Monday, August 31, 2009

Casting Internets

Woah. Disney bought Marvel.

The trailer for The Tournament looks awesome. Like the /Film writer, it reminds me of Smokin' Acestoo, but hopefully it'll be good for the whole thing and not just the last 20-30 minutes.

I don't care what anyone else thinks, I'm psyched for a Bad Boys 3! (via /Film)

Ben remembers his going away presents from Wizard. Look at those handsome devils in the top left corner. I'm on the bottom left. Cooler by far, though is the Nova and Flash playing frisbee piece. You'll have to click through to check that out though. Plug!

Check out Topless Robot's 12 Least Appropriate Smurf Figures for Children.
Oh, DO go on.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Casting Internets

Today would have been Jack Kirby's 92nd birthday had he not passed away in 1994 on my birthday (which was weird to say the least as a young comics fan). To celebrate his life Kirby-Vision presents several images of Kirby drawn by its many contributors. Above is my favorite by Uriel A. Duran.

Over at Topless Robot, Rob calls out the British (newspapers) for being filthy liars. Plus, he uses it as an excuse to run yet another sexy shot of Megan Fox. Double whammy!

On my way home from work yesterday I caught an interview with Quentin Tarantino on NPR's Fresh Air. You can find a transcript and podcast here. I'm waiting to listen to the whole thing for fear of even the most remote Inglourious Basters spoilers, which I'm hopefully going to see tonight.

Check out this awesome NASA patch that real astronauts actually wore. Wired dug this and some other pretty amazing ones here.

My buddy Jesse over at collected these 10 crazy Predator tattoos. It's both glorious and kind of stomach churning.

Fans of urban legends should definitely check out where you'll get a triple dose of info with every click. Today's Photography Legends Revealed talks about naked photos from Ivy league schools, photoshopping in the 1800s and where a photo was staged or not. Fascinating.

Finally, I really hope you check out Awkward Family Photos on a regular basis. Here's a recent post called Monkey Love!

Oh, DO go on.

Ad It Up: Gap Kid

I can't be the only person who hated this kid, right? He was on the back of EVERY comic for months (like this one from 1998's Major Bummer #11). I wonder if these ubiquitous back cover ads actually helped or hurt the products/brands they were trying to sell. I was already anti-Gap at this point (I was 15 and liked Led Zeppelin after all), but I'm pretty sure I was even less interested in Gap after seeing this kid over and over and over and over.
Oh, DO go on.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Death: One Mack Daddy You Don't Want to F*ck With

I hope you get the reference in the title of this post. If not, it's okay, I forgive you, but you should really do yourself a favor and watch my favorite horror trilogy (soon to be a whatever-four-movies-is) of the past 10-ish years: Final Destination. Candyman says it to the girl with split personalities from Heroes and the dreamy Devon Sawa.

For those of you who haven't see these movies, there's a basic formula. 1. A high school student sees a highly complex, devastating and graphic accident and freaks out when events in the vision start happening. The student saves him/herself and others. 2. Even though they didn't die with the others, the survivors start dying in really crazy ways, usually involving seemingly natural events. 3. The main character comes upon the idea that death has a plan and death, as noted above, is not one to mess with. Even with that being said, apparently there's a formula to things which the main character tries to decipher. 4. The main character and someone of the opposite sex try to convince the surviving survivors what's going on to varying levels of belief and success. 5. Bad things happen (a lot). 6. It ends.

I'm sure a far more detailed map could be laid out for these movies, but I don't want to ruin too many aspects of the films. And, even though all three are very similar in structure, it doesn't really bother me because these movies aren't really about the characters. Yes, I do think they're fairly well-rounded and like/dis-likeable, but the real hook for these movies are the highly complex and usually gory death scenes that are amazing if you're a gore fan. Sometimes they do get a little mean (the strangulation in 1 and the tanning bed in 3), but overall, I'd say they're highly enjoyable in that way that you feel kind of bad about liking. I watched 2 and 3 on the train (1 was on Netflix instant, 2 I own and 3 I got as a disc from Netflix) and found myself being briefly exasperated, laughing, saying "Oh shit" and then looking around to see if my fellow commuters were looking at me funny. The knives in the first one, falling glass in the second and weights in the third are among my favorites, but they're really all fantastic. This series also showed me my first bus-hit and cut/slide movie moments (1 and 2 respectively).

I also have a history with these movies, well at least the first two. 1 came out in 2000 when I was still in high school and I distinctly remember watching it in a darkened living room at Steph Knisely's house and laughing hysterically when Tony Todd (Candyman), playing the older, vague guy explaining things to a small extent (he's even a mortician named Bludworth) said the above quote. Even though I hadn't seen the movie since that night, it made quite an impression, which is pretty impressive considering how many horror movies I'd seen up to that point and after. The second one (2003), I think a group of my high school friends and I went to see in the theater. I remember having the same kinds of reactions in the theater that I did on the train (something I didn't remember until I was actually on the train). I definitely got some funny looks. I would have sworn I saw 3 (2006) at some point, but I think I only watched a few of the kills.

Aside from the gore, I like how much these movies make me think. And I don't consider these things plot holes because we're dealing with human interpretations of supernatural events without anyone or thing coming in and explaining things absolutely. So, Bludworth may have his theories and the kids extrapolate from there, but we don't know if they're right (especially taking into account the ends of each movie). So, does death have some kind of plan? It would seem so. But why does it go through such complex motions to get back on schedule? Why not just stop a heart, especially considering death seems to be able to manipulate living things (birds, rats, maybe even people). So, what are death's rules?

Also, if death has a plan and is some kind of force of nature, what is the force acting against it? See, the visions have to come from somewhere right? And we're not just talking about the main visions in the beginning of the movies, our heroes see other signs all over the place, as if they're being given the information to help their friends or maybe just toyed with. In 1 Sawa a fan-chopped magazine spits out the name of his friend Tod, but by the time he gets to Tod's house, dude's dead. So, was Sawa just not fast enough or was he being messed with (like how Michael Myers toys with his prey)? I'm going to guess there's an opposing force to death, maybe it's as simple as being life, I don't know, but I like to think about this kind of stuff.

So, you really get the best of both worlds: the best kills in recent memory and a larger story that really makes you think (at least I think so, but I'm not a mack daddy above being f*ucked with). I'm really excited for The Final Destination (I appreciate the finality of a title that already includes the world "final" like "seriously, THIS is the FINAL destination") mostly for the ability to see this bad boy in 3D. I missed out on that with My Bloody Valentine 3D, but now my local theater has 3D capabilities thanks to some kids movie! I'll have to sneak away to see it sometime, but it'll totally be worth it.

Oh, DO go on.

Casting Internets

I saw this on Diggnation yesterday (actually had notes on a whole new Casting Internets for yesterday that somehow disappeared, go figure). It's a long clip because it's actually from the podcast (which I highly recommend), but you get to see a kid getting hit with a Mentos-fueled bottle of Diet Coke he tosses on a tennis court. It's amazing.

Justin's comic can now be ordered, so ask your retailed about ordering Hero House already! He also guest blogged over at Pop Candy today.

Bob Mitchell posted this bad boy. Not sure if it's something he did himself or just found. Either way, it's awesome. How is there not a "Disney characters as superheroes" art blog?

Jim's been doing a cartoon/comic/piece of art everyday. This time it's the Lost island. Jim's Lost island drawing:

Beer prices are going up? Sigh.

I both enjoyed Sean's post about All-Star Batman and Robin and completely agree with him (you can even see me doing so in the comments).

This is another one from yesterday, but Topless Robot's list of the 10 craziest Quantum Leap leaps is pretty rad. I distinctly remember seeing the end of the episode where he leaps into the supposed vampire and being REALLY confused.
Oh, DO go on.

When Did Miracle Whip Get So Awesome?!

Have you guys seen Miracle Whip's new, X-Treme commercials? They're ridiculous! Hipsters freaking LOVE this stuff.


Apparently this isn't the first time MW has tried to appeal to a younger generation though, check out the new wave version:

Oh, DO go on.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Train-Ing Video: Class of 1999 (1990)

"These things are like a bad, f*cked up, George Jetson nightmare!" So says Cody, the hero of Class of 1999 of the robot teachers who have been flipped their programming after being sent into a Free Fire Zone in Seattle. You see, an FFZ is an area, usually around a school in a major city where gang activity has gotten so bad that the cops have backed out and let the kids run wild. Except for in the school for some reason. Think of it as Escape from New York meets Terminator and Sister Act (or, I assume, Dangerous Minds, but I've never seen that).

If you're scratching your head already and asking yourself "Why would kids go to school if they weren't being told to and, oh, and had machine guns?" Yeah me too. It's a plot hole that you could drive an armored bus through. There's lots of said plot holes or just lapses in logic (Why to the robots only have fake skin protecting their important "organs" instead of an actual exoskeleton? Why are the kids more likely to believe that their friends died in highly unlikely accidental ways and not getting murdered by teachers?) Anyway, if you can look past the complete lack of logic and Cody's TERRIBLE Corey Feldman impression, this movie is a whole boatload of weird 80s fun from 1990.

You remember the major cities and the explanation of the FFZs I mentioned above? We get that information thanks to a voiceover in the beginning that accompanies a map showcasing the worst cities. You've got Detroit and NYC of course. Then there's Seattle and Cleveland (not the best places in the world, but not ones I would expect there to be a lot of gang activity at), but the best part? The dot that's supposed to designate Cleveland is not where Cleveland actually is. It should be further up north. For all I know, the other ones are misplaced too, though I did check NYC and it seems correct, hey, I'm no geography nerd, I just know my state.

Anyway, we open with a white haired Stacey Keach who, for reasons never explained, sports a mullet that terminates in a rat tail between his shoulders and white-except-for-his-pupils eyes. He's part of a program for the DED (the Department of Educational Defense) who has these teacher robots he wants to insert into Malcolm McDowell's school. Also, for no real reason, Cody gets released from jail at the same time. Here's some pics (thanks to this post, I figured out how to take screencaps!)

This is the first, non-CG shot of the movie, I swear to God:

Then this:

And here's the teacher-bots, including one of my all-time huge crushes Pam Grier! I didn't even know she was in this movie, that's just a bonus.

So, the story follows Cory who's part of this gang called the Black Hearts. He doesn't really want to get back with the Hearts because he wants to go straight (we're not sure why and we don't know why he was in jail in the first place), but his incredibly weird looking younger brother Angel is about to be initiated and all his friends from school are in the gang too.

Here's Angel, I laughed every single moment he was on screen. He looks ridiculous, but that's just future gang fashion, yo, purples and yellow all the way!

Meanwhile, he falls for McDowell's daughter (why good kids are still in this school, I have no idea. Wouldn't you bounce if kids could shoot guns in your police-abandoned neighborhood and your kid still wanted to learn?). His friends start dying thanks to the new teacherbots and he gets suspicious. He even saves McDowell's daughter from being molested-at-best during the day on school grounds out in the open and gets beat up by the younger dude teacherbot and yelled at by McDowell. That's just crazy!

He discovers the truth about the teacherbots and instead of just straight up going after Cody, the older one concocts this ridiculously complicated plan that includes killing some people and sparking a war between the Hearts and their rivals The Razorheads. Wouldn't it just make more sense to, I dunno, crush him with your insane robot strength? So anywhere, there's a gang war and we really get to see the Hearts in full form. Again, notice all the purple and yellow. At one point, Angel gets pulled over and they accuse him of wearing gang colors and he's only got yellow and purple on. That's just hilarious to me.

When THIS plan fails, the teacherbots make fake phone calls to the leaders of both gangs to get them to meet at the school to kill each other instead of, again, just killing these kids. This is when things go super-bananas. You've got dirt bikes and explosions in school, robot fights, the reveal of some of their awesome weapon systems and the uniting of the two goings (uh, spoiler warning?). While Cody and the leader of the Razorheads are searching the school to take down the teachers ("I'm going in there to waste some teachers - are you with me?") they actually drive their motorcycles into the classrooms and around the room. Twice!

I was pretty impressed with the showdown at the end and the effects were pretty good (I'm not going to ruin it for you, but if you've seen the original VHS cover, you'll see an approximation, if you see the newer Lions Gate version, you'll see a way updated version). Each teacherbot sports it's own hand weapon that was fun to watch, though where their robot hands actually go, I don't know.

The real headscratcher throughout the movie is that there isn't a really good character. I guess McDowell's daughter might count, but she's so one dimensional, she doesn't really count. Like I said, we don't know why Cody was in jail. It could have been murder for all we know. I get that he's trying to turn over a new leaf and he's served his time (after a fashion), but he's still utilizing the people who are the problem (gang members) to take down other bad guys. I guess he could be labeled as an anti-hero, but I just wish we would have gotten a little more background on him.

But, in the end, the movie is just too damn crazy and fun to not enjoy on some level, even given all the problems. And I know some of you might be wondering why I had such high hopes for a movie about robot teachers teaching in a near war zone, but this movie was written and directed by Mark L. Lester who also directed the Jeph Loeb co-written Arnold Schwarzenegger masterpiece Commando . One other thing I want to point out about the story is that it actually has some pretty emotional moments. There's a scene where Cody goes home and we see that his mom is just as big of a drug addict as Angel and the performances are really good. I think Bradley Gregg would have been much better suited if he wasn't asked to/didn't try to put on the Corey Feldman voice. It's really distracting and I think takes away from the skills you can see under the surface.

Oh, also, they gave the Grierbot a nipple hanging out after she gets torn open and they show it a bunch. I was kind of embarrassed to be watching it on the train and even discreetly covered that part of the screen with my hand. But seeing as how this is the internet and a simple Google search for "Pam Grier naked" will come up with a number of hits (this site included now ;) I figure this images ain't so bad.

Oh, DO go on.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Casting Internets

According to Toy News International, I'll have a second chance to score a Masters of the Universe Classics Skeletor figure! Here's my second chance to get a Skeletor!

Wired says I'm screwed for multitasking. Maybe that's why my brain completely shuts down and I just sit staring at my desk for minutes at a time without being able to remember what I was furiously doing a second ago. Not good...

Kiel's Linko XIX post brought this amazing blog to my attention. It's a whole blog dedicated to people drawing in Jack Kriby's style called Kirby-Vision.

My buddy Alex of DC's The Source, runs down a bunch of comics sites "you should bookmark immediately" in a guest blog over at PopCandy. UnitedMonkee must have JUST missed the cut :)

And finally, a group of friends and I have been kicking around Weezer memories lately, which got me thinking about back in 2002 when Maladroit came out and I drove two hours home from Delaware, Ohio to Toledo to buy the record at midnight the day it came out at my beloved and now long gone Boogie Records. New-at-the-time Weezer bass player Scott Shriner was also from Toledo and it happened that his dad was at Boogie picking up his own copy of the record. Someone snapped a pic and sent it to and it just so happened that I was in it! Em's there too, though she does not care and I'm talking to my friend who got me into Weezer, but he didn't make the shot. I couldn't find the picture anywhere, so I sent an email to Karl at and before the day was through he sent it to me. Thanks Karl. Here's the pic (this is as big as it gets):

Oh, DO go on.

Quick Movie Review: Finishing The Game (2007)

I don't have a ton to say about Finishing the Game, so I decided to implement a new category called Quick Movie Review. The movie's a fake documentary about completing Game of Death after Bruce Lee died. I accidentally rented Game of Death a few years back, not realizing it was cobbled together with a few minutes of actual Bruce Lee footage and a bunch of other nonsense with lookalikes. It's really a bad movie that, from what I've read since, was just a crazy cash grab. Finishing the Game takes that idea and runs with it as we see a director and casting agent going through a bunch of people trying to find Bruce's replacement, mostly from unknowns and guys riding Bruce's coattails. There are a lot of funny bits to the movie as it focuses in on a few select people. There's even a brief, but hilarious plot point centering around a TV show starring James Franco.

My only "problem" with the movie is that I don't know if it's based on any kind of fact. I compared the actual Game of Death director to the guy from Finishing and they don't match up and I'll be honest, I'm too lazy to look everyone up, so maybe I'll never know. There's also no trivia on IMDb and the Wiki page isn't all that informative. I'm guessing it's all made up, which is kind of disappointing because it would be a lot funnier if this was based on more fact than "someone tried to complete a Bruce Lee movie after he died." There's plenty else going on like the egos and lack thereof of the guys auditioning to fill Bruce's shoes and a couple love stories, plus an inside look (maybe?) at what casting a movie was like. Plus it's short, which is a plus.

All in all, I'd recommend this for anyone interested in Bruce Lee, mockumentaries or the 70s, especially if you don't get too tied up in the reality of the comedy like I do.
Oh, DO go on.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Halloween Scene: 28 Weeks Later (2007)

Allow me to get nostalgic, just for a moment. The first time I saw Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later was in this tiny art house theatre in Bowling Green, Ohio. I went with Barry's co-worker-turned friend Bobby, his girlfriend-now-wife Sasha, Toth and Randy (I think) and it blew us away. We had been hearing chatter about it and the alternate ending that you could see if you waited through the credits. The ride home was full of conversations about fast zombies and which ending we liked better. I can tell you with zero doubt that that's the furthest I've ever gone to see a movie and it was totally worth it. I later bought 28DL and watched it a number of times, so, like every other person on the planet, I was pretty skeptical when I heard about the Boyle-less sequel 28 Weeks Later. But damn was it good.

I won't be nearly as eloquent and detailed as Sean was when he talked about writer/director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's 28WL back in '07, but it really seems like this flick was amazing in spite of itself. A sequel to a movie that most people either saw in art houses or on DVD getting a bigger sequel by some guy who wasn't involved in the first one with a joke title like 28 Weeks Later? It couldn't possibly live up to it's predecessor, but boy howdy, does it.

And, I think what makes it work so well is the fact that it's not a direct sequel, it's merely set in the same world as the original. No characters return (unless you count London, which I wouldn't argue against) so you're left with a part of the zombie mythos we don't tend to see: the clean-up and aftermath. Plus, if the opening of this movie doesn't get under your skin and make you think about how you'd REALLY react in a situation like this, then you might need to check your pulse. Sure we've seen people ditch other folks to save themselves in movies like this, but damn if this isn't the most effective emotionally.

That's really what makes this such a superior horror film, the level of emotional attachment stays consistent with the original. You start wondering how'd you react in a given situation and it's so easy to transfer most scenarios from a zombie infested world to the real one: how would you react if the woman you abandoned to thieves turned out to still be alive?

I also like how the emotional attachment bounces from character to character. After seeing how easily and understandably a husband might abandon his wife, it makes the adult heroes of this movie who accompany the children, even more heroic, earning them instant credibility (along with Scarlett's attestation that they probably shouldn't be bringing children into the city).

I had seen 28WL on DVD a while back, purchased it almost immediately afterwards, but hadn't watched it in a while, so the fates of the characters weren't fresh in my mind and I was continually surprised followed by moments of "oh yeah."

Another aspect of the movie that I love is the fact that things aren't forced down your throat. You can think about this movie for a while and realize all kinds of things. This time around, I fell in love with the idea that, Scarlett protested the idea of kids coming into London because "what if the rage virus isn't all the way gone?" only to have them not only be the only ones to survive (of our main characters at least), but also re-caused the spread of the virus inadvertently. So, she was right that they shouldn't be there, but for a completely different reason. Damn kids.

Oh, plus Harold Perrineau of Lost fame is in it, so bonus! I know I'm talking about a much-loved two year old movie that most horror fans have already seen, but if you haven't watched it in a while, I highly recommend it, if for no other reason than the helicopter vs. zombie scene and the very end with zombies storming France. It's way more effective than the "invasion" of NYC in Zombie and it nicely sets things up for a potential sequel.

Finally, a quick note about the DVD. There are two animated comics on there that were apparently first published through Fox Atomic that tell the tale of the guys who accidentally created the rage virus before the events of 28DL and one of a vigilante killing zombies and humans in "his city." The first one was really interesting from a continuity perspective (plus it had art by my con buddy Dennis Calero), while the second is more of a slice-of-life from one tiny perspective in a larger world. They're not too long and definitely worth a look.
Oh, DO go on.

Jennifer Garner's No James Bond

I've been saying for a few weeks now that we've been watching Alias. I had intended to do a review after the first season, but we got into the second one right away and I've been busy, so now's as good a time as any to talk about the show now that we've finished the second season. SPOILERS abound.

For the record, I don't love this show. And I've heard that the first two seasons are the best and it declines into the third, so I'm not sure how the rest will go, but Em digs it. My problems with the show are many, but one of the biggest is that our heroine, Sydeny Bristow, played by Jennifer Garner, just isn't that good at her job. Sure, she can throw a wig on, sex it up and get the information she's after, but she's not the best fighter and she tends to get overly emotional when it comes to certain aspects of her missions. Now, I know that James Bond gets put to the ropes and doesn't win every single fight he's in, but he doesn't cry about it.

Another big problem I have with the show as a whole is that it seems like all the big problems presented are tied up too tightly. What, it seems like Sydeny's handler Michael is a spy? No, he's just digging up dirt on her mother. Does this go anywhere? Absolutely not, it's only used to make Sydney and us suspicous. But it just doesn't work. There are all kinds of moments like this. Things don't happen in a natural way and they come out as forced and obvious. There also seems to be this "let's fool the viewer" mentality, which, once you catch on to, it makes for some pretty obvious storytelling. They'll lead with an idea, you're supposed to think A is going to happen, but because you know you're supposed to expect A, you assume Z will happen and then Z happens.

This is exemplified perfectly in the season 2 finale fight between Syd and the woman posing as her friend Francie. Sydney actually comes off as a badass here, but the problem is that the story the writers are trying to tell isn't matched by the fight choreography, so what you see is a fight that Sydeny should clearly be winning (especially considering her training), but, because the writers don't want it to be too one-sided, she makes what look like stupid tactical mistakes just so her opponent can gain the upper hand at times. It was an intense fight, very brutal, but it just felt too written and unnatural.

I also have to call foul on the Season 2 episode "Truth Takes Time." This is a game changing episode, but it was so artificially done that I was screaming at the TV. You see, Sydney's mom turned out to be a spy back when Syd was a girl, but she turned herself in to the CIA, got everyone to trust her and then escaped to team up with the series' big boss bad guy Sloane. In this episode there were just way too many ridiculous things happening I couldn't stand it. First, Sloane's wife turns herself in to help the CIA after hearing how crazy her husband is. Meanwhile, Sloane's thinking of giving up his 20-year mission because his wife is freaked out. Great timing right? Can you guess what's going to happen?

So, Sloane's wife tells Syd and the CIA where he will be so they can grab him. Now, they don't surround the building well enough to actually stop them when they're running through the yard to the spot where the helicopter will pick them up, which was annoying. But then, Dixon, one of Syd's partners, is on a hill with a sniper rifle trained on Sloane (with his wife alongside him), but the dude gets startled by a helicopter flying over him as he fires and, of course, kills Sloane's wife. But here's the thing, Sloane is sitting there for a WHILE and Dixon doesn't take a second shot at Sloane or the helicopter. There was plenty of time for him to take several other shots and he doesn't because he's upset that he killed an innocent woman. I get it, he's a good guy, but he's also a well trained super spy who has killed COUNTLESS people.

I get that shows like this have to keep going on a combination of adventure and emotion, but it's the emotional parts at the wrong time that get under my skin. They show later that Dixon, after realizing he shot Sloane's wife, rolls over on his back and looks upset. WTF?!! He's a damn spy! Take the second shot and THEN cry about it. I don't know spys from anything other than the movies and I know they're human beings, but Syd even talks about how she was trained to compartmentalize her emotions, which I assume is something real spies do as well, so freaking do it!

But, it's not a bad show all around. I like all the characters, though tech geek Marshall has a tendency to poke at my nerves with his nervous, pointless rambling. And the set up of the first season: a spy finds out she's not really working for the CIA, so she goes to the real CIA to become a double agent who finds out her dad is also a double agent was pretty cool. Limited, but cool. And the fact that they completely changed the game in the middle of the season by taking out all of the Alliance (bad spy guys) cells was pretty mind blowing. So big props for that kind of thing.

Another aspect of the show, and the thing that really kept me interested throughout the first season, which I found to be pretty dull for the most part, was the idea of this Renaissance inventor guy Rimbaldi and all his crazy inventions. It's become the backbone of the story now, but I feel like we haven't been shown enough of his inventions and what they can do (hopefully we'll get more of that in Season 3, though we'll see). I also feel like they let it dangle and fall off the radar for too long and it's lost a bit of its luster going into Season 3, but we shall see. It's a strangely fantastical concept for a show seemingly so steeped in reality.

One reason I think I didn't like the show is because we were watching so many episodes on DVD in such a short period of time. When you do that, the little things become a lot more obvious and annoying as the slap you in the face several times in one evening as opposed to once a week. I think there's also a difference in storytelling with shows like this now that the writers know everything will be online and on DVD. It seems like it might be like comic book writing where you're "writing for the trade." It might not make sense in single bits, but when everything's together, you'll get it. They also don't have to remind the audience awkwardly of things in-episode and spend time on things like reviewing the entire season, that's what the "Previously on..." part is for. There's even a full-on clip show with new material wrapped around it (Terry O'Quinn interviewing Sydeny about her involvement with the bad guys). It was during this episode that it struck me that you don't get episodes like this anymore. Sure, we get Lost shows where there are clips and people talk about what's happened so far, but it's not a canonical episode of the show. Since Alias started in 2001, it was just at the beginning of the whole TV on DVD thing and should get a limited pass because of it.

So, it's been an okay show, not something I would give up many other shows to watch, but since nothing's really on this summer, it's worth a peep. I had heard that the second season finale wasn't so hot, but I'm down with this two year jump (though why Michael would get married so damn quickly is beyond me). I'm curious to see where things go and, since I'm already not that into the show, I'll be interested to see how it jumps the shark.

Oh, DO go on.

Casting Internets

Gallery 1988 has a new show called Call of the Wild, you should definitely check it out. Here's a few of my favorites.

According to Toy News International, Hot Toys will be making Inglourious Basterds figures. I probably won't be able to afford, them, but they'll be super cool. Still haven't seen the movie, hopefully tomorrow night.

My buddy Alejandro pointed out this rad site to me called Squirrelizer. The idea is that you upload a photo and it puts a squirrel in it.

Seems like Jim had a much more localized version of My Epic Journey this morning.

In a weird twist of fate, I just read that 28 Weeks Later writer/director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo has been tapped for the Bioshock movie. I haven't played Bioshock, but it looks bonkers-crazy. Sounds like a good match. (via /Gamer)

Do yourself a favor and check out the wild and crazy website for Genius' Maneater Series of animals/mythical-creatures-eating-humans DVDs. First of all, marvel at the scariest looking swamp EVER. Then, as an added bonus, drag your mouse over the various carnivores for them to make a scary sound AND get details on the DVD.

Finally, check out Sean's Blackest Night review. He addresses a lot of the "pacing problems" that some people have with the series. Personally I agree and think that, even though this has been built to for a few years now, it's not against the law to have a bit of a slow burn story that will most likely reach epic proportions in the next issue or two. Plus, in a first in many years, I'm enjoying EVERYTHING related to this series, though I've only been looking at the pretty pictures in those Tales of the GLC issues.
Oh, DO go on.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

An Epic Journey

This weekend Em and I went to Columbus, Ohio for the wedding of a friend I've known since my freshman year of high school and his lovely new bride. In a weird twist, we have three weddings this year, and for all three the bride's name is Megan. Crazy right? Anyway, that turned out to be one of the more normal aspects of this trip as it slowly descended into whatever can go wrong, will go wrong territory.

The plan was to fly out Friday afternoon from the airport right down the street from our house, connect in Detroit, have an hour layover and then fly to C-bus where my buddy Randy and his wife Lindsey would pick us up and we'd head downtown to hang out with almost all of my friends from high school. It was supposed to be fairly easy and end with some drunken revelry. That's not quite how it went down.

At the airport, we actually ran into Justin who was off to Cali for work. They boarded his plane really quickly because this storm was rolling in and then they got stuck on the runway for 45 minutes to an hour. The storm pushed our flight back about 50 minutes, but things cleared up and we headed out with enough time to not miss our connector in the D.

The flight itself was fine. I dozed off after reading some House of Seven Gables (I'm trying to get some culture). Once we landed we ran down the terminal and made it with time to spare (it's not easy to run in boat shoes with a big ass back pack on your back). We made it with time to spare and had a seat at the gate. It was then that I realized I had left my copy of House of Seven Gables on the previous plane. Since we didn't have much time and it was just a Barnes & Noble version of the book, I wasn't too worried about it. Soon after, they started boarding the plane, which was supposed to take off around 7:15PM. Em and I got on and got situated. Then, about five minutes later an airline guy came on the plane and told as that the airline had changed this plane and it was now going to Cincinnati. And we had to get off the plane.

Between the two of us Em and I have done a good bit of traveling, but neither of us had ever heard of something like this. So, after getting off the plane, the new departure time was 8:00PM. After that I grabbed a beer at an Irish pub right across from our gate, which was nice and calmed me down a bit. Then the departure time changed to 8:30. Then 9:00. Then 10:00. Around 9:30 or so, one of our fellow travelers got a call saying that, according to the internet, the flight was cancelled and it had disappeared from the board in the airport. The woman at the gate started making calls and it turned out it was cancelled due to weather. Here's the crazy thing, even if there was bad weather, which I'm doubtful of, there was another flight for Columbus leaving at 9:30. I'm not sure how that adds up, or how bad the weather could get in a half hour, but there was definitely some shadiness going on (this was a Delta/Northwest flight for the record).

I actually felt really bad for the woman at the gate, because, it's obviously not her fault, she's just the one giving a bunch of pissed off people the bad news. And the news got worse as we stood there waiting. First, her computer stopped working so she couldn't tell us what other flights there were and we were waiting for her supervisor to show up and tell us if they would be providing accommodations. We were sure what we were gonna do. The wedding wasn't until 5:30 or so on Saturday, but it turned out that the first flight to C-bus on Saturday was 11:45AM and they wouldn't pay for hotels because they blamed the cancellation on weather. I call total bullshit. Maybe if they hadn't pulled us off of a plane and continuously bumped us back, it would have been different, but it's not okay to keep yanking people around like that and I don't think we'll be flying Delta or NWA again.

So, we decided to rent a car and just drive the 3-4 hours to the hotel and just make it work. At the baggage desk they told us that our luggage had already gone through to C-bus on that 9:30 flight. Meanwhile this woman who wasn't very nice at all walked behind the desk and told all the people helping us that they would not be getting bags because they didn't have the manpower. Now, I don't know if that was true or not, but she was a total asshole the way she said it loud enough for all of us to hear it.

Now, before we actually went to baggage an older gentleman offered to give us a ride. I told him I'd talk to my wife and let him know. After trying to talk about it while passing through the color-changing German techno tunnel:

we decided to just get our own car, but after finding out our bags we actually ran into the guy again right outside the car rental place and he offered again, so we took it. He seemed like a nice enough guy and then he went to find this other guy who he talked to.

The four of us waited for the bus to take us to the rental car place and made small talk, something we made a LOT of during the long drive down to C-bus. But, before we could get going there was one more snag: the car's tail lights were out. A guy pulled up next to us and told us. Both of them. Have you ever heard of that happening? The brake lights were fine, it was just the running lights. So, we headed back to the rental place (we were only about 5 minutes away, so it wasn't a huge deal), got another car and left around 11.

The drive was fine and both of the guys were really nice, but it was hard to stay awake. On paper, it might not have been the smartest thing to do in the world, but he seemed like a nice guy and he turned out to be an incredibly nice man, as he wouldn't let us pay for any portion of the car or even for gas.

We ended up getting to C-bus (he actually dropped us off right at the hotel) after driving through the town we went to school in and our old stomping grounds, which was kind of surreal. I think it was around 2:30? My sense of timing is all off because I was so exhausted. But it was great seeing Randy, Lindsey, Chad Yates and meeting his new lady Kristen. Toth and Matt Hartmann showed up later (they were hanging out with the rest of our friends, including Matt Bond, the groom, near OSU). I was bummed to miss out on that, but I grabbed a whiskey and Coke and relaxed. Meanwhile, Chad had a Pomegranate Passion Fruit Cooler (this from the dude who I invented Sweet Tart whiskey with):

I had a beer before/in bed and then fell asleep but didn't sweep too well. The next day we met up with Heather, who was in our wedding, and everyone else in our hotel (Erica showed up after we did actually, but we were asleep) and got Mexican food. We came back and it turned out that Chad and Randy were wearing the same shirt:

We then went to the wedding and it was amazing. I remember the first time I met Megan. Geoff and I went down to visit Bond and she refused to hang out with us on a Friday because she had to study for a test on Tuesday. I always thought that was pretty funny. Anyway, the ceremony was great and it's always fun to see my friends in the same spot I was in a few years back. I've made it a point to watch the groom when the bride shows up. Sorry brides :)

The reception was equally awesome and it was great to see everyone who we missed hanging out with the night before. Charlie was in from Texas, the Suttons were there, Jen, Geoff, his fiance Eileen, Chad Mikrut in from Japan and of course Bond and Megan. Did I miss anyone? If so, I suck and am sorry. Everyone seemed to be in a really good mood which was awesome and I got to have some great conversations with everyone. We were a pretty tight group throughout high school and it's nice to know that we can pick right up where we left off after all this time.

The best part of the whole reception, though, was when Matt got up and played "When I Think About You I Touch Myself" with the dueling pianos guy. It was amazing and luckily I took some video with my new phone. Excuse the weird angle, I'm still getting used to this thing.

Everything was great and we ended up heading back to our hotel where we hung out before going to sleep. Well, I was sleeping in theory. I was paranoid about not waking up on time (we were getting a cab to the airport at 6:15AM). Plus, there was quite the commotion going on out in the hallway as there were almost several fights and then some dude kept coming back to a room and banging on the door trying to get inside. It was not optimal sleeping conditions to say the least.

Luckily, the trip home went off without a hitch, somewhat renewing my faith in the airline industry, but not 100%. We even got to go out onto the tarmac and get right on the plane:

So, the journey was long and crazy and not optimal, but it was absolutely worth it to see the Bonds get married and to see all my friends again. I hope they enjoy their honeymoon in Mexico, hopefully we took away all the bad travel karma and theirs was a nice and easy flight. Congrats again you guys!

Oh, DO go on.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Casting Internets

Just as I finish one of these things, something awesome comes out that I just have to share. Moments after hitting the Publish Post button, /Film
killed me with this video of Snoop Dogg trying to answer a Watchmen movie question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

My buddy Jesse tipped me off to this amazing Twitter account called shitmydadsays. I don't generally read Twitter accounts (is that even what they call them?), but I think I'll be coming back for more pearls of wisdom from this crotchety man in his 70s. I think he's my new hero.

Hopefully my fellow horror fans are already familiar with Stacie Ponder's Final Girl blog. She just posted awesome movie poster friday - the LESBIAN VAMPIRE edition!
. She found some great posters like this one, my favorite of the batch.

There wasn't much real information, but according to a Toy News International post, Sideshow's going to be doing statues and dioramas based on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If they're even nearly as cool as NECA's figures, we're all in for treat.

In other toy-related news, Ian at The Autumn Society posted this awesome piece he did for the Cave Drawing Ink sketch contest this week. I wasn't familiar with CDI before, but I love the idea of doing weekly sketch contests on a single pop culture theme. These week's it's Joe!

Oh, DO go on.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Casting Internets

A few months back (maybe 6 actually) I tore through Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island in just two days. Now, I'm a slow reader, so you know a book's gotta be pretty damn engrossing for me to stay focused that long. When I heard it was going to be turned into a movie, I was skeptical, but with Martin Scorsese directing and Leo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley involved my fears were alleviated. But really, who cares? I've always got the rad book to go back to (assuming Rickey ever finishes it and gives it back). Anyway, today, AWESOME/Film showed off the Japanese poster today:

This is from a couple days back, but Bruce Willis has confirmed that he's going to be in The Expendables. As you know, I'm crazy excited about this movie, but with each new announcement, it gets closer and closer to the epic, three-part Many Movie Men TTT we did about a year back. Maybe we'll even get a cut! (via /Film.)

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a holiday preview for Sega games. It was in a swanky Manhattan hotel penthouse which was pretty rad and it went really well, except for the intense heat combined with the 15-20 block walk. The two highlights were getting to see Iron Man 2 and Aliens vs. Predator getting played. AVP looks like it will be amazing, you can play as human marines, aliens or Predatprs (for those of you who don't know, I freaking LOVE Predators). Check out AVP screenshots at /Gamer.

Turns out that Geoff Johns is co-writing the Shazam movie. As readers might remember, it's a character I like but don't have a strong tie to, which means it can't possibly disappoint me (especially if they grab the Rock to play Black Adam!!!). Plus, Johns is a super nice guy. I just hope this doesn't take him away from the DCU too much as he's writing some of the best damn comics out there. (via /Film.)

Finally, Jay-Z's "D.O.A." is amazing. Love the use of actual instruments (at least in the video) and can't wait for the release of The Blueprint Vol. 3 on September 11 (it's weird looking forward to that date).

Oh, DO go on.

Ad It Up: The Return of Clayface!!!

This little ditty comes to you from Major Bummer #5, October of 1997, just like last week's. It sums up why I wish I had all of my old back issues with me here in New York and why I love comics from this time so much. Can you imagine such a big push for the return of Clayface nowadays? Well, probably not because he seems to be popping up every three months or so, but who's counting? Heck, I even tried to count, but there are six Clayfaces listed on The Comic Book Database:

Clayface (01 - Basil Karlo) -
Clayface (02 - Matthew Hagen) -
Clayface (03 - Preston Payne) -
Clayface (04 - Sondra Fuller) -
Clayface (05 - Cassius Clay) -
Clayface (06 - Johnny Williams)

That is way too much research to deal with. Anyway, I also love that this ad is trying to bolster excitement for Batman #550 for a brand new character called Chase. I remember the push behind Chase much more than the actual stories in these comics (which are in my boxes back home) and was pretty happy when Chase showed up in Manhunter (even though I didn't read that book much) and more recently in the fantastic Final Crisis: Escape, a book I don't understand, but am in love with. Plus, how cool is it that two of the artists for the comic she debuted in are Kelly Jones and JH Williams III? I wish I could get them to draw me! Ah, good times.
Oh, DO go on.

Conquering Mt. Fuji!!!

Hey gang, I know it's been a while since I've talked about food, but I just had to share these photos with you guys. See, even since I moved out here four years ago, I've been seeing this building up on a mountain off of 87. From a distance it looked like some kind of crazy fortress or a club or mansion. Turns out it's a restaurant called Mt. Fuji. Well, as a thank you for helping some friends move, we were treated to an amazing dinner at Mt. Fuji, which turns out to be a hibachi place (that's where the chop everything at your table). I've been to one or two in my time, but not in a while and it was a great time. Thanks to my new phone I was able to snap some pictures, though I wish I had been video taping the whole thing, it was THAT awesome.

These are the crazy, Japanese style arches you cross through at the ground level before the long drive up the mountain (well, it's not that long).

Here's the front of the place along with Em and her dad from the back. Far as I know it looks pretty authentic.

There's even a cool little waterfall right outside the place.

This one's not really impressive, but I took it looking down on what I think is the direction I was always looking up at this place from. If nothing else, it shows how high up it is.

Here's a crummy picture of the bar that I was trying to take on the sly. We waiting in this great lounge area that I could see spending many an evening given the time and resources.

Someone told the folks at the restaurant it was Em's dad's birthday so this dragon covered in bells tried to eat his head. Luckily, I jumped up in time to fight him off. No big deal.

Here's a better view of the table (the metal part is the cooking surface). We had quite the party. Oh and the green tea martinis were delightful!

This weird monkey thing was out in the lobby on the way out. As you can see by my Perez Hilton-eque Photoshop work, it had a huge twig and berries.

I like to think that this awesome statue... in the middle of a dance fight with this one.

I saw the lamp with the restaurant's name on it as we were leaving and grabbed one last photo before heading out. A good time was had by all!

Oh, DO go on.

Brutally Honest Video Not Personal But Hilarious

I have a confession to make, I love pop punk music. Green Day and Blink-182 Green Day were big with me when they started hitting big and I still dig both bands. Plus, as I've mentioned on here before, I really dig Fall Out Boy and the last Plain White T's record is pretty good. It's just fun, fast music that you can enjoy either in bits or as full albums. That being said, I take a lot of these bands on a case by case basis to see if they're bringing anything new to the table. I'm not sure if I like All Time Low yet, though in a weird twist of fate, I saw this video for their song "Weightless" the day after I saw them on the only episode of Conan's Tonight Show I've seen (I know, I'm bad for not watching it more often).

Anyway, I really like the floating word theme behind the video, especially when it pokes fun at ATL, makes fun of the people Twittering ( roughly "No one cares what you're doing.") and the appearances by FOB's Pete Wentz and Blink's Mark Hoppus. Even if you hate pop punk music, check the video out, I bet you'll get a kick out of it.

{Post does not go on}
Oh, DO go on.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Who Wants To Watch Some Movies?

Hey gang, I noticed something interesting while watching Maniac Cop and Zombie last weekend. Apparently Netflix on Xbox went through some upgrades recently and, in addition to being able to scroll through new releases and genres right on Xbox Live, you can also watch movies with people at the same time by setting up a part. Has anyone tried this yet? I've heard you can hook up with 7 other people, but I don't know if you can talk over the headsets like you can with games like Halo.

So, really, what I'm asking is, would anyone be interested in watching movies on Xbox Live? If so, drop me a line, my gamertag is Deechmonkee!

{This post does not go on}
Oh, DO go on.

Halloween Scene: Maniac Cop & Zombie

Every now and then I get a day to myself at the house. And, as you might expect, when I do, I try and watch as many horror movies as possible. Last Saturday happened to be one of those days and I was able to watch two classic horror movies I'd never seen before, Maniac Cop (1988) and Lucio Fulci's Zombie (1979). I definitely liked one more than the other, but you might be surprised by which one!

First of all, I actually thought that I had seen Maniac Cop as it was crossed off in my Creature Features book. I think I kinda sorta half watched it or one of the sequels one time when visiting Em back when we were dating in college. Her parents had on demand and I tried watching it but probably fell asleep. Anyway, just watching the credits was a surprise. Tom Atkits , Bruce Campbell and Richard Roundtree (Shaft!!!) all in one movie? Plus the bad ass dude who fights Eastwood for like 15 minutes at the end of Any Which Way You Can (William Smith, though he looks completely different than in that movie), sold. I could have given this movie the thumbs up just based on the credits!

But, it really is a fun movie, a great one to stumble on thanks to NetBox (that's what I call Netflix & Xbox) as there are plenty of kills, a great killer with a pretty interesting origin and such great actors. The plot revolves around a crazy cop killing people out on the streets which, as you'd expect, makes people weary of the cops (one lady even caps one who's trying to help her). Atkins is investigating and is one of the only people to believe Campbell when he says he didn't do it after his wife gets iced by the killer cop. Campbell's girlfriend/mistress, who's also a cop, forms the third point in this triangle of awesome.

In addition to the basic level of coolness that Atkins brings to all of his horror roles, I really like seeing Campbell playing a straight part. Sure he's a badass in the Evil Dead flicks, but he's a winking-at-the-camera kind of a bad ass. Here he's a regular guy trying to make sense of what turns out to be a potentially supernatural occurrence (an unkillable cop back from the dead?). Oh, also, for those who this might be an incentive for, there's a naked prison shower fight flashback scene. Hey, I call out boobs, why not a little man nudity?

Anyway, after MC, I almost watched the sequel, but didn't want to get too burned out on the series (though, in an unusual twist, the Creature Features guy gave all three movies three stars, you almost never see that kind of consistency). So, I was flipping and flipping and flipping until I discovered that Fulci's Zombie, the supposed semi-sequel to the original Dawn of the Dead I've heard so much about, got put on NetBox. I've also been hearing about the infamous Zombie vs. Shark and eye gouging scenes for years, so I figured it would be a great candidate for my mini horror fest.

And I gotta say, it's kind of boring. My experience with Italian horror doesn't stretch beyond Dario Argento's Suspiria and Mother of Tears. If you're looking for a train wreck of a blog post, please check out that Suspiria link, the only blog post I've considered deleting. Anyway, maybe I just don't get the sensibilities of Italian horror, or maybe I just haven't seen the really good ones or maybe they're just batshit crazy and that's why people like them. I'm definitely not against batshit craziness, so it's not like I'm cutting myself off from further Fulci or Argento flicks, they're just not incredibly hight on my list.

The problem with Zombie is that it's kind of slow and boring. There's a lot of people talking and sailing on boats, but when it does get to the zombie goodness it is definitely good stuff. I just wish there was more of it. The other problem with Zombie (which isn't the film's fault), is that it's reached this legendary status because of the aforementioned scenes that every horror fan talks about it. It's been on every horror list I've ever seen, so all the good parts were basically ruined. And, with the exception of the final shot of zombies running around NYC, you've probably seen those two amazing scenes online or a on a clip show before.

I don't usually like adding to the SPOILER-ness of horror movies, but here's clips of those two scenes (I recommend watching just them or reading a trade while half-watching Zombie). First the shark fight:

Holy crap this is crazy. It really does look like a zombie fighting a shark and neither one really wins. It's an amazing piece of film that I would sit through a hundred hours of boring to see, seriously, it's worth it and I can only imagine how much better it would look on DVD or Blu-ray (the Netflix file wasn't of the best quality and YouTube doesn't REALLY do it justice).

And here's the eye gouge (not for the squeamish):

Again, this moment is worth the price of admission as it's one of the most real-looking effects I've seen (though I was able to see how they did it and it's kind of beautiful in it's simplicity).

One last thing I want to comment on is the "sequel" aspect of the movie in relation to Romero's Dawn of the Dead (one of my top three favorite horror movies). Very simply, it's not. At all. It was finished before DOTD and the name was just changed. Luckily, my enjoyment didn't hinge on it's relation to DOTD.

So, in the end, I had a great time watching some classic horror movies, even though Zombie might have been a little boring aside from the tent pole scenes, but seeing two rad NYC-based movies (I didn't see anything I recognized, though things have changed quite a bit even since 1988) was a great way to spend part of my Saturday.

Oh, DO go on.

Train-Ing Video: Beer Wars (2009)

I recently had the opportunity to watch Beer Wars, a documentary about smaller breweries competing with the big three (at the time) beer makers in the US: Miller, Anheuser-Busch (aka Budweiser) and Coors and I wasn't all that impressed.

The film starts off promisingly, with some really creative animated sequences that introduce Anat Baron, the narrator and director. She states her history working in corporate America and then moving over to the fledgling Mike's Hard Lemonade before leaving, only to come back and make this documentary.

I started having problems fairly early on when it seemed like Baron was going to explain some of the history of the larger beer manufacturers only to veer away and move forward. Generally, I like to understand a bit of the overall history of a subject before diving into it, it's a good way to refresh people in the know and inform newbies. I see now that a possible reason for this is because she didn't want to make the obvious connection between what Anheuser-Busch was like 100 years ago and what an organization like Dogfish Head is like today. You see, A-B, especially, gets made into the bad guy in by the end, but people tend to forget that these were small, start-up American companies at one time too, but you won't hear a single mention of that in the doc.

It wasn't until much later that I really started having problems with the movie though. After a brief and scattershot history of the brewing industry in America (more like a timeline showing how many breweries were in the US over the years), we get introduced to two smaller beer companies, one the aforementioned Dogfish Head, the other a caffeinated beer called Moonshot. Dogfish Head I've heard of, Moonshot I haven't, though it sounds a lot like Buzz Beer from the Drew Carey Show to me. Anyway, after getting into these smaller breweries and talking to the guy who helped create Sam Adams (great beer), the movie awkwardly shifts back to Baron and her Michael Moore-ish attempt at putting people on the spot while attending beer conferences, trying to find A-B honcho August Busch IV and talking to senators.

There is some really interesting information about laws pertaining to beer and how a lot of them don't seem to make sense anymore. It actually sounded a lot like the current talk of health care reform: there's all these out-of-date rules and regulations, but there's also plenty of lobbyists wanting to keep it the same and accusations of kick backs and the like. I do agree that it sounds like reform is in order, but there's enough other stuff going on in the world that it probably won't be a priority anytime soon. (How great would it be, though, if all we had to worry about were suspect post-prohibition beer laws?)

We eventually bounce back to the Dogfish and Moonshot folks, but towards the end, the doc really starts to feel unfocused and cramped. Is the movie about small breweries trying to make it even though they've got a tough road ahead of them, big beer companies vs. the small or breweries vs. big government? We're never quite given a definite answer on exactly who this war is between, though we can assume "the little guy" is on one side. I guess it's that unfocused nature that bothers me.

But what really bothers me is the villainizing of the big beer companies. Sure, Coors Light doesn't taste as good as something like Blue Moon (which I also love), but I'm not an asshole for wanting to kick back and down a bunch of Coors Light and I can't help but feel like this movie is trying to tell me that I am. Towards the end of the doc there's this strange paradox where 99% of the film is desperately trying to get me to hate A-B because they bought a successful brewery like Rolling Rock, but don't make the beer in Latrobe, PA anymore or because they put out similar products as smaller breweries to compete or take shelf space. Yes, that sucks and I'm sure there's some shady stuff going on there, but welcome to the world of business. I'm sick of "it's not fair-ism" dammit! Learn how to work within the system, Sam Adams did it (a connection they don't actually make in the film).

For whatever reason Miller and Coors get let off the hook because people who work there drink together (that's what I got from it at least). Meanwhile, the woman who owns/runs Moonshot is actually trying to cut a deal with the bigger dogs, though, of course, A-B is the last on her list. Demonizing something while one of your highly sympathetic main characters sees it as an end to her financial woes just doesn't work from a story-telling perspective.

Another conundrum I noticed while watching the end of the flick is that, on one hand, the big beer companies are being criticized for making boring beer, but they're also criticized for either buying up smaller brews and selling them to a wider audience or creating their own microbrew-like beers to "compete" with the little guys. Make up your mind! Once again, what is the message of this movie?

I'm sure I'm coming off as pro-corporate and anti-small business, but that's not the case. I've only ever worked for smaller, privately owned companies and I completely support them, but I'm also not anti-corporation. There isn't anything inherently wrong with a corp and you've got to realize when watching something like this, that your narrator is biased and has an agenda. I'm not saying she misrepresented the facts, but she's using information like paint to show you a picture and she might leave out some colors or make others brighter. Like I mentioned above, nowhere is it mentioned that the big dogs were once struggling companies themselves. Does becoming big and successful make you bad? I hope not, because that seems to be exactly what's happening with the Dogfish folks. But also, you've got to remember that passionate people work for corporations just like they do small breweries. There is an interview with an A-B brewmaster on this very subject, which I appreciated.

Finally, the film suffers from bad timing, which is not the fault of anyone really. As anyone who follows the business of beer knows, Miller and Coors have merged and A-B got bought out by a foreign company. These huge bits of information are mentioned only briefly at the very end and not really delved into because they probably happened after the movie wrapped. While I can't fault someone for bad timing on both a beer and economic front (the economic decline and it's effect on beer isn't mentioned at all), I would like to think if I was in the position of making a film like this, I'd try and do a few follow-up interviews with my primary people and throw them in. But, hey, I don't make movies (yet) and I don't know what the money situation was like, so who knows?

Overall, I liked some of the early stylistic approaches that Beer Wars made, but, in the end just couldn't get down with message. Now to head home and decide between a Coors Light and a beer from Sam's Summer Sampler (I love me a sampler pack!).

Oh, DO go on.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Record Review: The Phenomenal Handclap Band (2009)

If you would have told me a few months back how much I would like a record from an all star line-up of indie rockers, I'd tell you you're crazy. When I think of indie rock nowadays, I gotta say, images of shoegazers playing super slow and mostly boring music pops into my head. It's inaccurate and unfair I know, but I it's honest. Well, all that went out the door with The Phenomenal Handclap Band's self titled record.

I actually got sent a copy of this record back when I was doing album reviews for the now defunct Performing SongwriterPerforming Songwriter. Brooke over at Big Hassle, who is awesome, sent me this record and I suck for not reviewing it sooner, especially considering how much I freaking love it.

Now, unfortunately, The PHB don't have a Wiki page, their blog isn't super informative and I've misplaced the press release I was sent along with the record, so I can't give too much background, but I do remember it being hyped as a band made up of indie rock all-stars. And, since there's different singers on nearly every track, I'm guessing this is almost like a Timbaland record, where the same producers/band are consistent with different singers.

Against all my expectations, this record turned out to be a conglomeration of 60s and 70s riffs and grooves laid over some amazingly catchy synth beats. It's like Deep Purple meets Sly and the Family Stone...with a synthesizer. I'm not very familiar with synth pop, but this is the best I've heard it lately.

The album, which came out on June 23 from Friendly Fire, sports 12 tracks and curiously opens with a just-over-6 minute instrumental called "The Journey To Serra Da Estrela." This again, threw up a red flag as far as I was concerned (who starts a record with an instrumental?), but it makes an awesome journey starting with some Pink Floyd-like atmosphere and gets heavily into the synth-funk. Every time I was just about to get bored, they introduced another element that drops in seamlessly and adds another layer.

And really, that's what I love about this record, there's so many layers. I've listened to it so many times and it feels like I'm picking up new elements every time. I also think I get a new favorite song each time. This time around it's track 6 called "15 to 20" which features Lady Tigra, who I haven't heard of, but will definitely check out. First off the groove is just sick. You can't help but bob your head and tap your foot at the very least. Even the lyrics, which consist of counting for a good portion of the song, are awesome and delivered beautifully, especially when the counting stops and we hit rapid fire mode. Great stuff.

The whole album is like this, even though the singers switch up with each new track (I think, there might be a few repeat singers). There is one song though that I just can't get into. It's called "Baby," and instead of being a a rock/synth combo, it's a a soul/R&B throwback. It's not a bad song, but instead of feeling inspired by other music, like the rest of the record, it just feels like a lift. Maybe it's because soul is still around and I've heard lots of new songs like this and there isn't a lot of 70s-influenced rock on the radio anymore. Or maybe that it sounded like a combination of Marvin Gaye and James Brown. It just felt TOO similar, even though the music and singing were solid.

But, "Baby" doesn't ruin the album by any means, and maybe in a few weeks, when I listen to it again, it'll jump to my favorites list. Another big surprise on the record was the last track called "The Circle Is Broken" which is a nearly-9 minute track. Again, I wasn't so sure about such a long final track, but like the first one, it gets crazy and awesome, just when it might get a little boring. Plus, the first few bars of this song sound like the music from the castle levels of the first Mario game. It really is just a creepy, haunting dance tune and the repetition of the lyric "This is where the story ends," seems really appropriate. The song never gets scary, but it is a kind of funhouse ride that I would love to see a short film set to.

I really can't recommend this record enough for you guys. You can buy it on Amazon here .
Oh, DO go on.