Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday Rules: 9/11/08

Rule #1:

Women who recently decided to vote for McCain just because he picked a female running mate do not deserve their voting privileges. Now, if you are a woman who agrees with Sarah Palin's stance on major political issues, that's fine. But if you were a staunch Clinton supporter, odds are your political views are basically the complete opposite of Sarah Palin's. If you know that, but you still want to vote for McCain because you're bitter about Clinton's loss in the primaries and you just want to see a woman - ANY woman - in power, you are spitting in the face of every suffragette who fought for your right to vote. I guarantee there aren't a lot of staunch black Republicans who are going to vote for Obama just because he's half black (although, I could also guarantee there aren't a lot of stauch black Republicans, period).

Rule #2:

If you cheered when you heard that Tom Brady got hurt and will miss the entire football season, you are a terrible person. All he has ever done is play football as well as he can, and in recent years that's put him at the top of the NFL. Why would you hate on someone just for being really good at his or her job? Is is just because he's not the quarterback for YOUR team? If you hate Tom Brady it's due to jealousy, plain and simple. Suck it up and try to muster up some humanity.

Rule #3:

Stop changing the Final Jeopardy music. I still haven't adjusted to the last time it changed, like, twelve years ago. The new "ticking clock" music is grating and bothersome, and I don't like it. I know that expecting Jeopardy to bend to my whims seems egotistical, but I am one of the few remaining Jeopardy viewers. Most channels that sindicate Jeopardy do so mostly out of habit. I'll check with the other three viewers, but I'm pretty sure they'll agree with me.

Rule #4:

Gwen Stefani has to rejoin No Doubt, and they have to put out another album. A GOOD album. Not like "Rock Steady". They have to record something more along the lines of "Tragic Kingdom". Gwen Stefani's solo career has been an abomination, and as a trained musician I find it legitimately offensive. I'd require Fergie to rejoin the Black Eyed Peas also, but that's a case of a group that was awful before the singer ran off to defecate all over mainstream music. All of Fergie's hit "songs" consist of her spelling out words over a hip hop beat. Now, teaching teenaged girls would be fine, except all of Fergie's words are made up.

Rule #5:

Whoever keeps green-lighting the "Movie" movies ("Date Movie," "Epic Movie," "Disaster Movie," etc.) should have been fired years ago. They are one of the two embodiments of everything that is wrong with America right now (the other is the Triple Whopper). There has been an ever-growing current of anti-intellectualism in America for the last eight years (gee, I wonder what caused that), and producing absolute drivel for the consumption of the American public is only making things worse. Now, I know there is an argument that maybe music, movies and TV right now are stupid because people are stupid, not the other way around. But the only way to know for sure is to take away the insipid stimuli and see what happens. If we got rid of "Movie" movies, inane pop music and reality TV shows, we'd probably have a cure for cancer within a few weeks.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I Like It When Warner Bros. Does Exactly What I Want Them To Do

I got my wish. Warner Bros. Studios is planning to reboot its tepid Superman franchise, hopefully in a similar manner to the way the Batman franchise was revived. I was fairly disappointed with Superman Returns, and for two years I've been talking the ears off of anyone nearby about how Warner Bros. dropped the ball with Superman Returns. Now they're starting from scratch, and here is the list of what I think has to happen in order for the movie to live up to its potential:

1.) Kevin Smith must write the script. He definitely has the necessary familiarity with the comic lore, and at one point he was even tapped by Warner to write a Superman movie script. One of the perennial problems with comic book movies is an abundance of stilted dialogue, and Smith's adept skill at writing dialogue would elevate the script to a higher level of film. Don't ask him to direct, though. He's not right for a blockbuster action film, and he knows it (see: The Green Hornet). Who should direct, then? Well, I'll tell you:

2.) Len Wiseman must direct the movie. He has less than a handful of films under his belt, but with that small sampling he has proven to have the best eye for action sequences in Hollywood (well, maybe he's tied with Christopher Nolan, but Nolan's talents are obviously needed for a third Batman film). Both of the Underworld movies, as well as Live Free or Die Hard, are shot in such a way that we can actually SEE what's happening in the amazing action sequences. Wiseman doesn't subscribe to the "shaky camera = ACTION!" school of thought whose disciples include Paul Greengrass and Michael Bay. He knows how to use angles and cuts effectively to provide a perfect framing for the big stunts. His dedication to practical special effects would cut down on the CGI factor as much as possible, and help the audience to accept the Superman universe as some form of reality.

3.) Cast another unknown actor as Superman. Just don't try to find another Christopher Reeve doppelganger. Find someone who looks like he's between the ages of 32 and 35, but has an ageless quality about him. Find someone who will likely look exactly the same in the third or fourth film (7-10 years down the road) as he does in the first. Basically, find someone who was the "Brendan Fraser" factor. And make sure he can ACT.

4.) Place the story in a post-Crisis framework. For all of you non-nerds out there, that basically means that we need a movie about the CURRENT Superman universe, not the 1970s version. That means that Lex Luthor should be a prominent and powerful public figure who is secretly a master criminal. He should be a successful businessman in the public eye, whose illegal activities are known only to a few people who are unable to expose his misdeeds. I don't have a definite recommendation for an actor to play Luthor, but I will say that I wouldn't mind bringing Kevin Spacey back. He was the one bright spot in Superman Returns, and I think he could handle a post-Crisis Luthor role very well. However, some sticklers may insist on Luthor being closer to Superman's age, in which case a slightly younger actor would be needed. I'm just not sure who, right now.

5.) Cast a better/older Lois Lane. Kate Bosworth was just too young, and she wasn't right for the role. If Warner Bros. wants to do this the right way, they will cast Anne Hathaway as Lois Lane. No, there are no other options. It has to be Hathaway. Just look at her. She IS Lois Lane. I know she's not much older than Kate Bosworth, but she has an air of maturity about her that would allow her to play slightly older. Oh, and I wouldn't mind if Warner Bros. let her gain back the 20 pounds or so that she recently lost. Whoever told her she needed to drop weight needs to be punched in the throat.

There it is. The recipe for an incredible Superman movie. Let's just hope Warner Bros. keeps following my advice.

Here's what I think we'll ACTUALLY get in the movie:

-Written and directed by Brett Ratner
-Starring Shia LeBeouf as Superman
-Dane Cook as Lex Luthor
-Jessica Simpson as Lois Lane

Let the ball-dropping begin.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thursday Rules: 8/21/08

Rule #1

No more video game movies until we get a decent Super Mario Brothers movie. We don't need movies based on Bloodrayne, Alone in the Dark, Hitman, DOA: Dead or Alive, Tomb Raider, or Max Payne. We need a Super Mario Brothers movie that doesn't make fanboys' brains bleed. I'm talking to you, Pixar and Dreamworks. Either one is fine, just as long as it gets done. And soon. If you don't reset the standard, pretty soon we'll be staring down the barrel of a live-action Crash Bandicoot movie, starring Shia LeBeouf and directed by Michael Bay.

Rule #2

It's okay for China to start executing American journalists at the Olympics. Michael Phelps just capped off the most dominant Olympics performance ever, and all the journalists care about is whether or not he's dating Amanda Beard. I give up. American journalism has officially outlived its usefulness. It's time to cleanse the palette and start over. So China, do us a solid and trim the weakest of the herd. Just leave Tom Brokaw and Bob Costas alone. They're good guys.

Rule #3

Enjoy the movies this summer, because next year is going to suck. This summer has been an embarrassment of riches as far as movies are concerned. Iron Man, Indiana Jones, Wall-E, The Dark Knight, Hancock, Tropic Thunder...this summer has basically been one continuous nerdgasm. Next summer, we'll have Harry Potter and...nothing else. The WGA strike really threw a wrench in the works for movie studios. No writing meant no new scripts, which meant no new movies. We've temporarily run out of franchises. No more Pirates of the Caribbean, no Spider-Man, no Batman, no Shrek, no Star Wars...nothing. As far as I know, there are no comic book movies slated for next summer, and the sci-fi genre will be limited to the next Terminator movie. I guess we'll all have to get outside and get some exercise. I have a feeling, though, that no matter who is President next summer, Americans will not need escapist entertainment quite as much as we have for the past eight years.

Rule #4

It's okay for guys to watch So You Think You Can Dance. It's not totally a "chick show." Case in point:

That's just sick. And not at all girly.

Rule #5

Gilmore Girls is pretty good, too. Check it out.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Jesus Christ Traded

Pudge Rodriguez to the Yankees. Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers. Brett Favre to the Jets. And now, another big trade involving a very big name. Jesus Christ, the perennial MVP of Christianity, has been traded to Hinduism in exchange for Vishnu and a future 2nd-incarnation pick. Jesus will be taking over for Vishnu as an incarnation of the Hindu god Rama. Christ released an official statement, saying "I just feel like it's time to move on. I've been with Christianity for a long time, and I want to try something new. Yes, it's a new challenge, but I know I can accomplish anything as long as I keep myself in my heart." Vishnu was a bit more daunted by his new role, especially the upcoming hectic Vishnumas season coming in December. In a recent interview, Vishnu said that he is looking forward to meeting with Santa Claus and working out a plan of attack for the busiest season of the newly-renamed Vishnutian calendar. This trade has shaken up the rosters of both religions, and it should be interesting to see how this all plays out in the upcoming year.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday Rules: 8/14/08

That's a plural noun, not a statement. I'm going to try to post some Rules every Thursday from now on. Start your skepticism now.

Rule #1

If you can't use a computer well enough to successfully check your e-mail, you can't run for President. A lot of things that go BOOM are hooked up to computers in Washington, and I don't want to hear that you accidentally blew up Guatemala because you were trying to update your MySpace page. If you have no idea how the internet works, stay in the Senate with Ted "series of tubes" Stevens (R, Alaska).

Rule #2

No more reporting on the "Montauk Monster" until we know what the heck it is. I saw pictures. It's a dead dog. Probably. Either way, I don't want to hear any more about it until we know for sure what it is. A guy should be able to check news sites while eating lunch without having a picture of a rotting animal suddenly popping up on the screen.

Rule #3

Stop complaining that the Chinese Olympic gymnasts were not old enough to be competing. They are some of the lucky few Chinese girls who were allowed to live after being born with what their government considers "inferior genitalia." Most of the other girls born around the same time were tossed off of cliffs or sold to Rosie O'Donnell. These girls got to be on international TV instead. Just be happy for them.

Rule #4

Opinions voiced by buffoon characters in movies are NOT always the opinions of the filmmakers. Sometimes "offensive" dialogue is used to illustrate the ignorance and/or stupidity of a comedic character. So don't get your underpants in a twist just because a character in a movie used the word "retard." Yes, it IS an offensive word. No, it wasn't the filmmakers' way of demeaning the world's disabled population. It was meant to establish the ignorance and vapidity of comedic characters. The offensive statements were and are intended as a detriment to THEM, not to the supposed victims of "naughty words." So go see Tropic Thunder already.

Rule #5

DO NOT CHEAT ON YOUR CANCER-STRICKEN WIFE! I don't care HOW boyishly handsome you are. Not cool. Bad boy. No biscuit. Thank God you didn't get the nomination. Jerk.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

5 Gay Guys That Staight Guys Like

Over the last ten years or so, the American gay community has become much more prominent in American culture. Naturally, this has brought the American homophobic community into prominence as well. It didn't hurt the homophobe cause that one of their own was elected President eight years ago. Homophobia seems to be especially prominent among men. There are some gay guys, though, that even the most homophobic frat boys (openly) respect and admire. Here are the top 5:

5.) Chuck Palahniuk

Guys love the movie Fight Club. For this reason, guys love just about everyone associated with Fight Club. Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, David Fincher, and of course the man who wrote the book upon which the movie was based, Chuck Palahniuk. Chuck's first hit novel, Choke, was the basis for an upcoming movie of the same name. If that movie also becomes a hit, it will further strengthen straight guys' admiration for the man who brought them Fight Club.

4.) Bryan Singer

Superman Returns aside, Bryan Singer brought us two high-quality comic book movies, X-Men and X2: X-Men United. His X-Men movie reinvigorated the superhero movie genre, opening the door for the Spider-Man movies, Iron Man, and Christopher Nolan's superb Batman franchise reboot. Prior to the X-Men movies, Singer made a splash as the director of the cult classic The Usual Suspects. Nerds everywhere owe this guy a big thank-you.

3.) Sir Ian McKellan

Speaking of nerds, Gandalf himself holds down the #3 spot on the list. Oh, and he was in the X-Men movies, too. McKellan's penchant for trilogy franchises introduced him to a new generation who were not familiar with his work as an accomplished Shakespearean actor. Nerds everywhere now worship the man for his iconic portrayal as Gandalf the Grey/White.

2.) Neil Patrick Harris

This guy is EVERYWHERE nowadays, and everything he touches turns to gold. His self-mocking over-the-top party guy turn in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle set NPH's career revival in motion. Now he's stealing scenes as chronic womanizer Barney Stinson on CBS's How I Met Your Mother (which is the best three-camera sitcom on TV right now), and his starring role in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is further cementing his status as the embodiment of all that is awesome. No doubt about it, Neil Patrick Harris has become legen...wait for it...dary.

1.) Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury was, and still is, the man. He fronted one of the greatest rock bands of all time. He is the standard against which all lead singers are measured, and every one has been found lacking. He was charismatic, he was talented, and he was an all-around gifted musician. Freddie wrote more rock anthems than anyone else, and I challenge you to go to a sporting event and not hear one of his hit songs. From the pompous ambition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" to the brutal simplicity of "We Will Rock You," Freddie left an imprint on the world of rock that no one else can ever fill.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The All-Star Game Was Really Freakin' Long

My hat is off to anyone who managed to watch the entire MLB All-Star Game last night. The game clocked in at a whopping four hours and fifty minutes. Shamefully, I hung it up after the 12th inning. I stayed up and watched every extra-inning game in the '04 AL Championship (best series in baseball history), and I just don't have it in me to commit to a seemingly endless game in July. Here is the MUS (Made-Up Statistics) breakdown from last night. During the game:

- 100,385 babies were born in the U.S.

- 43 of those babies were born in the Bronx, but their mothers were too busy watching the game to notice.

- 4 of THOSE babies were born in Yankee Stadium itself.

- 120,529 hot dogs were bought in Yankee Stadium.

- 57 hot dogs bought in Yankee Stadium were thrown up by fans sitting in the vicinity of the 4 women who gave birth in the stands.

- Stephen King wrote 85 horror stories.

- Samuel L. Jackson filmed 23 movies.

- 12 nerds in Ohio watched all three Lord of the Rings movies in a row. The extended versions.

- 498 female acquaintances of those 12 nerds continued to not date them.

- 2 Fox Sports baseball commentators spent most of an inning asking Yogi Berra what he thinks of Sarah Jessica Parker.

- 1 satirical blogger got sleepy and went to bed at 12:30 in the morning (EST). Three innings later, the game was over.

Wake me up when it's football season.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The New Yorker Gives Americans Too Much Credit

Recently, The New Yorker printed a story about the use of fear in American politics. The cover of the magazine ties into that story, depicting Barack Obama in the Oval Office wearing traditional Muslim garb, sharing a fist bump with his wife Michelle, who is dressed as a terrorist revolutionary. They are standing in front of a fireplace where an American flag is burning. Above the fireplace is a portrait of Osama bin Laden. You know what, I'll just show it to you:
This image has caused a bit of a to-do with the Obama campaign, for obvious reasons. Even John McCain said the image was tasteless and offensive. The New Yorker defended the image, insisting that it was meant to show the ridiculousness of these attacks on Obama. What the magazine failed to realize is that the people who believe any of these erroneous attacks on the Obamas in the first place will take this magazine cover as gospel truth. People who are weak-minded enough to believe that Obama is a sleeper radical Muslim agent are not likely to be able to detect irony of this sort. People who understand the intent behind the cover image didn't believe any of the Obama rumors in the first place. Those who DO believe those rumors aren't smart enough to understand the cover anyway. So what is the purpose? Is a blue collar, NASCAR-loving, Muslim-hating racist good ol' boy in Alabama going to pick up a copy of The New Yorker and think "Good heavens, the satirical irony conveyed in this image has forced me to re-evaluate my appraisal of the Obamas."? Not bloody likely. Nice try, The New Yorker, but you've given the American populace too much credit. If we were all smart enough to understand that cover image, the rumors about Obama never would have spread in the first place.

Puny human magazine editors.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lightning Round

Whoops. I did it again. There's been a lot going on over the last week or so, but I couldn't decide what to write about, so you all got nothing. To try to make it up, I'm going to address as much stuff as I can right now in little bite-size chunks. I call it...The Lightning Round! Here we go:

- Hancock was released in theaters nationwide on July 2nd, much to the chagrin of movie critics. It was regarded as a lot of wasted potential. The main complaint most critics had was that Hancock was supposed to be a light spoof of superhero movies, but it ended up being a superhero movie itself. Kind of like how the Shrek movies eventually turned into the kind of movies that the original movie parodied. The problem was, nobody involved in Hancock ever said that it was a light spoof. Critics decided that all on their own before they had seen the movie. That's like ordering a steak, then complaining to the server because the steak doesn't taste like cake, and for some reason you thought it would.

Remember in Undercover Brother, when they refer to white women as "black man's Kryptonite"? Well, somebody turned that concept into a movie.

- Jesse Jackson wants to cut Barack Obama's nuts off. Now, hearing "news" of this kind is not uncommon on Fox News. The unusual thing about this particular instance is that Fox News was reporting something that ACTUALLY HAPPENED. It wasn't hearsay. Jackson actually leaned over a microphone and said "I want to cut his nuts off." Jackson later apologized, and said the remark was "unfortunate." As if it were something completely beyond his control. I'm sure his actual regret was that the microphone was on when he chose to mention his desire to castrate the first black presidential nominee in American history. Jackson is apparently upset because Obama's platform is too broad and doesn't apply only to black people. Apparently he feels that Obama can win the general election by campaigning ONLY to black people. Okay, Reverend, I know that Bush secured two terms by campaigning only to white people, but the math is against Obama if he follows your suggestion. He's doing just fine on his own. And he's doing MUCH better than you did in 1984.

Rev. Jackson is realizing that he can stick the knife pretty much anywhere, because Obama is all balls.

- Tony Snow died of cancer yesterday. On the spectrum of how I feel about his death, it falls right between Tim Russert and Jesse Helms. I didn't agree with a single word I ever heard Tony Snow say, but I don't think he was an evil man. I think he just enjoyed the challenge of having to defend the Bush administration. He died too young, and while I may not miss him, I was saddened to learn of his passing.

Anyone who has read the book or seen the movie "Thank You For Smoking" should realize that this guy was a real-life Nick Naylor, for better or worse.

Thus ends the first Lightning Round. Sorry to leave you folks hanging.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Goodbye, Jesse Helms

You will not be missed. Not by black people, not by women, not by artists, not by musicians, not by PBS, not by homosexuals, and not by me.

Dear readers: if you can, find a way to listen to "Jesse Helms" by MC Hawking (note: the song contains explicit lyrics).

I'm sorry I've been so lax about updating the site. I promise to be better about keeping up, if you all can try to leave comments so I know that someone is actually reading any of this. Deal? Great.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Head to Head: Marvel vs. DC

With the recent release of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, and the upcoming release of The Dark Knight, I thought this might be a good time to compare the the characters' respective companies, Marvel Comics and DC (or Detective Comics, as it was originally known. Please don't call it DC Comics, because if you do I'll go to an ATM machine, enter my PIN number, take out some cash money and hire a hitman assassin to kill murder you). I will compare the companies under the following categories: Best Hero, Worst Hero, Best Team, and Other Media. Let the battle begin!

Best Hero

Marvel: Spider-Man
Spider-Man is one of Marvel's earliest characters, and their most well-known. Spider-Man's alter-ego is mild-mannered photographer, Peter Parker. Parker gained his spider powers via a bite from a radioactive spider. His powers include spider agility, proportionate spider strength, a precognitive "spider sense" that alerts him to imminent danger, the ability to cling to and climb walls, and the ability to make women scream "Kill it! Kill it!" whenever they see him. As a result, Spider-Man spends much of his time running from shoe-wielding boyfriends and husbands.

Peter Parker, a brilliant scientist in addition to being a pretty OK photographer, designed a pair of wrist-mounted web shooters which produce a strong, sticky web-like substance, allowing him to sling webs all over New York City. It is these web shooters that make him truly recognizable as "Spider-Man," rather than "Sticky Bendy Guy." Spider-Man is haunted by Personal Demons, which force him to fight crime to atone for allowing a thief to escape a crime scene and eventually kill his dear Uncle Ben.

To sum up:

Powers: Spider agility, spider strength, spider sense, wall-crawling, implausible inventiveness, guilt.

Weaknesses: Rolled-up newspapers, redheads

DC: Superman
Superman is the archetypal superhero. His inception predates Spider-Man by almost 30 years. Superman is actually Kal-El, the last son of the explosion-prone planet Krypton. His home planet orbited a red sun, so somehow the radiation from Earth's yellow sun gives him amazing powers. He is invulnerable. He can fly. He's super strong. He's super fast. He can shoot beams of concentrated heat from his eyes. He has X-ray vision. He has super hearing. Basically, Superman can do anything, and nothing can hurt him. How's that for drama? Oh, wait. Superman has one fatal weakness. Chunks of his home planet (known as Kryptonite) landed on Earth, and their radiation is harmful to him.

As you can imagine, it's hard to build suspenseful stories based around a hero who has seemingly infinite power and only one weakness. There are only so many "villain with a chunk of Kryptonite" stories that can be told. Sure, Doomsday "killed" Superman, but Supes only considered that to be a temporary setback. He and his new Super Mullet were back in action quicker than you can say "Christ-like figure."

Superman's human identity is Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter (superheroes like working at newspapers, because that's the quickest way to get news. Or at least it was, 40 years ago. I suppose nowadays it'd be more efficient to monitor the blogs. But honestly, I don't think anyone wants to read a comic where the hero hangs out with Perez Hilton while waiting for Amy Winehouse to start lighting kittens on fire). Kent works at The Daily Planet, along with his on-again off-again girlfriend/wife Lois Lane. His childhood sweetheart was Lana Lang. His nemesis is Lex Luthor. There must've been a heck of a deal on the "L" blocks for typeset printers back in the '30s. Superman's main problems include feeling sad about not being able to save everybody all the time, and having too many women fall in love with him at once (more on that later).

So here's the breakdown on Superman:

Powers: Invulnerability, super strength, super speed, flight, X-ray vision, heat vision, super cold breath, easy-to-print primary color scheme

Weaknesses: Kryptonite, accident-prone reporters, Jesus complex

If you're asking who's more powerful, it's Superman hands down. But if you're asking who's more of a hero, it's got to be Spider-Man because he's actually risking injury when he fights evil.

Winner: DC

Worst Heroes

Marvel: Daredevil
Daredevil's superpower is blindness. That's right. He's super-blind. Great power. Now, I'm not going to say that blindness is a disability (though I suppose I could. I guarantee there are no blind people reading this blog), but calling it a superpower is a bit of a stretch. Daredevil can fight crime, but he can't legally drive a car. So I suppose he could attempt to drive, and then bring himself to justice. It doesn't help that one of his more prominent villains is named Bullseye. As in, "I wear a bullseye on my head so it'd be super easy to take me down IF YOU COULD SEE ME!" That's just distasteful.

Powers: Blindness

Weaknesses: Pretty much anything he would have to see to avoid. Bullets, knives, baseball bats, trash cans, steel chairs, angry cats, cars, bikes, trains, joggers, etc.

DC: Aquaman
Aquaman has the worst superpower in the DC universe. Or rather, the worst set of powers. He can talk to fish, and he can't breathe air. Pretty useful, eh? Not even Batman, a guy with no superpowers, would trade abilities with Aquaman. It's a wonder the Justice League ever brings him along on missions (see below). Aquaman also has an uncanny ability to be captured. All the time. He's the universe's answer to Harry Houdini (law of averages and whatnot). I'm pretty sure he accidentally captured himself a few times. Not that he's missing out on much, of course. We're talking about a guy whose idea of a fun Saturday night is going to Red Lobster and hanging out by the lobster tank to catch up on gossip. It's super hard to believe that the CW network opted not to develop the Aquaman TV series.

Powers: Talks to fish (not that they listen), can swim almost as fast as Michael Phelps.

Weaknesses: Air, loneliness, freedom, network mergers

I've got to give the edge to Marvel for having the slightly less useless character. Somehow, despite having superpowers, Aquaman manages to be less effective than a blind man. He's the John Tesh to Daredevil's Ray Charles.

Winner: Marvel

Best Team

Marvel: The Uncanny X-Men
Marvel's flagship team of superpowered individuals is the X-Men. The X-Men are a team of mutants, whose powers are the result of natural evolution. They are led by the handicapable Professor Charles Xavier. The X-Men regularly deal with the prejudices of a society unwilling to accept mutants into their ranks. Their main nemesis is Magneto, who has the power to manipulate metal and really mess up computer monitors and TV screens if he touches them. Prominent team members include Cyclops, who blows people up if he opens his eyes, and Wolverine, who is known for his healing powers, adamantium claws, and inability to beat Ohio State (that's right. Whatcha gonna do 'bout it, Michigan?).

DC: The Justice League of America
DC's all-star team, the Justice League, has had many different members over the years. From Batman and Superman to Guy Gardner and Booster Gold, the JLA has wavered in its prestige. A typical JLA mission consists of identifying a giant alien monster, throwing Superman at the monster, waiting for him to finish throwing the monster into space, rescuing Aquaman (somehow, he ALWAYS gets captured), and going back to their satellite headquarters to talk about how antisocial Batman is. Fun stuff.

I'll give this one to the X-Men, because they use more of an actual team mentality. The Justice League is basically just Superman and some other people. If the JLA were a band, Superman would leave and put out a solo album.

Winner: Marvel

Other Media

Marvel: Marvel has released many more movies over the last decade than DC, but many of those were clunkers. Yes, the Spider-Man movies were great (Spider-Man 2 is arguably the best comic book movie ever), but that doesn't excuse Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Elektra, Hulk, X3, or the atrocious Fantastic Four movies. Iron Man earned Marvel a lot of the goodwill it lost with its many bad films, and it looks like the company is trying to interconnect its films in the future (I'm already excited for the Avengers movie, and Iron Man 2 hasn't even started filming). As far as TV shows, Marvel has faired much better with cartoons than live-action shows. Many people of a certain age fondly remember the X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons of the '90s. Marvel has yet to create a viable live-action TV show based on their characters. It's time to step up.

DC: DC hasn't had much luck with its superhero movies, and since they only use a few of their characters in movies the bad ones really stick out. We had to deal with 10 years of terrible Batman movies (yes, even the Tim Burton ones). Finally, though, Christopher Nolan has gotten the franchise where it should be, with Batman Begins and the upcoming sequel, The Dark Knight. Fanboys have been arguing about Batman Begins vs. Spider-Man 2 as the Best Ever for a few years, and The Dark Knight will likely be added to that debate. The Superman movies, well...oh boy. The original Superman movie would have been great if not for the ending, involving Superman flying backwards around the Earth, reversing Earth's rotation, and therefore somehow reversing time, which apparently is tied to the rotation of the Earth. Try not to think about it too hard, or your brain will bleed. Superman 2 was OK (enough so that I aped one of its more famous quotes for my blog title), except for the part where the President of the United States giving General Zod control over THE ENTIRE PLANET. I'm sure the U.N. was THRILLED about that move. The less said about the other Superman sequels, the better. Superman Returns could've been great, but since Brian Singer doesn't actually READ Superman comics, he based the movie on a pre-Crisis framework. To translate for you non-nerds, that means that he made a movie based on the 1970s Superman lore, rather than the very-different canon of the new millennium. It'd be like if Batman Begins had been based on the 1960s Batman series. Bad move. Not many other DC characters have had their own movies, so the company lives and dies by Batman and Superman. How many times do I have to ask for a Green Lantern movie? RotoScope it. It'll be awesome. TV-wise, Smallville has been going strong for seven seasons now. For those of you who haven't seen it, Smallville follows the problems of a young Clark Kent. Most of his "problems" revolve around the premise that pretty much every woman he knows is madly in love with him. Yeah, I know. I feel sorry for him, too. It's just more proof that Superman has never had a real problem in his life.

It's tough to call this one, because of the variety of media and the differing amounts of output between the two companies. DC, though, has produced quality results in movies, live-action TV, and animation, whereas Marvel has more mixed results in movies and has had virtually no success with live-action TV. I'll hand this one to DC.

Winner: DC

So it looks like it's all tied up. I guess I'll have to break the tie here. Guess what folks? Gorilla Grod is NOT a Marvel character. He's straight outta DC, and since I'm aping his name I'm giving his creators the edge.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Og: The Guy Who Invented Everything

I'd like to introduce you all to a friend of mine. His name is Og. Og has been dead for hundreds of thousands of years. The reason Og is significant is that, well...Og invented everything. Not "everything" everything, but a crapload of stuff. We'll be visiting Og again sometime in the future, but today's installment is an encounter between Og and his less spectacular brother, Urk. Og is showing Urk his newest invention. And now, I present...

Og Invents the Bicycle

OG: Salutations, Urk.
URK: Og.
OG: I'm so glad you came by today. I'm anxious to show you my newest invention. I'm quite proud of it, really, and I think it will do a fair bit of good for our modest community.
URK: What that?
OG: Oh, this? Well, this is the result of more than a few weary nights and a substantial bit of pondering. What you see here is something I like to call the "bicycle."
OG: You may call it a "bike" if your fancy is so tickled.
URK: Urk like bike.
OG: I'm happy to see that it meets your approval...or were you commenting on my allowance of the abbreviated form of the name?
URK: Urk like short words.
OG: Well, what do you think of the invention itself?
URK: Look dumb.
OG: Oh, come now. You can find nothing of merit in this marvel of engineering and aesthetic design?
URK: Wheel...
OG: Yes! You noticed! My last great machination, the wheel, proved to be quite indispensable to my current endeavor.
URK: Wheel dumb.
OG: Is that really a fair assessment, brother? You may recall that my invention of language seems to have worked out pretty well for everyone...even those of us who seem reluctant to master its nuance and artistry.
URK: Urk like short words.
OG: Yes, that has been established ad nauseum through constant demonstration on your part.
URK: How bike work?
OG: Oh yes! Once again my penchant for rhetoric has detracted from the matter at hand. The bicycle is a means of transportation which will allow us to traverse the terrain at a much more rapid pace than that to which we are accustomed.
URK: Go fast?
OG: Once again, brother, you have managed to cut straight to the point. Yes, it will allow us to move much faster.
URK: But...fall down?
OG: Now we are getting to the real brilliance of it all. Loss of equilibrium will not be an issue after a brief period of orientation to the new device. You see, the generation of adequate rotation of the wheels creates a gyroscopic force sufficient to promote and sustain balance upon the bicycle.
URK: Gyro...gyros...
OG: If go fast, not fall down.
URK: Urk like small words.
OG: Quite.
URK: What bike for?
OG: Well, the most prudent application for the time being would be for use when hunting. Increased velocity when attempting to overtake prey could, and most likely will, lead to a decreased distance for spear throwing, thus ensuring increased accuracy. I suppose over time, we could use bicycles for recreational pursuits, possibly in some sort of speed-related contest. We could bestow upon the winner a saffron-tinted vestment, or perhaps...
URK: Urk want try.
OG: Normally I wouldn't hesitate to acquiesce, but if you recall the time I invented fire you may agree with me that your prior tests of my accomplishments have yielded what could politely be referred to as "mixed results." I do believe you are still missing patches of hair around your neck.
URK: Fire hot.
OG: Quite. Now, why don't we wait to test out the bicycle until I feel you are equal to the challenge?
URK: Bike dumb.
OG: Whatever helps you sleep at night, brother.

Friday, June 13, 2008

R.I.P. Tim Russert

In a country where Anna Nicole Smith's death overshadowed all other news stories for a month, Tim Russert was one of the last remaining great newsmen. He was one of the best interviewers I have ever seen, and he was one of the only level heads in the world of punditry. I doubt that watching Meet the Press on Sunday mornings is going to be much of a priority for me anymore. Sorry if you wanted something funny today. I just don't feel very funny at the moment.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Blind Review: The Incredible Hulk

This is still an experimental blog, and today's entry may seem strange, but I figure I'll give it a try and see what happens. This may end up being a recurring segment.

The idea behind a "Blind Review" is that I will review a movie that hasn't come out yet. I will comment on performances I haven't seen, plot points that may not be in the film, and I may add some stuff just for the sake of my own entertainment. Here goes nothing...

The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk follows the story of scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), a man who toils endlessly in an attempt to control his own destructive rage. In the opening credits of the movie, we are treated to a series of flashbacks outlining Banner's backstory. Bruce and his team created a machine that used focused gamma rays to create a natural-looking, full-coverage tan. The machine was the team's ticket to a Nobel Prize in Fake Baking. Unfortunately for Dr. Banner, during his test of the machine the, uh...flux capicitor...malfunctioned. The resulting burst of gamma rays not only irradiated his cells, but they instantly cooked every Hot Pocket within a five-mile radius.
Banner's custom tanning bed/Hot Pocket cooker

The massive dose of gamma radiation wreaked havoc on the good doctor's blood sugar. Bruce Banner was stricken with Super Hypoglycemia, a condition which would send him into a severe rage whenever his blood sugar level dipped. This rage manifested in Banner physically, transforming him into a massive green cartoon character known as the Hulk. The Hulk is a seemingly unstoppable force when unleashed.

The next flashback shows Bruce Banner in a McDonald's, attempting to order a Big Mac meal. The cashier informs him that it is 10:20 in the morning, and they will not serve Big Macs until 10:30. A panicked-looking Banner doubles over, clutching his stomach. The camera pans in on his eyes, which are squeezed shut. Suddenly (and quite dramatically!), he opens his eyes to reveal glowing green irises. Fade to black, with an animalistic bellow heard in the background. Fade in, showing the smoking crater where McDonald's used to stand.

After the credits, we find Bruce Banner waking up in a bed. Next to him is Betty Ross, played by Liv Tyler. We see her from behind as she gets out of bed and pulls on a robe. She turns around. Her robe is open, but not enough to compromise the film's PG-13 rating. It is open enough, though, for the audience to see what seems to be a vertical row of stitches starting just below her ribcage and running all the way down the center of her torso. From this, we can confirm that this woman is the Hulk's lover. They are in a seedy motel, on the lam from the authorities. Which authorities? All of them. Cops, military, FBI, CIA, FCC, FDA, BET...the whole enchilada. Most of the movie is spent watching Banner and Ross sneak from town to town, hoping to avoid detection. Bruce must keep his blood sugar in check, lest he become a danger to those around him.

The authorities are thrown off the scent temporarily when Banner goes to a courthouse to legally change his first name from Bruce to David. Betty asks if he is doing this to throw their pursuers off course, but Banner tells her that the reason for the change is that the name Bruce is "just too gay." He is Jack's homophobic scientist. Unfortunately, Banner is taken to court by a rapper over the use of his new name, and he is forced to revert back to being Bruce Banner. The chase, once again, is on.

Banner's main nemesis in the movie is Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), a psychotic soldier who is jealous that Bruce Banner has such a catchy (albeit kind of gay) name, while his own name sounds like something out of Hairspray. To aid his pursuit, Blonsky injects himself with Super Soldier serum. The serum has the unfortunate side effect of turning Blonsky into a massive reptilian creature named Abomination.

In the movie's climax, a very hungry Hulk is in the streets of downtown Los Angeles (nice place to hide from the public eye, jackass), cornered by the military. The soldiers are furiously lobbing cookies at the Hulk, hoping that he might eat one and balance out his blood sugar. The Hulk's transformation had been triggered by Bruce Banner's frustration at finding nothing but vegan restaurants along the streets of L.A. Their efforts are fruitless, though, as the Hulk is too enraged by the lack of substantial food to eat the cookies. The cookies merely anger him as they bounce off his computer-generated skin. Soon enough, Abomination shows up, ready to rumble. He and the Hulk begin to charge at one another, until Abomination realizes that he doesn't need to destroy Bruce Banner, because now HE has the cooler name. Instead, they work together to rescue Betty, who has been captured by...let's say the Green Goblin. Then it turns out that Bruce Banner and Emil Blonsky are actually the same person. Blonsky was a figment of Banner's imagination. Cue the Pixies song.

Overall, The Incredible Hulk is a disjointed and confusing movie. It's almost as if the writers just made it up as they went along, rather than take the time to write out a thoughtful script.

Rating: 2 Puny Human skulls. I'll work out the scale later.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Next YouTube Star

Sometimes, there are no words.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Clinton and Obama: The Private Meeting Transcript

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama met privately last week to iron out a few things. No one is completely sure what exactly they said to each other. Or at least, no one WAS sure. KBG has obtained a transcript of the meeting between the two Democrats (don't ask us how. We don't want to talk about it. And we still feel dirty), and now the whole world can know just what was said. For the purposes of the transcript, "H" stands for Hillary Clinton and "B" stands for Barack Obama.

B: Hillary! Glad you could make it.
H: How are you, Barack?
B: I can't complain. Would you like some coffee?
H: Barack, I watched my husband drink coffee for years. I've seen what it takes to drink coffee, and I can say with utmost certainty that I would not ever want to drink coffee.
B: Okay...a simple "no" would've been fine.
H: I'll just have some water, thanks.
B: Now Hillary, since we're meeting here in private, I was hoping we could work out a way to give the Democrats a definite candidate for the election in November.
H: Yes, I agree. Now, about your surrender...
B: My what?
H: Your unconditional surrender. Let's face facts, Barack. It's over. You lost. I've got almost as many delegates as you do, so I win.
B: Hillary, you're not making any sense. I've got more delegates, so I win. That's how it works.
H: Barack, once again you're showing your inexperience. I get to decide who gets the nomination, and I say I'm the nominee.
B: That's not how it works.
H: Yes it is.
B: No, it isn't.
B: ...Pardon?
H: I mean, uh, yes it is. My daddy said so.
B: Since when?
H: Since always. I grew up rich, so I get to do whatever I want. That's how it works.
B: Wrong party, sister. We're Democrats. We let the voters decide.
H: What about the Superdelegates?
B: Shut up, that's what.
H: Can I get some coffee?
B: Coffee?
H: Yes. I would like some coffee.
B: You said you didn't want coffee. You said you would NEVER drink coffee.
H: What? No. That's riciculous. I've always wanted coffee. I want to show millions of women in this country that a woman CAN drink coffee. Yes we can!
B: I told you to stop saying that.
H: What about that coffee?
B: Here, you can finish mine.
H: Barack, I will NOT suffer the indignity of taking your leftovers.
B: Hillary, have you been paying attention to the primaries? You've been taking my leftovers for months.
H: Which is why I'm winning.
B: No, you're not.
H: I will put your head on a pike and leave it on my front lawn as a warning to all the other senators.
B: What?
H: I said ""
B: Well, you're still welcome to finish mine.
H: Thanks, I think I will.
B: Now Hillary, I've been wondering why you claim such a strong connection to the blue collar workers despite being wealthy your entire life. It seems a little hypocritical of you to call me an elitist, especially when I'm the one who actually worked my way up in the world.
H: Barack, I understand what it's like to work hard every day and still make barely enough money to provide food for my family.
B: No, you don't. At all.
H: Well, I know what it's like to watch other people work hard every day, and then make barely enough money to fuel my own jet.
B: We're not getting anywhere here. How about this: you let me take the nomination, and I'll tell you where Bill's been going on Thursday nights.
H: Oh please...I know all about Tiffany. And Stacy. And Harold.
B: about I tell you where he keeps his private pot stash? You know, the REALLY good stuff?
H: ...Deal. But when you're President, I want three free murders, no questions asked.
B: No.
H: Two?
B: Can't do it.
H: One?
B: Fine, as long as it's not you-know-who. Not even I could cover up the murder of a former President.
H: Him? Oh, no, Barack. He's the least of my concerns these days.
B: And it can't be me, either.
H: Frick. Okay. You've got a deal.
B: Are you done with your coffee?
H: I will not finish my coffee until I know that my supporters have had a chance to make their voices hea-
B: Oh, come off it. Are you done?
H: Yes.
B: Okay then. We should probably kill some time before we leave, to make it look like we were discussing really important things. Do you want to play with my Wii?
H: I thought you'd never ask! Oh...wait. You mean Nintendo Wii, don't you?
B: Of course. What did you think I meant?
H: I, uh...oh, nothing.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

College Students Want No Part of the "Real World" Unless It's a Show on MTV

I currently live in a college town, and today a female friend of mine asked me why it is that yet another strip club has opened its doors in our fair city. I told her that it was because we live in a college town, and college towns and strip clubs have always had a symbiotic relationship. This relationship is not a phenomenon in itself, but is actually part of a larger concept I have dubbed "The Circle of College Life." I'll break the concept down into bite-size bits for easier digestion:

Strip Clubs

The benefits for a strip club in a college town are twofold. First, the common stereotype/joke about strippers is that they're all working to "pay for school." Med school, law school, veterinary school, clown get the idea. But like any joke, there's some truth to it. There are some college girls who just flat out do not want to wait tables or work in retail. This leaves them with two main options for earning money: they can carry on a torrid affair with an aging English professor who buys them lots of stuff, or they can strip. The more talented girls will be able to find regular work at the clubs. The not-so-talented girls, well...that's why Amateur Night exists. This usually-weekly event is heavily publicized in college newspapers and on kiosks on most campuses. The purpose of Amateur Night is to bring in as many college students as possible. Females will flock to the club looking for an easy $200 payoff, and the male students will head to the clubs hoping to see that one hot girl from their chemistry class take off her clothes in public, which is way better than spending every night downloading her Facebook pictures. So the male students, by way of patronizing the local strip club, are in fact funding the tuition of many of their female classmates. This works out fine and dandy for the girls, but the guys soon find that their own funds are sadly depleted. If only there were some way for them to make their own quick cash...


College guys generally aren't any more keen on working in food service or retail than their female counterparts. The bills keep coming, though, and a body has to make a living somehow. Now, there's always the option of hanging around the bars at upscale restaurants and hoping to meet a wealthy, elderly widow lonely for "company," but that could involve psychological damage to such a degree as to rival most of the girls working at the strip club (at least THEY never hear the phrase "you remind me so much of my grandson...). Stripping is still an option, but women don't frequent strip clubs nearly as often as men, and many of the straight guys would be too homophobic to work at the gay clubs. Plus, there's always the chance that they could end up on American Idol someday, and the whole "stripper past" thing can really come back to bite them (right, David Hernandez?). The best option for many of these guys is to become small-time pot dealers. Any guy attending college is likely to know other people who attend college. And guess what? A lot of those people smoke pot. So do their professors. So do their professors' TAs. So do their professors' TAs' dogs. And so on and so forth. The point is, it's theoretically possible to be a pot dealer on a college campus without ever having to get off the couch. Students from the honors college buy it because they're stressed out about school. Music, Art and Philosophy majors buy it because they need "inspiration." Pre-Med students buy it for "research." Strippers buy it because they want to escape the memories of horny frat boys and sweaty middle-aged townies drooling over them. It seems like a pretty sweet deal until the dealer realizes that the Reagan administration put laws in place that make it less of a crime to punt babies into a campfire than to be caught possessing, smoking, or selling marijuana. Sometimes they decide that maybe the risk isn't worth it. And that's where that pissy new cook at your job came from.

So you see, the entire college town economy is dependent on college students not wanting to work a regular job. Not when there are degrading and/or illegal jobs around that pay better than a part-time gig at McDonald's. Some girls strip to make money. Some guys blow their cash at the strip club and start selling drugs. Some musicians buy pot from the dealers with the money they made playing a show attended by strippers and dealers alike. Some professors buy pot with the money they get from working at a college where many of the students have to repeat classes and pay more tuition because they were too busy working, drinking or smoking pot to actually do any studying. Then the dealers go back to the strip clubs. And thus, the Circle of College Life continues.

Puny human college students.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Head to Head: American Gladiators vs. Ninja Warrior

Today's Head to Head is an East vs. West battle of physical challenge-based TV shows. In the blue corner, we have American Gladiators! And in the red corner, hailing from the land of the rising sun...Ninja Warrior!

American Gladiators: The Lowdown

American Gladiators was the granddaddy of consolation prizes during the WGA strike this past November-February. I may not have been able to watch new episodes of Lost, or Chuck, or worst of all, The Office, but for a glorious six-week span I was able to relive my childhood by watching juiced-up mutants smack cops and firemen around with Nerf clubs. My reaction to the news that Gladiators was being revived on television was nothing short of unbridled joy. Then NBC sweetened the deal. I learned that the Hulkster himself, Hulk Hogan, would be one of the hosts of the show. Now, I wouldn't exactly call myself a Hulkamaniac, but I have a deep appreciation for the massive "WTF?" factor that comes with anything involving Hogan and the English language.

Much to my delight, the new incarnation of American Gladiators delivered the goods. The events were fun to watch, the Gladiators had developed pseudo-WWE personalities (I'm sure Vince McMahon is keeping a very close eye on the potential future talent), and yes, the Hulkster uttered some classic Hoganisms. The Gladiators were more than happy to pitch in with their own confusing zingers. American Gladiators is arguably the #1 source on TV for mixed metaphors. Typical Gladiator trash talk goes something like this:

"You may be from the Motor City, Steve, but tonight I'm the Rocky Mountains and I'm going to eat you up like a can of bananas!"

The most confusing ongoing verbal mix-up during the first season involved the largest Gladiator, Justice. There was a great deal of confusion regarding whether or not Justice had been "served" at the end of his events. Sometimes Justice got "served" when he won. Sometimes "Justice was served" when he lost. The American Gladiators production team never quite settled on which interpretation was correct.

The physical challenges in American Gladiators are quite formidable. Many times, the events involve the 150-pound "Contenders" facing the Gladiators, who outweigh them by at least a buck, in some sort of one-on-one contest. This usually ends the way everyone expects it to end. Occasionally, the Contenders compete in an event simultaneously, and this is usually their best chance to score points. Those points get added up over the course of the program, and at the end of the events the point differential determines the leader's head start in The Eliminator. The leading Contender gets a half-second head start for every point they have beyond their opponent's total. The Eliminator is a "grueling" obstacle course in which the Contenders race side-by-side. The winner advances in the tournament bracket, and the loser is eventually mocked on Best Week Ever. In the first season, the two winners of the tournament (one male, one female) were given the opportunity to become Gladiators themselves in season 2. This worked out well enough on the female end, since the overall winner was Monica Carlson, who stood 5'7'' and weighed 130 pounds (slightly smaller than the other female Gladiators, but still within the ballpark size-wise). The male winner, however, was the 5'9" Evan Dollard, who tipped the scales at a whopping 150 pounds. This was the result of designing The Eliminator to be much easier for smaller, faster Contenders. Great for TV, bad for selecting new Gladiators. I really expected Evan's Gladiator name to be "Pipsqueak." This season, he debuted as "Rocket." Every time he stands next to the other Gladiators he gives the impression of a kid brother who wants to hang out with his older brother and all his linebacker friends. It's amazing that the words "gee wiz" have not yet escaped his lips on air. Maybe it's just a testament to the show's editors.

Season 2 has arguably been better than season 1, unless you think ratings are important. So far this season we've seen a deaf Contender, and a Contender with a prosthetic leg. At this point, I'm pretty sure before the end of the season we're going to see a blind albino Contender with no arms. That's just good television.

Overall, American Gladiators is a very physically demanding show, but The Eliminator would be scoffed at by the contestants on our next show...

Ninja Warrior: The Skinny

Ninja Warrior pits individual contestants against a four-stage obstacle course in Japan. Now, calling the challenges faced by Ninja Warrior contestants an "obstacle course" is a bit like calling Kujo a puppy. The Ninja Warrior course is so extremely difficult that in over seventeen seasons, only two men have completed the entire course. Most of the 100 contestants are eliminated before the end of the first stage. "But Grodd, how do they get eliminated?" you may ask. Puny humans. The contestants are eliminated when they fall in the water under each obstacle. Or if they TOUCH the water. Or if the timer, which barely allows enough time for a flawless run, expires. So yeah, it's pretty tough. Every stage is more difficult than the last, and the entire course tests a wide range of abilities, such as speed, strength, stamina, and agility. The first three stages vary from tournament to tournament, but the final stage is always some sort of vertical climb involving a rope and a timer short enough to make Spider-Man pee his pants.

The one upside for Ninja Warrior contestants is that there are no Gladiators on the course. A contestant may fall off a log and disgrace not only their family but their entire ancestral lineage, but at least they won't have to deal with a guy named Wolf punching them in the throat. The show really serves to illustrate the differences between Eastern and Western culture. In the West, our obstacle-course shows always have a winner. You don't have to necessarily be great to win American Gladiators, you just have to suck less than your opponent. Kind of like how Paul Hamm won his Olympic gold medal in '04 (he has not had the same success with Ninja Warrior. Poor little guy just can't get up the Warped Wall). In the East, the culture is more about accepting failure with honor, however disgraced your ancestors might be. That's why the timer counts down on Ninja Warrior and counts up on American Gladiators. Because nothing's as American as making sure people don't feel bad about themselves. I blame the schools.

And the winner is...

Oh crap, did I forget to establish criteria for victory? Am I picking which show is more difficult? More entertaining? Am I judging based on the amount of subtitles? Well, I guess I'll have to break it down. Ninja Warrior's obstacle course is far more difficult than The Eliminator. American Gladiators provides opponents for its contestants, resulting in a more entertaining "battle" aesthetic. But Ninja Warrior always provides completely insane commentary from its MC. I guess this one's a bit of a toss-up. I'll have to leave it to the readers. Assuming there's more than one of you out there. One way or another, justice will be served. Or not. I'm still not sure how that works.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Detroit Pistons: The Cake is a Lie

It's deja vu all over again. Once again, the Pistons reached the Eastern Conference Finals, and once again they crapped out short of the Big Dance. And once again, Pistons fans must deal with the crushing disappointment that comes with supporting the NBA's biggest teases. The Pistons have played in the last six Eastern Conference finals. They have only reached the Finals twice, and only one of those trips ended with the Pistons as Champions. Clearly, something must be done. But what? Is the problem with the players? The coach? The front office? Here are my thoughts:

Flip Saunders is DONE. It's time for him to go. He is not a bad coach by anyone's definition, but it is pretty clear that he cannot get the Pistons to the Finals. Rick Carlisle was fired in '03 after the Pistons lost to the Nets in the conference Finals (the Nets? In the playoffs? Oh, how times change...). Even Larry Brown got canned after losing to the Spurs in the finals (though that had more to do with his off-the-court behaviors than with his actual coaching). Flip Saunders has lost in the Eastern Conference Finals each of the last three years, and I doubt he'll get a fourth chance. Joe Dumars is a man of decisive action, and he won't hesitate to pull the trigger if he thinks it's the right thing to do. Now it's just a matter of who Joe D will pick to succeed Saunders. Avery Johnson's on the market. Jeff Van Gundy could take the job, if he hasn't become too enamored with his commentary job. Zeke is available, but I doubt Pistons fans want any part of that particular Bad Boys reunion. I won't even try to predict who will take over as the new Pistons coach; I just know that Flip Saunders will be gone. Maybe he can fill the vacancy in Phoenix. He's a talented offensive-minded coach, so that might be a good fit for him.

For the first time in many years, I think the Pistons' roster is headed for a big shakeup. Tayshaun Prince is safe, and I'm pretty sure Jason Maxiell and Rodney Stuckey have job security in Detroit. Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace are the most likely starters to be traded. They still have relatively high market value, and their inconsistent playoff performance could lead to them finding jobs elsewhere. If Rip Hamilton is playing for a different team next season, it'll probably be his choice and not Joe D's. If Dumars does unload Billups or 'Sheed, he may try to bring in a strong starting center and let Antonio McDyess come off the bench next season. Again, it's too soon to predict exactly what will happen, but I think the Pistons' roster will look very different by next November.

Shane Battier, at some point before he retires, will play for the Pistons. You can quote me on that.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Problem(s) With Iron Man

I saw Iron Man shortly after it came out, and overall I was very satisfied. It was not only an enjoyable comic book movie, but it stood up well when viewed strictly as a film. I would rank it up there with X2 or maybe the first Spider-Man movie. HOWEVER, I felt that there were a few flaws in the movie that kept it from being mentioned in a "best ever" debate the way Spider-Man 2 and Batman Begins are.


1. Tony Stark: Injured War Hero or Heartless Bastard?

When Tony Stark first sustains his shrapnel injuries, he is fitted with an electromagnet that supposedly slows the shrapnel's movement toward his heart. Okay, I can buy that. However, problems arise later on in the movie, when the writers seem to suddenly decide that the electromagnet IS his heart without bothering to tell us they changed the rules. Twice during the movie, Tony's magnet is removed and he immediately suffers severe health problems (first when Pepper is changing the magnet, then again when Stane removes it). If that magnet was still serving its original purpose, it should have taken a while for the shrapnel to reach Tony's heart; it would not have happened immediately. If the writers want to change the rules and say that the electromagnet takes on a new role as Tony's surrogate heart, then they need to tell us.

2. Climax: Batteries Not Included

In the climactic fight between Iron Man and Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger, Iron Man has to rely on his original, just-about-spent heart/magnet/battery thing. This means that he won't be at full power, and/or his suit (and heart) won't stay powered for very long. Right off the bat, this tells the audience that the climactic battle will be SHORT. Bad idea. This is the first film in what should end up being at least a trilogy, and the audience deserves to see a knock-down drag-out slobberknocker between our hero and the villain. With all the build-up, this should have been a monumental brawl. Unfortunately, the final showdown was entirely too short, and all the best shots had already been blown in the trailers (more on that later). Granted, giving Tony Stark a time limit to complete his objective added to the drama, but it happened at the expense of the action. A great comic book movie should be able to deliver both. Any comic book movie fan knows that you don't take away or limit the hero's powers until the SECOND film in the series (see: Spider-Man 2, Superman 2). Giving us a half-powered Iron Man in the first film really cheapened what could have been a showdown on a scale to rival the famous train fight from Spider-Man 2.

3. Trailers, Spoilers...What's the Difference?

There's no two ways about it, the Iron Man trailers gave away all the best moments. Blowing up the tank, catching the car, flying with jets, throwing a flying haymaker at Iron Monger...all these great scenes were spoiled by the trailers. There weren't any surprises left by the time audiences finally saw the movie. Most of the comedy was fresh, but the action scenes had lost the element of surprise. When that tank took a shot at Iron Man, we all knew what would happen next. When Iron Man took to the skies, we knew how it'd look. During the final showdown with Iron Monger, we were all waiting to see the car go flying. None of it was new. None of it was unexpected, and a movie's "awesome" factor has everything to do with giving the audience something they don't expect, whether they're watching a drama, a comedy, or an action flick. The movie's still a lot of fun, but it's like being told weeks ahead of time that you're getting exactly what you want for your birthday. It sucks a lot of the fun out of unwrapping your gift.

Counterpoint: Things Iron Man Got RIGHT

As I said, despite its glaring flaws, Iron Man is a heck of a movie, and I will definitely be adding it to my DVD collection when the time comes. The things I'm griping about are the flaws that kept it from transcending "really good" status and moving into the realm of "amazing." Fortunately, the things that were wrong with the movie are far outnumbered by the things that were right. Here are several reasons why Iron Man was absolutely worth seeing:

1. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark

2. Jon Favreau in the director's chair

3. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, and Terrence Howard in the supporting cast

4. The inclusion of S.H.I.E.L.D.

5. Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

6. Sabbath. 'Nuff said.

7. The use of practical effects whenever possible

Go see Iron Man. Oh, you already did? Go see it again. It's worth your time and money. It just could have been so much better...

Puny humans.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

And so it begins...

Here we all are, at the genesis of what I hope will be an ongoing and regularly-updated blog. I can't promise that everything you find written here will be insightful or entertaining or at all worth reading, but I can promise that it will be almost completely free of grammatical errors and misspelled words. Except for prepositions. I'm never sure where to put those at. Oh, and there might be an occasional sentence fragment (see: "Except for prepositions"). But I can guarantee you that any time I use sentence fragments or begin a sentence with a conjunction (see: "But"), it will be intentional and it will hopefully add some gravitas to the surrounding content. Other than that, I make no promises, and offer no apologies. If reading any or all of my blog entries turns out to be a complete waste of your time, then I suggest that you write down the exact amount of time you feel was taken from what I'm sure is an otherwise very exciting life. Keep an ongoing log of lost time, and when it adds up to at least 90 minutes, let me know. I will then give you the name of a movie which would be a complete waste of time to watch. This should cancel out the amount of time you feel you wasted reading my half-cocked rants and not-at-all-cocked opinions regarding music, movies, television, and whatever else happens to catch my fancy during the day.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair (I think Ozymandias said that. Or maybe it was Killface. I guess it depends on who you ask).

Puny humans!