Thursday, December 20, 2007

To Boldly Go...

Hey there, Trekkies, er...Trekkers? Trekketeers! has a nice article about original online entertainment that gives Star Trek: The Continuing Mission a good mention. Check it out.

Also, remember: Episode one comes out Christmas Day. That's, like, soon! It's the greatest Christmas present you'll receive this year, because it contains the smooth vocal stylings of yours truly.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Worst Coincidence Of 2007

Warning: The following story contains a spoiler (a rather obvious one) for the movie I Am Legend. So if you have the need to watch that movie unspoiled do not continue reading.

My friend Kelly went to see I Am Legend a couple nights ago. In the movie, Will Smith's only companion is his German Shepherd, Samantha.

Kelly happens to have a German Shepherd named Samantha. So while she watched the movie, it was like her dog was up there on the screen.

Then the inevitable moment comes when Samantha sacrifices herself to save Will Smith's life. Samantha starts to turn into a vampire dog, and Will Smith strangles her to death in his arms. It's one of the movie's more effecting scenes. Needless to say, Kelly felt it just a little bit more.

After the movie Kelly got a call from her parents. They said she needed to come home.
When she got there she found out that her dog, Samantha, had died.


Merry Christmas, everyone!

Favorite Music Of 2007 - Part 2

In random order the list continues.
I should also clarify: these are my favorite albums and artists of the year, and not necessarily my favorite songs from them. The videos were chosen from what was available.

Nick Lowe - At My Age
Track: "I Trained Her To Love Me"

They Might Be Giants - The Else
Track: "I'm Impressed"

Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
Track: "Imitosis"

Mark Ronson - Version
Track: "Oh My God" (feat. Lily Allen)

Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova - Once soundtrack
Track: "Falling Slowly"

Beirut - Lon Gisland EP
Track: "Elephant Gun"

!!! - Myth Takes
Track: "Yadnus"

Fountains Of Wayne - Traffic And Weather
Track: "Someone To Love"

Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
Track: "Tears Dry On Their Own"

Mika - Life In Cartoon Motion
Track: Relax, Take It Easy

That's all!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Favorite Music Of 2007 - Part 1

It's the time of year for lists.
In no particular order, here is the first crop:

St. Vincent - Marry Me
Track: "Jesus Saves, I Spend"

Nellie McKay - Obligatory Villagers
Track: "Mother Of Pearl"

I may have mentioned her recently.

Anoushka Shankar & Karsh Kale - Breathing Under Water
Track: "Ghost Story"

Mavis Staples - We'll Never Turn Back
Track: "Eyes On The Prize"

Junior Senior - Hey Hey My My Yo Yo
Track: "Take My Time"

Radiohead - In Rainbows
Track: "Jigsaw Falling Into Place"

Battles - Mirrored
Track: "Atlus"

Gogol Bordello - Super Taranta!
Track: "Wonderlust King"

Robbie Fulks - Revenge!
Track: "Cigarette State"

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Track: "Neon Bible"

Simple Kid - 2
Track: "Seretonin"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why So Serious?

Bone and I went to see I Am Legend in Knoxville's brand new Imax theater at the Pinnacle last night. You should all go see it. Not for I Am Legend (it's mediocre), but for the five minute preview of The Dark Knight.
If you liked Batman Begins this preview will blow you away. I can not wait for this movie to come out.

The official non-Imax trailer is online now, and is also very necessary viewing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nellie McKay

I caught an interview with Nellie McKay on Fresh Air over Thanksgiving weekend. I'd heard of her before but had never really heard her music. Based on what she played on the air during the interview I became hooked. Her originality and sense of humor is infectious. I accidentally deleted the podcast from my iTunes, and now I'm kicking myself because I wanted to rip her songs from it.

Tonight I picked up her new album, Obligatory Villagers. I am blown away. Her solo live performances on Fresh Air were great in their own right, but I was not prepared for the production quality on the album. The music is scored like a classic Hollywood movie or Broadway musical. Some of the songs feel very much like musical theater in tone. She is backed up by a variety of different instrumentation and vocal choruses.
The album is brief with nine tracks, coming in around thirty minutes. But it is packed with variety, and every song is a winner. Sample some of them on her site, here. She's also touring with Aimee Mann right now. Damn, if you get a chance to see that do not pass it up.

Here's a live performance of "Zombie", the last track off of Obligatory Villagers:

That's some goofy shit.

I have a new crush.

Movie Night 13

1. Vendetta: A Christmas Story episodes 1 & 2 -
This is the story of an agency on a mission to track down Santa Claus, and silence him once and for all. It's low budget and kinda stupid, which is why I like it.

Watch them here.

2. Bad Santa (2003) -
This is one of my favorite Christmas movies. It's sick and it's very very funny, and has some fantastically crazy dialog. John Ritter gives his last film performance before his death in this one, and it's also one of his best. It also has my favorite kid in a movie ever.

3. Toys (1992) -
This is one of my childhood favorites. It's a wonderful story about joy and innocence winning out against cynicism and violence. The art design is unique and wonderful, and gives the film a timeless look. I love the soundtrack and over-the-top performances.
I first came to love this movie back when I still thought Robin Williams was extremely funny. I don't care for him so much now that I've matured, but fortunately his performance is surprisingly low key. He still has the same kind of zaniness he's famous for, but it's tempered with a genuine sweetness that usually doesn't come through his wall of manic, ego-fueled desperation.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

From Hero...To Zero


I thought I'd rip open the ol' Heroes wound again, now that the season finale has aired. I give the show four out of five on the meh-o-meter. The show took a lot of time to accomplish exactly nothing. No characters were expanded in any significant way, none of the new characters did anything noteworthy, none of the various and sundry plot threads were engaging.

I never cared about Maya and Alejandro. Their deaths in the last episode had zero impact on me. Their story arch was easily the weakest of the season, never connecting to the main story at all.
For this same reason Sylar was rendered completely pointless. Were we supposed to be frightened that he was going to see Doctor Suresh when he no longer had his powers? I certainly wasn't. And since there is nothing in his character to identify with either, he is an impotent character. Sylar spends so much time laying down the creepy vibe it's a wonder no one around him ever suspects him of being dangerous. It just gets harder and harder to believe that people can trust a guy who consistently has this expression:

Come on, that guy is clearly a supervillain. At the very least, a date rapist.

As for Nikki's apparent death, I give another resounding "meh". Even if she is dead (don't believe it till you see a body), I never really connected to her character. The whole split personality thing was one of my least favorite aspects of season one, but that's really all the character had going for her. Take that away and you have another pointless character. So, let her be dead.

Nathan's death...hmmmm. Again, we never actually see him die. Remember, things didn't look so good for him at the end of season one, either. Besides, any death on this show is no longer meaningful as displayed by Noah Bennet's death and resurrection. As long as Claire is alive and full of sweet, delicious super-blood, no one has to die ever again. Hooray!

Claire's plot thread with flyboy Clark West was an unbearably mawkish, WB-infused affair. I was really hoping immediately after the character's introduction it would be revealed that West worked for The Company. Leave teenage super-romance to Smallville, and quit wasting my time.

It was so nice to see Noah and Claire united at the beginning of the season. I liked Noah's transformation throughout season one from sleazy bad guy to dedicated family man. But immediately in season two both Claire and Noah find reasons to start lying once again, and all the previous character development is for naught. However, Noah did get to have some genuinely cool scenes this time around, particularly when he's kicking Kristin Bell's ass. Although, did anyone else notice that after he neutralizes her with water, when it comes time for the hostage exchange she's completely dry and he's just holding her by the arm? I'm just saying.

Hero finally got back to the future (nyuck) and did some heroing. Peter tossed him around for a while (a bit too easily in my opinion), but he finally took care of Adam. Adam was never an interesting villain to me. He really only succeeded by using other people (first Mr. Nightmare, then Peter). Mr. Nightmare, I think, had much greater potential for super-villainy than Adam. The scene where he ensnared Parkman and Nathan in a nightmare and made them fight each other was one of the season's few great moments. Nothing Adam did ever got to that level. Sure, his plan to release a super-virus is diabolical, but not necessarily thrilling in execution or fun to watch.
I'll admit the scene where he and Peter are busting into the secret basement at Primatech was pretty awesome, but over too quickly. This series, in both seasons, has a rather annoying habit of skimping on the action. I'm thinking of Peter and Sylar's climactic showdown in the flash forward episode in the first season. Most of it happens off screen. This is a show about people with super powers. Where are the epic battles for crying out loud?

Here's my geekiest complaint about the season. It's concerning Peter's Irish girlfriend trapped in the virus apocalypse future. So, Peter keeps saying he needs to stop the virus from being released so he can save her from that fate. Well stop me if I'm wrong, but if he changes the future that she's stuck in, won't she vanish along with it? That's common time travel paradox knowledge.

I know the finale was changed and rushed because of the writer's strike, but I still figured it would be somewhat satisfying. Instead, they just crammed as many shocking moments in as they could. Give us something that turns the Heroes world on its ear, not just promises that next season will be more of the same. I had no reaction to Nathan's assassination attempt at all, because by that time I had completely switched off. By the end of the episode I was no longer interested in this world.

And the Volume 3 teaser? Ugh. Slyar injects himself, force grabs an empty spinach can, and says, "I'm back." It's so tired, and ripped straight from the final shot of X-Men 3.
You know what would have been better? Sylar injects himself, says, "I'm strong to the finish," force grabs the can, "'Cause I eats me spinach." The end.
If you're gonna make a Popeye reference for your big season ending cliff-hanger, then don't beat around the bush. At least I can laugh instead of just rolling my eyes so hard the retinas detach.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Movie Night 12

I'm posting this really late, because movie night was late this week.
But tomorrow it's back on track at the usual time.

Do-do-doo do-dooo. Christmas time is here!

1. Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1977) -
This is one of my all time childhood favorites, by Jim Henson. I grew up on this stuff. I think we had a copy on Betamax that we had recorded off the television.
It was practically forgotten until they released it on DVD a couple years ago.
The story is simple, and has a touch o' the O'Henry. A young otter lives with his mother, each of them doing odd jobs to keep food on the table. When they learn of a Christmas talent show with a $50 prize, each of them secretly sacrifices something of the other's in order to enter. There's a moral at the end and blah, blah, blah.

At fifty minutes, I believe it was the longest movie Henson had done up to this point (it originally aired on HBO). This movie is incredibly charming despite the dated techniques. You can even see some of the fishing line in some shots, holding some of the puppets up. For me it just adds to the feeling of homeyness (I can't believe homeyness isn't red-flagged by spellchecker). But Henson and his crew's skill is still evident in many ways, that would only become better and better in later projects.
The soundtrack is fantastic. It's a great mix of various original folk songs by Paul Williams, with one rock song thrown in to boot.

The DVD even has some surprisingly good features, considering how obscure this movie has become. It includes a blooper real and an old documentary featuring interviews with many of the people involved in the movie.
I recommend picking this movie up, wholeheartedly.


2. Tokyo Godfathers (2003) -
You wouldn't think an anime about three homeless people in Tokyo who find an abandoned baby would make for a good Christmas movie, but you'd be wrong. Tokyo Godfathers is one of Satoshi Kon's excellent anime films (if you're not familiar with his work, you'll likely be seeing it in future Movie Night installments).

It follows three homeless - a teenage runaway, a down-on-his-luck homosexual drag queen, and a man whose gambling debts broke up his family - after they discover a baby girl in the trash, and try to figure out what to do with it. Despite this premise, the movie is surprisingly wholesome. Maybe not appropriate for very young children (there are some derogatory names slung at the gay man, and some scenes of violent cruelty), but the story turns out to be fairly heartwarming. The darker edges of the movie only make the happier moments shine that much brighter.

The three main characters each have quite a bit of depth. Each of their stories is slowly revealed throughout the course of the movie, giving them believable motivations for keeping the baby longer than expected, and for living on the streets to begin with. This movie is yet another example of how far behind American animation is as an art form. Japanese animation is capable of emotional depth that American animation wouldn't touch with Pinocchio's ten-foot-long nose.

Basically this movie is about a Christmas miracle. Do yourself a favor and track it down for the holidays. I sincerely doubt you'll be disappointed, whatever your taste in movies happens to be.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sorry, Internet

Here's another great writer's strike video, created by writers of the Daily Show.
This one features a great cameo by David Cross!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fashion Faux Pas

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.
Tonight I made the mistake of accidentally flipping to Project Runway on Bravo. This show is seriously addictive. I feel less guilty after a reviewer on NPR's Fresh Air gave it a nice review. It's NPR people.
I'm not sure how far into the new season it is yet, but I do have one pressing question:

What is up with Christian's hair?

Watching previous seasons of Project Runway has prepared me to expect certain style quirks from fashion designers.

Take Austin Scarlett from season one:

Slap some giant glasses on him and you have a younger, more flamboyant Tootsie.

Then you've got Santino Rice from season two, who looks like a flirty rabbi, but dresses like a gang member from a Jackie Chan movie:

And then there was last season's Jeffrey, who had the One Ring apparently tattooed around his neck:

All pretty eccentric, but this season's Christian takes the cake with a hair style that actually infuriates me. I'm only somewhat embarrassed to admit that I yelled at the screen at the first sight of him.
I haven't seen enough of this season to know if Christian is a good designer, but it may be irrelevant. I can't take anyone seriously who mistakes the side of their head for the back.

The picture above doesn't do it justice.
Watch some video for the full effect.

Movie Night 11

This is a bit late. Sue me.

1. The Big Empty -
Hey, guess what? It's another Wholphin short! This one from volume 1.
The Big Empty is based on a short fiction piece that originally appeared in a McSweeney's quarterly. I haven't read it, but I'd love to based on this film.
It's about a young woman whose vagina is a passage to an endless frozen tundra.

2. Black Snake Moan (2007) -
I love this movie for a number of reasons. First of all, I've had a crush on Christina Ricci since Addams Family Values (what? I was a weird kid). That being said, not only does she bear herself emotionally, but physically as well. Yeah, fellas!
Also, Samuel L. Jackson gives another great performance heavy with righteous fury. But he also shows a vulnerable side he rarely gets to in his roles. So there's more depth from him than I've seen in a lot of his other work.
And the soundtrack is fantastic. Sam Jackson learned to play guitar, and sings the songs himself in this, and it sounds great.
The story, if you don't know, is about a black man in Memphis who finds a young white girl beat up on the side of the road. He takes her home to nurse her back to health only to discover that she is a seriously disturbed nympho. The man decides that, in order to get right with God, he will help cure her of her sinful ways. His method for doing this involves chaining her to the radiator in his home.
The plot is out there. It's like a B movie premise with A-list talent. And it only works because writer/director, Craig Brewer, has the sensitivity and talent to balance the absurd situation with very genuine feeling.
This, more than anything, makes me want to see Hustle & Flow, which was also by Brewer. I heard it was good, but never got around to it. Now I'll definitely see it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007


There was no movie night this week for a number of reasons.
So instead I'll write about Beowulf, which I saw Friday night.

Beowulf is not the worst movie I've ever seen. However, I have enjoyed worse movies far more. The movie's major problem is Robert Zemeckis' insistence on forcing his motion-capture animation technique on the viewing audience. I haven't seen The Polar Express, but I've heard from more than one person that it was kind of creepy. After seeing Beowulf I know exactly what they mean. Imagine watching a story enacted by mechanical automatons with human skin stretched over their frameworks. That's pretty much what the characters in Beowulf look like. It's the stuff of nightmares.
Robert Zemeckis' belief that subtler performances can be gained from this style of animation just shows how little he knows about animation. All you have to do is watch a Pixar movie to know how subtle traditional animation can be. And if your goal is to perfectly capture an Anthony Hopkins performance, then make a movie with live actors and leave the animation to someone who knows what they're doing.

Ironically the movie's "terrifying" monster, Grendel, comes across as annoying at best. He's not scary, he's not even well-designed from an artistic standpoint. He looks like one of the animators let their kids design him. And his performance consists of a high-pitched scream that will make you want to jam your fists into your ears. In the few scenes that he isn't screaming you won't know what the hell he's saying anyway, since all of his lines are written in old English.
Actually, every scene with Grendel is either annoying or just silly. Beowulf strips down to nothing for his battle with Grendel. His excuse for doing this is so that he and Grendel are on equal terms. I'm not really sure how pants would give him a huge advantage, but whatever. This leads to the movie's first major action scene being more about the random objects that pop up to hide Beowulf's shame. These objects include, I swear to god, a large candle and the hilt of a sword. Zemeckis apparently took his action inspiration from a clever Austin Powers gag.
Also, when Beowulf punches Grendel in the ear it causes Grendel to shrink down to normal size. Taking the shrinkage even further, when Grendel's mom lays him to rest, his body has shrunk down to child size, yet his head hasn't shrunk at all. It looks really stupid.
Grendel is just handled very poorly in this movie.

John Malkovich's character is far scarier, though unintentionally so. Of all the characters in the movie that suffer from Zemeckis' zombie animator machine (or ZAM), he comes off the worst by far. Malkovich has an odd, stilted style of vocal performance anyway. Add this to the ZAM and you really get the feeling that something unholy is taking place before your eyes. In stunning 3D, no less!

I do want to mention the 3D, because it is the reason I payed full price to see this movie (actually 3D movies cost more). I love, love, love digital 3D and what it is capable of. Even in a movie like The Nightmare Before Christmas it looks fantastic, and that movie wasn't originally filmed for the format. To see a movie that was built from the ground up for 3D was spectacular in a lot of ways. There are shots in the movie where the camera is low to the ground, and the landscape appears to stretch off into the far distance. It looks amazing.

Unfortunately there are many points in the movie where something is popping out of the screen simply for the sake of doing it. It's neat, but in a movie that tries to take itself somewhat seriously it's also very distracting. There are moments of drama or danger that fall flat (pardon the pun), because your mind is simply marveling at the pointy thing that's coming right for you. Zemeckis is so in love with the technology that he re-uses several gags within the same movie. There are two dream sequences that end with something scary suddenly leaping toward the screen. Still, with this movie that was the most entertaining part, since the characters don't engage you on an emotional level.

No doubt there will be directors in the future that will use the 3D effects in subtle and engaging ways. Until then I'm sure there are going to be plenty of films that try to cram as much 3D spectacle into every frame possible (see: Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D, coming to theaters in 2008!). It's like the new CGI - really only effective when it serves the scene, rather than being the entire point of the scene.
Although it's likely 3D will always remain firmly in gimmick territory. It's hard to imagine a truly serious film ever using it. Imagine someone trying to make a holocaust movie in 3D. There's just no reason for it.

I should also mention the script, since it was co-written by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is one of my favorite writers. I've read a couple of his novels, but mostly I'm familiar with his writing in comics. Considering he wrote Beowulf it makes it that much more disappointing. It's hard to say if the script would have come across better in a live action movie, or even an animated film that was well animated.
There were some things I liked about the story, such as the exploration of how legends are made. Beowulf is painted as a braggart, whose boasts evenly match his legitimate deeds.
But then there is the inclusion of Hrothgar's queen, who is almost more of a prop than a real character.
And none of the intentional humor really lands. Again, it's hard to tell if that's the fault of the script or the awkward execution.

I think I've sufficiently ranted about Beowulf. Hopefully next week our regular movie night will be back on schedule.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Much Needed Daily Show Fix

Thank you, Daily Show writers, for delivering content to the fans in the midst of the strike:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What Would Jesus Buy?

This recently became one of my most anticipated holiday movies:

I love documentaries.

Monday, November 12, 2007

O How The Mighty Heroes Have Fallen


Remember the simplicity of, "save the cheerleader, save the world?" Even though season one took off slowly, at least we quickly learned what was at stake. We knew there was a clear villain, a lot of potential good guys, and a terrible catastrophe that threatened them all. Sure it got a little convoluted, and the "save the cheerleader" bit turned out to be a bit of a red herring. But by the time we figured that out we were so engrossed it didn't matter.

What happened?

I find myself less and less interested in the characters I came to love. Even my favorite, Hiro, has been completely wasted in what turned out to be a long-winded origin story for a villain introduced much too late. All that build-up for Mr. Nightmare, only to find out he's just a pawn in the grand scheme of a 400-year-old British samurai? Really?
And the future virus outbreak seems like a pale shadow of the nuclear disaster in New York from last year. I guess more people stand to lose their lives, but I just don't feel the danger. Too much time spent on Peter's amnesia, Micah's foster family, and Sylar's road trip south of the border, have confused the story to the point of being tiresome.

Last week finally seemed to be turning things around. But they lost the momentum with a flashback episode this week, that managed to fill in some holes without adding anything new to the overall story.
The thread about D.L. not actually being dead just so he can die anyway was probably the most pointless thing to come out of this show yet. Even Niki's reaction to D.L. getting shot a second time was more of a shoulder shrug than a life-altering event. And couldn't D.L. have retained the dignity of dying at the hand of Linderman, rather than some greasy nightclub guy?

The only part of tonight's episode that gave me any thrill at all was the scene at the beginning when we saw the season one climax from Nathan and Peter's point-of-view. For a brief moment I remembered how good the show was at one time.

I gave the second season the benefit of the doubt. After all, the first season spun its wheels for a few weeks before becoming the show it did. Unfortunately, it's now clear that nothing in season two is going to reach that previous level. And with the season being cut short, due to the writer's strike, they only have three more episodes left.
It's just as well, since the writers seem to have gone on strike much earlier.

Movie Night 10

1. Spellbound (1945) -
Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Alfred Hitchcock, and Salvador Dali? Good lineup!
This isn't one of Hitchcock's best films, at least in my opinion, but the Dali stuff is definitely worth seeing. I just wish there was more of it. And according to Wikipedia there was more (about 20 minutes!), but producer David O. Selznik nixed most of it. The bastard.
Anyway, what really drags this movie down is the abundance of outdated psychoanalytical jargon. The story is basically all about using psychoanalysis to help patients, but the ideas (mostly Freudian) are all ancient history. This leads to some unintentionally laughable situations. When the main character claims he doesn't believe in all the Freudian nonsense, one of the other characters (a doctor strongly resembling Freud) basically tells him, "You're crazy - what would you know?"
The movie is not irredeemable, but time hasn't been kind to it.

2. Dark City (1998) -
There was going to be another Hitchcock film here, but some of our group left early and the mood shifted. So I put this in, as it's one of my favorite genre films, and the remaining group hadn't seen it yet.
It came out only a year before The Matrix. It's unlikely it had much influence, but there are definitely some stylistic similarities between the two movies. But these are more genre conventions than specific plot points.
A man wakes up in a strange world he doesn't understand, pursued by mysterious adversaries in black who wield strange powers, discovers powers within himself, saves the world from false reality. Both movies owe much to film noir and comic books. Otherwise they are completely different.
Whereas The Matrix wraps its story in semi-plausible science fiction tropes, like virtual reality and artificial intelligence run amok, Dark City is pure pulp fantasy with evil aliens and matter-bending psychic powers. So they work on different levels. The main characters of both movies are Christ figures. The Matrix pounds that theme into the ground (especially in the sequels), while Dark City is having too much fun to care.
The cast is great, with William Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland doing his best Peter Lorre impression, and Richard O'Brien (Rocky Horror Picture Show, anyone?). And I think this film was the beginning of Jennifer Connelly's rise to become Hollywood's most dark and depressing leading lady.
I love it.

To Boldly Go...

Hey there, Trek fans!
The first trailer for episode one of Star Trek: The Continuing Mission is online. It's just a teaser, really. A quick introduction of the crew.
But my voice can be heard!

Direct link

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Movie Night 9

Halloween is over. Moving on...

1. Cat Soup 2001 -
This surreal anime short follows a young cat and his older sister on a journey through space and time to recover a lost piece of the sister's soul. Along the way they encounter a wizard, befriend a pig (and then eat him), and almost get cooked into soup by a perverted android.

2. Steam Boy (2005) -
This is an incredible adventure film set in an alternate, steam-punk Victorian England. It's directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, director of Akira, probably the most famous anime of all time. The animation is better than anything Disney has done in well over a decade (Pixar excluded). Further proof that 2D animation is not dead by a long shot.

Ray Steam discovers his father and grandfather are involved in a new invention that will change the course of mankind. Trouble is, his father is using the technology to create war machines of the future. Ray struggles to find a way to stop them from being unleashed on the world, while trying to figure out who he can trust (if anyone).
One of the things I love about this movie is the character depth. The adults are all portrayed in varying shades of gray. While there are good guys and bad guys, no one is completely good or evil. It's a level of depth unfortunately lacking in many family films. Hell, it's just not a very popular concept in American culture at all, these days.

Monday, November 05, 2007

We Thus Propose Do Bussiness With You

I've been getting a lot of emails lately with subject lines like the title above. Apparently all these deposed foreign dignitaries are desperate to share their millions with me.
Anyway, it reminded me of this guy who strung one of these scammers along in a very amusing way. READ

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

This Is Halloween!

I mentioned it last year but you really should go see The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D if it's playing near you.
It's the best way to celebrate any holiday.

Thriller Re-revisited

Last year I posted the Indian version of Thriller.
This year it's the Filipino prison version:

It's quite an impressive undertaking! Of course, it's easy to pull off when you have hundreds of slaves you can force to dance for your amusement.

Movie Night 8

Our last Halloween night was another short one, unfortunately, do to low turnout and technical difficulties. Oh well...

1. "The Soldier and Death" -
The Storyteller was featured as the second half of the sorely missed Jim Henson Hour, which I thought was pretty much the greatest thing on television at the time. Hopefully there will be a release of the entire hour-long episodes in the future, but until then the separate release of The Storyteller will have to do.
This episode is one of the best. It's the simple tale of a wandering soldier who acquires, through good deeds, a magic deck of cards that can never lose, and a cloth sack in which he can trap anything by commanding it to get in. He then uses these items to gain fame and fortune, and eventually capture death himself.

2. The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001) -
This is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. A spot-on parody of old B movies.
A scientist and his wife rent a cabin in the woods so that he can study a fallen meteor that he believes to be lousy with an element called "atmosphereum". Meanwhile , another scientist (quite possibly mad) intends to use said atmosphereum to revive the Skeleton of Cadavra, an evil skeleton with amazing psychic powers. And meanwhiler still, two aliens have crash landed on Earth and need atmosphereum to power their spaceship. But their pet mutant escaped in the crash, and who knows how many untold millions will die by its hand? If only it did have hands...
And they all must contend with Animala - half woman, and half four different forest creatures. What will happen when all of these people collide?
Hmm...I wonder...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lego Pirate Cake!

Joe and Tara have outdone themselves with their latest cake creation.

Behold the Lego Pirate!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Halloween Playlist

Here's a little Halloween playlist I've put together.
In no particular order:

1. Squirrel Nut Zippers - "Ghost of Stephen Foster" from Perennial Favorites

2. Lisa Germano - "...A Psychopath" from Geek The Girl
Genuinely creepy song with an actual frantic woman's 911 call, as someone tries to break into her house, playing in the background. One of the most genuinely disturbing songs I've ever heard. Do not listen to it alone in the dark.
Meanwhile, Lisa's lyrics don't help to alleviate the tension: "That thing of mace, the thing of mace, where did I leave it/ A psychopath, a psychopath, he says he loves me/ And I'm alone, and I am cold and paralyzed, I can't move."

The end of this track on the CD contains a few seconds worth of some random, silly gypsy-like tune, almost as an apology for freaking your shit out moments earlier.

3. Gorillaz - "Ghost Train" from G-Sides EP
Good party music about a ghost train. Also, Gorillaz rule.

4. Aquabats - "Monster's Wedding" from Vs. The Floating Eyeball Of Death!
Great novelty song in the vain of "Monster Mash", about a wedding attended by a menagerie of monsters. Made for Halloween.

5. Queens of the Stone Age - "Burn The Witch" from Lullabies To Paralyze

6. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - "Science Fiction Double Feature" from Are A Drag
The classic intro song to Rocky Horror Picture Show by the best punk cover band ever.

7. Sufjan Stevens - "John Wayne Gacy Jr." from Illinoise
Beautifully haunting song about one of the most disturbing serial killers in American history.
Lyric sample: "He dressed up like a clown for them/ With his face paint white and red/ And on his best behavior/ In a dark room on the bed he kissed them all/ He'd kill ten thousand people/ With a sleight of his hand/ Running far, running fast to the dead/ He took off all their clothes for them/ He put a cloth on their lips/ Quiet hands, quiet kiss/ On the mouth."

8. I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness - "The Owl" from Fear Is On Our Side

9. Jonathan Coulton - "RE: Your Brains"
Hilarious song about a recently-turned zombie trying to convince an old coworker to let him and the rest of his fellow brain biters into the building.

10. Scott Walker - "Jesse" from The Drift

Surprised to actually find a video for this one. It's pretty strange stuff.

11. They Might Be Giants - "I've Got A Fang" from Mink Car
Upbeat song about a guy with a fang. Sure, it's good for opening up cans of tomato juice, but it doesn't really endear you to your girlfriend's parents.

12. Jonathan Coulton - "Creepy Doll"
So there are two Coulton songs on the playlist. Sue me.
This video isn't official, but it gets the job done:

Bonus Track:
Cocteau Twins - "Strange Fruit" from BBC Sessions
I found this while googling for other folks' Halloween playlists. So maybe it's cheating, but whatever.
The Cocteau Twins managed to take a haunting civil rights song about lynching and make it sound as if it were playing on a stereo in Hell.
Here's a sample the whole track from their site:

So what's on your Halloween playlist?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Am The Radiskull!

Here are a couple of videos for ya.
I don't know if any of you have heard of Devil Doll & Radiskull, but I was really into these cartoons back in the day. Back when the internet still had a fresh coat of paint on, that "new tube smell", and Shockwave was the hippest thing around.
I rediscovered them through a very obscure reference in one of my comic books, of all places. And just in time for Halloween...

The animation hasn't aged terribly well, but they still carry a nostalgic charm for me. Hope you like them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Are You Prepared For Halloween?

Halloween is almost here, and you've got everything you need...Or do you?

Poor little Betsy has agreed to sacrifice her own beloved cat for a Halloween ritual.

Unfortunately for her satanic neighborhood friends, little Betsy is a dirty snitch.

But Miss Johnson isn't worried about spells.

After a lengthy and very inappropriate conversation with her student... there still time for Miss Johnson to save the day?

Yes, but not before nearly strangling the poor kitten in her righteous fury.

Happy Halloween!

By the way, anyone else notice the problem with that cat?

Movie Night 7

1. Dog Soldiers 2002 -
My favorite werewolf movie. It's about a squad of British soldiers running a routine training mission in the hills of Scotland, until they discover they've been used as bait for a much larger, more dangerous mission. This movie has great dialog, memorable characters, genuinely funny humor, great costume designs (werewolves are refreshingly CG-free), and excellent action.
This was a re-buy for me. I wish I'd kept the original, because the new one has terrible cover art.
(Original cover art is above).

2. Slither 2006 -
I hadn't seen this since it was in the theaters. I remembered liking it, but I had forgotten how good it really was. A parasite from outer space infects a man in a small town. He gradually transforms into a hideous beast, while infecting practically everyone else in town. This movie is great because of how the alien threat evolves. It is also very, very funny. This movie does not take itself seriously, even using the monster for some great jokes. There are some really good gross-out moments, too.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Please Refrain From Making Any "Wand" Jokes

So, J.K. Rowling has apparently outed Dumbledore, according to this Washington Post story.

I know some of you have read/are reading these books. Hope this news doesn't change the experience for you too greatly.

I'm not surprised by the news at all, since I've always believed all wizards to be gay. But that's just me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Movie Night 6

Hitchcock night has been postponed until next month, since Hitchcock doesn't necessarily demand to be viewed in the spirit of Halloween. He's not that kind of scary.

In lieu of Hitchcock this week became "New Zealand zombie comedy week". A perfect substitute.

1. Kitchen -
From Wholphin Vol. 3, this French film is about a woman preparing dinner for her husband. While not exactly fitting within the night's theme, it does include a human battling a disgusting creature. The creature in this case is a lobster.
There may also be a blender involved.

2. Dead Alive (1992) -
When it was announced that Peter Jackson was directing the enormous Lord of the Rings trilogy, I thought of this movie and said, "Really?" It was hard to believe that the director of this movie (not to mention Meet the Feebles) would be in charge of one of the most expensive and risky movie projects of all time.
Not that Dead Alive is a bad movie. But it's incredibly gory, not exactly family-friendly.
If you want to see a man plow through a room full of zombies with a lawnmower, twice, than this movie is for you.

3. Black Sheep (2007) -
Several years later we have another New Zealand-based zombie movie. This one is about zombie sheep that bite people, who then become zombie were-sheep. This movie should win every Oscar.
Also, the special effects were done by Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop. Neat!

Monday, October 08, 2007

My Eyes Are Melting! Melting!
What A World! What A World!

Now that I've gotten your hopes up with that great Futurama preview, time to dash them on the rocks with this abomination:

Here's a list of character names from the movie juxtaposed with their original counterparts:

D.G. = Dorothy Gale
Glitch = Scare Crow
Cain = Tin Man
Raw = Cowardly Lion
Azkadellia = Wicked Witch of the West
Mystic Man = The Wizard

So, besides having grating references to "the O.Z." this show features character names so X-tremely radical that you simply can't believe how awesomely tubular they are.
The costumes are also terrible. Is that a lion-man, or the retarded offspring of X-Men villain Sabertooth and those Geico cavemen? Alan Cumming's character shows us what the cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" would look like if it was inhabited by emo zombies. And the Tin Man has been turned into a badass cowboy for some fucking reason.

Here's a list of other modern, edgy changes - which, incidentally, I have completely made up - sure to transform L. Frank Baum's beloved children's fantasy into a carnival horror show:

1. Original songs by My Chemical Romance.

2. Flying monkeys replaced by flying monkeys with electric Razor Scooters.

3. Emerald City now called Bling-Bling Land.

4. Toto makes an appearance as ten-story-high mecha-dog, T.O.T.O.

5. "I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas, anymore," delivered with extra thick, self-aware postmodern irony.

6. Instead of asking for an oil can, the Tin Man requests that Dorothy update his drivers with a virus-blocking firewall.

7. "Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! OMG!"

8. Dorothy defeats the witch by pouring water on her...and then tossing a live power cable into the puddle, saying, "You're gonna get me and my little dog? Get this!"

One thing is for certain: the term "re-imagining" is now synonymous with "childhood-raping."

Back To The Futurama

I. Can. Not. Wait.
And neither can you. This trailer for the new Futurama movie, "Bender's Big Score," will leave you incapable of not buying it.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Movie Night 5

Halloween month is here at last!

1. The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello -
Yet another Wholphin short, this one from Vol. 2. The quality of the films in Wholphin are astoundingly good across the board.
This one is an animated short done in a silhouette style reminiscent of Asian shadow plays. It is a gothic horror story set in an alternative steam punk-like universe about an expedition in uncharted skies (air ships figure prominently).

It also features man-eating monsters, a mysterious sickness and a mad scientist!

2. Donnie Darko (2001) -
I love this movie, but I kind of played it out after I first got the DVD. So tonight was the first time I watched it in a while. I still really enjoyed it, although there are one or two moments where the dialog feels hokey.
The soundtrack is perhaps the best part of the movie, featuring an epic score, some great 80's new wave tracks, and Gary Jules' cover of the Tears For Fears song, "Mad World". Damn that song still brings tears to my eyes even after so many viewings.
It's also great for playing the Movie Game since the cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Noah Wyle, Drew Barrymore, and Patrick Swayze.

That's it. We called it an early night this week.
Next week is supposed to be Hitchcock night, but we'll see how that turns out. So far every time we plan to watch something in advance it ends up changing at the last minute.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Conservatives Are Such Jokers

Adrienne posted a really good piece from the New York Times in her blog. Her blog is private so I'm re-posting it here:

October 5, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Conservatives Are Such Jokers

In 1960, John F. Kennedy, who had been shocked by the hunger he saw in West Virginia, made the fight against hunger a theme of his presidential campaign. After his election he created the modern food stamp program, which today helps millions of Americans get enough to eat.

But Ronald Reagan thought the issue of hunger in the world’s richest nation was nothing but a big joke. Here’s what Reagan said in his famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” which made him a national political figure: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”

Today’s leading conservatives are Reagan’s heirs. If you’re poor, if you don’t have health insurance, if you’re sick — well, they don’t think it’s a serious issue. In fact, they think it’s funny.

On Wednesday, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded S-chip, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage.

In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh.

Most conservatives are more careful than Mr. Kristol. They try to preserve the appearance that they really do care about those less fortunate than themselves. But the truth is that they aren’t bothered by the fact that almost nine million children in America lack health insurance. They don’t think it’s a problem.

“I mean, people have access to health care in America,” said Mr. Bush in July. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

And on the day of the veto, Mr. Bush dismissed the whole issue of uninsured children as a media myth. Referring to Medicaid spending — which fails to reach many children — he declared that “when they say, well, poor children aren’t being covered in America, if that’s what you’re hearing on your TV screens, I’m telling you there’s $35.5 billion worth of reasons not to believe that.”

It’s not just the poor who find their travails belittled and mocked. The sick receive the same treatment.

Before the last election, the actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s and has become an advocate for stem cell research that might lead to a cure, made an ad in support of Claire McCaskill, the Democratic candidate for Senator in Missouri. It was an effective ad, in part because Mr. Fox’s affliction was obvious.

And Rush Limbaugh — displaying the same style he exhibited in his recent claim that members of the military who oppose the Iraq war are “phony soldiers” and his later comparison of a wounded vet who criticized him for that remark to a suicide bomber — immediately accused Mr. Fox of faking it. “In this commercial, he is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He is moving all around and shaking. And it’s purely an act.” Heh-heh-heh.

Of course, minimizing and mocking the suffering of others is a natural strategy for political figures who advocate lower taxes on the rich and less help for the poor and unlucky. But I believe that the lack of empathy shown by Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Kristol, and, yes, Mr. Bush is genuine, not feigned.

Mark Crispin Miller, the author of “The Bush Dyslexicon,” once made a striking observation: all of the famous Bush malapropisms — “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family,” and so on — have involved occasions when Mr. Bush was trying to sound caring and compassionate.

By contrast, Mr. Bush is articulate and even grammatical when he talks about punishing people; that’s when he’s speaking from the heart. The only animation Mr. Bush showed during the flooding of New Orleans was when he declared “zero tolerance of people breaking the law,” even those breaking into abandoned stores in search of the food and water they weren’t getting from his administration.

What’s happening, presumably, is that modern movement conservatism attracts a certain personality type. If you identify with the downtrodden, even a little, you don’t belong. If you think ridicule is an appropriate response to other peoples’ woes, you fit right in.

And Republican disillusionment with Mr. Bush does not appear to signal any change in that regard. On the contrary, the leading candidates for the Republican nomination have gone out of their way to condemn “socialism,” which is G.O.P.-speak for any attempt to help the less fortunate.

So once again, if you’re poor or you’re sick or you don’t have health insurance, remember this: these people think your problems are funny.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Attend The Tale Of Sweeney Todd

I really hope this movie is good. I just need to believe that Tim Burton is still capable of making a great movie. The preview is promising:

Really, all they needed to show was two seconds of Johnny Depp singing and they insured themselves a huge audience.


Glimpsed this on G4, and was forced to track it down.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Movie Night 4

This week's theme was, apparently, "talk through all the movies." That's what I get for hanging out with a bunch of drunks.

1. The Delicious -
A ridiculous (and delicious) short film about an average businessman becoming obsessed with one of his mother-in-law's old pantsuits. You know, that old story. It's complete nonsense, which is why I love it.
Featured in Wholphin Vol. 1.

2. Labyrinth (1986) -
Best. Movie. Ever. Or at least very high on that list. There's no telling what kind of impact this movie had on me as a child, although I'm sure David Bowie's bulge is forever imprinted in the depth of my subconscious. The music rocks, the art design is top notch, and the special effects - while dated - are better and more imaginative than most of the CGI kid-flicks coming out twenty years later.
Some of group hadn't seen this movie before and I needed to remedy that. But since movie night became chatty night this week, they still haven't really seen it.

3. The Host (2006) -
I didn't get the chance to see this in the theaters, but snagged it once it came out on DVD. The hype surrounding it was probably a little overblown. Harry Knowles' blurb on the front cover, "On par with Jaws", is the kind of exaggerated fan-boy gushing that only he is capable of. Nor is it "a seriously SCARY freakout," as Manohla Dargis of the New York Times would have us believe.
It is a very entertaining monster movie, often more funny than scary, with some great effects and death scenes. It follows the trials of one family trying to rescue their daughter after she is dragged off into the sewers by some sort of mutated salamander.
What makes this movie most unique is the ineptitude of its heroes. Time after time the girl's father proves that he is the last person you'd want in charge of a rescue operation. Almost every heroic attempt is met with failure. Several major characters are dead by the end, due more to human error than any effort on the monster's part. Even the young girl's own attempts to free herself, and another young boy taken hostage, ends in disaster.
I guess I enjoy this movie because of its pessimistic outlook. It seems far more realistic than, say, the absurd heroics of King Kong's protagonists (especially in the remake).

And You May Ask Yourself
Where Does That Highway Go?

This weekend I went to see Knoxville's local Talking Heads cover band, Same As It Ever Was. I've been meaning to see them for some time, but only now got around to actually going. They were excellent. They do justice to some amazing music. It was much more danceable than I previously thought of Talking Heads' music being.

Tonight I checked out David Byrne's journal, which I unfortunately don't read nearly enough. He often writes about his experiences on the road, and much of the culture (musical or otherwise) he witness. Sometimes he's very vocal about politics. Either way, it's good reading.

Oddly enough, one of his recent entries describes his travels down south, stopping by Dollywood, and then having dinner in Knoxville at Market Square.

It was kind of eerie to read about one of my favorite performers stopping through my hometown. Like I could have run into him if I'd decided to go out that night.

Anyway, some of his comments about Knoxville and Dollywood are very amusing.
Here's an excerpt:

"At the Holiday Inn in Knoxville, I saw a sign for the historic town center. Thinking it might contain some character and restaurants, we head there in search of dinner. There’s no one on the streets — not metaphorically, but literally not a single soul is out and it’s not even 8 o’clock. Eventually, we reach Market Square where we see people sitting at some outdoor seats. There are few restaurants, so we’re in luck. They serve me wine in a tiny plastic airplane bottle and we share a nice salad and some salmon. We wonder, where is everyone? Do they come to town to work, some of them, and then go home and stay in at night? Or do they go to restaurants and bars in suburban strip malls?"

Sunday, September 30, 2007

To Boldly Go...

Today I recorded my lines for episode one of Continuing Mission. My lines for episode one are pretty basic, not much emotional range required. So the recording went smoothly.
The interview I recorded shortly after may be a different story. I've never done a recorded interview, so I'm sure I'll come out sounding like a clueless douchebag. But that's fine as long as my acting for the show is solid.
Of course there's no way to tell that until the episode is completed, which is going to take another week or so, I'm told. But it won't be available for download until December, so you'll have to wait.

I'm not sure when the interview will be put on the site, but I'll keep you posted. We can grimace at my awkward responses together.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Inner Child

A while back I posted about a preschool class's musings on growing old.
Now the children in that class have looked within to explore their own feelings.

Again, this comes courtesy of Boing Boing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Movie Night 3

Short list this week:

1. Superthunderstingcar -
This is an hilarious sketch from the Peter Cook/Dudley Moore series Not Only...But Also (wiki) which ran intermittently in the late sixties and early seventies. It is a spoof of Thunderbirds and similar marionette shows that ran at the time (think Team America with live actors). Unfortunately it is no longer on YouTube, but I snagged it before it was removed.

2. Voices of a Distant Star (2002) -
An amazing 30-minute anime short about a young girl text messaging a boy while she battles an alien threat in deep space. Why are cell phones still prevalent during a time when interstellar travel is possible? If you need to ask this question then perhaps this movie isn't for you. The text message device is simply in place to explore the relationship between two people divided by a seemingly infinite distance. As Mikako's mission takes her further and further away from Earth, her messages take days, and then years, to reach Noboru. Never mind that he ages years while mere days pass for her. It's a simple and beautiful story.
Even more impressive is the fact that it was made almost entirely by one man, Makoto Shinkai, on his Macintosh computer.

3. The Saddest Music In The World (2003) -
This is still the only movie by Guy Maddin that I've seen (not including some short films), and it is one of my favorite movies of all time. It looks like an old silent movie, and it feels like watching someone's dream.
It's about a beer baroness during the depression in Canada. Depression, or no, alcohol is always in high demand, which has left the baroness relatively unaffected. She decides to host a publicity stunt in the form of a contest to see which country has the saddest music in the world.
It's also about a broken man trying to mend his shattered family, while attempting to win back the love of his life.
And it's about a man's quest to find the essence of sadness while simultaneously refusing to face his own tragic past.
And it's also absolutely hilarious.
Hell, I love any movie that manages to coherently combine a daydreaming nymphomaniac who receives messages from her tapeworm, beer-filled prosthetic legs, and a man who keeps the heart of his son preserved in a bottle of his own tears.
As the main character testifies early on, "Sadness is just happiness turned on its ass!"

Sunday, September 23, 2007

To Boldly Go...

I recommend you take a gander at the project going on at this site.

Furthermore, I recommend you take a gander at the cast of said project.

End communication.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Carved Up A Good Book Lately?

These sculptures are amazing.

The idea is so simple I can't believe it hasn't been done before.