Monday, March 30, 2009

Family Guy

I'm not a Family Guy fan. It's occasionally funny, but more often than not it's just the same collection of weird nonsequitors juxtaposed against long, drawn out, intentionally awkward moments of silence or repetitious dialogue. A lot of people love it and that's great, but I've never been one of them. But I've been known to sit though an episode every now and again, and I always laugh at least once.

I did sat last Sunday's much-hyped episode featuring the entire cast of Next Generation, and... well... it was a Family Guy episode. I'm sure I laughed once.

Actually, I'm sure I laughed more than once, but I can't really remember. I just remember that it wasn't the non-stop laugh-a-thon I was hoping for. The cast of Next Generation were all funny, but their scenes were actually pretty limited. It was mostly a Meg episode, and her plot line about finding religion by watching Kirk Cameron on TV should've been funny, but it lacked bite, wit, and just took precious time away from Patrick Stewart and the rest of the Next Gen cast.

I mean, you've got 8 guest stars. Get rid of the Meg plotline and give Brent Spiner more than one line. Why did Whil Wheaton get more lines than Spiner and Jonathan Frakes combined? I know I'm being way too critical of what was a cute, funny episode, but I was let down because of the amount of hype it somehow built up over the past few weeks.

I should've known better than to expect too much from an episode of Family Guy. I haven't felt this let down since that time I got tickets to see Roseanne Barr in a production of Cats...

(Show a clip of me, watching Roseanne dressed as Tum Tum Tugger, acting annoying and eating a bowl of chicken wings.)

Anyway, here's the episode if you're curious:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Battlestar Galactica Series Finale

Didn't love it.

Remember the first few seasons opened with some text about the premise of the series, stating that the Cylons were made by made, rebelled, and then tried to wipe us out? That always ended with the words "And they have a plan." Well, they got rid of that for the last season because it became pretty obvious that they Cylones didn't have a plan. Or, at least, the writers never had a plan. One of the great things about this series was all of the incredible plot twists, mysteries, and enigmatic moments. And when it was finally time to wrap up them all, it just didn't happen.

But I liked it.

If you were looking for a culmination of those extended plotlines or any kind of explanation or real resolution -- and who wasn't? -- it's hard to believe you'd watch this and not be let down. At the end of the day, almost all of the questions were answered with "It was God." We're talking about a literal deux ex machina. Who was Starbuck? An angel or emissary of God. Who were the mysterious Six and Baltar that only those two could see and hear? They were angels or emissaries of god. What was the significance of Hera? She was a tool used to work God's will.

This was all very well done, well written, well acted, and entertaining. But it wasn't science fiction. And, frankly, it wasn't satisfying on any real, emotional level. Anybody can come up with a lot of cray ideas and plot lines, but to ultimately explain it all by saying it was God is ultimately cheap and lazy.

But I liked it. The acting, as always, was first rate, Baltar and Six were finally given things to do, and that opening space battle was one of the best I've ever seen.

But it would've been nice to not have the entire four seasons culminate with a literal deus ex machina. But that's just me.

But even forgetting that, there were too many other things that just didn't make sense to me.

Why was Romo Lampkin elected president? How did that happen? Was he really next in line? How was he the least bit qualified?

Why did everybody agree to completely give up on their technology and live off of the land? I just didn't buy that for a second.

Why did elder Adama fly away and abandon his son and the colony? His girlfriend died about ten minutes into his trip. He really never wants to see his son again? He never wants to see his friends again? I just didn't believe that at all.

But, ultimately, it was ok. I enjoyed it. But it did put a slight damper on the series as a whole, since looking back at some of the best moments and plots and realizing that they would end with such a lackluster explanation (that is to say, no explanation) sucks.

But it's still one of the best TV shows of all time.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hall of Awesome

I watched an episode from the first season of Miami Vice this morning, and then I watched last night's episode of Battlestar Galactica this evening. Both shows, of course, feature actor Edward James Olmos as the commander, of the vice squad in the former and of a fleet of starships in the later.

And he's amazing in both. But, even more than that, he's just... awesome.

Edward James Olmos has always been one of my favorite actors, even before BSG, though this current series has given him the role of a lifetime, and his performance has been the role of any lifetime. It's criminal that he hasn't even been nominated for an Emmy for best actor for this show. There's nobody on TV who can even come close to the work Edward James Olmos has been putting in, every week, for the past four years.

He's just... awesome.

So that's why I've taken it upon myself to create another blog... the Hall of Awesome, an Awesome Hall of Fame. And Edward James Olmos is the first inductee.

Check it out here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

10 TV Shows to Watch on Hulu Right Now

Still bored? Even after I posted my list of ten films to watch for free on Hulu here?

Ok ok, I'll admit, those films weren't all great. But TV is where Hulu shines, and because I'm a nice guy, here's my list of ten great TV shows to watch on Hulu.

Right now.

For free.

Again, these are in no real order and were picked simply on the basis of what I happen to find entertaining and fun. I have limited the shows to those that have at least one full season available for viewing.

Check 'em out:

Miami Vice
Classic. This is one of my all time favorites, and it holds up a lot better than you'd think. The stories are intense, the fashions are hot, and the music is awesome. For some reason the fifth and final season isn't online, but you'll still get plenty of hours of fun watching the first four. I can't recommend this show highly enough.

Arrested Development
Yeah, I know... I'm sick of people gushing about this show too. I'm sick of people complaining about how it got cancelled too soon, blah blah blah. I'm not going to say any of that. I'm just going to say that all three seasons are available for free on Hulu. It's funny stuff.

Just as a bonus, here's one of my favorite scenes. Gob's stutter at the beginning is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I could watch that all day:

Strangers with Candy
If you liked Arrested Development, you'll like Strangers with Candy.

Kojak / Kojak
Does anybody else remember the remake of Kojak? Hell, does anybody even remember the original Kojak at this point? I actually really liked the remake, thought Ving Rhames did an awesome job in the lead role, and actually missed it when it got canceled. This was a cool show.

Hill Street Blues
Another classic cop show from the 80s. I used to love this show when I was a kid, and it's interesting to rewatch it as an adult and pick up on all the stuff that went over my head. Great show.

The word classic is about to lose its meaning... but come on. It's Benson!

What's Happening!! / What's Happening Now?
Now, I'm not really recommending either of these shows, though I liked What's Happening!! well enough when I was a kid, but it might be interesting to check out these shows back to back as a sort of social experiment. It's kind of interesting to see how the characters aged and grew up. Though, by "interesting" I actually mean sad and depressing.

John Doe
This show should've been awesome, and even though I liked it a lot and watched it every week, I understood why it got canceled. But the first and only season will exist for all time as an incredibly entertaining, well intentioned failure.

I was never a big fan of the films, but the series was pretty cool. Not cool enough that I think you should watch all six seasons, but cool enough that you should check out the first episode at least.

Diff'rent Strokes
Who knew this show actually lasted six years? I'm sort of breaking my own rule by including this show on my list, since it doesn't actually have any full episodes, just short "minisodes" from all six seasons... but that actually makes it better. Nobody can sit through a full episode of this show. Four or five minutes is almost doable.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

10 Movies to Watch on Hulu Right Now


Following on the heals of my roundup of the online movie/TV watching websites, I figured I'd go ahead and explore the winning site in search of the 10 best movies they to watch.

Right now.

For free.

These are listed in no order, with no consideration for genre, popularity, or anything other than my own personal opinion. And, no, I'm not getting any money from Hulu, NBC, or anybody else. I'm just a nice guy who wants to keep you entertained.

Rocky III
This is the only Rocky film on Hulu, but it's a good one. Stallone, Mr. T, Hulk Hogan... this is a classic. Just go watch it.

The Thing
This is one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. This was an over the top, special effects extravaganza back when that actually meant something. It's also one of the weirdest, most horrifying movies I've ever seen. That scene where the head grows spider legs and crawls away still freaks me out.

Hey... I said these were all free, right? What were you expecting? Citizen Kane? Settle for Dragonheart, which is actually a ridiculously entertaining fantasy film, and even years later the CG holds up and looks great. I love this movie.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
See the original before the remake comes out later this summer. This is one of the greatest thrillers from the golden age of the genre: the early 1970s. Walter Mathau and Robert Shaw are amazing and the suspense doesn't let up for a second. Check it out.

Nobody's Fool
Paul Newman's last, great performance might be his all time best. This is one of those movies that gets better and more funny every time I watch it. And you get to see Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith naked.

Night of the Living Dead
Classic. This is one of my favorite films of all time.

Opportunity Knocks
Oh man... this movie is sooo bad. So bad it's good? That depends on how much you like (or even remember) Dana Carvey. Personally, I like the guy and this movie cracks me the hell up... but I can't really say it was a good movie.

Black Knight
Did you like Opportunity Knocks? Well, then you're going to love this one.

Near Dark
This isn't my favorite vampire movie, since the pacing is a little too slow, but it's a cult classic that's still a lot of fun. Check it out if you're into that Twilight crap and want to watch some real, badass vampires.

Howard the Duck
Whatever. I needed 10 films.

And, remember, Hulu won that contest because they are free and because their TV content is still unsurpassed, not their film selections. But that's another post for another time.

American Idol

Is it just me, or is this this worst season yet? I know, I know, we only had the first "real" episodes this week (I don't consider the audition/Hollywood rounds to be real episodes. They're just wastes of time), but I'm just not impressed. I don't really like anybody yet and the show has had too many weird moments and pointless changes.

Has enough time passed that we can admit the inclusion of Kara was a mistake? She's not bad by any means, and some of what she says has value, but she certainly doesn't say anything the other judges haven't said. Has she ever disagreed with the other 3 even once? Has she added anything exciting or different? It was a pointless addition that just makes the judgment segments drag on that much longer.

We had a top 13 instead of a top 12? Ok, that was definitely an unexpected, emotional moment for Anoop, who thought he was out for the second time, and then realized he was still in. But did they decide to up the group to 13 because the talent was too strong to cut or because there wasn't enough talent and they needed to spread it that much thinner? I ask because I don't know.

And now there's a new rule unveiled last night that the judges have veto power to save somebody from elimination. They can only use it once per season, it has to be a single, unanimous decision by the judges (or, more realistically, by FOX), and it has to be used before they get to the top Five. Does anybody really like this or think it makes any sense? Why even let people vote if the judges are going to be able to override that vote, even if it's just the one time? The voters are the people who are either going to buy or ignore the winner's album. Don't we know best? Forcing a people through won't make me like them more, it will make me like them less.

But they justified it by saying that Chris Daughtry could've been saved and gone on to win had the judges been given this power years ago. First of all, Daughtry is doing just fine without help from American Idol. Had he won that year, he'd probably be playing some club in Branson, or wherever the heck Taylor Hicks is right now. And, second of all, Daughtry made it into the top five so their veto power wouldn't have been able to save him anyway!

It's just one more thing that will make the show go too long. So now everytime Ryan is about to eliminate somebody, we have to sit through him saying, "One of you will be going home... unless the judges decide to save you tonight."

I suppose, from a certain point of view, the Judges' save almost legitimizes having the losers sing their song again after they get eliminated. Since the judges decide after the song, the show actually has a reason to have the loser sing again aside from just sadism on their part. I say sadism because it has always been cruel to force some crying, emotional kid to sing after getting eliminated, and because they force the audience to sit through the song they voted against the night before. Have the person with the highest votes sing, not the the one with the lowest!

Does anybody else remember when the elimination show used to be 30 minutes long? Even that was too long. They should just have a crawl on the bottom the screen during House (or whatever) that says, "That Jorge guy was eliminated. No, the judges didn't save him."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Noodles and Company Spicy Meatballs!

When I want a good, cheap, fast lunch, my mind usually thinks of two places: Chipotle or Noodles and Company. As much as I love to support my local business owners and their charming, independently-owned restaurants, more often than not I just end up going to one of these two places.

Chipotle, without any doubt in my mind, has some of the best Mexican food on the planet. I know it's fast food. I know it's owned by McDonald's. But it's still true. I usually get a burrito bowl with either the carnitas or barbacoa (both are incredibly tender and amazingly delicious) with rice, pinto beans, the onions and peppers, a mixture of the mild tomatoe pico and the salsa verde, sour cream, and lettuce. Now, that's a meal. But it's not a meal that you can really eat everyday, even though I've been tempted and even tried a few times.

Noodles, on the other hand, has a little more variety, with an extensive menu, and more varried entree selections. But, varried and extensive as the menu is, it hasn't changed in years and I've eaten it all a few hundred times over.

Until now that is.

Noodles has finally added a new menu item... and it's spaghetti and meatballs! As soon as I saw it on the menu when I stopped in for lunch yesterday, I knew nothing would be the same again. Don't get me wrong, I love the chicken and shrimp and beef options. But meatballs? What's better than a meatball? I don't love spaghetti, but I do love meatballs, and that makes all the difference.

And they are really good meatballs, in a really good marinara sauce, covered with parmesian cheese, and sitting on a huge mound of spaghetti. I got five meatballs, which is a good amount, but you can never have too many. They can me a choice of regular or spicy. I chose the spicy was was pleasantly surprised to discover that they were actually very spicy, and not just by Minnesota's sad standards. I ended up finishing my meatballs and most of the spaghetti before I gave up and got a to-go box. Of course, now I have a box of left-over spaghetti with no meatballs, but that's life.

Anyway, long story short, Noodles and Company now has spaghetti and meatballs. And you can even get the meatballs with any other dish on the menu, which I will probably do next time I go... which will probably every day for the rest of the week. They've got meatballs!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Simpsons

I sat through an entire episode of the Simpsons on Hulu this morning.

This was probably the first episode I've seen in over a year, and the first episode I've actually watched in its entirety in far longer than that. What used to be the smartest, wittiest, and most outrageous show on television slowly became "just kinda funny," until it kept sinking and became unwatchable. But, I suppose, that's too be expected after 20 years.

Seriously. Twenty years. And that doesn't even count the year or two it spent as a reoccurring animated short on the Tracy Ullman Show, before they eventually got their own Christmas Special, then a series.

Twenty years.

Is it because it's so cheap to produce, with most of the animation done these days on computers or by animators in Korea? They certainly haven't been spending all of their money on acquiring a great writing staff, I'm sorry to say, since the show has been so terrible for so long.

But this episode was kinda funny. I mean, I laughed more than a few times. The story was clever and the writing was witty, with more than enough jokes that worked every few minutes. It wasn't as outrageous, as sharp, or as honest about real life than, say, the best episodes from 14 years ago, but it was funny. Maybe I'll even watch a few more on Hulu later to see if this episode was an exception or if the series is finally coming back around.

Also, it looked great. Are they airing this in HD now? The colors and detail in the animations looked better than I remember, and it was in widescreen. Also, they redid the opening sequence, but that may have been done years ago for all I know. It seemed pointless, since the old one was classic. I guess they wanted to redo it in order to show off the huge cast of extended characters. But was it really important to showcase people like Disco Stu in the intro? Nobody likes Disco Stu.

Anyway, here is the entire episode if you want. It's a fun way to spend twenty minutes or so:

Kindle for iPhone

Or, in my case, Kindle for the iPod Touch, but it amounts to the same thing: A free app that lets you read Kindle formatted ebooks on your Apple iPhone or iPod Touch. I downloaded it the other day, installed a few books, and think it works pretty much as advertised. But I'm not about to give up on books entirely just yet.

The best part of Kindle for iPhone (or KiP, as I'll call it from this point on), is that it's free. Amazon seems to understand the same thing that Gillete and Remington have always known: Give the razors away for free, make a killing selling overpriced razors. You can't install anything on this app that wasn't purchased from

So that begs the question: Why is the real Kindle $360? I've never understood that ridiculously exhorbitant price and I know it will never take off until it becomes affordable. The Kindle is too expensive, and books are expensive. It's a no win situation.

"But, Donald," some people are probably asking, "the iPod is expensive too, but those are huge even though people have to pay to install content on that as well. So doesn't that prove you wrong?"

No, for a couple of reasons. First of all, you can install your entire CD collection on an iPod. You have to purchase all new material for a Kindle. And if you can't find it on, it ain't going on your kindle. You can put any CD (or almost any music file) on your ipod. Second of all, having an ipod lets you carry around hours or week's worth of music (or more) in your pocket. For most people, one or two books is probably a week's worth of reading (or more). Who really needs to carry around their entire library wherever they go?

But I've digressed from my main review. Yes, nobody needs to have their entire library in their pocket at all times, but it would still be cool. And Kindle does make that a possibility, and KiP makes it an affordable luxory.

But how does it work already?

It works fine. It's mostly just a question of whether or not you can stand reading from your iPhone without getting a headache. I couldn't. It's just too bright. You can go into the settings and turn down the brightness, but then you have to go back in to adjust it when you want to use a different app. Amazon needs to allow you to adjust the brightness within the app itself. The only real functional adjustment you can do is choosing between four or five different font sizes, but none of them are really all that great. Too small and your eyes start to hurt, too big and you're turning the page after every couple of sentences.

But, you know, it's a book... on your iPhone. So it does what it says it does.

Putting books on there is pretty easy, but it could be easier. You have to register the device and make all purchases through, either on your computer or through the browser on your iPhone. Once you make a purchase, it automatically sends it to your device, but it still would've been nice to have this built in to the app itself. And why can't I send ebooks from my computer to my device? All books have to be purchased from and sent wirelessly by them to your device. This is needlessly obtuse and means you're out of luck if you don't have wi-fi.

As far as content goes, Kindle is pretty good. For this review (and probably forever), I've restricted myself to the stuff is offering for free. They actually have quite a bit of free content, ranging from older stuff that is in the public domain, and a few newer works by famous authors. Most of their new books cost about ten to seven books, with some stuff being just a few bucks or a few cents. Chances are good, you'll find something you'll want to read.

But for ten bucks, I'd probably just buy a book.

Friday, March 6, 2009


I saw this movie Friday afternoon with my girlfriend Shannon. Shannon has never read the original comic (or any comic, for all I know), and while she enjoyed the movie, she had a lot of questions... many of which I couldn't answer.

"So what exactly happened at the end?"

Um... I couldn't really answer that. I told her the truth, that the ending in the comic made almost no sense, while the ending in the film made completely no sense. I was going to tell her about how the comic ended with an genetically engineered squid that was teleported into New York City to... but I didn't, for the same reason I'm not going to talk about it here. The less said about the ending of Watchmen (and the over all story structure, for that matter), the better.

"So did they blow up New York or not? Because they showed it at the end and it looked fine."

Yeah, that confused me too. I mean, if you're going to blow up New York, blow up New York, at least show some kind of lasting impact. Don't end with the main character's midtown brownstone looking completely intact and none the worse for wear.

But we both liked it.

As a comic book, Watchmen was a vexing piece of work, at times brilliant and at times maddening. In my opinion, it's neither the unparalleled work of brilliance that some have claimed, nor is it exactly overrated as well. What it is is an epic, convoluted, comic book mini series that spanned the length of 12 issues, some of which were brilliant, and some of which... were not.

In that respect, the new film by Zack Snyder is stunningly faithful, capturing both the moments of brilliance from the comic and the same problems with the overall storyline, though it also contains its own unique strengths and weaknesses as well.

Let's talk about the strengths first:

To being with, this is a Watchmen movie. That might sound silly... of course it's a Watchmen film, you're saying. That's the title, for pete's sake!... but let me explain myself. You can put George Clooney in a rubber cowl with horns, but that doesn't mean you actually made a Batman film. You can have Tobey Maguire jumb around and shoot webs from his wrists, but that doens't mean you made a Spider-Man film. Most comic book adapations take a familiar name from the comics, a few similar details, comparable powers, and a similar costume (though sometimes not) and splap it on the screen and that's that.

But Watchmen is Watchmen. It isn't just a film containing similar characters to the comic, it's the same story, with the same tone, look, and feel. That's a good thing and a bad thing, as I said, since the overall story from the comic has too many structural weaknesses intrinsic to the overall plot, but I still appreciate the fact that they made the attempt. And, in their defense, they made an attempt to fix some of the story problems from the comic, but we'll get to that later.

Visually, this film is incredible, and on par with the comic. Many of the scenes and visuals are ripped straight from the pages of the comic, and it looks awesome. While Snyder's direction couldn't quite match the masterful pacing of comic artist Dave Gibbons, he did an admirable job taking the book and making it look nearly identical on the big screen. Unlike Robert Rodriguez's adaptation of Frank Miller's Sin City, Snyder's takes visual cues and moments from the comic, but doesn't attempt to translate the entire comic panel by panel and word for word. While I liked Sin City, it felt static and wooden while Watchmen is actually able to breathe. This film couldn't have looked better, in my opinion, and it's almost worth watching just for the cinematography alone.

The casting was also great, even though it was filled with some relatively unknown actors.

Jackie Earle Haley was best known, to me at least, as #3, Kelly Leak from the original Bad News Bears, so it came as no surprise that he could play a total badass better than anybody. He was amazing. Rorschach is one of the best, most interesting characters from any comic book, and it was portrayed perfectly here, with Haley giving stealing every scene he was in, even though he had a thick mask on for 99% of the time. I just wish he had driving his motorcycle around on the baseball diamond at least once.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan was already well known to geeks like me as the dad from Supernatural. Morgan's rare appearances on that show were always exciting and usually let the viewer know something crazy was about to go down. When I heard he was cast as the Comedian, I was floored, and he didn't let me down at all. Another perfect casting choice that brought the characters from the comic to life.

And everybody else was pretty good to ok. I really liked the guy who played Dan Dreiberg, but he came off as more likable and sympathetic in the comic, or at least as more of an everyman. They made him into too much of a superhero here, but the actor who played him was very good. The guy who played Ozymandius wasn't as bad as you'll here from some other reviewers, but his performance was still a bit odd, and he came off as creepy and alienating when he should have seemed kind and intelligent. But the actress who played Laurie was incredible, at least in the looks department. Where did this Malin Akerman come from and how come I've never heard of her before? Those bangs were killer. And her acting was fine.

While I've read a lot of negative things about the film's soundtrack, I thought it was fine. In fact, I thought it was quite good in most places. The opening montage played to "The Times They Are A-Changing" was brilliant and set the mood for the rest of the film perfectly. In fact, the film probably never quite topped that sequence, but that's ok. Some people have criticized the use of "Hallelujah" during the sex scene, but I didn't mind it. I thought it was fine.

So what didn't work?

Well... the overall story, just like the comic, just doesn't work and completely falls apart at the end. But, to a certain extent, that's ok, since the murder mystery is little more than a pointless macguffin used to deconsturct the medium and take a closer look at these characters. So you can't fault the film or the comic for having a denoument that makes no sense, because it was all about the journey and not the destination. But, having said that, it's a flaw that is ok for the comic, because it was so long and told in individual issues that worked well on their own if not when put together as a whole, but the film didn't have that luxory. If a film tells a murder mystery, it damn well better wrap it up in a way that makes sense and doens't leave the audience confused. This film failed on that account.

I defy most viewers who haven't read the comic to tell me why the Comedian was killed, what his killer was actually attempting to do, or why anything in the denoument made sense at all.

Snyder looked at the ending of the comic and, quite rightly, realized that it was deeply flawed, unsatisfactory, and completely illogical. But his solution wasn't to come up with a better, well set up ending that would satisfy the viewers... he came up with an ending that was just as absurd (if not more so) and still left everybody confused an unhappy.

Or was it just me?

Also, what was with those fight scenes? Considering how perfectly Snyder managed to capture the overall tone and feel of the comic, why did he go so over the top with the action sequences? Don't get me wrong, a lot of them were very, very cool and well done, but they still took the viewer too far out of the film. The opening fight was awesome, and worked because it showed the brutality and stubborness of the Comedian, and the over the top violence let the viewer know they'd better look out. This ain't exactly Spider-Man you're about to watch.

But the scene where Dan and Laurie got attacked by some thugs in the alley and they flew around in slow motion and ripped people's limbs apart? That just made no sense. These aren't superheroes. They're people playing at being masked vigilantes. They can't fly. They don't have superhuman strength. They shouldn't be ripping a guy's arm in half. That scene was just moronic. The jailbreak scene was better, though it was still too much. It would've worked better had the first scene in the alley been more realistic while the fight with them in costume been more stylized, but as it was, the alley scene was even more over the top.

And don't get me started on the fight scene at the end. Would anybody who hasn't read the comic book watch that scene and be expected to understand that none of these comic book characters actually have superpowers? Especially considering how one character managed to stiop a bullet in midair, which was perfectly set up in the comic, but not so much here. In the film, it just looked stupid.

Consistency of tone was also a major problem for the film, perhaps because it tried to emulate the comic a little too much. As I said, the comic was a huge story that spanned 12 issues, but it didn't just contain pictures and word ballons. It had prose stories, entries from a a fictional autobiography, stories from a comic book within the comic book, business reports about new perfumes, and much more. It didn't all work, and I skip most of that stuff whenever I reread it, but it just shows writer Alan Moore's incredible attention to detail and attempt to show what could be in a comic that no other medium could do.

So when Dr Manhattan when to Mars and the film suddenly slowed down for 15 minutes to show his origin, complete with his dispassionate, clinical narration, it just didn't work. It was a very cool scene, but it was too far removed from everything else in the movie. Watchmen #4 was the best, single issue of a comic book I've ever read. More than that, it's one of the best short stories I've ever read from any medium. And while this segment did an admirable job trying to adapt it to the screen, it just went to show how much better the story worked as a comic. The narration just didn't work, nor did the quick cuts though time, the juxtapostion of images, or the overall feel of the scene.

And why show a character's origin if you're not actually going to attempt to explain it or give it any real significance?

And that's really the film's main flaw: It's a Cliffnotes version of Watchmen, with all of the big scenes told in loving detail, but forgetting the little details that actually lended support and weight and character development.

But I liked it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

G.I. Joe #1

G.I. Joe #1 was the first comic I ever purchased for more than its cover price.

A lot more.

When I was a kid, G.I. Joe was my favorite comic book, my favorite cartoon, and my favorite toy. The toy was amazing because the joints made it fully poseable, there were so many of them, and they had a ridiculous number of accessories, vehicles, and playsets. I was the king of my neighborhood the day my parents bought me the G.I. Joe Aircraft Carrier. That thing was longer than my bed. It was seriously the best toy I've ever owned and I wish I still had it.

The cartoon was cool because all of the characters from the toys had their own episodes, the animation was awesome, and the stories were actually pretty clever for a kids' TV show. But I've watched a bunch of episodes since, and it really doesn't hold up. The animation still looks good, and the music is awesome, but nothing makes any sense. I have no idea how I was able to follow any of those stories when I was a kid, since the writers must've been on drugs or something.

Why was he staring in their window? Why did that seem normal when I was a kid?

"Now we know!"
"And knowing is half the battle! And, remember, kids, don't tell your mother I was here, ok? Now why don't you hand Doc that bottle?"

And then there was the comic book, which was brilliant. Nobody ever believes me when I tell them that G.I. Joe was my all time favorite comic book. It was created to sell action figures, sure, but it was still great. Writer Larry Hama gave the series a sense of integrity and intelligence that most other's would've shrugged off, assuming kids wouldn't know any better. Hama, a Vietnam vet, understood the army and what war was like, and he even went on to help create the critically acclaimed, and more mature, comic book The 'Nam. His ancestry as a Japanese American, and his mastery of several martial arts, lent an authenticity to such characters as Storm Shadow and Snakeyes, the popularity of whom helped to usher in the Ninja craze that swept through comics and TV in the 80s and 90s.

And then there was Kwinn the Eskimo, a character so morally neautral and ambiguous that he never appeared in the cartoon or the original line of figures. Kwinn's struggle to find inner peace was one of the most brilliant things I'd ever read as a kid, and I still remember his death scene to this day. Kwinn finally managed to track down the evil Dr. Venom, who had betrayed him and set him up to be killed by Cobra. Kwinn had followed him across the globe, deadset on exacting his revenge and killing him once and for all. But when he finally found him and began to throw his grenade, he realized that he was no better than Venom, and that killing him wouldn't bring him satisfaction at all. When he turned to walk away, Venom shot him in the back, killing him, which made him drop the grenade, sending it rolling to Venom's feet. I still haven't forgotten Venom's final words as he realized his fate: "A grenade... fallen from a dead man's hand."

This was powerful stuff for a comic that came out when I was only six years old, though I was probably a couple of years older than that when I first read it, because those early G.I. Joe issues were in the box of comics my brother gave me when he grew out of them.

But I was going to tell you about G.I. Joe #1. That wasn't in my brother's box of comics. But it was for sale in an ad at the back of one of my recent G.I. Joe issues. For thirty bucks. And, remember, this was before ebay or buying anything on the internet. Back then, if you wanted to buy something mail-order, you actually had to fill out an order form that you ripped out of a comic or magazine, send it along with a check, and then wait weeks (sometimes months) for anything to arrive, if anything even did arrive. I'm still waiting on a few things I sent away for when I was a kid.

But G.I. Joe #1 did arrive. Finally. It came in a giant box filled with those packing peanuts, and wrapped up in a mylar slipcase. I never opened it. I had already read the story because they had reprinted the entire run undert the title "Tales of G.I. Joe," so I didn't need to read it again. I just needed to own it. I paid 30 bucks for that thing, I wasn't about to put my greasy little fingers all over it. And until I took that picture, I had never opened it. For all I knew, the inside pages were blank.

Years later, when I had enough comics to put into comic-sized long boxes, I had to remove the comic from its original slipcase because it was too wide to fit into the boxes. Maybe I opened it up for a second when I removed it and put it into a standard size comic back with a backing board, but I doubt it. I was too nervous about touching it that I was afraid I'd rip it or that its finally coming in contact with air would result in it turning to dust before my eyes.

Anyway, I've recently decided to sell off my comic book collection since I have thousands of issues in dozens of boxes that are just collecting dust in my basement. G.I. Joe #1 is collecting dust on my wall, however, since I have it hanging on the wall in my TV room with some other comics that are special to me. It's going for $15 dollars on ebay. Well, the one issue that I saw listed is. Maybe it'll eventually go for $30, but I doubt it. Nobody pays that much for comics anymore, unless they're from far earlier than the 80s, or feature characters more important than the G.I. Joes. Still, $15 is better than it was last time I checked, years ago when I first started using ebay to buy comics. Back then it was worth about a dollar.

And now they're making a live-action G.I. Joe movie, due out this summer, not to be confused with the animated movie that came out when I was a kid. But that's a whole, 'nother blog post. Don't get me started on that movie.

Personally, I think it looks pretty cool, but I'll reserve my judgment until I actually get to see it, or at least, see more of it. I don't understand why all of these superhero movies (for lack of a better term, at least in regards to G.I. Joe) have to get rid of the original costumes from the comics, cartoons, etc, and dress the characters up in ugly black leather bodysuits. It works for Snak-Eyes since that's what he actually wears in the comics, but everybody else had a lot of color and style. This movie looks kind of drab. Also, why isn't that guy playing Destro wearing a metal mask? At some point in the movie, he'd better put on a shiny metal mask. And according to the IMDB, Marlon Wayans is playing Ripcord, which is weird, because Ripcord is white. Maybe they were thinking of Stalker?

But it still looks goofy and fun. But I'd rather they had called in Larry Hama to write it. That Kwinn the Eskimo storyline would've been Oscar-worthy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Watchmen Motion Comic

In anticipation of the upcoming movie, DC Comics and WB released a "motion comic" on DVD and Blu Ray today. This is a, well... a motion comic. It's a pretty good label because that's exactly what it is. It's the entire comic, word for word, panel for panel, "animated" in the most limited sense of the term.

Sounds stupid, right? In theory, it is. I thought it would be terrible, because it's been done before and it was always terrible. The very first Captain American cartoon was little more than Kirby's original comic book drawings with the mouths almost moving while bad voice actors read Stan Lee's dialogue. Then there was that Maxx cartoon on MTV in the 1990s, which offered actual animation, but it still took whole images and panels from the comic. There have been a few other attempts here and there, none to much success, un my opinion.

But this one is kind of cool.

Some how, it works. Maybe it's because of the deliberately slow pace of the comic book that you don't mind the lack of much movement on the parts of the characters. Or maybe it's the dramatic, brooding prose of Alan Moore that ties it together. Or maybe it's because Dave Gibbons's art work was already so cinematic to begin. I don't know. I just know that it's kind of cool.

At the end of the day, it's not a comic book but it's not quite a cartoon either. It's also probably something a little less than either. I'd rather read the comic book again, but the artwork actually does look very good and the colors are awesome. I bet it looks great in HD. But make your own judgment. The first episode is free on iTunes and it's well worth checking out. I'm not going to buy the entire season, but I did like the first, free episode. Also, if your computer can handle it, check out the official website. It's pretty cool.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Golden Girls

This one is for my girlfriend, so she'll actually be able read my blog at least once and kind of understand what I'm talking about.

Back in the day (the early 2000s when I was a younger man), a friend of mine always used to ponder the question of why all women, no matter their age or station in life, seem to love the Golden Girls. He used to ask this of most girls he met. It was a stupid, silly question that my friends and I would allow (and, sometimes, even ask ourselves) because it gave us an excuse to talk to girls in bars, restaurants, wherever.

Of course, I would always tell my friend the logical answer: Girls like the Golden Girls for the same reason everybody does: It's a good show. It's funny, well written, well acted, and shows a positive, hopeful portrayal of healthy, vital women in their advanced years. He would never listen to me, however, and kept asking.

Anyway, my girlfriend and I have been watching a lot of Golden Girls lately, since it's always on either Lifetime or the Hallmark channel. We even sat through the entire first season last week because a relative of hers owns the DVDs. It has definitely renewed my interest and fondness for this show, since it is really one of the all-time greats.

But I don't recommend sitting through more than, say, three episodes in one go, and definitely avoid watching an entire season in just a few days. Watching that many episodes of Golden Girls in one go is like trying to eat an entire cheesecake in one sitting at 1:00 in the morning. It's sweet inviting at first, and you may as well finish it all once you've gotten so far into it, but at the end you'll feel bloated and tired and confused.

To begin with, every episode more or less follows the exact same story arc: One of the girls has some sort of crisis (either with her job, a family member, etc) that could potentially change her life forever, panics and tries to figure things out, because coming to her eventual epiphany after a night of overeating with the rest of the girls. Along the way, Rose tells a long, rambling story about St. Olaf, Blanche talks about how she loves sex, and Dorothy and Sophia take turns insulting everybody with whom they come in contact. And every crisis and plot line is used for each of the Golden Girls. They all almost get married, have to decide if they want to date a married man, reconcile with a long-lost relative, etc. It's a format that works well, but doesn't lend itself to repeated viewings over so short a period of time.

All of these stories primarily take place in one set: The connected living room/kitchen of their home. Occasionally there will be a scene in one of their bedrooms, and maybe once or twice a season they will actually be shown outside of the house, but for the most part it all takes place in just those two rooms. It is a testament to the wonderful writing and acting that the show manages to actually feel fresh, no matter how many times the same plots have been reused in the same, single set.

But now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go ask great aunt Betty to lend me season 2.