Phantasmic Links 8.31.09

I swear, I heard my father say to pop the trunk, and I obliged. I should have noticed when our friend Bill the trumpet player got in that he was carrying his instrument. They should have noticed the sound of the trunk unlatching, but Deaf and Deafer heard nothing. I thought the girl waving at me on the expressway and pointing was telling me not to cut into the lane where her husband/boyfriend was driving. I gave a polite wave and shook my head at the nerve of some people. I saw them. I only had my directional on. I wasn't changing lanes until they passed. But it wasn't until I was well into Queens and nearly at the site of our gig that I noticed the words “TRUNK AJAR” glowing just above the radio. I looked in the rearview mirror and noticed some slight movement. It definitely wasn't latched. It was a miracle it never popped open all the way and that we didn't lose anything. My dad wanted to jump out at the next red light as soon as he learned of my stupidity, but I convinced him not to risk getting run over until we reached a side street to pull over. We had made it that far, and lost nothing. The gig itself, a birthday party outside a small Italian restaurant, went a lot smoother, until they asked us to stay an extra half hour for an extra $5, which was a little insulting. We were all tired and had other places to be on a Sunday evening, but the restaurant owner chipped in a little more for the overtime and, hopefully, everybody was happy. I'm exhausted after my adventures, but as always I can muster up enough energy to share some PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) Artist Tim O'Brien takes on a realistic--and creepy--rendering of one Chuck Brown. I love it. This “untooned” take on Homer by another artist is equally awesome and disturbing. Be sure to check out some of the other ones on that site as well, like Mario, Stewie, or Jessica Rabbit.
Hat Tip: Krispy

(2) ”Michael Wayvid Whorenelli”'s name is an anagram for “Weevilly and Heroic Whim”. What's yours?

(3) In theory, some ‘80s stars could make great comebacks with guest spots on some of our favorite current shows.

(4) Here's a list of 100 Science Fiction, Fantasy, Cartoon, and other shows in no particular order. Oh, the site will claim that there's an order, but it all seems pretty random. It is a great list of shows from various times and genres that we geeks like, but beyond that it's all over the place.
H.T.: J-No.

(5) Sh*t My Dad Says is a brilliant and hilarious collection of things the author's old man comes out with, and definitely falls into the “Why didn't I think of that?” category.
H.T.: b13.

(6) Dave Macdowell marries pop culture to his art and creates something greater than the sum of its parts. Just imagine Kevin Smith's Stand By Me, or the music the Samuel L. Jackson 5 might produce. This rules.

(7) Mekuri Master is a game in which the title character must run down a hall flipping up girl's skirts while the music chants his name. I know, right?

(8) As Summer winds to a close, at least according to our calendars, you might want to check out The 100 Greatest Summer Songs of All Time.

(9) Who would have thought that a strategically placed obstacle could actually speed up evacuations?

(10) In Icebreaker, only you can free frozen vikings!

Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!



WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 6

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews as we delve into my sixth WWW:

1) Far North:
As the title suggests, the film takes place in some unspecified icy region, where Michelle Yeoh's character makes a life for herself, using whatever means necessary to survive along with the young woman she's raised since infancy. Conditions are brutal and food is scarce, but as flashbacks eventually reveal, she's endured much worse. Their lives change when the enigmatic Loki, played by Sean Bean, enters the picture. Against her instinct, Yeoh takes him in and three soon becomes a crowd. It's a quiet little character study with some interesting twists, ruined only by an implausible ending. I can understand what led a character to the action that was taken; I just can't buy that it worked within the confines of this type of movie. It's not a bad watch for a slow afternoon.

2) Let the Right One In:
This Swedish film is a dark and beautiful look into the life of a very lonely young boy who faces the unrelenting torture of bullies from his school. His life changes when he meets a vampire who encourages him to fight back even as she becomes his first crush. The boy lives with his mother in the apartment adjacent to the one the vampire moves in to, along with a father figure whom I inferred to have been her guardian for most of his life. No one else notices or understands what the boy is going through, and it's tragic. He's well on a psychopathic road to being pushed Too Far, while the vampire deals with troubling emotions and her own basic need for survival, which motivates the actions she takes and the bonds she reluctantly forms. The boy eventually learns her secrets, of which she possesses more than one, and it doesn't matter. It is the story of loneliness and kindred spirits, of dark yet satisfying conclusions. My only regret is that already we're getting a remake. Two years? Really, America? It's getting a little ridiculous, but I guess it's cheaper and easier to adapt an existing story and make money off a remake than it is to start from scratch. I still don't like the trend.

3) I Love You, Man:
Paul Rudd doesn't strike me as the sort of actor who can carry a lead role. He's a great supporter in comedies, but I can't see him as a protagonist. I wasn't a fan of his after the first movie I saw him in, The Object of My Affection, in which he plays the gay friend of a pregnant Jennifer Aniston, whom she falls in love with and tries to “convert”. It was kind of pointless, but I reluctantly had to admit to my girlfriend that it was better than Beverly Hills Ninja, the film we walked out of to sneak into the Aniston/Rudd one. Rudd redeemed himself for me a few years later with his extended guest stint on Friends, and since then he's been a lot more watchable. He did a good job as one of the leads in Role Models, and did so again here alongside Jason Segel, another actor I wouldn't consider for a lead role, although I've yet to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall. In I Love You, Man, Segel plays a carefree bachelor whom Rudd befriends. Rudd realizes after proposing to Rashida Jones that he has somehow never formed any strong male friendships in his life. His quest to find a best man leads him to Segel just when he's given up, and a “bromance” ensues(I really hope that term doesn't become backwards compatible and applied to “buddy” movies like Lethal Weapon or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Segel is a big kid hanging out in his “mancave” playing drums or guitar and jamming to Rush, sort of the grown-up version of his Freaks and Geeks role. Rudd is nervous in his initial bonding with his new friend, as someone would be on a first date, and this results in some funny awkward phone messages and nonsense nicknames like “Jobin”. At times he overdoes this joke, and he tries too hard to make “slappin' the bass” a catchphrase; that's not happening. But the two eventually get comfortable with each other, and in the end it all makes for a nice story and a decent comedy, enjoyable all around. These supporting comedic actors may be on the road to lead roles after all. If Seth Rogen could do it, then anything is possible. Hell, I never liked Rush, and by the end of the movie I kind of did. I still can't get the music out of my head...

4) The Wrestler:
The first film I saw Mickey Rourke in was The Rainmaker. I see him as the craggy tough guy from Sin City or Domino before the pretty(but sleazy)-boy from Diner or Nine 1/2 Weeks. The Wrestler may be his best “craggy” role yet, as he fully immerses himself into the character, past his prime and still pushing in the ring, taking on supermarket work and autograph appearances to pay the rent on his shoddy trailer. The movie doesn't pull any punches, and though wrestling may be scripted and choreographed, we find that that isn't quite the same as “fake”. Rourke actually took a razorblade to his forehead during one fight scene for the authenticity of the things these guys do to satisfy the audience's need for blood. Wrestling is more like watching professional stuntmen. They really are whacking each other with chairs or taking staple guns to one another. Marissa Tomei, whose body is in phenomenal shape, plays the aging stripper/confidante with whom Rourke's character falls in love. There's one anvil-icious but forgivable reference to The Passion of the Christ in his conversations with her, and one bit of ‘90s bashing when he talks about how Cobain ruined music. I agree that the ‘80s were awesome but disagree that the ‘90s weren't, but then the point is to show how these two characters live in the past, in their best years. We stay with Rourke the majority of the time, and the two main relationships are that with Tomei as well as his estranged daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood. It's tough to see the things Rourke's character goes through, but you root for him with each glimmer of hope that he might turn things around. Ultimately, there's only one thing he knows, and one thing he's always been good at even as he's screwed everything else up in his life. It's a sad but powerful performance, and a great film.

5) Tales of the Black Freighter:
This is an animated adaptation of a story-within-a-story from Watchmen, which didn't make it into the film. In the original comics, in the parallel ‘80s world in which costumed heroes were real, comic books focused on other genres, such as pirate tales. Throughout Watchmen we see bits of this particular tale, which has symbolic and thematic ties to the main story, from a Rorschach pattern being formed by blood on a sail to a man keeping his raft afloat with the bodies of his dead comrades, which parallels the sacrifices one of the Watchmen is willing to make in the name of good intentions. The Black Freighter is a bloody story, narrated by Gerard Butler(of b13fotographica fame), in which a man beset by pirates seeks to reach his home before they do and save his wife and children. Edgar Allan Poe would almost certainly be proud of the tragic irony that results from madness and good intentions, and the film pulls no punches in staying true to Alan Moore's twisted vision. The story works perfectly fine on its own and I don't think the main Watchmen film suffered without it, and the DVD contains an additional mock ‘80s news program, complete with old commercials, that deals more specifically with the subject matter of the main film. Just as Tales of the Black Freighter was sprinkled throughout the main story in the comics, we also got excerpts from “Under the Hood”, in which the original Nite Owl chronicled the early days of superheroes in the Watchmen universe. The DVD version of Under the Hood basically expands upon the opening credit montage of the film, as the reporter interviews the first Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, and other first generation superheroes. Nostalgic die-hard comic book geeks will definitely appreciate this approach to the transition from the Golden Age to the Silver Age in a world where costumed heroes exist. Just as these tales added to the original graphic novel, so too does this DVD make a great companion to the film.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Steps to Contentment

1) Leave work on a Friday afternoon after a week that tried to kick your ass, until you kicked it right back and triumphed.

2) Run 6 miles on a treadmill in the gym, in your comic book-addled mind thinking how great it is that your “powers” have fully returned.

3) Drive home on a drizzly evening with the windows cracked, singing along to Pearl Jam's Yield in its entirety, as enjoyable as it was 10(!) years ago.

4) Eat some pasta and meatballs.

5) Surf the net for a bit.

6) Watch a great DVD(more on that in the next WWW).

7) Place three scoops of (low fat) triple chocolate ice cream into a large bowl. Sprinkle some corn flakes over them. Stick a chocolate chip cookie in one side, and pour some milk over that whole mess. Grab a fork and dig in.

8) Listen. Outside your open window, the rain is trickling down to a stop, and now crickets are chirping. Nearby, your favorite cat is curled up on the shirt you discarded on the floor when you got home, purring in his own contentment. And you? You're feeling pretty good. Life has its ups and downs, so it's important to notice when we're feeling up, even if we're not sure why. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

9) Type up the whole formula so you don't forget.

10) Sleep, and enjoy this time; you've earned it.


The Scofflaw

I did the worst thing a person could do when I saw a cop lurking on the side of the road on Thursday morning: I stepped on my brakes. My dad always told me to just let up on the gas and slow down naturally, since that looks less incriminating. In any case, I wasn't more than 5 miles over the limit to begin with and the cop remained where he was, waiting for bigger fish to fry. I breathed a sigh of relief and thought the rest of the day would go much smoother.

My morning had just enough meetings to disrupt my natural workflow. I'd start something, go to a meeting, and then have no idea where I left off when I got back to my desk. Two of my meetings were in our other building, with a 15-20 minute gap in between. They weren't close enough together that I could just stay in the other building, and since the second meeting required I bring various products over for our photo studio to shoot, I had to go back to my office anyway. And that's where the trouble started.

I returned to the building accompanied by one of my writers, who got the door for me as my hands were full with the mail bin full of pots, pans, and other assorted goods. The door didn't open right away and she had to wave her keycard a second time. I commented on how that particular door has a lag since, after two years, I've picked up on these little details. And that's when I heard the security guard: “Sir. I need to see your ID.”

I should have kept on walking to the elevator bank, but instead I turned to look. He repeated the request, and he was talking to me. This “kid” looked like he was about 14, compensating with a ponytail and flimsy mustache and chin hair. A freaking musketeer was asking me for identification. “I'm getting carded,” I quipped to my writer, my Sicilian sarcasm rising to the surface as it does in such occasions. I never spent much time in Brooklyn before my college years when I started playing in a band from there, but my mom grew up there so it's in my blood. “Here.” I said, slapping it on the counter and sliding it over to him. He nodded his little pin head meekly, as I returned to pick up my crate from the floor and join my writer in the elevator. “What the f***?” I mouthed silently as I got in.

When we joined the rest of our team upstairs, they had similar stories. The manager of the photo studio at one point went out to put something in her car, leaving her card in her office. Even though he just saw her walk out, he made her sign in. It's ridiculous when these guys get too serious with their job. If someone is strange or looks like he or she doesn't belong there, get them. If they obviously are going to a meeting or are with other employees, ease up. Let me do my job, and you worry about the skater punks who cut through the parking lot at night. Go after them in your little electric golf cart.

After three meetings and a barely avoided pat-down, I needed a break. I walked to Subway and ordered lunch, and the cashier took a ridiculously long time examining my twenty dollar bill, holding up to the light and turning it over. I eat there once a week and I've done so for over two years. What. The. F***? My afternoon was more productive and less eventful, and after an awesome 6-mile run I drove into the night, noticing the flashing lights of a police car up ahead. Someone else was getting a ticket, so my chances were shifting into the improbable, which of course is where I have the greatest probability of misfortune. One of those radar signs on the side of the road told me “SLOW DOWN. You're DRIVING TOO FAST.” rather than displaying my speed as it normally does. I assume it was cycling on an automatic message since I got down to 20 MPH and it was still saying the same thing. On the way home, I had to make a quick stop for a photo opportunity, after which I drove the last mile to my house unaware of my last law-challenging move of the day. Where I had parked was so well-lit, as were the roads, that it wasn't until I turned down my block that I realized I'd been driving WITH MY HEADLIGHTS OFF. Maybe that security guard knew what he was doing, after all.

That's right; I'm a bad seed, baby.


Poll of Randomosity Twelve

It's another Poll of Randomosity! Here's my TWELFTH set of TEN random questions that I must know the answers to:

1) Is change avoidable?

2) Are cats good for protection?

3) Do potatoes and tacos mix?

4) Do you live every day like it's your last?

5) Are our minds measured in degrees of sanity or madness?

6) What have I got in my pockets?

7) When was your last real vacation?

8) Is it wise to cross the street near a stop sign?

9) Do you know The Muffin Man?

10) How can a person increase his or her own energy?

For me, the answers are:

1) For the most part, I don't like change. None of us do, though life is change and it's unavoidable. I try to avoid it, but whether I like it or not, certain things are inevitable. It's almost always a traumatic experience, until I'm on the other side thinking, “That wasn't so bad; what was I afraid of?” And then I get comfortable all over again and the cycle repeats.....

2) They're great for keeping out rodents and vampires. In all the years I've lived in a house with cats, I've never had a major problem with either of those.

3) I would not have thought so, but Taco Bell proved me wrong, with a little help from bacon and cheese. Man, when I go off a diet, I really go off a diet....

4) I'd like to, but old habits die hard. This ties in somewhat to answer #1.

5) I think we're all a little bit crazy, and some of us are just more functional than others.

6) Nothing much. Knives. Lint. The One Ring. Spare change. My cell phone. Kryptonite.

7) The closest thing would be my NASCAR road trip back in 2006. To be honest, I'm not a fan of travel. I like my familiar surroundings, I'm not a fan of driving, and I definitely don't feel comfortable on an airplane or a boat since I can fly unassisted about as well as I can swim. It's that time of year though when everybody in the office is either on vacation, talking about a vacation they've just returned from, or one that they're planning. And the conversation in a meeting will eventually cycle around to me, and all I can do is shrug my shoulders when asked if I'm going anywhere interesting. I'm feeling the itch a little bit, and some friends were recently discussing the possibility of a cross-country road trip or a cruise next year. I just don't have that kind of free time in my life right now, but it's definitely a bug in my ear now percolating.

8) It should be. I know a few spots near my job where people barrel through and I like to make them stop. I'll do a little fake jog like I'm not deliberately crossing instead of letting them run the sign, but I jog just slow enough that they have to make a full stop. I nearly got hit by a van on Wednesday, and since it sounded like it sputtered and stalled before stopping a few feet over the line, I'm very lucky the driver was able to acknowledge my raised hand. It annoys me that they don't even slow down to check for pedestrians, but I guess it’s becoming a dangerous game....

9) The one who lives in Drury Lane? Hey, he doesn't drive an old van, does he....?

10) Exercise and avoiding junk food always helps me. I probably could stand to get to bed before 1 AM though. I just can't get everything done in the course of a day that I'd like to.

And you, my loyal readers? Where do you stand on these inquiries?



PBW: Everything Must...Stay?

When my uncle moved from his home to an apartment a few years ago, we had a fairly successful yard sale, boosted by Craigslist. A lot of people check that site, apparently. This past weekend, my parents tried to do the same with the contents of his apartment, with considerably less success. We ended up keeping more than we got rid of, much to the chagrin of my father, since our house is still cluttered with the items my mom rescued after the last move. My uncle is now in a fully furnished nursing home room with dementia and little use for the bulk of his material possessions beyond clothes, photos, and a television, although I did convince my mom to save a few figurines and familiar objects to put on some of his shelves. It's a hard time for my mom, losing a large part of her brother as he retreats into his mind, and at the same time having to say goodbye to a lot of her parents' things that he had saved in their old house over the years. It was an exhausting effort for all involved, and I dedicate this Photo Blog Wednesday to my parents' hard work trying to sort the mess out:



A Note to Krispy

Dear Krispy,
I don't really know how to tell you this, but purple hedgehogs want to destroy you. I think I realized it when your dog humped my leg at the mental hospital and I saw you carve your initials into my father. I'm sure high to understand that you need a sex-change. I'm returning your couch cushions to you, but I'll keep your glass eye. You should also know that I mocked you behind your back constantly and you should get that embarrassing rash checked.
Greetings to your frog Leonard,
Michael Wayvid Whorenelli

* * * * *

For those who are certain I've lost my mind, here's the explanation:

Dear [Last person to post a comment],
I don't really know how to tell you this, but (1). I think I realized it (2)(3) and I saw you (4)(5). I'm sure (6) to understand (7). I'm returning your (8) to you, but I'll keep (9). You should also know that I (10) and (11).
[your name]

(1) What's the color of your shirt?
: I'm in love with your cat
Red: Our affair is over
White: I'm joining the Convent
Black: Our romance is over
Green: Our socks don't match
Grey: You're a leprechaun
Yellow: I'm selling myself for candy
Pink: Your nostrils are insulting
Brown: The mafia wants you
No shirt: Purple hedgehogs want to destroy you
Other: I dislike your eyelashes

(2) Which is your birth month?
: That night you picked your nose
February: When I quoted Forrest Gump
March: When your dwarf bit me
April: When I tripped on peanut butter
May: When I threw up in your sock drawer
June: When you put cuffs on me
July: When I saw the purple monkey
August: When you smacked my ass
September: Last year when you peed your pants
October: When we skinny dipped in the bathtub
November: When your dog humped my leg
December: When I finally changed my underwear

(3) Which food do you prefer?
: In your apartment
Chicken: In your car
Pasta: Outside of your office
Hamburgers: Under the bus
Salad: As you were eating Kraft Dinner
Lasagna: In your closet
Kebab: With Jean Chrétien
Fish: In a clown suit
Sandwiches: At the Elton John concert
Pizza: At the mental hospital
Hot dog: Under a street light
Other: With George Bush and Stephen Harper

(4) What's the color of your socks?
: Ignore
Red: Put whipped cream on
Black: Hit on
Blue: Knock out
Purple: Pour syrup on
White: Carve your initials into
Grey: Pull the clothes off
Brown: bit of
Orange: Castrate
Pink: Pull the pants off of
Barefoot: Sit on
Other: Drive over

(5) What's the color of your underwear?
: My girlfriend
White: My father
Grey: The Catholic Priest
Brown: The Montreal Canadian's goalie
Purple: My corned beef hash
Red: My knee caps
Blue: My salt-beef bucket
Yellow: My illegitimate child in Ghana
Orange: My Blink 182 CD
Pink: Your My Little Pony collection
Other: The elephant in the corner

(6) What do you prefer to watch on TV?
One Tree Hill
: Senile
Heroes: Frostbitten
Lost: High
The Simpsons: Cowardly
The news: Scarred
American Idol: Masochistic
Family Guy: Open
Top Model: Middle-class
Grey's Anatomy: shamed

(7) Your mood right now?
: How awful you are
Sad: How boring you are
Bored: That I get turned on only by garbage men
Angry: That your smell makes me vomit
Depressed: That we're related
Excited: That I may pee my pants
Nervous: The Middle East is planning their revenge on you
Worried: That your Ford sucks
Apathetic: That you need a sex-change
Silly: That I'm allergic to your earlobes
Cuddly: That Santa doesn't exist
Ashamed: That there is no solution to you being a dumb kid
Other: That your driving sucks

(8) What's the color of your walls in your bedroom?
: Your toe ring
Yellow: Your love letters to me
Red: The pictures from Vegas
Black: Your pet rock
Blue: The couch cushions
Green: Your car
Orange: Your false teeth
Brown: Your nose hair clippers
Grey: Our matching snoopy underwear
Purple: Your old New Kids on the Block blanket
Pink: The cut toenails
Other: Your Hannah Montana underwear

(9) The first letter of your first name?
: My virginity
C/D: Your photo with the mustache drawn on it
E/F: Your neighbors dog
G/H: The oil tank from your car
I/J: Your left ear
K/L: The results of that blood-sample
M/N: Your glass eye
O/P: My common sense
Q/R: Your mom
S/T: Your collection of butterflies
U/V: Your criminal record
W/X: Your suicide note
Y/Z: Your credit cards

(10) The last letter in your last name?
: Love your sweet, sweet ass
C/D: Always will remember the pep talks
E/F: Never will forget that night
G/H: Will not tell the authorities that you stole the whale from the backyard.
I/J: Mocked you behind your back constantly
K/L: Hate your cooking
M/N: Told in my confession today about the moose poaching
O/P: Told my psychiatrist about the bruises
Q/R: Always wanted to break your legs
S/T: Get sick when I think of your feet
U/V: Will try to forget that you broke my heart
W/X: Haven't showered in a month
Y/Z: am better off without you

(11) What do you prefer to drink?
: Our friendship is ruined
Soft drink: I'm off to lead a new life as a lemon
Soda: I will haunt you when I'm reincarnated as an Eskimo
Milk: The apartment building is on fire
Water: I'm scratching my butt as you read this
Cider: I have a passionate interest for mice
Juice: You ruined my attempts at another world war
Mineral/Vitamin water: You should get that embarrassing rash checked
Hot chocolate: Your Cucumber-fetishism is weird
Whiskey: I love Oprah Winfrey
Beer: Thanks for the Cocaine
Other: you should stop picking your nose

(12) To which country would you prefer to go on a vacation?
: Warm tingly sensations
Australia: Best of luck on the sex change
France: Love always
Spain: With tears of sadness
China: You make me sick
Germany: Please don't hurt me
Japan: Go milk a cow
Greece: Your everlasting enemy
USA: Greetings to your frog Leonard
Egypt: Kiss my butt
England: Go drown yourself

Why not try this for yourselves? The combinations are nigh infinite!



Phanasmic Links 8.24.09

In one week, we'll no longer have access to my uncle's old apartment. Now that he's in a nursing home with dementia, my other uncle has been in a bit of a hurry to clear everything out. My parents ran a tag sale this weekend though not much sold. Personally, I think a bunch of arrows drawn in marker leading to the second story of an apartment building to a door at the end of the hall that says “come on in” might seem like a trap to some people, but far be it from me to question my mom's wisdom. Much to my dad's chagrin, she's saving even more stuff including the drawers from her parents old end tables, which she wants to use for storage as well as hang on to some piece of their old furniture from when my grandparents were wed. To me, it's just more flammable items to add to our already overcrowded house, but since I share her packrat gene I can't complain. I did weed out some old papers in my room myself this weekend, which of course isn't remotely noticeable. I need a Batcave. Since our basement is full, drilling under it is the only logical solution to these space issues. Then I could put a cool car down there. Chicks dig the car. And everyone digs PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) Checking out thousands of varieties of dice isn't much of a gamble; it's a sure interesting thing.

(2) I'm sure I'm not the only one who ever doodled in the margins of my notebook, so I think the discovery in 1951 of the earliest known child drawings is really cool.

(3) Rey takes the time to read the 1,017 page proposed health care bill, and sorts out the good, the not as bad as we thought, the bad, and the ugly.

(4) If you told me four or five years ago that I'd be excited about the trailer for Smallville Season 9, I'd say you would be crazy. I would have been very wrong; how is this show suddenly getting good?

(5) A laser demonstrates remarkable collision detection as it follows contours drawn on a notepad and more.
Hat Tip: B13

(6) As entertaining as the franchise is, you have to admit some Star Wars® designs are not very good or practical at all. You can blame a lot on this guy.
H.T.: J-No (nws).

(7) Meet the real-world versions of some of video games' most iconic objects.

(8) Holy catfish, Batman! Who says scientists are all nerds? I do...now.

(9) Take an 8-bit trip with thousands of LEGO bricks.

(10) 99 Bricks: The Legend of Garry is the most epic game of its kind! Can you master 24 levels of tower building to restore light to your kingdom?

Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!



WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 5

My Weekend Wrental Wreviews features some outstanding movies this week, and some less so. Here's the fifth edition of WWW:

1) Idlewild:
I loved this movie. Outkast was outstanding. Part Moulin Rouge, part 8 Mile and part Shakespeare, the film is a unique entity that proves the hip hop duo capable of both acting as well as multiple musical styles. Two childhood friends in the prohibition-era South grow up to lead very different lives. One is the shy, quiet son of a mortician who dreams of being a pianist, his talent confined to a coffin-like attic and a local club. The other is more of a hustler, and a family man overwhelmed by the responsibilities he tries to avoid at home, finding haven in that same club. Terrance Howard shines and surprises as an ambitious rising gangster who menaces the lives of both. Idlewild offered comedy, drama, and unique musical numbers in a tale about how the lives and deaths of the people around us shape and influence our own.

2) The Day the Earth Stood Still:
After well over 50 years, you would think a remake of a science fiction classic would be a good idea, if only to update the special effects. Indeed, the updated robot Gort is pretty cool, but we don't get enough of him and, in the film's climax, the threat he offers is not in a form one would expect, but probably one that was easier to animate, as were the glowing spheres that replaced the ‘50s flying saucer. Where the film really suffers is in the story, a halfhearted environmental message about saving the Earth from the damage we pose as a species. The concept is fine, but the execution is dull, with blame lying at the feet of the wooden performance of Keanu Reeves. I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to include a scene of him speaking stilted, likely mispronounced Chinese, but it was hilarious. A lot of moments and lines are unintentionally funny, and the motivation of a character to change sides is an unfortunately weak switch-flipping moment that isn't very believable. The film needed a better arc for this character, not a sudden “my bad”. I wouldn't say I didn't like the movie or wasn't entertained, but the flaws took a lot away and I mourn the potential of what the film could have been.

3) Twilight:
The target audience is teenage girls, which may be why I felt this vampire tale was a bit watered-down. I certainly wasn't expecting True Blood, but I was hoping for Buffy, so something felt lacking. Twilight is the story of a high school girl who moves in with her father in a foggy town, and soon learns that some of her classmates are vampires who have made a conscious effort not to prey on humans as they try to coexist peacefully. She falls in love with one, and there was definite chemistry between the two romantic leads. I did like some of the film's conceits about vampires and why they stay out of the sunlight, although the depiction of this in the movie wasn't very convincing. I also like some of the varying traits and abilities of the vampires, though the differences weren't fully explained. Why do some get speed while others get strength or clairvoyance? The inevitable threat of vampires who do hunt humans also feels tacked on at the end, despite one or two incidents or minor characters being attacked before our protagonists encounter the bad guys. The clash, which occurs following a cool and enjoyable softball sequence that reminded of some of the games the X-Men have played in their downtime, is fine but it's resolved too quickly. Ultimately, the film feels like exactly what it is, the first chapter of a planned trilogy. Characters are introduced and potential plots are set up, but the payoff is clearly being saved for future chapters. As a vampire story, it could have had more blood and action. As a high school story, it would be mediocre without the vampire elements. I liked the movie, but it didn't live up to all the hype. Maybe the books are better, and this was just an abridged version touching on all the highlights. I hope, following the laws of trilogies, the next installment is a lot more epic.

4) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:
I enjoy bittersweet tales that follow the full life of unique individuals, and this one definitely falls in the same league as Forrest Gump and Big Fish. It wasn't as bright and comedic as the former sometimes was, although there were a few moments I had to smile or chuckle at. And it didn't move me to tears like the latter, although there was a lump in my throat once or twice. The perspective from which the story is being told is a depressing scenario to begin with, so we're prepared from the first scene for the inevitable. This three hour adaptation of a seven page short story isn't about death, though, or birth. It is the story of how our beginnings and endings aren't all that different, and how the life we live in between is what matters. Brad Pitt turns in one of his best performances as a man who ages backwards. Save for that one anomaly, his life isn't all that extraordinary. What is extraordinary is his perspective. He possesses the mind of a person his chronological age at most times, while most people treat him as someone his physical age. It is the story of preconceptions and not judging a book by its cover, as well as a love story of people traveling in opposite directions, fortunate enough to meet in the middle. Time only flows in one direction, and we need to appreciate the people we meet on our own journey, and enjoy our own middle while it lasts. Great movie.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



A Few Things.

1) Weather can be about as interesting a topic for writing as it is for conversation, but “interesting” is how I'd describe what we've had lately, unbearable heat and humidity breaking down into crazy storms. Before my workday ended on Friday, it got noticeably dark outside, like our skylights went pitch black. Then it sounded like a few spurts of hail followed by pouring and then suddenly, like someone turned a faucet, it just stopped. It's been doing that on and off for hours.

2) Inglourious Basterds is the best thing Quentin Tarantino has done in years. He gets back to the essence of film as an art form where every note on the soundtrack and every sound effect and nuance is deliberate and imposing, even little things like the sound of milk being poured into a glass. It's bloody and violent, though in some ways not as graphic as his previous films, with the exception of a few key scenes that go way beyond some of the graphic stuff in his early work. The film is broken into chapters, and a series of loosely related tales in Nazi-occupied France gradually build into a collision course of mayhem and murder. There are unexpected cameos, and great moments of stylish humor. Brad Pitt is hilarious as a Southern lieutenant, especially when he displays real talent playing a Southern American trying to speak Italian. The film has many layers, and there's a phenomenal sequence in a movie theater during a Nazi propaganda film in which we're reminded that we're also sitting in a movie theater watching the equal and opposite version of what they're seeing. It's just brilliant, and an instant classic. Oddly enough, all the stars I expected to shine did so in much smaller doses, and there were a lot of newcomers or lesser-knowns who stole the spotlight, especially Christoph Waltz. That guy was one of the best quietly menacing villains I've seen on screen in a long time, cool and calculating, his mind five steps ahead of his enemies. The tension is palpable. You know his wrath is coming, but you don't know when and there isn't much you can do about it. Add him to the stock of Tarantino players, and keep a sharp ear out for vocal cameos from two classic Tarantinians....

3) I'm regretting scheduling a 9:15 AM dental cleaning right about now. The problem with scheduling these things six months in advance is that I never know what my band schedule might be, so I make the appointment early just in case I get booked and have somewhere else to be later in the day. It's fun seeing my old college buddies and easy to lose track of time. At least I live close to the dentist and honestly the hygienist does most of the work; I can just lie there and maybe take a much-needed nap. When I'm done there, it will be on to my uncle's apartment to see if my folks need any help selling his stuff. So on that note, I bid you a fond arrivaderci, and good night.


MCF vs. The Tarantino Twenty

I caught an interesting video over at Sean's the other day, in which Quentin Tarantino lists his favorite 20 movies since 1992, the year he started directing:

For some reason I thought Tarantino had been directing a lot longer, but then again 1992 was 17 years ago. He was only 29 then. I was graduating from high school. I've gone through college and three jobs since then. Tarantino has directed 5 or 6 films, been involved others, and promoted some that he just liked. That's one thing I like; he's a genuine fan, one with influences that he's incorporated as he's enjoyed success, even as he maintained his own enjoyment of the art of film itself. I'm just a spectator, and I'm always looking for new lists to conquer. It's interesting to see just how much my viewing habits have coincided with his. I've seen 13 of the following 20, and here's how my opinion compares with Tarantino's:

1) Battle Royale:
I haven't seen it, but since it not only made this list but was his definitive #1, I'm going to have to check it out, certainly before an apparent remake. I think we're too quick to remake foreign films over here, and it seems unnecessary. Battle Royale is only 9 years old. I still can't believe there's a remake of Death at a Funeral in progress within 2 years of the first one, which was in English.

2) Anything Else:
I'm looking at the cast and the description of this one, and I have no idea how it slipped under my radar. I will be correcting that.

3) Audition:
Here's yet another title I've neither seen nor heard of. The description is intriguing....

4) The Blade:
I watch movies; honestly I do. Sooner or later I'll get to some of them on this list.

5) Boogie Nights:
Finally, here's one I've seen, and in the theater too! It has an outstanding cast and includes such highlights as a naked Heather Graham in rollerskates, and Mark Wahlberg singing The Touch. This prompted such an enthusiastic response on my part, that in explaining the song's origin to my girlfriend in the parking lot after the movie, I was probably waving my geek flag a little too proudly and hammering the first nails into the coffin of our relationship. At least the movie was timeless.

6) Dazed and Confused:
I get what Tarantino is saying about this being a great hangout movie, and I did enjoy it, but I don't think I related to it as much as he did, being a decade too young to fully appreciate it. D&C captures the ‘70s, but it was films set in the ‘80s like Fast Times at Ridgemont High or television shows like Freaks and Geeks that I related to more. Ferris Beuller's Day Off probably contains my all time favorite group of ‘80s friends to hang out with.

7) Dogville:
I've heard of it; I don't know much about it. I'll have to check it out.

8) Fight Club:
The first rule of Fight Club, is that I do not talk about why I love Fight Club. Not surprisingly, that's also the second rule. But man, even without the twist I won't spoil ten years later, it'd still be a hip, stylish, and badass flick that turns our idea of sanity and order upside down. We find comfort in the routines of our rat race, but we may find madness as well.

9) Friday:
It's the first comedy on this list that I've seen, and as the first in a series it's still the best. I love a good character driven piece, and this is basically a slice of the lives of two guys sitting around on their porch in the hood. You can't go wrong with Cube and Tucker. Here was a time before the former was making bad family films and before we knew that the latter really talked like that. At the time, it was just a great act....

10) The Host:
I'm amazed at not only the effects in this film, but how it blends comedy and tragedy so seamlessly. In terms of flavor, District 9 is the most recent and best comparison, while some drew parallels to Cloverfield due to the similarity of an amphibian emerging to terrorize those on land. Ultimately, The Host is a unique animal and the film that made me aware of the growing Korean film industry.

11) The Insider:
It's not bad, and definitely well-acted. It's not as flashy as some of the films I like and probably wouldn't be memorable enough to make my own top 20, and that's a shame, because it has a really strong message and more people should be aware of the corruption in things like the tobacco industry.

12) Joint Security Area:
It's neither the JSA I'm thinking of nor a film that I've seen, so I'll have to rectify that.

13) Lost in Translation:
It was the film that restored Bill Murray even as he reinvented himself as a viable independent film star. It probably wasn't much of a stretch for him to play a down-at-the-other-end-of-his-career actor reduced to humiliating gigs and commercial spots to pay the bills, but I still admire the pathos he brought to the table.

14) The Matrix:
I can't say that I agree with Tarantino about the sequels. Were they as good as the original? In some ways, no. Did they ruin the original? I don't think so. I think part of the problem is that the first one left so much open to interpretation, and in the days before I had my own blog I remember writing essays to friends in e-mails for weeks after seeing the film. It lit a fire in my brain as I delved into layers of reality. It was, at the time, a TRON for philosophers. Maybe too many questions were answered in the subsequent chapters, or maybe they weren't the answers we were hoping for. In any case, it's still one of the more stylish sci fi journeys of our time.

15) Memories of Murder:
It's another one of the 7 movies on this list that I didn't see...yet. Moving on...

16) Police Story III/Supercop:
Was this the last great Jackie Chan import before his career took up root in the West? It brought us all the action and humor of his early work, along with the stunts and the outtakes at the end where the stunts went wrong. And for some of us, it was our first sampling of Michelle Yeoh.

17) Shaun of the Dead:
And a little further West, Simon Pegg would make a name for himself in America with this a quirky zombie comedy genre blend. There really aren't enough zombie comedies if you ask me. I doubt it will hold a candle to Shaun of the Dead, but I'm personally really looking forward to Zombieland.

18) Speed:
I can't believe there's more than one Keanu Reeves movie on this list. I can't believe I agree; at the time, it was a unique edge of your seat thrill ride before “unique edge of your seat” thrill ride became a cliché and everybody was joking about something blowing up if it slowed down. Then Jason Patric got on a boat, and no one was laughing. I think some of Keanu's best roles have been in law enforcement, and I'd probably include the equally underrated Point Break on a list of my own.

19) Team America:
It's so ridiculous. It's wrong. It's offensive. It's puppets. It's hilarious. Honestly, there was no other way this story could have been told, not with actors, and not with animation. I think of scenes like the “signal” and the marionette flailing its limbs, and it still cracks me up. That would not have worked in any other format. I could probably have done without the extended alley vomit scene, but then this is a film with a puppet sex scene. Every film doesn't have to be a masterpiece when compiling a personal list, only reach you in some personal way.

20) Unbreakable:
The fact that Tarantino gets what Shyamalan was doing with this film gives me new respect for him. I'm surprised by how many people either miss or don't appreciate the subdued magnificence of this treatment of the superhero archetypes, and I agree that it contains one of Bruce Willis' finest performances.

Some of these I want to see again. I can imagine picking up on nuances and hints in Fight Club that would further its brilliance. I know I bought Unbreakable a few years ago, and despite the long list of movies I haven't even seen once, I have a strong urge to dig through my DVD stacks now. But my list is long and, after hearing Quentin's, it looks like I'm adding 7 more. I'll have to do a top 20 myself one of these days. An all-time list would be tough, and even within my own lifetime would be a challenge. Perhaps I'll break it down into 20s per decade. I'll have to think about it....


Two years ago...

Two years ago I was still driving a car with no air conditioning. I don't know how I did it for so long. I tried to conserve the AC in my new car but that lasted all of a day before I rolled up the windows and cranked it.

Two years ago I ate at Subway maybe once a month, and only when I was bored with other options. Now I eat there once a week and I wish there were more options within walking distance of my office. Yesterday, I heard a customer repeatedly ask the guy behind the glass, “Get that fly outta there....hey...HEY! That fly! Right there...I don't want any more meat on that sandwich. Do you see it? Crawling. RIGHT. THERE.” It took way too long for the worker to register what the guy was saying. And why does that place leave me with a funky smell? It's not noticeable inside the establishment, but it grabs your clothes and says howdy once you're outside. I know people who refuse to eat there because they don't want to pick up that smell. I really should stop going there.

Two years ago, my uncle was only starting to show hints of his dementia. He was a little absentminded, and his stories were rambling, but the latter was always true so it took us longer than it should have to notice. We'll be selling a lot of stuff from his apartment this weekend since he has even less room in the nursing home where he now resides.

Two years ago, I really let myself go. I stopped going to the gym. I continued eating horribly. It went on for months until my clothes didn't fit and I constantly felt fatigued and on the verge of passing out, especially in stressful situations. Now my belt could use a new notch and I run over 5 miles every night. I'm not slim, but I'm still 30 pounds or so down from where I was. My diet still isn't great, so I'll enjoy this time while it lasts.

Two years ago, my secret identity labored as a mostly-unknown artist, with only one minor credit from a small job I'd done back in college for a major comic book company. Last week, I had my first cartoon “published” on my company's blog, complete with a credit and a small write-up about me. Granted, it's not the best thing I've ever drawn, and they pretty much took what I wrote about myself verbatim, but for me it was still a personal accomplishment. It's a shame MCF can never share it. Maybe someday when The Nexus has run its course...

Two years ago I was living in a cluttered room in my parent's house where I'd resided since 1974. I had two cats, an encyclopedic knowledge of geeky things like comics and cartoons, and I was wildly unpopular with the ladies. Some things never change.

Two years ago today I started a new job. It was a bit of an adjustment, since I'd been at the previous one for seven years and leaving wasn't my choice. In some ways, it had become a dream job, though the nightmare workload I'd built up over the years made the transition a little easier to take. Two years ago, I knew very few people, and didn't think I'd remember anyone's names. Two years later, I know most of them, and most of them know me. I like most of them and, as far as I can tell, most of them like me. It's been a good two years, and it's been an insanely fast two years. It doesn't feel remotely that long. I think that's a good thing.

We'll see how I feel after I blink and I'm writing about my retirement 30 years from now...


PBW: Three Cats

For all you cat lovers out there, this week’s short but sweet Photo Blog Wednesday offers three feline desktop images, available by clicking any of the smaller ones below. In order of appearance we have Chunky, a neighbor’s cat, Chirp, our resident genius, and Cubby, our resident scaredy cat:



Tales of Baritone Horn

After a busy weekend with various bands, I took a vacation day on Monday. My “vacation” consisted of trimming a hedge and mowing a lawn at my father's lot, and mowing the lawn at my parent's house. As it was in the mid-90s and one of the hottest days of the year, I subsequently passed out and lost the rest of my day off. As the saying goes, if I can't take the heat, try, try again. I think that's a saying. There is a sun that I got too much chance this weekend and it's braining my affect. Still, let's see if I can recall some highlights from my fun but busy weekend:

• On Saturday afternoon, one of the bands I play for was booked to entertain a former senator and his family. It may well have been one of the easiest gigs we ever had. We arrived and met outside the yacht club where the gathering was being held, and the senator led us inside. Since our trumpet player is partially blind and couldn't see where he was going, and the band leader who booked the job had another engagement, I had to step forward and follow the senator as he waved us on from table to table, and eventually out on to the dance floor in the middle of the room. We picked up probably every child in attendance, all wielding inflatable guitars that they used like swords or baseball bats to pummel me repeatedly. When we finished our first song, I turned to the crowd of children separating the senator and myself from the rest of the band, and they all threw a fist in the air in a rock and roll gesture of triumph. The other musicians pushed their way through, and we played about four or five more tunes before being led back outside. From beginning to end, the job took about 15 minutes at most, leaving my father, the partially-blind trumpet player, and myself plenty of time to get to our next gig with another band out in Queens.

• I always enjoy the job we played on Saturday afternoon. The old Italian women from the region of Italy where their club originated sing hymns and balance vases with flowers on their heads, maintaining some tradition from the old country. Since we arrived early, we were the first ones they told to play only hymns, as they had some complaints about us playing the ”Faccetta Nera”. It's a great song to play, disregarding the lyrics or the fact that it was a symbol of Mussolini and the Fascist movement. Musically it's fine; politically, not so much. Depending on what region of Italy our audience is from, it's either a really popular song or cause for great disgust. In general, the ladies of this particular society didn't want any marches or songs that weren't solemn or religious. We told our band leader when he arrived, and he still called out a march as our first song, though not a fascist one. We managed to play mostly hymns, but at the end when we arrived at the outdoor chapel where they were about to have a mass, our leader asked us to play the Reginella Campagnola, an upbeat melody also known as the “Woodpecker Song”. One of the women came up waggling a finger frantically, looking at me as though I was the one to choose the song. She told us that was not an appropriate song for church. After that, we played one more hymn and we were done. It will be a miracle if we get hired again next year.

• On Sunday, I headed to Little Italy on what I thought was the hottest day of the year, before I mowed two lawns on Monday. I caught a subway downtown, hoping it would take me to my destination. It wasn't the line I originally intended to take, as signs indicated track work was being done, but it was one that normally stopped at some of the same places. When I didn't recognize some of the names of the stops, I began to wonder if I was even still in Manhattan. Eventually, enough people got off the train that I could make out the garbled voice of the woman on the loudspeaker. I thought she had been saying the train was making all local stops, which it was, but then she listed exceptions, of which my stop was one. Wherever I was, I got off, and darted up and down a set of steps to get to the uptown platform and change trains. When one of the stops was the Brooklyn Bridge, I realized I had actually left New York before doubling back on the uptown line which was making stops that the downtown line wasn't.

I had still left early enough that the subway snafu was a minor inconvenience. The band leader was already pacing even though we had an hour until the procession. His son was a little calmer and told him we had plenty of time when he started yelling for everyone to get outside. We were going to be in the hot sun enough that day, and there was no need to stand in it sooner than necessary. As the church emptied and the society posed for photographs, we played a few tunes, joined by “Wah-wah”, a local mentally-disturbed shouting Chinese man that follows the feast every year. Sometimes he has a drum, as he did this year. Other times he has a trumpet. I'm honestly not sure what his real name is; my guess is that it's “Walter” and people are just imitating the way he's pronouncing it. It may well be something like “Wah-wah”, but I doubt I'm spelling it correctly.

Our first stop outside a funeral home offered plenty of homemade wine, which was probably a mistake. Alcohol dehydrates. At one point I closed my eyes during a song, and the drummer had to tap me on the shoulder for me to realize the band had started walking forward again. Eventually we got to a bank of restaurants, and one actually offered us cold water, which is more of a rarity than you might think. Years ago, people would feed the band at a feast; now we're lucky to get beverages.

Four hours later, we arrived back at the church, playing ”When the Saints Go Marching In”. Inexplicably, “Wah-Wah” suddenly appeared brandishing a guitar, the drum he'd followed us with all day nowhere in sight. He only knew about three chords, which actually put him on par with a lot of the bands I liked when I was in college. We finished the day by playing the courtyards of a nearby apartment complex, which turned out to be interesting since the security guards outside each place were not informed of our plans apparently and had to call their superiors for verification. Afterwards, our bass drummer very cleverly ducked out without telling anyone, because the band leader and his son were trying to get a free ride home from him since he had been the only one to drive in. So, they both took the subway back to the train station with me instead. I missed my train by 3 minutes and had to wait a half hour for the next one, which wasn't bad. I even had a random sighting of my old friend “Sparkplug”, who happened to be in the city that day walking through the train station while I was waiting. When I got on my train, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and saw the band leader and his son standing inside the train on the next track, waving frantically. My ride home was uneventful, save for one woman loudly arguing with someone on a cellphone, and another who kept giving her baby keys to play with, which he would promptly throw on the floor. These things woke me up a few times, and it was nice to finally get home and recover from my adventures, until my next journey....


Phantasmic Links 8.17.09

This has been an insane weekend, awesome but tiring. As always, my gigs are not without good stories, but I'll save those for another day as I focus now on PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) You can learn some interesting things if you know a person's name. Apparently there are only 7 people with my name, and since two are myself and my father, that narrows things down even further. Also, 42% of the letters in my name are vowels. I will be severely impressed by anyone who deduces my true secret identity for the first time armed with only that information. I'll deny it, but I'll be impressed.
Hat Tip: Krispy.

(2) I know I linked to it earlier this week, but I really love Henry Rollins' all-star ballad of G.I. Joe.

(3) This cracked me up to no end: A dude goes backpacking for two weeks in Europe with his phone off, and somehow his girlfriend doesn't realize it. The e-mails which ensue during her time of ignorance are priceless.
H.T.: B13.

(4) Art...from bacteria?

(5) ”In the depths of northeastern India, in one of the wettest places on earth, bridges aren't built - they're grown.”

(6) Scientists work out the math on surviving a zombie attack. Good, I was worried about that; glad someone's on it.

(7) These photos were created by dropping paint in water. Beautiful.

(8) How do various members of the Legion of Doom rate?

(9) A cop mistakes Bob Dylan for a vagrant. Yeah, i could see that...

(10) Remove the Red! It's as easy as it sounds but eventually, it's not. Can you beat all the levels and unlock all the bonuses?

Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!



WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 4

My Weekend Wrental Wreviews are back, although my wrental, er, rental activity was a little low in a week that included two trips to the movie theater and three band gigs! No week will ever go by in which I don’t get to a minimum of three movies, so let's see what DVDs I've watched this past week for the fourth edition of WWW:

1) Howl’s Moving Castle:
I’m definitely a fan of Hayo Miyazaki. His films harken back to the darker edged fairy tales of the likes of the Brothers Grimm. The palette is bright, but the world is just a bit twisted and off from our own, with shadows and distortion around every corner. Howl’s Moving Castle is definitely a tale of light versus shadow, of a young girl turned into an old woman by a curse, and the possibly less-than-human love interest who might be her only salvation. There’s awesome animation as always and some truly unique spins on magic and teleportation. The title structure possesses a particularly interesting door that leads to different places depending on how a dial is set. My one regret is watching the English dub of the film, because some celebrity voices are just too recognizable. I didn’t realize Christian Bale was in the film until the credits and subsequent special features, but Billy Crystal was just so Billy Crystal that all I heard was him, and not the character he was portraying. It took me out of the film at times. It’s a minor complaint for sure, in a film whose visuals are its greatest strengths in which a silent turnip-headed bouncing scarecrow often steals his scenes.

2) Holy Man:
I’m not really sure what to make of this one. At first, it was slow and put me to sleep, and I didn’t get through it the first night I tried. It had been a long week though, and I may have just been tired. I gave it another chance, and marginally ended up liking it, at least for the message it tries to convey. It’s not really a goofy comedy with Eddie Murphy playing a zany foil to the more sedate Jeff Goldblum. Murphy isn’t all that zany. He’s eccentric, but he’s a calm and spiritual man on a journey that’s never fully explained. Goldblum’s character is in danger of losing his job if he doesn’t boost the ratings on his shopping network, and putting the spiritual guru he has a chance encounter with on the highway into his shows gives him the boost he needs, until he reaches a crisis of conscience. The movie somehow feels unfinished or uneven, as though it’s never really sure whether it wants to be a comedy or a commentary on the evils of marketing and the preciousness of the time we have on this Earth, and how we can miss what’s really important. It’s a loose collection of bits that don’t fully play out, with some occasional shouting from Robert Loggia, and then it’s over. It was neither what I expected, nor what it could have been.

3) Conan the Destroyer:
This one felt more like a comic book movie than the first film , which isn’t necessarily bad, but in doing so it lost the epic edge. This one was just Arnie and his team, because every sequel needs more supporting characters, embarking on a surprisingly short quest to help a virgin retrieve a gem that, unbeknownst to them, will unlock a horn that can resurrect a demon. It’s an enjoyable adventure if you don’t look for too much other than medieval swordplay and Conan punching out a horse as well as the same camel he decked in the first film. And for some reason his thief sidekick is recast with a new annoying thief sidekick. This film also ends with the promise of a King Conan film, which we might have eventually seen had Arnold not given up acting for politics. He wears a crown on a troubled brow, just not as Mako foretold.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Go See District 9.

District 9 may well be the sleeper hit in a Summer of disappointment. I was intrigued when I first saw a teaser trailer for it prior to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, one of those aforementioned disappointments. I think the problem with a lot of the movies this Summer was that they were adaptations of comics or cartoons that I was already a fan of, and I had preconceptions and expectations. Star Trek and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince are probably the only exceptions, films that met or exceeded my expectations based on the source material. I'm forgiving of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen because I'm such a huge fan of the franchise and want to like it. Cut out a few scenes and characters that insulted my intelligence or brought the action to a screeching halt, and the remaining 3/4 of that movie is still pretty awesome.

As for D9, I knew nothing about it prior to the teaser trailer, which seemed to just be some political commentary on Apartheid and South Africa, at least until I caught a glimpse of an alien and saw Peter Jackson's name attached. Even the full trailers, which divulge a little more, didn't prepare me. It was an experience, one which I want to encourage you all to share, without giving too much away. The movie does start as a social commentary, and plays out like a very realistic documentary about the arrival of aliens in Johannesburg, and how they're quickly confined and segregated from the rest of the community. It's a great commentary on human nature, especially as the viewer is just as repulsed by the “Prawns” as the characters in the film. Gradually, you see the way they're being treated as inhumane, and feel shame for your repulsion. Soon, you're rooting for them instead of the humans. Imagine Alien Nation or E.T., shot as a gritty and realistic collection of news and documentary footage.

Newcomer Sharlto Copley sets some kind of record with the range his character goes through. He starts out as a naive Michael Scott character, but you gradually begin to despise him for his actions, even if he is blindly following orders. You want something terrible to happen to him. You're glad when it does. You don't expect a redemptive arc or any heroism. The movie surprises you.

I can honestly say this had the best effects of every science fiction action movie I've seen this year, mostly because it was all so seamless. Kudos to WETA and all others involved. Not once do you question the floating ship, or the aliens interacting with the humans, or the alien weaponry and technology. I'm sure there was some conventional models, costumes, and effects, but the level of digital effects is indistinguishable from what is real. It all looks real. It all looks like it's there.

I was worried several times. I cheered and applauded several times. And I was definitely stunned and shocked more than once. The film really gets to the roots of great science fiction literature, aliens as a metaphor for the way we treat those we perceive as different. The effects and action of your more mainstream stuff is there, but there's a foundation underneath. It's not popcorn, and the film's one reference to popcorn is appalling enough to qualify as disgust for such films. This film has something to say, and the youngest character in the film said it best when he said, “we're the same.”

Why are you still reading this? Go see District 9. Now.



This exercise should be as easy as 1-2-3...4! Each topic includes four random items about myself, in no particular order, that you may or may not already know:

Four names that people have called me:
1. MCF
2. Troll
3. Heat
4. Mr. Bucket

Four jobs I have had:
1. House Painter
2. Gas Station Attendant
3. Plant Salesboy
4. Art Director

Four movies I would watch more than once:
1. The Transformers: The Movie
2. Wayne's World
3. Spaceballs
4. Superman II

Four places I have lived:
1. **** ****, NY
2. **** ****, NY
3. Holliswood, NY (for a week)
4. **** ****, NY

Four places I have been:
1. Northampton, Massachusetts
2. Hershey, Pennsylvania
3. Washington, DC
4. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Four People who e-mail me (regularly):
1. B13
2. J-No
3. ”Krispy”
4. Rey

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Ice Cream
2. Pizza
3. Doritos
4. Granola bars (lately I've been hooked on Nature Valley Oats n' Honey)

Four places I'd rather be right now:
1. Lying in an inner tube floating down a river.
2. Hanging out with my friends.
3. A dreamscape of my own creation over which I have absolute control.
4. With an Animal

Four things I am looking forward to this year:
1. Seeing Metallica live again in November!
2. Autumn happy hours (Summer tends to be a social dead zone)
3. Saw VI (The saga concludes!)
4. Halloween (I need to start thinking of costume ideas)

Four TV shows that I watch:
2. True Blood
3. Fringe
4. Chuck

Four medical issues I've faced:
1. Landing face first on a shard of glass that split my lip and part of my nose when I was 5 years old
2. Fractured and partially dislocated right pinky playing dodge ball and had to wear a splint right before a big all-county concert.
3. Had to have intestines resectioned to remove a Meckel's diverticulum, a birth defect causing near-fatal internal bleeding when I was 25.
4. Removal of all four wisdom teeth at once, one of which was coming in at a 45 degree angle of impaction and another with a large cavity.

Four people I would like to meet:
1. My wife
2. My son
3. My paternal Grandfather (or any of my grandparents--the only one still alive when I was a child was my maternal grandmother, who died when I was 6)
4. God

Four things I've lost:
1. My previous job.
2. My mind.
3. Relatives, blood or otherwise, including: my aforementioned grandmother, an uncle by marriage, an aunt by marriage, my mom's cousin, my music teacher, and various cats over the years.
4. Weight (But I keep finding it).

Four friends I think will try this meme for themselves:
1. B13 (probably as a comment rather than a post)
2. Rey (If he reads this and realizes he hasn't posted anything on his blog since July and doing this will surprise people and mess with their heads)
3. Sean (though he may not link back to this post)
4. and YOU.