Monthly Archives: February 2009

Looking Elsewhere

If you can’t get enough of my writing ( I know I can’t) just clink on these links and read some other stuff. These range from band bios and show reviews to rants and  tirades. Good Stuff. You’ll find me in there somewhere.

http://www.tonegazer.com/

http://noiseprints.blogspot.com/

http://www.spooonful.com/

That is all. For Now.

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30 Rock: Television’s Best 22 Minute Commercial

I don’t watch much TV these days, in fact I don’t have TV. But I do have the internet, and that means hours of streaming quality programming like Mad Men, Dexter, The Office, and The Colbert Report. But one show I just don’t get into that often is 30 Rock.

I ask myself why I don’t really embrace this show on a daily basis, trust me. It eats at my very essence like a nagging doubt. Why Charlie? What don’t I get? It’s an Emmy Award winning comedy. It has Tiny Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan. It’s about people whose lives are better and more entertaining than my own. I mean, c’mon. What more does a sitcom need?

Maybe endless McDonald’s ads throughout the episode. Yea. That can only enhance the entertainment.

Give them a statue! Actually, give them a Big Mac.

Let me explain. This is based on my viewing of the Valentine’s Day episode specifically, but it really can be said for the series in general. The show is about a show, and the writers, actors, page’s and moguls who run it. If you need a rundown on things go check out IMDB or something. I don’t have time to explain the ins and outs. Suffice to say Liz (Fey) is the sassy urbanite, Jack (Baldwin) is the villainous boss, Kenneth is the hick from the sticks, and Tracy(Morgan) is the black guy. See what I’m saying-2 dimensional characters at their best. Not even Seinfeld could dumb it down any better.

So we start our Valentine’s Day Episode with Jack the bastard and his current romantic interest, Salma Hayek.

Really? Is she funny or something? Guess how many times her boobs are referenced in the show. It would make for a debilitating drinking game.

And what are our two little love birds doing? Eating McFlurries of course! Because there’s nothing millionaire moguls like better than a tasty treat from McDonald’s.  Now many of you might be saying, so what? What is the problem here? Well, I didn’t even really care until Hayek went into a two minute description of just how deliciouso these McFlurries were.

What are we doing here? We are watching 30 Rock act out a commercial for fucking McDonald’s! That’s what!

People should be in the street protesting this shit. Our favorite shows are being reduced to lame one liners squeezed in between high profile celebrity testimonials for fast food. What is going on here? Let me really lay it out. This is a brief yet accurate transcription of the conversation about McDonald’s.

Jack: These McFlurries are amazing.

Salma Hayek: I know. The soft swirl of vanilla and the hard crunch of candies and cookies. You’d think they would fight each other, but no. They are perfecto. . . .Let a McFlurry be what it is; the world’s greatest desert.

What in God’s name is that dialogue doing in this show? I am slightly offended. Not to mention the McDonald’s bag sitting in the background and both characters basically slurping down their respective McFlurries with hopeless abandon. I actually became ill watching this.

Have you ever had a McFlurry? It’s gross.

Not to also mention that several times throughout the episode the characters of Liz and her romantic interest (Mad Men’s Jon Hamm) are carrying around Netflix envelopes. They talk about all the movies they got, all the movie channels they have, all the magazines they subscribe to. Give me a break!

Is this how TV is going to deal with the fact that no one watches commercials anymore? That everybody DVR’s their favorite shows and fast forwards the bullshit, or just watches it online like me? It has to stop. I want my TV back. Quit hocking your garbage at the screen. Give me something to laugh at.

But wait!

There’s more. Jack and Salma go to church for Valentine’s, since she is very religious. There Jack laments his missed reservation at the poshest restaurant in town and harasses the priest in a confession booth. So Salma tells him how awful he is and tells him to say goodbye to those knockers. Oh boob jokes just get funnier when Hayek tells them.

Then Jack goes to the restaurant alone. He hates it. The great atmosphere, the wonderful food, the pure joy of Valentine’s Day around him is too much. So he heads over to the one place with NO atmosphere at all. Where the sad sacks of the world can rest their weary heads in desperate sadness and swallow their food products in silent torture. He goes to. . .McDonald’s!!

Back at church, Salma gets the collection plate and what’s in it? The most delightful treat any religious institution could get. That which any charitable organization would praise their personal God upon receiving. A coupon from . . McDonald’s!!

The two of them reunite at McShitts where they both order a McFlurry, and (Yay!) all is forgiven. Nothing says love like McDonald’s. Hayek actually says that the coupon was a “sign” presumably from God.  Jack tells her that they were reunited by “the most successful capitalist enterprise of the last hundred years.” And he goes on to compare Ray Kroc (one time McDonald’s CEO) to God.  Now I am all the way offended. By the way, Hayek steals the McDonald’s coupon out of the collection plate. Nice work.

So, yea. There were some good moments between Hamm and Liz. Kenneth the page got to date a blind girl with Tracy as his voice, since Kenneth can’t talk to beautiful blind girls. Hamm’s mom dies only to tell Liz a shocking secret. The blind girl dumps Kenneth, not because he decieved her by using Tracy’s voice, but simply because he WAS’NT HOT ENOUGH! Then basically everything ends without conflict. A typical sitcom wrap up.

Thanks 30 Rock. Now I want a tasty treat. Maybe I’ll go to Burger King.

Now this is how you do Product Placement. . .

Watch it for the great brand name products. Stay for the cowboys vs ninja fight.

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The Little Things

It’s the little things in life that make it all worth while. Like drugged out celebrities bombing on Letterman.  Enjoy.

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FIlms I’ve Watched-IN 3D!!! (Coraline)

So, I will talk about Coraline in a second, but please allow me to rant about the re emergence of 3-D technology in modern film making.

What in God’s name has happened to movies these days? Every animated feature coming out seems to be touted in 3-D, Digital D, Tru-D or Real-D. It’s bizarre. I can’t help but wonder who is responsible for the return of a trend that lived and died so quickly in the 1950’s, only to reemerge and die again every twenty years or so? Are we as a nation so nostalgic for the good old days that we’re willing to embrace a gimmick that will surely fade and die as it did half a century earlier? Are the movie studios so bankrupt of ideas that they are trying to revamp a sluggish market with the old “tried and true” ploys? When will it end? When?coraline-poster

I went to a screening of Coraline in ‘Real D’ yesterday with Annie, partly because it’s based on a novella by Neil Gaiman, partly because it’s directed by Henry Selick, and mostly cause Annie really wanted to. If you scroll down and read my post on Wendy and Lucy (shameless promotion) you’ll see that I generally don’t like movie crowds. And for good reason. But I was willing to stick it out since, ya know…it looked pretty good.

So we get there, get some shades and grab some aisle seats, essential for my movie going experience, try to ignore the blasting commercials for Coke Zero and the endless reminders to turn off you cell phones.

Really. Any society that has to be told three times in a row to be courteous should be ashamed of themselves. You brought on yourselves you thoughtless bastards!

The trailers begin and right here I just want to point out the coolest looking 2D(!) trailer for an animated movie I’ve seen in a long time. It’s for a movie called 9. And you should watch it here. Looks kind of awesome. Even with the silly music.

But the rest of the bunch were duds.

Most of the trailers were also IN 3-D!! (cue loud booming voice) They obviously animated the features around that idea, so we know the production companies are in on it. The 3-D gags were very forced looking and really worried me about what I was immediately going to spend the next hour and a half watching. I was getting kind of a strained-eyeball-aching-pain two trailers in. Could I last an entire feature?

So brings me to my first sigh of relief upon Coraline’s opening, the animation looks wonderful. The opening credits feature a metal claw made of pins disassembling a doll and putting it back together again. It has all of Henry Selick’s hallmarks just in the first two minutes. This is not computer generated, well mostly not, it’s the stop motion animation that Selick has heralded since his animation shorts in the 80’s and early 90’s.

Selick is best known as the Director who constantly gets overshadowed and replaced in the minds of philistines by Tim Burton. Selick directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, a masterpiece of animation and story, but since Burton produced the thing, everyone assumed he was the main man.

We all saw what Burton would have done to Nightmare when he himself directed The Corpse Bride, a wholly unsatisfying and terrible bore from start to finish. Meanwhile Selick has had some recent setbacks himself, as his last feature before this was Monkeybone. Monkeybone people! With Brendan Fraser? Where everything is frickin’ stupid and annoying and Fraser’s, what, in a coma? I think? Chris Kattan? Yikes.

But thankfully, Selick returns to his creepy and atmospheric roots with Coraline. The story is taken from Gaiman’s work, as I said, and is pretty faithful to the plot and characters overall. The weird neighbors and distracted parents give Coraline (the girl) a sense of extreme isolation and odd apprehension. Her new apartment house is a dilapidated mess, she has no children her age save for the owner’s grandchild Wybe, who is kind of a creep, and basically Coraline is too spirited and adventurous to be wasting away in this world.Then stuff starts getting a little weird.

She gets a doll from Wybe that his grandmother owned. Its an exact replication of Coraline. In fact it’s the doll from the opening credits, the one made by the claw of pins, with button eyes.

After losing the doll, she finds it in front of a small door in one of her rooms. Coraline tries to open the door, but it’s locked. The door is  tiny, like a crawl space. It’s also bricked up.

But one night she opens it to find a strange tunnel leading to another world.

coraline-image-11

She does go through the door, and into that other world, one with familiar settings made wonderfully new. Her “other” mother and father greet her in her “other” house. They’re loving and attentive and fun.

They also have buttons for eyes. But they’re fun!

Her “other” neighbors are exciting, successful, entertaining. There’s a jumping mouse circus, and a fantastic garden with live snapdragons and all kinds of crazy shit. It’s great!

Here, we really feel Coraline’s childlike wonder fulfilled and we share in her dreamlike fantasy. When Coraline goes to sleep she wakes up in the real world, so everything seems very innocent and safe about the “other” world.coraline09

This new world seems like a perfect place for Coraline. But there is a subtle menace about this “other” world. Something’s not right.

Coraline ignores the warning signs and keeps going through the door.

And every time she does, the other world gets a little darker and darker. The “other” Wybe for example, doesn’t talk. The other mother made him like this.

She seems to be running this show, darkly ominous and strangely scary.

The other father starts saying curiously threatening things and looking a little disheveled. All this leads Coraline to attempt to escape this other world. She’s figured out it ain’t that cool. Especially when her other parents try to SEW BUTTONS ON HER EYES!! That’s basically all it takes and Coraline is out of there!

I don’t blame her. That looks painful.

It ends up with the other mother as some kind of eye stealing/child killing monster who Coraline has to stop. Her real parents get kidnapped and she has to free them and the dead children’s ghosts from this other world. This is where shit started getting really heavy. The little ones in the audience got a little squeamish and I could hear one telling his daddy he was “a scared.”coraline-and-other-mother

And yea, its pretty scary. Even I was wide eyed, feeling that grimacing  “Get out of the house! Get out of the house!” look the whole final act. But you know, Selick and his crew pulled it off.

The story is great. Natch. It’s Gaiman. The man is pretty good at what he does. Just read my post about Marvel 1602 (shameless promotion).

But this is a rare occurrence where the movie holds it’s own, equal to the original material, simply because it is such a visual experience. The 3-D here was used brilliantly. It created depth from foreground to background and a haunting feel. Only briefly was the effect used as an in-your-face moment. Otherwise, hats off to the whole crew at Laika,the company who made this, and Selick in particular.

This will probably be compared way too much to something like Nightmare Before Christmas, but hopefully people will love it for what it is and appreciate that at least not everything in 3-D is there simply to take your money and run RIGHT AT THE SCREEN!! IN 3-D!!(cue booming voice)

Unfortunately, this movie will only be available in 3-D for a short time, as it will be replaced by the 3-D Jonas Brothers Concert Movie? What the Fuck? I am officially back to hating 3-D.

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Comic Books Are Awesome: Mavel 1602

Let’s talk about Neil Gaiman. The man is one of my favorite writers working today, constantly surprising and always entertaining. I was introduced to Gaiman’s work a few years back when Annie gave me a copy of Good Omens (written with Terry Pratchett) for a gift.  I dived straight in, hooked by the witty dialogue and completely original take on Armageddon. Soon after I began reading most all of Gaiman’s work, then I found out about his comics.

Gaiman is best known as the creative force behind the epic Sandman series, you know, that series that’s won EVERY SINGLE AWARD comics has to offer, plus some.  I read some of that series, and thought it quite exceptional as well, though much darker and more menacing than his novels. But I’m a superhero geek, and with a few exceptions (to be written about later) I really only go for the Marvel and DC kind of stuff. I admire all comics, from Ghost World type fiction to the true crime and spy stuff Bendis originally worked on (save it for next time). But give me the X-Men, Batman, all that stuff any day. I eat that shit right up.

So what I really want to talk about is Marvel 1602, Gaiman’s re imagining of the entire Marvel Universe set 400 years in the past. I really want to bring this up because Gaiman is reuniting with 1602 artist Andy Kubert for a Batman title coming out this month. “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” looks amazing, and with Kubert’s paints and Gaiman’s words, it may very well be the comic event of the year. So let’s look back on their earlier imaginings with Marvel 1602.marvel-1602-cover1

This cover for the hardback Graphic Novel perfectly sets the mood and tone for most of the book. The covers for all eight issues of the series, originally released seperately of course, took on that scratchboard and classic engraving look of many pieces of art from the 1600’s (an effect actually accomplished by artist Scott McKowen), while the panel art is more like a swash of paint and watercolor almost. It has the effect of being at once very life like and very stylized, especially when the superhero shit starts going down.

Gaiman begins with Dr. Stephen Strange and Sir Nicholas Fury, both characters instantly recognizable in this universe, and both major players in the story to come. Both are also in the service of the Queen, as this story naturally takes place in England. Remember, there was no America in 1602, duh.

The queen fears the world is ending, due to strange weather patterns and occurrences, so she enlists Strange as her master of medicines along with Fury, her personal “intelligencer” i.e. her bodyguard and all around ass kicker. Sounds about right. We follow these two throughout the story as they try to determine the causes of all of the disturbances in their world.

We are soon also introduced to the witchbreed, aka mutants. They are persecuted and hunted by the religious leaders of the time. We meet Angel as he is about to be burned at the stake, wings and all. He is sprung at the last minute by the other witchbreed, including Scotius Summerisle, and John (Jean) Grey. Get where this is going?  Most of the other big names in the marvel cannon are also on hand: Daredevil, as a blind minstrel. Spiderman as Peter Parquagh,  a young lad and Fury’s assistant. We hear of the legend of the Fantasticks, who gained powers on a mysterious voyage. And of the dread of Count Otto Von Doom. He’s the bad guy.

Through out the books, there are several plots all leading to one event, many characters interacting and being revealed in wonderful ways, and plenty of action in the classic Marvel sense.  There are assassination attempts, winged warriors, and bizarre visitors from the New World, including a blond Native named Rojhaz. He looks awfully familiar…I can’t put my finger on it, but…440px-1602_captainamerica

Oh. I get it. Nice.

But really, look at that art. I love how every character is rendered in this book. It’s amazing. Just look at these other examples…marvel-1602-collage1

This really is some of my favorite art in any book. The characters are given all those familiar traits and looks, but they seem to naturally fit in the universe regardless. Now, Thor being a God from Norse mythology, you don’t really need to change it up all that much, and Doom’s garb always looked a bit medieval to begin with, but reading the book, it’s never distracting or strange to see these characters pop in and out of the story. Everyone fills a place in the narrative.

Each character contributes to the story is their own way, and the revelations at the end actually sort of make sense. Its a bit of a stretch, with time travel and the space time continuum being ripped to shreds and all that, but I got it. I loved it. I want some more of it?

Well, I am in luck, since this new Batman story looks just as twisted and surreal as the Marvel 1602 series. Here is a loo kat the cover. Color me excited.BM Cv686B ds

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The Trilogy, and How Hollywood Loves to Ruin It

So I didn’t feel like doing shit yesterday. Instead I watched Die Hard, Die hard 2, and Die Hard with a Vengeance. A perfect trilogy in my mind.

Then I got to thinking, wait there is a new Die Hard out there. And it sucks!

Then I got to thinking how so many great trilogies suffer the same fate: some uninspired exec starts thinking, “Hey we made a lot of money on those great movies 10, 20 years ago. Lets do that again!”

So this is a list of some of the best Trilogies Hollywood has offered us in the past 25 years or so, and how they were ruined by the fourth installment.

DIE HARDdie-hard-vs

The original came out in 1988 and revolutionized the action genre. No longer was the hero a super ripped, ultra killing machine. Jon McClane, as immortalized by the amazing chops of Bruce Willis, is a NY cop caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s trapped in a building where terrorists have taken hostages, including his wife. He sneaks around, hunting the bad guys down one at a time and getting all kinds of fucked up in the process. Great action, killer special effects (no CG thank you very much) and perfect doses humor and gore, Die Hard is one for the ages.

It was followed up by Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Die Hard with a Vengeance. Same basic rules apply. McClane kills baddies, makes jokes, smokes cigarettes, repeat. The villains are great, the sidekicks are great, the movies are GREAT.

Then about 12 years later, someone starts thinking, Bruce Willis hasn’t been in an action film for awhile. Sure he does some Unbreakable types and some comedic stuff, but what we really want to see is a bald 50 something blowing shit up. So enters Live Free or Die Hard. By far the stupidest title of the series. LForDH is a jumble of incoherent action, lame one liners and impossible scenarios. Justin Long as the sidekick doesn’t hold a candle to past allies, which included Sam “Bad Mother Fucker” Jackson and Carl Winslow. Carl Winslow people! And Timothy Olyphant is a stilted and unimpressive villain. He doesn’t even compete with Alan Rickman, Jeremy Irons, or even William Sadler. That’s right Sadler, you do that Yoga naked!

The action is totally CG’d making it fake. Not cool, fake. There is a difference.  You know that scene in Die Hard where the roof blows up and the helicopter goes down? It was miniatures! That’s film making. CG comes off as lazy and cheesy. In short, LForDH just doesn’t do it for me. The plot is ridiculous. The action seems lifeless and sometimes I just can’t get over the PG-13 rating.  All that toned down, bleeping out the catchphrase shit kills it. Really kills it.

Lethal Weapon

lethal-weapon-vs

Pitting a crazier that all Hell Mel Gibson with an “I’m too old for this shit” Danny Glover was movie magic about 20 years ago. And even when they threw in an “Ok Ok Ok” Joe Pecsi I didn’t mind. It was Lethal Weapon, and it basically did everything Die Hard did on a broader scale. Lots of action, humor, the works.

Then Lethal Weapon 4 comes along and gets all judo chop on us. Gibson is like a family man, Glover really IS too old for this shit, and freakin’ Jet Li is the bad guy? I like Jet in karate movies, I guess. He’s cool. But him kicking the shit out of Mel Gibson is just kind of weird for me. Just fucking shoot him!

The Karate Kidkarate-kid-vs1

Ralph Macchio is the Karate Kid. Not Hillary Swank. Got it? Good. Moving on.

Alienalien-vs

Yea, Alien was the shit. And then its sequel, Aliens (and yes I know that’s the poster featured and not the original), was even more awesome! It was like Alien on crack. Sigourney Weaver was born to play Ripley, hands down the baddest girl on the block.

Space marines? Yes Please.

Ian Holm AND Lance Henrickson as androids? Thank You.

Jon Hurt with an alien popping out of his chest? Booya!

Even Alien3 had its merits. I know it wasn’t all that great, but it tried to take the story in a new, yet familiar direction. David Fincher gave it his all, and the action was rightly stylized for the picture. Then you had Ripley die at the end, all wrapped up and acceptably satisfying.

So what the fuck was up with Alien Resurrection?

A cast that includes Ron Perlman and Dan Hedaya and Brad Dourif should never be this awful. But it was. It really was. Sorry to all of you, “It wasn’t that bad. Stop whining” people out there. But it was that bad. And I’m not whining. I’M YELLING!!

With so many critics already bashing this shit fest so much I feel I have little to contribute, but I will. You ruined my trilogy Alien Resurrection. For that I will curse you all the days of my life. Curse You!!

You see there is something special about the trilogy. It feels right. Its enough and it can fully explore one story or character through three acts. Or it can serve as a glimpse into three entertaining points in one character’s odyssey. But to “Resurrect” that character pointlessly for obvious financial gain and thus ruin the previous entries in a way that cannot be undone is unforgivable.  Thus…

Indiana Jonesindiana-jones-vs

Fuck you Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. All you did was soil Indy’s rep and spawn the catchphrase “Nuking the Fridge.” And we already had “Jumping the Shark.” You were unnecessary in every way possible. Aliens? Not my Indy. Shia LeBarf? the most laughable sidekick EVER. The killer ants? Kind of funny, but stupid, very stupid. Never speak to me again Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, don’t even look at me.  I hate you.

Ramborambo-vs

First Blood was a great film. It had Stallone doing what he does best, killing dudes and yelling shit out at random. “They drew first blood!” Rambo: First Blood Part Two took it back to the jungle in an iconic film that practically defined action in the 80’s. Rambo III took it to another level. Short of parody, it embodied the lesser aspects of the 80’s action genre, like big poofy Stallone hair.

A Rambo anecdote, if you will permit me:

Once, I was watching a copy of First Blood on Laserdisc. ( I have a laserdisc collection, jealous?) and as soon as it stopped the channel my TV happened to be on started playing the opening SECOND of Rambo: First Blood Part Two. The timing was so exact, I looked at my LD player, thinking it was possessed. I had not planned on watching R:FBPT, but I had to, just had to right then and there. That is how great these movies were.

So along comes Mr. Movie Exec and he’s going, “Hey Stallone’s career just got a jolt from Rocky Balboa. Lets put that overweight has-been back in the jungle for more ethnic cleansing.” And we get Rambo.  Not Rambo 4 or First Blood part whatever, just Rambo. All continuity thrown out the window. And basically they put Rambo in an elite killing group, throw him behind a Gatling gun and say, “have at it.” Yea, it’s bloody and the body count is higher than Stallone’s cholesterol, but its just not the same.

Basically, it comes down to the time and thus quality between films. Five or six year gaps are one thing, but to re-instate a franchise (that had a great run by all accounts) 12, 15, or even 19 years after its wrap up, and making it sub par at best is an abomination. Stop it!

Whats next? Godfather 4? Back to the Future 4? It has to end. Please stop killing off our beloved trilogies with mindless retools and unwarranted sequels. It hurts the head.

-Charlie

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