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Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Green Lantern and Cowboys and Aliens movie trailers

Today, I felt like dropping a little trailer jambalaya on ya.

Within a few days, I saw both The Green Lantern and Cowboys and Aliens movie trailers.  After viewing both, I decided I need to get an unbiased opinion; as a comic book reading/movie junkie, my opinion didn’t seem like a fair appraisal, so  I sat my girlfriend down and subjected her to flashing lights, people yelling and explosions.

First, we watched The Green Lantern trailer.  After it was over, I asked her what she made of it, and she was able to gist of what the Green Lantern was all about.  I asked her what she thought about the aliens and she only mentioned “the red guy he got the ring from,” so I put the trailer on again without sound so we could bask in the digital glory.  Each crazy alien member of The Green Lantern Core is crazier looking than the next, so I thought I’d take a minute and explain what the Green Lantern Corps is, which led us to a brief discussion about Green Lantern attire.  I’m not sure if people are going to buy this – I think a of people might see this trailer and think, “This looks stupid,” but nevertheless, the trailer gives you enough tools to make a decision.  It’s a more effective trailer than I thought, though – a non-comic book person could deal with this.

Then we watched the Cowboys and Aliens trailer.  When it finished and I saw that, “What the shiz was that?” look on her face, I immediately concurred:  “I know, right?”  Apparently, we weren’t wrong:  the crowd at a midnight “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” in Santa Monica thought it was hilarious. I think its fair to say that we were closer to confusion than laughter.  Besides the weird thing on Daniel Craig’s arm, the trailer start’s off promisingly enough, but the rest is just a big genre mash-up that defies logic, or at least doesn’t gives an audience waiting to watch Harry Potter the ability to suspend disbelief.  As the New York Times pointed out, Dreamworks and Company have a lot of marketing work to do before the movie comes out.  I can’t imagine Cowboys and Aliens is as corny as Independence Day was, but then, that title is a step in that direction.  It’s not that I didn’t understand what I was seeing, I just didn’t get it, if you will.

I’d say next summer doesn’t look very promising, but I’d be wrong – we’ve got Captain America coming out!  I know we haven’t gotten any trailer yet, but I’m expecting Marvel to do this right; they haven’t screwed up in a while (unless it’s true they’ve making another Ghost Rider movie), and how hard is it to have Cap run around and punch Nazis/Hydra agents in the face?  The trailer will tell…

The American Atheists went too far with their billboard, but it should stay up

American Atheists billboard

I wouldn’t call myself a cheerleaders for Christianity or Religion in general.  At best, I can be described as agnostic, and spreading your message is fine, but sometimes, its not necessary to get up in people’s faces in the way the American Atheists have.  On the other hand, I’m sure an atheist could make a great argument that Christmas is in their grill:  it’s on TV, at the mall and on everyone’s lips.

Any Christian worth a salt can tell you that Easter is a higher holy day than Christmas, but that’s just not how things are practiced.  For shiz, I have friends that are Hindu and they celebrate Christmas every year, including throwing up a tree in the living room and Christmas lights on the front of the house.  “It’s just fun,” my buddy told me.  “What could be more American than celebrating Christmas?  You get a day off, watch A Christmas Story ten times, drink some egg nog – it’s pretty much the definition of awesomeness, and I didn’t even get to the presents part yet.”

I can’t imagine what it feels like to be a non-Christian in my area (greater NYC) during the Christmas season, never mind being an atheist.  I’m sure it’s not a ton of fun, and I have no idea what the best way is to deal with it.  But this billboard is not it.  Throwing up a huge image of the Nativity Scene in Jersey (you can see it on the left hand side if you’re traveling eastbound on 495 toward the Lincoln Tunnel) that says ‘You Know It’s A Myth” is not the best way to communicate your message, given that the president of American Atheists has said the goal is to let people know that like minded folks are out there.  They could have went with something like, “Atheists:  This holiday season, you’re not alone” and dropped their website URL.

Free speech is awesome;  I think the billboard should stay up, as I’m willing to put up with people being dicks to keep free speech at it’s highest level…  although I believe its not necessary to be a dick to this extent.  This got the American Atheists a ton of free press, which was probably their objective in the first place.  Oh well.  Maybe next year they’ll put up my suggested ‘Atheists Lonely Hearts Club’ billboard.

Anyway, Happy Holidays!

(I’m a ‘Happy Holidays’ kind of guy, which I think covers me for the atheists, too, because I’m referring to New Years as well.  Oh, and all of you ‘War on “Happy Holidays” pundits can go screw.  Saying “Merry Christmas” to strangers (or relative strangers) makes you an asshole.  That’s why we came up with “Happy Holidays,” assholes!  But again, it’s the price we pay for free speech, and I pay it gladly.)

Turkeys protest Thanksgiving

turkeys protest thanksgiving copy

I’m the first to admit that this didn’t get the attention it deserved, but the idea is there.  Go VEGAN! =)

Or don’t, whatever… I’m not your judge – your conscious is. (descends from pulpit.)

one rejected protest sign read, “Uhm… ‘Eat More Chicken.'”

photoshop is fun!  Jeez, this post is a mess!

Drama: Understanding the Three Act Formula

drama masksI’ve created a few companion posts to go along with my reviews:  a rating system and a spoiler alert warning.  Now, I’m ready to take it a step further and explain what I mean when I reference Act 1, Act 2 or Act 3 in a review.

When I say ‘drama,’ I’m not just referring to a specific genre; all stories have drama.  When I reference an ‘Act,’ I understand your mind may immediately jump to theater, but the three act system of story structure is relevant to all mediums.  In the simplest terms, Act 1 is the beginning, Act 2 is the middle and Act 3 is the end.  Each act has to accomplish specific goals:

batman beginsACT 1: you meet all of the characters and learn about the central conflict that drives the story.
EXAMPLE:  In Batman Begins, we meet Bruce Wayne, Rachel Dawes, Alfred Pennyworth and other characters and learn about the central conflict that drives the movie:  Bruce’s parents were murdered in front of him when he was a child.  To reconcile this conflict, Bruce becomes Batman and begins working on bringing justice to Gotham City’s criminal underworld.

ACT 2: the main character(s) is thrust into the worst possible situation they could be in.
EXAMPLE:  Batman Begins – Bruce’s house is burned down, all the criminals break out of jail and Ra’s al Ghul is going to release his fear toxin on Gotham City.

ACT 3: the main character gets out of the horrible situation.
EXAMPLE:  Batman Begins – Batman beats Ra’s al Ghul and is confident that they’ll pick up the remaining criminals still at large.  Bruce begins rebuilding his house.

It’s that simple:  conflict, conflict inside of conflict, resolution.  Let’s try it again, but this time with a comedy:

The 40 Year Old Virgin

the 40 year old virginACT 1:  Andy is a lonely and in some ways juvenile man and at 40, has never had sex.  To address this conflict, Andy  starts dating and meets Trish, who he quickly falls for.  Although Andy hides his virginity from Trish, they decide to wait 30 dates before having sex.

ACT 2:  Trish and Andy fight when Trish attempts to initiate sex and Andy is still afraid and hasn’t told her he’s a virgin.  When she arrives at his apartment, she finds a box filled with pornography that she assumes is Andy’s property and Trish is angrier still and storms out.

ACT 3:  Andy reveals to Trish that he’s a virgin and not some pornographic crazed psycho killer.  Andy and Trish get married and have sex, ending Andy’s virginity.

A good story should have characters that grow and change throughout the story.  As the conflict resolves, they’re not the people they were when the story began; this is because what happened in Act 2 was so stressing that they had to react to it in Act 3, hence they come out different on the other side.

Hope this was helpful!

Disney World Vacation Photos Part 2: The Main Street Electrical Parade

The Main Street Electrical Parade

(If you missed part 1, click here.)

Although I have been known to throw the “lousy traumatic childhood!” card around, I have to admit that there were many ways in which I was blessed.  One of these ways was when my grandparents would come down from Jersey to my then Orlando area home, we would get to go to Disney World, and a day at Disney World in the 80s always ended (to my recollection) with the The Main Street Electrical Parade, the most gangsta of all parades.   As a child living in greater Orlando, where I don’t recall going to a parade ever, this became my standard for parades. Read the rest of this entry

Bernie Williams show at William Paterson University

I was lucky enough to attend Bernie Williams’ performance and interview at William Paterson University in November of 2010.  You can check out my recollection of the concert and stories here.

bernie-williams-moving-forward

Attention Must Be Paid: James Rolfe: The Angry Video Game Nerd and the Bullshit Man

While James Rolfe’s career continues to bring him more opportunities the longer he persists, I still feel that he could use a shout out, and so, it’s time for Attention Must Be Paid, James Rolfe edition… or, in internet vernacular, AMBPAVGN.

While wandering around the internet, I came across a video on YouTube that delighted me:  the series was called, You Know What’s Bullshit? and the episode was called, Temperature.  This, I am sure, is one of the greatest things to ever grace the YouTube servers.

“Potatoes are assholes; they’re so unpredictable.”

Has a better sentence ever been uttered?  I think not.  Potatoes are, in fact, assholes!  (Sure, they’re not on corn‘s level, but what vegetable is?)

The Bullshit series is a work of art in itself, from part 1 to part 13.  I was stunned with the quality of the writing, camera work and most of all, the superior editing.  YouTube has so much fatty waste clogging up its mighty heart that its easy to get stuck in the muck of loathsome dreck, a sea of unedited video with awful pop music poorly mixed in the background, and the Bullshit series was a tremendous breath of fresh air; people really were putting quality video on YouTube.  Who knew?

I soon found that I had engorged on the entire “You Know What’s Bullshit?” series (I’m also a big fan of the DVD sticker and DVD collection episodes) and yearned for more.  The discovery that there was more ‘bullshit’ to be experienced beyond Temperature was a revelation in itself, but I had no idea what loomed just over the horizon.

The first episode I saw of The Angry Video Game Nerd was his review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  TMNT for the NES is the worst kind of video game; it gave us the opportunity to interact as our favorite genetically altered reptiles, and in the early levels, you see so much promise.  Sure, the controls aren’t great, but it’s a fun game… at first.  Then it starts to suck, and that’s where James Rolfe comes in.

It sucking fucks, it fucking sucks, it fucking blows, it’s a piece of shit…  and I don’t like it.

James Rolfe as The Angry Video Game Nerd

James Rolfe as The Angry Video Game Nerd

Agreed, sir.  Agreed.

If you were a gamer in the mid to late eighties and onward, then you know how revolutionary Nintendo was for those of us who were used to the classic Atari 2600 (or pretenders like the ColeocoVision), as was the Super Nintendo (I know this is an old debate, but Sega sucked.  The Sega Master System and Sega Genesis were inferior pieces of hardware; we can debate game libraries till the cows come home, but when games came out on both systems, Nintendo wins hands down every time… hence Sega makes games for Nintendo now?  Figure that one out!), the Nintendo 64, and so on.  (I’ll take another quick second to say that for the most part, the Playstation is a load-time-cut-scene-infused paperweight.)  That being said, Nintendo had it’s fair share of bad games, whether licensed or not, and The Angry Video Game Nerd is just the man to exorcise the video game demons that haunt our souls from both yesterday, today and tomorrow.

I feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Mr. Rolfe’s other efforts, which can be found on his website at Cinemassacre.com.  His other series, such as Board James, a partly informational series on Board Games, a convention I assume is going the way of the Polar Bear (his horror movie-esque short on Mr. Bucket is not to missed) or the annual Cinemassacre.com’s Monster Madness, which brings an assortment of monster movies to the forefront every Halloween, and I think any movie fan would enjoy, even if you’re like me and don’t spend much time watching horror, slasher or monster movies.

James Rolfe has taken the comedic review to strange and hilarious new places.  Sure, it can be juvenile, profane and even downright disgusting, but that’s what makes it fun.  In fact, I particularly enjoyed a long diatribe about how bad a game was involving excrement and… well, other things, after which The Nerd said, “That was foul; I apologize.”  It’s over the top, it’s silly and it’s great.  It’s also self aware, which may be the most important reason it works so well.  The guy does a brilliant job connecting with the audience… maybe its just me, because Mr. Rolfe and I are the same age and from the same part of the country and come from a shared experience, but I think there is something for everyone in Mr. Rolfe’s catalog.  Take a look, you’re bound to find something you like.

Unless you can’t tolerate profanity and vulgarity.  Then you’re shit out of luck.

reviews rating system

UPDATE:  2013

I have now switched to a 0-10 scale for scoring movies.  I don’t know why I keep switching… but I do keep switching.  Sorry about that!

UPDATE:  4/4/2012

I have now switched to a 0-100% scale for scoring movies.  Think of it as a grade on a test:

90-100 = A
80-89 = B
70-79 = C
60-69 = D
0-59 = F – an exact number under 59 just illustrates how spectacular the failure was.

OLD SYSTEM:

While I won’t give every book, comic book, movie review or music review a score, I will, at times, break out the old Reviews Rating System.  It’s a 1 through 5 system, 1 being the worst, 5 being the best and may your respective Deity help us if I have to issue someone a zero.  If you’re worried about spoilers or just don’t want to read the review, scroll through the post quickly and you’ll see the score, big as life.

example:

My Rating:  2.5 out of 5

I will try to stick to whole numbers, but I’m not making any promises. Check out the reviews rating system in action at my Rambo post.

  • 1 = incomprehensible:  like sitting in traffic, going to the dentist or watching Hulk Hogan in Suburban Commando… or Thunder in Paradise.  I get chills just thinking about it…
  • 2 = bad:  the plot feels like something out of the Twilight series
    “And so the lion fell in love with the lamb…” he murmured.
    I looked away, hiding my eyes as I thrilled to the word.
    “What a stupid lamb,” I sighed.
    “What a sick ,masochistic lion.”
    Damn you, tweens!  “As I thrilled to the word?”  Wow.  That’s epic.  She used ‘thrill’ as a verb without an object. That’s great writing.  Just.  Fucking.  Great.  Twilight.
  • 3 = average:  it wasn’t great, but it had a beginning, middle and end.
  • 4 = good:  better than most, but no one is going to study it for hundreds of years
  • 5 = excellent:  you’d sell your grandmother’s false teeth for it

spoiler alert

What’s a spoiler alert?  Any time you see the spoiler alert image

spoiler alert

 

in one of my posts, you know I’m about to give away crucial information that could ruin the fun for you in some way.  Sometimes this is OK; you have no intention of seeing that movie, reading that book or comic book, listening to that album… what have you.  But, I do think it’s important that I point it out before I do it.

To see a spoiler alert in action, check out my review of Rambo.

Attention Must Be Paid: The Venture Bros

the venture brosIf you’re new to the Attention Must Be Paid feature, here’s the deal:  when I run across something that I think is great and isn’t getting the props it deserves, I write it up in this space.

People aren’t necessarily ignoring the Venture Brothers, but it isn’t the household name it should be – it truly is one of the great comedy cartoon series of all time, right up there with the Simpsons, Futurama and South Park.  Now that season four is over, let’s take a look at what has made the Venture Bros. so great and why the show is more than worthy of your attention.  Check out this example.

What makes the Venture Bros. so special is how it appeals to everything we know while being fresh and interesting at the same time.  Hank and Dean Venture, who are the titular brother characters, seem to parody the Hardy boys, yet Hank looks a lot like Fred from Scooby Doo.  When Dr. Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture references his childhood, he seems to be telling stories right out of Jonny Quest.  Dr. Jonas Venture is reminiscent of many characters, but perhaps the most reminiscent of Iron Man’s father, Howard StarkBrock Samson (voiced by Patrick Warburton, who I love) is a member of the Office of Secret Intelligence, which wears uniforms that immediately invoke memories of S.H.I.E.L.D. from Marvel Comics, as does his on again/off again love interest, Molotov Cocktease, who is reminiscent of Marvel’s the Black Widow.  I could go on and on (Professor Richard Impossible and his family are reminiscent of the Fantastic Four, the The Monarch is reminiscent of a campy Batman villain) with the show’s countless allusions and references, but for all it has going in the wink and a nod category, it has it’s original points in characters like Doctor Girlfriend (who is now called Dr. Mrs. The Monarch since their wedding), and Triana Orpheus, Dean’s crush.

The Venture Brothers is well written – the arcs are riveting while the show mixes action, drama and hilarious comedy.  Check out this mix of henchmen 21 and his departed friend, henchmen 24.  “Smurfs are mammals!”  Word, 21.  Word.  I could go on and on, but you’re much better served by watching the show (the first season is cheap – there were only 13 episodes) or checking out some clips on YouTube.  But if you’re not watching the Venture Bros, you’re missing out on the best action comedy series of all time.

Rambo 2008 Movie Review

ramboI don’t think it’s fair to say I had a bit of Sylvester Stallone Madness going a few weeks back, but seeing two of his movies within days of each other last September must be an indication of something…  Sly-itis, something like that.  It took me a long while to get to this one, but I saw Rocky Balboa in the theater, so after that, I was a bit gun shy… ugh, that’s a terrible pun.  But if you sit through all of Rambo, or John Rambo, or whatever the hell they’ve decided to call it, you might feel like you’ve come down with something.

spoiler alert

We find Rambo living in Thailand and selling snakes he captures in the jungle as well as acting as a ferrymen who rents out his own boat.  He reluctantly agrees to bring a group of missionaries and doctors into Burma via aforementioned river boat, and they don’t need a ride back for some stupid reason – so after dropping them off, Rambo heads home.  The missionaries’ never return and their pastor shows up and asks Rambo to bring a team of mercenaries to the spot on the riverbank where he left the missionaries.  The mercenaries don’t agree to let Rambo accompany them, preferring that he stays with the boat, but given that the movie is called Rambo, he follows them anyway and saves their entire crew from a squad of Burmese army.  Rambo half convinces, half threatens (“Live for something or die for nothing; your call!”) the mercenaries to come with him to the Burmese army camp where the missionaries are being held prisoner.  They break them out, of course, but the Burmese army figure it out quickly and come after them.  Why, I have no idea…  of what value are the prisoners to them?  Ransom?  I have no idea.  Rambo and Sarah are separated from the group, who eventually get captured, missionaries and mercenaries alike, and are about to be executed (the army chased the missionaries and mercenaries so when they caught them, they could execute them… doesn’t seem like it was worth the effort, and why did the capture the missionaries in the first place instead of just killing them on the spot?) until Rambo takes control of a jeep-mounted .50-caliber machine gun and open fires on the Burmese army, which literally shreds them to pieces.  The Karen rebels show up and aid Rambo, the mercenaries and the missionaries, and then Rambo disembowels the bad guy in charge.  The movie pretty much ends after that, with Rambo back home in the US, presumably going to see his father.

Rambo is a decent little movie, but it lacks drama.  You never get a sense of… well, anything.  Here are a few things I wish the movie would have conveyed:

  1. Is Rambo happy or not with his life at present?
  2. …a way to distinguish any of the missionaries from each other
  3. …a way to distinguish any of the mercenaries from each other
  4. …a way to distinguish any of the bad guys from each other

At no point do you ever worry about anything bad happening to Rambo.  The missionaries get captured right away, but I don’t care about them because I don’t know them and the same goes for the mercenaries.  It’d be great if something ever happened that the audience should care about – but it doesn’t.  Despite it’s gore (and there is a fair amount of violent gore), the movie is boring, yet unoffensive.  Rambo is watchable, but it won’t leave you craving another sequel.

My Rating:  2.5 out of 5

Unless you’re a die-hard action movie fan, or rather, a die-hard action movie starring Sylvester Stallone fan, you should probably skip Rambo.

Vote Democrat on November 2nd

republicans frankenstien

How am I supposed to take the Republicans seriously when they have a Frankenstien on their homepage?

I don’t follow politics as closely as I used to, but then, I don’t have to – politics follow me (no, not just on Twitter).  Now more than ever, political ads are everywhere – TV, Radio, Internet, your snail mail and email inbox… there is no escape.  Fortunately, knowing who to vote for is easier than ever:  the Democrats.

I don’t see any other choice in the matter.  I’m a registered independent, and I describe myself as socially liberal and fiscally conservative.  These days, I feel that the Republicans want a system of smaller government that attempts to eliminate debt while cutting taxes, interfering in our private lives and telling the poor to fuck off.  I know they don’t call it trickle down economics, but the tax breaks they’re calling for is essentially that same theory, which I don’t believe in.  I also believe that the rich have done well in the previous decade, so I’m not worried about taxing them – what are they going to do, move to Canada or Europe?  I also don’t know why the Republicans are so concerned about gay marriage and gays serving in the military.  If folks want to get married, that’s fine – the only evidence I’ve seen against gay marriage is I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.  If gays want to serve in the military, that’s fine with me, too – I’m certainly not going to serve.  And the Republican’s treatment of the poor and working class is deplorable, as they illustrate every time they wack down health care reform and their awful 1990s welfare ‘reform,’ which Democrats should also be ashamed of.  So yeah, the Republicans just don’t work for me.  Their idea of success for 2009 and 2010 is doing their best to beat down anything President Obama or a Democrat proposes.

Oh, and their candidates are frightening.  Consider:

  • Colorado:  Republican candidate Ken Buck compared being gay to having alcoholism; he also said that he thought global warming was “the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated.”  I think he later said he meant that the idea of global warming being caused by people was a hoax, but still.  Oh and the gay/alcoholism comment is imaginative, I’ll give him that.
  • Delaware:  The Republican candidate is Christine O’Donnell. (This is also awesome.)
ralph wiggum

"Hi, Super Nintendo Chalmers!"

That’s just a little taste for you.  It’s also important to note that their agenda isn’t an agenda, but it does have nice pictures.  [link to ‘look mom, i wrote an essay’]  Anyone that wants to be allied in any way with the people who wrote this are totally insane.

What’s my case for voting for the Democrats?  They’re not these people.  Imagine you’re back in grammar school and you’re picking teams for kickball, and only two kids left:  the kid who can field but can’t kick and the kid who just picks his nose for an hour and comments that his cat’s breath smells like cat food.

Pick the kid who can field; at least you’re getting half a player.

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