Tuesday, January 31, 2006

TV Tues, Supplemental - Curse You, CW!

As many of you have probably heard by now, UPN and WB will be merging together in the Fall to create a new network, which at this point they're planning on calling "The CW" for some insane reason. The new channel is going to follow the current WB programming schedule of airing two hours of programming M-F, and three hours on Sunday. Of course, this means that some shows are going to get dropped from the lineup, and several in development shows are now very questionable. I'm not exactly saddened that the proposed Aquaman series might not make it to air (not because I don't like Aquaman, but because the series proposal makes Smallville sound like Shakespeare), but the news that they've pulled the plug on this one bums me out; it sounded like it had a lot of promise in that premise. Meanwhile, this article about Supernatural gives me a little bit of hope that it will be back, but as it says, everything's up in the air right now. Also questionable: Everwood. At least it sounds like Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars are safe . . . for the moment.

Now, on a lighter note: an interview with Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs

And on an even lighter note: Triumph does the weather


TV Tues - Wish I Had Me One of Those Crystals So's I Could Go Back and Stop Myself From Watching Smallville . . .

I’m really looking forward to tonight’s Gilmore Girls, which will feature the first full Gilmore family Friday night dinner this season; from what I’ve read, the dinner will encompass the entire episode. Fun and fireworks ahead when Emily learns that Christopher’s paying for the rest of Rory’s schooling.

But enough about what’s ahead; let’s take a look at what’s behind

Stargate: Atlantis: Perhaps my favorite line on any show this week: "You claim to be a creation of my mind, and yet you are in no way dressed provocatively."

Dirty Jobs: The firefighter and sugar segments were all right, but both paled in comparison to the alligator farm; any time Mike Rowe is worried about his physical safety, you know it's going to be a good one, and getting into a pen filled with little alligators certainly fit that bill.

Lost: Every time they'd show Charlie looking at someone jealously, all I could think was "We wants our precious, tricksy hobitsses stoles it from us and we wants it back."

Invasion: Okay, the show is getting better, but I still can't stand Russell or Larkin; isn't it sad that I have more sympathy for the potentially murderous alien hybrids than I do the "heroes" of the show?

Battlestar Gallactica: One thing I respect about this show is that they're not afraid to shake things up and frak around with the characters; I might not like what they do with the characters (the previews for next week's "Starbuck's an alkie" ep worries me), but the fact that you never know what's coming next helps keep it interesting.

The O.C.: Not really enjoying the evil sister storyline, nor the "Sandy's turning into Caleb" plot; I did enjoy the "Seth is stoned" story, up until the part where it became evident it wasn't going to be a one-off thing. Not looking forward to the sure to come very-special-intervention episode.

The Office: Jim is the master of the "silent look to the camera," he can put more comedy and meaning into a single glance than most sitcoms manage over an entire season (of course, that's what's known as "damning with faint praise," I suppose . . .). While the episode was underway, I messaged Zinger that the name of the ep should be "Worst Day of Jim's Life." After Jim got his multiple voice mails, Zinger sent back "Best Day of Jim's Life." Hard to argue with that.

My Name is Earl: While the wrestling-the-little-old-lady scenes were close, I think my favorite moment of the ep was the prisoner’s determination to “close [his] eyes and power through it.” So, so wrong, but so, so funny

Veronica Mars: Going to have to pay attention to the opening credits next time to see if Teddy Dunn is really off the show for good; I can't see how they can realistically bring him back now. I was pretty sure Veronica was in on the kidnapping from early on; I might have just been mildly suspicious on any other show that had featured the oh-so-public break-up and the like, but the thing that pushed me into dead certainty before the big reveal was this: there was no Veronica voice-over through any of it.

Surface: I have to say, this show has not gone in any of the directions I had originally anticipated. Finding out the creatures are genetically engineered wasn't a super-huge surprise, but finding out that there was also a genetically engineered talking ape was, not to mention the fact that the evil federal agent is a clone. My only really big complaint about the show is how they have Rich's wife acting. I have no problem with her wanting to leave him because he's acting like a psycho; perfectly understandable. But her constant explosions over him being around Laura are just idiotic; I might have been able to handle the jealousy angle if it had built slowly and displayed itself more rationally, but with the way she constantly flies off the handle, I keep thinking he might be better off without her. But, at least she didn’t turn him in to the feds like Laura’s ex, the bastage. Can't believe next week is the season finale already; it's supposed to answer all the big questions but still leave room for another season; we'll see how that works out.

Courting Alex: So, one mediocre sitcom's time slot is now being filled by another mediocre sitcom. Just dandy. Seriously, while I'm glad to see Josh Randall getting work, I wish he had been able to parlay his guest shots on Lost or Scrubs into something more permanent, rather than being stuck in this mess. It's like Bizarro Dharma & Greg, and I don't just mean that it has the genders of the stuck-up lawyer and free spirit reversed, I mean that their concept of what is funny and entertaining seems to be the opposite of conventional wisdom. Such a waste.

24: “Hi, Jack, I know you’re in the middle of a life-threatening situation, but please, let me distract you by talking about our relationship.” Good thinking, Audrey, good thinking. Meanwhile, the weaselly president continues to be a weasel, but at least he was forced to confront his weaseliness a bit.

Smallville: All right, I admit it; I got sucked in by all of the hype, not to mention a morbid curiosity. The first half hour of the show was actually pretty good, although it definitely had a dream-like, "there's no way any of this is really real" quality to it. Then, from the instant the voice of Jor-El gave Clark the oh-so-convenient-and-did-I-mention-its-the-only-one-of-its-kind time travel crystal, the ep went straight into the crapper. I did think the final conversation between Clark and his mom was handled well, but everything leading up to the death of Pa was just horrendous.

Love Monkey: Tom Cavanaugh is doing his darndest to carry this show, and so far it's working, but who knows how long it can last? So far I've seen little to indicate that his supporting cast here is as strong as it was on Ed. And besides, the gratuitous musician cameos have already grown tiresome, and we're only two episodes in: "Oh, look, it's Ben Folds and Leeann Rimes, who have apparently just stopped to talk to me so I can go 'oh, look, it's Ben Folds and Leeann Rimes'." Just sad, that it is. But, I'm willing to give it at least a couple more eps before I say yea or nay.

The Best of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog: I know a lot of people talked up the Star Wars Geek segment on this disc, and yes, it was funny, but for my money the best thing here was the footage of Triumph doing the weather for a Hawaiian NBC affiliate. Watching the poor anchors trying to keep a straight face through the tirade made the whole disc worthwhile.

Alien Nation Disc 4: Some of the weaker episodes of the series on this disc, I’m afraid; the “Eyewitness News” ep is noteworthy for its inclusion of Angela Bassett as a guest-star, but I’m afraid even that wasn’t enough to redeem these mediocre eps.

Red Dwarf Series 7 Disc 1: The first three or four series of Red Dwarf are some of the best of British comedy; unfortunately, the quality declined after that. There are still some nice touches here and there, and the redemption of Rimmer was nicely done; sadly, this came at the cost of Rimmer as a recurring character, and once he left the show, so did the bulk of my interest.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Movie Mon. - I Repeat: Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

While I still haven’t come up with an official rating system for my movie reviews, recent discussions with some blog monkeys have convinced me that I need to end each mini-review with some sort of concrete statement on whether I liked the movie or not; otherwise, any positives I say about a film seem to get drowned out by my discussion of a film’s flaws. Let’s see how well it works

Underworld: Evolution: As usual, the sequel pales in comparison to the original; the overly convoluted plot seemed like little more than an excuse to stage big, bloody battles. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but here I found even the battle scenes to be under par. There were some cool things here and there; I especially liked the inventive way Marcus was able to utilize his wings as weapons. Overall, I think if you liked the original, this one is probably worth a rental.

Street Trash: Low budget horror flick that tries for a Repo Man feel, but falls far short of that mark. Didn't care for this one at all.

Matewan: Very well done John Sayles film about the battle to establish a coal mining union in Matewan, West Virginia in the 1920s. The usual Sayles players are here: Chris Cooper, Mary McDonnell, David Straithairn, and Gordon Clapp (best known as Greg Medavoy on NYPD Blue), plus James Earl Jones. I’m a usually a pretty big Sayles fan, and this movie shows off his usual gift for engaging dialogue and captivating characterization, with the added bonus of an interesting historical setting. My only complaint is that the villainous company men are played way over the top, although, since the film is being told from the P.O.V. of one of the survivors of the Matewan Massacre who had lots of exposure to the characters in question, it can be forgiven; still, the near-maniacal fervor of the ad guys was pretty jarring when compared to the excellent characterization of the rest of the cast. One of my favorite scenes in the movie was when the young preacher took advantage of the bad guys’ Godless heathen natures to sneak in messages during his sermon; watching it made me wonder how many people who saw the movie realized that he had actually changed the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife to get his point across. . . Highly recommend this one.

Three O'Clock High: 80s high school film that I've seen at the video store countless times over the years but never have seen until now; I have a feeling if I'd seen it back when it first came out, it would hold a special place of honor in my heart along with Ferris Bueller, Better Off Dead, Breakfast Club and the like. Story revolves around a slightly nerdy student who accidentally ticks off the new kid in school, who has a reputation of mutilating anyone who so much as touches him. The bully gives him an ultimatum: at 3:00, they fight, and any attempts to run or weasel out of it will only make it worse. Of course, the bulk of the movie is spent with the kid (a term I use loosely, since the actor was in his late 20s when he filmed this, and looked it) trying to run and/or weasel out of it, and failing miserably. One thing I really enjoyed about the film was the fact that the bully is not portrayed as two-dimensional, but neither is he sentimentalized; hidden depths are viewed, but not at the expense of his menace. I also liked the fact that the nerd and his sister had a positive relationship, a rarity in 80s high school films in my experience. Bonus points came from small roles for a younger, thinner Jeffrey Tambor, and a younger, thinner, and, if you can believe it, balder Mitch Pileggi. A fun movie for children of the 80s.

Aristocrats: Warning: if you are easily offended, avoid this movie at all costs. In simplest terms, this is a documentary about the world's dirtiest joke, which has been circulating among comedians for countless years; the beginning and end of the joke are basically the same every time, with the middle being comprised of the sickest, grossest, most offensive acts the joke-teller can think of. The film features some of the biggest names in comedy not only telling their versions of the joke, but also talking about the nature of the joke itself. If you can get past the depravity of it all (and trust me, some of the versions are depraved), it's really a fascinating study of the joke-telling process; like several of the comedians interviewed said, how someone tells the joke tells a lot about the person. But if you watch it and come away feeling dirty inside, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Maniac Cop: Low budget thriller that I've been curious about for ages, since it was actually able to spawn a couple of sequels. The movie started off pretty well, diving right into the killer story, but once they moved away from mindless violence and tried to have a plot, it floundered; sad, but true. Too much dependence on people acting like morons to advance the “plot” for my taste; not even the presence of Bruce “King of the B-Movies” Campbell can do much to redeem this one.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

I'm a Bad, Bad Blogger (But an Even Worse Disc Golfer)

Today's turned out to be a lot busier than I had originally planned; I had figured that after church I would come home, eat some leftovers, veg out in front of the TV and type up the story of how the Nickless One became known as Magic Pants. Instead, there was a long lunch followed by disc golf, and after I submit this hastily written post, it's off to the Movie Tavern to see Underworld: Evolution. So, um, yeah, this is all you're getting today.



Saturday, January 28, 2006

And the Queue Continues to Grow

Another batch of movies added to my queue; enjoy.

Twelve and Holding: Indie drama about the way the death of a 12 year old boy in a fire set by bullies affects the lives of his twin brother and friends.

Death Tunnel: horror flick about a group of co-eds trapped in a haunted sanitarium. Need I say more?

BloodRayne: yes, I know I linked to Howard Taylor's horrible negative review of this, but I can't help it, I'm a masochist when it comes to bad horror movies. It's pathological, I swear.

Barnyard: Animated film from the mind behind Jimmy Neutron.

Glory Road: Like Remember the Titans, only with basketball.

Ultraviolet: SF adventure featuring Mila Jovovich as a genetically enhanced assassin seeking revenge for the slaughter of her people.

Breaking and Entering: Drama from the director of Cold Mountain, starring Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, and Robin Wright Penn.

Something New: Romantic comedy about the relationship between a mixed-race couple, played by Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker.

R.V.: Robin Williams vehicle (pun not intended) about a dysfunctional family making a cross-country trip together. This gets in the queue not for Williams, but for the presence of Kristin Chenoweth, Wil Arnett, and Tony Hale.

Pulse: remake of the Japanese horror film Kairo (which comes out on DVD next month) starring Kristen Bell

Killshot: movie based on an Elmore Leonard novel about a couple in Witness Protection (Diane Lane and Thomas Jane) being hunted down by a couple of hitmen (the intriguingly cast Mickey Rourke and Justin Timberlake)

Inside Man Spike Lee does action; should be interesting. Stars Denzel Washington as a cop, Clive Owen as a bank robber, and Jodie Foster as a suspicious negotiator.

Failure to Launch: Romantic comedy with Matthew McConaughey as a 30-something man still living with his parents, who resort to hiring a relationship specialist (Sarah Jessica Parker) to get him to move out.

Lonesome Jim: Drama directed by Steve Buscemi, featuring Casey Affleck as a man who has moved back home with his parents after failing at making at on his own, and Liv Tyler as the single mom he falls for.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Dress Shoes of Doom

Back in October, Zinger posted the following comment after I talked about my experiences at the BSU:

Anytime you mention the BSU, it reminds me of the day that OSU beat UMass to go to the Final Four in '95... :)
I had meant to talk about that a while back, but got distracted by other things. But when I heard someone mention the BSU earlier this week, the story sprang to mind,and I had to share.

Back during my Sophomore year of college, the OSU Cowboys basketball team made it to the NCAA Final Four. There was, of course, much rejoicing throughout the campus, but I was unfortunately not able to partake of it, since I had to go off with the BSU Drama Team to perform. So, while everyone else was piling into their cars and dragging the streets of Stillwater, honking and hooting and hollering, I was changing into my dress clothes and heading over to the BSU. I got there a little early (as usual) and so was standing out in front of the building watching the endless parade of exuberant Cowboys fans slowly circling the campus when I noticed that one of the cars making its way past the BSU belonged to Pooh, who was carting around Zinger and Coronela. They saw me ad started waving, and since they were moving at a snail's pace, I decided to run over and say hi. So, I set out jogging across the BSU lawn and the next thing I knew, I was down. Apparently, my dress shoes didn't like the idea of me running across the wet grass while wearing them, and took appropriate measures to stop me, i.e. flying out from under me. This display of my klutziness was greeted with roars of laughter from Pooh and the others, of course, and the memory has provided them with ammo for years and years.

However, none of them were around for the next time my shoes decided to teach me a lesson. Again, I was decked out for the BSU drama team; this time the shoes rebelled during a skit. Here's how the skit is supposed to go: one person stands center stage and acts like they're fishing and have caught something big that they can't reel in alone, so they call over the other members of the team, until everyone is acting like they're reeling this big catch in. And what's the big catch?

Why, me, of course.

At the start of the skit I would be positioned at the back of the auditorium/sanctuary/whatever. At the first hint of the first person having "caught" something, I would start moving towards the stage, hands plastered to my sides, legs locked together, hopping forward a few bounces, and then hopping backwards, head moving furiously to show that I was hooked. I would eventually make it to the front, flop up on stage, be helped to my feet, and recite Matthew 4:19: "'Come, follow me', Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men'."

Or, at least, that's how it usually went.

On this one occasion, the Dress Shoes of Doom had something else in mind. Possibly emboldened by their victory on the BSU lawn, the shoes decided to voice their protest over being hopped upon repeatedly much the same way they had protested before: by flying out from under me, sending me hurtling to the church floor (most of the youth thought that my fall was part of the act, and later complimented me on my realistic pratfall). Undeterred, I sprung back up to my feet and continued my journey towards the stage, a journey which was slightly easier now that I didn't have to worry about having both of my shoes rebel against me; you see, the left one had decided to use the confusion of my fall to make a break for it. I made it to the front, said my line, and then rushed off to retrieve the sinister (in both senses of the word) shoe before it could finalize its escape and spread its slick-bottomed evil on the unsuspecting world. Disheartened, the shoes' spirits were broken, and no further rebellions were attempted. I do think that they somehow managed to pass the word on to their dress-shoe brethren however; one pair in particular decided to make my feet writhe in agony when I was a groomsman at Wrath teh Berzerkr's wedding.

And now The Singles know the true answer to why I never wear dress shoes at church.

I'm afraid.

I'm very afraid.


Have a MAG-nificent B-day

I'd like to take a moment to wish a happy b-day to long-time Book Monkey The Mag, who takes full advantage of her older-than-she-looks nature to bamboozle Guess Your Age workers at fairs, carnivals, and amusement parks across the nation..


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Trigger Happy Jack

When I was visiting the Stonehearts last weekend, Pooh mentioned that she had had a Beck song stuck in her head all week long. She had been up in Canada for her job, and had seen this recycling bin whose label of "Bottles and Cans" triggered Beck's "Where It's At" every time:

Bottles and cans
Just clap your hands
Just clap your hands
Where it's at!
I got two turntables and a microphone . . .
I feel her pain; I have often been the victim of the insidious Trigger Song.

My mind is highly susceptible to attempts to getting songs stuck in it; sometimes it takes actually hearing a song for it to get embedded, there are certain words and phrases which will conjure up a song to plague me every time. Rebel Monkey and I would refer to these as Trigger Phrases, which in turn would summon the accompanying Trigger Song.

A prime example was when I worked for a brief time at a telemarketing firm (please, don't hate me because of it; working there wound up making me physically ill), which used a dry erase board with our names on it to record our daily sales. Every single day I would look up at the board, see the name of one of my co-workers, and have the following song stuck in my head:
The sailors say Brandy, you're a fine girl
What a good wife you would be
But my life, my lover, my lady
Is the sea
Every. Single. Day.

Had a similar situation at the OSU library; every time I'd be processing requests for a patron with the last name Reyes-Duarte, I'd get a song from Evita stuck in my head, substituting the patron's name for the real lyric of "Eva Duarte."
Colonel Peron
Eva Reyes-Duarte
I've heard
So much
About you
My vulnerability to the Trigger Song increases when I'm bored and/or sleep deprived; one of my Library Science classes was a veritable mine-field of Trigger Songs thanks to this. It got to the point where I was keeping a list of all of the songs that ran through my head during the course of each class period to help keep myself focused. The most frequent Trigger was discussion of the Government Printing Office, usually referred to by its acronym, GPO. Any guess where this is going?
Little GTO GPO
You're really looking fine
C'mon and turn it on, wind it up, blow it out GTO GPO
Cases like this are the worst, since I only know part of the lyrics, and am thus unable to sing the whole song through to its completion, effectively banishing it from my thoughts; instead, I just have the same snippet of song lyrics playing in an endless loop until the next Trigger comes along.

Those are the Triggers which stick out the most in my mind, since they were each encountered so frequently, but I know there are countless others that I’m not thinking off, possibly as a result of my subconscious trying to shield me from summoning them up from the depths. But, as new Triggers are discovered and encountered, I’ll be sure to keep you posted; after all, what is this blog for if not to arm my friends and family with sufficient ammunition to torment me constantly?


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Written Word Wed. - No Bones About It

Today's book review is on the first of Kathleen Reichs' "Temperance Brennan" series of procedural mysteries. I checked it out because I was curious to see how close the books were to the TV series they inspired, Bones.

Deja Dead by Kathleen Reichs

Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist working for a Canadian police department. When called in to help with identification of a murder victim, Brennan sees similarities between it and an older case, which raises a red flag for her: could it be the work of a serial killer? She thinks so, but none of the detectives assigned to the case agree. Frustrated by their stubborn resistance, she takes it upon herself to investigate on her own, an action that eventually brings her to the attention of the killer, making her a target.

Deja Dead is a procedural mystery, with a heavy focus on the tools of the trade, and an overload of technical jargon. Reichs goes to great pains to outline every aspect of Brennan's work, both the science and the politics. While informative, at times the technical jargon caused the prose to drag for me. Although Brennan technically works for the police, this is more of an Amateur Detective novel, since her investigation is outside the regular parameters of her job.

My overall reaction to this book was lukewarm. I'm not sure how much I would have enjoyed this book if I hadn't gone in with preconceived notions courtesy of Bones. The only character present in both is Brennan, and even then it's a totally different Brennan. The TV version is a young woman who was driven to her career by the death of her parents; she is socially awkward, substituting her job for a social life, and is thus terminally single (at least until the eventual hook-up between her and Boone). The novel version is a divorced mother of a college-age daughter; the book opens with her being upset that her vacation time was being sidetracked by having to work a case, so right off I knew I was in for trouble. Both versions are filled with righteous indignation about the violence perpetrated on the victims they examine, and both have a habit for forcing themselves into investigations where the law enforcement officials don't want them, but the TV version is much more capable of handling herself in those situations, whereas the novel version has a tendency to get knocked out and beaten up.

One of the reasons I love the show Bones is because of its great characters; that was totally lacking here. Brennan's relationship with almost everyone else in the book was adversarial, including her best friend; their relationship in particular annoyed me, but I was equally put out by the chauvinistic police officer who shot down every idea Brennan put forth just because Brennan put it forth. His reluctance to accept her theories made sense at first, but as the book went on his bullheadedness rose to idiotic proportions.

While I wasn't thrilled with the book, I must admit that towards the end I was caught up in it, and stayed up late to finish it; of course, part of that may have been a "oh, please, let it be over now!" thing . . .

Final analysis; not a bad book, and there's enough promise that I'm going to give the next book in the series a try, but if you're looking for a book that captures the spirit and energy of Bones, I'd give this one a miss.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

TV Tues - Oh, It's A-Knockin'

Before we get to the reviews, a little bit of renewal news: My Name is Earl and The Office have both been picked up for next season, while The West Wing has not, none of which is all that surprising, but it's always nice to have confirmation. Speaking of being nice to have confirmation, right now I really wish that Fox would hurry up and officially cancel Arrested Development so Showtime can officially make an offer to pick it up. I'd also like someone at Fox to officially confirm the report on Billy West's website that four direct-to-DVD Futurama movies are a done deal; that would make me a very happy camper.

And now, let the reviewing commence!

The O.C.: Cap'n Cluck chastised me for neglecting to cover last week's ep, for which I heartily apologize. Of course, it's now been well over a week, and so my memories of the "Free Marissa" episode are hazy at best; all I can recall are the creative names for non-alcoholic drinks, particularly Cap'n Cluck's favorite: Safe Sex on the Beach. As for this last week's ep, I have to say that while I don't care for the whole mini-Coop's-a-thieving-ho-bag storyline, they did an excellent job finding someone to play a mini version of Marissa. Things I did like include having mini-Coop take part in the running gag about mistaking the knock on the trailer door for scumbag Gus ("Gus, I'm sorry, but my mom says I can't open the door for you again, even if you do have candy") and Taylor's excitement about the possibility of being Summer's sister. Oh, and Seth's prediction that doom and gloom would come a-knockin'.

Dirty Jobs: Mike Rowe cracks me up; I'm a sucker for self-deprecating humor for some reason . . .

Supernatural: Always good to see Julie Benz pop up, even if her character didn't have a whole lot to do here; at least she did get to deliver the great line "If you're going to have faith, you can't just have it when the miracles happen, you have to have it when they don't."

Gilmore Girls: Didn't really care for the whole "Lorelei offering to postpone the wedding but not really meaning it while Luke accepts the offer without realizing she didn't really mean it" plot twist; doesn't feel worthy of the show. I was pretty happy with the latest step in the Rory/Logan relationship, though; it still surprises me how much I like them together. Fun factoid that will only mean something to Fellow Book Monkey and Blogger Bubblegum Tate: the actor playing Logan is voicing Brainiac 5 in the upcoming Legion of Super-Heroes centered episode of Justice League Unlimited; I now return you to your regular non-comic-geek programming.

My Name is Earl: While not the strongest ep, it did have some great moments, my personal favorite being Joy's look of "surprise" when Crab Man found the toe in his hot dog; so glad Jaime Presley has found an outlet for her comedic talents.

Lost: Jack goes back and forth between the list of characters I like and the list of characters I want to throttle; for most of this ep he was on the "throttle" list, but that "train an army" thing moved him back to the "like" column. My only real complaint with the ep was that Jack was too busy posturing to ask The Others "so, um, is there a reason you're like, y'know, killing us and stuff?" Maybe it's just me, but I would think getting an answer to that would be a pretty high priority.

Alien Nation Disc 3: Moving through the series pretty quickly; as usual, I enjoyed the Newcomer back-story more than the plain old cop drama. This disc contains the eps which explore the reproductive process of the Newcomers, which was pretty interesting.

Invasion: The personalities of Russell and Larkin still grate on my nerves, but the big reveal at the end about Tom's little boot camp for hybrids has me intrigued.

60 Minutes: Don't usually watch this, but while setting up my VCR timer I stumbled across a report about Fatal1ty, one of the world's foremost pro videogame players. That's right; pro videogame players. I'd seen a really interesting MTV True Life special about the pros a while back, and Fatal1ty had been pretty prominent on it, so I took a break from DVD watching to give it a watch. Some interesting tidbits, like the fact that professional videogaming is a huge phenomenon in Korea, where stadiums get sold out and the biggest names make millions.

Stargate: SG-1: At the beginning of the ep, I was afraid they were going to fall into what I think of as the Star Trek alternate world pitfall, in which despite having huge differences between the two universes, the personnel involved is exactly the same, regardless of the logical gaps that have to be bridged for such groupings to make sense; having three separate SG-1 units pop up with the exact same composition sent off the warning bells in my head. However, by the time they returned from the 1st commercial break, that problem had been addressed, and the differing make-ups of the various alternate SG-1s even allowed us a chance to see some old friends like Martouth and Janet. I think one of the reasons I enjoy SG-1 so much is that everyone involved seems to have such a good time with it; they're not afraid to explore their goofy sides.

Stargate: Atlantis: Okay, did not see the reveal of the saboteur coming, so hats off to them. I was afraid they were going to have it be the nervous hiccupping lady, and I was going to be very upset with them if that happened; I've always liked her. And I was sure that it wasn't Dr. Ponytail, which is too bad, because I would have loved a good excuse to never have to see him again.

Battlestar Galactica: Well, that answers the question of "Where's the president's miracle cure going to come from?" One thing I'm loving about this show is that I have absolutely no clue where they're going with 90% of the plots; always keeping my guessing, which is a good thing.

Desperate Housewives: If last week's ep got me closer to keeping this show in my viewing rotation, this ep has pretty much guaranteed its removal; what a waste of my time this was.

Grey's Anatomy: I continue to love this show; I'm looking forward to next week's ep featuring everyone's second-favorite vengeance demon (Anya being the first) Halfrek from Buffy as the anti-Nazi.

24: Y'know, for a counter-terrorist organization, CTU sure sucks at keeping out double-agents and moles, huh? I mean, at the beginning of the series, I was happy to see that the traitor was someone outside of CTU for once, and then they have to go and give him an "inside man." I guess it could be worse; the inside man could be the cougar come back for Kim. Although, I might have preferred that to having it be Chloe's lover; at least he was just a dupe, and not evil.

West Wing: Not sure how I feel about the nuclear plant problem being the reason for Vinnick's downfall; feels a tad melodramatic.

Justice League Unlimited: This cartoon exists solely to make comic book geeks go “ooooooooo, coooooooooool!” Blackhawk Island, complete with Warwheels; Flash’s Rogue Gallery attacking the Flash museum; an upcoming episode featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes, including Bouncing Boy; this show has it all!


Monday, January 23, 2006

Movie Mon. - Pushing Obscure Motion Pictures On Unsuspecting Souls

Yesterday at lunch, Cap'n Cluck mentioned that she hadn't heard of most of the movies I reviewed last week; somehow I don't think this week's batch is going to be much better. But, I see this as part of my Pushing Obscure Motion Pictures On Unsuspecting Souls (or POMPOUS) program, a way for me to try to bring some of these lesser known films to light for those of you who don't spend inordinate amounts of time scouring AICN, IMDB, and the like for new and interesting films.

Heck, who knows, maybe one of these days someone will read this and actually rent one of them.

Not holding my breath, though.

Dirty Deeds: On my list of "guilty pleasures", you can include "teen comedies": Can't Hardly Wait, Bring It On, 10 Things I Hate About You and the like all hold some strange appeal for me; don't ask me to explain it. And so, I'm more than willing to give occasional teen comedy a try out of curiosity. Sometimes I'll end up with a winner, sometimes a stinker, and sometimes something that falls somewhere in-between; Dirty Deeds falls into this last category. There are some funny moments and ideas here and there, but the film falls into way too many clichéd moments, and without the grace and style of the better teen movies; the attempts to show the different social strata and cliques feel heavy-handed and clumsy compared to similar things in Clueless, Can't Hardly Wait, etc. To be honest, the film pretty much lost me about 10 minutes in with a needless flatulence joke; on the list of "things that fail to amuse me," fart jokes are pretty high. Not a horrible movie, but not one I'd recommend to anyone.

Lord of War: Nick Cage as an arms dealer. Just could not get into this one; couldn't care enough about any of the characters to get invested in what happened to them.

Venom: Horror movie about a voodoo ritual that goes awry, trapping multiple evil spirits in a recently deceased corpse. Incredibly bland film that squanders what little promise the premise holds.

Lost Things: Australian horror film about two couples who set off on a surfing weekend, and wind up on a stretch of beach where very strange things happen. Starts off okay, with some characters who are initially likeable, but their personalities become more grating as the film progresses; granted, there's a reason for the personality shift, but having a reason doesn't necessarily make it any more bearable to sit through. The reason for the strangeness wasn't quite the clichéd one I complained about in my spoiler-heavy post about November, but it was close.

Open House: Very low-budget musical comedy about the wonderful world of real estate. I only stumbled across this one because it came across my desk at work (part of my job includes checking in the videos and DVDs the library buys), and I checked it out because it was a musical starring Jerry Doyle, a.k.a. Security Chief Michael Garibaldi on Babylon 5; if you think that I could pass up a film that held a chance of me seeing Mr. Garibaldi singing, well, you don't know me very well at all. My favorite performances came from Sally Kellerman (Hot Lips in the movie M*A*S*H*) as the seasoned professional real estate agent, and Anthony Rapp as the high-strung newbie. All in all the music isn't much to write home about, although whether that's more a product of the song-writing or the style in which the songs were recorded, I'm not sure. You see, rather than having the songs looped in like most musicals, each song was captured live, with all of the music provided by a man playing a keyboard off-camera. Very obvious that there was no clean-up done to the vocals in post, and also obvious that the actors were not hired for their singing talents. And yet, Anthony Rapp's very Music Man-like patter at the beginning was impressive, his final song "This Is My Father's House" was nicely bittersweet, and the oft-repeated "Do You Love This House?" tune still gets stuck in my head.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance: Very well done Korean thriller about a deaf-mute who tries to raise money for his sister's life-saving surgery by turning to kidnapping; of course, the kidnapping goes wrong, and things go bad for all parties involved. Let me just warn you up front; not too many people wind up happy in this one. Gets a little brutal a couple of times, but that's to be expected in a revenge picture. Some really beautiful compositions here; director Chan Wook-Park (who was also responsible for the excellent revenge flick Oldboy) can sure make some pretty pictures about people doing ugly things. Just added his Sympathy for Lady Vengeance to my queue.

Junebug: What a quirky little film this one was, but in a good way; an art dealer and her husband visit his small-town Southern family for the first time, where she has to deal with a disapproving mother-in-law, a distracted father-in-law, a surly brother-in-law, and his fawning wife. It was the brother-in-law (played by The O.C.'s Benjamin Mackenzie) and his very pregnant and even more air-headed wife (Amy Adams, probably best known to most blog monkeys as the purse-selling-girl-who-was-dating-Jim on The Office, but who will always be Tara's crazy cousin Beth on Buffy to Rebel Monkey and me) who made the movie worth watching; as much as the art dealer is the catalyst for everything that happens, it’s really the relationship (or lack thereof) between Mackenzie and Adams that propelled the movie for me. My one small complaint was the way the art dealer’s husband reacted to her when she called him from the crazy artist’s house (yes, I know that’s vague, but I don’t want to give anything away); I know it was a rough moment for him, but dang, that was cold. I think my favorite moment in the film was watching the big city art dealer’s reaction to how well her husband fit in at the church dinner; I loved the look on her face when he was asked to get up and sing “Have a Little Talk with Jesus.”


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Apparently, the Answer to the Question "Am I a Man or a Mouse?" is "Mouse."

Yesterday I spent the day at Casa de Stoneheart; originally Coronela was going to come over, but she had too much homework to get away. So, instead of going out skating or bowling like we originally had planned, I instead spent the day doing the following exciting activities: stuffing my face at a New Orleans themed restaurant called The Big Easy; going to Barnes & Noble, where I used up the last of my gift card to get a reference book on mythical creatures; going to Target, where the blood pressure machine at the pharmacy indicated that I have the resting heart rate of a small rodent and that my veins are liable to blow at any minute; being introduced to some "new" bands that Zinger had downloaded through iTunes (and by "new" I mean "new to me" since I hardly ever listen to the radio anymore); stuffing my face yet again at Two Rows, where I surprised Zinger and Pooh by not only getting a baked potato rather than French fries, but also going with the fresh veggies as a side; and, finally, getting pulled over by a cop on my way home because my turn signal was messed up . . .was tempted to stop off at Target on the way home to see what the BP machine would say then, pretty sure my pulse was upgraded from "mouse" to "hummingbird" by that point.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sundance Saturday

Well, the Sundance Film Festival has announced its film list, so you know what that means . . . okay, more than likely you don't. What it means is that Netflix has just been glutted with new movies now able to be added to your queue. Pretty massive list this time around; hope at least a couple of these pique your interest.

In the Name of the King: The good: Fantasy film starring Jason Statham, John Rhys-Davies, and Ray Liotta. The bad: Also has Burt Reynolds, which could be problematic, especially when you consider The ugly: directed by Uwe “Please, make him stop!” Boll.

Trust the Man: Indie comedy that gets placed in the queue due to the strength of the cast, in particular the presence of Billy Crudup and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Strip Search: Made for HBO movie that explores the question of how much freedom is it safe to sacrifice in the name of security? Features Ellen Barking, Glenn Close, Patti LuPone, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

The Nasty Girl: Foreign film about a girl whose school report unearths some nasty secrets about her town’s past during WWII.

Happy Feet: Animated film about singing and dancing penguins.

Tsotsi: Foreign film about a thug who discovers that the vehicle he has just carjacked has a baby inside.

Tristan and Isolde: Romantic period piece based on the time-worn tale of star-crossed lovers Tristan and Isolde

Idlewild: Musical set in the 20s starring Outkast; from the previews I’m not sure just how well their style of music really gels with the setting, but I’m willing to give it a chance.

Lucky Number Slevin: A case of mistaken identity gets Josh Hartnett mixed up in a mob war; also features Lucy Liu and Bruce Willis

American Dreamz: Spoof of American Idol with stereotypical Muslim terrorists thrown in for good measure. Stars Hugh Grant, who has become one of my favorite comedic actors ever since he dumped the fumbling, mumbling, namby-pamby routine and embraced his inner sarcastic jackass.

Friends with money: Indie character study starring three of my favorite actresses (Joan Cusack, Frances McDormand, and Catherine Keener) and one of my totally-ambivalent-towards actresses (Jennifer Anniston).

Art School Confidential: Another movie based on the comic book work of Daniel Clowes and directed by Terry Zwigoff, the men behind the quirky Ghost World.

Click: New Adam Sandler vehicle in which he receives a “universal remote” that allows him to control reality.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest: Loved the original, am hoping the 2nd and 3rd installments measure up.

School for Scoundrels : Jon “Napoleon Dynamite” Heder is a loser who joins a confidence-building class to help him meet the girl of his dreams, only to find out that his unscrupulous teacher, Billy Bob Thornton, has his sights set on her too.

Grounded for Life: Season 1: I didn’t get in on this show until it moved from Fox to the WB, but I grew to like it quite a bit; looking forward to seeing the early episodes.

Joshua : Horror movie about a man who returns to his hometown to face his demons.

Action: The Complete Series: One of those “brilliant but cancelled” TV shows that I missed out on the first time around; not sure how Jay Mohr managed to be in anything that’s considered “brilliant,” but I suppose I shall find out.

Cargo : Foreign thriller about a backpacker who stows away on a cargo ship after losing his passport, only to find that the captain is a few sails shy of full mast, if you know what I mean. And I hope that you do, because I really don’t know enough about sailing to know if that metaphor is even close to right, but by gum, it sounds good.

Darwin Awards : Film based on the idea of the world’s most idiotic deaths. Features an interesting cast, including Joseph Fiennes, Winona Ryder, and Juliette Lewis.

A Guide to Recognizing your Saints : Coming of age drama starring Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson, Chazz Palmentari, and Dianne Wiest.

Half Nelson: Ryan Gosling as a troubled high school teacher who gets a new lease on life due to an encounter with a student.

The Hawk is Dying: Paul Giamatti as an auto upholsterer trying to raise a wild hawk. Film is notable for reteaming former Dawson’s Creek couple Michelle “Jen the ho-bag” Williams and Michael “Henry the whiny loser” Pitt.

Dark Hours : Thriller about a criminal psychologist and her family being held hostage by one of her former patients.

Little Miss Sunshine : Comedy featuring Greg Kinear and Toni Collete as pushy stage-parents of a potential beauty queen.

Illusionist: Period piece featuring Edward Norton as a stage magician who falls in love with an aristocrat, and whose attempts to win her draws the attention of police inspector Paul Giamatti.

Wristcutters: Romantic comedy set in a limbo populated entirely by suicide victims. Stars Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon, and Eddie “Crab Man on Earl” Steeples.

Sherrybaby : Maggie “If she’s in it, I’ll see it” Gyllenhaal as a woman trying to get her life back together after her release from prison

Night Listener : Psychological thriller starring Robin Williams as a radio host who is drawn into a friendship with a troubled listener played by Rory Caulkin. Also stars Toni Collete and Sandra Oh.

Stephanie Daly : Drama about a forensic psychologist (Tilda Swinton) investigating charges of murder levied on a teenage mother (Amber Tamblyn).

Special: Michael Rappaport as a man who believes that his anti-psychotic drugs are giving him super-powers and sets out to be a super-hero. Looks very bizarre, but the trailer definitely moved it to the top of my “must see” list.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated: Documentary that examines the MPAA’s rating system; as of this writing, This Film Is Not Yet Rated was rated NC-17.

No.2: Drama about a recently widowed woman (played by Ruby Dee, herself a recent widow) trying to move on with her life.

A Little Trip to Heaven: Noirish film starring Julia Stiles as a woman involved in insurance fraud and Forrest Whitaker as the investigator who gets involved with her.

Right at Your Door: Rory Cochrane as a man who loses it and barricades himself inside his apartment when there are reports of a dirty bomb detonating in his city.

Secret Life of Words: Drama featuring Tim Robbins as a man blinded by a fire and Sarah Polley as the nurse who cares for him.

Science of Sleep: The latest weirdness from Michel Gondry about a man trapped in his own dreams.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Yes, That's Right: I Like Gwen Stefani.

Zinger commented that I've covered movies, TV, and books well enough, but I have yet to talk about music; personally, I think it's just a ploy to give him an open forum to mock me for liking Gwen Stefani, but I'll play along.

Whenever someone asks me what type of music I listen to, I have a hard time coming up with a succinct answer; my tastes are pretty eclectic. It’s usually easier to describe what I don't listen to, but even then there are few things that I can categorically say I never listen to.

I tend not to buy instrumental CDs; the only fully instrumental CD I can think of that I own is the soundtrack for Requiem for a Dream featuring The Kronos Quartet. The Kill Bill soundtracks have quite a few instrumental tracks, and I enjoy most of them, but it's just not the sort of thing I'm generally going to spend my money on, although I will admit I've been tempted to pick up an Ennio Morricone CD a time or two, particularly Once Upon a Time in the West.

I'm also not likely to buy much in the way of Rap, my sole Rap CD being Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest; you can blame that purchase on my time rooming with Wrath teh Berzerkr.

My Country selection is a little bit bigger, but not much: Dixie Chicks (don't care about their politics, really like their music), Allison Krause and Union Station, and the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. And then there's the borderline country stuff, like the excellent Kasey Chambers who I discovered thanks to her song "The Captain" being featured on an episode of The Sopranos; or, to be more accurate, I heard the song, really liked it, and by the time I asked fellow Sopranos viewer Rebel Monkey if she had noticed it, she had already tracked down Chambers and ordered her CD.

I've been introduced to quite a few obscure bands thanks to Rebel Monkey over the years, with most of them coming from music played on episodes of Buffy; Rebel Monkey and I even headed to SxSW one year to meet Virgil, one of the Buffy bands, but that's a story for another time; however, bringing it up does give me a chance to plug the new CD by Andrew Paul Woodworth, the lead singer of the (sadly)now defunct band who was very cool when we met him. My favorite track is "I Hate Music," but if you visit his site you should at least check out his cover of The Beastie Boys "Fight For Your Right to Party."

Speaking of SxSW, it was also responsible for introducing me to another great, yet now defunct, band, with the difficult-to-Google name of "pete." That period at the end of pete.'s name is actually part of pete.'s name; supposedly most of the members of pete. have formed a new band, but its output is theoretical at the moment. The magic of the sampler CD also got me hooked on Marc Copley and Sound of Urchin

Kind of chasing rabbits in this post, huh? Well, that's because I find myself stymied from an inability to talk about the merits of music with any degree of expertise. I can dissect a book or show, examining them for structure, genre, clarity, etc., but with music it's much more of a "gut" reaction. Yes, there are some artists I like because of their lyrics (Jason Mraz springs to mind), but there are so many others whose appeal comes from some other level; I mean, I love Bjork (Post is probably one of my top 10 albums) and Cibbo Matto, even though I have absolutely no idea what their songs are talking about half the time.

I'll probably think of more music stuff later, but right now Zinger is giving me the "You're killing me, Smalls!" treatment for my late posting, so I'll just finish with a "here are the top 10 singers/bands that I've felt compelled to listen to recently that weren't mentioned above" list, which probably won't do much more than give you an idea of the sort of mood I've been in recently:

  1. Gorillaz
  2. Barenaked Ladies
  3. Phantom Planet
  4. Guster
  5. Foo Fighters
  6. Franz Ferdinand
  7. Kings of Leon
  8. Thursday
  9. Rooney
  10. Lostprophets


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Every Time I Write a Post, Rambelina Lives Again

Zinger's giving me a hard time about not posting yet today, so I figured I'd better get something up. Unfortunately, it's one of those "allergies are making me fuzzy-headed" sort of days, so I'm drawing a blank in terms of what to post. Well, to be more accurate, I have lots of ideas of what to post, but none of them are coming together coherently when I try to type them up. So, since I'm having trouble being coherent, I thought I'd post something that was incoherent on purpose: an email I once sent out to the SXSF Book Monkeys during a time when Rebel Monkey (then going by The Wiz) had been inundating our mailboxes with entertaining, if rambling, emails quite frequently. On this occasion, she had sent an email stating that she would be away from her computer and unable to entertain us for the afternoon. I, not having CoIM as an outlet for my oddness at the time, composed the following bit of randomness.


And it came to pass that one afternoon a young lad sat morosely in his work cubicle, on the verge of succumbing to the rigors of terminal boredom, when Lo! A fairy appeared before him.

“Greeting, my fine fey friend!” exclaimed the lad. “Have you come bearing a message regarding socks or other footwear-related items*?”

“Nay,” proclaimed the fairy, “you are thinking of my cousin, Bowl-Wing, patron of the pins.”

“My apologies,” proffered the young one. “Then who, pray-tell, are you?”

“I am Rambelina, queen of the rambling, nonsensical (and possibly psychotic) emails, and I desperately need your help!” declared the winged one.

“My help?” inquired the boy. “But whatever for? How could a lowly library worker such as me aid a mystical being such as yourself?”

“I live off the energies generated by off-the-wall emails and the puzzlement they create,” explained Rambelina, “and I am afraid if you do not aid me quickly then I shall surely expire ere midnight falls.”

“But why now?” wondered the youngster. “What strange events have transpired that make today so different from any other?”

“It is because the one known as 'Rebel Monkey' has left work early today,” sobbed the pixie. “After a tsunami of surreal missives and the resultant surfeit of confusion and chaos they generated, the sudden deficit is like a hole in my heart. Withdrawal from the wit of the Wiz weakens my wondrous wings while wreaking wreckage on my winsome well-being.”

“Boy, that’s a lot of alliteration” admired the twenty-something male. “But I still don’t see how I can help. I have not the gift for puzzling epistles that the one once known as ‘Joe Rhymer’ possesses.”

“True,” admitted the fair one, “but even your borderline psychosis is better than none at all. Help me, and I promise you that I shall do all in my power to insure that you are never forced to wear a boa against your will**.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!” cried the thankful one.

“And above all else, remember this,” added the preternatural one. “The cyclopean Sasquatch juggles protein markers while gargling sugarwater.”

“That . . . that made no sense whatsoever,” blurted the one-who-was-not-quite-30-yet.

“Exactly,” whispered the spritely one, “exactly.”

*This was a reference to an email Rose Hips had sent out to our group in which she described a "dream" involving a fairy obsessed with bringing extra socks for bowling; long story.
**This was a reference to Bunny's oft-stated decree that she was going to buy me a boa to dance with; even longer story.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Written Word Wed. - Skill and Wit

Here it is, the long-promised review of Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy, a review which is sure to disappoint one and all with its lack of depth and paucity of wordiness following the huge delay.

Been trying to figure out the best way to do my book reviews; I think I'll try to stick to the format from my Genre fiction class; plot synopsis, followed by analysis of book as format of its Genre, followed by personal reaction. We'll see how long that lasts.

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb.

In the land of the Six Duchies, the members of the royal Farseer line (so called because of their facility with the magic known as The Skill) are each named for some virtue of attribute which tradition holds determines their personality. Prince Chivalry, next in line for the throne, seems to be a shining example of this tradition until it is discovered that he has fathered a fitz, i.e. a bastard son. Disgraced, Chivalry abdicates his right to the throne to younger brother Verity, and he and his wife leave the palace at Buck-Keep. Meanwhile, his son, known only as Fitz, is placed in the care of Chivalry's right-hand man, the stablemaster Burrich. Burrich soon discovers that Fitz possesses the power of The Wit, a forbidden talent that allows men to communicate with animals; Burrich forbids Fitz from using his Wit, but it's a difficult thing for him to put aside. After a while Fitz draws the attention of King Shrewd, who moves Fitz into the main palace and begins his education in the art that will define Fitz's live; the art of assassination.

The first book in the trilogy, Assassin's Apprentice, traces the early days of Fitz's life, as he tries to balance his secret life as a royal assassin with his regular life in the castle. He and his mentor, Chade, are among the first to discover the true horror of the Red-Ship Raiders and their mystic terrorism known as Forging. As the threat of the Red-Ships and the Forged increases, Fitz becomes more integral to the defense of the kingdom, especially once he discovers a plot against Prince Verity by one of the king's most trusted advisors.

The second book, Royal Assassin, finds the attacks of the Red-Ship Raiders increasing, causing increasing friction among the duchies, providing ample opportunity for the opportunistic Prince Regal to enact his plans to usurp the throne. When Prince Verity decides that the only way to defeat the Raiders is to undertake a quest to locate the mythical Elderlings and ask for their aid, Fitz suddenly finds himself at the center of political intrigue without his strongest supporter.

The third book, Assassin's Quest, follows right on the heels of the calamitous events of the last book; a disillusioned Fitz has only one thought on his mind: revenge against those who have wronged him. But a mystical compulsion from the long-missing Verity obliges Fitz to undertake a quest to locate his prince and determine if the myth of the Elderlings is real.

The Farseer trilogy is part of the Epic Fantasy sub-genre, focused as it is on a young nobody thrust into the battle between "good" vs. "evil." I suppose being a royal bastard kind of stretches the definition of "nobody" a little bit, but the fact remains that, in the beginning, Fitz has little to no social standing. Like most of my favorite Fantasy novels, Hobb's series is a totally new world cut from whole cloth; she doesn't rely on the now-cliché Tolkien worldview, nor does she draw straight from an AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide.

I liked this series quite a bit. I think the first book was probably my favorite, since it managed to hook my interest with its new world and mythology without falling into the plot pitfalls of the later two. Perhaps “pitfalls” is too strong a word; maybe I should say “pet peeves.” There are certain types of plots which I have little patience for; the second and third books in the trilogy exhibit two of them. First is the “two lovers torn apart because of assumptions and misunderstandings” plotline which, luckily, did not come to consume the series as I feared it would. Second is the “evil character rises to position of power and nobody but the hero can tell he’s evil” plotline, which is fine in small doses, but if it lasts over more than one book in a series, it wears me down. Neither of these plotlines were enough to drive me away from the series, but they definitely affected my enjoyment somewhat. But the one thing that the second and third book had going for them was an increased use of The Fool, a strange androgynous albino who sees the future and talks in riddles. The Fool’s quips and jabs at those around him were some of my favorite pieces of dialogue in the series; I’m glad to see that the follow up trilogy The Tawny Man will have a big focus on him.

If I keep doing this in-depth review thing, I might actually come up with a rating system of sorts; for now, I’ll just settle for a “highly recommended to fans of Fantasy.”


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

TV Tues. - Karma Don't Have Fists

Got quite a bit watched this week, so without further ado . . .

Gilmore Girls: You know, I don't think I really realized how much I missed the Rory/Lorelei dynamic until it was back; the Atlantic City sequence was perfect. But the shining moment of the episode had to be Paris and Doyle's sparring match.

My Name is Earl: Bill should be short for Billiam. Say "Moose and Squirrel." "You'll be my first."

The Office: I'm so happy NBC decided to give this show a chance to grow past its initial short season; it's become one of my favorite shows. Yes, I have to suffer through the occasional "won't somebody make Michael shut up?!?!?!" moments, but they're soooooooo worth it for all of the other stuff. Oh, and some good news: a huge chunk of the background staff are being promoted to the status of series regulars, including Oscar, Stanley, and my favorite, Angela. Favorite part of the episode was Jim wielding the squirt bottle.

West Wing: It's amazing how much the election storyline has reinvigorated this show; I particularly enjoyed the episode about the V.P. debate, especially all the scenes with Kristen Chenowith; I'm a total sucker for Kristen Chenowith. I was much less impressed with the following episode spotlighting CJ, which is sad, because CJ has always been my favorite character on the show; unfortunately, the transformation from press secretary to chief of staff has also resulted in a transformation from good humored person to crabby, crabby curmudgeon. Watching CJ blow up at everyone and everything just depressed me. And the ad for next weeks ep about a nuclear plant meltdown just made me shake my head sadly; can you say "over the top?" I knew you could.

24: Okay, for once, the "the first 10 minutes changes everything" ad campaign wasn't kidding! Gotta say, though, the super-speedy response time to Palmer's death was ludicrous, even by 24's standards. I hate the whole "frame Jack" storyline; it's kind of old hat by now, don't you think? Weirdness factor for the episode came from seeing the L.A. anchorman who's made numerous cameos on Arrested Development popping up reporting on Palmer's death. As for last night's ep, I basically had three very strong reactions. The first was a cry of "Look, it's Rudy!" when Sean Astin came on screen. The second was a cry of "I love Chloe!" when she unleashed her personality disorder on the head of CTU; I know that she drives lots of people crazy (including Rose Hips, The Mag, and Fellow Book Monkey and Blogger Bubblegum Tate), but Chloe is one of the things that has kept me interested in this show the last couple of seasons. The third strong reaction was a near constant and overwhelming desire to see one of the other characters slap the crap out of the president (I know it's not grammatically correct, but I refuse to capitalize his title; the whiny little weasel doesn't deserve it); when he was throwing his little hissy fits at the CTU personnel because the terrorist attacks were going to have a negative impact on his PR, well, I was on the verge of hurling something through the TV screen in the insane hope that it might travel through the screen and impale him. As I told Tate "I'm starting to understand why the First Lady has mental problems, living with that man would drive Gandhi to homicidal rage."

Surface: And the secrets of the creatures starts to become clear. I liked the introduction of the idiosynchratic scientist who holds the key.

Lost: Not a lot to say about the ep, other than the fact that it was nice to see the return of the blacksmoke.

Invasion: The last couple of episodes have been definite improvements; my heart goes out to the poor, confused deputy.

Desperate Housewives: I'm on the verge of saying "sayonara" to this show; outside of Edie and Lynette's husband Tom, I'm having a hard time caring a whit about any of the characters. And just as I was about to say "this is it," there was that darn enticing reveal of Mrs. Huber's sister.

Grey's Anatomy: Oh, how I love this show; I especially loved the story of the frustrated novelist who, disgusted with the quality of his work, ate it; not sure why, but it spoke to me. My one quibble with the ep was how badly telegraphed the ending of the heart patient's story was; from the instant you saw him being all happy and funny and likeable, you just knew things weren't going to work out.

Dirty Deeds Jobs: The segments on the marble quarry and owl vomit collection were informative, but the real highlight of the episode had to be watching Mike learn how to palpate cattle. I have to say I was very impressed with how quickly he seemed to pick it up; on any other show I'd be tempted to say they edited out all of his mistakes, but after watching the glee the editors seem to show in highlighting his good-natured ineptitude, I'm pretty sure that any major mistakes would have made it onto the screen. So, apparently, Mike Rowe is just a natural at sticking his hand up a cow's butt and juding a fetus' age by its size; who knew?

Battlestar Gallactica: Another excellent episode that had me really worried that a certain central character might get bumped off a time or two; that's one of the beauties of this show, you can't take much of anything for granted. I'm interested to see how Baltar choosing the physical Cylon over the one living in his head is going to play out.

Gargoyles Season 2 Volume 1 Disc 3: The last disc of the first half of the second season contains the multi-part "Avalon" storyline which answers a lot of questions about the plans and machinations of the Wyrd Sisters. Again, I'm very impressed with just how well this series has held up overall. Interesting tidbit: the voice of Fox Renard-Xanatos was done by an uncredited Laura San Giacomo, whose agent advised her to keep her name off of the show because animation voice work wasn't considered to be reputable at the time.

Alien Nation Disc 2: I think this series is at its strongest when it delves into the particulars of the Newcomers' alien heritage and history, and at its weakest when it relies on the usual cop-show tropes. Once again, there were some overly cheesy moments here and there; the series defintiely shows its age when it comes to the action sequences. I could have done without the whole storyline about Sikes' ex and daughter, but other than that, very few strong complaints. Favorite human cameos were Lori Petty as the "rebel without a cause biker gal" Sal and Meagen Fay as the "let me eat my barbeque ribs while I'm disecting this corpse" coroner; favorite alien (or, "gee, they seem really familiar under that makeup") cameos were Diana Bellamy (the blind principal on Popular) as the evil Betsy Ross; David Bowe (Weird Al's best friend Bob in the comedy classic UHF) as the irrationally horny Buster Keaton; and, the one that I didn't catch until I was reading the IMDB page, Mitch Pileggi (Agent Skinner on X-Files) as the former overseer John Paul Sartre.

Ultimate Fighter Season 1: Finally got the final disc of Ultimate Fighter. Man, the Sanchez/Florian fight was pretty disapointing, and not just becaus I don't care for Sanchez; when you're watching the championship bout, you'd like for the match to last at least a full three minutes; the same goes true for the so-called "main event" of Rich Franklin and Ken Shamrock, which was over in a flash. Luckily, there was the Griffin/Bonnar to make up for it. Man, what a great fight that was; after watching so many bouts where it's an endless cycle of punch-and-run and block-and-run, to see the two of them wading into each other, "swinging for the fences," was awesome.


TV Tues. - This One's For You, Doc

I know it's been a long time in coming, and Dr. G'ovich has probably given up all hope that I'd ever get around to it, but this weekend I subjected myself to a 3 hour marathon of Viva La Bam!; the things I do for my friends.

For those unfamiliar with it, Viva La Bam! is an MTV "reality" show starring former Jackass cast member Bam Margera. Each week Bam comes up with some wild and crazy idea, and imposes it upon his friends and family, some of whom are much more willing participants than others. These ideas range from "Hey, let's all go to Vegas!" to "Hey, let's turn my parents house into a castle and have jousting matches!"

Here's my blow-by-blow on the six eps I watched, in order of my enjoyability, from lowest to highest; all titles are taken from TV.com, except for the Galoon ep, which wasn't listed.

"Destination Brazil": After a comment by Bam's uncle, Don Vito, about Brazil being in the Bahamas, Bam decides to take Vito to Brazil; since Bam's parents opt of going, Bam delegates one of his crew named Dico to make sure that they experience Brazil at home. My favorite parts of the episode revolved around this secondary storyline, when Dico decides to not only transform their house into a rainforest, but also dresses up in camouflage in order to hide himself in their house, jumping out to scare them periodically. What can I say, I'm a sucker for "jumping out and scaring people" situations; blame it on my Enoch blood.

"Raab's Russian Mail Order Bride": During a prank involving cutting the pants off of a sleeping Raab, Bam finds a photo of Raab's Russian mail order bride (apparently obtained during an earlier episode) who went back to Europe right after the wedding. Bam decides that the gang needs to head overseas and track her down. Meanwhile, he sends his parents off on a separate European vacation where they have to endure time with the Dudesons, some Finnish friends of Bam who apparently annoyed the heck out of his folks on a previous ep.

"Lost Lambo": After some smack talking, Bam and his friend Ryan Dunn decide to have themselves a drag race between Bam's Lamborghini and Dunn's limo. Before it can happen, though, the lambo disappears. Bam goes through great efforts to find out who took it, including subjecting his friends to polygraphs. The lambo turns back up and the race is on. It looks at first as if Dunn might actually win, but his engine blows. Dunn balks on performing his end of the bet (to dress up in a French maid outfit and french Raab), and Bam tells him "To get out of this, you either have to make me laugh or puke." Dunn takes him up on the offer, and pays a woman at the bar to do a truly, truly disgusting act: sucking on Don Vito's nasty toes. And so, Dunn was off the hook, for the act did indeed make him both laugh and puke.

"Destination Mexico": Tired of the ice and snow, Bam decides that the crew should head to Mexico, but he refuses to allow Don Vito to come along; instead, he makes a bet with Vito: if Vito can learn 10 Spanish phrases by the time they get back, Bam will give Vito his Humvee; if Vito loses, Bam tells him he'll have to be his "pet Mexican." Bam decided to invite along his Finnish friends the Dudesons who I first saw in the Russian bride episode; yes, this is the trip where they annoyed the heck out of Bam's parents, and yes, this episode aired after that on in the mini-marathon. Anyway, one of the Dudesons talks non-stop, but only in Finnish; it's not until the Russian bride episode that they find out he does know English and was just refusing to do so in order to be a pest. It was kind of funny watching Bam's parents realizing that there were actually people out there who were able to try their patience more than their son. Favorite parts of the episode were Don Vito (who is unintelligible at the best of times, and thus constantly subtitled) trying to learn the 10 Spanish phrases Bam picked for him. In the end, he got all but one right, and he only missed that one because Dico, who was supposed to be teaching him, gave him the wrong phrase. Vito decides he was robbed and swipes Bam's spare keys, taking the Humvee.

"Sailing to the Galoon": After coming out to find that Bam and the guys are tearing up her pool, Bam's mom April asks why they can't go and play in the river instead. Bam uses this as an inspiration to go rafting down the Brandywine to the Delaware; Vito goes off, saying repeatedly "You can't make it to the Delaware Ocean!" Once again, a bet is made; if Bam and the crew fail to successfully make it to the Delaware by a set time, Vito will have the pool all to himself all summer. In order to make the trek, they have special rafts constructed, including a big red shoe (Converse, I believe), a Tom Sawyer-esque raft with a keyboard on it for music while they're rafting, a giant hot dog (that one was Vito's), and a Viking ship. The trip down the river was pretty funny, mainly due to Vito's increasingly incoherent ramblings as he consumed more and more alcohol; at one point Bam finds out that Vito was right and they can't make it to the Delaware, so they ply him with more beers until he passes out, and then carry him and his raft a mile over land until they hit the waterway that does hit the Delaware; Vito never has any clue. He finally gets fed up with the journey, declaring that he can make it faster on foot, so it then turns into a race to see if the rafters can make it to their destination before Vito can find his way down the highway; lots of scenes of Vito yelling at passing cars asking where the "galoon" is. I think this episode helped prove that my enjoyment of Bam is directly proportional to the amount of incoherent Vito moments.

"Episode 39": My favorite ep starts out with the sort of thing that makes me not want to watch the show: Bam decides that Vito needs a door leading from his bedroom to the outside, so he demolishes Vito's bedroom bay window. Vito is, quite naturally, ticked off. He yells and screams at Bam and then storms off into the house; Bam says "Gee, I think he's really mad," and the crew all clamber through the wreckage to see if they can't calm Vito down. Vito, meanwhile, has circled around, hopped into Bam's hummer, and driven off, not realizing that Dunn is passed out in the back. When Dunn wakes up, he decides to help Vito out and the two of them go on the lam. Bam tries to track them down, putting out missing posters with Vito's face; Dunn sees them, and goes to one of his friends who creates life-like Vito masks which they then distribute to other overweight gentlemen. Some of Bam's crew find the hummer while Dunn and Vito are at a bowling alley and decide that the best way to make sure the hummer goes nowhere until Bam gets there is to place a VW on top; when Vito and Dunn make a break for it, Dunn just guns the hummer, causing the VW to go flying off the back. The fugitives then head to New York, with Bam and crew in pursuit. Vito wants a disguise, so Dunn, being a quirky fellow, takes him to a costume shop and dressed him up like Waldo, as in "Where's Waldo"; when Bam and the crew eventually spot them, they don't seem to get the joke. Dunn shoves Vito in a taxi, and then gets tackled and handcuffed to a bike stand by Bam and company. Having lost Vito, they head back home; the next day Bam gets a call from Vito to meet him at an old rock quarry. When they get there, Vito tells Bam that he's destroyed too much crap that belonged to other people, and it was time he lost something of his. He then points across the chasm, where the hummer is being lifted off the ground by some heavy machinery, with its engine gunned. Bam is convinced Vito doesn't have the guts, but Vito give the signal, the hummer is lowered to the ground, and then proceeds to speed off into the ravine, plunging to its doom. Bam, to his credit, took it well; he was just impressed that Vito planned the whole thing. The reason this was my favorite episode was two fold: first, it had a high "incoherent Vito" quotient, and second, they actually managed to get the better of Bam.

So, there you go, my Viva La Bam experience. Yes, there were quite a few moments that made me laugh, but I think this is a show that I can only take in small doses before it wears on me; in particular, Bam's total disregard for the possessions of others (such as when he decides to "help" Vito pack for the Brazil trip by breaking into Vito's place and throwing his clothes into a woodchipper) drives me insane. Yeah, I'm sure most of it gets replaced, but the lack of respect pains me.

I hope that satisfies you, Doc; if not, well, tough. Just be glad you made me a Dirty Jobs convert.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Movie Mon. - I Almost Numchucked You, You Don't Even Realize!

Not only did I get quite a few movies watched this week, but I enjoyed the majority of them quite a bit. Of course, several of the ones I enjoyed are of the "who would I recommend this to?" variety, but what else is new?

The Cave: Horror/action movie about a group of cave explorers who come face to face with some strange underground creatures. Mildly enjoyable film that's hampered by jerk/shaky camerawork that often makes the action unintelligible; equally confusing was the topography of the cave system; it all might have made sense, but if so, that sense totally escaped me.

Frankie and Johnny Are Married: Semi-autobiographical film about writer director Michael Pressman's attempts to put on the play "Frankie and Johnny in the Clare de Lune" with actress wife Lisa Chess. Although highly fictionalized, Pressman and Chess play themselves, with several of Pressman's co-workers from Chicago Hope following suit; Alan Rosenberg also plays himself, but a horribly jerky version of himself, totally at odds with his usual nice-guy roles. An odd film that blurs the line between reality and fiction; I have no clue how much of the story is drawn directly from Pressman's problems staging the play, and how much is just for entertainment value. In the end, that question hardly matters, I suppose; the important thing is that I enjoyed this low-key comedy quite a bit, more-so the parts after Rosenberg self-destructs than the parts before; his behavior became just a little too jerky for comfort.

A Hole in One: Very odd independent film about a gangster's girlfriend (Michelle Williams) who decides that she needs a lobotomy to make herself feel better. Yes, that's right: a lobotomy to feel better. It's not quite as crazy as it sounds (pun partially intended); the film is set during the 1950s when neurologists were actually advocating the use of lobotomies for treating depression, chronic anxiety, and OCD. The film is told from the highly disjointed P.O.V. of Williams' character, which means it's very non-linear; The Mag is sure to hate it. While I thought it had some nice moments, I had a hard time staying interested.

Red Eye: Thriller about a woman (Rachel McAdams) who finds herself caught up in a political assassination plot while on a flight home. The previews for hadn't done much to entice me; the whole "terrorized while on a plane" plot struck me as limiting. Boy, was I wrong. I liked this one quite a bit; Cillian Murphy is effectively creepy and menacing here, while McAdams does a great job as the resourceful heroine. There was only one thing that was a bit over-the-top for me, and it was pretty visible in most of the trailers; the rocket launcher attack. Very seldom can a film pull off a rocket launcher attack successfully; this one was a forgivable bit of blockbuster shenanigans in an otherwise taut and suspenseful thriller.

Broken Flowers: Another off-beat indie from Jim Jarmusch. The plot revolves around Don Johnston (played by the always excellent Bill Murray), an aging lothario who gets blindsided from a letter from an anonymous old flame telling him that he might be getting a visit from an illegitimate son he didn't know he had. He tries to ignore the letter, but his mystery-obsessed neighbor takes it upon himself to track down all of Johnston's exes from the proper time frame and set up a travel itinerary for Johnston to track the identity of the letter writer. Some really funny moments sprinkled throughout the film; I especially liked his encounter with his ex who is making a living as a sort of New Age Dr. Doolittle, as well as all scenes with his wannabe-detective neighbor. While I enjoyed the film, its slow-moving pace might be a chore for some.

Wedding Crashers: Comedy about a couple of swinging bachelors who regularly crash weddings to pick up women. Going in, I wasn't expecting to like this much; lo and behold, the lowered expectations paid off, and I liked it a lot. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are both sort of hit or miss actors for me; this time around, they were definitely firing on all cylinders. Vaughn's little tirades in particular amused me greatly. It was strange seeing Bradley Cooper playing the overly competitive jackass; he'll always be wishy-washy reporter Will Tippin to me.

The Constant Gardener: Low key political thriller about a British diplomat investigating the death of his activist wife in Africa. Fine acting all around, but its languid pacing early on tested my attention span; I definitely wasn't in the mood for this film when I saw it, making it hard to give an objective review.

The Chumscrubber: Very off-beat dark comedy about disaffected youth in the suburbs; probably my favorite of all the movies I watched this week. Lots of star power here: Glenn Close, Allison Janney, Ralph Fiennes, Rita Wilson, and the continually impressive Jaime Bell, who's come a long way since Billy Elliot. Basic plot is this: Jaime Bell’s character is the first to stumble across the body of Glenn Close’s drug-dealing son after his suicide; Bell is then coerced into helping the dead boy’s former partners recover some of his hidden stash when the desperate dealers kidnap his brother . . . or, at least, the kid they think is his brother . . . Reactions to this movie tend to run to either the "love it" or "hate it" extremes of the spectrum, with little room in between, or at least so the IMDB boards would have you believe. A lot of people insist on calling this a Donnie Darko rip-off, which is overstating it a bit; yes, the films are similar in tone (which would help explain why I enjoyed this one so much), and both feature a main character who is a bit of a hyper-intelligent outcast, but beyond that the similarities end. Is this movie perfect? Not at all; there are a few sections where the shift in tone is a bit jarring, and the climax of the feuding wedding and memorial services was a bit unsatisfying for me. However, the scene right after that between Jaime Bell and Glenn Close where they talk about the suicide was pretty powerful; got me a little choked up.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Registers a 9.9 On the *Shudder* Scale

Coronela was kind (if that's really the word) enough to scan in the postcard we got for her on our California trip; those of you brave enough (or foolish enough) to want to experience it, just scroll down.

Come on; you know you want to.


Spoiler-laden Sunday: Let's Do the Twist

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I wanted to do a more in-depth discussion of a couple of movies that I had watched since I couldn't do justice to my feelings towards them without some spoilers. Sorry it's taken me so long to get around to it, but as usual, I am at the mercy of my muse.

Both of the following films rely pretty heavily on a "twist" ending, so, if you don't mind having the twists of Cry_Wolf and November spoiled for you, read on.

Before I dive into talking about the films themselves, a little word about my thoughts on twist endings. For me, a twist ending should evolve naturally from the plot, and should not be done as a twist for twist's sake; a film that relies on the strength of its twist to carry it is more than likely doomed to failure for me. While the twist of the true connection between Brad Pitt and Ed Norton in Fight Club was a very unexpected and engaging one, I was in love with the movie long before that ever happened; the twist was just the icing on the cake, and something that made repeat viewings of the film more interesting as I went back to pick up on what I'd missed before. Of course, there are times where the shock ending does add some spice to the film. The Kevin Costner film No Way Out comes to mind; about the only two things I remember about that movie are (a) the seemingly never-ending limo scene and (b) the final big reveal which many critics pointed to as pointless and distracting, but which made me go "ooo, cool!"

Of course, I was 12 years old at the time, so maybe my judgment of what was and wasn't cool was a bit underdeveloped.

Ideally a twist should come as a complete surprise to the audience, although being able to guess a twist does not necessarily make a film worthless; I guessed the twist to The Sixth Sense almost immediately (but only because I had heard so much about the twist that I was looking for it) and did not feel the movie was lessened because of it. But while an obvious twist doesn't always wreck a movie, it does often weaken it; both of the films I'm going to talk about telegraphed their twists pretty badly, and my opinion of each suffered for it.

Cry_Wolf: This movie was billed as a horror movie about a group of teens whose practical joke involving a spam email describing a serial killer goes horribly wrong when someone starts imitating the murders from the email. At first I was enjoying the film; likeable actors, moderately engaging dialogue, couple of interesting characters. But as the film progressed, I started to feel that something was off. I'm not going to say that I had it all figured out before it ended, because I didn't have a 100% "This is exactly what's going on here!" moment, but I will say that from pretty early on in the movie I knew that it was a variation on one of my favorite 80s "slasher" films, April Fools' Day. And what does that mean? Why, that nobody actually gets killed, of course. Except, that's not exactly true here; there are two murders in the film, but they bookend the movie; the first is the event the precipitates the email, and the second turns out to be the real reason for the email scam in the first place, as the second dead body was being set-up to take the fall for the first killing.

So, how did I figure out that nobody was really dying? Easy; there were no actual on-screen deaths. Oh, you'd see people being dragged off, or find bloody items of clothing, or stumble across a corpse, but the actual violent act was always off-camera, which is unheard of in modern slasher films. Missing out on the moment of death of one or two characters doesn't arouse much suspicion, as it could just be a building of suspense, but by the time the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth "death" occurs without a detailed on-screen blow-by-blow, the "oh, great, it's all a hoax" alarm goes off.

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that I give the movie a "thumbs down"; there was still enough enjoyable character stuff going on to keep both my dad and me entertained throughout. Plus, it's not like the "it's all a hoax" thing has become that big of a cliché; yes, I've seen it used before, but not enough for me to just roll my eyes and write a movie off because the writers have gone to that well one too many times. If only I could say the same about the "twist" of the next movie . . .

November: Indie flick billed as a psychological thriller about a photographer (Courtney Cox) whose boyfriend (James LeGros) gets killed in a convenience store hold-up and who begins to have questions about just what happened that night. This film was split up into three or four segments; during the first segment it seemed like a pretty straight-forward movie about a woman trying to make peace with the death of the man she loved, while simultaneously trying to discover the truth behind it. But then there's suddenly a weird shift following a migraine-induced hallucination, and the second segment begins, and we see the hold-up/murder happen again, only there are a ton of different details this time around, and the aftermath is completely different as well. At first you might think "well, maybe she's just crazy, and this is her mind unraveling." But, careful viewers will have already noticed the clues in the hallucination sequence, and will have already deduced the truth before the shift to the next totally-different segment. What is the truth? That Courtney Cox's character was present at the hold-up, was also shot along with James LeGros, and that all that we have just witnessed has been the hallucinations she's been experiencing during her dying moments.


I'd like to take this moment to make a plea to all of the burgeoning filmmakers out there: please, if you suddenly feel yourself overcome with an idea to make a strange, non-linear, surreal film where nothing makes sense, and characters find themselves trapped in loops or confronted with huge logical inconsistencies in their surroundings which build and build until the final reveal that the central character is either (a) dead or (b) dying . . . if you feel yourself driven to make such a film, then please, I beg of you, for the sake of my sanity, please reconsider. It's been done before, multiple times; I'm not generally one to wave people away from certain plot structures because they've been used before (would I be such a fan of horror movies or quest-based fantasy novels if I was?), but in this case, I'll make a huge exception.

I suppose there could be a situation where such a film doesn't make me miserable; I'm sure that if there's enough clever dialogue or innovative cinematography or likeable enough actors that the big reveal at the end won't do more than make me roll my eyes in a "not again" fashion. Unfortunately, this really wasn't the case with November. Yes, there was some really good acting done by both Cox and LeGros (who I feel is a terribly underappreciated actor), but even their performances weren't enough to make me like this mess. I guess my biggest quibble with most of these "look, he/she's really dead/dying, isn't that clever and unexpected?" films is that all too often it feels like the screenwriter and/or director are banking on the shock of the "ooo, isn't this a cool twist!" factor to win the audience over.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Road Trip, Redux: California, Here We Come!

I had meant to have this up the last week of December, but just wasn't up to transcribing it at the time. But, better late than never right? Please enjoy the chronicles of my holiday road-trip to California.

Back in December of 1994, three of my then-future/now-former roommates and I piled into Dr. G'ovich's Plymouth Horizon (known to many as "the Lunchbox") and drove to San Diego, where the Doc's folks lived. Flunky, Wrath teh Berzerkr, and I all went to our respective family homes for Christmas, while G'ovich, I believe, celebrated with Rocket. The plan had been for the Doc to drive down to the vast metropolis of Wyandotte, OK to get me, and then we would head off to pick up the others. His random nature reared its head when he called to see if it was okay if he came up one night early; my folks said sure, but since he wasn't planning on getting in until relatively late, they went off to bed while I stayed up waiting for him. And waiting. And waiting. I was a tad worried that he might have gotten lost somewhere in the vast metropolis of Wyandotte, but it turns out that his navigational error happened much earlier than that; he had taken the wrong exit and then had to backtrack. But, he finally made it to the family farm, none the worse for wear.

The next day we headed to the nearby city of Joplin, MO, ostensibly to get supplies for the trip, but I think it was more of an excuse to find something to do; surprisingly enough, not a lot of excitement readily available at my childhood home. We hit the mall, which wasn't exactly a thrill-a-minute either. The one thing that it did provide for us was located at the dollar store, which we had entered looking for some cheap crap to entertain us on the drive. It was there that we made one of the greatest purchases $1.00 purchases I’ve ever made: plastic rapiers.

Five will get you ten that it was the Doc's idea to buy them, but a better idea, I doubt he's ever had. Basically, we bought four of these cheap plastic swords with the idea of staging our own little sword fights. Let me tell you something; those things hurt! You look at them and think, oh, yeah, little plastic swords, big whoop, but when the Doc and I got back to the house and went out into the front yard in order to start wailing on each other we soon found that the thin plastic swords whipped with sufficient speed to leave some nasty welts. We basically spent the remainder of our time in Wyandotte beating up on each other with the swords.

The next day we packed up The Lunchbox, and prepared to hit the road. As G'ovich started to turn the key in the ignition, I turned to him and said "Bet my folks will start singing Happy Trails before we leave." He gave me a disbelieving look, but as soon as the car started, so did my folks.

"Bom-ba-dee-da, bom-ba-dee-da, bom-ba-dee-da, Happy Traaaaaaaaaaaaails to you!"

And so, we backed out of the driveway, leaving my parents to perform an act that would have embarrassed almost any child living, but which did not faze me in the slightest, and headed to Tulsa to meet up with Wrath teh Berzerkr. After picking him up, we then headed down to Texas to Flunky’s grandmother’s house where we spent the night before hitting the road again. At that point in time, I still didn’t have my driver’s license; I did have my permit, but couldn’t drive a stick, so I wasn’t able to join in the driving rotation.

The car ride down was pretty uneventful; about the only thing that stands out in my mind has to do with a package of pecans that one of the others brought along as snack food. Now, I’m not a big fan of pecans, either in stuff or by themselves; I suppose I must have reacted pretty forcefully when offered some to eat, because G’ovich decided that I must be suffering from a pecan phobia. After that, I would periodically find the package thrust into my face as one of them yelled “Look out, Todd, pecans!”

We eventually made it to San Diego, or, more accurately, to the Doc’s mom’s place in Coronado. Although the name may not ring a bell, you may be more familiar with Coronado than you think; the bridge connecting Coronado to San Diego was featured in the title sequence of the show Simon & Simon, and the swanky Hotel Del Coronado (or Hotel Del as its usually called) has popped up in quite a few places, most notably on such high class shows as Silk Stockings, Hart to Hart and, of course, Baywatch. Oh, and the exteriors of Some Like It Hot were filmed there too. But, I digress.

The next morning we were all going to head down to the beach. I, for some reason, decided to hop in the shower first; when I got out of the shower, I discovered that the other three had headed on down to the beach without me. Can you hear the strains of “Cap’n Cellophane” playing? I know I could. Getting directions from the Doc’s younger brother, I set out for the beach. Luckily, Coronado is an island, so that even though I got turned around and headed in the wrong direction for a while, I was eventually able to find the beach and the others.

There was an odd sinkhole of sorts on the beach, the edges of which were practically quicksand; marveling at this wonder of nature soon became a game of trying to wrestle each other into the sinkhole. Later, we all got some wetsuits and ventured into the water. The others tried their hands at surfing; I did not. Not a big fan of the water at the best of times (I’m still unable to go under without holding my nose), so the idea of engaging in an activity that would require great skill and co-ordination to keep from being dunked under repeatedly didn’t appeal to me.

I remember the four of us heading out to play some basketball, an activity which, of course, conjured up my insecurities about my lack of athletic prowess. Not too long after that we went bowling with the Doc’s dad, an activity which, of course, conjured up my insecurities about my lack of athletic prowess. Oh, and then there was the evening that we were trying to play hacky-sack, and activity which . . . do you sense a pattern here?

We wound up being in San Diego for New Year’s Eve. We had thought it was going to be great because, surely, in San Diego, California, there had to be some great party to go to, some big event to crash.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

Oh, I’m sure there was some magical experience just waiting for us out there, which would have resulted in us having the time of our lives, but if there was, we never found it. Instead, we wound up going to something that turned out to be, if I recall correctly, some big environmental rally; not much in the way of fun there.

Before we headed back home, we made a side-trip to Tijuana. Now, I wasn’t too excited about going to TJ, having been to Mexico a couple of years earlier with a group from my high school; my experiences in what my classmates and I had dubbed “Murder Alley” in Mexico City made me a little paranoid about the four of us venturing into the streets of TJ, but Wrath was pretty gung-ho on going, so go we did. Of course, my paranoia was groundless, and nothing untoward happened on our little jaunt across the border, but it serves as yet another example of me letting my negativity get in the way of me having a good time.

The ride back to Oklahoma was about as uneventful as the ride down had been; the biggest difference this time was that, instead of tormenting me with pecans, the game was to torment each other with the California Earthquake.

Oh, how to describe the California Earthquake? Maybe if you’re really lucky, Coronela still has it and will be able to scan it in for me to post it. Suffice it to say, the CE was a lovely postcard that we discovered at one point and all agreed had to be sent to Coronela. Of course, we didn’t get it sent before we left for home, and so instead used it to frighten and nauseate each other all the way home; there you'd be, minding your own business, turning your head to look out the passenger window, and wham!, there was the California Earthquake, being held right at eye level.

I still have nightmares.

And that’s my California trip in a nutshell. I’m sure there’s much of interest I’m omitting and/or misremembering; as usual, my selective memory has robbed it of most of the exciting bits. And, as usual, I’ll leave it up to Dr. G’ovich to point out my shortcomings.