Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TV Tuesday - Schedule's Filling Up Again

As February approaches, returning shows and mid-season premieres are making my viewing schedule a bit packed; may have to start cutting a few things soon. Although, if I ever get around to getting a TV for my living room that might help, as I could at least have something going while I'm working out.


TUESDAY, January 20

(Fox, 8:00): Glad this one is back. Was good to see Olivia kicking major butt. I was glad that she stood up to the jerk with the vendetta against her; him standing in her way for no reason was going to get old real fast.

Privileged (CW, 8:00): One of the better episodes they've had of late, but not sure it was enough to keep it from the chopping block for me.

WEDNESDAY, January 21

(ABC, 7:00-10:00): Loved it, very excited to see where exactly this season is headed. It made me want to go back and rewatch the Desmond-centric episodes about his time travels again.

THURSDAY, January 22

My Name is Earl (NBC, 7:00): Was very glad to see the return of Estrada or Nada. Lots of good stuff in this one, most all of it centering around Joy, whether it was her proving that she was indeed an Estrada, or her diving into her witness protection identity.

The Office (NBC, 8:00): The Dwight/Michael story had its moments, especially the chase for the contact info, but the real highlight of the episode was the on-going "Hot or Not?" debate; wonder what Hilary Swank thought of it?

30 Rock (NBC 8:30): Like with The Office, it wasn't the A storyline of Jack and Liz at the retreat that entertained me the most, it was the Jenna/Frank and Tracey/Kenneth storylines. The Wikipedia bit was priceless, up to and including the "Janis Joplin eats kittens" moment.

Grey's Anatomy (ABC 8:00): The best part of the episode was Christina and Meredith finally coming together again . . . that and the sign that the silly Izzy/Dead Denny story is about to move on to its inevitable "Izzy's sick" conclusion.

Private Practice (ABC 9:00): It's always a bad sign when your least favorite character on a show is the one who's supposed to be the main focus, isn't it? And I think they've just about done the "Dell lets his emotions cloud his judgement" story a few too many times. Once the crossover with Grey's is done, I'll be re-evaluating this one's spot on my viewing roster.

Burn Notice (USA 9:00): Love this show with a bloody passion; watched most of the second season in one day. Think my favorite episode was the one where Michael played a geeky scientist -- that was a lot of fun to watch. Great writing and great ensemble. If you're not watching this one, you're missing out.

FRIDAY, January 23

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
(Cartoon Network, 7:00): Was so nice to see Ted Kord treated with respect; his death in the comics was such a waste, at least the show made it a meaningful sacrifice. Plus, the writers always seem to do their best work when the focus is on the Jaime Reyes Beetle; I'd love it if they were able to spin him off into his own show.

Wolverine and the X-Men
(Nicktoons, 7:00): A pretty entertaining new take on the X-men, filled with little touches for long-time fans. Its continuity seems to borrow from several different iterations, from the regular books to the movies to X-Men: Evolution to Ultimate X-Men. Was nice to see Rockslide and Dust pop up; kinda looking forward to seeing Pixie.

Battlestar Galactica
(SciFi, 9:00): I just don't enjoy the show nearly as much when its focus is primarily on the humans; not a bad episode, but I'd rather get a closer look at the inner workings of the Cylon culture. Plus, Mr. Gaeta has started to grate on my nerves more and more.

Psych (USA, 9:00): Not much to say about the "arsassin" episode other than I'm glad to have this show back on my regular viewing schedule.

SATURDAY, January 24

Meadowlands (Showtime Beyond, 2:00 AM): At this point, all I'm hoping is that the big mysteries of the show get resolved by the end.

SUNDAY, January 25

Flight of the Conchords
(HBO, 9:00): Although the songs were better in this ep than in the last, it's still not quite living up to the first season for me.

United States of Tara (Showtime, 9:00): Two episodes in, and I'm still enjoying it.

MONDAY, January 26

Trusts Me
(TNT, 9:00): So far, so good; Thomas Cavanagh does his usual thing, which is a positive, and I like the main female lead with all of her borderline anti-social quirks. I'm just hoping that they don't revisit the "Connor is jealous of Mason's promotion" idea too often; I'd much rather see the two of them work together in synch than be at each other's throats.


TUESDAY, January 27

(Fox, 8:00): The team investigates a phenomenon that literally melts people's brains.

Scrubs (ABC, 8:00): Two episodes back to back again, one of which answers the question of who will take over the vacant chief of medicine position, as well as the fallout of J.D. and Elliot's rekindled relationship.

WEDNESDAY, January 28

(ABC, 7:00-10:00): A focus on Desmond's search for Faraday's mother.

THURSDAY, January 29

Private Practice (ABC 9:00): Addison's brother returns, and Violet talks to the two potential fathers of her child.

Burn Notice(USA 9:00): Michael helps a football coach concerned for one of his players.

FRIDAY, January 30

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
(Cartoon Network, 7:00): The Atom and Aquaman do their own riff on Fantastic Voyage, shrinking down and travelling inside a poisoned Batman.

Wolverine and the X-Men
(Nicktoons, 7:00): The third part of the introductory storyline introduces Emma Frost to the team.

Battlestar Galactica
(SciFi, 9:00): Mutiny on the Galactica.

Psych (USA, 9:00): Shawn and Gus sign up for training camp for a pro football team. Yeah, that can only end well.

SATURDAY, January 31

Meadowlands (Showtime Beyond, 2:00 AM): Jack's body turns up, and the investigation begins anew.

SUNDAY, February 1

(ABC, Superbowl halftime): The biggest break-out hit of the summer returns with a special football themed "cheerleaders vs. couch potatoes" episode which will be shown during halftime of the Super Bowl.

The Office (NBC, post-Super Bowl): Michael tries to get the office crew to relax.

Flight of the Conchords
(HBO, 9:00): Bret tries to form his own gang

United States of Tara (Showtime, 9:00): Tara's date night goes awry when Buck comes to the forefront.

MONDAY, February 2

The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 7:00): Sheldon's actions lead to a confrontation between Leonard and one of Penny's musclebound exes.

How I Met Your Mother (CBS 7:30): Robin needs a job to keep from getting deported back to Canada, and agrees to let Barney produce her video resume.

Chuck (NBC, 7:00): Chuck save a rock star

Two and a Half Men (CBS 8:00): Alan's receptionist/girlfriend invites him to move in with her and her stoner mother.

Heroes (NBC 8:00): Chapter 4, "Fugitives" begins as Hiro tries to train Ando, Claire stumbles onto Project Wideawake, I mean, Nathan's plot, and Sylar starts the search for his real father.

Trust Me
(TNT, 9:00): The client decides they hate the tagline, and the team scrambles to come up with a new one to keep the account.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Movie Mon - Return of the Odd Squodd Movie Night

City of Ember: Entertaining post-apocalyptic family film -- yes, that's right, a post-apocalyptic family film -- about the remnants of humanity who live in an underground city which is starting to fall apart around them, and a couple of teens who think they've discovered the secret to their society's salvation. The trailers for this one were a little iffy for me, but the movie itself turned out to be enjoyable.

Okay horror movie that follows three girls who had been friends in high school who find themselves the targets of horrific happenings.. The structure is interesting, as each girl's initial encounter is presented as a self-contained tale until they all dovetail at the end. Unfortunately, I found it at its most engaging when it felt more like a classic portmanteau horror film; once it actually brought all the threads together, it lost a bit of steam.

Repo! The Genetic Opera:
Dark and twisty musical about a future where organ failure has become a common problem, and one company has become the leading force in organ replacement surgeries, even offering payment plans, but with a catch: if someone misses a payment, they get hunted down by the murderous RepoMan (Anthony Steward Head, a.k.a. Giles from Buffy) who repossess the organs in question. This was the selection for last Thursday's Odd Squodd Movie Night because, on the face of it, this sounds like our sort of movie, right? Bizarre plot, lots of horror-tinged themes, and people singing about it, headlined by a former Buffy star . . . should have been a home run, right? Not quite. My biggest quibble was the music; it's set up like an opera in that the bulk of the dialogue is sung, but in the majority of the cases there is no internal rhyme scheme, or consistent meter, or coherent musical structure; instead, it's often like they just wrote the script, started playing their electric guitars, and told the people to start singing. My love of a musical is largely tied into clever wordplay and catchy/memorable songs; in Repo! there were really only two songs that made any sort of positive impact on me, everything else fell flat. Interestingly enough, those were also the only two songs I had heard before I saw the film, so I probably had unrealistic expectations about the nature of the soundtrack. Li'l Random enjoyed it more than I did, but then again he's much less of a musical snob than I am. Outside of the music, the film had quite a bit going for it, in an Odd Squodd sort of way, but I just had trouble getting into it.

Ghost Town:
Surprisingly enjoyable romantic comedy about a misanthropic dentist (Ricky Gervais) who briefly dies during a routine medical procedure and gains the ability to see ghosts, one of whom enlists him in trying to break up the dead man's widow and her current beau. I was unsure about this one going in because Ricky Gervais is very hit or miss with me, but it actually turned out to be a pretty funny movie with only one or two parts that made me squirm in uncomfortableness.

Savage Grace:
A dramatization of the true life murder of Barbara Baekeland (Julianne Moore) by her mentally unbalanced son Tony, with the film chronicling the strange family dynamics from the time of Tony's birth. A well acted film, but not one I particularly enjoyed, even before it veered into incest.

Horror film about an alcoholic former cop (Kiefer Sutherland) who takes a job as a security guard at an abandoned building and finds himself being haunted by a force that attacks through mirrors. Pretty entertaining horror flick, although the strained dynamic between Kiefer's character and his estranged wife got a little tiresome.

Disaster Movie:
A spoof film brought to you by the same team as Meet the Spartans and Epic Movie; as such, the film relies mainly on the "pop culture parody overload" theory of comedy. Seriously, while talking to a co-worker about it, I was able to think of 30 separate pop culture references crammed into it, and out of those I'd say maybe a fifth were actual disaster movies. As with most of the slate of spoofs that have flourished since Scary Movie, the sheer number of jokes they cram in will usually result in at least a couple hitting; for me, this one had a higher hit-to-miss ration than usual, most of the successful comedy bits revolving out of the spoof of Amy Adams' character in Enchanted, who turns out not to be a princess from a fairy tale world, but a delusional homeless woman living in the sewers. Pretty much any scene with her in it cracked me up.

The Dead One:
Supernatural super-hero tale about a young man who has been chosen to serve as a catalyst for the return of the Aztec gods, but who struggles against their compulsions in order to save the woman he loves. Based on the comic book El Muerto: The Aztec Zombie, this indie film may have had a shoe-string budget, but turned out to be pretty enjoyable overall.

Death Race:
Surprisingly well-put together futuristic action film about a man who has been framed for murder in order to bring him in as a driver for a race where the drivers are criminals, the cars are equipped with live ammo, and the grand prize is freedom. Predictable to be sure, but somehow it never felt cliched to me. Some nice action sequences.

Well done thriller about a man infiltrating an Islamic terrorist group. Pretty solid little film; it was interesting to see Don Cheadle kicking butt, and I especially liked the way he thwarted the big bombing plan at the end -- took me by surprise. This was another film where I found myself scrutinizing the depiction of FBI agents; it really is odd how sensitive I've become to that since Cap'n Shack-Fu headed off to the academy. Guy Pierce's character passed the "doing the FBI proud" test; Neal McDonough, however, fell a bit short with his lacking interrogation skills.

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising
: Adaptation of the second volume of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series of books about the battle between the forces of good and evil; in this case, the battle is centered around Will Stanton, the 7th son of a 7th son who is prophesied to lead the forces to light to victory over the rising dark. I enjoyed the film the most in its earlier parts when it focuses on Will dealing with his very large family; as the fantasy elements rose to prominence, the film seemed to lose its way. Not a bad film, but I couldn't help feeling like it squandered its potential.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TV Tuesday - One More Day Till Lost! One More Day Till Lost!


TUESDAY, January 13

(ABC, 8:00 & 8:30): Man oh man am I glad that Courtney Cox's character is gone; didn't care for her at all. Not quite so glad to see Elliott and JD doing the relationship tango yet again; at least since this is Zach Braff's last season regardless they'll finally resolve the issue once and for all.

Privileged (CW, 8:00): I just realized this week that when everything is new again, this show will be on up against Scrubs and Fringe; in other words, so long, Privileged, it was nice knowing you, but you squandered what good will I had invested in you by making Megan unbearably self-righteous at all times.

THURSDAY, January 15

(CW, 7:00): I won't say much about the ep, since Bubblegum Tate hasn't seen it yet, but I will say that I had some minor quibbles with the direction they took the Legion, but that it was all worth it to see The Persuader swing his Atomic Axe, hear Garth say "grife" and "sprock", hear Rokk make a Subs joke, and see the Legion flight rings in action. Plus, it actually made me wish that I hadn't missed the last several seasons; DVDs, here I come.

My Name is Earl (NBC, 7:00): The idea of Estrada or Nada was genius, as was the extraction of Darnell and Joy from the trailer. Looking forward to the conclusion this week.

The Office (NBC, 8:00): The idea of Michael being brought in to explain what he was doing right was funny; pretty much everything that came out of his mouth made me want to reach into the TV and slap his mouth shut. So, so painful. In contrast, the Andy/Dwight feud was classic, and made the episode well worth watching.

Grey's Anatomy (ABC 8:00): This episode was a nice change of pace from the last several; don't think the show is totally back on track, but it could be getting there. The scene with Hunt having his breakdown really got to me for some reason, made me tear up a little.

Private Practice (ABC 9:00): The Cooper/Charlotte storyline was well done, but the rest of the episode either did nothing for me or, in the case of the idiotic "Addison's love life" storyline, grated on my nerves.

FRIDAY, January 16

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
(Cartoon Network, 7:00): A pretty solid episode; while it may not have strictly followed comic book cannon, I liked having Boston Brand be spurred onto a search for justice thanks to dealing with Bats.

Battlestar Galactica
(SciFi, 9:00): I shall remain as spoiler free as possible while discussing BSG from here on out, since I'm sure there are some of you out there who only see it on DVD. I will say that the identity of the final Cylon was a bit of a let-down for me, but that the major character death took me completely by surprise. I'm really looking forward to having all of the questions answered as the series wraps up.

Psych (USA, 9:00): I always enjoy episodes that have Shawn showing signs that he actually likes Lassiter on some level, and this one was no exception.

SATURDAY, January 17

Meadowlands (Showtime Beyond, 12:15 AM): Not sure how long I'd stick with this series if it was open-ended, but knowing that there are only 8 episodes in total means I'll stick it out until the end.

SUNDAY, January 18

Flight of the Conchords
(HBO, 9:00): Plot-wise, a fun episode; musically, I was disappointed. Hope this isn't signs of a sophomore slump.

United States of Tara (Showtime, 9:00): I enjoyed the pilot quite a bit. So far, no glaring inaccuracies about DID jumped out at me; bonus points for calling the other personalities "alters." I'm interested in seeing how the series deals with the reasons for Tara's condition, and if it explores how she was first diagnosed.

MONDAY, January 19

The Big Bang Theory
(CBS, 7:00): So many great Sheldon moments in this episode; the facial ticks when he couldn't talk, his time in the children's section, his wall climbing experience . . . priceless, all of it.

How I Met Your Mother
(CBS, 7:30): Think this episode contained the best telepathic conversation ever; on the down side, I think I might have "Kokomo" stuck in my head for days.

Two and a Half Men (CBS 8:00): Best part of the episode had to be Alan's nightmare at the end where he imagines what his possible daughter would look like as a teenager; greatness.


TUESDAY, January 20

(Fox, 8:00): My favorite new series of the season returns with an introduction to Olivia's sister.

Privileged (CW, 8:00): No new Scrubs this week, so the show is getting one last chance with me, mainly because I'm curious to see how they tie up the story of Megan's mom running off with Will's money.

WEDNESDAY, January 21

(ABC, 7:00-10:00): Lost is back! Lost is back! The first hour is one of their usual catch-up clip shows, with the 2 hour season premiere starting at 8:00. Cannot wait!

THURSDAY, January 22

My Name is Earl (NBC, 7:00): The conclusion to the two parter about Darnell's compromised identity.

The Office (NBC, 8:00): Dwight and Michael pull an undercover op to spy on a competing paper company.

30 Rock (NBC 8:30): Jack drags Liz along to a corporate retreat

Grey's Anatomy (ABC 8:00): The conclusion of Eric Stoltz's run on the show

Private Practice (ABC 9:00): The show drags out yet another tired cliche as Violet discovers she's pregnant and doesn't know who the father is

Burn Notice (USA 9:00): Thanks to the DVR I'm getting a chance to get caught up on the first half of Season 2 in time for the second half to begin. If you're not watching this show, you should give it a whirl; great stuff.

FRIDAY, January 23

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
(Cartoon Network, 7:00): The third appearance of the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle on the show which makes me glad, not only because I enjoy this version of the character greatly, but because so far the Blue Beetle eps have been the best. Plus, we also get to see the Ted Kord version, which is both a blessing and a source of sadness, as I really miss Ted. Still ticked at DC for killing him off.

Wolverine and the X-Men
(Nicktoons, 7:00): The U.S. premiere of the latest animated version of the X-Men finds Wolverine trying to put the team back together after a year apart. Main characters include Shadowcat and Nightcrawler, so you know I have to watch.

Battlestar Galactica
(SciFi, 9:00)

Psych (USA, 9:00): Shawn and Gus investigate an arsonist.

SATURDAY, January 24

Meadowlands (Showtime Beyond, 2:00 AM): Detective Wintersgill interrogates Danny.

SUNDAY, January 25

Flight of the Conchords
(HBO, 9:00): Brett buys a new cup, and unwittingly bankrupts the band doing so.

United States of Tara (Showtime, 9:00): Tara unleashes an alter better equipped to deal with the stresses of parenting

MONDAY, January 26

No new sitcoms on tonight for some reason, but there is one new show on I'll give a try . . .

Trust Me (TNT, 9:00): New series about an advertising agency that is really only on my list because it stars Thomas Cavanagh, who I hope has found a better post-Ed showcase for his talents than Love Monkey was.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Mega-Movie Monday Pt. 2 - Odd and Scary

For the second batch of movie review catch-up, I'll be focusing on the less mainstream films I've watched over the last month or two.


Horribly low budget slasher film about a serial killer who uses railroad spikes as his weapon of choice. Dad and I started to watch this my first night home for Christmas, and were more than happy to stop watching it when mom got home from the store about 20 minutes in. I finished it up after I got back to Denton, but it was more like background noise as I was playing around on the laptop. Avoid with all your might.

Slash: Another low budget slasher film, this one about a rock group who go to visit their lead singer's estranged father's farm for a funeral and then become victims of a crazed killer who believes human blood helps crops grow. Much more watchable than Spiker, but again, that's damning with faint praise. This one's not exactly going to go down as a classic, unless you're talking about a classic example of horrible racial stereotyping. Honestly, the single Black character in the film is such a mass of negative stereotypes that it was painful; was glad when he got bumped off just because I didn't have to endure any more.

Frostbiten: Interesting and entertaining Swedish vampire flick . I could go into more detail about the plot, but honestly, either the phrase "Swedish vampire flick" intrigues you or it doesn't, and I doubt my talking about how funny and well-done it is could sway your mind if you're one of the latter. I do wish I could find some clips of the talking dog sequences to share, though; those cracked me up.

Feast II: Sloppy Seconds:
Inferior sequel to one of my favorite horror films of recent years. This one ramped up the gross-out factor, but seemed to lose most of the originality and wit. Plus, none of the characters are all that likable, making it difficult to slog through.

Jake's Closet: Incredibly annoying film about a little boy whose parents divorce coincides with the appearance of a monster in his closet. No real redeeming characters anywhere in this one, and the ending just made me roll my eyes and wonder why I'd wasted my time.

Spanish horror film about a teen afflicted with an intense sensitivity to light, making him an outcast in his new community, and thus one of the first suspects when people turn up missing. Not a bad little film, definitely higher quality than most of the horror flicks I've seen recently.

P2: So-so thriller about a workaholic who is trapped inside her office building's parking garage with a crazed parking attendant who has grown obsessed with her. Watched this one on Video On Demand; glad the only thing I wasted on it was my time, and not my money.

The Breed: Surprisingly well done animals-gone-wild film about five friends who are stranded on an island with a pack of intelligent and murderous dogs. A likable cast coupled with a very small number of "how can anyone be that stupid?" moments made this one a pretty entertaining watch. Plus, how often are you going to get a chance to see Oliver Hudson take out rabid dogs with a bow and arrow?

Dead Silence:
So-so supernatural horror film about a man whose wife is murdered right after receiving a ventriloquist dummy in the mail. The movie had its drawbacks -- particularly Donnie Wahlberg's character, who grated on my nerves something fierce -- and telegraphed part of its final reveal something fierce; however, the actual reveal itself went gloriously dark and twisty places that I hadn't foreseen, and I have to give it props for that.

The Plague: Inspired by a Clive Barker story, the movie tells the tale of a strange illness that sweeps the globe, rendering all children worldwide comatose for ten years, when they suddenly awaken, thirsty for blood. An okay movie, not at the top of my list, but not at the bottom, either.

Dance of the Dead: Horror-comedy about a zed-word outbreak on prom night which catapults all of the dateless losers of the Sci-Fi club and other prom holdouts into the role of heroes. Mildly amusing film that embraces some cliches but eschews others.

The Ferryman: Mildly diverting film from New Zealand about a deadly spirit that uses a mystical knife to swap bodies in order to escape death itself. The film had its flaws -- notably the stereotypical and annoying uptight rich girl -- but for me it was all worth it for the scene when the possessed boyfriend of the uptight rich girl takes her down a peg or three.

Shutter: American remake of a Thailand film about a photographer and his girlfriend who begin to notice strange shadows in appearing in their pictures, shadows that soon prove to be proof of a deadly ghost haunting them. An okay film; not sorry I saw it, but not one I'd really recommend.

The Abandoned: Story of a British woman who was abandoned at birth and tracks down her family in Russia, only to encounter something supernatural. I liked this one for the most part, especially the use of the doppelganger concept, but wasn't a fan of the ending.

The Unborn: Well done ghost story about a girl who is haunted by the ghost of her twin who died in utero. Some nice creepy special effects, and a couple of creepy little kids, add up to some creepy fun. The only downside was that it's rated PG-13; normally that wouldn't be a problem, but in this case it meant that when Li'l Random and I went to see it, we had to put up with a theater full of teen-aged girls shrieking and talking throughout most of the film. They actually had to stop the movie at one point so that the security guard could come in and lecture everyone about being considerate of others.


The Cottage:
Story of two estranged brothers who team up to kidnap the daughter of a connected club owner for ransom, only to have things go terribly wrong when their hideout happens to be right next to the home of a deranged killer. While this British horror-comedy should technically go in the above section, I feel like it is dark, twisty, and bizarre enough to be Odd Squodd fodder. Not for the squeamish, but my dad and I cracked up all the way through it; out of all the movies I saw while at my folks' house, this was probably my favorite.

Colma: The Musical: Low-budget indie musical about three recent high school graduates in the town of Colma-- a town whose land is chiefly devoted cemeteries -- struggling with the transition into adulthood. None of the cast is likely to wind up on Broadway anytime soon, but the soundtrack still grew on me, enough so that I wound up ordering it online and have been listening to it non-stop since I got it. This is one I'd have a hard time recommending to most people; two out of three of the characters are self-serving and self-destructive, which can make it a tad difficult to identify with them. Still, the writing shows some real wit, and there are some genuinely funny moments throughout. Just probably not going to be most people's cup of tea.

Mr. Foe: Drama about a young man (Jamie Bell) who has trouble dealing with his mother's apparent suicide, becoming first a peeping tom, and later a semi-stalker when he spies a woman who greatly resembles his mother. I liked this one a lot, was alternately funny, touching, and disturbing, but definitely not for everyone.

Hamlet 2: Over-hyped comedy about a washed up actor (Steve Coogan) who becomes a washed up drama teacher who tries to save the theater department by staging a musical he wrote about Hamlet traveling through time with Jesus. Yes, you read that right; fair warning, there is a musical number entitled "Rock Me Sexy Jesus," which isn't quite as blasphemous as it sounds . . . quite. Didn't really enjoy this all that much, even without the uncomfortableness generated by the religious stuff; Coogan's character annoyed the heck out of me all the way through and since he was the main character around whom all other things revolved, that made it hard to enjoy it. Yes, there were some funny moments, and I'm not about to say it was a total waste of my time, but on the whole, not something I'd want to see again.

Entertaining if bizarre Japanese film about an awkward high school teacher obsessed with a short-lived 70s super-hero show who duplicates the costume to escape the mundanity of his everyday life and soon finds himself drawn into conflict with villains ripped straight from the TV show. The strangest thing about this movie to me was that it was from Takashi Miike, but was surprisingly wholesome; yeah, there was some death and violence, but it was all exaggerated and cartoonish, not explicit and gory like so much of his other work. That being said, I liked this movie a lot. Funny and action-packed.

Sidekick: Interesting indie film about a comic geek who suspects that one of his coworkers has super-powers and sets out to turn the co-worker into a real life super-hero so that he can become his sidekick; the only problem is that the potential super-hero is a self-centered, self-serving jerk. This one might best appeal to comic book fans, but as far as interesting takes on the super-hero genre go, this one was well worth my time.

Final Draft: Psychological drama about a script-writer on the verge of a nervous breakdown (James van der Beek) who locks himself in his apartment cut off from the outside world to make himself finish his horror movie script, and in turn begins to hallucinate about the people who have wronged him in his life. The ending is pretty predictable, but watching van der Beek's slow descent into madness kept me engaged through most of it.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

25 Random Things

Earlier this week I got tagged in a meme on Facebook by Trouble's new roomie, Lizard (pre-existing nickname, I assure you). Since I was going to fill it out and post on Facebook anyway, I figured I'd go ahead and use it as a blog post as well.

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

I'll do the tag thing on Facebook; here, you just get the list

1. I'm generally not a big fan of giving pets common human names like Jack or Pete or the like; I tend to like more eclectic/esoteric/bizarre names. This carries over into my fiction writing, where I tend to give animals names of comic book characters.

2. I've never fired a real gun in my life. Rubber dart guns, plastic disc guns, Nerf guns, paintball guns, yes; actual lethal weapons, no. Cap'n Shack-Fu has eagerly offered to rectify that situation for me, but things haven't worked out so far.

3. I have a horrible head for numbers; they tend to go in one ear and out the other. This also applies to dates, which is part of why I never really liked history in school. I can count on one hand the number of birthdays of friends and family I can remember that aren't linked to a holiday.

4. I have a reputation as a picky eater, which is probably well-deserved. When I was younger it was next to impossible to get me to try new things; my cousin Lori once threatened me with great bodily harm if I didn't try the lasagna she made. I'm much more willing to try new things these days, just as long as it doesn't cost me anything and I know I have something Todd-approved as a backup.

5. I don't know how to drive a stick-shift. I've had many people offer to teach me over the years, but never have actually followed through on it.

6. When I live by myself, it's a struggle not to turn into a bit of a hermit. I get home, change immediately into my comfy, not-going-back-out-in-public-tonight clothes, and am then ready for a night filled with doing absolutely nothing. If I get a call from someone wanting to do something spontaneous, my first thought is "but I'd have to get dressed in presentable clothes!" I am much better about accepting spontaneous invites now than I once was, but there are times when I just have my mind set on staying home being lazy, and nothing is going to change that.

7. I often get impatient waiting in drive-throughs waiting for people to figure out what they want to order, but that's probably because when it comes to eating out, I usually find one thing I like and order it every time. Clan Stoneheart would often joke about having a "Todd special" at Hideaway Pizza, i.e. pepperoni pizza and coke.

8. I stay in touch much better with friends who use IM than friends only email. For some reason, I have no problem just saying "hey" in an IM, but if I start to write an email I feel like it needs to be much more involved. Subsequently, I will often think "I need to email so-and-so" but will put it off because I don't have time at that moment to compose anything substantial enough.

9. When I was six years old, I got to go to Hawaii with my parents. My strongest memories are of standing on the shore letting the waves wash the sand away from around my feet; going to an aquarium and seeing a show starring a fat penguin called Fred; and watching a bizarre Japanese television show. It's the last one that sticks in my mind the most; something about a guy in a rubber squid-man suit shooting off the top of his head so that it flies through the air, knocking over another man, covering him up and transforming him into a small canister, which the squid man this puts into a container revealed in his head when the squid top flew off . . . something about that just stuck with me. If I could ever find out what that show was and somehow see it again, I would be a happy, happy man.

10. I generally don't do well being put on the spot and being asked to make quick decisions. I am a muller; I like to think things through thoroughly before voicing my opinion or advice.

11. One of the organizations I was most active in in high school was the Technology Student Association. My first year, I was part of the parliamentary procedure team that won first place at the national conference. A few months later, we were asked to film an instructional video to be given to other TSA chapters in Oklahoma. Many years later while I was working at OSU, I volunteered to help judge at the state conference in OKC, and was actually recognized by a few people from the video. Makes me wonder if that tape of 8th grade Todd acting as Sgt. at Arms is still floating around out there.

12. I rarely stop a movie once I've started it; there's always a part of me that hopes to find a redeeming moment in the film to make it not a total waste of my time. Sometimes this pays off; sometimes it doesn't. Every once in a while I run into something so painful I can't make it through; this seems to happen more often the older I get.

13. A lot of people I know talk about how when they read it's like a movie in their head. Me, not so much; yes, I love to read, but I'm not generally a "visual" reader. Yes, when I get into a good book I get sucked into it and tune out the rest of the world, but I suppose my focus is more on the writing itself -- cadence, meter, alliteration, dialogue, characterization, etc. -- so unless a writer is very heavy into descriptions, I don't automatically generate a mental movie. This, of course, has led to issues in my own writing, as I have to fight to avoid the "talking head" syndrome and actually write some descriptions and action sequences.

14. It's sometimes hard for me to focus or concentrate in total silence. I almost always have the TV on or some music playing so I can have background noise. Of course, I have to be careful what I use as background, otherwise I find myself watching the TV or, in the case of music, singing along.

15. I am not an overly organized person, as anyone who has ever lived or worked with me can attest. I will occasionally be overcome with a need to attempt to organize things, but I either (a) run out of steam before finishing or (b) succeed initially but then don't keep up with the system.

16. If most of my Parkerite friends hadn't been so gung-ho about moving out of the dorms, I probably would have stayed in Parker until I graduated. For some reason, the "no alcohol" policy and "no member of the opposite sex on your floor after curfew" rule didn't seem to bother me like they did others . . .

17. When I do something and feel guilty about it, I invariably tell on myself

18. I never realized I enjoyed spicy foods until after I went off to college; my parents neither one eat spicy stuff, so I never really tried any until much later.

19. The places I'd most like to visit are Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the U.K. Yes, I primarily want to visit English speaking countries, but the language has nothing to do with it. I've just been fascinated by Australia and the U.K. for as long as I can remember, and have heard nothing but good things about New Zealand. As for Japan, well, I've always wanted to visit someplace that triggered total sensory overload . . .

20. My handwriting is horrible. When I was doing a research paper for my Senior English class in high school, my teacher made me type up my rough draft because she refused to try to decipher such a massive chunk of my illegible writing. And I couldn't even complain to my mom about the teacher since, y'know, my mom was the teacher.

21. I talk to my parents on the phone an average of a couple of hours a week . . . typically all in one sitting. We are a chatty people.

22. When I was in college, I picked up the skill of twirling a pen in my fingers from my roomie Wrath teh Berzerkr; that skill has now become a habit that I do almost without thinking. Over the years, many people have tried to emulate it, and invariable they ask me to "do it slowly," a request that robs all momentum from the object, making the twirling impossible. I will occasionally meet someone else who also does it; so far, everyone who has either (a) learned it in debate in high school or (b) learned it from someone who was in debate in high school.

23. Although I have eliminated or reduced many of my irrational insecurities over the years, they still rear their heads in my reluctance to initiate telephone conversations or instigate plans with others. Part fear of rejection, part neurotic certainty that my random call is an annoyance. I can probably count the number of people I'll call up with no hesitation on one hand.

24. I used to cheat at Candyland; I would stack the deck, and then ask my mom to play. As a cover, I would let her go first. That's one of the few deceptions I really remember perpetrating in my childhood. Yeah, I was a goody-two-shoes, but is anyone really surprised by that?

25. I spent way too much time coming up with this list because I was trying to come up with stuff that I haven't talked about in my blog, and I didn't want it to just be a bunch of one sentence statements. Yes, I have a problem, but we all knew that, right?


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TV Tuesday - The Week to Come

Now that I've finally gotten a DVR, I've been able to catch up on some cable shows I'd missed out before for one reason or another, partially thanks to being able to program it to record all episodes of shows without having to track down dates and times myself, and partially thanks to Video on Demand. Consequently, I spent a good deal of my Christmas break wading through marathons of several shows, including True Blood, Psych, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Robot Chicken. I still need to get caught up on season 3 of Dexter, but probably need to wait for a weekend when I have nothing else going on, since odds are good once I start watching it'll be hard to pull me away.

I won't bother trying to review all the shows that I watched in the last couple of months, so let's jump straight into my viewing schedule for the week.

TUESDAY, January 13

(ABC, 8:00 & 8:30): Hallelujah, Scrubs is back! Tonight's episodes find Dr. Cox teaming up with Dr. Kelso to take down Courtney Cox's character.

Privileged (CW, 8:00): This show teeters precariously on the verge of dropping off my viewing schedule, especially now that Charlie is leaving the show; honestly, I almost wish Charlie and Rose would get their own spin-off, since they're about the only characters I'm liking these days. Anyway, tonight's episode deals with why Lily called Megan from jail last week.

WEDNESDAY, January 14

Nothing of interest to me this week, but the fact that we're just one week away from the season premiere of Lost bears noting

THURSDAY, January 15

(CW, 7:00): I haven't watched Smallville in ages, but tonight's episode was not only written by one of my favorite comic writers, Geoff Johns, but also features the introduction of my favorite comic characters, The Legion of Super-Heroes, to the show's mythos, and I can't miss that.

My Name is Earl (NBC, 7:00): Joy tries out for a reality show, and Darnell's witness protection status may be in trouble.

The Office (NBC, 8:00): Andy finally learns out that he's been cuckolded by Dwight, and the two decide to duel.

30 Rock (NBC 8:30): The cast is besieged by the flu, but Jack is selective about who gets vaccinations.

Grey's Anatomy (ABC 8:00): I haven't been too happy with the show overall this season, but I'm sticking it out for the foreseeable future.

Private Practice (ABC 9:00): See above comment about Grey's and apply here, only this one has a lot shorter leash.

FRIDAY, January 16

Batman: The Brave and the Bold
(Cartoon Network, 7:00): This latest Batman cartoon follows the formula used by the comic series The Brave and the Bold in the 70s and 80s: Batman teams up with random superhero to take down the villain-of-the-week. A much lighter version of Batman is on display here, harkening back more to the Superfriends era than the Batman: The Animated Series version. This week's installment has an intro featuring Kamandi, Last Boy on Earth wielding some incredibly Kirby-esque weaponry, followed by a main storyline the has Bats teaming up with Deadman to take on The Gentlemen Ghost

Battlestar Galactica
(SciFi, 9:00): After quit an interesting cliffhanger at the mid-season break, BSG finally returns to start the countdown to the end of the series.

Psych (USA, 9:00): Lassiter gets accused of murder, and has to turn to Shawn and Gus for help.

SATURDAY, January 17

Meadowlands (Showtime Beyond, 12:15 AM): I know this show runs several different times over the week, but this is the airing that doesn't interfere with any of my other scheduled recordings. Stumbled on this by accident while channel surfing a couple of weeks ago; it's a British series (called Cape Wrath when it aired in the UK) about an isolated community whose inhabitants are all in witness protection, meaning they all have shady, secretive pasts.

SUNDAY, January 18

Flight of the Conchords
(HBO, 9:00): Everyone's favorite Kiwi comedy guitar duo are back for another season. This time around, the pair were forced to write a lot of new music rather than just dipping into their repertoire, composing 16 new songs for the season.

United States of Tara (Showtime, 9:00): I've of two minds about this one. On the one hand, it stars Toni Collette and features the writing of Diablo Cody, screenwriter of Juno; on the other hand, the fact that the hook of the show is that its main character has Dissociative Identity Disorder (better know as multiple personalities) will be sure to drive me crazy due to me having had a strange obsession with DID ever since Junior High and thereby having a low tolerance for inaccurate depictions of the condition. But, I'll at least give it a try, if for no other reason than to have something to gripe about in next week's post.

MONDAY, January 19

The Big Bang Theory
(CBS, 7:00): I didn't realize until a couple of nights ago that Sheldon was the "fast food knight" in Garden State; that really has nothing to do with this episode, just thought it was worth mentioning*

How I Met Your Mother
(CBS, 7:30): Marshall and Lily go to a wine and cheese party while the single folk go out clubbing.

Two and a Half Men (CBS 8:00): Alan is convinced he's the father of Judith's child

*He also had a non-speaking role in School for Scoundrels, which is what prompted me to look him up on IMDB and discover the Garden State fact in the first place.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Delurk, Dagnabit!

Many thanks to Rocket G'ovich for reminding me that today is Delurker Day, where all blog readers are encouraged to step forward and post a comment, letting everyone know that you're there.

And while this may smack of shameless pandering for comments, well, that's because it is. Doesn't mean you shouldn't humor me, though.


Mega-Movie Monday Pt. 1 - Lot o' Catching Up to Do

I've seen quite a few movies over the last couple of months, especially over Christmas break with my folks. With over 30 films to review I figured I'd try to break them down into a couple of posts, and then label them with categories for your browsing pleasure.


Horton Hears a Who: So-so animated adaption of the Dr. Seuss tale about an elephant trying to protect a microscopic world that only he believes exists. Nothing really negative to say about it, just didn't really hold my interest.

Happily N'ever After: Sub-par animated film about what happens when Cinderella's evil step-mother gains access to mystical scales that govern whether fairy tales turn out "happily ever after" or not. Couple of clever ideas here and there, but on the whole, I recommend just re-watching Hoodwinked or one of the Shrek films.

Kung Fu Panda: Animated film about a bumbling panda whose dreams of becoming a master of kung-fu become reality after being named as the chosen one from prophecy. One of the better animated films I've seen recently; not spectacular, but definitely enjoyable, especially the fight sequences.

Excellent animated film about a lonely trash-compacting robot whose solitary existence on a long-abandoned Earth is interrupted by the arrival of survey robot with whom he falls in love. Gotta love Pixar films -- well, except Cars, didn't really care for Cars -- and Wall-E is one of their best efforts. I know some folks felt it was a bit preachy with its "green" message, but I didn't think it was preachy at all.


The X-Files: I Want to Believe: The second big-screen X-Files film revolves around a defrocked priest besieged by visions of murder which bring Mulder and Scully back to duty to investigate. An okay film; I might have gotten more out of it if I'd been a more die-hard X-Files fan, but as it was, it just didn't hold my interest.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon: The third installment in The Mummy series sees the O'Connell clan once again battling a mystically reanimated mummy, only this one is Chinese and not Egyptian. As far as sequels go, I've seen worse, but this one definitely didn't live up to its predecessors, not the least of which was the lack of Rachel Weisz.

Sukiyaki Western Django: Highly stylized Western from Takashi Miike about a gunslinger caught up in a feud between two rival gangs on the hunt for treasure. Although filmed in Japan with a predominantly Japanese class, the movie was filmed in English, leading to some interesting line readings here and there.

Doomsday: Post-apocalyptic tale with heavy Mad Max vibe ; the plot revolves around a doomsday virus which decimated Scotland, turning it into a quarantined no man's land whose surviving inhabitants have turned savage. Quite a bit different from what I thought it would be, but in a good way. Although I have to say, the gratuitous exploding vehicles during the climactic chase sequence were waywayWAY over the top.


An American Carol: Super-right-wing spoof that takes copious shots at Michael Moore and other liberals in the most ham-fisted way imaginable. I won't say it was a total waste of time, but pretty close, and I say that as someone who can't stand Michael Moore. You'd think a movie mocking him would be right up my alley, and yet the utter lack of subtlety in its anti-liberal message drove me insane.

The House Bunny: Story of a ditzy Playboy Bunny (the always hilarious Anna Faris) who gets kicked out of the mansion and becomes house mother to a Sorority of misfits in danger of losing their charter if they don't increase their numbers. Pretty predictable plot, and occasionally squirm-inducing due to unbelievable awkwardness on the dorky girls parts. Still, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud sections, most of which are the work of Faris, such as this bit which never fails to crack me up.

Comedy gold, people, comedy gold.

Sydney White: Film loosely based on the tale of Snow White, with Amanda Bynes as the titular character who is drummed out of a sorority by a girl jealous of her burgeoning popularity, and is forced to move into a ramshackle house populated by Seven Dorks. Another pretty predictable film, but it managed to keep me entertained largely through the Seven Dorks, particularly "Grumpy" (Danny Strong of Buffy and Gilmore Girls) and "Dopey."

School of Scoundrels: Movie about a meek parking meter attendant (Jon Heder) who enrolls in a secretive class designed to make him more assertive lead by a manipulative jerk (Billy Bob Thornton). Had trouble getting through some sections of the film early on when Heder's character was in full-on spaz mode -- especially his first date with Jacinda from The Real World London -- but there were enough funny parts scattered throughout that I didn't feel like this was a complete waste of time. Still, glad I caught it on my DVR and didn't pay for it.

Mama Mia!: Big-screen adaptation of the smash Broadway hit musical about a girl who tries to find out the identity of her father in time for her wedding. This one didn't really gel for me at all, although my parents both loved it; mom even bought it for dad for Christmas*.

Fred Claus: Film centering on the centuries-old sibling rivalry between Saint Nick (Paul Giamatti) and his older -- and equally immortal -- brother Frederick (Vince Vaughn). Much better than I thought it was going to be, although that could be a case of damning with faint praise.

Step Brothers: Will Ferrell vehicle finds him playing a petulant man-child still living at home with his mother whose world is turned upside down after she marries a man with his own over-grown slacker child in tow. Alternates between cringe-worthy sequences and laugh-out-loud moments, such as the moment when Ferrell's character and his older brother try to hug for the first time**

Not Ferrell's best effort, but more than enough funny parts to make it worth a look


Shotgun Stories: Low budget drama about two sets of half-brothers who erupt into a blood feud following the death of their father. Acting is hit or miss, but on the whole, not a bad little film.

Red: Erroneously billed as a horror film, this drama tells the tale of a widower whose dog is killed by some rebellious teens, leading him to at first seek restitution, and later, retribution. A bit too slow-moving for my tastes, but that could have been a result of me going into it thinking it was a completely different sort of film than it really was.

The Visitor:
Engaging drama about a listless college professor whose life is transformed after he discovers that his New York apartment has been illegally sublet to a couple of illegal immigrants. More of a character study than anything else.

Seven Pounds: Tear-jerker about a man (Will Smith) trying to atone for a mistake which claimed the lives of several people. Fairly well-done movie, although not one I'd enthusiastically recommend to people; for my money, I'd say wait for a rental. But, since I saw this with my folks and they bought the tickets, I can't complain.

Married Life: Period piece set in the 1950s about a married man who wants to leave his wife for his mistress, but hates the thought of causing her pain and so decides that the most humane thing to do is kill her. This one turned out to be nowhere near as dark and twisty as that synopsis might make it seem; don't know if that was a product of the period nature of the film or what, but while the movie had solid acting from its impressive cast (including Pierce Brosnon, Chris Cooper, and Patricia Clarkson) I felt a bit short-changed, which is why this is included in the "Drama" category and not the "Odd Squodd Friendly" category which will kick off part two of my reviews.

She did, however, buy it in BluRay instead of DVD, which was a bit of a problem . . .
**When I showed that clip to my mom, she asked "Is that what's it's like trying to give PigPen a hug?" I responded "Pretty close."


Friday, January 09, 2009

Look Who's Back . . .No, Honest, I Mean It This Time

Remember last month when I said I was back on the blogging track?

Obviously, I lied.

Sadly, no really good excuse for my lack of posts, other than a general lack of inspiration and desire. Had planned on getting back into it over Christmas break, but wound up just reading old comics and watching lots of movies. Then I had thought "alright, let's make 'posting regularly' one of my New Year's Resolutions!" But, yeah, that didn't happen either. And while I was trying again and again to motivate myself to post, as usual it fell to a pointed comment from Zinger to get me moving: "Can't believe Rosenberg is only going to be updating Goats three days a week. Next thing you know, he's only updating once a week, then once every couple of weeks, then not at all. We all know how frustrating it is to keep checking a site that never updates, right?"

Point taken, my friend, point taken

So, what's been happening in my life since the last time I actually posted?

CHRISTMAS: Cap'n Cluck and Angel hosted a White Elephant gift exchange at their house the Friday before Christmas. My contribution? A framed photocopy of the picture I had posted at work for the "Guess whose parents these are" game

Gotta love the 70s, right? Anyway, Fluffy was the lucky recipient of my parents' wedding photo, along with a beat up copy of the 2000 Video Hound Movie Guide, added to give the box some weight.

I spent the first week of my Christmas break in Miami, OK where I gleefully introduced my parents to such Odd-Squodd-esque films as In Bruges, Burn After Reading, Mister Foe, Sasquatch Gang, etc. Dad and I also got to enjoy a couple of entertaining horror-comedies The Cottage and Dance of the Dead, which I plan to talk more about on Monday. Honestly, a good portion of my enjoyment of spending time with my folks is introducing them to films I know they'll like but which they would never rent on their own.

The second week of Christmas break was spent largely just sitting around my house watching Netflix and DVRed shows. Man, I love my DVR.

NEW YEARS: I spent the bulk of New Year's Eve fighting with a nasty piece of malware on my PC which not only kept most of my anti-spyware and anti-virus from opening and/or updating, but also blocked me from accessing several web sites devoted to fighting such things. Luckily, I now have WiFi and a laptop, so I was able to download the software needed to clean up the PC onto the laptop and then burn it to disc to get it onto the PC. After about 6 hours or so of messing with it, finally get it all cleared up, and so was able to make it to the Singles New Year's Eve Luau with no problem, especially with the help of the new TomTom GPS unit my folks got my for Christmas.

The Singles party was a lot of fun, even if it did remind me just how horribly out of shape I've gotten in the last few months without PigPen and Cap'n Shack-Fu around to get me off my butt. Dancing can take quite a toll when you're old, fat, and have no endurance. I also about lost my voice doing karaoke. Good times, good times.

I got to try out the TomTom again on New Years Day when I drove out to Van Alstyne to visit Clan Flunky. Flunky's folks had bought around 8 acres there a few months back, and Flunky had spent most of his Christmas vacation helping his dad with landscaping. When he invited me out to visit, Flunky told me I could bring my work gloves and pay for my lunch with hard labor; I opted to just be a mooch instead. I was really glad I got to spend the day with Flunky, Flunky Lover, and their two spawn, since I hadn't seen them face to face in probably two years. The elder spawn is not nearly as hypnotically cute as he once was, but he makes up for it with his mind-bending joke telling ability.

Spawn: Knock knock
Me: Who's there?
Spawn: Chair! [erupts into gales of laughter] That's how we play this game!

CAP'N SHACK-FU: My best bud Shack-Fu has now been at the FBI academy for a little over a month. The first few weeks were pretty rough as they tried to weed people out, but things seem to have settled down a bit . . . of course, "settled down" for the FBI academy is relative term. He has put down Oklahoma City as his top choice for a duty assignment after graduation, so we're all praying that that pans out, since he'd only be a couple of hours away then. Right now I'm hoping to head up to Quantico for his graduation in May; with luck I can work it so I can also swing by Maryland and see Clan Flunky again while I'm in the general area.

And, for the record, yes, it is still horribly surreal for me to think that my best friend in the world is on the verge of becoming a full-fledged FBI agent.

FACEBOOK: I know I mentioned back in September that there had been an increase in the number of Wyandottians on Facebook, but it has been steadily increasing ever since then. As of this moment, I now have over 50 former classmates from Wyandotte as friends on Facebook. Kind of interesting, seeing where everybody is these days. Plus, I enjoy knowing that some of them who never had much exposure to the "real" Todd are now getting to see a brief glimpse of my insanity as evidence by my random status updates.

In addition to the Wyandottians, I've also managed to reconnect with my old pal from the Stillwater Public Library Days J.D., along with his wife and mother-in-law; now that we're in contact again, there may be hope that we can actually get our schedules to line up so that we can meet up at some point, since I can't even remember the last time I got to see them.

Oh, and earlier today I added CoIM to the Facebook Blog Network; if those of you blog monkeys with Facebook accounts could take a moment to go here and confirm me as the blog author, it would be greatly appreciated. If nothing else, I'd like to get the number of readers to rise above 2.