Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cleveland Show - WTF?

Ok, I was a huge fan of Family Guy, and I still am a fan, though not as hardcore due to the dropping quality.  But just like The Simpsons there are still some funny gags and even some entire episodes I really dig.  I tried watching Amercian Dad out of respect for Seth MacFarlane and the quality he put out but I found it really dificult to watch except for the Patrick Stewart parts.  And then when I heard that Cleveland, one of the characters from Family Guy was getting his own show I thought the same thing most of you thought: somehow MacFarlane is making a fuckload of cash from this deal.  I can appreciate that and I bear him no ill-will.  And I know this probably sounds sarcastic (but for once it's not) but if I was in the same position to whore out my intellectual property with no regards to quality or artistic integrity.  And really "artisitic integrity" is just a bullshit term coined by the popular media to try and keep the working class oppressed by giving them the illusion of some kind of moral superiority.  But all of that still doesn't mean I have to like Seth MacFarlane's shitfest of a show.

I mean what a horribly unfunny show.  Cleveland was pretty much a one-note joke, a sort of straight man to Peter Griffin's shenanigans, but it was a one-note joke that worked.  I watched the pilot of The Cleveland Show but it was so fucking terrible I could barely make it through without putting my remote control in a sack weighed down with rocks and throwing it into the nearby lake and smashing the front of the TV so I couldn't change the channel.  Even then I had to keep from gouging my own eyes out and bursting my eardrums with a nearby pencil.  But, in the interest of fairness and open-minded dialogue (Hurray internet!) I decided to watch another episode this past Sunday.  Boy was I not surprised and a little disappointed when it turned out to still be shit.  Not only did they take one of the least interesting characters from Family Guy, but they seemed to have completely changed him.  Now Cleveland is a lot more similar to Peter Griffin, pulling the same old shit of big-fat-guy-with-a-much-hotter-wife-does-something-stupid-then-has-to-make-up-for-it routine which has already been perfected/done to death by both The Simpsons and Family Guy

The big problem is that with The Cleveland Show they seem to want to recreate the success of Family Guy by trying to directly immitate and plagiarise it.  This would be OK if it actually worked, but unfortunately you can't just take the same formula, apply it to another situation, grab your balls and hope it all turns out OK.  Sometimes it's not just having all the right elements (which The Cleveland Show definitley does NOT have) but also a matter of being in the right place at the right time.  The Simpsons and Futurama and Family Guy are put together by talented teams of writers and artists, but there was some other unquantifiable element that made them more than the sum of their parts.  I'm not sure what that element is (let's call it Zaz!) but I know for a fact that The Cleveland Show doesn't have it.

So to sum it all up, The Cleveland Show is a pile of dog shit and Mila Kunis is still hot as hell.  I know that's a pretty loose tie-in, but her smoking body helps in part to wash the taste of shit from my eyes.  My verdict: The Cleveland Show is a crime against humanity and should be banned except in times of war when it should be shown to captured soldiers to torture them for information for information.  I guarantee that if the US government just set up a bunch of giant screens in Afghanistan and Iraq and blared The Cleveland Show at full volume day and night the "war on terror" (AKA "war for more oil") would be over within the week.

There, that should help ease the pain...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Is That a Podcast in My Pocket or am I Just Happy to See You?

It's just the podcast, don't flatter yourself.  So a little while back I was biking home from work when this dark figure gets my attention and motions me to follow him into a poorly-lit ally with no clear escape routes.  I figured the best case scenario would be getting superpowers and the worst case scenario would be some kind of sexual favour in return for drugs, so I followed him.  It was then he revealed himself to be Adam, a friend of mine, and he wanted to put together a podcast to share our thoughts about movies and other bullshit with the rest of the world.  Best case scenario we get our own reality TV show and our own sex tapes with Paris Hilton.  Worst case an excuse to hang out more often and shoot the shit.  I just wish he would have told me before he made me give him a blowjob... And Adam, if you're reading this, you still owe me that crack you promised me you sick fuck.  (He told me it would taste like chocolate.  How many times am I going to fall for that line?)

So me, Adam, and this other dude Pat got together and started recording ourselves and posting over at http://www.jellycast.com/.  Just search for Dicks For Drugs Cylon Bingo and it should come up.  (Boo-yah!)  We are also on iTunes so feel free to download one or more of the episodes before we make it big and have to start charging for them.  There are three episodes posted so far with several more in the works.  So check it out and tell all your friends, and remember: penises DO NOT taste like chocolate, no matter what anybody tells you.  Unless of course it's Chuck Norris, in which case believe everything he says.  I think it goes without saying that there is definitely adult content in the podcast and probably NSFW.

Kick-Ass Gently Nudges Ass

Apparently in this day and age everybody and his grandmother has a line of comics or a graphic novel, and every single goddamn one of them has also apparently been optioned for movie rights.  Because for some reason Hollywood is now categorically and methodically making every single last one of them into movies.  This is not necessarily a bad thing if: A) The source material is solid and B) The director has a clear and effective way to translate the source material from the page to the screen or C) I am too drunk or tired when watching the movie to notice any problems.  I'm kind of at a disadvantage because I never read any of the Kick-Ass comics so I'm not in the best position to judge the effectiveness of the translation to the big screen like I was say with WATCHMEN. 

Hey, look at me, I remembered the SPOILER ALERT this time!  The basic plot of KICK-ASS revolves around a high school kid named Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) who reads a lot of comic books and decides to pursue superheroing as an after-school hobby.  He promptly gets his ass kicked and then hit by a car.  Not one to be easily dissuaded, once Dave is released from the hospital months later after extensive surgery and several metal plates holding his bones together, he gives it another go.  This time Dave AKA Kick-Ass actually saves some dude from getting the smackdown laid on him.  Of course some douchebag with a cellphone decides that instead of helping or -say- calling the police he would tape the whole thing which of course gets posted to YouTube.  Kick-Ass becomes an overnight sensation sets up his own MySpace page to deal with the fans and any requests for his help.  On one of his "missions" he encounters another crime-fighting duo: Big Daddy AKA Damon Macready (Nicholas Cage) and Hit-Girl AKA Mindy Macready (Chloe Moretz) who save his life.  So Kick-Ass somehow gets mixed up with their vendetta against local mob boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong) and eventually the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan.  Many thugs are killed in horrible ways, Big Daddy meets a terrible end, Kick-Ass gets his ass kicked before eventually saving the day, blah, blah, blah. 

So just to be clear, I had never heard of Kick-Ass before news of the movie hit the interwebs.  Upon first hearing about it I couldn't give one let alone two shits, but all the fanboys out there really got me stoked for the movie and I found myself actually hopeful when I went to the theatre.  It was clear from the very beginning that this was not your average comic book movie and from the very start it was clear there would be this sort of darkly comedic element to the film, which was cool.  It started off really witty, and I found myself getting into the whole premise of the "real-life" superhero and what would or might "really" happen.  Then in the second two-thirds of the movie Matthew Vaughn seemed intent on systematically dismantling what could have been a solid story and alienating the audience. 

One of the big problems with the movie is consistency.  The story itself seemed kind of disjointed almost as if there were several story lines that were sort of being jammed together, you know kind of like garbage in the back of a dump truck.  There were several points in the movie where it seemed that a chapter or something was over and a new one was beginning but the transitions weren't handled well at all so it seemed choppy and disjointed.  Then there was the character of Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass, who was well established because a great deal of the movie was about him.  Then at the very end of the movie the character suddenly does a complete 180 completely negating everything that had been established about him for an hour and a half. 

What I'm talking about is the fact that although Kick-Ass is out there trying to help people, it's established early on that he doesn't want to kill anybody, and is in fact horrified when he first sees Hit-Girl brutally murder a bunch of thugs.  Then later in the movie he keeps trying to convince Hit-Girl not to kill anybody else.  It all makes sense, he's consistent.  But then at the end of the movie he is not only complicit in the deaths of several more hired goons, but he also suddenly starts killing them himself.  To me that just completely destroyed the integrity of the character.  It's not because I shy away from violence.  I fucking love me some violence in movies.  And by some I mean a lot.  The problem was there was no textual clue as to what would spark this sudden change of character.  The character arc got completely bent out of shape and mangled.  It really detracted from the movie for me because based on contextual evidence, there was absolutely no fucking motivation for this sudden shift.

Another big thing that really puzzled me also came at the end of the movie.  I mean the whole rest of the movie was supposed to have been grounded in "reality" insofar as that all the events and even the existence of "superheroes" (and I use that term lightly) were all highly more plausible than in other comic book movies.  I mean there were no radioactive spiders biting people or scantily clad women flying in invisible jets and tying people up with a magic lasso of truth.  Basically, it was just dudes with guns and swords and sticks shooting and slicing and beating each other and some of them happened to be wearing costumes.  But then after a whole movie's worth of the "realism" we get hit at the end with -wait for it- a jet pack.  A fucking jet pack.  Bam.  And not just a fully functional jet pack (that they fucking bought online from some yahoo on e-Bay), but a fully functional jet pack with two mini-guns mounted on it, which was then piloted with pinpoint accuracy by a high school kid with absolutely no aviation experience and not even a practice run beforehand.  For me it completely ruined the whole tone of the movie and just stretched my suspension of disbelief past the breaking point. 

Speaking of unrealistic the other thing that I just couldn't swallow was all the physical stuff that Hit-Girl could supposedly do.  I don't care if she was trained by Bruce Lee, drank the blood of Chuck Norris and had a training montage with Rocky Balboa, there is simply no way an eleven year old girl could match one -let alone a roomful- of adult men.  I mean I'm no Tony Jaa, but I'm pretty sure that if some little grade-five girl came up to me and wanted to start some shit I could -and would- totally stomp her into the ground.  I mean she's so short that even a pre-Subway Jared would be able to kick high enough to nail her in the face.  Drop her like a sack of bricks tied to that dead body I dropped into the river last week.  When she had a gun and was shooting motherfuckers like an adorable little Charles Bronsen, I could buy that.  It (unfortunately) doesn't take much to pull a trigger and shoot somebody in the head.  But a physical match-up?  No fucking way man.  It's a matter of skeletal-muscular strength and also physics where F=MA. (Look it up biatch.  It's a little thing I like to call motherfucking science.  Whatup Newton?!?!)  It's not that eleven year girls can't be tough, but they simply lack the physical strength or body mass to A) deal out the requisite damage to defeat the average adult male or B) withstand any serious amount of punishment that said adult male could dish out. A single straight shot to the head from D'Amico not only would have resulted in Hit-Girl being rendered completely incapacitated -if not totally unconscious- but it probably would have caved in the side of her head.

Since we're on the topic another thing that really bugged me was the character of Hit-Girl.  Now to be clear I am in no way shape or form squeamish about onscreen violence, and I have no qualms about little kids swearing and Cloe Moretz is a fantastic little actress.  I remember as I was watching the movie something just didn't quite sit well with me during Hit-Girl's scenes.  Then when I was discussing it with a buddy afterwards he hit the nail on the head and I realized why I was so disturbed.  Big Daddy had trained and indoctrinated his daughter Hit-Girl to not only kill, but also to show no remorse for the killing.  This is what would be considered sociopathic behaviour in the psychiatric world, and the most disturbing part is that her own father fostered those tendencies.  It is truly fucked up and left a weird taste in my mouth.  I suppose it was good that the film evoked some kind of emotional response.  But still.

I know after that little rampage it may sound like I totally hated the flick, but I actually found it quite entertaining.  It was just all the hype on the Internet and I found myself daring to believe, like when I heard that voice in my cornfield that made me build a baseball diamond except the voice turned out to be a tumour in the frontal lobe of my brain and then I was disappointed and hungry.  I really, really enjoyed Aaron Johnson in KICK-ASS's title role.  That kid gave a terrific performance and I would definitely like to see him in more stuff.  Judging from his performance I don't think Johnson is the same one-trick pony that say Michael Cera is.  As I said already the young Cloe Moretz did a bang-up job as well.  Nic Cage I could take or leave as usual.  The only really entertaining thing about that guy these days is the myriad of hairstyles he sports in any given week.  Mark Strong is apparently the go to bad guy in Hollywood these days, and I must say that he was definitely on his A-game this time around and I thought his performance here was a little better than his turns in SHERLOCK HOLMES and ROBIN HOOD.  There was an uninspired performance by McLovin (yeah, I know his real name, but if I wrote it down here admit it, you would have no fucking clue) as D'Amico's son and another superhero/villain called Red Mist.  Another honourable mention goes to Lyndsy Fonseca for being totally smokin' hot.  (And yes I double-checked her age on IMDB so it's all cool.) So close to seeing those tits and yet so far.

Daaaaaaamn!

The plot wasn't a total bust either.  There was some good shit in there.  I loved the whole opening where Dave is talking about his place in the complex social heirarchy that is high school and how he wasn't a jock or a nerd or anything he was just there, which is something I (and probably a lot of you out there) can relate to.  The little masturbation thing was pretty clever too.  The interaction between Dave and his friends was pretty funny stuff and the subplot with Dave being recruited as Katie Deauxma's (Lyndsy Fonseca) "token gay friend" and him going along with it just to be with her.  There were some pretty emotional moments too like when Big Daddy gets burned alive right in front of his daughter.  Crazy shit.  Kick-Ass's costume was surprisingly cool, but the whole Big Daddy=Batman thing I wasn't a fan of.  Really, that's the best he could do?

Look bottom line: cool concept, poor execution.  I wondered about a few things in the plot so I did a quick wiki-search on the original source material and was surprised by what I found.  There were some drastic changes made in the movie adaptation and I have to wonder: why?  These changes -in my mind- were the main reason this movie was kept from being great.  One thing that stood out for me was the whole Big Daddy/Hit-Girl story line.  Something just never seemed quite right to me and I kept waiting for some kind of big twist or reveal because the whole cop-who-lost-his-wife-and-bent-on-revenge thing just seemed too shallow and hackneyed and straightforward. Then I found out why.  Apparently in the comic books the whole cop-who-lost-his-wife bullshit is just a line Big Daddy feeds his daughter to get her to go along with his revenge plan against Frank D'Amico (Johnny G in the comics).  Turns out the Daddy was just a fucking accountant with a midlife crisis who wanted his daughter to be special so he trains her to be a... psychopathic murderer.  They just picked this particular mobster on a whim because they needed some scum to kill.  See, to me that fits in more with the real-life pathetic vibe that was established with Kick-Ass himself.  Then there's the whole bullshit love story between Dave and Katie that doesn't have the same happy ending as the movie and it's really too bad the filmmakers took the cop-out Hollywood bullshit route instead of staying true to the integrity of the story.  From what I've seen Mark Millar's original comic series sounds a lot better than the movie and I'm going to check it out for sure.

Alright, I've gone on way too long as usual.  My recommendation is go and see it for yourself.  I enjoyed it on a visceral level, but it lacked too much in depth and coherence to make it anything more.  As a final note I also would not consider this a "superhero" movie because I don't know about you but when I think about superheroes, arbitrarily murdering people does not immediately pop to mind and in this movie all the "heroes" -Big Daddy, Hit-Girl and (in the end) Kick-Ass- are all decidedly unheroic.  I know it wasn't supposed to come off that way, but at times these costumed vigilantes seemed much worse than the villains they were fighting.

So in conclusion my rating for Kick-Ass is 5/10 = One Nerdy Teenager's Head in a Green Mask Getting Beaten With Baseball Bats. 


Saturday, June 26, 2010

I Fought the Law and the Law Won

I am so fucking pissed off right now and I wanted to make sure I captured my thoughts and (*shudder*) feelings while they were still raw and uncensored. My ordeal started today as I was out with my daughter at the park. We went by bicycle today because the sun was shining brightly and the cool, summer breeze carried with it the scent of unbridled innocence and unwaivering democracy. It turns out that it was really just the scent of fascism and bullshit. But I'm coming to that. So I was out with my daughter at the park, as I am wont to do, and the preferred mode of transportation in the summer is the bicycle. So we went to the park, had a good time, swang on some swings, played ring around the rosie, had some raisins and water then proceeded to return home for some lunch, potty, then nap time. So there I was biking home with my infant daughter, the bright shining light of my life, sitting behind me in her child seat. We got to the end of the designated and dedicated bicycle path here in North Bay when a police officer standing near a bicycle asked me to stop for a second. I thought that perhaps the city police were perhaps running an awareness campaign on bike safety so I stopped and pulled over to the side of the path. And that is when the bullshit started.

So this fucking pig starts off asking me what I need when I go biking. I thought perhaps this was a gentle chastisement on my part because I don't like to wear a helmet and while technically not illegal for someone of my age might set a bad example for my daughter. I was thoroughly surprised then when the correct response was -wait for it- a bell. Just let that sink in for a moment... And we're back. Yes, yes, this agent of fascism stopped me because my bike was not equipped with a fucking bell. A small metal device with absolutely no bearing on the health or safety of the rider of the bicycle and that makes little ringing sounds. Now aparently the lawmakers of this great land of ours known as Ontario thought that this was important enough to include as part of our official laws, much to my growing anger.

So now this fucking cop starts writing me a ticket. Yes, a ticket. For not having a stupid fucking bell on my bicycle. Apparently this was in direct contravention to that most sacred and ancient of laws known as the Highway Act of Ontario. For a fucking bell you might ask? Well when he told me he was writing me a ticket I asked that exact same question: "For a fucking bell?" For some reason it felt good swearing at, or at least in the vicinity of, a police officer. So now I could feel my blood start to boil at the whole absurdity of the thing. A $110 fine for not having a bell on my bicycle.

Let me say that again: $110 for NOT HAVING A BELL on my fucking bicycle.

Then he asks for my name and address, the usual bullshit I suppose. Asks for my driver's liscence too, because apparently if you drive you get doubly fucked because not only do you have to pay the fine but you get demerit points on your driver's liscence. This, of course, caused me to wonder: what in the name of zombie Jesus does a BICYCLE infraction have to do with my AUTOMOBILE liscence? The sheer lack of logic completely overwhelmed me and I found my blood starting to boil. So I asked the pathetic bike cop "Are you guys having a slow week or something?" implying of course (and with good reason) that he had better things to do that ticket me for not having a GODDAMN BELL ON MY FUCKING BICYCLE. This seemed to get his attention.

To put this into perspective the cop was in the middle of writing me the ticket. He had already explained to me that instead of issuing the ticket outright he used his police officer voodoo magic to somehow give me a 72 hour grace period whereby I could buy a bell, take it along with the ticket to the cop shop and forego the monetary fine and the demerit points. So instead of merely accepting this and going about my day here I was antagonizing this guy, who according to him was graciously giving me the 72 hours when most of his companions would have just given me the ticket straight up, because aparently he works in a precinct full of assholes. So I guess it's the good cop/bad cop routine with only one cop.

Then he starts with the propaganda, like how he was under orders to be there and he's rather be somewhere else. Well I was going to say (and in retrospect I'm kind of glad I didn't) "You know who else used the excuse 'We were just following orders?' The Nazi's." Then he tells me how it's better that I buy a $5 bell than pay a $110 fine. This is all well and good, but why the fuck should I have to pay anything? You think a stupid fucking bell is really going to save my life? Well apparently this cop did. The next thing he tells me is that he "believes" in the bell. You what? "Believe in the bell?!" Like you worship it like some kind of old, unexploded nuclear bomb hidden deep under ground? What, does he attend the Church of the Sacred Bell every Sunday and pray to the Great Bell? He also tells me that hopefully I'll impart the importance of the bell to my daughter. What, like I'm not fucking raising my daughter correctly? What the fuck man? No don't warn her about the dangers of sharing needles and unprotected sex, just make sure she gets that bell on her bike. Then she'll be alright. See if it was a ticket for a helmet or some other kind of actual life-saving device then I wouldn't have been so pissed off because then he would actually have been Serving and Protecting me instead of Annoying and Harassing me.

After all this bullshit and the cop threatening to just give me the ticket for all my back talk I was on my way, just fucking steaming. I got home and told my wife what happened and it all came pouring out. I went on a twenty-minute rant. And not my usual good-natured ranting, but full-out-red-hot-anger-righteous-indignation-oppression-of-the-people-by-a-corrupt-and-arrogant-government ranting. I told her the whole thing including my backtalk to Johnny Law and she told me that I shouldn't talk back to the cops because I could have made the situation a lot worse and gotten into some real trouble. She was probably right, but I didn't fucking care I was wound up with the conviction of the Working Class Hero. Thankfully it faded after driving around with the music really loud and the windows down, scoping out some BluRays, buying the bell and driving down to the cop shop enough so that I didn't make the scene I so desperately wanted to make. It felt like such a waste of time and resources to walk into the police station to play show and tell with my shiny new bell ($6.40, by the way).

It was just the absurdity of the whole thing that got to me. I mean, of all the problems that the cops could be dealing with and they decide to spend their time and money to enforce bells on bicycles. You have got to be shitting me. What about all the drug dealers? Apparently cocaine is really big in this city, so why not look into that? Why not check for drunk drivers? Or people driving while on their cellphones, which is now illegal here in Ontario and which I still see on a daily basis? I mean if you're going to crack down, why not crack down on all the terrible drivers of motorized vehicles who would rather endanger my life and the lives of my wife and daughter with dangerous driving practices than arrive at their destination five minutes later. The point is why, when there are so many more important issues that the police could be tackling, are they having a blitz on bicycle bells? Especially when I'm out, biking safely with my two-year old daughter, trying to get a little exercise and model a moderately healthy lifestyle, you know taking the bike instead of the car.

That's the whole fucking thing, though. I felt violated. I felt like I was being accused of some terible crime and being lumped in with drug dealers and violent sex offenders. I mean I got bent over the barrel and fucked twice. Not only is the government taxing me every chance it gets, it then uses those very same tax dollars to pay police officers to harass me while on my bike trying keep myself and my daughter more active and get some fresh air. And the cop was right about one thing, I mean he was under orders (presumably) to be there. The problem isn't with the fascist police force per se, but with the system in general. Therefore I am officially announcing my candidacy for the Prime Minister of Canada. I am already working on my platform and will be making it public very soon. It looks like I'm going to have to clean up this town.

Alright I'm done venting for now. The whole thing just left a bad taste in my mouth and all I can do is sit here wishing for a better world where I wasn't taxed half to death and then harassed by a Nazi police force enforcing esoteric and irrelevant laws. Hurray for democracy.

My Tax Dollars At Work

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Futurama is Now!


It's here! It's here! It's here! It's here! Sweet zombie Jesus, I can't fucking believe it! I have been looking foward to the return of Futurama with more anticipation and anxiety than an upcoming lobster dinner with Frank Grimes. Not only is Futurama easily the best animated show of all time... well, no that's pretty much it. It is hands down the best. It started off strong, stayed strong and ended strong. Now, don't get me wrong, I am a HUGE fan of The Simpsons, which was a huge driving force in shaping the collective consciousness of my generation and embedding itself in the anals of pop culture for all of eternity. I mean I can hardly get through a conversation -or a blog post for that matter- without some reference to or direct quote from The Simpsons. The thing with The Simpsons, though, is that they started off OK (the first season is sometimes hard to sit through) got amazing and has now petered off to a mere shadow of its former glory, with a few notable exceptions. But it seems that Matt Groening and his partner in crime David X. Cohen took all the lessons they learned from The Simpsons and honed their skills to near god-like perfection for Futurama.

It totally sucked balls when Futurama was cancelled by Fox for some inexplicable reason in its prime, but I also felt a small twinge of relief because now that spaceship had run out of dark matter fuel (for lack of a better metaphor) there was absolutely no chance of this piece of art that I loved being fucked up, unintentionally or otherwise. So when I heard the news that Futurama was indeed being brought back to life first through a series of several movies and then with new episodes in a new season I was cautiously optimistic. I had been burned before -and badly- by a little show I like to call Family Guy... because that's the name of the show. The first three seasons of that show were pure gold and I remember watching bootleg episodes on my roommate's computer back in university. In fact we studied for our geology exam with Family Guy and I passed, so it was all good. But that's neither here nor there. The point of this rambling is that because of the outpouring of support from the fans and massive sales on DVD Fox decided to bring Family Guy back to life with disappointing results. For me the magic was gone and with the exception of a few episodes all the new stuff is damn-near unwatchable including two especially shitty Star Wars specials. I don't know what happened but they took the cutaway which, when used sparingly, is a highly effective comedic device and then overused it to death.

So having been burned before and holding Futurama in such high regard I was very hesitant to get my hopes up for its return. Just like one of Bender's schemes Futurama seems incapable of failing. All four movies -Bender's Big Score, The Beast With a Billion Backs, Bender's Game, and Into the Wild Green Yonder- were firing on all cylinders and Groening seemingly did the impossible: he recaptured the magic of the original four seasons. They had all the self-depricating, logic-bending, social-commentary-filled humour that made the show so great to begin wth.

And then on Thursday, June 24, a date that will live on in history textbooks as one of the great days in animation history, we were graced with not one but two episodes from an entirely NEW season of Futurama, and all I can say is that they were fucking great. The first one picked up right where Into the Wild Green Yonder left off and quickly devled off into that age old question: can two robots truly find love in a meatbag's world? It was nice that the ongoing gag/story about Fry and Leela's unrequited love was an integral part of the show, as was Bender's partying and the Professor's wild and often ethically questionable science (stem cells anyone?) It was glorious. One of the great things about the show is that the tone and the characters have remained consistent throughout. The main characters have already been well-established and so have their motivations which the makers of the show seem to understand implicitly. Plus the calibre of the writing has also remained steadfast and true like the inevitable countdown of a doomsday device.

So it is with a cautious sense of optimism that I stepped out of the suicide booth and plant myself in front of my TV to await another episode of The Scary Door... I mean Futurama. Thank you Matt Groening and David X. Cohen and the good folks over at Comedy Central for the gift that keeps on giving. Now I can look forward to cracking open a can of Slurm, ordering a large bucket of popplers, sitting down with my best robo-friend and watching another daring adventure of the crew of the Planet Express delivery company, and I suggest you do the same unless you want the clamps. And if you don't like it then you can kiss my shiny metal ass!




Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lost and Gone


After six mindblowing seasons the strange beast known only to the television masses as Lost finally came to an "end" this year leaving the Tuesday night TV landscape as barren as women stranded on a certain mysterious island. This, for me, will be the end of watching prime time shows for a while because quite frankly with the exception of Lost everything really just licks big, hairy Bavarian ballsack. I remember once upon a time a little show called CSI enticed me back to television like a Spanish whore in heat, but now I'd rather gouge out my own eyes and shove a red-hot poker up my nose and into my own brain for a full frontal labotomy that watch that tired show or any of its shitty spin-offs.

But Lost, well it was something different. I remember hearing about it from friends and coworkers for some time and it was on my List. Yes, the sacred List which detailed the movies and TV shows that I was planning to set aside time to watch in between all of the spending time with the wife, raising my child, recording a podcast, being the President of France and murdering prostitutes. No wait, scratch that last one. Anyhow there was this one dude at one of my jobs and he kept bugging me and bugging me to watch this crazy show called Lost until I got so fucking annoyed with this asshole that I had to punch him in the face. I mean, isn't that how real men settle disagreements? Well after coming to and discovering that: A) He had spontaneously fainted and broken his nose and B) Someone had mysteriously rifled through his wallet and taken all his petty cash he proceeded to tell me more about the show and I must admit that I was intrigued. Eventually he brought me the first season on DVD which I watched... with gusto. And I was blown away.

What my eyeballs witnessed back on that fateful autumn night would forever change my life. I thought that perhaps this joker had exaggerated the awesomeness of this (*disgusted snear*) prime time show because of some kind of mental deficiency caused by inbreeding or brain damage. Well that still might be the case, but at least he was right in this instance. The Lost pilot was one of the most emotionally engaging, action-packed, and intelligent pieces of art I had ever seen on that behemoth known as TV. I was hooked, and what was more, so was my wife. (I just thought I'd mention it because our taste in movies and television are usually quite different, although every once in a while she likes some cool shit. She watched the entire series of Sopranos with me which could indicate a superior taste in movies or a predeliction for laundering money and killing snitches. Either way it's pretty fucking cool.)

From then on we were hooked. And for my wife and I when we get hooked on a series we get fucking hooked. I mean straight up addicted. We stay up all night watching episodes because -especially with a show like Lost- we just have to know what happens next. I mean when we're on a kick our show watching actually interferes with my productivity at work due to severe lack of sleep. But sacrificing both my work and personal relationships was well worth it because for my money the first season of Lost is about as good as TV gets. All I can say is: wow. Double wow. Thinking about all the goodness packed in that first season makes my pants feel a little tighter. Don't get me wrong I loved the whole series, but for me the first season will always hold a special place in my heart. The problem -if you consider it a problem- was that the creators of the show just set the bar way too damn high.

The first season of Lost was just so emotionally compelling and I can remember so many poignant moments or episodes that really tugged at the heartstrings and caused my heart to grow three sizes. There was the entire pilot, which was perfect. Then the episode where Locke (Terry O'Quinn) helps Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) overcome his heroin addiction (remember the moth!). The episode when Charlie almost dies after being abducted and strung up by his neck really got me too. When Jack (Matthew Fox) follows his "father" and finds the cave stuck with me. Then there was the first dedicated Locke episode which was truly inspiring and when you finally realize that he was used to be in a wheelchair I just got this lump in my throat that my doctor assured me was the result of a surge of what he called "emotion" and not the beginnings of throat cancer. Of course when we found out about Sawyer's (Josh Holloway) past and how he became a sleazy conman was another memorable moment. Then there was Boone's (Ian Somerhalder) death and the emotional launch of the boat in the season one finale. To top it all off was Evangeline Lilly's tight body which made me feel funny in other places.

I have many favourite episodes from other seasons, but I'm not going to bore you with my Top 10 Lost Episodes or some such bullshit... or am I? Maybe later. The point is no matter how crazy the plot got and no matter how much weird shit seemed to happen on this unknown island the show never ever fell apart because the show's main focus was always on the characters and their interaction and development. That kind of emotional investment really kept the audience tuning in each week even though I heard so many complaints from whiners who "didn't understand the plot." Morons. The other cool thing for me was that the show eased my wife into (wait for it) science fiction, a genre she would never for the life of her have watched before. But because of the focus on the characters she was able to digest (metaphorically) the science fiction elements far more easily.

One of the things about Lost that I really dug was the fact that all the questions in the show were not answered by the makers of the show. In an era where so much of our popular media is dumbed down to the lowest common denominator Lost never sacrificed its creative integrity and never made any apologies for its complexity which it maintained until the bitter end. Now Damon Lindelof and Jeffrey Lieber had previously told the world not to expect the series finale to wrap up all the loose ends in the plot but that it would be an emotional wrap up to the series and they were correct. The final episode left (if it were even possible) even more questions than answers, but that ending scene where all the main characters are reunited in the "afterlife" and their previous awakenings and remembering their lives on the island was an emotional satisfying and the final shot of Jack's eye closing mirroring the opening shot of the series with Jack's eye opening bookended the whole thing nicely.

I don't think it was the worst series finale of all time, but it definitely wasn't the best either. After watching it a second time and liking it even more there was still something missing for me. In all fairness there was a lot to wrap up and after what I'm sure will prove to be one of the best (prime time) TV shows of our generation I'm sure it was difficult to satisfactorily end something of this magnitude. It's what I like to call the Seinfeld Syndrome: an excellent show with solid writing throughout that eventually succumbs to its own greatness as it can't find an effective way to put the proverbial genie back in the bottle. Perhaps there is no answer to this question and perhaps for some shows the task is inherently impossible especially when the task is to out-awesome awesomeness. Now the Lost series finale was nowhere near as disappointing as the Seinfeld finale, but it was lacking in some way that I can't quite put my finger on. A more recent example of an excellent series finales for me was Six Feet Under. Now this was one of my least favourite HBO series and I wasn't a huge fan, but the series was well-written and the finale was the perfect way to end the show. To me the Lost finale stands somewhere in between Seinfeld and Six Feet Under in terms of coherence with the rest of the series as well as emotional satisfaction.

Though it is now over Lost will always hold a special place in my (a-hem) heart and my DVD/BluRay shelf and if you haven't seen it already I highly suggest you treat yourself to the entire series (in order). On one final note I was totally stoked to have called Jack's death sacrificing himself to save the island. Take that Andy, you bastard! Oh yeah, SPOILER ALERT. Farewell Lost, and a special thank you to J.J. Abrams without whom this wonderful series and my lengthy and rambling blog post would not have happened. (Also, did I mention Evangeline Lilly's great ass?)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Iron Men Have all the Fun...


Well the inevitable sequel to Iron Man finally hit theatres and my partner in crime -Bonegod- and I went to witness the spectacle. From the beginning I had high hopes for the aptly titled IRON MAN 2 due in large part to the great ad campaign and Jon Favreau's involvement as director. I thoroughly enjoyed the first film and was looking forward to the next one like a blowjob and a fine cup of coffee.

The plot follows billionaire industrialist playboy Bruce Wa- er I mean Tony Stark AKA Iron Man as he fends off enemies from all sides. Fellow industrialist Justin Hammer is trying to out-Stark Stark with his own military exoskeletons, a scary Russian technical genius named Ivan Vanko with a personal vendetta against the Stark family and tries to exact his revenge with his very own power suit complete with badass (and somewhat kinky) electrical whips and even the US government is trying to get all up in his business and try to take his Iron Man technology away by legal means. Through it all there are several subplots involving Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow obviously trying to set up the eventual Avengers movie, Tony's rocky friendship with Lt. Col. James Rhodes, and a brief look at Tony's bout with alcoholism as well as his failing health due to now obsolete technology. In the end all of this, of course, leads up to a giant action sequence at the end of the movie.

Between all the explosions, hot babes, and special effects, IRON MAN 2 attempts to capitalize on the expectation that the core of the summer blockbuster is supposed to be pure fun.  It only partially succeeds. Not nearly on the same level as the first Iron Man,  Favreau and Downey Jr. deliver a passable superhero movie. This movie picks up pretty much exactly where the last one left off with Tony Stark revealing his secret identity to the world. This movie had a nice twist as Mr. Stark dealt with the revelation of his alter ego under the close scrutiny of the public eye. This added another level of conflict not seen in other movies in the same vein. But really, all the conflict was merely an excuse to show a bunch of dudes in various incarnations of Iron Man's suit beating the shit out of each other. And beat the shit out of each other they did.

Much to my friend Bonegod's chagrin I now have to compare any comic book movie adaptation to the ultimate entry in that genre (so far) THE DARK KNIGHT. Some might say because TDK was so perfect that it would be unfair to judge any movie -let alone a mere comic book movie- by such dick-hardening standards. But unfortunately that's the way the fucking world works. You don't lower the bar so the lesser can succeed. Unfortunately, the comparison was difficult in this case because the two films were not exactly playing the same sport. This was a far different beast than TDK and from the get go set a far less serious tone. This is not a thinking man's movie and the plot was far from Shakespearian. This might sound like I'm bashing the movie (and I guess to a certain extent that might be true) but there's only so far you can get on style alone.

A great deal of the credit for what successes there are in this film lies with director Jon Favreau who obviously had a clear idea of who he thinks Tony Stark/Iron Man is, a clear idea of the tone he wanted to set for the movie, and a clear idea of where he wanted to take the character. This kind of consistency and coherence go a long way to making this a fun and entertaining ride despite this movie having far, far less substance than the first. The characters have a lot of comedic moments but the characters have just enough depth to keep them from being laughable and cartoony, though it was slightly disappointing that Tony Stark had no character arc per se as he was kind of "reset" to the irresponsible asshole that he was at the beginning of Iron Man.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man is an excellent choice and you can tell he's having a great deal of fun in the role. Don Cheadle stepped up as James Rhodes/War Machine in this go around (taking over, of course, from Terrence Howard) and he did an excellent job once again displaying his acting range as he is torn between his friendship with Tony and his duty to the military. Gwyneth Paltrow once again proved the perfect foil and straight woman for chronically irresponsible Tony as Pepper pots. Another gem was Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer. Sam Rockwell is easily one of the best actors of his generation and I hope to see him in a lot more flicks in the future. Mickey Rourke gave an excellent turn as Ivan Vanko and gave the best Russian accent I've heard since Famke Janssen in Goldeneye. Although not quite as sexy as Famke (though it's pretty close) Rourke is an excellent and formidable villain and proves once again that he is back and here to stay. He also cuts quite an imposing figure and I think without the suits this guy would have torn Tony in half. Fuck that guy is built. Scarlett Johansson was surprisingly less annoying than usual. To me she is still just a pretty face (and a great ass) with practically no acting ability. While this movie didn't erase all of that she did do a commendable job and did some kick-ass action scenes. Sam Jackson. That's all I have to say because no matter what he's in I fucking love him, especially when he plays a bad ass motherfucker (wallet or no wallet) and his portrayal of Nick Fury was great as usual.

For a summer blockbuster, the pacing seemed a little odd.  There were a couple excellent action scenes at the racetrack and at the end with the cluster-fuck of bad guys but in between there was very little else. In my mind this kind of movie thrives on action, so to starve it halfway through seems counterproductive. Yes, Tony Stark has drinking problems and yes he's having health issues and yes he has daddy issues, but really who gives a shit? Sure a drunk Iron Man dancing at a party is funny, but I just want to see less of that and more of him -and War Machine- fucking up bad guys. I mean it all made sense and it didn't feel extraneous or anything, it just could have used a few more action beats in the middle. More of Mickey Rourke destroying things would have been nice too. His character comes in pretty early (right in the credits!) and then he kind of disappears until near the end. When he was there he was great but the character seemed thoroughly underused.The only other issue I have is that the plot could have had a little more depth. I mean it was pretty good but it was pretty predictable and there were no real surprises. The bad guys were bad, the good guys were good with no shades of grey.

Other than that what we have here is an action flick that entertains the kids but also has just enough substance and adult humour not so much to entertain but at least to distract mature audiences. The action (when there was action) was great, the special effects were superb and the actors did an excellent job. It was fun but not quite on par with the first film. I especially like all the allusions to the Avengers which I hope to god gets made because in the right hands could totally blow our minds as well as our loads. I also loved how they established just how powerful Iron Man really is. I mean this one "weapon" has basically ensured world peace because all the terrorists and scum around the world are scared shitless of this thing and no other country is even close to duplicating this power. I would like to see how Iron Man fared against some other adversaries though. So far all he's fought are other people with other power suits or power suit drones. I mean how would he stand up against the Abomination for example? Or does technology just trump biology in this universe? What about Iron Man vs. Wolverine? Or better yet, Iron Man vs. Magneto? Bets anyone?

Something else I really enjoyed was the inclusion of War Machine. It was pretty cool to see this guy kick some serious ass. I always thought that having a giant fucking machine gun mounted on your shoulder looked cool. I mean, look at Blastoise. The filmmakers did an excellent job at including him and making his presence felt but not having it overpower or upstage Iron Man. That end battle was enjoyable enough, and even though the final showdown with Whiplash was disappointingly short, it would make even Jesatan think twice about battling these two titans.

While not nearly on par with the its predecessor, IRON MAN 2 is a nice little distraction, though hopefully not an indication of where Marvel is heading with their movies. Also stay around after the credits and you'll get a nice little, tasty treat. IRON MAN 2 gets a solid 6.5/10 = Two Shining Metallic Heads One With a Mounted Machine Gun Next to It With Ominous Glowing Eyes.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Farewell Dennis Hopper


Sadly on May 29 of this year of our lord 2010 actor and world-class talent Dennis Hopper passed away after a battle with prostate cancer at the age of 74. His long and distinguished career is marked with movies that continue to inspire and entertain generation after generation. He was perhaps best known for the classic Easy Rider which is still hailed as one of the most influential movies of all time. He is also known by movie fans the world over for his eccentric and excellent performance in Apocalypse Now.
I'll always remember Dennis Hopper as a top performer who always gave every performance nothing but his very best. Growing up I remember him as King Koopa in the ill-concieved Super Mario Bros. and then later as the bad guy with a love for explosives in Speed. I know a lot of people hated the movie, but I loved Waterworld, and Hopper once again played the perfect villain. But for me his best performance by far was in True Romance. His scene with Christopher Walken still wows me to this day and stands as a shining example of acting at its finest. How he never recieved even an Oscar nod for that brilliant performance is beyond me.
Having been a staple in the acting world for over five decades and been firmly imbedded in the collective consciousness of generations of moviegoers his death came as a huge blow and he will be sorely missed by friends, family, and fans alike. Godspeed.