when the NBA's best and brightest are wallowing in the shadow of underperforming teams, as opposed to the glory years when the Best fought the Best on the biggest stage of all. Take Ray Allen for example - unquestionably one of the best talents in the NBA today. He makes everything look easy, and he's a classic shooter on par with the greats like Bird and Miller. And yet he's stuck on a Seattle franchise that is absolutely going nowhere with its current roster. Now, you might argue that Allen should be able to elevate his team to greatness, as others like Jordan and Miller did. But let's be realistic - Michael Jordan played on some incredibly well-rounded teams, and whenever he was successful in the playoffs he had a near all-star cast around him, whether it was Pippen, Kukoc, or great supporting players like BJ Armstrong or John Paxson who were true winners. Now you have great players like Ray Allen, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, and more playing on crappy teams that keep them out of the spotlight. And even some of the big superstars like Kobe, Lebron, and Tracy McGrady are fighting simply to make the playoffs and make any sort of championship push. And yet, perpetually good yet consistently boring teams like the Spurs and Pistons continue to utterly dominate the league. Who else wishes that the big stars were once again on the big teams? The league is now so watered down that the people who should be the next breakout talents are wasting away in obscurity. Back in the day you had one or two amazing players, like say Dominique Wilkins, who never quite got the spotlight that their talent deserved. Now, popularity is by necessity not equated with winning, as all of the most charismatic, exciting players seem to be lagging in their careers. The NBA needs to eliminate some teams and distribute its talent a bit better, because we as NBA fans can only take so many more San Antonio vs. Detroit matchups before we say forgettaboutit.

Rant Over.

Quick TV Reviews:

Not much in the way of new stuff lately. Veronica Mars finally returns this week, and the countdown to Prisonbreak Season 1.5 is on. But for now ...

Sons and Daughters: Whoah, what happened? I'm not sure what's up here, but I found the pilot to Sons and Daughters hilarious when I saw it this past summer at NBC's LA Screenings. I believe it was reshot since then, but in any case, this past week I found the hour-long premiere of this much-anticipated show to be just, well, pretty boring. I had a memory of a pilot that was like Step By Step meets Arrested Development, with a host of hilarious one-liners and smart, improvisational humor. Well, that memory was mostly overwritten by the reality of a show that was like one really long SNL sketch that was never that funny in the first place. I found a lot of the characters unlikable this second time around, and just didn't quite get it. Weird, I have no idea what happened. I'll probably give this another try just to see what's up, but I have to say the while the show is worth checking out, it's going to need a lot more work than I thought to develop into something special. My grade: C

OC: You know what? I didn't watch or even record the new episode of the OC for the first time in a while, and I have to say that I don't really regret it. This show is just plain sad lately.

The Simpsons: And we have 2 very good episodes in a row! A fun story structure and a clever plot made for an entertaining episode. The story-within a story-within a story thing was a cool gimmick that actually tied together pretty well, and there was some pretty good humor in there too, though not much really side-splittlingly funny or anything. The last two weeks have felt more like vintage Simpsons episodes than anything they've done in a while. My grade: B+

Family Guy: Oh man, whatever was in the air tonight, I was rolling in laughter at tonight's episode. The plot was almost an afterthought here (Quagmire gets married!), but the cutaways and the Stewie subplot consistently cracked me up. I loved the spaceship rollercoaster cutaway. Peter on Wheel of Fortune was hilarious, and there was lots of other really funny stuff, including a very funny dig at NBC and Joey, courtesy of Adam Corrolla as Death. My grade: A -

Conan O'Brien Goes to Finland: While this wasn't as laugh out loud funny as I had anticipated, I wstill would easily call it a GREAT show. It was funny, interesting, smart - all things you'd expect from the king of Late Night. But hey, you know what? It was actually a very cool, almost heartwarming hour of TV that left the viewer with good vibes and a feeling that Americans can actually still go to other countries and spread goodwill rather than negativity. But yeah, many portions of this special were pretty hilarious, in that crazy, Mad Magazine meets Harvard Lampoon way that only Conan can really tap into. Fagerstrom = hilarious! Conan's reindeer dance was gold, and his phone conversation with a random friend's estranged best friend was both hilarious and a nice moment. Conan on various Finnish TV shows was just awesome, the best being the weirdo 80's new-wave-looking guy and the two evil kids who asked questiosn like "in America, does one have to be a funny-looking old man to have his own talk show?" Bwahaha - good stuff. Conan rocks, and this is why. One of those eps where I'm proud to say that I worked for the guy. My grade: A


- One and only one good thing about staying home sick - I remembered how enjoyable it is to actually sit down and read for more than a few minutes before going to sleep.

- Next week: Has it been a year already? I guess so, as me and my fellow geeks now privy to Page alumni status once again go to Wizard World LA! Can't wait. Will Kevin Smith once again regale us with his perverse tales of he and his hetrosexual lifemate Jason Mewes? Will we once again behold exclusive trailers to much-anticipated movies? Will we once again run off with armfuls of free schwag and overly expensive signed goods? I hope so! Plus, it promises to be the geek weekend from heaven as V FOR VENDETTA finally comes out! Remember, remember, the 5th of November. Okay, so now it's mid-march, but who's counting? Bring it!

- Post-Aerosmith II, I am now in search of the next big concert event. Suggestions? On my list of still-performing bands that I must see but never have: AC/DC, Metallica, Rush, Def Leppard, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, White Stripes, The Darkness, The Donnas, The Offspring, Alice Cooper, and, hmm ... lots more.

- I finally made the plunge and got a digital camera. I have to say I still don't like digital photos - they are just way too ... digital. Who wants to see someone's every pore when looking at a photo? Not me. That being said, I've been playing around with my new camera a lot and trying to figure out how to get the best usage from it ... I do love new toys. Om the downside, my pics from Pirate's, my inaugural digital-camera-equipped event, came out pretty poorly. Not sure why, but an investigation is underway. Also, I think that this may be a revelation: you don't want your picture taken by someone too much shorter than you - makes for bad angles, ya know?

- At work I've had a chance to listen to The Ricky Gervais Show podcasts, and yes, they are amazing and hilarious. Where else can you hear a bunch of mad Brits debating the merits of everything from Time Travel to animals' intellects to dating? Seriously, listen to these 12 radio shows - they are yet more comedic brilliance from Ricky Gervais and friends.

- Last week I wsa doign some clothes shopping and accidentally bought a pair of those Levis jeans with no zipper but just like three buttons for the fly. Okay, I know I may be a little late to the party in asking this, but who in the blue hell wants this type of jean? Give me a good old fashioned zipper fly any day of the week.

- I think the lesson learned from my potentially laundry-induced bout of super-flu this weekend is: laundry is evil. A necessary evil, yes, but one of life's evils nonetheless.

- I went to Wendy's today for the first time in a long time. Ideally, in a perfect world, such amazingly tasty items as Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwiches would be fat free and nutritious, but alas, they are basically insta-heart attacks, and thus most trips to Wendys nowadays leave me disappointed and torn because all I really want from there is a Spicy Chicken Sandwich. So I go to Wendys today on a whim, determined not to order anything unless I could be reasonably health-concious about it. And lo and behold, I am probably like the last person to hop on the bandwagon, but Wendys is now a virtual mecca of healthiness. I had a quite satisfactory grilled chicken combo, that included a side salad rather than fries. And the menu included things like mandarin oranges and a bunch of other healthy crap. So sure, I threw in a small Frostie for good measure, but overall I was quite happy that my trip to Wendys yielded a meal both reasonably healthy and reasonably delicious.

- Flashbacks to a long-past and disasterous childhood trip to the now-infamous IHOP ( I think it was) in Cape Cod, MA, when today I thought that I happened to be in the same Target as Liz, when in fact we were in separate Targets. I knew something was off when, on the phone, we both claimed to be standing in front of Customer Service, and yet neither of us could see the other. And hilarity ensued ...

- Oh yeah I saw that new shoe Losin' It on FOX tonight also. Kinda funny, but just too all over the place and the side characters weren't really that endearing. It felt like a bunch of forty year old guys were trying unsuccesfully to write about life for current young post college kids, and the best friend was like out of some bad 80's sitcom, mullet and all. Has some potential though. My grade: B-

- How badly do I wish that more people would move into the empty 7th floor where I work. At this point I'll take anyone. Well, almost anyone ...

- 24 Tommorow! Who will die? Tony or Audrey? Intensity! Jack! Robocop! Gravitas!

- Alright, that's all for tonight. I've given you all I have, people! And what do you give back? 8,000 + hits and counting baby. Sure, that's miniscule compared to the Googles and Myspaces of the world, but who else from Bloomfield CT has this many hits? Huh? Yeah, that's what I thought.

-So goodnight Pirates and Wenches! Surrender your booty, board the ship, and set sail for the spot marked by an X, because there, treasure there be!

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Oscar Results and Other Assorted Randomness

Okay, just a quick post here to see how I did in my Oscar picks ...

Turns out I was ...

13 for 17 -- not too bad if I do say so myself. The only major categories I was wrong in were Best Picture (along eith everyone else), as Crash had the big upset, and best Supporting Actor, as Clooney took it rather than my predicted winner, Matt Dillon, or my pick for best, William Hurt. Like I said, Clooney was pretty good in Syriana, but was basically playing an everyman role that was fairly two-dimensional, so I don't quite get the acclaim for the role. As for Crash, still need to see it to judge for myself, but hey, it's great for NBC, as writer/director Paul Haggis' next project is Black Donnelly's, a gangster TV drama coming soon to the Peacock.


- Funny Malcolm in te Middle tonight

- taped SNL - it had a few decent sketches (my faves were the Jamba Juice sketch and the always amusing Wake Up Wakefield), the digital short was ok but no Lazy Sunday, and Fallout Boy was pretty sweet. But as usual many of the sketches went on with the same joke for waaaaaaaay too long, and also as usual the old satirical edge is just lacking in many areas (the opening political sketch was awful). There are bright spots, but SNL has a long way to go to climb out of its current rut.

- mention Aquaman in my blog and suddenly the hits skyrocket! So ... Aquaman! Actually, here's a little tidbit for you fanboys out there - I am the lucky owner of a copy of the Aquaman tv pilot for WB. Actually haven't read it yet but I am definitely curious to see how Smallville creators Gough and Miller tackled this whale of a project. Bwahahaha.

- Damn, my cellphone sucks. Today it totally went crazy on me and kept asking for my credit card info whenever I tried to make a call. Finally got it to work again, but sorry if you called and I never got your message. I'm holding out a few weeks on getting a new one though since I will then be eligible for a free new phone from Verizon.

- Oh man, I saw NIGHTWATCH this weekend. Yep, the imported Russian vampire movie that is touted as part one of a three-part epic! Holy lord, whoever made this movie was on serious crack, and I would almost consider taking up hardcore drugs in preparation for parts 2 and 3. Because wow, this was the most messed up, ridiculous movie I've seen in a long while. Just totally out there, incomprehensible, and completely baffling. Entertainment Weekly gave this an F, and I think that I give it a G - basically it inhabits that crazy space where it is so awful, that, in it's own way, this movie is actually amazing. I'll have to talk more about it later, but if you want to see the trippiest, weirdest movie (when's the last time you saw a movie subtitled from RUSSIAN?!?!) about somehting having to do with vampires, shapeshifters, a vortex, "The Gloom,", and a lead villain who rips out his own spine and uses it as a sword~!, then run down to the theater and watch Nightwatch -- a movie that only a total freak could legitimately love, but one that everyone else will view with a mix of amazement, frustration, and multiple exclamations of "What. The. Hell?" So yeah, bring on chapters two and three.

- Another week of work. Already. Sonova. But, at least I have something awesome to look forward to this upcoming weekend -- PIRATE ADVENTURE, BABY.

- Well, while I'm preoccupied with thoughts of swashbuckling buccaneers, wily wenches, and hearty hook-handed Captains with parrots, eye-patches, and constant calls of "ARRRGH!", I shall end this entry and retreat to dreams of pirates, black frieghters, treasure-filled islands, and simpler, adventure-filled days.

Until next time ...

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Oscar Picks and Random Geekiness

Ah, finally some time to wind down after a week and a half that was pure craziness. Not to say it was a bad week or anything, quite the oppossite. Just that after seeing Aerosmith, entertaining my parents for the next four days, then starting a new job the following Monday, there's barely been a second to stop and take it all in.

Otherwise, had a nice Friday night and finally got to sleep (and sleep, and sleep ...) today. Now, like I have said, I am not really feeling this year's Oscars. It is one of those years where it looks like one movie (Brokeback Mountain) is poised to sweep many of the major categories. But unlike the last time this happened, with Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, I have yet to even see Brokeback, and it's not a movie that I am particularly rooting for, unlike LOTR, where it was a huge statement that a genre movie could be as good as any other and as deserving of critical acclaim.

Also, of the movies I did see this year, many of my favorites are only minimally recognized. A History of Violence got shafted with only a few nominations, and Viggo Mortensen definitely should have been in the best actor race and David Cronenberg in the mix for best director. Munich is nominated but seems to have little chance of winning. Otherwise, I unfortunately have not had the chance to catch up on a few heavily nominated movies like Good Night and Good Luck, Crash, and Capote.

So without any further ado:

Best Picture:

Will Win: Brokeback Mountain - too much buzz, seems inevitable

My Pick: Munich - A powerful, relevant film that is Spielberg's overall best in years - I don't understand why there is so little buzz? And anyone (ie Ann Coulter) who decides to call this movie antisemetic is on crack.


Will Win: Philp Seymour Hoffman - also too much buzz, and seemingly well-deserved

My Pick: Terence Howard - Hustle and Flow was an amazing movie, and Howard carried it, through and through. Sure, we've seen the basic story before, but Howard injected his character with multiple dimensions, making his scenes pack a huge emotional punch. Jouaquin was also great in Walk the Line, but his performance was a little bit caricaturish in retrospect.


Will Win: Reese Witherspoon - there IS room for an upset here (possibly Felicity Huffman), but otherwie Reese is the biggest name in the highest profile movie, and she did do a great job as Jun Carter in Walk the Line - easily her best movie performance yet, so although I haven't seen any of the other nominated actress' movies, by default and by choice ...

My Pick: Reese Witherspoon

Supporting Actor:

Will Win: Matt Dillon - Crash will get a few bones thrown its way, and I think this will be one of them, although Clooney seems to have some buzz, why I'm not sure since he was decent but not great in Syriana (Where's MICKEY ROURKE for Sin City?), and yet ...

My Pick: William Hurt - although his scenes in A Histoy of Violence were brief, Hurt absolutely lit up the screen and stole the movie. I think people have stood up and taken notice of this kickass performance, so he IS a dark horse to win, though his limited screen time will be a factor

Supporting Actress:

Will Win: Rachel Weisz - Okay, I admit I haven't seen any of the movies with actresses nominated in this caregory, though I have a screener copy of A Constant Gardner I've been meaning to watch. Still, I feel a buzz for Weisz (maybe those rumors of her as Talia Al Ghul in Batman II have something to do with it?) and think she'll win ...

My pick: Rachel Weisz - Since I haven't actually seen these movies, see above


Will Win: Ang Lee - Look, I am a huge Ang Lee fan - loved Crouching Tiger, loved The Ice Storm ... (I even liked The Hulk!), and his direction is one of the reasons why I was initially interested in seeing Brokeback before it became Jay Leno's favorite punchline. So if he wins, I'm sure it will be deservedly so.

My Pick: Steven Spielberg - I gotta say, in my mind this was the year of Spielberg, with two amazingly directed movies in War of the Worlds and Munich. Munich was, really, a directing clinic as far as I can see. Locations that made you feel like you were there, amazing cuts, huge emotional impact and a tense dramatic pacing. Old school directing, awesome impact ... I say don't ignore the obvious, and pay Spielberg his due respect. But like someone said (Harry Knowles maybe?), this movie is probably too good for the Oscars.

Foreign Film:

- didn't see any of these, but from the buzz I hear my pick is Tsotsi.

Adapted Screenplay:

Will Win: Munich - this is actually a tough category to pick, and I think anyone could win it. Brokeback is just from a short story so it will have a hard time winning. Capote seems like a possible favorite, but Tony Kushner's name-value and respect-factor should hopefully earn him a trophy.

My pick: Munich - Well my sentimental fav is A History of Violence since it's adapted from a graphic novel, but I gotta say that Tony Kushner's script for Munich was ridiculously good. More sophisticated than your average movie and light years ahead of your average thriller, the dialogue, plotting , and characters of Munich were all amazingly written.

Original Screenplay:

Will Win: Crash - remember how I said some bones will be thrown to Crash? Well this is the other one. Paul Haggis is a rising star and I think that even though the movie has gotten somewaht mixed reviews, it's screenplay wil lcome away with an Oscar.

My Pick: Good Night and Good Luck - okay, I realize it's kind of pointless to pick a movie I have not yet seen, but let me put it this way - I've heard nothing but good things about this movie, and I am eager to finally see it. On the other hand, I HAVE seen Match Point and Syriana. Syrian had a meandering and textbook like script, and Match Point was very good, but not quite great. Oh yeah, would really like to check out Squid and the Whale too, but for now I'm goin' with Good Night and Good Luck.

Animated Film:

Will Win: Wallace and Grommet

My Pick: Howl's Moving Castle - Only seen Corpse Bride, which had amazing animation but didn't live up to the greatness of Nightmare Before Christmas. Have yet to see Howl's Moving Castle, though I do like Miyazaki, however this probably is not his year. Why is it my pick? Because let's hear it for TRADITIONAL 2-D ANIMATION, which NEEDS to make a comeback ... now!

Art Direction:

Will Win: Memoirs of a Geisha - Oscar loves period pieces

My Pick: King Kong - some of the best CGI ever used to animate Kong and the creatures of Skull Island


Will Win: Brokeback Mountain - the year of Brokeback continues

Should Win: Good Night and Good Luck - Well, Batman is nominated, but truth be told I wasn't even crazy about some of the cinematography in that movie (fight scenes cut WAY too jumpily). Gotta go with Clooney and co. for their use of stock news footage integrated into the new stuff. Where's SIN CITY here?!?!

Original Score:

Will Win: Brokeback Mountain - come on, that themsong is everywhere

My Pick: Brokeback Mountain - Aw hell, any song that can make BROKEBACK TO THE FUTURE so funny deserves to win. Oh, and where in the name of Obi-Wan is STAR WARS here? Two words: John Friggin' Williams!

Original Song:

Will Win: Hustle and Flow - It's HARD OUT HERE FOR A PIMP!

My pick: Hustle and Flow - WHOOP THAT TRICK! WHOOP THAT TRICK!

Costume Design:

Will Win: Memoirs of a Geisha - Like I said ...

My Pick: Memoirs of a Geisha - Turning Japanese oh yes I'm turning Japanese I really think so!


Will Win: March of the Penguins: Who doesn't love penguins?

My Pick: March of the Penguins: Yes, even I love those darn penguins. But, um, where the bleep is GRIZZLY MAN?!?!


Will Win: Star Wars Episode III - Come on, we gotta give SOMETHING to Star Wars! And Narnia was good, but the makeup? Well, Mr. Tumnus couldda done a bit better ...

My Pick: Star Wars, baby! Come on, the makeup for THE EMPEROR was awesome!

Visual Effects:

Will Win: King Kong - come on, give something to the GIANT GORILA already! Kong had amazing f/x, and it will be honored for 'em.

My Pick: KONG, duh. Why? One word: Kong vs. T-Rex = crazy delicious.

Alright, there's my picks. Oh, and these are really insider, just so you know. Just kidding, they are grasroots legit, dude. Whatever that means. But come Oscar time you can be assured of one thing - a really boring-ass, five hour show! Yes, even if John Stewart is hosting.

OKAY ...

Time for some comic geek indulgences, so the rest of you can switch back to reading now or whatever.


Well this was a huge week for the DC Comics nerds among us, as Infinite Crisis 5 was finally released and all DC Comics jumped ahead "one year later." So in almost every mainstream DC book released this week, things had changed, there were new creative teams, and suddenly everything is a year later. Craziness I tell ya. How were the comics?

Infinite Crisis 5: Once again, business is picking up and things are going full steam ahead, but I still feel like writer Geoff Johns is having trouble pulling all of the various subplots together into one cohesive epic. There seems to be a lot of random chaos without much rhyme or reason behind it except as a way of giving lots of characters face time and creating a sense that we really are in the midst of a crisis, even though what exactly that crisis is still seems kinda loosely defined and shakily tied together. But, this is bar none THE most jaw dropping read right now, as for one, the artwork is absoultely stunning, ridiculously detailed, and totally EPIC. Phil Jiminez is outdoing himself here. Unfortunately all that crazy art is requiring various fill-in artists to lend a hand, and this month comics legend Jerry Ordway steps in. Now some "legends" inevitably disapooint as they get into their later years - their work becomes loose, shaky, a shadow of that artist's former greatness. But Jerry Ordway comes in here and lives up to his legend, drawing classically styled Superman vs. Superman scenes that positively rock! And of course Jiminez delivers with more than a few memorable scenes of his own - Nightwing in Bludhaven, Booster and Beetle in the Batcave, Superboy Prime bursting through back into our reality. Damn that art is amazing. Now what Geoff Johns does do right is the big moments and the classic, iconic dialogue. "A perfect world wouldn't need a Superman." = yet another insta-classic line of dialogue from Johns in this series. Minor complaints: church scene = kinda lame. Ditto all the parallel earths floating in the sky - wouldn't this cause some kind of crazy gravitiational mess? And um, what exactly is Alex Luthor's big plan again? Anyways, lots of fun and exciting stuff going on here, I just hope everything comes together nicely in the last two installments. My grade: B +

Detective Comics: One Year Later - wow! Now this is Batman! James Robinson has been one of my favorite writers since I read his classic work The Golden Age, and he comes in and lends a touch of class and a classical mentality to part one of an eight part story, as the Batman mytos jump forward by one year. A number of great moments scattered throughout, the return of a number of much-missed supporting characters (Gordon! Bullock! Ivy! Dent!), and most of all - a return to a Batman who is a dark and grim hero, but NOT a through and through asshole as he's been portrayed in recent years. Kudos to Robinson, and great art by Leonard Kirk. My grade: A

Outsiders: One Year Later: ugh! Judd Winnick, former Real World Cast member and current go-to DC writer, is often wildly inconsistent and very annoying in his preachy writing and lame characterizations. Here we get both, and though longtime characters like Nightwing should feel familiar, here they just feel .. wrong. My grade: C

JSA: One Year Later - Paul Levitz, current DC head honcho, is a legend for his 1970's work on the Legion. But he hasn't written in years, and it shows on his latest JSA, which has a simplistic, dated feel that actually reads like it was written sometime in the 70's. Nice art by Identity Crisis' Rags Morales, and it' nice to see that the JSA has been largely un-messed with One Year Later, but this issue really made me hope that regular writer Geoff Johns returns ASAP. My grade:

Blood of the Demon: One Year Later: This overlooked gem is a great little horror comic, with spectacular artwork by comics legend John Bryne. Now many people, myself include, are wary of Bryne these days, as his writing and art over say, the last decade or so, has been, to put it mildly, pretty bad. His writing has become bland and uninspired, and his art has become loose, sketchy, and inconsistent. But wait, here, Bryne seems to be really having fun for the first time in years. His art is reinvigorated, and to put it simply, it is beautiful. And his writing is old school and over the top, sure, but in a horror comic like this, it actually works really well. Plus, the scripting is actually by rising star Will Pfeifer, so the dialogue is sharp and funny and engrossing. Most of all, this is a damn fun comic that is just totally over the top, ultra-violent, and a throwback to the kind of stuff that they just don't make anymore. The One Year Later story is actually a lot of fun as well. So for those who have given up on John Bryne, take a look at the Demon. My grade: A -

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis: One Year Later - yes, I said Aquaman. Look, I admit that Aquaman is goofy as hell, but look at who is making this comic! It's written by one of the great writers working today, Kurt Busiek, and drawn by Butch Guice, who is one of the premiere talents out there right now. So here we have a totally new take on Aquaman - a kind of underwater sword and sorcery epic that sees a new lead character (who he is part of the big mystery), thrown into an epic quest aided by a guy with tentacles for a beard and a huge beast who is a walking, talking shark! While the overly vague and mysterious opening was a little frustrating, it should be fun to see it all unraveled in future issues. Pretty damn cool, and thanks to the tight writing by Busiek and the spectacular art by one of my favorites, Guice, I am willing to see where this is going and not write it off as yet another attempt to revitalize a hopelessly silly character. Yes, they did it - they made Aquaman cool. Well, at least for now. My grade: B+

And yes, by reviewing an issue of an Aquaman comic book I have now sunk to the ninth circle of nerdiness, and I must sign off before I start reviewing unopened Battlestar Galactica action figures or give my two cents on the greatest Green Lanterns ever.

Alright, peace out, and enjoy the Oscars (hmm, I wonder if The Simpsons is a repeat?)