Phantasmic Links 11.30.09

I'm glad my long weekend is almost over, but not over yet. I'll be fully recharged and ready to work for another year after just one more day off. And no matter where I am or what I'm doing, I'll always start the calendar week off with an assortment of fantastic PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) Have you seen Smallville's version of the Justice Society? I'm not sure how I feel about those costumes just yet. They might be too faithful, and what looks good on the page looks like something from a comic book convention in real life. I'm still excited about the episode though, and they may look better in motion with different lighting.

(2) Every new Star Wars® Gangsta Rap is better than the last!
Hat Tip: J-No.

(3) These step-by-step photos detail the creation of a “Big Daddy” armored suit based on the video game Bioshock.

(4) In 1969, Chairman Mao had a second city constructed beneath Beijing in the event of a nuclear attack. It was never used, but you can see now how it looks today.

(5) Harrison Lake is home to some of the most amazing sand sculptures I've ever seen. When I was a kid, I was lucky if I got sand to hold the shape of a plastic bucket.

(6) This dude creates a 3D replica of Howl's Moving Castle....with PAPER.

(7) The Universal Record Database is a place where people can record all those records no one considered, or ever would...

(8) Marvel characters take on this year's Thanksgiving parade in the very special “99 Hulk Balloons”.

(9) This baby dances better than I walk. Okay, maybe having a baby on the edge of your kitchen table isn't the best thing to do, but still, that kid got MOVES.
H.T.: B13.

(10) Level up, armor up, and gear up to protect villages from hordes of invading demons in Shadowreign.

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 19

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 19th WWW:

1) Higher Learning:
Using a college campus as a microcosmic representation of America, John Singleton crafts a tragic tale of race, perception, and the unending cycle of violence. At key points, we see how some characters could almost have become friends, but mistakes and old ideas lead to a wider divide and an escalation of hatred. I've never seen this kind of performance from Michael Rapaport. He generally plays a doofus, even when he's injecting other elements into his roles, be they malicious or sympathetic. Here, a flannel-wearing hard rock listening kid trying to fit in and prove himself makes one wrong choice after another. You see why he makes the decisions he makes, and what pushes him down into the hole where he eventually ends up. He is at once a villain and a victim, and one of three key characters in the movie. Kristy Swanson plays the naive white girl afraid of the wrong things. She clutches her purse tightly in an elevator when she sees someone with darker skin, but walks the campus at night alone and gets drunk with the wrong frat guy. She learns, at a price, when to be vigilant and who to choose as her friends, things that cannot be recognized solely on the basis of race. Finally, Omar Epps is a promising young athletic superstar with an attitude. Under the tutelage of a professor played by Laurence Fishburne, he slowly learns to check his ego and work with a team. But pride is a powerful force, and he needs to experience great loss before he can fully appreciate what he has. The guy you overlook today could be your worst enemy tomorrow. The film has its share of hyperbole, and didn't represent my own college experience with diverse friends, but I recognize it as a metaphor for a larger picture as well as the way things might have been on other campuses, or even sections of my own outside my microcosm. I think things are better today; I hope they are. Singleton's final message of “UNLEARN” seems to urge one generation to forget the prejudices of a previous one, but perhaps there's a subtle difference since, to me, forgetting runs the risk of repeating past mistakes. If anything, the lesson should be to REMEMBER and LEARN.

2) Dead Presidents:
I remember the trailers for this movie when I was in college. My friend's sister even dressed up like one of the characters for Halloween. I always thought it was a heist movie, in which the characters wore white face paint with black hats to rob a bank. So when I finally did see it, I was surprised, not unpleasantly, to find that it was so much more. The heist is just one act near the end of a coming-of-age story of disillusionment in the Vietnam era. The youthful dreams of Larenz Tate and his friends, played by Chris Tucker and Freddy Rodriguez are shattered by their experiences in the war, and each returns changed in some way. The war portion of the movie is particularly brutal, on par with many of the major war films, and includes such things as a soldier toting around the severed head of one of their enemies. It pulls no punches. Honestly, any segment of the film, from the coming-of-age portion to the war to the heist contained enough material for one film, but since there's a logical progression from one to another, it makes sense why all are included. Keith David and Terrence Howard round out the cast in this rich tapestry. I don't recall how it did in theaters, but it was interesting that they marketed it with the focus on 15 minutes of the third act of a much richer tale.

3) Choke:
Sam Rockwell plays a sex addict who can't even abstain from sex with the girl he's supposed to be sponsoring in his support group, and a con-man who consistently fakes choking in restaurants to get people to save him, people who subsequently send him money or gifts. On the surface, he doesn't seem to have too many redeeming qualities, but because it's Sam Rockwell, you're compelled to watch this behavior and even root for him. When he's not working in a dead-end colonial reenactment job, he's visiting his mother in the nursing home, and her portrayal by Anjelica Huston adds a heart-breaking element to the film. She refuses to eat, and never recognizes her son, always confusing him for a lawyer or someone else, and she complains to Rockwell that her loser of a son never visits her. As the film delves into his childhood relationship with his mom through flashbacks, we gradually understand why he is the way he is, and even why he looks for strangers in restaurants to save him. When a beautiful young doctor at the home suggests a possible way to restore his mother, she sets off a chain of events that will make him question everything, after which nothing will ever be the same. It's a solid little film adapted from a novel by the author of Fight Club, though this movie has more of an independent, character driven flavor. It's definitely worth checking out. I never even would have heard of it myself, until I read on a message board for increasingly brilliant Community that a line of dialogue about a stripper named “Cherry Daiquiri” was a subtle injoke referencing a character cast-member Gilian Jacobs had played in the movie. It makes me wonder what other clever and obscure references the writers have sent sailing over my head, but I'm glad it led me to a good movie.

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



In the Core Sitcom Universe

Much as I'd love to jump on the Core Marvel Universe meme, I think it would be lost on most of my readers and, more importantly, the article and subsequent comments pretty thoroughly covered all that is both silly and awesome about the Marvel Universe. In defending a recent storyline in which The Punisher was killed and dismembered by Wolverine's son only to be stitched back together and resurrected by Morbius the Living Vampire to join a team of monsters, Chris Sims summed up various other plotlines in the history of Marvel that fans have accepted and even embraced. If you were ever a comic book fan, particularly Marvel, give it a read; you'll appreciate the summaries and references as much as I did.

Just as the comic book community can accept things like radiation giving people(or their mutant offspring) super powers, so too do television viewers suspend disbelief in the name of entertainment. It always cracks me up when some work of fiction is criticized for being too unrealistic. I could probably repeat this exercise for drama, and even (especially?) “reality” television, but for today I'm just going to focus on the sitcoms we know and love. See if you recognize some of these, then click each description to see if you're correct:

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, a single woman took in a humanoid alien with strange powers who arrived in a giant egg and had a penchant for wearing rainbow suspenders with a striped shirt. He frequently reported his findings about the human race back to his leader on the home world, and eventually developed a romantic relationship with the woman, even fathering a child who hatched from an egg and, due to having a backwards-aging extraterrestrial physiology, looked like an older, balding comedian.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, a scientist successfully passed off a robot he built as his 10-year-old daughter, despite the fact that she spoke in halting, mechanical tones and was always on the verge of destroying the annoying little girl who lived next door.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, a man fools two different landlords into thinking he's gay so he can share an apartment with two women, a brunette and three different blondes.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, an astronaut crashes his capsule near a deserted island, where he finds a bottle with a 2000-year-old woman inside. Possessing the power to grant wishes, she embraces her new master, with whom she has fallen completely in love.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, a diminutive African-American orphan is adopted by a retired Greek football player. After the boy burns down the family's apartment in an attempt to use a chemistry set to make a rocket for his teddy bear, they relocate to a mansion filled with secret passages hidden behind clocks and bookcases.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, a psychologist dreams about being an innkeeper for 13 years surrounded by odd characters, including a hillbilly with two identically-named brothers, until his dream self is struck with a golf ball and he wakes up.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, a middle-aged San Francisco cartoonist works from home while wearing a hand-puppet of a cow, in a two-family house in which his two daughters resided downstairs. His main antagonist would be his daughter's closeted homosexual friend, although after fathering a son he would also have to deal with his mother-in-law moving in to help out.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, a man tells his two children a long and rambling story about how their parents got together, which includes more than five years of stories about every misadventure and relationship he and his four closest friends had, but sparse details about his children's mother.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, a neat freak and a slob become unlikely roommates when their wives leave them.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, an African-American neat freak and an African-American slob become unlikely roommates when their wives leave them.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, a ‘50s rebel with a leather jacket and a motorcycle lives in an apartment over the garage of a wholesome, traditional family, and serves as the chief advisor and role model to all the kids in the community as he seduces women by turning on a jukebox with his fist.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, a verbose mailman and an overweight, unemployed alcoholic live vicariously through their bartender, a retired baseball player who can have almost any woman he wants, while spending time with another less-intelligent bartender, an abrasive barmaid, and a renowned psychiatrist, among others.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, footage for an unspecified documentary includes not just the day-to-day experiences of the socially inept manager of a paper company branch office, but the personal lives of himself and his employees, which include road trips, parties, weddings, and more.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, a man's distant Mediterranean sheepherder cousin shows up and moves into his apartment. The unlikely duo clash on many occasions, but also form the perfect team, as they teach each other about life and America. Eventually they get jobs at a local newspaper, marry gorgeous blonde stewardesses and become fathers.

IN THE CORE SITCOM UNIVERSE, a Canadian works from home on Long Island as a psychiatrist while his wife goes back to work as a reporter, and he deals with future born-again Christian son whose best friend's nickname is “Boner”, an anorexic daughter, and a wisecracking younger son who will eventually fade back into obscurity. The family would later add a new daughter as well as a homeless teen played by a yet-to-be big movie star.


Feel free to expand upon these or add your own in the comments section!



Thank Full

I hope everyone had a blessed and happy Thanksgiving this year! My family deviated from tradition slightly this year, possibly forging a new one along the way.

Normally, my Uncle Jerry would join us for such holiday gatherings. Since becoming too demented to live on his own, he's been relocated to an assisted living facility. We probably could have checked him out, but for various reasons I won't get into here, he would have been too much for us to handle. So for the first time in possibly ever, my parents and I had a quiet meal with just the three of us. My mom opted for seasoned deli chunks of turkey as opposed to getting a whole bird, but it was still quite tasty. As for corn, salad, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and the rest of the usual side dishes, they were all well and truly accounted for.

My mom also made an angel food cake, which my dad dug into right after the main meal. Since I'd only had my “breakfast” around 11:30 AM and we had “dinner” by 1 PM, I wasn't quite ready for dessert yet. My mom wrapped up a piece to take to my uncle, and soon we were on our way. Parking was abundant and I got a great spot, as most people had been checked out by their families for the day. Inside, my mom checked the main recreation room first in the hope that my uncle had ventured out of his room on his own. He had not. Upstairs, he didn't answer her knocking, but fortunately both she and her oldest brother have spares.

He shuffled to his feet from his bed at the far corner of the room. His television volume was cranking, which is why he probably didn't hear us. His face lit up with recognition when he saw me, but he's definitely not the full person he was a few years ago. My mom asked if he'd had a party that day, and had difficulty getting straight answers. He kept complaining it was cold, although even my folks thought it was hot and they're always cold. I'd thought ahead and worn a short sleeve shirt under my coat, knowing that a building full of the elderly would be warmer than I'd like.

My mom only turned her back on him for a minute or two to talk with my dad and I, who'd become engrossed in the end of Dr. Dolittle. More accurately, I was engrossed while my dad was just waiting for me to put the football game on for him. Meanwhile, Uncle Jerry had put on his neck pillow and climbed under the covers of his bed. “What are you, going back to sleep? HELLO??” asked my mom, when she turned back and saw what he'd done. Apparently he did the same thing to my other Uncle earlier in the week.

My dad by this point started muttering that we should just go home, that he could watch the game there. There really wasn't much point in visiting someone who wasn't aware of our presence. But a nurse soon arrived to take him down for the afternoon meal, and with some effort and help from my mom, they got him on his feet and got his jacket on. He shuffled along like the old man skit Tim Conway used to do, and insisted on taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Eventually we made it to the dining hall, and the nurse said we'd be able to sit with him since a lot of people were out for the day. One of the younger nurses walked by and my uncle shook her hand and introduced us. She'd met my folks before, and recognized me from my uncle's photos. When she moved to continue on her way, Uncle Jerry continued gripping her hand. “Oh, you don't want me to leave?” she asked. He just smiled. Player.

It took another ten minutes to traverse the dining area. “She's not there...” he mumbled, but we didn't know who he was looking for. One of the nurses? One of the patients he usually sits with? There were cards on the tables with people's names, but the staff told us we could sit anywhere. He got to his usual table and was joined by a few others, though one woman came over reluctantly, thrown off by the chaos of the “sit anywhere” business even after her son assured her that the assigned seat rule had been lifted for the day. My dad slipped off to find a television, and when all the other seats at the table were full I left my mom with her brother so I could find my dad. But I got stuck at a ramp where people with walkers kept materializing. It was like I was in some kind of video game. One would make it to the top and I'd start to proceed, but then “BAMF!”, a new one was at the bottom of the ramp. I was waiting so long that my dad actually came back, and called up to me that someone was turning on a television for him in the rec room, but he wanted me to ask my mom if it was okay, if it wasn't rude.

I told my mom that her “other son” was asking permission to watch TV, which she granted with a small smile. I checked on my dad for a bit as he watched the game in giant flat screen glory in a room all to himself, then back on my mom, who'd gotten food for my uncle to slowly pick at. Sandwiches probably weren't the best choice for someone with false teeth. Still, he managed, and had a better time with the potato salad and fresh fruit. One of the workers came around with various pills, but my uncle refused his. “We fight every night about this,” she told my mom. My mom had better luck sticking the pill in his mouth and getting him to wash it down with some juice. Then, after retrieving my father, we made the long journey back upstairs to my Uncle's room. Inside, Home Alone was just wrapping up on the television, and ”the old man got to me.” Fortunately, that one scene with that heart-tugging score didn't last long, and I maintained my composure for a family photo before we said good night, leaving my uncle standing in front of his bureau devouring the cake my mom had brought.

It's always interesting to see the people in that place, the varying degrees of competency and awareness. At one point while watching the game, my dad matter-of-factly told me, “Yeah, I think I'm going to die this year.” He's been saying that nearly every year as long as I've known him, but I still felt compelled to remind him that he's in much better shape than most people pushing 80. He rakes leaves, climbs ladders, carries things, and works on cars, and wonders why it puts more of a strain on him than it used to. Other guys his age are sitting staring at walls drooling. I'm thankful my family is still here, that their health is for the most part still good. My dad is in a lot better shape than he was at the beginning of the year when he was in a nursing home himself. He definitely didn't like being there and I don't blame him. But we had to be there for my Uncle, who despite asking us if we voted that morning, on some level of consciousness was aware of what day it really was, and that his family was there. My parents see him a few times a week, while I'm only there once every few months, yet he still knew enough to introduce me to people as his nephew. That's something to be thankful for. And all of the people in that home hopefully led exciting or interesting lives prior to settling there, and have memories they can be thankful of. As for me, I'm thankful that I can go where I want, when I want. The visit certainly served as a reminder that maybe I need to exercise my freedom more often, while there's still time. It all goes so fast. I'm thankful it doesn't go faster. And I’m determined to stick around on this world as long as possible, because I don’t want to miss anything. If I end up in a home with no internet access though, then and only then might I be ready to go....


Young Blood

I've successfully donated blood about four times now, and was unsuccessful once. My first attempt was back in high school, and it was a horrible experience. Back then, they'd prick your thumb with, in my memory, a big thumb tack. It probably wasn't that bad, but with sensitive nerve endings in the tip of my thumb, that hurt worse than the needle in my arm when they drew blood. I made the mistake of glancing at the tube of red stuff flowing out of me into a bag, and felt a little woozy. About the only good part of the experience was, before leaving the gymnasium, having a veritable feast of cookies and drinks. I can't think of any other situation in life where I'd combine Oreos and apple juice, but that's what they serve to boost sugar. It was a Friday night in my senior year, because at the time I had a job with the student cleaning crew assisting the maintenance staff. I was lightheaded, though some of it was psychological, and cleaning all the windows in the school took a little longer than usual. I remember wondering at the time if that was what it was like to feel drunk. I'd be in college before I'd learn that the sensation was similar.

About a month after my first donation, I came home from school to find my mom fairly upset. There was a letter saying my blood had been rejected, and that I should see my doctor because the blood bank thought I was anemic. It was nice of them to wait so long to tell us. Of course, everything checked out fine with the doctor, so we assumed the technicians had screwed up and wasted perfectly good blood. I'd gone through it all for nothing, and I was done with needles. Flash forward eight years and I'd be in the hospital with severe internal bleeding, within a pint of needing a blood transfusion. An exploratory procedure confirmed the problem to be a birth defect in my intestines known as a Meckel's diverticulum, a long shot but the doctors' best guess. The surgeon resectioned my intestines and removed my appendix while he had me open, and after a few days on morphine with a nasogastric tube siphoning my stomach, I was finally allowed to eat real food again.

One thing the experience got me used to was needles, since they were drawing blood from me three or four times a day to (ironically) test how much I was losing. Subsequent checkups were much easier and I didn't fear blood tests or needles. It really was just a momentary pinch after which I was fine. Still, whenever the blood bank stopped by my office, I wasn't too inclined to go out to those mobile centers out in the parking lot. Something about having my blood drained in a trailer didn't appeal to me. Three years ago when I changed jobs, I finally caved and decided to donate. The office blood captain was very persuasive, and besides it was in the cafeteria, which was more appealing to me than the trailers, even though it was probably less appealing for anyone eating lunch on the other side of the curtains.

According to the stickers I've accumulated in my cubicle, this past Tuesday marks my fourth donation. One of my friends has dubbed me a “blood buddy” since my presence is relaxing or distracting. She probably doesn't realize that the whole experience kind of still makes me nervous. I worry about passing out, which ironically makes me feel more light headed. Usually I close my eyes or simply lift my thoughts up out of my body and detach myself from what's happening. And I never, ever look at the tube or the bag. I tried to convince another office friend to start donating, using the mental detachment argument, but he can't get past the feeling of a needle stuck in there for an extended period of time.

One thing that has greatly improved is the little finger prick they do in the preliminary testing. Instead of a metal tack, there's some little plastic thing with a small metal pin inside that they click, and it only takes a second. I remember the nurse taking forever to push the metal into my thumb back in high school. They also use the ring finger which seems to have less sensitive nerve endings. This year, I braced myself for the pinch, and didn't feel a thing after the click. It was great. “Uh oh,” said the nurse, “Did it...yeah, I think that one broke.” “What do yo--ooohh!” I began as she tried again with a new one. “Felt that one, did you?” she asked. I knew it was too good to be true. When she asked for my blood type, I was somewhat positive that it was O+, the universal donor. When asked to present my card, I whipped out my red CVS card, which apparently didn't count. I cleaned my wallet out a few months ago and I guess I never put my donor card back in. I'd find it later and confirm that I was right about my blood type.

Honestly, the whole procedure of filling out paperwork and having a nurse check my blood, temperature, and blood pressure took longer than the actual donation. Each time seems faster than the last, and the anticipation between sitting in the waiting area and lying on the cot waiting for a vein to be found and pierced is worse than the actual lying there with blood draining out. I felt like I'd just begun when I was told I was almost finished. I didn't even feel all that light headed when I got up, though I still made a pig of myself with the juice and cookies.

Because my type can be given to anyone, the blood telemarketers harass me throughout the year. My company has increased to two drives per year, and I donate any time they come around. But when I get those phone calls, at work no less, I'm sort of a dick about it and hang up. I've learned to recognize the silence at the other end of the line that precedes an operator getting on the phone upon realizing a live person has answered. I know it's wrong, but I figure the once or twice I give each year is still better than not at all. According to my papers, the next time I'd regenerate enough to donate again won't be until January any way. So we'll see if I continue to hang up or start making other contributions throughout the year, if they finally break me down. I never thought I'd ever donate again after my high school experience, and I do hope that each time I donate now my blood is put to good use. Maybe there's someone out there on an operating table as I once was, who won't be so fortunate as to have a problem resolved without the help of a transfusion. I know the stock photo families on the posters aren't real, that I'll never see the people my blood goes to. But it goes somewhere, and that's enough.

Of course, with my luck, some clumsy orderly tripped and dropped mine on the way out. if that happened, I'd rather not know.


PBW: Mom's Crafty

My mom was a fairly good painter in her youth, although I think I was in my 20s before I found out some of the paintings hanging in our house were done by her. I guess I didn’t recognize the initials painted in the corners since they were done before she was married. But I have always known my mom was good at crafts, from sewing to crochet to making wreaths. One of her specialties is making angels out of styrofoam and fabric maché and painting them gold. She sells them at various craft fairs throughout the year, and this past weekend I got some shots of my folks along with her creations at one such event for a Photo Blog Wednesday pre-holiday special:



Turtles Forever

As far as I knew, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began as a goofy '80s cartoon about four pizza-loving green heroes spouting catch phrases like “Cowabunga!” or “Turtle Power!” There were toys and a variety of merchandise, and by 1990 they even got their own live action movie, the first film I saw in my home town's first movie theater. I had never been to the movies without at least one parent accompanying me, and I remember begging my folks and cleaning the entire house for a week to get them to let me go with my friends unsupervised. I even did a little drawing of the four characters and put them the refrigerator as a reminder.

The turtles were probably my second most frequently drawn characters after, of course, The Transformers. By the time I was in high school, I had gotten into comic books and started drawing superheroes. And old, “hipper” collectors showed me the Mirage comic series that inspired the show. It was much darker than what I'd been watching, black and white panels with style and dialogue influenced in part by Miller's Daredevil. If the film version of the turtles differed from the cartoon I grew up watching, it was because it was more faithful to the source material. I altered my drawing style to look more like the comics, and even attended a class at my local library taught by none other than Turtles co-creator Peter Laird.

By college, I was majoring in art, with more of a focus on graphic design than illustration. I would also make several pilgrimages a year with my friends to the Words and Pictures Museum in Massachusetts, founded by the other creator of the Turtles, Kevin Eastman. That museum respected comics as “sequential art”, and exhibited original pieces from both independent and big name illustrators. And of course there were plenty of life-sized Turtles lurking about in the rafters. It was a cool place; a shame it's gone.

In 2003, a new animated series debuted, with darker, edgier Turtles closer to their comic book roots. Gone were the initials on the belt buckles to tell the characters apart. No longer were the pupils drawn on the masks, just opaque slits. They trained as actual ninjas, and kept their existence secret from the public, while the Turtles from the first series often flew around in a balloon or drove in a van bearing their logo. The series ran for 7 seasons, and with the exception of one season that had our heroes trapped in the future with a younger sidekick, it maintained its dark tone. Characters died, and a lot was at stake. Injuries carried over from episode to episode, and there was genuine continuity and personal growth. Leonardo took on much responsibility for his brothers, and trained the hardest, going solo in Japan for a bit after a personal crisis. Donatello was still the scientist of the group, although he went through an arc in which science nearly destroyed him. Raphael was the belligerent loner of the group, though beneath his tough exterior beat fierce love for his brothers and their sensei/”father” Master Splinter. Michelangelo was probably the closest to his 1987 version, still the comedian of the group, here a comic book aficionado with a penchant for dressing up like his favorite heroes at times. He retained the lighter spirit of the old show, and collectively the whole cast made up an outstanding hybrid of the source comics and prior series.

SPOILERS follow for the conclusion of the series and a follow-up movie:

That show ended with the wedding of the Turtles' human friends and allies, April O'Neil and Casey Jones. Things of course do not go smoothly with the arrival of Cyber Shredder, but all the Turtles' old allies join forces to defeat their enemy once and for all. This was not the same Shredder who was their main foe through the first few seasons of the show; in a twist, he was revealed to be an alien and had been exiled to a distant, frozen world following his defeat. There were actually 3 or 4 Shredders over the course of the series, with a history too convoluted to get into here. But they were all more menacing and formidable than 1987's Shredder.

Every Turtles series culminated this past Saturday in Turtles Forever, an epic feature-length adventure in which the 2003 Turtles meet their 1987 counterparts, thanks to an interdimensional mishap with the Technodrome, the giant rolling fortress of ‘87 Shredder and his interdimensional ally Krang. The film opens on a familiar 2003 scene, as Hun and his gang are confronted during an electronics robbery by a quartet of shadowy green figures. Master Splinter catches a reference to this on the news, and thinks his sons have been careless, but since none of them had ventured out that night, they soon realize something's not right.

Hun captures his attackers, who are revealed to be the ‘87 Turtles, and the 2003 versions come to the rescue of their alternate universe counterparts. Mikey, of course, takes to them instantly, while Raph finds them irritating. Shredder and Krang are in the ‘03 universe as well, along with the Technodrome and Bebop and Rocksteady, who did not have counterparts in the new cartoon. The two Turtle quartets join forces and find time for a visit to the ‘87 universe, while Shredder uses the Technodrome to locate and revive his counterpart, the deadly alien Shredder. ‘03 Shredder quickly takes control of the situation, upgrading the technology of the interdimensional travelers while reuniting with his old allies. He eventually discovers that these two groups of turtles are but a small part of a multiverse, and in one spectacular sequence of floating screens we get cameos of every comic book, live action, or CGI incarnation of the franchise. He tracks it all to a prime dimension, and the biggest treat of the film is finally seeing the black and white original Mirage Turtles animated. Raph is as enamored with the gritty source universe as Mikey is of the ‘80s “pudgeballs”, but they all fall quickly to the black-and-white originals, all while Mirage Leo narrates in a gritty voice: “I strike two on my way down. Donatello...takes out a third with his staff. Already the PUDGY ones are starting to panic. Raph LOVES this stuff. He's not alone.” The narration strikes the ‘03 Turtles as insane, as much as the ‘87 group's penchant to break the fourth wall and address the unseen audience.

The idea of multiple universes colliding is hardly an original one, but for TMNT to go through their own Crisis was definitely a fitting tribute to the 25-year-old franchise. It makes me feel old to realize they've been around that long, but Eastman and Laird's creations have come a long way, and this film certainly demonstrates that. It wasn't without its flaws, as the lack of some of the original voice actors is painfully noticeable in some instances. But the concept works in connecting all that's come before into one cohesive conclusion to this chapter, while acknowledging that it's not over. Now that Laird has sold off all the rights to Nickelodeon, it remains to be seen where these characters will go next. A new series is apparently in the works for 2012. Meanwhile, all the original incarnations are intact as we remember them, and all the universes Turtles Forever touched upon can be visited at any time. You don't even need a Technodrome to get there, just some DVDs and back issues.



Phantasmic Links 11.23.09

It was nice, if slightly boring, to have a quiet weekend for a change. I helped my mom with a craft fair, got some photos, and caught up on some DVDs and TV shows. The one-time only debut of the epic Turtles Forever had me in front of a television early on Saturday morning with a bowl of cereal, taking me back in many ways as characters from 1987 met their 2003 incarnations. It was definitely a highlight. Other highlights found during my online travels can be found below, in this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) You must help a panda recover the broken pieces of the time-travelling portaloo which has stranded him among four different time periods. Really, there's not much else you need to know.

(2) Successful surgical hand reattachment. WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC.

(3) These are 15 of the dumbest superhero retcons of all time, not that any situation where a comic book writer tells us, “forget what you read, this is what really happened” is ever a great one, with few exceptions. I'm more impressed when a story is shown to have been planned out, and when writers stick to what's been established. The fact that no change ever seemed permanent was one of the reasons I stopped collecting and reading comics to begin with, because it all seemed to be going in circles after a while. (Although the stuff I've read online about what they're doing with Norman Osborn in Dark Reign sounds pretty cool, and would never have been possible if the character stayed “dead”.)
Hat Tip: J-No.

(4) One artist proves that some characters are BETTER...with BEARDS. I think Bearded Batman might find it harder to conceal his secret identity...

(5) Kiss your productivity goodbye with Free Frogger. It's like crack.

(6) Take tattoos to the next level with LED. Changing the name of an ex will be easier than ever!

(7) How can you escape when you're alone in The Company of Myself? Sometimes, you're all the help you need....although that last level took me FOREVER.

(8) In the category of “Why didn't someone think of this sooner?”, I present bacon flavored envelope glue. If it killed me I'd die happy...
H.T.: J-No.

(9) This gallery of nylon fabric sculptures is INSANE. I had to do one of those for a high school project and made a replica of my chemistry teacher's wrinkled old head, but it looked nowhere near as good or realistic as these.

(10) Enjoy challenging two-player gaming with yourself as you take control of Fireboy AND Watergirl in The Forest Temple. Can your left and right hands work together to navigate every level?

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 18

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 18th WWW:

1) Legally Blonde:
While I felt that I was clearly not the target audience for this classic tale of female empowerment, I can't exactly say it was a bad movie. Reese Witherspoon might start out playing the queen of the dumb sorority girls, but her character quickly proves how smart and capable she truly is when she follows her jerky ex-boyfriend to Harvard law school and, surprise, succeeds. That's an ironic “surprise” in the preceding sentence, since anyone familiar with the Hollywood formula can pretty much predict what's going to happen here. But Witherspoon proves likable as always, and wins over her audience even as her character wins over her professors, classmates, and even a courtroom, because under Article What Section Whatever of Habbeus Hollywoodus, even a Law Student might represent a client in a murder trial. Just go with it. There's a solid supporting cast here that includes Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Victor Garber, and Ali Larter. Guys might cringe at things like the sheer volume of pink clothing and a musical sequence in a beauty shop where Witherspoon teaches middle-aged women how to “bend and snap”, but there are some laughs in there as well. In the end, I almost gave it four out of five stars, until they did that cliché ‘80s thing where superimposed captions tell you what happens to all of the characters. In the ‘80s this works, especially if you find out what students go on to do later in life for example. But here, the captions tell you what happens MINUTES AFTER THE FINAL SCENE, and it comes across like they ran out of film or couldn't pay the actors any more, even though it was a case where it would have been better to show rather than tell us. So I subtracted a star, put the movie back in its mailing sleeve, and subsequently went to a Metallica concert.

2) The Shipping News:
This movie is at times outstanding, heartbreaking, and hopeful. Kevin Spacey plays a shy and awkward loser whose love for Cate Blanchett's character blinds him to her flaws, until tragedy strikes. When a previously-unknown Aunt played by Judy Dench shows up, Spacey and his daughter relocate to Newfoundland, where he learns hidden truths about his family and the hidden potential within himself. An ink setter often berated by his father for everything from not being a good swimmer to not being successful, he finds himself working as a reporter for a small newspaper. With some coaching from veteran writers and his own instincts, he soon gets to be pretty good, and some of the short, catchy headlines that pop up in his narration will bring a smile to your face. “Lumbering Idiot Stuns Crowd--for a Change” was one of my favorites. The theme of Man vs. Nature is just as strong as Man's Inhumanity to Man here, in a town where people seem to accept that storms and the ocean will claim more than a few lives each year. It's the last place one would expect to find hope, so it's all that much more satisfying when our protagonists do.

3) Monsters vs. Aliens:
Pixar might be the undisputed master of computer animation, but if anyone can dispute them it would be Dreamworks, and M.v.A. certainly is a shining example of how great they are too. As I expected, Seth Rogen got some of the best laughs, voicing B.O.B., a brainless mass of gelatinous blue goo with an eyeball and some intelligence. Reese Witherspoon shines here as a bride-to-be turned into a giant freak by a meteorite on her wedding day, who soon finds true friends in other government-contained monsters when they unite against an invading alien force led by Rainn Wilson. The premise is pretty basic: aliens invade so the government sics monsters on them. But it works, and it's all so pretty. People look more and more real in these things. Textures like hair and fur are insane. Water is fluid, as it should be. Eyes are shiny and seem to stare back at you. In one sequence, as the Golden Gate Bridge crumbles, it really looks like they destroyed the actual bridge, as cables snap and concrete dividers are tossed around. Animation has come a long way, and with little nuggets in this movie like the theme from Close Encounters and Axel F, there's more than a few treats in there for parents to enjoy too.

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



The Birthankschriangle

There is a dark and deadly triangle my friends, one that cannot be seen, heard, nor touched, but trust me when I say that it is real, it does exist, and its effects are felt.

In college, a cheese stick at 1 AM on a camping trip earned me the nickname of the “Snackin'est Mutha****a in the World”, although it wasn't just that cheese stick. It was that snack, at that time, that made one of my friends realize that I always had a cookie, chip, or some other food item in my hands at any given moment. When our art club had meetings, I was the soda and chips guy, in that I purchased and consumed most of the soda and chips. I had more munchies than a pothead, which makes me shudder to think what effect the stuff might have had on me if I ever tried it. I'd probably have turned into Galactus; I've already got the head for it.

My big downfall after I graduated was the propagation of a little chain called Starbucks; have you heard of it? I was never a big coffee drinker, and mostly went there at lunch for social reasons, to be around a girl I liked. We eventually dated for two-and-a-half years once she dropped enough anvils letting me know that she liked me as well, and I'm very fortunate for that time since five Venti Mocha Frappuccinos a week with whipped cream tend to add a little weight. There was one Summer before my senior year of college in which running around for six hours in the hot sun for my job at a gas station helped me slim down quite a bit. I didn't realize how much until recently when I looked at some old photos.

The next time I'd lose significant weight would be when, at the age of 25, a birth defect in my intestines that only effects 2% of the population, and is usually diagnosed in infants, up and decided, “Hey, I'ma gonna rupture now.” After nearly bleeding to death, the problem was diagnosed, with the offending culprit removed, and I spent 11 days in the hospital with only IV fluids to sustain me. Gradually, I got back strength and confidence and soon resumed a normal life, and a few years later when my company added a gym, some friends coaxed me into joining. It was one of the best decisions of my life.

I treated the treadmill like a video game, did constant math with the numbers on the display to calculate how fast I would have to run to achieve a certain distance in a certain time, and every day I tried to “beat” my score. I eventually ran in several inter-company races, and it was very satisfying to think that the chubby kid who could barely run during his school years because he'd get sharp pains in his side was now running competitively. When I lost my old job I lost my gym, and I put weight back on very quickly over one dark Winter. When my energy levels dropped and old feelings of anxiety, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath returned in stressful situations, I knew I needed a new gym. The new one was more expensive, but had better equipment, and was worth it. Just as before, I had to start slow, but gradually worked my way up. I didn't get back to where I was until this past Summer, when training for a race, and after I finished the race well below my goal time, I didn't stop running every day in the gym. People who hadn't seen me in a while on band gigs would comment that I was looking slim, so eventually I mustered up the courage to get on a scale, and I'd gone from almost 200 pounds earlier this year down to 175, which while still 25 pounds more than that one year in college is still an improvement.

The last time I got on a scale was a few weeks ago, after I found I had to punch a new hole in my belt to keep my jeans up. But now, now I'm afraid. You see, now I'm inside the first point of that dreaded triangle. My birthday starts things off in November, and between the cupcakes some girls at work gave me and the arsenal of snacks my parents bought, I've been feeling the effects of gravity more and more on that treadmill. I'm still managing 6 miles a day, but it's starting to get harder again. And I get this mentality that the sooner I finish those snacks, the sooner those cupcakes and Kit Kats and Doritos and Milanos and chocolate chip muffins and pudding cups and ice cream cake are GONE, the sooner I get back to my routine.

Only scraps remain now. The Milanos and Kit Kats were the first to fall, followed shortly by the Doritos. One cupcake and one back of mini muffins remain. The ice cream cake didn't know what hit it. Oddly enough, my mom always stocks the refrigerator with cartons of ice cream in the early Fall; I'm guessing the prices are right this time of year. Some nights I've caught myself taking granola bars, one of my healthier snacks, and dipping them into an ice cream “soup” which is just ice cream in a bowl with milk poured in, possibly some dried cereal like Rice Krispies. Seriously, when it comes to gluttony, I'm an artiste. When it comes to will power, it only extends a certain distance. If I have to leave the house to get a snack, I won't. But if it's in the freezer a few feet away, I have a problem. I might tell myself that tonight I'm going to skip dessert, but then I black out or something and find myself slumped in front of an Office rerun with an empty bowl and the faint scent of chocolate from the residue within.

I'm still running. And every day I walk at least two miles at lunch, so long as the weather continues to permit. But my birthday is only the beginning. Thanksgiving will be here in just a few short days. With my Uncle Jerry in a nursing home with dementia this year, he won't be bringing by Cannoli and other pastries from an Italian bakery, but that won't stop my mom from making turkey AND lasagna AND buying a slew of desserts. It won't be as bad as my birthday with leftover snacks lingering, but it will strike before I've had a chance to recover from my birthday, and just as I'm getting over Thanksgiving, guess what? Point #3: Christmas. I'm DOOMED.

I haven't gotten on a scale, but I can see it in the mirror, see angles rounding out and disappearing, definition in my face lost as my cheeks balloon out. I feel that sickly feeling where love handles spill out the sides and drape below the pelvic bones. And I'm a lot more tired than I should be. A lesser man might quit the gym entirely while in this triangle; a wiser one would put his membership on hold, since I just come home and cancel out whatever work I'm doing. But I don't think I should stop, because this isn't a losing battle. Right now, this is a holding action, and the enemy is gaining some ground, but not winning. If I can just hold on for six more weeks, then I'll be poised in January for one hell of a comeback. Let the holidays take their toll for two months out of the year; the other ten belong to a runner leaving the Snackin'-est Mutha in the dust.


My YEAH Five

I think musicians have a bit more leeway than poets in that they can twist, extend, or distort words to fit melodies and rhyme schemes. A hallmark of rock and rap singers in particular is the “YEAH”, a four-letter word that can be used in a surprising variety of ways, to punctuate, bridge, buffer, and just in general support the rest of the lyrics. Here are My Five best musical “YEAH” masters, in no particular order:

1) Eddie Vedder:
The lead singer of Pearl Jam is notorious for scrambling, distorting, and exhaling his “YEAH”s until they're virtually unrecognizable. Most sound like “ehhhyahh”, and sometimes I'll mistake other words like “again” for his signature “YEAH”. For a good example, take a look at Even Flow with lyrics:

2) Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell:
The harmonic duo that brought us the unique sound of Alice in Chains might be no more since Staley's drug overdose in 2002, but I've been listening to the group's new album since they brought in a new vocalist, and I have to say I'm impressed with how intact their original sound is. But since their sound originated with Staley/Cantrell, let's listen to their rendition of Again, with elongated “Y”s and “H”s:

3) The Who's “Won't Get Fooled Again”:
Roger Daltry belts out like a two-minute “YEEEEEEAAAAAAH” almost 8 minutes into this song; of course it's on the list:

4) She Loves You by The Beatles:
It's this of old-school “YEAH YEAH YEAH!” simplicity that makes up the foundation of everything that's been done since then:

5) Lil Jon:
I think we all knew I was going to end up here. Sure, if we're looking for good and original hip hop “YEAH”s, we'd be better off looking at someone like Flavor Flav. But this way I get to save Flav for a “BOYEEE” five and instead share a Dave Chapelle Lil Jon skit, since those are so much funnier:

Do you agree with my choices? There's probably some word to answer that inquiry in the positive, but it escapes me right now...



27 Years

”So I just spoke with your Uncle Dean,” said my dad.

“Oh yeah?” I replied, “How's he doing?” I hadn't seen my godfather since my dad's nursing home stint at the beginning of the year, but he'd made a point of calling my dad several times a week since then. There's nothing like almost losing a friend to remind us of his or her importance, and as the man who helped introduce my folks, Uncle Dean was more family than friend.

“He was calling to say his brother passed away.”

“Oh, I'm sorry,” condoled I, “Are you going to the wake, then?”

“No, he's already buried. They hadn't spoken for 27 years.”

“27 years?!”

“Yeah, he answered the phone, and his sister-in-law simply told him, ‘Your brother's dead. Goodbye.' Then she hung up.”

My dad went on to tell me how the two brothers were equally stubborn. Uncle Dean's brother, in my dad's words, was “a bit of a playboy,” and wasn't much help when their mother was dying. After she was gone, the brother moved out of state, and the two never spoke again. And now, they never would. The silence had become irreversible.

I've never held on to a girlfriend for more than two-and-a-half years, or a single job for more than seven; I can't fathom holding a grudge for TWENTY-SEVEN. There was a period of time before I was born, when my dad didn't speak to his oldest sister over a property dispute after my grandfather had died(she sued him with the family lawyer to take their old house). Eventually they got back to speaking again, and once or twice a year she'll call from Florida. “I can forgive, but I'll never forget,” he'll tell me. There's still tension, but at least they're talking.

I guess it comes down to the path of least resistance. The good things take work and effort to hold on to; ironically the negative stuff is easier to keep and difficult to shed. I'm glad my aunt and my dad reached some form of uneasy truce before it was too late. It’s a genuine shame that my Uncle Dean’s relationship with his brother died 27 years before the man did. Proud and stubborn though my godfather may be, he’s also a man of caring and concern, evidenced by how frequently he visited my dad when he was sick. He’s maintained a friendship with my dad, who’s like a brother, for far longer than he kept that grudge. The people in our lives, whether placed there by biology or chance, each play some important role, not to be discarded lightly. If their friendship could last that long, if my parents’ marriage has now passed 39 years, then it proves that sometimes, just sometimes, good things last too.


PBW: The Accidental Oasis

Some of my best Photo Blog Wednesday adventures happen when I have absolutely no plan at all. Driving aimlessly on Monday afternoon, I passed a sign for the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium, a place I haven't been to since an elementary school field trip. I remember the grounds and structures were very nice, and grew excited at the opportunity to return there as an adult. The van crowding my rear bumper had other ideas, however, so I missed my turn. I made the first left I could, and was soon driving down a narrow two lane road alongside the water. I ended up in some beautiful waterfront town, and decided to park there and take pictures. It was idyllic, and I wondered where this hidden treasure was exactly. As I walked along the shore, I couldn't help but notice how much this little community resembled Northport. As my perspective changed, I began to think it was Northport, and then I noticed the name on some signs. I'd been there dozens of times, from parades to dates to solo photo excursions, but had always come in through the main road. The little side street I accidentally discovered was a back way in that shaved several minutes off the route I used to take whenever I'd go there. I wish I knew about that street ten years ago. In any case, it was a beautiful day, and a perfect place to spend a day off from the office. As for the Vanderbilt site, I managed to drive past it later and see that it was closed. I'll have to save that for the future, and not on a Monday.




Back in January, I had the privilege of seeing Metallica play live at Nassau Coliseum, my first time seeing the band perform. They didn't disappoint, playing a healthy mix of the best of their old stuff with songs from their latest album, skipping all the disappointing stuff in between. After their first five albums, things went downhill for a while, but they're starting to sound good again. It was an amazing experience, with lasers, pyrotechnics, and audience participation. When my friend told me they'd be playing again in November at Madison Square Garden, I didn't need to be invited twice. Though they sure don't show any signs of it, they are aging, so I shouldn't miss any opportunity to see them live.

It was nice not to worry about driving, to be able to take the train directly in. We had a group of about 10 people, but since seating was sold in groups no greater than two, we were somewhat spread out. Originally there was only going to be one show on Saturday, but once that sold out, a Sunday show was added as well, and that's where we fit in. We opted to go to a bar for drinks first and skip the first two acts, heading upstairs around 9 PM when it was almost time for the main event. I ended up sitting with some kid that worked for my friend's brother-in-law, and he spent most of the time talking about how his girlfriend had done “something”(I assumed cheated) but that he forgave her and didn't want to throw away four years together. She had taken him to his first rock concert and it stuck with him, and he hoped she would understand him taking his boss up on the offer to see Metallica when he had an extra ticket. Still, the kid ended up cutting out a little early so he could see his girl, and I ended up having a section to myself for a while.

At some point, a trio of drunk idiots came along, and one asked if the seat next to me was taken. My friend had texted me that he was going to join me but needed my seat number, so I told them it was taken. After a few minutes when no one took any of the vacant seats next to me, the trio returned, edging their way in. The guy next to me sported a Punisher t-shirt and looked a bit like Zaboo from The Guild. I held my ground, and decided to be a bigger drunk idiot, even though I'd only had five beers and they had a few hours to wear off by that point. I moshed. I threw my fists up in the air, in hopes that I might “accidentally” catch him on his unshaven chin. It was a fight for personal space that I was somehow losing. During one song I didn't recognize, I sat down for a bit to catch my breath. Some tunes, like Sad but True, sent me into an exhausting frenzy. And as good as the show was, it was simply a better version of the one I'd seen in January. The same coffins hung around the stage, with lights mounted on them as they moved. There were laser light shows and jets of flames, and even some of Hetfield's schtick as he addressed the crowd was the same.(“Oh, YEAH?! Oh....YEEEAH?”) So I didn't feel like I would miss anything if I sat down for a song or two. When “Zaboo” almost fell on me, I flat SHOVED him into his friends. “Sorry...” he murmured, regaining his balance, before sinking back into headbanging oblivion. Kids today. Ironically, one of my friends at work thought I'd be the youngest person at the show.

At the end, James teased us by pretending to remove his guitar. We'd boo when he lifted the strap off his shoulder and cheer when he put it back on. But we knew there would be encores as usual, from the Mistfit's Last Caress cover to Seek and Destroy, the ultimate anchor song. As black beach balls rained down on the crowd, I was overwhelmed by how awesome it was to hear Hetfield work “New York City” into the lyrics. It's a corny thing that bands do, and with that song they already have the word “city” in there, but for whatever reason it was great to hear. After two-and-a-half hours of nearly non-stop thrashing, the show was over, or so we thought.

With the house lights on, I could spot the rest of my party. They were actually in the same row, but four sections over. My friend had texted me their location during the show, but I was busy with my turf war for those last few songs. As I made my way over, I heard a commotion down below, and turned to see someone covered in whipped cream with paper plates stuck to him. As he wiped himself off, I saw it was lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. “You knew that was comin'” said Hetfield, grinning ear-to-ear. “It's close enough to your birthday.” And then, something I never, ever expected to happen occurred. The lead singer of freaking METALLICA led a packed MSG in singing “Happy Birthday”. You expect a Metallica show to end with Seek and Destroy, but this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime surreal experience. When else am I going to sing such a universal, tame song with thousands of people at the end of a heavy metal concert?

So, it was a fun night. Downstairs, the bouncer outside a bar stopped one member of our group from going in. “You've had enough.” was all the guy said to him. My friend stepped up, expecting an argument, and asked if he could go in to get his wife and her friend, who were seated a few feet away. “Yeah, go ahead, go get whoever you want,” said the bouncer, as though it were a non-issue. As several other people walked in without any problems, the banned guy stood with a look of disbelief and confusion. We couldn't figure out what it was about him that made the bouncer keep him out but let everyone else in. It was very odd, and a source for many jokes on the train ride home. I dozed a bit, and though there was talk of hitting another bar when we got back, everybody was tired and we soon went our separate ways. I was glad to have Monday off to recuperate, even if the sound of my old man with a leaf blower soon had me out of bed.

Metallica didn't disappoint. I might wait a while before seeing them again, since the shows were so similar. If another album comes out that I like, I'd definitely go, or if enough time passes that they switch up their set list a bit. My mom never liked that kind of music, always complaining that it “glorifies death”. She also asks if any bats' heads were bitten off or if people drank a bucket of saliva. I think she's thinking of Ozzy, and I'm not sure if any of that stuff happened or if it was urban legend. And while I found myself chanting “DIE! DIE! DIE!” with thousands of people during Creeeping Death, it occurred to me that, if anything, a rock concert is a celebration of life. Here are these guys in their 40s and 50s running back and forth on stage, playing and singing to the fullest extent, to a totally energized crowd. We were all very much alive, and making as much noise as possible to affirm that fact. And when you get past the coffin props and lyrics and look at things that way, suddenly it's very fitting to end the show celebrating someone's birth.


Phantasmic Links 11.16.09

Feeling my age didn't stop me from ending my weekend seeing Metallica in concert again, and no matter how old you are, you can start your week with PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) Since it probably wouldn't be rockin' to begin with, if I ever got a van I could totally see myself decorating it with some of these ‘70s superheroes.

(2) You must listen to this album from an alternate universe in which The Beatles never broke up.

(3) These are some dirty, dirty computers. I'd hate to see what the inside of my computers look like. It's bad enough my transparent keyboard allows me to see that it has just as much hair as my chest now....

(4) We all know that roughly 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by water. Do you know where else you can find water? THE MOON.

(5) The giant robots are invading Montevideo! I'm guessing it's for their advanced digital rendering and editing techniques...

(6) And in the cyborg department, enjoy this gallery of pop culture human machine hybrids.
Hat Tip: J-No.

(7) Click and cleverly solve puzzles to help this rabbit achieve his goals under the light of a Full Moon.

(8) Admit it, how many of you comic book geeks remember Marvel's Swimsuit Issues? I visited that link for the article, which made me nostalgic and cracked me up with its observations, some of which were new to me.

(9) Spider-Man was led away in handcuffs by police this week, breaking the heart of a nearby little girl as well as all of his fans.

(10) Have you ever wondered what Stormtroopers do on their day off?
H.T.: J-No.

(11) In news that will disappoint many yet surprise no one, Dollhouse has been canceled.

(12) The upcoming “Turtles Forever” will combine several incarnations and prove that sometimes, four turtles aren't enough. November 21st can't arrive soon enough.

(13) This movie trailer is Kick-Ass.

(14) Here are some truly agonizing pop culture dilemmas. What would YOU do? What WOULD you do?

(15) What happens when a drunk woman falls on to some subway tracks? The answer just might surprise you...

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 17

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 17th WWW:

1) Cruel Intentions 3:
Unlike Cruel Intentions 2, which was an edited remake of the original, this is a true sequel with one loose connection to the first one(one of the main characters is a cousin of one of the characters from the first movie). Beyond that, it goes into a fairly original plot, though not a very good one, in which a girl goads two guys into a competition with each other, in which they each try to seduce a different girl already committed to someone else. It's another film about bored rich kids with few morals amusing themselves at the expense of others, with one crossing a serious line and managing to be more despicable than the other. It's not a terrible film, nor is it one in which you can root for the stars. The script is pretty bad at times, as is the acting, but ultimately it made me appreciate that I don't deal with people as cruel as those in the film, nor have I in decades. It's the better of the two sequels, but that isn't saying much.

2) Empire:
John Leguizamo heads up the cast as a Bronx drug dealer with ambitions, who makes a deal with a questionable Wall Street guy in an attempt to make a better life for himself. It's his attempt at a Scarface or a Carlito's Way, and while it obviously falls short, it's still a solid film with solid performances, especially by Leguizamo. It's yet another film that makes you realize this comedian who once had his own sketch show is just as good with dramatic acting. Throw in some twists(which the trailer would have ruined had I seen that first), some exciting gun fights, and the always hot Denise Richards, and I'm happy with the results.

3) Brainscan:
This is a film that reminds us just how bad the computer special effects were in the ‘90s, at a time when we were so impressed by them. It makes me wonder how we'll look back on the films of this decade. It's also a film that reminds us why Edward Furlong didn't become the next DiCaprio or even LaBeouf. His “acting” here mainly consists of running around screaming bloody murder in a cracked voice. It's a fun idea though, about a kid playing a video game in which the murders in the game are carried through to real life. There was real potential when he first pops in the disk and plays as a killer from a first person perspective. But this angle is soon abandoned entirely, and then he meets a cartoonish fiend known as the Trickster with a bad mohawk/mullet hairstyle thing, and then since everything seems to be taking place in real life, it's a little confusing why he has to keep putting disks into his system, which by the way didn't have any controllers now that I think about it. I was expecting Brainscan to be the horror version of Gamer, but Furlong was not controlling someone else, as the movie initially implied. In the post-Matrix age, I could see this film getting a decent remake with a better budget. At the very least, it made me nostalgic for the ‘90s and I remembered all the ads for the film I used to see in the backs of my comic books. Or, you could save an hour and a half of your life and just rent eXistenZ instead, a much better take on the whole virtual reality genre.

4) Wild Things 2:
I think I've more than learned my lesson about direct-to-DVD sequels, but the nice thing about bad movies is how little time it takes to review them. I absolutely loved the original Wild Things, and it helped that I hadn't seen a trailer and wasn't spoiled by some of the twists. And once the BIG twist happens in that movie, it's like another hour of turns just when you think you have everything figured out, and then there's this awesome montage during the credits of scenes that fill in the blanks. Wild Things 2 is more or less the same movie with a cast of no names, so there are no surprises. They duplicate one of the more infamously racy scenes from the original, and there's no point in recycling something if you're not going to at least try to improve it somehow. They even include the same gimmick with the scenes in the credits, but honestly they weren't needed for this much simpler plot. It's not the worst DVD sequel I've seen, but that's only because those others were pretty bad. Skip it.

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