Thursday, May 29, 2008

De's Summer Movie Preview - June Bug Edition

May is almost over and I have yet to make it to a theater. My hope is to maybe go on Sunday to see Iron Man, but it all depends on how exhausted I am from cooking for the sister-in-law's wedding Saturday. Yes, I'll be wearing a chef hat; expect a picture or two. On to the preview!

First up is Kung Fu Panda. Dreamworks continues to ride the Shrek wave of introducing a new CGI-animated comedy every summer and this year is no exception. Kung Fu Panda looks like it's essentially The Karate Kid only with talking animals and more wisecracks. It's the first film of the season to take advantage of summer vacation for school-aged kids. Having a school-aged kid, I could very well be asked to see this.

The next week brings us The Incredible Hulk and The Happening. The Incredible Hulk is, of course, the movie mulligan (as Chris put it) for the not-so good Hulk by Ang Lee back in 2003. I personally think it's a bit soon to put another Hulk movie out but I don't run a major studio. All of the principals have been recast, most notably with Edward Norton as Bruce Banner. This film appears to take many of its cues from the terrific TV series of the '70s (check out that "Lonely Man" homage in the poster) but promises more action. Unlike the TV series, the Hulk will actually face off against a supervillain in the form of a mutated Emil Blonsky. In the comics, Blonsky is known as the Abomination but the film's writers thought the name was silly and opted not to use it. Can't have anything silly in a film about a man whose radiation sickness manifests itself as being a monster. Yeesh.

The Happening is M. Night Shyamalan's latest film. Shyamalan is a bit of a polemic in the film world; you usually like his films or you don't. His latest appears to be a thriller involving people going nuts for seemingly no reason. Like Signs, this appears to be a nationwide thing and will be filtered through the eyes of mundane characters. Shyamalan, in my opinion, tries a little too hard to channel Alfred Hitchcock and even mentions this film as being similar to The Birds. Homage is fine, but come up with a new formula.

The week of June 20 is one for comedies. You have Get Smart with Steve Carrell and The Love Guru with Mike Myers. Get Smart could very well be funny but I'm afraid Carrell is going to end up typecast as a well-meaning doofus. Based on the clips I've seen, this is pretty much Michael Scott from The Office as a secret agent. As for The Love Guru, Mike Myers is a self-made self-help "guru" patterned after every idiot that aped George Harrison during the '70s. The Hindu community is already pissed off about the movie without having seen it—reminiscent of Catholics going nuts about Kevin Smith's Dogma.

The end of June brings a pair of films as opposite as night and day: Pixar's Wall-E and Wanted, based on the violent comic series. Evidently Wall-E was dreamed of years ago, way before Toy Story, of the last robot on Earth (mankind having evacuated). According to a couple of sources, Pixar opted to pattern the film on classic sci-fi films. That alone earns it a possible theater outing in my book. Besides, he's a cute robot and we'll get to see the cute Pixar lamp before the film.

I only became aware of the Wanted comic series after seeing the collected editions in bookstores. It's pretty violent stuff and a revenge story: two great things that go great together (aka the Reese's Theorem as coined by the brilliant Bill Doughty). While I'm curious about any movie starring a post-Tomb Raider Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, this is likely going to end up in the Netflix queue.

And so ends June. July will ramp things up a bit with more superhero stuff and talking monkeys in space! You cannot go wrong with talking monkeys... in space!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More Commuting Fun

Arrived at the Metro station with a train docked and its doors open. The doors-closing chime sounds and my carpool driver manages to make it inside the car. I do not. So I got to wait for another train to arrive.

During the train ride, the operator calls the wrong name for a station and folks just go completely bonkers. We stopped at the correct station and all was well, but geez. Wacky thing is, I arrived in the office at my usual time.

Refusing to see today's commuting woes as a portent of a lousy day, I went to Burger King for some breakfast and learned they serve Whoppers in the morning! Beats the fat-laden Croissan'wich anyday of the week! A plain Whopper and a cup of coffee means a happy De... for the time being (hee hee).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"The creature is driven by rage."

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately. Life has been fairly dull with not much happening that you might want to read about unless you enjoy prose about eating ham sandwiches.

But that all changed today.

Coming out of the subway, a fellow commuter stepped on the back of my shoe and gave me a "flat tire." Normally, I would have let it go but the one responsible said, "Oh, I'm sorry" in the same manner Jules from Pulp Fiction used before asking if he broke Brad's concentration. My oh-so-clever retort was "Thanks, Jerk" and that's how it started. The two of us exchanged a few unpleasantries, the worst of which was "jackass" (by him). At that point, I decided to shut up and hope him getting the last word would end it. Thankfully it did and I was able to keep my ticking time bomb of fury in check.

I didn't want to launch into a tirade of profanity with the ton of tourists and their children around. I also didn't want things to escalate to the point where I'd likely be looking at a little jail time and a court appearance. Yay me, I guess.

Give Early Give Often

Found at the local Burger King. Marketing at its finest.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Returning to Jedi

Several months ago, I downloaded a film calling itself Returning to Jedi, which is a fan documentary by Jambe Davdar about the third Star Wars film (or Episode VI if you prefer), Return of the Jedi. After watching the film over the weekend, I'm not sure what to call this but documentary doesn't seem to fit. The film explores deleted scenes, alternate takes, and other concepts, while combining it all with commentary from the creators recorded over the years. Oh, and all of this is done while the film is running.

Davdar based this project on his earlier work, Building Empire, which was an exhaustive look at The Empire Strikes Back. Both of these were possibly inspired by Garrett Gilchrist's Star Wars: Deleted Magic.

While there were a couple of noticeable omissions (Lando's possible death, urban myth or not, immediately springs to mind), the project is a terrific exploration of what could have been. Thankfully, you don't have to wait a day to download this via BitTorrent. Instead, the project is available to view on YouTube (here's a link to Part 1).

On another Star Wars note, a kind gentleman sold me his copy of Classic Star Wars Volume 1: Doomworld over the weekend for a reasonable price. The reprint volume of the first 20 issues of Marvel comic book series is currently out of print and sells for $50–200. My price was significantly less than that.

Yes, that's a six-foot tall green space rabbit.

Marvel's Star Wars comics were produced in an era when there weren't a gazillion guidebooks on continuity and seething fanboy arguments as to what's "canon" or not. For the record, in my not so humble opinion, I'd take this stuff over The Phantom Menace any day of the week—space rabbits and all.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Not Washed Away

As Smacky mentioned, we've had a little rain here in Northern Virginia, but Sunday night was when the excrement hit the air impeller. It had been raining pretty much all day and I didn't think too much of going over to a friend's house to hang out. When I tried to go home that night (it was around 10 or 10:30pm), the available routes to my house were closed. Police were detouring traffic but there were a few places where the detours didn't apply -- my road being one of them.

I had to convince not one but two police checkpoints that I lived within the cordoned-off area. The second officer expressly told me not to venture beyond my road unless I wanted to lose my car and be lifted out by helicopter. "Not a problem," I told the good officer and went on my way. Although parts of my road are low, it wasn't terrible. Sure, there was some debris littering the roadway and about an inch of water ran across the paved part of the road, but again, it wasn't terrible.

The terrible part (relatively speaking) came when I got to the driveway. The driveway is gravel and was in the process of being washed away by a nice-sized torrent of water. Thankfully, there was a secondary driveway available built on higher ground that's normally used for nursery traffic (there's a nursery behind my house). So I was able to use that driveway and drive through the nursery to get home.

Yesterday morning was when we began assessing damage (of course, it was still raining though not as hard). Thankfully there was no damage to the house. The little wooden bridge that spanned the creek next to the pond floated away to the far side of the pond embankment. Part of the bonfire pit was washed away. But the worst was the driveway. So much of it had been eroded that there's now a big gap that can only be traversed if you're willing to submit your car to a two-foot drop.

Since there's no shortage of gravel where we are, the driveway can be repaired with an afternoon's worth of work. We were really lucky. Some folks in the area lost their homes or were trapped in their flooded homes (like in the picture above) and there's been reports of sinkholes closing roads and threatening property (as shown in the picture to the right).

Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday Funk

I'm 12 days into the weight loss thing and I've managed to drop 9 pounds. That's not too bad but it's difficult to stay disciplined. Add the loss of cheeseburgers to this absolutely abysmal weather and you have the makings for a slow-going Friday.

Hopefully the weekend will be semi-decent. Keep your stick on the ice.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Brown Bag Thursday

Ever try making a sandwich while holding a baby? It's a challenge, especially if said baby is a bit of a squirmer.

* * * *

The man, the legend known as Wes pointed to an Anime Face Maker. While I was waiting for the laptop to boot up, I made what I thought was a semi-decent self-portrait:

Granted, my face is a bit rounder (I like cheeseburgers, so sue me) and my neck is quite a bit thicker. I'm curious what the rest of you come up with.

* * * *

There's not an awful lot going on at the moment but should my muse decide to appear today, I'll pop off another entry. In the meantime, enjoy another picture of GIs fighting dinosaurs during World War II:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Ticked Off Wednesday

After waiting for nearly a week (allegedly a hold up in locating the disc), Netflix finally delivered Fart: The Movie. After working out on the elliptical trainer yesterday, I figured a nice, juvenile comedy would be a perfect way to wind down the day. Unfortunately, Fart: The Movie did not deliver. This movie stinks.

When you hear a title like Fart: The Movie, you expect fart jokes and lots of them. The description I read made it appear that the film was fart jokes in the context of a romantic comedy. In a movie running roughly an hour and a half, there are maybe 10 minutes worth of fart jokes.

10 minutes!

The Eddie Murphy version of The Nutty Professor had more gassy guffaws than this piece of drek. I feel robbed. I want that time back but we all know how that works. If you happen to run into this movie at the video store or on Netflix or something, stay away. Do yourself a favor and get Thunderpants instead. That's a movie that truly delivers the flatulent funny.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I Don't Suck!

Please welcome the newest addition to the list of Retroactive Conspirators: Slay, Monstrobot of the Deep. Written by the legend that is Snell; Slay, Monstrobot of the Deep is a terrific comics blog full of insight into these four-color, spandex-clad adventures. His recent rant about DC's just-finished Countdown should be permanently attached to the office wall of every DC Comics editor in a very prominent location.

Snell has very graciously included me in his listings of Comic Blogs That Don't Suck, so I'm only too happy to return the favor.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Iron Mania

The Iron Man movie opens today just in case you've been living in a cave this week. I don't really have time to see it this weekend but I'm not typically the sort of person that goes to movies on opening weekend anyway. Theater-going is a crap shoot to begin with and I'd rather not stack the deck against me by going on opening weekend, which always tends to bring out the mobile phone people, young kids, and other n'er-do-wells seemingly intent on ruining one's movie experience.

Anyway, enough crotchety old man talk. Today, I bought The Invincible Iron Man: The Complete Collection. Complete collection of what, you may ask? Comics baby! Pretty much every Iron Man issue from 1963–2006 all on one fabulous DVD-ROM disc. With Amazon's two-day shipping, I'll be thrilling to Tony Stark's exploits by Tuesday at the latest.

My fellow comics enthusiasts may want to take note: This disc is now out of print so what's out there in stores and e-tailers is it. Marvel is trying their darndest to push their crappy digital comic subscription service so don't count on digital collections like this to be available again for a good, long while.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Comics and Conflicts

Siskoid made the claim that World War II is the best known war. I'd like to note that that attribute has some roots in something Chris said in that WWII "was the last 'good' war" fought and won by the US (and its Allies). Other conflicts, as mentioned, weren't so seemingly tidy or clear cut. It's a no-brainer that comics would be much different had WWII been lost.

However, an interesting corollary to this was mentioned by Chris and Smacky with Transformers and Iron Man taking place during the current Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, respectively. Granted Transformers wasn't centered on the war, just taking place in the area for part of the movie. Tony Stark allegedly has a run in with Osama bin Laden in Iron Man, which could possibly be chalked up as a bit of propaganda but I haven't seen the film yet.

With WWII being the first and only mass media war to be won by the US, it was essentially romanticized, as Siskoid mentioned, paving the way for creative liberties like monsters and such without much of a fuss. This is one of the reasons we haven't seen much in the way of Revolutionary War or WWI weirdness.

For now, WWII remains the virtual golden child where bizarre war fiction is concerned. While we might occasionally see anomalies, it's pretty safe to say the widespread wackiness inserted into WWII won't ever be repeated with conflicts since.

First of May

For all of you Jonathan Coulton fans, it's the First of May and you know what that means.

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