Tuesday, January 31, 2006

[ movie news ] Academy Awards© snub Star Wars (again)

Well, the Star Wars prequels were never in any danger of winning any major Oscars, but how on earth does Revenge of the Sith not even get nominated for visual effects? What more are they wanting?

And as a special bonus for all of you reading this, here is something from the extreme opposite end of the Star Wars visual effects quality spectrum:

Monday, January 30, 2006

[ humor alert ] "Lost" pictures

I found this amusing blog while noodling around on The Fuselage, "Lost's" officially sanctioned message board. The first picture in this series (Hurley's head on a mutant body-builder's body) isn't that clever, but about five or ten down, you start getting some really wacky, amusing pics like the one shown here.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

[ new vocabulary ] plaus

This is part of an ongoing project to discover words you may not know existed. In fact, these are words the Oxford Dictionary probably doesn't know exist. But they are valid additions to the human language and should become part of your everyday vocabulary.

(note: These are NOT Sniglets ©)

The first word in the New Vocabulary is 'plaus'.

plaus (plôz)


the state of being possible, believable or valid.


"Do you really think Cindy would go out on a date with me?"

"Hmmm... that has plaus."

You would use this word to describe anything that could reasonably be expected to come to pass. If something is 'plausible', then it has plaus. If it is 'implausible', then it very likely has no plaus.

You can replace the phrase "I can definitely see that happening." with "I think that has definite plaus."

Plaus is the only noun that quantifies the amount of believability something has. Something can either have lots of plaus, or none at all.

Well, there you have the first word in the New Vocabulary. Enjoy it. Use it. Take it out in the world and discover for yourself how much plaus everything has!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

[ tv review ] The Office Episode 215: "Carpet"

The American version of The Office took a little while to grow on me. Even though I hadn't seen the original British version yet when the American version premiered last spring, I went into it with a negative attitude, since other recent British imports/remakes like "Coupling" were so universally panned. I was thinking this was going to be just another in the chain.

But still, I gave it a shot. However, I wasn't impressed. It seemed to be trying too hard to be funny. It seemed like it was a bad American remake of a very British show. So I stopped watching.

Over the summer, I finally managed to track down the British version of The Office just because I heard nothing but raves about it. I was instantly a convert to the show and it immediately moved into my top five all-time comedies. Brilliant stuff. It was easy to see why they were so eager to attempt to make an American version of it.

Fast forward to the fall season and after deciding to give "My Name is Earl" a chance, we decided to also resample "The Office" (the whole family this time, not just me). I was pleasantly surprised at how The Office seemed to have found its own voice, distinct from the original British Office. They were no longer attempting to do American versions of the British episodes.

So the months have passed, and we are now on episode 15 of season 2 of the office (hence the nifty numerical episode nomenclature). The power hour of My Name is Earl, and The Office has become Must-See-TV. The characters (on both shows, actually, but this is an Office review) have completely developed their own unique places in the comedy pantheon and I no longer even subconsciously compare this show to the original British show. This show now stands on its own.

Tonight's episode was called "Carpet" and that basically was the driving force behind most of the episode. Someone soiled Michael's (Steve Carell's idiot boss character) carpet, forcing him to spend the day sitting among his employees as they replaced his carpet. Nothing ground-breaking about the episode-- solid jokes, excruciating Michael moments, etc. But what made this episode so memorable was the last minute or so, as the main nice-guy character, Jim,
checked his office voicemail at the day. Probably one of the sweetest moments in any episode of a TV show I've seen in a long long time. I won't spoil it any further, but it was a highlight of the series so far.

If you're not watching The Office, then what are you watching?? This is the best non-Arrested Development sitcom on TV right now.

And for those of you that are fans of both the American version of the show and the British version of the show, here's a neat website that acts as both an extensive resource for both shows while comparing and contrasting them. Neat stuff.


Click to go to "The Office vs The Office"

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

[ humor alert ] Onion article - Nation's Snowmen March Against Global Warming

Every two or three weeks, the Onion comes up with a classic.

Click to experience angry snowmen marching on Washington.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

[ tv review ] SNL - Peter Sarsgaard guest hosting or... why do I keep watching this show?

Why do I make it a point to watch a show that I know I'm going to hate? Or at best, be supremely disappointed in?

Every week, I make sure to record Saturday Night Live, and I always eagerly watch it the first chance I get. I record it on DVR, and then edit out the parts I didn't like, leaving a shortened version of the show that I later burn to a DVD.

This season, I don't think I've even filled half a DVD yet with stuff worthy of watching ever again. If there's anything that's generally guaranteed to make it to the DVD, it's the fake commercial they usually do. But even that's only about a minute long at most.

But this season has been abnormally abysmal. It's been said often in the past, but this year I think it truly does apply- -

This is the WORST season of SNL ever.

This past week's episode was the worst of the worst. Peter Sarsgaard is a "who is that guy again?" level of movie star, and he didn't help himself with his performance on the show. In nearly every sketch, he stumbled over numerous words, often causing me to lose entirely what the point of the sketch was supposed to be about. What's worse is that more than most hosts, he was STARING at the cue cards, making his constant flubs all the worse.

The best/worst part was a skit where he was watching a TV newscast featuring one of the other cast members, meaning that the newscast was being shot live on another set with the image being fed into the TV monitor. So halfway through the skit Sarsgaard accidentally bumps the TV causing the image to disappear, but we could still hear the newscast going on from the next set. They had to cut to an emergency camera angle were we couldn't see the TV, and that would be intercut with a direct feed from the 'newscast'. The highlight of all of this is when on the bottom of the screen you could see crew members scrambling to figure out why the TV wasn't working anymore. They got it kinda fixed in time for the last thirty seconds or so of the skit, but by then it was too late.

Yes, it's a LIVE show, but this is par for the course this season. Every episode has some major technical screw-ups that I don't recall the show ever having this bad before.

In spite of this, I can't stop watching the show (Steve Martin hosts next week!! With Prince as musical guest!! Surely THIS episode will be a classic! hint: no it won't)

Why do I keep on watching? Because every once in a while they DO have a classic skit. Something that redeems the whole show... for at least another episode.

Case in point, the one good thing from last week's show was the fake commercial for "Baby Toupee's." Brilliant. The cure for 'male infantile baldness'. If I don't find it online somewhere, I'll post it for all to see.

They TRIED to capture lightning in a bottle for a second time with their latest "SNL Digital Short", but it didn't have the magic this time. As many of you have seen by now, SNL garnered a lot of buzz last month due to their "Lazy Sunday" digital short film, otherwise known as "The Chronicles of Narnia Rap". This was a brilliant little short film that was perfect for the moment in time it premiered.

This week the digital short was another musical parody, this time of a typical 80's power metal rock song, called "Young Chuck Norris". It was amusing, but not nearly the cultural event that "Lazy Sunday" was. (It didn't make it to my SNL highlight DVD).

So for now, I'll keep eagerly watching (and fast-forwarding through) every new episode of Saturday Night Live. When it gets it right, it gets it really right. And one classic skit outweighs the other 85 minutes of crap.

[ tv review ] "24" The best show I might refuse to watch.

Even though I just stated watching this show, and even though I enjoy it immensely, I think I'm going to stop watching.

So we're two weeks and five episodes into season five of "24". I had never watched an episode of the show, always intending to get a DVD set and watch it from the beginning. That was three years ago after season one. That stretched into two seasons and three and finally four seasons (how poetic).

That's nearly a hundred hours and counting. Like I'm ever going to be able to watch all of that. But the storyline for this upcoming season intrigued me more than any of the other previous seasons and seemed like it might be a good jumping on point, withOUT having to watch the other four seasons.

Basically, at the end of last season, for whatever reason, it doesn't really matter, Kiefer Sutherland's character, Jack Bauer, faked his own death and went into exile in the deserts of Tatooine. It might have been somewhere in California. Point is, he was basically starting over and that seemed like a great place for me to start.

And I was right.

"24" is great goofy fun. It's like watching a James Bond movie with a more substantial plot and more believable characters.

Anyway, from the first moment, I knew I was going to like it. I fortunately was able to watch the season premiere with a friend of mine who is a 24 junkie, and I was able to pause the DVR extensively throughout the show to ask questions and get caught up.

Though five episodes, I thoroughly enjoy it.

So why am I thinking of stopping watching it? (man, that doesn't look gramatarically correct)

It's because I think this show will truly be amazing in one condensed marathon viewing session.

The first four episodes were aired in two two-hour blocks on back to back nights. That made it really easy to get into the plot, characters and tone of the show. But then it was a week until the next episode.. and I find that I have forgotten many of the finer details of the show, like all the names of the supporting characters, etc. And it's going to be another week until the next episode.

Unlike my previous threats of watching the season sets of 24, I know I actually will follow through on it this time. I'm hooked.

The only thing is, can I actually NOT know something about a TV show that I'm interested in? Can I not spoil myself with the details of the show before I get a chance to sit down and watch it? Will my friend and my brothers who are rabid fans of the show tell me things I wish I didn't know? CAN I wait? Especially since I know that waiting will make a greater viewing experience.

Unlike a show like LOST that invites conjecture and theories about the mysteries of the show, "24" has more of a straightforward spy/terrorism plot. The rest of the season will just be about finding out WHO is behind the crisis. As much as I like "24", I don't see myself sitting around thinking about it or trying to solve the mystery in my head.

It's quite a dilemma. Can I turn off the TV and NOT watch a show that I like.

Stay tuned. (or not)

[ tv spoiler ] Leaked script segment from upcoming episode of LOST

For those of you that watch Lost, you're well aware of the impending war set to take place on Craphole Island. The following script segment was sent to me by someone I have on the inside.
The following is a more or less verbatim transcript from the upcoming episode right as the Lostaways are preparing for imminent battle.

Okay... I know I don't have to tell any of you just how dangerous this is going to be. If any of you choose to back out, we won't hold it against you.

[Jack glances over at a Lostaway we haven't met before wearing a bright red shirt. This is Gus. Gus nods grimly, but firmly. He's in. With a softer expression, Jack's gaze moves over to Rose, who's brandishing a rifle. She pats her gun, and then pats the large knife strapped to her leg under her comfortable slacks. She's ready.]

Alright. So here's what we're up against. These are the Others. We call them that because, well, because they're not US. And if you're not with us, you're against us.

Unnamed male Lostaway
How will we know it's one of the Others, and not just someone we don't know really well. I mean, until today, I'd never seen that guy over there. [points at Gus].

Unnamed female Lostaway
Yeah... [pointing at an older man wearing a red parka]... that guy's an Eskimo. We've been on this island nearly two months, and I didn't know we had an Eskimo living with us.

You mean Metek? You didn't know about Metek? He wasn't on the plane. He was tracking a polar bear in Alaska or somewhere and ended up here and says now he can't get back.

[Metek nods solemnly and begins gesturing animatedly with his handmade spear and speaking pointedly in his Eskimo language. It's not revealed what he says, but his meaning is clear. He wants to get back at the Others]

Okay, quiet down Santa. You'll get your crack at them... [under his breath] but not until after I've had a little chat with ole Zeke...

There is an easy way to distinguish the Others with a capital O from the others with a lower case O. The Others will be dramatically lit from below, making them look more evil.

What about Ethan? He wasn't lit from below...

Ethan was a spy, and had his lighting adjusted accordingly.

[while leaning over Aaron and putting camo face paint on his face and body.]
What do we do if we see something we've never seen before or meet someone that might be able to help us? Should we ask them some questions?

Questions? What do you mean?

The time for questions is conveniently past us. Now is the time for action.

Okay, now Mr. Eko is going to let us in on some special intelligence he's acquired from his time on the other side of the island. Mr. Eko?

Thank you. I killed some Others with my bare hands. I'd rather not talk about it. Thank you. [sits down]

Okay, there are two special Others that you need to be especially wary of. One of them is apparently carrying a teddy bear and is considered highly dangerous. Shoot to kill, repeat, SHOOT TO KILL. The other Other is a more terrifying prospect. It can apparently change size at will, especially if it senses danger. Do not engage in combat with this Other without backup support.

What do we do with the prisoners, brutha?

That's kind of a silly question, isn't it?

Prisoners? This is WAR. There won't be any prisoners. Prisoners lead to questions. And questions lead to answers. And that's the last thing we want. Now you all have your assignments. Good luck.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

[ comic review ] - All Star Superman #2

What's wrong with comics today? Why aren't they fun anymore? Even though they are more 'real' than they've ever been, they don't evoke any joy.

Granted, there are exceptions, but for the most part, mainstream comics from DC and Marvel aren't fun. It's been such a gradual process, my becoming more cynical, and comics becoming more 'realistic', that I don't even know when the magic went away.

Lest anyone think that this is a negative review, I'm here to say that All Star Superman has more magic and more fun in just its first two issues than the last twenty years of mainstream comics combined.

Its one of those things you don't realize has changed until you rediscover it years and years later. Remember when you found your old Boba Fett action figure from the 70's? Remember how cool it was? It's like that. Except that its comics.

As any of you that follow comics are aware, Marvel comics a few years ago began an imprint called the Ultimate Universe, where they take much beloved Marvel characters like Spider-man and the X-men, and completely recreate them from scratch, in a universe unconnected to any other Marvel comics, and untied to any of the previous decades of Marvel continuity. From all accounts, it's been highly successful, both from a financial standpoint, and from the standpoint of creating a comic where new readers can climb on board and not feel too overwhelmed or lost.

Not to be outdone, DC Comics recently began its own non-continuity, all-ages imprint in the hope that it will attract new (or old) readers who might be put off by having to wade through decades of DC universe continuity. This imprint is called the All Star line, and so far has two comics in its stable; Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, and now Superman.

This isn't a review of All Star Batman, but I will say that it's one of the saddest comic book failures I've ever come across, and almost soured me to the whole All Star comic line. Thankfully I read a short preview of All Star Superman online and was intrugued enough to give it a try, and I'm glad I did.

All Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, exists in a universe that somehow manages to restore all of the goofy stuff from the golden and silver ages of comics while putting a modern spin on it. Like "Kurt Busiek's Astro City", there's no deconstruction of comics, or knowing winks to the reader. It's pure, unironic celebration of all that is fun about comic books. If this comparison means anything to you, imagine what it would be like if Superman moved to the world Astro City. It's just like that.

All Star Superman begins in the middle of Superman's story. He's already been Superman for years, he's already had hundreds of adventures, etc. The history of this Superman is both familiar and unknown, and the fun is discovering those details along the way.

The plot is nothing you haven't seen before. The overplot for this first arc is that Superman flew near the sun and absorbed way more 'yellow sun radiation' into his cells than normal, causing him to gain new powers, and increase the ones he already has. This second issue of the comic has Superman revealing his secret identity to Lois Lane and taking her to the Fortress of Solitude.

In true classic Superman/Lois Lane style, she doesn't believe him and actually suspects more sinister motives, and embarks on an issue-long quest to figure out what is going on. It's an incredible synthesis of modern storytelling crossed with golden age sensibilities and style.

Along the way, we are introduced to other classically-inspired bits of joy, like the Time Telescpe (everything has a dramatic name that seeps with history) that allows Superman to communicate with his successors throughout time (some nearly a million years into the future). The Key to the Fortress of Solitude is normal-sized, but it's made from super-dense material meaning noone but him can lift it. He just leaves it right in front of the door.

It's goofy touches like that that make All Star Superman such a delight.

What's more amazing is that I haven't read a Superman comic in nearly twenty years. The last one I read was "Man of Steel", John Byrne's reboot of Superman in the late 80's. Outside of Doom 'killing' Superman a decade or so ago, I have no idea what's going on in the current Superman world (is there still a giant key needed to get in the Fortress of Solitude? For that matter, is there even still a Fortress of Solitude?)

And moreso, it somehow manages to effectively blend in the feel of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies (the good ones, I mean). Just like Astro City mixes together familiar characters and stories from every corner of comic book history to create something new and unique, so too does All Star Superman mix the mythologies of several distinct versions of Superman to create something that evokes all of them.

I can't recommend it highly enough.