Sunday, July 27, 2008

Local Shooting

Some of my friends have been pretty shaken up by a shooting at a local church here. A girl I've done theater with was at the scene. She's thankfully okay, but a member of the church was killed and several other adults were injured. This happened during a performance of "Annie Jr." None of the kids were hurt, but they witnessed some terrible things today. Please keep these folks in your thoughts.

Here's the full story.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Great White Shark Reviewed

Thank you, Holly, for alerting me to Animal Review, a fantastic blog that is exactly what it sounds like. The latest entry is for the great white shark. It's very informative.

The picture header for the site is a grizzly, but unfortunately the only bear review so far is for the panda. It doesn't fare so well.

Unnecessary Remakes 2: The Remakening

Hollywood has always been a little remake crazy. But certainly we can agree things have gotten a little out of hand recently?

Some movies could and should be remade (Ocean's 11). Some should bring the vengeance of God raining down upon the heads of those that conceive them (the rumored, and thankfully non-existent Casablanca, starring Bennifer. Remember Bennifer? Those were the days!).

Now another turd baby is being squatted out of the mind vaginas of the Hollywood elite. Fox is producing a remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to air on MTV. You might know MTV as the network responsible for that vacuous ocean sound you hear when you hold a twelve-year-old girl up to your ear.

There is a simple rule when deciding what movie you can or cannot remake. The original is lost to obscurity, foreign, or you have a genuinely original take? Remake. The original is beloved by many, has a devoted or cultish following, or has had an unmistakable impact on pulp culture as we know it? DO NOT REMAKE.

Here's a Freudian typo from the Variety article:
"Fox is sin discussions with BSkyB and Sky Movies to co-finance and distribute the telepic abroad."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Y: The Last Man

The final paperback collection of Brian K. Vaughn's awsomely spectacular comic, Y: The Last Man, has been released. For those not familiar with Vaughn's work, he created my favorite Marvel series ever, Runaways. He also created the captivating super-hero-turned-NY-mayor series, Ex Machina, and the Pride of Baghdad graphic novel about a pride of lions let loose from an Iraqi zoo during American bombing. All of those are worth reading.

But Y: The Last Man was the first of his I picked up, and still my favorite. Now the series has ended and I'm starting back at the beginning to read the entire story straight through for the first time. If you haven't heard of it, Y is the story of the last man on Earth. It's a simple premise, but it's a dense story featuring a great cast of characters. It is science fiction at it's finest. It's frequently hilarious, terrifying, heart-wrenching. Often all at once.

The ending is bittersweet with an extra heaping spoonful of bitter. Maybe it was naive of me to expect a really happy ending to a story about the death of half the world's human and animal population. Still, I can't deny that it's the right ending.

Check out the Vertigo site to download the first issue for free. You can't beat this story. Now bring on the movies!

Something To Look Forward To

Here are some movies that I eagerly anticipate:

1. Cowboy Bebop

I'm not convinced this one will make it to production, but I could be wrong. Like Watchmen I'm torn about whether this movie should be made at all. Bebop is my favorite anime series, one of my favorite series period. I'll be unable to watch this without an extra critical eye. And unless Yoko Kanno is composing the score I'll dismiss this one outright.

2. The Goon

If you haven't read the comic series The Goon then you are severely missing out. Eric Powell's art and writing are among the best around (and he's from just south of here, bless him). Some of the absurd irreverent humor is reminiscent of Sam & Max, but that's only a small part of what makes the comic great. Among the giant zombie apes and salty, fish-headed seamen and emo vampires, is a story that is filled with geniune pathos. Goon is basically what I wish Hellboy was.
The movie, which Holly alerted me to, is being handled by David Fincher as a CGI animated film. I think that's the best way to go, because Powell's artwork is so damn good. And Fincher is a big enough director to make this movie huge.

3. Burn After Reading

Saw a slightly different version of this trailer in front of The Dark Knight. Let's hope this one is more Lebowski and less Cruelty. But following No Country isn't going to be easy. It's great to see Sledgehammer getting work, though.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight

Aaaaah. Finally.

I didn't get to see it for the first time on Imax like I'd hoped, but digital projection will do. Either way it's a glorious movie.

Let's start with the flaws. This is really minor stuff, but I don't want this to be nothing but gushing praise.

Christian Bale's voice as Batman was borderline silly for most of the movie. It was way more effective in the first film, using the growl sparingly (when he's dangling the guy off the building for example. "Swear to me!!!"). In this movie he growls every line. Even when he's alone with someone who already knows his true identity, like Lucius.
But no big deal. We all know this wasn't really Batman's movie anyway...

The car chase was handled a bit sloppily, but it wasn't nearly as incomprehensible as the review on Fresh Air made it out to be. The action in general was much grander in this movie, but could have been handled better (although the bat-cycle scene ended up being way cooler than I anticipated).

Enough nit picking. So what worked? Everything else, big time.

Everyone seems to be having the conversation right now about whether Heath Ledger's performance is really that great, or if people just want it to be because of his death. What a stupid conversation. This is the Joker performance. And I enjoy all the others. This movie captured the character perfectly. This Joker stepped straight out of The Killing Joke, except he looks even creepier than the comics ever made him. He scared me, and I felt guilty every time he made me laugh. And his evil on. Way better than Ra's al Ghul's plot to evaporate Gotham's water supply (and about 10 million times better than Lex Luthor's plan to create a new continent out of barren, impenetrable rock).

Gary Oldman as Gordon was perfect. He was good in the first movie, but now he finally gets to the meaty stuff. Thank god Nolan understands how important Gordan is to the Batman saga. Gordon is the character that makes us care about Gotham. He's the only reason we give a damn whether or not the whole city goes to hell. This is one of Gary Oldman's best performances ever. Marvelous.

Those are the two standouts from a flawless cast. Everyone was great, but the two guys above just blew me away. And Maggie Gyllenhaal - always a better choice than Katie Holmes, thank you. It's going to get tedious if I just start listing everything I liked about the movie, because they just got so much right.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Moore On Watchmen

The author of Watchmen weighed in on the movie in a recent Entertainment Weekly interview. His response is not surprising:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Don't you have the slightest curiosity about what Watchmen director Zack Snyder is doing with your work?
ALAN MOORE: I would rather not know.

He's supposed to be a very nice guy.
He may very well be, but the thing is that he's also the person who made 300. I've not seen any recent comic book films, but I didn't particularly like the book 300. I had a lot of problems with it, and everything I heard or saw about the film tended to increase [those problems] rather than reduce them: [that] it was racist, it was homophobic, and above all it was sublimely stupid. I know that that's not what people going in to see a film like 300 are thinking about but...I wasn't impressed with that.... I talked to [director] Terry Gilliam in the '80s, and he asked me how I would make Watchmen into a film. I said, ''Well actually, Terry, if anybody asked me, I would have said, 'I wouldn't.''' And I think that Terry [who aborted his attempted adaptation of the book] eventually came to agree with me. There are things that we did with Watchmen that could only work in a comic, and were indeed designed to show off things that other media can't.

Here's the full interview.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Must Watchmen

There's no question that Zach Snyder can make a damn good looking trailer. 300 ended up being a pretty big let down for me.

With Watchmen he's got his work cut out for him. The 300 graphic novel doesn't have near the devoted following that Watchmen does. Watchmen is arguably the greatest graphic novel ever written. It set the standard for everything that has come out since it was published in 1986. The darker themes and tones of today's comics, the cynicism - all thanks to Watchmen.

I have severe doubts about Snyder's ability to convert Watchmen to the screen. Other directors have considered it. Terry Gilliam came to the conclusion that it wasn't possible. Some people think even if it can be adapted, it shouldn't be.

Well the first trailer for Watchmen has been released. And like 300, it looks absolutely gorgeous. Even if it turns out to be a huge blunder, it's going to be a pretty one.

Same Old Song, Shiny New Lyrics

Stephen posted this recently:

And today Boing Boing did a post on this guy:

And many more!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Would You Rather...

...have an extra long arm that you have to wind up like a garden hose?


...legs that never stop tap dancing?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

I wasn't a big fan of the first Hellboy. I really wanted to like it, but it just felt kind of flat to me. So Hellboy II only somewhat interested me. But after Pan's Labyrinth I will go see anything Guillermo del Toro directs.

Hellboy II is an overall better movie than the previous one, but I still left feeling not entirely satisfied. It's got everything going for it - monsters fighting monsters, big guns, exquisitely designed and executed creature effects - but it still somehow managed to feel about thirty minutes longer than it actually is.

I think one of the main problems is that I'm not a huge geek for the Hellboy saga, in general. I read a good portion of the available comics before the first movie came out, and frankly I didn't see what the big fuss was about. Mignola's artwork is top notch, no doubt, but for whatever reason the characters and stories of Hellboy just don't connect with me.

My biggest problem with the movies is Selma Blair. She has all the charisma of a wet stick, so I just can't care about her character's relationship with Hellboy. She's probably the only actress who could make being on fire look boring (which she does throughout Hellboy II). Otherwise, the cast is very strong.

I didn't hate the movie. It was just a let down. It's almost worth watching for the art direction alone. The various creatures (and there are gobs of them) are all stunning and diverse. The forest elemental and an embodiment of Death are particularly awesome. The Abe Sapien love story is genuinely sweet, but it's unfortunately a bit obvious in the way it plays out. Abe as a character is just as successful as in the first movie, which is a testament to Doug Jones' talents. I can't wait to see how del Toro uses him in The Hobbit. The new character, Klauss, is also very inspired and entertaining.

Some people are really going to love this movie. Anyone who is already a Hellboy fan undoubtedly will. Unfortunately Hellboy just doesn't seem to be for me.

The BPA - "Toe Jam"

The BPA is Fatboy Slim under a different alias. On this first single we've got vocals by David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal. Add to that an extremely clever use of censorship that still manages to be sexy. This one is a home run.

Monday, July 07, 2008


I didn't know much about Mongol going into it. I was looking for a movie to watch, and I'd seen everything that I really wanted to. I did a quick search to see Ebert's opinion about the movie. It's an odd review. He gives the movie a high score, but then talks about how the movie is basically just one scene of brutal violence after another. In his words, the Mongols in this movie "do not sing, dance, chant, hold summit meetings, have courts, hunt, or (with one exception) even cook and eat." I had this in the back of my mind while watching Mongol. So I was surprised to see singing, and a fair amount of eating. And there are long stretches between action scenes. Ebert had me half expecting the movie to be one endless action scene, with the young man who would be Genghis Khan slashing his way across the screen (and Asia) for two hours. Fortunately there is more to this movie than the sum of its severed body parts.

Mongol is apparently the first in a trilogy about Genghis Khan. It covers the early part of his life as the son of a Khan, up to his thirties when he becomes the dominant Khan of all Mongols. He spends much of his time in between being captured, escaping capture, and trying to reunite with his wife (who has the awkward luck of being impregnated twice while they are separated). It's not an easy life for either of them, and it's easy to see how the young man from a humble background becomes angry enough to become Genghis Khan. But that won't happen until one of the later films. He's known by his birth name, Temudgin, for all of this one.

The movie hits the major historical points, glossing over the smaller details. Temudgin has a gift for escaping armed camps, or assembling large armies, off screen. Mongol takes it's time with the moments it chooses to focus on, then suddenly years will go by. But the story is captivating, and the action is impressively staged. Nothing is groundbreaking about the battles, but they are shot spectacularly well. As is the rest of the movie. There is a seemingly endless series of vast rolling environments of all varieties. It's a beautiful movie to watch.

The performances are solid. I know nothing about the actors, whether or not they've done anything previously. Both the lead and the woman who plays his wife are excellent. The standout for me was the man who played Temudgin's blood brother (and eventual adversary), Jamukha. He plays him with a kind of modern swagger which nicely offsets the stoic nature of the rest of the film.

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical epics. I look forward to the next two films. Hopefully they won't be too long in coming. I can't wait to see Temudjin in full Genghis mode.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Congratulations, Pixar, on your ninth consecutive successful movie! Walt Disney Studios never even had that kind of run in its golden age.

Wall-E is a fantastic movie. The best they've done since The Incredibles. The story is incredibly simple: a robot left behind on Earth to clean up our mess, spends his free time collecting odd trinkets of humanity and watching Hello Dolly on his video iPod. One day a brand new sleek & sexy robot (EVE) shows up, Wall-E is smitten and adventure ensues.

The first half of Wall-E is a brilliant silent movie. There is a tremendous amount of story and characterization conveyed without any dialogue. Wall-E is endearing from the very first moment you see him, and only becomes more so as the film progresses.

It's almost a disappointment when the story takes Wall-E into space. If the movie had solely been about Wall-E's isolation, and then his reaction to a new friend, that would have been enough for me. Those scenes were so well done.

But the movie actually does develop a plot about EVE's mission to discover plant life on Earth, and what happens when the remains of humanity (Pixar's vision of our future is not pretty) decide to return to a home they left over 700 years before.

The animation is amazing as usual. There are some breathtaking settings, from Earth's towers of compressed trash cubes (Wall-E's legacy) to the reaches of outer space. The character animation is arguably better in this movie than any they've done yet, but it would have to be since all of the main characters can only interact through body language. The soundtrack is one of Thomas Newman's best scores, and as a bonus, contains a brand new song by Peter Gabriel (glee!).

Also worth mentioning is the new Pixar short animation shown before the movie. Presto is part Pixar, part Looney Tunes. It's about a magician trying to perform, and being upstaged by his rabbit who just wants a carrot. The rabbit thwarts the magician with the use of two magic hats. They act as portals to each other, which leads to a series of very original and hilarious gags. It's my favorite Pixar short since Geri's Game, which played in front of A Bug's Life.

Friday, July 04, 2008

July 4th

For this Independence Day, I give you the most patriotic song of all time:

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Last night I locked my keys in my car...with the engine still running. But you know what? It was worth it. Because I got to meet the greatest American ever.

While waiting with Bone and Matt for AAA to arrive , a nondescript white van pulled into our parking lot. Out jumps a drunken white guy in his late 40's. What followed is something I will never forget. RPM (his initials/nickname), a military veteran, went into a forty minute rambling monologue about prejudice, black chicks, bacon and eggs, but mostly just lots and lots of lurid, hedonistic sex.

When we finally got my car unlocked and returned to my apartment, we frantically tried to reassemble everything we had just heard.

I will now relay some of the wisdom imparted to us by RPM.


RPM on prejudice:
"I don't care if you're white, black, purple, or yellow. I hate everybody. Even myself."

(five minutes later)

"There's only one person I like, and that's me. Because I know me."

RPM on being black:
"I don't have nothing against black people. I'm from Atlanta. I grew up in Cabbagetown. You know where that is? That's the blackest of the black. Show me someone black - I'm blacker than them. I'm blacker than you [to Bone]. I've had more black pussy than you."

RPM on black pussy:
"I want that black Cinderella over there that drives the BMW. I wouldn't even fuck her. I'd put that pussy on a platter like a salad. I wouldn't ruin it by stickin' my dick in it."

RPM on the culinary arts:
"I woke up the next morning, and heard someone knocking on the door. I walked over and answered the door buck naked. She was standing there and I said, 'I remember you. Your that big tittied bitch! Come inside. I'll make you some bacon and eggs.'"

"I wrapped a piece of bacon around my dick and walked in there. I said, 'Which part of the hog do you want? The head or the bone?' I said, 'You can bite it off or I can shake it off.' I shook that bacon off and gave it to her."

"Her boyfriend - a big motherfucker - was standing there. He said, 'I'm looking for my girlfriend.' I said, 'She's in the bedroom.' He said, 'What the fuck is she doing in there?' I said, 'I gave her some bacon. I'm gonna give her a piece of sausage, but she only gets one piece of breakfast at a time.'"

RPM on entertaining guests:
"She said, 'You're fucking crazy! I'm calling my sister.' By the end of that night I had [counting on his fingers] her, her boyfriend, her sister, three of their friends, and two of their other friends. It was seven women, one guy. And let me tell you something: that was the worst fuck of my life. I felt like a marshmallow. I've never been squeezed so much in my life."

RPM on curiosity:
"I've only bent over once or twice in my life. I'm not a faggot. It's a curiosity thing."

He went on like this nonstop for forty minutes, before going off to buy his girlfriend more beer. I'm not even writing the most graphic stuff he talked about. My mind was thoroughly blown for the whole evening.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


I watched a really interesting movie Monday night called Shortbus. It's by the writer and director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which I haven't seen but understand it has a loyal cult following. I hadn't heard as much about Shortbus outside of the few reviews I saw at the time of its limited theatrical release, which were generally positive.

The most unusual thing about the movie is its sexual content. The actors are all unknowns, and they are all very very brave. Because the sex scenes are real. These people are actually doing these things, and the camera is right in there showing you what's happening. It's unsettling, especially the opening montage, but it all serves a purpose too. Unlike pornographic films, the sex scenes in Shortbus aren't there to excite you or get you off. All of them serve a purpose in the story, and contain important character moments.

Still, if that was all the movie had going for it it wouldn't really be worth checking out. Fortunately there's a good movie wrapped around those scenes that is compelling and genuinely emotionally gratifying. It's the story of several strangers with emotional baggage that impacts their personal (and sexual) lives. Their paths cross at an underground sex club in post 9/11 New York called Shortbus (for people with "special needs", get it?). Here one of the main characters, a couples councilor who's never had an orgasm, seeks her own sort of therapy. Meanwhile a young man, an ex-escort, struggles with a severe depression resulting from the emotional walls he's built to protect himself, but which prevent him from having a healthy relationship with his boyfriend.

The movie also has a fantastic soundtrack. There are several scenes in the club, which also serves as a kind of cabaret, with live musicians playing in the background. And even a big musical climax at the end of the movie. Some of the artists on the soundtrack are pretty well known, like Yo La Tengo and The Animal Collective. But there are several other indie artists that I'd never heard of and are fantastic. There are several songs by Scott Matthew (who I believe is the main musical performer in the actual movie), and one particularly nice one by Jay Brannan who plays one of the main characters. Most of the music is acoustic indie rock, with a little electronica thrown in. It's a great mix, and probably the nicest surprise about the movie for me.

I recommend the film to anyone who doesn't find its frank content objectionable. The movie is wonderfully hopeful, often very funny. It even deals with the aftermath of 9/11 in an honest and personal way that I haven't seen in any other movie. Check it out if you're not sure what movie to Netflix next.

New York Times review
Chicago Sun Times review

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

First And Ten

Current iTunes stats:
Tracks: 25,021
Total playtime: 68 days, 4 hours
Songs about ninjas: 5
Songs about pirates: 12


1. The Advantage - "Goonies 2", The Advantage

2. Apples In Stereo - "Love You Alice/D", Fun Trick Noisemaker

3. Susumu Hirawasa - "Sekai Turbine", The Ghost In Science

4. The Presidents of the United States of America - "Zero Friction", Love Everybody

5. Robbie Robertson - "Take Your Partner By The Hand (Red Alert Mix)", Contact From the Underworld of Redboy

6. Jason Robert Brown - "Someone Else's Clothes", Wearing Someone Else's Clothes

7. Talking Heads - "Artists Only", Once In A Lifetime

8. Yellow Magic Orchestra - "Computer Game (theme from the Circus)", Yellow Magic Orchestra

9. Wilco - "Spiders (Kidsmoke)", A Ghost Is Born

10. Stone Temple Pilots - "Interstate Love Song", Purple