Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Adam Gets All R for Ranty After Seeing V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta is an important film.
Not only does it mark the return of the Wachowski Brothers (the creative duo behind the Matrix Trilogy), but it is also Hollywood's most blatant stand against the current American regime's erosion of our freedom and civil liberties.

No matter what you think about the Bush administration, I can tell you from personal experience that I've come under attack for my political beliefs from people within the government -- and solely by Republicans. Now, my attacks came at the state level, thanks to my support of thecongressman.net...but they were politically motivated and carried out by people who were instrumental in, and directly benefitted by, the GOP electoral victories in Ohio.
The fact of the matter is, Byron Gunter was investigated by the State of Ohio because he voiced his opinion on a private website. Keeping in mind that he was not an employee of the state, and even if he was, his political speech would be protected under the First Ammendment, the actions of the state were fascistic in their nature. Their subsequent investigation of yours truly just showed how far they were willing to go. Simply because I supported Byron when the State of Ohio began their illegal and immoral harassment of him, I was also put under the microscope.
Thankfully, as the clean-living twit I am, they couldn't even manufacture something like "Attempted Misuse of State Equipment" to attempt to stick on me. And, also thankfully, they couldn't pin it C-Edit, J-Edit or Byron. Much as they tried to create some sort of controversy, there was no crime committed, and the State lost.
As a person whose life has been touched by politically-motivated harassment and persecution, I can tell you that we are in dire straits here in the US of A.
We live in a world where an opposition political stance, be it Democrat or Libertarian or whatever, has consequences.
We live in a land where journalists and entertainment figures are wiretapped illegally by the government because they hold, or are suspected to hold, opposition views (even though, if the government really was "looking for terrorists" as they claim, they could have gotten legal warrants for the wiretaps -- indicating that the purpose was as false as the war that some of the wiretapees were protesting).
We live in a place where our Constitutional freedoms are now void and we are now subject to the iniquities of the Patriot Act, a piece of legislation that blatantly disregards the Bill or Rights.
The sad thing is, as the movie points out quite correctly, it's OUR fault. The people themselves are to blame for any government they have.

See, for most people, including myself, it's easy to blame THEM. It's THEIR fault that we're involved in this war. It's THEIR fault that we have too many SUVs on the road and THEIR fault that we're too dependent on fossil fuels. It's not. It's OUR fault. All of us.
I'd thought I'd taken a lot of blame on myself after the last presidential election. I'd volunteered and worked a phone bank. I'd admitted that the GOP worked harder than we did. I'd said they'd played our own game better than we did.
You know whose fault that is, though? It was ours. The Democrats -- the opposition in general -- did an inadequate job. Had we done what we set out to do, we would have carried Ohio. And, as conventional wisdom goes -- as goes Ohio, so goes the Nation.
See, anyone can play the blame game. Admitting that we ourselves are at fault is much more difficult.

Casting-wise, James McTeigue and the Wachowskis couldn't have done better for themselves. They put the dynamic Hugo Weaving behind the mask of V (having shot for a week or so with another actor in the role, not that you could tell). Weaving isn't vain enough that he'd need the mask off at any time during the movie, just so you could see his face (I'm looking at you, Stallone, Tobey Maguire, etc). He lets his voice to the lion's share of the work, showcasing how truly talented he is.
They also lucked out in having Natalie Portman play Evey. Portman's got a bad rep of late, mainly due to her work in the Star Wars prequels. However, micro-management in the editing room was the problem with those films. Not performance. Given room to emote and given the trust to bring the character to life, Portman's Evey truly is the axle upon which this movie spins. Her arc from scared little girl to strong revolutionary soul is the journey everything depends on. And, outside of her capable hands, it might not have succeeded.
Stephen Rea was an inspired choice for Finch, his humanity outstripping the character's efficiency. He makes the inspector just as much a rebel as V himself, as the Truth is his final goal.
And, of course, John Hurt is a delight as the Chancellor, Adam Sutler. He is all the righteous anger and fearful rage that his government embodies. He's always excellent, and he gets many, many chances to shine throughout the film.
Add in some marvelous supporting work by Stephen Fry (as Finch's Party-loyal partner who is shaken by what they discover), Rupert Graves (as Evey's secret-keeping boss), Sinead Cusack (as the doomed coroner), and a deeply, gleefully villainous turn by Tim Pigott-Smith (as Creedy, head of the Finger Men), and the film is made stronger still.
I'd also like to acknowledge the minor (but key) roles performed by Billie Cook (as the Little Glasses Girl) and Imogen Poots and Natasha Wightman (both as Valerie) -- who do so much with so little material. Their characters' sacrifices are what jump start this revolution, and without them mattering to the audience, it wouldn't work at all.

It can be argued that the current administration isn't as fascistic as the government in V. Well, duh. It it was, this movie never would have been seen. And the Wachowski Brothers would have just disappeared.
That's the joy of speculative fiction. V for Vendetta is a cautionary tale. It's a parable. We're supposed to learn something from this story.
Fascism is wrong. I don't think I'm going to get an argument on that.
Sadly, our government is bordering on the fascistic ethic. Dissent has been vociferously denounced in the past (the President has, of late, encouraged dialogue, though...meaning he's noticed that his party hasn't been playing nice, maybe?). Opposing views are shouted down on FOXNews as "UnAmerican" or "UnPatriotic". Which is funny, because that very action is both.
It must be recognized that such acts are the slide upon which we shall fall into fascism. Erosion of freedom is a very slippery slope, and it starts and ends with us, the people.
We don't have the Finger rooting us out yet. We don't have curfews yet. And we aren't totally being spoon-fed our news yet -- but this government has TRIED to do that.
Our government HAS performed medical experiments on our own people (the Tuskeegee Experiment and MK-Ultra being noteable examples -- or the Army sending soldiers out into the blast zone at Trinity). It's not too far a leap to assume they'd do something more drastic.
Now, the War or Terror (or the Long War, as the Right is now calling it, since they admit it can NEVER BE WON) might not have been started by an event that they created, but they are benefitting from it. Witness the huge government contracts going to Haliburton and Lockheed (companies very connected to the Right wing).
You're supposed to turn a blind eye to that profiteering, you know. All that American blood that's being shed isn't making money for the people who sent the soldiers over there under fradulent circumstances. Noooooo.
Even if we end up making the world a better place, the war was started on a lie. This fact isn't in dispute.
So, we have soldiers -- our soldiers, our sons and daughters -- halfway around the world spilling blood on behalf of a lie. And if we speak up about that, we're not supporting the soldiers. We're being Unpatriotic and Unamerican (here we go again...).
I'm calling bullshit on that.

There are some important differences between the graphic novel and the movie. Most apparent is the extra material about gay and transgender people (expanded from just the Valerie letters in the book into a friend of Evey's from her work and in spending extra time meeting Valerie, to pound home her story.
There are also some pointed comments about V's nature as a person of some other gender classification. He's not the mask, or even the face behind the mask. V considers himself a concept -- similar to totemic fetishes or transgender identity.
The extra time given to the persecution of ethnic minorities and homosexuals is quite possibly due to Larry (Lana) Wachowski's transgender nature. After the Matrix, Lana more or less came out, though the pair still bill themselves as the Wachowski Brothers.
It's also important to note that these additions create more parallels to current events in the US -- further politicizing the movie as a parable about the current state of affairs in this country and not England in the 1980s as in the book.
The interlude where Evey stays with her friend Dominic serves no purpose in the narrative other than to add another queer face to the victims' roll call. He isn't safe, even though he stars in the most-watched program in the country, because he is a sexual deviant and a free-thinker.
Homosexuality is such an anathema to the people of the flyover states that gays are being denied their basic human rights at the State Constitution level now. My state passed a Constitutional Ammendment banning gay marriage with an 80% margin. Considering that the GOP victory here was by the slimmest of margins, that means that even the majority of folks on the opposition side joined with them on that issue (Once again illustrating their point that we are ALL responsible for the government that we install).
I think, perhaps, that the sequence was to prepare Evey to sympathize with Valerie when she reads her letter. Her friend is dead, and here is a message from someone who has suffered similarly.
Following the original graphic novel would have taken Evey to pretty much the exact place she does get, but the diversion creates tension between Evey and V that didn't exist in the book.

The ending itself is quite different from the original novel, both in content and intent. Evey is the new V at the end of the book, gathering followers like she herself had been gathered. In the movie, the great gathering of Guy Fawkeses stymies the government and forces the troops who had been previously ordered to shoot them all to stand down. They watch the destruction of Parliment together.
The movie's new ending is more hopeful than the original text, with the people taking up the Guy Fawkes mask en masse and taking to the streets. Some perform acts of civil disobedience. Some perform acts of senseless violence. All of them recruit more people to put on the mask and gather together.
There is a tense moment as the marchers approach the Parliment, and the soldiers await an order to shoot them. However, unlike at Kent State or Jackson State, cooler heads prevail. The marchers overtake their position and stand among the soldiers, fearlessly awaiting the moment V has promised them.
Evey and Inspector Finch looking out over the destruction of Parliment while the Guy Fawkes mob unmasks themselves to reveal the faces of the deceased amongst them. The dead are amongst the marchers because they are within us all, so long as we remember them. Their hopes and dreams live on amongst us, so long as we dare to be free.

I can understand some of the problems that Alan Moore had with the adaptation done by the Wachowskis. In a narrative sense, the brothers switch around much of the book. The attack on the TV station takes place at the beginning, making V's address to the nation one of the first things people see about him.
They transform Prothero from the staid, calm BBC announcer-esque Voice of England into Bill O'Reilly's even-more-evil twin. The government has become the root cause of England's woes, with a viral attack being the reason that England is so isolated (in the book, it is because England is all that remains after a global nuclear exchange -- which Moore himself has said is wholly unrealistic anyway). The brothers made the High Chancellor much more of an analogue to our current US President, making him a deeply religious demagogue. They put Evey to work at the television network and have her leave V twice. There are numerous side characters added, who are seen watching the events unfold on TV until they too decide to take up the mask and join the revolt.
There's also the issue of making the relationship between Evey and V more romantic. She no longer suspects that V was her long-lost father -- though she does refer to V at the end as him...and every other one of the Missing.
The movie also hints that Evey's parents were subjected to the same experimentation that V was -- even though in the movie's timeline, their incarceration happened years after (oops -- the Wachowski's made a boo-boo) those experiments had borne fruit.
Still, much of the intent and spirit of the novel is in the movie. Perhaps more so. V for Vendetta is more zealous as a movie than as a novel. More earnest and less cynical.

Perhaps that's part of the problem. Maybe we're too cynical in the opposition. Too jaded by our own failures as well as those we stand against. Certainly we must admit our complicity in the results of any government we abide, but we must also hold true to our own ideals in opposing the very same regime.
Idealism is a romantic value at best, but sometimes it's all we have. Sometimes, our ideals and our hopes are that final inch of ourselves that we possess. And it's our duty; not only to ourselves, but to those who come after us; to hold on to that final inch until such time as we can make it grow.
I believe that, despite their efforts to the contrary, we will survive this government who seems so bent on bringing about some sort of Apocalypse. We survived the fatalistic urges of the nuclear-detente 80s. We'll survive again. Why? Because we still have hope.
I'll be damned if I'm going to let anyone take that away from me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Adam Leaves His Brain at the Door: An Ultraviolet Review
Once in a while, a movie comes along that asks you to be forgiving to a great degree. Basically, said movie asks you to leave your brain at the theater door.
Ultraviolet starts off with a series of faux comic book covers, hinting at the chaos to come. But it's the moment that the film asks you to forgive its temporary rescinding of the law of gravity that is the actual instant that you realize that this movie truly wants you to scoop out your gray matter and just have fun with it.
If you can't do that, you're going to hate the movie. Thankfully, I'm a forgiving sort.
Even though they say Violet's (Milla Jovovich) full name about seven hundred times through the course of the film, you don't really ever remember it all. First off, it's too goddamn long. Second, when things are constantly flying around or exploding or running up a wall, it's rather immaterial.
Sometime in the future, mankind has conquered pretty much every disease but one. Hemophagia is the by-product of all of the progress and genetic engineering that has gotten man to this point. The price of this advancement is a virus that essentially turns people into vampires. Get a drop of infected blood on you, and it's a death sentence.
Yeah, it's another vampire movie. Fresh on the heels of January's Underworld: Evolution, we have another flick about a tough female vampire in tight leather. Not that women in tight leather is a bad thing, mind you. But, much as I like staring at Kate Beckinsale or Milla Jovovich's hide-bound behind, I just don't see the plucky vampire heroine becoming a saleable genre in itself.
Ultraviolet has just as dim a view of mainstream religion as Kurt Wimmer's previous foray into sci-fi action (the sadly underrated Equilibrium), but is much more heavy-handed about it. The evil bio-corporation that engineered the Hemophagia virus? It's the Mormon Church. I'm not lyin'. Really. Nick Chinlund's Daxus is a vice cardinal of the Church, charged with keeping mankind docile and eliminating the remaining Hemophages. A rather broad mission, but this is a broad movie.
Violet was a nurse in her previous life. She had a husband and a baby on the way. When she contracted Hemophagia, her husband was killed and she was shipped off to a concentration camp and her baby was taken taken from her and destroyed. That's why she joined the Hemophage resistance.
For all intents and purposes, there is not Hemophage Resistance. Sure, there is a group of Hemophages that are supposedly fighting against the Church, but Nerva's (Sebastien Andrieu) group is so pitifully small, they don't seem credible as a threat to a cheese sandwich, let alone an army.
Oddly, Milla Jovovich -- wee that she might be -- taking on an army is more believable. Perhaps it's because she doesn't seem as Eurotrash as the other Hemophages. Mind you, the director has a cameo as a 'Phage, so I'm kinda calling him names.
And, pretty much, that's what you get. One woman against an army.
Have I not mentioned a plot yet? That's because there really isn't one. Well, they pay some lip service to a child (Cameron Bright) who's supposedly been engineered with a cure for the Hemophages. Or a way to kill them off. Or a way to kill off all the humans. He might be created entirely in a lab. Or he might be Daxus' son. Or his clone. Ultraviolet changes its mind constantly, since it wasn't of a very clear mind to begin with. (Oddly, Cameron Bright is playing the cure in X-Men 3 as well -- perhaps he's being typecast.)
Thankfully, as much as the movie mentions maternal instincts, we're not in for Ninja Mommy like last year's absolutely dreadful Elektra. The mother thing, like the plot itself, gets the back burner.
What this movie lacks in plot, it makes up for in slick, jaw-dropping set pieces like the opening raid on the Church's blood bank. The movie is pretty much nothing but visual spectacle, and works on that level. It's gorgeous and colorful eye candy. Go to have fun, and fun shall be had.
Though not nearly as intelligent, thoughtful or subtle as Equilibrium, Ultraviolet is even more jam packed with whiz-bang moments than its predecessor. What it has in popcorn value, though, it lacks in the staying power that a smarter movie might have.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

NextWave #2
writer: Warren Ellis
artist: Stuart Immonen
published by Marvel Comics

If I didn't already have my lips busy kissing Grant Morrison's ass, I'd probably be puckering up for Warren Ellis.
What he's done in only two issues of NextWave is nothing short of remarkable. He's turned the Marvel Universe on its ear and managed to finally point out that 1) Fin Fang Foom has no genitalia and 2) he wears underwear anyway.
That, and he's created the funniest, most giddily fucked up super-team since Giffen and DeMatteis' Justice League. He took a bunch of Marvel B-listers and never was-beens and forged them into the heiney-bootin', hard-drinkin' superteam for a new century -- and he also managed to almost make me pee myself laughing.
I want a crappily animated NextWave movie -- it can be as crappily animated as Ultimate Avengers -- BUT THEY HAVE TO LET IT BE JUST AS RUDE AND DISGUSTING AS THE COMIC OR I WILL FUCKING KILL PEOPLE!!!

Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #1-3
writer: Grant Morrison
artist: Doug Mahnke
published by DC Comics

Grant Morrison is the smartest comics writer alive. He might be the best, too.
So, I've been keeping up with his Seven Soldiers project over at DC. The whole thing is one massive story, starting in his JLA: Classified run.
Essentially, these tiny little extradimensional beings called the Sheeda are attacking humanity, and seven heroes must come together to stop them. It's a perpetual cycle, one that goes back to the beginnings of human history. Every so often, there is a culling of the race by these invaders. And every time, seven champions are called upon to defend the Earth.
So far, we've seen the adventures of The Manhattan Guardian, Shining Knight, Zatanna, Klarion the Witch-Boy, Mister Miracle and the Bulleteer (And if you're REALLY good, I might get off my ass and review them. Oh, wait. I'm lazy. Forget I said anything.)
Frankenstein starts off in 1870 as Frankenstein (referred to as Frankenstein, not Adam or the Frankenstein Monster -- Morrison isn't attempting to retell Shelley) is fighting some dude named Melmoth on a train. To say that Frankenstein unleashes eighteen boxes of hell on the guy and his Maggot minions would be an understatement. From the get-go, this is rollicking high adventure -- or so you'd think.
There's a beheading. The train crashes. Something causes the whole deal to flash in and out of time until 2005, when a town is constructed over the site.
Cut to a high school kid named Uglyhead. Well, that's not his name, but that's what everyone calls him. Frankly, they're right. Uglyhead is a repulsive nerd stereotype straight outta the internet, but Uglyhead now has super powers. He can see peoples' thoughts as speech bubbles.
And it makes him hate people more.
One girl seems to sympathise with him, and Uglyhead thinks that he might spare her what's coming. And if you think it's gonna be as simple as a Columbine-style rampage, you don't know Grant Morrison.
Uglyhead's in with the Sheeda, and he's unleashing them on his fellow students, bringing out their fears and making them reality -- making them as ugly as he is and as ugly as they feel inside.
When the girl and Uglyhead finally have their climactic meeting at the prom, she finds he's sacrificed all her fellow students to the Maggots, which need human hosts to mature into Sheeda.
Then, Frankenstein wakes up. As I mentioned before, this isn't the Frankenstein you're used to. This one might be a cobbled together corpse-man, but he's also a butt-kicking advernturer who carries powerful magic talisman's like the sword of the Archangel Michael and a big fucking gun.
Uglyhead doesn't stand a chance.
Issue 2 trades high school for Mars. Frankenstein traces Melmoth and some missing children to the Red Planet. This isn't John Carter's Mars, of course -- though from the look of the architecture and artifacts, it might be home to DC's Martian Manhunter.
A royal ass-kicking ensues.
Issue 3 cuts back to Earth, as Frankenstein investigates strange happenings in a town called Salvation Valley. Something bad is in the water. And...the Bride of Frankenstein shows up!
Let's cut to the chase. If you're reading any of the Seven Soldiers books, you're a Grant Morrison fan. You like having your mind blown. And while Frankenstein goes light on the psychopyrotechnics, it exchanges them for a heaping dose of blistering action.
Frankenstein is a bigger badass than Schwarzeneggar, Charlton Heston, Eastwood and Chow Yun-Fat put together. He's not monosyllabic, but he's a man of few words. Because, dammit, he lets his fists (and weapons) do his talking for him. He's an unliving avenger, kicking ass in the name of the Lord (or something thereabouts).
Doug Mahnke's raw, rough and jagged artwork is a perfect companion to this very unusual monster story. His Frankenstein borrows liberally from many of the Monsters of the Silver Screen, but he also has a style all his own. Under Mahnke's hand, the opposition comes off even more horrifying than our terrifying hero. Hell, you've seen nothing until you've seen a herd of carnivorous cows rampaging through a town. Yikes!
I still don't know exactly where Morrison's going with the Seven Soldiers storyline, and that's half the fun. I'm surprised by so little any more, it's always nice to read someone with an imagination to match the medium.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Podcast Planet #2: What Adam's Listening To

Since I have made a few recommendations about podcasts, I'm gonna tell you exactly what I'm listening to now. In fact, the links in this article are the feeds I listen to.
I don't use podcasts for news because I don't listen to them often enough to be current every day. I might only listen to one program once a week. I end up READING my news (always the best way) instead. So, given some time, I might do yet another update to this, tentatively called RSS Planet, where I'll throw out some of the feeds I read.

Podcast Software
I use the podcast aggregator Juice to download almost all my podcasts. Not iTunes. Because Juice resumes partial downloads (which is important for indie casters, since it saves bandwidth and thus $$$). It's open-source. It's free. And it integrates seemlessly with my iTunes.
I'm a writer, and I do listen to two podcasts about writing. The Writing Show is a decent show in the NPR mold that deals with the business side as often as the creative side of writing. Writers on Writing is more of a conversation with writers of various formats -- including a reading of said author's work. Because of these shows, I finally came around to listening to the free, public domain books over at LibriVox.
Video Podcasts
I do watch a number of video podcasts, two of which I haven't figured out how to get into Juice yet. Dammit. So, I have to download those via iTunes. The first of the iTunes-only 'casts is RocketBoom, a pseudo-news program more in the vein of BoingBoing or DeFamer. Amanda Congden brings you tech news and weirdness, pretty much on a daily basis. And, allegedly, it's in HD now. Wowsers. I also enjoy the antics of the crew over at TikiBar TV. Lala, if you're reading this -- call me. Really. Every episode, they mix up a tasty Tiki cocktail and yuck it up Rat Pack style. I am truly, truly a fan of this damn show. Lala, really...Call me, babe. We'll do drinks and talk about your, um, science.
I also watch the Vintage ToonCast, a collection of public domain cartoons. Why? Because I fucking love cartoons. They've occasionally veered away from toonage and shown some dude's short films, but what the hey? Me likey.
I'm curious about technology, much like every other guy out there, and thus I appreciate GeekBrief TV. Host 'Cali Lewis' introduces you to new and fun tech items as often as humanly possible -- and now that she's on PodShow, maybe even more often.
I'm curious about sex as well (much like every other guy out there) and have found KitKast not only fun and informative, but occasionally insightful. Unlike Suicide Girls, the Yum Yum Girlie Show or the ClubJenna trailer cast, all of which are duds (and all of which are just commercials for premium services anyway). KitKast is actually a news show that covers sex and the sex industry.
Since I'm also curious about the culture of the Far East and how to do all those crazy ninja moves from Ninja 3: The Domination (like EVERY guy out there), I watch the Ask a Ninja podcast with religious fervor. OK. I'm lying. I only just started watching. But it's funny.
Movies and TV
I'm a whore for Kevin Smith (Kev...call me. Really. Since Lala won't have me, I WILL go gay for you, you lunchbox full of man-lovin...) I'm eagerly awaiting his next film, Clerks 2 and I'm enjoying the living hell out of his video journals from the set.
Since I mentioned entertainment I'm a total whore for, I loooove me some Lost. And the Official Lost Podcast gives me an extra fix with just about every episode of the show.
I do listen to two movie review podcasts, both very much mainstream. Ebert and Roeper are still the gold standard for mainstream movie reviews, and even though the podcast is just an audio version of the TV show, it's every bit as informative (though I miss the clips from the movies). I also listen to Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony because I have a soft spot in my heart for the old codgers from The Muppet Show. I've tried a number of the indie movie 'casts...and frankly...they all suck. But not for much longer, hopefully.
Hockey season is still going strong, so I listen to two hockeycasts (I used to listen to the feeds of BlueJackets games but stopped when I was almost 20 games behind in my listening). I listen to the Madison Square Garden Network's HockeyNation and TSN's NHL Insider with Bob McKenzie pretty regularly.
I might not get my news from podcasts, but I do like to keep up on politics. And, though I'd sorta discounted him at first, I've found John Edwards to be one of my favorite politicians out there (and a hell of a nice guy when I met him here in CBus). He has both an audio and video blog on his site, and he invites registered members of his online community to participate.
Anyone who's known me for any length of time knows I'm a sucker for comics, and thus I enjoy getting news from the House of Ideas on the Marvel Comics podcast. I really appreciate that they've taken the effort to sit down and do something for their fans and retailers in this format. Some day, I might even apologize to Joe Q for embarassing him with questions about what he was thinking hiring that assclown Chuck Austen. Maybe.
Podio Books
Speaking of reading, I love books. That's no secret. But I've only started appreciating the emergent format of podio-books. Scott Sigler's EarthCore and Ancestor were both very entertaining, no matter what issues I had with Scott's bad accents or occasional story hiccups. And he's got a new podio book dropping ANY DAY NOW! Also, because of one of his short stories being read on the show, I finally checked out Escape Pod, a science fiction podcast full of short fiction. Good stuff.
I don't know about you, but I like a good laugh. Bring me the funny any day. I even appreciate sicko humor. So, it's not really a surprise that I listen to Tim Henson's Distorted View Daily. When I found out that he was also a friend of a friend, it only just illustrated how damn small the world really is. If you're into goofy British humor, I'd recommend the Ricky Gervais Show, but they're charging now. So, as far as this poor bastard is concerned, fuck that noise. Instead, try out TheFixOnline's online radio show. Sadly, I can't find a damn RSS feed for that. Stupid ignorant British bastards.
Speaking of funny, how lucky am I? My favorite traditional couples' podcast, The PK and J Show is right out of my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. They're fun, a great listen and they ALSO know Tim Henson. Like I said...small world. So, they're like friends of a friend of a friend.
PK isn't a Preacher's Kid. And J is actually a chick. The two have an easy chemistry and seem fairly comfortable in front of the microphone. The show is fairly free-form, and they'll spend as much time on taste-testing vodka as they do on politics. I can't rightly say I've ever learned something from the PK and J Show, but I've always been entertained.
The Interlude Where I Diss Dawn&Drew and Soccergirl
I gave up on Dawn and Drew because I just got sick and tired of Dawn. I don't mind Drew Domkus' personality at all, but Dawn just gets all over every last nerve I have. She's always trying to act all sexy when she looks like Ernest Borgnine with pink hair. She keeps getting stupid pets -- yeah, she's one of THOSE people -- and Drew ends up taking care of them. She likes small, yippie dogs. And she's truly convinced she's witty and funny when she's most certainly not. Drew'd be better off jettisoning her broad-beamed behind and recruiting her father, Showbiz Dad.
I also don't listen to Soccergirl Incorporated any more because, well, she just got stale. I fast-forwarded through her bathcasts because I didn't find her "erotic" stories very erotic. I never bothered looking at pictures of Soccergirl's tits, so I really can't be bothered to being in her little cult of personality. Or lack thereof.
I'm glad that people buy her gifts for showing her tits off. That's terrific. If I had a pair of boobs, I'd show them off so people would buy me furniture and a DVD collection. That's totally what I'd do. Oh, wait. That's totally fucking lame. Sorry, Soccergirl fans, but your idol has nothing to offer you but her digitally captured rack.
Ryan P, on the other hand, rules.
The Charlie!
Speaking of cults of personality, for all everyone tries to nail Adam Curry for any verbal misstep he might make, I truly enjoy his Daily Source Code. Curry is a breath of fresh air in total opposition to any image I had of him from his days at MTV.
I've always hated MTV. And for the longest time, before that asshole Carson Daly came along, Adam Curry was the poster child for everything that was wrong with the channel. He was this Big-Haired Fag who introduced videos and tried to look all excited by the crap they were passing off as music. I truly hated Adam Curry.
Sure, he's still a Big-Haired Fag...but he's OUR Big-Haired Fag. He truly gives a damn about this new media, and he's doing something about it.
All that hatred for Adam Curry? Oh, I realize it was misplaced. I was wrong. I've come to admit that yes, Adam Curry is one of us. And dammit, I love his show.
Delta Sierra Charlie (pilot-speak for the DSC's call letters) is entertaining as hell, not because of the music Curry spins (though he does find some true gems on the Podsafe Music Network. No, it's entertaining because Curry invites his listeners into his home, his car, and his business -- everything. He's completely open and candid. He's willing to sit there on the air in his bathrobe, spliff in mouth, and tell you all about his hangover, jet lag or even his problems raising a teenager. He's even opened up a segment on his show to compare notes with his listeners about personal grooming tips (which kinda does prove he's a Big Haired Fag, but like I said before, he's OUR Big Haired Fag).
He might be The Podfather, but he's also just a guy with all the same problems as the rest of us. Oh, and he occasionally shits all over MTV, which just makes my heart ooze gooey love for him.
Blatant Plug
Now, just in case you haven't read any of my blatant plugs, I listen regularly to Constant Columbus, a weekly music cast about the local scene right here in my backyard. There's a link to their site right over on the right hand side of the page. Go on. Click it. You know you want to. I know one of the hosts, and in spite of being a total fucking jerk, he's not a bad guy. I'm loving the new format and I think his new cohost is gonna work out just fine.
Dorks Are Fun: A Quickie Review, Too!
So, I was recommending podcasts to a friend the other day, and I mentioned a new one I've been listening to, Dork de Jour (Yes. I, and they, know it's misspelled.).
His complaint about it...Derek "dmann" Mahr is an idiot.
I'd like to address that. First off, let's assume that Derek IS an idiot. That's all well and good. But...he's OUR idiot. The idea is, you support your own. Derek, though an idiot, is one of us. He's a geek, he's trying. Give him a chance.
Second. Let's assume the opposite. Perhaps Derek isn't an idiot. Perhaps it's just another case of Opinions Are Like Assholes -- Everyone Has One. Once again, no reason not to listen.
I realize that we all have limited time, limited hard drive space, limited space in our iPods/Rios/etc. There are thousands of podcasts out there, some of which are to our tastes. Some aren't. But the only way to know is to TRY them.
For the record, Derek Mahr IS an idiot. But, that's part of his charm. Hearing him and his co-host Megan McDonald (the brains of the outfit -- take that again, Derek! BURN!!!) gab about whatever weirdness comes to their minds is refreshing after listening to something more pandering like the Dawn and Drew Show.
Dork de Jour really is meant for a few select friends to listen to. But, why can't that circle of friends widen? The issues they address really are universal, not just for people addicted to Ain't It Cool News.
I don't watch American Idol (except occasionally when I'm at the theater and it's on). I'm not interested in everything that Megan and Derek are interested in. But, the podcast is just as compelling as stuff that I'm totally invested in. I'm hooked mainly because of the glorious, random train wreck that it is.
From movies to the Nobel prize to American Idol to dead celebs to Scott Stapp's porno tape, Dork de Jour covers it all from the perspective to two admitted dorks several states apart communicating with each other (and us) via Skype. The audio is spotty...which is a GOOD thing, because it means they're authentic, fucker...and they really have zero focus. Which is also a good thing (see above).
Neither of the hosts take themselves, or the show, seriously. Also a great thing. Because if they have to shit all over something, it doesn't seem as mean spirited as a FOX News commentator. It's all about fun and things that they love. How many people claim to be better than Ex-Lax for relieving constipation?
Besides, they like Deadwood. And any cocksucker who watches Deadwood is okay in my book.

The podcast revolution is all about participation. And that means that Roger Smalls is just as vital to the revolution as that Big-Haired Fag Adam Curry. Listen to a few of these podcasts and see if they're to your liking. I'll keep in touch about the new coolness I discover, and I hope you all do the same.

X-Men 3: The Last Stand trailer
Yeah, I've watched the second trailer for X-Men 3: The Last Stand about 30 times so far.
I firmly plant myself apart from Fanboy GroupThink. This movie, based on the trailer, seems to have the goods. Sure, they deviate wildly from X-Men canon and history, but so has every fucking superhero movie ever made.
Just so long as Brett Ratner gets all he needs to insure the finished product in May is every bit as kick ass as the two trailers, my keister will be in a seat on opening day. And maybe the day after, too.
There are some great scenes in the new trailer. Pretty much everything with Kelsey Grammer in it (aside from the awful Fur T-Shirt -- didn't they have a make-up crew on set???). Iceman freezing the pond. Cyclops letting loose like he never has before. Juggernaut chasing Shadowcat. The bit (after Phoenix or Juggernaut's attack) with Logan and Storm crying over the empty wheelchair. Oh, did they give something away?
I've been an X-Men fan for something like 22 years. Before that, I read Captain America, Batman, The Avengers and The Hulk, and that was pretty much it. Uncanny X-Men opened my eyes to how amazing comics really could be. And how powerful the stories and characterization in a slim 22-page book could be. There've been a few years when I wasn't reading any X-books. Those years, I read no comics at all. I've gone back and read most of what I've missed from those times.
I understand that sometimes there are different creative teams on a comic book -- different writers, artists, etc. Why can't it be the same for this franchise? This might not be Claremont & Byrne at their finest, but I'm fairly certain it's not gonna be Chuck Austen.
I also hope it isn't truly the franchise's last stand. There's a dearth of stories to tell in the X-Universe. As long as they can keep the quality up, there's no reason why we can't see a few more films. Trilogies are so passe. Like 3 is some kinda magic number. To hell with that idea.
Let May come. I think I'll be happy when it does.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Adam hacks Firewall

Harrison Ford was my hero when I was a kid.
Of course, I had blond hair as a wee one, so I didn't get to play Han Solo at recess in elementary school. That honor went to my dark-haired friend Justin. I had to be Luke, which sucked because Luke was a whiny bastard who ended up getting his hand cut off.
It wasn't untilI was in junior high when I discovered that Luke could also be a badass. I missed out on that as a kid. Luke, Jedi-in-training or no, was a glorified sidekick before Return of the Jedi. Still, Harrison Ford was my hero. And not just for Star Wars -- dude, he was INDIANA JONES!!! And Deckard, the Blade Runner. And he was in Force Ten from Navarone.
When I was a kid, Harrison Ford could do no wrong.
Actually, back in the day, he really couldn't. He kept taking great roles, even a couple that let him stretch his acting chops in Frantic and The Mosquito Coast. Even when he was in a dud movie (Presumed Innocent), he was golden.
Then, along came Air Force One.
The movie wasn't terrible. In fact, it sort of surpasses itself, thanks in small part to Gary Oldman and Ford. But, Ford's acting was derailed by a weak script which reduced him to a tag line -- "GET OFF MY PLANE!" -- which I still make fun of to this day.
And after that, things just kept getting worse.
The remake of Sabrina? Six Days, Seven Nights? What Lies Beneath? Hollywood Homicide? Crap crap crap crap crap crap crap.
And now...Firewall. Here's the saddened state of Harrison Ford's career. He used to be the King of summer blockbuster movies. Now, he gets dumped in February, the graveyard of every studio's release schedule.
But wait...Firewall boasts an impressive cast behind Harrison Ford. Paul Bettany (who is wonderful in too many movies to count) plays the villain. Virginia Madsen (the current "Over 40 'It' Girl" after Sideways) is his wife. Robert Patrick (fresh from a fantastic supporting role in Walk the Line) plays his new boss. Alan Arkin (who I adore) plays the president of the bank he works for. And Robert Forster. Robert Fucking Medium Cool/Black Hole/Alligator/Jackie Brown Forster plays Ford's best friend. Mary Lynn Rajskub (who you might recognize from Mr Show or 24) is his secretary.
To me, that's a GREAT cast.
Sadly, this is a really AVERAGE movie. At best.
Ford plays Jack Stanfield, a computer security specialist for a bank that's being taken over by a major finance company. He's got a lovely wife and two children and a stupid little rat-dog named Rusty.
Blah blah blah, his family gets kidnapped by this devious criminal mastermind played by Bettany and his frozen dinner-eating henchmen, all of whom bored the shit out of me and whom I wanted to die. Thankfully, at least on that note, the movie didn't disappoint me.
For a mastermind, Bettany's Bill Cox or whatever his name really was is kind of an idiot. Every time a hitch comes up in his plan, it just shows how little this supposed consumate planner really planned his heist. It doesn't bode well for a movie when the hero spends a good third of the movie correcting the villains mistakes. Aren't they BOTH supposed to be smart? Isn't this a battle of minds, instead of one mind and a moron?
Have I mentioned that I really hated ALL of Bettany's co-conspirators? Damn, they annoyed the hell out of me. There's this twit who's supposedly a shit-hot hacker and he's also this whiny, fey twerp who supposedly has the hots for Stanfield's wife -- except you can totally tell he'd rather see Alan Arkin pole dancing in a see-through thong. And then there's this lummox who was in a skateboard movie (I think Grind) who has the dumbest facial expression known to man -- and can't change it. Oh, and I can't forget the pretty one who just stands around making stupid faces like he's Derek Fucking Zoolander. There was ONE henchman who seemed like he could act and had a personality...but he gets killed for making a mistake and being almost nice to Stanfield's family.
Virginia Madsen has long been one of my not-so-secret crushes (since Dune, I believe), and she's still lovely. Hell, she's a fine actress, too. Except...she has no fucking part whatsoever in this movie. Really. She's around to look scared and get tied up. I feel bad for her. She deserves better than this movie. Really.
Robert Patrick is decent enough in his role, playing a guy who's damn near as smart as Stanfield (even though Stanfield characterizes him as an idiot). And, right as he almost pieces things together, his character just disappears from the script. Arkin and Forster are great for the minute and a half they each get. And, the script almost offers a surprise for the audience about Forster's character. Almost. Rajskub gets to play Chloe from 24 without the smarts or skills -- and is still more than adequate. But she's there only as a tool to be used, and her subplots in the script are just forced out the yin-yang.
The two Stanfield children -- well, I kinda wanted them to die, too. Especially the wide-eyed, pansy ass momma's boy son with the peanut allergy. I would have force-fed the little panty-waist about three pounds of JiF and then shoved a jar of Planter's Honey Roasts up his bunghole. My gods, what an annoying little fuck.
His daughter? What kind of person -- of any age or gender -- when being held hostage -- makes their dad promise to bring back her iPod when he borrows it to attempt to rescue the family? Answer: a vapid, poorly-written one, of course.
Whoever Joe Forte is, someone needs to tell Hollywood that he's no longer allowed to write scripts. I realize he knows all the keyboard shortcuts in Final Draft...but you can train monkeys to do those, too. And a trained monkey could write a better thriller than this.
Richard Loncraine does his best with the pile of yak droppings he's given, but ultimately he proves that he should be maybe looking for work in daytime TV instead of feature films. This from the guy who directed Bettany in Wimbledon (which was very watchable), Sting in Brimstone & Treacle and Sir Ian McKellen in Richard III. Richard, you can do better than this. Really.
From top to bottom, this movie disappoints. I'd honestly rather watch Big Momma's House 3 than any movie from the creative team of Firewall.
Harrison Ford was my hero. Now he's just a has-been, and it saddens me to no end to see my ex-hero reduced to this. Really. He needs to work with a good director on a great script and remind me how terrific he can be. But until then, he's going to remain a one-line joke.
Adapting it for Firewall (and I'm sure you've heard this already), it's "GET OUT OF MY BANK!"
So sad...