Thursday, July 31, 2008

Journey to the Center of the Earth

(by way of

Battle of the Batmans

I hadn't checked out in a while, but they've got a few new brilliant videos.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Conspiracy's Worst Nightmare Has Come to Pass

Ex-Astronaut: Aliens Are Real and Government Knows It

It took me about a dozen times seeing some variation of this headline over the last few days before I finally clicked on it. While the claim Mitchell makes is amazing and possibly historic (if it can be remotely authenticated as more than the rantings of a 77 year-old man who once went to the moon), I was more fascinated by the implications it posed for a specific segment of the public - the Conspiracy Theorists.

Bear with me, here.

For 60-something years, a passionate group of individuals has insisted that the government has been covering up alien visitations. We've all seen them on Larry King or heard them on late-night radio talk shows. For those 60-something years, there hasn't really been a credible person to step up to verify ANY of these claims.

Until now.

A respected astronaut. One of the few men who ever walked on the moon. Someone who was part of NASA from way back. Doesn't get much more credible than that. This must be a glorious day for all the Conspiracists. Their messiah has arrived.

But.... maybe not...

According to most accepted conspiracy theories, the Moon Landing Never Happened!

So... what is a Conspiracist to do? What an amazing Catch-22! The greatest advocate for their Alien Visitation Cover-up conspiracy is a man renowned for something they don't acknowledge ever happened. Can they say that this astronaut was lying about one thing, but is now telling the truth about something else?

The mind swims with the contradictions this implies. One would almost think that THIS is a deliberate conspiracy by NASA to short-circuit the brains of as many Conspiracists as possible.

It's the greatest conundrum since "The Buttered Cat Paradox"

I can't wait to see how this plays out.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight - This Changes Everything

Dark Knight might be the comic book film that changes everything and allows comic books and comic book ideas to be taken seriously. Since the dawn of superhero movies, we've been given a steady diet of the same thing, time after time. Some sort of origin story (either the hero, or the villain if it's sequels) coupled with some sort of plot to destroy/conquer the city/world. For the origin movie, it's almost always where the villain and hero are created from the same source, or are otherwise tied together somehow. Insert incredible action sequences and give the hero some sort of dramatic crisis for the climax. Wash, rinse, repeat.

That's not to say that past comic book movies have been bad. Spider-man 2 was my favorite film of 2004, while Iron Man was easily one of the best films this year so far, superhero or otherwise. Batman Begins, while really good, left me a bit flat because it still followed all the required superhero beats (ultimately). But at least it was trying to do something different. Iron Man also injected a bit more effort into the story to make it 'about' something.

But all that was setup for The Dark Knight. I think we needed all of those adaptations to where we got to the point where the superhero movie is ingrained in the national (or even worldwide) psyche in a way where it isn't just viewed as a geeky genre, but just as a type of film every bit as valid and encoded into our DNA as westerns or war films or detective thrillers. Watchmen director Zach Snyder has been talking about this very thing as now being the exact right time to finally release a Watchmen film. Watchmen deconstructed comics for those that were familiar with its rhythms. Now the public is at a point where they are so familiar with superhero tropes that a similar film deconstruction of comic book movies can be accomplished.

However, while Snyder was expecting that cultural shift to occur with the relase of his film, I reallly think it's happened this weekend, with The Dark Knight.

Dark Knight wasn't telling a superhero story. It was telling a complex crime story, but completely grounded within the Batman universe, pulling the best elements of both, and ramping up the drama, the stakes, the themes to levels you can only achieve with something like a comic book story. This was a crime drama overlaid with a brilliant examination of the extremes of good vs evil, black and white, with every shade in between.

Hopefully, this will signal a sea-change in the types of stories that movie studios feel can be told within the framework of a superhero story. I fear that because of the budgets and the need to make these types of films EVENT films that we'll not be able to get the nuance and subtlety that you can get from a great comic book story told over the course of a dozen or more issues. How many times can characters be put through the wringer at these escalating stakes and it not become even more repetitive and dull?

The Watchmen film is telling a specific story that has been proven to be effective and multi-layered. Dark Knight, while not based on any paticular piece of comic literature, definitely was born from an IDEA, not simply the desire to make a sequel and feature the next villain out of Batman's Rogue's Gallery. But I don't know if other comic properties will be able to be about something more than being a sequel.

Iron Man has a good head start in that there is an established comic story arc where Tony Stark battles alcoholism. That, when layered into the next Iron Man sequel, will make for a compelling, 'on purpose' sort of story.

Spider-Man 4, on the other hand, is going to be just the next sequel. Some themes and ideas might be able to be tacked onto it, but we're already beyond that with this franchise. Incredible Hulk tried to sort of be about something, but I felt it ended up a bit flat. I can't imagine how a sequel will be any more compelling. However, with all of these Marvel films, they're all leading up to an eventual Avengers film, which could be something really amazing if done right.

A future comic book film that could definitely be 'about' something is Captain America. I think there's never been a better time to do a film that allows this country to reflect on what it once stood for, and contrast that to what it does now. How America interfaced with the world 60 years ago, and how much it's changed today. If they just make Captain America a fun, superhero film, I think they'll have missed a chance to do something special. They can and should reach for a cross between Dark Knight and Saving Private Ryan.

In any event, superhero films now have a chance to reach for epic concepts and themes, not just epic special effects. Let's see who chooses to take up that challenge.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Official WATCHMEN Trailer is Here

After more than twenty years, we finally have some real live moving images of The Watchmen, the pinnacle (thus far) of the comic book/graphic novel form. I've lost count of the number of false starts this project has teased us with over the years, with Terry Gilliam and Darren Aronofsky the two biggest name directors attached. But it wasn't until the massive success of "300", directed by Zach Snyder, that movie studios finally decided to pull the trigger on this one and give Snyder a chance.

Over the past few months, we've been teased with character images and set visits, but nothing showing any of the action on the screen... until today. It's set to premiere before "The Dark Knight" (which I will be attending tonight at midnight), but Empire Magazine was given the early exclusive. Click here to see it in beautiful full resolution, but here it is (until it gets yanked) in a reasonable YouTube version

First thoughts? Unexpected. Epic. Taking no prisoners.

It doesn't look like a superhero film, and yet, it has all the elements you'd typically expect from such a film.

I'm most curious as to how those unfamiliar with Watchmen will react. The trailer doesn't give ANY inkling as to what the story is about. If anything, they'll think it's about Dr. Manhattan (the big blue guy, for you Watchmen neophytes), as the trailer does kind of show his origin, and he's easily the most prominent figure in the trailer. All the images are amazing. But what will it mean to newbies?

Moreso than any other comic adaptation (except for maybe "300"), the images from the trailer are all immediately recognizable directly from the comic. 200-ft tall Dr. Manhattan blasting the Viet Cong soldier, Ozymandias smacking the assassin with the ashtray, Rorschach's hairspray blowtorch, the Owlship rising out of the water, Dr. Manhattan creating the crystal palace on Mars, and of course, the Comedian being launched through a plate glass window. All these images are totally familiar and yet completely unlike what I was expecting.

This trailer was a crucial step in winning over me (and all the other diehard Watchmen loyalists). We've been holding our breaths for months awaiting this. And now that it's here, I'm more eager than ever to see if they can bring this thing all the way home.

If you're a Watchmen rookie, what do YOU think of this trailer? What does it make you think the film is going to be about? How similar or different than other comic book adaptations does it seem?

If you want to follow this film more closely as it develops, or just want more Watchmen info than you can cram into your brain, I highly recommend


I know the whole Cloverfield craze has come and gone already and this is way late in arriving on my radar, but it's too funny and well-made to pass up. 

(mildly Not Safe For Work, as it uses one profanity from the original film)

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Greatest First Dance Ever

Back in the early days of my previous company, MediaPost, we supplemented our income by doing wedding videos.  Lots of them.  I still do the occasional wedding for family and friends, but it's thankfully only once or twice a year now.  The highlight of how we do the wedding videos is making a "music video" out of the couple's first dance.  Check out here and here for some examples of wedding highlight videos I've done.  (Writing this blog post reminds me I have to get around to finally editing my brother's wedding from 2007...)

But unless these weddings are done for family or friends, they are excruciating to attend and edit.  They're all the same.  Mind-numbing after the first half-dozen or so.  Everyone chooses the same five songs as their First Dance song.

That's why this video shows what would have been the greatest First Dance EVER.  Oh, to have had something like THIS to break the monotony of the same wedding over and over.    Enjoy.

Friday, July 04, 2008

I never thought I'd see it in my lifetime...

...but I did. 

Just a few moments ago, I got to see a dog-off.

In an epic battle, Joey Chestnut defeated Kobayashi for the title of Hot Dog Eating Champion.  In OVERTIME! 

It was amazing.  After ten minutes of ramming hot dogs down their throats, Chestnut and Kobayashi were tied at 59 dogs apiece.  The tiny chunks of dog and bun plastered over all over their faces were a testament to their dedication to eating more hot dogs in ten minutes than most of us will eat this year. 

But it went to a dog-off.  Two men.  Five dogs.  First one to shove all of them in their mouth and swallow them, without gagging, would be the 2008 champ.

And amazingly, Joey Chestnut retained the championship he wrested from Kobayashi last year.  Kobayashi had won the previous six years and had taken the sport of competitive eating from little known 4th of July event to a year round industry where people compete to shove all sorts of things down their throats in short spans of time.  Clams, ice cream, hamburgers, entire breakfasts, mini-burgers, you name it.  There's apparently nothing we're unwilling to eat dozens of in less than five minutes. 

Now I have to go throw up.

Have a happy 4th.