Thursday, December 31, 2009

X-Files Season 1

I rewatched the first season of the X-Files recently. I remember watching the first season when it originally aired, and enjoyed it well enough, but I guess not enough to keep watching it beyond that. But I caught an episode on the SyFy channel a little while ago and thought it was good, so I figured I may as well restart it from the beginning. After all, I can't really call myself a true sci-fi geek if I haven't really watched the X-Files.

And... it holds up a lot better than I thought. The entire premise of two FBI agents investigating paranormal phenomena is still a dynamite premise, the two leads are wonderful and charming, and the stories are interesting and well written. However... this is definitely a show that was better watched week to week instead of back to back on DVD over the course of a few hour chunks at a time. The episodes are all a lot of fun and well written, but they are also a little too formulaic and similar when viewed one after another.

Also, it gets a bit silly considering how, after however many episodes, they basically establish that every myth, monster, or paranormal power exists in the X-Files universe. They fight werewolves, vampires, wendigo, shapeshifters, people with telekinesis, and, of course, aliens. And yet, every week, Agent Scully still insists on refusing to believe Mulder when he figures out what every episode's new monster is. After fighting aliens and whatever else, isn't she willing to believe anything else that happens?

But it's all in good fun. And it is fun. I don't know if I'm going to keep watching all 8 seasons (or whatever) and both movies (or whatever), but the first disc of season 2 is already on its way to my house.

Sherlock Holmes

I am a Sherlock Holmes fan.

That is to say, I have read and reread all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original short stories and novels (well... I haven't reread all of them, because even a Sherlock Holmes fan must admit that some are significantly better than others), most of the pastiches written by later writers after Doyle passed on, and seen more than my share of film and television adaptations. So when I first heard about the adaptation by director Guy Ritchie, I was... cautiously optimistic.

I was optimistic because the first trailer looked like a lot of fun and the cast -- while not what I would've chosen -- was full of talented actors. I was cautious because Guy Ritchie's previous work didn't fill me with much encouragement that he would handle the property all that well, and, as fun as that trailer was, it didn't really look like a Sherlock Holmes film. Oh, and I was also cautious because most Sherlock Holmes adaptations have been pretty terrible.

Well, I suppose it's not fair to say that most have been terrible, just that they haven't been all that faithful to the original stories. People always want to make Holmes fight Jack the Ripper, or they want Mycroft to leave the Diogenese Society, or they want to either play up or completely ignore his drug use. Only Tarzan has suffered more as a character by the adaptions of his work done by Hollywood. Tarzan never said, "Me Tarzan, you Jane" in the novels and Sherlock Holmes never said, "Elementary, My Dear Watson."

So the film didn't scare me away because it looked like a departure from the novels. I'm used to that. What I was hoping for was a good film that worked on its own, while not getting everything completely wrong.

So I was more than satisfied when it turned out to be one of the best Sherlock Holmes films I've ever seen. No, it wasn't completely faithful to the original stories, but it got more right than it got wrong, and it managed to be just as smart, witty, and clever as I could've hoped. It was a Hollywood action picture to be sure, but the Holmes in this film used his wits just as often as he used his strength, and never departed too far from the heart of the character, who was shown to be an expert boxer and swordsman. Holmes did finally beat Professor Moriarty by outfighting him and throwing him off the edge of the Reichenbach Falls, after all.

I would not have cast Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes, but after seeing his performance in this film, I'm glad I wasn't consulted on that decision. He doesn't look like the popular image of Holmes (which is pretty faithful to the description given by Doyle), nor is he even English. But what he is is an amazing actor who understood the heart of the character better than any actor since Basil Rathbone. In fact, he may even have been the best on screen Sherlock Holmes ever.

And Jude Law was without a doubt the best Watson I've ever seen. He gave a fantastic performance as a character very few filmmakers have understood enough to use as anything more than comic interest. The writers and director Guy Ritchie made the brilliant decision to use Watson as the straight man to Holmes's eccentricities. The friendship between the two characters was better captured and illustrated in this film than even in many of the original stories.

The rest of the cast was good too, but this was definitely the Holmes/Watson show, as well it should be. Rachel McAdams was suitably luminous and bewitching as Irene Adler, though the inclusion of her character wasn't all that necessary. Still, I'm glad they used Adler instead of making up some other character just for the sake of throwing in a female character. The bad guy was the bad guy. That's about all I can say about him.

About the story, I can't say all that much because, at the end of the day, there wasn't really much of one. The whole plot made little sense when looked at as a whole, but it certainly proved enough set pieces and excuses for Holmes to use his deductive detective work. And the fight scenes were awesome, and actually managed to show off Holme's brilliant mind as well as his brawn.

Anyway, go see it. It was probably the most fun film I've seen all year.

And, yes, it was a Sherlock Holmes film, no matter what you may hear from some other people who take things too seriously.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Video Clip of the Week: Conway Twitty

You've probably heard that old cliche about how there are two kinds of music fans: The ones who love the Beatles, and the ones who love Elvis. Well, I'm here to tell you about the third kind of music fan... those who love Conway Twitty. That's the kind of music fan I am. That isn't to say I don't also enjoy the music of Elvis and the Beatles. But there's only one Conway. You'll never see Conway Twitty: Rock Band or millions of Conway Twitty impersonators. That's because... he's beyond compare.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Video Clip of the Week: GREEEEEAT ASS!!!

A lot of people will try to convince you that Heat was a good (perhaps even great) film. They're wrong. I love the internet because it allowed me to find this one scene from this one movie that has always confused, annoyed, and vexed me ever since I first saw it all those years ago:

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Why were people hyping that FlashForward show as the new Lost when V clearly fits the description a lot more? FF has Penny and Charlie from Lost, sure, But V has Juliet... and the inclusion of Scott Wolfe fills that "former actor from Party of Five" slot. If FF wants to catch up, they'll have to cast Lacy Charbert or somehow track down Neve Campbell. (Talk about somebody who's "lost"!)

Oh yeah, and the pilot episode for V was also really good, while the pilot for FF was a snorefest.

Now, I'm not saying V is going to be the next Lost (or even the next V). I'm just saying that the pilot was really well done and entertaining. Whether or not it's going to become must see TV for us sci-fi geeks remains to be seen.

But it certainly got off on the right track, not just because the premise is lifted from a classic TV miniseries (and, frankly, a not so classic TV series that lasted just one episode), but also because the cast is a sci-fi TV fan's wet dream. I've already mentioned the always talented and completely radiant Elizabeth Mitchell who played Juliet on Lost, but we've also got the luminous Morena Baccarin from Firefly, Joel Gretsch from The 4400 and the Taken miniseries, a cameo by Alan Tudyk (who most people will remember from Firefly, but my girlfriend will know him as the pirate from Dodgeball), and this girl, who played "Supergirl" on Smallville.

I was also excited to see Morris Chestnut in the cast as well, but his credentials as a sci-fi icon are so far limited to this TV series. Let's hope it takes off so I can meet him at a convention someday. The only thing really disappointing about the cast was that they missed the opportunity to cast a real sci-fi veteran to give the show a little more history. Does every major character have to be in their mid thirties? If they had included a role -- or even a cameo -- for somebody like Marc Singer, I wouldn've been blown away. After all, the recent remake of Battlestar Galactica found a really amazing role Richard Hatch, the actor who played Apollo in the original series. This show needs to find a role for Marc Singer already!

But, all in all, it was a well done pilot that seems like it'll be a fun, interesting series about Aliens invading Earth. Let's just hope it's as good as the original mini series was and not as bad as the original ongoing series.

Check it out for free on Hulu and on ABC.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Things I Will Never Do On My iPhone

And if you know me and are confused, no, I didn't buy an iPhone... I still just have an iPod Touch. But for the sake of argument (and to boost any potential hits to this website through a search engine), I'm just going to refer to the device as an iPhone and leave it at that.

Anyway... here are somethings I'll never use an iPhone for:

Read a Comic Book

There are numerous applications devoted to putting comic books on an iPhone, from simple readers that allow you to download digital versions of the books to just the books themselves. Some of these applications are better than others, but all are completely worthless in my opinion. If you want to read a comic book, chances are good you like comic books. The screen of an iPhone is about one tenth the size of a standard American comic book, so the art either has to be shrinked down to the point where it's too small to read, or stretched out and pixelized so it's too ugly to look at. I definitely think that digital downloads will be the future of comic books, but not on an iPhone. No way, no how.

Read a Novel
I have the Kindle app, but I only use it for one reason: To send samples of novels to my iPhone so I can see if I want to go to a bookstore and buy an actual copy for real. It's a neat feature that allows you to read the first twenty or so pages of any book that is currently available for purchase on Amazon's Kindle store. I've never made it through more than five pages or so of any "book" on my iPhone, however, because it gives me a headache and just feels all wrong. The text is either too small to read, or so big that you have to "flick" the page after about two sentences. Sometimes I'll try to read an iPhone book while sitting on the toilet, but I'll usually just give up and read the back of a shampoo bottle instead.

Play any Game More Involved than Tetris
I love videogames and I think the iPhone has incredible processing power, but most games for it just aren't very fun. There's just something unpleasant about rubbing your finger across the screen for longer than, say, two minutes at a time. Also, the fact that you have to put your hands in front of the screen to control the games means you can't see what you're actually playing much of the time. Tetris is fun. Solitaire is fun. Some of the other puzzle games are fun. But I'm not going to play Metal Gear Solid on this thing, thank you very much.

Watch a Movie or TV Show
Apple obviously assumes somebody is watching stuff on their iPhones, because whenever I actually download an HD episode to watch on my computer (hooked into a TV!), it automatically downloads the SD version alongside it. Again, thanks, but no thanks. First of all, if I actually want to put a movie or TV episode on my iPhone, I have to remove about half of my music just so it will fit. Second of all, the screen is smaller than the palm of my hand! Who's watching movies on this thing? I own a Widescreen TV for a reason: I like being able to see what I'm watching.

But that's just me. I don't even have an iPhone.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Video Clip of the Week: Really Rosie -- Pierre

I can't believe I liked this movie as a kid. Awful animation based on the work of Maurice Sendak to the toneless singing voice of Carol King. What a piece of shit this is.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Video Clip of the Week: MST3K Hired... The Musical!

Did you watch my previous clip of the week? Well... you have to watch that before you watch this one, but it's worth it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Video Clip of the Week: MST3K Hired!

So I forgot to post a videoclip of the week on Monday. I suppose I should take a hint from the fact that nobody noticed, but whatever! I'm gonna post one anyway... and because it's late, it's an extra special one. Here's a full ten minutes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, skewering the short film Hired. It's one of their best segments ever:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In Memorian

Captain Lou Albano: 1933-2009

Maybe you knew him as a wrestler. Maybe you knew him as Mario. Maybe you knew him as Cyndi Lauper's father. Or maybe you just knew him as a regular guest on the Joe Franklin Show.

But however you knew him, to know him was to love him.

"Daddy dear, you know you're still number one!"
--Cyndi Lauper.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Top Ten Zombie Movies

In anticipation of the release of Zombieland this Friday, I figured I'd take this opportunity to finally compile my definitive list of the top ten best zombie movies. I have high hopes for this movie -- which looks to be little more than two hours of Woodie Harrelson killing zombies and making jokes -- and hope it can find a place on the second version of this list.

10. Land of the Dead
This isn't the weakest of George Romero's still-chugging-along series of zombie movies, but it is the least brilliant of all his good ones. But it is a good one, even though it pales in comparison to Romero's original trilogy of film. There are some great set pieces in this film and contains Romero's trademark direction and snappy dialogue. It's also notable for being the first -- and, at this point, only -- Romero zombie film that has actual actors you'd ever recognize from any other film, including Dennis Hopper as the biggest douche bag ever.

9. Dawn of the Dead (Remake)
Considering my love for the original Dawn of the Dead, I had no faith that this film would be anything more than an insult to fans like me. Luckily, I was dead wrong. All of the subtext, substance, and social commentary from the original are stripped away in favor of nonstop, gore, action, and thrills, but who really cared about any of that crap anyway? I love Romero's movies, but I don't watch zombie movies for any kind of commentary on the human condition. I want to watch people's heads blow up.

8. Evil Dead Trilogy
All things considered, these films (the first two in particular) are absolutely brilliant and should rank higher in terms of quality than most of the other films on this list, but I held it back to #8 because they are only zombie movies in the most literal sense. I'm probably even risking a lot of flack for including them on this list at all. But come on... the monsters in this movie are reanimated corpses called "deadites." They're zombies. Anyway, these movies are brilliant, incredibly funny, and wickedly scary.

7. Zombi 2
I'm going to attempt to tell you the weird, convoluted history of Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2:

To begin with, there was no real film called Zombi, so Zombi 2 isn't actually a sequel to anything. George Romero's Dawn of the Dead was released in Italy as "Zombi," so (long story short) Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci decided to make a zombie film and call it "Zombi 2." I'm going to give that some time to sink into your brain. But, regardless of its odd and somewhat disingenuous origin, it's still an awesome zombie movie. It's a bit slow and has way too many scenes of people talking (when they should be getting eaten by zombies), but it's an absolutely must see for two scenes:

#1. The scene where the zombie shoves a woman's face so a giant splinter of wood goes right into her eyeball is quite possibly the most gory, disgusting thing I've ever seen. It's absolutely incredible. It's the kind of scene you'll have to rewind a dozen times after seeing it for the first time. If you're into that sort of that, that is.

#2. There's a scene where a zombie fights a shark. And I'm pretty sure it's real. I don't mean that an actual zombie fought a shark, but that a guy dressed like a zombie got into a tank and slapped around an actual shark. I've seen this movie a few dozen times and there's no other possible way they could've filmed it. That's an actual actor pushing around and biting a real shark. It's just about the best scene in zombie movie history.

6. 28 Days/Weeks Later
Yeah, I know the "zombies" in this movie are infected with some virus and aren't actually the living dead, but whatever. They're zombies. I lumped these two films together because, frankly, neither one has enough action, gore, and scares to stand alone against the other films on this list, but when taken together, they are quite satisfying and complimentary companion pieces. Both films have amazing first halves but falter a bit toward their ends, but they are still incredibly gripping, incredibly thrilling zombie films. I like 'em.

5. Shaun of the Dead
For the most part, I'm not a fan of "funny" zombie movies, of which there have been a great many over the years. They usually aren't very funny or the least bit original... but this one is both. I think what sets this film apart from the other "funny" zombie movies is that it isn't really a parody so much as a comedy that stands alone as something funny all by itself. You don't have to know the cliches of the genre to enjoy the jokes in this movie, since it's just a straight up hilarious comedy. And then, somewhere toward the end, it actually gets incredibly tense and pretty scary as well. And there's some really fresh ideas and a lot of gore.

4. Dawn of the Dead (Original)
Not much to say about this one, other than that it's probably most people's pick for the best zombie film of all time. I love it to be sure, but it's obviously not my all time favorite since it's only at #4, but number #4 of all time is still really, really exceptional.

This film is just brilliant. It has become so popular and beloved because -- zombies and gore aside -- it's just a great story that's well told. After the first Dead film, Romero decided to write a sequel where, for all intents and purposes, the zombies had won and taken over the world. This was a brave, bold choice and this was a brave, bold movie. Just watch it. It's a lot of fun. It's just too bad Romero didn't really know how to end it.

3. Return of the Living Dead
This movie is both the funniest and the scariest zombie movie I've ever seen. Even more so than Shaun of the Dead, this film finds the perfect balance between over the top, almost cartoonish scenes of pure slapstick comedy, and the overall tone that is just incredibly claustrophobic, unsettling, and depressing. The zombies in this movie eat brains because, we are told, being a zombie is pure agony and only the taste of brains gives them any comfort at all. Also, once your a zombie in this film, you're a zombie forever. Shots to the head just slow these zombies down. The only way to stop them is to burn them, but even that causes more trouble than it's worth. The world presented in this film is the single bleakest, most terrifying universe I've ever seen.

Well, except for the scene where the hot punk chick does a striptease in the cemetery. That scene was pretty inspiring.

2. Day of the Dead
Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead introduced us to the zombie plague and let us know how some of the population were dealing with things. Day of the Dead lets us know what the military is doing about it, and it sure ain't much. This movie is just crazy good, and it's a completely underrated masterpiece in my opinion. Night and Dawn are rightly deserving of their place as acclaimed works of horror art, but nobody cares about Day, even though it's the most exciting and clever zombie film ever made. It's just an epic film full of amazing characters and brilliant ideas.

It also has the best death scene in movie history:

1. Night of the Living Dead
NOTLD is the Citizen Kane of zombie movies. It didn't invent zombies or even create the genre of films, but it popularized them and introduced the main tropes for which the genre is most well known. But who cares about that? It's just a good movie. It's scary and engaging and fascinating and funny and sad and awe-inspiring.

It's Night of the Living Dead. It's just the best zombie movie ever made, which means it's one of the best movies ever made.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Video Clip of the Week: Rick Moranis

Remember when Rick Moranis used to be the funniest guy in the world? Maybe he still is.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why Nerds Love Zombies

Vampires are popular with chicks and goths and gay guys because they represent sexuality and repression and some kind of forbidden love and lifestyle choices. But only nerds love zombies. I speak not only as a nerd but as a zombie fanatic, and I'm finally going to reveal why such stories strike such a huge cord with my nerd community.

And that isn't to say that nerds are the only people who enjoy or even love zombies. Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, etc, were all very popular, universally praised movies, but most of the movie-going public only saw one or maybe two of the countless zombie movies that get churned out year after year, month after month. Nerds see all of them. It doesn't matter that -- for all intents and purposes -- they are all the same movie with the same plots, set pieces, and story arcs. Zombie movies are a little like Dragnet in that only the names have been changed. Even vampires can be popular to more than just goths and girls because the concept of vampirism is one that has been open to many different interpretations and conceptual ideas. The biggest change that has hit zombie films over the past half century is that now sometimes they run fast.

So why do nerds like stories about zombies? Because the world presented in these stories is little more than an exaggerated version of the world nerds already live in. Consider: These stories are about scared, paranoid loners who are terrified to leave their homes, so they board up their windows and doors, only go out when they are sure they won't run into anybody, and run at the first sign of strangers who only want to tear them apart limb from limb. You know, just like how nerds live now.

In fact, if anything, nerds want to live in a world where everybody else is dead, because that means we'll be able to finally play videogames and read comics all day without having to go to work or be bothered by out nextdoor neighbors. Sure, we'll have to avoid zombies, but we can still break into Barnes and Noble and read as many books and Playboy issues as we want without fear of having some kind of awkward, forced social interaction. And in these movies there are always hot girls among the last survivors of humanity. And considering how most girls tell us nerds they wouldn't date us even if we were the last man on Earth, this would be a great way to finally call their bluffs.

Also -- and this is where it might get a little weird -- most nerds think that zombies are a threat we might actually be able to fight off. If I have to go toe to toe with a werewolf, I'm gonna get eaten. Frankenstein's Monster would rip my head off. Dracula wouldn't just kill me, but he'd fuck my girlfriend and then kill me. But a zombie? A zombie is a slow, shuffling corpse that just needs to get banged in the head real good. There's a chance I could take a zombie.

Of course, these are just my theories. I could be wrong.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Jay Leno Show

I'll give this show credit for one thing: It got me to watch a Jay Leno show for the first time in years. Even more than that, it got me to watch two Jay Leno shows in a row for the first time in a decade! That's not to say it's all that good, but that I was curious... and that it's on an hour and a half earlier than the Tonight Show. Turns out, that makes a big difference.

As it turns out, watching the "new" Jay Leno Show out of curiousity was a bit of a curious premise, because the only thing really surprising about it was the lack of any real surprises. For all intents and purposes, this is just the Jay Leno Tonight show without a desk. This isn't all together a bad thing, since Jay Leno has been doing this for over 20 years and he's gotten pretty good at it. Sure, I hear a lot of people complain about Jay because he's not as "edgy" or whatever as some of the other talk show hosts, but whatever. All I need is for a host to be witty when a quip is needed and quiet while a funny guest is talking, and nobody is better at either than Jay. He's wittier than Dave and he's actually able to shut the hell up for a minute and let the guest be funny, unlike Conan who thinks because his name is in the title he's the only one who should get any punchlines. So I like Jay, but never so much that I'm willing to stay up and watch his show.

Now that he's on at 9:00pm here in Minneapolis, well, I'm probably not going to make that much of an effort to watch his show on any regular basis either, but it's nice to know it's there in case I ever get bored and need something else to watch. And I'm not one of those people who complained about how he's taking time away from primetime dramatic shows, because I don't really watch those. If it wasn't Jay, it would just be some CSI: Disneyland clone that I wouldn't watch anyway.

As for the two episodes I watched... I'd give them both around a B+. They were both consistently, but never so much that I was at risk of falling off of my chair. Jay is a funny, likable guy who has great writers, but that's also part of this problem. I like interviews that feel real, and his show works bits and prearranged acts into his interviews far too often. The same goes for his "man on the street" bits, which either rely too much on making "real" people look stupid or feel way too forced and set up, like in the premier episode where Jay meets a baby who has an irrational fear of Conan. Sorry, didn't buy that, although the baby was very cute. It's also weird that whenever Jay interviews "real" people on the street, 99% of them are young, sexy girls. I'm not complaining about that, just making a point about it.

So... all I have to say is that there isn't much more to say. If you liked Jay's Tonight Show, you'll like this because not much has changed. If you hated it, you'll hate this for the same reason. But if you don't care either way, it's there and it'll make you laugh if you happen to tune in. But I'll still probably watch Food Network or that GT Express 101 infomercial again instead.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Patrick Swayze 1952-2009

Rest in peace.

Video Clip of the Week: Plethora of Pinnatas

Youtube is a wonderful website that allows millions (billions?) of people all over the globe to create their own videos and share them with the world. But I don't watch that shit -- not even the videos I've made! -- and neither does anybody else. I use Youtube to watch clips from movies, shows, commercials, or whatever else I remember from my childhood. Some of the clips I remember are better left in the past. But some -- like this one -- hold up and are even more funny than I remember.

So starting with today, I'm going to start posting a videoclip of some sort every Monday. It's something I think I can stick to because it requires very little work on my part other than cutting and pasting.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fast and Furious

I rented the latest Fast and the Furious film the other day, and thought it was a pretty good movie and a worthy entry into the series. If you liked any of the other films -- and if you liked even one of them, I don't see how you couldn't like all of them, since they are all the same movie -- you'll like this one.

I don't really think there's a lot more I can say about this movie, so I'm going to give my overall opinions about every film in the series:

The Fast and the Furious
The first -- and maybe even the best -- film in the series. I missed this film when it first came out because it didn't get much hype, Vin Diesel wasn't famous yet, and I was a poor college student who didn't get out to the movies much. I finally rented it on DVD -- and I remember it in my memory as one of the very first DVDs I ever rented -- and thought it was awesome.

I mean, what's better than an awesome movie car chase? It was a no-brainer to make a movie about underground car racing. Throw in a lot of fighting, explosions, the Yakuza, and a star-making performance from Vin Diesel, and you've got a movie classic. This isn't my absolute favorite film in the series, but maybe that's because it's actually kind of a good movie. It has a story with a beginning, middle, and end, a decent script where the characters actually follow story arcs that change them for the better over the course of the story, and a director who actually attempts to tell a story with some amount of subtlety. The next few films are all cartoon versions of this film, but while that may make them dumber and derivative, it makes them a little more fun.

But Vin Diesel is awesome. And the rest of the cast are all a lot of fun too.

2 Fast 2 Furious
This movie is about 1,000 times better than it should've been. A sequel to the Fast and the Furious that doesn't have Vin Diesel? No offense to Paul Walker, but nobody watches these movies to see his attempts at acting. And I actually like Paul Walker. But somehow... this movie works. I give most of the credit to John Singleton's direction, who is a ridiculously talented director who deserves a much better career than the one he's stuck with. But Hollywood is fickle which benefits people who want to watch dumb racing movies with actual directors behind the camera.

Anyway, this movie is much more entertaining than Boyz N the Hood.

This movie is dumb to be sure, but it has better racing sequences than the first film and a story that better embraces the inherent stupidity of this genre. The only thing that keeps this film being the perfect FF movie is the lack of Vin Diesel. I like Tyrese a lot and think he did a great job, but come on. He's no Vin Diesel. This movie needed Vin Diesel.

But at least it had Ludacris.

Tokyo Drift
I think of this movie as "Fast and Furious Lite" or even "Fast and Furious Babies," since it is ostensibly set in the same "universe" as the other films, but details the lives of a bunch of high school kids living in Tokyo. This movie also has Yakuza and some shady bad guys, but at the end of the day, it's just a coming of age story about a guy who loves to race fast cars.

So... it's an odd fit for the rest of the series, but it's actually a really good film all things considered. The story almost makes sense, and the racing is actually integrated into the plot far better than it is in the other films. The characters in this movie race for the sake of racing, instead of the plot setting up some ridiculous situation where Paul Walker had to enter some race in order to capture a drug dealer. That got old real fast.

And this movie has some of the best racing I've ever seen, with the "drifting" style really setting itself apart from the pack. This is cool stuff. And while this movie still doesn't have Vin Diesel -- it doesn't even have Paul Walker! -- the cast is still really good. I think Lucas Black is a fantastic actor who should be more famous than he is, and Bow Wow isn't as annoying as you'd think as the obligatory black friend. Nathalie Kelley is probably the most beautiful woman in the entire series, and Sung Kang's performance as Han is probably the most engaging and likable character since the disappearance of Vin Diesel from the first movie. In fact, Han is even more likable and fun than Diesel's character.

I actually reviewed this movie when it first came out. You can read it here.

Fast and Furious
First of all, that's just a lazy title. They should've been braver and called it "The Fast and the FOURious."

Anyway all of that brings us to this film, about which I've already said all I can in that first paragraph above. It's a good Fast and the Furious movie that attempted to return the series back to its roots, which is both good and bad in my opinion. I can understand why they went back to the series roots, since Tokyo Drift was far and away the lowest grossing film in the series, but it was also one of my favorites. Also, Vin Diesel comes a lot cheaper these days than he did when 2 Fast 2 Furious went into production. And Paul Walker comes even cheaper.

Storywise, this is the weakest in the series, since I honestly didn't really know what was going on, what the characters intentions were, or who the villain really was for most of the movie. It was just a mess. But bringing back director Justin Lin (of Tokyo Drift fame) was a good decision, since his talent for directing amazing racing sequences pretty much makes him the best F&F director ever. He's also notable for being the only two-time F&F director, for whatever that's worth. He puts a a lot more CG into his films than the other directors, but considering how the films have been coming out for close to a full decade now, that's to be expected. Every film has a lot more CG now than they did in 2001.

This film definitely feels more like the completion of the true trilogy than Tokyo Drift did. I think of Tokyo Drift as more of a stand-alone side story than a real part of the series. It is interesting to note that this film actually took place before Tokyo Drift. We know this because of the cameo by Han, who talks about how he's going to move to Tokyo because he heard that the racers are doing a lot of "crazy" stuff over there. Also, Han died at the end of Tokyo Drift (spoiler!!!!) so it had to come last chronologically for obvious reasons. None of this is the least bit important, nor will most people even notice or think about it. I'm just a nerd who's seen too many Fast and Furious movies.

And while I may have seen too many of these movies, I hope they keep cranking them out. The next film in the series should come full circle and have Paul Walker and Vin Diesel travel to Japan to meet up with the cast of Tokyo Drift.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


The trailer for Jim Cameron's upcoming epic Avatar went online a little while ago, and after watching it maybe a half dozen times, I still don't know what to think. It's a mostly dialogue-free teaser to be sure, so it's probably not the best introduction to the film, but I was still expecting... more. But that's only to be expected since the hype created by Cameron and the studio said it would be the most technically advanced achievement in movie history to date.

And maybe it will be. I certainly have faith in Jim Cameron, both as a storyteller and as a special effects pioneer. Afterall, he was the man whose Terminator 2 dazzled the world with some of the first CG effects a full 2 years before Jurassic Park. And he has proven to be a master of the science fiction/action genre with such films as Terminator and the Abyss.

But still... it looks like World of Warcraft, only not quite as cool. Maybe it will be amazing in 3-D -- and all firsthand accounts attest to that fact -- and maybe I'll even see it in 3-D, which would be something special because it's an "advance" in recent filmmaking that has overextended its welcome, in my opinion. I can't remember what film I saw recently, but when my girlfriend and I purchased tickets, we were given a choice of 5 or 6 dollars for the regular showing or over 10 dollars (!) for the 3-D version. Thanks, but no thanks. We'll be Luddites and stick with the regular version. First of all, I wear glasses so having to wear 3-D glasses over those is annoying. Second of all... come on. I don't need to pay double the price just to see some crap shot into my face over and over again.

And don't get me started on the recent popularity of showing blockbuster movies in Imax theatres. Those aren't just ten dollars, they're about 14 dollars. I saw Speed Racer in Imax because I was at the Minnesota Zoo and figured I may as well see something on their Imax sceen as long as I was there. It was definitely a cool experience and the movie looked and sounded great, but it wasn't worth 14 dollars. And I even liked the movie. The thing about Imax is that the best seat in the house is about 10 times better than the best seat in a regular theatre, but the worst seat in the house is about 1,000 times worse than the worst seat in a regular theatre. There are about twenty good seats in an Imax theatre, but all of the others have crazy distortion where the picture looks warped and you have to crane your neck to see anything.

But we were talking about Avatar. I think it looks cool. I'll see it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Inglorious District

I saw a couple of movies recently, and since my girlfriend told me that my reviews are way too long and impossible to read, I'm going to give my brief thoughts on both of them. Let's see if I can stick to it.

Possible, but minor, spoilers follow:

District 9

I didn't really care for this movie. As a film, it was a pretty neat, great looking action film, but as a work of science fiction, it fell flat. What can you say about a science fiction film where the humans act more alien than the beings from another planet?

It began with a wonderful premise: A ship full of aliens lands appears over South Africa and the humans have to figure out how to house, feed, and take care of these extraterrestrial refugees. A great premise that, unfortunately, just wasn't thought through to any satisfying extent. It simply wasn't believable that the greatest scientific event in the history of humanity would be considered as this kind of after thought, with the ship all but ignored and the aliens abandoned to live in shacks with all but no supervision, scientific study, or any attempt at quarantine.

And then the "plot" reveals itself with one of the worst "macguffins" in he history of science fiction: A fluid that -- for no explained reason -- is able to both power the alien spacecraft and rearrange a human's DNA so he turns into one of the aliens. Huh? When the main character got infected with this fluid and began to change, I assumed that this was the intended use of what was probably some kind of alien bioweapon. But, as it turned out, the entire plot of the film was just an unexplained, unintended byproduct of the fluid's actual use as a fuel source. I'm sorry, but that's just bad storytelling.

And then the rest of the film just never clicked. Everything just felt rushed and glossed over in order to make events unfold and characters act in the way that the screenwriter -- and not logic -- intended. One of the worst examples of this was the terrible assault on the MNU headquarters, an operation the characters said would be so impossible that it was virtually a suicide mission. But all of a sudden the two characters were there, in the vault, and then back to District 9 in the span of about five minutes. Why was it so easy for the most wanted man in the country to continually sneak into and escape from what should be the most heavily studied and fortified "district" on the planet?

But the special effects were fantastic and the main actor was quite good. It's just too bad his character was given no depth, personality, or heroic qualities. Don't believe this hype. This movie kind of sucked.

Inglorious Basterds

Now this one I liked, even though it was even weirder and more impossible to believe than District 9. It was awkwardly structured, incredibly drawn out, and had as much historical accuracy as a pot head's history 101 final exam, but at least it was ridiculously entertaining. It's definitely a Quentin Tarantino film.

To begin with, this wasn't a film about the "Basterds" at all, but really three or four short films all strung together with little to no connection until maybe the very end. In fact, the Basterds are in this film for maybe a half hour to 45 minutes tops, which is actually fine since they are the least compelling characters in the film. Brad Pitt is wonderful and quirky and compelling and everything I hoped he would be in a film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, but all of the other Basterds have maybe ten or so lines between them. Some of them are given names and one or two are even given a brief attempt at a personality trait, but that's about it. For the most part, they are just a bunch of gruff looking guys standing behind Brad Pitt as he recites hilarious dialogue. If I have any complaints about this film, that would be the biggest one: In a film that clearly tried to be epic in scope, there are really only two or three characters that are the least bit three dimensional or likable in any way, shape, or form.

But, again, it doesn't matter at the end of the day because it's all so much fun. Tarantino's talent for dialogue has reached a new high, in my opinion, since almost the entire film is told and unraveled through extended one on one conversations between the characters. This was an especially impressive piece of writing and direction considering how most of the dialogue is German or French. The decision to have every character speak in their own native language was a brilliant decision that lend some realism to a period piece that in no other way felt the least bit real or authentic. Nazis are so much more terrifying when they are actually speaking German, and not in some posh, effete British accent.

And speaking of Nazis, Austrian actor Christopher Waltz's Colonel Hans Landa is the best Nazi I've ever seen in any movie. And by that I mean, you know, the worst. This guy is so good at being creepy and evil and brilliant and charming that he completely stole the movie and will have you waiting on the edge of your seat for him to come back on screen. His opening scene in the farm house was one of the most exciting set pieces I've ever seen, even though it was just two men talking to one another across a table. The fact that Waltz was equally brilliant in German, French, Italian, and English was astounding. If he doesn't get an Oscar nomination, I'll be shocked.

At the end of the day, the film didn't really come together at the end as well as I would've hoped, with a big military operation that just rang hollow and false in too many ways, The heroes never really did anything remotely heroic, and weren't even vital to the overall story's flow or purpose. They existed just to be a cliched homage to war films like the Dirty Dozen. And that's fine, because the film they were in was so well done and fun, but think of how much more brilliant it would've been with a little more time and effort put in. But, I loved it. It wasn't Tarantino's best, but it was probably his most fun.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Casting Star Trek

Enterprise, the last Star Trek series, was a failure that finally vanished after four seasons. Though I remember it fondly, I'm in the minority. Even though the new Star Trek film was a big hit -- or, perhaps, because it was a big hit -- we'll probably never see another proper Star Trek series set in the same continuity as the previous shows. But, just for fun, I've decided to cast a new series anyway. Even though this will never happen and it's all just for fun, I've decided to try to make things somewhat realistic and assemble a cast that might actually be possible for a network TV series. So, no huge movie stars in every role, though I won't be picking complete unknowns since that wouldn't be any fun at all. Also, I'm not writing character sketches or thinking about who should be an alien or anything like that. I'm just picking some cool actors.

Anyway, I think this would be a cool show:

Captain: Terry O'Quinn

Terry O'Quinn is a great choice as captain for a Star Trek season for a variety of reasons: He is beloved amongst genre fans for his role as John Locke on Lost, appeared already in Star Trek as Admiral John Pressman in the Next Gen episode the Pegasus, and he's just an incredible actor.

A captain of a Federation Starship has to have charm, gravitas, and intensity, and Terry O'Quinn has demonstrated over the course of his career that he can bring all of that in his sleep. I see him playing a character that is a cross between the renegade Jim Kirk and the by the book, hardass Picard. You know... basically Captain John Locke. How awesome would that be?

First Officer: Morris Chestnut

To be perfectly honest, Morris Chestnut is too good an actor -- with too good of a resume -- to play the second lead in anything. But we're in a recession, money is tight, and roles are scarce, so he might be willing to sign on even though he's way too good for this role.

Or... maybe he'd jump at the chance. After all, the first officer always has the most fun. He's like the captain, but he's actually able to let his guard down and be a friend to the crew. After all, would you rather be Captain Picard or Riker? Well... ok... I'd rather be Captain Riker, but you know what I mean. Anyway, Chestnut is a super cool actor who has that right blend of charm and physicality that makes it clear he'd be great both leading men and kicking their asses.

Doctor: Robert Davi

What can I say? I want Robert Davi on my show.

The role of the doctor always allows for a lot of leeway. After all, a doctor of a starship isn't trying to make captain. A doctor just wants to be a doctor. So you can get away with casting somebody -- how can I say this politely on the rare chance that Robert Davi googles his name and finds this website -- with a little more experience than the rest of the crew.

Anyway, I love Robert Davi and think he's an awesome actor. And, chances are good, so do you.

Helm: Ashley Legat

I don't know much about Ashley Legat other than that she plays Casey on some Disney Channel TV show called Life with Derek. But we need somebody young and cute as our "rookie" and Legat fits the bill as well as anybody.

Anyway, she is decent on Life with Derek so she's probably a fine actress who could excel on my Star Trek show, and I think she has different, almost otherworldly, beauty that I think would lend itself well to some kind of weird makeup or prosthetic forehead.

What? You've never seen Life With Derek?

Chief Engineer: B.D. Wong

What can I say? I wanted an Asian guy. Now, B.D., don't get offended if you're reading this. Yes, I cast you because I wanted an Asian man, but you were the first Asian actor I considered. So that's good, right?

Anyway, B.D. Wong is a cool actor. He's nowhere near as famous as he should be, but a plum role as chief engineer on my Star Trek series should correct that. Heck, maybe we'd even make him gay in honor of George Takei, the first -- and most awesome -- Asian actor on a Star Trek series. He has played a gay guy already in the And Band Played On (I think! Anyway, he was in that movie at least) and a scientist in Jurassic Park, so all our bases are covered.

Head of Security / Tactical: Michelle Rodriguez

Now this is what you call typecasting. Basically, Michelle Rodriguez will be playing Vasquez from Aliens, the tough as nails Latino space marine. It's a role Rodriguez could perform over the phone and still win an Emmy. She played that role in the Fast and the Furious, Resident Evil, S.W.A.T., and on Lost. I'm sure she's sick of playing the tough tom boy and would want to play more of a stretch, but I don't give a shit. She can act in somebody else's TV show. She's playing the tough as nails tom boy in my Star Trek show.

Also, as a side note, I've never really understood why the bridge's tactical officer is the same position as the ship's chief of security. What if you're really good as ship to ship tactical combat but not so good at running a team of security officers? Whatever. It's a Star Trek convention that I'm sticking with, even though I don't really get it.

Science Officer: Kevin McKidd

Another actor who's way too good to be cast as a member of the bridge crew on a Star Trek show, but whatever. He's a cool actor and I think he'd be awesome in Star Trek. Maybe you know him as Lucius Vorenus on Rome or as the titular Journey Man (probably not) from that short lived TV show, but either way you know him as being awesome.

Much like the Tactical/security character, I don't really know what the science officer does, but every Star Trek show has one. I guess they put data into the computer and then read the results the computer gives them... but they do it scientifically, I guess.

Anyway... I wanted a British guy, because every Trek show has one of those as well. Well, except for Voyager, but that show sucked.

Miscellaneous: Peter Dinklage

Every Star Trek series has at least one character that just doesn't call into any established category. Chekov (a late addition to the second season) was the "Navigator," as though the ship didn't already have a computerized GPS to perform that function better than any human could. Next Gen's Troi was the ship's councilor. Deep Space Nine had Quark, the owner of the station's bar. Voyger's Neelix was the cook. Etc and so forth. I don't know what Peter Dinklage will be doing, but I'm sure he will be awesome in his role.

Dinklage is just a really good actor who's been great in everything I've seen him in, and he deserves to be in even more stuff. And not because he's a little person, but because he's just that good. He has an intensity and charm to him that is just incredible. And he has an awesome voice. He's like a mini Orson Welles.

Anyway, I don't know what role or character he'd play, but there you go. Maybe he'd be a Space Pixie.

Anyway, that's my Star Trek show. Don't tell me you wouldn't watch it!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Top Five Worthless G.I. Joe Characters

Just for fun, here are five G.I. Joe characters who are completely worthless.


Personally, I think a guy with a big laser would be awesome to have at your back during a battle, but not according to my childhood friend Johnathan Kovatch. According to him, Scifi was totally lame.

When I first got Sci-Fi and brought him over to Johnathan's house, he thought it was as cool figure.

"So his backpack is full of bullets and they load by going though this wire into his gun?" He asked.

"No. He has a laser gun. That's some kind of power pack."

"What?! I'm not playing with a guy who uses lasers! That's unbelievable! He has bullets and they travel through his pack into his gun!"

I haven't seen Johnathan Kovatch in about 20 years, but if he's reading this... he can go to hell.

Sneak Peek

This is a real character. Sneak Peek is an "advanced recon" specialist who carries around some giant device that looks like the kind of thing tourists look through to get a better view of the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore.

"Hey, do you guys think you're going to need to see over a lot of walls?"

"Uh... maybe."

"Awesome! Let me get me scope. Wait... who's got, like, a shit load of quarters?"

The Driver of the Bridgelayer

It's like a tank... that lays a bridge over a chasm. I'm guessing that comes in handy maybe once a decade.

Snow Job

"Going on a mission, huh? Can I help?"

"Yeah, ok."

"Is it in Antarctica?"






"The North Pole?"


"Uh... Northern Minnesota in the Winter?"


"Upstate New York?"

"No. Actually, we're going to Iraq."

"I'll sit this one out."

"Or you could, you know... change."

"What do you mean?"

"... Forget it. See you later, Snow Job."

Quick Kick

"Hey, Duke! I heard you're going on a mission. You're probably gonna need an expert at the martial arts!"

"Uh, yeah. Snake Eyes already agreed to come. He's kind of a ninja."

"Oh. But how quick are his kicks? As quick as this?" (WHOOSH!)

"Uh, yeah. He kicks pretty good. And he's got a gun, so... you know. Thanks anyway."

"Do you have any missions for me?"

"I wouldn't mind a danish. Want to run next door to the Super America and get me one?"

"... Ok. Let me go put on a shirt."


I got no idea what to say about this asshole.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Top 10 G.I. Joe Characters

In honor of the recently released new G.I. Joe film, I'd like to get things back to basics by talking about the real G.I. Joe. The new movie is fun and all, but it just didn't have the charm, wit, or originality we all came to expect from the cartoon and comics. Most of that has to do with the fact that the best characters didn't make it into the film, and those that did weren't really portrayed with much accuracy or fidelity to the source material.

So here, without any further ado, are my picks for the top ten G.I. Joe characters ever:

10. Flint

Here's all you really need to know about Flint: He wears a beret and he's (probably) bangin' Lady Jaye. You could even turn that into a poem somehow if you really wanted to.

Flint is just a good solider, a hit with the ladies, a great friend, and a born leader. He's kind of like the Commander Riker of the G.I. Joe unit. Sure, it would be cool as hell to be Duke or Captain Picard, but at the end of the day, wouldn't you really rather be Flint or Riker? They weren't really in command, but they still seemed like they had way more fun.

9. Stalker

Stalker almost doesn't fit in G.I. Joe because he's, like, and actual soldier or something. There's just something believable about him, as though he actually belongs in US military operation. I suppose it helps that he's wearing a normal enough costume and actually has talents and specialties that make him sound like a real soldier. No gimmicks here, he's just a real, old fashioned solider.

Stalker would've been perfect for the new G.I. Joe film, and I can't help but daydream about how awesome Wesley Snipes would've been. And now, you will too. Here's hoping the people writing the sequel are reading this blog.

8. Bazooka and Alpine

Taken on their own, both of these characters are likable enough, but not really all that special all things considered. One is a guy who's really good at climbing stuff while the other one carries around a, um, bazooka. I'll leave it to you to figure out which is which.

But for some reason the writers of the TV show made these guys into a brilliant comedy team who had some of the best moments in the entire history of the show. They were just hilarious every time they came on screen.

Oh, and Alpine's real name is Albert Pine. That's just funny right there.

7. Gun Ho

Gung Ho's specialty is that he's a Marine, which makes one wonder why he isn't in the Marines. But whatever. We're talking about G.I. Joe, here, and Gung Ho is one of the toughest and most charismatic of all.

Like most of the Joes, he ostensibly has some talent that distinguishes him enough to be the best in his particular field, but in reality he's just a big guy who's good at beating people up. That's why the Gung Ho stories were always better than, say, the stories about Ripcord. How many times can you really watch somebody jump out of an airplane?

Oh, and he always loved making gumbo for the troops, much to their dismay because he was a horrible cook. Ah, what fun those Joes had!

6. Chuckles

Fans of the cartoon only probably don't know much about Chuckles, since I'm pretty sure his only real appearance was in the animated movie, and even then it was only for a few minutes. All I remember is him picking up a missile and throwing it at some Cobra soldiers.

But it was the action figure that made Chuckles one of my favorites. He's just some guy with a handgun and a Hawaiian shirt. How cool is that? G.I. Joe has the most lax dress code imaginable. It makes me wonder what Chuckles wears to the Pitt on casual Fridays.

5. Scarlett

Scarlett is more than just a pretty face. As one of the few female members of G.I. Joe, she's also one of the toughest of the entire bunch. She's an expert in martial arts and uses a crossbow as her weapon of choice.

Oh, and she's really pretty too. If you were a child of the 80s, you had to make a mental choice: side with G.I. Joe because you're in love with Scarlett or betray all of your principles and join Cobra because you're in love with the Baroness. Later, children of the 90s had to make that same choice between Kelly and Jessie from Saved by the Bell. Just kidding. Nobody ever chose Jessie.

4. Roadblock

From an adult's perspective, I honestly don't know if Roadblock was a racist or stereotypical depiction of an African American. As a kid, he was just a big, strong black guy who talked in rhyme and loved soul cooking. Very few people would argue that all African Americans act that way, though I think the world would be a more awesome place if everybody acted that way. Long story short, Roadblock was awesome.

His specialty was... um... carrying around a big gun. But, honestly, wouldn't you rather have him at your back than, say, Snow Job?

3. Duke

Duke is a born leader. But like the best kinds of leaders, he leads by example, so he's not some armchair general sending his soldiers off to fight and die for king and country, he's right there in the fray. Duke is probably the first solider on the battlefield and the last one to leave. I'd follow Duke into battle, and so would you.

In the cartoon, there was a hinted at relationship between Duke and Scarlett, the hottest babe on the planet. In the original animated movie, Duke took a (snake) arrow through the heart in order to save his brother Falcon... and lived! It'll take a lot more than some snake arrow to stop a man like Duke.

2. Snake Eyes

Snake Eyes is a bad ass, mute ninja dressed in a full body suit who never talks, never shows his face, and has yet to even reveal his name. The Snake Eyes figure came with a gun, a sword, and a timberwolf. That's just awesome.

The cartoon never really knew what do to with Snake Eyes, since the entire concept of a Ninja fighting for the Joes just seemed a little too violent and over the top for Saturday morning viewing, but in the comic book he was really allowed to shine. He was a Vietnam Vet who trained martial arts in the Arishikage Clan, where he first met and befriended Storm Shadow.

Oh, and Duke may have gotten Scarlett in the cartoon, but Snake Eyes got her in the comic.

1. Shipwreck

There's just something about Shipwreck. First of all, he's a sailor... called "Shipwreck." That's just bad ass. Imagine if you got on a plane and you heard a voice over the intercom that said, "This is your pilot Planecrash..." His irony isn't limited to his codename, since every line out of his mouth is loaded with sarcasm, put downs, or some other form of witticism. He's just a jaded, battle-hardened soldier who's seen everything and come out alive.

And he made it to G.I. Joe so he must be, like, an incredible sailor too. But Shipwreck was so bad ass, he almost never even set foot on a boat. They always sent him to the desert or the North Pole or any other damn place where Cobra needed a good ass-kicking.

Oh, and he's always accompanied by his talking parrot named Polly, who's an even bigger jerk than Shipwreck.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

This movie was a mess... but it was a hot mess.

To begin with, I'm not just a G.I. Joe fan, I'm a G.I. Joe fanatic. I've read (and still own) almost every issue of the original Marvel comic book and I've watched and rewatched every episode of every incarnation of the cartoon. This film is not even close to being any kind of definitive G.I. Joe movie, but it isn't a complete insult to the franchise either. At the end of the day, it is a less than faithful adaptation that still managed to be a ridiculously entertaining summer popcorn film.

If you're familiar with the other films directed by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, Van Helsing), you should already know what to expect: Over the top, impossible to believe action set-pieces bordering scenes where square jawed heroes crack one-liners, damsels in distress thrust their hipes at a jaunty angle, and villains chew through the scenery like Tommy Lasorda at an all you can eat hot dog buffet. In other words, he's awesome. He fills his movies with the only three things I really need: Babes, explosions, and people punching each other so hard they always go flying against the far back wall. If any of that sounds like fun, you'll enjoy this movie. If it doesn't, um, go see Julia and Julie. I'm sure the only thing that explodes in that is a poorly baked souffle.

But is it really a G.I. Joe movie? Well, yes and no.

G.I. Joe is no longer "America's daring, highly trained special missions force," but The World's special missions force. They are now an anti-terrorist squad funded by the UN (or something) and headquartered in a secret, underground base just a few miles from the Pyramids in Egypt. The nationalities of many of the members has been changed to accommodate this multi-national team, so Breaker is now Moroccan, Heavy Duty is now British, and Ripcord is an African American. These changes were probably made so the film would be a hit overseas as well as domestically, but they didn't really bother me too much anyway. After all, giving Heavy Duty a cockney accent doesn't really change his core characterization as a big black man with a machine gun. Casting a Wayans Brother as a character who has always been a ginger-haired white man was a little strange, however, if only because there were plenty of other African America members he could've played to better effect. Were there really so many people clamoring for the inclusion of Ripcord that they had to change his character so dramatically in order to shoehorn him into the script?

But whatever. Odd characterizations aside, the cast is fantastic and pretty much sold this entire film mostly on their charm and likability, much like the characters from the cartoon used to do every Saturday morning. Nobody watched that cartoon to see if Cobra would actually take over the world with their Pyramid of Darkness, they tuned in to watch Quick Kick joke around with Bazooka and Alpine. Dennis Quaid didn't give the performance of his career here as General Hawk, but Dennis Quaid phoning it in is still Dennis Quaid. He's awesome.

Lost fans will love seeing Mr Eko and Caesar as Heavy Duty and Breaker respectively. Said Taghmaoui is particularly good in the particularly thankless role of Breaker, but that has been a stable of his career for years. He's one of those actors who always seems on the verge of breaking out as a star, so it's always nice to see him in a big movie like this. Marlon Wayans plays Ripcord as one of the Wayans brothers, which is to be expected. At least he wasn't playing him as Little Man. He's likable and occaisonally funny, but nowhere near as funny as Brendan Fraiser or Kevin J. O'Connor were in the Mummy.

The best I can say about Channing Tatum's Duke -- our film's lead hero -- is that he wasn't terrible. He was just boring. Channing, I know Duke. I've watched and read about Duke since I was a boy. You sir are no Duke.

Most on target was probably Ray Park as Snake Eyes, who looked and acted exactly as he did in every other incarnation of the franchise. It's a hard character to screw up, and they thankfully made him mysterious and badass, though a little more of his backstory would've been nice.

Best of all, at least on the eyes, is Rachel Nichols as Scarlett. Her character was underwritten and incredibly cliched, but she was more or less the same independent, stone-cold femme fatal from the comics and cartoons. And if you ever fell in love with her radiant beauty from the saturday morning cartoon, you will fall all over again with the near-perfect live-action version. Long story short, this chick is fly.

Christopher Eccleston's Destro is actually somewhat faithful to the original character from the comics, but Arthur Burghardt's voice acting in the cartoon was so indelible in people's memories that it's hard to accept any other portrayal, especially considering how he only puts on the mask (SPOILER!!!) in the last few minutes of the movie, and even then it isn't really a mask at all. But Eccleston is a good actor who was a lot of fun to watch.

Byung-hun Lee played Storm Shadow as any cliched ninja, but it's hard to blame the actor for a role that was so underwritten and boring. Her certainly looked good in the white costume (which was a little too flowy and baggy to be all that menacing) and aquitted himself well in the fight scenes. But Storm Shadow should have a little more charisma than this, though they did hint a bit at his backstory and his personal code of honor.

And just as radiant as Scarlet was Sienna Miller as Sarah Palin... I mean, the Baroness. The best thing I can say about Sienna Miller is that she is a stunningly beautiful woman who looks exceptional in a tight leather body suit. And maybe she's a good actress too, I dunno. When she first came on screen, I was absolutely blown away by how perfectly they captured the character from the cartoon and comics, until she opened her mouth and talked in an American accent. What's that about? And then as we learned more and more about her backstory, her character got worse and worse. But, again, she's a total babe.

And I have no idea what Joseph Gordon-Levitt was doing as "The Doctor." He was given so little to do that he must've decided to go completely over the top with his character so he'd still stand out. And he does, but maybe not in the way he would've wanted. Just a weird, unbelieveable, poorly thought out character all things considered. But I'm sure he'll be fun to see in the sequel now that his hackneyed backstory is out of the way.

So... I liked the cast, which is good because the storyline was a big ball of crap.

It had to do with Destro selling nano... whatever bombs to... somebody who... I dunno. A lot of stuff blows up. That's pretty much all you need to know. Destro is trying to blow stuff up while the Joes are racing to stop him. Luckilly for the audience, while they're trying to stop Destro from blowing stuff up, a lot of other stuff gets blown up on the way. Seriously, I think they did a lot more damage to the streets of Paris trying to stop the destruction of the Eiffle Tower than what would've happened had they just let it fall. But that action set piece was one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time. In terms of action, this movie definitely delivers, all though the big finale was kind of hard to follow, since there were too many things flying around at the same time, all of which looked too much alike.

And where were the parachutes everytime a plane blew up? People aren't supposed to die in G.I. Joe!

And here's a tip for any would-be (or, in this case, professional) screenwriters out there: Don't use nanotechnology in your films unless they actually follow some kind of logic or set of rules. The nanomachines in this film were magical devices that destroyed metal, changed people's faces, did mind control, and anything else the filmmakers wanted at any given time. That's not writing, that's magic.

But, at the end of the day, Rise of Cobra was a really fun movie that was kind of based on G.I. Joe. In the cartoon and comics, the Joes were the best at their particular talents who used them to fight Cobra. In this movie, the Joes are the best at their particular talents, who all use big guns to blow stuff up. I never thought I would say this, but this film simply doesn't have the intelligence or depth of story telling found in the cartoon, and it doesn't hold a candle to the comics, which is one of the best war comics of all time. It's simply not faithful enough to become beloved by fans or original or different enough to stand on its own terms. It's just... a movie.

If you want to see a real adaptation of G.I. Joe that has brilliant casting and amazing costumes, check this out... but only if you're willing to shread a tear for the true G.I. Joe film that could've been: