Archive for: January, 2010

Doctor Who Season 1

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech on August 28, 1963. Three months later the first episode of Dr.Who aired.

FORTY SEVEN YEARS LATER we finally have a black president and Dr.Who is still on the air. You’d have to watch nearly five decades worth of episodes to get caught up. Can you imagine sitting down and trying to watch that much ancient British television? The first episodes weren’t even in color.

“Oh dear, some old black and white British social problem seems to be rearing its ugly head. I guess this is what this show will be about because computers haven’t even been invented yet.”

I like Christopher Eccleston’s modern Dr.Who- he looks like a jug eared Roman senator. He travels around time and space in a blue police box with the lovely Billie Piper, who plays his companion Rose.

Speaking of beautiful women in Doctor Who episodes, a friend of mine who was a fan of the show as a young man in the 80’s told me he horrified a female Doctor Who fan by penning an erotic tale featuring The Doctor and his former companion Leela entitled “Space Spurts”. The contents of ‘Space Spurts’ are lost to time, but the title lives on in my head every time I see a multicolored scarf or an alien with an erection.

Eccleston’s Doctor goes head to head against his most hated enemy—the Daleks. The Daleks are robotic creatures that look like big vacuums and they kill people with electric prods that resemble plungers. I guess some Doctor Who writer back in the sixties got attacked by a maid once.

The Daleks yell “EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!” in a grating metallic voice before they kill people. What if they wanted to sneak up on Doctor Who? They should be able to whisper it, too.

In one episode a Dalek’s outer shell gets opened up and it turns out there’s a slimy octopus inside. I bet it smells pretty bad in there- imagine if you wore a big metal vacuum cleaner chasing Doctor Who around and never took it off, just rolling around poking your death plunger at everything.

Also, there are these aliens that look like big babies with giant claws and they wear people’s skin as disguises. They have this big plan to take over the British government (just throw some of their tea into a harbor, am I right America?). I thought it was odd that they couldn’t wait to take off their human skin costumes so they could run around and kill people. Every five minutes one of them is sneaking off into a side room and unzipping their foreheads and killing another human. That’s like removing your whole Halloween costume just to smoke a cigarette.

In this season Eccleston’s Doctor meets Captain Jack Harkness from Torchwood for the first time. In one episode Harkness looks like he tried to dress like Han Solo but ended up getting a part as an extra in the musical Grease and just modified the outfit a little. Good thing they started dressing him in that military surplus coat, or it would have been hard to take him seriously on Torchwood.

When Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor started to get freaky with TARDIS energy (not an excerpt from “Space Spurts” I assure you) and turns into David Tennant’s Doctor, I was sad to see him go. In fact I was like “What the hell no way am I going to like this new Doctor Who!”

Five minutes later I was streaming the second season of Doctor Who on Netflix, Eccleston’s big ears and leather jacket a distant memory, cheering David Tennant and being like “Yeah I love this new Doctor Who!”

Julia

Tilda Swinton bare asses her way though the first quarter of this movie as a boozy oversexed tosspot. She spends the rest of the movie fully clothed as a boozy kidnapping tosspot who steals a wealthy old man’s grandson as a favor for her crazy Mexican neighbor.

I wonder if Tilda Swinton was like ‘We’re doing this movie with me showing my boobs and wearing crazy art lady jewelry or we’re not doing this movie at all.’ Her character Julia dresses like she’s always five minutes away from going to a gallery opening or a pottery class.

Julia tries to pull the old double cross, flees to Mexico and pretty soon she’s best friends in the world with the boy she just stole. He must emit some kind of pheromone that attracts kidnappers though, because Mexican thugs steal him away from Julia. She doesn’t even have time to take a drink or get naked- she’s gotta rescue that kid!

Saul Rubinek, (the actor who played Daphne’s fiancé on the show Frasier) plays a man in love with Julia who has no idea what to do with her tossed salad and scrambled eggs.

Conan O’Brien jokes about looking like Tilda Swinton- he should go as ‘Julia’ for Halloween. Andy Richter could go as the kidnapped boy.

Next stop Spoilertown:
So it turns out she grows to love that little rich kid. I like that the first thing he gravitated toward when she let him buy his own clothes in Mexico was a blazer. You can kidnap the boy out of the mansion but you can’t kidnap the mansion out of the boy.

‘Julia’ portrays Mexico as a filthy slum with plywood doors on everything. The first dude they meet in Mexico turns out to be a swarthy criminal, with swarthy criminal friends.

They should have put in a wealthy Mexican businessman character to balance it out a little. Like maybe he breezes through one scene with a briefcase, saying “No time to talk, I’m on my way to an important meeting in much nicer part of Mexico, which exists.”

Watchmen

This movie, which people said was “unfilmable”, sure did get filmed. I guess what they meant was if it did get filmed, it wouldn’t be any good. But it was good! So for the first time in the history of known civilization, someone said something was going to be bad and it turned out to be good.

Watchmen is about two generations of superheroes. Some of them have real supernatural powers and some of them just dress up and punch people. Even the non-powers having heroes are extraordinarily agile and strong. Nobody can take these guys in a fight, except in the fight against…moral complications and ethical quandaries!

Rorschach is sort of the main hero of the movie. He smells bad and eats beans! “Chomp chomp beans,” he says, “the whores and the politicians will ask me to save them and I’ll say no!” He wears a mask that’s always changing around. I kept trying to find his eyes and mouth in the shifting patterns. What if every once in a while the pattern lined up to look like a happy anime cat? I’d like that. I really really like his coat, but I guess you could never borrow it because it would stink, apparently.

Dr.Manhattan is a nuclear physicist (maybe?) who left his watch in an “Intrinsic Field Generator” and then went back inside to get it when the “Intrinsic Field Generator” had 45 seconds left before it went all blue lightning on everything. I get it, Dr.Manhattan- you wanted superpowers- there’s no need to “leave your watch” in the “Intrinsic Field Generator” so you can get “trapped” and develop “astounding abilities to manipulate time, space and matter”. He’s got a big blue body and doesn’t want to cover it up for anything except if he has to go to a television interview.

Ozymandias is the smartest man in the world. Everybody says it in the movie. “You can’t stop Ozymandias—he’s the world’s smartest man!” He also has an Ivy League haircut. Maybe that’s what they meant by world’s smartest man- he actually has the world’s smartest haircut. Oh and (Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the movie) he’s the villain. He has this big idea to get every world leader to come together against a common enemy- by framing Dr.Manhattan for annihilating citizens in every major city of the world. Well what if they hadn’t come together in unity? What if they still hated each other and now they also hate Dr.Manhattan? If two guys hate a third dude that means they can’t still hate each other?

Nite Owl is like Batman, but with an owl suit, striking fear into the hearts of criminals with the “Hoot! Hoot!” of justice. He doesn’t actually hoot though. Of all the crime-fighters in this movie, he is the most like a professor. He’s got a tweedy Ingmar Bergman/Woody Allen feel to him. Looks like he should be sipping on coffee all the time. Well, when he’s out of his suit, that is. When he suits up, you criminals better get ready for some REASONABLE TALK. And reasonable punches.

Silk Spectre is the lady of the group. The only person wearing less clothes than her is Dr.Manhattan. When she and Nite Owl break into a prison at one point in the movie, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe she should cover up first. I know she can handle herself but lady this is a PRISON. I know they can’t take you in a fight but you know those prisoners are looking at you with their filthy prisoner thoughts.

And there’s The Comedian. He tried to rape the original Silk Spectre (the current Silk Spectre’s mother) his first month on the job. You know who would normally get fired from a group of superheros? A RAPIST. Why do they let him hang around? He and Dr.Manhattan went to win Vietnam together and (another spoiler here) he casually guns down a Vietnamese lady who was pregnant with his baby. Dr.Manhattan even stood around being blue letting it happen. Not cool. Watchmen- you need a human resources department. You don’t have to let just anybody in a costume into the club.

Watchmen is set in an alternate 1980s where Nixon got re-elected. Nixon in this movie has a gigantic nose, even bigger than the real Nixon. Maybe this is an alternate Nixon with a slightly bigger nose.

Speaking of alternate worlds, what if outer space is teeming with life and it’s really close but the reason scientists haven’t been able to detect it is because all the aliens just intercept their probes and send back false information? Dr.Manhattan builds a glass mansion on Mars when he gets sad about what he has to deal with on earth and it looks like a Christmas ball.

Merry Christmas!

District 9

If you had to distill this movie into one minute it would be Peter Jackson shooting a futuristic laser gun into the air and yelling ,’I do not care for human rights abuses and racial intolerance!’

In District 9 an unlikely friendship develops between one of a million lobster looking aliens (called prawns) stalled out over Johannesburg/segregated into a shanty town, and a government worker who gets sprayed in the face with their most precious liquid. (Which incidentally is also the plot of ‘Red Light District 9’.)

Here are some bullet points regarding the film you don’t want to read if you haven’t seen it yet:

• So these aliens have developed futuristic guns and ships but they can’t be bothered to put on clothes? Even the ones who make an effort to hide their shame wear crude rags. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from raunchy college sex comedies and biopics about geniuses, it’s that smart people wear clothes. Often they have suede patches on their elbows. These aliens mostly had gross bug stuff on their elbows.

• Prawns understand humans and humans understand prawns? Sure, twenty years is a long enough time to learn a language, but I’m assuming the prawns’ clicks and grunts are a more advanced language than ours, since everything about them is advanced, except for their refusal to wear pants. This isn’t like learning another branch of human language. This is the product of another species physiology. If I dropped a sign language speaking chimp off in France and gave him twenty years I don’t think he’d be signing Proust by the time I got back.

• A little prawn kid somehow has access to the innermost workings of the alien mothership: He was born here on earth. All he knows is dirt and shantytown tin walls. But set him down in a spaceship and he’s pressing buttons and pulling levers like he just graduated from alien lobster space tractor trailer driving school. I don’t buy it, movie! The codes and sequences needed to pilot a complex alien craft not to mention turn on all mechanized battle suits in the area could not be performed by an adolescent with ten keystrokes on a monitor. If that were possible, don’t you think that all the prawn children would be constantly activating the battle suits? If I was a kid, and I knew a computer code that could fire up a weaponized suit of robotic armor anytime I wanted, I’d be using it for everything. Make me some hot chocolate, robot armor suit. Play second player in Super Mario Brothers, robot armor suit.

What I’m saying is that any adult with common sense makes an effort to ensure that children are locked OUT of dangerous technology. They don’t have little kid bulldozer booster seats so little kids can drive bulldozers, and sophisticated humanoid species do not leave the keys to the ship in the pinchers of their larvae.

I know, I know, movie- you’re not really supposed to be about the technology, you’re supposed to be a thinly veiled commentary on the horrors of apartheid. I get what you’re trying to say. Mankind can be cruel, without mercy. The weak and exploited need a protector. Only through empathy for our fellow man, no matter how “alien” their culture may seem to us, can we put an end to injustice and racism.

And only through stopping for a second and asking ourselves if we really think a little alien kid could activate an entire fleet of mech warrior suits with a few simple commands can we put an end to scenes where the entire plot hinges on said kid having the same programming abilities as a nuclear scientist.

Big Fan

Robert D. Siegel, the man who wrote ‘The Wrestler’ and ‘Big Fan’, sure does like athletics and having his main characters suffer from serious health problems. The wrestler with his heart condition, Patton Oswalt’s character in ‘Big Fan’ with his brain damage- the next movie Siegel writes is going to be about diabetes and star Wilford Brimley as a major league baseball player.

This movie could have been called ‘The King Of The Sports Weirdos’, because that’s kind of what Patton Oswalt’s character is.

Writing his sports notes, calling into sports talk shows, masturbating under a sports themed blanket- SPORTS! Well, just NY Giants football, actually.

He ends up stalking his favorite quarterback all the way to a fancy strip club, and then gets mercilessly beaten for his trouble.

One quick aside about the stripper who tries to solicit a dance from him as he sits enraptured by his hero, pre-pummeling: I would have gotten a dance from you, beautiful stripper, no matter how much I wanted to hassle my favorite football player.

I wonder if this is how a Star Wars nerd would feel if he followed George Lucas into a strip club and Lucas stabbed him with a lightsaber. I bet all the ladies in the club would be blue and the Cantina Theme would be playing.

Anyhow everybody is like hey sue that guy send him to JAIL but Oswalt’s character doesn’t want to ruin the one aspect of his life that brings him happiness even though the personification of that happiness kicked his ass so hard his head swelled with blood.

My only issue with this film is I waited in vain for Oswalt’s character to encounter the giant propellered air blower alluded to by the title, the climate controlled massive bladed ‘Big Fan’ I’d been anticipating the entire movie.

One thing about the end of the movie aka a spoiler: Yeahhh Michael Rapaport! As soon as he turned out to be playing Philadelphia Phil I nodded to myself on the couch. Yes, I said to myself, who else could it have been?

Also I have to admit, if I was chief of the pun police, and I heard someone else make that ‘Big Fan’ pun, I would have to stab them with a lightsaber.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Well, Batman, looks like you’ve captured your brilliant mad arch-nemesis the Joker again. Where you gonna put him? Arkham Asylum? Hope he doesn’t break out and cause any havoc. I mean, he broke out all those other times, but surely he won’t—oh wait he’s out. And it looks like he’s freeing all your other worst enemies too.

If I was Batman I’d build a bat-prison in the bat-cave and put the Joker there. Or maybe a bat-prison on the bat-moon. Just a metal bat-box with some bat-oxygen in it and a year’s supply of bat-treats.

I’ll tell you where I wouldn’t put him- a crumbly old building he broke out of a million times before.

Batman is super ripped and bulky in this game. I thought Batman kept himself lean in spite of his muscular frame- so he could skulk around in the dark and detect stuff. Seems like with these giant power muscles he’d struggle a little bit to even turn his head.

The character design for this game is all about muscles. Muscles and naked ladies, that is— Harley Quinn is dressed like a clown pin up girl and Poison Ivy didn’t even bother putting on pants for this whole Batman killing party. She couldn’t have made a mini dress out of leaves or something?

Seriously, though—everybody Batman punches in the face has an amazing physique. Lot of people sporting no shirts, too. Cause that’s how I’d prefer to fight Gotham City’s most determined crime fighter. With the exposed skin of my torso and endless optimism. (To be fair, Batman called shirts.)

When you get knocked out in ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’, a cut-scene comes up in which one of the game’s bad guys gloats at Batman’s soon-to-be corpse, stuff like ‘nice try Batman, time to DIE!’. In one of them, the Joker walks up and says dismissively, “Someone finish him off” and walks away.

Wait- what? You’re the Joker- you and Batman have been fighting one of the most epic battles in the history of pop culture rivalries and you have him bleeding and helpless in front of you. So here’s your chance to do some CRAZY MURDER to Batman, and you hand it off to some henchman you just hired the other day in a gym bathroom?

Which brings me to the final boss battle aka a spoiler: Why would the Joker inject himself with toxins that make him a big muscle freak? He doesn’t like brute force combat, he’s more of a ‘slice a smile in your face with a skinny knife’ kind of maniac. He’s also vain- why would he take anything that would mutilate his body to that extent? His ribs were bursting through his chest- he’d seen it have that effect on other people.

Not to mention the fact that he had Batman’s oldest and dearest friend Commissioner Gordon as a hostage. Here’s an idea: inject Gordon with the toxin and make Batman fight him.

What’s going to really get Batman where it hurts- fighting a bigger meatier Joker at the end of a long line of fighting big meaty dudes or shedding little bat tears in his cowl as he has to fight for his life against a twisted version of his best pal Commissioner Gordon? How cool would that be as a feature in a game? ‘Press X to keep from crying into your superhero mask.’

Speaking of crying, I’m sorry I said all those critical things about you, Batman video game. The fight mechanics and the parts of the story that involve the other villains are amazing.  The Scarecrow making Batman hallucinate all of Bruce Wayne’s deepest anxieties made manifest into a playable level; or Batman just hanging out on a gargoyle waiting to swoop down on some dumb bare chested dummy with a machine gun- I have to give credit where credit’s due. This game is well crafted.

I guess it’s just that if you want to tell me The Joker’s crazy, you need to make me think he’s crazy. In this game he just wants to be strong.

Torchwood

Torchwood is the best science fiction show I will never ever be able to convince my girlfriend to watch. As the British say, it is really “posh” and “spot on” and “crumpets” and “bangers and mash”. I got that right, didn’t I? I’d hate it if the queen was reading this review and spit her tea out into her Union Jack teacup because I mixed up some colloquialisms.

Torchwood is a spin off of the new Doctor Who, and is the more serious and sober of the two- not a difficult feat because Doctor Who is completely and utterly bananas.

The first season starts with a British policewoman named Gwen Cooper stumbling onto a guy getting brought back from the dead by Captain Jack Harkness and his Torchwood crew. She can’t let go of what she’s seen, so she keeps showing up at their headquarters even though they try to wipe her memory. Eventually they relent and teach her the secret handshake and before you can say “Oh ‘ello there” in a cheery British accent she’s ghost riding the Torchwood whip, so to speak, along with her new pals Owen Harper the bachelor doctor, Toshiko “Tosh” Sato the shy technology expert and Captain Jack- the bisexual unkillable American con man from the distant future with a dapper ass coat. Not to mention Ianto the tea-fetcher/butler, who plays Alfred to Captain Jack’s Batman, if Alfred and Batman constantly made out.

I have to take my hat off to the BBC- it’s nice to see strong gay characters in any medium of fiction that aren’t being stereotyped, though the last time I saw this much guy on guy kissing in science fiction was the gay space porno my great-great-great-great grandson produces and directs in the year 3000. (In the year 3000 every citizen is required by law to produce and direct at least one gay space porno.)

The only thing that bothers me about Torchwood is: they keep acting like these extraterrestrial visitors called Weevils are the living embodiment of hate and malice and aggression. Torchwood members are always running around macing these things in the face with special Weevil calming spray, and the Weevils are always trying to tear their flesh apart with their teeth.

But for some reason Weevils wear these neat little dark navy blue jumpsuits. Clean, uniform jumpsuits. So there’s this alien race that fell through a dimensional rift with only one murderous thought in their heads, but they also manage to have a textile industry? So they have two thoughts in their heads- murder and stitching up a sharp little outfit.

In addition to fashion conscious razor-fanged monsters, Torchwood is notable for featuring more cursing, sex, death and uncertainty than Doctor Who.

So if you’ve ever said to yourself ‘I wish I could watch something super British and science fiction-y like Doctor Who only people say the f-word and die in it’, then your wish just got granted and then sat around waiting on DVD for three years waiting on you to find out about it.

Spooner

This book is partially set in Milledgeville, Georgia and written by an author from Milledgeville, Georgia. Too bad books can’t understand words, because then I’d say “Hey book- crazy coincidence- I”m from Milledgeville, Georgia!” And then the book could ask me what year I graduated high school and if I know its cousin, the newspaper.

I read another review of this book that said it had a lot of laugh out loud moments, but I listened to the audio-book, and as much as I’d like to say I brayed like a donkey laughing out loud at it with my big headphones on, I did not. Not that it wasn’t funny, but it was mostly a kind of subtle funny, in that most of the book concerns itself with the exploits of charming fuck-up Spooner and his polar opposite stepfather Calmer, whose cup runneth over with common sense and gentle kindness. Come to think of it, it’s not that Spooner is charming, it’s that he’s so good-hearted and befuddled by his own horrible instincts for every decision in his life that I guess I was charmed by that part of his personality.

No doubt due to his work as a charming down on his luck southern man in the show ‘My Name Is Earl’, I couldn’t help but picture a bearded Jason Lee as Spooner, and because of his general onscreen disposition as an actor I imagined Gary Sinise to fill the role of Calmer.You’re welcome, people who have a hard time imagining what actors to choose to represent characters from books in their heads.

Spooner was written by author Pete Dexter.

World’s Greatest Dad

Robin Williams tricks a whole high school into thinking his dead son was great, and tricks a goth girl into thinking Bruce Hornsby is great. Also, Alexie Gilmore dances briefly around in her underwear, and then her underwear becomes pivotal to the plot.

This movie features one of the finest school mascots ever committed to film- “The Fighting Pugs”.

I give ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ my highest recommendation. Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, who I am slowly growing to admire.

Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downey Jr plays S. Holmes as a foppish dirty brawling genius and Jude Law is his best friend Watson with a neat little mustache. You better believe some rakish hats get worn while they run around London punching every criminal’s filthy Dickensian face.

Here’s a word of advice to you if you want to commit a crime in Holmes’ London: Don’t bother. He knows you stuffed that unwashed silverware in your filthy waistcoat and he’s willing to wrap a rusty old timey ship’s chain around your knees and knock you down on some cobblestones.

Grime!

To Sleep With Anger

It’s hard not to get spooked by Danny Glover as Harry, the world’s worst house guest. Unless you like having the Devil over to sleep on the floor of your guest room. You can’t blame this southern religious family for taking him in- they used to know him back in the day when everybody carried charms and drank corn liquor and didn’t go to church. But the next thing you know Harry is throwing unsavory parties with his weird old friends stopping by and getting mad when you touch him with a broom.

One thing’s for sure- he loves killing chickens. And dressing in nice suits. And knives. And slyly acknowledging murders he may have commited in the past.

Plus, babies hate him.

As you may have guessed, he wears out his welcome.