Monday, January 31, 2005


Two notes about links first. #1, I got a hit from whatevs (dot org), which seems like a site I will enjoy, now that I know about it (I especially like their insanely detailed reviews of every Saturday Night Live show of the season) -- but I can not for the life of me figure out where a link to my blog exists on the site. How did someone click to my site, when there is no link to be clicked?

And #2: damn. I knew Mike's blog was popular... or I thought I knew. I mean, he's linked to me before, and I've gotten a decent amount of traffic from it. But with one four word link to my Smallville post from Saturday, "Jimmy did what now?" (that is the entirety of the link), I got a veritable avalanche of hits. And they keep coming. It must be over 200 click-throughs so far, with no sign of abating. Wow. People like Mike. I think the mystery of the link helped -- Who's Jimmy? What did he do? -- but I was, and am, just floored by it. Well, greetings to all of you! Unless you never come back. In which case, Good riddance! Who needs you?? I'll be fine here by myself. All alone. In the dark. Going blind....

I hate Michael Medved.

I've hated him for a long, long time, because, well, his taste in movies sucks. In later years, I grew to hate him even more, as his reviews became a blatant conduit for his extreme right wing political/religious agenda, all but devoid of any genuine cinematic critique. Sometime in the last few years, in fact, he abandoned altogether any semblance of being an impartial critic when he became a right wing radio commentator in the mold of Rush Limbaugh. But his recent affront against the movie-going public is simply beyond the pale.

Roger Ebert writes about what Medved has done at his site. But before I give you the link, a warning: he discusses in detail Medved's misdeeds. What Medved has done is to spoil the plot of Million Dollar Baby out of pure, unmitigated, unprofessional spite, because it conflicts with his reactionary worldview. To even suggest that there is a spoiler in Million Dollar Baby is perhaps a spoiler in and of itself (as Ebert acknowledges). But the rest of the article really spoils it. So check it out only if you've already seen the movie, or are aware of the plot.

Here is the link.

Limbaugh is guilty of the same crime, but that's less shocking, because Limbaugh is well known to be a big fat idiot. But Medved was once, supposedly, a pro. He allegedly possessed a modicum of journalistic integrity. He clearly does not now, if indeed he ever did. Would he deliberately spoil a first-time viewer's experience of Citizen Kane, or Psycho, or The Sixth Sense? Presumably not. But he has no problem doing so with Million Dollar Baby, has no qualms about revealing every single detail of the plot on Pat Robertson's 700 Club, because his religious and political views are so unreasonable and extreme that he can not settle for anything less than ruining the movie for anyone who might be unlucky enough to encounter his diatribe disguised as review. Here is how around the bend Medved is: his website (which I will not dignify with a link) -- motto: "It's cool to be conservative" (seriously) -- proudly features a link to James Dobson's lunatic attack on Spongebob Squarepants and the We Are Family organization.

The punchline to all this, of course, is that the film is produced and directed by and stars Clint Eastwood, who is a Republican. When Clint Eastwood isn't right wing enough for you, when a guy who recently threatened to kill Michael Moore (jokingly or not) is too liberal for your liking, well, buddy, you are beyond the point of no return.

It baffles me, it really does, the behavior of today's right wing. As Christine Todd Whitman -- a Republican I can respect -- will gladly tell you, in 2005, it's not enough to simply be Republican. Now, you have to be on the extreme right of the extreme right -- or you're as much an enemy as the Democrats.

Well, this got off on more of a political rant that I'd intended. Suffice it to say: Michael Medved sucks ass.

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VIDEO GAMES: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Now, here's a category I don't address very often: video games. I just assume that most of you fall into two categories: those who don't care, and those who do care, but are so far advanced beyond my meager gaming experience that my little anecdotes will seem as quaint and hopelessly outdated as an Amish village. And yet, here we are. And it's a long one, too.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I wasn't going to buy it until the cheaper "Greatest Hits" version came out at some point down the road, but a friend bought it for me as a belated Christmas present (thanks, Lew!), so that settled that. And wow, is it an impressive game. It's gorgeously rendered, it's got a wide variety of challenging and interesting missions, it's got a fantastic voice cast (Samuel L. Jackson, baby!), and it's insanely gigantic. I've been playing for a couple weeks, and so far I haven't explored much beyond the city limits of Los Santos, which represents about one twelfth of the game map. In fact, I've hardly even scratched the surface of Los Santos. There is so much to do and explore.

Which is where I have a problem. When does so much become too much? Unfortunately, in San Andreas, almost immediately.

I'm not against a richer gaming experience. I'm not looking only to steal cars and shoot things, although that's the main selling point, let's face it. But at some point, the designers needed to step back and say, maybe enough's enough. Take all the things you need to do to maintain your character. You need to take him to restaurants and feed him to increase his health, and you need to select between various meal combos, with varying prices and fat content. If you get too fat, you have to go to the gym, where you can work off the fat, add muscles and stamina, and train to learn new fight moves. You need to show your gang affiliation by going to a clothing store and buying the proper color clothes; you can choose attire from shoes, pants, shirts, jackets, and head scarves all the way down to watches, heart-printed briefs (!), and Groucho Marx-style joke glasses (???). Then you have to go to the tattoo parlor, and pick the ink you want for your lower right arm, upper right arm, lower left arm, upper left arm, left chest, right chest, stomach, etc. Then you need to go to the barber shop, and choose from a variety of hairstyles and facial hair combinations. I've got the cornrows right now -- that cost five hundred bucks! But that helps increase your sex appeal (yes, there's a separate stat for sex appeal), as does your physique, your tattoos, even the last car your drove. You also have to be concerned with your respect level. You earn respect by completing missions, or by killing enemy gang members, or by doing I don't know what else, because the game is so vague on it, and then, the more respect you have, the more gang members you can recruit to go with you on missions. Plus, there are statistics you have to work to improve for swimming underwater, driving each different type of vehicle (car, motorcycle, bicycle, plane, boat, helicopter, and who knows what else), and firing each different type of weapon.

Whew! That's a boatload of things to worry about. And that's just the things you can do to customize your character. That doesn't even scratch the surface of the things you have to do with him in the game. And, like I said, the game is so goddam vague about what you need to do to accomplish your tasks, that it gets mightily frustrating. Take dating, for instance. At a certain point, you begin dating a girl from your neighborhood. You have to stop by her house at different times of the day to try to find her when she's actually home. Then you pick her up, take her to a fast food joint, diner, restaurant, or bar that she might enjoy, or indulge her in the other things she likes doing (like drive-bys!). Then, when you work up enough credit in the dating meter (yes, there's a separate stat for that, too), you get to have sex with her. No, I'm not kidding. (You don't get to see it; the camera remains outside the house. But you can hear the participants. My favorite line is when the girlfriend says, "Damn, I hope I don't get pregnant again!" She must've missed that Smallville episode.)

Those are things I was able to deduce from gameplay. But here's some things I was only able to learn by going online and looking up a walkthrough guide (specifically because I suspected I was missing something in the dating portion of the game). If you max out the dating meter, you are rewarded with a pimp suit. Sweet. I imagined there would have to be some kind of reward for that, but the game sure doesn't tell you. Also, you can go around the city and find flowers that you can pick for her for when you show up on your date. What? How the hell was I supposed to know something like that? And when you drop her off, you can get out of the car, walk her to the door, and attempt to kiss her. Really? Dang, I've been staying in the car and letting her walk her own sorry ass to the door. I'm a bad date. But I didn't know! How can you conceivably know something like that, if you don't read the cheat guide first? (You can't. Which is why they make the cheat guides.)

I don't want to cheat. I like finishing a game on my own merits, and then going back through and using all the hints and cheat codes and finding all the secrets that I didn't the first time through. But this game will take me literally weeks to finish for the first time. Will I really want to wait that long to find out what I'm missing? If I do, will I really want to jump right back in the game and play again? For example, I discovered glimpsing through this online guide that there are various spots at high altitudes (skyscrapers, mountain peaks) where you can find a parachute, which you can actually use. That sounds great! But would I ever have found out about it, if I hadn't accidentally run across it online?

It comes down to, which way of playing robs me of the most fun? Getting the satisfaction of doing it on my own, but missing out on all the cool hidden stuff? Or using the walkthrough to find the hidden stuff, but having the game spoiled for me?

There are other problems I have with the game. The targeting system drives me absolutely insane. You can have a guy standing five feet away from you, shooting you point blank, but when you try to target him and return fire, often you can't get a lock, and wind up targeting an innocent bystander across the street, or you don't target anything, and wind up firing straight into the air. Grr!! Also, what's up with my damn garage door? It's supposed to open when you approach it, but every damn time I go up to it, I just stand there, and nothing happens, and I have to run around a little bit and try to trigger the door. Every time!

What really drives me insane is that there's such a great game buried under all of this. The missions are so cool, and use so many different skills. In one, you have to sneak through a house at night and steal some items without waking up the owner (after you complete that mission, you can then go burglarize almost any house, and then fence the items for cash). In one mission, you have to race through a burning building armed with a fire extinguisher (that's how you meet your girlfriend). In another, you have to invade a mansion in the hills to steal a notebook, and perform stealth kills on the armed guards from behind. Another mission, you have to raid an army base and use a forklift to steal weapons. Then in another, you have to take out all the gang members in a neighborhood, which claims that area for you, and opens up a whole new part of the game, territory acquisition (and defense).

There's so much worthwhile in the basic gameplay that all this extraneous stuff really detracts from the experience for me. I don't want to have to worry about whether my clothes make me more attractive or not. But I have to worry about that and more, if I want my character to be developed enough to make it through future segments of the game.

It's still very early in the game for me, so maybe I'll get more into it all as I go along. But right now, despite being ten times bigger, San Andreas has yet to match the fun and excitement of the previous game in the series, Vice City.

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

COMICS: Casey & Andy

I've changed the method of posting images to this blog, so I thought I'd give it a workout, with an entry about one of my new favorite webcomics, Casey & Andy. I recently devoured the complete archives. Now I am sad. I have to wait for the regular updates. Like a sucker!

Casey & Andy is about the adventures of two roommates/mad scientists, one of whom dates Satan -- who is a hot red-headed babe in the comic's world:

(Click on strips to enlarge.) The art is frankly rough at best, but the comedy is top-notch. How can you not love a comic that kills off its two protagonists in the very first strip?

They get better. In fact, they die all the time, often at each other's hands:

The strips can be somewhat nerd-centric. Role-playing is often referenced, as is computer programming, science fiction, hard science (in the form of Quantum Cop), and even L33t speak:

(I love how all their inventions end in "o-mat.") But the humor is never 100% reliant on absolute knowledge of the specialized subjects; enough information is given for anyone to get the jokes.

But most of the time, the strips are easily accessible to all, whether they be slapstick comedy,

cat humor,

or good old-fashioned fart jokes.

It's mostly a gag-a-day strip, but there have been a few extended story arcs which are every bit as satisfying. I've laughed long and hard at any number of Casey & Andy comics (sometimes while sober!*), which is quite an achievement. There's over 400 strips in the archive, so get cracking!

*That's a joke, of course. I'm never sober.

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Saturday, January 29, 2005

TV: Smallville

A couple thoughts about this week's Smallville. Definite spoilers ahead -- this means, you, Mike! -- so I'll put some filler space in with this picture of all the Smallville babes.

Wasn't that nice?*

Okay, spoilers:

Chloe lost her virginity -- to Jimmy Olsen??? What the fuck! That's quite a bombshell. And quite a plot contrivance. I mean, if this episode weren't all about givin' it up (complete with teen pregnancy PSA at the end), do you think Chloe's little character development still would've happened? I doubt it.

And what was up with Ma Kent's freak-out? "I'm so disappointed," "sanctity of marriage," "you should know better," blah blah blah. Bitch, chill! Red kryptonite, remember? Red kryptonite! What are you, new? It was completely out of Clark's control. Alicia dosed him with red kryptonite and for all intents and purposes kidnapped him. And yet Ma Kent still berates Clark for it. But clearly, the message wasn't intended for Clark's ears. She might as well have turned directly to the camera and delivered that speech to the home audience. This episode was one big mixed message: "Look at how hot and sexy all these youngsters are. Are you getting horny? Are you? Yes? BAD! WRONG! DON'T DO IT!!!"

And was there supposed to be a political message in Ma Kent's "sanctity of marriage" rant? That's a loaded phrase to use, these days; it's pretty much interchangeable with "I hate gay people." Is that really the message Smallville is trying to convey? If so, that's very disappointing. And also, does that mean Clark and Lex can never consummate their love?

*Is that picture too big? Does it mess up my site on your browser, and squeeze the sidebar to the bottom of the screen, below all the entries? It's hard to get pictures to fit properly in this template. I'd change templates, but I'm afraid I'd just mess everything up even worse. Does anyone have any ideas how I can fix it so I can show any size pictures on a Blogger template, without losing all my sidebar links, comments, etc.?

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Friday, January 28, 2005

MOVIES: Alone in the Dark

Yesterday on the Mark & Brian show, Christian Slater called in promoting his new film, Alone in the Dark. Here is how he described it:

"It's like Raiders of the Lost Ark meets The Matrix meets Aliens*."

Let's take a moment to absorb that.

Now, I realize that no matter what film you're plugging, you're forced to spew the same hyperbolic, mealy-mouthed promotional garbage regardless of how you actually feel about it. You can't just say, "It's crap, but it paid well."

But people. This is Alone in the Dark he's talking about. Alone in the Frickin' Dark. A movie whose description at IMDb begins, "Based on the video game..." And as Mike** has recently, and accurately, said, there has never been a good movie based on a video game. In fact, there has never been a not terrible movie based on a video game. (And this is from a Jean-Claude Van Damme fan!)

This thing was directed by Uwe Boll, the auteur responsible for inflicting House of the Dead on an unsuspecting public, which is quite possibly the shittiest movie I've ever seen. And if it's the shittiest movie I've ever seen, then in all likelihood it's the shittiest movie ever made. (I've seen a lot of bad movies. For example, all the ones starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.)

My point is, when you're promoting a low-rent horror film based on a video game, and co-starring Tara Reid -- a movie which in all fairness I can not say will suck, because of course I haven't yet seen it... but let's face it, it will suck, long and loud -- you might not want to compare it to three of the most popular and influential movies of all time. Maybe you might want to dial it down just a notch, there, Kuffs.

A final note -- I usually beat up on the idiots who post at IMDb, but I loved this line from a review on the Alone in the Dark page: "If anyone were pondering what Ed Wood would be like today if he were armed with foreign financing and computer effects, look no further than Uwe Boll." Which, frankly, is extremely unflattering to Ed Wood. But it's still funny.

*I may be misremembering the third one. He named a classic monster movie of some kind; it may have been Night of the Living Dead, or something else along those lines. But he definitely said the first two.

**EDIT: I was wondering why I couldn't find the quote about no video game movie ever being any good in Mike's archives. As he points out in the comments to this post, that's because it was Dorian who said it. And he said it about Alone in the Dark: "It's based on a video-game. There is no such thing as a watchable movie based on a video game." Too true, Dorian, too true. Sorry about the mix-up!

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Thursday, January 27, 2005


TV: Celebrity Poker Showdown is back on Bravo, and host Dave Foley is as drunk as ever! And that to me is funny. During his first season with the show, he was so drunk he routinely slurred words, and often had trouble focusing on the camera. I guess the producers had a word with him, because all through the next series of games, he seemed to have sobered up. But with the new season, which started this week, the cork is out of the bottle! He's back, baby!

As for the poker -- oh, man. I've watched a lot of cards on TV over the past couple years, and I have never seen the best player at the table beaten time and time and time again by sheerest, stupidest luck as Sara Rue was this game. And did Sara not look cute as all git-out? (And by "cute," I mean "smokin' hot.") Boy, she's lost some weight since she played last season. Not that she wasn't hot before; I'm just making an observation.

Yeah, she's just adorable. But adorable don't cut it, because Brad Garrett was pulling cards out of his ass. Sara's got two pair? Brad fills the straight on the river. Sara's got a straight? The board gets the same straight, meaning she and Brad split the pot. She should've knocked him out of the game about 87 times, and he just kept winning. It was brutal. And great TV. Good start to the new tournament.

MOVIES: In all my Oscar foofaraw, I neglected to mention the Razzies, which also announced its nominees on Tuesday. This may be the first year I haven't seen any of the films nominated for Worst Picture. I tried -- I saw Butterfly Effect, after all. And The Grudge! If those movies aren't bad enough to make the list, then I ain't never seein' Catwoman!

Wow, they hate Ben Stiller. He got nominated as Worst Actor for a record five films: Along Came Polly, Anchorman, Dodgeball, Envy, and Starsky & Hutch. (I think when they nominate someone, they just name every film he's been in that year.) Now, come on! He was kind of good in at least two of those films. I mean, I've grown sick of Stiller's frequently repeated nebbish-who-gets-caught-in-humiliating-situations roles, too, but at least he was doing something different in Dodgeball and his cameo in Anchorman. I thought he was great in both of those.

And the Razzies went after Dubya, too! Multiple nominations for his appearance in Fahrenheit 9/11. My favorite: Worst Screen Couple, for "George W. Bush & EITHER Condoleeza* Rice OR His Pet Goat." I never thought I'd say this, but: he's got my vote!

*It's actually spelled with two z's guys, but that's okay; it's a tough name, and it's not like she's been in any news stories recently that would allow you to check the spelling.

The second I talked up I Read the Comics So You Don't Have To, Josh goes and changes the name to The Comics Curmudgeon. Man! Now I have to change my sidebar links again!

While I'm being all self-referential, I'd like to thank Jim Henley of Unqualified Offerings and Augie De Blieck of Various and Sundry for throwing links my way. Now, Augie is a fairly conservative fella, with, presumably, a majority of fairly conservative readers, where I, on the other hand, hate America. Oops! I meant, "am liberal." Oh, what a giveaway! My point is -- and I'm not saying the one thing has anything whatsoever to do with the other -- the thing is, the total elapsed time between Augie's link, and the first ever really bitchy political comment left on my blog, was two hours and fifty-three minutes. That's a funny little coinky-dink, innit?

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

TV: Monk

This week's season premiere of Monk has given me some hope that all is not yet lost. I'm not thrilled that Monk's assistant Sharona, played by Bitty Schram, has been written out of the show; she was a great character, and a large part of why the show worked so well. And word is that Schram's departure from the show was not on the most amicable of terms. (It's always a shame when I hear about behind the scenes conflict on shows I like; it can make the characters on-screen less likeable. This goes all the way back to when I was a kid, and read about strife amongst the child stars on Diff'rent Strokes. They're not really a big happy family?? It broke my widdle heart.)

But I've always liked Traylor Howard, who is replacing her. I liked her on Boston Common, I liked her on Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place -- yes, dammit, I sincerely liked that show! -- and I liked her on Bram & Alice. Wait, no I didn't. That show was wretched. But I like her, is the point. And judging from her first appearance, she'll do just fine. She's a little flat in places, and her character is a little too jaded -- she kills a guy in this episode, stabs him right in the heart with a pair of scissors, a fairly traumatic experience, I would think, and she seems to have shaken it off by the second commercial break -- but I think she'll fit right in to Monk's little world.

And Monk, the character, appears to be back on track. Too often last season, the writers had Monk acting less like a genius detective riddled with phobias and compulsions, and more like a blithering idiot. The show is much more enjoyable, and believable, when Monk is allowed to be competent and smart, despite being handicapped by his mental tics. That's where Tony Shalhoub is at his best, I think -- playing smart.

Good start for the new season -- or, to be technical, the second half of the third season. I hate when shows split up the season like that. South Park does the same thing. A normal TV season does not have a five month break between episodes!

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

MOVIES: Passion vs. Fahrenheit -- it's a scoreless tie!

I can't believe I neglected to mention it in my previous post, but two of the biggest, most widely praised (and condemned), and certainly the two most divisive movies of 2004 were snubbed by the Oscars: Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11.

Passion received three nominations in minor categories, for Best Cinematography, Best Makeup (which is fitting, since those awards usually go to fantasy or horror), and Best Score. Fahrenheit was completely shut out, owing entirely to Michael Moore's hubris in withdrawing it from Best Documentary consideration, in the hopes of nailing (no pun intended, Passion!) a Best Picture nod instead. Frankly, it serves him right.

I loved Fahrenheit. I haven't seen Passion, but I'm not entirely opposed to seeing it at some future date, now that the lunatic fringe equating its viewing with the acceptance of the Lord Messiah Jesus Christ As Your Personal Savior has backed off. I enjoy a number of stories taken from the Bible -- from The Ten Commandments to Jesus Christ Superstar to The Last Temptation of Christ -- but they're only stories to me. I'm willing to see Passion on those terms.

So what does the Oscar snubbery of these two films say? That neither of them is any good? No. I renounce that theory. (And all its works and promises.) I know the quality of one of them, and I'm not yet ready to dismiss the filmmaking quality of the other. That neither of them is good enough to please the majority? More likely.

Did they cancel each other out? I couldn't say for sure, though it is possible. There are plenty of Academy precedences for something like that. "I'll nominate this one, and to hell with the other one! I didn't see it, I don't want to see it, and I'll be damned if I'm going to give it a chance in hell of being nominated!"

But I think it's most likely that the Academy was simply afraid of controversy, in any form, from any political agenda, from any color state. The Oscars have rarely courted the edgy or the polarizing. For all the strides they've made in recent years, choosing younger and more eclectic talents for honor -- even choosing Chris Rock to host this year! -- the Academy is still primarily old white men who don't like having their boat rocked. They probably avoided both movies like the plague (in the major categories, at least), whatever their feelings on either one.

And I think I'm happy with it this way. I would've hated to see it come down to a contest between both of them, because, despite the legendary liberal bias of Hollywood, I've already seen my side lose enough sure things and take enough punishment this last year to last me a lifetime. So I'm content with sitting this fight out.

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MOVIES: 2005 Oscar Nominations

Wow, before even updating today, I've got over 130 hits! Just a couple short weeks ago, I would've counted that as exceptional for a full day. With two updates. But I've been getting a steady and regular flow of new visitors here recently, thanks to a most kind and complimentary number of links (especially to my Golden Globes coverage) from many of you other bloggers. Such as Johnny Bacardi, House of the Ded (twice), the very interestingly named How To Be Free (and Save the World... Eventually), Crocodile Caucus, Precocious Curmudgeon, Blog THIS, Pal!, Thrilling Adventures, Clandestine Critic, Pop Culture Gadabout, Motime Like the Present, Fred Sez, and especially Cognitive Dissonance, which I don't think has linked specifically to me any time recently (as the others I mentioned have), but whose sidebar link to me has brought this blog more traffic than anything other than the Comic Weblogs Updates page, and Misty May's ass (I'm the #5 site on Google for that phrase -- yay me?).

To all of those above, to the always-supportive ACAPCWOVCCAOE, and to any others I may have missed because I'm a doofus, a most sincere thank you. It's a great feeling, knowing someone is out there looking at the crazy-ass things I write.

Enough of the blibbity-blab! On to the important stuff: this morning's Oscar nominations. You know, I actually considered getting up at 5:30 this morning and blogging the nominations press conference (announced by Adrien Brody -- who, much like David Schwimmer, is handsome... in an ugly sort of way), but, well... there are many things I will do for you, my brethren and sistren, but getting up at 5:30 ante meridian is a bullet I am not willing to take.

It's a relatively respectable list, as far as the Oscars go. At least the obligatory three-hour-plus period epic which dominates the nominations (The Aviator, with 11) isn't a total piece of dog crap, as many other recent films to fill that slot have been (like, say, I don't know, Gladiator? Or Titanic?). It could've been Troy getting all those nominations. Or Alexander. See what I mean? A respectable list.

So, here's some opinions, and some very early picks. You may do with them what you will.

  • Best Picture

    There's always one film that nobody's seen, but somehow becomes an Academy darling, and this year that appears to be Finding Neverland. Now, I haven't seen it (duh -- nobody has); maybe it is a staggering work of genius, more deserving of a nod than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But I highly doubt it.

    It's a two-horse race here. The Aviator, or Million Dollar Baby. Early indications seem to favor Aviator -- most nominations this year, Scorsese is way overdue, etc. -- but Baby is opening in wider release this week, and finding new fans, and I think the momentum is eventually going to swing in its favor.

  • Best Actor

    This is the category I can most easily nitpick. Finding Neverland again -- Johnny Depp is wonderful, don't get me wrong, he is great. I'd go so far as to say that he's the best actor of his generation. That's right, I said it! (Wait, is he in Sean Penn's generation?) And I'm glad he finally broke into the Academy's good graces with last year's nomination for Pirates of the Caribbean. But he should more properly have been nominated for Ed Wood, or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, or Donnie Brasco, or Blow, or Before Night Falls. I fear the Academy will be making up for their oversights in his early career by nominating him too frequently, and possibly unjustly, in his later career, taking nomination slots away from more deserving performers. As they appear to have done this year.

    Who did he take a spot from? Well, Paul Giamatti, for one. Last year's exclusion of his performance in American Splendor is a classic, gigantic Academy blunder, one that is almost always made up for with a nod the following year, if the performer appears in anything with the slightest hint of quality. And yet, Giamatti gets shut out again this year, while his Sideways co-stars get recognized. Ouch. He must owe someone money.

    Who else? Jim Carrey. No, I'm not kidding! He gave a brilliant performance in Eternal Sunshine, one that (in all likelihood) was far more deserving of a nom than Depp's.

    Or Eastwood's. I love Million Dollar Baby. Love it. But it wasn't Clint the actor's movie. It was Clint the director's, as well as Hilary Swank's and Morgan Freeman's. I'm glad to see Clint nominated, but I would've been happier if his space had gone to Giamatti or Carrey instead.

    Not that it matters. Jamie Foxx has got it sewn up. Most solid lock of all the major categories this year.

  • Best Actress

    Possibly the biggest surprise inclusion (as opposed to Giamatti's surprise exclusion) in the major categories is Catalina Sandino Moreno for Maria Full of Grace. Enjoy the show, hon!

    Being Julia is another Finding Neverland. Nobody's seen it. Nobody's even heard of it. Jesus, Warren Beatty hasn't even heard of it! And yet, Annette Bening won the Golden Globe. Whatever. She's a contender here, but not a shoo-in.

    Imelda Staunton had a lot of momentum going into the Globes, but her loss to Hilary Swank took a lot of wind out of her sails. She's not out, but she's not the front-runner some critics would've had you believe less than a month ago.

    If Swank hadn't already won an Oscar for Boys Don't Cry, I might count her as the winner right now for Million Dollar Baby. But she has won, and she even beat Annette Bening (in American Beauty) to do it. It's petty and stupid, but the Academy often sees things like this and says, "Well, Swank was clearly better, but she's had her turn. Plus, she's young, and she'll get another chance." (Even though no one, especially me, thought she'd ever give a performance that great again.) I think (and hope like hell) Swank will win; god damn, she was awesome in that movie. But I'm gonna wait a while before putting any money on her.

  • Best Supporting Actor

    Let's play "Process of Elimination!"

    Alan Alda and Thomas Haden Church, unfair as it may be, are always going to be thought of as TV actors. Very few ever truly escape that stigma (like, say, George Clooney). I'd really like to say Church could take it, but knowing the Academy's history, I just don't see it. They're out. (Especially since Church already lost at the Golden Globes, and Alda wasn't even nominated.)

    Jamie Foxx will win for Best Actor, so everyone will vote for him there, not here. He's out. [EDIT: Also, as I had to be reminded by Monty's Oscar nomination post, Foxx was a TV actor, too! Oops. I guess, the way I see it, he's shaken off In Living Color a lot more successfully than, say, Church has shaken off Wings. Hell, if you want to get really picky, Morgan Freeman used to be on The Electric Company, Ryan's Hope, and Another World, and Clive Owen has a couple British TV series under his belt. That said, it's only Alda and Church who still have the feel of TV-level acting about them, because they came to be so closely identified with their TV characters, Hawkeye and Lowell. In my mind, at least.]

    Morgan Freeman is solid, but his was a very low-key, unflashy role. Plus, Supporting Acting Oscars frequently go to younger, relatively unknown, less established performers. But... this award can also double as a Lifetime Achievement award, which means Freeman is definitely in the running. But... he lost at the Globes. He's not out.

    And that brings us to Clive Owen. Will he really repeat his shocking Globe upset for Closer? My early hunch is yes. But...

    At gunpoint, considering the Academy is stodgier in its Supporting Actor votes than its Supporting Actress votes, and given their selective short attention span (which means Owen's Globe win will be ancient history by the time they vote), I'd go with Freeman.
Isn't this fun?? We're almost done!

  • Best Supporting Actress

    This is tough. The Academy loves tributes to film history, which means Cate Blanchett's turn as Katharine Hepburn is a strong pick. They love rewarding young first-time (and probably last-time) nominees in this category (think Marisa Tomei, Mira Sorvino, Anna Paquin, Tatum O'Neal), which means Natalie Portman is another strong choice. (Plus, she won the Globe.) They love sexually-charged performances from older actresses, so Laura Linney (god, is she really "older" in Hollywood terms? Afraid so) and Virginia Madsen aren't totally out of it. And the Academy loves pretending it's not racist, so Sophie Okonedo in Hotel Rwanda has a genuine longshot hope. (Though all those votes for Foxx will probably assuage their consciences enough to skip voting for her, too.)

    I'm gonna say Portman, but I really had to talk myself out of saying Blanchett.

  • Best Director

    I'm with Ian in thinking Michel Gondry got robbed. He did a spectacular job with Eternal Sunshine, both visually and emotionally. But he did get robbed, so it's another two-horse race. Scorsese or Eastwood.

    Eastwood won the Globe, and the Academy loves the hell out of him. Plus, he really did do some brilliant work. But, like I said above, Scorsese's overdue. Will this finally, finally be the year the voters say, "Let's give it to him already"? Or will he again be the Susan Lucci of the Oscars? (Man, Susan Lucci isn't even the Susan Lucci of losing awards anymore -- it may have taken her 19 tries, but she finally won).

    It's tricky. Some voters will say, "Clint was more deserving, but let's give it to Marty as a belated award for Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and 17 other movies he should've won for." But some others will say, "Give it to Eastwood; Scorsese can just settle for his film winning Best Picture." I'd be happy either way, but I'm gonna hedge my bets on this one. I picked Baby for Best Picture; I'm picking Scorsese for Best Director. The exact opposite of what the Globes said -- but what the fuck do they know?

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Monday, January 24, 2005

Links update

Updating my sidebar links. Added:

--Online magazine Forces of Good, at which I have one article published (there's only been one issue so far), and will soon also have an ongoing pop culture blog. Kind of like this, only... well, no, exactly like this, probably. Only over there. Maybe primarily about TV. (You've seen me write about TV. You know I've got enough crap to say to fill two blogs.)

--A couple of glaring omissions, which I could've sworn I had already linked to, but nope! Dopey me! Those would be Brian Hibbs' Savage Critic, Will Pfeifer's X-Ray Spex, and Dave Carter's Yet Another Comics Blog. My bad, guys.

--I Read the Comics So You Don't Have To, which I just wrote about.

--And a number of other new or newish (or just new to me) comics and/or pop culture blogs, namely Todd Murry's Comics TV Blah Blah, Dave White's Different Package (you'll probably have to click on the archives for December or earlier; there's nothing new up so far this year), Phil Parr's Hey Grown Ups -- Comics!, and RobB's Blog o' Stuff.

And it took forever for me to make those changes to my template, so for crying out loud, click on all of them, and make it worth my while! I personally guarantee hours of entertainment at each and every link!*

*Not a guarantee.

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COMICS: They read the comics so I don't have to

I've said before that if I had more time -- and more importantly, if I still got a daily newspaper -- I'd like to carry on the tradition of the Baltimore City Paper's Funny Paper column. Funny Paper was a weekly column which humorously summarized and commented on the previous week's comic strips, ripping on repetitive themes, comedic errors, and just plain unfunniness. For example, from the April 18, 2001 entry:

"CATHY: Monday: Cathy is obsessed with food. Tuesday: Cathy is ignorant and incompetent at tax time. Wednesday: Cathy is ignorant and incompetent at tax time. Thursday: Cathy is ignorant and incompetent at tax time. Friday: Cathy is ignorant and incompetent at tax time. Saturday: Cathy is ignorant and incompetent at tax time. Sunday: Cathy is ignorant and incompetent at tax time."
Or, in a trademark fit of pique, dated October 8, 2003:

"KUDZU: Monday, Doug Marlette dusts off the old '668' joke. You know--668: The Neighbor of the Beast. Only Doug Marlette doesn't make it that elegant, opting to render it, '668 is the sign of the guy who lives next door to the Beast.' Doug Marlette doesn't make the jokes; he makes the jokes worse! Die, and go directly to hell, Marlette, you worthless sack of joke-stealing garbage."
Anyway. If I were ever going to get off my ass (or, I guess, spend a great deal more time on my ass) and create a blog in the Funny Paper mold -- well, my window of opportunity has passed. Because Joshua Fruhlinger's I read the comics so you don't have to is doing the job quite nicely. Damn it.

In an early post, Fruhlinger insists he'd never heard of Funny Paper before starting his blog, even though the title of his blog is almost exactly the same as Funny Paper's motto, "We read the comics so you don't have to." Okay, I'll take his word for it. But there's no mistaking the similarities*, from the title/motto, to the unconcealed hatred of strips long past their expiration date (Fruhlinger: "Tune in tomorrow as I call for the death of whoever it is who draws Marmaduke, and possibly for the death of Marmaduke himself"), to the similar permutations of the Phantom's nickname ("the Ghost Who Walks") as a commentary on the strip's art or story (Funny Paper: "the Ghost Who Can Single-Handedly Commandeer a Nuclear Sub," "the Ghost Who Is Never Properly Lit;" Fruhlinger: "the Ghost-Who-Ruminates-Aloud," "the Ghost-Who-Watches-Television-In-His-Hotel-Room"), to the pointing out of similar gags in different strips on the same day, to... oh, lots of stuff that's probably unavoidable if you set out to do something like this.

Where they primarily differ, I think, is Funny Paper ran short items about every strip for the week, whereas Fruhlinger runs longer items on a single strip daily. But where they again draw similarities is in the way they both make me laugh, they both reflect my obsession to analyze comic strip minutiae, and they both make me wish to hell I had done it first.

I read the comics so you don't have to is great. Funny and incisive, it makes me wish I knew the author so I could discuss the comics with someone else familiar with both their triviality and their importance. Good, good stuff.

*Including, as further research reveals, the fact that the creators of both sites get their comic strip fixes from the pages of the Baltimore Sun! How's that for a coincidence?

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

TV: Justice League Unlimited

One quick question about this week's Justice League Unlimited: when Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Batman follow villain David Clinton, aka The Time Thief, aka Chronos, back in time to the Old West, the heroes replace their costumes with period clothes to fit in. So then, when Chronos later sees the unmasked Batman, why doesn't he immediately say, "Oh my God, Batman is billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne!" I mean, Bruce Wayne is the Donald Trump of the DC Universe. There's no way Chronos wouldn't recognize him.

Just sayin'.

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TV: This and that

I've written before about how disappointed I've been with the last two seasons of The Amazing Race. I actually stopped watching the show this season, because, despite the fact that I still think it's the best reality show on the air, there wasn't a single team that I wanted to win. Lately, the casting directors have gone overboard in casting villains (including this year's despicable Jonathan and Victoria) and have neglected to cast any real good guys. And so I gave up on the show. I can't invest myself in a competition where I just don't care who wins.

Well, that may have changed with the seventh edition of TAR, debuting March 1 (jeez, give the game a rest between installments, why don't you?). This week it was announced that one of the competing teams will be Amber and Boston Rob, of Survivor fame.

I also gave up on Survivor this last season, but before that I was a big fan. And the unlikely romance between Amber and Rob was one of the all-time highlights of the series. I can't wait to see how their partnership works within the framework of TAR, where Rob's scheming and Amber's... um... well, I'm sure she had some skills, other than flirting with Rob enough for him to carry her to the end... their particular skills won't be anywhere near the advantage that they were on Survivor. You lost me, TAR, but you've pulled me back in!

Point Pleasant was pointedly unpleasant. How's that for a headline, Entertainment Weekly?

I'd like to say I expected more from executive producer Marti Noxon, formerly of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. But every single advance review made me realize that I wasn't in for a new classic. So I had low expectations, and Point Pleasant completely failed to meet them.

So there's this gal who washes up in the waters off Point Pleasant. She seems nice enough, but it turns out she's half-devil. Isn't that always the way? Yes, daddy is Satan himself. But she doesn't seem to know that -- she just knows that weird stuff happens around her, like, beach bonfires explode with fireballs if some girl gets bitchy with her. And then there's a bunch of bland, dopey Abercrombie & Fitch models making up the rest of the cast, shooting googly eyes at one another when they're not actively bed-hopping.

It seems like the show is going for an O.C.-meets-the-supernatural kind of vibe -- the show even airs immediately following The O.C. But rather than sexy and campy, it's sleazy and stupid. Which, frankly, is a relief to me -- that's one less TV show for me to watch!

I've become hooked on Joey, for unexpected reasons. The two characters I was least interested in when I wrote about it for Forces of Good (which hopefully will be relaunching soon!), Joey's neighbor/landlady Alex and nephew Michael (Andrea Anders and Paulo Costanzo), have now become the most interesting characters. Matt LeBlanc's Joey is going through all the same motions he went through on Friends, and Drea De Matteo as his sister Gina got old real fast. While they've grown stagnant, Alex and Michael have developed, if slightly -- she's gotten tougher, he's grown less naive. And they're both nicer and smarter than Joey or Gina, which makes them easier to connect with. And the way the show often pairs them (as the secondary characters they are) together in sideplots makes me wonder if the writers shouldn't be aiming for a romance between them in the long run, rather than between Alex and Joey (which is the way the show originally was leaning).

Also, there have been some great guest appearances, from a surprisingly funny Lucy Liu, to Michael's nerd idol Brent Spiner, to Beth Littleford as the unwitting Alex's lesbian date, to Ben Falcone as neighbor Howard, Joey's hilarious, hyper-enthusiastic fan. In a recent episode, he wanted to apply to be Joey's assistant. Didn't he already have a job? Joey asked. "I'm vice president of the third largest bank in California," Howard immediately responded. Later in the episode, Joey refused to allow Howard to tag along with him on an errand, telling him he was going to drop him off at the bank instead. Howard pouted, "Aw, I hate that place!!"

With all the solid turns from supporting characters, Joey is becoming a reliably funny sitcom. Too bad they can't do something with that Joey guy.

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

TV: Tilt

I finally was able to catch the first two episodes of Tilt, ESPN's new poker drama. Which was harder than it sounds. ESPN is making it a bitch to catch an episode (as Augie will also attest to... twice). The first time I tried to TiVo the pilot, it ran long (due to, what else, a sports program that didn't finish on time) and the last five or ten minutes got cut off. The second time I tried to record it, ESPN promised me Tilt, but then just decided to broadcast something else instead. Thanks, ESPN! Good thing you didn't spend any money on Tilt, and therefore clearly don't care if anyone is able to watch it or not!

I finally got the complete pilot episode by programming the TiVo to add fifteen minutes to the recording time. But then I tried the same thing with the second episode -- and this time, it was late by thirty minutes. So I missed the ending again. Jesus, why even bother? Seriously, why say you're going to air a show at a certain time when you clearly are unable to meet that commitment? Why air the show at all, when it's obviously such a low priority?

I was able to catch a repeat of the second episode by setting TiVo up to record an hour extra. So now I've seen the first two shows. After all that -- was it worth it?

Surprisingly, I think yes. Michael Madsen has always been such a wonderful, brutish, intimidating actor, and he's certainly all that as Don "the Matador" Everest, the most famous poker pro in Vegas -- one who's gotten where he is by cheating. But Everest is more of a background character. The three real leads of the show are Eddie Cibrian, Kristin Lehman, and Todd Williams, as Eddie, Miami, and Clark, three young players who were all cheated by the Matador, and who have teamed up to take him down. I'm not familiar with any of those actors, but I found them all genuinely likeable, and I'm interested in their efforts to either win bankrolls big enough to challenge Everest, or to con their way into his inner circle.

A couple things I'm not wild about so far: one, the Matador's daughter, Dee. She's draped in furs, living high on life, rolling in riches provided by daddy, yet it's her ambition to strip for one of the local clubs (which her father uses his connections to prevent). Yeah, that's believable. Anything to get a strip club in the show, right, ESPN?

And two, the poker players aren't very good. As Nat has correctly pointed out, "The winners win because every hand they're shown playing, they have the best hand. Yawn." Anyone can win with the best hand. (And even then, only a good poker player will still get the other guy to bet.) A good poker player wins when he's got the worst hand. And we haven't seen that yet. (In the second episode, Everest wins with the worst hand, but only because Eddie intentionally throws away the best hand to let him win.)

It's worth it right now for me to jump ESPN's scheduling hurdles to see Tilt. I'm hooked enough to care what happens next. But it's not a must-see show just yet, and if ESPN keeps screwing with me -- hell, Kenny Rogers taught me to know when to walk away.

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Friday, January 21, 2005

COMICS: Wed. 1/19/04

Madrox: This final issue wrapped things up better than I'd expected, but I still can't say the mini-series as a whole was entirely successful. There were some good character bits, but I just didn't care about the story at all, neither the main one involving Jamie nor the side-plot involving Rahne. I would sign on if Peter David established a new ongoing series with these characters, as the last part of the issue suggests will happen, but only because I know David can create great, interesting, funny stories with the characters, not because of any particular love for this mini.

Plastic Man: Had its moments, but mostly it felt like a rehashed Tom & Jerry cartoon. Hilarious punchline to the whole thing, though.

Wanted: Mark Millar finally brings the mini-series to a close with an interesting, fourth wall-breaking meta-premise (at least, the way I choose to read it): the shift to grim and gritty comics in the mid-to-late-80s actually occurred because the supervillains of the world defeated the pure and noble superheroes once and for all. All the brightness and fun of the comic book universe were replaced by darkness and deviance because the bad guys were victorious in remaking the world in their image. This, coupled with the cover's excellent mockery of Marvel's crass "Who's Next?" chart for Avengers: Disassembled:

...were highlights of a generally clever and certainly very different comic. The tears-and-teddy-bears parts of the story were heavy-handed, and wildly out of synch with the overriding cynical brutality of the rest of the issue and the mini-series as a whole, but things got back on track in the end, especially with Millar's giant "fuck you" to the reader on the final page. I'm still not a huge Millar fan, and this comic was sometimes hard to take, with its celebration of the concept of "freedom of choice" being used to justify rape, murder, and the general degradation of the species, but overall it was intriguing, inventive, and well-crafted.

Haven't read yet: Powers and Invincible. I also picked up the first Gotham Central TPB, continuing on my recent Ed Brubaker buying spree. Last week, I got the third collection of his excellent Catwoman series; terrific writing, especially in the second half of the book, which illustrated the breakdown of the characters' relationships following the tragic events of the first half, but good lord was the artwork in that second half awful. It was Javier Pulido's work, and it was just wretched. He's the reason I could never get into Peter Milligan's Human Target series -- I love Milligan's writing, but I could not stomach the artwork. I hate, hate, hate Pulido's art. Hate it.

And I got the collection of Charles Schulz's other cartoon, It's Only a Game. These were one-panel sports and games-related comics Schulz co-produced with Jim Sasseville from 1957 to 1959. I hadn't bought it before because, honestly, it hadn't looked very interesting, but I impulse-bought it this week. And after paging through it, I see my first instinct was right -- it's not very interesting at all. Sure, it's neat to see Schulz draw adults, but the humor is very weak, and, as a gag-based strip, there are no recurring characters or developing themes to hook me into it. I'm glad I have it, out of a completist impulse, but it's simply not very good.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

TV: Munch

Speaking of Richard Belzer, I wonder if he holds the record for playing the same character on the greatest number of different TV shows.

His Detective Munch first appeared as a regular character on Homicide. After that show ended, Belzer became a regular on Law & Order: Sports Utility Vehicle as Munch -- and how many characters have ever done that to begin with? Become regular characters on shows that were not spin-offs of their original shows?

But he's also guest-starred as Munch on The X-Files, the original Law & Order, and on the very short-lived The Beat. That's five shows on which Belzer has played the same character -- and only two of those shows are otherwise related to each other in any way (the two Law & Orders). Can anybody else match that?

Let me be more specific -- I'm talking prime-time shows only, here. If you counted cartoons, then Henry Winkler might hold the record, as he voiced the Fonzie character in two different cartoons (Fonz and the Happy Days Gang and the not-at-all awkwardly named The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley with the Fonz Show), in addition to Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and Joanie Loves Chachi.

On the one hand, I genuinely want to know if I'm right about Belzer holding the record or not. On the other hand: wow, I gotta get a life.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Some TV obsessive I am

From TV Gal:

And most of you caught that Driveshaft's single "You All Everybody" was playing in the background of Sydney's party on "Alias." Who's Driveshaft, you ask? Charlie's one-hit wonder band on "Lost."
I didn't! I did not catch that! I'm a big fat fan of both Lost and Alias, and I'm bitterly disappointed that I didn't catch this wonderful in-joke between J.J. Abrams' two shows. My belief in my television watching prowess has been shaken to the core.

Dammit! I may have to surrender my TV-viewer license for this.

Hey, this means Lost and Alias exist in the same TV universe (kind of like Homicide: Life on the Street and The X-Files -- remember when Richard Belzer appeared as Det. Munch on The X-Files? Anyone? Come on, don't leave me hangin'!). Maybe Sydney and Vaughn will rescue the castaways! But wait, that doesn't explain how Greg Grunberg is a spy on Alias, but was also the pilot who got eaten in Lost. Maybe they were twins. Or clones. Or perhaps time travel was involved? Now my head hurts.

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TV: Battlestar Galactica

I'm stuck in my crazy little town again today; the one way out of town that has been cleared of mudslides is now in danger of collapsing, so my fifteen minutes commute was three hours and counting this morning (and I even left an hour early!), with at least another hour and a half ahead of me, when I turned back and went home. I would've gotten to the office, probably worked three hours, and then left at 1PM to try to get a jump on the three or four hours commute back home. Which just isn't worth it. (Fortunately my boss agreed.)

Good thing I've got TiVo! And plenty of TV to write about. For example: the new version of Battlestar Galactica on the Sci-Fi Channel.

I loved last year's mini-series, the precursor to this new continuing series. But when I recently spoke with a friend about it, he said, "Dude, they turned Starbuck into a chick!" And I had to say, in essence, "Well, you know what? I do not have any allegiance to Dirk Benedict. I have no reverence for the sanctity of the character's original depiction. It's not like they replaced Orson Welles with Pauly Shore. It's Dirk freakin' Benedict." In fact, I will go farther (and pregnant women or those with heart conditions may want to look away): the original series sucked. It sucked ass.

The only reason anybody liked it at all when it first came out was because Star Wars had debuted the year before, and fans were hungry for more science fiction, however they could get it. And even in that frenzy for more space opera, how crappy was that crappy knock-off? I'll tell you how crappy: it only lasted one season. Most people don't seem to remember that. It was cancelled after one lousy season. You know why? You know why? Because it sucked! Come on! I just said it! Stay with me, here! (The less said about the attempt to reprise it two years later, as Galactica 1980, the better.)

So yeah, a chick is playing Starbuck. And I really like her. Her name is Katee Sackhoff, and she was on a great Richard Dreyfuss show a couple years back called The Education of Max Bickford. (Although I will admit I may be alone in that opinion, since, like the original Galactica, it too was cancelled after only one season.) She's more than convincing as the charismatic, tightly wound, self-destructive Starbuck, and has an appealing tomboy-sexiness to her.

That's not nearly the only change from the original. Boomer's a chick, too. And the series is much darker in tone, with Commander Adama (a great Edward James Olmos performance) and President Laura Roslin (an equally great Mary McDonnell) having to make incredibly difficult choices to insure the survival of the human species -- such as, in the mini-series, abandoning dozens of refugee ships that couldn't keep up, or, in the new episodes, firing on one of the refugee ships that may (or may not) have been infiltrated by the Cylons.

And, oh yeah, the Cylons. They're not "chrome toasters" anymore. (Or at least, those aren't the ones we primarily see.) No, the Cylons have perfected a model that perfectly replicates a human being. Fanboy reaction: "That's worse than making Starbuck a chick! Now there are Cylon chicks!" Again I say: I could not be less concerned about the change. It's a change for the better, in my eyes. It makes for a more interesting story. The stakes are higher, the intrigue is greater. Especially considering one of the main cast members, Boomer, is a Cylon sleeper agent. Who appears to believe that she is really human, and who is fighting as strongly as possible against her subliminally programmed impulses to sabotage the Galactica.

Also interesting are the changes made to the character Baltar, who, in the original series, was an active traitor to the humans, and who was basically the leader of the Cylons (if I recall correctly). Here, Baltar is a duplicitous weasel, but mostly he's a dupe. He was having an affair with a Cylon agent, and gave her access to the planetary defenses of the human colonies (net result: the near destruction of the human race. Oops!). Now he's working with the President, while constantly scheming his way out of being discovered as the accidental key to the Cylon invasion. Also, before they parted company, the Cylon implanted a chip in his brain; now Baltar sees and hears her as if she were right there, whispering in his ear at all times. Kind of like Scorpius did to Crichton on Farscape. Only, you decide who had the better deal. Here's Scorpius:

Image hosted by

And here's the Cylon known as "Number Six" (played by Tricia Helfer):

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Tough choice.

The first two episodes of the new series have met the high standards set by the mini-series. I was wondering how they'd be able to sustain the story, now that we've moved beyond the devastation of the human colonies, and established the search for the mythical thirteenth colony, "Earth." But these episodes have successfully maintained the tension, the paranoia, the high stakes, and the interesting character arcs. And they have smartly split the action between the Galactica and the refugee ships in space, and a survivor fleeing from the chrome toaster-type Cylons on one of the old colony worlds, who has been befriended by Boomer (who is also still on the Galactica. See, there are only twelve different models of the humanoid Cylons, but there are multiple copies of each).

In short, I'm a big fan of this new Galactica in a way I never was of the old one. If you can stomach science fiction at all, it's more than worth checking out. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I can't imagine 2005 being a year in which this won't be one of my top two or three favorite new shows.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005


I've been extremely lax about linking to contests being held throughout the blogscape*. Here's my stab at rectifying that lapse.

Comic Book Galaxy is running (in conjunction with Slave Labor) an insanely generous Street Angel contest. Multiple winners will get Street Angel issues 1-5, plus a rare Street Angel mini-comic, plus their local comics shop will get the same. Plus one grand prize winner gets some original Street Angel art! Sweet! This was one of my favorite new comics of the last year; in fact, Street Angel #2 is one of my favorite issues of any comic, ever. Enter by February 28.

Scott at Polite Dissent is giving away three copies of Nikolai Dante: The Romanov Dynasty. Three books, and three different ways to win! Enter by January 31.

Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog's Laura is offering a copy of the Colonia trade paperback, as well as a page of original art! I bought the Colonia book last year, and it was one of my favorite new discoveries of 2004. A really funny and creative adventure comic. Deadline is January 20, so get cracking!

Ferret Press is giving away a copy of the first Strangehaven TPB. I don't see a deadline date, but I assume it's the end of the month.

DougBot of Giant Fighting Robot Report has a copy of America: The Book up for grabs. So very very funny. You must have this book. And the contest ends tomorrow, so get moving!

Cats & Dogs Living Together Dept.

Yesterday Fred Hembeck featured this little ol' blog as his link of the day. Thanks, Fred. And yay for me! I wish I could figure out how to link to that particular post, but I can't, so here's a link to the front page of his blog. One problem, though -- Fred mentioned me in the same post as his pwecious widdle kitty-cats. Doesn't he know cats and dogs don't get along?! Plus, I'm allergic. AH-CHOO!!

*I'm trying out new words to replace the incredibly dopey, semi-official term "blogosphere". We'll see if anything sticks.

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Monday, January 17, 2005

Links update

I have at long last gotten around to adding Websnark to my links list (so sue me for taking so long -- changing my template is tedious). I'm a frequent visitor, and greatly enjoy the reviews of the seemingly endless world of webcomics to be found there.

Also, I've added the brand new Clandestine Critic, a self-described cinema/comedy/comics blog created by David, #1, because he had the very good sense to link to my Golden Globes post, and #2, when talking about Oscar mistakes, he says, "they gave it to Helen Hunt for As Good As It Gets, which is so undeserving, I'm not going to link to it." Right on. Nobody's ever gone wrong in my book by dissing Helen Hunt.

Also, I've had to change the description at the top of my blog. Normally, I describe a perfect world as one in which "Scrubs is out on DVD." Well, as of May 17, this world will be a little less imperfect: Scrubs Season One, baby!!!

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TV: Minute-by-Minute at the 2005 Golden Globes

Part 1 -- the Pre-Show.

8:00 -- The Golden Globes impress me with their class and dignity right off the bat by having a Ray Charles imitator sing a horrifically sleazy opening jingle with lines such as, "Dirty Harry could win three today!" or "And Uma simply kills in Bill!" Ugh.

8:03 -- Clive Owen wins Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for Closer, beating David Carradine, Thomas Haden Church, Jamie Foxx, and Morgan Freeman. I can honestly say, if I had tried to guess this category, Owen would've been my fifth choice. If that. Very surprising.

8:06 -- Following that, I'm not quite as surprised when Natalie Portman wins for Closer (or, as Tim Robbins mispronounces it when presenting, Closer. Uh... you'll just have to trust me that he mispronounced it, I guess).

8:11 -- Jennifer Garner and Mark Wahlberg present Best Supporting Actress for a TV Series, Mini-Series, or TV Movie, and it took me so long to write down the name of the award, I completely missed who won it. (Okay, it was Anjelica Huston. For something called Iron-Jawed Angels.)

8:13 -- We follow this up with Best Supporting Actor in Etc. It's so freakin' weird, seeing Sean Hayes and Michael Imperioli nominated in the same category. I'm sorry, but Will & Grace and The Sopranos do not even exist in the same universe.

8:14 -- The Shat wins! The Shat wins! When he gets the award, he says, "William Shatner!" the way his character says "Denny Crane!" and that has just made the show for me.

8:21 -- Jim Carrey doesn't have much of a chance to cut loose as he introduces the President of the Hollywood Foreign Press, and reminds us that this is all a bizarre sham of an imitation of an awards ceremony, whose inexplicably odd awards categories (Best Musical or Comedy??) and shady nomination process is overseen by a remarkably small pool of otherwise completely irrelevant journalists, whose history is rife with bribery and corruption, which has only become so prominent on American TV because Dick Clark somehow profits from it, which only attracts so many big stars because of the open bar and huge after-parties, and which really has no logical reason to exist.

8:25 -- Hey, Claire Danes is going to be in Shopgirl! Hey, they're actually making a movie of Shopgirl! Cool.

8:26 -- Best Actress, TV Series - Drama, goes to Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: Sports Utility Vehicle. Really? Out of the plethora of actresses on television, this is your choice? Really? What, was Pia Zadora not nominated?

8:30 -- Ian McShane wins Best Actor, TV Series - Drama, for Deadwood. Man, I gotta get HBO. Too bad Chiklis lost, but I hear Deadwood is just an amazing show.

8:37 -- Meryl Streep comes out to present, and cattily says, "Congratulations, Natalie" (Portman, who beat her for an award earlier). Funny. Also, in that bodice, Meryl is rockin' some Golden Globes herself! (I promise this is the first and last time I will make this joke. Unless Angelina Jolie is here tonight.)

8:40 -- When Jason Bateman and Zach Braff are announced as nominees for Best Actor, TV Series - Musical or Comedy, I start thinking, "Well, at least the Golden Globes are smarter than the Emmys about this category," and then I hear, "Matt LeBlanc, Joey." Spoke too soon!

8:41 -- Bateman very deservingly wins, and hopefully the Emmys will take notice of this (though I'm not counting on it).

8:50 -- Will Ferrell, wearing an eyepatch: "Rest assured, the boating accident was not as bad as it was reported." King of Comedy.

8:54 -- Annette Bening accepts her award for Best Actress, Movie - Musical or Comedy, in a strangely aristocratic, entitled fashion. Totally calm and unsurprised, as if she knew all along she deserved it, and the reading of the winner was just a formality. It makes me want to smack her, a little bit.

8:55 -- I made a promise earlier, when talking about Meryl Streep, but the dress Melina Kanakaredes is wearing makes it extremely difficult to keep that promise.

8:56 -- The first nominee for Best TV Series - Drama is 24. Apparently, the Globes are unaware of its reclassification as a Comedy as of last year.

8:57 -- They show Evangeline Lilly in the audience when the nomination for Lost is announced. Holy mother of pearl, she is as lovely as the day is long. Too bad she's so damn religious -- she was a missionary, even. That takes a little bit of the air out of my wicked fantasies.

9:13 -- We see Quentin Tarantino getting all close and cuddly with Uma Thurman. Are they officially a couple now? Can I officially be creeped out?

9:20 -- On the other hand, when they show QT talking with Martin Scorsese, that's somehow exciting to me. Two great filmmakers, people who probably never talk outside events like these, sharing thoughts on the movies. Just the idea is strangely thrilling.

9:24 -- The clip for nominee for Best Movie - Drama Closer shows Natalie Portman mouthing the words, "Fuck off." Cut to her in the audience, where she gleefully repeats "Fuck off!" and laughs giddily. So adorable. Too bad they didn't have the sound up at her table; we could've had another Bono incident.

9:25 -- Scarlett Johansson continues to be smokin' hot. That is all.

9:38 -- As Teri Hatcher hugs everyone at her table after winning Best Actress, TV Series - Comedy, Zach Braff, standing at the table behind her, jokingly holds his arms out for a hug, too. (He doesn't get one.)

9:39 -- Hatcher thanks "a network for giving me a second chance at a career when I couldn't have been a bigger has-been." It's funny, but it's also disarmingly frank and touching.

9:46 -- It blows me away that Clint Eastwood is nominated as composer for Million Dollar Baby. Now that I think of it, it really was excellent music -- carried the emotions of the scenes, but non-intrusively. Clint really is the man. Too bad he can be such a douchebag, politically speaking.

9:52 -- Mick Jagger gets the biggest laugh of the evening so far, accepting for Best Song, when he thanks everyone "who's working at Paramount... and everyone that was working at Paramount." Very in-jokey for us at home, but the live audience sure eats it up. He gets another huge laugh when he interrupts Dave Stewart who is thanking his and Mick's children: "All our children, there's so many we're not even gonna mention it!"

9:57 -- Prince is about a minute and a half into his introduction of Best Movie - Drama nominee Ray before the ovation dies down enough to hear him. People love that little purple dude!

10:00 -- Clint Eastwood wins (most deservingly, in my eyes) Best Director, Motion Picture, for Million Dollar Baby. After a huge standing ovation, he cracks everyone up with an ironically understated, "Well, thanks." He's the man.

10:03 -- Reading the nominees for Best Actor, Movie - Musical or Comedy, Diane Keaton screams Paul Giamatti's name with such unexpected, disturbing passion, I have to pause the TiVo and go take a nap.

10:04 -- Jamie Foxx wins for Ray. The tattoo on the back of his shaved head makes him look like he's replaced Vin Diesel in the sequel to XXX. (Actually, it's Ice Cube who's done that. No, seriously.)

10:05 -- Foxx is so insanely charismatic, and natural, and funny, and even heartbreaking accepting the award, he should win an award for best acceptance of an award. This makes me want to see Ray all the more. Way to upsell, Golden Globes!

10:22 -- With a series of movie clips from some really great movies -- The Fisher King, Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Insomnia, Good Will Hunting, Aladdin (strangely, they leave out Hamlet and Baron Munchausen, but include Jumanji and Bicentennial Man) -- a great deal of goodwill is built up for Robin Williams, who is accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award. Then he does that sign language thing he does, and it's all gone in a shot. I would like Robin Williams so much more, if he didn't insist on being so Robin Williams-y all the time.

10:22 -- But then he takes a shot at Pia Zadora, and all is forgiven.

10:27 -- I love how half the crowd is laughing during his speech, and then the other half -- people like Johnny Depp -- have this frozen, disbelieving smile on their faces, like, "People really think this shit is funny?"

10:34 -- When Leonardo DiCaprio wins Best Actor, Movie - Drama, strangely enough I'm not looking at him so much as at presenter Charlize Theron. When they show her in profile -- damn, girlfriend's got some junk in her trunk!

10:40 -- I think it's unfair they showed scenes from all the nominees for Best TV Series - Drama, but for Comedy, they just show the titles. Gyp!

10:41 -- Desperate Housewives wins. It's a comedy? Adultery, drug abuse, kidnapping, suicide, murder -- comedy? Oh, okay. It's a comedy the same way 24 is a drama. Ah, what do I care, it just means I get to see all the housewives onstage again. Yowza.

10:47 -- Hilary Swank is still with that little weasel Chad Lowe? Not that I am jealous. It's just that most Hollywood marriages, when one partner becomes so very, very much more successful than the other, the marriage doesn't survive. Good for them. (Weasel.) Oh yeah -- good job on winning Best Actress, Movie - Drama. Beating out her biggest competition here, Imelda Staunton for Vera Drake, really makes a second Oscar for Swank more and more believable. Guess she wasn't a one-trick pony after all. Not that I thought she was, even before seeing Million Dollar Baby, but that film sealed the deal. Seriously, that film is so ridiculously great, everyone should see it.

10:55 -- Best Movie - Musical or Comedy: Sideways. Damn, I gotta see that movie! That's the one film from last year I most want to see but haven't yet. Paul Giamatti is awesome.

10:59 -- I am absolutely floored when The Aviator beats Million Dollar Baby for Best Movie - Drama. I thought after Clint and Hilary won, it was a shoo-in. (Shoe-in? How do you spell that?) Guess not. Not that I've seen The Aviator, or have any room to judge it, and not to detract from my love of Martin Scorsese's films, but I really hope this doesn't make the Oscar race a foregone conclusion. Million Dollar Baby deserves it.

11:01 -- Only one minute late, Nicole Kidman calls the evening to a close with a simple "Good night." Here's just one area where the Oscars can learn something from the Golden Globes (in addition to creating separate categories for Dramas and Comedies). Want to bring the ceremony to a close in a timely fashion, yet still give every single award-winner an unlimited time for their acceptance speeches? Cut out all those shitty, shitty, shitty musical numbers and alleged "comedy" bits. Just crank out the awards, baby!

My final conclusion for this, the first ever Golden Globes ceremony I've watched from beginning to end? Eh. I admired the streamlined nature of the show, and the loose, fun-filled atmosphere, but I still couldn't muster up a great deal of giving-a-rat's-ass. The Oscars are longer, more humorless, and more full of hot air, but they have that certain something, that air of importance, that makes me care. It's like the fat-free Oscars -- lighter and healthier, but with none of the guilty pleasure that makes it so delicious.

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

TV: Minute-by-Minute at the 2005 Golden Globes Pre-Show

7:00 -- Live! Everywhere but in the time zone in which it actually occurs! Because we can't have anything nice! It's the Golden Globes Arrival Special!

7:01 -- Host Al Roker makes a bit of a Freudian slip: "This red carpet is like no other in Hollywood, or the world. It's failed with more of your favorite stars than any other awards show." Yes, he said "failed," not "filled." Oopsie! He then says the word "bling" about 87 times in ten seconds.

7:02 -- Nancy O'Dell talks to an unusually, and blessedly, restrained and serious Robin Williams. Michael Chiklis loiters creepily in the background.

7:05 -- William H. Macy resists smacking Lisa Ling in the mouth for being the 8,000th person to ask him, "What's it like being married to a desperate housewife?"

7:06 -- O'Dell talks to Clint Eastwood, whose daughter Kathryn is this year's "Miss Golden Globe," and who could not look more terrified to be there. I'm sure Clint hopes Kathryn has as illustrious a career as her older sister, Alison:

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7:07 -- Sandra Oh is married to Alexander Payne? That may be the most irrelevant thing I have ever been shocked to hear.

7:08 -- Laura Linney appears on my TV screen, and if I had something to say about it, she would never leave. She could be in a little box in the corner, even during, like, Spongebob Squarepants, or the Super Bowl. Good lord she's lovely.

7:08 -- Ling says, "Back to you, Al." He says, "Thanks a lot, Nancy." Oopsie again!

7:09 -- Now it's Marcia Cross. Holy crow she is gorgeous. She and Laura can take turns in the little box. (That sounds strangely dirty.)

7:12 -- Ling says to Emmy Rossum, "You are absolutely love you -- lovely." Lisa Ling likes the ladies! Bomp chicka bow bow!

7:12 -- There's Cate Blanchett. Okay, Laura in the upper left corner of the TV screen, Marcia in the upper right, Cate in the lower left, and a draft pick to be named later in the lower right.

7:14 -- Roker calls Ling "Nancy" again. Seriously, after the first time, nobody could be bothered to correct him?

7:27 -- Aaaaand there's Minnie Driver, who also always needs to be on my TV. You know what? Forget the TV. Bring me those four women! And a flagon of ale! And... maybe an electric pencil sharpener. My last one broke. And two hard boiled eggs!

7:28 -- Ling asks Driver what it was like singing in Phantom of the Opera, and Driver has to inform her that her singing voice was dubbed (except for the song over the end credits). Awkward!

7:33 -- Not to be outdone for awkwardness, O'Dell asks Natalie Portman what her parents thought of her playing a stripper in Closer, and Portman squeamishly answers that her parents are there at the Globes. Way to make them all feel comfortable, Nancy!

7:46 -- Every time I see Charlie Sheen, I always have to wonder: what the hell has happened to the Vez?

7:51 -- Favorite moment so far: Ling introduces Patricia Arquette, "and her fiancee, Thomas." Neglecting to mention that he is in fact actor Thomas Jane. Jane looks comically hurt by the snub.

7:59 -- Roker, O'Dell, and Ling gather to kill the last 30 seconds before the main show. And guess what? Awkward.

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

MOVIES: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset

I like director Richard Linklater, but I had never seen his Before Sunrise or Before Sunset. I rented them both this week, and liked them both a great deal.

I think I would have liked Sunrise even better if I had seen it when it first came out, nine years ago, when I was approximately the age of the characters in the movie. The love it speaks of is a younger love, hopeful and naive and uninformed. The way Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) go their separate ways at the end, trusting in little more than fate to reunite them, rather than the practicalities of phone numbers and addresses, is so foolish only a young romantic would ever consider the idea. But, however foolish, the beauty of Vienna, the sweetness and naturalism of the dialogue, the chemistry between the two leads, made me wish I could go back to a time like that, and have a night like that.

Before Sunset is a wonderful continuation, and a far better film. Nine years later, Jesse and Celine meet again in Paris. This time, the love is more mature, wiser, a love with experience, a love filtered through years of regret and resignation. The time they spend together, and the running time of the film itself (only 80 minutes!), are shorter than the first time around, which raises the stakes, lends a sense of urgency to the proceedings. But the two leads are more reluctant to open up to one another this time, and only under the imminent threat of parting ways again, do they finally say the things that have been filling their hearts for all those years. This is one of the smartest, truest, and most romantic of romantic films I've ever seen. And it ends with two perfect words, acknowledging that something is beginning, but promising nothing beyond that.

Interestingly (to me, at least), Linklater's animated film Waking Life appears to have been disregarded when making Sunset. In that film, Hawke and Delpy appeared as their characters from Sunrise, together in bed, in an apparent long-term relationship. But then, Waking Life was all about lucid dreams -- if Jesse and Celine never met in real life between Sunrise and Sunset, maybe they at least met in a dream.

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Friday, January 14, 2005

TV:24 and Committed, yet again

Writing about 24, Bill Sherman at Pop Culture Gadabout has jarred my memory about something that was bothering me in the first episode this season. Bill writes about how the ep's reference to Michael Moore (a slam against him delivered by Secretary of Defense William Devane) detracted from the show's believability rather than enhancing it.

It bothered me, too, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Bill makes a good point about the show's timeline (as you know, I'm a stickler for television timelines), but that wasn't quite it. Then it suddenly struck me: in the 24 world, George W. Bush was never President!

When the show began in 2001, it was in the middle of the Presidential campaign, which immediately established it as outside our reality. In the following season, we saw Dennis Haysbert had been elected President, and was serving his term during the time when Dubya would've been President. Now, we have Geoff Pierson as President, during what would be Dubya's second term. (If it actually is 2005 in their world, and not 2008 or 2009, as Bill postulates.)

No Dubya means no Fahrenheit 9/11. Which means that Michael Moore's prominence would be greatly diminished from what it is currently in our world, where he is the go-to liberal target for conservative pundits and politicians. Prior to that movie, conservatives were somewhat aware of Moore, but he hadn't become the omnipresent object of all-consuming hatred he is to them now. Devane's knee-jerk snipe against Moore makes no sense in the world 24 has established for itself.

Yes, this is the kind of thing that I think about.

I've also been thinking about: have any of you people who threatened to watch Committed when I was bagging on it gone through with it? An episode was on last night. Have you all become fans of the show? Or do you instead now realize: Tom is always right. We must not question Tom. Make the pain stop, Tom.

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Thursday, January 13, 2005

COMICS: Wed. 1/12/05

Hero Squared: Keith Giffen has always been hit-and-miss with me, more often miss. But I really enjoyed this comic. Maybe it's his pairing with J.M. DeMatteis that elevates it (I don't know, I can't say I'm very familiar with DeMatteis). Or maybe it's because it's an original creation, unburdened with DC continuity. But I liked the characters, I liked the story (even though it sounds exactly like the plot of some movie I can't think of right now -- seriously, isn't there some movie just like this? Hero from another dimension crosses into our dimension to find his non-superpowered counterpart? No? Maybe I dreamed it), I liked the pop culture banter, and I laughed a number of times. (Like at the newspaper headline: "Bush Signs Literacy Bill -- Misspells Name.") The art is enjoyable, but rough; much like Phil Foglio's Girl Genius, it looks like xeroxes were made directly from the pencils, skipping the inking stage. And the cover, by Giffen, is tremendously ugly. It looks like he drew it with his wrong hand while on hold with the cable company.

Shaolin Cowboy: Not much story here, is there? Just beautiful, beautiful carnage. Geof Darrow's artwork is so exquisitely detailed, it took me several minutes to absorb one panel. Of course, it was an eight-page long panel, but still. The more I looked, the more I found to admire. But there's not much to the comic. It sure takes a different tack from all those first issues that are nothing but set-up, set-up, set-up. This drops us right into the middle of a completely unfathomable situation, with bizarre characters, and explains nothing. I liked it.

What If Aunt May Had Died Instead Of Uncle Ben?: A leftover from last week. It escaped my notice that Ed Brubaker had written it. I picked it up this week, and much like the other What Ifs... eh. It was a nice gimmick, framing it as a conversation between comic shop denizens, but the story overall didn't work for me. The circumstances under which Uncle Ben wound up in jail were a little too forced and contrived for me to buy. Just didn't care for it.

The Pulse: Yet another issue in which Jessica Jones bumbles around hysterically, saying, "I have no idea what's going on with this Secret War thing!" Well, neither do we, sister, and guess what? I'm now officially pissed off. This title is dropped. P.S.: The art sucked, too.

Fables: The end of the four-issue holding pattern, which I've actually been enjoying a great deal. A year has passed since Snow gave birth, and we learn there's a seventh baby she didn't know about. Hmm... seven? Seven children, very young, very short... you might even say they're dwarf-like in stature. Funny. Much as I've enjoyed these change-of-pace issues, I'll be glad to see what's going on with Bigby again (hopefully next issue).

The Punisher: Frank gets taken down by Mini-Lee. (Lee, Bruce.) What a revoltin' development. I still don't get what the plane-hijacking has to do with anything. I don't know if I'm missing something, or if it's just the muddled mess it seems to me. Whatever. As long as Nick Fury appears, grousing about the time he's wasting when he could be with his whores, I'm a happy reader.

Marvel Team-Up: I really liked the last issue. This one was a mess. The disparate plot threads are distracting and annoying, not intriguing. I'll stick around for the end of the storyline, but if things don't pick up in those two issues, I'll probably be dropping this title, too.

Haven't read yet: a Dan Slott two-fer, She-Hulk and Spider-Man/Human Torch. I'm really looking forward to the Ty Templeton art in the latter.

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