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!