Saturday, April 30, 2005

MOVIES: Blade: Trinity

Let's get this out of the way: I liked Blade: Trinity. I loved the first two movies in the series, and I thought this third one was plenty fine for a rental. I love Parker Posey a truly unhealthy amount; I think Patton Oswalt is fucking awesome (even though he has, like, three lines in this thing); I think Ryan Reynolds is tremendously entertaining (yes, I even liked him in Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place).

However. I would like now to list some incredibly stupid things about it (as redundant as it may be to point out particular stupid moments in an over-the-top action film about vampires, adapted from a cheesy comic book, starring Jessica Biel).

  • #1: The main bad guy is -- forgive me, I can't put this any more delicately -- a pussy. A total great big puss. The movie tells you that he's the original vampire (Dracula himself -- although they refer to him for most of the film as "Drake". They want to have it both ways -- "We're plundering Stoker's creation, but we're changing some details because we're totally original!" Which is incredibly stupid in and of itself. But let's not get sidetracked here), that he's the baddest, most awesomest vampire who ever vampired. And yet, the first time he meets Blade: he runs away. He runs like Jenny was yelling "Run, Dracula, run!" He hardly even fights first; he just grabs one of Blade's sidekicks and uses him as a human shield for a minute -- which is a major league pussy move -- and then he jumps out a window and runs like his tailfeathers were on fire. How the hell can you accept the alleged ultimate adversary of the film as a legitimate threat when in his very first confrontation with Blade, he makes like Brave Sir Robin: "When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled."


  • #2: Drake is a shape-changer; as Patton Oswalt explains, he "probably has thousands of tiny bones in his body, sort of like a snake". (Whatever.) When Blade meets him in the scene described above, Drake first appears in the form of Dr. Vance, a human who works for the vampires, whom Blade has come to kill. This is kind of expanding on the whole "pussy" theme, but why even bother taking the form of someone else when A) Blade wants to kill that someone else, and B) you're just going to run away anyway? Why not just run before Blade even gets there? Because the script requires he issue some empty threats first? Stupid.

  • #3: Later, Drake goes to the hideout of the "Nightstalkers" (Blade's lame-ass support team, which pretty much exists only to get killed in a scene just like this one) in disguise as Whistler, Blade's mentor (played by Kris Kristofferson), who was blown up, sir! earlier in the film. The thing is, Whistler has cascading locks of grey hair and a flowing grey beard, while Drake is clean-shaven with close-cropped hair. And the "thousands of tiny bones" Drake has can change the color and length of his hair -- how, again? Dude, if it's magic, just fucking say it's magic. Don't give us a half-assed scientific rationale for his shape-changing abilities and then contradict it fifteen minutes later.

  • #4: Of all the disguises in the world to take, why Whistler?? As Ryan Reynolds says upon seeing him, "You're dead, dude!" How does taking the form of a dead man assist in the stealthy infiltration of your enemy's stronghold? "Hey everybody, watch out for that vampire who can change shape. Oh, look, here's a guy who died a week ago. Let him in, there's nothing suspicious about that." In fact, why take a disguise at all? Drake kills everyone there (everyone he wants to kill, anyway) in about ten seconds. If he went in without a disguise, was he worried it would take him fifteen seconds?

And yet, I would recommend this film as a worthwhile action/horror rental. Just be prepared to take it with a grain of stupid.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Who's critiquing the critics?

I can understand if Roger Ebert doesn't care for the movie The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I can understand if he's never felt the need to read any of the Hitchhiker books. But this line in his review, I do not understand. This line causes me pain:

"The movie does not inspire me to learn lots more about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide, The Salmon of Doubt, The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, and so on."

Is he trying to irritate the fans? Is he being deliberately obtuse? Or can he not muster the ability to do even the most rudimentary of research on the subject?

I'm not one of the obsessives who cares whether or not their particular favorite line from the book is included in the film. I'm not that invested in the whole thing. I'll probably see the film, but if I don't, that's fine, too. But come on, Ebert! You're a journalist, man. One who presumably has access to the internet. Here, look how easy it is:

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide is a compendium, not a separate entry in the series.

The Salmon of Doubt is a posthumously-published "cornucopia" of Adams' essays, letters, and other short pieces, including chapters from an unfinished Dirk Gently novel.

The Long Dark Tea-Time [note the hyphen, Ebert! Couldn't be bothered even to get the title right, I guess] of the Soul is again Dirk Gently, not Hitchhiker-related.

You don't have to be a fan, Ebert, but at least have the courtesy to not insult and belittle those who are fans by deeming the entire subject unworthy of even the simplest, most fundamental of research.

And in case you feel I may be misinterpreting Ebert, that he was talking about Adams' entire bibliography, not just the Hitchhiker books, the line above directly follows up on an earlier suggestion that some novices to Adams will "understand that a familiarity with the books is necessary, read one or* more of the Hitchhiker books, return to the movie, appreciate it more, and eventually be absorbed into the legion of Adams admirers." (Emphasis mine.)

EDIT: That used to read, "one of more of the Hitchhiker books". That typo was copied directly from the Ebert review. Damn, not only does Ebert need a factchecker, he also needs a proofreader.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

TV: 24

I've been getting caught up on my TiVoed programs, so I'm a little late on this, but I had to say:

There has not been, nor will there be, a scene on TV this year as spectacularly, riotously, transcendently awesome as Chloe mowing down a terrorist with an AK-47 on this week's 24.

That is all.

COMICS: Wed. 4/27/05 cont.

The Punisher: Well, this issue succeeded in exactly what was lacking in the previous one: it established Nicky Cavallo as both an interesting (if deeply, deeply disturbed) character, and as a worthy adversary for Frank Castle. Now I actually care about seeing the conflict between the two of them. In fact, I was so into the story, it didn't even occur to me until I was done that the Punisher doesn't make an appearance. Very nice, Ennis.

The New Avengers: Not so nice, Bendis. Talking about Young Avengers last week, I noted the way they wanted to have it both ways: allegedly kids-friendly, yet still sexually suggestive. This comic is much the same, what with everybody being naked and all. Sure, it's mostly covered up, and played for laughs -- but hey, kids, if you look hard, you can see a little bit of Spider-Woman's ass! Speaking of whom -- her takedown of Wolverine was just ridiculous. Who thinks Spider-Woman could beat up Wolverine? Let's take a vote. Okay, that's 49% "no way," 49% "who cares," and 2% "apple fritter." What the? My point is, Bendis wants to make the case for having Jessica Drew on the team, so he has her whipping the roughest, toughest guy around with little to no effort. She tosses him like a rag doll, and then plunges his own claws into his throat. Isn't she super-cool?? I call bullshit. Didn't Wolverine used to be, like, strong? And fast? And a supremely good fighter? And not prone to leaving his claws out when they're being driven into himself? It's fanboy-level writing: Spider-Woman can beat Wolverine because I said so!

Of course, complaining about the results of a Spider-Woman/Wolverine fight is worse than fanboy-level blogging, so I'll stop now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

COMICS: Wed. 4/27/05

Very small purchase today -- only four comics.

Invincible #0: A fifty cent promo issue, which promised to both introduce new readers to the series, and give new material connecting issues 22 and 23 to current readers. Which amounts to twelve pulse-pounding pages of -- recap. Yay? The connection between 22 and 23 is that the recap takes the form of Mark telling the story of his superhero career to his girlfriend, who just found out his secret identity. Eh. Then again, what the hell was I expecting, for four bits?

Supreme Power: It's very hard not to think of Watchmen upon reading the connecting sequence in this issue, involving the disassembly of a watch. But the comparison stops there, as Supreme Power uses the watch to craft a clumsy, inept, ham-fisted comparison to "The Deconstruction of Mark Milton" (which happens to be the story's title). "You take away the parts that protect the main mechanism, that keep it steady.... But once you understand how to take them apart, slowly and carefully... you can then put them together any way you want. Then... you own it." Jesus Christ! We get it! Mark's the watch!! God, would you quit it, now? I always think I'm going to drop this title, but I keep picking it up. Maybe if there hadn't only been three other comics I was buying this week, I wouldn't have felt the need to get it.

The New Avengers: Speaking of comics I always think I'm going to drop.... Haven't read it, yet.

The Punisher: Also haven't read yet. Just wanted to get a post in before the trivia contest tonight.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

TV: Potpourri

After recently ripping on Showtime, I now regret that I don't have it, because I'd love to see the new musical version of Reefer Madness, starring Kristen Bell. I have it on excellent authority* that it is, and I quote, fucking funny. Unquote.

Speaking of little Ms. Bell, tonight we're down to the last three episodes of the fantastic Veronica Mars. Which means all hell is gonna be busting loose. Creator Rob Thomas has promised that the identity of the person who drugged and raped Veronica will be revealed in the next episode, and of course, the killer of Lilly Kane will be revealed the week after that, in the season (but not series!) finale. This is good stuff, peoples! If you've been missing it this year, be sure to tune it in next season. And get the DVD, whenever it comes out.

Speaking of DVDs, I have pre-ordered Scrubs season 1, which will be released May 17. (And which will be shipping with The Complete Peanuts 1955-1956. Don't even try to contact me the week of the 17th; I will be sealed in a cocoon of Amazon-delivered goodness.) Scrubs, of course, is the best sitcom on network television not named Arrested Development, and, it's starting to look like, the only one of the two that will be back next year. Arrested's season (and possibly series!) finale was every bit as brilliant as I've come to expect, still stubbornly delivering humor that credits the audience with intelligence and the ability to remember things that happened longer than ten minutes ago. The fools! Pander, if you want to live! Pander like there's no tomorrow!!

And don't forget (as thought I would let you) that the week after the Scrubs DVD becomes available, the complete 1st and 2nd seasons of NewsRadio will also arrive on disc. I mean, it's only one of the greatest sitcoms ever. No reason to get excited about that, I'm sure. (Hoopla!!)

Speaking of which (not really, but everything has flowed so nicely to this point, I didn't want to ruin it), how about that last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise? What a strange, bold move, to set the entire episode in the Mirror Universe with the evil Enterprise crew, never once looking in on the "good" Enterprise! Hell, they even changed the credits to evil! (And if evil means no Diane Warren-penned theme songs, sign me up!) If this show had been throwing creatively inspired curveballs like this for the past couple seasons, maybe this one wouldn't be its last.

*Hi, Catherine.

Monday, April 25, 2005

COMICS: Wed. 4/20/05 cont.

Finally read all my comics! Just in time to be completely irrelevant!

Young Avengers: This book has a lot of potential -- it's almost there, but it keeps falling just short of enjoyable. A few too many implausible character choices, a few too many sudden, jarring, unexplained scene changes or fast forwards that detract from coherent storytelling. Nice touch this issue: Ant-Girl's (or whatever they're calling her) clothes stretch to accommodate her new 30-foot-tall size (with a few strategic rips here and there, of course), presumably to protect her modesty and keep the comic kids-friendly, yet her nipples are still prominently and lovingly rendered, straining against the fabric as she lies unconscious. Way to have it both ways, Marvel!

The Walking Dead: Well, that was a misleading cover. I think I'm going to have to keep this issue handy in the future; the character profile pages at the back of the book are invaluable.

Invincible: Too much jibber-jabber getting in the way of the action. Kirkman notes in the letters pages that he intentionally overwrote this issue, trying to make the reading experience as dense as possible. I certainly don't enjoy those too-streamlined comics that take a minute and a half to read, but this is going a little too far in the opposite direction. If you're going to have a dialogue-heavy issue, at least make it interesting dialogue, not panel after panel of the least essential character whining about her love life.

Klarion: Pretty to look at; the colors look like chalk drawings, which I thought was nifty. Still having a hard time caring at all about Klarion, the frickin' Witch Boy, even if it is Grant Morrison writing. Is the "Grundy" term (referring to the zombie laborers) a Morrison invention? Or has Klarion always been connected to Solomon Grundy?

JLA: Classified: Some fun moments, especially between Guy Gardner and Power Girl, but this was mostly a lot of wheel-spinning.

Detonator: Another good issue. I just enjoy seeing Mike Baron on a regular writing gig. Looks like he's got another series in the works, and that's not even counting the Badger revival scheduled for later this year.

Powers: Looks like some excellent stuff is going to happen with Deena next issue, but this issue, this whole storyline, has suffered from not having a reason to care even in the slightest about the people involved in the criminal case.

Hate: The Weekly World News Adventures of Bat-Boy strips collected at the back of the issue were more entertaining than the main Buddy Bradley story. That's a shame.

Ex Machina: Dude. That was messed up. So, why did the alien technology have such a positive effect on Mayor Hundred, but such a negative effect on everyone else who encounters it? Ah, no matter. Good, creepy, grisly stuff. I enjoyed the political and character moments at the end of the issue, too. And the last page, with Hundred answering the reporter's question of whether he was gay by asking if he could come into her apartment, then shutting the door behind him -- I'm sure it will be more clearly spelled out next issue, but for right now, I enjoy the ambiguity of it. It could either be seen as: Yeah, the Mayor's gonna get some! Or as: Maybe the Mayor's going to confess his sexual identity to her, and the door closing in the reader's face is meant to convey it's none of our business, and shouldn't really make a difference as to how we think of him.

Runaways: This book has gone from an enjoyable afterthought to one of my absolute favorites. I've been loving every page of the reboot, and I hope it's catching on with other readers as well. The art is fantastic, the characters are well-crafted and engaging, the stories and dialogue are a blast of fun. I loved how the meeting between the Runaways and the ex-superheroes didn't devolve into the usual dumb punch-em-up -- until Chase, true to character, opened fire without thinking; I loved how Karolina's first instinct was to flirt with the ex-Power Pack girl; I loved Victor's correcting Gert when she called her pet dino a raptor. I love this book. Can you tell?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

COMICS: Wed. 4/20/05

I am uninspired today. I've already half-written and abandoned two posts because they bored me. And if they bored me, they would be no picnic for you, I'm sure.

So, for the sake of posting something, here's a list of the assload of comics I bought today (yes, today; I was too busy to go to the shop yesterday) but have not yet read.

Invincible: Lovin' it.
The Walking Dead: I just reread the first TPB of this series, and it's just great. But as much as I'm still enjoying the new issues, the longer it goes on, the more the immediacy and novelty of the first issues wears off.
JLA: Classified: More wacky fun with dead characters!
Klarion: Man, does this look crappy. Klarion, the Witch Boy?? Ugh. If it weren't written by Grant Morrison, I wouldn't touch this with a ten-meter cattle prod. But he'll make it work, I'm sure.
Runaways: Lovin' it.
Powers: I think this was supposed to come out last week, but the comics shop got shorted on the shipment. Or I bought it twice.
Mike Baron's Detonator: I'm amazed a non-Badger or Nexus Mike Baron comic has made it to issue 3. Not exactly his best work, but even at his worst Baron is more readable than all but a handful of other writers.
Hate Annual: Hopefully Bagge's been saving up his good stuff for this, because if Sweatshop and Apocalypse Nerd are the best he can do now... yikes.
Ex Machina: Lovin' it.
Young Avengers: I was borderline on picking up this book, because I already had so damn many in my hands. Double digits is a lot for me. But I decided to check out one more issue. I did, however, put back the new Fantastic Four. I loved the Waid/Wieringo run, but can't muster up any interest in the new creative team.

Also picked up two trade paperbacks:

Legend of Grimjack: Volume 2: I think this is a far better introduction to the greatness of the character for a new reader than either Volume 1, which reprinted all the Grimjack back-up stories from Starslayer, or the new Killer Instinct mini-series, which is great but not, I think, the ideal jumping-on spot. Volume 2 collects the first issues after Grimjack graduated to his own book, and they're great from page one.

The Essential The Incredible Hulk: Volume 3: The best of the dumb green Hulk era is represented here, including the great Harlan Ellison story, which introduced us to Jarella's world. Mike was half-proud, half-ashamed that he instantly recalled the title of that story: "The Brute That Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom!" (I remembered it, too. What can I say? Ellison rules! And I love the Hulk!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

TOYS: The Twisted Land of Oz

This is a first-time category for me, but I just had to take note of this thing, from Todd's Toys (found via a comment by "Trouble Consultant" at Dave's Long Box):

Image hosted by

That's Dorothy. Yes, that Dorothy.


What the fuck is wrong with Todd McFarlane?

It may be hard to see, but loving detail has been put into the way her breasts are smooshed by that bondage strap, with the tops kind of bulging out over it. And -- is that a burn mark on her hip?? Has she... she has! She's been branded!! (Note the orange-glowing branding iron held by the creature behind her. Is that supposed to be a Munchkin??)

I am not usually one to pass judgment on this sort of thing, but if any of you actually owns this toy, I think it is entirely possible you are going to burn in hell.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

TV: Dead Like Me

Just in time for its cancellation, I've started getting into the DVDs for the first season of Showtime's Dead Like Me, a weird and funny show about death.

Ellen Muth plays George, who is killed in the first episode by a toilet seat falling from a disintegrating Russian space station. (I didn't think they had toilet seats in zero-g bathrooms, but whatever.) But her death is just the beginning, as she finds herself forced into service as a Grim Reaper, under the genial but strict guidance of Rube, played by Mandy Patinkin. George and her fellow Reapers are given vague notices each morning about the time and location of that day's scheduled deaths, and they must then determine who's going to die (they only get a first initial and last name to work with), and extract that person's soul before death (to prevent their suffering during their last moments).

George spends a lot of time rebelling against her new responsibilities. For one thing, she keeps spying on, and occasionally interacting with, her family from her old life, which is forbidden. For another, she thinks the whole death business is unfair, and keeps shirking her duties, or trying to find loopholes, which invariably makes things much worse.

It's a very interesting premise, bolstered by excellent acting. Muth is perfect as a slacker who slowly begins to appreciate and experience life as an undead person more fully than she ever did while alive. Patinkin is also great, kind and friendly while still being tough as nails. Jasmine Guy is another Reaper; it takes some getting used to seeing her in this role -- she uses language that would have appalled Whitley!

The religious aspects of the afterlife are downplayed on the show, which is fine with me. Each dead person chooses their own destination, whether it be a carnival or the cliffs of Dover. And the deaths are caused not by any god, or even fate, but by malevolent-looking creatures called Gravelings. Each episode reveals some new facet of the way death works, which is a mystery even to Rube, the leader of George's group of Reapers. He receives his orders from an unknown and unexplored source (unexplored in the episodes I've seen so far, anyway). But George's inquisitiveness about -- and resistance to -- death's workings awakens a certain curiosity in Rube as well.

It's a shame it only got two seasons. And probably a mistake for Showtime. Dead Like Me feels like a flagship program, one a network can point to as an example of the best they have to offer, one that has the highest potential of attracting new viewers. What else does Showtime have that equals its quality and prestige? The L-Word? Huff? Fat Actress? I don't think so. Dead Like Me was the closest thing Showtime had to a reason I might want to sign up for the channel. By dropping it, and by failing to pick up the brilliant Sucker Free City as a series, Showtime instead looks like a floundering network, one that has no idea how to attract new viewers, nor serve the ones it's already got.

Side note: I find it interesting that the episodes of Dead Like Me are as short as broadcast network programs (minus commercials) -- 40 minutes or so. I know Stargate was the same way. On the other hand, HBO's shows fill the hour (sometimes going over, even), whether it be Carnivale or Deadwood or The Sopranos. It's obvious Showtime makes room for commercials, with an eye on possible syndication on the non-premium channels (which certainly turned into a goldmine with Stargate), which in my mind hamstrings the full potential of a premium channel program, whereas HBO (despite the surprise success of Sex and the City in syndication) has only one goal -- to make the best show for the audience they have now.

Monday, April 18, 2005

META: Weird hits from Google Image Search

I have been getting literally thousands of hits from Google Image Search for the photo in this entry. Over 200 so far just today. I don't want to post the photo again, or even say the name of the person in the photo, because, while it's good to get lots of hits, this is really weirding me out.

I can not for the life of me figure out why this is happening. Doing a Google Image Search myself, I don't find my blog to be very high on any of the likeliest of terms to lead people to that image. And let's face it, the person depicted is not exactly high profile enough to generate so many searches. It's a puzzle, but one that's making me increasingly uneasy. For no good reason, really; I'm not paying for the bandwidth, so I shouldn't really care if anyone is stealing it, if that's what's happening. Anyway. I'm changing the HTML tag for that picture, and seeing what happens.

Also, the images on this post are the #2 and #3 Google Image searches leading to TTDYKWIL? I'm changing them, too.

Anyone else ever experience something like this? Any advice, or answers?

TV: Potpourri

Smallville returns after a long hiatus, and hits us with one of the oldest sci-fi cliches in the book: the evil twin. But, much like the equally-cliched mind-swapping story earlier this season (that's swapping, as in the one with Clark & Lionel, not possession, as in the lame Lana/witch ones), it was still pretty entertaining, primarily due to the acting. You can tell Michael Rosenbaum is having a lot more fun playing Lex as straight-up evil, rather than his typical earnest-but-squirrelly. And the bad Lionel is back! Ah, it was only a matter of time. Good stuff.

I tell you what I'm sick of, though: everybody who keeps getting knocked unconscious just before Clark demonstrates his powers. Happened to both Chloe (even though she actually knows about his powers) and good-twin Lex this episode. Jesus, they should all be permanently brain damaged from all that blacking out. Despite what you may have seen on Gilligan's Island, it does not take a tap on the head with a coconut to render someone unconscious. It takes serious cranial trauma. (Back me up on this, Scott!) Which every character on the show seems to suffer on a monthly, if not weekly, basis. If I lived in Smallville, I'd wear a frickin' helmet, 24/7.

Oh, by the way -- possible spoiler -- I see that lists Jensen Ackles, "Jason Teague" on the show, as being a castmember for "2004-2005". Do they know something we don't know? I mean, I assumed, or at least hoped, he wouldn't be back next year, but IMDb seems to be stating it as a certainty. Interesting.

Damnation if 24 isn't great this season. I got burned out with it in season two, and totally tuned out season three, but this year has been non-stop thrilling, with no Kim Bauer (the dumbest character in the history of television) to gum up the works. (Although Audrey is working on my last nerve.)

And these past two weeks have been amazing. They blew up Air Force One! Damn! I did not expect that plan to succeed. (And it wouldn't have, if only Jack Bauer had been on the plane -- he would've tortured that missile into submission!) Perhaps I should have, because, as Fred Hembeck noted (April 11th entry), the fact that we finally spent some character-developing time with the President was a dead giveaway: "in hour 16, he FINALLY gets a little personal time with a heretofore unseen and unmentioned son--and if I'd had ANY doubts up to that point, that little touchy-feely moment absolutely sealed his fate." Of course, the next episode revealed that the President survived the attack, just barely, but he'll most likely be out of the picture for the rest of the season.

So, is that guy in the red hood on last week's Joan of Arcadia supposed to be the devil? Or a servant of the devil, as Joan is a servant of god? I mean, they played "Sympathy for the Devil" not once, but twice during the episode. That's subtle. But, if he's the bad guy, why did he save Adam?

This show had a very weak first half of the season, but it's gotten mostly back on track -- just in time for the season finale this week -- although I'm not wild about the Adam being a two-timing dick storyline. So Adam sleeps with another girl, and then everyone -- Joan included -- decides that Joan was partly to blame, because she wasn't there enough for him? I mean, she was only doing the bidding of the supreme being, but whatever. Anyway: I don't think so, Adam. If there's a problem, you either work it out or break it off, you don't use it as justification for cheating. Nice moral lesson you're imparting to the young viewers, there: if your man screws around on you, it's your fault.

Also, Joan's mother is supposed to feel bad because she didn't forgive the guy who raped her before he died? That's crap. Actually, the more I think about it, the angrier I'm getting at this show. Maybe it isn't getting better. Grr! I'm fickle!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

BOOKS: The flying cliches

The crew of seven from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron was a tight-knit but sundry lot. Major Larry "Montana" Fletcher was from the beaches of Southern California -- the steady, all-American leader type with blond hair, a close shave and a square, dependable jaw. The copilot was ex-Lieutenant Colonel Lee "Southpaw" Barnes, a crusty and foul-mouthed veteran with hangover stubble and a footlocker of vintage Playboys who had been demoted for moral turpitude so unsettling that the Air Force conveniently lost all records. His job was to repeatedly tell Montana he "couldn't fly for shit." The flight engineer was Milton "Bananas" Foster, the highly excitable yet gifted mechanical wizard. Marilyn Sebastian was the plucky aerial reconnaissance officer, as tough as any man, but every bit a woman. The navigator was Pepe Miguelito, the forlorn youth with a pencil mustache and unending girl troubles. The weather officer was "Tiny" Baxter, the massive country boy from Oklahoma with simple but strong values. The instrument operator was William "The Truth" Honeycutt, a former all-services bantamweight champion....

Baxter silently double- and triple-checked his weather charts with drafting tools. Pepe Miguelito's lip quivered as he read another Dear John letter.

"I got a baaaaaaad feeling about this mission," said Milton "Bananas" Foster. Then he began crying. "We're all gonna die!"

Marilyn Sebastian shook Foster by the collar. "Be a man!" She slapped him, then kissed him hard.

Back in the cargo hold, Honeycutt skipped rope in his boxing trunks.

--Tim Dorsey, Hammerhead Ranch Motel

Friday, April 15, 2005

Speaking of the Batman movies...

Terrible confession: my favorite of the last four Batman movies is Batman Forever.

I know! I know! Frickin' Joel Schumacher sucks ass!! You think I don't know that?? And yet... I still liked this one better than either of the Tim Burton films (which I think have not aged well at all). (We shan't even mention the fourth film. Shan't!)

I really liked Val Kilmer's performance as Bruce Wayne; he's the best of the Bat-actors. I think Nicole Kidman is smokin' hot, the best of the Bat-babes; very cool and sly and sexy in her mostly thankless arm-candy-in-peril role. I think Jim Carrey is at his over-the-top best. I think Tommy Lee Jones... uh... was very good in The Fugitive....

I liked the development of Batman's character. "You have a thing for bats?" "That's a Rorschach, Mr. Wayne." That one moment between Kilmer and Kidman is more cleverly revelatory about Batman's psyche than the other three movies combined. I liked that Batman wasn't a mad-dog killer, the way he was in Burton's films; it's hard to identify with or admire a superhero who kills as many people as his enemies do. (Especially in the first film, when he has the Batmobile drop a bomb in the middle of all the Joker's henchmen -- that's cold-blooded, dude.) I didn't especially care for Chris O'Donnell, or Robin, but how could you not love the line, "Holey rusted metal, Batman"?

I just plain liked it. So there.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

MOVIES: Batman Begins

Just wondering: does anyone care about Batman Begins? Because I'm not feelin' it at all. No excitement, no anticipation, no nothing. I just don't give a rat's ass.

It's not that I expect it to be bad, really (although the previews have yet to give me a reason to think it's going to be good). I think Christopher Nolan is a fine director, I like most of the cast, especially Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine (who seems like acting overkill for the role of Alfred, but whatever), I like the character of Batman, but this movie... eh. I can take it or leave it. Probably leave it.

I saw a billboard advertising the movie on the way back from lunch today, and I thought, "Oh, yeah, that thing. Huh." It's just not occupying any part of my mind. It doesn't have the feeling of an event, of a must-see experience; it's just there. I wonder if this is a build-up of immunity to hype on my part, or the cumulative effect of all the recent superhero movies, or just that the movie simply looks boring.

I mean, Revenge of the Sith -- I know it will be bad. Just fucking awful. Just like the last two movies. With Lucas writing and directing -- there is literally no chance that it will be good. And yet some part of me still cares. But Batman Begins -- nope, don't care.

Am I alone on this in the comics blogging world? Or do you just not care, too?


Veronica Mars is only four episodes away from the reveal of Lilly Kane's murderer in the season finale. Wow, a show with an ongoing mystery that will actually provide a timely resolution. (As opposed to, oh, I don't know, Twin Peaks? The X-Files?) What a novel concept.

Even better reward for loyal viewers: a second season has been confirmed. This show keeps on delivering the goods. This week's episode had the surprising but plausible development of Veronica's father dating her best friend Wallace's mother, it had a very nice, low-key performance from guest star Joey Lauren Adams as the new journalism teacher (although the other guest star, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, as an ATF agent -- not so much. This week, JTT, last week, Zachery Ty Bryan... at least that means there's only one more damn kid from Home Improvement they can cast), they finally gave a reason for why the previous journalism teacher, played by Sydney Tamiia Poitier, disappeared (got "knocked up," which must be code for, "she was boring and useless and the show is better off without her"), and best of all, there was the kiss. Logan and Veronica, bitter enemies at season's beginning, now so hot for each other Veronica's forgetting all about Deputy Boyfriend. That won't lead to any trouble, I'm sure. You had to see it coming, but at the same time, it was done so well it didn't matter. This kind of makes me suspect Logan as the killer all the more, despite the fact that Veronica believes he has an airtight alibi; how much more painful would it be for her to find out her best friend's killer is someone she's possibly going to get involved with? Frankly, though, I kind of hope it's Weevil. That character needs to go, and this would be an excellent excuse to get rid of him next year.

Perhaps you will be relieved to know that I was unable to watch Stacked, as I threatened to do, because it was up against two other TiVoed shows, Smallville and Lost. If I had known Lost was going to be a repeat, I probably would've recorded Stacked instead. So maybe things worked out for the best. Also, it's about frickin' time Smallville came back with some new episodes. It feels like it's been two months.

In comics news, so far I've read:

Flaming Carrot Comics: Feels like it was written ten years ago, with its constant references to political correctness and incorrectness. And the art still looks way too rushed and sketchy in places. But it had enough weird, goofy laughs to keep me entertained.

Iron Man: Love the art. Much heavier on the action than the jibber-jabber this issue, which is good; while I've been enjoying Ellis' dialogue, it's about time Iron Man finally met the bad guy. I really like how the fight scene is presented. When doling out sound effects in comics (HAMD! DUSCHK! SWAG!), in my mind it's always better to err on the side of less, and I don't think this comic has any. Which is just swell.

Hoax: This was an impulse purchase, an anthology comic of five... "underground"? "Alternative"? I don't know how they want to be described. Non-mainstream, how's that? (Better than, "five chumps I've never heard of.") -- five short pieces from five non-mainstream cartoonists. I picked it up because of the interesting cover, kind of a hopscotch-grid of panels woven all over the place, different panels drawn by the five different artists, presenting different scenes which intersect at several points. Inside, the content was hit-and-miss in quality. My favorite would have to be the Hunter S. Thompson-style, autobiographical journalism piece about a failed rally against the WTO in Savannah; the closing piece of the comic is also very striking, examining cannibalism in the animal kingdom, then transposing those habits onto human characters. But none of the five works were flat-out bad, or uninteresting. I think I'll be checking out the next issue as well.

Still to read: Fables.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

COMICS: As in too goddam many

I went spelunking through the darker recesses of my closets yesterday trying to find my back issues of Rust.

I did not find the comics I was looking for, but I did find that I have -- this is still mind-boggling to me -- I have SIXTEEN long boxes full of comics. (Very disorganized long boxes.) And enough unbagged recent issues lying around to fill at least one more.

JESUS H. PARTICULAR CHRIST. I knew I had a lot of frickin' comics, but that is still an uncomfortable surprise.

I need to get my long boxes organized. I need to sell a lot of comics, perhaps via eBay. I need to possibly cast a more critical eye on the way I live my life.

Mostly I need to not feel pressure to post at this blog while I get this shiznit straightened out. If I am lax about posting over the next week, please forgive me. Perhaps you will continue to support my blog my making Google searches containing the word "dog". Note to those who have arrived here searching for posts about dogs: HA! I never, ever, EVER post about dogs!! The word "dog" is in my blog's name! That is the extent of dog-related content on my blog! Though this information is too late for you, as you have already given me your precious, precious, but oh-so-futile canine-seeking hit. SUCKER!!

Peace out, dog. HA! That's more hits for me!!


Sometimes I think I think about brains a little too much.

But then I think: brains.

Monday, April 11, 2005

TV: Fox's new sitcoms

So, I've seen a couple of episodes of Life on a Stick, and I've come to a conclusion that most of you likely arrived at without having to watch a single minute: it pretty much sucks. But I'm kind of fascinated by the way it sucks.

The lead "actor", Zachary Knighton, couldn't be stiffer if he were shellacked. He appears to be reading every single line from a cue card, and having to pronounce the words phonetically. It's hypnotic to watch him work, and wonder how he ever got an acting job, or how his character ever got such a hot girlfriend. His buddy, Charlie Finn, has a similarly awkward, stilted delivery, but somehow puts a spin on it that makes it clear his performance is intentionally quirky (which actually works for him), while Knighton's is just plain bad. Then there's the girlfriend, Rachelle Lefevre, who, there's no way of getting around it, is smokin' hot. Almost unbearably so. Seriously. Hot. As a comedic actress? She's nice to look at. Very flat delivery that only gets worse when she's interacting with Knighton.

Then there's Knighton's younger sister, played by Saige Thompson. Her character thinks, and the show whole-heartedly agrees, that she is plain-looking at best, if not downright unattractive. The problem here is: she's actually quite lovely, by any standards but those in the Life on a Stick world. Because of Lefevre, and Amy Yasbeck, who plays her mother, the implication is that if you're not tall with curly and/or voluminous red hair, you are dog meat. Thompson is of medium height, with flat dishwater blonde hair. Which makes her ugly, apparently. It's disturbing the way her TV family agrees with her when she derides herself as unpretty: the brother will offer sympathy, rather than disagree, or the mom will immodestly make reference to her own gorgeous appearance. This is the kind of thing that could mess a young actress up in later years. Just ask Tracey Gold.

The new Pamela Anderson sitcom Stacked (get it?? It's the name of the bookstore, but it also means Pamela Anderson has big boobs!! And she'll show them to you for a shiny new nickel!!) actually looked briefly interesting to me when I saw who else was in it: Christopher Lloyd, and Tom Everett Scott, whom I've liked ever since his film debut in That Thing You Do!, which is an underrated comedy classic, and I'm not afraid to say it! Maybe, I thought, if those two were involved, there might be some semblance of quality to the project.

Well, from the commercials they've been running, it's clear Lloyd just wants to get paid (it was foolish of me ever to have thought otherwise); I wouldn't be surprised if he were demanding a paycheck after every scene. And Tom Everett Scott is... gone. In the earliest promos, he was there. In the newer ones, he ain't. It's some other dude. He's been replaced! They actually replaced the one potentially good thing about the show. It's a funny place, Hollywood.

Will I still watch when it debuts Wednesday? At least an episode or two, I think. Don't look at me like that! Jesus, we've already established I've been watching Life on a Stick! How high could my standards possibly be?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

TV: Eyes

I've seen two episodes of Eyes so far, and almost 100% of why I want to keep watching can be summed up in two words: Tim Daly. He has an incredibly easy-going, sly, humorous, totally winning charisma in his role as the owner of a big, fancy P.I. firm that (you will be surprised to hear) doesn't always play by the rules!!

The problem is that every other castmember (with the possible exception of Laura Leighton) seems to think they're on a completely different show. Tim Daly is playing light comedy, with a touch of romance, while everyone else is playing gritty crime drama.

It's not really the fault of the actors; the show is written that way. Tim Daly is saying things like, "That's totally awesome!" with boyish glee, and flirting with Leighton, while the employees at his firm are having affairs with their best friend's wife, or recovering from mental breakdowns, or secretly working for the competition to bring ruin to Daly and his firm, or even shooting their co-workers in the head. (That one turned out to be just a flesh wound, but still.) There's a great deal of darkness and unlikability grafted on what should be a very light and likable show. It doesn't really work both ways, and Daly is showing which way is the best way.

Eyes is still worth watching for Daly, especially when he's with Leighton (they seem to have a great deal of fun playing off one another), and A.J. Langer (who most people know from My So-Called Life, but who I became a fan of from It's Like, You Know). Everyone else needs to lighten the heck up!

Friday, April 08, 2005

META: Search terms

I've often made light of how many hits I get from searches for "Misty May's butt" or "Misty May's ass." (And that should get me even more.) It amuses me. It makes me go like this: ha ha ha. But it's been a long time since I've actually researched just how many hits those terms have been bringing me. So today, I researched.

I am the #1 Google hit for "Misty May's butt."

And "Misty May's ass."


I would continue to be amused by this as well (ha ha ha), if the #2 hit weren't so very, very disturbing. I hesitate at linking to it, but I must give you this entry, complete with comments, as an example. Warning: the comments will make you want to pour acid in your eyes and your ears; they will make you wish you had Scanners powers that could explode the heads of all those responsible for such filthy, demented insanity.

They will also make you laugh. Assuming you are as sick and twisted as I am. Enjoy!

COMICS: Wed. 4/6/05 cont.

Running down my list of comics purchases yesterday, I left out The Punisher. I always forget one.

Speaking of: good issue, mostly. Best bit is Frank's advice to a soon-to-be-dead gangbanger who held his gun sideways (you know, like the cool kids do): "They put the sights on the top for a reason." Except the issue relied a little too much on knowledge of previous storylines. I don't really look for a great deal of continuity in my Punisher comics. In fact, I frown upon it. I slightly maybe kinda remember Nicky, from the Micro story a year or so ago; I guess his previous escape from Frank is what's supposed to really sting about his violation of the bodies of Frank's family this issue. But if I don't remember Nicky (and for all intents and purposes I don't), then that extra emotional kick doesn't work. Also, who's the woman in jail? Am I supposed to recognize her, too? One more thing: the point of Nicky's plan is to make Frank... what? More angry? More violent? Frank Castle is the angriest, violent-est person in the world to begin with. Trying to make him go to 11 -- #1, that's a dumb plan, and #2, Frank is already at such a raging extreme, there's nowhere left for Ennis to take the character which would make a "this time it's personal" vendetta dramatically affecting, or even plausible. I mean, he's the frickin' Punisher. It's always personal.

The Incredible Hulk: Felt like the story hit a speed bump this issue. The flashback moments, with young Bruce Banner possibly getting involved in some Heathers-style school bombing, were interesting -- as long as they don't turn out to be some kind of false memories. The rest of it was dragging. There were some neat bits, like Banner finally figuring out something goofy is going on because of his ability to dodge Wolverine's attack, but mostly it was more: "Look, everyone's in on some conspiracy! Do you care yet?" Answer: no. And the ending, with Banner in an asylum, was a pretty lame twist, a blatantly false one at that, sure to be reversed in the opening pages of next issue. I really wish I were enjoying Peter David's return to the Hulk a little more.

Y: The Last Man: This was a mostly fun issue, although you kind of have to question Vaughan's decision to have 355 -- a character who's been pretty well established as being in love with Yorick, despite her denials this issue -- go for some lesbian sexin' with Dr. Mann, just because she's bored and horny. That's a fairly implausible development, I think, especially for a character whose emotions are so tightly controlled. I did like Yorick's interactions with the captain, especially his total obliviousness to her interest in him.

Zatanna: My least favorite of the Seven Soldiers comics so far. With the majority of it told in flashback, it's already lacking in dramatic urgency, then with the majority of the flashback taking place on the mystical plane, or whatever, I just felt myself tuning out. When the characters are going on about the geography of the magic realm, or the rational explanations for its existence, here is what I'm reading: "bzz bzz bzz bzz bzz bzz bzz." Nothing but static. And having the main character begin the story stripped of her powers is another uninvolving choice. I know, Zatanna is a long, long-standing character in the DC Universe, and we should all be deeply aware of and in love with her rich background, and her loss of powers should be significant because of blah. But this is a new story, this is ground zero, this is where new readers need to be grabbed. Having Zatanna lose her powers during the course of the story might have been interesting. But having her start out powerless, and talk about how she lost her powers -- not interesting. I was completely bored with this comic.

Oh, and I haven't read The Walking Dead yet, but don't you fear, I'm sure I'll find something in it to bitch about, too.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

COMICS: Wed. 4/6/05

Quick comics post, to keep up my comic blogosphere cred, yo.

I picked up JLA: Classified, the first issue of the current "Super-Buddies" storyline, which I had neglected to get two months ago, or whenever it came out. The new comics I got were Great Lakes Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, The Walking Dead, Y: The Last Man, Zatanna, and... I think that's it.

The only ones I've read so far are the JLA, which is funny and enjoyable but, as I'm not the first to point out, also a little creepy, what with the Sue Dibny and the Blue Beetle and the killing and the Crises and the pudding pops; and GLA, which I also enjoyed, but which was not quite what I was expecting. I don't know what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. I kind of thought I would recognize one of the main characters, but I surely did not. (I'm not especially well-versed in my ultra-obscure Marvel characters. There goes my cred, yo!) It starts with the wacky talking squirrel and the breaking of the fourth wall, with "Squirrel Girl" directly addressing the reader, and I though I was in for a really goofy romp of a comic. Then it took a sharp turn into violence and darkness, which caught me off guard. I think these characters are a little too obscure and weird and pathetic for the bleaker moments of the comic to really work, either straight or as dark humor, but I still found enough of the comic interesting and original enough to want to come back for more.

Second update to come later today, depending on whether I actually get around to reading my other comics or not.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

BOOKS: Florida Roadkill

Well, I finished Tim Dorsey's Florida Roadkill, fulfilling my prediction as to which of the many books I was reading I would finish first.

It's an excellent beach/airplane-type read. Lots of fun, wacky, and often violent stuff happening up and down Florida, involving drug-running, the insurance industry, fishing, the world's most incompetent motorcycle gang, the 1997 World Series (won by the Florida Marlins), and five million dollars. If you've read Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, or even Dave Barry's novels, you pretty much know what to expect, and whether or not you're going to like it. I liked it a lot.

This is Dorsey's first novel, in which he introduces us to recurring character Serge A. Storms, Florida history buff and insane criminal. The strange thing is, in this novel Serge meets traveling companions Coleman and Sharon, both of whom die before the end. Yet both of them also appear in Dorsey's fourth novel, Triggerfish Twist, which I read a year or two ago. It doesn't seem like the timeline would allow for the events of the fourth book to happen while Serge, Coleman, and Sharon are offstage in the first book, but perhaps that is better left for Dorsey scholars to calculate.

Funny thing about this book: it ends on a cliffhanger. This is Dorsey's first book. And he's ending it with a "To Be Continued." That takes some balls. Outside of the fantasy/sci-fi world, in which every first book is the first of a series, I can't think of many authors who have pulled this kind of crap. Whatever -- it worked, I'm hooked. I'm now reading the continuation, Hammerhead Ranch Motel, and loving it, too.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

MOVIES: Sin City

Fourth in a series of reviews from the ACAPCWOVCCAOE! Collect them all!*

I saw Sin City last night with Dorian, Mike, and Ian. As Dorian notes in his post, he probably had the most negative reaction to the film. I probably had the most positive, but I still had a number of reservations.

None of them were about the look of the film. I thought every frame was gorgeous. (Especially those frames containing Carla Gugino. She makes me go like this: grrRROWwll.) Yesterday I talked about how little I cared for a film entirely dependent on CGI. Sin City was shot in much the same way as Sky Captain, yet the CGI had me enthralled. Possibly because the film was mimicking the feel of a comic book, so that the unreality of the backgrounds seemed appropriate; possibly because there was plenty else to keep my attention aside from the CGI. I know Dorian and Mike both disliked the sequences in which the characters turned into pure white silhouettes against pure black backgrounds. I disagree; I thought those scenes were strikingly effective, so strange and different and interesting to see onscreen, as opposed to the printed page.

I think Mike and Dorian also equally disliked Mickey Rourke's makeup job as Marv, with Dorian disliking the actor beneath the makeup even more. I thought the makeup more than did its job of creating a cartoonishly disfigured palooka. And Rourke's performance was great; he's got more of a reputation these days as a Zalman King has-been and a weirdo who quit acting for a while to be a boxer, but look back on his career and you'll see some tremendous performances: The Pope of Greenwich Village, Diner, Year of the Dragon, Barfly, even Angel Heart. He can act, when he wants to, and he wants to here. He's maybe not quite as physically imposing as the comic book Marv, but he's as good a match as you're likely to find. He really sells Marv's crazy rage combined with his pathetic loneliness. He's an unstoppable wall of violence; he's a hangdog loser. Marv's "The Hard Goodbye" was my favorite of the film's three storylines.

But my favorite moment is in "The Big Fat Kill." It's the scene in the car between Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro. Roger Ebert reveals that this is the scene for which Quentin Tarantino got his "Special Guest Director" credit. It's so twisted and funny and sick and brilliant, it makes me wish Tarantino had directed the whole thing. It's got more spark and life than any other scene. I wonder if Tarantino is the one who suggested Del Toro speak in two different registers?

I note how much more alive that scene is, because much of the rest of the film, despite its wonderfully brutal action scenes, is a little too flat, a little too stoically hard-boiled. Throughout the entire "Big Fat Kill" segment, Owen, Del Toro, Brittany Murphy, and Rosario Dawson bring a bigger-than-life energy that's lacking elsewhere. Dawson's orgasmic delight at gunning down some bad guys, with her eyes blazing and her mouth wide open and laughing maniacally, is a thrill to behold.

On the other end of the spectrum is Bruce Willis, who stars in my least favorite of the three storylines, "That Yellow Bastard." I like Willis a lot, but he doesn't show a single speck of his humor, which usually lightens his delivery when he's playing serious roles. He goes way beyond noir, way beyond deadpan, into simply dead, totally lifeless and unappealing. Dude, when Michael Madsen is livelier than you are, you are making the wrong acting choice. And I've never liked Jessica Alba, although I will say she looks mighty good twirling a lasso. There is a great moment in this segment, with corrupt senator Powers Boothe lording it over a bedridden Willis -- I've come to greatly appreciate Boothe from his dangerously, leeringly sadistic role on Deadwood, and he lives up to that level of intensity in Sin City. Nick Stahl is also very good here, disgustingly, poisonously evil. This segment also has the most sickening moment of violence, in which Willis removes the Yellow Bastard's "weapon". I'm still cringing!

The pacing of the film also troubled me. It sometimes hopped from moment to moment like a reader rapidly scanning panel after panel in a comic book, without slowing down enough to allow actors to develop their characters, or to allow beats in between the hard-boiled voiceovers (wonderfully written as they may have been) and the next scene of overwhelming violence. I often wished I had more time to take in the visuals, or that the actors had more room to deliver their terrific lines of dialogue.

Still, despite my reservations, my overall reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I loved the look, obviously, including the eye-catching spot-coloring, which popped off the screen the same way it pops off the page. I loved the writing; even the weakest moments of the film are propped up by Frank Miller's witty, gritty words. With a couple of exceptions (Willis, Alba, the jarringly out-of-place Josh Hartnett, who appears only in the opening and closing scenes, thankfully, and Gilmore Girls' Alexis Bledel, who's in way over her head), the cast is great, highlighted by the ones who weren't afraid to go over the top, like Rourke and most of the "Big Fat Kill" actors. It didn't quite meet my unrealistic expectations, but I'd still pay to see it again.

*Well, if you're not going to use that joke, Ian, then I am!

Monday, April 04, 2005

MOVIES: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

I rented Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow last week, the movie where nearly everything but the actors is computer generated. Of the recent CGI-dependent movies, the Lord of the Rings films are at the very top, with CGI that enhances the story and the characters, and the Star Wars prequels are at the very bottom, with nothing to recommend them but the CGI. Sky Captain tries hard, but it still falls toward the lower end of that spectrum, I'd have to say.

Sky Captain is crafted like a long-lost 1930s adventure serial -- one with the biggest budget of all time, but still. The actors play the part as best they can, alternating between non-ironic heroic/romantic grandiosity and screwball banter, and the look of the film plays its part, too; it's in color, but tending toward a washed-out sepia tone, as though the film stock were evaporating color on its way to becoming black & white. And it worked for me, for about a half an hour. Then it just got tiresome. There were a few images that surprised or impressed me, but CGI tends not to hold my interest if there's nothing else to back it up, and Sky Captain has literally nothing else, save the actors.

It's a fine bunch of actors: Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and especially Giovanni Ribisi in a smallish but spirited role. But the story doesn't serve them well. The characters are all but blanks. Law's Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan is unimpressive; he's a fine actor, but I don't think he has the larger-than-life presence required here. And Paltrow's Polly Perkins is just an obnoxious pain in the ass. Her alleged moxie is supposed to make her endearing, I guess, but she just comes across as dumb, selfish, and shrill. She gets saddled with a running gag about how many pictures are left on her camera (which leads to a "wah-waahhh!" final joke) that despite never working is driven just mercilessly into the ground. She's horrible to Sullivan, while supposedly being in love with him; we later find out that they have a history of being horrible to each other: while previously involved, Sullivan spent three months cheating on her with Jolie's character, while Perkins eventually sabotaged a fuel line on his plane, leading directly to his interment in a prison camp for 11 months. Oh, those crazy kids! By which I mean, what a couple of unlikeable shits.

I was going to quibble a bit about the timeline. The fact that Perkins sits in on a screening of The Wizard of Oz at Radio City Music Hall would place the film in 1939, 1940 at the latest, but her later reference to "World War I" is then out of place -- I'm almost positive in 1939 they were still calling it "The Great War," since the U.S. had yet to join what would become known as World War II. But... it seems a little silly to pick on details like that in a movie with flying robots.

I see what the director was trying to achieve here, and I think he almost got it. It's tremendously creative visually, and the retro style almost holds it all together. But the visuals can't shoulder the entire burden, and with an uninvolving story that leaps from setpiece to setpiece without ever stopping to make sense, or even to breathe, coupled with mostly unpleasant or uninteresting characters, the film eventually collapses.

TV: Kojak

Spoilers ahead for the premiere.

When Monk first premiered on the USA network, it was instantly a buzzworthy critical and ratings success. Now, USA tries to duplicate the magic of that debut with an updated version of Kojak, with Ving Rhames in the title role. I watched the two-hour pilot movie, and it's very clear: they failed. Unless they were intentionally trying to duplicate the Monk of this past year, rather than its first year: bad writing, lame mysteries, almost entirely unwatchable but for the compelling lead actor. In which case: congratulations!

Here is how awful the writing on the new Kojak is. The pilot opens with a punk being interrogated by two nobody cops, but they can't get anything out of him. Then in strides Kojak. He orders the other cops out of the room. He makes a big show out of removing all the bullets but one from his revolver. He slams the punk's head into the table. He puts the gun to the punk's head, and pulls the trigger -- click! The punk freaks out, but still won't break -- "They'll kill me!" Kojak pulls the trigger again -- click! It's just too much; the punk cracks and gives up everything he knows. Kojak retrieves the bullets he removed from his gun -- only to reveal the one bullet that was supposed to be in his gun was actually concealed in his hand! How very sneaky!!

Count the cliches. I mean, this is such a stupid, ridiculous, hackneyed cop show device, the movie Starsky & Hutch has a scene spoofing it, in which the suspect is aware of the trick because he's seen it on so damn many cop shows. That should've been the last time we ever had to see that scenario. The fact that Kojak uses it demonstrates either massive laziness and ignorance on the part of the writers (very likely), or great faith in Rhames to sell the scene (also likely). Problem is, Rhames can't sell it. No one can. It's like trying to play seriously a scene in which someone says, "The butler did it!" It's been cliched to death.

And that's the first five minutes. It doesn't get better.

The show tries to update Kojak in all the wrong ways; they want a Vic Mackey more than a Theo Kojak. The murders Kojak is investigating are grisly and cruel beyond reason: the killer targets prostitutes with children, and kills the women by stuffing their mouths full of razor blades, taping their mouths shut, and letting them suffocate and drown on their own blood. Nice. I know cable networks have more leeway than the broadcast networks, but I think the first responsibility with their original programming should be to up the ante in quality, rather than the gross-out factor. I'm not saying they shouldn't feel free to be more violent or sexier than their lower-channel counterparts -- more sexy violence, that's my motto! I'm just saying, maybe you should work on some of the rest of your show before you work on the killer's M.O. It seems to me more thought and creativity was put into the method of killing than any other aspect of the show, which is a little creepy.

And to match the more violent murders, they make Kojak more violent as well. First there's that interrogation scene right at the top, which shows Kojak doesn't always play by the rules! Then there's a confrontation at the end with a cop gone bad; Kojak can't expose him as bad, or he'll invalidate all the cop's arrests, so he gives the cop's information to the father of the woman the cop killed, and lets the father hunt down and kill the cop. Aside from the fact that the original Kojak would never do something like that (which really should have no bearing here; it's not like I'm a slavish fan to the original. I'm just sayin'), I didn't believe that this Kojak would do something like that, either. I didn't buy Rhames as someone so weak, he wouldn't be able to arrest a murderous cop, nor that he would allow someone else to take the responsibility out of his hands, nor that he would turn a blind eye to a revenge killing. Weak and amoral, that's our new Kojak. Hooray?

The writing fails in a number of other key moments as well. In the first hour, Kojak has a meeting with sexy D.A. Roselyn Sanchez at a restaurant; she kisses him without hesitation, then finds that he's cancelling their dinner date. The implication is that these two have been dating for a while. In the second hour, she comes over to his apartment (where he's watching the children of one of the murdered prostitutes -- yes, he cares, dammit!), and they kiss, then they go on to make a big deal about whether that counts as their first kiss. Their first kiss? What the? So that earlier kiss at the restaurant was platonic? Do D.A.s always kiss cops on the mouth when they meet outside the office? Does -- oh, I've stopped caring. It's just badly written.

Then there's the killer -- or killers, actually. The main killer is caught about ten minutes into the second hour. At first I thought the guy was going to escape, which would take up the remainder of the running time. But nope, he was locked up good and tight. So then I thought, okay, there's another bad guy. And I instantly knew it was that one over-eager, shifty-looking cop. The writing was so clumsy and unsubtle, and his acting telegraphed it so blatantly, you just knew he was bad right off the bat. And then, when we know why he's bad, we have to suffer through forty minutes of him all but screaming, It's me! I did it! Guilty! When the police return to the scene of the one murder the first killer didn't commit, a neighbor of the murdered woman tells one cop that she heard loud music coming from the woman's apartment at the time of her death -- Nelly, in fact. Cue bad cop walking by just then; when he hears the name Nelly, he sings a lyric from one of his songs. Wow. That's just awful.

I'd like to apologize to the directing right now; I've spent all this time talking about how terrible the writing was, without once mentioning how bad you were, too. I'm sorry.

All you need to know about how wretched the direction is in this pilot episode is that the overriding visual style is unnecessary slow motion. In almost every single scene, the camera will zip in for a close-up, and the film will slow to a crawl. Not just for a couple seconds -- for long stretches of time. Done once or twice, that might have been an unusual, but effective, choice. Done EVERY FRICKIN' SCENE, it's unbearable.

It's a shame. I kind of wanted to like this show. Ving Rhames is awesome, of course, and Chazz Palminteri (as Kojak's ex-partner and current boss) is also generally very good, though he didn't have much to do here. But at least now I can cross one show permanently off my TiVo schedule.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Contest Link

I've lazy and cranky today, so just a quick update to help get the word out about a contest being run by Logan Polk over at House of the Ded. He's giving away two (2) copies of Rob Vollmar and Pablo G. Callejo's Bluesman Book One, both copies signed by Vollmar. All you've gotta do is send him an email! Deadline is April 30. Good luck!

Also, I've been asked to mention a contest at, in which bundles of horror/monster comics and related prizes are being given out every Saturday for the month of April. To enter, you must register at Whether you want to register or not, you might as well take a look at the prizes being offered. Seems pretty generous.

Off to be lazy and cranky some more. Hey, did you know Daylight Savings Time starts at 2AM tonight? That means I lose an hour in which to be lazy. Which only makes me all the crankier.

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