"You're not dying... you just can't think of anything better to do."
— Ferris Bueller, Ferris Bueller's Day Off
I've had cheese pizza for dinner three times in the past week. It's not that I'm particularly craving cheese pizza, I just can't think of anything better to eat. Well, I can, but flying to Amsterdam for a cheese sandwich or jetting off to Rome for Fettucine Alfredo seems a bit excessive. Oh well, pizza and bullets it is then. Welcome to a Very Special NEW YEAR Edition of Bullet Sunday!
• NEW CHANNELS! I relented and purchased an expanded cable television package because my sister got me hooked on The Big C which you can only get on the Showtime Channel. Unfortunately, The Big C was just the beginning. Now I'm hooked on Dexter again... PLUS Boardwalk Empire on HBO. What an amazing show that is. I've always liked Steve Buscemi's acting, but damn...
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The other actors in Boardwalk Empire are great too ( ZOMG! Erik Weiner?)... along with the writing, the directing, the production values, and everything else associated with the show. I guess with Martin Scorsese involved I shouldn't be surprised, but damn...
• NEW HOTNESS! Well, okay, Summer Glau is not exactly "new," having appeared as "River Tam" in fan-favorite Joss Whedon awesomeness Firefly. And then she did a smattering of guest appearances in television shows meant to appeal to a sci-fi geek's wet dreams, including The 4400 and Dollhouse... along with playing a FRICKIN' TERMINATOR in the sweet Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles...
And now she's moving into comic book geek territory by taking a role on The Cape, a super-hero series debuting on the 9th...
I can only guess that her next role will be as Wonder Woman, because that's about the only thing in the genre left for her to play! Hopefully her new show will be worth a crap, and not some lame knock-off of a lame show like Heroes.
• NEW AWESOME! As a huge, huge fan of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, the movie I am most looking forward to this year is... PAUL! The movie looks entertaining as hell and, since it's Frost & Pegg, you know it's going to be funny. AND THE CAST! It's got Kristin Wigg, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, AND SIGOURNEY WEAVER IN IT! I can't for the life of me understand why the buzz on this film isn't bigger than it is...
• NEW SHIT? Last year Steve Ballmer took the stage of the annual Consumer Electronics Show to show off Microsoft's revolutionary new tablet version of Windows 7 to be released on an upcoming "slate" hardware device.
THIS year Steve Ballmer will be taking the stage of the annual Consumer Electronics Show to show off Microsoft's revolutionary new tablet version of Windows 7 to be released on an upcoming "tablet" hardware device.
See, "slate" was the old shit. "Slates" ended up sucking ass and nobody bought them because "slates" don't have the power necessary to run a resource-sucking pile of shit like Windows. But then Apple unveiled the "iPad" which everybody made fun of because it sounded like "maxi pad" (or whatever). Everybody in the industry also made fun of iPad because it wasn't a "real" computer at all but just a "big phone that can't make calls" or perhaps a "grossly underpowered computer that can't do anything."
But then Apple had the last laugh (as usual) because iPad went on to sell a bajillion units.
So now Microsoft is recycling the same fucked-up bullshit that nobody wanted the first time around and pretending it's new because apparently, thanks to Apple, everybody came to their senses and decided they want a tablet computer all along. Microsoft was just ahead of its time last year, and THIS year will be totally different!
Except that's not what happened at all. People didn't all of a sudden embrace tablet computer... they embraced the iPad which, as everybody in the industry was so quick to point out, IS NOT A COMPUTER. Sure it has some computer functionality, but it's more an "appliance" that becomes different electronic devices as opposed to a traditional computer. The fact that it's NOT A COMPUTER is what makes it so compelling. People who need a computer aren't going to be satisfied with a stripped down, crippled, slow tablet device. It's people who are looking for something simple and functional who are the iPad's target customer, and Apple understood this.
Microsoft (as usual) is playing catch-up and doing it all wrong. Again. I'm sure after the "tablet" fails just like the "slate" failed, Balmer will be standing on the stage in 2012 with the "new" Microsoft "pad" device running the tablet edition of Windows 7 because THAT'S what the problem was... it was the NAME that sabotaged the previous two attempts!
That same name that everybody made fun of when Apple unleashed it last year.
Oh how I loathe Microsoft. They have access to unlimited money and unlimited technology, but there's nobody there with any kind of vision to make any use of it. I'M STILL WAITING FOR MY FLYING CAR, STEVE BALMER, YOU DEMENTED FOOL!!
• NEW OUTLOOK! I promise myself that I will be 50% less critical of Microsoft this year, because I know everybody it tired of
That will be really fucking easy to do, because this year Microsoft will be 50% less relevant to the computer industry, the mobile phone industry, and the electronic industry in general, just like they were last year (KIN PHONES FOR EVERYBODY!).
The only place Microsoft is holding any ground is with their Xbox 360 video game console. You know, their SIX YEAR OLD ENTERTAINMENT TECHNOLOGY?!? Of course, six years in electronics years is like SIXTY years in human years, so heaven only knows how long that gravy train is going to last. Hopefully they've got an
Of course, it's not inconceivable that Apple won't come out with iPlay (or whatever) and swipe the gaming market as well. Thanks to iPod Touch, iPhone, and now iPad, they've pretty much sewn up the portable gaming market already. What's one more area of global domination to Steve Jobs?
• NEW INSIGHT! Well, not really. Despite Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back being two of my most favorite movies of all time, I found the "prequels" to be massive piles of shit. Not only were they boring as hell, but they barely made any sense. When I initially wrote my thoughts on Revenge of the Sith after it was released, I ranked it as "okay" even though I fully admitted it sucked. Probably because compared to The Phantom Mencace and Attack of the Clones it was utter genius. I was so desperate to like Star Wars again that ranking it "okay" was more of a cry for help than any acknowledgement of cinematic greatness...
This got me roundly despised by many of my fellow Star Wars fans who thought Revenge of the Sith was the best thing ever. Not that I can blame them... if you've been eating nothing but vomit and fond memories for decades, a plate of moldy bread is going to feel like dinner at the Ritz.
Now that time has passed, perspective has only managed to take the bloom off the rose. Or, in the case of Mr. Plinkett, to shred the rose into pieces, cover it in raw sewage, then fart on it as you toss it into a nuclear explosion. His biting, scathing analysis is horrifyingly accurate. He not only addresses all the problems I had with the film* but expands upon them with some insight I hadn't considered.
If you're okay with lots of profanity and a shocking lack of taste and morals masquerading as a movie review, then this is something you must see.
And there you have it. The first Bullet Sunday of a new year. Let's hope I survive the week to do a second one.
*Well, one thing he DOESN'T address is the bullshit about "midichlorian count" being an indicator as to how powerful somebody is with The Force. If a massive number of midichlorians determines your strength, how can Darth Vader be so fucking powerful when he lost both legs and both arms? That's an ass-load of midichlorians to lose. And can somebody who has low midichlorians inject a bunch of them and instantly become a Jed Master? ARRRGH! Like everything else in the prequels, this shit doesn't make any fucking sense!
Blargh. Two days of travel have left me more dead than usual. On to the bullets while I still have a will to live...
• TequilaCon. Unfortunately, there will be no TequilaCon event in 2011. In previous years, we've been extremely fortunate that the stars have aligned and everything has come together to make for an awesome event... but it just isn't happening this year for one reason or another. So rather than forcing together something mediocre, calling it "TequilaCon," and leaving people disappointed, we've decided to take a pass this year. The last thing anybody wants is to go to the time and expense of attending TequilaCon only to have it not live up to the high expectations set by previous years. As for the future... who can say? So long as there is tequila somewhere out there in the world, the possibility for a new TequilaCon will always be there. In the meanwhile... thanks for all your support. May your limes be juicy and your salt be salty until next we meet. Jenny, Brandon, Dave2, Vahid, and Mr. Tequila...
• Mayo. One of these days I'm bringing an extra suitcase with me so that I can pack it full of creamy delicious Dutch mayonnaise. I would have tried to smuggle a jar back this trip, but US Customs are real tight-asses when it comes to bringing superior food products into the country. The bastards.
Please note that I was NOT the person who opened the jar of mayo on the right, ate a few spoonfuls, then put the jar back on the shelf. Not that I could blame this person, but it wasn't me.
• Seriousness. But in all seriousness, who the fuck would open a jar of mayo in a grocery store, eat some of it, then put it back? If I looked, would there be slices of bread, cheese, and ham missing too? Did somebody make a fucking sandwich at the store? What the hell?
• Honestly. I mean, truly... honestly... what the bloody fuck? Did somebody obsessed with the creamy deliciousness of Dutch mayo realize that smuggling an entire jar was impossible... but smuggling a handful down their pants might work?
• Obsessive. Okay. Okay. Okay. I'm honestly not getting all obsessive over this, but these are the things that keep me awake at night, people. WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT MAYO?
• Foreigner. This morning as I was waiting to board my flight home, I made my way to some website where a video was available. After clicking on the video, I got an error message saying "I'm sorry this video is not available in your country." This left me dumbfounded and more than a little pissed off. I don't think that people should get to put videos on the internet unless the entire internet is allowed to look at them.
• Easy. One of the many movies I watched on my way home was Emma Stone in Easy A. It wasn't that this was a film I was dying to see, but it was one of the last things available that I hadn't already seen at least twice. Much to my shock and horror, I actually enjoyed this movie. It unapologetically borrows from a lot of those great 80's flicks like Sixteen Candies, Pretty in Pink, Say Anything, and the like. And does so pretty well. It always shocks me that quality films of any genre end up being made in this day and age... but for something in the teen angst/romance genre that doesn't completely suck? Miraculous.
Olive Penderghast is a forgettable nobody high school student who decides to embrace her newfound infamy as "school harlot" once a false rumor about her losing her virginity spreads throughout the school. Hilarity ensues. Not only is Emma Stone flawless as the witty and lethally unflappable lead, but they somehow managed to assemble a genius cast including Stanley Tucci, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Malcolm McDowell, and a surprisingly appropriately cast Lisa Kudrow. If you're looking for some mindless fun (that's actually fun), here's your film...
• Hard. As opposed to the total shit-stain of a movie called Life As We Know It. I mean, holy crap, does Katherine Heigl actively search out the shittiest, most pedestrian, predictable, ridiculously stupid scripts in the gutters of Hollywood to find her movie projects? How many sublimely idiotic spit-take reactions to the foul smell of baby poop do we really need? Wasn't Three Men and a Baby enough? Are we doomed to see it replayed in a movie every three years until the end of time? Granted, I fast-forwarded through most of this film as redundant pap, so perhaps some of the nuance was lost on me... but what the fuck?!?
Annnnnd... I'm spent.
There are plenty more bullets left in me, but my fingers stopped working about ten minutes ago. Just three more hours layover until I get to go home and (hopefully) sleep.
This morning I had waffles for breakfast. Isn't that what Sundays are for?
• Spy. A couple of people brought to my attention that Google Books has put some issues of Spy online for your reading pleasure! One of my favorite magazines of all time, Spy was the ultimate repository for satire writing, and had some of the most biting pranks and hoaxes ever committed. But this did not preclude Spy from tackling some serious matters in pop culture and politics as well. Hopefully Google will continue adding issues until all of them are online... that would save me from having to dig mine out of storage. If you want to take a look at what all the fuss was about, click here to visit Spy on Google Books!
• Endangered. It's that time of year when television shows are reaching their do-or-die point in the ratings. If not renewed soon, some shows I like are in danger of being cancelled...
Sadly, odds are that most of these shows are not long for this world. They'll probably be replaced with shitty "reality" shows that are inexplicably popular with the public at large. Heaven help us all.
• 18. After seeing the Mars landing hoax conspiracy movie Capricorn One on VHS rental sometime in the 80's, my mind was pretty much blown. It encouraged me to think about what actual cool stuff our government might be keeping from us. Area 51 was a good start. But the various moon landing conspiracy theories floating around became my obsession. Not so much that the landings were faked... but about what happened while we were up on the moon. And there were a lot of theories. Everything from alien encounters to extraterrestrial artifacts to weapon installations to secret missions. It was a tin-hat wearing dream come true. And now a new horror movie, Apollo 18, is being released to reveal the secret of NASA's "cancelled" final moon mission... and why we've never gone back...
It's been shot "documentary-style" (think Blair Witch Project) which I usually loathe in movies, but I just might make an exception this time if the reviews don't suck. The cheesy but intriguing trailer is on QuickTime, and the release date is March 4th.
Annnnd... I only have time for three bullets today. There are many things to be done yet today.
When working at home I often have a DVD playing to drown out any background noise. Most times I pick a movie I've seen a bajillion times so I can focus on my work. It doesn't always happen though, because some movies I can watch over and over again without ever getting tired of them.
One of my favorite movies of all time is the Kevin Costner & James Earl Jones baseball-themed masterpiece, Field of Dreams. It's an astounding work on just about every level. The characters are rich and fully-formed. The story is deep and reflective. But it's the philosophy behind the film that is
"You know, we just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they're happening."
— Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, Field of Dreams
Ever since then I've been obsessed with recognizing my significant moments while they're happening.
Today I completed a big part of a project I've been dreaming of for a long time. Right after clicking the "SAVE" button, I went and made myself a big salad with all the fixings and began to eat.
It was then that I realized I had just experienced a significant moment in my life.
ZOMFG! HAVE YOU TRIED THIS NEW KRAFT MEXICAN CHEESE BLEND WITH A TOUCH OF PHILADELPHIA CREAM CHEESE?!? IT'S FRICKIN' DELICIOUS!
Take THAT Archibald "Moonlight" Graham!
Welcome to a fabulous OSCARS EDITION of Bullet Sunday!
• Intro! This new tradition of inserting Oscar hosts into scenes from the nominated films just keeps getting better and better. Using technology from Inception, James Franco and Anne Hathaway go into the mind of former Oscar host Alec Baldwin to learn the secrets of hosting the show. The fact that they managed to work in Back to the Future at the end was just the icing on the cake...
Oscar telecast ©2011 by ABC Television
• The Winners! Not surprisingly, there were a few awards passed out that I felt could have gone elsewhere, but overall I was happy with the winners. Here's my break-down...
• Wrap-Up! Though James Franco faltered a bit at times, overall he and Anne Hathaway did a surprisingly good job hosting the show. The musical performances were mercifully short and half-way decent (including Gwyneth Paltrow, who I thought did a pretty good job considering she's not a professional singer... it was crazy seeing all the online haters unload on her while she performed). I also thought the presentations went very well. It will be interesting to see who hosts next year.
Annnnd... I've got a long day ahead of me tomorrow, so I guess that's all she wrote. See you at the movies.
Back to reality for a super-hero-fashion episode of Bullet Sunday! But, before we get there, I need to remind everybody that the best podcast on the internet you're probably not listening to is now on iTunes! Cannot recommend it highly enough: Hey! That's My Hummus on iTunes. And for baseball talk, don't forget Just Talking to the Cornfield on iTunes.
• Wonder Woman! I've had very strong reservations over the whole David E. Kelley Wonder Woman television pilot from the very beginning. From everything I've read, it seems as though he's dead-set on putting his personal stamp on the material, which means we're not going to get Wonder Woman... it's going to be Ally McBeal in bad latex. The first episode's villain is perfume company CEO Veronica Cale (WTF?) which is being played by the incomparable Elizabeth Hurley (who arrived in L.A. a while back to film her scenes)...
©2011 Michael Wright/WENN (from AceShowbiz)
Since Elizabeth Hurley is in it, I'm pretty much obligated to watch the show now. Which is a shame, because the official Wonder Woman costume photo looks like crap...
In all seriousness, I've been to comic book conventions where the fan costumes looked better than this cheap-n-glossy joke. She looks like a badly-dressed dominatrix or something. Such a horrible departure from the classic Wonder Woman uniform that was worn so perfectly by Linda Carter in the original TV show...
Call it cheesy if you want, but THAT'S what Wonder Woman is supposed to look like.
• Spider-Man! And speaking of truly terrible costumes... I loved the first two Spider-Man movies. The third one was awful story-wise, but had really good action sequences. Still, I was hoping for another Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire installment because I liked the "feel" they gave the character. Alas, it was not to be. So now we've moved on to something new which could be good or could be bad. And if the costume is what we have to go on, this is going to be as bad as it gets...
Even if he didn't have an inexplicably black crotch, this would be a horrible interpretation of an iconic costume.
• Captain America! The modern-day Captain America comics have never interested me very much. Sure there are good stories that pop up from time to time but, overall, it's a one-note concept to me. But I have to say, everything I've seen for the upcoming Cap film looks flawless. First of all, they set the movie in World War II, which is faithful to the character's origin. Second of all, it seems as if director Joe Johnston is going out of his way to make it a fun and entertaining film to watch...
What's so killer about Cap's costume is how you can see they're clearly building up to his modern-day outfit by starting with a WWII era interpretation. He was designed to be a symbol for the guys in the trenches, and its coming across perfectly. And just look at the Red Skull! Cannot wait for this movie.
• Thor! Other than Walter Simonson's brilliant run on the character in the 1980's, I've never been a big fan of Thor. He just never seems to work in the context of the super-hero genre very well. But this film has Kenneth Branagh directing, and the trailers look to be pretty epic in scope, so we'll see...
I am the first to admit that translating Thor's costume to the big screen is no easy task... but this looks all cheesy and plastic to me. I'm guessing it's supposed to be metal (maybe it is!), but I'm still not impressed and think it would have looked better with a brushed metal? This is probably going to appear much better on-screen when lit properly, so it's hard for me to be too critical. It is, after all, pretty faithful in "feel" to the original.
• Green Lantern! This is the hardest movie of all to figure out. I think my hetero-man-crush Ryan Reynolds was flawless casting for Hal Jordan, but the movie is looking like a George Lucas CGI party instead of a film of any substance. The special-effects generated costume in the preview trailer looked so bad that I couldn't fathom how the movie could possibly work...
But then I saw this shot of Mark Strong as Sinestro and thought "maybe"...
Green Lantern was one of the first comic books I ever read, and so I continue to hope that everything comes together. Out of all the super-hero projects underway, it has the most potential for greatness... or disaster.
It's pretty hard to get a feel for how the costume works from still images. On Hal Jordan, all the crazy lines look just plain stupid. On Sinestro, they look awesome. I'm guessing that when they're in-motion they'll be all glowing and stuff, which will probably look cool. Or corny. I have no idea. I do think it would have been better to not go with 100% CGI though, which seems like a recipe for disaster.
• X-Men! I should probably get this out of the way... I loathed all of the X-Men films. They were SO BORING. The X-Men were never really given any battles. Sure there were some silly little scrapes here and there, but they didn't have any scope. Everything in the movie seemed so much smaller than life. And while the costumes weren't anything to write home about, I thought they were okay. Sadly, the costumes weren't the problem. And so now we're re-booting the franchise with a prequel...
From what I can tell, the costumes here are pretty good. They are a faithful (albeit upgraded) interpretation of the "original" X-Men costumes, which was no easy task. All we can do is wait and see if the movie has the scope and story to make any use of them.
That's a lot of super-heroes. And it doesn't even account for the new Superman movie reboot, the third Iron Man film, the third Batman film, The Hulk reboot, The Avengers, and whatever else that's coming up. I hope that people don't get burnt out on comic book movies.
Well whadda ya know, it's an EASTER edition of Bullet Sunday!
• Like! Bad Monkey is now on Facebook. Heaven help us all...
If you want to see the mayhem for yourself, here you go...
• Kubrick! The holy grail for Stanley Kubrick fans (outside his movies, obviously) is a copy of a book called Full Metal Jacket Diary by Matthew Modine, who was an actor in the film. The reason it's such a big deal is twofold...
Just looking at the few amazing behind-the-scenes photos on the official website should have any Kubrick fan dying to own it...
But... to do the iPad app right is going to cost a lot of money. $20,000 money. In order to fund the project, Rackoff has put it up on Kickstarter so people can donate to get the work done. Anybody chipping in $5 or more will get a 'special thanks" credit on the app's credits page. If you've got money to burn, there are bigger rewards for bigger pledges. If you're a Kubrick fan... or a Matthew Modine fan... or a Full Metal Jacket fan... or just a movie fan... head over to Kickstarter so we can get this funded!
• Blows! Microsoft has been (rightfully) bragging about crossing the 350 million license milestone for Windows 7 in only 18 months. Except... I can't help but wonder how much of the rapid adoption rate is thanks to its predecessor, Windows Vista, being such a steaming pile of shit. Even with the Service Packs (mostly) fixing all the crap that made me want to take a flamethrower to my PC, I maintain that everybody who purchased a Vista license should have gotten Windows 7 as a free upgrade. Because anybody forced to suffer through Vista after updowngrading from the (relatively) painless Windows XP experience deserves to be compensated. Instead, we were forced to add billions of dollars to Microsoft's bank account to get out of a shitty OS that was never ready for release in the first place (after SIX YEARS of development). Any doubts I had about being an Apple Whore were eradicated by the release of Windows Fucking Vista and subsequently having to pay for Windows 7. I long for the day I never have to use Windows again.
• Bunny! If you celebrate the holiday, hope it's a happy one for you!
Annnd... time to start hauling all this crap back into my bedroom. Spring cleaning blows.
It's Bullet Sunday from The Windy City!
• Forecasting. And when I say "windy" I actually mean "stormy with torrential rains." This afternoon there was thunder, lightning, black clouds, and a literal flood pouring from the sky. What's so odd is that the forecast for tomorrow is "mostly sunny" which is almost impossible to believe. But, then again, looking at the extended forecast, impossible weather seems to be a continuing event here over the next week...
Make up your mind, Chicago!
• Thor. Back in the 1980's I was mostly reading DC Comics, with only occasional dalliances with Marvel Comics' stable of characters. All that changed when I got hooked on Walter Simon's absolutely brilliant work on Mighty Thor. His critically acclaimed run on the book was the stuff of legends, and I instantly became a massive fan of the epic stories he was telling there. Eventually Simonson left the book and my interest in the series waned, but I never lost my love of Thor as a character...
Fast-forward to earlier this month, and Marvel has released a massive tome which collects Walter Simon's work and called it the Thor Omnibus. It runs 1200 pages and is almost too big to hold comfortably (it should have been a 2-volume set!). The interior is absolutely stellar, having been completely recolored. They also added 50 pages of bonus material including drawings from Simonson's sketchbook...
If you are a Thor fan, this is essential. If you are not a Thor fan, this book will make you one. Highest possible recommendation.
• Thorified. Which brings us to the brand new Kenneth Branagh-helmed film Thor, a faithful and wholly amazing adaptation of the comic book series. It is a massive, brilliant, totally EPIC film that I simply didn't want to end. Everything from the acting to the special effects to the design to the story was near-flawless...
If I have one complaint, it's that the story seems oddly rushed. What should have taken months to unfold seems to happen in mere days, providing an unrealistic edge to the character development. I don't care who you are, you don't completely change your entire outlook on life in two days, and yet that's exactly what we're given.
Anyway... the movie tells the story of an ancient race of Norse gods who live in Asgard, one of the "Nine Realms" of our universe. One of these gods is Thor, a vain and arrogant warrior who is due to succeed his father Odin as king. But all this changes when Thor makes a big mistake and ends up being banished from Asgard to "Midgard" which we know as earth. Love, loss, and adventure ensue.
I gotta hand it to Marvel Comics here. First Iron Man came along and blew me away. Now Thor. Next up is Captain America, which looks even more amazing. And then there's X-Men: First Class which looks like it's going to kick all kinds of ass and finally make up for the totally shitty X-Men films that came before. All this will culminate with The Avengers in 2012 which has the potential to redefine the word "epic"... especially with Joss Whedon behind it. All in all, this is a great time to be a comic book fan.
• Bridesmaids. Even with all the critical acclaim and internet love, I was still wary of going to see Bridesmaids. Too many times the things other people think of as being "funny" I just think of as being "stupid" and a big waste of time. And then along comes Kristen Wiig's answer to The Hangover. And it's actually funny. And more than a little touching. But mostly entertaining...
Wiig plays Annie whose best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married and wants her to be her maid of honor. Hilarity ensues. And while there are moments where it felt like an SNL skit that goes on way too long had been shoehorned into the plot, overall I really enjoyed the story. Probably because it went for "funny-smart" instead of "funny-stupid." Add to that a really good cast, and you've got a movie actually worth your valuable time.
Assuming you're an adult who can appreciate an R-rated movie with occasional lapses into gross-out humor.
• Pasta. I seem to be going through a ravioli renaissance. I stopped eating the stuff (despite it being one of the things on an Italian menu I could eat) because it always ended up being gummy and squidgy. The last Wednesday I had some of the best cheese ravioli in my life at Piccolo Sogno... followed by an amazing dish of butternut squash ravioli tonight at Prasino. Apparently the greater Chicagoland area knows how to make the stuff. Which is little help as I head back home where nobody seem to know how to make it very well at all.
And speaking of home... I suppose it's time to finish up my work, pack my bags, check in for my flight, and post this blog entry so I can fly out tomorrow. Hopefully in better weather than today.
Work managed to crush me today, so I decided to step away for a while and recharge. The plan was to go back to my hotel room and read a book, but I knew if I did that I'd just end up checking email and getting sucked back into work all over again.
So I decided to go to a movie.
And despite my raging hatred of the first three crappy X-Men movies, I went and saw X-Men: First Class.
I thought that the "first class" in the title was referring to the first class of students in "Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters" from the comics... but it would seem it's actually referring to the movie itself. Because this film was one classy affair from start to finish.
I loved it.
From the retro 60's styling and amazing cast to the cohesive story and terrific special effects... this movie has it all...
The plot revolves around the formation of the mutant super-hero group, The X-Men, and the initial friendship of Charles Xavier and Erik Leshner, who would eventually become deadliest of enemies as Professor X and Magneto. The story begins with Xavier working with the US government to help mutants help humans so they can be better accepted by humanity. Along the way he meets Leshner, who is tracking down the Nazis responsible for the death of his mother in a Polish concentration camp. This eventually leads to a confrontation with The Hellfire Club, who is attempting to kick-start World War III during the Cuban Missile Crisis and rule the earth.
What made the previous three X-Men films fail so stupendously, was that there was ZERO attempt to make any of the characters kick the copious amounts of ass that the X-Men are known to do in the comics. They were just pathetic dumbasses who wandered around in lame stories and not really doing much of anything.
In the original X-Men, there are minor scuffles between the team and Magneto's henchmen, but the only real "fight" the X-Men get into is fighting army men. Lame. In the sequel, X2: X-Men United, the filmmakers make a half-assed attempt to start up the "Dark Phoenix Saga," but failed on every possible level. Even worse, the only real "fight" the X-Men get into this time is with water. Yes, fucking water! Super-lame. After watching the previews, I thought that finally things were heading in the right direction with X-Men 3: The Last Stand. They hinted that there would be an all-out battle between mutants, which would have kicked all kinds of ass... if it would have actually happened. Instead they pussed out again and gave us a watered-down fight with mutants mostly just running around. Not only did we get no fights worth watching, but there wasn't a decent story either. Hella-lame.
X-Men: First Class isn't overwhelmed with the mutant-on-mutant special effects battles I was hoping for, but it does do something we've never seen before in an X-Men film... have compelling characters and a good story. And when it comes to ass-kicking, Michael Fassbender's brilliant portrayal of Magneto delivers the goods. I can only hope that if (when we get a First Class sequel that they continue with the brilliant set-up in this film and add tons of cool action sequences that will finally depict the X-Men the way we see them in the comics.
That would be a movie worth waiting for.
In the meanwhile, there are a lot of potentially awesome comic book films in the pipe, so it's a really good time to be a fanboy right now.
Despite the bad reviews, I simply had to go see Green Lantern after checking into my hotel.
The reason I had to see it was because Green Lantern is one of my favorite super-heroes (after Batman, of course). In fact, an issue of Green Lantern was the first comic book I ever bought. I've been a fan through thick and thin ever since...
Sadly, the movie itself is pretty bad. Several elements are good, but the big picture is a hot mess with too many inexplicably boring bits. Since I really have no idea how to review such a scattered film (let alone attempt to sum up the story!), I guess I'll just run through the bullets...
• Casting. Ryan Reynolds was perfectly cast. He captured the cocky charm of a fearless test pilot effortlessly. Likewise, Peter Skarsgard playing Hector Hammond and Mark Strong's turn as Sinestro were shockingly good. Blake Lively as Carol Ferris seemed a little forced and awkward at times... and her character had really lame similarities to Pepper Potts from the Iron Man films... but it wasn't as disastrously bad as say... January Jones in X-Men: First Class.
• Scope.I really enjoyed that they went a little "cosmic" with the movie. Green Lantern is at his best when he's out amongst the stars, and having him mixing it up with aliens and other worlds was a very good thing. If, by some miracle, a sequel happens, I hope that they ignore earth completely (especially since that's where most of the boring bits happen).
Parallax. As far as villains go, Parallax was probably not the best choice. His comic book back-story is rather long and complex, and the way they dumbed it down to fit in a movie was kind of lame and dismissive. On top of that, he just wasn't very compelling an opponent in the film, because his powers weren't really defined. He could be almost god-like one minute... then surprisingly weak the next.
Pacing. As I mentioned, there's unnecessary stretches of sheer boredom plaguing the film. It's totally amateurish, and I'm guessing the writer(s) simply didn't know how to edit for a streamlined story... so they just threw in as many bits as possible in the hopes that something would gel together and "stick." It doesn't.
• CGI Uniforms. I understand the logic of the Green Lantern Corps uniforms being pure energy, and the concept of computer graphics being the best way to show this is sound... but it failed on every possible level. Ryan Reynolds looked like he had been Photoshop-painted, badly in every scene he's Green Lantern, and it took me completely out of the movie. You can tell that the effects team knew the uniforms looked like shit because they went back and added "energy crackles" and "energy glows" here and there in an attempt to camouflage them. If anything, it just ended up making things worse by drawing attention to how tragically bad they looked. I simply cannot fathom how anybody could look at test footage and decide this was the best way to go. I mean, they did render test footage of the uniforms, didn't they?
Case in point... ONE of these photos is fake. I spent two minutes slapping on some green pixels in Photoshop. Can you spot it? Guessing isn't as easy as you'd think since they're all pretty shitty...
• Internal Logic. I understand that you have to suspend disbelief in order to accept a movie universe where people are flying around playing super-hero... but, even so, there has to be an internal logic to the story and plot so you can suspend disbelief. Green Lantern has so many inconsistencies and gaps of internal logic that I found it impossible to get into the film. There was this whole deus ex machina thing going on where plot points existed not because they made sense, but because it was the only way the writers found to move the story forward. This caused me to constantly question the characters, which is a very bad thing from a story standpoint.
• The Story. Green Lantern has a classic origin story... dying alien gives hotshot test pilot Hal Jordan a ring with amazing powers and inducts him into the Green Lantern Corps, which is a kind of intergalactic police force. This part is handled fairly well in the movie, but things go off the rails really quickly afterwards. The problem is that there's just not a story you can grab ahold of and be taken away by. There's only fragments of different stories woven together seemingly at random. This didn't hold my interest because my attention was never focused on one thing long enough to give a crap about the stuff happening on-screen. For me, at least, the film can never overcome this deficiency, and comes out totally mediocre because of it.
And this updates my whole "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard as follows...
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Fantastic Four... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Ghost Rider... C
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A
Jonah Hex... F
Punisher War Zone... C
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Superman Returns... C+
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B
Oh, wipe your tears away... Sunday, bloody Sunday...
• Plus! Annnnd... Google debuted their "Google+" social media services this week. As a so-called "Facebook killer" it's pretty interesting. I like that its smarter at controlling who sees the things you post. I like being able to organize people into my "Circles"... which are kind of like old rotary phone dials...
Of course, if you have a hundred friends, you can only see thirteen in your little dial until you click on it, but I guess that's better than nothing.
I've already got Facebook, Twitter, and this blog sucking up my time. Do I really need another "thing" cutting into my already mega-packed offline life? I mean, I suppose I can give up sleeping and going to the bathroom, but is Google+ really worth it? Time will tell.
• Colbert. This past week Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's Colbert Report received approval from the FEC to form his own Political Action Committee. But, unlike regular PACs, he formed a Super PAC which has no restrictions on the amount of money he can raise. I'm absolutely fascinated at the prospect of a comedian having access to a PAC, and can't wait to see how much he can raise and what he's eventually going to do with it.
So I donated some money. And got an autographed photo for my trouble...
Whatever he does with his money, I'm betting it's going to be a heck of a lot more interesting than what Sarah Palin has been doing with her PAC monies.
• Roundabout. I noted an article link over on Neil Turner's Blog about how the British roundabout is conquering the US. This is something I can confirm as true. Years ago, the only roundabouts I'd ever seen in the USA were in Massachusetts. But now they are popping up everywhere. The first I remember seeing in my home state of Washington was at the I-90 interchange in North Bend...
Image taken from Google Maps
And now, even small local cities like nearby Wenatchee are getting roundabouts.
The problem is that nobody here seems to know how to drive on them. Most of the time I've seen people encounter a roundabout, they full-stop instead of yield. And, even then, they don't know what to do, preferring to just sit there for a while until they get up the courage to enter. Hopefully this will change as they become more prevalent, but right now they're more trouble than they're worth.
• Arrietty. The next film by animation genius Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli is called Arrietty, and is based on the beloved book The Borrowers by Mary Norton. As with everything Miyazaki touches, it looks stunning...
My loved of all things Miyazaki is well documented. He has been a massive influence on me for decades, and his works are without peer in the animation world (the people at Pixar practically worship the man, for example). That he has continued to work after his "retirement" in 1998 has been a source of absolute joy to me, and seeing yet another film with his fingerprints on it makes me happier than I can possibly express. And while his role at Ghibli seems mostly supervisory now (though he appears to still be doing some writing and drawing too), he seems to have good people (including his son) carrying on his work...
Arrietty was released in Japan almost a year ago and I have yet to see it. Today I learned that it won't reach the USA until FEBRUARY, 2012!! And while I would prefer to see the movie with the original Japanese soundtrack and subtitles, the North American release is certain to be an English dub (as usual). I don't even care. I just want to see it! Then hopefully the Blu-Ray release will preserve the Japanese version like Ponyo did. In the meanwhile... I wait.
And that's all she wrote since I have to get up early for work in the morning. Here's hoping all my fellow USAsians have a good holiday tomorrow!
Before we do this, GO GET FREE MATT & KIM!! Yes! FREE! And not a bad track!
Last night after my complete mental breakdown over losing David's Pizza, home of my favorite pizza on earth, I decided to drink a lot of alcohol and go see Captain America. While neither eased my pain completely, I was a lot better off at the end of the day.
I'm going to review Captain America: The First Avenger now, because I'm a total comic book geek like that but, if that's not something you care to read about, I'll just sum it up thusly: This film is pretty close to flawless. Not just for a comic book movie, but for ANY movie. Even if you're not into the whole super-hero thing, it would be worth your time to watch. I love, love, loved it...
Before we get into the movie itself, a little background on me and Captain America.
Growing up, I was a total DC Comics fan (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.)... and not much of a Marvel Comics fan (Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, etc.). That being said, Cap was the first Marvel comic that I got into. It all started with Captain America and Falcon #211-213 by comics giant Jack Kirby. The stories were originally published in 1977, but I got ahold of them as a poly-bagged set the early 1980's (I'm guessing they were re-prints?). These issues were a great read, having plenty of action and featuring the quintessential Cap villains The Red Skull and Arnim Zola. Unfortunately, my new-found infatuation with the Captain America universe was short-lived, because the current issues of the title were a drastic step down from the Kirby reprints I had just read. After that I pretty much ignored Captain America unless he was in other Marvel titles, like The Avengers.
All that changed in 2004 when Ed Brubaker came onboard for a Captain America relaunch. Since then I've been a fan of the character, snapping up most of the graphic novel collections as they are released. Far from being an exercise in one-dimensional blind patriotism, Burbaker's treatment of the character was a fascinating exploration that actually had some depth to it. Even though he eventually ended up killing Steve Rogers, then bringing him back (of course), the book remains an excellent read.
Which is why I was terrified over the Captain America film despite the awesome set photos that were released. There was just too much to lose.
Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about. The First Avenger is near-flawless, and works on so many levels. As a straight-up action movie, it's a good time. As a war-movie, it's an immediate classic. As a super-hero film, it's faithful to the source material. Like Iron Man and Thor before it, the character just works on film. Beautifully.
It all starts as the USA has entered World War II and weakling Steve Rogers wants to join the fight. Unfortunately, a multitude of chronic illnesses makes him unfit for duty. Never one to be discouraged, Steve keeps trying until he has the good fortune to be noticed by Dr. Abraham Erskine. The good doctor is secretly working with the US Army to develop a new "super soldier" serum, and Steve Rogers has the qualities of heroism, bravery, and kindness he's looking for. The experiment is a complete success, and Captain America is eventually born... becoming the "Sentinel of Liberty" for the American war effort. Lots of cool action sequences ensue.
The Good Great
• Casting. I'm not the biggest Chris Evans fan, but there is no denying that he is Captain America on-screen. Unlike his previous role as The Human Torch in the Fantastic Four films, Evans actually has to project something more than cocky aloofness here. He has to be a living, breathing icon, and he nails it. The early scenes where special effects have turned Evans' perfect physique into wimpy Steve Rogers is where he really shines as an actor, and his every scene is exceedingly good. Other roles are equally well-cast, most notably the incredible Stanley Tucci as Dr. Erskine, Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Phillips, and an absolutely amazing Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull.
• Story. Usually origin stories are notoriously superficial and boring on the screen, but director Joe Johnston and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely somehow managed to make Captain America work perfectly. The set-up is just right, telling the viewer everything they need to know about the world they'll be visiting. The progressive origin of Cap is both logical and entertaining. The action is full-on excitement without becoming comical. It's everything you want in a comic book movie... or any adventure movie, really.
• Costumes. Captain America's garish outfit would be a really easy thing to screw-up on the big screen. That didn't happen. The evolution of his costume is handled incredibly well, with everything making perfect sense. The period-specific costumes for all the other actors were equally amazing, and really made you feel you were back in time. Somebody should win an Oscar here.
• Rewards. There were clever moments with some of the characters which hinted to their futures (as shown in the comic books). They were clever enough to reward comic fans, but subtle enough not to confuse newbies. My favorite? Arnim Zola's intro. Genius.
• Effects. The tough thing about having futuristic energy weapons showing up in the 1940's is that it just doesn't work logistically. But the integration was so deftly handled and so logically explained that it just didn't matter. And, again, mad props to the people responsible for turning Chris Evans into wimpy Steve Rogers at the beginning of the film...
I know special effects are good now-a-days, but this is a-m-a-z-i-n-g.
• Set-Up. I love the way that the Marvel Universe films are all fitting together (ultimately culminating with The Avengers movie next Summer)... but Captain America goes overboard. Having Tony (Iron Man) Stark's dad be the leading scientist of the war effort? Cool. Having the Cosmic Cube come from Thor's dad's treasure room? Great. But having the so much of the plot being a set-up for future films? Dangerous. Especially at the very end of the film, which seems a little tacked-on and artificial. In the future, let the movies stand on their own... if they're well-made and faithful to the source material, they'll still fit into the Marvel film universe and get people excited to see more.
• Bullets. Near the beginning of the film, a Hydra Nazi is being chased by Steve soon-to-be-Captain-America Rogers. Along the way he fires like a bajillion bullets from his gun... without re-loading. Man, how I hate that.
So overall? Fantastic and faithful film with a lot of action, honesty, and heart.
And this updates my whole "Y2K Super-Hero Comic Book Renaissance" scorecard as follows...
Batman Begins... A
Batman Dark Knight... A+
Blade 2... B
Blade Trinity... B-
Captain America... A+
Fantastic Four... C
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer... D
Ghost Rider... C
Green Hornet... D
Green Lantern... C+
Hellboy 2: Golden Army... A
Incredible Hulk... B
The Incredibles... A+
Iron Man... A+
Iron Man 2... A
Jonah Hex... F
Punisher War Zone... C
Spider-Man 2... A
Spider-Man 3... D-
Superman Returns... C+
X-Men 2: United... D
X-Men 3: Last Stand... F-
X-Men Origins: Wolverine... D
X-Men: First Class... B
Yesterday was the five-year anniversary of Pluto being demoted from "planet" to "dwarf planet."
It all happened because astronomers are finding a shitload of planetoids orbiting the sun beyond Pluto's orbit... some of which are bigger than Pluto. Rather than declare that they're all planets, they decided instead to demote Pluto so none of them are planets.
Personally, I think it was a monumentally shitty decision. Yeah, it makes sense from a scientific classification standpoint, and I get that. But Pluto should have been grandfathered in and kept the planetary status it's had since 1930. The planetary status it had when I made my science fair project in Middle School...
What drives me a little nuts here is that a group of people made this awful decision with no involvement from any of us. There wasn't a vote. there wasn't any conversation. One day Pluto just wasn't a planet anymore.
Which made yesterday the fifth anniversary of SUCK!
Because yesterday was ALSO a monumental day for fans of the best new show from this past television season... Happy Endings!
ABC finally decided to bless us with the long-lost mysterious "missing episode" of the show. It wasn't the best of the bunch, but it was still better than most of the crap on television, so I have no idea why they skipped it in the first place.
In any event, it has me really looking forward to new episodes come September. As does this promo shot they've released...
And speaking of photos... the stuff leaking off the set for the new Avengers movie looks amazing...
If only DC Comics could get their shit together the way that Marvel Comics has. To see a Justice League movie that teams up Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash would be freakin' insanely awesome.
Or insanely stupid, if they got the wrong writer and director.
Perhaps I should be careful what I wish for.
For the first time in... well... months ... I didn't do any work today.
Instead I continued on with my Life Simplification Plan. The entire day was spent cataloging my DVDs, books, comics, and CDs to see what I can get rid of.
Unfortunately, the answer was "not much." But at least everything is organized now.
I also made time to watch Dune while I was going through all my storage boxes...
I don't care how many times I see the film, Alia always freaks me out.
The Spice must flow.
And I really must get to bed.
Bet you never expected Bullet Sunday on Saturday! NOBODY expects Bullet Sunday on Saturday!
And didn't I just do a Bullet Sunday a couple minutes ago? Time, she is a flying. Probably because I am leaving for vacation in ten days. It's going to be a real struggle to get caught up with work and get myself organized by the time I leave.
• Adapt. And speaking of getting organized for my trip... for years there's been this one plug sitting unwrapped and unused in my Apple World Travel Adapter Kit...
I know this sounds kind of silly, but unwrapping the cellophane from that plug was a pretty emotional experience. This shit is about to get real, yo.
• Heroine. A couple weeks ago, the "Great House" on Sir Richard Branson's private island caught fire. Apparently a storm created by Hurricane Irene caused a lightning strike that burned the place to the ground. Nobody was hurt, but it was a beautiful structure and it's sad that it was destroyed. Sad, but not very interesting. I'll get to the interesting bit in a minute, but first a few photos from Necker Island...
Yes. Yes I know. What a shithole.
If you've got tens of thousands of dollars, you can rent a room for a night. That would put you in good company, because it's a coveted hangout for celebrities, royalty (Princess Diana was a guest), and the über-wealthy. One famous visitor who was there when the fire struck: Kate Winslet. Who, after making sure her kids were okay, ran back into the flames so she could carry out Branson's 90-year-old grandmother...
Beautiful, talented, and heroic.
But that's not the interesting bit. Winslet's ex-husband, director Sam Mendes, was supposed to be on American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked on 9/11 and crashed into The Pentagon. For some reason, he wasn't on the flight. One month later, Winslet was on a plane where somebody claiming to be a terrorist stood up and said that everybody was going to die. It apparently turned out to be a hoax of something. After that moment, Mendes and Winslet made a decision never to both be on the same flight together so if something happened, their kids wouldn't be left parentless.
I swear, just when I think there's nothing about the 9/11 tragedy that can surprise me, something utterly surprising comes along to prove me wrong. Until I read about the fire on Necker Island, I had no idea that Kate Winslet's life was touched by the terrorist attacks to this degree. But, then again, I suppose all our lives were in one way or another. Has it really been ten years?
• New? As a huge fan of Zooey Deschanel, I have been eagerly anticipating her new buzz-heavy TV show, New Girl, set to debut later this month. So imagine my surprise when I downloaded the first episode from an iTunes "sneak preview"... only to find that it is complete and total shit...
Holy crap did I hate this unbelievable turd of a show. Hate it.
How in the fuck they managed to take an infinitely adorable and likable person like Zooey Deschanel and turn her into a pathetic, annoying, unwatchable character is simply beyond my ability to fathom. She plays Jess, who is advertised as "Simply Adorkable" but I sure wasn't seeing any of that. When she gets dumped by her boyfriend in the first two minutes I was barely surprised. I was already annoyed with her after the first ONE minute. The story then takes the laughable (but not funny) "surprise turn" by having her move in with three single guys. Hilarity most definitely does not ensue.
Zooey's supporting players aren't much better. Deputy Leo (from Veronica Mars) plays a douchebag. And I'm not being judgmental here... he's literally a douche. His character is such a big douche that they have to make a "Douche Jar" for him to donate a dollar every time he does douchey things. Which is all the time. One of the douchey things he does is take his shirt off when he meets a girl because he thinks he's God's gift or something. His character's name is "Schmidt" which is used in place of "shit" in conversation to be funny. Ha ha ha. Not. Next up is Damon Wayans Jr. who plays "Coach," a fitness trainer with rage issues. The character has zero depth and is given nothing interesting to do. I can only guess that Wayans gets down on his knees every day and thanks the television gods that the brilliant Happy Endings got picked up for a second season so he doesn't have to come back to New Girl and play such a pathetic one-note character. I pity whomever they get to replace him. The last of Zooey's new roommates is "Nick" (played by Jake M. Johnson) who is somewhat likable and interesting (mostly because he's the only character with any depth to him) but ultimately not enough to compensate for everything else going wrong with this horrible show.
I cannot imagine that New Girl will last a full season. Even with Justin Long coming on-board as Zooey's romantic interest. It is so awkward, annoying, and blatantly not-funny that I have no idea who is going to want to watch it. Personally, I am hoping for a quick cancellation so the amazing Zooey Deschanel can go on to something better. Something much, much, better.
• Indebted. Is it possible to hate a movie to the point of despair, yet still love it at the same time? That pretty much sums up my take on The Debt, Helen Mirren's new film as directed by John Madden...
The movie is based on a 2007 Israeli film called HaHov ("The Debt"), which I can find nothing about, because any attempt to search for it on IMDB redirects to this version of The Debt. The story revolves around a former Mossad Nazi-Hunter named Rachel Singer (Mirren) who's past comes back to haunt her 30 years after a mission in East Germany went terribly wrong. The movie jumps back and forth between 1966 and 1997 as Singer recalls past events that changed her life, and their consequences on her future.
The problem with the film... the only problem, really... is that it is boring. Mind-numbingly boring. Stick your head in the microwave boring. Gouge out your spleen so you have something to do boring. I was dumbfounded at how incredibly slow, unnecessarily plodding, and just plain BORING this movie was. Far, far too much time was spent rehashing the past for no particular reason at all. Yes, there's a nice twist in there, but the set-up was so hideously drawn-out that I just didn't give a shit when we got there. They could have easily cut 75% of the hot boring mess from 1966 and used the time to make an interesting film about Rachel cleaning up that mess in 1997. That would have been an amazing, thrilling, exciting film. Instead you get mere glimpses of Mirren being kick-ass cool, which is simply not enough to save The Debt from the bland, banal, repetitive disaster it is.
Holy crap was the acting good. Helen Mirren didn't get nearly enough screen time, but her every second in the film is amazing. And it doesn't stop there. Jessica Chastain, who played the 1966 Rachel, had a role that demanded her to be tough and capable, but with a dark vulnerable side that defined her. She was absolutely mesmerizing. The biggest surprise had to be Sam Worthington, whom I had dismissed for his not-so-engaging performances in films like Avatar and Clash of the Titans, but he really got his shit together for this film. His accent kept lapsing into Aussie casual from time to time, yet his performance was rock-solid. Jesper Christensen's turn as a Hannibal Lecter-ish Nazi war criminal was also worth watching.
So there you have it The Debt is a boring-ass film you hate to love because the performances were too damn good.
• Fini. And now, after two bullets filled with disappointment, I'm going back to organizing my crap so I can be ready to pack my suitcase next weekend.
Dear Hollywood Movie & Television Studios,
I give up... you win!
For decades you have been trying your best to keep my from buying your movies and shows, but I've resisted. You've treated me like a criminal, you've crippled your products so that they don't work, you force me to watch advertising, you've even flat-out refused to sell me stuff I want to buy... but I persisted. The more you abused me, the more products I bought. The more you hated me, the more money I spent. The more you betrayed me, the more of your stuff I added to my collection.
You have done every shameless, dirty, despicable, evil, horrifying act you can think of to get rid of me, but still I kept coming back. Which is not to say that I wasn't tempted by those glorious DRM-free, advertising-free, menu-free, illegal copies available at no charge on the internet...
Except now you've finally done it. You've finally lost me as a customer after years of trying so hard.
Just in case you're wondering, it's your new piece of shit "UltraViolet Digital Locker System" that was the last straw. Just like your DRM-crippled Blu-Ray disks that are so fucked up that I can't get them to work on my Blu-Ray player, your "UltraViolet Digital Copy" bullshit is so fucked up that I can't get it to work on...well... anything. I jumped through all your hoops, put up with your violation of my privacy, and agreed to terms so one-sided that I think I agreed to be your sex-slave for life, but still your stupid shit doesn't work.
And so I'm done.
Those thousands of VHS Tapes, LaserDiscs, S-VHS Tapes, DVDs, and Blu-Ray Discs I purchased are the end of the road.
For the most part.
With television shows, I can buy them digitally from Apple's iTunes store and stream them to my AppleTV or download them to my iPhone. At least their shit actually works... but the iTunes digital copies cost a lot more than DVDs/Blu-Rays for some reason (and don't come with any extras), so that's rarely an option. Hopefully Hulu and Netflix Streaming will allow me to watch TV shows I want, but who knows how long that will last.
When it comes to movies, I guess I could buy them from iTunes, but you don't allow Apple to stream them. This means I've got to keep the copies (and backup copies) myself, which is too big a hassle. I guess I could buy DVDs and rip legal "digital backups." That way I can always re-rip if I lose the file or don't have hard drive space. But that's an even bigger hassle (and the files aren't even hi-def!). Perhaps renting movies via iTunes or Netflix Streaming is how it'll have to be from now on... assuming they're even available.
Or maybe I should just become a pirate and download everything illegally? This does, after all, seem to be what you are wanting. If you didn't want people to acquire your product illegally, wouldn't you strive to treat your customers well, sell them product that works, and make legal purchases be the most user-friendly, easiest, most desirable, best way to own TV shows and movies ever? I mean, people are fucking paying you here, after all.
But I have no desire to go to jail or be fined for something that's not critical to my well-being, so it's not a pirate's life for me.
Guess I'll just have to learn to get over your product the same way I am now over your bullshit.
Congratulations again on your victory.
It's hard for me to be upset when you've worked so fucking hard to win it.
It's a Wonderful Life is playing on television. I loathe that movie. It's one of the single worst films I've ever had to endure. For the life of me I can't figure out why people are so in love with it. Is it the crappy, boring-ass story? The cheesy over-the-top acting? The nausea-inducing predictably clichéd happy ending? What?
Of course, I haven't ruled out that it's because I'm a soulless bastard. I'm totally open to that as a possibility.
It would certainly explain my joy at watching Herman Cain's presidential campaign implode.
I was really hoping he would just shut up, drop out, and go away... but apparently that's not his plan. It would seem he wants to fade into irrelevance like Sarah Palin did. Of course, she managed to make millions of dollars along the way, so there's that...
It's odd thinking back to the days when Cain was on the rise and I was actually a fan. Not so much politically, but because he had such a fantastic personality. Back then I was always tuning into his interviews because he was so darn entertaining. But then the crazy started to set in, and there's was no stopping the downward spiral that ensued.
Have to say I didn't anticipate an alleged mistress and all those sexual harassment claims hurrying things along though. If they're not true, as Cain claims, you'd think that dropping out of the race would only make him look guilty... so who knows how that's going to play out.
Guess I'll have to wait for the book.
Or the next Pokémon movie.
... ENOUGH WITH THE WILHELM SCREAM!!
Look, I realize that there are always going to be traditions and nods to the past in a creative endeavor. I understand that there's an urge to honor that which has come before by echoing it in the present. But it should be subtle. It shouldn't be a distraction.
And the Wilhelm Scream has been so overused that it can't help but be a distraction...
The turning point for me was The Lord of the Rings films. Until then, I was able to ignore the Wilhelm Scream. But once Peter Jackson decided to force it into Middle Earth, I could not. And what a waste that was. Jackson and his team took painstaking care to draw you into the film and make you feel as though you were in another world. Only to rip you out of it because of a stupid, obtrusive sound effect.
And don't get me started over how Joe Johnston fucked up the best movie I saw in 2011, Captain America. There I was, basking in the glory of one of the best comic films I had ever seen and then... HeeYAAAAAahhAAAAAH!!!
Enough is enough.
Time for my annual wrap-up of movies that came out this year.
THE TWELVE BEST...
These are my favorite movies from this year that I actually saw. Now, I fully admit that most of these were seen on an airplane or via iTunes rental on my iPad. That's about the only way I can find time to see movies anymore. Still, I don't think the small screen influenced my decision any. Stupid crap like Your Highness isn't going to suddenly become brilliant if seen on the big screen...
#1 Captain America. Captain America in the comics has been a mixed bag. When played as the American icon he was created to be, he seems cheesy and dated. When played as a straight super-hero he seems flashy and lame. But they somehow managed to sidestep both of these obstacles to not only make an awesome super-hero film, but an awesome film period. My review of the film is here.
#2 Thor. My only problem with this film... only problem is that the timing was way off. It seemed to take place over days when the events pretty much dictated that it should have taken place over months. That being said, director Kenneth Branagh and Co. did the impossible: film a magical super-hero film in a realistic way without having it turn into a big joke. Loved this movie more than I ever thought I would.
#3 Paul. Reaffirming my belief that Simon Pegg & Nick Frost can do no wrong (seriously... Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead!) they turn their engaging comedic talents to geek sci-fi. As if that wasn't an intriguing enough premise, Seth Rogan was cast as the voice of titular alien escapee "Paul." The result is a new take on the buddy comedy movie with a sci-fi twist and plenty of surprises. Genius.
#4 Mission: Impossible, Ghost Protocol. Brad Bird, the mastermind behind such animated genius as The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, makes an effortless leap to live action in one of this year's most exciting and stylish films. Ghost Protocol is the best M:I installment yet, with the entire IMF team being disavowed and having to clear their name in one awesome action sequence to another.
#5 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. While I'm not sure that I liked this David Fincher remake as well as the Swedish original, I can say it's a great film in its own right. Dark, disturbing, beautiful, and wholly engrossing, this movie is the whole taco. Disgraced reporter Mikael Blomkvist sets out to solve an old family mystery with the help of brilliant anti-hero Lisbeth Salander. The journey is more interesting than the ultimate end, but Fincher gives us one heck of a ride.
#6 X-Men: First Class. FINALLY! After three increasingly shitty films, we finally get a decent X-Men flick. Check that, it's more than decent... it's brilliant entertainment that fully captures the promise of what an "X-film" could be. Showing the early beginnings of the Marvel Universe's most famous mutants, First Class gives us engaging characters with enough super-hero action to keep things interesting. I am hoping beyond hope that they continue this story in future films instead of sliding back to the Bryan Singer franchise shit-fest.
#7 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Make no mistake, the Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie's films is not the Sherlock Holmes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novels. He's a sad imitation that happens to be entertaining as hell. So if you can manage to leave the "real" Sherlock behind, this is a highly entertaining film with nice stylistic touches and a decent story to boot. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are both note-perfect for the material, and the addition of Jared Harris as arch-nemesis Moriarty has me liking "Game of Shadows" even more than the first film.
#8 Horrible Bosses. By all accounts, this movie should have been an embarrassing mess. The previews assured me that it was one of those "so stupid it's stupid" flicks instead of one of those "so stupid it's funny" treasures. But my sister wanted to see it, so off we went... to one of my favorite films of 2011. I loved the way all the various plot-threads resolved themselves at the end. I loved that the characters were funny and felt three-dimensional and unique. I love that the "horrible bosses" were note-perfect in every way. Kevin Spacey was given room to be pure evil psycho genius. Colin Farrell was plain reprehensible. And then there was Jennifer Aniston... holy crap. Jennifer Aniston was not only brutally hot, but hysterically funny.
#9 Source Code. Duncan Jones, who gave us the utterly brilliant sci-fi film Moon, now gives us a thinking man's time-travel sci-fi thriller as a follow-up that doesn't disappoint.
#10 Bridesmaids. You will note that The Hangover 2 does not make my list. That film was just a pathetic retread of the original movie in a different location. The worthy successor to the R-rated comedy crown of The Hangover is actually Bridesmaids, which takes a similar idea to all new territory.
#11 Attack the Block. This flawless British sci-fi horror flick was a complete surprise as I was trying to kill time on the long, long flight back from Australia. It's action-sci-fi thrills that don't disappoint. Aliens are descending on street gang's turf in London and the war is on.
#12 Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. I have no idea where this redneck-buddy-comedy-horror-movie came from, but it was a guilty pleasure that was worth watching from start to finish. The film is more inline with the genius that is Shaun of the Dead or Evil Dead than stupid crap like Scary Movie. As if that weren't enough, it's got an actual message to it.
THE HONORABLE MENTIONS...
Winnie The Pooh. Go ahead. Laugh. But as an animation-lover who has been a fan of Pooh for as long as I can remember, this movie was amazing.
Here are some movies that might have made the list had I the time to have seen them...
Miyazaki genius Arrietty; Martin Scorsese's critically acclaimed 3D epic Hugo; Cancer buddy comedy 50/50; Cold War LeCarre thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; Romanian black comedy Tales from the Golden Age; Johnny Depp animated madness Rango; Monkey armageddon in Rise of the Planet of the Apes; Disease outbreak thriller Contagion; Classic cartoon adventure with The Adventures of Tintin; Heavily-praised chase film Drive; Silent B&W art flick The Artist; and Planet-demolishing mind-bender Melancholia.
THE SIX WORST...
There were quite a few disappointments in 2011 (like Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) but there were few movies I actively loathed (though none of them as badly as the steaming pile of crap called Black Swan from last year)...
#1 Green Lantern. One of my favorite comic book characters was completely butchered on the big screen with a hot mess of a story and an over abundance of shitty CGI effects. Yeah, It's probably not the worst movie of the year, but such a crushing disappointment made it feel that way. You can read my review here.
#2 Sucker Punch. Zack Snyder is a fascinating director. His take on 300 was genius. And, despite my disgust at the unnecessarily altered ending, I thought his take on Watchmen was also excellent. So when I saw the jaw-dropping visuals in the trailer for Sucker Punch, I was understandably excited. Finally Zack Snyder was giving us a world he wrote instead of reinterpreting what he'd seen in a comic book. Unfortunately, the film was absolute garbage. Sexist, convoluted, trite, boring, senseless, asinine, garbage. Abused girl is dropped into a mental institution to be lobotomized, but "escapes" into her imagination in sequences that alternate between pole dancing and super-heroics. This film is the epitome of style over substance and failed on just about every level. Let's hope Snyder doesn't bury his Superman movie under such a huge layer of idiotic crap like he did Sucker Punch.
#3 Tree of Life. This was a beautiful turd of a film. Wonderful to look at, but ultimately a pile of self-indulgent bullshit that was so pointless and boring that I was praying for it to just END already, even if it took the destruction of the entire earth to make it happen. I keep seeing this movie on people's "Best List" and am completely clueless over what I missed as I was being bored to tears.
#4 Cars 2. Holy shit... a Pixar film made my "worst list?" What is the world coming to? Admittedly, I wasn't a big fan of the original Cars, but it had enough charming moments to make me ultimately like the film. The sequel tosses all that out the window and instead gives us an extended Larry The Cable Guy comedy routine that is stupid, stupid, stupid, STUPID! How in the hell this film ever made it out of the storyboarding room at Pixar is a complete mystery to me. An obvious cash-grab by Disney if there ever were one.
#5 Arthur. If you would have ever told me that I would have a movie with Helen Mirren end up in my "Worst List" I would have bitch-slapped you so hard your teeth would fall out. It's inconceivable that an actor of such renown would ever agree to be in such a film. And then the shitty and embarrassing Arthur remake happened. Holy crap what a soulless pile of shit. I guess my sole consolation is that Helen Mirren was the best thing in this worst film.
#6 Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Chicago is one of my favorite cities on earth, and the opportunity to see it blown to shit was too good to resist. Even if it meant having to suffer through another crappy "Transformers" movie with crappy Shia LaBeouf as the crappy focus instead of the fucking cool Transformers as it should be. Shockingly, these movies continue to be successful, so I'm guessing a fourth one will be crapped out of Michael Bay's ass any day now.
THE HONORABLE MENTIONS...
The movie so bad it couldn't be saved if Cameron Diaz was nude the entire time Bad Teacher; The "OMG I can't believe I watched it even if I was bored on an airplane" Mr. Popper's Penguins; So stupid it's stupid medieval farce Your Highness; This year's sci-fi answer to last year's absurdly stupid "Skyline" is the absurdly stupid Battle: Los Angeles; Shameless retread of a terrific original The Hangover 2; Insanely stupid and disrespectful adaptation of a great character in The Green Hornet; Scary trailer for a not scary and totally shitty movie with Apollo 18.
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